Demon's DanceBy: Keri Arthur
The phone rang sharply, a shrill sound that made me jump and drew an obscenity from my lips. I opened one eye and studied the old-fashioned clock on the bedside table. The numbers did a somewhat blurry dance before revealing it was three in the morning. I’d been asleep for a whole two hours.
The warm body lying next to me echoed my obscenity as he groped for the phone. He hit the answer button and then said, voice husky with sleep, “Ranger Aiden O’Connor speaking—how may I help you?”
Though I couldn’t make out exactly what was being said, I could hear the woman’s tone—it was shrill. Horror-filled.
I turned and peered over Aiden’s bare shoulder. The number displayed on the screen was the ranger station’s; it had been diverted to Aiden’s phone because he was on call for the next couple of nights. While there were seven rangers within the Faelan Werewolf Reservation, Aiden was head ranger and seemed to believe it was his duty to take the majority of night calls. His dedication to his job was one of the many things I admired about the man, but it was at times like this I couldn’t help wishing he’d share the shift around a bit more.
Of course, it wouldn’t be such a problem if the two of us actually went to sleep at a sensible hour.
“Ms. Jenkins, you need to calm down—”
The woman’s screech was so loud that even I heard it, and it had Aiden yanking the phone away from his ear.
“Don’t tell me to fucking calm down,” she said, “I’ve just walked into the house to discover my goddamn boyfriend is dead—”
“I heard, Ms. Jenkins,” he said patiently. “But I can’t do anything until you give me your address.”
She rattled it off and then said, “Do you think it’ll be safe for me to remain here?”
Aiden hesitated. “Have you a neighbor you could go to? Just in case?”
“Yes. I’m sure Mrs. Potts won’t mind.”
I wondered if her Mrs. Potts was the same one who’d founded the Castle Rock gossip brigade. They’d recently declared the café I owned and ran with my best friend and fellow witch, Belle Kent, their “venue of choice” after I’d helped Mrs. Potts find her errant husband and, in the process, two grandchildren she never thought she’d have. If it was the same woman, then I was sure she wouldn’t mind looking after the fraught Ms. Jenkins, if only because it would give the brigade something juicy to ruminate over.
“I’ll have someone there in ten minutes,” Aiden said.
“You can’t get here any sooner?”
“I’m sorry, no.”
She grunted and hung up. Aiden immediately dialed both Byron—who lived closest to Castle Rock—and then his sister, Ciara, who was the reservation’s coroner.
Once both were organized, he turned, gathered me in his warm arms, and kissed me. “I think you’d better get dressed.”
I blinked. “Why? From what I heard, it’s a simple murder—”
“Except it may not be. She mentioned bite marks, so we’re either dealing with a murderer with a weird fetish, or we have another vampire on our hands.”
I doubted it’d be a vampire, if only because Maelle Defour—the woman who owned and ran the Émigré nightclub in Castle Rock—happened to be a blood sucker, and certainly wouldn’t appreciate another vamp stepping into her territory. While she’d promised the council not to take blood from the unwilling in exchange for secrecy about her presence within the reservation, it was a promise that wouldn’t hold if another vampire had set up shop here. Vamps did not like competition.
But I couldn’t say any of that to Aiden, as the council hadn’t yet seen fit to advise the rangers about Maelle. I certainly wasn’t going to—I’d promised not to, and there was no way known I’d go back on that. The bitch was scary.
“I never thought I’d say this, but I’ll be glad when the new witch gets here. At least he’ll be in charge of all supernatural investigations, and I might be able to get some solid sleep.”
Which didn’t mean I wouldn’t be involved. Aside from the fact the psychic part of my soul—the part attuned to evil and that kept tossing prophetic dreams of doom and disaster my way—kept suggesting this reservation was mine to look after, there was the whole wild magic factor to consider. Or rather, the fact that it had somehow become a part of me—a part of my very DNA.