Home > Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #1)(8)

Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #1)(8)
Ilona Andrews

I heard a solid thud, then got up, and looked out through the open door. Beast joined me.

Sean lay unmoving on the grass. Ouches.

I glanced at Beast. "I did warn him."

Sean raised his head, shook it, and rolled to his feet. His face gained that feral, predatory look.

"Uh-oh. We better brace ourselves." I sipped from my coffee cup.

Sean took a running start and charged through the door. It started to close, and I flicked my fingers, telling the inn to keep it open. The door would cost money to replace. Sean thrust through the doorway, got a foot and a half inside, and the magic punched him again, hurtling him backward. Sean flew, rolling on the grass as he fell.

He shouldn't have made it that far in. He shouldn't have been able to enter, period. True, the inn had stood abandoned for a long while and wasn't as strong as most yet, but it should've kept him out.

Sean jumped to his feet. His eyes had gone completely savage. He gathered himself into a tight ball and sprinted to the door with inhuman speed. I felt the inn block him. He smashed into the invisible barrier and tore through it, managing to get two steps inside.

The magic hit him, throwing him backward. He caught the doorframe with his hands and hung on.

Whoa.

Sean growled like an animal. It was a bone-chilling sound that no human being had a right to make.

I picked up my broom. The inn would need some help. "You know what the definition of insanity is, Beast?"

Sean strained. The muscles on his arms and body bulged, taut like ropes under his skin. Slowly he gained an inch. Another inch. Wow. He was remarkably strong.

"According to Einstein, it's doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." I brought the butt of the broom down on the floor. " Out."

My magic boomed through the inn like the toll of a huge bell. It had no sound, but I heard it all the same. Sean flew out of the house like a fleck of dust caught in the current of a fan and smashed into an apple tree forty feet away. I heard the crunch all the way from where I stood.

"Karma," I said, petting the doorframe.

The house creaked.

"You did well," I murmured to it. "He's just freakishly powerful."

Unbelievably powerful. I've handled werewolves before. They were psychotic and homicidal, but none could've done what he did.

Sean wasn't moving. Maybe the impact had broken something. Not that he wouldn't heal --he would, and at an accelerated rate --but still, snapping his spine hadn't been my intention.

Beast brushed against my ankle.

"Should we go investigate?"

The magic tugged on me. I leaned back to glance through the front door. A black-and-white was parked by my driveway and a man in a tan uniform marched up said driveway to my house. I was about to get a visit from Red Deer PD. I spun back around.

The grass under the apple tree was empty. Sean Evans had vanished.

*** *** ***

"Can I offer you some tea, Officer?"

Officer Hector Marais peered at me. Solid and fit, clean-shaven, his dark hair cut short, he embodied the very essence of his profession. If you saw him dressed in jeans and a hoodie, walking toward you at dusk, you wouldn't cross the street, because you would know he was a cop. He radiated that air of wary authority, and as he crossed the threshold into the inn, he surveyed me and then the interior of the inn as if he was looking for weapons.

"No, thank you, Ms. Demille. There was a disturbance in your subdivision last night, around one in the morning. A woman was attacked. Have you noticed anything unusual?"

"Oh my goodness. Who was it? Is she okay? What happened?" People who had prior awareness of the incident didn't ask questions.

Officer Marais studied me. "The victim is fine. We're classifying it as a wild animal attack. Did you notice anything unusual last night? Noises, perhaps an uncommonly large animal?"

"No. Should I be locking my door?"

"You should always lock your door. Are you aware of anyone who keeps exotic pets?"

"Robyn Kay has a pet lizard," I told him. "I think it's an iguana."

Officer Marais pulled out a notepad and made a notation on it. "Address?"

"She lives at Igraine Court. I don't recall the house number. It's a brick house with a large prickly pear cactus in front."

"What about anyone having a mountain lion or a bear?"

I shook my head. "I've never heard of anyone having a bear or a mountain lion. We would know. People in this neighborhood don't have many secrets."

"You would be surprised," he said.

You don't know the half of it.

"Are you aware that several dogs in your neighborhood have been killed recently?"

"Oh, yes. It's horrible."

"We have a reason to believe someone in this area is keeping a large predatory animal as a pet." He nodded at Beast. "I advise you to make sure your dog is always on a leash and is supervised when it's allowed outside."

"She."

Officer Marais blinked.

"She's a girl," I told him.

Beast barked once to underscore the point.

Officer Marais pulled out a business card, plain white with blue print on it. "If you become aware of someone keeping an exotic pet or see it, please give me a call. Do not approach the animal."

"Of course."

"Have you had any more trouble with teenagers?"

He remembered. Three years ago, shortly after I first moved into the inn, Caldenia had arrived with a small herd of bounty hunters at her heels. A couple of them had proved to be dumb enough to try to snipe her. I'd dealt with them almost instantly, but not before Mr. Ramirez down the street reported shots fired to the police. Officer Marais had been in one of the four responding police cars.

Since the inn had hid the damage and it was just after New Year's, I claimed some kids had shot off leftover fireworks. Unfortunately, Mr. Ramirez was a retired Marine, and he'd been adamant that he heard rifle shots. In the absence of evidence, the cops' had no choice but to leave, but it was pretty clear Officer Marais hadn't bought my story.

"No trouble at all," I said.

Officer Marais gave me one last look-over. "Thank you for your cooperation, ma'am. Please let me know if you become aware of anything pertaining to this case. Good-bye."

"Good-bye."

I watched him walk to his car. Most people discounted intuition as a nonexistent superstition. I knew better. Whenever I'd get too bratty with my powers, Dad used to remind me that every human had magic. The difference between them and me was awareness and practice. Most people simply didn't realize they could do things that bent their reality. It was kind of like growing up in a land with no deep rivers or lakes. If you never tried, how would you know if you could swim?

But even without practice, the magic found a way to make itself known. Intuition was such a manifestation. Officer Marais's intuition was telling him loud and clear that there was something wrong with me. He couldn't put his finger on it, but his tenacity wouldn't let him just move on. Even though the incident happened several streets away, he decided to visit me just in case. Now that he had a reason to come back and keep checking on the neighborhood, I'd have to watch my step.

Speaking of intuition... Something about my conversation with Sean was bugging me. I puzzled over it and realized what it was. He'd said, "From now on, I'll deal with them." Them. As in more than one. The Creature Guide said that stalkers traveled in packs, but Sean had no way of knowing that. If he had access to a resource that could identify stalkers, it could also identify me, and he would've adjusted his attitude instead of storming my castle.

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