Logan turned the TV off and glanced at the apartment’s door. The quiet of the night called to him, urging him outside. The city’s noise had been one of the hardest things to grow accustomed to.
Rising from the worn, comfortable couch, Logan left the apartment on silent feet. He bypassed the ancient elevator, which hadn’t worked even before they moved in.
Although dingy and showing the marks of years of abuse, the stairwell was clean. In fact, the whole building, aside from the garage, was clean. He grinned, but the expression didn’t reach his eyes.
The women in the clan kept everything clean. This shitty, falling apart building in the Palisades–the worst section of the city–was not to his liking. More importantly, it wasn’t what he wanted for Terra, his cousin and future Queen of the Santo Trueno clan.
Yet their territory, rich with wildlife and other natural resources, was gone. It had faded away from around them during the Melding seven years before.
Reaching the ground floor, he paused to speak to Soames and Wheeler, the night sentries. “Any trouble out there tonight?”
“It’s been quiet.”
“I’m going for a walk.” Soames unlocked the door, not questioning the statement. No one questioned him, as he was their Queen’s Protector, and their leader until she came of age. Logan waited, listening to the other re-lock the door behind him while breathing deep of the cool night air.
He’d kept a level head when they were dumped into this confusing new world. Only his clan knew of his stash of contraband, and how he’d made use of the information gleaned from it. Brownies were expert smugglers, and often able to cross into the human realm for brief periods of time. He’d traded with them for the books and magazines they’d pilfered.
By doing so, he’d discovered an occupation he enjoyed, and was able to teach some of the others: vehicle repair. Thanks to the aid of an unexpected ally, he’d been able to pass the necessary tests and receive certification, as well as arrange for the others to.
Logan turned right, setting off with a deceptively lazy stride. A block passed under his boots, and then another. He turned right, and then left, his dark green eyes alertly scanning his surroundings. Movement ahead captured his full attention, and the shifter halted in deep shadow to study the scene.
Two men trailed a girl with long, darkish hair. From the tension in her movements, she was aware of them. Logan crept along behind the trio. The girl didn’t belong in the Palisades. Although she was casually dressed in jeans, her jacket and boots spoke of money.
He stopped when she did, frowning slightly at her sudden stumble. The two men took advantage of her frozen pause, closing the distance to their intended prey. She turned and spoke, her voice low but clear. “You really don’t want to do this.”
“Yeah, we do,” one of them replied. Logan judged the distance, deciding that he could reach them and interfere before anything happened to her.
“I don’t want to hurt you. Just turn around and walk away.” There wasn’t a hint of fear in her voice, nor did she back away as the men laughed. She took a basic fighting stance, her fists rising.
“Aw, she thinks she can take us.”
“She’s gonna take us, all right.” The speaker laughed, an ugly sound that grated on the shifter’s nerves, and left no doubt of their intentions. The man reached for her, and she threw both hands out.
Logan blinked as one rose into the air, and the other flew sideways, into the brick front of the building they stood before. The first man kicked as he dangled in mid-air. “What the…”
A sudden breeze filled the shifter’s nose with an unfamiliar smell. It drove him to speak. “I guess you don’t need my help.”
“No, but thank you for offering.” A wave of her hand sent the man crashing into the wall, to sprawl unconscious on top of his buddy. He had his first unobstructed view of her face, and her full attention.
She was pretty, in spite of her wary expression. Logan walked closer, choosing to step into the yellowish pool cast by one of the few working streetlights. With only a few feet separating them, the shifter carefully studied her. The smell came from her, and it was vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t put a name to it, and made a guess at what she was. “Name’s Logan Sayer. Are you a witch?”
Tension slid away from her body, like water over glass. “Psychic. Discord.”
“Discord Jones, my name.”
“Interesting name.” A grin spread over his face, but his mind was racing. How old was she? What was she doing here?
One of her slim shoulders rose slightly, and dropped. “I get that a lot. What are you doing out here?”
“Being thwarted in my effort to rescue a damsel in distress.”
He shoved his hands into his jean pockets, hoping it’d make him look harmless. She smiled. “How about I scream and faint next time?”
“There’s going to be a next time?” Sparing a glance at the unconscious thugs, he refocused on her face. “Does this kind of thing happen a lot?”
“More than I’d like it to.”
Over the next few minutes of conversation, Logan learned that she was a private investigator working on a case. He offered his help, pleased at her easy acceptance of his being a shifter.
She shook his hand with her fine-boned one without a qualm. When he asked for details, an unexpected moment of privacy occurred as she closed her eyes. Lifting his hand, he smelled it, breathing deep while trying to figure out what it was he smelled in her scent.
They chatted while walking. She wasn’t from the world of slums and gangs. What could he do to stay in contact with her? If he figured that out, would she even consider…What? A friendship of some sort? A mile-wide barrier rose with that thought. He had enough to deal with, trying to build a future for the clan.
Yet he refused to leave when she offered him the chance to, because of the novelty of being accepted for what he was by a stranger. He entered the storeroom with her, and didn’t miss the hand she stretched out when the floor gave away. Logan landed on his feet atop a pile of rubble. Her quiet coughing assured him that the psychic hadn’t suffered any major harm. “It smells like vampires down here.”
“Great.” Another moment of contact occurred, when she accepted his offer of help in rising. She even made a joke about his feline nature. She tried again to get him to leave, and again, Logan refused. They began walking, following whatever track she’d found. Nothing about her escaped his notice, such as how easily they fell into step with one another, her long legs matching his stride.
Busy studying her, he failed to notice the fresh scent of a vampire.
The acrid odor of her fear struck like a punch to his gut, and Logan reacted. His first attempt to protect her failed, and the second too, followed by a heavy beating when the vampire called two others into the fray.
Not quite losing consciousness, the shifter listened while the vampire complained about her, and about the condition of his suit due to the fight as they were dragged to a cell. Once the door shut behind the vampires, he crawled to her still figure, checking for breathing and broken bones. She was alive, nothing appeared wrong, and he carefully gathered her into his lap to cushion her from the stone floor.
Then, Logan waited. Waited to finish healing, and for her to regain consciousness.
Discord eventually did, and she proved to possess an ability to self-heal, somewhat akin to his own natural gift. He continued to hold her for a while longer, until she passed out a second time after teleporting them away. The shifter found the cell phone, rummaged through her contact list, and chose the number listed as ‘Witch ER’.
A sleepy male voice answered. “Hello?”
“I’m sitting in a car with Discord Jones. She’s hurt, unconscious, and I need to know where to bring her for help.”
The man was wide awake after that, and gave an address, promising to meet him there. However, three people were waiting. David was the one he’d spoken to, and the blond man tersely introduced him to the other two, Kate and Damian, before ordering, “Let’s get her inside.”
“It’s her head.” Logan carried her into the house, laying her on the bed as directed by Kate. A parrot winged into the room.
“Yes. Quiet, Percival. No, you can’t sit there.” Kate shooed the parrot, shifter, and Damian away from the bedside. Shoving his hands in his pockets, Logan leaned on the wall beside the doorway, watching them tend to Discord.
Muttered incantations bore up the “Witch ER” notation. Someone banged on the front door, and Kate looked over her shoulder. “That will be Nick. Go let him in, Damian.”
A moment later, another shifter barreled into the room, passing him without a glance. “Is she all right?”
Logan watched the way the other moved, heard the sharp worry in his voice, and saw how gently he laid a hand on the psychic’s leg. The wolf had been intimate with her, and must be the shifter she’d mentioned earlier.
“All right, we’ve done what we can, so should let her rest,” David said.
“Percy, stay with Cordi.” The parrot fluttered from the dresser to perch on the headboard. The younger shifter was reluctant to leave, moving to caress her pale cheek. He turned, and caught sight of Logan. “Who the hell are you?”
The wolf must care a lot for her, or he would’ve never missed the presence of another shifter. “My name’s Logan Sayer, and…”
“Living room, please,” Kate interrupted. Out they trooped, but he didn’t get a chance to say more, because Nick began ranting.
“Why didn’t she call me? Who is this guy? How did she get hurt? Damn it, I’m supposed to protect her!” Things went even further downhill, as he threatened Logan. “If this is your fault, I’ll rip your damn head off.”
It took a massive exertion of self-control to keep from yanking the young pup outside, and teaching him a painful lesson. With a deep breath to quiet a quick rise of rage, Logan found his every attempt to explain interrupted.
Nick was jealous and worried, but the threat of being expelled from the house finally worked to somewhat calm him. But it was the parrot’s “Be nice. Percy loves Cordi” that truly did the trick.
Her first words were concern for Logan, and Nick didn’t like that at all, or Discord’s insistence that he use the other’s name.
At least her other friends had given him the benefit of the doubt. Damian drove him home, proving to be a friendly fellow. He learned a few more tidbits about her, such as she’d only been a private investigator for about a year, and that she often assisted the police.
Watching the warlock drive away, Logan wondered if he’d ever see Discord again. It was probably better if he didn’t. He had what the humans called “a full plate” already, and she was a distracting puzzle.
Once inside the building, the shifter climbed the steps that led back to his apartment. He washed the dried blood away, undressed, and stretched out on his bed, only to lie there unable to sleep. Staring at the ceiling, he raised both hands to sniff, and found faint traces of Discord’s scent still clinging to his skin. She didn’t smell like the three witches.
Unable to put a name to that strange component in it, Logan sighed, rolling onto his side, and decided to put Discord Jones out of his mind. She was a distraction he didn’t need, not when he had obligations to honor.
He closed his eyes only to open them again to stare at the contents of his pockets, which he’d emptied onto his dresser’s top.
He still had the keys to her car.