The crows murder, p.7
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       The Crow’s Murder, p.7

         Part #5 of Kit Davenport series by Tate James
 
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  “You must be Wesley,” he said in a gruff, thick Irish accent. “Expected you two days ago.”

  “Yes, and as discussed via phone, Kit and I were in the midst of a kidnapping attempt.” Wesley’s jaw clenched, and he narrowed his eyes at the old man. Not an amazing start, so far.

  The man stared back at us for a long moment, then grunted and held out his hand. “Name’s Seamus. Come in; all the heat’s getting out.”

  Wesley shook his hand, then moved aside so I could do the same. We both followed Seamus into his cottage, and he shut the door behind us with a heavy sound.

  “So,” our host muttered, limping past us to lead the way into the little sitting room in front of an open fire, “you want to learn more about Druid-lore.”

  “Uh, do we?” Wesley asked, taking a seat on the couch when offered. “We understood you had some experience with, ah, dreamweaving.”

  Wes flicked a glance at me, and I gave him an encouraging smile. It couldn’t be easy talking to a total stranger about magic. It made me glad that I had the guys and that they’d never once made me feel like a crazy person for what I could do.

  Seamus leaned forward in his seat, his beady eyes locked on Wesley so hard that even I squirmed a little. “If you came here looking for some crackpot fraud who will put you through a meditation and speak a bunch of mumbo jumbo, then charge you for the privilege... well you’re barking up the wrong bloody tree, kid.” He paused, and his intelligent eyes darted over me and back to Wesley. “But I get the feeling you kids are more than what you seem. So why don’t you start from the beginning, and then I’ll see how I can help. Hmm?”

  Wesley sucked in a deep breath and raised a brow at me, like he was asking my permission or something. But this was what we’d come for, so I gave him an encouraging nod and squeezed his fingers.

  He smiled back and then turned to Seamus to start retelling his history, starting way back before he met me, when he started seeing me in his dreams.

  While he spoke, he kept a tight grip on my hand, and I noticed Seamus giving me several curious looks throughout Wesley’s story. When Wes finished telling Seamus about his encounter with Gaelin inside his dreams, the old man narrowed his eyes at me, and I squirmed uncomfortably.

  “What?” I asked when he didn’t speak for a long time. “Why are you staring at me?”

  “Lemme see that ring of yours, girl,” he ordered me, and I glanced down at my hand, still entwined with Wesley’s. I still wore my bloodstone Ban Dia ring, of course. It physically couldn’t come off now that I’d begun my bonds.

  “Why?” Wesley asked for me. “That has nothing to do with what I am.”

  Seamus barked a laugh. “Bullshit, boy. You wanna tell me I ain’t gonna find a Ban Dia bloodstone on that there finger?” Wesley opened his mouth to respond, but no words came out. I simply cocked an eyebrow in curiosity at the old man. “That’s what I thought.” His Irish accent made it sound like he was dropping all his h’s from th- words, and I fought a smile. Something about him was just... non-threatening.

  “What do you know about Ban Dia, then?” I asked him, tilting my head to the side. “So far as I’m aware, they’re not a well-known race of people.”

  He chuckled, scratching his chin. “Nor are the badbh, and yet here the two of you sit on my very couch.”

  “That’s... is that what I am, then?” Wesley puzzled, “Badh-uv?” He sounded it out awkwardly, so Seamus helpfully spelled it for him.

  “Badbh. Yes, I’d say so, if this story you’ve told me is true. There’s always a chance you’re here to pull me leg and get a good laugh from messing with old, crazy Seamus, but I have a feeling you wouldne brought a Ban Dia with you for that.” He gave me a shrewd look, and I simply met his stare with curiosity, neither confirming nor denying the accusation.

  “So you can help me then?” Wesley queried. “You can teach me whatever I need to learn to control my magic? We can pay, of course.”

  “Nope,” Seamus replied without even a second’s hesitation.

  “What? Why not?” Wesley demanded, and I tightened my fingers around his. I got it, though. After all this, it was yet another dead end.

  Seamus let out a weary sigh and leaned in closer to us. “Boy, you already know why. Gaelin told you himself in your dream.” He reached out a gnarled finger and tapped the side of Wesley’s head. “Think. What did he tell you when he first showed up claiming to be your teacher, hmm?”

  A deep frown marred Wesley’s forehead, but I knew he already knew the answer. “‘You’re the first of our kind to surface in the human realm for a very long time.’ The first to surface... meaning...”

  “Meaning I’m not like you.” Seamus nodded. “Ain’t nobody on this whole planet like you, unless your girlfriend has been flinging that magic of hers around and restoring more unsuspecting fools to their birthrights?”

  I scowled and gave a little head shake.

  “So, why do you know so much?” Wesley’s voice was dripping with disappointment, and I wanted nothing more than to hug him in that moment. I knew better than most how lonely it felt to be the only one of your kind.

  “Ah, well now, I didn’t say I couldne help you at all, now did I?” The old guy’s face creased up in a smile. “Wait here; back in a jiff.” He groaned as he stood from his seat, and then he shuffled his way to a narrow staircase leading up to a mezzanine level.

  “Kit...” Wesley whispered under his breath, but I shushed him.

  “This is more than we have gotten so far. Let’s just see where it goes.” I pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. “No harm in seeing what he has to tell us.”

  “I’m nothing but human, myself,” Seamus called down from the loft to us, confirming my suspicion. “But once upon a time, my people were badbh themselves. When the plague hit some four hundred-odd years ago, all the full-blooded ones cleared out back to their own realm, leaving any mostly human offspring to fend for themselves here. My ancestral grandmother many, many times over was one of them left behind, but her mam was an optimist, see?”

  A series of grunting noises came from the loft, and then he reappeared to make a slow descent down the stairs carrying a heavy-looking book.

  “See, back then, a wee mage girl made a prediction that all would be righted in the magical world one day. No one believed her on account of her being so young. No one but my ancestor, that is. She believed, and she didn’t want her descendants left out in the cold when that day came. So she broke all the rules and left this.” He dropped the book on the coffee table and it landed with a heavy sound, sending clouds of dust flying up from it.

  “And what is this?” I asked, letting curiosity get the better of me.

  Seamus gave us a sly grin. “A bible, of sorts. Or... an encyclopaedia. Except this one outlines all magical species. Their appearances, origins, powers... weaknesses.” As he stressed this last word, he raised a brow at me, and ice formed in my gut. Suddenly he seemed considerably less non-threatening.

  “Holy shit,” Wesley breathed, stretching out a hand toward the book. “This is... do you have any idea what this information could mean?”

  “No, I just kept it all these years for shits and giggles,” Seamus responded to Wesley with heavy sarcasm, and I stifled a giggle. “I’m letting you read this on one condition, and mind I am not giving it to you, simply letting you study it here to learn what you need to know.”

  “What’s your condition?” I asked him quietly, as Wes was thoroughly engrossed in the pages before him already. “You want your magic healed?”

  Seamus snorted a laugh. “That’d be assuming I even have any in my diluted bloodline. Ain’t no one know for sure until they try, eh? No, not me. I’ve lived a damn long life already and got no desire to keep on keeping on.”

  “If not you, then who?” It was pretty clear that this favor he wanted was from me, if his curious glances had been any indication.

  “My great-niece, Siobhan. She’s only seven, but she’s sick.” He pursed hi
s lips and sucked a breath through his nose. “Real sick. Cancer.”

  “I’m so sorry to hear that,” I whispered, seeing how much this upset him. That poor kid, to be so young... “And she’s... I mean, is it not something that can be cured through human means?”

  “She’s dying, so no. Doctors only gave her six months, and that was four months ago.” Seamus dashed a tear off his cheek. “So, this is the deal. You two can come here and study my family book for as long as you want if in return you”—he nodded at me— “agree to heal wee Bonnie.”

  It seemed like a no-brainer, but still I hesitated. “It could change her; you understand that, don’t you?” He gave a short, sharp nod. “Do her parents?”

  “I’ll explain it to them. They’ll be fine with it, though. If it gives her a chance to live, they won’t object. For all we know, she could be pure-as-snow human.” He gave me an imploring look, and I sighed.

  “Of course I’ll try, but only if she and her parents understand the risks. If she changes... well, then her and Wes will be the only badbh in existence.” I chewed my lip, watching Wesley from the corner of my eye. He’d stopped reading to listen to us, but his fingers unconsciously stroked the words on the page open in front of him.

  “I’m aware. But something tells me it won’t stay that way for long.” Seamus straightened his shoulders and stuck out his gnarled hand for me to shake. “Do we have a deal, girl?”

  I glanced to Wes, and he gave me a small smile of encouragement. If this little girl really did change, I knew he would be there to help her.

  “As much as I want to take your deal just to get access to this book, it wouldn’t be right. I’m having some issues with my magic right now.” I paused, chewing my lip. “As in, I don’t have access to it. So until I get that little problem sorted, I can’t heal anyone.”

  Seamus narrowed his eyes at me, clearly thinking this over.

  “I appreciate your honesty, lass. And you don’t look like the type to sit on your hands for long, so if you can promise to heal my girl as soon as you can, well, then I will still let you read my book now.” He held his hand back out again.

  “Deal,” I agreed, taking Seamus’s hand.

  “Perfect,” he crowed, clapping his hands together. “I’d better get over to Siobhan’s mama’s house and get started explaining all of this. She’s a non-believer, so it’s going to take a bit of effort.” He grimaced and rapped his cane on the floor before heaving up to his feet. “You two help yourselves to tea or whatever. When I’m back, we can sort you out somewhere to stay.”

  “Sounds good,” I murmured as he hurried out of the door. Nervousness was pooling in my gut, though. Was I doing the right thing in agreeing to this?

  “Kit, you’ve got to read some of this,” Wesley gushed, drawing my attention back to him and the huge book open on his lap. “It’s got information on everything. Mages, shifters, Ban Dia, vampires! Sweetheart... vampires are real!”

  I snorted a laugh. “Yeah, Caleb told me that they’re, like, some sort of demon or something? And people got them mixed up with Blood Mages at some point in history.”

  Wesley bobbed his head in agreement. “Uh-huh, yup, I can see how that happened.” He paused, flipping a few more pages. “This is so cool. I wonder if he’d let us scan it or something.”

  “I highly doubt it.” I grinned. “Let’s not test the friendship so early in the game. Flip to Badbh first so you can learn about you. Once you’ve done that, we can go back and learn about everyone else. Who knows when this info might come in handy, huh?”

  “You’ve got that right,” Wes agreed. “Okay fine, start with me, then we learn about Ban Dia, and then everyone else. Yes?”

  “Perfect. Get started, and I’ll make us more tea. Something tells me Seamus isn’t a coffee drinker, which sucks...” I moved to the small kitchen as I spoke, but I’d already lost Wesley’s attention as his nose disappeared behind parchment once more.

  He was beyond excited about the secrets that book held, and I didn’t blame him. I was utterly dying to read what it said about Ban Dia, but the whole reason we made the trip to Ireland was for Wesley, so his information needed to take precedence.

  Now if only he would read faster, dammit.

  8

  Several days passed, and each day seemed a step closer to Wes managing his powers. The section of Seamus’s bible dedicated to badbh was the longest—which made sense, considering they were the ones who authored it. But that meant it didn’t just contain rough information on appearance, skills, heritage, and weaknesses, like some of the other lesser-known creatures. Instead it was like a full training manual on how-to-badbh.

  Presumably it had been written with the intent of teaching any surviving descendants, which was exactly the purpose it now served. Wes had already managed to control his own dreamscape in such a way as to block Gaelin from harassing him at night, and he’d managed to develop his skill with crows in such a way that he could direct where he wanted them to go. The other day he’d even accompanied me to the local store... inside a crow’s mind.

  According to the book, he should be able to fully shift his form into a crow one day. But that required a talisman much like my bloodstone ring, one gifted by another badbh, which wasn’t exactly looking likely.

  We’d been in touch with the team daily, but most of the time it just wound up with me chatting to one of the guys for over an hour like we were school kids. It reminded me of when Vali and I had started talking, so I was enjoying it immensly.

  It wasn’t even daybreak when Wesley hauled me out of bed one day to head back to Seamus’s house. We’d been staying in a little bed and breakfast on the outskirts of the town, seeing as there hadn’t been room for us to stay with Seamus, but I had been glad of the space.

  “No,” I groaned as Wesley tried to shake me awake. “It’s too early. Go back to sleep.”

  “Come on, sweetheart,” he coaxed, moving my hair out of the way and pressing little kisses to my naked back. “I was on the verge of nailing a new skill yesterday, and I have a good feeling about today.”

  “You said that yesterday,” I grumbled, turning over to snake my arms around his neck. He was fresh from the shower without a shirt on yet and his jeans still open at the waist. “Come back to bed until it’s light, and then we can go.”

  In an attempt to tempt him, I wove my fingers into his wet hair and pulled him down to kiss me. He gave a frustrated groan, kissing me back as I pulled him closer and slipped my hands down to his jeans. I’d not bothered putting any clothes back on before falling asleep, so I was still naked under the sheet. The only things standing in my way were a pair of jeans and boxers...

  “Sweetheart,” Wes groaned. “Come on. Please? I’ll get you coffee while you shower.”

  I paused. What did I want more, coffee or sex? Ugh, why were all of life’s decisions so damn hard? Speaking of hard...

  “Kit,” Wesley scolded as my hands continued their quest.

  “Fine,” I sighed, pouting up at him even as he gave me puppy eyes himself. “You’re going to need to make up for it later, though.”

  Wes chuckled, kissing me hard and grinding his erection against me, the big tease. “Absolutely. Now get up. It’s going to be a big day today, sweetheart. I can feel it.”

  “I wish you’d feel something else,” I grumbled, wiggling over to the side of the bed and stumbling sleepily into the bathroom. “Big coffee, please.”

  Wes laughed. “Obviously. Back in five, and don’t go back to sleep!”

  “I won’t! Geez.” I rolled my eyes as I turned on the shower and checked the temperature. It wasn’t like I often went back to sleep when he thought I was getting up. Just... sometimes.

  The warm water did help to wake me up, but it was the giant cup of coffee Wes left on the vanity that really did the trick for me. When I stepped out of the water, I hurried to wrap a towel around myself before taking a long sip and not even caring that it burned my tongue.

  “Oh fu
ck yes,” I moaned, rolling the delicious liquid over my tongue. “That’s the shit. Right there.”

  “Better than sex, huh?” Wesley teased me, leaning on the bathroom doorframe fully dressed this time. I grinned back at him, grabbing him by the shirt and pulling him down for a kiss.

  “Not always,” I admitted. “But fuck, it comes close.”

  He laughed at me then, his baby-blue eyes sparkling with delight. The transformation in him since we’d arrived was noticeable, like a heavy weight had been lifted from his shoulders and he could see light at the end of the tunnel. It was totally worth the trip just to see him like this.

  “I love you, Wes,” I confessed, finding myself lost in his gaze for a moment.

  “You don’t mean you love coffee?” He quirked a mocking brow at me, and I scowled.

  “No, asshole. Although I love coffee too. But this time, I mean you. I love you, Wesley.”

  He grinned down at me. “Well, in that case, I love you too, sweetheart.” He punctuated this sentiment with a lingering kiss that seriously made me regret accepting coffee over sex.

  “Come on,” he reminded me, breaking away. “Get dressed. I’m excited for today.”

  “I can see that,” I murmured, but I couldn’t stop smiling at him. Damn adorable nerd that he was. I relinquished my coffee just long enough to dress, then took it back while Wes drove us out to Seamus’s little cottage.

  We let ourselves in, as Seamus had advised we do if we came over early. He was not a morning person himself, so it was better for everyone if we didn’t wake him. Not that I blamed him. I’d have loved to stay asleep too, but Wes seemed to think he focused better when I was nearby, so here I was.

  “I wonder if he has any of those potato-scone things left,” I mumbled to myself, heading into the kitchen while Wesley set himself up at the table where he’d left the book and all his notes the night before.

  To my disappointment, it looked like there were none left and not much of anything else either. I groaned and checked the time. The store wouldn’t be open for a couple of hours yet.

 
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