The crows murder, p.8
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       The Crow’s Murder, p.8

         Part #5 of Kit Davenport series by Tate James
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  “Wes, I’m going to bake something, okay?” I called out to him and saw his pen pause on the notebook he’d been writing in.

  “Uh... are you sure that’s a good idea?” he asked gently, giving me a somewhat scared look.

  I scowled back at him. “Ha-ha, very funny. I’ll have you know I am not a terrible cook when I actually try. It’s not my fault you guys are all so willing to cook for me, you know.”

  “Fair enough,” he admitted. “What are you going to make?”

  “Cheese and bacon muffins,” I announced, fishing out the ingredients that I could see in the fridge. “And I’ll go restock Seamus’s kitchen when the store opens... seeing as it’s so fucking early nothing’s open yet.”

  “Uh-huh,” Wes murmured, already turning back to his notes. “Just don’t burn the house down or anything.”

  “Asshole,” I muttered but was still smiling. Humming around the kitchen while I made my breakfast muffins, I briefly considered getting Tyson out for some company.

  “I wouldn’t,” Sam’s voice hissed through my mind. “His fat ass will trip your clumsy feet up and the next thing you know... chaos.”

  “Thanks for your input, Sam,” I whispered, rolling my eyes. For the most part, the two of them stayed quiet and just... did whatever familiars did when they weren’t in physical forms. Slept, I guess? Every now and then, though, Sam felt the need to comment on a situation or Tyson would offer his approval on something I was doing. It had started out weird. Intrusive. But I’d kind of grown to like having them with me.

  He had a point about Tyson, though. The kitchen wasn’t that big, and Tyson was not a small kitty. Sighing, I continued baking in silence while Wes worked. He was approaching the whole thing in a very analytical manner—very academic—which I wasn’t totally sure was the best way to approach magic.

  Then again, what the heck did I know? Not a whole lot, apparently, or I wouldn’t have somehow ended up wearing a bracelet that was blocking my magic gifted by my oh-so-loving biological mother.


  The oven timer dinged, and I grinned with satisfaction as I pulled out my perfectly golden, savory muffins. Hell yeah, nailed it.

  “Voila!” I announced, laying one down in front of Wesley on a plate. “And you doubted me.”

  Wesley’s eyebrows shot up in surprise as he eyed the freshly baked creation. “Color me impressed, sweetheart. This looks really good!”

  “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” I teased, rolling my eyes. “I figure if I no longer have my magic, then I might need to find another skill for you guys to keep me around.”

  “Kit,” he scolded, grabbing my hand and yanking me to sit on his lap. “Firstly, you will get your magic back. And secondly, you don’t think loving you is enough reason for us to keep you?”

  I shrugged. “These are sort of unusual circumstances, and the last thing I ever want to be is dead weight on this team.”

  “Sweetheart,” he groaned. “You are so far from dead weight. Even without magic... you’re the glue that’s holding us all together in the middle of all this supernatural madness. Don’t ever, ever consider leaving us. Okay?”

  Pursing my lips, I nodded my understanding. “Okay. But I still need to contribute.”

  “You do,” he assured me. “In more ways than you know.”

  “Thanks, Wes.” I smiled. “Now, I’m going to stop distracting you and go for a quick walk. It’s looking like a really nice sunrise, so I’m going to call the guys while I walk into town for supplies, okay?”

  “Yep, good plan,” he agreed, taking a bite of his breakfast and making a noise of approval. “These are actually tasty, Kit.”

  “No shit.” I scowled at him and hung up my apron in the kitchen. “I’ll be back in an hour or so. Learn lots while I’m gone.” I dropped a quick kiss on his cheek, then headed for the door, where I pulled on my coat and boots.

  Just as I was opening the door, a muffled grumble announced Seamus surfacing from his bedroom.

  “Breakfast is on the bench,” I called out to him. “I’m going to the store.”

  “Get more whiskey,” he replied, scrubbing his hand over his face as he peered at my muffins.

  “You got it,” I acknowledged, then headed out into the dawning day.

  After pulling my phone from my pocket, I tried Caleb first, but when it went straight to voicemail, I dialed River. He answered on the first ring, and his rich British accent purring my nickname gave me butterflies.

  “Hey,” I replied, grinning like a lunatic as I wandered down the little country lane.

  “I miss you, Kitten,” he murmured, and those damn butterflies went crazy inside me.

  I bit my lip and tried to get control of my hormones so as not to sound like a thirteen-year-old talking to her crush. “I miss you too, Alpha. How’s everything going there?”

  “Good,” he said firmly, and I wasn’t totally sure if he was saying good to me missing him or that things were going good. “I bought us a house.”

  “Wait, what?” I exclaimed, sure I must have just heard him wrong. “You did what now?”

  “I bought us a house. You being away made me realize we didn’t have a base. We didn’t have a home...” He trailed off with a sigh.

  “But I thought you all had houses? Caleb and Austin have a place in San Fran, and Cole has his horse ranch in Texas.” I racked my brain for where the other guys had said they owned houses. Vali had more than I could keep up with, but I was pretty sure Wesley had bought a house for his mom and little brother, Grant, and River had his family estate.

  “We do. But you didn’t.” River was so damn matter-of-fact with these things it was leaving me stunned. “And I for one fucking hate my family estate. So I bought all of us a house that we could call home. If you like it, that is.” Suddenly he sounded less sure of himself. “If you don’t like it, it’ll be no big deal to sell it and find something else. I just thought...”

  “I’m sure I’ll love it,” I assured him when he trailed off. “Wherever you guys are, that’s where my home is.”

  River cleared his throat, and I heard a deep voice mutter something in the background.

  “Is that Cole with you?” I asked.

  “Mmm, and Vali. The twins are off dealing with that necromancer twat who was helping Simon.” River paused when one of the brothers said something more in the background. “No, mate. Fuck off. You talked to her last time she called.”

  A grin spread over my face, and I stifled a laugh. “Tell them to be careful in those cage fights,” I ordered him. “I swear to coffee, if they end up maimed or dead, there will be trouble.”

  River snorted a laugh. “I’ll pass that on.”

  “All right, I’d better go; I’m almost at the store, and then I need to get back to Wes. He seems confident he will make some big breakthrough today, so I want to be there to see what it is.” I paused outside the store where the shopkeeper was just opening up for the day.

  “I can’t wait to hear all about it,” River replied, his voice warm with affection. “Call me first next time.”

  “I will,” I promised, smiling. “Love you guys.”

  “We love you too, Kitten,” he said quietly, then hung up.

  My stomach still fluttering with butterflies, I tucked my phone back in my pocket and wandered the store with a bounce in my step. Things finally felt like they were starting to look up for us all. Despite the facts that my magic was blocked and Caleb couldn’t find Bridget for an explanation, our team had never felt stronger or more cohesive.

  After I paid for the groceries, I began the walk back to Seamus’s cottage while admiring the sunrise. It was a really pretty one, the whole sky stained with red as the sun rose lazily. Seamus had told me days ago that red sky in the morning was a bad omen, but I was pretty sure it just meant that it would rain that day. Or that’s what the shepherd’s tales said.

  The solitary cottage came into view as I turned the corner at a pretty moss-covered rock fen
ce, and I stopped to pat the friendly donkey that resided in that paddock.

  “Good morning, buddy,” I greeted the long-eared animal. “Brought you a treat.”

  Digging into one of my shopping bags, I pulled out a carrot and offered it up to the funny little guy, who took it happily between his huge teeth.

  Watching him munch down the carrot, I gave his ears an affectionate scratch before turning back to the path.

  I’d barely taken two steps in the direction of the cottage, when the whole damn thing exploded in a giant fireball. The boom of the explosion knocked me back into the fence, and my donkey friend took off across his paddock in a panic. Not that I blamed him.

  What the fuck just happened?

  Gathering my scattered wits, I dropped my shopping and took off at a run toward the burning wreckage of Seamus’s cottage. I had to have just imagined that explosion. The cottage couldn’t have just blown up because Wesley was inside the cottage... and if it had blown up, then...

  “Wesley!” I screamed as I sprinted towards the burning mess that had once been a cute little house made of stone and thatching. The closer I got, the more I was forced to accept what I was seeing was real and not just a weird, hateful delusion.

  As much as I wanted, needed for it to be a twisted, fucking joke... there was no denying the heat of the fire as I skidded to a halt in the driveway. Our rental car had its side completely caved in with a heavy block of stone planted in its middle—a piece that had once formed part of the exterior wall.

  “Wesley!” I screamed again. Maybe he and Seamus had been outside when it happened? “Wes! Where are you?” My voice came out choked, and my gaze scanned the fields around the cottage, looking for any sign of movement.

  They had to have been outside. They had to have been. Because if they’d been inside when that explosion happened....

  “Wesley!” I cried out again, this time in anguish as tears streamed down my face. I ran around the burning building to search the backyard, but found no one waiting there for me. They must have been inside.

  “I’m coming!” I sobbed. “I’m coming for you!” Because I had to. If he was in there and hurt, then I needed to get him out. Maybe I could heal him. Maybe my magic would work again, and I could just... fucking heal him!

  Using the flat sole of my boot, I kicked what was left of the back door open, then cowered from the flames billowing out at me. As I watched, a beam crashed down from the loft space, blocking any access from that point.

  “Shit!” I screamed in frustration, running back around to the front of the house. All the windows had exploded out, and my boots crunched over glass as I approached. I tried a window first, but the flames were too strong, so I kicked in the front door.

  It swung in, then snapped off its hinges, already on fire. But I could see the kitchen... and I could see what remained of the table I’d last seen Wesley sitting at.

  My heart clenched painfully, and a desperate sob caught in my throat. Where was he?


  From behind the broken table, I could see an arm poking out. He must be hurt, unconscious even. I needed to get him out.

  Pulling my sweater up over my nose and mouth, I sucked in one last breath of air then held it tight as I dove into the destroyed cottage. Or attempted to. A strong arm grabbed me around the waist, hauling me back from the flames and away from Wesley.

  “Stop it!” I screeched. “Let me go! I need to help!” I clawed at the arms holding me, but I was frantic, panicked, and totally lacking my superstrength. I may as well have been fighting a robot for all the impact I was having.

  “Stop fighting me, woman,” the man grunted, hauling me off my feet as he dragged me back from the fire. “Ye go in there, and yer as good as dead.”

  “No,” I moaned, “please, let me go. You don’t understand, I need to get him out! He’s still alive; I can feel it. Please, please let me go!”

  “Fecking crazy bitch,” the guy muttered, totally ignoring me as he dragged me away from Seamus’s cottage.

  Fighting him, I screamed, looking around me for something to help. It was then that I realized the town’s little fire truck had arrived and was hooking up their hoses, ready to fight the flames. They weren’t going fast enough though! Why were they going so damn slow?

  This couldn’t be how it ended for Wes; he was counting on me. I wasn’t getting anywhere like this though, so I stopped fighting the man holding me. My body went limp, and as expected, his grip on me loosened just enough for me to break free and sprint back head first into the fire.

  “Wesley!” I screamed over the roaring flames, taking a lungful of smoke and coughing violently. The path to the kitchen had become obstructed by falling beams, but I could still see that hand poking out from behind the table. If only I could get to him.

  It meant climbing over a burning beam, but if I moved fast enough then maybe... Not bothering with another second of indecision, I tensed and leapt.


  The sheer whiteness of my surroundings when I blinked open my eyes smacked me in the face like a brick. Where the fuck was I? How did I get here? The last thing I remembered was... shit! The fire! Wesley!

  “Wesley?” I croaked, but my voice barely made a sound before I began coughing violently. Struggling to breathe, I pushed myself up in the sterile, white bed and gasped for air.

  Hospital. I was clearly in a hospital. Shit, this was bad.

  Frantically, I looked around me, trying to see where Wesley was. The curtain was drawn between my bed and the next, so I stabbed at the Call-Nurse button.

  “Oh, you’re awake, dear.” The gray-haired woman smiled as she entered my bed area. “You must be feeling a bit worse for wear, no?” She tsked-tsked, shaking her head at me. “That was a silly thing you did, running into that fire. You’re lucky to be alive, so you are.”

  “What?” I coughed, frowning at her. “Please, where is my friend? Wesley? He was”—I paused to swallow the lump of emotion in my throat—“he was in the cottage.”

  “Wesley, you say?” She cocked her head at me like a confused cocker spaniel. “No, dear. You must be confused. That was crazy old Seamus’s cottage.”

  “No.” I shook my head, feeling fuzzy. “I mean yes, it was, but my friend was in there with him. Wesley. Like, six-foot tall, sandy-blond hair, blue eyes... he must be here too?” My voice was hoarse and dry and it burned my throat to speak, but this was too important.

  “Oh, honey.” The nurse gave me a pitying look and squeezed my fingers. “After they pulled you out, they only found Seamus. No one else.”

  “What?” I shook my head, sagging back against my pillows. “How... what?”

  “Well, you took off into that fire like the devil himself were chasing you, but you got smacked in the head by a falling rock. Father Flaherty ran after you and dragged you back out before you got burned, but I dare say you took in a bit of smoke—that’ll be why your voice is so rough.” The nurse handed me a cup of water, which I sipped gratefully. It wasn’t until the cool water had soothed my throat that I realized how much it hurt.

  “But, Wesley,” I insisted. “They must have found him too. Unless he got out himself?”

  “No, dear.” She shook her head again, looking sympathetic. “If he was in there, hon, he won’t have made it out. They’re still to check the wreckage, but there’s just no way.”

  “No,” I denied her words, even as sobs clawed at my throat. “No, you’re wrong; he must have gotten out somehow.”

  The woman handed me a box of tissues before I’d even noticed the tears pouring down my cheeks. I was full on crying now, sobbing and hiccupping as she just stared at me in pity. She was wrong though. She didn’t know him; she didn’t know us. There was simply no way something as mundane as an explosion could have taken down one of my dianoch. It wasn’t possible! Was it?

  “They’re saying it was arson, dear,” the nurse said gently after I’d sat there bawling for several minutes. “Although that don’t surprise me.
Crazy old Seamus had plenty of enemies, so he did. The garda will be wanting to speak with you, though, so don’t you go anywhere, okay?” She chuckled like she’d made a joke, but I was too far gone to even listen.

  I didn’t respond, and eventually she left my cubicle. I slunk back into my bed to sob. Over and over in my mind, I replayed the events. My brain examined every damn detail of that memory, hunting for something, anything, just some small sign of hope to show Wesley might have made it out alive.

  But... if he had, where was he?

  Anguish wracked through me as another violent coughing fit shook my body. It was all too much. Wesley couldn’t be dead... he just couldn’t. How would I wake up tomorrow morning and not hear his voice? How would I drink coffee and not think of him? Of all the times he’d bribed me with it or tried to switch me to decaf, hoping I wouldn’t notice? Fuck, how would the sun continue to shine and the wind continue to blow… if Wesley was dead?

  When I woke again, there were two uniformed policemen standing at the curtain of my cubicle talking to a different nurse in hushed tones. Seeing them, I sat up abruptly. Maybe they had found Wesley?

  “Miss Greene?” one of the officers inquired, using the fake name I’d given at our accommodation. I nodded, and he stepped further into the space around my bed. “I’m Garda O’Neil, and this here is Garda Douglas. We’re investigating the fire at Seamus Connolley’s house.”

  “Explosion,” I corrected him in my scratchy voice, and he raised his eyebrows. “It was an explosion, not just a fire. Like a bomb going off.” Speaking of it brought the vivid picture back to my mind, and I felt the wetness of tears on my cheeks again.

  Something scratched at my mind, like someone trying to tell me something, but I shoved it aside. Now wasn’t the time to be distracted.

  The man made a note on his little pad, then gave me a tight smile. “Good to know. Can you tell us how you and Mister Connolley were acquainted?”

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