Mercy Thompson


Mercy Thompson Book 8 - Page 13

“Don’t blame the victim,” I told her with, I admit, a little of the irritation I was feeling. “Not your fault you didn’t recognize his accent. Not your fault he singled you out.”

“Adam told me that some of your friends knew him. That’s why you felt safe with him,” Warren said.

She nodded. “He’d done some business with Jacqui, one of my friends. She’s a financial officer at Nation First Bank, works their corporate and international accounts.”

“Her phone number?”

She blinked and rattled it off. At Warren’s urging, she also managed a better description of Juan. He coaxed her into remembering details about his habits of speech and dress. That he liked dogs and had two hulking dogs that looked enough alike that they must have been a breed, though she didn’t know what. He’d been impressed that she wasn’t afraid of them—it was at that point that his desire for a little fun had changed to something more possessive. He’d insisted that she stay an extra day at his expense.

“I was flattered at first,” she told us. “Who wouldn’t be? A rich, beautiful, younger man who appeared passionately attracted to me.”

“What changed?” I asked.

“I work,” she said a little defensively.

She did, though Adam supported her. He paid the bills for her condo, her car, her insurance, and her phone bills. He told me, once, that he felt he owed it to her. I’d told him that was between the two of them and promised (hand over heart) that I’d never fuss about anything he felt necessary.

She worked part-time at a travel agency that allowed her to travel more than she would otherwise have been able to. She put together tours and business meetings, and from what Jesse had told me, she was good at her job.

“I had some extra vacation I could take, but I didn’t want to use it all. When I told him that I had to go home … he was weird about it. Weird enough that I pretended to agree with him—and while he was in the shower, I left my suitcase, grabbed my purse, and ran. Took a taxi to the airport, where I rented a car and drove home to Eugene.”

“Did he just show up at your condo after that?” asked Adam.

“No,” she said. “He started calling me. I answered the first one—I didn’t know it was him. I said too much. But that was the only one of his calls I took until he changed his number. After that time, I only answered calls from people I knew.”

“I’ll need the phone numbers he used,” Warren said.

She nodded. “I have them on my phone. He sent e-mails, too. I read up on stalkers and all the advice I found said that I shouldn’t respond in any way at all. So I didn’t.” She took a deep breath. “Then the presents started to arrive. I order a lot of things online. The first one I thought was a misorder—a red silk scarf. I called the place that had sent it and found out that someone had purchased it in person and had it sent to me. They wouldn’t give me the name.”

“They’ll give it to me,” said Warren. “Do you still have the address?”

She nodded. “On my laptop. I’ll go get it.” She pushed away from the table and made an escape. Up the stairs.

I looked at the stairway thoughtfully, then looked at Adam. “I thought she’d be using the guest suite.”

“She was afraid to be on the ground floor,” he said, and I could tell by the way he said it that I wasn’t going to be happy about which upstairs room she’d taken. Warren gave him a guy look, the one that said, I wouldn’t be you in a million years, but good luck.

“She likes the peach room,” I said. It was the bedroom next to ours.

“Blue makes her sad,” he told me. The blue guest room was across the hall and next to Jesse’s room.

There was nothing to say that needed saying. I stood up, collecting as many dirty plates and silverware as I could. Adam touched my arm.

“Mary Jo,” he said. “If you’ll help Mercy clear the table, I’ll grab the tablecloth and toss it in the laundry.”

Mary Jo waited until we were in the kitchen loading the dishwasher to say anything to me. “It’s not her fault,” she said finally.

“What’s not her fault?” I asked. “That Christy attracted a stalker?”

Her face flushed. “That there’s tension between her and Adam. They were a couple for a long time. She called to see if I’d come and defuse the situation, so that you’d be more comfortable. She’s trying.”

I shut the dishwasher and started it. “Yes,” I said. “She is trying.” I didn’t say what Christy was trying. I was pretty sure it wasn’t what Mary Jo thought it was.

Her eyes narrowed at me, so I guess my tone wasn’t as neutral as I’d hoped.

“It’s okay to like her,” I told her gently. “To worry and feel sorry for her. That’s all just fine. I want her safe, too.”

I wiped my hands off on the back of my jeans and let my voice drop into a threat. “Just be careful, Mary Jo. Be very careful. You’ve made mistakes before. Everyone makes mistakes. One you should not make is to imagine that Christy will ever be Adam’s mate. He is mine, and unlike her, I don’t throw away people who are mine.”

Mary Jo met my gaze, and I held hers. Held it until she looked at the floor and tipped her chin, exposing her neck.

Jesse had told me about her mother and Adam, back when she’d been too young to know that people shouldn’t share other people’s pain, and I had been too … too involved to stop her. Her mother had told Adam he scared her, that the werewolves scared her, and that he smothered her. But I’d always thought that the real trouble between them had a lot to do with Adam’s looking younger than she did. Which made her attraction to a younger man … something to keep in mind.

I returned to the dining room and the interested faces of Adam and Warren. Both of them had heard the conversation between Mary Jo and me, but before they could say anything, Christy was back with her laptop.

She sat next to Warren, and the two of them paged through her e-mail. Adam’s phone rang, and he glanced at the number.

“I hired a man to watch over Christy’s condo,” he told us. “This is he.” He put the phone to his ear, and answered, “Hauptman.”

“It’s Gaven,” said a stranger’s voice; in the background, I could hear sirens. “There is a situation here.”