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Authors: D Jordan Redhawk

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The Strange Path (24 page)

BOOK: The Strange Path
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Fiona’s eyes had narrowed, but she gave a slight lift of her chin in concession. “As you wish, dear Whiskey.”

Cora smiled angelically at Fiona, an expression that set off alarms in Whiskey’s head.
What the hell am I doing? I don’t belong here. The last thing I need is to get involved in the pack’s internal politics.
If Whiskey succeeded, she wouldn’t be around to defend Cora in a power play against Fiona. She released Cora. “Are we done?”

“Yes,”  Fiona agreed. “I’ve already paid the artist. We’re free to leave.”

“What about the piercing?” Cora asked, trailing after Whiskey as she made her way to the front of the shop. The lights had been turned on, and the establishment had opened for business during the hours Whiskey had been under the needle. Three Humans stood at the counter, and pored over a book of photos with another artist. Nearby, a heavily tattooed receptionist spoke on the phone.

“Some other time.” Whiskey felt a pressing need to get out of there, and pushed through the door. The sun had passed its zenith outside. It was well into the afternoon, past time for her to begin her next meditation. She heard a car door open, and looked to see Daniel stepping out of the Lexus where he’d lazed the hours away.

“Shall we head home, sweet Whiskey?”

She glanced at Fiona, seeing the tips of her fangs in the savage smile. “I have to go.”

Fiona’s smile quickly turned into a scowl. “Your obstinacy wearies me, little
lamma
. I’m beginning to think you’re incapable of making appropriate decisions for yourself.” She stepped forward, a glare in her eyes. “While I may be temporarily hobbled in my ability to compel you to a course of common sense, it is only because I do not wish to do you harm before you’ve completed the
Ñíri Kurám
.”

Whiskey backed away. Fiona had never directly threatened her before. It disconcerted her. “I’ve been making my own decisions for years. I’ve lasted this long.”

“And not much longer, at this rate. On the off chance your
Baruñal
hasn’t informed you, the stakes are considerably higher the longer we wait.”

Stumbling on an uneven section of sidewalk, Whiskey looked around. Fiona herded her into the parking area beside the tattoo parlor, a lot surrounded by three buildings. She didn’t think Fiona would try anything violent in broad daylight with busy traffic on the street. Cora and Daniel circled around to flank Whiskey. They slowly steered her toward the car.

“Come home with us,
aga ninna
.” Cora reached out to take Whiskey’s hand.

She pulled away. “No. I have to start the third meditation now. I have to go.”

“You’ll come with us, whether you wish it or not,” Fiona said. “Daniel?”

He stared at Whiskey for a long moment. “It is unsafe for you,
Ninsumgal
. I will guard you. Where do you wish to go?”

The sweet, sickly sensation of flowers swelled, matched by Daniel’s essence. Whiskey saw Fiona almost physically expand. “She’s a child. It is not her place to make that decision, Daniel. You will get her into the car, and we’ll discuss this at home.”

Sweat popped up on Daniel’s brow. He dropped his chin, and stepped between Whiskey and Fiona. “I’ll gladly discuss this with you later, but right now she’ll do as she wishes. She
must
complete the
Ñíri Kurám
in the proper frame of mind. You know the consequences if she does not.”

Whiskey’s heart double-timed at the ominous implications. “What consequences?”

“He’s right, Fiona.” Cora took her place beside Daniel, providing a united front. “We must support our
Ninsumgal
.”

Fiona scoffed, placing her hands on her hips. “Oh, please. You don’t believe that prophetic drivel any more than I do.” When neither answered, she mocked them with a feigned expression of surprise. “Why, wonder of wonders, I think you do! Had I realized how gullible the pair of you were, I’d have left you to your pauper families in Europe.”

Realizing that the prophecy of Elisibet Vasilla worked in her favor, Whiskey kept her mouth shut. Better to have her questions about consequences answered by Dorst in any case. At least she’d get a more truthful response from him.

The four of them remained still for several minutes. Whiskey’s newfound abilities were unable to pick up the subtle nuances of their confrontation. She caught a few movements between the three of them, tasting the battle as Daniel’s and Cora’s essences converged to strengthen one another. Not wanting them to fight her battles, she made a clumsy attempt to offer help, questing forward into the fray with her mind. They blocked her intrusion. Stung by the mental perception of plum and ash, Whiskey frowned at her defenders.

“Fine.” Fiona crossed her arms over her chest, lifting her chin. “Take her where she wishes to go. We’ll discuss this when you return home.”

The battlefield immediately cleared. No longer focused on the Sanguire sensations, Whiskey marveled at the volume of sound and richness of smell that hit her from the street.
Concentrating on that kind of fight would leave you open for a physical threat pretty easily.
She filed it away for future consideration.

Daniel bowed deeply to Fiona, and Cora curtseyed.

Fiona glared at Whiskey. “Give me the Ducati keys.”

Whiskey dug into her pocket and retrieved them, handing them to her.

“This isn’t over, little
lamma
. Your world has been small and inconsequential for a long time. That is going to change. You’d do well to allow me to protect you.”

Feeling somewhat secure, Whiskey shook her head. “I know why you want me. I won’t be used. By anyone.”

Fiona suddenly smiled. “You’d be surprised.”

Whiskey frowned, once again confused by Fiona’s change of demeanor.

“Take the car, Daniel. I’ll take the bike home.” Fiona turned to Cora, with a raised eyebrow.

Cora slid her arm through Whiskey’s. “I’ll be home with Daniel.”

“So be it.” Fiona turned, and strolled away.

Daniel watched her go until Fiona disappeared from sight. Turning to Whiskey, he raised his chin. “Where do you wish to go?”

Whiskey stood a moment, at a loss. Dorst said she could use his apartment for the meditation, but she didn’t want any of Fiona’s people knowing where it was. She doubted she’d be able to get rid of Daniel so easily if she asked him to drop her in a public place. “Can you get me a hotel room somewhere? Maybe in Queen Anne?”

“Of course.” He bowed, and gestured to the car.

Soon they were on their way. Whiskey stared out the passenger window, ignoring Cora who cuddled against her side. They pulled to a stoplight, and her gaze wandered over the pedestrians moving through the crosswalk.

Something tickled her senses. She focused on a man standing on the opposite corner. Dusty brown from head to toe, his clothes and boots and trench coat matched various hues of the color. Dreadlocked hair fell to his shoulders, ragged and wild, and black sunglasses perched on his nose. Without seeing his eyes, she knew they held an aura of devil-may-care. He stood there, statue-still, a vague grin on his face as he stared at her.

Whiskey had the oddest sensation that she knew him.

Fear and distaste fluttered in her belly. She knew him to be dangerous, but couldn’t place him. She watched him warily as the stoplight changed color.

As soon as the car pulled beside him he moved, a startling blur of motion. She gasped at the speed, grasping at the armrest of the door. One moment he stood, arms loosely at his side, grinning. The next he had turned toward her, one hand at his sunglasses, holding them down as he peered at her over the rims, his amusement still evident. At this distance, she saw his eyes were hazel, as dusty brown as everything else about him. They were full of sardonic humor, grim sadness and something else.

Betrayal.

An answer echoed in Whiskey’s heart. She felt a combination of pleasure and rage fill her, the anger by far the stronger of the two. She opened her mouth, and hissed at him through the glass.

“Whiskey?” Cora tugged on her arm, peering out the window. “What is it?”

They were already past. There was nothing for Cora to see. Whiskey, blood pumping, looked out the back window. The man stood in the same spot, now facing the back of the moving car. His glasses returned to cover his eyes, a lone sentinel among a mass of humanity shuffling past him.

“Whiskey?”


Ninsumgal
? Shall I turn around?” Daniel asked.

She watched until the man vanished. “No.” Adrenaline made her shaky as she settled back into her seat. “No. Keep going. Let’s get to that hotel.”

“Yes, my
Gasan
.”

Did Elisibet know him?
If so, then her “coming out” party among the Sanguire approached too quickly. Whiskey blew out a breath.
This day’s just getting better and better.

There were no further complications on their trip to a hotel. Cora was the more presentable of the two Sanguire adults, having the benefit of at least being fully dressed. She escorted Whiskey inside to pay for the room while Daniel remained in the car. Once the transaction was complete, Cora handed over the key, and took Whiskey back outside.

While Daniel retrieved Whiskey’s pack, Cora wrapped her arms about Whiskey’s waist. “Are you sure I can’t entice you,
aga ninna
?”

Whiskey’s desires were split between wanting to lose herself in the soft curves of the agile woman, and running to the hills to become a hermit. “I’m sure,
lúkal
.” She wasn’t sure where the Sanguire endearment came from, but Cora’s amorous intentions were bypassed as she blushed at the word. “I have to get through this alone.”

Cora gave her a squeeze. “I know. We all do.”

“Do you wish us to remain nearby?” Daniel set her backpack beside her feet.

Whiskey shook her head. “No. You’ve done way too much already. Fiona’s going to skin you alive when you get back.”

“She can try.” Daniel studied the hotel. “You should be safe here. That’s paramount when conducting a
Ñíri Kurám
meditation. You have my phone number in your list of contacts.” He turned to Whiskey, an earnest expression on his normally stoic face. “Call me if there are any problems. I swear to you that I will not willingly give Fiona your location.”

Whiskey wondered about his motivations. “I will.”

Satisfied, Daniel bowed, and returned to the car.

Cora gave her another hug. “Don’t forget me.”

Whiskey saw Cora hand her a knife in a dark alley, heard her sweet laughter at a vicious punch, and her voice urging her to stab a boy. She barely controlled the urge to shiver as her empty stomach flip-flopped. “I could never forget you, Cora.” She received a pleased embrace.

Eventually, she extricated herself from Cora’s hold, and got her into the car. She gathered her belongings, and headed for the main door of the hotel, waving at them as she entered. Remaining several feet back from the glass, she waited and watched.

As the Lexus pulled out of the lot and into traffic, Whiskey felt an overwhelming urge to leave. If she weren’t in a world of shit after last night’s— She trembled, a wave of revulsion forcing her to swallow against the bile in her throat. It didn’t matter that two of Fiona’s pack mates knew where she was. She had nowhere else to go, no flop house would be safe with Ghost’s family searching for her. By now, the word would have been broadcast on the streets. Any other street families out there with political ties to Ghost’s would be looking for her, too.

Whiskey marched to the elevator, ignoring the expression of distaste from the front desk clerk.

 

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Whiskey finished her meal, a ham sandwich and french fries from room service. Wadding up her napkin, she tossed it onto the plate. She washed down her last swallow with a swig of bottled water. Her stomach felt better with something in it. As long as she didn’t think about last night, it remained settled. Rising from the desk, she went to the armchair in the corner and sat down. Late afternoon sunlight trickled through the window. Despite being a few blocks from the major thoroughfares, she heard a steady stream of traffic from rush hour. 

Unable to put off any longer what she needed to do, Whiskey picked up the Book sitting on the end table. An electrical surge from the leather surface jolted her fingers. If she were one to personify inanimate objects, she’d have to say that it was enthusiastic.
That’s ridiculous.
Pushing the thought away, she opened it at Dorst’s bookmark, flipping the black ribbon aside to look at the next chant.

Curious at what she’d soon see, and intrigued with how she might change, she felt a combination of eagerness and trepidation. The last two meditations had been done with little thought, little focus. Tonight she planned on concentrating on a single person while she chanted—the brown man on the street. She needed to know if he had some connection to Elisibet, if that explained why she felt she knew him. She didn’t know if it would work; nothing Castillo or Dorst had said gave her the impression she controlled the visions she experienced. They’d never suggested she’d be picking up past life memories, either. She had a fifty-fifty shot at this experiment working.

After going over the words for the meditation, Whiskey breathed deeply a number of times in an attempt to relax. Her heart thumped heavily in her chest. Licking her lips, she closed her eyes, and spoke the words aloud.

Before the second word left her mouth, the well-known sensations rushed through her, a wave of intensity accompanying them that she both desired and loathed. Her mouth dry, she nearly faltered at the onslaught, barely keeping up with the chant until she gained some equilibrium. As with her previous experiences, she became lost in the words, a hallucinogenic fog covering her, pulling her, leading her somewhere else in time.

Flash.

She looked away from Margaurethe seated beside her, heart full of indulgent pride for her young lover as she returned her attention to the two men on the floor beneath her throne. Both knelt in her presence, one far older than herself, and the other a mere stripling. The younger man’s skin reflected dusty brown, as did his hair and clothing.

BOOK: The Strange Path
10.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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