Deadly Desire
Page 14

 Keri Arthur

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"Okay," she said, pushing to her feet. "I can't trace the source of the magic. Whoever is behind it knows enough to muddy the signature. The best we can do is bind the body, so that her magic will not get through a second time and reanimate the flesh."
"Do you need me here for that?"
She hesitated, then nodded. "The sorcerer will feel the threads of his or her magic pulling away, and may try to stop it."
"Then I'll stay."
"Good." She glanced at the other two women. They pulled sacks out of their backpacks and began to empty candles, little packets, and God knows what else onto the floor.
Marg knelt down beside the bed and placed her hands on the body. As she did so, it twitched.
"Shit," she said, pushing back so fast she landed on her butt. "Riley, the sorcerer is contacting it."
"Through magic?"
"I can't feel magic."
Then it had to be via its mind, or what shattered remains there were of it. I reached out with my own psi skills, making sure my shields were as tight as possible. I had no idea how strong the sorcerer was and no intention of laying myself open to a possible attack. I dove down through the darkness that had once been the zombie's mind, feeling nothing more than the chill of death and a decaying emptiness. This creature might move and kill, but the spark of humanity had well and truly left for greener pastures.
But in the deeper darkness, something whispered. Words rolled through the void, unclear at first but gradually gaining strength as I drew closer.
An ache formed behind my eyes, and a droplet of sweat rolled down my cheek. I swiped at it without thought. Closer, closer... I pushed myself toward the voice, until the words were clear.
And they were chilling.
Kill her, kill her, slash her throat and drain her veins. There can be no mistake. She must die. Kill, kill, kill.
The mantra was repeated over and over, and the voice-though soft-was one that I knew.
It was the woman I'd heard in the old warehouse. The woman who could take the form of a crow.
But it wasn't only words I picked up. There was an image-a young woman in her midteens.
Enough, I thought, and pushed more power into my psychic probe, letting it spread and grow until it skimmed his ruined mind, wrapping it in a field of power through which nothing-not even the thoughts of a sorcerer intent on murder-would get through. It would warn the sorcerer that something was wrong, but at least this zombie was now out of action. For as long as I could hold this net, anyway.
"Move," I said to Marg. "Do what ever you have to do to deactivate this thing."
She scrambled back to her feet and began to chant. I ignored them, concentrating on the zombie, feeding energy into the net. Something hit it hard and power flared, a dark sensation of evil that crawled across my psychic barrier, as if seeking a break in the field.
The ache behind my eyes began to feel more like a stabbing pain, but I held firm. The probing darkness faded. Soon there was nothing but the chanting of the magi filling the shadows.
"Okay," Marg said, what seemed like an eon later. "You can release it now."
I did so, and it was as if all of the energy drained from my body. Not only did my head feel like it was on fire, but I felt weak and shaky, and my knees refused to support my weight. I dropped to a squatting position, one hand on the floor, closing my eyes and taking deep breaths to stop the spinning.
"You look very pale," Marg said, squatting in front of me and offering me a drink.
I took it gratefully, and felt strength flush through my body the minute the cool, tart liquid flowed down my throat. "That isn't water."
"No. But don't worry, it won't poison you." She studied me for a moment, her gaze searching mine, then cupped a hand around mine. "Your fingers are cold, and you're extremely pale. Is it possible you're iron deficient?"
"I eat plenty of meat." But I also had a vampire dining on my neck, so it was totally possible he was taking more than he should. Maybe eating red meat wasn't enough anymore.
Although given Quinn had over twelve hundred years of experience behind him, he'd surely know the limits of what he could viably take before it started affecting me. So if it wasn't an iron deficiency, what the hell was it?
I hoped it wasn't another indication that the drug given to me all those years ago was twisting either my DNA or my psychic talents in new and exciting ways.
"Might be worth taking iron tablets." Marg's gaze dropped down to my neck. "And talking to your vampire."
"I will." If it was the problem. I rubbed a hand across my eyes. The ache was still there, but not as fierce. Whatever had been in Marg's potion seemed to be helping it. "I think I need to go home to rest. Can you take care of the rest of this now?"
She nodded. "We'll be fine."
"Good." I pushed to my feet but grabbed at the wall again as the room spun around me. "I wouldn't release the mom from her bindings until the body has been removed. She's a werewolf and more than a little violent."
"She is a mother protecting her son-or what she believes is her son. It's instinct."
"Maybe, but I wouldn't be pouring too much sympathy her way, or you might just find an axe in your skull."
Marg's dark eyes gleamed. I wasn't sure whether it was amusement or determination or a combination of both. "She will see the truth by the time we leave, trust me on that."
I believed her. Marg mightn't look much of a threat, but there was an amazing amount of strength locked within her spindly body.
I got out of there. It might be the middle of the afternoon, but my bed was calling and I had no intention of keep it waiting.
Jack called about eight that evening. I'd been up for all of five minutes, but I'd managed enough swallows of coffee to get the brain cells working.
"The zombie has been magically restrained and we're making arrangements with the parents to have him reburied," he said, without preamble. "And there's been another murder."
Oh, fuck. "Not another teenager." Please, don't let it be another teenager. I didn't need that sort of guilt right now.
"What teenager are we talking about this time?" Jack said, confusion evident in his tone. I didn't have the vid-phone activated-I figured he didn't need to know that I'd slept most of the afternoon.
"The one I saw in the zombie's mind. The one the sorcerer who raised him was planning to kill next."
"You read the zombie's mind?" Surprise ran through Jack's voice.
"Well, no, because technically the zombie is dead and doesn't actually have a mind. I encountered the sorcerer in whatever it is that remains."
"You shouldn't have been able to do that."
I frowned. "Do what? Touch the sorcerer's thoughts and find out her intent?"
"No, delve down into the remains of a dead man's mind. Not even vampires can do that."
"Yeah, but vampires generally don't have my affinity for the dead." I paused. "Besides, it wasn't exactly easy and it left me really drained afterward."
And if I shouldn't have been able to do it, then the dizziness I'd felt afterward wasn't Quinn taking too much blood, it was me doing the impossible. Again.
"That's beside the point." There was worry in his voice. "We'd better schedule some more testing."
I rolled my eyes. "We're testing every couple of months as it is. Surely that's enough?"
"Not if you're now able to read the minds of dead folks."
I resisted the urge to point out once again that I hadn't actually read the zombie's mind, and changed the topic instead. "So who is dead this time?"
"Another vampire, although it isn't one of the older ones."
"And not someone you knew?"
"Not personally, no, though I believe the council had him marked as one to watch, as he had gained a lot of money extremely fast."
I raised my eyebrows. "Why would that make him a person of interest to your council?"
"Because he certainly didn't acquire his wealth through any known legal route."
I grinned. "From what I hear, that's not exactly unusual among the vampire ranks." Hell, even Quinn had admitted to a brief life of crime.
"These days, we prefer not to draw such attention to ourselves. It doesn't reflect well on our image."
"Boss, you're never going to change humanity's opinion of vampires. It's too ingrained. Besides, it's a good evolutionary trait not to trust things that eat your kind."
"People once thought that vampires, werewolves, and other supernaturals would never be able to come out of the closet, too."
"That's not the point." Humans may have accepted our existence, but that didn't mean they had to like it. And many of them didn't. There might be laws in place to protect both sides of the fence, but that didn't stop problems from happening. And the Directorate wasn't always able to clean up the messes.
"I'm not getting into a debate about all this now," Jack said. "I need you to get over to the latest crime scene and see if you can scent the same things."
"So who is it this time?"
"Martin Shore. A two-hundred-year-old playboy with more money than brains, apparently."
"The council wouldn't have done this, would they? To head off a potential problem, that is?"
"No. They would have informed me if they were planning anything."
I raised my eyebrows and wondered just how many of the unsolved cases we had on our books were unsolved because they were actually looked after by the vamp council. A council I hadn't even known actually existed until recently, let alone know that Jack was in constant contact with.
"When was the body discovered?"
"About six. One of women he shared the apartment with came home and found his remains. I doubt she'll be able to give you much, but you might as well talk to her anyway."
"I will. And I'm going to send through the description of the teenager I saw in the zombie's mind. She's obviously next on the hit list, so we'll need to find and protect her." She might also be able to give a clue as to why the witch was sending the zombies after her. "Hopefully, you'll be able to track them down through license records or something."
"We'll give it a try. Cole and Mel's reports are through, too, if you ever want to make a reappearance in the office to read them."
"Boss, it's almost the full moon, and I'm afraid having me and Kade in the same small room is not a good idea."
"You've survived it before."
"Because the moon heat isn't always as strong as it is this time around." I probably wouldn't be kissing Kye if it was just a normal moon heat.
Probably being the operative word there.
Jack grunted. "The address has been sent through to your onboard. Get there fast."
I hung up and headed for the shower. Thirty minutes later I was pulling into the underground parking lot beneath the Eureka Tower, which had once been the world's tallest residential building. Of course, these days, ninety-two stories wasn't much to crow about, but it had been back then. And unlike many of the older buildings that dotted the city, the slim elegance of the Eureka's design still managed to catch the eye, as did its golden top, which still shone as bright as the sun on a summer day.
Martin Shore lived on the seventy-sixth floor, in one of the larger, and more expensive, apartments. The express elevator zoomed me straight up to the floor, leaving my stomach somewhere down on the lower levels. It stopped smoothly and gently, but even so, my nerves faltered. I'd never liked being in tall buildings, and that hadn't really changed with the advent of wings.
I could smell the blood as soon as I got out of the elevator. In the pristine whiteness of the foyer, the scent seemed to hang around like some gigantic cloud of doom.
I followed my nose and discovered Cole and his team hard at work.
"Don't you guys ever sleep?" I said, stopping several feet behind a kneeling Cole.
"Not lately we don't." His voice was little more than a tired growl. "Though if you could catch at least one of the murderers we're after, our lives would be much easier."
"If it was that easy to catch these bastards, they wouldn't need us guardians. You guys could do it."
My gaze went past him to the body slumped across a sofa. He was naked, his flesh almost as pale as the white leather couch. He was also very hairless. His chest, his arms, even the top of his head-which lay at the base of the sofa like some forgotten ball-was as smooth as alabaster. It was creepy looking in death, and I very much doubted it would have been that attractive in life. But then, the Goth look was apparently making a comeback, so what did I know?
I flared my nostrils, sucking in and sorting through the differing scents, this time finding the touch of roses winding in between the scents of blood, death, and that intensely "wrong" scent that had been present before.
"It's definitely connected to the other two vamp murders," I said.
Cole glanced at me. "You can smell the same scents?"
"Yeah." I nodded toward the piece of china he held in one hand. "You found something?"
"A thumb print. It probably belongs to those who live here, but we might get lucky for a change."
I snorted. The chances of us getting lucky right now were about as good as the chances of me ever having kids. "Where's the girlfriend?"
"Second bedroom down the corridor," Cole said, returning his attention to the broken vase. "Her name is Anna."