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Authors: Rain Oxford

Insidious Winds

BOOK: Insidious Winds
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Insidious Winds

 

Elemental Book 4

 

 

 

Rain Oxford

Chapter 1

“I didn’t take it.”

“I find that hard to believe,” the man said as he
cocked his gun. The dirt-covered woman on her knees before him cried harder.

Joy Marina, nineteen, was the girl-next-door,
overachiever type. Valedictorian, perfect attendance, always smiling, and the
last person anyone expected to get involved with a drug-dealer. Then she met
“Robbie” in her first month at college and everything fell apart for her. The
first time he beat her, she went crawling back to her parents, but he wouldn’t
let her go. He tried to isolate her and although he was successful in driving
away her friends, her older brother was tenaciously protective.

When her parents were hospitalized from a suspicious
car accident, her brother contacted me. I soon found out it wasn’t love that
Robbie was after; a large amount of his drug supply went missing and he blamed
his girlfriend. Whether he got the young woman on drugs or not, I didn’t know.

I watched from the catwalk in the old warehouse.
Robbie and his three lackeys boxed Joy against a wall of crates. I wanted to
wait until I could get any more information on his accomplices, but he wasn’t
going to do this the easy way. He smacked Joy with the gun and she screamed.

“Where is it?!”

She shook her head. “I swear I didn’t take it. I just
want to go home.”

He took a step back and aimed the gun at her again.
“You’re never going home again.”

I sensed the approach of more humans and pushed a box
off the catwalk. It hit the ground loudly and all four men turned to look
automatically. The second their guns were off the girl, I reacted with my
magic. I no longer had to push my own sensations at people or animals to make
them feel it; I barely thought of fire. Fueled by my anger, fire filled their
psyche. All four men screamed, dropped their guns, and clutched their heads in
pain. From their perspective, it was like having a nightmare of fire that hurt
in real life

Police sirens could be heard in the distance. When I
was sure none of them were getting up, I let their minds go and left them to
the police. Of course, I watched from the distant forest as the police
manhandled the men into the patrol cars. Joy’s brother arrived to take her to the
station for a statement.

 

*          *          *

 

I believe humans are always born innocent. No matter
where they were born or who they were born to, there was nothing malevolent
about them. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the genetic predisposition to do
harm to others. I believe the difference between the man who opens fire in a
bank and the man who steps in the way of a bullet to save others is equally
attributed to nature and nurture.

Paranormals complicated the matter. They were born
just as innocent, but their actions had much more to do with nature than
nurture. Shifters were part animal, so their human morality was in constant
struggle with their animal instinct. Fae and vampires had no human side.
Although fae cherished nature, they could be extremely arrogant and violent
towards people who violated nature. Vampires, whether they were born or turned,
survived by preying on people, but they didn’t have to kill. Wizards were
basically human with powers. I learned from John that that could be a very bad
thing.

When I was a child, I knew there was something very
different about me. Fortunately, I wasn’t powerful enough then to realize what
I could do. Had I developed my powers before a sense of morality, I probably
would have turned out very different.

Yet here I am looking to make a deal with a demon.
Then again, I did marry Regina.

Ironically, after haunting my dreams since her death,
Heather stopped as soon as I got a magic fire sword… which I got by following
magic fire salamanders.

I sighed and picked up my coffee. It was going on
three in the morning in the middle of January and I was sitting in my car
worrying about making a deal with Heather in order to rescue my childhood
friend instead of focusing on my job. In this instance, my job was to catch my
client’s husband cheating on her. If it were for any other client, I would have
been too busy to let my mind wander.

Mrs. Thomas hired me three times previous and she was
always very relieved when I told her that her husband wasn’t cheating on her.
Each time, she had an excuse for thinking what she did, but she came to me and
paid a very high fee to make sure she didn’t get caught investigating him.
Since she was embezzling money from his company, lying to him, and cheating on
him, I actually wanted to get caught. Unfortunately, that would end my career
and I wasn’t ready to retire just yet. Thus, I watched the dark windows of the
couple’s house and kept my mouth shut.

Recently, Mr. Thomas came into a lot of money and
started staying at work late. That was excuse enough for the wife to hire me
again to watch their house while she was spending the night with her sister. Since
the husband turned off the light to go to bed at half past midnight, I was
expecting a long and boring night.

I scowled at my lukewarm coffee and set it down. Of
course, I knew how to control fire, but somehow I didn’t think warming my
coffee was an appropriate use of magic.

When the living room light came on in the house
across the street, I grabbed my camera from the passenger seat. After a moment,
when no car pulled into the driveway and no one looked out the window, I felt
like I should get a closer look. Trusting my instincts, I pulled the door
handle and was surprised when the door didn’t open.

“Are you joking?” The door was frozen shut.

I put my hands flat on the door as if I were going to
push it open. I focused on heat and imagined pushing that heat into the door.
Because I didn’t want to set anything on fire, I didn’t think about flames.
Instead, I thought of running in the summer. As my heart beat faster, the gold
scorpion prickled against my skin, which had been shocking the first time it happened.
This time, I ignored it, since it wasn’t even close to critical yet.

After a few minutes, I let the heat fade from my mind
and tried the handle. The door opened with a hard push. Carefully minding my
step, I shut the door of the black Nissan quietly. It was a car I rented
because mine was too noticeable. As inconspicuous as I could be, I crossed the
street and went around the garage to the back yard. Just as I was about to
approach the kitchen window, my instincts pushed me to hide. I ducked down behind
the trashcans beside the garage right before the kitchen door opened.

The husband stepped out of the kitchen… naked. I had
enough time to wonder exactly what the man’s fetish was before he changed.
Having seen a shifter change many times, I was actually relieved when he became
a gray wolf. I would lie to his wife to protect the paranormal community, but I
would have told her if the husband was sacrificing virgins or something in the
garage. Of course, they had a lot more to worry about between them than the
wife’s lies.

The wolf took off out the back gate, so I headed back
to my car, not seeing any reason to follow him. For the second time in a matter
of minutes, my instincts warned me of danger. I hid in the shadow of the garage
and waited. A few seconds later, a black SUV drove slowly down the street. It
slowed further when it reached me, but finally passed without completely coming
to a stop.

Once the tail lights were gone, I crossed the street
and got into my car, which was just starting to freeze over again. Any warmth I
had created inside was completely gone, so I gave the car a minute to warm
after turning on the engine before heading out.

Traffic was extremely light, but not nonexistent. I
sensed someone was watching me. Since I wanted to be able to drop everything at
a moment’s notice if the chance to save Astrid came up, I kept my caseload to a
minimum. Thus, I couldn’t think of that many people I pissed off. There was the
drug ring, but that was a small operation. If they pushed, I could get back
into Robbie’s mind and coerce him into confessing everything he and his friends
ever did.

I stopped at a twenty-four-hour diner and asked for
some hot apple pie and coffee. As I sat in my little booth and stared out the
window, the feeling of being watched grew. After about thirty minutes, I had no
excuse. I paid and went back outside into the cold. A truck, previously
concealed in the dark alley beside the diner, came to life with its headlights
on me and my car. I sighed. Before I could take another step towards my car,
another black SUV pulled into the parking lot and stopped right in front of me.
The door opened.

“Get in.” The voice was vaguely familiar, but I
couldn’t see anything or anyone inside.

“And why would I do that?” I pulled my gun out of its
harness and pushed my power outwards. I sensed one very powerful shifter’s mind
and one human’s. Fortunately, I recognized both of them. Without waiting for an
answer or putting my gun away, I got in and closed the door. “You’re a little
far from your club, aren’t you?” I asked.

Internal blue lights switched on, revealing that the
inside of the truck had two back seats facing each other like in a limo. Drake
sat across from me with his Komodo dragon shifter bodyguard to his right. “Put
the gun away, Devon,” he said. Despite being a human whose entire job revolved
around paranormals, he was used to getting his way. He was of a medium height
and average weight with slick black hair and a ritzy black suit.

“This is my city. You don’t get to be the mafia on my
turf.”

Drake smirked. “You cops have no business skills.”

I ignored the comment, since I figured he knew I
wasn’t a cop as much as I knew he wasn’t actually part of the mafia. “What do
you want?”

“Kevin, I thought I told him to put the gun away.”

The shifter only reached a few inches towards me
before I had my gun aimed at his head. “I thought we’ve already been through
this, Kevin. Also, these are silver bullets.” The shifter shrunk back.

“I want to destroy the wizard council,” Drake said,
ignoring my gun and his bodyguard’s submission. “They’ve come up with new laws,
taxes, and a registering system, and they’re trying to pass it off as what’s
best for everyone. They’re winning people over by offering rights and power to
a few— rights and power they’re taking away and trying to sell back to us.
Basic rights. If the council gets their way, every paranormal who isn’t a
wizard will have fewer rights than humans. I’ve heard they’re even planning on
limiting the shifters’ diets to enforce vegetarianism because they think it’ll
make shifters less aggressive.”

“What do you care? You’re human.”

His eyes narrowed, not angrily but very close. “I am
human and I live in the paranormal community. I care about paranormals. I care
what happens to them.”

“Okay.” I put my gun away. “I agree they need to be
stopped, but why come to me?”

“The council can’t implement their taxes until they
have every paranormal cataloged. Logan Hunt, headmaster of Quintessence, is
extremely protective of the identity of his students. For that reason, the
council is going to be after Hunt’s records. I know you’re a student at the
university. I also know Hunt keeps all the records of the orphanage, children’s
school, and university in his office at the university. It is in everyone’s
best interest if you destroy those records.”

“I’ll talk to Hunt about it. If that’s really what’s
best for his students, he’ll do it.” I grabbed the handle, opened the door, and
stepped out.

Drake didn’t try to stop me. “You know what they say;
don’t keep all your eggs in one basket.”

I knew he wasn’t talking about the key because there
was no way he could know about it. It still irritated me, though. I was trying
to prepare for anything and have options open, but it was getting harder and
harder to tell who was on my side and who was just trying to use me. My visions
of the future were inconsistent, my heart could give out the next time I got
angry, and my childhood friend was in Hell thanks to a teacher who wanted me to
make a pact with his demon daughter. Well, it wasn’t really Hell, and Heather
wasn’t really a demon. Learning that Astrid’s father was a wizard from Dothra
and her mother was a vampire did not make anything easier for me.

I made it back to my apartment in a few minutes, I
entered the main building, and quietly went to my unit, only to stop outside my
door. Someone was in there. Once again, I sent out my power, then sighed when I
recognized the intruder instantly. I opened the door, entered and shut it
behind me.

The jaguar shifter sitting on my couch frowned
worriedly. “Should I come back later?”

“No. What’s up?” I asked. Henry looked a little
tired, but not injured. There was no point at all in asking the master thief
how he got in.

“You offered me a job once. I know you were only half
serious, but could you still use some help?”

“Um… yeah. Are your parents still…?”

“They’re alive.”

“So you haven’t asked them about Scott?”

“Ever since you told me that I didn’t kill Zoe, I’ve
been rethinking my life. I believed you saw what you did, but it took months
for me to really believe I didn’t kill them. I started listening to my jaguar
more and going over those moments. My jaguar hates my parents more than
anyone.”

“So you realized your jaguar is only trying to
protect you?”

“I do not trust him unconditionally, but I want to
believe I never killed anyone… except for Mrs. Ashcraft.”

“That was John’s doing, not yours or your jaguar’s.”

“I told my parents I knew what they did and demanded
they tell me where my son is. They said they dropped him off in an orphanage
and had no idea where he was. I was going to kill them… but I stopped for two
reasons. The first reason is that they’re lying about not knowing anything.
They would abandon him at an orphanage, but they would never give up the upper
hand. The second reason is that I just found out that I wasn’t a killer. When I
find Scott, I don’t want to be a killer.”

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