Home > Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson #9)(15)

Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson #9)(15)
Author: Patricia Briggs

His body had thickened and his legs lengthened, front more than the rear, so his back had a German-shepherd slant. His tail lashed back and forth, more like a cat’s than a dog’s, and the end of his tail was covered with the same lava-light-enhanced dreads that his neck wore.

He put his shoulder against the van, and the battered metal smoked and . . . we both felt it when Adam staggered under a blow that shattered his shoulder. Zack was there with Adam, but we all knew, the hunt sense knew, that he was not the partner that Joel was. We felt his frantic efforts to distract the troll from Adam, who had fallen.

Joel heaved, and the van started rolling—and Joel ran back to the battle. The van moved sluggishly around the SUV, but when I got the wheel straight, it traveled better.

By the time we reached the bottom of the bridge, we had achieved a pace that made weaving through the dead vehicles interesting because I had to keep the nose of the van pointed downhill. I passed the last car, the red Buick, and I lost the song of the hunt. The loss was unbearable, leaving me raw—and frantic, because the loss fried some circuit in my brain. I could feel the pack bond, feel the mating bond between Adam and me—but it told me nothing other than that Adam and the pack were there.

I stayed the course until the van coasted past the police barricade—which they had moved so I could get the van through. As soon as I stopped the van, police and EMTs swarmed around it.

The woman and her baby as safe as I could get them, I abandoned them to run back up the bridge. What I expected to do to something the werewolves weren’t able to stop, I didn’t know. I only knew that Adam was hurt, and I wasn’t there to make him safe.


As I ran, this time unworried about attracting the troll’s attention, my view was blocked by cars and the cement divider, so the fae monster was the only one I could see. I pulled my Sig out of its concealed-carry holster in the small of my back. The Sig Sauer had been a birthday present from my mother. It was a .40, larger caliber than the 9mm I used to carry. I still practiced with the 9mm and the .44 revolver, but the .40 was a subcompact, and it was easier to conceal. It was still small enough caliber that I could fire it and not fatigue until I’d emptied four or five magazines. With the .45, I got five shots before my aim got wobbly. I wished I’d been carrying the .45, though from what the police had said, the gun was unlikely to be useful. But I didn’t have a rocket launcher handy.

The troll picked up a Miata in both hands. The shiny green of the car was the same tint as the troll but much darker. Miatas are small, but they still weigh more than two thousand pounds. That troll brought it up over his head and held it there for a second or two.

Then he brought it down and smashed it on the ground I couldn’t see, my vision blocked by the cars and the center barricade, though the crash of metal and glass told me when it hit. The troll staggered suddenly. I growled under my breath in frustration because I couldn’t tell what had happened. Whatever had caused the troll to stagger hadn’t made him lose his grip on the little car, now much more compact. He cried out and smashed the Miata down again, faster than before—like a housewife smashing a spider with her shoe.

Joel howled, and this time it was the real thing, full-throated and powerful, with the magic of the volcano that had birthed the tibicena. I stumbled, falling down on one hand and knees; my other hand still held the gun. My heart pounded in my ears as the resultant wave of fear crashed through me. Even though I knew it was only magic, it was hard for me to stand up and move toward him when fear slid through me and told me to run. But Adam was hurt—I couldn’t run away when Adam was ahead of me.

The troll, who was not familiar with the effect of the tibicena’s cry, had a much stronger reaction. He dropped the car and bolted, batting a truck that stood in his way so hard that it tipped over. For the first two strides, he was in a blind panic—and then his eyes met mine.

I stopped moving, hoping that he’d stay on his side of the road, that the panic caused by the tibicena would keep him going. I hoped very hard because my biggest magic superpower was changing into a coyote who would have even less of a chance against a troll than I did in human form. I’d come to help because I couldn’t stay on the sidelines with Adam wounded, but I was under no illusions that I was a match for the troll.

Though I was past the place where the pack hunting song had kicked in on my first trip, it had not returned. Maybe there were too few of the pack members still whole enough for a hunt. I didn’t know, couldn’t tell because the pack bonds told me nothing. I felt very alone, standing in the middle of the road with the troll’s intent gaze locked onto me.

He bounded over the cement barrier like a dinosaur-sized track star, leaving dents in the pavement where he landed. But Adam jumped the barrier just behind him. He was battered and bloody, running on three legs, and even a werewolf looked small next to the troll. But the front leg Adam had tucked up didn’t seem to slow him in the slightest, and Adam brought with him an indomitable determination that made the apparent inequality between the troll and the wounded werewolf meaningless. If I died today or a hundred years from now, I would keep the image of him hunting down that troll in my heart.

They both, troll and wolf, covered the quarter of a mile in a time that would have won an Olympic sprint, but for some reason it seemed to take hours as I stood waiting.

I suppose I could have turned and tried to outrun the troll; I might even have managed it. But I was horribly aware of the humans behind me who had no defense against a fae like the troll. Maybe it would continue to follow me as I ran past them—assuming I did manage to outrun it.

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