The crows murder, p.2
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       The Crow’s Murder, p.2
 

         Part #5 of Kit Davenport series by Tate James
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  2

  Wes and I only needed to walk about twenty minutes down the road before we came across a gas station/diner combo.

  “Perfect,” Wesley grinned when it came into view. “They’ll have a payphone for sure. We can call the guys to get picked up.”

  “How? We don’t have a credit card or coins.” I arched an eyebrow at him, glancing to his bare feet. “Or shoes.”

  “It’s a basic payphone, sweetheart,” he replied with a grin. “If I can’t handle that, I’m a pretty shitty tech guy, right?”

  “Okay but payphones are a bit twenty years ago, don’t you think?” I wrinkled my nose and glanced over at the diner in question. “Didn’t they die out with the old Nokia brick phones?”

  “Uh, technically yes. But there is a sign that says ‘payphone available inside’ right there in the window. See?” He gave me a shy grin and pointed to the window and the sign itself.

  “Thank God for that,” I groaned. “I was not looking forward to explaining these to a truck driver if we decided to hitchhike.” I held my cuffs up and waggled them at him. “In fact, how are we going to get to the payphone without anyone questioning us? I didn’t want to mention it earlier, but you kind of look like shit, Wes.”

  He really did. Blood had been running from a cut on his head and was soaking the collar of his baby blue T-shirt. Fortunately the weather in California was positively balmy versus what it had been in Canada, or he’d have frozen half to death by now. Not that I was one to talk, in a dark gray tank top and sweatpants.

  “Um.” He hesitated a moment as we crouched behind some bushes. “I have no idea. Just... do it and hope the guys get here before the cops get called?”

  “Sounds good to me,” I shrugged, standing up from behind the bush with him.

  Just as we were about to cross the road, a cherry-red mustang GT came to a screeching halt in front of us and Caleb flew out of the passenger side, almost knocking me to the ground with his hug.

  “Uh, Cal?” I grunted, trying to wriggle free from his anaconda-like grip. “Can’t breathe here.”

  “Oh, sorry, Kitty Kat.” He loosened up his grip a little and pulled back to look at me. “Are you okay?”

  “Yeah, we’re fine. How the hell did you find us?” I frowned past him to Austin, who’d just gotten out of the driver’s side and was hovering behind his twin.

  “You okay, baby girl?” Austin asked in his deep, quiet voice, and I gave him a smile of reassurance.

  “I’m fine,” I reiterated. “But how did you find us?”

  “I’m fine too, you guys!” Wesley added, lightly punching Caleb in the shoulder.

  “You,” I corrected, “are actually not fine, Wesley. You’ve been bleeding from the head and are limping badly.”

  Caleb released me to look over at Wesley and then seemed to notice our handcuffs.

  “Uh, yeah.” I held up my linked wrists. “Magic cuffs. No keyhole and they block our magic.”

  “Shit,” Caleb murmured, and Austin just scowled, holding out a hand to me.

  Placing my hand in his, I shivered at the contact between us. Damn it if these guys couldn’t just make me feel safe with only a touch. It was... incredible. And worrying. Was I becoming too dependant on them?

  Frowning down at the cuffs, Austin patted his pockets—probably looking for a marker pen—before clicking his tongue in vexation.

  “Cal, it’s on you. I don’t have any ink handy, and I don’t think we really want to do a full mage ritual to break these the normal way.” He arched an eyebrow at his brother, then met my eyes again. “And I think we all know Princess will just end up in more trouble the longer she’s left tied up.”

  “Ha-ha, very funny.” I narrowed my eyes at his weak attempt at ribbing me. “But you actually have a point.”

  Caleb nodded, flicking his fancy switchblade out of his pocket and stabbing his fingertip with it. His jaw clenched, and I saw the tips of his fangs descend as he dropped several droplets of blood onto each of my cuffs, then Wesley’s.

  Like magic—ha-ha—the seamless cuffs popped open and fell off our wrists, clattering to the ground in a clink of metal. Austin scooped them up and tossed them into the back of his car before giving us a tight nod and pulling a marker from his back pocket.

  “Oh look, I did have ink after all. We’ll look into those cuffs later.” With a firm grip he took my hand and inked a little design onto the back of it, then did the same to Wes. “An illusion, to make you two look less like you just in case anyone is looking for you. Shall we go into the diner and you can tell us what the fuck happened?” His gaze was locked hard on me, and I immediately felt my hackles rise.

  “Don’t look at me like that,” I snapped, narrowing my eyes at him. “This wasn’t my fault. Besides, you never told us how the fuck you found us so fast.”

  “Come on,” Caleb interjected before Austin and I could really get into a proper argument. “Let’s get you something cheesy and some coffee. Wesley could do with a cleanup too.”

  Austin was lucky his twin had just uttered the magic words because I was more than ready to fight with him. He gave me a glare back, then slipped back into his car to pull it into a parking space in front of the diner.

  It wasn’t exactly a highly populated road—not a single other car had passed since we’d been standing there, but there were a couple parked at the diner, so we definitely weren’t alone.

  Caleb placed a hand on the small of my back and nudged me in the direction of the diner entrance where Austin already stood waiting, flipping his keys in his hand. I really was pretty hungry, given Simon and his goons had shown up right before we were going to eat lunch. I’d no idea how much time had passed since then either, but it was at least a couple of hours.

  We didn’t speak again until we’d slipped into a booth at the back of the diner and Wes had gone to clean himself up in the bathroom.

  “So,” I prompted the magical twins. “How did you find us? How did you even know we were in trouble?”

  “Vali,” Caleb responded, taking my hand in his under the table and linking our fingers together. “His Romani sixth sense told him you were in trouble, but he and Cole couldn’t work out where you were.” At this, his gaze flicked across the table to his twin, who met my gaze unflinchingly.

  “Austin,” I growled. “What makes me think you’ve done something I won’t like?”

  He shrugged. “Because I often do things you don’t like?” He paused. “But this time it was a little bit of a tracking spell worked into your ink.”

  My eyebrows shot up, but I couldn’t find the energy to be mad. His typical Austin do-what-I-want actions had actually been really beneficial. If we hadn’t managed to free ourselves, then that tracking spell could have led the guys straight to us... wherever Simon had been transporting us to.

  “I see,” I murmured, narrowing my eyes at the Ink Mage in a promise of a scolding later. His own green eyes sparkled back at me, and I got the distinct impression he was looking forward to it. Sick fuck.

  Wesley returned from the bathroom then, his blond hair wet and pushed back like he’d run his fingers through it about a hundred times on the way from the bathroom back to our booth. There wasn’t much to be done about the blood stain on his shirt, but Austin tossed him a jacket to put on, which hid most of it.

  “What did I miss?” he asked, looking around at the three of us.

  Caleb snorted a small laugh. “Just Austin fessing up to a sneaky tracking spell in Kit’s ink.”

  “Huh,” Wesley cocked his head at the Ink Mage. “That was really smart. Why didn’t I think of that?”

  “Oh my god.” I rolled my eyes and picked up my menu. Clearly I should know better than to expect the guys to see that tracking spell as an invasion of my privacy or anything like that. Not that I was really going anywhere I needed to hide from them... but that wasn’t the point, was it?

  Ugh, whatever. I was exhausted, and starving. This diner served a good selection of burger
s too, which would help.

  “Don’t stress, Princess,” Austin teased. “It wasn’t a permanent one. I’m actually surprised it even lasted this long. I thought it had worn off already.”

  Wesley started quickly running the twins through what had happened while I debated my burger choices, eventually deciding on a double beef and bacon burger with extra cheese.

  “Wait, how come the other guys aren’t here with you? I asked when Wes finished telling them about how we’d crashed the van.

  “Dickhead here wouldn’t tell them where you were,” Caleb responded, throwing his twin under the bus.

  Austin rolled his eyes and sighed. “For the thousandth time, I couldn’t tell them. It’s not like I have a mental set of GPS coordinates for where Christina is. I just followed the magic to her. Besides, those overgrown lizards would have shifted to get here quicker and that’s not really what we need, now is it?”

  “That’s a good point,” I agreed. “You’ve at least texted them to say we’re okay though, right?”

  “Yup,” Caleb confirmed, then our conversation paused as we placed our orders with the waitress.

  “I want to go and check out the crash site when we’re finished here,” Austin said when the bored-looking older woman walked away to place our orders with the kitchen.

  “Why?” I frowned but didn’t move away when his ankle pressed against mine under the table. Snarky or not, we’d already established I was in love with the asshole.

  “Because those cuffs were made by mages. And if mages are involved, then Caleb and I have some work to do within our community.”

  Their community. Sometimes I forgot that two of my lovers were supposed to be the leaders of an entire magical race. Okay, so I forgot all the time. It was going to be a bit weird having them ruling over mages... but I supposed they needed to step up some time soon, right?

  If they didn’t, someone else surely would. Maybe had? What other reason could there be for mages involving themselves in my kidnapping?

  Picking our way down the rocky incline once more as we headed back to the crashed van, I somehow managed to trip on something and ended up flying head first into Austin. Luckily, he turned just in time to catch me, instead of me plowing into his back and sending us both flying.

  “Really, Princess?” he murmured in my ear as his hands groped way more of my body than was necessary just to set me back on my feet. “I already know you’ve fallen for me. No need to get so literal.”

  “I tripped, asshole,” I growled back, swatting him on the arm and brushing past him to the crumpled wreckage of the van. It seemed amazing that no one had seen it and called the cops yet, but from the street it was impossible to see. The only evidence was the broken guard rail.

  “What the fuck?” Wesley exclaimed, having ducked inside the back of the van. I rushed over and peered past him to see what he was looking at.

  The inside of the van was still splattered with blood from all the shots we’d fired into the guards, but in place of bodies... were just empty clothes. What the fuck, indeed?

  “Huh,” Caleb climbed inside the van and kicked at the empty kevlar armour. “Golems.”

  “Like the little dude on Lord of the Rings?” I squeaked in shock, and confusion. What the hell did a little, ring-obsessed troll-thing have to do with the missing bodies?

  Austin snickered a laugh. “No, Princess. Golems are creatures, people in this case, made from clay and earth, animated using a necromancer’s magic. They’re often a replica of one person, but judging by this mess, I’d say the original wasn’t one of these.”

  “But...” I gaped at the contents of the van wreckage. “But they were bleeding.”

  Caleb swiped a finger through the redness splattered on the van wall. “Not blood, babe. Clay. See?” He held out his fingers to me to inspect. Now that he mentioned it... it was still way too red after this amount of time to be real blood.

  Holy shit, though. Golems. That meant...

  “Necromancer?” I repeated, wrinkling my nose and moving out of the way to let Caleb out of the van. “That explains why Simon is alive-ish, right?”

  “It sure does,” Austin confirmed. “And it means that this falls under Mage business. Cal, we’re going to need to call a town hall.”

  Caleb groaned and ran a hand through his hair. “Dammit. Yeah, you’re right. We’ve probably left the mages alone too long already and this is the result.”

  “Let’s get back,” I suggested, heading back to the climb to the road. “I want to shower before you start this town hall.”

  Austin snorted a laugh as he followed me. “Sorry, Princess. This one is mages only, and you’re not a mage.”

  Turning to him with a grin, I held out my hand to conjure a fireball. “Aren’t I?” I challenged, then frowned. There was no fire in my palm.

  Confused, I tried again. Nothing. I tried something else—levitating myself. Nothing.

  “What the hell?” I panicked, and Austin took me by the wrist with a gentle grip.

  “Calm down, baby girl,” he soothed. “It’s probably just a lingering effect of the mage cuffs. It should wear off in a day or so. In the meantime, you’re right. You technically are part mage now, so I can’t see why we need to exclude you.”

  “Okay. Cool.” I nodded, but chewed my lip. He was being nice, and that made me worry even more. Something was wrong with my magic, and I wasn’t totally buying the “lingering effect” excuse.

  Caleb bounded up past us and grinned back down. “Come on, Kitty Kat. We’ve got some mages to whip into shape! Also, the guys are probably tearing their scales out with worry...”

  “True,” I nodded again, but kept Austin’s hand in mine as we climbed back up the hill. Magic or not, simply being in physical contact with my bonded guardian made me feel grounded and calm. Was that magic? Or just... love?

  3

  Warmth surrounded me, and I breathed in the smoldering-campfire smell of Cole. My face was pressed into his broad, inked chest, and I could feel more than one set of hands resting on my body.

  River, for sure. Other than the suggested twin sandwich from Caleb and Austin, which hadn’t actually happened... yet... River and Cole were the only two who’d truly shared a bed with me.

  “Hey,” I murmured sleepily as I felt Cole’s breathing shift from asleep to awake. “What time is it?”

  Cole shifted in the bed, reaching for his phone on the bedside table, then relaxing once more. “You still have a few hours before this little mage meeting.”

  “Cool,” I mumbled, nuzzling my face back into his chest and reaching down to pull River’s hands further around me.

  We hadn’t risked returning to the same hotel, seeing as Simon clearly knew how to find us there. Instead, Cole, River, and Vali had packed up our things and we’d met at a beautiful little seaside hotel just north of Santa Maria. River had made contact with this dreamwalker guy in Ireland and gained us a couple more days, but that was all we could get.

  The town hall for the mages would be held in San Francisco, but with the twins ability to teleport themselves, it wasn’t really an issue to get there in time.

  “Are you sure you’re okay, Vixen?” Cole rumbled, stroking my long hair back from my face and trailing his fingertips down my shoulder. They’d only asked me if I was okay about seventeen thousand times before I’d gone to sleep the night before. It was seriously getting old.

  Yes, I’d technically been kidnapped again, but Wes and I had also managed to get ourselves out without needing to be rescued. So that was an improvement in my book.

  “Cole. I am fine. Stop asking.” I pushed up a little bit to glare at him. “Or I will go and sleep in Vali’s bed instead.”

  Cole narrowed his eyes back at me and stroked a thumb over my lower lip. “Who said anything about sleeping?”

  “Mmm,” River mumbled, his voice thick with sleep as he shifted closer to us both. “Sleep is overrated anyway, don’t you think?”

  A shiver of excitem
ent ran through me, and suddenly sleep was the furthest thing from my mind. River’s hands slid lower on my waist and pushed my tank top up a few inches to expose my midsection, and I hummed my approval.

  “Very overrated,” I agreed, tilting my head up to meet Cole’s lips in a searing kiss that left us both a bit short of breath and very turned on. River was clearly feeling the same way, as his hard length was pressed tight against my thigh. For my part, I’d been sleeping halfway on top of Cole, with River draped over me like a big spoon, so we are already close.

  “Seeing as you’re going to the mage’s meeting later and then leaving for Ireland tomorrow with Wesley, would you mind terribly if we stole the next few hours?” River murmured, brushing my hair aside and kissing his way up my back.

  “Hours?” I repeated, pondering this. “I’ll give you one hour... and then I should spend some time with Vali.”

  “We can work with that,” Cole agreed, hooking his fingers into the edges of my underwear and making me shoot up from my comfortable position.

  “No!” I scolded him, scrambling off the end of the bed and out of his reach. “I’m running dangerously low on panties right now, and there’s no time to go lingerie shopping before Ireland.”

  River chuckled, a content sound I only ever heard from him in the bedroom, and Cole rolled his eyes.

  “I wasn’t going to tear them, Vixen,” Cole lied. The wicked grin over his lips betrayed him. “Come back here, and I’ll show you how careful I can be.”

  “Not a chance in hell, Cutie,” I grinned back.

  River shifted himself to lie beside Cole, his head on the pillow as he stroked a hand down his chiseled torso. “Better take them off there, then, Kitten love. Just in case.”

  “You first,” I replied, propping my hands on my hips and drinking in the sight of these two muscular, dominant men in bed together. It was the stuff of dreams... and this was just a third of my guardians.

  Holy shit, I really am lucky.

 
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