Home > Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)(8)

Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)(8)
Author: Patricia Briggs

He laughed a little to himself again. “Now you see. Just ask me a question, any question, and it all comes back to horses. But you asked what I am doing here. I met Fowler and Annie McCormick, big money people, in California when they brought a couple of their horses to me to train. They had a place out here and were willing to guarantee me some work. I wanted to breed Arabians, and so I moved here. Bought a hundred acres next to their ranch and started my own operation.” He glanced at Charles. “About the time we first met, eh? Just before the Second World War.”

“How’s Joseph?” Charles asked, in an apparent non sequitur, and Hosteen sobered.

“Still human, and will apparently die that way. Eighty-two, stubborn as a mule.” Hosteen looked at Anna and then the road. “I wish you would change his mind about that.”

“I’ve offered before,” Charles said.

“Yes,” said Hosteen. “I know.” He kept his eyes straight ahead. “Maybe you could do more than offer.”

The atmosphere in the truck chilled to below zero, even though, Anna was pretty sure, it was close to seventy degrees outside.

“No,” said Charles.

“You go see him,” said Hosteen with a sudden growl in his voice. “You go see my son, that bright spirit who is trapped in a body that is dying around him. You see him—and then you look me in the eye and tell me that again.”

“Hosteen,” said Charles carefully. “If Joseph had at any time in the last twenty years changed his stance on the matter, he would have asked you or me. I will not, and you will not, force him. A wolf who Changes an unwilling victim must himself die, by the Marrok’s word.”

“Your father would not kill you for it,” said Hosteen, but the fire of his anger was gone. “He would kill me—have you kill me—but you he would spare.”

“If you think that,” Charles said, “then you don’t know my father very well.”

Chelsea tried not to look at the blood when she called her husband.

“Kage, Kage, Kage,” she chanted in time with the rings.

“This is Kage Sani,” his voice said in her ear, and she could have cried. “I can’t answer right now. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”

“The children,” she said. “Kage. The children.” She wanted to tell him about the children, but she screamed instead. When she caught her breath, and silence fell, she could only whisper, as if another loud noise might wake something evil. Again. “I was so angry, Kage. This knife. Blood. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. Blood.” When Kage’s phone beeped to signal that it had stopped recording, she was still chanting into the mouthpiece.



The road switched from dirt to blacktop without warning. Anna couldn’t figure out why there was a paved driveway in the middle of nowhere, but then the house suddenly appeared.

The lines of the house blended into the surrounding sand and various desert plants and backed into a small rocky formation too big to be a swell and not big enough to be a hill. Between shape and sandy color, the house seemed to grow out of the desert.

Charles, seeing her surprise, said, “The Badlands of the Dakotas are like this, too. Things are hidden pretty easily out here. There’s a lot more relief to this land than your eyes tell you—that’s one of the reasons the landing strip is so far away. That’s where they had to go to find flat land without bringing in bulldozers.”

“Lots of flat spaces in Scottsdale,” Hosteen said. “But out where we are the landscape is more interesting.”

Hosteen pulled the truck into an empty slot in a line of covered parking spots designed to protect vehicles from the desert sun. A woman came out the nearest door to the house. She could have been anywhere between sixty and eighty, and she carried a broom in one hand.

“Welcome to our home, Anna Cornick,” she said graciously. Her voice sounded like it should have belonged to a fifteen-year-old—soft and birdlike, without the quiver that age can bring. She pulled herself up straighter, raised her chin, and looked Charles in the eye, searching for something that she evidently found. Her voice grew husky. “Welcome home, Charles.”

Anna couldn’t help but glance at her husband, but if there had been an expression on his face, she was too late to see it.

Briskly the old woman said, “Hosteen, take those filthy boots off before you come into the house. Please.” The “please” was an afterthought.

“Yes, Maggie,” said the Alpha, his voice soft. “And who is it that gave you a broom?”

She raised an eyebrow at him and thumped her broom on the stone of the walk in front of the door. “No one gives me a broom in my own house, Papa. I took it from Ernestine. She is a good girl, but she doesn’t get the edges where the floor meets the wall. Usually it doesn’t matter, but today we have visitors.” She looked at Charles and her face softened.

“It’s good to see you again,” she said, then ducked her eyes away almost shyly. “Joseph apologized for missing your arrival, but he takes an early lunch and then naps in the afternoon on most days. He would love to see you later.”

Charles took the old woman’s hand in his and kissed it with a gallantry Anna had seldom seen him use with anyone but her. “I look forward to speaking with him.”

Joseph, Anna thought, was not the only one Charles felt affection for in this household. She was a little wary of this turn of events. Clearly she should have pinned her husband down and forced him to disgorge more information.

Warned by Maggie’s scolding of Hosteen, Anna pulled off her shoes and put them on a mat near the door while Charles pulled off his boots.

“You two haven’t been playing in the horse manure all morning,” said Maggie. “You can leave your shoes on.”

“It is no matter,” Charles disagreed. “Shoes come off and on without trouble.”

The interior of the house was full of white plaster walls and high, dark-beamed ceilings with big fans designed to help keep the air moving. Though it was February, outside it had been pleasantly warm—especially compared to Montana, which was still in the middle of a deep freeze. Being a werewolf, Anna didn’t mind the cold, but she didn’t mind being out of it, either.

The floors were hardwood. Anna knew oak floors, and these had a different grain, with the worn patina that comes with decades of foot traffic and the gleam that comes with cleaning. She couldn’t help but check, but she didn’t see any hint of dirt against the wall.

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