The crows murder, p.12
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       The Crow’s Murder, p.12
 

         Part #5 of Kit Davenport series by Tate James
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  Light flared, and when it faded, we were on the grass outside a beautiful, colonial-style, two-story house. It had ivy creeping up the walls and seemed to be completely surrounded by trees, at least as far as I could see.

  “Where are we?” I asked the twins, and it was Caleb who answered as he led the way to the duck egg–blue front door.

  “Home,” he said simply, turning to give me a sad smile and holding the door open. “Welcome home, Kitty Kat.”

  Vaguely I remembered River mentioning to me that he’d bought us a house. Us. As in all of us. I couldn’t reply to Caleb, not without turning into a blubbering mess, so I just nodded and entered the house.

  It was gorgeous, exactly what I would have dreamed of if I’d ever thought that far into my future. It made me realize how little I really did think about the future. Maybe because I’d spent so many years as a thief? I’d always just figured I’d die before ever getting things like a house... and pets—not that I ever imagined I would get a snake and a tiger before a puppy.

  Now, though, I was staring down eternity. Without Wes.

  In a room off the entry hall, I could hear men’s voices and assumed the other guys were home. I wasn’t ready to see them. Not yet. “I think I might take a shower,” I said quietly, glancing up the grand staircase. “Can you show me where to go?”

  The twins exchanged seriously unsubtle glances with one another before Caleb nodded and led the way upstairs, carrying my suitcase. He took me to a set of doubles doors at the end of the hall, which he opened for me, revealing a huge bedroom. The bed was enormous and tastefully decorated in soft purples and blues, as was the rest of the room.

  “This is your room,” he told me, placing my suitcase down near the bed. “There’s an ensuite bathroom through that door”—he pointed to one of the doors leading off the bedroom—“and it’s all stocked up with towels and products and stuff. I’ll let the guys know you’ll be down when you’re ready, okay?” I nodded and resisted the urge to lean into him as he hugged me tight, kissing the top of my hair. “I love you, Kitty Kat. I’m glad you’re home.”

  I didn’t reply, but he didn’t seem to need one. Instead he placed a soft kiss on my cheek, then left the room, closing the door behind him.

  Wandering through to the bathroom, I stripped off my clothes and placed my new phone on the vanity. Maybe after my shower I could try Lucy again. It had been way too long since we’d spoken, and I was way overdue for some girl time.

  In the meantime, I needed to get a fucking grip on myself. The pain of Wesley’s death was too raw to deal with, and if what Jonathan had told me was true, then I needed all my wits about me. Crying, moping, grieving... these things weren’t going to help me save the freaking world. If, in fact, that was the task I had been born to do. I was still having a hard time wrapping my head around that idea, but considering everything else that had happened lately, it really wasn’t that much of a stretch.

  “Compartmentalize,” I muttered to myself as I turned on the water and stepped under the spray. “There will be a time and a place for grief, but not until we are all safe.”

  It was hard, but I also needed to remember the guys who were waiting downstairs for me. I’d dragged them into this mess. I couldn’t just abandon them now to wallow in self-pity.

  No, I needed a plan. Jonathan thought I needed an army, which meant that whoever was on the other side already had one of their own. Clearly someone was working with the few supernaturals who had survived the plague four hundred years ago, and then there was that crazy fucking doctor working on enhancing humans. What a shit show.

  First thing, I needed my damn magic back!

  Resolute, I turned off the shower and stepped out to dry off. Emotions were a burden I couldn’t afford to carry, so they could take a backseat for now. I had a Ban Dia to hunt down, and a bracelet to get removed.

  “Kitten,” River’s voice made me pause in the doorway as I toweled my hair dry. He was sitting on the end of my bed and looking rough.

  “River,” I replied in a voice that almost startled even myself. It was cold... detached. But exactly what I needed it to be. “I have some information regarding those shifter fights Cole and Vali were checking out. I’ll just get dressed, and we can discuss it with everyone.”

  His dark blond brows rose in surprise, and he stared at me for a long time before speaking. “Kit... that’s the first bloody thing you say to me? We thought you were, well maybe not dead because it’s you, but...” He trailed off and scrubbed his hands over his face. “We were worried as shit, and then we find out that Wes—”

  “Sorry,” I quickly cut him off before he could say any more. “I apologize that you were worried, but I’m here now and we have a lot more to deal with.”

  Meeting his golden eyes with a direct gaze, I tried to convey that the conversation was over. Rehashing the details of Wesley’s death wouldn’t help any of us now, so why bother?

  “I will be down in a few minutes. You can go.” Clutching my towel tight around my body, I looked pointedly to the door.

  River, usually so stoic and expressionless, looked almost shocked, but it was for the best. The fate of the freaking world was at stake, and so fucking help me, I would do everything within my power to help.

  He gave me a tight nod and left the room with a crispness to his walk, radiating how pissed off he was. Dimly I wondered when I had started being able to read his body language so clearly. It hadn’t been all that long ago that he’d been a total closed book to me. So what had changed? Him or me?

  “Irrelevant train of thought, Kit,” I muttered to myself as I checked the closet. Someone had already stocked it up on clothes for me, so it didn’t take long to find some jeans and a plain black tank top.

  I dressed quickly, then threw Wesley’s hoody back over the top before wandering downstairs in the direction I could hear voices coming from. Normally, I’d have paused in the hall and listened to what they were saying before entering, but I didn’t care.

  “Good, you’re all here, then,” I said by way of announcing my presence in the room. “That makes things easier.”

  “Vixen,” Cole greeted me, pushing back from the table they’d been sitting at and stalking toward me like a hungry dragon spotting a chest of gold. When he reached me, he swept me up in a crushing hug that took my feet clean off the ground. A hug I didn’t reciprocate.

  “Let her down,” Vali told his brother from close behind him. “Can’t you see she doesn’t want to be touched right now?”

  “That’s fucking stupid,” Cole growled, but did set me back down on my feet to peer into my face. “Are you okay, Vixen?”

  “Fine, Cole,” I replied with a tight smile. Whatever he saw in my face had him backing off reluctantly, and I accepted the cup of coffee Vali held out to me. “So, I wanted to fill you in on what I learned from Jonathan.”

  “Straight into it then, huh?” Caleb muttered, stirring his own coffee. “Fair enough. Have a seat and tell us what you know.”

  Sucking in a deep breath, I did as he suggested and perched on the edge of a vacant seat at the huge circular table. Whoever had decorated the house had a real eye for details; a round table ensured everyone could easily see one another. Sort of perfect when a girl was dating six—five—guys at the same time.

  Coffee helped, and soon I was laying down the facts of our situation as I now knew them.

  It was important they knew. Important they understood what was at stake, and what we needed to do about it all... starting with getting my magic back. Without that, I was worse than useless. I was a liability.

  14

  My teeth ground together so hard I could hear them, and I resisted the urge to strangle someone. I wasn’t totally sure who might be my victim, but someone was going to wind up with my hands around his neck if the guys didn’t stop giving me excuses.

  “What do you mean, you can’t find her?” I demanded, “You’re supposed to be the strongest Mages in the entire freaking world, y
et you can’t find one woman?”

  “If it were just a woman, we wouldn’t be having these issues,” Austin replied with a snap in his tone, suggesting he, too, was thinking about strangling someone. Probably me. “But she’s not. She’s a Ban Dia who has had several centuries of perfecting her magic. So it’s really not all that surprising she’s managing to hide from us.”

  “Tell me what the message said again,” I ordered. Not that I didn’t already have it memorized, since we’d received it several days ago.

  “Why?” Sam hissed, slithering into the room. “Did you lose your memory as well as your magic? Sounds like something a moron would manage to do.”

  “Sam, I swear to magic, if you call me a moron one more time, I will take up taxidermy and mount your scaly ass on the wall. Is that what you want?” I glared at him, and the fucker held my gaze without blinking. Not that snakes really needed to...

  “Sam, quit it,” Caleb snapped. “Go hunting for mice in the forest or something.”

  Sam hissed a fuck you in my direction but did as Caleb told him, slithering his way out the back door and into the grass. Our “backyard” was massive; he was probably going to end up in a food coma from all the wildlife he’d find out there.

  “Look, I’ll head back to the hotel and see what they have to say,” Caleb offered, rubbing his tired eyes. “Again.”

  He followed Sam outside and had disappeared in a rune portal before I could call him on his snarky tone, which just left me to yell at Austin instead. The other guys were all out on various missions I had selected for them because I just couldn’t handle the lack of progress we were making on finding Bridget. She was the only one who could get the fucking bracelet off me, and until that happened, I was dead weight.

  Without my magic, I couldn’t heal anyone else. I couldn’t create this army that Jonathan was so sure I needed; I couldn’t even heal myself. It was because of this that River had put his foot down about me participating in active missions with the rest of them.

  If it had just been River, I could have won that argument. But it was a clear five against one, and without my strength or healing, I didn’t have a leg to stand on.

  “How long is this going to last for, Princess?” Austin asked me in a quiet voice, his gaze locked on the black-ink pen in his hands.

  “How long is what going to last?” I snapped back, feeling fired up and bitchy. It was pretty much the only thing I was capable of feeling these days. It was either bitchy or numb.

  “This,” he repeated, looking up from his pen to give me a disgusted look. “All you’ve done since we found you at Jonathan’s is shut us out and refuse to discuss anything that isn’t directly related to ‘the mission.’ The only time we see any feeling from you, it’s this snide, snappy little Princess. So I’ll ask it again, how long is this going to last? Because I’ve just about had enough of it.”

  My jaw dropped, and I gaped at him while searching for the right comeback. He was right, obviously. But none of them had called me on my shit so far. They’d just let me ignore the problem and pretend it hadn’t happened. That Wesley wasn’t...

  “All right, let me know when you decide. In the meantime, I’ll steer clear.” Austin shrugged and stood from the stool he’d been perched on. Still I found no words to snap back with as he left the kitchen, and I heard his heavy footsteps heading up the stairs to his room.

  From what little I had bothered to explore in the house, it had been clear that the guys had totally moved in. Their bedrooms were decorated in styles that perfectly fitted their personalities, and all their belongings seemed to be here too. Not that I’d snooped much. When it had become clear that there were bedrooms for everyone... I’d stopped. I couldn’t bear the thought of accidentally stepping into Wesley’s bedroom, even if he’d never been in there himself.

  Right now, though, I heard Austin slam the door to his room, and seconds later, thumping music started up.

  Fuck him. I was doing the best I damn well could! How dare he make me feel like I was being some sort of... petulant child? So maybe I wasn’t acting in the way he expected me to, but I was dealing as best as I damn well could!

  Feeling fired up again, I stormed up the stairs after him and slammed open his bedroom door, only to hesitate when I saw him standing there in just his boxers with a T-shirt in his hands.

  “See something you like, Princess?” he challenged me, and my mouth went dry. “Or is that a silly question, seeing as you haven’t so much as touched anyone in over a week?” He tossed his T-shirt onto the dresser and stalked closer to me.

  “I just...” I needed to stop and lick my lips, which were suddenly like the damn Sahara desert. “I came to tell you that you have no right speaking to me like you did downstairs.”

  Austin snorted a laugh, reaching past me and pushing the door closed. Trapping me.

  “You know, not so long ago you wouldn’t have put up with that at all. You wouldn’t have let me finish my sentence without a fight, even if it meant you needed to punch me in the face. Yet here you are, trembling and confused. Sure, you’re saying the right things—deep down you know what you should be saying. But you don’t feel it anymore, do you, Princess?” He edged closer, and I backed up a step to maintain some space between us.

  “Feel what?” I replied, frowning and really trying to keep my gaze on his face. He was right. I hadn’t let them touch me, and I sure as shit hadn’t initiated any contact myself. It still seemed wrong. Maybe I was just scared that it would break my glass house of pain.

  “Feel anything,” he answered, stepping closer still so that he was towering over me. “Even this angry bitch act you’ve got going is just that. An act. So when are you going to let the real Kit back out? Huh? What is it going to take to break through those walls you’ve put up?”

  “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I whispered. “I’m fine.”

  Austin laughed a bitter sound. “Oh yeah? Prove it. Kiss me.”

  “I’m not...” I scowled, looking for a way out but finding none. He had me pinned to his bedroom door and was calling me on my bullshit.

  “Fine,” I growled. Rising up on my toes, I smacked a quick, lifeless kiss against his lips, then huffed. “Happy? I’m fine.”

  “That was pathetic,” he sneered at me. “Why don’t you kiss me like you mean it, Princess? Or are you still pretending?”

  Grinding my teeth, I narrowed my eyes at him to see if he was just pushing my buttons for the sheer fun of it. I used to be able to tell, it used to be so obvious when he just wanted a rise out of me. Now, though... it was impossible.

  “Fine,” I snarled again, clenching my jaw even as I rose back up on my toes. This time, I pulled his face down to me as I pressed my lips against his, but still... fuck, he was right. I was still pretending.

  “I can’t,” I admitted with a small sob, breaking away from his lips but leaving my hands on the back of his neck. “I can’t. It’s wrong.”

  “Why?” he whispered back to me, his arms encircling my waist and pulling me tighter to his body. “Because of Wesley? Why do you think he would have a problem with you kissing me, Princess? He didn’t when he was alive.”

  Austin’s voice cracked over that last word, and it was like a knife through my heart.

  “He loved you so much, Baby Girl. Do you really think he would want to see you like this? Shoving all your pain and grief down and locking it away? Avoiding us? We love you too, and we loved him. He was a brother to us all. Did it ever cross your mind how we might be feeling?” His words were whispered in a harsh voice, thick with pain, and it was almost too much to bear.

  “I can’t do this, Austin,” I replied in a small voice. “I need to get my magic back so—”

  “So what? So you can save the fucking world?” His reply was bitter, and his hands clutched me tighter. “You can’t even save yourself right now, Princess. How do you expect to save the world?”

  “I don’t know what else to do,” I admitted, feeling m
y walls start to crack. “I can’t afford to feel what I did before. People are dying out there. I can’t just curl up in a ball and cry.”

  Austin made a noise of frustration, dropping his head so that our foreheads pressed together. “Maybe not forever, but can’t you just let me in for today? I promise the second you leave this room you can go back to this... robo-Kit. But just show me you’re still in there? That there is still hope of pulling my Baby Girl out of that hole?” His voice was anguished, but it was what came next that killed me. “I can’t lose you too.”

  Releasing my breath in a rush, I leaned up and kissed him again. Really kissed him this time, letting him feel all the pain that Wesley’s death was causing me. More than that, there was the fear. Fear that I’d lose one of them next, and then where would I be? I couldn’t recover from that. Hell, I could barely recover from this.

  “You won’t lose me, Aus,” I whispered, breaking our kiss but not moving more than a quarter inch from his lips. “I promise I’m still here.”

  This time when our lips met, it wasn’t with that same bittersweet pain. This time it was burning heat and passion built off our heartbreak, a heat that I was sure would burn me before all was said and done, but I welcomed it. Anything to help me feel something other than despair.

  Austin crushed me against the door, his mouth dominating mine as his hands held me tight to his body. His kiss was desperate and demanding, and I wanted nothing more than to melt in his hands and let him do whatever he wanted.

  We were so far past the point of words, but we communicated flawlessly as he hoisted me up, carrying me across the room as my fingers tore at my own clothing. He was already in nothing but his boxer shorts, so I was way overdressed. That was something that I rectified fast.

  By the time he’d thrown me backward onto his bed, I had already stripped off my T-shirt and bra, and it took him all of three seconds to grab hold of my sweatpants and yank them off along with my panties. Another two seconds saw his underwear join mine on the floor and my hand wrap firmly around his hardened length.

 
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