As Carlos' lieutenant, Marcus, paced into the house first, I was surprised to find that I felt a bit of relief at seeing them. With all the attacks on us it was refreshing to see someone survived the night looking relatively unscathed. Marcus continued to sniff while smelling the air he said, "We can't leave you alone for a minute can we? What's that I smell, oh, over-baked vampire, and a bit of dead witches seem also to be in the mixture. Oh, and those bodies out in the van really helped to round out the aroma."
Renee pushed by Marcus saying, "Natasha, you look well."
I felt it was pretty funny seeing how it was she who looked both well rested and well fed. I could see the color in her cheeks, so I knew that the werewolves had found a donor for our vampire friend. Besides, it was nice of her to lie. I knew I looked like I'd been dragged through the hedge and back. Carlos was slower in coming through the door. He was cautiously curious but not willing to risk an ambush. Given how many we'd been hit with in the past few days I got it. He basically was the crown prince who reigned over an entire territory with a number of large intertwined packs. So his getting killed a month before the wedding wouldn't look good for all the werewolves trying to climb up the supernatural social ladder.
Harry laughed seeing them and said, "We had some food brought in but I don't think it would be in your best interests to nibble since the dead witches you smell had brought the food, and they cast nasty bit of a spell before they left this world." He didn't bother to point out the corpses because as far as we were concerned they were done and over with for all practical purposes.
Marcus grinned and said, "It's okay. We grabbed a bite to eat on the road."
We didn't ask how they found us or what they ate. We had to get moving. I figured, looking at them, the sooner the better. Not to mention the bodies here were going to get ripe sooner rather than later. Harry's crew had some serious clean up to do. Then something dawned on me, Desiree wasn't with them.
"Hey, Marcus, where'd ya ditch Desiree?"
The semi-feral werewolf hadn't been more than two feet from Marcus since he'd taken her from the burning compound Archer had in the East County. The evening air still held the smoke and ash from the fires started by Carlos and Marcus when they'd torched the compound along with the nasty werewolves. Archer had been trying to out-maneuver Carlos and lost Desiree to the boys in the convoluted process of his unsuccessfully trying to kill Harry and me.
That aside, Desiree had been thoroughly whipped by Archer and his pack of rogue werewolves during her stay at his East County compound of horror. Afterwards, she'd grown overly attached to Marcus, seeing him as her alpha; he looked more than a bit puzzled at the alliance but didn't outright reject her. Carlos allowed his lieutenant to absorb her into his makeshift pack -- which was pretty much how they ran, small tight packs when needed to protect and fight -- the werewolf was firmly nose to ass with Marcus for the most part, but there'd been more than a few incidents with her. The werewolf hierarchy wasn't always detectable in their human forms but when they shifted it was obvious Carlos ruled Marcus while Marcus was higher up than Desiree. Marcus had finally succumbed to the easy way of dealing with Desiree and tranquilizing the hell out of her at every turn. She had to be completely obliterated when we flew to and from Kentucky; mostly he used the pills in order for her to keep her in human shape.
Werewolves' metabolism made it damned hard to keep them drugged in any manner so every time I turned around it seemed that Marcus was popping pills in her mouth that looked like Pez candy -- and the way she turned into limp pasta afterwards showed they weren't sugar candy. Last I'd seen Desiree was right before Harry and I were ambushed along the Torrey Pines State beach, just north of Harry's La Jolla home, right before dawn. She'd been at the Palomar Airport with us when we'd flown in from Kentucky in one of Harry's super fast jets -- I guess Homeland Security had all the toys nowadays -- and she'd been slightly more feral than usual. All the traumas of the week had been pushing all of her buttons and she was having trouble staying in human shape when needed since she preferred the werewolf nature. From everything I'd observed, Archer had kept her close to wild for his own twisted needs. Marcus had a devil of a time trying to prevent her from harming humans.
"We left her with some local weres I trust. I didn't think she could handle too much more." I wondered who Marcus trusted. My thoughts must have been written across my face because he barely refrained from growling. Simon coughed softly, reminding Marcus of his presence. Dryly he looked at me like all this had been my fault. His intense gaze tended to frighten people. As Carlos' right hand, he was also the battle worn pack member at that too. The brute force of the animal side of their natures had its drawbacks. His taking care of the pack problems was part of the job.
I ignored Marcus' dry attempt at humor and looked to Harry and Simon.
"So now where are we to go?" Carlos asked softly. He'd quickly figured out from the various scents that Harry's guesthouse wasn't any safer than his main house. We all knew that Harry'd been compromised. Yet even as I could smell the burnt bits of my fledgling drifting on the wind, it remained uncommented on by Simon and me. It was Harry's matter to handle, but still we were all involved.
"We have to head to Balboa Park and meet up with some folks near the Lily Pond." Harry answered.
"You want us there?" Carlos looked at Marcus who was beaming at the idea of more confrontations -- he thrived on it nearly as much as us vampires. Where we grew jaded over time it seemed that werewolves relished more slayings and slaughters as they aged. It was one of many differences between vampires and werewolves.
It was a good question because Kenyon was MIA and Jane, his human consort was also off everyone's radar. They couldn't exactly go looking for the vampires without some intel from Harry. Did we want them to wait in the shadows for us at Balboa Park? We looked at each other and shrugged. There were a few vicious Arizona rogue vampires out looking to kill us that needed to be tracked down. I didn't think Cynthia from Arizona was going to bring all of her vampires with her but that could be her plan. Having a few fur folks with us couldn't hurt. I still wasn't sure what Harry and Simon would do when faced with Cynthia due to the magic they'd been hit with earlier.
"Sure, why not?" Harry said while looking to my Master. Simon gave a slight nod and I said, "What about Jasmine?"
Marcus looked up sharply. He hissed out, "You don't mean the vampire Morgan's girlfriend, Jasmine?"
Harry looked shocked as he asked, "How do you know Morgan and Jasmine?"
Carlos put a hand on Marcus' arm. Marcus looked like he'd grown larger -- definitely angrier. I could smell that soil and nature scent that rose from werewolves whenever they grew agitated or right before they fully furred out. Simon exhaled harshly and said to Carlos, "Curb him."
It was Carlos' turn to look surprised. Obviously shocked by my Master's command, I saw him weigh his response. I was somewhat bemused at the notion Carlos had the ability to control Marcus. I hadn't noticed Carlos having too much influence over Marcus in the past few days we'd been around each other. Renee stepped between Carlos and Marcus calmly and put her long pale fingers on Marcus' face on his right cheek.
I knew my jaw dropped at the vampire's deliberate contact.
"Marcus, if you continue to shift there will be definite problems." She'd spoken clearly with no vampiric push of power. Her eyes met Marcus' shifting pupils. They flickered between feral and human. I watched Marcus push down his temper and Renee removed her fingers from the were's face.
That Jasmine had control over a vampire was disturbing to me. Vampires and witches didn't mix. But with Marcus' aberrant behavior, it looked like Jasmine also mixed with the werewolves. I'd never met Jasmine's vampire, Morgan was his name I think he'd said, but I'd heard that Harry had dealings with him.
"Natasha," Renee looked past the heavily breathing werewolf to catch my eye.
"Yes?" I had no intention of getting between Marcus flipping to fur and Simon. I knew which side my bread was buttered on and it wasn't meant for a werewolf's breakfast.
"Why don't you three leave and we'll meet you at the Park?" She offered a good temporary solution.
Simon growled, "Will the were be able to control himself?"
Carlos stiffened at the insult to his lieutenant but was smart enough to stay silent.
Renee said, "Yes." She'd latched gazes with Marcus again. I'd wondered how she'd handle being with werewolves but it seemed she had worked out some of the kinks. I noticed Marcus was gaining some control and I didn't smell the wild, raw forest as much. He still seemed primed to explode if anything pushed his buttons. I caught Harry's eye and nodded.
Harry sighed, "My clean up crew should be here in an hour. It's probably best if you aren't."
With that, we went outside to find a large, dark SUV parked in the curve of the driveway. Harry walked to it and opened up the driver's side door. He flipped down the visor and a key fob fell into his waiting palm. Simon simply opened the back door for me.
I was happy to see that the Confederate Civil War swords Renee had given Harry and me were leaning against the back of the front passenger seat. They were in remarkably good condition and the metal gleamed with age to my eyes. There was something wickedly delicious in using blades of such antiquity. I wanted to hone the edge a bit and slice through Kenyon like a hot knife through butter.
Scooting in directly behind Harry in the driver's seat I watched as my Master slid silkily smooth into the passenger seat. He quickly fastened his seatbelt while Harry made minor adjustments to his seat and mirrors. I slowly clicked the seatbelt into place and looked out to the dark moonlit ocean. I doubted I'd be coming back to Harry's compound anytime soon. I wondered if the 'clean up crew' was going to blow the place up or simply torch it -- vampires tended towards the dramatic at times and Harry wouldn't want to come back to the home now from what I knew of him.
Once we cleared Harry's makeshift guard checkpoint in his neighborhood, stationed at one end of his street, we quietly watched Harry navigate through the somewhat busier streets of La Jolla. It was a marked difference from the empty streets we'd just left. Not that it had been completely abandoned with all the unexpected company we'd had.
Harry didn't get on the freeways to go to the downtown area, but wound his way through the beach communities south and then cut over heading inland once we neared the airport. I didn't think it was the fastest route but it was definitely more visual. The evening brought out assorted humans. They traveled in pairs and packs like vampires and werewolves. I found that curious.
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