“That’s a tough one. Teleport with the Grim Reaper or spend an evening playing truth or dare with you?”
Storm’s lips twitched. “I haven’t caused you to toss your cookies.”
“There is that. Sad to admit I’d have rather worked the park with you last night.” With her gunmetal gray riding jacket unzipped, her unusual silver navel ring flashed when the streetlight hit it.
“I knew you’d eventually see the bright side of partnering with me,” he quipped.
“Yeah, right.” She wiped water off her slender neck and shoved loose hairs under the ball cap. Every move was intended to reinforce her tough attitude and the ability to take care of herself, just as the midnight black sunglasses were meant to keep the world at a distance.
He didn’t like the way she pushed him away.
What was it about a man that made him notice a woman who was prickly as a wet cat? Notice every little move she made, like the fact that she tried to hide her case of nerves around him. Call it raw instinct, but he had a strong inkling that it wasn’t his powers or his association with Sen so much as his just being a man that was making her fidget with her zipper pull and avoid his eyes right now.
That made her even more intriguing.
He had some kind of contrary nature to want her, but want her he did.
She caught him looking at her and glanced around as if seeing the park in the pitch of night was interesting. “What’ve you heard from the team?”
“Lucien and Adrianna were here when I arrived. The only word I got out of him was short and crude.” Storm paused while a couple walked out the gate huddled beneath an umbrella, hanging onto a taut leash being pulled by a bulldog. “Adrianna says there’s Noirre majik in the city.”
“I knew that.”
Instead of asking Evalle why she hadn’t shared her knowledge of the Noirre activity, he just raised an eyebrow at her defiant posture and tone before continuing. “She also said the Birrn demon was controlled by Noirre—” He held up his hand when Evalle looked ready to claim knowing that, too. “And that the Noirre is Celtic in origin.”
Evalle’s eyes widened.
Got you there. Storm added, “You didn’t get a chance to see last night, but the creek under the walking bridge at the south end of the park was dug up. The landscape crews finished clearing the creek today and most of the work is completed. We think the stone has already been found.”
“Crud. It might not even be in the city anymore.”
“Sen talked to Shiva, who only confirmed the Ngak Stone was still here and close to the park.”
“If we can believe Shiva,” she said softly.
“Even though the gods and goddesses are capable of lying with impunity, Sen indicated that Shiva seemed worried about something to do with this stone, though he offered little else.”
“What’d Shiva say that gave Sen the impression the god was concerned?”
“He said the stone might not have ended up in the intended hands.”
“Why can’t he just say who has it? Is there a penalty clause for gods giving a straight answer?” Evalle slapped the side of her hip, which was covered by a pair of jeans molded to her shapely lower half.
He wished she hadn’t pulled his attention down there. Forcing his eyes back to her face, he said, “I have no idea. Until we’re told differently, we’re still hunting a powerful female, so you ready to roll?”
“You going to be able to see in the dark areas without a monocular?” She turned to stride ahead, always wanting to take the lead.
He let her this time. “I can see.” Actually, he could see the sway of her h*ps exceptionally well and could navigate the dark areas of the park just fine, but his sight, like his sense of smell, would be sharper in jaguar form. Animal energy prickled beneath his skin, wanting to break out and change shape so he could slip through this park as a practically invisible predator. He didn’t feel pressure to change because of the upcoming full moon. He was part Ashaninka Spiritwalker and part Navajo Skinwalker, not a lycanthrope.
No, the urge came at dark, period. He fought the pressure to change the minute the sun set every day, but he had control over that urge even if his body wanted to argue just now.
He hadn’t encountered any real difficulty for the past seven months or he wouldn’t have left the backcountry of Chile to come around civilization.
The urge to shift was eating at him and he’d bet it was that vixen striding ahead of him. Not just any female, but that one. Something as simple as a woman’s scent would get under a man’s skin to make him want one particular female, and nothing Storm did would stop his body from reacting anytime this one was near.
The animal inside of him wanted her or wanted out.
He couldn’t allow his control to slip. Not even for a woman that fine. She’d only get in the way of his mission to find his father and get both their souls back.
“What’d you find out on the Birrn?” Evalle asked, tossing a look his way over her shoulder as she made her way around the north end of the park.
“You mean besides that you were there and a Cresyl was involved?”
She paused and stared into the darkness for one second, two, three. “Sen doesn’t know.”
Not a question, just a confirmation.
He could withhold the information, but he wouldn’t make her work for this. “No. I didn’t tell him.”
She continued on, weaving her way around the base of old oak trees that hovered over the park protectively. After another gap in the conversation, she asked, “You wouldn’t know anything about a female body missing from the morgue, would you?”
“The female victim who had been mauled was gone when I got there. Anything you want to tell me about that particular body?”
“I don’t think so.” She picked her way as carefully as she chose her words. Pushed hair behind her ear. Nervous move. “You track the Birrn to anything or anyone … else?”
“I found where the Cresyls were killed. The fear and pain lingers. A third demon entered the city. Not sure what it was other than Hindu in origin. When I found that demon, he’d been tortured and cut up into pieces.”
She stopped about fifty yards from the footbridge at the south end of the park and turned to him. “I heard about a Rak demon that was cut up and left in a suitcase.”
“I’m not familiar with Raks, but that sounds like the one I found.”
“Did you pick up anything on the Rak’s killer?”
“I tracked him for all of a half mile, and the trail disappeared in a MARTA subway station. He must have teleported at that point for me to lose him.”
Crossing her arms, she stopped again and stared off into infinity. Debate played through her eyes. She glanced up at his face and he saw her dilemma.
Share information, or not?
He waited for her to come to a decision.
Her fingers tapped against the rain slicker. She gazed off into the distance. “Okay, this is what I have. I talked to a Nightstalker tonight who thinks the demons are all controlled by one source or by two that are working together.”
Storm kept his surprise hidden that Evalle had actually shared anything. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t narrow the field much.”
“Except when you add in the Noirre majik.” The bill of her cap swung around toward him, bringing her dark glasses almost eye level with him. He liked a woman with substance. Evalle was tall and tough. They matched physically, and noticing that little detail only sharpened the edge on his frustration.
What had they been talking about? Noirre majik. “Isn’t that Celtic?”
She shook her head, water flying off her cap. “Not always, but there’s one major source of Noirre that is Celtic.”
“I don’t know much about that history.”
“There’s Celtic history that is known, then there’s the history that is only known by Beladors,” she began. “I’ll tell you what is not necessarily common knowledge but known by more than just the Beladors. There was a witch way back in the thirteenth century known as Medb, though some knew her by other names. She had a daughter called Findabair, who was sent to one man, then offered to a bunch of other men. Supposedly seven hundred men lost their lives when a war broke out over her virginity lost in the wrong bed, and Findabair died of shame just after that.”
“Another war fought over a woman, huh?”
“Not the first time men used the little brain to make a big decision. You want this history lesson or not, Storm?”
“Since you make learning a real joy, continue.”
Her finely cut lips pulled taut. “Back to the how, there are two versions of history. Another story circulated about Findabair says that while she was dying of shame, a druid named Cathbad found her and asked if she wanted to live. But Cathbad was a sly one. He’d actually been sent by Findabair’s mother, Medb the witch, to get a child from her that she could raise in secret.”
“I thought the Medb was a coven of witches.”
“Are you listening? Did you have to go through remedial shaman classes?”
Storm couldn’t help himself. Annoying Evalle brought out the color in her cheeks.
“There was a powerful witch named Medb from which the Medb coven developed.” Evalle composed herself in her next breath. “Got it now?”
“Got it. But the druid broke the deal by letting Findabair die.”
“No, Findabair didn’t ask how long she would live. Just like witches and any other being, druids are not all good or all evil. He brought the baby to Medb, who wanted to create a Medb coven of witches and warlocks for the sole purpose of destroying all Beladors.”
“Long story, but the Medb coven believes the island where our warrior queen Brina lives is rightfully theirs.”
“I can’t tell you exactly.”
Storm wanted to keep her talking. “Based on just the Beladors I’ve met, it doesn’t seem like the Medb coven has fulfilled their duty of wiping out the Beladors.”
“They came very close when Brina’s family was destroyed. She’s supposed to be the last descendant of the Treoir family, which has always been the keeper of the Belador power on earth. Beladors draw their power from the Isle of Treoir, which is hidden somewhere in the mist over the Irish Sea, but only as long as a Treoir family member lives on the island. That’s why Brina can’t leave and only shows her face in a hologram-type form. If the Medb coven ever figure a way to take that island, or to kill Brina before she has a child, they will hold our power by the short hairs.”
“So you think the Noirre majik in Atlanta is tied to the Medb?”
“Maybe. That’s the only form of Noirre that I’ve ever heard of that’s Celt in origin, but I’m not as well schooled as other Beladors.”
He considered the last demon he had found dead. “You think the Rak killer was connected to the Medb?”
“I don’t know. Whoever killed the Rak demon can teleport, but I didn’t think the Medb could disappear without leaving a power trail.”
He couldn’t figure this woman out. She’d held onto her thoughts tighter than a banker to his wallet … until now. “Why are you finally telling me any of this?”
“Isn’t it obvious after Sen zapped me out of here last night?”
Was that a trick question? “No.”
“You say you aren’t here just to help Sen put me away. I’m thinking either you are and you already know some of this, or you aren’t working with him, in which case I need you to know enough to be able to help …”
“To help what?”
She wouldn’t look at him when she whispered, “Me.”
Even after a couple years spent in isolation from much of the world, Storm knew when he was being given an olive branch of trust. This woman wouldn’t extend faith easily or often, so when she offered anything, a man should pay attention.
The problem was that he couldn’t afford to be responsible for that trust, and neither could he tell her why.
Letting her think she could gamble on him was a mistake. The best thing he could do was help her and the VIPER team find that damn rock, then rework his deal with Sen, which would piss off Sen.
Piss off Sen or Evalle?
Sen would smoke him.
But Evalle would lose her war with Sen.
Storm couldn’t find the person he had come here to hunt down if he gave Sen reason to pull him off the southeastern team. Neither could he do anything for Evalle if that happened. Getting any closer to her than a teammate wouldn’t do her any favors with Sen either.
Keeping his tone brisk, Storm asked, “Why do you need help?”
She turned those dark glasses on him, and even with that separation he could feel the power of her focus. The strength that lay behind that plastic shield. Her scent steamed off her when she generated any power like she was doing right now, while she tried to decide just what she could say without showing any more vulnerability than she had already.