Home > Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(13)

Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(13)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

I spent a second wondering whether I’d just been insulted and decided that it didn’t really matter. “He thinks that there are supernatural elements at work here, and I can be sort of his...liaison, I guess. I’m the only person he knows who is connected to the Old World.”

He went still, thinking this over. When vampires go still, it is scary, since they don’t need to actually breathe or blink. “Very well,” he decided, finally. “I did not get very close to the victims.” Something like embarrassment flickered across his face, and I realized for the first time that Dashiell hadn’t approached the scene because of all the blood. As I’ve said, vampires gain control with age, and Dash’s control is stellar. That much blood, though, would have tested even his strength. No wonder he was touchy about the whole situation. “But I would like to know more about this strange killing as well. And this way you can keep an eye on Officer Cruz. I do not love the idea of having you as a spy,” he continued, with an annoyed little emphasis on the word you, “but I suppose it cannot be helped. We will discuss the fate of the policeman further when your collaboration is finished.”

Fine. Message received. I was an idiot, and Cruz’s life would depend on how he handled himself during his investigation. But if that were the case, why had he let Cruz live in the first place? It wasn’t because he was a cop, because if vampires know how to do anything, it’s make a murder look like an accident. It couldn’t actually be because I’d asked him...could it?

Nah.

“Now, to other business,” he said and waved through the window at Beatrice, who was in the kitchen.

She nodded and left the room for a moment, and when she came through the patio door, Will was with her. I brightened a little. The werewolves, as a rule, like me a lot better than the vampires do, probably because I calm the sense of unrest that comes with being a shape-shifter. It also helps that I pose no immediate threat to them.

My spirits dropped again a second later, however, when I saw the next person through the door. Wolf packs are usually led by a mated pair, the alphas, who function like parents, and then there are a whole bunch of intermediate wolves who are like their kids. Ordinarily, the two alphas would go almost everywhere together, but Will hasn’t found a mate yet, so instead, his pack has a beta, a platonic second-in-command who accompanies him on “official” visits like this. Unfortunately, in Will’s pack, the beta happens to be Eli, who trailed Will onto the patio. His ice-blue eyes—the color of a husky puppy’s—met mine and flickered with the recognition you only get from people who’ve seen you naked. I tried not to squish down farther in my seat.

Along with his second-in-command, Will had brought his sigma. Even though the pack hierarchy is sort of vague in the middle, everyone does know who the weakest member of the pack is. In a healthy werewolf pack, the sigma is the absolute lowest member of the food chain—why they’re called sigmas and not omegas is beyond me, but they probably have their reasons. Unlike regular wolves or even dogs, though, werewolves value this person. The sigma is the member most in need of the pack’s protection, and he or she becomes like a favorite younger sibling. Kind of like the Tiny Tim of the wolf pack.

In Will’s pack, the sigma is Caroline Brooks, a petite, competent pixie who also happens to be Will’s personal secretary and office manager at the bar he owns. Bringing Caroline along meant two things: first, it indicated that Will was there on business, requiring her aid, and second, it was a quiet gesture that he was not afraid of Dashiell. Protecting the sigma is vital in werewolf packs, and bringing her along meant that Will didn’t see Dashiell as a threat. Or that Will was powerful enough to bring his weakest member into the heart of the vampire world and keep her safe. I wondered how Caroline felt about being used for symbolism.

The three of them gave Dash a casual, but respectful, greeting as they came through the door. Will came over and ruffled my hair, which I tolerated even though I’d have to redo it later. Except for all the muscle, Will looks like the average suburban dad in any sitcom. He looks to be in his late thirties, but werewolves age more slowly than humans, so who knows. He treats me with fond detachment, like an entertaining but ultimately expendable younger cousin. Caroline bent to give me a hug, whispering, “It’ll be okay,” into my ear. Eli didn’t say anything, just looked at me with his sad puppy eyes.

Okay, fine. I probably should have left a note.

The wolves trooped down the courtyard to Dashiell, where Will took the seat to Dashiell’s right. Then Eli sat on his right, and Caroline took the chair beside him. I suddenly felt as if I were on trial.

“I didn’t know you were coming,” I said to Will.

He shrugged, raising his voice so I could hear. “It was a last-minute thing. But this affects all of us, so I thought I’d show in person.”

“What about Kirsten?” I asked, a little bluntly.

Dashiell and Will exchanged an amused look without answering me. They think that Kirsten is kind of a joke. They do business with her, but neither of them is all that impressed by witches. I personally think underestimating Kirsten is a mistake, but nobody asks me. I’m just the janitor.

I decided to take the initiative. “Okay, look, I know this is about last night. I know I screwed up. But I’m handling things with this cop.”

“We know,” Dashiell said. “But Will and I have discussed it, and we feel that the time has come for you to take on...help.”

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