Storm Cursed Page 1


So what did you do, Mary Jo?” called Ben in his crisp British accent.

Mary Jo shut her car door and started toward us and toward the mountainous metal barn that Ben and I waited beside. She gave Ben a quelling frown, and waited to speak until she had come up to us.

She asked, “What do you mean, what did I do?”

It was a little chilly, made more so by a brisk wind that blew a bit of hair I’d failed to secure in my braid into my eyes. The Tri-Cities don’t cool off at night with quite the thoroughness that the Montana mountains I’d grown up with did, but night usually still kills the heat of day.

Ben bounced a little on his toes—a sign that he was ready and eager for violence. I could sense that his attention, like mine, was mostly on the barn, even though his eyes were on Mary Jo. “I killed Mercy three times in a single session of Pirate’s Booty the night before last. I think that’s why she woke me up to come out hunting tonight.” He glanced at me and raised an eyebrow in an open invitation to address the situation.

Okay, that’s not exactly what he said. As usual he spiced his language with profanity, but unless he spouted something truly amazing I mostly edited it out.

“You passed up the opportunity to gain a hundred Spanish doubloons in order to kill me that last time,” I told him, unable, even days later, to keep the indignation out of my voice. In the fierce high-seas computer-generated battles the werewolf pack delighted in, a hundred Spanish doubloons was a treasure trove of opportunity for more or better weapons, supplies, and ship repairs. Only a homicidal maniac would give up a hundred doubloons to kill someone.

Ben gave me a wicked grin, an expression mostly empty of the bitter edge all of his expressions had once contained. “I was merely staying in character. Sodding Bart enjoys killing more than money, love. That’s why his kill score is third on the board, just behind Captain Wolf and Lady Mockingbird.”

Captain Wolf Larsen, stolen from the titular character of Jack London’s The Sea-Wolf, is the nom de guerre of my mate and the pack Alpha. Lady Mockingbird, who was up by fifteen kills on everybody, teaches high school chemistry in her alter ego as Auriele Zao. She is a scary, scary woman. I’ve been told her high school students think so, too.

Ben’s gaze, swinging back to Mary Jo, paused on the dark maw that gaped in the front of the huge metal barn, the only building within a mile of where we stood.

It was either very late at night or very early in the morning, depending on which side of sleep you were on. Dawn wasn’t yet a possibility, but the waxing moon was strong in the night sky. The entrance to the barn was big enough to drive a pair of school buses through at the same time, and at least some of the ambient light should have made its way into the interior of the barn.

Ben considered the barn for a second or two, then turned a sharp grin on Mary Jo. “Mercy just confirmed why I’m here. What did you do to win the crappy job lottery?”

“Hey,” I said, “before you all feel too sorry for yourselves, remember I’m out here, too.”

“That’s because you’re in charge,” Mary Jo said, her voice distracted, her eyes on the barn. “Bosses need to jump in the outhouse with the grunts occasionally. It’s good for morale.”

Mary Jo wore a T-shirt that read Firefighters Like It HOT, the last word written in red and gold flames. The shirt was loose like the sleep pants she wore, but her clothes didn’t disguise her muscular warrior’s body.

She looked away from the barn, turning her attention to Ben. “Maybe I owe this . . . opportunity to the way I treated her before Adam put his foot down.” She tilted her head toward me, a gesture that, like Ben’s raised eyebrow, asked for my input. She didn’t meet my eyes as she once would have.

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