He made his way around to the back alley, and saw the rusty metal display case sitting in front of the door, but there was no sign of the shifter. After checking up and down the alley, looking into every possible hiding spot, Marco accepted that the man was long gone.
In case the shifter came back with reinforcements, he made his way back toward the street of vendor stalls, careful to take a different route than the way he had come. He needed to find Cam and tell her what had happened.
Thanks to the appearance of an unknown shadow-shifter, he was now going to have to spend more time with Camilla Melini than he’d counted on.
Cam leafed through the documents she’d received from Gonzalez, her vendor stall contact in Merida, and tried to memorize the lists of safe houses and assets. She was pretty sure that she’d made it in and out of his shop without being followed.
Not for the first time, she wondered why she’d been sent here. She didn’t know any of the DEFEND contacts in Latin America, nor could she speak Spanish. Yes, she had latent abilities that would be useful in any mission that required stealth, but she was far from the only one with that skill set.
r /> But Jaxton and Neena had sent her here, and Cam had a high success rate for a reason. She’d adapted to new places before, and she could do it again.
She was just about to ask Jacek to quiz her on some of the information when she heard a twig snap in the distance. A quick glance told her that the sound had been too faint for Jacek’s normal hearing, so she kept her head down and pretended to read as she scanned her surroundings and listened for anything else out of the ordinary.
But all she heard were bird calls, an occasional monkey sound, and the buzzing of flying insects.
Thanks to the keen hearing she’d inherited with her latent ability, Cam knew that something heavy had caused the twig to snap, something along the lines of a big predator. But since jaguars were the only big predators in the Yucatan, and they were restricted to animal reserves, that left the two biggest predators of them all—humans and their close cousins, the Feiru.
While odds suggested it was either some tourist looking for an adventure or a local poacher, she wasn’t taking any chances. Jacek had told her about the strange man pulling a gun and harassing Gonzalez’s son. Cam and her team had been careful as they’d left Merida, but she wondered if the man with the gun had managed to follow them.
She casually nudged Jacek’s outstretched leg and he looked up. Cam glanced toward the direction of the snapped twig, telling him to go and investigate with a slow blink. Jacek gave a nearly imperceptible nod.
He yawned, stretched his arms over his head, and rose from his position on the ground. “I’m just going to answer the call of nature before I hit the sack.”
To keep up appearances in case anyone was watching them, Cam said, “Just don’t wander too far. If you get lost, I’m not going to go out and look for you.”
Jacek placed a hand over his heart. “I’m feeling the love.”
Cam rolled her eyes and Jacek grinned. As he started walking, he threw over his shoulder, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Just hurry up already.”
Once he faded into the jungle, Cam tidied up the sheets of paper in her lap. She tucked the most valuable sheets into the pocket of her cargo pants before taking out a lighter and setting the ones she’d already memorized on fire.
After she stomped out the ashes with her boot, she sat on top of one of their packs. In case anyone was watching, she didn’t want to give them any reason to suspect she’d heard something. She extracted her claws on one hand—another boon she’d inherited with her ability—and waited.
In the legends her mother had told her as a child, Cam’s set of latent abilities had been called either a Black Annis or a Blue Demon. She preferred the latter name. But no matter what she called herself, if the people from her past knew about her special set of skills and succeeded in hunting her down, they would use her for their own personal gain. She’d barely escaped the anti-AMT fringe group once, and she didn’t want to have to do it again.
There was another snap, but louder this time—as if a small branch had been broken—followed by a male grunt. She waited, and when she didn’t hear the all clear sound from Jacek, Cam kept her claws extended and dashed in the direction of the sound. She stopped at the edge of a tiny fire-scarred clearing, no bigger than twenty feet across, and hid behind a tree.
She peeked around the trunk of the tree and saw the moonlight glinting off something on the far side of the clearing. But despite being able to see just as well in the dark as in broad daylight, she couldn’t make out what it was.
A few drops of water splashed onto her face, but when she glanced up, all she saw was the patch of cloudless sky above the clearing. It was too early for any dew, and it hadn’t rained since their arrival, meaning the water had come out of thin air.
When a chill brushed across the back of her neck, Cam knew she was dealing with an elemental water first-born.
Her senses now on high alert, she strained her ears and listened for anything that would give away the Feiru’s position. A small shift in the foliage behind her was enough. Cam turned and rushed the area, her skin glowing a faint blue as she drew on her inhuman speed reserves. Water danced in front of a male figure concealed by shadow, but between her hypersensitive vision and her speed, she dodged the large stream of water heading toward her. Feinting left and then moving right, she reached the unknown man and tackled him to the ground.
Before he had a chance to fight back, Cam used her speed to flip the man over to his stomach. Then she tugged his arms behind his shoulders at the same time as she pressed her knee into his lower back, careful to keep his hands from pointing west—the direction of elemental water. He didn’t so much as wince at the pain, which meant that this man was no ordinary tourist or poacher, but a trained soldier of some sort.
Cam dug her knee in a little deeper. “Who are you?”
“Nice to see you again too, Camilla.”
Cam froze a split second, and then tightened her hold on the man’s arms. Only one man pronounced her name Ca-me-ya in the bastardized Spanish fashion. “Explain yourself, Marco.”
“It’d be a lot easier to talk if you weren’t about to wrench off my arms.”