Authors: J.C. Daniels
I managed not to drop my jaw, managed not to gape.
I did not, however, manage to be silent.
“Yeah, you’re right.” When a dozen—no more—gazes flew my way, I held out my arms. “I’m battered and tattered now. Somebody will have to scrape me off the ground here in a minute.” Then, with an evil smile, I added, “But I can wait until you’re done scraping your…companion off first.”
Damon’s eyes flashed to me and I saw the demand there.
I huffed out a breath but looked away as he moved between Matthew and me, cutting me from the other cat’s line of sight.
,” Damon said, twisting the word so it fell like a curse from his lips. “Made the first move. If I want her blood for it, I’m clear to take—”
The word was a sliver of death. All but Damon turned to watch as Amund drifted into the circle. And
was the only word for it, for how he moved. He was grace and menace personified.
My gut cramped with fear when I saw the look on his face.
Amund no longer looked bored.
“If she had attacked off my lands, then you would be justified to act as you chose, Alpha Lee,” Amund said, his ice-blue eyes avid. “But she did it on my lands. Therefore, I decide what happens.”
Amund flicked a hand. “Be silent or you’ll be removed—with force, Alpha Lee.”
Damon’s jaw went tight and his dark look promised retribution. Had
been in Amund’s shoes, I’d be worried.
But Amund wasn’t worried.
Raking the fallen woman with a look, he said, “Get up.”
Damon came to stand beside me and I felt the tension and anger as it vibrated in the air around him.
So much for our nice, fun night.
The woman rolled to her knees, coughed up blood and then stood.
She lifted her head, but didn’t look at Amund.
She stared at me. “Alice. I’m Alice.” The words were thick and wet.
“And who do you run with?”
A poetical way to ask what pack or clan a shifter called their own.
“I’m of Matthew Dahl’s line,” she said calmly.
“The laws were violated. You attacked a non-shifter at a peaceful gathering.” He circled around her.
Her gaze never left me.
Where the hell was my knife?
Silver glinted in the pool of red and I could have hit something. It was on the far side of her, where Damon had dropped it.
Son of a bitch.
Amund continued smiling. His voice was soft, but I heard him loud and clear as he said, “The consequences are simple. You die…or accept my challenge.”
I let my hand drop. The cool silver of Damon’s hook brushed the back of my hand. He’d yet to take it off. Instinctively, I tugged on it. A moment later it was in my hand. I don’t know how he did that, but whatever fitted it to his hand was gone.
Amund slid his gaze my way and smiled but his words were for Alice.
“You wanted her death badly enough to risk your own. Kill her and you may live.”
Hands went to grab me, but I was already moving.
So was Alice.
Time slowed down, dragging to a crawl as I took in everything. Poison still tainted her blood, poisoned her, slowed her down. She rushed in without taking any time to evaluate.
My best weapon lay too far away.
But I had that silver hook—
I spun it around and found that it went on my hand almost like a glove, albeit a large one. The cuff of it concealed the grip buried within where the body of it flowed into a hook.
I closed my hand around it, still watching—
At the last second, I spun to the side.
Silver arced through the night as I slashed the hook across her throat, the wicked tip catching and severing her spinal cord.
Her eyes, wide and shocked, locked on mine. I gave another vicious pull and the light in her eyes died.
The body toppled to the ground, the head connected only by a few strips of meat.
Looking away, I let go of the silver hook.
It fell to the ground as I locked gazes with Amund.
The bastard was
I was offered the use of a shower within the house and clothing.
I refused the shower and used the outdoor guest house to change.
When I emerged, my skin damp from the hurried bath I’d given myself from the sink, the grounds were all but emptied.
Amund stood with his people, while Damon echoed his posture some yards away.
And Matthew lingered.
His eyes burned hate at me as I strode toward Damon. He still wore the waist coat of burgundy and the piratical look suited the thunderous expression on his face.
“I’ll see you
,” Matthew snarled at me.
“Yeah. She thought so too,” I shot back at him even though I knew it was stupid. Alice had been a weak cat. Matthew was stupid but he wasn’t weak. “Next time, pick a better fighter.”
Damon’s hand came up and rested on the back of my neck.
The tension coming off him slammed into me and I managed to bite back the rest of what I was going to say.
It wasn’t easy, though.
I was so pissed off, I was shaking.
“You will be escorted out of Orlando,” Amund said, his deep voice cutting through the air as he came to stand between Damon and Matthew. “Alpha Dahl, while I cannot prove it, I believe you were behind this…farce.”
Amund looked up then, his eyes seeking me out. He still looked amused.
So glad to have provided your entertainment for the evening, asshole
His eyes narrowed.
If he turned out to be one of the mind readers, then I might have just insulted him. Normally, I’m a little more cautious than that. But normally, I don’t have blood leaking from my arm or fever starting to rage through me. Not to mention the temper.
The fury chewing at me had sharp, jagged teeth.
“Do not bother to lie to me,” Amund said, turning his head back to stare at Matthew. “I have no desire to listen to whatever inanity you may wish to offer. As I said, I cannot prove you were behind this, but I suspect you were. It would be wise of you to stay out of Florida for the time being.”
Matthew’s jaw went tight. “We have business with the Assembly in the coming months.”
“Send an emissary.” Amund waved a hand. “For the next two years, you are banned from my territory.”
He smiled then. “I heard that you lost a leg when you fought the Alpha’s current second. Face me and you’ll lose much, much more…and you’ll live long enough to regret your foolishness.”
Matthew bowed his head. “Of course. I’m happy to do as the Assembly wishes.”
As he straightened, his eyes slid toward me and Damon.
Death lingered there.
“Alpha Lee, I assume you and your men can attend to escorting Alpha Dahl from the territory…safely?”
I whipped my head around to stare at Amund for a long moment.
Crestfallen, I tried not to droop as I stood there. I wanted to, though. I really wanted to.
So much for telling Damon I wanted him to
It had been almost two weeks since the Halloween party and I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since then.
Now, a dark pool of oblivion awaited me, beckoned to me.
I stumbled toward my bed, water still dripping off me from my shower, more exhausted than I could recall feeling in a very long time.
All I wanted was my bed.
Okay, Damon lounging in my bed—naked—would be better, but as long as I had my bed and silence for the next five hours straight, humanity could survive.
I crashed facedown onto it and lost the world.
I don’t remember anything until a long, loud wolf whistle split the air.
I grunted and twisted away from the noise.
It came again, along with the sound of my name.
Shoving my head under a pillow, I tried to escape, but that didn’t help because the pillow—and my blankets—were jerked away.
Only my speed kept me from crashing onto the floor, the way that son of a bitch ripped the bedclothes out from under me.
“Kit, I gotta say, you’re still one of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever met.”
“Justin.” I said his name through gritted teeth as I glared at him through my hair. “I’m going to kill you. Slowly.”
He held out his hands. “Hey…I’m here on a mission of mercy. I need your help. Also, you weren’t answering your door.” Something grim flashed through his eyes. “I was worried.”
“Justin. I’m going to kill you,” I said again. “
He chuckled and moved to the end of the bed. “Well, you might want to get dressed before you do it.”
A shirt came flying my way and I snatched it out of the air. Since I didn’t want to commit murder naked, I pulled it on. I looked at the clock. I’d gotten three of the five hours I needed in order to recover from the job from hell.
“Have you been in town long?” I asked conversationally.
“Yep. Got back two days ago.”
Justin’s been in and out of the area for the past few months. We work together when he’s here—sometimes—but he’s been gone a lot. I think he’s searching down leads and info on the hospital—a.k.a.
where he’d once been told he’d go if he didn’t be a good little soldier and fight the good fight.
It’s not much of a hospital.
It’s the human version of the roach motel for us—we go in; we don’t come out.
I’d ask him later if he’d learned anything. He’d beat around the bush. We had a rhythm. But for now… Shoving my hair back, I pinned him with a direct look. “Have you paid any attention to the media lately?”
“Yeah.” He twisted his dreads back into a long, heavy knot, leaving his too-pretty face unframed. “Some sick schmuck was actually acting out some of those old horror movies. Been at it for years, sounds like. He’s done…son of a
.” He planted his hands on his hips and stared at me. “That was you.”
I gave him a tight smile. “I haven’t slept in three days.”
“How did you do it?”
“Nova.” I shrugged. “He knew who the guy had picked out for this year and he called me.”
Nova was a psychic—and psychotic with it. I’d once accepted a job to kill him, only to discover the guy who needed to die was the one who’d ordered the hit on him. So that’s what I’d done.
isn’t one of the jobs I advertise, but I can, and have, killed.
The man I’d killed last night was a man who’d needed to die in the worst way.
He was also human, so if I was ever discovered, I had a one-way ticket to the chopping block—any NH discovered to have murdered a human gets the guillotine, assuming the non-human community doesn’t deal with the offender on their own. Losing the head is the surest way to kill any NH—and it’s bloody and spectacular. I think that’s why humans do it. We have teeth and claws and magic and they have giant silver blades.
“He was human,” Justin said, echoing my thoughts.
“Only on the outside.” I shrugged. “He was a monster, through and through.” Smiling thinly, I added, “The media is hailing his suicide as an act of cowardice. No doubt the victim who’d somehow escaped would have been able to identify him.”
“She says an angel saved her.” Justin’s eyes gleamed now. “You got wings I can’t see, Kit?”
I flipped him off.
He laughed and dropped down on my bed.
He lifted a brow. “Problem?”
“Damon’s coming over tonight.”
Now Justin grinned and laid back on the bed, linking his hands together behind his head and stretching out.
Sighing, I rubbed the back of my neck.
“Are you trying to make me hurt you?” I asked. “Because trust me, I’m frustrated enough to do you a lot of damage.”
Frustrated didn’t touch it.
My plans of inviting Damon back home after the Halloween Ball had fallen through and he’d spent the next few days dealing with some sort of clan politics. It turned out that the clan in northern Georgia
had business—the kind that came with a major
that needed to be discussed with the Assembly and now that Matthew wasn’t allowed in the area, they were fumbling to come up with a plausible arrangement, because Amund wasn’t rescinding the ban. And nobody could
the millennia-old vampire rescind it.
All of it made my head spin. If I thought about it too long, I’d have a migraine. All I wanted was
with my guy. One night.
Then, just when I was thinking I’d go join him at the Lair, I got the call from Nova.
It had taken almost a week of running leads down before I’d managed to find the woman Nova had seen in his vision and I almost hadn’t made it in time.
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. Since he clearly wasn’t leaving, I needed to get clothes on.