Under Witch Moon (Moon Shadow Series), page 20
"It was a few days ago."
He looked at me suspiciously. I was not going to bare my neck any further to prove I hadn't been bitten. His next remark showed I was way off-base in reading his thoughts.
"Did you invite one over? Do you think they are sexy?"
Apparently White Feather couldn't read my mind either because he grunted in disgust, stepped inside and slammed the door shut. He glared at me the entire time.
"White Feather." I blinked rapidly. "Vampires. Are. Dead."
"I know that."
"Dead is not sexy. It isn't alive."
He grunted again. "That doesn't seem to keep a lot of people from thinking they're great."
"Well," he defended himself, "what about how great it is supposed to be to be bitten by one?"
I shook my head. "The bite of a vampire is for one purpose only. It is so the," I gulped, "beast can feed. That is not sexy. Getting bitten doesn't convey half the vampire's power to the recipient of the bite. It kills. Period."
"How do you know?"
"How many half vampires do you know?"
"That's right. None." I went to the couch and sat down. "I bet you know of a few hundred vampire sightings, a handful of vampire killings and several unsolved cases of bodies left to rot after a vampire fed to his satisfaction." I held up a single finger to emphasize my point. "But I'll bet you don't know of a single person who lives in the light of day, flies around with super strength, lives off food and has only half a bite or some such nonsense."
"Because you can't be half-bitten."
"Because they don't exist. Simple." I held my hands wide in an open and shut case.
"Then why the heavy rumors?"
"Who cares?" I shrugged. "You find me a guy living the life on this side with a bunch of extra powers, and I'll take the rumors seriously. Otherwise, it's vampire propaganda. Maybe they start out sucking a little blood to get a line on a feeder, but it's still a drug that kills."
"But if a vampire visited, why didn't it go after you?"
I swallowed hard at the memory. "I was protected. Somewhat anyway. He was here to get information, to make a deal."
White Feather's face paled. He left the realm of rumors in a hurry. "What did he want?"
"He claimed he was trying to figure out who might want vampire blood." I looked away uneasily. "He seemed to have stopped by to make sure it wasn't me."
"Lord," he swore.
"I think I convinced him otherwise. Sent him on his way. I don't do business with vampires."
"What if he wanted to force the issue?" White Feather looked at my neck again. Since I had been planning on getting up after a nap, I had on a regular t-shirt. It allowed him to see enough to tell there weren't any bites.
"I didn't look the vamp in the eyes, and I don't think I told him anything I didn't want to."
White Feather sat down next to me and gripped my hand. I squeezed back.
He licked his lips. "You're sure?"
I rolled my eyes and looked up at the ceiling, baring my neck. When he touched either side, I didn't expect it, nor did I expect the gentleness. For a second or two, I wondered if he was letting his power flow over me.
My skin tingled. He traced my jaw line, searching with his hands, not his power. Gently, his finger trailed down to the collar, lightly tracing underneath, checking the skin above and below. I nearly moaned, and he wasn't even trying for that affect, at least I didn't think so.
I certainly couldn't tell because my eyes were closed. When he touched the side of my neck again, I couldn't help but give him better access, letting my head tilt away from his exploration, exposing even more of my neck. His hands lingered. The feel of his eyes compelled me to open mine.
"You look fine." His eyes, the color of wind in the forest, demanded an age-old answer. His hand slid to the back of my neck, and it was only a breath for him to close the distance from his mouth to mine.
His other hand dropped away, brushing one breast accidentally. My nipples hardened. Apparently the rest of me wanted the same careful inspection he had given my neck.
I met his kiss more than halfway, hungry, forgetting everything except the man in front of me. Even when his power touched me, I wouldn't have stopped, but it must have been a message to him, because he pulled away, abruptly.
"God." One hand on my shoulder, he ran the other through his hair. He blinked and shook his head. "I came over here to scare you into telling me everything you know."
"Okay," I whispered.
He looked back at me. "You're irresistible."
I nearly lunged for him. The look on his face matched my own longing. We ended up staring at each other hungrily, neither daring to move.
"I better go." He gulped air.
He chuckled, but it was weak. "I don't think the vampire got you." He stared at my neck and lower. My breasts moved rapidly with my breathing. I stopped breathing, forcing his eyes to mine. He reached out and touched my cheek. "Absolutely stunning."
For a second, I knew he was going to kiss me again, but there it was once more, a rush of his power, hitting me through his fingertips. The feeling it brought was a total rush, and I didn't exactly need any encouragement anyway.
He stood up, agitated. "I better go." At the door, he took a deep breath. "I wish you'd tell me what you know." Looking back, he choked on a laugh. "It's pretty obvious I'm not going to be able to force you into it."
"His name is Zandy," I blurted out. "But that is all I know. He's young, blond, coyote, and I haven't been able to locate him. I know he killed Dolores, but he probably didn't kill any of the others."
He paused, his hand on the doorknob. "How do you know?"
I gave him the highlights of the shirt and walking in on Zandy.
"You get around," he said softly. "You're sure he isn't feeding you a line? Maybe he didn't have time with Dolores to tear her up?"
I shook my head. "He came here pleading for help, asking me to get rid of any evidence against him--as if I could. I don't think he'll turn himself in because not only would he be blamed for the other deaths, he isn't what you'd call an upstanding kind of guy."
White Feather paced back toward me. "There's more than one werewolf."
I wondered how much to tell him about Arturo. Unfortunately, I had no proof that Dr. Gonzales, the veterinarian, was the same "Arturo" that Zandy and Lynx talked about. "How much do you know about the dating scheme?"
"I know about it. I haven't got any idea why anyone would to do such a thing, but enough women are more than happy to sign up for a date. Not all of them are getting killed, either. Enough live to tell the tale, and that keeps the flock coming." His eyes glittered with anger and even though he wasn't next to me, I felt his power leaking. It was different now, more dangerous.
I put my hand out to touch it.
The power was gone, instantly.
"It's okay." I felt drawn to him, but stayed on the couch.
He walked back one step. Then another.
Finally he sat with a big sigh, putting his face in his hands. "I have a little sister. Not little actually. She's almost seventeen."
It took a moment to register, but when it did, I gasped, "She's not!"
He nodded. "Interested in a werewolf? Unfortunately, yes. She isn't like me, and that apparently bothers her. At least one of her friends has gone on one of these dates and come back unscathed."
"You verified it? The friend isn't just bragging?"
"I'm as certain as I can be." His eyes were angry and hurt. "My sister isn't a witch. She sure as hell isn't a shape shifter either, but that world has always been right there, living with her because of me."
"Knowing a witch or a warlock isn't exactly the same thing as going on a date with a werewolf."
"No, it isn't, but she always wanted to be a witch an
"Because she's sixteen?" I had always thought it a curse that Kas didn't like what I had chosen to do with my life. She showed no natural ability in that direction and was glad of it. It never occurred to me that it would be worse when someone wanted to go in that direction and couldn't. "Look, maybe I could train her," I offered. "Your power is different from mine. It's stronger, and it positively breathes the earth." My hands twitched towards him, eager to feel that power again, but he had tamped down to perfect control. "Most of mine is just spells."
He looked at me, incredulous. "Just spells?" His hand reached out to touch my hair. "Haven't you any idea what your own witchery is like?" He breathed deep. "It's like flowers. Like sunshine. It's not mother earth, it's a call to it."
He laughed softly. "Oh yeah."
I had no idea I emitted anything of the sort. I blushed. "I wasn't trying to--I mean, I don't get my spells internally like you did with that wind thing. I'm not elemental like that."
"No?" He took hold of my hand and turned it, his hand flat against mine. "You have something. You have it and training my sister in a couple of spells won't be good enough for her." He sighed and released my fingers.
It took me a few seconds to gather my thoughts. "Have you ever given her the chance to learn?"
"She hung around a couple of witches in junior high. Kept getting involved in one disaster after another. One of the girls ended up with blue hair. Permanently!"
"That sounds like experimentation, not training. I think you're right when you say she can't know yet. It might be worth trying some real training."
"Anything beats dating a werewolf."
"That's for sure." I shivered. "But I don't think catching Zandy is going to solve the entire problem. There's something else out there."
His mouth formed a grim line. "Maybe. You can't be certain."
"Look, if I find Zandy, I'll try to get him to at least stop with the dates."
"What are the chances?"
I had to be honest. "Slim. Very slim."
"Thanks for telling me his name. I now have at least one person I know to keep away from my sister. Any other date is pure guesswork."
"You aren't trying to pick your sister's dates?"
"What else can I do? I can't know every werewolf in the county! I can only check backgrounds so quickly."
"White Feather." I shook my head. "She'll sneak out. Then you won't know anything at all."
"But what else can I do?"
I smiled. "Now here's where I really can be of some help. All I need is her name and maybe a picture." If Lynx wanted to provide protection so be it. He could help with this by making sure she didn't date a werewolf. I already knew he would take money from both sides.
"Why do you need a picture?" White Feather asked suspiciously.
My smile got bigger. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the irony. "It's not for a spell. It's someone in the underground who might be willing to watch out for her. I'm fairly certain he would be willing to tell me if a date got set up." I raised a hand. "For a fee that's probably equal to what protection is going for, but I think it might be worth the investment."
He thought about it. "I'm not sure--oh hell. Her name is Tara."
"Good." I stood. "Bring me a picture in case she doesn't use her real name."
"You sound like you know a little too much about this subterfuge dating." He stood up and took out his wallet. He handed me an obvious school shot, but she was every bit as pretty as White Feather was handsome.
"Wow," I said. "Let's hope we can find her talent soon and get her focused on that."
"Should I leave you money now, or later?"
"Later. I'm not sure what he'll charge yet. I'm guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of three or four hundred."
White Feather didn't flinch. "Let me know." He put his wallet away. "And thanks, Adriel."
"We haven't won the race yet," I warned him.
"Yeah. But it's nice to have someone else out there with a baton." He reached out and touched my hair, just barely.
"Oh. Well." I tried to shrug, to be casual, but his eyes were such a perfect mix of light and air, green and blue, and oh, so close.
Shaking his head, he stepped away. "I better go." He strode to the door, looked back as though he might say more, but then stepped through and shut it behind him.
I stood there for several moments after he left. When I finally moved, I locked the door and headed to my workroom. It wasn't until I set down the picture of his sister next to my computer that I remembered the wig. "Moonlight madness! I forgot to ask him for the key to the church."
My heart skipped a beat. I wasn't sure if it was fear over the wig or because my heart knew I'd have to set up another meeting with White Feather in order to get it back.
Considering the interruption in my sleep, it was no surprise that I didn't wake up until five minutes to eight. Around a large yawn, I mumbled, "Early bird gets the worm." Turning away from the giant red numbers on my clock, I said, "Who wants a worm anyway?"
I dozed for another half hour, but the chores awaiting me were like a snooze alarm inside my head. After showering, I made myself a fully-caffeinated cup of tea without a single useful herb.
At nine, I called Marcella.
"I'm Kasandra's sister," I introduced myself. "I was at Bethalane's party the other night, and I met Dr. Arthur Gonzales. He was raising money for the Homes for Pets, and my sister mentioned that you might be able to tell me more about Dr. Gonzales and his charity." The phone crackled. I realized with dismay that the cell phone connection wasn't good.
"Dr. Gonzales? Wonderful veterinarian. And the charity is wonderful, of course! I help run it. You won't find a better cause, my dear."
"Oh, for some reason I thought Dr. Gonzales ran it," I said.
"No, no. He loans us interns to help with the spaying and neutering." She rattled off an address in White Rock. I caught the first three numbers, but missed the rest. "I'd love to have you stop by for a chat. I'll be there all day working with a falconer. Dr. Gonzales won't be in White Rock today, but I'm sure I can answer any questions you have. If you can't make it today, call me, let's see."
I heard what sounded like running water for several seconds. "Marcella?" No answer.
The phone cackled again, then went back to engine noise. Finally, I heard her voice. "Maybe you'd like to volunteer a few times before you decide what kind of pet is best? I always advise that," she said with a laugh. "Are you free Friday? We can do lunch."
Next Friday might as well be a light year away. By that time Lynx and Zandy would probably both be in jail. "You're at the White Rock facility today?"
"Yes, I could meet you there. You sound like a girl who could use a big, strong dog for protection. It should be a fairly quiet day except for the falconer. What are you looking for?"
I grabbed the phone book and flipped pages. Instead of answering her question, I asked, "Does Dr. Gonzales work with falcons?" Finding the Homes for Pets address in White Rock, I jotted it down.
"No, no, I work with them to rehabilitate them into the wild. Nothing to do with Dr. Gonzales. Seth isn't a veterinarian, but he knows his birds."
"I see. What exactly does Dr. Gonzales do for the charity?"
"Oh, he's very generous, and once you get a pet, I highly recommend his services. He allows us to use his old clinic out on the south end of Santa Fe, and the one up here in White Rock for pet adoptions."
"But he's part of your charity, right? I mean, he helps with the fund raising and sits on the board?"
"Heavens no, but whenever he has an intern in training, he makes sure they do a stint to help handle the spays and neuters. And of course, he was going to sell the clinic on the south side, but he kept it and lets us use it rent free so we have a center when we
"Oh, of course." So why had Harold written him a check for ten big ones?
"I'll pencil you in for lunch on Friday, shall I?"
I let her set the date, but I needed to check out the "charity" office in White Rock anyway. If I caught Marcella there, I'd try to get what I needed and cancel Friday's lunch.
After thanking her, I hung up.
I double-checked the address she had rattled off. It didn't match the one in the phone book, but she had been driving. Maybe she got it wrong.
As I packed Zandy's pager, I considered that Sheila could have created a pager exactly like it for tracking me. There I would be in White Rock. She could drive by and happen upon me like a mouse sampling cheese in a trap.
I packed a lot of protective spells and several gallons of water in the trunk. Sheila wouldn't know I was there. She wouldn't even be looking for me.
Just before I got in the car, I went into the bedroom. The rain poncho pile was still waiting to be cleaned up. The tuning fork with essence-of-Lynx was lying on top.
Before I could change my mind, I grabbed it and stuffed it in my backpack, way at the bottom.
It was a precaution only. I wouldn't use it, unless…unless. I refused to think about it.
* * *
Driving north through the mountains was usually a good thing, but my thoughts were anxious, leading me in circles. What did Arthur need with ten grand? Why was Sheila getting people to write checks? And how in the world was Arthur getting away with a scheme for renting out werewolves who killed? And why did Lynx have to be involved anyway?
Wind blew across the desert stretches in big gusts, shoving my car here and there as if warning me away. If Lynx wasn't such a good source of income leads for me, I would leave him to his latest schemes.
Well, probably not.
Everything in White Rock was within a few blocks of State Road Four because the Rio Grande Canyon stopped development almost before it could start. I found the clinic on my first try. Like the other Home For Pets center the building appeared to be a house converted to a veterinary clinic. Instead of a fenced area in back, there was an old corral.
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