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A Perfect Blood (The Hollows #10)(11)

By:Kim Harrison

“You wouldn’t dare,” Nina said, and I fought to not back up as I hit send. “The FIB can’t find their asses in a chair! They don’t even want these people caught!”
“I think they do,” I said, and she stepped toward me, her hands rising in wicked claws.
Ivy shifted forward and Jenks’s wings clattered. I shut my phone, heart pounding as I took up a stance, smelling the spicy, complex scent of Were behind me. The vampire stopped, her jaw clenched as she evaluated us and her own people quietly retreating. Ivy shook her head at the incensed vampire. If the head of the I.S. had been here in person, we could be in trouble, but here, in the sun in a body he wasn’t familiar with and had a responsibility to keep unmarked, he was at a disadvantage—and we all knew it.
“Too late,” I said, and Nina’s hands shook. “I don’t like being blackmailed,” I said, not knowing how we were going to get out of here without setting her off. “Didn’t watching the coven teach you anything?” 
Must be calm and controlled. Relaxed and matter of fact, I thought as my stomach knotted. I was used to dealing with out-of-control vampires. I could do this. “Hey! Leave the body,” I said to the gurney guys still in the gazebo, trying to distract Nina by doing something not focused on her. “The FIB will want a look at it first.”
I turned to Nina. “You should stick around. I’m sure the FIB’s Inderland specialist will want to talk to you. Get your take on the situation. Detective Glenn’s a very reasonable guy.”
“Do you have any idea what you have done?” she nearly spat at me as she halted an unsafe four feet away, anger flowing from her like a wave. “Any show that HAPA is still active will increase their numbers. They’re like a pestilence. Given the right conditions, they bloom like fireweed. You’ve just destroyed the facade of decades of peace between us and them!”
Us and them? I felt sick. I knew the unrest existed. We all did. I saw and ignored it all the time, wanting to live in a world that accepted us as we were, hoping that if I believed in it hard enough, it would happen. There was a reason most of Inderland lived in the Hollows, away from humans, and it wasn’t the lower property taxes. But the disfigured form of a tortured man hanging six feet away was too much to pretend away. “Your fake peace is making the right conditions, not me,” I said, heart pounding. “A cooperative venture between the I.S. and the FIB to take down a hate group is better than a decade of your fake peace. You should just go with it, Nina. Make lemonade.”
It wasn’t the best thing I could have said. She jerked into motion and I found myself yanked out of her reach by Wayde. I gasped as I stumbled and then found my balance, but Nina was walking away from me and back to the street, her hands clenched and her stride showing her anger.
I gave Wayde a weak smile and pulled away from him, thankful for his quick reaction. It could have been me she had been going for just as easily. Maybe he was better than I thought. Fuming, Nina stormed across the park, I.S. officers fleeing her path. “Thanks,” I whispered, and he winced.
“I should’ve kept my mouth shut,” he said, shooting a quick glance at the knots, and I shrugged. Perhaps, but there was no sense in crying over squished tomatoes.
Ivy’s steps were slow as she came down from the gazebo, the I.S. gurney guys thumping behind her. Jenks was laughing, but I was more than worried. I was still going to have to find and catch these guys, but with the FIB involved, I might survive being successful.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said to Wayde as my phone hummed and I saw it was Glenn. Smiling weakly, I showed Ivy the screen and flipped the phone open. He was either going to be really happy or really pissed. I just hoped the I.S. wouldn’t take my license away.
Chapter Four
Someone had left the kitchen window over the sink open a crack, and after turning the water off, I leaned over and shut the old wooden frame with a thump, sealing out the chilly, damp air. It was closing in on midnight, but the kitchen, bright with electric lights, was soothing. Turning, I dried my fingers on a dish towel as I leaned against the stainless-steel counter and listened to the sound of pixies at play in the front of the church. They’d moved in last week, shunning my old desk that held memories of their mother, and instead finding individual hidey-holes all over the church. The separation seemed to be doing them good, and I’d already noticed a marked decrease from last year in the amount of noise they made. Maybe they were simply getting older.
Smiling faintly, I draped the dish towel to dry and began wiping down the counters with a saltwater-soaked rag. I loved my kitchen with its center island, hanging rack, and two stoves so I didn’t have to cook and stir spells on the same surface. One might think that my herbs and prepped amulets, hanging in the cabinet from mug hooks, would made an odd statement given the modern feel of the rest of it, but somehow their dried simplicity blended in with the gleaming counters and shiny cooking utensils. Ivy had updated the original congregation kitchen before I’d moved in, and she had good taste and deep pockets.Ivy was across the kitchen at the big farm table shoved up against an interior wall, the report she’d taken from Nina unstapled and set in careful piles so she could see everything at a glance. The table was Ivy’s, the rest of the kitchen was mine, and right now, I was getting ready to use every last inch of it to prep some earth-magic, scattershot detection charms. I hadn’t wanted to get involved in this, but now that I was, I’d go all out. I didn’t need to tap a line to do earth magic.
Ivy was sleek and sexy as she stood leaning over the table, her long hair, no longer in a ponytail, falling to hide her face. Rain spotted her boots, and she moved with a marked grace as she tried to piece together three weeks of shoddy investigation. The I.S. relied on scare tactics and brute strength to get things done—not like the FIB, who used data. Lots of data.
“You sure know how to attract the powerful dead, Rachel.” Taking a pencil from between her teeth, she straightened, head still angled to the table as she added, “God help me, he’s old.” Turning a photo sideways, she tilted her head to evaluate the difference.
I dropped the rag on the counter and reached for my second-to-smallest spell pot from the rack over the center island counter, setting it on the rag so it wouldn’t wobble. “Walkie-talkie man?” I asked idly since I knew she wasn’t talking about Nina. I liked it when we were both working in the kitchen, her with her computer and maps, and me with my magic. Separate but together, and Jenks’s kids as a noisy backdrop.
Giving me a coy look, Ivy said, “Mmm-hmm. Walkie-talkie man. Who do you think he really is?”
“Besides psychotic?” I lifted a shoulder and let it fall, then hesitated as I looked at my spell library on the open shelves under the counter. Locator charms were out. They worked by finding auras, which existed only on living bodies. An earth-magic detection charm was an option, but all the ones the I.S. had on the street were coming up blank. I was going to try a scattershot detection charm. They were normally used to find lost people when there wasn’t a good focusing object, pinging on minuscule bits of stuff that we left behind when we stayed somewhere, things too small to wipe down and clean out. It was a very complex spell, and I was worried it might not kindle from my blood, seeing that it contained higher than normal amounts of the demon enzyme that tended to interfere with the more complex witch charms.
“You’re not liking him, are you?” I said as I pulled one of my spell books out and dropped it on the counter.
Ivy was silent, and I looked up, blinking. “He’s going to make me take the blame for this if we can’t find them, and you like him?” I asked again, and she winced. The more dangerous a vampire was, the more Ivy liked him or her, and Nina was channeling a very old, very powerful one. “Ivy . . .” I prompted, and her sigh made my brow furrow. “I’m the one who makes bad life choices, not you.” 
“No, I’m not interested,” she said as our gazes touched and she looked away. “It’s just been a while, that’s all. Nina, though . . .” Lip twitching in a rare show of unease, Ivy sat at her keyboard. “The woman is in trouble and she doesn’t know it,” Ivy said softly, her long pianist’s hands shifting papers as she concentrated. “She reminds me of Skimmer, in a lot of ways, but she’s utterly oblivious and unprepared for what he is doing to her, to her body. Helping her survive it isn’t my job. She’ll figure it out, or die trying.” Her head came up and she stared at the wall, probably remembering something she would never share with me. “But I feel bad for her. The highs let you touch the sky, and the lows give you no way out.”
Concerned, I ran my finger down the index, searching. Been a while . . . What she meant was that it had been a while since she’d been with a master vampire. Her master, Rynn Cormel, didn’t touch her. It wasn’t a matter of lack of desire, but that he’d rather his “adopted daughter” find blood with me. Yeah. Like that was ever going to happen . . . again.
“Why do you think they had Trent out there?” I said. Page 442. Got it.