Deadly Desire
Page 20

 Keri Arthur

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No answer came, but that didn't surprise me. Any kid with half a brain wouldn't come out of hiding on first hearing a familiar voice. Especially after what he'd just witnessed.
"Joe, it really is me." I grabbed my badge and held it up into the hole. "Here's my ID."
There was no response for several seconds, then came a shuffle of movement, and suddenly the scent of man and fear wafted down through the hatchway. It was Joe, all right.
"Are those things dead?" he asked.
"Yes." Although technically they probably weren't. Not until the magi came in and removed whatever spell the sorceress had used to raise them.
"They killed Jacques."
"I know. You coming down?"
A pale face appeared briefly in the hatchway, and the tension lining his bright eyes eased a little when he saw that it really was me. His feet replaced his face, and he slithered through the hole and dropped to the floor.
"I couldn't help him," he said, shoving his hands in his pockets. "I just couldn't."
He wasn't meeting my eyes and his expression was a mix of defiance and guilt.
"Jacques was here to protect you, not the other way around. He died in that duty. It's not your fault or your responsibility. Besides, if you hadn't hidden, you might be dead right alongside him."
He shivered and rubbed his arms. "Are those the things that killed Kaz?"
"The same sort of creatures, yes." I touched his back and guided him out the door. He hesitated the moment he saw the zombie, then squared his shoulders and continued on, stepping over the creature like it was something he saw every day.
From downstairs came the sound of soft steps. I touched Joe on the shoulder to stop him, then slipped past him to the small landing halfway down.
I needn't have worried. It was Cole and his team.
"What have we got this time?" He'd stopped in the hallway, his gaze on the living room rather than on me.
"Jacques and one zombie are in the living room, and there's a decapitated zombie upstairs. Both creatures will probably need Marg's magic touch before they can be put back into the ground. We also have more dust-and I discovered what it does."
"Oh? Do tell."
"It freezes vampires."
"That makes events at the crime scenes more logical." He looked beyond me. "Who's that?"
"Joe, the kid we're protecting. I'm about to take him back to the Directorate."
"Really?" Joe said, his voice containing an edge of excitement as his face appeared over the railing.
"It's not that interesting," Cole said dryly.
"It is when I'm there," I said with a grin.
He snorted and glanced at his team. "We'd better get moving, boys. The bullshit meter is starting to run a little high in this hallway."
Cole and Dobbs walked into the living room. Dusty remained near the door and began setting up a crime-scene monitor. I glanced up at Joe. "Let's go."
"This is going to be cool," he said, bouncing down the stairs.
"Yeah," I said, and hoped like hell Jack thought so.
Jack didn't. Neither did Sal, who ended up with the task of keeping the teenager in line and safe. Although if the kid wasn't safe in a building filled with guardians, then he wasn't going to be safe anywhere.
"You know I don't like civilians down here," Jack said, tossing something my way as he walked back into the day shift's office area.
"I didn't have much other choice, boss." I caught the item with my free hand. It turned out to be a bracelet of twined rope and what looked like dried leaves of some variety. My fingers tingled at contact with it, but it was a cleaner, safer-feeling magic than whatever the sorceress was using. "This from Marg and her team?"
"Yep. The kid will be given one, too. If there's any residual tracking magic left on you, this should stop it."
I slipped it over my left wrist, then handed him the sweater I'd been wearing. "You might want to give them this. The zombie threw some sort of dust at me when he first appeared, and I suspect it was designed to immobilize vampires. I think my werewolf half saved me from the full effects of it."
He took the bundled-up sweater carefully. "If that's true, then it explains why no one has fought back."
"Certainly does." I walked across to my desk and sat down. "Did Marg say anything about how these people are getting in and out of these places?"
"She suspects the killer is using some form of transport magic to get in, but there hasn't been enough of it remaining at any of the sites for her to track down the type of spell being used."
"Yeah." He glanced at his watch. "It's full moon for you tonight, isn't it?"
"Certainly is." And Rhoan, Liander, and I all planned to head up to Macedon and the strip of land Dia's clone brother, Misha, had left me when he'd died. It was huge and wild, and just about perfect for werewolves to run free without the worry of upsetting or spooking anyone.
Jack grunted. "It's useless trying to get much more out of you today, then. Finish up here, then go home." He half turned away, then stopped. "What are your dancing skills like?"
"I'm a werewolf," I said dryly. "Dancing is my life."
"Not that sort of dancing. Regular dancing, no sex involved."
"Where's the fun in that?" I grinned as his expression darkened. "I do the regular dancing pretty darn good, too."
"Good enough to be employed at a men's club?"
I hesitated. Having never been inside a men's club, I didn't actually know what sort of dancing went on in there. "I know someone who can give me a few pointers."
"Good. Arrange it. You might have to go undercover at the club if Kade doesn't sniff out anything tonight." He turned and left the room.
I signed into my computer and checked the results of the two searches. It turned out that neither of the women who owned Meinhardt's had either a police or a Directorate record, but interestingly enough, there were at least a dozen unsolved vampire murders in each state over the time they'd owned their business.
Another coincidence?
Given that these murders had happened in five other states already, I'd have to say coincidence was very unlikely. I copied the results through to Jack, then rang Ben to ask if one of his girls could give me a lesson in the finer art of strip-club dancing. I jotted down her name and address, then finished my coffee in several gulps and headed out the door.
Liander and Rhoan were both waiting for me when I got home. Rhoan's hair had been shaved for his undercover job, and his baldness was something of a shock. Oddly enough, it did actually suit him-he had a good-shaped head for being bald.
We headed up to Macedon, getting there just as the sun was setting. We stripped as the darkness swept in, bringing with it the heat of the full moon that hadn't yet risen. It tingled across my body-a power that would not be denied and would not be controlled on this one night. It swept us from human form to wolf in one surge, and with a howl in our throats and the earth between our paws, we ran. Embracing the night, embracing what we were, enjoying the freedom and the fun of running and hunting.
With dawn came exhaustion and our human forms, so we snuggled up beside each other and slept.
A ringing cell phone woke me some hours later. Liander made a groaning noise of acknowledgment but didn't seem inclined to answer it, and Rhoan was still snoring.
I rolled onto my back, shivering a little as the coldness of the morning hit newly exposed skin, then climbed to my feet and stumbled across to the pile of clothes, sorting through them until I found my jeans and the phone within them.
"Yeah?" I said, rubbing my eyes and looking up at the blue sky. The position of the sun said it had to be at least ten.
"Do you feel like breakfast after your moonlit adventures?" Quinn said, his voice so warm it sent a delicious tingle running through my body.
"Certainly do. But we're up at Macedon-"
"Which has a lovely little cafe that serves not only fabulous coffee, but a breakfast big enough to satisfy even the hungriest of werewolves," he said. "Get dressed. I'll be there in five."
"You know, if you were a werewolf, you could almost be the perfect man."
"There's no 'almost' about it, woman."
I grinned. "I'll be waiting near the gate."
I hung up, then hurriedly got dressed, unable to stop the silly grin that kept playing about my lips. Quinn might not be a werewolf, and therefore not a contender to be the mate my wolf soul had been longing for, but there was no denying how good he made me feel. Or how much I looked forward to being with him. And as much as I had loved Kellen, our relationship hadn't been like this. Hadn't made me feel like this. Which maybe meant that I'd been in love with the idea of him being a werewolf and therefore a real mate prospect more than I'd actually been in love.
He'd been right in walking away. I could see that now, even if it hurt like hell at the time.
Once dressed, I walked over to the tangled pile that was Rhoan and Liander, and gently toed Liander's side. The angry redness of his scars had long faded, but he'd always wear the puckered reminders of the day a madman decided to gut him. It still made me shiver when I remembered how close we'd come to losing him.
He didn't respond so I nudged him again. This time, he groaned softly and opened a bleary eye. "This is not what I call a decent hour to get up. Wake me in another five hours."
"Quinn's picking me up and we're going to breakfast. I've left the car keys in your coat pocket."
"Have fun," he muttered as his eyes drifted closed.
Making me wonder if he'd even remember me talking to him when he eventually woke up properly. I shook my head and made my way through the trees, sucking in the clean mountain air and the delicious scent of eucalyptus and pine. The more time I spent up here, the more I appreciated the gift Misha had given me. This place was freedom-and it would also have been the perfect place to bring up a family.
I thrust the thought-and the resulting angst the knowledge that I might never have the one thing I'd always dreamed of-away, and climbed the old metal gate, sitting on top of it as I waited for my vampire and his flashy red Ferrari.
I leaned back in my chair with a contented sigh and gave Quinn a smile. "That definitely hit the spot."
He glanced down at the three plates that I'd all but licked clean, then said, with a smile touching his luscious lips, "If there's one thing I've always admired about werewolves, it's their appetite."
A smile teased my lips. "And here I was thinking you were all darkly disapproving of a werewolf's appetite."
"Only when that appetite isn't aimed in the right direction."
I leaned forward again and crossed my arms on the table. I was wearing a low cut, V-necked T-shirt, so the action exposed not only the blue lace of my bra, but a rather large amount of breast. "The right direction being you, and only you?"
"In your case, yes." His gaze slithered downward briefly before rising, and the smile became full blown. The heat of it just about blew my socks off. "And you surely can't blame me for wanting to keep your luscious body all to myself. Any man with any sense would want to do the same."
Which left me with the perfect opening to bring up the problem of his feeding. I blew out a breath, then said, "That's something we need to talk about."
His warm smile faded as he studied me for a moment, and part of me mourned its loss.
"This sounds serious."
"It is."
"Then wait a moment while I grab a coffee to fortify myself." He signaled to the waiter, who bought over the coffee pot and filled up his mug. Quinn picked it up and took a sip, then his dark gaze met mine. "Okay, fire away."
I blew out another breath. "Several people over the last couple of days have commented on how pale I look."
He raised a dark eyebrow. "You have a vampire feeding on you nightly. It's natural that you're going to look a little paler."
"Yeah, but the problem is that it's not just the paleness. I've been dizzy on several occasions, and I've been lucky that it hasn't had disastrous consequences." I hesitated, then added, "Now, I'm not entirely convinced it's your feeding causing this, because my psychic talents seem to be rapidly developing new and interesting twists right now, but I still think it's something we need to discuss."
He frowned. "If it is the feeding, then I'm sorry. I didn't realize-"
"It's not your fault," I interrupted quickly. "Not entirely. I should have said something the minute I realized the feedings might be affecting me."
"I didn't think they would." He took another sip of coffee, his expression as neutral as I'd ever seen it, then said, "Generally, a werewolf's quick recuperation powers enable them to recover more quickly than mortals."
"And it does." I gave him a lopsided smile. "I'm gathering there are not many mortals who could take a vampire feeding off them three or four times a night for several nights on end."
"No." He put down his coffee then reached forward and wrapped his hands around mine. His fingers were warm, filled with a strength that was comforting. "Trouble is, when I have sex, I feed. I can't not feed. It's a part of the whole equation for me."
"And you reckon we werewolves are addicted to sex."
He smiled, but the seriousness in his eyes stopped my lips from echoing his. "It's not an addiction, but a necessity. You're currently my only partner, Riley, so therefore my only source of food."