Jared's Wolf (Page 11)
"Half-breed is all right," Moira said, and he realized she was directly above them. Geraldine whined, clutched her face and scuttled back, blood pouring through her long-nailed fingers, pattering to the floor.
"It's tactless, but accurate. Calling me a plump herbivore is not. Also," she added, glancing down at him,
"I'm not speaking to you. But I will save your ass."
"Oh, shut up. And you," she said to Geraldine, stalking toward her, "are a nasty, smelly, wretched creature. Look at you. You look like you're going to Change any second. Feeling the stress of the coming full moon, Geraldine? How rude of you to show it."
"You're surprised by how I look," Geraldine hissed back, flipping to her feet. "That's because you never saw me. No one has ever! Seen! Me! Not your precious Michael or his bitch-dog or Derik or Mother or—my—my—"
"I don't care, Geraldine. It's too bad you had an unendurable childhood, but what gives you the right to kill? Worse, kill helpless humans? Nothing. Those women did nothing to you."
Jared watched the two women circle each other. They moved strangely—more like big cats than an accountant and a cemetery caretaker. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. Everything hurt, his throat was on fire and he was seeing two Moiras and two Geraldines, but he still couldn't look away. He noticed they were very careful about where they put their feet. It was almost like a dance or ritual—something very old, something stylized.
"No," Moira was saying, "those poor women did absolutely nothing to deserve their fate."
"They did! They—"
Moira went on, implacable. Her voice rang with truth and scorn. "You've shamed us all. You're crazy, but part of you knows. Part of you knows everything you are is wrong, and everything you've done. Your father—Gerald—was the worst creature I've ever known. But that doesn't excuse you. "
"Don't you talk about my father. You're not fit for him to piss on."
Moira shook her head. Her outrage had fled; now she just looked terribly tired. "You fooled us for a long time. But it's over now. You're not killing anyone tonight."
"Wrong, half-breed." Geraldine leapt. Moira dodged, pivoted quicker than thought, and sent her small foot into Geraldine's side. Jared's eyes widened; the 'crack' was very loud. Amazing! In between collecting college degrees for the hell of it and running the Wyndham finances, his Moira had apparently found time to get a black belt in karate.
Incredibly, Geraldine ignored the pain of broken ribs. He couldn't believe it, but she was still moving, and moving quickly—she spun and regained her center as rapidly as an adder. Too quickly for him to follow, both women were literally at each other's throats, locked in a brutal battle.
He tried to get up. He tried. And again. But . . . too hard, everything hurt, his head was spinning, everything was so fast, how did Moira adjust to things happening so fast? It was almost as if she, too, possessed that same inhuman speed and agility, as if his Moira was one of the . . .
Geraldine howled and all the hairs on the back of Jared's neck came to rigid attention. It was every bad or frightening sound he had ever heard, times ten. Everything that was in him wanted to run from the sound, get the Hell out and never, never come back. The part of his brain devoted 100% to survival was wide awake and screaming at him to leave.
As if in response to the unearthly noise, Moira had made a final, desperate leap, and now she was—God, was she biting Geraldine? Her teeth were fastened at the juncture between Geraldine's neck and shoulder. The killer shrieked again and drove an elbow back into Moira's stomach. Moira grunted and held on. Geraldine's fist came up in a blur and then Moira was tumbling away. Geraldine pounced, quick as a cat.
Jared crawled toward them. He had no idea why. He sure as shit couldn't help Moira in his condition.
But somehow he was on his knees and he crawled, crawled. He saw Moira's hand come up, try to shove Geraldine away. Saw her claw for Geraldine's eyes. He crawled faster.
He wouldn't let this bitch kill another woman he loved.
He groped for his pants leg, for the small pistol in the ankle holster. Geraldine hadn't known about it, or hadn't cared. It was practically a toy, anyway. A one-shot Derringer. His Marine buddies would laugh themselves into hernias if they saw him with it.
He stopped crawling. He heard another wet snap and didn't know whose bone had broken. Moira was kicking Geraldine away, turning, trying to get distance. Geraldine was giggling through a mouthful of blood. Jared found the pistol . . . and dropped it right out of his bloody grip.
"Geraldine," he croaked, "your daddy died screaming."
That got her attention; she snapped her head around so fast he practically heard it. Her eyes were huge; the irises looked like gold-flecked mud. "What? What did you say, monkey?"
"Which word didn't you understand, cow, goat, uh—mammal with extra stomachs?"
"Ruminator," Moira suggested faintly, trying to get to her feet and failing. He could see the bulge in her left leg, below her kneecap. He'd heard her bone break.
The monster would pay for that. "Ruminator, thanks, babe. Oh, Geraldine?" Groping, groping. Got it.
Hang on. "After Moira and I settle your hash, we're gonna find your dad's grave and fuck right on top of it." Hang on. "That's not gonna be a problem, is—uurrggh!"
Geraldine had jumped high in the air—impossibly high, his rational mind had trouble believing this wasn't a fantastic illusion—and landed squarely on top of him. That was fine. That was perfect. "Bite me, dog,"
he growled. "Let's see those pearly whites."
Her head swooped toward his, ready to tear out his throat. For my sister. For my love. He could smell Geraldine's breath: rank, meaty. This is the last thing my sister saw. Oh, God, help me now. He brought the Derringer up, jammed it into her mouth so hard he felt teeth break. Had time to register the killer's almost comical look of surprise before he pulled the trigger and blew the back of her head off.
Geraldine fell forward, onto him. He screamed, in horror and despair and rage for the dead. "Moira!" he roared.
Somehow, Moira heaved the corpse off him. And that's about when everything went black.
Jared opened his eyes, and Moira shrieked.
"I'm sorry," she said at once. He could see she was quite pale. Her eyes dominated her face and their color was deep, nearly purple, startling and mesmerizing at once. "I'm just really, really happy you're awake."
"Amen, sister." He started to sit up, hardly able to take his eyes off her, then just as quickly gave up and flopped back onto the bed. "Argh, even my hair hurts. Is it dead?"
"Where am I?"
"Wyndham Manor. Also known as Dogs R Us."
"Funny girl." Jared glanced around the lush bedroom, which was roughly the size of his last apartment.
Sunlight streamed through the west window. It was late, then. They'd gone to Geraldine's before lunch.
"Geraldine. God, what a mess."
"That," Moira said tartly, "is an understatement. FYI, none of the others can face you right now. They're so embarrassed they didn't see this before. Years ago."
"They shouldn't be." Jared paused. Yes, he had really said that. Weirder, he'd meant it. Blaming the dogs—err, Moira's employers—had become habit. Bitter, but comforting in its familiarity.
But ten minutes with Geraldine had changed his mind about a lot of things. She'd been so fast, so ruthless. So inhuman and, at the same time, heartbreakingly victimized. "You guys thought you solved the problem when Gerald was killed. Who could blame you? You wanted the nightmare to be over. I don't think there's blame in that."
"Ha!" Moira's tone was bitter, and Jared could see she would be blaming herself for a long time. She, who prided herself on her fine intelligence, hadn't noticed the killer living four miles from her bedroom. A difficult pill to swallow. He doubted Moira would do so gracefully.
He almost smiled. Christ, he adored her. She could have been killed—they both could have—but she never quit. She looked as innocent and delicate as a Hummel figurine, but had the temper of a wolverine and the tenaciousness of a pit bull. With rabies.
His thoughts derailed in sudden confusion. Geraldine was dead. His sister was avenged. Now what?
Settle down with Moira? His life had been about vengeance since . . . well, since forever. Would there now be room for other things? Was it possible? The idea was as wonderful as it was terrifying.
Vengeance was a cold blanket, but he'd been able to wrap himself in it for years. Was there room now for more?
"I just don't understand how she held together so long ," Moira muttered. She made a small fist and thumped her leg in agitation.
"I don't know how werewolves blend in with any humans," he said frankly.
Moira shook her head. "It's necessary. It's a skill learned early. What you saw—that wouldn't have fooled anyone. I think Geraldine was tired. She was tired, she wanted to be done. She quit holding herself together and stayed in her little house and waited for it to be over."
Jared thought back to the look on Geraldine's face when he shot her. Surprise, and . . . relief?
He would have bet his gun collection on it.
"By the way," the love of his life interrupted his thoughts with heavy sarcasm,
"Mister-I-can-take-on-a-werewolf-in-her-prime-so-stay-in-the-car-Moira, you're not moving from that bed for a week. Among other things, you've got a nasty concussion and cracked ribs."
"I've got . . ." Memory returned; he lunged forward. "How's your leg?"
"Lie back down." She gently pushed him back against the pillows. "My leg?"