Cindy Spencer Pape - [Guardian Investigations 01] (5 page)

BOOK: Cindy Spencer Pape - [Guardian Investigations 01]
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I grimaced. “Just make sure I keep
breathing. The last time—the little boy was strangled. I woke up with bruises
around my throat too. If you see me physically struggling, do something to pull
me out of it—my captain’s fond of ice water.”

“I hate—” he began. The he leaned down and
kissed me, hard. “Be careful.”

“I promise.” I pulled back and smiled up at
him. His eyes glowed with intensity, and it took a second to catch my breath.
“Don’t worry so much. I’m not driving a car, this time. I’ll be fine.”

I leaned into the pillows and got
comfortable, then took a deep breath before I picked up the stuffed wolf cub.
Instantly, I was no longer in this cheerful, girly bedroom. I smelled mildew
and earth, and when I opened my eyes, I blinked at the harshness of one
incandescent bulb suspended from a bare-rafter ceiling. I was lying on my side
on something lumpy, looking straight up at the ceiling. My wrists were bound
behind my back, and they’d been that way for a while, judging by how my arms
hurt. My ankles were bound too, and there was a foul rag tied tightly around my
mouth. I could feel the damp tracks of tears down my cheeks, but now my eyes
were dry. I’d finished crying a while ago. I wanted my mom, and I wanted my
dad. And I had to go to the bathroom.

The basement room was empty. No other
furniture, no other people. The steps or door had to be behind me—I couldn’t
see either.

Ericka.
I
gently probed, trying to see if I could establish a two-way contact. I couldn’t
most of the time, but once in a while, it was possible, especially if the
victim had some psychic ability. I’d never tried with a werewolf child before,
so I had no idea.

“Ericka, I’m here to help.”

“Who? What? Who are you?”

“My name is Hannah, and I’m here with
your parents. Do you know where you are?”

“No. I want my mom.”

“I know, sweetie. She wants you, too.
We’re coming. We just need some help in finding you. Did you see the person who
took you?”

“It was Faith. She put something over my
nose and it burned. Then she dropped me out my window. I couldn’t really see
the man who caught me. And I couldn’t smell him either. My nose didn’t work
anymore.”

“Did he take you in a car?”

“Yes. In the back with Faith. She put
something over my eyes and nose and I fell asleep.”

“Did you see anything about the house
you’re in?”

“No. I woke up here.”

“Okay, Ericka. I’m going to go talk to
your mom and dad now. You stay strong, and we’ll be there soon, okay?”

“‘Kay.”
I
could feel the resolve she put into that thought. This was one tough little
kid, and I hoped to God we could save her.

I pulled myself out of the trance and
looked up at Evan. “She’s alive.”

He held out a hand and lifted me off the
bed. Hands still linked, we walked out into the hallway where the anxious
parents awaited. I told them everything and watched Leah burst into tears of
relief at the knowledge that her daughter was still alive. It was so different,
being able to talk openly with the family and not hide behind fake hunches and
guesses. I found myself envying my brother the freedom he must have, working
with Guardian and clients like these all the time.

“Faith is my secretary,” Derek Carter
growled. “
Was
my secretary. She’s only been with me for a few months,
since my old one retired. Looks like she was a plant from the Sons of the
Wolf.”

“Or she was susceptible to a bribe,” Evan
offered. “Or blackmail.”

“That explains why we didn’t smell an
intruder in the house,” Leah added as she wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her
blue oxford cloth shirt. “She’s here every day or two, and she’s always made it
a point to go say hello to Ericka.”

“And now we know why.” Derek turned and
strode down the staircase. “I’ll go find her address.”

“And any locations we have for the cult,”
Evan added. He moved to follow Derek, pulling me with him. His grip on my hand
was so tight it almost hurt, but the vibe I was getting was so loaded with care
and protectiveness, that I didn’t try to break free. “Rhys and Gavin should be
here soon. We can send Gavin and the chopper out to scout the area for possible
locations.”

“There’s one other thing…” I spoke
tentatively, not sure if their acceptance of my psychometry would extend to
even more ‘woo-woo stuff’, as my captain called it. “I’d like to go outside and
just—listen for a minute. It sounds strange, but sometimes I hear things in the
wind.”

“Her grandfather is a Navajo wind talker,”
Evan told the couple. Then he turned back to me. “But I didn’t know you could
do it, too.”

“I can’t always.” I needed to make that
clear. “But sometimes…I might get something. It’s worth a try while we’re
waiting for the helicopter and your partners.”

The gleam of hope that flickered in the
Carters’ eyes was more than worth the discomfort of exposing my secrets.

 “There’s a hill out back,” Derek suggested.
“It’s pretty exposed to the wind. How about there?”

I nodded and turned to Evan. “I need
concentration for this, so you have to stay inside. If you could run up and
fetch
Harvey
—that
would be great. I want to check back in on Ericka every few minutes.”

Evan glowered, but eventually, he let go of
my hand. He bounded back up the stairs while I followed the Carters through a
lush but comfortable family room to a pair of sliding glass doors. We stepped
outside onto a tiled patio that opened onto a pool area on one side and a
grassy meadow on the other. Beyond the meadow was a small rocky ridge that
delineated the plateau on which the house was situated.

“Perfect.” I strode up to the rocky
outcropping, checking for snakes and other predators. I’m a
California
girl through and through, but not
so much the beach bunny kind. I love the mountains and feel at home here, but I
never underestimate Mother Nature. I clambered up onto the highest, flattest
rock and pulled my legs up into a lotus position, facing away from the house.
Then I closed my eyes and tried to relax into a meditative state. I called on
the winds to offer their help, just like my grandfather had taught me.

I took several long slow breaths, trying to
focus on nothing but Ericka Carter and the sound of the wind. Very slowly, I
began to detect a change in the breeze. The gentle current shifted, becoming a
strong force pointing directly west.

“That’s where she is,” I murmured.

The wind gusted in that direction as if in
reply.

“Can you tell me how far?”

There was a pause. Then I felt the answer
more than I heard the word. I just knew in my gut that we’d find her somewhere
about ten miles west of here. And there was one more word that burned into my
brain, leaving my stomach roiling in its wake.
Hurry.

I opened my eyes and leapt down off the
rock. Leah Carter was waiting for me, just inside the open sliding glass door.
“Anything?”

I nodded. “I need a map.”

“The men are in the office on the
computer.” She led the way through the family room to another large comfortable
room, this one furnished with three oak desks and a vast array of high-tech
computer equipment. Evan and Derek were each on one of the desktop machines,
working furiously. Something was spooling off of one of the printers.

“Hannah.” Evan was out of his seat and at
my side before I could blink. He moved with unbelievable speed and grace for
such a big man. He cupped my cheek in his hand. “Any news?”

“Ten miles west,” I answered. I kissed the
palm of his hand then slid away and sat at the computer desk he’d just vacated.
“And we need to hurry.”

“I’ve got a list of property owned by known
cult members,” Derek told me. “There are two of them in that area. Let me see
if I can narrow it down. Due west?”

I nodded. “And as close to ten miles
exactly as possible.”

“Got it.” He hit a key and another page
began to print. “I’m pulling up satellite photos now.”

“Thank you, Google Earth,” Evan said. “Every
second grader in the world now knows how to pull up the image of their
neighbourhood.”

“Should we take the car?” Leah asked. “Or
will that draw too much suspicion? If they hear us coming… Derek and I can go
in as wolves.”

“They’ll be looking for wolves,” Evan
argued. “In fact, it may be a trap specifically to capture you two. Hannah and
I will go alone. You can wait here for Rhys and Gavin then send them on as
back-up.”

I could see the struggles going on inside
each of them before they reluctantly nodded. I hoped like hell Evan and I would
be able to return their child to them, unharmed.

I moved to look at the satellite photo over
Derek’s shoulder. The small cabin looked like it had been there for years,
nestled into a small rocky valley. Behind it was a fire circle, with a big flat
rock in the centre—almost like an altar. Even in the grainy satellite photo,
the area seemed to show the marks of repeated use by a large number of people.
Shit, this was definitely the site of the cult’s rituals. It wasn’t going to be
easy to sneak up on, but I wasn’t my Granddad’s granddaughter for nothing. I
could do it. And Evan…something told me he could manage too.

“We’ll take my Jeep up to this bend in the
road.” He pointed to a spot about a mile from the cabin. “From there, we’ll go
in on foot, through the trees. Once we’ve taken out any sentries we can find,
I’ll create a distraction so Hannah can slip inside.”

“And how will you manage that without
getting yourself killed?” I was none too fond of that idea. I was still
confused by my new relationship with Evan, but I knew I wanted more than just
last night. And that couldn’t happen if he was dead.

He drew in a deep breath and looked me in
the eyes. “There are a few things we didn’t have time to talk about this morning.
I said they’d be on the lookout for wolves. But they won’t be expecting an
eight-hundred pound bear to show up on their doorstep.”

Chapter Five

“But how…” My throat constricted as I made
the connection. “You. You didn’t rescue me from the grizzly. You
were
the grizzly.”

He nodded, his mouth set in a grim line.
“Now you know why Guardian attracts such an unusual clientele. Your brother is
actually the most normal of all of us.”

“Hereditary?” Not that I’d been thinking of
having babies with Evan—not much, at least—but that added a whole lot to the
equation. Kids or cubs? I forced back a burst of hysterical laughter.

“Sort of.” He grimaced. “How about we find
Ericka first and talk later? Full disclosure—I promise.”

“Of course.” I couldn’t believe I’d let
myself get so sidetracked by a personal issue, even one of such astounding
proportions. “Do you have an ETA on your cousins?”

“Not soon enough,” he muttered. “Fifteen to
twenty minutes, and I don’t want to wait that long.”

“No. The winds said to hurry.” I picked up
the printed copy of the satellite photo and stuffed it into the pocket of my
hooded sweatshirt. “I know this is going to sound bad, but does anyone here
have a set of lock picks I can borrow? I didn’t bring any equipment with me.”

Evan laughed. “In the Jeep. Told you I was
on a job before I went to the cabin.”

Two minutes later, we were in his Jeep. I
pulled Ericka’s toy out of the paper bag Evan had handed me and closed my eyes.

“Ericka?”

“Yes?”
There
was a person with her now, and I could see her clearly. This must be Faith, the
former secretary. So much for being bribed or blackmailed. There was gleeful
menace in the woman’s blue eyes.

“I
said
take it off!” She fisted her
hand in Ericka’s pyjama top and pulled her to a seated position. I could feel
the tingle in her unbound hands as the blood began to flow downward. Ericka bit
her lip to avoid crying out.

“I can’t. My hands hurt.” The little girl
rubbed her abused wrists.

“You’re going to hurt a lot more if you don’t
do as you’re told. Take off the pyjamas and put on the gown.”

“I don’t like nightgowns.”

Slap!
I felt
the impact as if it were on my own cheek.

“Ericka,
” I
urged. “
Don’t fight her. Just do what she says. But do it as slowly as
possible. Can you do that for me?”

“I’ll try.”
She
blinked back the tears welling in her eyes and lifted her hands. Slowly, she
pulled the thin knit cotton top over her head and glared at the woman. “There. Happy?”
She picked up the white silken gown and slowly, awkwardly pulled it over her
head. She took her sweet time finding the sleeve holes and getting tangled in
the billowing folds.

“Good girl. We’re almost there. If you
hear anything, try to get under the bed. Don’t come out until I tell you, okay?
Be brave.”

“Okay.”

I set the toy down and turned to Evan. “It
looks like they’re getting her ready for some sort of ritual.”

“Shit.”

“Exactly.”

Just a minute or two later, he pulled the
Jeep off the side of the road and turned the key, though he left it in the
ignition.

“I wish you’d wear the Kevlar,” he grumbled,
restarting an argument we’d had earlier as we climbed out.

“We’ve been through this. Your vest is way
too big for me. I need to be able to move, Evan. I promise, I’ll be careful.” I
did have his shoulder holster and sidearm, since he couldn’t shoot in his bear
shape. I also had a slender wire lock pick tucked into the back pocket of my
jeans. Evan, at least, had come well-prepared.

He nodded and began methodically stripping
off his clothes. I couldn’t help but watch. His body was just as magnificent as
I’d remembered. Even quiescent, his cock was thick and long. It stirred under
my gaze, and Evan cleared his throat. “Later, Hannah.”

BOOK: Cindy Spencer Pape - [Guardian Investigations 01]
3.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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