Moon Thrall

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September

 

 

It was the smell of bacon frying that pulled him from sleep. Court threw an arm over his eyes to block out the light coming through the row of windows behind him.

“This is beyond anything I’ve read in years,” his brother Kane said.

There was a thud that Court recognized as Kane firmly setting down his mug of coffee. Court released a breath, hoping to fall back asleep quickly. It wasn’t going to be easy when Kane was sitting at the table six feet away.

“What now?” Riley asked.

His cousin from Lyons Point had been sharing Kane’s apartment for weeks now, and it looked like she had no intention of leaving anytime soon.

“This…well, there’s no other way to put it. It’s shit,” Kane grumbled.

Court sat up and glared at both of them. It was wasted since Riley was focused on cooking and Kane was absorbed in reading the paper.

“It’s too damn early in the morning for this,” Court said as he rose from the couch and shuffled into the kitchen. He palmed a mug and poured himself some coffee.

Riley chuckled as she munched on a slice of crispy bacon and eyed him. “It’s not early for us.”

“Perhaps if you got in at a reasonable hour,” Kane said as he set the paper down. “Besides, tell me again why you aren’t at your place?”

Court took two sips of coffee and let the caffeine settle in his stomach before he replied. “It’s not my fault the women won’t leave me alone.”

“You might try not sleeping with the nut jobs,” Riley stated and pulled out the last of the bacon before she dumped eggs into the pan and began to scramble them.

Court frowned as he looked at the food, feeling a little jealous that he had been missing out on such a delicious start to the day. “Do you cook for Kane every morning?”

Kane sat back in his chair. “Sometimes I cook.”

Riley shot Kane a smile. Court hadn’t been sure anyone could bring Kane out of his funk. He hadn’t been the same since the chaos that happened in Lyons Point when he had been cursed and sent after Lincoln’s woman. Riley was doing what no one else could.

Kane still wasn’t his easygoing self – yet. But he was getting there. He didn’t snap at people as often, and Court even saw his mouth easing into what could almost be considered a smile more and more.

“This,” Kane said, pointing to the newspaper, “is stupidity at its finest.”

Court leaned back against the counter and scratched his bare chest. Kane read the paper religiously every morning. While everyone else had moved into the modern age and either didn’t bother to read the paper at all or read it electronically, Kane was still old school.

Riley dished out eggs onto three plates. She turned to the table with plates in each hand and waited as Kane folded the paper so that the article he’d been reading was on top. She set the plates, bacon, and biscuits on the table and motioned for Court to sit as she gathered utensils and napkins. Court hurried to put on his shirt from the night before.

Riley was the last to take her chair at the round table. Then she looked at Kane and asked, “What did you find?”

“An article on the supernatural in New Orleans.”

Court shook his head as he cut open a biscuit and slathered it with butter. “That’s nothing new.”

“It is when the reporter is going to clubs where the supernatural visit and then writing about it.”

Riley choked on her coffee. She wiped her mouth with her napkin, her eyes wide. “Are you serious?”

Court watched Kane nod his head of golden blond hair. “It’s just a piece in the paper. No one is going to read that drivel, and even if they do, no one will believe the reporter.”

“It’s not the article that has me so upset,” Kane stated around a mouthful of eggs. “It’s that she points out the factions and describes some of the leaders perfectly.”

Court waited until he swallowed his bite before he asked, “Who is described?”

Kane leaned over the paper and read, “Though tattooing has always been appreciated in our fair city, there is a faction who likes to tat their heads. These beings should be steered clear of at all costs.”

“At least she recognizes that the Djinn are dangerous,” Riley said.

“People are going to be heading out to the Viper’s Nest and Boudreaux’s looking for these tattooed people now.”

Court realized that Kane had a point. “How long is the article?”

“Long enough.” Kane stabbed the eggs with his fork and held the utensil at his mouth for a bite. “This is her third article. I don’t expect it to be her last.”

Riley swallowed the last of her biscuit while she held another piece of bacon in her hand. “Perhaps I should go have a talk with her.”

“That would be a bad idea.” Court pushed his cleared plate away and scooted down in his chair as he leaned back. “If we go to her, she’ll know that we know something. I don’t want to be mentioned in any of her articles.”

Kane’s lips twisted in revulsion as he chewed. “Her first articles merely mentioned the supernatural part of the city. It seemed harmless enough until this morning. She’s visiting these bars, Court. If she’s not careful, she’s going to die.”

“That’s what we’re for.” Riley smiled when they turned to her. “I say ‘we’ because I have been helping out.”

Court stared at his beautiful cousin. Riley had long black hair and the same blue eyes that all the Chiassons and LaRues had. She was tall, lithe, and had a smile that could make the Devil beg her take over Hell itself.

He understood all too well why his four male cousins in Lyons Point had done everything in their power to keep her away from the monsters they hunted. What Riley’s brothers didn’t understand, was that she was stubborn and completely immovable when she focused on something she wanted.

There was no way Riley wasn’t going to help them, whether it was hunting a rogue vampire or protecting a human getting too close to danger. All the LaRues could do was make sure that Riley never went out alone. One of them was always with her to watch her back.

Because none of them wanted the Chiassons descending on New Orleans if Riley got hurt.

Riley flicked her long hair over her shoulder and held Court’s gaze. “I’ve more than pulled my weight in the weeks I’ve been here.”

“Without a doubt,” Court agreed.

“Don’t you dare start treating me like my brothers do.”

Kane rose and walked behind Riley on the way to get more coffee, tugging on her hair. “We’re protective, cousin. Even you can understand that. We know you can hold your own.”

Court met Kane’s gaze as he turned and tilted the mug to his lips. Kane’s blue eyes were intense with meaning. Don’t fuck this up, was read loud and clear.

That’s when Court realized that Kane needed Riley as much as Riley needed him. Whether the two of them knew it or not, each was the anchor for the other.

Kane because he couldn’t forgive himself for what had happened to get him doubly cursed by the nastiest of Voodoo priestesses, Delphine, and Riley because her brothers kept pushing her away.

“Riley’s right. If we’re going to do this, she needs to come along,” Court said. “The reporter might respond better if it comes from another female.”

Kane ran a hand through his golden blond hair that now came down to his chin. “I’ll do some research on her today. Court, you’ve got fifteen minutes to get to the bar. It’s your turn to open.”

“Shit,” Court said as he jumped out of the chair and grabbed the shoes he had kicked off when he’d crashed there last night.

He stuffed his feet in his boots, made sure he had his wallet and cell phone, and then he was out the door.

Riley waited until the door shut behind him before she turned in her chair to look at Kane. “He has no idea about the details of your parents’ deaths, does he?”

“None.” Kane crossed one ankle over the other, his blue gaze still on the door. “There was much he didn’t see or know about while we were growing up because he’s the youngest. We wanted it that way.”

“Trust me when I say that won’t turn out well. I’m the youngest as well as the only girl in my family. Having things kept from me only pisses me off.”

Kane’s gaze lowered, a wall coming down. “I hear you, but that doesn’t make revealing them any easier. Court doesn’t carry the troubles that Solomon, Myles, or I do. I like it that way.”

“If he keeps moving from woman to woman like he has been, you’re going to have a different kind of trouble on your hands,” she warned.

“He likes the attention from the females.” Kane set down his mug and braced his hands behind him on the counter. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“None at all.”

After weeks of living with Kane, Riley could tell he was closing himself off again. It happened frequently. Something would trigger a memory or thought, and he would become detached and reserved.

He opened up to her more and more. Progress was being made, but it wasn’t quick enough for Kane’s brothers. Solomon had taken her aside the day she’d arrived in New Orleans and asked her to do what she could for Kane.

Most times, Kane was content letting her ramble on as she often did. His gaze would become distant, and she was sure he never heard her. Yet he always had a comment to make after her stories.

She couldn’t imagine what Kane was going through. It was bad enough that the LaRues were cursed generations ago to live as werewolves. Then Kane had to go and piss off Delphine.

Riley liked to call her the Bitch Queen. The Voodoo priestess had it out for the LaRues and the Chiassons, mostly because they were the only ones who had the power to keep her in check.

Delphine had put a curse on Kane to seek out Ava Ledet and kill her. Years before, Jack Ledet had killed a vampire who happened to be Delphine’s niece. Delphine had never forgiven him for that.

It was all very complicated. Kane had been unable to stop himself from seeking out Ava, who just happened to be in Lyons Point and near Riley’s brothers at the time.

The worst part about it wasn’t that the curse sent Kane to kill Ava – which was bad enough – it was that if he did, he would remain in werewolf form forever, forgetting who he was.

Luckily, it was Lincoln who’d found Ava – and fell hard for her. Solomon had then arrived in Lyons Point to help Lincoln keep Ava safe, as well as preventing Kane from completing Delphine’s task.

It didn’t seem to matter to Kane that he wasn’t responsible for going after Ava. In his mind, the blame lay squarely with him. His actions ate at him like acid.

Riley rose and walked to Kane. He was so tortured that she wondered if anyone would ever be able to heal him. Myles said time would heal his brother. Riley wasn’t so sure.

Every time she thought Kane was making progress, he would revert. Just like now.

She put her hand on his cheek. “Do you need anything?”

“To forget.”

The words were spoken so softly she almost didn’t hear them. And they broke her heart.

“Delphine no longer has control over you,” Riley reminded him. “You control yourself, Kane.”

“What about the next time we have to fight her?” His blue gaze clashed with hers. “And what about us combining forces with the Moonstone wolves and every witch group in the quarter to free Addison and Minka from her spell to gain ultimate power? Do you think she’s going to let that go?”

Riley tried not to think about what Delphine might do. Everyone knew she would retaliate. It was the when that kept them on edge.

“She won’t,” Kane continued. “She’ll come for one of us. She’s more powerful than you can possibly imagine. I fought her spell. I fought with everything I had. Only to lose.”

“You won.”

Kane shoved her hand away and walked off a few steps then whirled around. “No one wins against that bitch. She keeps score, Riley. She marked us, and she marked your brothers. Do you think you can remain in this city without her turning her attention to you? It’ll happen, cousin. If it hasn’t already.”

“It’ll happen no matter where I am,” she stated.

But there was no denying the fear that began to spread within her.