Chasing Shadows (A Shadow Chronicles Novel) (28 page)

BOOK: Chasing Shadows (A Shadow Chronicles Novel)
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I studied him for a moment, partly to keep from having to look at the ruined barn. I knew the arson investigator would be back today with a team of people to go through the wreckage and try to gather what evidence they could. I hoped they cleared the scene soon so that I could begin to have the place cleaned up, because it hurt too damn much to look at it.

“Maybe you’re right. But I never noticed. I’ve just thought of him as a friendly neighbor,” I said, then reached for the door handle.

“And I’m sure that while he may have hoped for more one day, Harry’s fine with that as long as you are happy,” Mark said as we were climbing out of the truck. “I’m sorry if my bringing it up bothers you; I was just curious, because his feelings would explain why he’s so willing to help you out. Even friendly neighbors sometimes want to be compensated for their trouble, and he wasn’t even asking for money to feed the horses, let alone take care of them.”

“’Sometimes’ being the operative word there, Mark,” I pointed out. “Since I don’t age, obviously I’ve had to move around some over the years. I actually hadn’t been to this property in about fifteen years when I moved back five years ago. And you know what? Before I’d even emptied the moving truck, Harry was the first person to visit, the first who offered to help me out if I ever needed it, and that was before he even knew anything about me. So even if he is motivated by romantic feelings, I believe that first and foremost he’s a good man who’s willing to help his neighbor through a hard time.”

He reached for me and gave me a light hug. “I’m sure you’re right, Saphrona. I believe Harry is a good man, too.”

Juliette appeared on the back stoop then. “Saphrona, you’ve had some phone calls while you were gone,” she said. “Lt. Parks said he and his team will be here at nine to
comb through the rubble for any usable evidence, though he wishes to remind you that the combination of water and fire may have destroyed any the arsonist left behind. Lochlan and Diarmid have also called. Both of them wanted to know how you were doing, and Loch said he’ll be coming out to see you after he finishes his own…breakfast. Your father said he would be stopping by after nightfall.”

Though I was hardly in any state of mind to have to deal with my father, the only thing that came to mind when I processed Juliette’s message was, “I didn’t realize Diarmid watched the news.”

Shaking my head, I climbed up the steps, and once inside, I set the basket of eggs Harry and the boys had given me on the counter, and reached for a frying pan. Mark stilled my hand, saying, “What are you doing?”

I frowned. “What do you think I’m doing? I’m making breakfast,” I replied.

“Babe, let me and Juliette do that for you.”

With a sigh, I shook my head. “Mark, I’ve got no farm work to do today. No animals to tend to, no stalls to clean. I’ve got nowhere to put my hay when I go to harvest it next week. I
have
to make breakfast because I’ve got
nothing else
to do, because somebody thought it would be a
brilliant fucking idea
to torch my barn and kill all but four of my animals!”

With each word I spoke, my anger seeped out of that place inside me where I’d carefully held it in check, and my voice rose in pitch. I emphasized each syllable by gesticulating with my hands, waving them around in front of me. This actually drove Mark and Juliette back, until the end of my speech when they were forced to duck as I threw the cast-iron skillet I always cooked eggs in. It missed Mark’s head by inches and crashed through the window by the door.

I screamed again in frustration and anger, realizing I’d just added another headache to the top of the heap.

Mark held his hands out as if in surrender, saying, “Saphrona, I’m sorry. I know it ain’t easy, but try to calm down, okay?”

As he spoke, Lochlan stepped through the back door. Sidling around Juliette, he wordlessly took me by the arm and began to lead me through the house.

“What the hell are you doing?” I demanded, trying vainly to break his grip.

Loch opened the front door and pulled me across the porch, then shoved me down the steps. I stumbled and fell to the ground, rising quickly and baring my fangs with an angry hiss.

Mark shoved Lochlan’s shoulder as he emerged on the porch behind us. “What the hell do you think you’re doing, man?”

My brother ignored him. He shrugged out of the suit jacket he was wearing and laid it over the porch railing. “My sister needs to vent some of her anger,” he said as he unbuttoned the cuffs of his sleeves and rolled them up. He loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top collar button as he came down the steps toward me. “If a fight is what she wants, a fight is what she’ll get.”

“I wasn’t aware your doctorate had changed from an M.D. to a Ph.D., Loch Ness,” I spat, annoyed by his arrogance.

Mark jumped down the porch steps to try and block him. “I’m not going to let you
hurt her,” he told him forcefully.

Loch rewarded him with an “Oh, please” expression. “Better I fight her than you, because she could and most likely
would
do something to you she will later regret. Better
I
than your charming sister, who could in turn unintentionally hurt Saphrona were she to fight her in her animal form. And I’ve no intention of hurting her, brother. Just helping her let off some steam.”

“Oh really?”
I challenged. “You think I can’t hurt you? Is that why you want to fight me? Because I’d hurt them and not you? I might be half human Lochlan Mackenna, but I can still kick your ass.”

“We’ll just see about that,” Lochlan replied with a smile, sparing Mark just one more glance before stepping around him and coming toward me.

“Aren’t you worried about ruining that expensive suit of yours, brother dear?” I taunted as we circled each other.

He shook his head. “They’re only clothes, dear sister. They can easily be replaced,” he fired back. “Only thing I have to worry about is getting tired.”

“Don’t think I’ll stop just because you pass out.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Lochlan replied, and then he rushed me.

We slammed into each other like two linebackers on a football field. I dug my heels into the ground and shifted my weight from one foot to the other, slipping under his arms and jamming my elbow hard into his ribcage. Loch grunted but didn’t stagger or fall; he pivoted away from me and then swept my legs out from under me.

I rolled as I fell, coming up on my feet with a snarl. I charged toward my brother, screaming like a banshee as I swung first my left fist, then my right, neither of which Lochlan bothered to block. I started to think that he wasn’t even really trying, he was just teasing me, and that only served to enrage me further. I started putting all the power I had into my punches, catching him in the face, chest, and shoulders.

“You wanted to fight me, so fight me, you asshole!” I hollered, still whaling. “Fight back!”

After a few more hits he did start trying to block me, but I was undeterred. I just kept swinging, not even directing my strikes. I aimed wildly, madly, landing a blow wherever I could. My vision had gone red with a rage so blinding I didn’t even know what I was mad about anymore.

I just wanted someone to pay.

“Saphrona!”

I don’t know how much time had passed before Mark’s voice, desperately calling my name, found its way through to me. The moment my brain finally recognized it though, the moment I discerned fear and panic in his tone, I froze instantly, afraid that I was somehow hurting him.

When my vision cleared, I realized that I did not have my teeth in Mark’s skin, draining his life away, as I had feared. I saw that I was in my front yard, my chest heaving with exertion, and that my brother’s beaten and bruised body had just dropped to the ground at my feet. I raised my hands up to examine the knuckles, which were scraped raw and covered with thick, viscous blood…

…Lochlan’s blood.

With a strangled cry of a different kind, I fell to my knees beside him and carefully lifted his head into my lap.
“Oh my God, Lochlan!”
I cried
,
stunned beyond belief at the severity of the beating he had endured, obviously at my hands. “Why didn’t you stop me? Why didn’t you fight back?”

He chuckled, opening the only eye that wasn’t swollen to look up at me. “I tried.
Especially when it really began to hurt.”

Lochlan’s wounds were, of course, already beginning to heal, but I could see he
would need
some help with it—he would need blood.

“Oh, Lochlan, why?”
I asked, brushing his hair back from his face.

He struggled to sit up, and my heart twisted when he winced in pain. “Because you needed it,” he replied. “I knew the moment I walked in the door that you were a on a really short fuse. You needed to let some of that anger out, and I thought it best you do it to me rather than someone a little more fragile.”

“But look at how much damage I did! I almost can’t believe I did this to you,” I bemoaned, my eyes raking over the bruises beginning to fade and swelling beginning to recede.

“Had some of your man’s blood recently?” Lochlan parried jovially, looking up from my face to Mark’s.

I felt heat burning my cheeks.
“Yeah.
This morning,” I mumbled.

Loch cautiously rotated his right shoulder, gritting his teeth as he did so. “Judging by the wholloping I just went through, dear sister, I’d guess you’ve had a little every day since you met him.”

The color staining my cheeks deepened as I heard Mark clear his throat. “Just about,” he confirmed.

Determined to regain control of the situation before Loch started in on the exact nature of my sex life, I rocked back on the balls of my feet and pushed myself to a standing position, then held a hand out to my brother. “Come on, let’s get you inside and cleaned up.”

Lochlan nodded and reached up to take my hand. I pulled him to his feet easily, though he staggered against me. “Damn it, Loch, you’re such an idiot,” I mused as I helped him up to the porch. “You knew I’d had his blood recently, and you antagonized me anyway? You got a death wish or something?”

He shook his head as he laughed. “I’m not dying until well after I’m
bonded,
and probably not even then,” he said.

Stopping to grab his jacket from the railing, we made our way back into the house. Juliette led us into the kitchen, and without my having to ask, she reached into the refrigerator for the bottle of blood I’d pulled from the deep freezer the night before last and set it on the table.

“Thank you, my lady,” Lochlan said to her, picking up the bottle and unscrewing the cap, and then tilting his head back to take a long drink of it.

“Lochlan, I can warm that up for you,” I said.

He shook his head before tilting it back for another swig. “Warm only makes it go down easier. This will do. In fact, I’m feeling better already.”

I looked him over to judge for myself, relieved to see that his right eye was no
longer swollen shut. The bruising around it was fading at the same rate as the rest, but his nose was crooked. “You’re, um, you’re gonna have to reset your nose,” I pointed out sheepishly.

He reached up to feel it. “Bugger me,” he muttered, and setting the bottle on the table, put both hands alongside his nose, snapping it loudly and then giving it a slight adjustment. He held onto it for a moment to be sure it wouldn’t shift out of position, then sat back and reached for the bottle of blood again.

“Ugh, I have never seen anyone break their own nose before,” Juliette observed with a shiver. “Think I’ll go grab the egg skillet from the back yard.”

She walked out the back door as Mark and Loch both shook their heads and laughed, and after washing my hands I went back to the task of preparing breakfast. This time, of course, Mark didn’t protest—he helped without saying a word.

We were about midway through the meal when a car could be heard coming up the driveway. I reached out with my supe-sense and detected three humans, who were at that moment exiting their vehicle and headed toward my door. A glance at the clock showed me it was 9 a.m. Lt. Parks was right on
time
.

I looked over at Lochlan as a knock sounded at the front of the house, and silently thanked whoever had shut the front door. “Go upstairs and hide while the arson investigators are here,” I told him.

“Why? Are you afraid I’ll eat them?” he quipped lightly.

I groaned as Mark and Juliette laughed. “No, it’s probably because you still look like you just got your ass handed to you on a plate,” Juliette mentioned. “There’s blood all over your shirt.”

Loch looked down as the knock sounded again, and Parks’ voice called out, “Ms. Caldwell,
it’s
Lt. Parks.”

“Just a minute!”
I called back.

“Well, isn’t this a sodding mess,” my brother said when he saw the ruination that was his shirt.

“Come on, man,” Mark said, gesturing for him to follow. “I’m sure I have something you can wear.”

The three of us headed into the living room, and I waited until Mark and Lochlan were on the second-floor landing before I opened the door. “Hello, Lieutenant.”

BOOK: Chasing Shadows (A Shadow Chronicles Novel)
2.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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