Authors: Sierra Dean
“The thrall. Enthralling.”
“You’ve been on the receiving end. It’s effective.” I propped my feet against his desk and tipped my chair back, trying to see if I could get a glimpse into the interrogation rooms. The staff had gotten wise to the view, though, because the small windows were covered.
Tyler whacked my toes with a manila folder. “Could you at least pretend to respect me?”
I dropped my feet, the wooden chair clacking loudly on the tile floor, echoing through the mostly empty room like a gunshot. The few people seated nearby flinched, and one guy gave me a dirty look.
“I do respect you.” I avoided the nasty gaze and held my hands over my heart in mock horror. “Do you want to hear the
version of the story? I thought of it in the cruiser on the way over.”
“I’m sure I’ll be dazzled.”
“Okay…fade in, damaged midtown apartment complex…”
“If you say the word
to me, so help me God, I will kick your tiny ass from here to next month.”
“You were going to say asbestos, weren’t you?”
I smiled sheepishly. “Maybe.”
“Asbestos won’t make a building collapse.”
“I’m sorry, did I miss the secret structural engineering degree in your past?”
He rolled his eyes. “Is there any danger of them finding the pieces of those vampires? Anything to make it look like there are bodies in the rubble?”
“Once the sun comes up, the parts will be gone. If there’s any blood, that stays, but the body parts will
. Even if they’re intact when they start moving rubble, it disappears so quickly they won’t find anything.” I fanned my hands out to mimic dust spreading in the wind. “And the blood could be from anything, right? It’s not out of the question for bad things to happen in abandoned buildings in this city. Definitely nothing to build a case on.”
He tapped his pen thoughtfully, and across the floor the interrogation room opened. Mercedes held the door, and a uniformed officer retrieved Holden from inside, taking him down a hall and out of sight.
Cedes shut the folder in her hand and traipsed across the work floor. After pulling up a chair from the desk next to Tyler’s, she plopped down and faced him, pretending I wasn’t there.
“So Chancery claims they were out for a walk when they heard something inside the building. The building was scheduled for demolition tomorrow—”
“No it wasn’t,” Tyler interjected flatly. “There’s no goddamn way that’s true.”
“Whether or not you believe it, there’s paperwork to back it up. I just had this faxed over from a night clerk at city hall who was none too pleased with me for cashing in a favor.”
Cedes handed him what I could only assume was a demolition work order. An order that probably hadn’t existed two hours ago. It helped to have friends in high—or low—places.
“So what, we’re saying that on entering the building they accidentally triggered
Cedes nodded, and Tyler let out an aggravated sigh. “Well…that sounds like a steaming pile of horseshit to me. But it’s a hell of a lot better than what this one was going to suggest.”
Cedes acknowledged my existence at last. “Asbestos?”
“Don’t say the g-word in here,” Cedes scolded. “Look, we have to book you guys for trespassing and damaging private property. Nothing too major, but it’s going on your record.”
“Hot damn! I’ve been trying to get something on my record for eons. Apparently the worse the crime, the harder it is to get arrested for it.” I beamed at her. “I assume we’ll need to pay for the damages, and someone will have to post bail?”
“You got it,” Cedes said. “That going to be a problem?”
“Not if you give me my one phone call.”
As luck would have it I had my fair share of multimillionaires and people with deep pockets to call. There was a time I’d have defaulted to calling my ex-boyfriend/werewolf husband Lucas Rain. After all, who was better than a billionaire when you needed cash fast?
But I didn’t want to owe anything to Lucas if I could avoid it. I’d asked my last favor of him when my mother showed up in town, and now that it was done, I didn’t want anything else to do with him. I certainly didn’t want to be in debt to him for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It wasn’t the fear of owing him money, but rather being symbolically shackled to him any more than I already was.
Which meant there was only one man I could reach out to and not come out in the red at the end.
I wish I hadn’t been in a holding cell when Sig came through the front doors of the police station. I’d seen how dazzled Barbie had been by Holden during previous visits, and if Holden was impressive, Sig was a force to be reckoned with.
Barbie wouldn’t have stood a chance. She’d probably been reduced to a foaming puddle of drool in the lobby. Sig just had that effect on women. And a lot of men, too, I was willing to bet. He was six-foot-seven and a towering ode to Scandinavian hotness. Lean, blond, with piercing blue eyes and the power to woo with the smallest gesture, Sig was a hell of a man.
He was also the true Tribunal leader, and held the council’s purse strings, so he would be able to get Holden and me out, and pay for the building too. There was no way to know how much the council had paid in the past to cover up the things vampires had done in the city or around the world.
Keeping a secret like ours wasn’t easy—or cheap—but the council had spent centuries amassing wealth. Everything from stock holdings—getting in on both Microsoft and Apple when they went public had helped—to long-term, high-interest savings accounts and bonds, the council was set.
set. They hid their wealth under the radar by maintaining accounts in different names and foreign countries, but if it were all added up, the vampires would have the gross income of a midsized country.
With almost none of the debt.
I might have felt guilty asking for the money if it were anyone else, but the vampire council was
anyone else. I sort of felt like they owed it to me now, considering I’d been their bitch for so many years.
The officer monitoring the holding cells let Holden out first, and me next, announcing we’d posted bail. Out in the lobby, Sig was leaning casually on the front desk saying something to Barbie in his smooth accent—one I’d never been able to place because it was so old—and Mercedes stood nearby, pretending she wasn’t enchanted by him.
Everyone who ever met him was enchanted by him, it was part of his gift. Some vampires had extra talents, and Sig’s was putting those around him at ease, human and vampire alike.
That was part of the reason he scared me so much. I felt relaxed when I was next to him, and since I was almost
relaxed, it made me extra nervous about him. Like he might attack me at any moment, but I would be so calm I’d simply roll over and let him maul me.
My blind trust was what made me most wary of him.
“Ah, here they are, my troublemaking friends.” He straightened to his full height and spread his arms wide like he wanted to hug the whole room. Barbie was gawking at him with a starry expression, and even Cedes was having difficulty suppressing a smile. “I do hope they weren’t too difficult for you.”
“Of course not,” Barbie said, as if she’d had anything to do with our brief stay in the slammer.
“We might need to get them frequent visitor badges at this rate, but a stay in the cells was new.” Cedes toyed with her frizzy black curls. If I didn’t know better, I’d say she was flirting with the Finnish master vampire.
“Hey, Cedes?” I interrupted. “How’s Owen?”
Her hand dropped from her hair, and she seemed to shake off the hazy glow of Sig’s presence. “Owen. Right. My boyfriend, Owen. Owen is great.” She took a few big steps back from Sig, suddenly realizing the impact he’d had on her wasn’t altogether natural.
Cedes didn’t trust vampires on the best day, and it had taken years for me to get her to treat Holden like a person—sort of—but she still didn’t have fuzzy feelings about vampires
. Sig wasn’t helping matters now, even if his mojo was involuntary. To people like Mercedes and Tyler who didn’t get the nuances of vampire power, everything unnatural was an invasion of their psyche.
I wanted her to stay wary, but I didn’t want her to think all vampires were monsters. Some of them might be, but not all, and it wasn’t fair of her to paint every single one of them with the same brush because of the misdeeds of a few.
Maybe it was a side effect of her job too. I was willing to bet Cedes had a hard time seeing the good in humans, considering what she saw in the field on a daily basis. If I could get her to see vampires the same way she did humans, then I might have a chance of showing her there was some good mixed in with the bad.
Problem was some days even I had trouble seeing the good, in vampires and humans both.
“Cedes, this is Sig. He’s my co-chair on the…council.” I avoided the word Tribunal because there was just no way to make it sound like a normal job.
could be anything, though.
“We were introduced,” she said, her expression serious and her whole posture becoming more rigid. Since I was feeling the soothing impact of Sig’s presence, I knew she must be fighting it hard.
I leaned in close and whispered so Barbie wouldn’t hear, “He’s not doing it intentionally. It’s just…him. Try not to resist.”
I might as well have told a wall not to resist a wrecking ball. She’d yield eventually, but now that I’d told her not to, she was more hell-bent on keeping his powers at bay. If Mercedes Castilla had a superpower, it would be stubbornness.
“You guys are good here?” she asked, though it sounded more like a statement than a question, as though we had no choice but to be okay. Without waiting for our reply, she turned heel and jogged up the steps and back into the upper floor of the precinct.
“Are you two done here?” Sig probed. It was a loaded question, and I knew he was going to unleash hell on me the second we were out of human earshot.
“Definitely,” Holden replied, the first word he’d spoken to me since we’d arrived here. In spite of our holding cells being next to each other, he hadn’t said a thing. Either he didn’t want to risk saying something telling in front of non-vampire company, or he was pissed at me for getting him arrested.
Or for ruining his precious suit.
We left the station together when all the necessary paperwork had been completed. With Sig signing everything, it made me feel as if he’d just bought me.
He already owned my life in so many other ways, what was one more?
Once the three of us were outside in the warm summer night, Sig’s pleasant veneer melted away, and he fixed me with a stern, unimpressed glare. “Do you know what it means to lie low, Secret?”
“That was a rhetorical question, as the answer is obviously
. I let you stay in the city because you promised me you could stay under the radar. Keep a low profile. All those silly new expressions you people have for keeping out of trouble. And what do you do? You bring down an entire apartment building.”
“In fairness, that was Grendel…”
“Now is a poor time to make excuses, pet.” He shortened his long strides, giving me and Holden a chance to catch up. Holden didn’t seem to be in much of a rush, trailing a few feet back.
“We saved the girl,” I said. “And didn’t Shane bring Grendel in?”
I sighed inwardly, relieved to know Shane and the wardens had been able to wrangle Grendel into council headquarters before the vampire’s knees healed and he was able to make a run for it.
“I think he knows something about Peyton,” I said, recalling what Grendel had baited me with in the apartment complex. “He might know where he is.”
Sig crossed the street, and I had no choice but to follow him if I wanted the conversation to continue. The yellowish glow of the streetlights gave his white-blond hair a warm, angelic glow. Sometimes, if I glanced at him quickly and saw only the beautiful face and often-shirtless physique, I forgot he was scary. In those moments he was just an alluring man.
This was not one of those moments, in spite of how good he looked in his tight black T-shirt. Considering Sig’s outfit generally consisted of leather pants and nothing else, the all black was a change of pace. The shoes were the most impressive thing for me. He wandered around barefoot ninety-nine percent of the time, and I knew he’d only put the loafers on to appear normal at the police station, but it didn’t make me any less fascinated by the sight.
I was so distracted I didn’t notice him stop in his tracks and ended up walking into his backside.
It was like smacking into a muscular wall.
“The time has come,” he said, as if picking up on a conversation thread, but it wasn’t from any conversation I remembered having with him. Had he been talking this whole time while I was busy staring at his shoes?
Better his shoes than his ass, I suppose.
“For what?” I asked, before I could be distracted by anything else.