Home > Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson #9)(12)

Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson #9)(12)
Author: Patricia Briggs

“No,” Tony said.

“No,” snapped Willis.

“Not your call to make,” I told them. Then I twisted using my shoulder and opposite hand to break Tony’s grip and slipped by his attempt to regain a hold. As soon as I was free, I bolted for the bridge.

My ears told me no one had taken more than a couple of steps to stop me, but at the end of the bridge, I glanced over my shoulder to make sure. Then I dropped to a walk.

Running would attract the troll’s attention if it looked this way. The bridge had four lanes with a central divider. On the outer edge of the outside lane was a guardrail, a sidewalk, and a waist-high banister-style galvanized fence designed to keep people from leaping off into the river. There was a sign, too, that announced there was a $250 fine for jumping from the bridge. The outer coat of galvanization on the metal railings had begun to peel under the effects of the sun and wind, but it didn’t look trashy yet.

I gripped the top of the rail and walked steadily up the bridge. I looked at the ground, the sky, the water below, dark blue because the wind was blowing in a storm. I even looked at the men crouching on top of the island hotel. I didn’t look for the troll. Some things can feel you watching them. If I made it to the van without attracting attention, it would be a very good thing.

Ahead of me, I could hear the sound of metal crunching and glass breaking. I could hear Adam growling and the sound of Darryl’s voice, though I couldn’t tell what he was saying. Whatever they were doing, they were doing it on the far side of the bridge.

I made it safely to the first car, the upside-down red Buick. There was blood on the broken glass of the driver’s-side door. It wasn’t enough to have been life-threatening—but people die from things other than blood loss when their car has rolled. Tony and Willis had only described two deaths, so the occupants of this car were probably going to be okay. I clutched that reassurance to myself and kept walking.

As I passed the Buick, I got a whiff of the troll for the first time. It smelled like water-fae magic and a bit like pepper—something sharp that made my eyes want to water but didn’t smell unpleasant, at least not to me.

I took two steps beyond the upended Buick and stopped as the pack hunting song abruptly and unexpectedly flooded through me, connecting me to those of the pack who were on the bridge.

When I’d become one of the pack, I’d learned pretty quickly that there were some downsides. I’d had to learn to shield parts of my mind to keep the pack from influencing my actions. But there were some upsides, too. My favorite was the hunting song. When the hunt was on, we connected. Like a Broadway dance company who had performed together for years, we knew what each member of the hunt would do almost before they moved. It didn’t happen every hunt, just on the ones where the outcome of the hunt was important.

It wasn’t a matter of Adam’s controlling us all. That would have been creepy and absolutely unacceptable. It was a linkage of purpose that allowed us to meld our movements—and it felt like belonging. When the song of the hunt sang through the pack bonds, it was the only time I ever felt as though I really was a part of something bigger than myself, that my presence in the pack wasn’t an unhappy fluke.

Admittedly, the pack had been a lot better lately. It was me who was holding grudges now, I thought. I knew it wasn’t useful, but it didn’t matter. The pack was finally willing to welcome me— well, mostly they were. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to accept.

But the hunting song only cared that I was part of the pack out risking life and limb together. Between one step and the next, I knew that Adam didn’t like the taste of troll blood, that his hip was bleeding but it wasn’t serious. I knew that Darryl’s shoulder was bruised, restricting the use of his left hand, and that he was sweating with the effort of not changing.

Zack was frantic. He had no way to get the baby out of the car, and the woman’s fear was making it hard to control his wolf. Submissive or not, a werewolf was a predator, and his wolf liked the scent of her blood and terror. Even the baby wouldn’t be safe if he lost control. He didn’t know if he could live with a child’s blood on his hands.

Adam wasn’t troubled by Zack’s fears. I could feel his confidence that Zack would figure out how to rescue the human woman and her child without harming them. And so could Zack. The submissive wolf drew on Adam’s belief and used it to control his wolf.

I knew that the troll had lost track of the wolves because they had let him become distracted. He’d found a shiny blue car and was smacking it into the guardrail over and over as if he enjoyed the noise it made.

Adam slunk unheeded along the bridge on the other side of the battered cement barrier from the troll. The barrier hadn’t looked like that last time I’d driven over the bridge, so the troll must have played smash the car with that barricade, too. But it was sufficient to keep Adam out of sight as he worked to get in position to push the troll in Joel’s direction.

The hunting song told me that while the werewolves hadn’t been able to harm the troll much, Joel had been a little more successful, and the troll had quit letting the tibicena close with him. So they’d decided to force the troll into a confrontation with Joel, more to see exactly where the troll’s weaknesses were than because they expected Joel to be able to finish him off quickly.

Darryl, crouched low, threaded through the battered cars, heading to a position where he would complement Adam’s attack. They’d be two sides of the funnel, with Joel at the narrow end. Darryl had acquired a tire iron and carried it in his good hand. Joel was a foggy presence in the hunting party. His actions were clear, but everything else was murky and hot-rage coated. The rage was unfocused, but I could feel the fury of it building. He let out a roaring cough that sounded more like a lion’s hunting cry than anything canine, but he refrained from making the spine-chilling cry that might drive the troll away from him. I took that as a sign that he was cooperating with Adam’s planning.

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