Though it was nearly midnight, the parking lot at Uncle Mike's was full and I had to park in the warehouse's lot next door. My little Rabbit wasn't alone, but it looked worried among all the SUVs and trucks. I don't know why the fae like big vehicles, but you never see one driving a Geo Metro.

There are several bars near the fae reservation in Walla Walla, about sixty miles up the highway, that claim to be fae hangouts to attract publicity. There was a new bar, not too far from my shop, that billed itself out as a werewolf den. But you won't find Uncle Mike advertising for customers, nor will you find many humans there. If some stupid human, attracted by the number of cars in the lot, stops by, a subtle spell has him hurrying along his way. Uncle Mike's is for the fae  -  though he tolerates most any kind of preternatural creature, as long as they don't cause any problems.

I'd refused to go to the seethe without Stefan. Stubborn, I might be, but not stupid. I wouldn't invite her to my house either-it's much easier to invite evil in than it is to keep it

Out afterwards. I wasn't even certain how you uninvited a vampire, beyond knowing that it was possible. So I'd suggested Uncle Mike's as a neutral meeting place.

I'd expected it to be less crowded since it was a work night. Apparently Uncle Mike's clientele wasn't worried about getting up in the morning like I had to.

I opened the door and noise poured out like water over a dam. Caught by the sheer volume of sound, I hesitated-then a firm hand caught my breastbone and pushed me, sending me stumbling back outside. The door swung shut, leaving me alone in the parking lot with my assailant.

I took a second step back, putting space between us, wishing I'd brought a gun. Then I took a good look and relaxed. He was dressed in a lincoln green tunic and hose, looking not unlike one of Robin Hood's Merry Men, the uniform of Uncle Mike's staff.

He looked about sixteen, tall and thin with just a faint shadow of hair about his mouth that might be a moustache in a few years. His features were ordinary, neither too big nor too small, but not neatly arranged enough to be overtly attractive.

He made a little gesture at me and I smelled the sharp astringent scent of fae magic. Then he turned on his heel and started back to the door. He was a bouncer. Damn it all, this was the second time today someone tried to throw me out of someplace.

"I'm not human." I told him impatiently, following behind him. "Uncle Mike doesn't mind me coming here." Not that Uncle Mike had taken much notice of me.

The boy hissed and turned to face me, anger darkening his features. He held his hands up between us and cupped them. This time the smell of magic was as strong as ammonia, clearing my sinuses. I gave a choked cough at the unexpected strength of the scent.


I don't know what he intended to do to me because the door behind him opened again and Uncle Mike himself came out.

" Hsst now, Fergus, you'll not be wanting to do that, do ya hear me? Put that out. Of all the... You know better than that." Ireland lay thick as honey on his tongue and his voice

Uncle Mike looked like a tavern owner ought to. As if he'd reached into my mind and pulled out all the tavern owners in all the books and movies and stories I'd ever experienced, and then distilled them to produce the perfect caricature. His face was pleasing, but more charismatic than handsome. He was average in height with wide shoulders, thick arms, and short-fingered, powerful hands. His hair was reddish brown, but there were no freckles on his tanned face. His eyes, I knew, though the night robbed them of their color, were bright hazel and he turned their power on his hapless employee.

"Now, then, Fergus, you make yourself useful and tell Biddy she's to guard the door for the rest of the night. Then you are to go to Cook and tell him I want you to stay busy until you remember that killing customers isn't good for business."

"Yes, sir." Thoroughly cowed, the bouncer scuttled through the door and disappeared inside. I might have felt sorry for him, if it hadn't been for the "killing customers" part.

"Now then," Uncle Mike said, turning to me. "You'll have to excuse my help. That demon is raising all sorts of havoc for us here, keeping tempers at a killing edge as you have seen. I'm thinkin that it might not be the best night for one of your kind to join us in revelry."

It was more polite than a death curse perhaps, but even more effective at keeping me out. Damn it.

I swallowed my growl and tried to keep my voice as polite as his. "If I am not welcome, would you have someone find Marsilia and tell her to meet me out here?"

His face went blank with surprise. "And what are you doing meeting the Vampire queen? You play in waters much too deep to swim in for long, little girl."

I think it was the "little girl" that did it. Or maybe it was the shift in wind that brought the smell of garbage, wolf, and blood to my nose as well as the distinct scent that was Warren's alone-reminding me that he had been dumped here, bleeding and dying only hours ago.

"Maybe if the fae would stir their asses once in a while, I could stay in shallow water," I said, all attempts at politeness gone. "I know the old stories. I know you have power, damn it all. Why are you all just sitting around and watching the sorcerer kill people?" I was trying not to include Stefan among the dead, but part of me was already in mourning-it added a reckless edge to my tongue. "I suppose if you are afraid it might put you 'on a killing edge, it makes better sense to wait it out." Warren could have done that, too. Then he'd be safe at home instead of bleeding in Adam's guest bedroom. "Especially since it is a vampire matter. The people who die along the way are merely effluvia and nothing to be concerned about."

He smiled, just a little, and it flamed my temper higher.

"Fine, smile away. I suppose you've killed your share. Well, this affects you, too. The humans aren't stupid, they know this is something out of the ordinary, something evil-and the only people they know who might do this are yours."

He was grinning now, but he held up a staying hand. "Sorry, love. It's just the image. One doesn't think of mechanics using words like effluvia, does one?"

I stared at him. Maybe there was something about being old, and I suspected Uncle Mike was very old, that gave him a different perspective, but...

"I'm sorry," I said, and even I could hear that my voice was thick with rage. "I'll try to keep to commonly used, very small words when discussing something that has a body count of what..." I tried to add it up in my head, though I was foiled somewhat because I didn't know how many people had died while Daniel had been under the sorcerer's control. "Fifteen?"

The smile left his face altogether, and he stopped looking like a tavern owner. "More like forty, I think, though I doubt not there are more we've yet to find. Not all of them here in the three cities, either. Demons deal in death and rot. Nothing to smile at, nor to let pass. My apologies," he bowed, a jerky motion that was over so quickly I couldn't be absolutely certain I'd really seen it. "I was amused as much at myself as at your use of the language. Even after all this time, I keep forgetting that heroes can be found in unlikely places and persons-like mechanics who can turn into coyotes." He stared at me a minute and a sly smile slid into his eyes, nothing like the expressions he usually had on his face.

"So, as you have the right, being a hero about to throw yourself on a grenade for the rest of us, I'll tell you why we're not bestirring ourselves against it." He nodded his head toward the tavern. "We fae are holding to survival by our fingertips, Mercedes Thompson. We are dying faster than we are reproducing, even counting our half bloods. It started the first time a human forged a cold-iron blade, but bullet lead kills us just as quickly as steel ever did-gremlins like Siebold Adelbertsmiter being the exception among us."

He paused, but I waited. I knew all of this, as did anyone who cared to turn on the TV or read a newspaper.

"There are beings of power here," he said. "Beings who would scare the human population into launching a genocidal wave that would wipe every fae off the face of the earth if they knew of them. If the sorcerer turns its attention to us, makes one of us kill humans in front of cameras-which it can do-there will be no more fae."

"The werewolves are under the same constraints," I said. "It hasn't stopped Adam. He could have left it all to the vampires. I bet that there are four people in that bar right now that could destroy this monster before it even knew they were looking for him."

He clenched his fists and turned away, but not before I saw something else on his face, something hungry. "No. You underestimate its power, Mercedes. Most of us have no more resistance to vampiric powers than any human-nor are there many souls pure enough to resist the demon. You don't want it controlling one of us." He swung back to me, and he looked just as he always had, that instant of something more was gone as if it had never been.

I took a step back anyway because my instincts were telling me that I wasn't the biggest predator here.

His voice was mellow and easy as he told me, "But just in case someone was overly tempted to take this sorcerer on, the Gray Lords have declared this vampire business, and we are to stay out of it. The Gray Lords do consider humans to be effluvia, Mercy. Very dangerous effluvia. They are not inclined to worry overmuch about a few human deaths."

Looking into his eyes, I knew three things. The first was that Uncle Mike was one of the few who would have gone after the sorcerer. The second was that he both hated and feared the Gray Lords. The third was that he didn't consider humans to be effluvia at all.

I wasn't certain which one surprised me the most.

"So," I said, "does this mean you'll let me come in and find Marsilia myself?"

He nodded his head slowly. "I'll not stand in the way of it." He held out his arm in an old-fashioned gesture. I put my fingers lightly on it and let him lead me back toward the bar.

Just before we reached the entrance, though, he paused. "Don't take the wolves with you when you go after the sorcerer."

"Why not?"

"That Fergus, he has served me for thrice times a score of years. In that time he ne'er once raised a violent hand to a customer of mine. That demon the sorcerer bears carries violence like a stream carries little fishies. His very presence takes away all self-control and encourages ragin and fightin . The effect of a demon on a werewolf is like vodka on a fire."

It sounded like Tony's recitation of the growing unrest the police were fighting. Bran had mentioned something like that, too, but he hadn't made it sound as dire. Come to think of it, though Adam's outburst tonight might easily be explained by a combination of hot temper and worry, Samuel had been more volatile than usual lately.

"Why didn't you tell Adam that Warren and Ben were in danger?" I asked.

"I didn't know until that poor lad of his was laid on my doorstep today that Adam had sent his boyos out a hunting-though I should have."

Had Bran known the danger when Adam sent Warren and Ben with Stefan? I thought about it. Probably. But Bran had never been one to tell his people what their limits were. Likely he'd been right, too. Worry and fear from knowing

I wouldn't tell them either, I decided. Which meant that I couldn't tell them that I was going hunting-and, whatever Marsilia had in mind, I was done with sitting around. Coyotes were good at skulking and could take down much bigger prey than most people would expect. If Marsilia could offer help, fine. If not I'd go after him on my own.

I entered the bar with Uncle Mike. There was a heavy metal band playing tonight and the thrum of the drums and the distorted guitar made my head throb in time with the beat and sent my ears into overdrive. I know some wolves who love places like this, where their sensitive senses turn off for a while. They find it restful. Not me. It makes me jumpy because I can't hear what's coming up behind me.

Uncle Mike escorted me past the woman at the cover charge desk, and she gave him a surprised look which he ignored. He bent down until his lips were near my ear and said, "I have to go man the bar, but I'll keep an eye out for you while you're here."

I opened my mouth to thank him, but he touched his fingers to my mouth before I said anything.

"None of that, girl. I know Zee has taught you better. Never thank a fae or you'll be washing his socks and paying his rent before you can say effluvia ten times."

He was right. I knew better, and possibly I'd have remembered before I said anything. But I appreciated his courtesy just the same.

I raised my eyebrows and said with mock innocence, "But you wouldn't do that."

He grinned appreciatively and waved me away. "Go find your vampires, girl. I've money to make."

No one gave me any trouble, but I felt the weight of fae eyes on my back as I carefully moved through the crowd. It was hard not to bump people in a building as packed as this one was, but I kept Uncle Mike's warning in mind and kept my body parts to myself. The mood of the crowd was pretty ugly. My ears weren't doing me much good, but the emotions my nose picked up weren't happy ones.

I found the vampires on the far side of the dance floor. Marsilia was in a fifties-style white dress that brought up images of Marilyn Monroe, though the vampire had none of her soft curves. Even in the dim light, her skin was too pale against the white of her dress.

Someone should tell Marsilia that the style didn't flatter her. Maybe she'd tick me off enough to do it myself.

My temper seemed to be on edge, too.

Startled at that thought, I stopped where I was and turned in a slow circle, but I didn't see Littleton anywhere. Or smell him either. I started toward the vampires again.

Marsilia had brought only one escort, and I wasn't surprised to see it was Andre, Stefan's friend and rival. Weaving through the crowd gave me a little time to think on how to play my part. Marsilia knew she had me on her hook already, all that was left was to decide who was in charge. Since it was almost certainly going to be my skin at risk, I had an interest in making sure I had control of the hunt. I pulled the necklace I always wore out from under my T-shirt so they could get a good look at the stylized silver sheep as I approached.

I don't wear a cross. As a child, I'd had a bad experience with one. Besides, a crucifix was the instrument of Our Lord's death-I don't know why people think a torture device should be a symbol of Christ. Christ was a willing sacrifice, a lamb, not a cross for us to hang ourselves on; or at least that's my interpretation. Maybe other people think of religion and God differently than I do.

Anyway, my little lamb works at least as well for me against vamp, as a cross is supposed to-and Marsilia knew it.

When I walked up to the table, I smiled at them, showing my teeth. Then I took the chair they'd left me and spun it so I could sit on it backward with my arms folded across the top. In a wolf pack, a little attitude can save you a whole lot of bruises.

I'd show no more weakness to these predators, I told myself. I wasn't in their territory now, and they had no power over me. Well, not unless I considered how much stronger they were, and how much more practice they'd had at killing.

So I tried not to consider it. At least the noise would keep them from hearing my heart beat like a rabbit's.

"So," I said, "You want me to go hunt your vampire for you?"

Marsilia's face could hardly be any stiller, but Andre raised an eyebrow. "Sorcerer hunting, surely," he murmured. Like Marsilia he wore white. His natural skin color-though pale as all the vampires were for lack of sun-was just dark enough that the white looked good on him. His shirt was rich silk, cut in a vaguely Oriental style with white on white embroidery. It looked better on him than his pirate shirts did.

"Hmm." I flashed another smile at Marsilia. "But you need me because I'm a walker, and we're supposed to be good at killing vampires. And this sorcerer is exactly that. A vampire."

Marsilia smiled back, the expression looking more human than anything I'd seen on her face-she was probably making an effort.

She rolled the mostly empty glass in her hands, making the inky black liquid swirl. I didn't know if Uncle Mike's served blood in wine glasses, but since all I smelled was various flavors of alcohol, I expected not. Since she was making such a show though, I was pretty sure I was supposed to think it might be blood and be unnerved.

"Thank you for meeting me here," she said at last.

I shrugged and exaggerated just a little bit. "I was going after it anyway." I realized only after I said it, that it was the truth. "Since it's a vampire though, having your approval for this hunt makes it..." I pretended to search for a word. "Safer-for both of us."

I was playing a dangerous game. If she really thought I was a danger to her seethe she'd kill me. But if she didn't respect me, I was likely to end up just as dead.

She sighed and set her glass on the table. "You were raised with the wolves, Mercedes, so I understand the need for playing dominance games. But two of mine are missing and I fear for them. Stefan was among the strongest of mine, but the return of the remains of one of his companions tells me that he has failed."

All of her body language was just a little off. Perhaps she was really worried about her vampires, but her performance set my hackles up. To the wolves, body language is more important than words-and her body language was all wrong, sending messages that her voice did not. I couldn't tell which I should be listening to.

" 'Remains' is a little strong," I said. " Warren 's not dead."

She didn't say anything more for a moment, tapping the table lightly in the same pattern that she'd used the last time I'd seen her. I thought that I hadn't reacted quite as she'd intended-was I supposed to have accepted her help eagerly?

Finally she said, "I know you think it is my fault for sending Stefan off by himself. There were reasons to make it appear a punishment, but Stefan was a soldier. He knew an assignment when he heard one. He knew I believed him, just as he knew I had no choice but to send him after this creature."

That I could believe.

"She meant for him to ask me for help," Andre broke in. "It is my fault that he didn't. Stefan and I had... have been friends for a long time. But I made a mistake and he was angry with me." He looked at me and met my eyes for a moment, but looked away when I averted my gaze. I wondered what he would have done if I'd let him ensnare me.

He continued as if nothing had happened. Maybe it hadn't.

"Daniel was one of Stefan's when he was human. He was more fragile than he appeared and he died while he fed me. There is only an instant when the choice to bring one back can be made, Mercedes Thompson. Less than five human heartbeats. I thought to lessen the cost to everyone by bringing him back a vampire instead of putting him permanently to earth."

Marsilia touched his hand, and I realized his speech hadn't been for me, but for her.

"You gave Daniel a gift," she said. "Ample recompense for your mistake."

Andre bowed his head. "Stefan didn't think so. Bringing him over made Daniel mine, and Stefan was convinced that I'd done it on purpose."

The vampires were damned hard to read, but I thought Stefan probably had the right of it. Andre had been too pleased about something to do with Daniel and Stefan the night of Stefan's trial.

"Unkind of him," Marsilia told him.

"I'd have given him back," Andre said. "But I was waiting for Stefan to ask."

See. Vampires play stupid dominance games, too.

Marsilia shook her head. "It was, perhaps, all to the good that Stefan did not take you. I might be here talking with this walker with both my best soldiers dead." She turned her attention back to me. "So here is how I propose to make your job easier, Mercedes. I will lend you my left hand to guard your back," she said, nodding at Andre, "my right being sundered. And I will give you what information I have."

"In return for what?" I asked, though my question was automatic. She thought Stefan was dead.

She closed her eyes for a moment then stared at my forehead. The vampire version of courtesy, I think. It made me feel like I had a smudge on my forehead.

She said, "In return for you finding this bedamned thing. Since it killed Stefan, I have to accept that any other vampires sent after it will likewise be destroyed. You are the best hope we have of eliminating it."

"And besides," I added dryly. "If I don't succeed, what have you lost?" She didn't reply, but she didn't need to. "So tell me, how do I kill this sorcerer?"

"Just like any other vampire," she said.

"Most of what I know is from Dracula. Assume I'm totally ignorant, please."

"Well enough," she agreed. "A wooden stake through the heart works. Immersion in holy water or direct exposure to sunlight. It is said that the great saints could kill us with their faith, but I do not think, despite your lamb," she waved her hand at my necklace, "that your faith is great enough for that. But take your little sheep with you, Mercedes, because it should work as well on demons as it does on vampires."

"What was it that walkers could do that made vampires fear them?" I asked.

She and Andre both went very still. I didn't think she would answer me. But she did. Sort of. "The first you already know," she said. "Many of our powers do not work well on you. Most of our magic is useless."

"Your truth spell worked," I pointed out.

"That chair is not vampiric magic, Mercedes, not entirely. Though all magic, I believe, finds you difficult prey. But blood magic has a power all of its own, as do very old things. That chair is a very old thing."

"I didn't mean to distract you from the subject," I said politely inviting her to get back to the point.

She gave me a faint smile. "No. I don't suppose you did. Walkers also speak to ghosts."

I blinked at her. "So what?" A lot of people, even otherwise perfectly normal humans, can speak to ghosts.

She pushed back her chair. "I think that I have answered enough of your questions." She gave Andre a look, so I knew that he wouldn't clarify anything for me. "I believe that you ought to start by finding out where Stefan went last night."

" Warren won't be talking, not for a while," I told her. His throat had been crushed. Samuel thought it could take several days to heal.

"Stefan was in the habit of talking with his people," she told me. "They are afraid. They won't talk to me or mine. But I think they will talk to you. Andre will take you to Stefan's house where you can speak with the menagerie."

Then she disappeared. I suppose she could have cloaked herself in shadows as some of the fae can, but I couldn't smell her, couldn't sense her anywhere.

"I hate it when she does that," said Andre taking a sip out of his glass. "Mostly envy, I expect. Stefan could do it, too-the only one of her get to receive that gift."

I stayed silent a while, contemplating Marsilia. She'd been making an effort to be human tonight-though she'd only been moderately successful. Tentatively, I decided that she'd been mostly honest about what she wanted from me and why. I was pretty sure that she thought I held the key to finding this sorcerer-either through my resistance to vampire magic or through my "ability" to speak to ghosts.

It wasn't like I saw ghosts all the time or anything.

I was already a freak, a shapeshifter not tied to the moon who turned into a coyote. Neither human nor werewolf or fae. I didn't like thinking I might be even odder than I'd thought.

I looked up to see Andre watching me patiently. To my werewolf accustomed eyes, he didn't look like someone who was one of Marsilia's most capable warriors. There was no width in his shoulders, no substance to his muscles. She could have been flattering him, since he was in the room, but I didn't think so.

"Did she teleport?" I asked. I'd been told that will-o-wisps were the only creature who could really teleport.

He smiled and shrugged. "I don't know how it is done. But it is one of the reasons we are certain Stefan is gone. If he were still with us, he could not be easily imprisoned."

"You don't sound upset," I said. I didn't want to think about Stefan being dead-permanently dead, I mean.

He gave me a shrug that might have meant anything. "I think Stefan is gone, Mercedes Thompson-I wear the white to honor him, as does the Mistress. But there is nothing I can do about his death except hunt his killer." He paused and set his glass down very gently. "We do not know each other well enough for me to cry on your shoulder."

The shadow of anger in his voice made me like him better.

"All right," I said. "Why don't you show me how to find Stefan's house."

We'd made it halfway to the door when the crowd quit letting us through. Andre was quicker than I was. He stopped where he was while I tried sliding around a particularly sizable woman who was standing in front of me.

"Hold up, ducks," she said in a voice that was low enough to vibrate my sinuses. "I smell a human in a fae tavern." On the tail of her words, the music stopped and the sounds of people talking and moving died down.

Once I realized she was talking about me, though she spoke to the room at large, I thought of several clever, but stupid remarks about her sense of smell-I wasn't human at all, not in the sense she meant. Stupid because only a very unwise person jumps up and down shouting on top of a beehive.

Sometimes, when one of them have committed a terrible crime, the whole wolf pack enjoins in the punishment, tearing the violating wolf to bits. But before it starts, there is a moment of oppressive stillness when the culprit is alone, surrounded by the pack. Then one wolf moves and starts the feeding frenzy. This crowd had that feel, as if they were waiting for someone to start something.

"I have Uncle Mike's permission to be here," I said softly, giving no challenge. I didn't know what kind of fae she was, what to do to avoid a fight.

She opened her mouth, obviously unappeased when someone shouted, "A forfeit."

I thought the shout might have originated at the bar, but it was immediately taken up by a throng of voices. When they quieted, the woman in front of me looked around and asked the room at large, " Wot kind of a forfeit then, ducks?"

Forfeit, I thought, some kind of gift, maybe. Or sacrifice.

Uncle Mike pushed forward, through the crowd until he stood in front of me, his face thoughtful. It was a sign of his power that they all waited for his judgement.

"Music," he said at last. "My guest will offer us a gift of music for our hospitality."

The big woman sighed as Uncle Mike stepped back and swept the fae near him away until I could clearly see the small stage where three musicians still stood. There were two guitarists and a string bass. I don't know where the sounds of drums had come from because there were none in evidence.

One of the guitarists grinned, hopped off the stage and motioned to the others to do likewise. Leaving the platform tome.

I lifted my eyebrow at Uncle Mike and began walking to the stage. Andre, I'd noticed, had drawn back in the crowd. They wouldn't bother him, not a vampire. Neither would they have bothered one of the werewolves. I, who was neither werewolf nor vampire, was fair game.

I wondered if Uncle Mike would have let them tear me to bits if he hadn't been aware that, pack or not, the wolves would avenge me-fat lot of good vengeance would have done me. Uncle Mike's suspect help was of more use.

When I stepped onto the stage, one of the guitarists tried to hand me his instrument with a flourish.

"I appreciate the gesture," I told him carefully, "but I don't play." I didn't play anything except piano-and that very poorly. I was just lucky that the piano lessons had included voice lessons, too.

I looked around for inspiration. The obvious answer was to pick a Celtic song, but I rejected it as fast as it came to mind. Folk songs, for the most part, have dozens of variations and dozens of people claiming that their version was true. In a group of mostly Celtic fae who were looking for a reason to kill me, singing a Celtic song would be stupid.

There were a few German fae here, and the Germans were not nearly as picky about their music, but the only German song I knew was "O Tannenbaum," a children's Christmas carol that wouldn't impress anyone-not that my voice was going to impress anyone anyway. I had pitch and volume, but no real talent.

Which made the choice of song very important. We played a game and if I cowered too much, not even Uncle Mike could save my skin. A subtle insult would be best. Not a slap in the face, but a poke in the side.

I also needed a power song, because my voice isn't pretty and soft. Something that sounded good a capella. Despite the air-conditioning, the room was stifling hot and my thoughts felt sluggish-of course that might have been the fear.

I wished it was winter and the air was cool and crisp... Maybe it was that, maybe it was the lingering thought about "O Tannenbaum," but I knew what I was going to sing. I felt my lips curl up.

I took a deep breath, properly supported with my diaphragm, and began singing. "O holy night, the stars are brightly shining ..."

So in the sweltering heat of a July night, I sang a Christmas carol to a room full of fae, who had been driven out of their homelands by Christians and their cold-iron swords.

I've heard that song sung softly, until the magic of that first Christmas seems to hang in the air. I wish I could sing it that way. Instead, I belted it out, because that's what my voice does best.

I closed my eyes to my audience and let the simple belief of the words run through me like a prayer until I got to, " Fall on your knees." Then I opened my eyes and glared at the woman who had started all of this and I sang the rest of the song at her.

When the last note died away, the big woman threw back her head and laughed. She turned to Uncle Mike and patted him on the shoulder, sending him half a step forward.

"Good forfeit," she said. "Huh." Then she stomped off back through the crowd toward a corner of the room.

If I'd been expecting applause, I'd have been disappointed. The room settled down and the fae went back to doing whatever they'd been doing before I'd become so interesting. Still, it hadn't been any worse than singing at the Friday night performance in front of Bran at Aspen Springs.

One of the musicians, the one who'd offered his guitar, grinned at me as we switched places.

"A little thin on the highest notes," he said. "But not bad."

I grinned back at him, a little ruefully. "Tough crowd."

"You're still alive, ducks, aren't you then?" he said imitating the cadences of the woman's voice.

I gave him a half wave and made a direct line for the exit. I didn't see Andre, but Uncle Mike met me at the door and held it open for me.

Standing on the porch I caught the door and looked back at him. "How did you know I could even carry a note?"

He smiled. "You were raised by a Welshman, Mercedes Thompson. And isn't that a Welsh name, Thompson? Then, too, one of the names for the coyote is the Prairie Songbird." He shrugged. "Of course, it wasn't my life on the line."

I snorted in appreciation.

He touched a finger to his forehead and closed the door firmly between us.

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