Home > Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson #4)(4)

Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson #4)(4)
Author: Patricia Briggs

She turned her angelic blue eyes on Adam. "Who are you, and what are you doing in my daughter's house at eleven at night?"

"I'm not sixteen," I said in a voice even I could tell was sulky. "I can even have a man stay all night if I want to."

Mom and Adam both ignored me.

Adam had remained in position against my bedroom door frame, his body held a little more casually than usual. I thought he was trying to give my mother the impression that he was at home here: someone who had authority to keep her out of my room. He lifted an eyebrow and showed not even a touch of the panic I'd heard in his voice earlier. "I'm Adam Hauptman, I live on the other side of her back fence."

She scowled at him. "The Alpha? The divorced man with the teenage daughter?"

He gave her one of his sudden smiles, and I knew my mom had made yet another conquest: she's pretty cute when she scowls, and Adam didn't know many people gutsy enough to scowl at him. I had a sudden revelation. I'd been making a tactical error for the past few years if I'd really wanted him to quit flirting with me. I should have smiled and smirked and batted my eyelashes at him. Obviously, a woman snarling at him was something he enjoyed. He was too busy looking at my mom's scowl to see mine.

"That's right, ma'am." Adam quit leaning against the door and took a couple of steps into the room.

"Good to meet you at last, Margi. Mercy speaks of you often."

I didn't know what my mother would have said to that, doubtless something polite. But with a popping sound like eggs cracking on a cement floor, something appeared between Mom and Adam, a foot or so above the carpet. It was a human-sized something, black and crunchy. It dropped to the floor, reeking of char, old blood, and rotten corpses.

I stared at it for too long, my eyes failing to find a pattern that agreed with what my nose told me. Even knowing that only a few things could just appear in my living room without using the door couldn't make me acknowledge what it was. It was the green shirt, torn and stained, with the hindquarters of a familiar

Great Dane still visible, that forced me to admit that this black and shrunken thing was Stefan.

I dropped to my knees beside him and reached out before snatching my hand back, afraid to damage him more. He was obviously dead, but since he was a vampire, that wasn't as hopeless a thing as it might have been.

"Stefan?" I said.

I wasn't the only one who jumped when he grabbed my wrist. The skin on his hand was dry and crackled disconcertingly against my skin.

Stefan has been my friend since the first day I moved here to the Tri-Cities. He is charming, funny, and generous - if given to miscalculations on how forgiving I might be about innocent people he killed trying to protect me.

It was still all I could do not to jerk away and rub off the feel of his brittle skin on my arm. Ick. Ick. Ick.

And I had the horrible feeling that it was hurting him to hold on to me, that at any moment his skin would crack and fall off.

His eyes opened to slits, his irises crimson instead of brown. His mouth opened and shut twice without making any sound. Then his hand tightened on mine until I couldn't have pulled free if I had wanted to.

He sucked in a breath of air so he could talk, but he couldn't do it quite right, and I heard air hissing out of the side of his ribs, where it had no business escaping from.

"She knows." His voice didn't sound like his at all. It was rough and dry. As he pulled my hand slowly toward his face, with the last of the air from that breath, he said intently, "Run." And with those words, the person who was my friend disappeared under the fierce hunger in his face.

Looking into his mad eyes, I thought his advice was worth taking - too bad I wasn't going to be able to break free to follow it. He was slow, but he had me, and I wasn't a werewolf or vampire with supernatural strength to help myself out.

I heard the distinctive clack of a bullet chambering, and a quick glance showed me my mother with a wicked-looking Glock out and pointed at Stefan. It was pink and black - trust my mom to have a Barbie gun, cute but deadly.

"It's all right," I told her hastily - my mother wouldn't hesitate to fire if she thought he was going to hurt me. Normally I wouldn't worry about someone shooting at Stefan, vampires not being that vulnerable to guns, but he was in bad shape. "He's on our side." Hard to sound convincing when he was pulling me toward him, but I did my best.

Adam grabbed Stefan's wrist and held it, so instead of Stefan pulling me toward him, the vampire was slowly raising his own head off the floor. As he came closer to my arm, Stefan opened his mouth and scraps of burnt skin fell on my tan carpet. His fangs were white and lethal-looking, and also a lot bigger than I remembered them being.

My breathing picked up, but I didn't jerk back and whine, "Get it off! Get it off!"  -  full points to me.

Instead, I leaned over Stefan and put my head into Adam's shoulder. It put my neck at risk, but the smell of werewolf and Adam helped mask the stench of what had been done to Stefan. If Stefan needed blood to survive, I'd donate to him.

"It's all right, Adam," I said. "Let him go."

"Don't put down the gun," Adam told my mother. "Mercy, if this doesn't work, you call my house and tell Darryl to collect whoever is there and bring them here."

And, in an act of bravery that was completely in character, Adam put his wrist in front of Stefan's face.

The vampire didn't appear to notice, still pulling himself up by his grip on my arm. He wasn't breathing, so he couldn't scent Adam, and I didn't think he was focusing any too well either.

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