Unfortunately, he was also a bouda. They had a saying about werehyenas: fourteen to eighty, blind, crippled, crazy. Boudas would screw anything. I had witnessed it firsthand. Monogamy wasn’t in their vocabulary.
Raphael had seen the true me and he’d never come across anyone similar. To him I was the TWT-IHFB. That Weird Thing I Haven’t Fucked Before.
The more I thought about it, the madder I got. He could speak in a warrior form just fine. Had he stayed awake, I would’ve gotten the whole explanation from him by now. Not to mention that if something attacked us, I’d be left to defend a limp man who outweighed me by about eighty pounds. What exactly was I supposed to do with him? Did he expect me to sigh heavily while admiring his naked body? Or perhaps I was supposed to take advantage of the situation?
I reached into the glove compartment and got out a Sharpie. Taking advantage of the situation didn’t sound bad at all.
An hour later Raphael stretched and opened his eyes. His lips stretched in an easy smile. “Hey. Now that’s a beautiful sight to wake up to.”
I leveled my SIG-Sauer at him. “Tell me why the nice puppy was chasing you.”
He wrinkled his nose and touched his mouth. “Is there something on my lips?”
Yes, there is. “Raphael, concentrate! I know it’s hard for you but do try to stay on target. Explain the dog.”
He licked his lips and my thoughts went south. Andrea, concentrate! Try to stay on target.
Raphael remembered to look cool and leaned back, presenting me with the view of a spectacular chest. “It’s complicated.”
“Try me. First, what are you even doing here? Aren’t you supposed to dragging around giant rocks right now?” About six weeks ago, the lot of us had entered the Midnight Games, an illegal, to-the-death fighting tournament. We did it to prevent a war against the Pack. Both the Order and Curran, the Beast Lord, took a rather dim view of this occurrence. As a result, Kate was on medical leave, and the Beast Lord, who had actually ended up participating in the tournament with us, had sentenced himself and the rest of the involved shapeshifters to several weeks of hard labor building an addition to the Pack’s citadel.
“Curran released me due to family hardship,” Raphael said.
Not good. “What happened?”
“My mother’s mate died.”
My heart jumped. Aunt B was . . . she was kind. She saved my life once and she kept my secret to herself. I owed her everything. And even if I hadn’t, I felt nothing but respect for her. Among boudas, as in nature among hyenas, the females ruled. They were more aggressive, more cruel, and more alpha. Aunt B was all that, but she was also fair and smart and she didn’t tolerate any nonsense. When you’re the alpha of a bouda clan, you have a lot of nonsense thrown at you.
Had I grown up under Aunt B instead of the bitches who ruled my childhood, perhaps I wouldn’t be so messed up.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you,” Raphael said and looked away.
“How is she holding up?”
“Not that well. He was a very nice man. I liked him.”
“Heart attack. It was quick.”
Shapeshifters almost never died of heart complications. “He was a human?”
Raphael nodded. “They’ve been together for almost ten years. She met him shortly after my father died. The service was set for Friday. Someone stole his body from the funeral home.” A low growl laced his words. “My mother didn’t get to say good-bye. She didn’t get to bury him.”
Oh God. I gritted my teeth. “Who took the body?”
Raphael’s face turned grim. “I don’t know. But I’m going to find out.”
“I want in on it. I owe your mother.” Aunt B had a right to bury her mate. Or bury the thing that took her mate’s body. Either way worked for me.
He grimaced. “Did you smell matches?”
I nodded. “It’s the dog.”
“Yeah. I picked up this scent at the funeral home and trailed it here. There was something else under it, but the dog stink is so damn acrid, it drowns everything else.” Raphael gave me a hard look.
I motioned with my fingers. “Give.”
“I thought I smelled a vampire.”
A giant three-headed dog was bad news. A vampire was much, much worse. The Immortuus pathogen, the bacterial disease responsible for vampirism, killed its victim. Vampires had no ego, no self-awareness, no ability to reason. They had the mental capacity of a cockroach. Ruled by insatiable bloodlust, they killed anything that bled. If left to their own devices, they’d wipe out life on Earth and then cannibalize themselves. But their empty minds made a perfect vehicle for the will of a navigator, a necromancer, who piloted a vampire like a marionette, seeing through its eyes and hearing through its ears. Necromancers came in several varieties, the most adept of which were called Masters of the Dead. A vampire piloted by a Master of the Dead could destroy a platoon of trained military personnel in seconds.
And 99 percent of the Masters of the Dead were members of the People. The People were bad, bad news. Set up as a corporation, they were organized, wealthy, and expert in all things necromantic. And very powerful.
“Do you think the People stole the body?”
“I don’t know.” Raphael shrugged. “I thought I’d throw it out there, before you jump in with both feet.”
“I don’t care. Do you care?”
“Fuck no.” Raphael’s eyes glinted, making him look a bit deranged.
“Then we’re in agreement.”
We nodded to each other.
“So you tracked the sulfur scent here, then what?” I asked.
“I ran into Fido. He chased me into a crevice. I sat there for about an hour or so, and then he wandered off and I ran the other way. Apparently, he didn’t wander off far enough. What kind of creature is Fido, incidentally?”
“I have no idea.”
All of my training had been in contemporary applications of magic. I could recite the vampiric biocycle off the top of my head, I could diagnose loupism in early stages, I could correctly identify the type of pyromagic used from burn pattern, but give me an odd creature and I drew a complete blank.
“Who would know?” Raphael asked.
We looked at each other and said in unison, “Kate.”
Kate had a mind like a steel trap, and she pulled absurdly obscure mythological trivia out of her hair. If she didn’t know something, she would know who would.