On Midnight Wings Online - Adrian Phoenix

1

DARK AND BITTER PEARLS

SLIDELL, LOUISIANA

JACK CHERAMIE’S HOUSE

MARCH 30

LUCIEN DE NOIR SAT beside the unconscious girl curled on the bed, box springs creaking beneath him. Mid-afternoon sunlight filtered through the golden, gauzy curtains covering the window, bathing the room in a tranquil glow. An illusion—no, worse, a lie—given the day’s dark, violent, and unimaginable events.

My son has been shot and stolen and the mortal woman he loves, the woman who keeps his slipping sanity balanced, is missing.

Lucien’s deltoid muscles flexed, restless, but he suppressed the urge to unfurl his wings and take to the sky in search of Dante and Heather; he feared that they had been spirited off in two very different directions. And he had no idea where to look, which path to follow, or even who was responsible.

Not yet, anyway.

Lucien focused his attention on Heather Wallace’s drugged sister. A light sheen of sweat glistened on Annie’s forehead. Tears wet the ends of her lashes. And her blood-speckled face looked light-years away from peaceful.

Guessing why wasn’t difficult.

The blood freckling her face and throat was Dante’s. Lucien knew by the scent alone—copper, a hint of adrenaline, a moonlight-silver tang—and had known from the moment he’d scooped her unconscious body up from the sidewalk in front of the club.

She must’ve been standing beside Dante when he’d been shot. Or damned close, anyway. A muscle flexed in Lucien’s jaw. Shot repeatedly and without mercy. Dante’s blood had saturated the Oriental carpet in front of the bedroom he shared with Heather.

So much blood when Dante should’ve healed. Too much blood. And the odd scent clinging to the shell casings Lucien had picked up from the hallway carpet had left him wondering. A troubling scent. Familiar.

Lucien studied Annie’s pale face, pushed sweat-damp tendrils of her punk-style blue/purple/black hair back from her face. She shivered inside her fuzzy purple bathrobe as though it was woven from ice, instead of plush terry cloth.

With a soft chirp, Heather’s orange tabby jumped up onto the bed and sniffed Annie for several moments before curling up beside her. Eerie blinked golden eyes at Lucien, then began licking the undersides of his paws, his tongue scraping delicately across the scorched pads.

Like the cat, Lucien also smelled the drugs on Annie’s skin, in her sweat—a cold, chemical taint. He had no idea what drugs flowed through her veins, or how long she’d remain unconscious, but he had no intention of waiting for her to wake up. Not when answers rested like pearls in her mind. Not when he could play thief.

Too much time had passed already. Hours lost to the police and their investigation of the shoot-out outside the club and the fire inside; a loss he’d finally cut short with a touch of a blue-sparked finger to the lead detective’s forehead and a whispered suggestion: You’ve already spoken to Dante. He saw nothing. Heard nothing. Knows nothing about the incident here or the fire that claimed his home four nights ago. You will write that down in your notebook.

Blinking, the detective promptly put her pen to paper.

Lucien sighed. A temporary solution at best; the suggestion would eventually fade. But a problem for another time. Closing his eyes, he drew in a long, deep breath—in through his nose, out through his mouth—then another, as he worked on centering himself before delving into Annie’s unshielded mind.

“How she doing?” a Cajun-spiced voice asked from the doorway. “Looks like she ain’t moved an inch since I carried her in from the van.”

Lucien’s calming breath morphed into a low, frustrated exhalation. He opened his eyes. Glanced over his shoulder.

Dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt announcing LAFAYETTE MARQUIS, the interruption—better known as Black Bayou Jack Cheramie, Dante’s band mate in Inferno—leaned one muscled, tribal-inked shoulder against the doorjamb, arms crossed over his chest, a bloodstained washcloth balled-up in one hand. The drummer’s mane of cherry-red braids framed his face, his expression a tight-jawed mix of worried and angry.

“She hasn’t,” Lucien confirmed. He nodded at the washcloth in Jack’s hand. “How are Von and Silver doing? Has the bleeding stopped? Are they healing?”

“Oui, it’s stopped and they’re healing, for true, them. But given that they’re nightkind and all, it took longer than I expected. Thibodaux agrees with me,” Jack added, with a tilt of his head toward the kitchen where the fugitive SB agent sat at the table cleaning his Colt .45. “Said his partner always heals up beaucoup fast. But he also admitted that she ain’t never taken a bullet to the head before neither.”

Lucien thought