Archer formally invited us to come inside. Lee seemingly hadn't merited cautions entering the home of the large werewolf. I wondered at that but instead watched Archer's interaction with Marcus. What distracted me was that there was a ceremonial air about how Marcus was allowed access that seemed to actually restrict him. It was a struggle for him to clear the portal and he physically shrugged something invisible off once he landed in the foyer. I mentally took a note of the words and planned on seeing what they meant later. That was if I ever got a spare minute to call my own. It wasn't looking like that'd be anytime soon.
Then it was my turn. Archer stood tall and nodded slightly then made a movement with his hands that caught my eye. It was hypnotic. That made me shake my head and glare at Harry. I was trying to be a good little vampire and not carve any bits off the werewolves but my patience was wearing thin. Archer ignored my impatience and spoke with a deep gravelly voice.
"Natasha, I am pleased to allow you access to my humble abode. May all your efforts be met with equality and your spirit with the same energy as you give." A roll of magic flowed with his words and I knew he was doing some weird incantation. That line about equality wasn't so much a blessing but a curse so I guess werewolves could play with magic. I wasn't sure if this was good news or not but shoved it away and concentrated on Harry. Harry was smiling and waiting patiently for me to cross the doorway and into the living room. I didn't feel anything crossing into the werewolf's home other than the warmth getting inside out of the evening chill. The mountain air was cooler than the coast and the stars and moon haunted me a bit with their brightness. My eyes had automatically scanned the skies before entering. I was still expecting some sort of attack and I didn't know from where.
The large hearth had a fire banked and was big enough to roast a side of beef with room to spare. The fireplace was made with rounded plate sized river rocks. The mantle was nearly half a tree of hard wood. On the top of the mantle there were knickknacks and hunks of gemstones embedded in freestanding rocks. Archer's home wasn't just a summer getaway but a lived in residence. I kept my thoughts to myself and waited to hear what their game plan was.
"Knock the shit off, Archer," Marcus snarled. His temper was frayed and if he'd been in werewolf form I figured his fur would literally be ruffled. The doorway had pushed some invisible switch and I found it curious. Rarely did Marcus display much beyond the tough brutal façade he was infamous for in the supernatural world.
"We aren't here to worship at the holy ground of Archer and child. We have some problems." He really wasn't playing nice. It was admirable. Carlos looked uncomfortable but didn't comment. Marcus wasn't as frightening compared with old Archer. Between the two werewolves I wouldn't be able to pick which one would be top dog -- so to speak. They both were extremely strong and vicious. Nearly nasty enough to make good vampires if it weren't for the werewolf thing, I thought. The two supernatural types didn't tend to mix well. We both were predators and not given to sharing.
"Kenyon's little meet was being filmed and probably broadcast world wide. After Natasha's pet vampire sprayed Kenyon and his minion with a damn good bottle of champagne things went to hell pretty fast. From what we saw I think a few weres and vampires aren't among us anymore. You probably felt their deaths. We came here to wait for orders." Marcus was pacing and touching things. Archer didn't say a word just quietly watching the vibrating werewolf. Marcus was furious and sparking off some serious anger. Carlos sat like a lump on a couch near the fire and allowed his second in command to take control. Harry leaned up against the wall and didn't say a word. He, too, was allowing the werewolves to work things out without our interference.
I'd yet to see Renee but I could feel her in the distance. She wasn't harmed or in trouble but rather calm. All things considered that was good. She'd need all the fortitude at her beck and call if things kept twisting and turning so violently.
Archer watched the pacing and said, "Marcus, I am not yours to command."
Marcus spun and snapped, "Hell, no. But make no mistake, Archer, you are bound to Carlos. And I think that should mean something."
"You aren't Carlos," I had to hand it to Archer he was certainly composed. But I thought his having a child gave him latitude that other werewolves might not have. Marcus' reputation was nearly as nasty as mine and he wasn't known for passive compliance. I could see Marcus was barely holding himself in check but he wouldn't last much longer. There were definitely undercurrents at play.
"You're right. If I was Carlos you'd be respectful not arrogant!" Marcus sniped. Finally Carlos stood up and said, "Enough."
I was surprised at the command in Carlos' voice. I guess he wasn't as soft as I thought. Marcus stiffened and dipped his head nearly imperceptibly. That was as good as Carlos' could command from his own man. It didn't bode well for Renee in her marriage I thought. She wasn't marrying into the werewolves for love and certainly not for leadership. From everything I'd seen and heard Marcus was the iron fist or claw as the case might be behind the throne.
Archer's lip lifted in disgust and he said, "As you wish."
Wow, I was under-whelmed.
Harry moved slowly and said, "Natasha, why don't we see how Renee is doing?"
"Sure, sounds like a plan." I carefully moved between the bristling men making sure to keep my eyes on Marcus. He was the most likely to snap first in my opinion and I didn't want to find myself in a fur filled blood bath. Carlos was rumbling slightly and I knew he had some damage control to do if he was to maintain his control of the pack. The full moon was pulling them and I didn't want to see anymore.
Harry moved confidently down a hall and Archer's bleached out man, Costa, met us half way down the corridor. A cleaned up Lee shadowed Costa and I noticed both men were slightly out of breath. I was glad to see Renee in the hallway looking unharmed and somewhat amused.
"What new hell is this?" I asked.
"There's an intruder at the perimeter of our lands. We need to go find out if friend or foe." Costa was thin and his voice not much more than a whisper.
"How do you know this?" Harry pulled out a very sophisticated cell phone. He apparently had a steady supply of electronics stashed in his car. I saw that his new phone had a touch screen and he quickly tapped his way into something. A boy and his toys never seemed to change and Harry always had state of the art gizmos.
"Our sensors picked movement up a few minutes ago and I was buzzed," Costa held up his own little cell phone.
"Heat sensors?" Harry looked up while we followed them back towards the main living room.
"It wasn't registering hot enough for human." That told Harry what he wanted to know.
"It could be vampire or human wearing a thermal containment suit," was the terse reply. Werewolves ran much hotter in body temperatures than humans and vampires didn't have warmth unless recently provided by donors. We vampires tended towards the lukewarm or ice cold depending on how recently we'd fed. I liked that Costa didn't jump to conclusions it was somewhat comforting. We quickened our pace back towards the others. Renee grabbed my arm and tried to pull me away but Harry caught her eyes and shook his head softly no. He didn't want us talking and I nodded. There were no obvious signs of being filmed or recorded but I trusted his wariness. Renee sighed softly and let me free. Her fingers had left imprints in my skin. Whatever was pushing at her was big.
Our excited energies carried us back into the living room. Archer and Marcus were on opposite sides of the room. The werewolves all looked rumpled and angry. They snapped upright and tensed at our intrusion.
"What is it?" Marcus moved lightning fast and was next to Carlos. He had drawn a gun I hadn't even smelled on him. His personal aroma had masked all the usual tells for me. The oil and gunpowder were there but I'd missed them with all the pandemonium at Dark Whispers. The gunplay and blood had covered the weapon. Excuses aside, I wasn't thrilled to have missed something so dangerous.
"Alarms were tripped." Costa directed his comment to Archer. All the feuding was done and we bonded with a single goal. Finding the intruder.
Renee charged into the center of the room saying, "Who's out there?" She was asking Carlos, ignoring the others completely. As far as she was concerned, his authority made it his problem. Archer allowed Carlos to take charge and Marcus visibly relaxed.
She sensed the changes and had fangs extended. Both Harry and I weren't saying or doing anything. Lee tried to slow his breathing unsuccessfully. His chest was visibly rising and falling and his heartbeat was strong and fast.
"Lee, you stay here with Costa," Marcus commanded and Carlos nodded his approval. Both werewolves moved to the front of the house and Archer stopped them with, "I have some toys." He nodded to his second in command and Costa moved swiftly to the wood paneled wall next to the fireplace.
Costa toggled a switch and pulled aside part of the panel revealing an elaborate array of blades. What was with werewolves and swords? I'd heard they liked their weapons but all the different blades and cutlasses amazed even me. Harry grinned and watched Archer hand out some lethal bits of steel and death. Neither he nor I took a toy because they weren't necessary. We personally liked closer kills. Renee was handed a saber, which she seemed to favor. Besides I wasn't sure what the werewolves would do if they had to flip to werewolf form but was willing to watch.
Then something hardened in my stomach. It dawned on me they were assuming the uninvited visitor was a vampire or human. That wall of weapons wasn't some fluke of interior decorating but just gardening tools to them. What was needed to clean up the yard. They weren't getting ready to kill one of their own. Harry arched an eyebrow as he acknowledged the question in my eyes. Anger lashed through me as I was revolted by the knowledge they were easily prepared to kill vampires and humans. Suddenly Renee's choice of a long sharp saber made sense. She could impale a werewolf easily from a distance with that weapon. Looking at Harry I decided to keep my hands free. He'd be more than equal to any battle with the werewolves and I wasn't adverse to ripping off a limb and using their weapons if the need arose.
Harry hadn't stopped with tapping on his touch screen and had got some sort of intel on his phone that answered a question. He snapped the cell shut saying, "This way."
Werewolf speed was impressive I had to admit as Harry, Renee and I launched ourselves towards the outside a beat or two ahead of the werewolves. But vampires were faster. Much faster. We left the house and were running full out before they'd left the living room. Renee had no trouble carrying the blade while running, it wasn't difficult and she looked natural and wicked. Carlos was screwed if he tried to harm her. That amused me. Maybe she would survive the union.
To be continued...
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