Home > Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(15)

Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(15)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

He sighed, relenting. “I think I have some pictures at the bar from the Fourth of July picnic. You can bring your cop by to look at them.”

“Can we do it tonight? Now?”

Will checked his watch and gave me a weary, indulgent smile. “Fine. I’ll meet you over there.”

I thanked him and tried to head out, but just as I closed the front door behind me, it opened again and Eli stepped out. It felt strange to have people keep popping in and out of my radius, but I’d grown used to it.

“What happened to you?” he asked bluntly. I knew what he meant.

I hugged my arms around me. The September heat wave had broken sometime that day, and the fall night had grown chilly. “I got a call. I had to work.”

“You couldn’t have woken me up? Left a note?” His face was hard, and he was fidgeting.

“Look, Eli—” I began, but he cut me off.

“I get it. You don’t have to do the whole ‘just friends’ talk.”

I didn’t say anything.

“And I want you to know, none of this”—he gestured toward the house, to the meeting we’d just left—“was my idea.”

There was a long, awkward pause, and then he suddenly burst into an earsplitting grin.

“What?”

“Nothing. I’m sorry, I just always forget how nice it feels to be around you. How...restful.”

I rolled my eyes. This is exactly why Eli and I will never go anywhere. The remnants of the very powerful magic—the Original magic that led to conduits evolving into shape-shifters and shape-shifters evolving into werewolves—just never leaves the wolves. As I understand it, werewolves constantly have to fight to keep their control, like an itchy humming that’s always in the back of their minds. (Ironically, real wolves have a similar problem—what was once described to me as “genetically coded predatory behavior.”) They can’t help themselves; the magic makes them feel a continuous pressure to be hunting, killing, feeding. Maybe that’s why the shifters chose to become werewolves, I thought suddenly. Huh.

Some wolves have a harder time than others, and Eli really struggles with his inner animal. When he’s around me, though, he is a de facto human again, and all that goes away. If he were an alcoholic, I would be the thing that made him never want another drink. Or maybe I’d be the thing that let him stay permanently drunk.

Some girls would probably get off on that kind of thing, but whenever this happened, with any of the wolves or the vampires, I just felt vaguely used. I didn’t mind when it was Molly because I was getting paid for my services, and because she’s sort of become my friend. But I didn’t want the guy I was...seeing...to be in it for those kinds of perks.

“Listen,” I said brusquely, “you’re working for me now—for me, not for Will or Dashiell. You’re not a spy or a partner; you’re my apprentice, at least temporarily. Got it?”

“Got it.”

“Good. Keep your phone on. The next time I get a call might be later tonight, or tomorrow during the day, or not for another week. But when I call, you need to answer, wherever you are.”

He grinned, and even I could appreciate the irony. Two hours ago, I would have ducked all calls from Eli. Now I was ordering him to pick up the phone from me. Life is funny.

“Okay. Good night, then.” I turned on my heel and marched down the sidewalk to the driveway. So there.

Chapter 6

There were only two cars left in the driveway—Eli’s battered pickup truck and my van. I didn’t see any sign of Officer Cruz at first, but when I got closer, I realized he’d squashed himself down between the seats. I opened the driver’s side door, causing him to jump.

“Oh, hi,” he said nervously, looking embarrassed. “I wasn’t hiding.”

I climbed in and slammed the door. “What were you doing, then?”

“One of the guys who came out of there, he was with this girl, and she turned into a...a wolf,” he said, still a little shaky. The werewolves have to change at the full moon, but most of them are also strong enough to change a few times in between. “They were just playing, you know, goofing around like you do with a dog, but I thought it’d be easier if they didn’t see me.”

“Good call,” I said mildly and saw him cracking his knuckles, one by one, as he gazed intently out the window. I sighed. I had already turned the key in the ignition, but now I shut off the van.

“What?” he asked, finally looking up to meet my eyes.

“Get in your goddamned seat and buckle up. Everyone else has left. We’re fine.” Looking embarrassed, he climbed back into the passenger seat and clicked his safety belt. I looked him over again. “Are we gonna have a problem?” I asked. “Are you gonna wig out and run to CNN or something?”

“What? No,” he said, his focus now entirely on me. He sounded indignant enough that I started the van and began backing into the turnaround so we could go forward down the driveway. As we pulled back onto the street, Cruz finally said, “It’s just...When we were in the park, everything was already so heightened—the bodies, the blood, the fact that I was there alone with the suspect. No offense,” he added. “It’s not like I’d convinced myself that it was all my imagination, it was just...” In the corner of my eye, I saw his hands waving helplessly.

“Adrenaline,” I supplied.

“Yeah.”

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