Home > Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)(12)

Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)(12)
Author: Patricia Briggs

“I can’t address how Hosteen feels about the color of your skin or his son’s previous marriage. I don’t know him that well,” Anna told him. “But I can tell you that today, the thing that bothered him about her is that she’s witchborn.”

In the house, steeped in the magic of the fae, she hadn’t been able to smell it as well. But out in the open air, sitting next to him, she could smell the scent of witch faintly. She didn’t smell magic as well as Charles, but witches had a distinctive odor, a sweet, almost-floral tang that emanated from their skin.

He snorted. “She isn’t a witch. It’s just a story that my grandmother liked to tell, my mother’s mother. She ran away from home when she was a kid. She never did tell anyone where she came from. She made up a story about a wicked witch for my mother so that my mother never went looking for them.”

“Nope,” Anna said. “Sorry to blow your worldview, but you can’t afford to be ignorant on this issue. There are witches, good and bad witches. There isn’t much worse than a bad witch. If her mother was a wicked witch, your grandmother was smart and lucky. I can smell it, a little, on you. I expect that Hosteen can smell it, too.”

She contemplated that a moment. Being married to Charles had given her impetus to read up on the native peoples. “Hosteen is Navajo. The Navajo have a healthy fear of witches and their ilk. My understanding is that there have been, and still are, some very evil Navajo witches. Maybe Hosteen doesn’t like it that your mother isn’t Native American—I don’t know him well enough to tell—but it was the witch blood he was objecting to when Charles offered to Change your mother.”

Anna met Max’s eyes. “The Navajo and Hopi, of almost all of the Native American cultures, have preserved their identity the best. They walk close to the earth and remember what our modern society likes to forget: that normal humans are at a grave disadvantage when they run into the nastier things that live hidden in this world. Hosteen was taught as a child that anyone who dabbles in magic is evil. It is hard to put aside such teachings, no matter how old you get, especially when you have real evidence that they are mostly true.”

“I’m a witch?” he asked, sounding more intrigued than alarmed. Which just meant that he really didn’t know anything about witches. Anna hoped he never had to learn.

Anna shrugged. “I can only tell you what I smell. But witch blood doesn’t always mean you can work magic. My understanding is that the power doesn’t beget power—two witches can have ten children and none of them have power, only to have it show up generations later. The men in the family are usually a lot weaker than the women.”

“Could a fae know that Mom’s descended from witches? Could that be why someone tried to kill us?”

“I’m not an expert in the fae,” Anna said wryly. “All I know is that some of them are freaking scarily powerful and some of them—well, not so much. Guess which ones are the most likely to be horrible.”

“Yeah,” Max said. “It’s easier to be horrible if you can squash everyone who tries to stop you.”

They sat in silence for a little while.

“How long before we can go home?” asked Max.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Someone will come for us, or Charles will let me know. It might be a few minutes or a couple of hours. Magic is unpredictable. No news is good news, though.”

He nodded. “Okay. So Mom was fine this morning. She worked in her office today, ate lunch there. I know because she took her lunch with her this morning. She drives directly from her work to the day care. And the spell— Do you say ‘spell’?”

“Works for me,” Anna admitted.

“So the spell hit her sometime after she left home this morning.”

“Michael and Mackie disagree about how she felt about finding out that Mackie had gotten into trouble,” she said. “Is he good at reading people?”

“He is observant,” Max agreed. “And Mackie was feeling guilty. But if Mackie thought she was mad at her later, she was probably right.”

“So if she wasn’t upset at Mackie when she picked her up in the classroom, but that changed in the car…” Anna stopped and shook her head. “I don’t know enough about the fae to even hazard a guess. Maybe the spell was laid on her a year ago and a day because she cut off someone in traffic.”

“We’re just speculating,” Max said after a minute. “It doesn’t matter if we’re wrong or right. So let’s say it happened on the drive home from the day care.”

“How far away is the day care?”

“About three miles. Maybe four.”

Anna focused on the children playing some sort of tag that was growing to include most of the kids who were past the toddler stage. Something was nagging at her.

“Mrs. Glover,” Anna said.


“Tell me about Mrs. Glover. Something evidently happened to her.”

“She was Mackie’s teacher at the day care. She killed herself a couple of weeks ago. It was bad, really gruesome. She lived in a house with one of those two-story entryways. She hanged herself from the banister of the upper floor. Apparently someone forgot to close the door when the police got there and photos hit the Internet.” He scuffed his foot. “People who work with kids need to think about the kids before they do something like that.”

It was probably not connected. People committed suicide all the time. Still.

“Did she leave a suicide note?”

He shook his head. “No note. The police looked pretty closely at her husband the first couple of days. Maybe they still are. But I heard he was across the country giving a lecture to a room of engineers when she died.” He paused. “I saw her the day before she died because Mom sent me to pick up the kids. She was smiling and cheerful, just like always. She told me that Mackie needed to bring an old shirt for a painting smock for a class project they were supposed to start the next day.”

Anna thought about it. People did commit suicide in all sorts of ways. Hanging didn’t seem like an impulsive thing, like shooting yourself with a gun. Hanging would take more time, and it would give someone a fair chance to reconsider. Find a rope. Figure out somewhere to hang yourself. Climb over the banister and hope that you don’t slip. If you fall before you’ve tied yourself properly, you might just hit the floor below and break a leg or something.

“Anything else unusual happen at the day care lately?” she asked. Mackie swarmed up the rope net, then paused and climbed back down so she could help Michael up. “I’m talking about disappearances, deaths, anything like that.”

“Not that I know of,” Max said. Then he called out, “McKenzie Veronica Sani, don’t you try climbing up there on the outside. Whatever you do, Michael will do. You’ll both break your necks.”

Like Mrs. Glover.

“There was that boy,” he said. “In Mackie’s class. He died in a car accident last month. He and his two brothers and his mom were hit by a semi when his mom crossed into the oncoming traffic. There was a rainstorm that day. Mom says Scottsdale drivers can’t drive in the rain.”

Anna’s phone rang, and she answered it.

“Might be useful if you came back,” Charles said. “Kage is helping his wife to clean up a bit and then we’re all going to be staying at Hosteen’s place for a while.” He hung up without saying anything more—a sign that all was not going well.

“You heard that?” Anna asked Max.

He shook his head. She was getting too used to being surrounded by werewolves.

“Charles said gather the kids and head back,” she told him. “Your mom is over the first hurdle. We’re all going back to Hosteen’s ranch.”

He closed his eyes briefly and heaved a sigh of relief.

“I’ll gather the rug rats,” he said, standing up. “Why are we all going to the ranch?”

“Because a new wolf needs help controlling herself,” Anna told him. “A more dominant werewolf can help her keep her impulses in line until she can do it herself. You might be staying there for a few months—at least your mom might be staying there for a while. Also, I expect, they want to keep an eye on all of you until they figure out if there is likely to be another attack on you and your mom.”

“Great,” Max muttered. “Mom will be ecstatic. She and ánáli Hastiin are the best of friends.” He got up, took a step toward the play fort, and then said, “Mom’s going to be okay?”

She wouldn’t lie to him. “I don’t know. This means that she made the Change. But she’s still got to prove that she isn’t a risk to anyone, that she has the willpower to control the wolf.”

He gave Anna a half-worried smile. “Kage says my mother has more willpower than Mahatma Gandhi. He’s not usually happy about it, but I’m thinking it might mean that she’ll be all right.”

Anna smiled. “Go get the kids.”

They got back to the house and Charles, on his own two feet, was standing outside with a clearly fuming Hosteen. The latter noticed the kids and altered his body language to neutral. She could still smell his ire, but the kids were human and they would see only what he wanted them to.

“Is Chelsea okay?” she asked Charles.

He nodded, though the grave expression on his face wasn’t reassuring. Either he was worried about Chelsea still, or he was unhappy with Hosteen.

Hosteen looked at Mackie and Michael and schooled his voice into something gentle. “You are all coming to my house for a little bit, until we find out what happened to your mom.”

“It is chindi, ánáli Hastiin,” said Mackie, and Hosteen winced.

“There are some words that should not be said,” he told her.

“Don’t start that,” said Max loudly. “She said it today and she thinks that’s what caused Mom to go nuts. So don’t start with that.”

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