Home > Brimstone Bound (Firebrand #1)(6)

Brimstone Bound (Firebrand #1)(6)
Author: Helen Harper

‘Yield.’

My head jerked up at the cold female voice that interrupted the proceedings. The two naked wolves dropped to the floor, while I stared at the face of an older woman framed in the doorway beyond them. She had steel-grey hair and iron-hard eyes. She was immaculately dressed in expensive, designer-label clothes. Even if she’d been wearing a sack, she’d still have had the sort of aura that demanded attention. She was standing perfectly still, but it felt that her very presence was sucking the oxygen from the atmosphere.

Behind her, I briefly registered Tony staring at me with a mixture of horror and grim admonishment.

‘I am Lady Sullivan, Alpha of the Sullivan clan. I will deal with this.’ The woman’s tone brooked no argument.

I raised my eyes to Tony, who glared at me and bit out a nod. My mouth tightened, but I wasn’t in a position to disagree. I was a trainee, it was my first day in this department and Tony had already made it clear that our role wasn’t to interfere with supe business. It rankled so much that it was almost painful, but I wasn’t hot headed enough to argue – especially when I knew that I wouldn’t win.

I nodded in mute agreement and shuffled out of the house. Lady Sullivan moved aside an inch to let me past. I didn’t need to glance at Tony’s bunched fists to know that he was furious with me. As for the two wolves who’d been fighting, all they’d done was cower since she’d appeared. That was some hold she had over them.

The female wolf glanced in Tony’s direction, her eyes meeting his. He cleared his throat and addressed me. ‘Come on, let’s get out of here before you start a damn war.’

‘Wait.’ Lady Sullivan’s voice rang out again. ‘Why did they stop?’

I stared at her, uncomprehending.

‘Why did they stop fighting?’ She asked the question casually, as if it were a trifling matter, but there was something about the look in her eye that made me answer.

‘Er, because I told them to,’ I said, baffled. ‘I’m with the police.’

Lady Sullivan gave me a tiny frown then turned away. It appeared our conversation was over.

‘Come on,’ Tony hissed again, and marched away at considerable speed.

I did as he said, although my shorter legs struggled to keep up with his brisk stride. He didn’t say a word until we’d passed under the intricate arch. I felt numerous pairs of eyes burning into the back of neck as we departed.

‘What the fuck was that?’ he said, as soon as we were out of the werewolves’ quarter. ‘What idiotic thoughts were going through your head that made you think you could confront a pair of brawling werewolves? I told you,’ he ground out, ‘I told you that we didn’t get involved in supe matters.’

‘I…’ Shit. I dropped my head. ‘The woman was running down the street covered in blood. I thought she was in trouble.’

‘Why didn’t you check with me first?’

‘There wasn’t time!’ I protested.

He stopped in his tracks and glared at me, his blistering anger searing into me. ‘The balance between us and the supes is incredibly delicate! We’re here on their sufferance. The wrong action or word from us and Supernatural Squad will be shut down. We’re hanging on by a thread as it is. No wonder you were sent here. You obviously don’t have it in you to follow the simplest of instructions!’

I lifted my chin. I’d started to warm to the gruff old detective, and I’d thought the feeling was mutual. Now I’d undone all of that, but I wasn’t ready to back down. ‘If you’re expecting me to apologise, I’m not sure that I can. If the same thing happened again, I don’t think I’d react any differently. I saw someone in trouble and I went to help her. I don’t see what’s wrong with that!’

‘There’s nothing right with it, either!’ His cheeks were mottled red. He cursed and spat on the ground. ‘Go home. You’ve done enough for today. I’ll leave it for a few hours then contact Lady Sullivan and smooth things over. But never – and I mean never – try anything like that again.’ He glowered. ‘Got that?’

‘Yes.’ I paused. Then, ‘Yes, sir.’

If my acquiescence calmed him down, there wasn’t any evidence of it. He stormed off, his spine straight and his arms swinging, the brown-paper bag containing our sandwiches thumping against his leg as he strode away. ‘Tomorrow,’ he snapped out over his shoulder.

I bit my lip. This had not been a good day. I twisted away and looked for a taxi to take me home.

Chapter Five

By the time Jeremy returned, I was considerably calmer. I’d spent a good hour pacing the flat, sorting through everything in my head, and I was beyond nervous about what the next day at Supernatural Squad would bring, but I felt more in control. I knew I’d been right to tell Tony that I’d do the same thing again. I hadn’t gone into this job to stand back and let disaster happen, regardless of the bizarre culture and set of rules that had evolved around the supes and the police.

Several times I considered picking up the phone and speaking to Lucinda Barnes – and several times I stopped myself. I’d wait to see what Tony said tomorrow before I did anything else that might be considered rash.

At least Jeremy could be counted on for support. He poured me a large glass of wine, listened to my tale of woe and made all the right noises. Then he bundled me off towards the bathroom. ‘Light a few candles and take a long soak,’ he instructed. ‘You’ll feel better for it. I’ll make dinner.’

‘You’re the best boyfriend in the world,’ I told him. ‘I don’t know what I’d do without you.’

‘Wither and die, I expect,’ he said cheerfully. ‘Go on. Off you go. Don’t forget we’re meeting Becky and Tom later for drinks.’

Damn it. I’d forgotten about that. They were Jeremy’s friends, not mine, and the last thing I wanted was to put on my polite front and make tepid conversation with them. Crawling into bed and pulling the duvet over my head seemed a much better option.

‘I don’t think I’ll be good company,’ I said. ‘And I’ve got a headache coming on. Why don’t you go without me?’

He frowned. ‘We planned this ages ago. They’re looking forward to seeing you.’

I doubted that very much. ‘Jeremy, I—’

‘It’s fine. I’ll send our apologies.’

‘No!’ I shook my head. ‘Just because I’m staying home doesn’t mean you have to. Go out. Have fun.’

‘I don’t want to leave you alone when you’re like this.’

I smiled at him. ‘I’m a big girl. I’ll be fine.’

He sighed. ‘Alright.’

I reached up and kissed him. ‘Thank you for being so understanding. I’ll come next time. Promise.’

He gave me a grudging nod. ‘Okay.’

I pushed away my flicker of guilt and kissed him again. The truth was that deep down we both knew he’d enjoy himself more without me. Conversation with his friends usually excluded me – not deliberately, but simply because they shared a history that I’d never be part of. This would be better for all of us.

***

When I finally emerged from the bathroom wrapped in a large fluffy robe, I knew I’d made the right decision. Jeremy had been right – the hot scented water had indeed made me feel a whole lot better – but also exhaustion was setting in. After an early night, I’d feel more prepared for whatever I was going to face at work the next day.

Unfortunately, the best-laid plans often come to naught. As soon as I sat down in front of the cumin-dusted cauliflower steak and chips that he’d cooked, Jeremy pointed to my phone. ‘You got a message while you were soaking,’ he said.

I forked some food into my mouth, reached across to pick it up and glanced at the screen. ‘I don’t recognise the number.’ I thumbed it open and scanned it. ‘It’s from Tony,’ I said slowly. ‘He must have got my phone number from the Academy.’ I stared at the message, then put down the phone. I wasn’t sure what to think.

‘What is it?’

‘He said that he’s sorry for coming down me on so hard today and that I should meet him tonight in the vampires’ quarter.’

Jeremy stilled. ‘And will you?’

I avoided meeting his gaze. ‘I’ll have to.’

‘No, you don’t have to. You’re not on night shift, Emma, and you already said you weren’t feeling well.’

I sighed. ‘From what little I know of him, Tony’s not the kind of guy who apologises easily. I messed up with the werewolves. If I can make amends by presenting myself appropriately to the vampires, maybe I can turn this rotation around. The vamps don’t tend to come out during the day, so I’ll have to go there at night if I’m to meet any of them.’

‘If the vampires don’t care what Supernatural Squad does, why does it matter if you meet them or not?’

I put down my knife and fork, reached across and squeezed his hand. ‘I didn’t choose this rotation and I don’t want to do it, but I need to do well. Not just for the report that I’ll get from Tony, but for my own professional pride.’

For a long moment, Jeremy didn’t say anything. ‘I don’t suppose I can stop you going.’

‘No.’

His jaw tightened. ‘You’ll take care? You won’t go rushing after any vampires who run past you covered in blood? After all, that probably happens to them all the time.’

I laughed. ‘I promise I won’t. And I won’t be out for long. I bet I’m home and tucked up in bed long before you return from the pub.’

‘Hmm.’ He rubbed his chin. ‘What exactly will you bet on that?’

My eyes danced. ‘Whatever you want.’

***

I dressed in jeans and a sweater, hoping they’d prove more suitable than my smart suit. I didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb in the centre of Soho. I also swigged down a strong coffee in the hope that the caffeine would keep me going; I didn’t think that Tony would appreciate me spending the evening yawning in his face, not after he’d gone out of his way to reach out and say sorry.

   
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