Home > Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson #9)(3)

Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson #9)(3)
Author: Patricia Briggs

“Hey, Ms. H,” said Izzy, not meeting my eyes. “Jesse’s expecting me.”

As soon as she spoke, Adam and his budget brigade (as Darryl called them) went back to work—they knew Izzy, too. Izzy slid around me and—“escaped” was the only word that fit—up the stairs. Cookie bolted after her—Izzy was one of her favorite people.

“Mercy,” said Izzy’s mom. I couldn’t for the life of me remember her name. While I was fighting with my memory, she continued speaking. “I wonder if you have a few minutes. I’d like to talk to you.”

It sounded ominous—but Izzy had just run upstairs, so it couldn’t be one of those “I’m sorry but I just don’t feel safe with my daughter coming over here knowing there are werewolves in the house” talks. Those usually happened over the phone anyway.

“Sure,” I said, taking a step back to invite her in.

“We’ll need a table,” she said.

I led her back to the kitchen, where Joel had stretched out, big and scary-looking, across the floor, until the only way to the kitchen table was over him. I opened my mouth to ask him to move, but Izzy’s mom stepped over him as if he’d been a Lab or a golden retriever.

Joel looked at me, a little affronted at her disregard of his scariness. I shrugged, gave him a small apologetic smile, then stepped over him, too. Izzy’s mom sat down at the kitchen table, so I sat down beside her.

She pushed my catalogues away to clear a space, then pulled out a slick, teal-colored spiral-bound book the size of a regular notebook with “Intrasity Living” scrawled in gold across the front.

She placed it gently, as if it were a treasure, on the table, and said, in an earnest voice, “Life is short. And we’re not getting any younger. What would you give if you could look ten years younger and increase your energy at the same time? That’s what our vitamins can do for you.”

Holy Avon, Batman, I thought as worry relaxed into annoyance-tinged humor, I’ve been attacked by a multilevel marketer.

Sounds from the upstairs quieted again, for just a moment, then Darryl rumbled something that was nicely calculated to be just barely too quiet for me to pick out. Adam laughed, and they went back to talking about interest rates. They had abandoned me to face my doom alone. The rats.

“I don’t take vitamins,” I told her.

“You haven’t tried our vitamins,” she continued, blithely unconcerned. “They’ve been clinically proven to—”

“They make my hair fall out,” I lied, but she wasn’t listening to me.

As she chirruped on enthusiastically, I could hear Izzy’s voice drifting down from Jesse’s room. “Mercy is going to hate me forever. Mom’s gone through all of her friends, all of her acquaintances, all of the people at her gym, and now she’s going after my friends’ parents.”

“Don’t worry about Mercy,” said Jesse soothingly. “She can take care of herself.” Jesse’s door closed. I knew that with the door shut, the kids were too human to hear anything that went on in the kitchen short of screams and gunfire. And I wasn’t quite desperate enough yet for either of those sounds to be an issue.

“I know there are other vitamins out there,” Izzy’s mother continued, “but of the twelve most common brands, only ours is certified by two independent laboratories as toxin- and allergen-free.”

If she hadn’t been Jesse’s best friend’s mom, I’d have gently but firmly (or at least firmly) sent her on her way. But Jesse didn’t have that many friends—the werewolf thing drove away some people, and the ones it didn’t weren’t always the kind of people she wanted as friends.

So I sat and listened and made “mmm” sounds occasionally as seemed appropriate. Eventually, we moved from vitamins to makeup. Despite rumors to the contrary, I do wear makeup. Mostly when my husband’s ex-wife is going to be around.

“We also have a product that is very useful at covering up scars,” she told me, looking pointedly at the white scar that slid across my cheek.

I almost said, “What scar? Who has a scar?” But I restrained myself. She probably wouldn’t get the Young Frankenstein reference anyway.

“I don’t usually wear makeup,” I told her instead. I had an almost-irresistible need to add “my husband doesn’t want me attracting other men” or “my husband says makeup is the work of the devil” but decided that any woman whose name I couldn’t remember probably didn’t know me well enough to tell when I was kidding.

“But, honey,” she said, “with your coloring, you would be stunning with the right makeup.” And, with that backhanded compliment, she was off and running, again.

Izzy’s mom used “natural” and “herbal” to mean good. “Toxin” was bad. There was never any particular toxin named, but my house, my food, and, apparently, my makeup were full of toxins.

The world wasn’t so clear-cut, I mused as she talked. There were a lot of natural and herbal things that were deadly. Uranium occurred naturally, for instance. White snake root was so toxic that it had killed people who drank the milk from cows who had eaten it. See? My history degree was useful, if only as a source of material to entertain myself with while listening to someone deliver a marketing speech.

Izzy’s mother was earnest and believed everything she said, so I didn’t argue with her. Why should I upset her view of the world and tell her that sodium and chloride were toxic but very useful when combined into salt? I was pretty sure she’d only point out how harmful salt was anyway.

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