The crows murder, p.18
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       The Crow’s Murder, p.18
 

         Part #5 of Kit Davenport series by Tate James
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  Kit will never kill Bridget, not unless she is faced with no other choices. I fear Bridget does not harbor the same sense of decency.

  You must track down Victor and Lachlan. She burned her bridges with them a long time ago, and if you stand any chance of being rid of her, it will be because of them.

  Good luck, and take care of my little girl.

  I scanned the email several times, reading it carefully before closing the window down and scrubbing my hands over my face.

  Holy shit.

  What the hell was I supposed to do with this information? Obviously, it was important or why would he have spent his last precious moments emailing it to me instead of just... telling Kit? There was also a whole fuck load of subtext to those words that was making my stomach turn over like a cement mixer. Surely I couldn’t let Kit meet with Bridget un-armed after learning all of this?

  I needed to speak with the guys.

  Christ. It was pretty clear Jonathan wanted me to keep it quiet. From everyone or just Kit? It didn’t feel right keeping secrets from her. While I knew that was a pretty big statement from someone like me, someone with more blood on his hands than he could even remember, it was still true nonetheless.

  Wesley had been spot on when he’d commented on me seeming more mellow. I had definitely changed, there was no question about that. But I think it was for the better.

  Having this second chance with my brother and a first chance with love, it was making me see the world in a whole different light. It was making me actually want to be in this world, while six months ago I couldn’t have cared less.

  Because of that, I knew I needed to do everything in my power to help Kit win this power struggle. Everything. Even if it meant suffering consequences for my actions later, it would be worth it to know she was safe.

  And that was exactly the reason Jonathan had emailed me and no one else.

  I’d make those hard choices without question. For her.

  22

  AUSTIN

  Wes was officially all caught up on our new intel, and Princess was pacing the length of the veranda while stressing about Lucy not taking her calls. Vali hadn’t received any emails from her either, which seemed odd. He’d definitely gotten an email from someone because while he was reading it, he looked like he’d just swallowed a live canary.

  “Who do you think that email was from?” I murmured to Tyson, who lay at my feet cleaning his paws with his huge tongue.

  We couldn’t communicate as easily as Caleb and Sam, with actual words. For Tyson and myself it was more just a thoughts-and-feelings mesh; I just knew what his opinion on something was without needing the actual words. In this case, Tyson really didn’t give a shit who Vali’s email was from, but he was wondering if there might be a belly scratch in his future if he went out to see Christina.

  “Dude, focus,” I growled at him, nudging his fat ass with my toe. “The scary scaly one is keeping secrets; doesn’t that annoy you?”

  Tyson’s feelings on the matter were that both scaly ones were pretty damn scary, but he would totally take them on in a fight if he needed to. Optimistic bastard.

  I sighed, chewing the edge of my thumbnail as I watched Christina pacing back and forth through the windows, holding her phone in her hand and every now and then pausing to hit redial. Ever since Vali had said she’d missed their catch-up, Princess had been convinced something was wrong. I couldn’t totally disagree, either.

  We had more urgent matters to deal with, though. She’d agreed to only bring Caleb to meet with Bridget, and Wesley had managed to convince her it’d be safe for him to tag along in crow form. Lucky bastard; that power really was perfect for his voyeuristic ways.

  I doubted any of the others had caught on to it, but I knew his little kink was in watching. Maybe when this was all over, or at least when things calmed down a bit... we could have some fun.

  “How are we going to keep Baby Girl safe if she won’t let us come with her?” I pondered aloud, and finally I got Tyson’s attention. Fucking cat was totally in love with my girl.

  “She has none of her own magic, she can’t heal herself, and her strength is gone. She has Caleb with her, and he is pretty badass—not that we will ever tell him that. Wes has been learning his magic for three damn years, so who knows what he might be capable of. But it still doesn’t feel like enough.” I pulled a fine-tipped marker from my pocket and doodled a couple of runes on my right arm to clear some of my old ink. It was ink that Yoshi had done for me years ago when I was still learning. None of it was powered and, quite honestly, not as good as my own stuff. I wanted some clean skin to give myself a fox. No reason why.

  Tyson huffed, and I could feel him laughing at my own mental sarcasm, so I bopped him lightly on the nose with my pen.

  “Shut it, cat, or I’ll tattoo you next,” I teased him, then paused. “Actually, that’s a good idea.”

  Tyson bared his fangs at me in warning, and I shook my head at him. “Not tattooing you, dickhead. Christina. Surely Caleb and I can lend her a little magic through blood ink to keep her safe for this meeting.”

  The big cat cocked his head at me, then licked his whiskers in a way that clearly told me I should have thought of this hours ago. Smartass. Everyone thought Sam was the asshole because... well, okay yeah, he was a dick. But Tyson wasn’t exactly sunshine and belly rubs all the time either.

  Speaking of belly rubs, the overgrown kitten rolled over onto his back with his dinner-plate paws in the air, begging me to follow through for him. Giant sucker.

  I snorted a laugh and gave him a quick scratch before smacking him lightly on the butt.

  “Get up buddy. We have some tattooing to do. Go grab Cal; we will need some of his blood in the ink to make it stronger. I don’t know how effective it’s going to be while she has that fucking bracelet on.” Tyson was already bounding away before I finished speaking, so I headed outside.

  “Hey,” Christina said, giving me a tense half smile. “She’s still not answering. I called about fifty times, so, hopefully when she sees all the missed calls she will call back. Ugh, that sentence just had ‘call’ in it so many times I feel like I’m losing my mind or something.”

  Her voice was trembling, and I prayed to all things magical that Lucy was just being a shitty friend, not that something bad had happened to her. My girl couldn’t take much more heartbreak, and she sure as shit didn’t deserve it.

  “She’s probably in the middle of some crazy menage-sex weekend with those two hotties she’s dating,” I suggested as casually as I could manage. “Just leave it for now; she’ll call back when she can.”

  She nodded, chewing her perfect lower lip and still looking worried as all hell. I hated that I needed to add to that, but... well, fuck if I wasn’t just as worried for her.

  “I was thinking about your meeting with Bridget,” I started, and her ice-blue eyes narrowed on me.

  “No, Aus. We already discussed this, and even Alpha agreed. It’s Caleb and Wes only.” Her tone was final, and it made me want to fight with her, if for no other reason than it turned me the fuck on.

  Not the fucking time, Austin.

  I had to remind myself that on an almost daily basis around this girl. With all the shit going on, there just wasn’t enough right times, something I knew all the guys agreed on. So the sooner we could get Christina out of danger, the better.

  “I know,” I agreed from behind gritted teeth. “I had another idea for how to keep you safe in case your mo—I mean, Bridget tries anything shady. I just need to know you can protect yourself.”

  She shrugged one shoulder. “I’m still pretty badass as a human, you know? I can shoot almost better than you, and Cole did teach me some pretty hard-core combat moves.”

  “Princess.” I grimaced, running a hand over my face. “That shit isn’t going to be worth crap against her if she wants to start crap, and you know it. You need magic.”

  She raised an eyebrow at me and looked ridiculously sexy doing
it. Damn her. “You have an idea, oh great and powerful Ink Mage? Oh!” As she said it, I saw that she’d thought of the same thing I had. “You can ink some magic into me?”

  “I can try,” I agreed. “If you’ll let me. I’d feel better about you going with only my weakling brother to back you up.”

  Caleb’s snort of laughter came from behind me, and I bit back a grin.

  “Oh please,” he snickered, clapping a hand on my shoulder. “You know my magic is way more useful than yours. It’s why I get the shitty side effects, remember?”

  Christina laughed, holding her hands up. “Okay, measure dicks later; let’s get this ink done while we have time. I think it’s a good idea.”

  “Babe.” Caleb sounded offended and glanced at me with a teasing glint in his eye. “We’re identical twins; there is no measuring required. We’d be happy to show you, though... for scientific purposes.”

  She gave us a saucy smile as she brushed past us to head inside. “Maybe later,” she called over her shoulder, and fuck if I didn’t get a boner faster than a teenager at the Playboy Mansion.

  Caleb noticed, of course, and flicked me in the crotch before following our girl inside.

  Dick.

  “So what’s the design this time?” she asked me, perching on the edge of the table.

  Chewing the edge of my nail, I pondered her question.

  “Let me grab my stuff while I think about it,” I muttered, jogging upstairs to my bedroom to grab my case with all the equipment I might need.

  When I came back to the dining room, Caleb had made Christina laugh about something, and jealousy stabbed me briefly. My twin had it so easy sometimes. He was such a charismatic people person, while I seemed to just end up in fights everywhere I went.

  Tyson butted me with his huge head, almost sending me flying, but his message was clear. Princess loved me just the way I was, rough edges and all.

  “Yeah, yeah,” I whispered to the big cat, gently pushing him out of the way so I could get back to the table. “Okay, let’s start with just a small spell and see if it will hold. I’m a bit worried about how that fucking bracelet will interfere.”

  “Good point.” Caleb nodded. “All right, you need my blood, I take it?”

  “I do,” I replied. “Princess, shirt off and lying facedown on the table, please. This one is for your back.”

  There was no reason why I chose specific locations for her ink, other than that was where I wanted them to go. I fucking loved that she didn’t question my choices though; she just trusted me.

  At least I wasn’t the only one having trouble keeping focus as she stripped her purple tank top off, showing off her black bra before lying flat on her stomach. I needed to whack Caleb in the stomach to bring his attention back to me and the little cup I was holding out for his blood.

  “Sorry.” He snickered. “Got distracted.”

  “No shit,” I muttered, waiting for him to cut his inner arm deeply and bleed into the cup for me to mix with my inks. “Princess, we’ll just start with a small fire rune to test it out.”

  “Cool,” she replied, propping her head to the side on her arms as I dragged a chair up beside her.

  No one spoke while I mixed the blood and inks, then prepped my gun, but Caleb pulled up a chair of his own to watch. Once I was ready, I smoothed a hand over Christina’s back and felt a thrill run through me as her skin shivered and pebbled under my touch.

  “You good?” I asked her, positioning my needle on the top of her spine. She murmured a noise of assent, so I began.

  It was only a small rune, no more than an inch in diameter. If it worked and held magic for her, then I would form a chain of runes, each holding its own spell, all the way down her spine. Not only would it keep her safe, it’d look sexy as fuck.

  “Done,” I murmured when the design was complete. “Sit up and try this one.”

  She did as I said, swinging her legs around to dangle off the table on either side of where I sat, grinning and tempting me even more.

  Does she have any idea what she’s doing to me?

  “What do I try?” she blinked at me with total faith in my abilities, and I badly hoped I hadn’t fucked it up. Only one way to know though.

  “Simple fireball,” I told her. “It was just a small fire rune.”

  She nodded, holding out her palm and conjuring a fireball exactly the way I’d taught her to. It flared to light in her palm, and I let the breath gust out of me in relief.

  “Sweet,” Caleb murmured, coming to stand closer as she extinguished the fire. “Once more? Make it bigger.”

  Holding her palm out again, she followed the correct steps... but nothing happened. Nothing. Not even a little puff of smoke.

  “Did I fuck it up?” she asked me, scrunching her nose adorably.

  “Probably,” I retorted in the way she would expect, but I was pretty sure she hadn’t. “Do it again.”

  She repeated the action, but still nothing happened, and I heaved a sigh.

  “Single-use spells?” Caleb murmured, and I nodded.

  “Seems so. Okay, Princess, here’s the deal. I can magic in as many single-use spells as we have time for, but you’ll need to use them sparingly.” I gave her a stern look to make sure she was paying attention, and she nodded back to me with confidence.

  “Let’s get started then,” she agreed, lying back down on the table.

  I chewed at the edge of my lip for a moment, thinking about which spells would be most useful if she ended up in the shit with Bridget. I’d have to start with the more complex ones and then, if time allowed, I could go back and add extra small ones in between to link the chain down her spine.

  Placing my tattoo gun down for a second, I unclipped her bra strap and couldn’t help running my hand down her bare back.

  “Cal,” I said under my breath, “I’ll need more blood. Let’s make this as strong as possible.”

  He nodded back to me and flicked out his blade again.

  It wasn’t ideal, but I felt a hell of a lot better about Christina having some back up of her own, rather than none at all.

  After Christina left with Caleb and Wesley, I packed up all my equipment and stored it back in my bedroom. When I came back down, the dragons were sitting at the kitchen island drinking beer and speaking in low tones that cut off as I entered the room.

  “Why do I get the feeling you were talking about me?” I muttered, heading to the fridge to pull out my own beer. “Why do I care?”

  The second part was rhetorical, but Vali gave me a mocking smile. Scaly fuck.

  “Tell him.” The older Romanian nudged his brother, and Cole scowled back at him.

  I narrowed my eyes at our team’s second-in-command. “Tell me what, Cole?”

  “Well,” he started, then took another sip of his drink before continuing, “your skanky ex, Peyton. She’s dead.”

  The bottle I was holding almost slipped from my fingers as I stared back at him in shock. Did he seriously just say…?

  “She’s dead?” I repeated, and both dragons nodded. “How do you know this? How did it happen?”

  At these questions, Vali rolled his eyes and Cole ducked his head to avoid my gaze. That told me exactly how they knew, and I groaned.

  “You killed her?” I exclaimed. “How? Why? She has Bella. Please tell me you didn’t just leave that kid to grow up with only a shitty dad and no mom.”

  “We didn’t,” Vali responded, and I heaved a sigh of relief. Far too soon. “I mean, we didn’t leave Bella with no mom. Peyton had given her up for adoption years ago because your ex was a lousy excuse for a human. Cole did kill her though.”

  “Cole,” I growled, and he gave me a sheepish look. Or as sheepish as an asshole as intimidating as he was could manage.

  He shrugged uncomfortably. “It was a spur of the moment thing. We’d been looking into her for her involvement with the gala shit and then found out she was neck deep in these shifter videos hitting the internet. One thing led
to another, you know?”

  “I’m sure it did,” I murmured, twisting the top off my beer and taking a sip. I wasn’t particularly upset about Peyton being dead; she definitely deserved it if she’d been involved with Gray after all. It was just concern for Bella that’d had me in shock initially.

  “So, these people that adopted Bella…” I started, and Vali gave me an understanding nod.

  “They seem to be good people. Nice neighborhood, she goes to a good school. I had one of my guys do some recon to double-check, if you want the folder?” His diligence on the matter was appreciated, and I nodded.

  “How are things going with your criminal empire anyway?” I asked him, and he shrugged.

  “With Lucy and Elena running things from behind a smokescreen, I’m pretty confident we are one hundred percent legitimate now. Those two work well together,” he commented, then grimaced. “The only thing I feel unsure about is Finn.”

  Cole grunted a noise of disapproval. “The boyfriend? He has always felt off to me.”

  I frowned. “How? He’s never around when we are.”

  “Exactly,” Cole responded with an eyebrow raise. “Something about him seems off. Why was he at Blood Moon in the first place when we broke in? And didn’t he rip a man’s heart out with his bare hand? That’s some scary shit right there.”

  “Says the dragon shifter.” I snorted, remembering uncomfortably that I’d just de-hearted several men myself recently. “Does Lucy or Elena know what variety of supernatural he is?”

  Vali scowled. “They say they do, but they’re not letting on. I might put my guys on him and see if they can’t find out more.”

  “Just tell them to be subtle about it,” I advised him, realizing I was asking two dragons to be subtle. “If the girls find out you’re investigating their boyfriend…”

  Vali nodded. “I got it handled.”

  I rolled my eyes but didn’t argue with him. He was only marginally better than Cole, who had the tact of a sledge hammer.

 
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