Home > True Dead (Jane Yellowrock #14)

True Dead (Jane Yellowrock #14)
Author: Faith Hunter



   A Dervish in the Dark. Poetry with Bloody Blades.


Beast woke in big bed, tangled in Jane clothes. Sniffed soft, not loud, not what Jane called Flehmen sound, but hunter’s sound. Silent. Bruiser was not in big bed. Had not slept in big bed.

   Beast rolled over and sat. Put front paw on Jane sleep clothes. Wriggled out. Did not claw or tear Jane clothes. Did not want Jane to be sad. Beast was not happy to be Beast form. Knew Jane would not be happy to be Beast form.

   Jane had gone to sleep in human form. Jane body turned into Beast while Jane slept. Was not first time Jane body changed shape in sleep, and not when Jane or Beast wanted change.

   Had happened many more than five times since Jane was healed in waters of arcenciel rift.

   Sickness that was killing Jane was gone. But much was wrong with Jane body. Jane could not hold shape for many hours. Beast did not know how to help Jane. Was bad.

   Angel of Beast—Hayyel—was not helping Jane.

   Mate of Jane—Bruiser—could not help Jane.

   Molly, mate of Molly—Evan—and Angie could not help Jane.

   Jane could not help Jane. Jane was angry.

   Jane clan was worried.

   Beast did not worry as stupid humans worried. But Beast feared Beast had missed important thing.

   Beast studied place in Beast mind where Jane slept. Jane dreams swirled, like leaf on fast water. Jane breathed fast, as if monster chased her. Needed deep calm sleep like dark pool in forest. Beast pressed down on Jane self, deeper into sleep. Jane breathing went smooth.

   Beast slid to floor. No thump sounded. Silent hunter landing.

   Beast went to window. Put front paws on narrow ledge, standing high on back paws to see into dark with Beast’s night vision, looking into world of silvers and greens and grays. Looked out at hills and many trees with bright leaves, what Jane called mountain forest in autumn. Beast did not want to leave mountains. Was best time to hunt—female deer in heat, male deer stupid with rut and running fast, fat autumn moon making hunt effortless, cool wind so Beast could hunt for long time.

   But Jane had to leave mountains and go to place of salty water called New Orleans. Was Dark Queen need. Beast understood power in African lion pride or puma family clan or clowder of cats. Understood that Jane had to keep peace, hunt Jane enemies, swat and claw and nurse Jane clan, and do Jane things. Understood. Did not like.

   Beast tilted head. No light came from place where grapes rotted into pungent stench to make human wine. Was stupid thing to do, but Bruiser said that making wine was like Beast burying carcass in snow to eat later. Bruiser was not in wine-making place. Bruiser was not here.

   Beast dropped to floor. Sniffed pile of luggage on floor in corner. Was Dark Queen clothes for New Orleans. Jane had packed for big human-witch-vampire event in New Orleans, for Jodi to mate with Wrassler in what Jane called wedding. Jane had packed for fighting too. Much killing things, hunting things.

   But was dangerous for Jane to hunt and fight. Jane body was wrong. Had been wrong since Jane and Beast swam back through the rift. Was not sickness Jane called cancer anymore, but shifting was not always in Beast’s or Jane’s control. Shifting hurt Jane more sometimes. Other times did not hurt Jane at all. Did not know why. Was bad to not know. To not always control. And Jane body was too skinny, like young cat, needing more food than she could take in. Beast chuffed sadness. Padded out of room, pawpawpaw. Soft. Quiet. Down stairs in dark.

   Went to back door. Lights in vampire dens—cottages—were lit and bright. Beast heard Koun laugh. Was good sound. Koun was old. Older than Leo had been. Older than most vampires. Was powerful. But did not laugh often because had seen too many die, had lost much. Beast smelled Tex out in dark, watching over den. Was good smell. Clan-scent. Except for Tex-dogs-smell. Tex-dogs marked trees and left scat on top of ground. Was stupid. All dogs stupid. But Tex liked dogs and trained stupid dogs to do tricks, like sniff out enemies and bombs and track missing humans and vampires. Tex made stupid dogs smarter. Was strange.

   Beast padded to office. Smelled Alex at desk. Smelled much garlic and onion and stinky human pizza food. Smelled much coffee. Smelled gunpowder from Alex at gun-range. Smelled Brute—stinky wolf-scent—in room with Alex. Stinky human and stinky werewolf, Brute, spent much time together. Smelled strange lizard-with-wings-creature that Jane would not let Beast hunt and eat. Werewolf and large lizard Jane called Longfellow were asleep on big mattress in corner, lizard tail twined around Brute snout. TV over fireplace glowed and moved but had no sound.

   Beast stood in dark and watched. Waiting. Breathing scent of own breath into room.

   Brute nose twitched. Brute eyes opened. Brute leaped to feet and growled.

   Beast chuffed. Padded into office.

   Alex did not look at Beast. Said, “Are you playing games with Brute again? ’Cause you know the rules. All fights, even mock fights, go outside.”

   Beast chuffed. Padded to Alex. Put paw on table.

   “You swat my hardware and tablets to the floor,” Alex said, much patience in voice, “I’ll swat your nose.” Alex held up rolled papers. Still did not look at Beast. Was like cat action.

   Beast liked Alex. Beast chuffed. Sat. Paw still on desk.

   Alex said, “Okay. Am I talking to Jane?”

   Beast moved head side to side as humans did. Felt stupid on Beast body.

   “You want something?”

   Beast dropped muzzle in nod as humans do.

   “Do you want to know where Bruiser and Eli are?”

   Beast nodded.

   “Out hunting with Lincoln Shaddock. They heard about a small nest of vamps who might be building a food herd of unwilling humans. Could be Legolas’s heir, or his secondo heir, and his followers, or it could be another group they haven’t swept up yet. It’s just a reconnoiter, not a battle.”

   Did not wake Jane. Jane would be angry. Beast was angry too. Beast growled.

   “Jane was exhausted. They thought she might sleep all night for once, so they went without her. Their right as Jane’s Consort and her second.”

   Beast snorted and shook head no. Felt anger for Jane. Jane’s place in clan stolen by males. Jane would want to be at fight.

   “The team doesn’t need Jane’s help. They’ll either kill the vamps, or Bruiser will take them over and give them to Shaddock.”

   Beast snorted. Did not sound like re-con-o-i-ter. Sounded like battle. Pressed claws into Jane spirit and Jane part of brain. Jane came awake. Beast told Jane where mate and brother had gone.

   Jane cursed in human thoughts. This isn’t the first time they left us at home to twiddle our thumbs. Or paw pads. I’m healed. Jane looked at paw on table desk. Except for this pesky shape-changing thing. And they’re still treating us like I’m dying.

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