But before she got inside, two dark sedans squealed up in front of the funeral home, and six FRU agents hauled ass out of the car, charging right at her. Before Della could say anything, they had her circled. Two vamps, a were, a warlock, and two shape-shifters. And from the looks of them, they didn’t know if she was friend or foe.
One of them grabbed one arm and another caught her other. Freaking fantastic. First she was confronted by the bad guys, and now it was the good guys.
“Let me go,” she seethed. “I’m the one who called you.”
A snarky-looking shape-shifter moved directly infront of her. Reaching over Della’s shoulder, he grabbed her by her hair and yanked her head back. “You speak when you’re spoken to!” he said in a threatening voice.
Before she questioned the wisdom of it, her kneefoot shot up and caught the jerk in the balls.
The FRU agents calmed down as soon as Della told them her name and repeated that she’d been the one to call Burnett. Well, all of them calmed down except the lead agent, whose boys she’d offended. When he was able to stand, he moved in as if to confront her. The lone female agent, a were, stepped between her and the ball-busted shape-shifter.
“Move,” the angry agent seethed, his hand still fisted between his legs.
The agent looked back at Della as if she was considering it, then refocused on the angry agent. “She’s one of Burnett James’s students, and the last person who affronted one of them is doing desk work in some unknown town in Montana. Do you really want to do this?”
“I don’t give a flying—”
“What’s the problem?” Burnett landed with a thud beside the group.
“She attacked me!” the shape-shifter bit out.
In a clipped voice, and very few words, Della gave her side of the story. The female were nodded when Burnett asked if that was correct. Burnett’s eyes went red with fury at all the agents for coming in hostile when he’d informed them of the situation.
Unfortunately, he saved some wrath for Della, Miranda, and Kylie. Or, at least that’s the way it appeared three minutes later when he set them down on the sofa in the back of the office and threatened their lives if either of them did more than breathe. He didn’t say another word, didn’t even ask one question. He and the six other agents stood around the duct-taped orb of kangaroos, each of them looking more puzzled than the other.
“What kind of animal is that?” one asked, pointing to the snout protruding from one little open spot in the ball.
The female were turned her head and studied the nose. “It looks like…”
“Kangaroo.” Burnett shot Miranda a look.
Miranda smiled, but then she frowned when she saw Burnett’s expression. “How can he be mad?”
“Being mad, for Burnett, is like blinking. It’s a natural reflex,” Kylie said. Burnett turned his head and glared at Kylie. “But don’t worry, he always comes around,” she added in a confident voice.
“I hope so,” Della whispered, studying the team and thinking that one day she’d be doing this. Well, she hoped she didn’t run into a ball of kangaroos, but she’d be working cases. Dealing with bad guys. Heck, it felt damn good knowing she’d helped stop Mr. Anthony from practically enslaving newly turned vamps. Would Burnett see this as a plus on her part? Or would he accuse her of doing something stupid? Knowing Burnett, it would be the latter.
The group of agents started talking about if they wanted the criminals turned back into vamps before unrolling them. The agent who drew Della’s attention the most was the woman. She seemed savvy, but tough as nails. No makeup, not a piece of jewelry. Nothing about her said feminine. Even her hair was cut short.
Was that what it took to be a female and work for the FRU? You had to let go of anything feminine and put on a don’t-mess-with-me attitude? Were all the male agents like Burnett, and a female agent had to constantly be on guard, afraid she might be viewed as weak?
Burnett and the warlock agent walked over to the sofa. “Please tell me you can change them back.” Burnett spoke directly to Miranda.
“What kind of spell is this? Blood or herb?” the warlock asked.
Miranda looked worried. “Mind to pinkie. It wasn’t preplanned or ordained.”
The agent’s brow puckered and he looked back at Burnett. “She’s lying. It would take a high priestess to pull off a five-part transformation curse off the cuff.”
“She is a high priestess,” Della said, refraining from calling the man an asshole. How dare he question Miranda when the evidence was wrapped in duct tape.
“I’m not a high priestess,” Miranda said, sounding embarrassed. She touched Della’s arm as if to say it was okay. “My mother is, or was. She’s since stepped down.”
Burnett stared at Miranda. “Are you lying about the spell?” he asked, listening to her heart. Della tuned in as well. Not because she doubted Miranda but to check her hearing.
“No,” she said. The little witch’s heart didn’t flutter.
Burnett refocused on the agent.
“But she couldn’t—“
“You heard her,” Burnett snapped.
The warlock didn’t look convinced. “But to do a curse like that would take one of the highest degrees of power.”
“Then I wouldn’t recommend you piss her off by calling her a liar,” Della spouted out. “Sometimes she has trouble controlling herself. Ask Burnett.”
Burnett let out a low growl and motioned for the agent to leave. Then he glanced back at Miranda. “How were you able to pull this off?”
Miranda shrugged. “I don’t know.” The girl’s green eyes grew a sheen of tears. “They were going to hurt Della and Kylie. I panicked and just did it.”
Della found her chest filling up with warmth. Kylie reached over and held Miranda’s hand.
“And you did a great job,” Kylie said. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Me, too,” Della added.
“Group hug,” Miranda said, holding out her arms.
“No damn hugs!” Burnett snapped. “You can undo it, right?” he asked.
“I’m pretty sure I can.”
“Oh, hell!” He raked a hand over his face. “Try to do it. Try really hard. I don’t think our jail is set up to house kangaroos.”
Ten minutes later, the six agents—seven counting Burnett—had the five vampires handcuffed and at the door, waiting for the bus to transport them to the FRU jail. They’d get their day in court, but the evidence they’d found in Mr. Anthony’s phone pretty much condemned them.
Miranda had managed to change them back, no issues. And Della, Miranda, and Kylie stayed on the sofa that Burnett had assigned them to, watching it all go down.
The warlock kept eyeing Miranda. Della wasn’t sure if he was impressed or scared of the witch. Either way, it did Miranda’s ego good.
The bus must have arrived, because the five thugs were being led out.
“Oh, crap.” Miranda giggled.
“Crap what?” Della and Kylie asked at the same time.
“I just noticed they’re walking funny. I didn’t remove the jock-itch spell.”
“Oh, darn,” said Della. And they all laughed.
The humor was sucked right out of the air when Burnett came to a quick halt in front of them. “Now to deal with you three.”
“No, to deal with me,” Della said. “I practically forced them to help me. They didn’t want to do it.” It was an out-and-out lie, but she had to try.
“She did not!” Kylie looked up from her phone, where she seemed to be checking e-mails.
“Nope,” Miranda said. “You punish one of us, you have to punish all of us.”
Della shot the little witch a cold look. Why the heck was she encouraging Burnett to punish them?
“Who the hell do you girls think you are? Charlie’s Angels? Why would—?”
“We do kind of look like Charlie’s Angels, don’t we?” Miranda grinned.
“Charlie’s what?” Kylie asked.
“The movie.” Miranda looked at Della. “You’re Lucy Liu and I’m Drew Barrymore and you’re,” she glanced at Kylie, “that Cameron chick … what’s her last name again?”
“Stop!” Burnett growled. “Do you three have any idea how badly this could have turned out?”
“Yes, we do,” Kylie said. “But we didn’t know going into it. So it isn’t our fault.”
“How the hell can you think it was okay to come here—?”
“Look!” Kylie held up her phone. “Here’s a picture of the funeral-home owner. Tomas Ayala is at least ninety. We had no idea he’d died and his evil stepson had taken over.”
Burnett glanced at the phone’s screen, but didn’t look convinced. “You came to an unregistered vampire-run business—”
“And that’s wrong, how?” Della asked. “In a year, we’ll all be leaving Shadow Falls and we’re going to live in the normal world. In a world where other supernaturals live. And surprise, not everyone is registered. What do you expect us to do? Never leave our homes? The whole point of Shadow Falls is to teach us to survive in the normal world. And what’s really nuts is that not only did we survive, we caught some bad guys.”
“You should have come to me with your concerns about your cousin,” Burnett said.
Della shook her head. “The last time I even mentioned him, you asked me how old he was. And I know why you did it, too. Because if he was eighteen, you’d have had to turn his name in as a possible rogue.”
Burnett’s mouth tightened before he spoke. “If he’s an adult, he needs to be registered.”
“In a perfect world, yes, but this world isn’t perfect.”
“I know that, damn it, which is why I worry about you three running around poking your noses in things that could get you killed.”
Della shot up off the sofa. “I know you care about us. But you take it too far. And you’re not nearly as hard on any of the male students. We’re not weaklings. We just proved it to you, and yet you refuse to see the ball of kangaroo as evidence.”
He gritted his teeth, his jaw muscles twitching. But Della saw something in his eyes. Understanding. She might not have won the war with him, but she’d won this battle. And considering she was up against Burnett, that was something to be proud of.
He sighed. “Let’s get you three back to Shadow Falls.”
“No,” Della said. “We’re staying at Kylie’s for the weekend. You’ve already agreed to it.”
His eyes grew bright, but he let out a deep puff of frustrated air. “Fine. But be careful for God’s sake.”
“We will.” Della smiled, feeling rather victorious. “Thank you,” she said, and Miranda and Kylie stood up.
They were almost to the door when Burnett added, “You did good. All of you. This guy, Craig Anthony, has been on the FRU’s radar for several years, but we haven’t been able to connect him with any of the crimes.”
They all turned around and looked at Burnett. He looked as if it cost him to say this. Cost him to admit that three girls had done something the regular FRU agents hadn’t been able to accomplish. And yet he said it anyway. Like Kylie said, Burnett generally came around.
“Thank you,” Della said.
“I love you, man.” Miranda ran up and hugged him. Burnett stiffened, but didn’t stop her.
“Please be safe,” he said to all of them when Miranda finally let him go.
Della started to walk out with Kylie and Miranda, but Burnett said, “Della, can I speak with you a second?”
Oh frack. Was she still in trouble? He motioned for Kylie and Miranda to leave. “Yeah?” Della asked.
“I got some information on the couple who was murdered. Next week, I’ll send you out to do some legwork on the case.”
Della nodded. Pride made her smile. “I appreciate it. Should I come on back now?”
“No, it can wait until tomorrow.”
She stood there smiling, realizing that today had not only given her some information about her uncle, but gained back Burnett’s confidence in her.
“You can go now.”
“Yes.” She started out, but looked back. “Thank you.”
As Della got in Kylie’s car, Burnett stood at the curb, watching them like a worried father.
When they stopped at the first red light, Miranda, who’d taken the backseat this time, leaned forward. “Do you know any more bad guys we could take out? I think I could get into this whole catching-criminals routine. Did you see how shocked that warlock was that I turned all five of those guys at the same time? Am I good or what?”
Della shot the witch a smile. She deserved to gloat a little. “You were,” Della said.
“Your mother would have been proud,” Kylie added.
Miranda gleamed. “She would, wouldn’t she? I wish I could do this at the competitions.”
Kylie started talking about running by the mall Della’s thoughts turned to getting a second chance to work on the FRU case. To get Lorraine justice.
While Della mentally mulled over the details of the case, Kylie turned to her. “Here.”
“What?” Della asked, looking at the chameleon driving one-handed and holding something out.
“You’ve got a bloody nose. Take the tissue.”
Before Della got the paper to her nose, a couple of feathers floated in front of her face and stuck on her upper lip.