“That can’t be a coincidence,” Elain said.
“No,” Ryan said. “Neither can the fact that she also had an infant son born only a couple of weeks prior to her disappearance.”
Elain sat, feeling a little queasy. “So the cops are searching for her and the baby?”
If they were, it could get back to Blackie, meaning one more chink in the armor around her cover story. Until she knew for certain Connor was safe from Baba Yaga, she couldn’t risk others knowing.
She damn sure didn’t want Brighton to find out.
“No, because there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of foul play. She’d told the elderly couple she worked for and lived with as their caretaker that the baby’s father had abandoned her when she was pregnant, that he was a drug user. There has been supposition she might have reconnected with him and went off without telling anyone.”
“Which works in my favor.”
“It would seem so.”
“Thank you for that.”
“No thanks required, my dear. I’ll e-mail the information to you. Eh, be advised there was apparently someone else sniffing around that same information.”
“I don’t know that. Yet.”
“Again, I don’t know. It could be cockatrice. Three were killed with her. Surely their families, or at least their cohorts, must be wondering where they ran off to.”
“True.” She had a thought. “Is that the other reason you didn’t want me to have anyone from the Clan looking into it?”
“The thought had crossed my mind, yes. The less things those cockatrice can track back to the Maine wolves, the better.”
“As I said, you’re special. I wouldn’t normally get this involved, but I feel justified considering what we’re dealing with.”
“Hey, you can see stuff when you hold onto me, right? Maybe you can help us by helping me coax more of the vision out?”
“Perhaps that is an option if you don’t make any progress on your own, but I’m rather hesitant to intervene like that just yet. You showing me a vision is one thing. Me trying to see one through you with me in control of it is another entirely. I don’t know if my stepping in like that would falsely alter what you’re seeing. I will certainly keep the option on the table, however, if it gets to that point.”
She ended the call and checked her e-mail on her phone. Yep, he’d sent her the police report.
The Devil sends me e-mail.
That wacky thought made her chuckle, even though she knew he wasn’t really the Devil. Ryan was a guy in charge of a bureaucracy and given a bad rap for the thankless job they had.
Just like she supposed one day future generations might curse her, Lina, and Mai for the jobs they did.
That sobering thought drove all good cheer right out of her.
She headed back to the house before she could depress herself even more.
* * * *
Brighton spent the morning in the DeSoto County clerk’s office in Arcadia, looking up land deals. Sales and purchases, and cross-referencing them in his laptop against local real estate listings. If anyone—like his brothers—asked what he was doing, why, he was trying to decide where to live. Thoroughly researching, as was his wont, the best property to suit his purpose.
Not a lie.
He would simply be omitting the real reason for his morning search. He had a list of names and corporations he was cross-checking against, and so far, he was coming up empty.
Carl Shupe was well-known to him as a silent but major player in cockatrice politics in the Northeast. He’d likely stayed off Kitty Blackestone’s radar thus far due to being involved in legitimate businesses.
Either that, or Shupe had paid the huntress off to ensure his safety.
Even with the growing revelations, Brighton still had a difficult time believing that possibility.
It was, however, on his list.
Likely Shupe wanting to purchase land so close to such a large concentration of wolf and other shifters was due to him having a very powerful ally in the area.
Brighton’s money was on Elain and/or her father, Liam Pardie.
It only made sense. Everything added up only if he looked at the situation from that particularly sickening angle.
After an hour of searching, Brighton finally struck pay dirt. He found five different properties close to the Lyall and Alexander ranches that, when cross-referenced against real estate agent listing databases, were either for sale, under contract, or recently sold.
He’d need to pay all of the realtors a visit. Lucky for him, he’d modified one of the cockatrice spells from the spell book to work in his favor, to charm someone he was talking to into revealing information he sought.
Not to mention, even without using that, women in the States tended to enjoy his British accent.
Abso-bloody-lutely he’d use that to his advantage.
He really would be barmy if he didn’t.
It would figure that it was the last stop of the morning, the office handling a pending contract, where he finally found what he was looking for. The young woman working in the office was alone there, the agents all out showing properties or attending closings.
“My employer is desperately interested in getting his hands on that particular property. Is there any way at all I could persuade you into allowing me a quick little peek at the buyer’s information? I assure you, money is not an object, and I’d be ever so grateful. They would certainly be willing to pay the buyer for the contract’s cancellation penalties.”
She blushed and giggled and finally pulled up something on her screen before she stood. “I have to use the restroom, if you’ll excuse me. I couldn’t stop you from looking at my screen, though.”
Which he immediately did, taking a couple of pictures of it with his cell phone and verifying he could read the data.
S&S Regional Waste Management Solutions of the Northeast, LLC.
That was one of Carl Shupe’s cover businesses. He was the Tony Soprano of cockatrice, only far smarter and richer. Other cockatrice hunters tended to avoid going after ones who apparently abided by the law. They didn’t want to start an all-out war, and frankly, the cockatrice who did get caught were usually on the low end of the intelligence scale.
He was sure some cockatrice, like Shupe, considered it a favor, weeding idiots out of their gene pool.
They weren’t a very sentimental lot, to be certain. He’d heard Shupe was notorious for taking women in payment for helping out his fellow cretins, sowing his wild oats all over. You needed to borrow money for your business? Either your wife or an adult daughter would be staying with Shupe until it was all paid back, with interest. You needed a favor? He demanded one in return. Without a mate of his own to worry about, he’d still managed to spread the horrid cockatrice seed.
But as with any race of humans or other shifters, Brighton could not in good conscience kill someone simply for being a jerk. He had no proof the man had ever murdered anyone or participated in illegal businesses. Either of which Brighton would readily use as justification to remove Shupe from the breathing-abled population.
No, for now, the man was better off remaining alive so Brighton could watch his movements and see what plans were being set in motion.
And to see if he could secure any proof of Shupe’s involvement with either Liam Pardie or Elain. Proof he could take to his brothers to show them that he wasn’t simply paranoid, that there were dark plans afoot.
Just what he couldn’t yet say, but he’d heard rumors, rumblings.
Perhaps even a terroristic plot that would make 9-11 look like a minor car wreck by comparison.
“Brighton isn’t your problem. He’s older than you, and he’s nuts,” Ain said.
“Why did you shift your opinion of him?” Elain asked.
“I finally saw what you guys meant about him.”
“Mom asked us to take care of him.”
“He’s here in Arcadia. That’s good enough. Right?”
She sat up. “What brought this on?”
“I don’t know. On the way home I realized I felt like this. Like I’d failed him. Why didn’t I push harder to get through to him years ago, or even now?”
“Because he’s an adult and you’re an adult and adults are expected to be adults, even if they can shift into something else.”
“He was weird a few weeks ago, was asking me about our sisters’ deaths. About when I chased down the cockatrice and then tracked back to its nest and killed its mate.”
She hoped he didn’t call her out on her sudden burst of pulse. “What was weird about that?”
“I don’t know. It’s like he thought something else happened. I’m really worried about him. He feels a lot different now than he ever did before.”
“Then why did you ask me why I changed my opinion of him?”
His fingers trailed down her arm. “I guess I wanted to make sure I wasn’t off-base. I don’t know. I don’t know how to explain it.”
She heard the front door open and close.
Brodey and Cail.
Aaaand that was the end of her private Prime time. Ain kissed her. “Sorry I talked your ear off,” he whispered.
Brodey and Cail rushed through the bedroom door. “Hey!” they said together, making her giggle.
“Hey, yourselves. Go clean up and you can join us.”
Elain couldn’t help but giggle again as they pushed and shoved through the bathroom door to get to the shower.
“You realize we now have several free bathrooms, right?” It was weird having a nearly empty house. She thought she’d relish the quiet, but it was kind of spooky.
Ain kissed her again, distracting her. By the time she realized she was being distracted, Brodey and Cail were out of the shower and in bed with them, and she had Ain’s tongue buried in her pussy and his cock down her throat.
Okay, answers to Ain’s mood can happen later.
What Ain’s skilled mouth and tongue were doing to her clit took away her ability to form coherent thoughts. The only cocka-anythings currently on her mind were the three cocks attached to her mates. She didn’t want to think about her crazy brother-in-law, the possibility that countless lives depended on the Triad deciphering a vision, or the fact that murderous things had spent all of history being evil and destructive.
All she wanted to do was revel in the positive shift of Ain’s energy, and the joyous wash of emotions she felt from all three men.
If only she could freeze her life and have this be all she felt.
The men were good about avoiding her sensitive breasts. With Ellie already getting her second tooth in, Elain had decided to take Dr. Alberto’s advice and think about getting her weaned onto a bottle and formula sooner rather than later.
Then her first orgasm hit her and the full focus of her life became the pleasure Ain was currently giving her. She licked and sucked on his cock, enjoying the sound of his moans vibrating through her clit and pussy as she drew him closer to release.
Brodey and Cail stroked her back, one of them slipping a couple of fingers into her pussy and triggering another orgasm in her.
This…was…heaven. The loves of her life all in the same bed with her.
The men were in no rush to stop, either. Even after she finally sucked Ain to climax and swallowed a mouthful of his cum, he grabbed hold of her ass and wouldn’t let her wiggle free until he’d driven her over the edge again and wouldn’t let go until he knew she’d finished.
Elain rolled onto her back and lay there catching her breath while Brodey and Cail smiled down at her. She sat up and kissed Brodey, then Cail.
“Feeling like a little fun?” she asked.
“How much fun?” Cail asked.
The men moved as one, reaching for condoms and lube. Brodey ended up under her, his wrapped cock inside her pussy while Cail slowly worked lube into her ass. Before long, she was impaled on both cocks and slowly fucking them as Ain sat up, fisted her hair, and kissed her.
“Come for us, baby,” he edicted her through their mate bond.
Cail and Brodey both moaned as her body responded to Ain’s edict, her muscles squeezing their cocks inside her while the orgasm swept through her nervous system and threatened to roll her eyes back in her head—
—and she was standing on the rock pile in Maine, alone. The blue tinge to her vision told her it was from the future.
No sounds, nothing moving but her, and in front of her a dark, wet stain on the rock that looked like fresh blood—
—and she slammed back into her body as another climax hit her.
“That’s it,” Brodey encouraged, his hands on her waist as she rode him.