Dangerous Games
Chapter Two

 Keri Arthur

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"No!" The denial was wrenched from me as I sidestepped the falling halves of the plank.
Gautier's laugh echoed even as the shadows swept him from sight.
I looked up for the first time, saw the tiny body dangling almost directly above me. Saw her bare and filthy feet, toes that were so tiny, so fragile. Not a teenager as I'd for some reason presumed, but barely older than a tot.
Bastard. Fucking evil bastard...
"Rhoan - can you shoot the ropes from where you are?"
"Yes. Get ready to catch."
I shoved the laser into my pocket and positioned myself under the little girl. "Ready."
A bluish beam bit through the half-darkness, cutting through the rope and blowing out the window above and behind me. Glass exploded, raining down in deadly shards. I caught the girl with a grunt, her limp little arm whacking me in the nose as I hunched over her and tried to protect her from the rain of glass.
Razor-sharp shards thudded into my back, but the leather coat protected me from the worst of it. I waited until the last of the glass had fallen, then carefully placed the little girl on the ground.
She was still alive - her pulse fluttered underneath my fingertips. But God, she was so little, so fragile... so cold.
There was a soft thump, then footsteps. I looked up, but could barely see Rhoan striding toward me through my tears.
"I'll take care of her," I said. "You go after Gautier."
"Keep aware." Rhoan's voice held all the fury I was desperately trying to contain. "He might have made other vamps. They might be hidden around somewhere."
If they were, I couldn't sense them. But I nodded, and as Rhoan ran off, I looked down at the little girl again and noted the bluish tint to her lips. The cause could have been asphyxia, or it could have been blood loss, but in all likelihood, it was a combination of both. Especially given the fang marks on her neck. If she was to have any hope of survival, I had to get help here fast. I stripped off my coat and sweater and wrapped them around the little girl's body and legs. It wasn't much, but at least they were warmer than the thin nightie she had on. Then I got out my cell phone and called in a mica-unit. The mica's were an ambulance designed to cater for medical emergencies on a street level. It was the little girl's biggest chance. Maybe her only chance.
Five minutes, they said.
I hoped the little girl had five minutes.
I gently brushed tangled tendrils of brown hair from her face, the chill in her cheeks so very evident against my warmer fingertips. Christ, why hadn't the Directorate received any reports about a missing kid? It was routine for the cops to pass on reports of kidnappings and disappearances, as rogue vamps often found easy victims in the young and the frail. A good majority of the reports weren't vamp related, of course, but the Directorate always had them double-checked, just for the one or two percent that were.
But maybe this snatch had been very recent. Maybe her poor parents weren't even aware that their little girl was missing.
God, what a hell of a way to greet the morning - an officer on your doorstep telling you your baby had been kidnapped and murdered.
I bit my lip again, fighting the fresh spurts of anger and tears. And I knew, deep down, that they stemmed not only from the horror of the situation, but the fact that I couldn't have children. Would never feel life grow within my belly. My vampire genes had overrun my wolf ones in that area and left me a mule - not just barren but with a womb that would not support a life. Of course, there was still hope of motherhood via a surrogate, as some of the eggs I'd had frozen had been tested and were apparently still viable. But that choice was one I'd hoped to avoid.
Of course, the rest of my body was still a battleground, and no one could tell me how my vampire genes might yet affect my future I might become more vampire, like Rhoan, or I might not And then there was an added element of uncertainty - the cell-changing ARC1-23 drug now running through my bloodstream.
"Gautier's long gone." Rhoan's voice rose out of the darkness, the suddenness of it making me jump I'd been too busy trying to help the little girl, and that was a mistake that could have gotten us both killed if Gautier had doubled back.
Rhoan stopped close by, then stripped off his jacket and handed it to me I wrapped it around the girl's body Her skin felt no warmer, even with the coats and sweater I'd already wrapped around her Maybe she'd lost too much blood.
"Why would he do this?" Rhoan asked softly. "It makes no sense I swiped at a tear trickling down my cheek and looked up at him "Gautier's i psycho, and psychos don't need a good reason to do things."
"Gautier's not your average psycho, and he doesn't do anything without a good reason."
"Enjoyment of the kill is the only reason he's ever needed."
"And yet he didn't kill this little girl She wasn't his escape route - Gautier's confident enough in his own abilities to believe he could escape us without problems " He nodded down at the girl "He let us save her when it is more in his nature to offer us hope then snatch it away Something else is going on here."
I frowned "It's also in his nature to want to prove himself better than everyone else. Why can't it be that? Why does it have to be anything more?"
"Because Gautier is a killer. It makes no sense for him to draw us here, offer us this 'game,' then let us save the little girl."
Who we hadn't actually saved yet. I shifted a little and glanced at my watch. Two more minutes before the mica-unit got here. God, I hoped they hurried. The air was getting colder and death seemed to be stirring out there in the darkness. Death that was real and forever, not death that walked in vampire form.
"Then what do you think he's up to, if you don't believe his game is real?"
"Oh, I think the game is real, as far as it goes. But I also think it's a diversion."
"He said he knows the real killer."
"Which might, or might not, be a lie."
"It didn't sound like a lie."
"Maybe. But can you really imagine Gautier allowing some other psycho free space to do as he pleased in what he considers his playground?"
"Well, no. He's not exactly the caring and sharing type."
"Precisely. So what the hell is he really up to?"
"Until we catch the bastard, that's really an unanswerable question." And a worrying one.
Rhoan shifted, his gaze going to the door I'd entered through. Undoubtedly he smelled the aroma of garbage and death, though it was nowhere near as strong here as it had been in the hall. "Jack's here."
And he wasn't alone, thankfully. I stepped aside as the emergency team from the mica-unit tended the little girl, watching for a couple of seconds to reassure myself she was still alive, then turned and walked down to the steps. Jack had squatted next to the young vampire I'd killed.
I stopped beside him and tried to ignore the smell of death. I felt no remorse over killing the baby vamp - not after spending so long tracking him down. Not after having to deal with the aftermath of both his and his master's feeding frenzies.
Jack looked up. "Did you read his mind before you killed him?"
I shook my head. "Didn't need to. Gautier is his maker."
"If you didn't read his mind, how do you know that?"
"Because Gautier himself confirmed it."
"He was here? And you let him go?"
Jack's voice held an edge of anger, and I held up a hand. "We didn't 'let' him do anything. We had the option of taking a life or saving one. We chose the latter."
"Which was the wrong choice." His gaze slid past me. "Your softer side is going to get you killed one day, Riley."
"Saving a child is never the wrong choice, Jack." And I couldn't have lived with myself if I'd done anything else.
"And yet, because you saved the child, many others may die."
He was obviously trying to make me feel guilty and, in some ways, succeeding. Truth was, it was very possible that others would die because of the choice we'd made here tonight. And yet, what other decision could I have made? None - not if I wanted to retain my sanity, my soul. Surely it could never truly be wrong to try and save such a young life, no matter what the price might ultimately be.
Though I had no doubt that Jack would disagree with such sentiments. Regardless of the fact he was a basically decent guy, he was still a vamp, and they all tended to have strange ideas when it came to the value of life.
"We did manage to have a nice little chat with the creep." I rubbed my arms as I spoke. It was becoming so damn cold in the warehouse that I might as well have been standing there naked. "He said he knows The Cleaver."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "And he offered you the information?"
"No," Rhoan said, as he walked up and stopped beside me. "He offered us a contest."
"What sort of contest?"
"We play a game - the first one to track down and kill the serial killer wins."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Gautier does realize he's no longer a guardian, doesn't he?"
"Oh yeah," I muttered dryly. "And I think you'll discover he's relishing the fact if you take a little look in those back rooms."
"Then why would he make a deal like this? Especially when it benefits the Directorate rather than himself?"
"Maybe all he wants is the satisfaction of knowing he is better than us." I shrugged. "He said you used to rave about how good Rhoan is, and how good I could be. He wants to prove to himself and to us that this is not true."
"Yeah, right." Jack snorted softly and glanced at Rhoan. "Are you buying that?"
"Not in the least. He may well know the identity of our killer, but I fear there's a darker reason behind the offering of this contest. Gautier's a killer, and he's long believed in his own superiority. He doesn't need a contest to prove it He never has."
"Exactly. Which means we need to kill him before whatever plan he has comes to fruition."
Like we hadn't been trying to do that for the last few months? Gautier was the best guardian the Directorate had ever produced - expecting second-raters and the barely trained to hunt him down and kill him softly was nothing short of irrational.
"Gautier's not a fool," I commented "He knows there's an execution order out on him. He's not going to provide us with an easy target."
"No But if either of you do get the chance, I want you to take it." He looked at both of us, green eyes bleak. "Regardless of who or what gets in the way."
Rhoan nodded. I didn't react. On a scale of things I could handle in my life as a guardian, killing an out-of-control baby vamp was stomach-turning but survivable. Ending the life of someone who got between me and Gautier was a totally different thing. I'd killed, there was no denying that, but each time it was in either self-defense or defense of my pack - which, in my case, was Rhoan.
I guess some would argue that blowing Davern's brains out was a cold-blooded action, but then, he'd not only tortured my brother, he was the brains and the brawn behind the whole cloning and crossbreeding venture that had been responsible for so many deaths. Not to mention the reason behind the ARC1-23 drug being injected into my system.
Play with fire and you'll end up getting burned, my mom used to say. Well, Davern had played with me and Rhoan just a little too often, and he'd finally gotten his comeuppance.
"Riley? Did you hear me?"
I looked at him. "I heard."
"I won't kill in cold blood for you, Jack."
"Even if it's Gautier?"
"Gautier I'll kill the minute I get the chance. But I won't jeopardize the lives of others to get him."
"Still fighting the inevitable to the very end?"
"And I'm so glad it's still amusing you."
He chuckled softly. "Why don't you two go home and warm up? Report in at nine, and we'll see where we go from here."
Rhoan spun and headed toward the door, but I walked over to check the little girl first. There was still very little color in her cheeks and a lot of frantic activity on the part of the medics. Chill fingers of dread ran down my spine. Death seemed to hover far too close, and deep inside I knew that if I reached out psychically, I would feel her fate. Feel the death that was waiting out there in the shadows.
I shivered and turned away. There was hope yet. I had to believe that, if nothing else.
One of the medics looked up as I moved, and tossed me the coats and sweater. "Get the bastard who did this."
"I will." I walked away. There was nothing else I could do or say. Except hunt Gautier down and blow his rotten brains out.
I caught up with Rhoan, tossing him his jacket and donning my own. The second we stepped out of the warehouse, the weather hit, the wind so cold, so forceful, that it snatched my breath away. Rhoan wrapped an arm around my shoulder, holding me close, sharing his body heat as we made our way through the rain-soaked night.
Unfortunately, neither of us had a car to walk toward, because baby vamps usually didn't use them. I have no idea why, but suspected it might have something to do with the flood of new sensations that enveloped the newly turned. It had to be hard to concentrate on mundane things like driving when the whole world had become a playground filled with blood hunger, lust, and easy targets.
Which meant, of course, that if the vamps walked, we did too. Not that I had a car to drive - I still hadn't replaced the one I'd apparently driven into a tree four months ago - but Rhoan did, and it would have been nice just to climb inside his old Ford and drive home to warmth and safety.
Thankfully for my chilled body, we did eventually find a cab.
"You go," Rhoan said, as the cab drew to a halt outside our apartment building. "I feel like relaxing at the Blue Moon for a few hours."
The Blue Moon was one of the five werewolf clubs in Melbourne, and the one favored by us both. I studied him for a moment, then said, "You should ring Liander."
"Dammit, Riley, don't give me a lecture. Not now. I just feel like blowing some steam and that's exactly what I intend to do."
Liander would be more than willing to accommodate any steam blowing my brother required, and we both knew it I wondered why he was so resistant to making any sort of real commitment to Liander - but the edge of anger so evident in his gray eyes suggested now was not the time for this topic.
But he had to be aware that he was running the risk of losing the man who was probably his soul mate. He had to be - no one else but a soul mate would put up with the sort of shit Rhoan had been pulling of late.
"Be careful," was all I said I leaned forward and gave him a kiss, then climbed out of the cab.
He waved as the cab zoomed off I smiled and walked up the steps to our building.
Jack wasn't happy that we were still living here After Gautier's initial threat, he'd insisted we shift into a more secure building. Only it hadn't stopped Gautier. I don't know how he'd gotten into the apartment given the fact that vampires couldn't cross thresholds uninvited, but he'd left us a bloody rose and a simple message:
The best kill is one that is fully appreciated beforehand. The hunt has not yet begun.
After that, we'd come back home. Which didn't mean we relaxed our guard any, but Gautier had proven his point. He could get us anywhere, anytime, so there was no purpose in hiding.
I thrust open the old glass and wood front doors and began to climb the stairs. This old brick building had originally been a warehouse, but for the last fifty years, at least, it had functioned as an apartment building. And though both the building and the apartments had become as run-down as the entire Sunshine area, it was close to the city and transport, and the apartments were bigger than anything they built nowadays. Not to mention the fact that it was cheap.
Of course, the old biddy who owned the building hated nonhumans of any kind, but it was against the law to discriminate. Which didn't actually mean she had to accept us as tenants - humans could always find ways to circumnavigate laws if they wanted to - but having werewolves in the building also meant there was never a problem with rats. And in a rat-infested area, this was a good thing.
Though why those beady-eyed little bastards hated us so much was anyone's guess. It certainly wasn't because we hat! a habit of eating them. They tasted as ghastly as they looked.
Rhoan and I lived on the sixth - and top - floor, and there was no elevator, only these stairs. I ran up them - the one regular form of exercising I did outside the training they forced on us at the Directorate - then pushed open the stairwell door and strode down the hall toward our apartment. I have to admit, my thoughts were not on safety at that point. I just wanted to get inside, have a hot shower followed by several gallons of hazelnut coffee. Which I'd neatly top off with a block of my favorite chocolate - black forest.
One of the many good things about being a werewolf was the fact that our metabolic rate was so efficient, we could basically eat what we wanted and not put on weight.
I opened the door, threw off my coat, chucked my keys on the phone table, and began stripping off as I headed for the bathroom.
A soft chuckle ran across the silence.
My heart froze and, for one horrible second, I thought I'd made the mistake that would end my life. Then the voice registered and my heart did a strange little leap. I couldn't help the smile that touched my lips as I turned around.
Quinn O'Conor, ancient vampire, billionaire businessman, and one of my two permanent lovers, stood near the window, his arms crossed as he leaned casually against one of the panes of the glass that lined the entire outside wall of our living room.
As window dressings went, he was mighty damn fine.
Tonight he wore a navy shirt that emphasized the width of his shoulders and dark jeans that drew the eye down the lean, athletic length of his legs His hair - once shoulder length but now cut shorter - was night dark, and so thick, so lush, that my fingertips itched with the need to run through it. Unlike most vampires, he could stand a lot of sunshine, so he was as far from white as a vampire could actually get, his skin possessing a warm, almost golden glow And to say he was handsome would be the understatement of the year. I swear even angels would be envious of his looks, and yet he was in no way effeminate.
But it was his obsidian eyes that always caught me, and right now they were filled with a heat that instantly began to warm the chill from my skin. And, as ever, as our gazes met something passed between us, an awareness that made my heart stutter and caused goose bumps to prickle across my skin. It was an awareness that had been present from the very first time we'd met, and it seemed to be getting stronger with every passing month.
The last time I'd seen him was two weeks ago - when he'd left me high but far from dry after a delicious dinner date. Why he'd refused all my efforts to get him into bed - or anywhere else, for that matter - I have no idea. But I very much suspected it was all part of a larger plan.
All I had to do now was uncover what that plan was. Not an easy thing when he'd had over twelve hundred years of practice at keeping secrets.
"Well, this is a pleasant surprise," I said, continuing to strip off wet clothes and drop them on the floor as I walked toward him.
His eyes gleamed with heat, and desire swirled around me - a teasing, lusty aroma that had my blood racing even harder through my veins. If it was anything to go by, he would not be playing hard to get tonight.
"I heard you liked surprises," he said, a smile teasing his lush lips as he lightly touched my shoulders and leaned forward to kiss my forehead.
Not exactly the type of kiss I was hoping for.
I pulled away from his light touch, undid my bra and tossed it toward my discarded shirt. As tosses went, it was pretty lame, but at that point, I wasn't really caring.
"So is the surprise you appearing uninvited in my apartment, or have you something more interesting in mind?"
He smiled, his finger warm against my skin as he skimmed my cheek and lightly outlined my lips. I opened my mouth slightly, drawing in his fingertip, sucking on it briefly. Heat flared brighter in his dark eyes, and the sweet aroma of lust sharpened, until it felt like I was being crushed under the weight of it. But oh, what a way to go.
"I thought you might like to go out for dinner," he said, the Irish lilt in his rich voice suddenly more pronounced.
"Me eating food and you eating me?" I raised an eyebrow, a smile teasing my lips. "We could do that now, if you'd like."
Even as I said it, I skimmed my hands down the muscled planes of his chest and stomach, wishing he was naked so I could actually feel skin. When I reached the button of his jeans, I played with it lightly, one finger skimming underneath, brushing the top of the erection straining against the denim. All it would take was one quick tug of the zip, and he would be free and mine.
But before I could put thought into action, he caught my hands and brought then back up to his lips. The kiss he dropped on the top of my fingers was light, almost impersonal, and yet there was nothing impersonal about the way his gaze met mine. This vampire wanted me as much as I wanted him, and I'd be damned if I knew why he was resisting. It wasn't like either of us were new to the game of lovemaking.
And it certainly wasn't as if we were new to each other. We'd been making like rabbits for months. Well, at least up until the last few weeks, when this whole "let's frustrate Riley" mode of operation had come in.
"You're wet and cold," he said, matter-of-factly.
"My skin may be cold and I may be wet, but trust me, I'm warm where it counts." I closed the gap between us and pressed my breasts lightly against him. The silk felt so good against my nipples that I rubbed them back and forth across his shirt, enjoying the smooth coolness of the material. "Would you like to feel just how warm and wet?"
"What I would like," he said, and leaned forward to drop a quick kiss on my lips, "is for you to have a shower and get dressed so we can make our dinner reservation."
"Meaning no fun beforehand?"
He smiled, and my heart did another weird twist in. my chest. I'd known lots of good-looking men over the years, and many or them had great smiles, but Quinn's was in a league of its own.
"What if I promise it will be worth it? " he said.
"Dinner will only be worth it if you come as dessert."
"Maybe I will. Maybe I'm not taking you to dinner at all, but somewhere where there is no chance of interruption so I can ravish you senseless. But if you do not get ready, you will never know."
I admitted momentary defeat and stepped back. "Then I'm guessing you don't want to share the shower with me?"
"I'd love to share a shower, but I suspect it would end up being an extremely long shower."
"And there's something wrong with that?"
"Absolutely nothing." He gave me another killer smile. "Go get ready, woman."
I went. And while I usually lingered in the shower, enjoying the sting of the water jets against my skin, there was nothing leisurely about this shower. I was out and dried in record time. I waltzed naked from the bathroom and headed for the bedroom. Quinn had his back to me, staring out over the myriad of city lights so visible from our windows. But, like moths drawn to a flickering flame, our gazes met in the glass.
I stopped, and for several seconds did nothing more than stare at him. It was rare for me, that. Werewolves seldom held still for any amount of time - the energy of the beast, barely contained, was Rhoan's theory. But in this instance the urge to move had fled, consumed by the force of the vampire in front of me, lost in the emotive swirl of want and desire and something else - something that ventured close to determination and yet was a whole lot more powerful.
Then his gaze left mine and slid down my body, becoming a sensual and yet excruciatingly slow exploration that had pinpricks of sweat breaking out across my skin. And suddenly it was all I could do not to run across the room and jump into his arms. Take or be takers.
He smiled at that moment, and I knew he'd read the emotion behind the thought, if not the thought itself. Quinn was both a strong empath and telepath, and while I had mind-shields strong enough to keep most vampires out, there was something about this vampire that left my senses reeling and my defenses down.
And it wasn't just the link we'd formed to allow communication between us in psi-shielded areas. It was more - had always been more, even before we'd shared blood.
But he was a vampire, not a wolf, and no matter how much my own body might betray my white picket fence and kids ideal, no matter how deep the connection between us became, there was no escaping the fact that we came from two very different worlds. I could never be only with him like he wanted, and he could never provide what I wanted. I might not be able to carry children but, at this point, my eggs were still fertile. But Quinn could never give me those children. He was the undead.
Nor would he stand for someone else giving me what he could not provide. God, he hated the fact that I had other lovers, that I still went to the clubs and danced with whom I wanted, even though he knew that was part of a werewolf's nature - and something we would not give up for anyone less than a soul mate.
And while I might feel a deep connection with Quinn, he wasn't a wolf and he could never be my soul mate.
No matter how much he might think otherwise.
His gaze went back to the lights, freeing me from stillness but leaving me hot and achy and more than a little frustrated. I mightn't have any idea about the game he was playing, but I'd be damned if I put up with it for much longer. He might have centuries of secrets behind him, but I was a werewolf and sensuality was an inherent part of who we were. Sex was as important to us as blood was to a vampire, and if Quinn expected me to simply play along with whatever he had planned, then he was in for a rude awakening.
I continued into the bedroom and headed for the wardrobe, which wasn't as sparse as it had been a few months ago. Rhoan had gone on another of his spending sprees, and as usual, he'd bought clothes for me. I think he figured I wouldn't tell him off as much if he shared the loot. And I have to admit, his taste was far better than mine, even if his love of bright colors sometimes had me wincing.
"Do I need to dress casual, elegant, or upmarket?" I yelled out as I studied options.
"Comfortable," he answered, amusement evident in his deep tones.
Damn. It was hard to do seductive in comfortable clothes. After several minutes of indecision, I simply grabbed a pair of jeans and a thick woolen sweater. If I couldn't do sexy, I might as well be warm. I grabbed socks and undies, but didn't bother with a bra. The moon was blooming, and the moon heat - which was what we wolves called the seven day period before the full moon - was only days away. This was the time when the power of the moon surged through our veins with ever-increasing strength, and our hunger for sex became a call we could not - dare not - ignore. The heat didn't usually hit me as hard as it did full-blooded wolves, but every couple of months I suffered all the outward symptoms. Like my breasts feeling fuller, and becoming overly sensitive. And me reeling hornier than a bitch in heat.
Which I guess was what I was.
I dressed, dragged a pair of shoes from the grip of the dust bunnies under my bed, then walked back into the living room. He looked me up and down, then said, "Perfect."
"I know." I resisted the urge to do a sexy pose - a hard thing to pull off in jeans and a floppy woolen sweater anyway - and grabbed my apartment keys and wallet, shoving them both in my pocket. "So, give. Where are we going?"
"It's a surprise." He herded me out the door and down the stairs. Outside, the wind was still strong, ripping the door from my grip and slamming it back against the outside wall.
The night was still freezing cold, but least the rain had stopped. A white limo waited at the curb. The driver stood near the rear door, and opened it as we approached. Once we were seated, the driver climbed back in, started the car, and zoomed off. Obviously, he was in on the plan, whatever the plan was.
I ignored the seat belt and slid across the soft leather seat until I was practically sitting on Quinn's lap. "I've never made love in a limousine," I said softly, sliding my hand provocatively up his leg.
"Then perhaps that can be another outing," he commented, stopping my hand before it got to the interesting bits.
"You know, if you're planning to frustrate me, you're succeeding."
Amusement glittered in his obsidian eyes. "Good."
"No, it's not. I'm a wolf, remember, and the full moon is rising."
"I haven't forgotten."
"But the million dollar question is, do you plan to do something about it?"
Just for a moment, the heat and the need I could smell haunted the dark shadows of his eyes. My hormones did excited cartwheels, though in all honesty, I have no idea why because all he said was, "Be patient."
"Patience was never one of my virtues."
He chuckled softly, then wrapped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me close. Such intimacy without sex wasn't something I was really accustomed to, and it felt both strange and good at the same time. I leaned into him, my head resting against his shoulder, enjoying the closeness even while wishing it was a whole lot more.
We'd been driving for a good ten minutes before I realized we were headed for Essendon airport. Excitement stirred. I didn't get out of Melbourne too often these days, and while our casual dress suggested our destination wasn't somewhere too exotic, the airport meant it was at least going to be somewhere different.
It was a few minutes after that that the driver lowered the glass between us and him, and said, "Sir, I believe we are being followed."
"Same car as before?"
"Yes. A white Saab, with two occupants."
"Pull off at Airport West and see if we can lose him in the side streets there."
I pulled away from his arm and sat up. "How long has someone been following you?"
"We picked up the tail when I arrived at the airport earlier this evening. I thought we'd managed to lose them."
"Perhaps they've bugged the car." Fear ran through me even as I said it. One person who might want to do such a thing was Gautier. I had no doubt it was part of his plans to kill all I held dear before he killed me. If he did know about Quinn and was behind us being followed now, it meant that Rhoan had been right and Gautier was playing a game far deeper than what he was admitting. "Was it dark when you flew in?"
Quinn frowned. "Twilight. Why?"
I told him about the events of the night and Gautier's proposition.
"And you believed him?" he said, voice holding a hint of incredulousness.
"I really don't know what to think."
"So why ask the question about time?" He grabbed my arm, holding me steady and stopping me from sliding across the scat as the driver took a sharp left then accelerated.
"Because if you flew in at twilight, it confirms the fact it couldn't have been Gautier."
Because he might be the best guardian ever seen, but he was still a vampire and therefore couldn't escape the standard restrictions facing all vampires. And because he was a clone, he was too young in vampire years to be able to face any sunlight.
"He mightn't be able to risk fading light, but he's more than capable of employing people who can."
"Trust me, Gautier doesn't work with other people."
"All vampires work with others when the need arises. Even the Lone Ranger had help."
Amusement bubbled through me. "The Lone Ranger? That's a character from cruddy old TV series, not real life."
"I'm rather a fan of that series," he said stiffly, but humor sparked his dark eyes.
"I know." After all, we'd spent boring nights watching the damn show. Well, until I managed to distract him, that was.
"You, young pup, will get a cuff over the ear if you do not show more respect for the old classics."
"That a promise?"
He shook his head, as if in disgust, but the effect was somewhat spoiled by the amusement playing across his lips. "Maybe. But first we need to find out who our followers are, and who hired them."
"When you promised an exciting time, I wasn't expecting this sort of excitement."
My voice was dry and, with a smile, he leaned forward and kissed me. I'm sure he meant it to be short and sweet, like all the other kisses we'd shared tonight, but my hormones had had more than enough of that. As his lips met mine, I ran a hand through the silk of his hair and lightly clenched a handful at the back of his head to stop him from pulling away. Then I deepened the kiss, taking my time, exploring and tasting and teasing. By the time I released him, we were both breathing heavily.
"The wolf gets her revenge," he said softly, his breath hot against my lips.
"Only partial revenge. I'll take the rest of it when we uncover who's tracking us."
"I think my plans for the evening are about to go ass up."
"Totally." I kissed him again, this time lightly. "Let's do it."
"Harry, next side street, stop long enough to let us out. Then continue into the next street and block the road."
The driver nodded, obviously unfazed.
Tension curled through my limbs as the car began to speed up. Those following us had to know they'd been spotted. The mere fact we'd entered an industrial estate would surely have given the game away, let alone this sudden burst of speed.
The driver wrenched the car left into another street then stopped. We scrambled out, barely getting the doors closed again before he was off. Lights pierced the night, lighting up the main road, drawing close fast. I wrapped the shadows around myself and ran for the semi-enclosed doorway of the nearby warehouse. Quinn joined me, squeezing into my shadow-filled corner, his body pressed close and hard against mine. My heart skipped, then began to race. Danger was a very powerful aphrodisiac to a wolf, and the wild part of my soul rose with a vengeance. Desire rushed through me, fuelled by his nearness, by the hardness of his erection pressed so invitingly against my groin. And, most of all, by the danger of what we were about to do.
I closed my eyes, trying to ignore the needs of my body, trying to concentrate on the approaching car. The rumble of the engine was close, so close.
But Quinn was closer still.
I lifted my face and his mouth was there, crushing mine, the kiss deep and hungry and powerful. Everything our kiss in the car had been and more. And oh, so glorious.
The tires squealed as the second car came around the corner, then the engine gunned and the car sped off.
Quinn pushed back immediately. "Let's go."
His voice was curt, and I wondered if the source was the tension of the hunt, or anger that he'd responded so strongly to my closeness. He wasn't a man who liked to lose control. Not in any situation.
He was off in an instant, running with the speed of the wind after the car. I followed, staying to the left of the road, barely keeping up with him despite the fact that I had a vampire's speed.
The car sped around the next corner with us close on its tail Up ahead, the limo had stopped sideways across the road, as instructed.
The Saab slowed to halt. I stopped, and saw Quinn do the same. There was no movement from inside the car. Indeed, I couldn't even see the shadowy outline of the driver or the passenger through the darkened windows. The car just sat there, idling quietly.
I glanced across at Quinn, felt the caress of pressure against my psychic shields. I opened the door we'd created between our minds and said, I'm not getting any feed-back from my senses.
Not I with infrared.
I switched briefly to infrared. He was right. There wasn't even the faintest hint of blood heat in the confines of the car. Could they be shielded against it?
Maybe, though I've never heard of such a thing. Let's approach cautiously
I blew out a breath, then nodded. The closer I got to the car, the more tension curled through my limbs. Still no movement from inside, and definitely no sign or scent of life.
They had to be there, somewhere. Had to be hiding. Two people couldn't just up and disappear without even opening doors.
I edged along the side of the car and wished I'd brought my laser with me. The whole situation would have felt a lot more manageable with a weapon in my hand.
Which just went to show how far along the road I was to full acceptance of becoming a guardian. Once upon a time, not so long ago, I'd sworn that I would never pick up a weapon for the Directorate, let alone use one.
How long would it be before I actually caved in and killed for something other than self-defense or defense of pack?
A shiver ran across my skin. I ignored it and reached for the front door handle. The window was open slightly, allowing a tight-angled but clear view of the inside of the car. Even this close, there didn't appear to be anyone there. After a quick look at Quinn over the top of the car, I wrenched open the door and stepped back, out of the immediate path of a firing weapon.
I shouldn't have bothered.
The car was as empty as it had appeared.