Home > Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8)

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8)
Author: Patricia Briggs

1

The phone rang while I was elbow-deep in sudsy dishwater.

“I’ll get it,” said my stepdaughter, Jesse, hastily dumping two glasses and a fork in my sink.

A werewolf pack that eats together stays together, I thought, scrubbing stubborn egg off a plate. Sunday breakfasts weren’t attended by the whole pack—some of them had families just like regular people or jobs they worked on the Sabbath. The breakfasts weren’t mandatory because that would have ruined the intent. Darryl, Adam’s second, who usually prepared the meals, was a hellaciously good cook, and his food attracted anyone who could manage to come.

The dishwasher was running, stuffed full and then some. I would have let the rest of the dishes wait until it was done, but Auriele, Darryl’s mate, wouldn’t hear of it.

I didn’t argue with her because I was one of the three people in the pack who outranked her, so she’d have to back down. That felt like cheating, and I never cheat.

Unless it is against my enemies, whispered a soundless voice in my head that might have been mine but felt like Coyote’s.

The second reason for my compliance was more self-serving. Auriele and I were getting along, which made her the only one of the three female werewolves in the pack who was friendly with me at the moment.

Auriele hadn’t been happy having me as the Alpha’s mate, either—I was a coyote shapeshifter among wolves. She didn’t think it was a good thing for pack morale. She also thought, correctly, that I brought trouble for the pack with me. She liked me despite herself. I was used to the company of men, but it was nice to have a woman besides Jesse, my teenage stepdaughter, who would talk to me.

So, to please Auriele, I washed dishes that the dishwasher could have taken care of, ignoring the burn of hot soapy water in the wounds of my trade—barked knuckles are a mechanic’s constant companion. Auriele dried the dishes, and Jesse had volunteered to tidy up the kitchen in general. Three women bonding over household chores—my mother would be pleased if she could see us. That thought hardened my resolve that next week, some of the men would do cleanup. It would be good for them to expand their skill set.

“There’s this kid in my second-period class.” Auriele ignored the ringing phone as she hefted a stack of plates up to the cupboard with a grunt of effort. It wasn’t the weight of the dishes that was the problem—Auriele was a werewolf; she could have lifted a four-hundred-pound anvil onto the shelf. It was that she was short and had to stand on tiptoe to do it. Jesse had to dodge around her to get to the phone.

“All the teachers love Clark,” Auriele continued. “All the girls and most of the guys, too. And every word out of his mouth is a lie. ‘Enrique cheated off my paper,’ he told me when I asked him why they both had all the same mistakes. Enrique, he just gets this resigned look on his face; I expect that Clark has done this to him before.”

“Hauptman residence,” said Jesse cheerfully. “Can I help you?”

“Is Adam there?”

“So I told him—” Auriele stopped talking abruptly, her sensitive ears caught by the familiar voice on the line.

“I need Adam.” My husband’s ex-wife’s voice was thick with tears. Christy Hauptman sounded desperate and half-hysterical.

“Mom?” Jesse’s voice was shaky. “Mom, what’s wrong?”

“Get Adam.”

“Mom?” Jesse gave me a frantic look.

“Adam,” I called. “Christy’s on the phone for you.”

He was in the living room talking to Darryl and a few of the pack who had lingered after breakfast, so I didn’t have to raise my voice much. It wasn’t the first time Christy had called needing something.

Dealing with Christy was usually enough to give me a stomachache. Not because of anything she could do to me or Adam. But Jesse, who loved her mother but was currently fighting to keep liking her, suffered every time that woman called. There was nothing I could do to stop it.

“He’s coming, Mom,” Jesse said.

“Please,” Christy said. “Tell him to hurry.”

Desperate, hysterical tears—those weren’t unusual. But she sounded scared, too. And that wasn’t anything I’d heard before.

Adam walked into the room, and from his grim face, I could tell he’d heard at least part of what Christy had said. He took the handset from Jesse but hugged her with the other arm. Jesse’s eyes grew watery under his comforting hold. She gave me a frantic look before bolting away, out the door, and up the stairs, presumably to her room, where she could collect herself.

“What do you need?” Adam said, most of his attention still on his daughter.

“Can I come home?”

Auriele glanced at me, but I was already wearing my blank face. She wouldn’t be able to tell what I was thinking from my expression.

“This isn’t your home,” Adam said. “Not anymore.”

“Adam,” Christy said. “Oh, Adam.” She sobbed, a small, hopeless sound. “I’m in trouble, I need to come home. I’ve been so stupid. He won’t leave me alone. He hurt me, he killed a friend of mine, and he follows me everywhere I go. Can I come home, please?”

That wasn’t anything I’d expected. Auriele quit trying to pretend she wasn’t listening to every word and jerked her face toward the phone.

“Call the police,” Adam said. “That’s what they are there for.”

“He’ll kill me,” she whispered. “Adam, he’ll kill me. I don’t have anywhere else to run. Please.”

Werewolves can tell when people are lying. So can some of the other supernatural critters running around—like me, for instance. Over the phone is a lot trickier because a lot of the telltale signs involve heartbeat and smell—neither of which is possible to detect over a phone line. But I could hear the truth in her voice.

Adam looked at me.

“Tell her to come,” I said. What else could I say? If something happened to her when we could help … I wasn’t sure if I could live with that. I knew that Adam couldn’t.

Auriele continued to watch me. She frowned, finally turned away, and started to dry the dishes again.

“Adam, please?” Christy pleaded.

Adam narrowed his eyes at me and didn’t say anything.

“Adam,” Mary Jo said from the doorway. Mary Jo is a firefighter, tough and smart. “She is owed by the pack for the years that she was yours. Let her come home, and the pack will protect her.”

 

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