"Crap," I said. "I suppose we have to wipe them out. Are they under guard or being left to their own devices?"
He nodded. "Unfortunately, yes. They have a guardian. I'm not sure what it is-could be a ghost or a wight. Whatever the case, their guardian is both powerful and from somewhere other than the Subterranean Realms."
"Oh great." I stabbed another piece of pancake. "That sounds just delightful-" The phone rang, putting a stop to my rant. I jumped up and grabbed it. "Hello?"
"I'd like to speak to Chase Johnson." I didn't recognize the voice, but it was clearly a woman and unsettlingly smooth and sexy.
I stared at the receiver for a moment, then asked, "Sharah?" even though I knew full well it wasn't her.
"My name is Erika. I'm looking for Chase Johnson and was told he might be at this number." Again, the husky, breathy voice that reeked of sex and designer wear and cognac.
Wait a minute-Erika? Hadn't that been the name Chase had muttered during his sleep, before I put the fang on him? What the . . . ?
I paused for a second, debating on what to say. "I'm sorry, Chase isn't available. He's probably at work. May I take a message?"
She laughed, and her laughter conjured up images of sultry summer nights. "No, I know where his office is. Thank you, anyway." There was a sudden catch in her voice, and she added, "I take it this is Delilah? Chase's friend?"
I held my breath and counted to three. "Girlfriend. This is Chase's girlfriend. And you are?"
For the first time since she'd spoken, Erika's voice took on an edge as she said, "I'm Chase's ex. We used to be engaged. Oh well, thanks anyway. I'll catch up to him in a bit."
And then the line went dead.
I stared at the phone blankly before slowly replacing the receiver. Chase had never told me he'd been engaged. He'd never told me about any serious relationships in his past. I shouldn't be jealous. I was half-Fae, my father's blood almost guaranteed me freedom from jealousy. But there it was, simmering in the pit of my stomach. A little worm that wanted to find this Erika, whoever she was, and claw her eyes out. And why the hell had Chase been dreaming about her? Had he seen her already and not bothered to tell me? Or was it some weird coincidence that made fate seem like a first-class bitch?
Whatever the case, I couldn't worry about it now. We had a nest of venidemons to go after before I could give in to the green-eyed monster that was really bedeviling me.
"Iris, is Henry taking over the shop today?" Camille asked as we geared up for battle, which basically meant arming ourselves with anything we thought might come in handy.
Henry was an FBH whom Camille had hired to help out at the Indigo Crescent-her bookshop-during times when neither she nor Iris could get there.
As part of our OIA cover stories, we'd been assigned jobs when we first arrived Earthside. Camille ostensibly owned the Indigo Crescent, a bookshop. I ran a low-budget PI business, D'Artigo Investigations. And Menolly had clocked in at the Wayfarer Bar & Grill as a bartender on the night shift.
Now, Camille really did own the Indigo Crescent, my PI business was spotty at best, and Menolly had taken over as owner of the bar. If the HR department at the OIA ever returned to its former bureaucratic glory and turned their attention back Earthside, they were going to be in for a bit of a shocker.
The Talon-haltija nodded. "Yes. And I asked him to stay all day. Since your wards were broken by the bloatworgle, I've decided to do a little research on my own and find out what I can. I know there are natural repellents to bloatworgles and their kin, but it's been so long since I had to protect the Kuusis' land that I can't remember what they were. Bruce and I are meeting for lunch. So I thought that I'd run over to the Alysin te Varden Lending Library before our date and find out what I can. I'll take Maggie with me."
One of the newest Fae-oriented establishments in Seattle, the Alysin te Varden Lending Library was named for an elf who'd been killed down in Portland, Oregon. A group of Freedom's Angels gang-raped her, beat her senseless, and left her to die. And die she did. Our cousin Shamas had managed to help catch the culprits. The DNA evidence proved them guilty, but the men mysteriously turned up dead in jail before they could stand trial.
The library was a joint enterprise between three OW Fae, who hearkened from the Southern Wastes in Otherworld, three members of the newly risen Courts of Fae: one Seelie, one Unseelie, and one of the newest Court, one of the dusk Fae. In addition, two members of the Rainier Puma Pride and two members of the Elliott Bay Orca Pod had joined the effort.
The Elliott Bay Orcas were the newest band of Weres to come out of the supernatural closet. They were killer whale Weres, and with the rise of the Supe community project I was spearheading, they had not only made themselves known but had taken the reins on a restoration project to clean up Puget Sound.
The King County government could no longer look the other way when it came to polluting the bays and inlets, not now that everybody knew sentient creatures lived there. Of course, there had been an influx of membership to the Guardian Watchdogs and Freedom's Angels groups from über-right-wing anticonservationists, but that was only to be expected. For every swing of the pendulum, there was an equal and opposite reaction.
Together, the Fae and the Supes had created a lending library of books related to their races, most of which had lain dormant in hidden alcoves for hundreds-sometimes thousands-of years. The volumes had been reprinted and were being distributed. While the Freedom's Angels held book burnings, the lending library idea was catching on in major cities around the nation.
"That's a good idea," Morio said. "While you're there, see if you can dig up any information on wights and specters. If this thing guarding the venidemons proves to be a greater spirit and we can't deal with it, then we might need the information." He slid into a lightweight quilted jacket and tightened his ponytail.
Camille was wearing an outfit that was downright modest. My guess was that she didn't want to give any unnecessary encouragement to the venidemons. She'd changed into a pair of black tights, a knee-length black rayon skirt, a turtleneck sweater, and a stunning red patent leather belt. She was wearing lace-up granny boots to cover her lower legs. Smoky joined her, in his usual white jeans, pale blue shirt, and ankle-length white trench. Somehow, he never managed to get dirty, no matter how mucky the fight or how bloody the job.
I was dressed in heavy jeans, a pair of motorcycle boots, a long-sleeved knit tank, and my leather jacket. Roz was in his usual black duster and jeans, and Vanzir slid a heavy denim jacket over his jeans and T-shirt. We were outfitted for battle and ready to go.
"Where's the nest, and how many are we facing?" I asked, grabbing my backpack and keys
Vanzir shook his head. "I don't know how many. I couldn't get an accurate count. At least fifteen, though. The nest is in an abandoned house down near Boeing. It's set back on a couple acres of land, and it looks like it's been up for sale for a long time."
I sighed. "I don't like this, not at all. We're heading into a dangerous situation without any real idea of how many opponents we're facing, what their capabilities are, and who's leading them."
Camille smirked. "You mean, it's business as usual."
"Funny woman . . . funny woman! Okay, come on, let's go get this over with." I sheathed my long silver knife in my leg holster. "Iris, you taking a cab to the library, or what?" Iris was too short to drive, and we hadn't had the time to order a new car retrofitted for her specific height needs. It was on our to-do list, though.
She shook her head. "Siobhan's picking me up. She's bringing us a bucket of clams, and I'm giving her some spring lettuce and baby carrots."
Siobhan Morgan was one of our friends. She was a selkie-a wereseal-who passed in human society. Still firmly in the closet, she was a good ally if we needed someone to dig up info not normally given to Supes or Fae. She was also very happily pregnant, and because she'd managed to conceive, her boyfriend, Mitch-also a selkie-had been allowed by the Pod elders to ask her to marry him. They were scheduled for a July wedding, and their baby was due in November.
"Okay. Just keep your eyes open when you're outside. And keep an eye on Siobhan, too. The wards are still down; anything could wander onto the land."
Camille sighed. "I'll recharge them when we come home," she said. "But until we can figure out a way for somebody besides Morio or me to tell if they've been damaged or negated, it doesn't really do a lot of good. If the bloatworgle managed to break them, then he's either got a lot of power, or he had help. Otherwise, he couldn't get through."
"My guess is the latter," Morio said. "Those wards were strong."
"Well, I guess we can't put it off any longer. You bringing the unicorn horn?" I asked. Camille had been gifted with a rare magical item and had been doing her best to learn to wield it.
"Yes." Camille nodded. "But I don't want to use it unless I have to. Given that I can only charge it up under the new moon, I don't want to drain its powers unless these critters are more than we can handle."
"I guess this is it, then. Vanzir, you and Roz come with me. Smoky and Morio will go with Camille. You got a map for them?"
Vanzir handed Camille a Google map, and she, in turn, handed it to Morio, who always took care of the details like directions. We headed out to the cars. I waved as Camille and the boys climbed in her Lexus, then I swung up into my Jeep. Roz rode shotgun; Vanzir sat in the back.
Belles-Faire was on the northern outskirts of Seattle. When traffic was light, we made good time into the heart of the city. When it was heavy, we could be stuck in gridlock for hours. Luckily, at this time of the morning, rush hour was almost over.
I swung over onto I-5. The freeway would be the quickest way to reach south Seattle, past Georgetown-a graveyard of railroad tracks and boxcars-into the Industrial District. Built over the mudflats that once lay beneath Elliott Bay and over covered landfill, the area was prone to liquefaction, and during earthquakes, the buildings were easily damaged.
As we headed down the road, I glanced toward the west. Storm clouds were moving in. We were heavily into the spring rains, and Mandy Tor, the loopy meteorologist on K-Talk, was predicting a heavy drenching for the area by early afternoon. I trusted Camille's and Iris's take on the weather more than Mandy's, but both of them concurred: We'd be soaked through before afternoon tea.
"Vanzir, tell me again," I said, steering my way between two huge semis, one hauling diesel, the other hauling gasoline. Yeah, that would be a nasty combination in a wreck. Big boom. Big bonfire. "What did you say about the venidemons? What are their weaknesses?"
Vanzir had filled us in before we left the house, but I'd still been fuming over the call from Erika and had only half listened. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the back of Morio's seat. "Venidemons are extremely dangerous, but they do have one major weakness. They're prone to ice and snow damage. If it gets too cold-say subfreezing-they can't fly. Makes 'em sluggish. They die if it falls below minus ten."
"I take it that's . . . what's it called . . . Fahrenheit?" I quickly switched lanes to skirt around a slow-moving RV. Camille was right behind me, her Lexus mirroring us like a steel-gray shadow.
"Perfect! Smoky's heritage is directly from the Northlands. His father was a white dragon, his mother a silver, giving him a dangerous mix of ice, snow, and electrical attacks. At least we have him on our side," I said.
"We should have brought Iris," Roz added. "She's proficient with ice and snow magic."
Damn it, why hadn't I thought of that? Or why hadn't Camille? We were so used to leaving Iris in charge of the house that sometimes we forgot how handy she could be in a fight. "Why didn't you say something back at the house, dork?"
The incubus winked at me in the rearview mirror. "Because nobody asked." He laughed when I sputtered indignantly. "Don't get your panties in a wad. I didn't say anything because what she's doing is valuable, too-and we do have the dragon with us. We don't have a lot of manpower to go around, lately, not with Trillian missing, and we have to make the best use of who's available and what resources we have handy."
I winced. He was right. We had more help than when we'd begun our fight against the demons, but more issues kept cropping up to dilute our firepower. Shamas, our cousin, couldn't fight with us because Chase desperately needed him on the FH-CSI team. Some of the Weres who'd been showing interest in joining us had, instead, thrown their lot in with the Supe Community Council, which had its own concerns.
As for the vampires, they were focused on working with Wade and Vampires Anonymous to take over control of the Seattle area and put an end to any feeding frenzies that might rise up. A couple of the bloodsucker clubs were fighting back, Dominick's and the Fangtabula in particular, and Menolly had warned us that tensions were building toward an eventual showdown.
I couldn't blame them entirely. After all, we still hadn't told many of the Supes and vamps about the demons yet. It just wasn't news we could spread around indiscriminately. If the FBH population got wind of the demon threat, panic would rage through the streets, and then we'd have massive chaos to cope with. Which would lead to the military interfering when there really wasn't a lot they could do. At least not with their armaments as they were.