Autumn Whispers (Page 4)
“I replaced two of the statues on the building with the brothers, and told them to keep watch, to note the changes in energy, and there they have stayed these past eighty years and more. Until two nights ago, when the balance began to shift even further, and it became necessary to act.” Here, she stopped.
Mithra cleared his throat. “My brother and I have done as requested. We’ve kept watch on the building and the comings and goings within. Over the years, there has been a steady increase of what we first thought of as demonic energy. It infused the aura of the structure, and during the past three years, that growth has been disturbing.”
Astralis nodded. “Two nights ago, the strength of that energy grew again—so much so that we contacted Grandmother Coyote. Something big is waking. Something that could rock the city and surrounding areas. The entire building was being infused with demonic energy. Or so we thought. But we were mistaken. When the shift occurred, we realized that rather than Demonkin, the building’s aura is infused with energy from the daemonic realms.”
Grandmother Coyote nodded. “I’d first thought they were possibly in cahoots with Shadow Wing, but apparently not.”
Daemons. She was right. Most of the daemons detested the Demon Lord’s attempt to rule them. In fact, we were in unwilling cahoots with Trytian, one of the leaders in the daemonic realm who was over here, Earthside, leading a resistance faction against him. We didn’t like him, or trust him. But like it or not, we needed his help, and the help of his kind.
• • •
When my sisters and I first were sent ES—Earthside—by the OIA—Otherworld Intelligence Agency, we knew we had been exiled to the backwoods. We had always done our best, but none of us was ever up for employee of the year, and Camille’s boss had a long-time vendetta against her. He was determined to run her out. Thanks to his grudges against her, we all became targets.
One of the reasons we weren’t so hot at our jobs was that we’re half-Fae, half-human, and because of our mixed lineage, our powers can be erratic. Meaning, we fuck up a lot.
Sephreh ob Tanu, our father—full OW Fae—was a member of the Guard Des’Estar for most of his life. Back around the middle of World War II, on an ES mission in Spain, he met Maria D’Artigo, who was as human as they come. Sephreh fell head over heels in love with her, and swept her home to Otherworld, where they married, had us kids, and lived happily ever after until Mother fell from a horse and broke her neck, which ended any idea of Cinderella stories for the three of us girls. She left our father a widower and the three of us motherless at an early age.
Camille, the oldest, took over and did her best to guide Menolly and me, even though she was scarcely old enough to run a household. It was she who first knew our mother had died, and I don’t think our father ever forgave her for playing the part of the messenger.
A Moon Witch and priestess, she’s married to three alpha men—a dragon shifter named Smoky, a youkai-kitsune named Morio, and Trillian, a Svartan—one of the dark and charming Fae. They make one hell of a powerful quartet. With raven black hair and violet eyes, Camille is hot. Curvy pinup woman hot. Busty, with hips, and thighs that could crush steel, she sports a wardrobe that would furnish half the fetish bars in Seattle and has an easy self-confidence that I’ve always envied. She is the owner of the Indigo Court Bookshop—which, like all of our “jobs,” was the cover the OIA gave her when we first came Earthside. She loves it, though, even though she doesn’t have much time to hang out there.
Menolly, the youngest, is the petite one. She barely tops five one and her hair color was—and still is—a mystery. Nobody in our family ever had the bright burnished copper she does. She wears it in cornrows beaded with ivory because the sound of the beads clinking together reminds her she exists. Vampires are silent creatures, and my sister is a bloodsucker.
Thirteen or so ES years ago, before we came over here, Menolly was on a mission. A jian-tu—or spy—she was scouting out a vampire’s nest. Unfortunately, she slipped from the ceiling and landed in the middle of the vampires, which landed her in a world of pain and hurt. Dredge tortured her, raped her, carved her up, then killed her and turned her. After that, he sent her home to destroy us.
Camille managed to put a stop to his plans and Menolly spent a year in rehab, learning how to adjust to her new life. Or un-life as it may be. But we got revenge. Almost two years ago, he showed up here and we took the sucker out for good. Now, Menolly’s married to a gorgeous werepuma named Nerissa, and she’s also consort to Roman, a vampire lord and son of Blood Wyne, the vampire queen. And she owns the Wayfarer, the city’s most happening bar. Or at least we think it is. Menolly’s come a long way.
And lastly, there’s me. I’m Delilah, the middle one. I’m a two-faced Were, with both tabby cat and black panther lurking inside. And, yes, I’m a Death Maiden. At six one, I’m athletic as hell, with short spiky blonde hair, and I’m engaged to a half dragon named Shade who has given me a new perspective on life. Every day I thank Bastus that Shade is in my life. And finally—finally, my sisters have quit treating me like a child. Probably because I don’t act like one anymore. I ostensibly run a private eye firm above the Indigo Court Bookshop, though I seldom have time to take on cases, and I am the first to admit, I’m not the best person to hire.
As I said, when we were sent over ES, we mostly wanted to work our way back into the good graces of the OIA. And we’ve done just that and more: Now we run the Earthside division.
Along the way, we ended up smack in the middle of Shadow Wing’s demonic war. Unfortunately, we are the ones standing first in line.
• • •
“And so we have a worrisome force waking.” Grandmother Coyote turned to me. “I requested you be given charge of cleansing Gerald Hanson’s soul for a reason, other than he’s part werewolf.”
I waited for it, somehow knowing what was coming. A glance at Camille’s expression told me she was fast-tracking the same as me. But neither of us said a word out loud. Best not to interrupt Grandmother Coyote mid train of thought.
“Gerald Hanson owned the Farantino Building, at least for some time. And while Michael is long dead, Gerald was his great-grandson. His mother was from outside the family, of course, and she was the daughter of a werewolf and a human, which gave Gerald a few extra abilities, but he never was at the beck and call of the moon. The building is no longer in his family’s possession, but they are still bound to it. And Gerald was connected to this last shift in energy. Whatever he was doing seriously upset the balance and it would have gotten worse, had he continued to live. Given all the disruption he’s caused, we decided to forever eliminate him. Contrary to what is commonly believed, the Hags of Fate are not omniscient. We know what we know, but the rest? A mystery.”
“So Gerald is—was—connected to the daemonic energy.” I frowned, thinking about what I’d seen in his mind. Some rough stuff, but it was hard to tell just how far it went. However, he’d upset the balance enough to get wiped out of existence, so whatever he’d done had been beyond bad.
“Yes, and I want you—and your sisters—to find out what’s going on and put a stop to it. The balance is rapidly sliding out of sync and Gerald’s oblition simply prolongs the inevitable. Whoever owns the Farantino Building has money and power, and movement on the web that threads through the universe indicates that he—and it is a he—will be making a play for more than the corner he has currently mucked out for himself.”
Her voice was hushed and sent a shiver up my spine.
“You mean he’s out for a power grab?”
“Yes, and whatever power he’s trying to awaken can provide this for him. Unless you halt whatever lies at the core of this energy, the powers controlling Seattle will eventually fall under the reign of this veiled enemy. I can see no more than this, but it must not be allowed to happen.” She stood, motioning to Mithra and Astralis. “Come. It is time to return you to your home.” And with that, they swept toward the door.
The phone rang, and I picked it up as Camille saw them out.
“Is Menolly there?” The man’s voice was vaguely familiar but I couldn’t place it.
“No, she’s at work. May I take a message?” I scanned the coffee table for a pad and pencil but there was none in sight.
After a pause and a whispered conversation on the other side of the line, the man was back. “Maybe you can help us. This is Tad, from Microsoft. You know, Menolly’s friend, from the VA.”
Vampires Anonymous . . . now I remembered the name. Tad, and his friend Albert, worked the night shift at Microsoft. They were vampires, and had both been turned around the same time. They managed to keep their jobs and their sanity thanks to Wade. Wade Stevens was the director of Vampires Anonymous, a self-help support group for newly minted vamps. Albert and Tad were geek boys and roomed together at the Shrouded Grove Suites, a new apartment complex specifically designed for bloodsuckers.
“What’s up?” I had no clue what he might want. If it was vampire-oriented, it seemed that he’d either talk to the people at the VA, or the Seattle Vampire Nexus, or he’d just go down to consult with Menolly directly.
“We have a problem and thought maybe the three of you could help us.” He sounded tongue-tied, but then again, Tad always sounded tongue-tied around women. The stereotypical geek boy.
I realized he was waiting for my response. A little irritated, I let out a sigh. “Go on.”
“Can Albert and I come over? We’re really worried about a friend of ours and wanted to know if you would look into it.” He sounded so puppy-dog sad that I couldn’t help myself.
“Meet us at the Wayfarer in twenty minutes. Menolly’s there, she’ll be able to join us.” I could use some time on the town, anyway. And Camille would go with me, if I promised to buy her a drink.
“Thanks, Delilah.” And with that, he hung up.
I turned around. “Get your coat, Camille. We have to head down to the bar. It’s probably nothing but . . . you never know.”
As we let the guys know we were headed for the bar, and that we’d fill them in on what Grandmother Coyote had told us when we got back, my thoughts lingered over what she had said. It occurred to me that while we were out, we could stop at Carter’s and see if he had any dirt on the Farantino Building. Carter, half demon, half Titan, was a records-keeper of sorts, and if anybody would have info on this building, he would. We dropped on him unannounced too many times but he took it like a trouper.
Camille slipped into her new coat, a gothic blazer, and held up her keys. “Take my Lexus?”
I nodded. “Since my Jeep’s in the shop, I think we have to.”
About a week ago, my Jeep had started making knocking noises and I dropped it off at Jason’s garage. I’d called today but it wasn’t quite ready.
I slipped on my leather jacket and stuck my dagger in the boot sheath. I’d started carrying it there so that it wouldn’t draw unwanted attention and so I’d always be ready. With as much shit as we got into, none of us felt comfortable going out unarmed. Ever since the Fae had started coming over to visit, the United States had relaxed its knife laws so we could openly carry long blades, but it still made some people uncomfortable, so I tried to be unobtrusive when I carried.
The sheath clipped neatly into the outer side of the motorcycle boots I’d picked up at the leather store. Shade had convinced me to try them, and I loved their sturdiness and badass look. They weren’t high heels, but at my height, I didn’t need the boost, and they would last through a number of ass-kickings. Lysanthra was a long knife but I had long legs, and so she tucked neatly into the sheath. My dagger was sentient and we were still developing a relationship.
Ready to go, we clattered down the porch steps into the rain-soaked night. Fat drops pelted down from the sky, where the crescent moon peeked out faintly from a crack in the boiling clouds. I shaded my face from the stinging droplets. The wind was whipping so hard that the rain was hitting us sideways, biting into any exposed skin. Camille winced and raced for her car with me right behind her. As she beeped the key to unlock the Lexus, I yanked open the passenger door and slid inside. She followed, seconds behind me, slamming the driver’s door and fumbling to insert the key in the lock.
While our Fae heritage gave us more resistance to the elements than if we were purely human, it wasn’t enough to take the edge off the night, and Camille hurried to turn on the ignition and start up the heater. The resulting air was cold, but it would warm up soon, and I pulled my jacket closed in front and zipped it up over the T-shirt I was wearing.
Camille waited for a moment to let the car warm up, then eased into the long driveway. Our house—a three-story Victorian—loomed like a Halloween house behind us, and the drive was long and wound through heavy trees and foliage on the way to the road.
We’d had the driveway paved during the summer—something we’d been reluctant to do, but it had become increasingly necessary. During the rainy season, we now had enough traffic coming and going that the road had become deeply rutted and after a few too many times getting stuck, we bit the bullet. Jonas, one of the Blue Road Tribe’s werebears, had come out and done the work for us. He owned a private contracting company and we were glad to be able to throw some business his way.
As Camille guided the car along the paved drive, the rain pounded down, a driving force beating a tattoo against the roof. She glanced at me.
“You should call Carter and let him know we’re on the way. But first we have to meet Tad and Albert. What do you think is going on?”