Authors: J.C. Daniels
I hadn’t seen Damon in nearly two weeks.
I hadn’t had sex in so long, I didn’t even want to think about it.
And Justin was doing one thing guaranteed to make Damon’s brain shut down.
“You know, this is what happens when you hook up with a shifter, Kit,” Justin said, pushing up onto his elbows. His black T-shirt rode up, baring his flat belly. “The animal kicks in too easily, shuts down the brain. Now, me? If we were still together, I wouldn’t be all that worried if your bedroom smelled like another man.”
“That’s because you can’t scent another man in my bedroom, you asshole.”
He shrugged. Crossing his feet at the ankle, he said, “He knows we’re done. I just—
Justin glared at me from the floor.
I let go of his ankles and smiled.
“You were saying?”
He cocked his head. “Well, the view is nicer from down here.”
“You’re ridiculously juvenile,” I said. Shaking my head, I turned away.
After grabbing my gear, I ducked into the bathroom.
“You’re sure you didn’t leave any signs behind?”
“Justin…I’m not new at this.” Dressing in short order, I moved out of the bathroom to find him at the window. He was staring outside, arms crossed over his chest. “Don’t worry so much.”
“It’s my job,” he said easily. Then he turned around. “So…speaking of jobs…”
Copyright © 2014 by Shiloh Walker
All Rights Reserved.
Dedication & Acknowledgements
As always, dedicated to my husband and kids. You’re my everything.
By special request…also dedicated to Haley, Aspen, Jess, Trinton, Caimen, Heather, Dev, Cam & Em. A rowdy, rotten bunch of kids… I love you all.
Thanks to Sara R., editor extraordinaire and my beta readers, Tori, Teresa and Jennifer.
A special thanks to Charles Andrulis. Thanks for your bid in the Brenda Novak auction! Enjoy your incarnation in Kit’s world.
A HUGE thank you to all the Kit lovers out there…all of your support astounds me.
Prep could be a pain in the ass. All the things necessary to get yourself ready, this shit is a nuisance that I would love to live without.
Sadly, the kind of life I lead sometimes calls for prep.
Not that you can
for my life.
can prepare for my life. The few times I tried, life went and kicked me in the face.
I’m slowly learning how to kick back.
I wouldn’t be doing much kicking in the shoes I’d just slid onto my feet, though. My balance is stellar, but it’s just plain stupid to go kicking at something when you’re standing on a spiked heel not much bigger than a toothpick.
Shoot me now, I was wearing
And what would probably be considered something sort of…dressy?
I don’t know.
It was a costume.
I’d never been to a costume party and if I was smart, I wouldn’t have even suggested going, but impulse sort of drives my life.
I’m Kit Colbana and I’m a…troubleshooter, of sorts. Or troublemaker, depending on who you ask.
On just about any other day you could find me in a pair of battered jeans or black BDUs, a T-shirt and my vest. My vest—man, I felt naked without it. I’d seen an old Swiss Army knife in a junk store once and although the blade on it hadn’t been shit, the tool itself had been full of useful little gadgets. Maybe not useful in
line of work, but for somebody who wasn’t crazy? Yeah, pretty useful. Scissors, screwdriver, tweezers, corkscrew…you never knew when you’d need a corkscrew.
The knife reminded me of my vest.
I could pull almost any damn thing out of my vest.
But it didn’t go with sparkly green. And it was unlikely I’d need weapons.
. That didn’t mean
I was going to a party. More to the point, I was going to a party with
. Damon was leader of the area’s dominant shifter faction, which pretty much made him the top dog. Or the top cat. He was the Alpha of the Southern Cat Clans, a region that spanned from Mississippi to the Carolinas down to the far reaches of Florida and the Keys. I guess in a way, I
have a weapon. He just walked and talked and grew fur and fangs.
Nerves fluttered in my stomach.
I was going on a date with Damon and I was wearing a dress and I wasn’t taking my weapons.
Panic seized me and I lunged for my trunk. No way, no how could I do this without
kind of weapon. My hands fumbled with the clasp and it only got worse as I thought about where the party was going to be, who—not a
who but a who nonetheless—would be there.
It was a party thrown by the Assembly. There would be vamps there.
I wanted to puke. What in the hell had I been thinking?
Answer: I hadn’t. I’d just acted.
Something red caught my eye. Power zipped up my arm and I hissed, instinctively jerking my hand back, only to pause and reach for the dagger more slowly. It was a pretty piece and even years after its bearer had died, you could feel the power inside it. Druids were rather famed for creating pieces of magic—relics even—that carried their magic inside them for decades, even centuries, after their deaths.
Most Druids worked with more…natural…mediums. Wood, for example. I’d once seen a Druid’s staff and I’d coveted it so badly, I had sketched out plans to steal it.
But it was on display in the Smithsonian.
I’m greedy, but I’m not stupid.
Supposedly, the Druid had given the staff as a peace offering at the end of the wars between NHs—non-humans—and humans. I wasn’t sure I believed it. Most Druids didn’t part with their creations. They’d leave them behind, but part with them?
I don’t know.
This one had been given to me. I’d done a job once and I’d done it well enough that my employer had given me a bonus—this blade. I don’t know how he had ended up with it. He wasn’t a Druid. That detail hadn’t kept me from accepting it, though.
The blade had silver in it, making it effective against most supernatural baddies out there, and the hilt was encrusted with jewels. I’d stroked and petted it like a child with a new pet and after a few days, I’d put it in my trunk and promptly forgotten about it.
Now, several years it had been given to me, the dagger sat in my trunk, like it was waiting for me. Lips pursed, I studied it and then I shifted my focus to the various rigs I used for carrying my weapons. I’d have to jury-rig something, but I was almost as good at improvising as I was at impulsivity.
It took thirty minutes. I could have been done in less, but since I wanted the rig to
nice, I had to take a little more time. This wouldn’t work for the long run, but I didn’t need long run.
If I’d thought it through better, I would have found a pair of sparkly boots—boots were
for concealing weapons—to wear with the sparkly dress, instead of the silly heels, but this worked okay.
The leather was inky black against my skin and stark, but in a way, it balanced me more, I decided. The bright and cheerful sparkles hadn’t exactly clashed with the tattoos that twined across my chest and neck, but the leather thigh rig that now held the lovely, lethal blade gave the whole thing more of an edge.
I returned to my trunk and took a few more minutes, finding a few more items that would work.
The woman staring back at me from the mirror was almost unfamiliar.
you?” I murmured to her. Her cheeks were pink, flushed. Not that I’d admit I was excited.
Okay, screw that. I was excited. Scared. I shot a look at the clock and groaned. The butterflies in my stomach turned into tiny little dragons with razored wings.
Damon would be here in a few minutes.
Here, at my house, and I’d be alone with him for the time it took for us to get to the ball, thrown at an estate just outside of the city. I hadn’t been
with him in…forever.
As the Alpha of the Southern Cat Clan, Damon Lee pretty much had a standing invitation to any of the big soirees the Assembly threw, but to my knowledge, he didn’t attend.
At least not until tonight.
date in…forever. If you could call a ball thrown by the Assembly a
. I mean, one wrong move, one wrong step and it could result in an interspecies feud.
Man, what was I
A couple of months ago, we hadn’t even really been talking. Then we had started having the occasional dinner at Drake’s. Nice, safe. Plenty of other people around.
There’d be plenty of people around tonight, too. In just a short while, I’d be surrounded by shifters, witches…and vamps.
I needed to quit panicking. Needed to quit brooding and working myself up.
I needed to quit staring at my reflection. It was too late to change my costume and it was too late to do anything but brazen my way through the rest of the night.
Slipping out of the bathroom, I smoothed my hand down the sequined green skirt of my costume. As long as I didn’t bend over, everything would be fine.
And if I did bend over, I’d made sure to wear matching panties.
Not that it would matter. If I found out I’d been flashing people, I’d probably die of embarrassment.
A flash of green in the hall mirror caught my eyes and I stilled, only to realize it was me, in my bright green sparkly dress.
Behold, Kit Colbana—assassin, thief, jack of all trades…and I looked like Tinker Belle.
Panic grabbed me by the throat—the feminine kind of panic. I looked like an
. I looked—
A heavy hand hit the door and I gulped.
Too late now.
Damon didn’t knock again.
He just waited.
He wasn’t the patient sort, but he could outwait anybody I’d ever known, including me.
With hands that had gone damp with sweat, I moved to the door and opened it.
A saturnine smile creased his dark face, even as his lids drooped and he raked me over with a glance.
“Well, well, well,” he murmured. “You play a perfect little pixie, Kit.”
I sniffed. “I’m not a pixie. Tinker Belle is a fairy—there’s a difference.”
He lifted a brow.
“Fairies are deadly.” I grinned at him as I picked up the wings that went with the costume. “If you find yourself trapped by them, you’re screwed.”
He opened his mouth, then closed it and asked, “Fairies are real?”
“Yep.” Unfazed by the question, I let my smile widen. There were plenty of creatures in the world that most people were unaware of, even now. “So are pixies and trust me, you’d much rather have a pixie. Too bad they’re almost extinct.”
He ran his tongue along the inside of his teeth. “You’re never boring, Kit.”
Then, in the span of one moment to the next, the lighthearted atmosphere vanished. Heat replaced it as he moved in closer. Not too close—he’d been walking on eggshells around me for months. I was so tired of it, but at the same time, I didn’t know how to tell him to stop. I couldn’t just say I was okay, because I wasn’t. Sometimes I thought I’d never be okay again.
His gaze slid over me, the intensity of it almost a palpable caress. When he reached up and trailed one finger across my bare shoulder, my breath lodged in my chest. “You sparkle,” he murmured.
“Ah…” I swallowed. “It’s just some sort of glitter spray. Washes off.”
He didn’t respond, just continued to trail his finger across my skin, along my breast bone, leaving a trail of gooseflesh in its wake. He went to lower his hand and I caught his wrist.
His gaze shot to mine.
When I stepped up to him, I don’t know who was more surprised, me or him.
A soft groan escaped him as I pressed my mouth to his. Even in the heels, I wasn’t tall enough to reach his mouth, but he dipped his head and I clutched his shoulders, clinging to him as his tongue slid past my lips.
I’d missed this…
Heat swam through me and I clung to him tighter, straining against the warmth of his skin.
Something cold trailed across my back and I hissed.
He broke away.
He let me go and I saw his left hand.
Abruptly, I started to laugh.
“Really?” Looking at him, I cocked my head. “What are the odds?”
“Not good.” He brandished his hook, a shiny, polished curve of real metal—silver, if I was right. “I could lie and say the idea just came to me, but I asked Colleen.”
I made a face at him. “That’s cheating.”
“Well, Captain Hook’s a pirate…he would totally cheat.”