Home > Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson #3)

Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson #3)
Author: Patricia Briggs

Chapter 1

"A cowboy, a lawyer, and a mechanic watched Queen of the Damned," I murmured.

Warren - who had once, a long time ago, been a cowboy - snickered and wiggled his bare feet. "It could be the beginning of either a bad joke or a horror story."

"No," said Kyle, the lawyer, whose head was propped up on my thigh. "If you want a horror story, you have to start out with a werewolf, his gorgeous lover, and a walker..."

Warren, the werewolf, laughed and shook his head. "Too confusing. Not many people still remember what a walker is."

Mostly they just confused us with skinwalkers. Since walkers and skinwalkers are both Native American shapeshifters, I can sort of understand it. Especially since I'm pretty sure the walker label came from some dumb white person who couldn't tell the difference.

But I'm not a skinwalker. First of all, I'm from the wrong tribe. My father had been Blackfoot, from a northern Montana tribe, and skinwalkers come from the Southwestern tribes, mostly Hopi or Navajo.

Second, skinwalkers have to wear the skin of the animal they change into, usually a coyote or wolf, but they cannot change their eyes. They are evil mages who bring disease and death wherever they go.

When I change into a coyote, I don't need a skin or - I glanced down at Warren, once a cowboy and now a werewolf - the moon. When I am a coyote, I look just like every other coyote. Pretty much harmless, really, as far down the power scale of the magical critters that lived in the state of Washington as it was possible to get. Which is one of the things that used to help keep me safe. I just wasn't worth bothering about. That had been changing over the past year. Not that I'd grown any more powerful, but I'd started doing things that drew attention. When the vampires figured out that I'd killed not one, but two of their own...

As if called by my thoughts, a vampire walked across the screen of the TV, a TV so big it wouldn't have fit in my trailer's living room. He was shirtless and his pants clung inches below his sexy hipbones.

I resented the shiver of fear that surged through my body instead of lust. Funny how killing them had only made the vampires more frightening. I dreamed of vampires crawling out of holes in the floor and whispering to me from shadows. I dreamed of the feel of a stake sliding through flesh and fangs digging into my arm.

If it had been Warren with his head on my lap instead of Kyle, he would have noticed my reaction. But Warren was stretched out on the floor and firmly focused on the screen.

"You know," I snuggled deeper into the obscenely comfortable leather couch in the upstairs TV room of Kyle's huge house and tried to sound casual, "I wondered why Kyle picked this movie. Somehow I didn't think there would be quite so many bare manly chests in a movie called Queen of the Damned."

Warren snickered, ate a handful of popcorn from the bowl on his flat stomach, then said with more than a hint of a Texas drawl in his rough voice, "You expected more naked women and fewer half-clothed men, did you, Mercy? You oughtta know Kyle better than that." He laughed quietly again and pointed at the screen. "Hey, I didn't think vampires were immune to gravity. Have you ever seen one dangle from the ceiling?"

I shook my head and watched as the vampire dropped on top of his two groupie victims. "I wouldn't put it past them, though. I haven't seen them eat people yet either. Ick."

"Shut up. I like this movie." Kyle, the lawyer, defended his choice. "Lots of pretty boys writhing in sheets and running around with low-cut pants and no shirts. I thought you might enjoy it, too, Mercy."

I looked down at him - every lovely, solar-flexed inch of him - and thought that he was more interesting than any of the pretty men on the screen, more real.

In appearance he was almost a stereotype of a g*y man, from the hair gel in his weekly cut dark brown hair to the tastefully expensive clothes he wore. If people weren't careful, they missed the sharp intelligence that hid beneath the pretty exterior. Which was, because it was Kyle, the point of the facade.

"This really isn't bad enough for bad movie night," Kyle continued, not worried about interrupting the movie: none of us were watching it for its scintillating dialogue. "I'd have gotten Blade III, but oddly enough, it was already checked out."

"Any movie with Wesley Snipes is worth watching, even if you have to turn off the sound." I twisted and bent so I could snitch a handful of popcorn from Warren's bowl. He was too thin still; that and a limp were reminders that only a month ago he'd been so badly hurt I'd thought he would die. Werewolves are tough, bless 'em, or we'd have lost him to a demon-bearing vampire. That one had been the first vampire I'd killed - with the full knowledge and permission of the local vampire mistress. That she hadn't actually intended me to kill him didn't negate that I'd done it with her blessing. She couldn't do anything to me for his death - and she didn't know I was responsible for the other.

"As long as he's not dressed in drag," drawled Warren.

Kyle snorted agreement. "Wesley Snipes may be a beautiful man, but he makes a butt-ugly woman."

"Hey," I objected, pulling my mind back to the conversation. "To Wong Foo was a good movie." We'd watched it last week at my house.

A faint buzzing noise drifted up the stairs and Kyle rolled off the couch and onto his feet in a graceful, dancelike move that was wasted on Warren. He was still focused on the movie, though his grin probably wasn't the reaction the moviemakers had intended for their bloodfest scene. My feelings were much more in line with the desired result. It was all too easy to imagine myself as the victim.

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