The crows murder, p.20
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       The Crow’s Murder, p.20

         Part #5 of Kit Davenport series by Tate James
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  “I’ll shoot you myself,” Vali promised. “You have my word.”

  “Thank you,” I murmured, feeling just a tiny bit of weight lift at his oath. At least I had contingencies in place, should the worst occur. I couldn’t risk being the one to hurt my Kitten, and yet, I was the most likely to.

  Bugger. I was right royally fucked.

  Returning to Omega Headquarters for the reading of Director Pierre’s will was a somber affair. There had been no funeral, as per his wishes. Instead, his body had been cremated and the right officials paid off to avoid a police investigation into his death. It wasn’t needed, after all. We knew who had pulled that trigger, and he had paid for it.

  “Are you sure you’re okay for this, Vix?” Cole murmured quietly to our girl as we walked down the marble corridor to the conference room. We were a few yards behind the other guys, and I walked on her other side.

  She didn’t answer, but her lips tightened and she gave a sharp nod. Nobody could ever accuse her of weakness, but once in a while I wished she would lean on us. Let us help shoulder some of the weight on her mind.

  “Good, you’re all here,” the Omega lawyer announced as we entered the conference room and he snapped his briefcase shut. “This is the Last Will and Testament of Jonathan Davenport, aka Director Louis Pierre. It was just updated recently, a month ago as witnessed by me, but the contents are strictly confidential and for your eyes only. Not even I know what is in this document.” He slid a thick manila folder across the table to me, and I caught it before it slid off the edge. “Mr. Morgan, if you’d be kind enough to visit me when you’re done here? I’d like to know what the future looks like for Omega.”

  “Of course,” I murmured with a small nod.

  Graeme, the lawyer, picked up his briefcase then turned to Kit and pursed his lips.

  “I’m very sorry for your loss, Christina,” he said in a less businesslike voice. “I know we haven’t ever met, but your dad and I have worked together for many years. He’ll be sorely missed.”

  “Thanks,” she responded in a husky whisper.

  “Come and see me if you have more questions that those papers don’t cover. I was privy to… most of what Jonathan was doing here.” He gave her a pointed look that left no doubt in my mind he knew about the magic.

  Kit gave him a tight smile, and he left us alone in the conference room, closing the door behind him.

  “Shall we?” I suggested, indicating to the seats around the table. The boys all took one, but my Kitten hesitated, her eyes darting to the small metal urn she carried.

  “I think I might get some air,” she said quietly. “I’m okay,” she added before I could express concern. “I just don’t know if I can hear what he put in that packet. I’ll wait outside, okay?”

  I wanted to say no, to tell her that it wasn’t safe to be anywhere without protection until she got her magic back, but that wasn’t the way to deal with her. It was just a surefire way to make her claws come out.

  “Stay where we can see you?” I asked, nodding at the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the grassy lawn dotted with oak trees.

  “Of course,” she agreed, backing out of the room. “Come get me when you’re done.”

  We all waited, tense as violin strings, until she reappeared outside the window, giving us a small wave and then sitting cross-legged under a tree.

  “Let’s see what the director left,” I started, flipping the folder open and breaking the seal on the flap. The accompanying letter, which Graeme had read to me over the phone, had been clear that Jonathan’s will was for all seven of us to read.

  A lot of it was the standard stuff that I’d had to deal with when my parents died. Properties, bank accounts, safety deposit boxes, and priceless artwork were all left to Kit as Jonathan’s sole surviving family member and named heir of his estate.

  The part that was, no doubt, the reason for the secrecy was the stack of DNA results. One for each of us, including Kit and Jonathan, which showed their matching DNA and confirmed what Bridget had told Kit about him being her blood relation. I flipped through them, then put them to the bottom of the pile to continue on. We didn’t need to read them to know they showed us all to be a whole lot more than human, and a quick glance at mine showed exactly what I had expected.

  “Species: Unknown.”

  “Is that everything?” Vali asked from across the table, and I glanced up. I hadn’t even realized I’d stopped speaking and was retreating inside my head once more.

  “Uh, no.” I shook my head, scanning the next page. “The company, Omega Global, has been left to all of us. Kit is named as majority shareholder, but the remainder is split equally amongst the rest of us. Director Pierre asks that we keep Omega open and operational until such time that we deem Kit ‘of sound mind’ enough to make her own decisions with it.”

  Cole grunted a disgusted noise. “So he doesn’t want to jeapordize his experiments while Vixen is emotional.”

  “Something like that,” I agreed, druming my fingers on the tabletop as I read that document again.

  “There is something I was meaning to bring up,” Wesley said, breaking into my musing. “Kit said that Jonathan assured her that all Omega recruits and agents were here voluntarily and fully aware of what is at stake with them being changed… but I sure as hell had no idea. Did you all?”

  “I’m not an Omega recruit,” Vali replied with a grin. “But I know what you mean. Our family told stories about being descended from dragons, but they were only stories. Unless you learned something more after you came here?” He raised his brows at Cole, who shook his head.

  “No,” he confirmed. “I had no idea.”

  “Neither did I,” Wesley agreed.

  Caleb shifted in his seat. “We knew about our heritage, obviously. But no one at Omega ever mentioned it to us.”

  “Nor me,” I added, pursing my lips. “Do we think he lied to her?”

  “See if there is anything else useful,” Wes suggested, nodding at the stack of papers in front of me. “I’ll do a quick bird’s-eye view of campus and see if I can get any intel.”

  Caleb snorted at Wesley’s bird joke, and I rolled my eyes. Apparently he’d grown a sense of humor in the three years he’d been away.

  Wesley’s eyes glazed over, and I flipped through the few last papers in the stack, which seemed to be summaries of the current recruits and agents under Omega’s employ. Names, ages, locations, and estimated species. Certainly explained why the document was for our eyes only. It would be pretty dangerous information if someone like Bridget got wind of it.

  “Back,” Wes announced, and we all looked at him expectantly. “Most recruits have been sent home under the excuse that the campus is undergoing renovations. I did overhear a couple of first years talking, though, and it really does seem like they know what’s going on. Not about the director’s death.” That was still being kept a secret until Kit could make a formal announcement. “But they were discussing that girl that Kit healed back in her training group. They knew she’d shifted into a wolf and almost sounded excited to learn what they might be.”

  “Huh, so we were the only ones kept in the dark?” Caleb pondered aloud, and Austin scowled.

  “Sounds like Pierre was pulling a lot more strings than he has let on,” he muttered, slouching in his seat and folding his arms.

  “What will we do about Omega?” Cole asked me. “Do we tell Vixen?”

  “Not yet,” I decided, shaking my head. “For now, Vali and I will take over the running of things. Keep it all business as usual until this shit with Bridget is over with.”

  The Romanian met my eyes across the table and gave me a nod of support. He was a lot like me, in some respects, and I was starting to overlook his history of violence and crime.

  Charming bastard.



  The tracking spell had worked. For the next six days leading up to the full moon, we were able to track Bridget’s comings and goings p
erfectly and had even had Wesley give us visual confirmation on a lot of locations, just to be sure it was working properly.

  Unfortunately... that told us nothing. None of her movements seemed to make any sense, and we’d gained absolutely no insight into how she was planning to complete this spell which would transfer all my magic, and my guardians, over to her.

  Worse still, we had zero leads on finding Vic or the mysterious Lachlan. Vali and River had told me they were trying to find them in the hopes that they might know more about Bridget’s plans and maybe even how to remove the magic-blocking bracelet. It sounded like a good idea, but now that it was coming up blank, I was starting to lose hope.

  “So, we follow her like a shadow today until we work out where this spell will go down, and then... what?” I asked, clenching and unclenching my fingers in the hem of my shirt.

  “And then we disrupt whatever components she needs to complete the spell. If we can keep her from doing whatever needs to be done, then we have gained another month to figure this all out.” River sounded confident in this plan, but there was a tightness to his jaw that gave him away. He was worried.

  “We’re just assuming that there even are components to disrupt,” I pointed out. “What if it’s not that complicated? What if it’s just as simple as ‘Oh look, full moon. Bam. Magic gone.’”

  “It’s not,” Austin snapped. He’d been particularly peevish today, way more so than usual, which was kind of cute. I liked to imagine it was because he was worried about me, but it was probably worry for what might happen to them if Bridget succeeded.

  “Austin’s right,” Caleb confirmed. “There is no way in hell a spell like this, something powerful enough to actually strip a Ban Dia of her magic, could be done without a ritual—probably blood sacrifice and definitely a sacred space laid out with corresponding runes. There will be enough for us to disrupt. Trust us.”

  I chewed my lip as I considered this. I really did want to trust them on this, but it all seemed too hopeful. All of our fates could hinge on this. Except...

  “River, I think you should stay behind,” I blurted out, and he raised a dirty blond brow at me.

  “Excuse me?” he asked in a dangerous voice.

  Licking my lips, I straightened my spine to defend what I’d just said. “You’re the only one not bonded to me in some way. I think you should stay away so that if things do go wrong, you won’t get sucked into Bridget’s web. Actually, you too Wesley.”

  “No way,” Wes snapped, folding his arms over his chest and glaring at me.

  “Ah, yes way. You’re not bonded to me as a dianoch, so she shouldn’t be able to absorb you with her diabolical plan. Unfortunately, I’ve already doomed these four, but you two should stay safe. Just in case.” I hated saying those words, hated the idea of being separated from two of my guys at a time that could very well see the end of me, but it was for their own damn good. Surely they could see that?

  There was a long, heavy silence for a moment as the guys all just stared at me. No, they glared at me. Finally, River flicked a glance at Wes who gave a tiny headshake.

  “No,” River said. “Sorry, Kitten but I’m pulling rank on this one. As team leader, I make final calls on mission plans, and this mission plan requires everyone’s involvement. End of story.”

  “What? You can’t do that!” I protested, but they were already dispersing from the kitchen without listening to me. “River! You can’t do that!”

  He didn’t respond until it was just the two of us left in the kitchen, and then he prowled closer to me, boxing me against the counter with a hand planted on either side of me.

  “Technically, Kitten, I can. I shouldn’t; you’re absolutely right. But sometimes we have to risk the anger of the ones we love in order to keep them safe.” He leaned in closer, capturing my gaze with his golden eyes. “So, in this instance, unless you plan on physically restraining us, there is not much you can do to stop Wes and I from coming.”

  “River.” I pleaded at him with my eyes. “Can’t you see that’s what I’m trying to do? Keep the ones I love safe? I just have a really bad gut feeling about how this is all going to go down, and I just... I can’t lose anyone else. Not now. It’ll kill me, you know it will.”

  A hot tear slipped from my eye, and River caught it with his finger, wiping it away and caressing my cheek with his palm.

  “If that were to happen, it wouldn’t kill you, Kitten. It’d hurt, I have no doubts about that. It’d damn near feel like it was killing you. But it wouldn’t. You’re too damn strong, love. The only way you’ll ever be defeated is if you let yourself be defeated.” His voice was soft and low, intended only for my ears. “But this thing tonight. You need all of us there with you. We need to be there together as a united team. Individually we are strong, but together we’re indestructible.”

  Hearing River echo a thought I’d had myself, only a week or so ago... it was startling. But it gave the idea more weight. He was right. We were stronger as a team, so maybe he was right about needing to come with us tonight.

  “River, I just... if at any stage it looks like things might go bad, you need to promise me—”

  “We’re not leaving you, Kitten. Not ever, so don’t even ask that. If things go bad, then they go bad for all of us. But we won’t turn tail and run without you.” He was firm in this, totally resolute, and I knew I wouldn’t change his mind.

  “Well, then we better win, huh?” I tried to joke, but it came out sounding weak and scared.

  River gave me a small, half smile and cupped my face with his palm. “It’s the only acceptable outcome, love. I won’t tolerate failure on this mission.”

  His formal phrasing made me smile, so it was with reluctant acceptance that I nodded my agreement and then sealed it with a kiss. River’s lips met mine gently, and he kissed me slowly, like he was committing this moment to memory, just in case. It was because of that kiss that I knew he wasn’t anywhere near as confident as he was acting.

  That bastard.

  “I love you, Kitten,” he whispered when we broke apart, his voice hoarse with emotion.

  “I love you too, Alpha,” I whispered back, swallowing tears down and silently praying this wouldn’t be the last kiss we would share.

  “What do you think is down there?” Caleb murmured from beside me. We were lying flat on our bellies on the roof of a two-story office block, watching the storm shelter entrance that shifters had been coming and going from for almost an hour.

  “Has to be some sort of sacred ground doesn’t it?” I whispered back, not taking my eyes off the doorway. “That’s where you said she’d be completing the spell.”

  He grunted a noise, chewing his lip as we continued to watch. We’d tracked Bridget inside almost two hours before and she hadn’t left, so we were pretty confident this was where it would all go down. Where I might die... if I wasn’t smart about how I handled things.

  “Hopefully the others have been able to get more than we have from here,” he said, sounding disappointed. “So far, all we know is that she’s got a buttload of shifters helping out, which isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, but it’s sure as hell going to complicate matters.”

  “True,” I agreed. It wasn’t like we had really expected her to try something like this magic-stealing crap without any backup... but it would have been nice. I guess her hubris only extended as far as confessing her plan in advance. “How many have you counted so far?”

  “About fifteen or sixteen,” he replied, shifting his weight to find a more comfortable spot. “You?”

  “Same,” I confirmed. They’d been carrying boxes and potted plants out of the basement for the past hour, loading them into a waiting truck. That suggested they were clearing out space for something.

  “We can handle that many normal shifters easily. I just hope she doesn’t have more stashed inside or something.” He had a good point. Fifteen shifters would be a walk in the park for two dragons alone, and that wasn’t even
taking Caleb, Austin, and Wes into account. Or River with his arsenal of weapons. As for me? Well, my job was pretty clear. Bridget.

  Distract, delay, detain—whatever it took to keep her occupied while the guys saved my bacon. I’d really never fully appreciated how much I relied on my powers until I no longer had them. I felt powerless and vulnerable. Was this what Lucy had felt like when I was on Fox jobs? If so, it fucking sucked and I owed her an apology.

  A tremor of anxiety rumbled through me at the thought of my bestie. She still hadn’t returned any of my calls, but after Wesley had looked into it, he’d said there was evidence they might have just gone away for a vacation.

  Every fiber of my being hoped that was true.

  “Hey,” Wesley whispered as he materialiszd from crow form to human beside us. “Any luck here?”

  “No sign of Bridget, but we’ve counted about fifteen shifters,” I reported. “How about you?”

  “The roof of that building is that sort of retractable glass designed so you can open it up and have a courtyard, you know?” He fiddled with his ring as he lay beside me on the roof. “So I’m wondering if this entrance brings them out into that part. It would make sense if Bridget actually needs the moonlight to complete the spell.”

  “You couldn’t see anything?” Caleb asked, and Wes shook his head.

  “Nope, the glass is tinted and it was too dark inside to make out anything.” He sighed, and I placed my hand over his.

  “That’s good info, Wes,” I assured him. “It makes sense with all the plants they’ve been moving out.”

  He huffed, pursing his lips as he looked down on the spot we were monitoring. “Have they brought anything in at all?”

  “Not much,” Caleb answered. “Except for whatever that is.”

  While we watched, several muscle-bound shifters carried an intricately carved silver chest off the truck and down the stairs into the darkness. It was big, maybe five feet long, and looked heavy. Whatever it was, they were handling it with extreme care.

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