**Episode 16! Lane finds himself in a predicament for sure. And Archer is on edge. Enjoy!**
It took a lot of convincing, but I finally managed to get Archer to go inside. He didn’t need to be part of the conversation, and just the fact that Fiona was in his territory made him uneasy. I wanted him safe and in the house. Not that I thought Fiona would do anything to him. But it was just safer all around for all of us if I kept them separated.
Archer staunchly refused to leave me alone with my former partner until I promised to put up a personal shield. Fiona snorted and rolled her eyes at the suggestion, which made Archer growl. I agreed and performed the spell the moment the teen crossed the threshold. He wanted me safe just as much as I wanted him safe, and it was an easy enough compromise. I left it in place even after he shut the door, knowing full well he’d be watching out the window.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Fiona said, sounding annoyed.
“Didn’t think you were.” Though my voice was easy, conversational even, I didn’t drop the shield. I wouldn’t break my promise to him. “Tell me what you can.”
She stared me down for a long second. I let her, not sure what she was looking for. It didn’t matter. She’d come to me for help, which meant the order had come from higher up. Agent Mathers would never have shown up if it hadn’t been approved. That wasn’t her way. The questions was had it been her idea? Had she offered to come speak with me? Or had she been ordered to?
In the end, the answer to those questions didn’t matter. She was here and the leadership approved it. That much I knew for certain. This was the situation at hand and what I needed to deal with.
“Do you remember the Leighton case?”
Fiona’s voice startled me out of my thoughts, though I didn’t physically react. Did I remember? Of course I did. It had taken us six months to track down the man responsible for draining supernatural beings of their magic and life force. He’d been crafty, sneaky, and one step ahead of us the entire time. And that was after eighteen months of us finding evidence of the heinous crimes without a single lead. It had been one of the biggest cases the MBI handled in the past three decades. And Fiona and I had been at the forefront, and though we weren’t alone, we’d made the collar.
Fiona nodded. “The fifth victim we linked to the case, Anita Anderson. She was different than the others.”
That was putting it mildly. She’d been a dark mage to begin with, and the reason we hadn’t immediately linked it to the first four was because the location and MO didn’t match. Her death had actually come earlier than the two most recent victims, but we hadn’t known that until we’d pieced together all the evidence.
She’d also, by all accounts, deserved her fate for the type of magic she’d been working. Unlike the reset of the victims, who’d been innocent.
“Are you saying her death wasn’t related?”
“No.” Fiona drew the word out, as though she wasn’t sure. “She was definitely killed by Leighton.”
“Okay, then.” I squinted at her. “What does that have to do with—”
A blur of fur distracted me and it only took me a moment to realize that Walker was barreling into the yard, full tilt and panting. He skidded to a stop in front of me, pushing me back several steps. His hackles were up, making him look even larger than he was. And though he wasn’t growling, his fangs were bared and he was radiating tension.
I enclosed him in my protection shield, not because I was worried Fiona would hurt him, but because I needed to touch, and I couldn’t do that through the magic without disrupting it. I sank my fingers into his ruff, trying to soothe.
“Hey, babe.” I couldn’t keep the affection out of my voice and I didn’t care if Fiona heard it. “What’re you doing here?”
“I called him!” Archer had cracked the front door open so that I could see an eye and half his face. He left the screen door closed. I didn’t miss the glare he shot Fiona’s way.
“Thank you for looking out for me, Archer.” I was touched down to my soul. This kid had been through so much, and he was still getting used to the fact that his dad and I were mates. But he still had my best interest at heart. He was worried about the situation, and he knew he couldn’t do much to protect me. Archer had done the only logical thing in his mind.
He’d called his dad.
I threw Archer a smile, then crouched next to my mate. With an arm around his neck, Walker calmed somewhat. But his attention never left Fiona.
“Tell me what Anderson has to do with your current case,” I directed.
For a few seconds, I thought Fiona would refuse to answer. Walker wasn’t an agent, and therefor technically not privy to the information she was about to impart. As a shifter herself, she knew full well Walker could understand everything she said. As could Archer who was blatantly eavesdropping at the door. She’d been careful about her words before now and I could practically see the gears working as she figured out how to keep talking, give me what I needed, without saying too much in front of civilians.
She let out a huff of breath. “The body is gone. The circumstances are…suspect. We’re running out of time and have no leads.”
My interest was immediately piqued. A thousand questions raced through my brain, and it was on the tip of my tongue to agree to jump on this. To follow her back to HQ and find out exactly what was going on and how I could help crack the case.
Walker leaned more heavily against me and Archer pulled the door a little wider, and the words died in my throat. It wasn’t just me and Oscar anymore. I had other people to take into consideration. And I had to think about how this would effect them. About what this would do to me and my mental state, and therefore my ability to be there for Walker and Archer.
I stood and kept my fingers clenched in Walker’s fur. “Send me as much of the brief as you can. I have to talk to Walker about this, and then I’ll let you know.”
Fiona’s frown was intense and immediate. “Delaney—”
I shook my head, a quick, sharp motion. “You came to me. You need my help. This is on my terms.”
She wanted to argue. I saw it all over her face. But after a few seconds, she gave a single nod and left. I watched until she was gone. Once she was clear of the property, Archer opened the door all the way, his dark eyes staring at me.
I rubbed Walker’s ears. “Come on, honey. Let’s go inside and talk about this.”
Oscar led the way, his tail high, and jumped right into Archer’s arms. I had to smile as we followed him in.