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Home > Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7)(15)

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7)(15)
Author: Patricia Briggs

"Republican," supplied Gabriel, trying not to stare at Ariana's eyes and mostly failing. It was a good thing for him that the fae don't see it as an act of aggression the way the wolves do. A lot of the fae liked being stared at. When she met his gaze, he gamely kept talking. "Campbell is anti-fae, anti-werewolf, and - oddly for a Republican - anti-gun. Good speaker and a likely presidential candidate in the next election."

"Gabriel's taking a class in current events," Jesse told me. She looked away from Ariana and took a step closer to me. She didn't see the fae start forward as if to pounce, then catch herself - but Gabriel and I did. Gabriel moved a half step sideways so that he was between Ariana and Jesse.

Oblivious to her near death, Jesse asked, "Who are they? The National Rifle Association?"

"No clue," I told her. "The NRA ..." I gave her a weary smile. "It seems like a lot of trouble for them to go to since there are plenty of other anti-gun senators, and none of them have made much headway against private gun ownership since the assassination attempt on President Reagan before you were born."

"Then who?"

"If Campbell died and was killed by a werewolf, it would destroy the detente between those who want to kill the wolves and those who want to see them as good people with a terrible disease," Gabriel said. "After the fae killed that senator's son who got away with murder, the only reason everyone isn't running around killing anyone who is other is because the fae have withdrawn and haven't done anything to hurt anyone else. Public opinion - after the first few days of panic - is behind them, even if the government is throwing fits. Freeing a serial killer because he killed only fae and werewolves wasn't justice. That the guilty man had money and political ties just made the fae's cause more righteous."

"Campbell's death would give the humans-only side a martyr," said Ariana. Her voice, still laden with magic, was not her usual one, but she was looking at me as though she knew who I was, so I thought we were over the worst. "Campbell is well liked and an obstacle for those who are more extreme. He has been a voice for moderation in their leadership. Campbell has argued against several of the more radical suggestions for how to deal with non-humans."

"Moderate" was not a word I'd have applied to him. But there were more extreme voices, that was true.

"That answers 'why,' doesn't it," I murmured. "Ariana, are you back with us?"

"Not ... not quite, sorry," she managed.

"Do you have a good way to reach Samuel or Bran?"

"No." She hesitated. "Yes. I know where they are - in Montana. I can drive."

"Okay," I said. "Take Phin's car, it'll be harder to trace." Phin drove an older Subaru, built before the days of GPS and electronic surveillance. Our enemy might not be the government, but they had access to government-level spy equipment.

"Is it safe for us to leave?" I asked. "Or do you need a few more minutes?"

Safe for us, not for her. I didn't want to do anything to provoke her - and Jesse had been right, never let predators think that you might be running away.

"I will go upstairs," she said. "Don't move until after I have closed the door."

Ben, who'd completed his change and stood in full-werewolf form, quivered when she walked behind him, but he didn't turn to look at her. It spoke of his willpower - it is hard to have someone who might harm you where you cannot see them. But he managed.

She stopped on the stairway. "Be careful, Mercedes. There are people who would mourn if you took hurt."

"Always am," I said, and she laughed. But she didn't look at us, just kept climbing.

When I heard the door close upstairs, I led the way out the door, with Ben taking rear guard. I eased the door open slowly, but there were no suspicious cars awaiting us.

Even so, I didn't breathe easily again until we were on the highway headed back toward Kennewick.

"Where are we going?" asked Gabriel.

"I need to stow you and Jesse somewhere safe," I told him. "There are too many big bad things out there that would love to get their hands on the two of you."

He shrugged. "Not me, Mercy. I'm just your hired hand. It's Jesse they want."

I glanced at him. "You planning on going back to the trailer and waiting to see what happens to her?"

He growled. Pretty good growl for a human.

"That's what I thought," I said. "So I need somewhere safe for you both."

"You have someplace in mind?" asked Jesse tightly. I heard the rebellion in her voice and didn't blame her - how often had I been told to take the sidelines because a coyote wasn't in the same weight class as a werewolf? It sucked. But if they took her, too - I think that Adam would sacrifice the world for his daughter.

"I have a place in mind," I said.

"Where?" asked Jesse, but Gabriel guessed.

"Oh hell, no," he said.

Chapter Three

Gabriel was still arguing when we drove into the apartment complex in east Kennewick where his mother and sisters lived.

"Look," I said, not for the first time, "if they know all of the pack, then they know about you and Jesse, and they can guess I've stashed you with her. They'll also know that you and your mother haven't spoken a word since before last Christmas. They will know her feelings on the werewolves."

Sylvia Sandoval had been interviewed by the local paper when Adam and I had gotten married a few months ago because her son worked for me, and Adam was a local celebrity. She had been quite clear on how she felt about the werewolves.

"They'd never believe that she'd give the Alpha's daughter shelter," I told him.

"She won't," he said.

I smiled at him. "If I'm right, you get to clean the bathroom at the shop next. If you are, I'll do it."

He closed his eyes, shook his head.

"She loves you," I told him, getting out of the car. "Or she wouldn't be so stubborn about being mad."

I didn't need to tell him about the conversation Sylvia and I had had right before he finished high school. This was different - this time it wasn't Sylvia versus the werewolves. This time I would be more diplomatic and wouldn't leave yelling, "Fine. If you're too proud to say you're sorry - I'll keep him!" at the top of my lungs.

I had sent her graduation announcements. She'd been there, in the back. She'd waited until she was sure he'd seen her - then she left. She hadn't, her eldest daughter told me, wanted Gabriel to graduate without his mother in the audience. That was why I knew she'd take the kids in now.

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