Home > Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)(5)

Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)(5)
Author: Patricia Briggs

She put her hand on his thigh and left it there until the plane touched down.

Chelsea’s headache redoubled on the way home, and after a few sharp interchanges the children fell silent. She craved home in a way that she hadn’t since she was ten years old, returning from a very long, very bad summer camp.

When she turned the car into the driveway, there was no magical surcease from pain. She got the kids out of the car and into the house. She should have … done something with them, but she worried that in her current state she might hurt their feelings … or worse.

She left them to their own devices while she stumbled through her bedroom to the bathroom beyond. If she could just get rid of this headache, she could regain her balance.

She took three painkillers when the directions told her to take two. The pills were dry and stuck in her throat; she took two more and then put her mouth to the faucet and drank water to get them down.

Too many, she thought, but her head really hurt. She felt like she should take more. Her hand went up to the medicine cabinet where there were some leftover painkillers from when she’d had a root canal done a few months earlier. She hit the glass toothbrush holder, and it fell into the sink and shattered.

She cleaned it up, but her headache made her clumsy. She sliced her finger on a shard she was throwing away. It wasn’t a bad cut. She stuck the finger in her mouth and stared at herself in the mirror over her sink. She looked … wrong. She put her hands to her face and pulled the skin back, flattening her nose a little, but it didn’t change the stranger in the mirror where she was supposed to be.

She washed her face in cold water, and that seemed to help the headache a little. Her finger had quit bleeding.

A glance at the clock showed her it was nearly time for Max to be home. More than ten years older than his half brother and sister, he had … what sport was it? Basketball. He had basketball practice after school.

And if he was almost home, she’d been in the bathroom an hour, left a four-year-old and a five-year-old without supervision for an hour. She hurried out and down the stairs. The sound of the TV led her to the family room, where the kids were watching a cartoon. Michael didn’t look up, but Mackie gave her a wary look.

“Sorry,” she told them. “I have a bad headache. Will you two be okay for a while more? I have to get dinner started.”

“Okie-dokie,” said Michael, without looking away from the TV.

Because he couldn’t be bothered. TV was more important than his mother.

Mackie didn’t say anything. Just watching her with her father’s eyes and judging what she saw, always judging her and finding her lacking.

Chelsea turned and went to the kitchen. She got random things out of the refrigerator with shaking hands: carrots, celery, summer sausage, and radishes. The cutting board hadn’t been put back where it belonged and she had to search for it. She found it among the pots and pans instead of in the narrow cupboard next to the stove, and by then she was in a fine rage.

Max came in the kitchen door, letting it bang carelessly against the wall. He took after her, tall and blond, rather than her first husband, who’d died in a car wreck, leaving her to raise her two-year-old son on her own. For a moment Max’s presence cleared her head like a breath of fresh air.

“Hey, Mom,” he said cheerily, sounding so much like his father that it sometimes made her heart ache. She loved Kage, but that didn’t mean she hadn’t loved Rob, too. “What’s for dinner?”

He was always hungry these days. Always expecting her to feed him when he was old enough to get his own food. She clenched her fingers around the chef’s knife, so cool and powerful in her hand.

“Would you do something for me?” she said through gritted teeth, unable to look away from the bright silver promise of the knife.

“Sure,” Max said, snitching a carrot from the bag she’d put on the counter.

Bad manners to steal food before the cook was ready. Bad.

Anna blocked the tires while Charles finished tying down the plane to the anchors he’d driven into the ground. The plane wasn’t that small, but it was designed to fly. That meant that a strong wind would move it unless it was tied down. They’d done this enough times now that Charles didn’t have to tell her what to do or how.

A battered truck charged up the dirt road in a cloud of dust and stopped next to their airplane without slowing much in between. The driver was young, Native American, and dressed in a cross between cowboy and First People: jeans, boots, cowboy hat, T-shirt, turquoise necklace, earrings. He held up his pants with a leather belt decked with silver and turquoise.

Young meant that he was not the man she and Charles were coming to see.

Charles didn’t look up from his task as the stranger rounded the end of his truck and walked toward them, his steps rapid and businesslike. If this man had been a stranger, Charles would have looked up.

The expression on the approaching man’s face was a bit grim, as if he was engaged in a necessary but not enjoyable task. He watched Charles until he came within easy talking distance and then glanced, almost absently, at Anna. He staggered, rocked back on his worn boot heels, and let out a gasp of air like a man hit in the stomach.

He was a werewolf, Anna divined more from his actions than from his scent, as he was downwind. A dominant werewolf, if his reaction was anything to judge by. Less-dominant wolves tended not to react so strongly to her presence.

Omega werewolves were rare as hens’ teeth. Anna knew of one other Omega wolf in Europe. As far as she knew, they were it. Bran said it was because there weren’t many werewolves crazy enough to attack and so Change a person who had the qualities of an Omega. Samuel, Charles’s brother, called her “Valium for werewolves.”

Charles, satisfied the plane would be there waiting for them when they came back, looked at the stranger and raised his eyebrows. She knew he was amused at the other man’s reaction to her, but she didn’t think that the stranger would notice—most people didn’t. A lot of Charles’s expressions were more … micro-expressions, especially when he was in public.

“Hosteen,” Charles said, “this is my mate and wife, Anna. Anna, this is Hosteen Sani, full-blooded Navajo, Alpha of the Salt River Pack, and breeder of fine Arabian horses for the past three-quarters of a century, give or take a decade.”

Sani meant that he was related to Charles’s Joseph. Anna was going to sit her husband down as soon as she got him in private again and make him talk.

“Good to meet you,” Anna said.

Hosteen inclined his head but didn’t say anything, just stared at her while Charles tossed their bags into the back of the truck. Her mate didn’t seem to be worried about Hosteen’s lack of response, no matter how awkward. He opened the passenger door in open invitation for Anna to sit in the middle.

Anna got in and watched as Hosteen walked thoughtfully around the front of the truck with no sign of the get-things-done stride he’d had before he met her. He opened the driver’s-side door as Charles got in beside her, but then Hosteen stood in the shelter of the door as if he were reluctant to sit next to her.

“Navajo?” Anna asked, trying to make things easier on him with a little conversation. “I thought the Navajo in Arizona mostly live north of Flagstaff.”

Hosteen narrowed his eyes until she thought she’d said something wrong. Then he muttered something in a foreign language that she didn’t quite catch, nodded to himself, and hopped into the driver’s seat.

He didn’t say anything more until they were headed down the bumpy, unpaved road.

“Yes,” he said. “Most Navajo live in the north, in the Four Corners region. There are a few Navajo here, because there is work here, but you are right, mostly it is Pima, O’odham, Maricopa, with a dash of Apache or Kwtsaan to liven the mix.”

She read the atmosphere in the truck as strained, but that might only be two dominant males in a small truck. Or more of Hosteen’s reaction to her. She honestly couldn’t tell whether Charles liked Hosteen or not. They certainly knew each other well; otherwise two dominant wolves would never have gotten into the same vehicle together.

She decided to keep quiet and let them figure things out.

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