The crows murder, p.19
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       The Crow’s Murder, p.19
 

         Part #5 of Kit Davenport series by Tate James
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  Whatever, it’s their funeral.

  I, for one, had no interest in getting on Lucy’s bad side. There had to be a reason her name was Lucifer, after all.

  23

  KIT

  The location Bridget had arranged for us to meet was apparently the house that Caleb had been meeting her at for their magic lessons. His theory was that she already had it so heavily warded with magic it made for the perfect safe meeting place... for her.

  Wesley shifted into his crow form before we left and took off into a tree the second our portal dropped us onto the grass. He did it quick enough that to anyone not watching for it, he’d have just seemed like a startled bird.

  “Remember,” Caleb said in my ear as I surveyed the back of the house. “We want her to come outside so Wes can keep an eye on things. Also, I think it’s better to steer clear of her wards if possible.”

  “Understood,” I reassured him. “I’m human-ish, not stupid.”

  We walked together across her immaculate lawn and up the few steps to the glass door where I knocked politely.

  It was Nicholai who answered, which didn’t surprise me. Bridget didn’t seem like the answer her own door type of woman. The smile he gave me seemed genuine, but I wasn’t fooled. He was sticking by Bridget for some reason... I just didn’t know what it was. There was his dianoch bond, sure. But Vic had all but outright said that the bond did nothing to coerce feelings or loyalties. Maybe Nicholai really still loved her?

  “Kit,” he greeted me. “It’s good to see you. And you Caleb. Will you come inside?”

  “We’d rather not,” I replied with a smile of my own. “Do you mind if we sit out here?” I indicated to the expensive-looking outdoor setting on the patio. “It’s such a nice day, after all.”

  Okay, so “nice” was stretching it, but it was springtime and warm enough to go without a jacket. This was a good thing because without my super-healing, my back was on fire from the detailed runes stretching from the nape of my neck down to the top of my ass. It was actually amazing how many Austin had managed to get done in such a short time, but holy crap, I could feel them all now.

  Regardless of the lingering pain that I was unaccustomed to, I was grateful. There was enough magic inked into my skin that I should have no issues defending myself long enough for Caleb to get me the hell out, if need be.

  Nicholai gave me a small smile that said he knew exactly why I wanted to stay outside, but he didn’t argue. Smart man.

  “Of course,” he agreed with a small head tilt. “I’ll tell Bride to come out. Can I get you a tea or coffee?”

  “Coffee,” I accepted just a touch eagerly, and Caleb said the same. The fox shifter nodded and headed back inside the house while Caleb and I took a seat at the outdoor setting. I perched on the edge of my chair, wanting to stay alert for any mischief my bitch of a mother might have up her sleeve.

  “You doing okay?” he murmured to me as we waited, and my gaze searched the trees for Wes. “Just remember, keep calm and play dumb. We want to coax the information out of her, if possible. At worst, we don’t want her suspicious about why we came here, right?”

  “Uh-huh,” I agreed, finding Wesley’s dark, feathered form in one of the top branches of a huge tree.

  “Kitty Kat, that doesn’t sound very encouraging,” Caleb whispered, but whatever he was going to say next was cut short with the door opening and Bridget strutting out to meet us with Nicholai on her heels holding a tray.

  That wasn’t even an exaggeration; she strutted out like she was Queen Shit and we were her lowly peasants coming to beg favors from her. I was really starting to get a feel for why so many people disliked her.

  “Christina, darling,” she cooed, coming to air kiss my cheeks before pulling out a chair for herself. “I’m so glad the change of locations wasn’t too much trouble for you. My business was all wrapped up in Los Angeles, you see. There was no need for me to stay there any longer.”

  “Didn’t bother us,” I replied in a cool tone. “We can go anywhere... as you know.”

  Bridget flicked a glance at Caleb and gave a quick, brittle smile. “I do. So what can I do for you, sweetie? You said you wanted to know more about our people?”

  I nodded, taking the cup of coffee that Nicholai held out to me. Then I thought better of it and placed it down on the table without taking a sip. Bridget had already proven she wasn’t above magically drugging people’s drinks.

  “Yes,” I replied, meeting her darker blue eyes without so much as blinking. “More importantly, I want to know why you gave me this fucking bracelet and how to get it off.” I held my gold-encircled wrist up, even as Caleb groaned and kicked me under the table.

  Bridget’s red brows shot up in surprise, and her gaze flickered to my wrist. Her shock only lasted a brief second, though, before her lips twisted into a cruel smile, and I came to the sickening realisation that we were about to meet the real Bridget.

  “Oh dear,” she murmured in a mocking voice. “Did someone cut you off from your magic?” She shook her head and clicked her tongue. “What a terrible shame. And you, the Ban Dia who was supposed to save the world.”

  “Excuse me?” I snapped, narrowing my eyes at her. “No one ever said I was supposed to save the fucking world. What is your problem, really? What the fuck did I ever do to you? I was a child, for god’s sake!”

  “Well, that’s where you’re wrong, sugar.” She leaned forward in her seat, her eyes flashing with danger and her teeth taking on a decidedly sharp gleam. “I am so glad you decided to drop the pretense. This was going to be so boring if you never knew what I was up to.”

  My teeth ground together hard, and it was taking everything in my power not to pop her in the nose again. “Why don’t you enlighten me then?”

  “Of course,” she replied gracefully, sitting back to sip her tea. “I suppose I will need to, given that, I assume, Jonathan never did get around to telling you all the important parts. Always was a fault of his, hiding his head in the sand. Pretending like if he ignored fate, then it might not happen.”

  “What the hell does this have to do with Jonathan?” I demanded, choking slightly over his name.

  She grimaced. “Yikes, he really didn’t get far before Simon shot him, did he?”

  “How the fuck do you know about that?” I gasped, feeling bile rise in my throat. Surely Bridget couldn’t have been the one behind Simon’s orders....

  She flapped her hand like that was the least of her concerns. “Jonathan had a whole lot more to do with this than you clearly understand. I don’t suppose he ever told you about his sister?”

  I started to shake my head, then remembered. “Only that I reminded him of her; that was why he adopted me himself instead of putting me back into the system.”

  She snorted a laugh. “Yes, I imagine you would. His sister, Tasha, was my mother—your grandmother—and the sole reason we are all in this shit fight to begin with.”

  My jaw dropped open, and the air all gusted out of me like I’d just been punched in the gut. Jonathan was my great-uncle? Why would he never have told me that?

  “Wait, how...?” Coherent sentences were failing me as my mind frantically tried to fit all the pieces together.

  “How was that bitch responsible for this mess?” Bridget finished for me. It wasn’t what I’d been about to ask, but it would do, so I nodded. “Tasha had the gift of foresight. One of her dianoch was a seer, and she gained some of his power when they bonded. Ban Dia aren’t designed to take on anything more than a faint shadow of their dianoch’s magic, though. They exist to increase our strength in our own magic. Not to share theirs. Anything more than just a little taste, and it can drive a Ban Dia mad. That’s what happened to Tasha.”

  She paused to sip her tea, watching me from under her long lashes. That bitch. She already knew I had taken on more than a “little taste” of my dianoch’s powers.

  “Anyway, Tasha became a bit deranged, determined the world was about to end and des
perate to stop it from happening. I was just a little girl at the time, but she became convinced that I would be the one to bring destruction down on the earth.” Bridget rolled her eyes, but her voice was bitter with deep-seated hatred of her mother. “So she colluded with a group of mages to strip me of my magic when I came into it at age seven. That’s the pivotal age for Ban Dia children. Seven. When we know if our child is our one true descendant or just a dud.”

  “That’s the real reason you dumped me, isn’t it?” I breathed, feeling shivers of shock creeping over my skin. “You thought I was a dud.”

  Bridget shrugged, uncaring. “You showed no signs of being a Ban Dia on your seventh birthday; I saw no reason why I should keep you. Not you or any of the other dud children I’d created over the years. Besides, you should be thanking me. If I’d known you were my true heir back then, I would have drained your magic straight away. You never would have made it past childhood.”

  I gasped with shock, and Caleb tightened his grip on my hand. I hadn’t even noticed him take it to begin with.

  “Clearly Tasha’s spell didn’t take,” Caleb commented. “You don’t look like your powers are stripped at all.”

  “Clearly,” Bridget responded to him as if ignorant of how her casual news was hitting me. “Tasha wasn’t all there in the head, so it was hardly a surprise that it all went wrong. My magic was a little dented, but in no way stripped like she had hoped.”

  “The plague,” I whispered. The churning in my belly was only getting worse with every word that crossed her lips. “My grandmother was responsible for the plague?”

  Bridget rolled her eyes again. “Finally, you’re getting it. Perhaps now you can see I am only trying to right the wrongs of my mother by returning supernatural-kind to their bloodrights.”

  “You’re the one?” I was in such a state of shock I needed things spelled out to me. “You’re the one behind all these shifters preparing for war? How exactly do you plan on saving them all when you don’t have the magic to restore them?”

  “No, I don’t,” she agreed with me. “But you do. Or you did. Come the full moon, that nifty little bracelet will allow me to absorb everything that was yours. Dianoch included.” Her lips peeled back in a macabre grin. “Then, once my army is assembled, we will take on the puny humans and finally take back this world for magic. The way it was always meant to be. And you know the best part about it all, Christina?” I shook my head, numb to speech. “Without your magic, there is nothing you can do to stop me.”

  She let out a childlike giggle, like the psychopath she was turning out to be, then leaned in to kiss my cheek. I wasn’t so shocked that I couldn’t place the tracker on her, though, and she’d just presented the perfect opportunity.

  “Wait,” I gasped, grabbing on to her bare arm and placing the spell against her skin. “What will happen to me after you take my magic?” I really didn’t give a shit; it was never going to happen. But the spell inked on the thin piece of tissue paper needed three full seconds of contact to bind.

  “Aw, honey,” she sighed, cupping my cheek and giving me this look of pity that made me want to tit punch her so damn badly. “You’ll die, of course. With no magic left, you’ll be nothing better than human. And humans will have no place in my new world. The kindest thing would be to let my army tear you to shreds.”

  She patted my cheek in a condescending way, then pulled her arm free from my grip. “I think we’re done here? I’ll let you leave unharmed. After all, you pose no risk to me, and you…” She turned to Caleb with a simpering grin. “You will become mine all too soon. I do so hate to see handsome men damaged.”

  With another giggle, she turned and headed back inside the house, not even glancing back to see if Nicholai was following or if we were leaving.

  “I’m so sorry, Christina,” Bridget’s guardian murmured softly. “If there were anything I could do...” He trailed off pathetically, and I tried not to turn my anger on him. After all, this wasn’t his fault; he was just too damn spineless to stop her. Fucking fox shifters.

  “There’re plenty of things you could do, N,” I told him in a cold voice as I shoved back my chair and made my way to the stairs. “You just need to grow a pair, like Vic. Maybe he can help us stop this madness before it goes any further.”

  “I hope so,” Nicholai muttered, giving me a sad smile. “Good luck.”

  Curling my lip at him in disgust, I turned my back and walked out to the grass with Caleb beside me. Right before the portal runes flared to life, Wes flapped down from his branch and perched on my shoulder to hitch a ride home.

  Bridget had just dropped a truckload of information on me, but she’d fallen into that same old bad guy role. They really never can resist boasting about how smart they are and what their master plan is. I guess it was just a flaw of the overly arrogant? Whatever the reason, it was damn helpful knowing what we were in for.

  Now we just needed to foil her diabolical plans and then... save the world. So easy.

  24

  RIVER

  My heels clicked a rhythmic sound on the wooden boards of the front veranda as I paced. It was the best I could manage in an effort to keep control, and it was barely working as it was.

  Kit had returned some hours earlier with Caleb and Wes and filled us in on everything Bridget had blurted out about her plans. Stupid woman. No wonder her mother had tried to strip her magic from her all those centuries ago; she wasn’t sane enough to handle them herself.

  It was the email that Vali had shared with me that had me pacing the damn veranda, though. He’d done the right thing, showing me. I could tell how torn he was, and it was clear that Director Pierre hadn’t wanted the information shared with the team. Otherwise why not send it to me?

  Expecting Vali to keep something of that magnitude to himself was too much to ask, though. He was sitting in one of the wicker chairs, watching me with those dark gray eyes as I paced, and the tension practically vibrated through him.

  “So, what do we do?” he asked me after the longest amount of time.

  I didn’t immediately respond; instead I paced a few more lengths while I thought his question over. What the bloody hell did we do?

  “I guess we track down Bridget’s missing guardians. Most likely they are staying away due to the geas she placed on them, but surely with Austin and Caleb at full power we can break those for them. That would allow them to do what needs to be done.” I tightened my lips over my teeth, knowing that hadn’t been what he was asking.

  “Makes sense,” he rumbled. “But you know what I meant. What do we do about the other message.”

  My next step faltered, and I paused, sighing heavily. Jonathan’s surface message had been clear. Find Lachlan and Victor, and have one of them kill Bridget before shit got out of hand. His other message wasn’t that much harder to determine.

  A Ban Dia could only be killed by her direct relative, say Bridget to Kit. Or by her dianoch.

  So if one of us were to lose control, we stood a very real chance of hurting her. Maybe even killing her. I couldn’t let that happen. But what were my options, here? To never let her heal me and therefore never turn into the beast that lurked inside my mind?

  Leaving wasn’t an option. Maybe it should be. Of course, it should be, and a better man than me would already have his shit packed and be on a plane to the farthest corner of the earth in order to keep her safe.

  But the thought of never seeing her again made me physically ill. Even entertaining the idea resulted in a sensation akin to being stabbed by a thousand knives dipped in acid. Deep down, I knew I couldn’t survive being away from her. Sooner or later I would lose my battle for control, and something told me if that happened, there would be no need for her magic to bring out my beast. He could do that all on his own given half an inch of freedom.

  “I don’t know,” I finally admitted to Vali, dropping down into the seat beside him and scrubbing my hands over my face. “I honestly don’t know.”

  H
e pursed his lips and nodded slowly. “I respect your honesty on this one, Alpha,” he growled, and I huffed. He’d never called me Alpha before, I suspect because he never really considered me his leader—which was understandable and not a battle I was concerned to fight. His use of it now, though... that worried me.

  “My suggestion, if you’re open to it,” he started, and I gave a small nod to continue, “is that you let Kit heal you in a controlled environment. Your need for control is clear, and I suspect it stems from whatever you’re afraid you’ll change into.” I gave another short nod. “So, maybe we need to create an environment similar to the control you keep mentally. A cage or a box, a confined space where you will feel safe. Then if anything does go wrong after she heals you, we can keep you under lock and key until you get a hang of things.”

  I sighed, rubbing at the stubble on my cheek as I considered his idea. It wasn’t a bad one. Far from it. More to the point, it was a hell of a lot better than anything I’d been able to come up with so far.

  “It’ll take time to arrange,” I said in a soft voice, almost not wanting to voice my agreement. “More time than we have before the next full moon.”

  “Well,” he said, clapping a hand on my shoulder. “Then we just need to keep you alive through that, keep Kit from having all her magic stolen by her psychotic biological mother, and then we deal with all of this afterward. One step at a time, right?”

  He was right. It was weird, talking to Vali. He was so much like Cole that sometimes it felt like they were the same person, but then at other times he showed exactly how he’d become such a formidable crime lord. He was a damn master strategist, and a skill like that was going to come in handy with what was to come.

  “One step at a time,” I repeated. “But promise me this. If anything happens and you think I might be at risk of hurting her...” I trailed off, my throat tightening with panic just imagining it.

 
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