DEATH’S RIVAL Excerpt (part four)
As we taxied to wherever the Learjet was going to hang out while I did Leo’s bidding, I pulled the laptop to me again and sent Reach a text. “Still waiting on Seattle financial info.” It was a nudge that he didn’t need, but needling Reach to speedier work wasn’t something I got to do often, and was not about to pass up now.
Reach sent back a series of dollar signs by way of answer. “$$$$$$.”
“Funny guy,” I muttered. “Charge Leo all you want.”
I texted back “What about the CS canisters?” The CS canisters were a potential new weapon in the war on rogue-vamps, pressurized colloidal silver water. Vamps didn’t breathe often, but in combat they did sometimes take a breath. If the air had a mist of colloidal silver vapor, the vamps would inhale the poison. It wouldn’t kill them, but it would slow them down. Maybe. And the poison might kill them later. It would certainly hurt them, even maybe burn their skin. I could hope.
Reach immediately sent back “Done. Untested. Delivered to your place soonest.”
An e-mail beeped into my in-box, and I frowned, suddenly feeling helpless and useless. It was from Adelaide, the blood-servant daughter of Dacy Mooney. I opened it and read the short message. It was the same as the last three I’d gotten from her. “Any word? Any cure?” I typed back “Not yet. Will know more by morning.” Of course, her mother and the other vamps in Asheville could die any time, bleeding out from the new vamp disease. Just another reminder that time was of the essence.
I remembered to unplug my cell from the jet’s battery chargers. That reactivated the cell’s GPS tracking device and gave Leo the ability to track me, my calls, my e-mails, and texts all in real time. For all I knew, it gave him the power to listen in on non-phone-call conversations. But the guy was paying me very well, so I wasn’t complaining. Much. And I had two throwaway cells in my luggage for my private calls.
I tossed my go-bag on the seat as the small jet taxied and slowed. I wasn’t going to be in Sedona long enough to get to shift, which ticked Beast off. She knew most everything I did and that meant she knew that mountain lions had been sighted near here. Two large males, probably litter mates, as they had learned the unlikely ability of pack hunting. Instead of going solitary, they were taking down prey together. Like African lions.
Good hunters. Need strong mate, she sulked. Which she had been doing a lot lately.
They’re too dangerous. They’re being hunted. They’ll be dead soon, I thought at her.
Beast growled in anger, but there wasn’t anything I could do about two wild big-cats who had learned a new trick. Not a dang thing. Snarling, she retreated into the depths of my mind, silent, distant, as she had been for weeks, since that accidental run-in with the angel Hayyel.
When the plane finally stopped and the engine whine decreased, Tory appeared in the cabin and opened the door to the outside. The smells of the world blew in on a hot gust. I stopped. Lips parting, eyes closing. On top of everything was the reek of petroleum products, heated plastic and metal, rubber, exhaust, and asphalt, but underneath that was a blend of subtle scents all fused together, unknown trees, flowers, hot sand, minerals I didn’t recognize, herbs still carrying the heat of the day.
Beast rose fast and took over, holding me down, her claws in my mind, painful. I held on to the seat arms again, breathing in through mouth and nose, smelling, tasting, parsing the scents. It was . . . amazing was too trite a word. Too overused. I had no word for the aromatic mixture. It was yellow like sunlight, and red like iron-rich earth. It sang of scarlet and sun and iron, with rare blues and greens, and the land stretched out farfarfar. Magic tingled on the air, the magic of the earth itself, still alive here in this place. Beast wanted to Hunt! Now!
With a hard shove, I pushed Beast back down and unbuckled the belt. Stood. Pulled on my boots—Lucchese western dress boots, dark green snakeskin with a four-inch toe and a three-inch heel—seriously cool boots, the color matching the green vest I wore over the black silk button-front shirt that was unbuttoned to show off a bit of chest.
I unlocked the weapons cabinet where my weapons—both edged and handguns—had been secured for the trip and did a quick but careful check of each. They had thumped around a bit in flight, but nothing had been damaged. I strapped on the shoulder harness for the Heckler & Koch nine-mil under my left arm, checked the .32 six-shooter in one boot holster, and slid a two-shot derringer under my braids. All the guns were loaded for vamp, with silver—which worked well on blood-servants too. I’d checked the weapons exhaustively in New Orleans, and I’d check them again in the car. It wasn’t obsessive-compulsive disorder. Really. It was survival instinct, honed over the years.
I adjusted a new vamp-killer in the sheath of my other boot, carefully and deliberately not recalling the way I lost the old one. That was one of the memories I tried not to think about. The blade was half knife, half small sword, with a deep blood groove along its eighteen-inch length and heavy silver plating except for the sharp, steel cutting edge. Strapped to my waist, under the vest, went two more silvered blades and three backup silver stakes in sheaths and loops. I was going armed to the teeth, into the clan home of a vamp who had once been loyal to Leo and now was under the control of another. A sick vamp. Vampires were unpredictable at best. As Leo’s self-proclaimed Enforcer—which was going to cause me trouble, I just knew it—I was expected to be armed. Everywhere, everywhen.
Normally, half a dozen silver crosses were around my neck, my waist, and tucked into my clothes, but at the moment, there was no reason to cause pain to my hostess on my unexpected and unannounced visit. I carried only one, sterling, in a lead-foil-lined vest pocket. I twisted my tightly braided black hair into a fighting queue around the derringer, and slid four silver-tipped, ash-wood stakes into the bun as hair sticks. I hooked the silver-over-titanium collar around my neck. Protection against vamp-fangs, vamp-hunger, and vamp-anger. Into a pants pocket I tucked a mountain lion fang. I had begun to carry the fetish I used for emergency shifting more often, as my job working for vamps, rather than just staking them, seemed to result in more life-threatening violence, not less.