Mercy Thompson


Mercy Thompson Book 9 - Page 20

“What did he promise in return?” I asked him curiously.

“He got Dad and me out of Fairyland,” Tad said, and when his dad grunted, he added, “Out of the Walla Walla reservation, then. And when he could have left us behind and escaped free without going back on his word, he stayed to help.”

The boy had been following the conversation; now he narrowed his eyes at me. “Who are you?”

“She’s our Alpha’s mate,” said Darryl in a very unfriendly voice. “That means that right this moment, she’s in charge of the Columbia Basin Pack.” Then he raised his voice without looking away from Aiden the Fire Touched. “One of you bring some sweats for Joel.” Apparently, we were going to step down the threat level so we could take care of our own.

“Got it,” called Warren. I’d thought he was still down talking to the police. But there was no mistaking the sound of his voice or the rhythm of his footsteps as he ran back down to the base of the bridge.

I could leave Joel’s care to Warren and Darryl. That left me to deal with Aiden.

“You aren’t a werewolf,” he said, but I could tell he wasn’t sure.

“No,” I agreed. “But I am in charge right this minute.”

Aiden made an angry noise.

“If Zee promised to do his best to see that we protected you,” I told him, “he’s fulfilled his word to you.” I smiled grimly. “If he’d come singing your praises, we’d have killed you where you stood. The only way Zee would sing anyone’s praises is if someone had managed to hit him with some kind of nasty magic when he had his back turned.”

Joel moaned and rose to hands and knees just about the time Warren came up with a pair of sweats in his hand bearing the letters KPD. He must have gotten them from Tony. Warren walked through the invisible no-man’s-land between me and Aiden without apparent effect on his usual loose-limbed, big-strided walk. Ignoring Aiden altogether, Warren knelt and began helping Joel. If it weren’t for Adam resting against my leg, I’d have run over to help—leaving Aiden until I was sure that our people were okay. I was worried that Ben wasn’t back with Zack, yet.

Darryl stayed where he was—to guard me from Aiden, I realized, guarding Adam and me. He didn’t look down at Adam, but I could feel his awareness and worry.

Warren helped Joel, now modestly covered in Kennewick Police Department sweats, to his feet. Without ever quite looking at the boy, Warren kept himself between Aiden and Joel. That told me that Warren still viewed the boy as a threat.

Joel shivered as if he were cold. Warren started to put an arm around him, then stopped.

Warren was the only gay werewolf in our pack, in any pack that I knew of. The older werewolves were largely male and largely intolerant of homosexual leanings. Gay werewolves didn’t last very long unless they were extraordinarily tough or lucky. Warren was tough. He was also careful not to push any of the pack members unless he intended to bother them. It wasn’t fear, it was courtesy. He glanced at Darryl.

Darryl looked at me, then Aiden, deciding how much of a threat he still was. Then he walked over and wrapped a big arm over the much smaller Joel. “You have this, Mercy?” he asked me. “I’ll get him home.”

I nodded. “Joel? Are you okay?”

“It doesn’t burn inside,” he said, his voice husky and a little helpless. “It’s gone.”

“It’ll be back,” the boy said dispassionately. “I robbed the spirit of its heat, but it is still there.”

“Are you okay, Joel?” I asked again.

This time he nodded. “I think so.” He took a deep breath. “I would have killed you.”

I shook my head. “We’re pack, Joel, even the tibicena knows it. He was just ticked because he got a chance to get out and strut his stuff, and we were cutting short his playtime.”

Joel huffed a shaky laugh. “Maybe. But it didn’t feel like that from the inside.”

Ben and his minions rounded a semi. Zack, still in wolf form, limped heavily on his own four feet. He looked pretty battered, but he’d be all right. Just like Adam, who was fully awake and hiding it from the pack. I didn’t do anything to give him away.

None of the wolves looked at Adam. It would be disrespectful to observe their Alpha in a weak position or to express concern that might be interpreted to mean that they thought Adam was too weak to heal. But that left me on my own to deal with the harmless-looking, if hostile, boy who had single-handedly taken down a servant of a volcano god.

“Who are you? What are you? Why do the fae want you?” I asked, because information was always good and because it would give me time to think.

He narrowed his eyes at me. “None of your business.”

“You’ve made it her business,” said Darryl.

The boy didn’t think much of me, but his expression told me that Darryl had made an impression.

“Darryl,” I said, “please arrange for Zack and Joel to make it back home with a couple of guards and someone who can patch them up.” I didn’t say “and then get back here,” but I knew he heard it.

Darryl bowed his head in a move that made him look like he was a thousand years old—though I knew that Darryl was only ten years or so older than he looked. He picked Joel up in his arms and without another word managed to harness Ben, Zack, and a couple of other wolves in his gaze as he strode away toward the police lines at the end of the bridge.

I returned my attention to Aiden.

“I’m a human,” he told me sullenly. “I was lost in Underhill until she opened her doors again. The fae want to keep me until they understand how Underhill changed me so that I can do this.” He waved a hand at Joel. “I’m tired of being a prisoner, and I need somewhere to stay for a day to put my options together.”