Read The Dark Side Online

Authors: M. J. Scott

Tags: #Paranormal Romance, #Urban Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Vampire Romance, #Werewolf Romance, #Werewolves, #Vampires, #magic, #Accountant, #The Wild Side Series, #FIC027120, #FIC009060, #FIC009000

The Dark Side (7 page)

BOOK: The Dark Side
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He moved against me then changed the angle of our hips slightly and slid inside. The world went away in a blur of pleasure. There was only the dark and Dan and the incredible feeling of moving with him. Of loving him. We spoke in touch and sigh, in movement. Languages we could understand.

Languages that united us in the chase of sensation instead of pushing us apart. Languages that urged us closer, faster, wilder until there was nothing except the other and the sheer power of the orgasm that took me.

* * *

“Wake up.” Dan shook me awake far too soon after we’d gone to sleep.

“Whuh?” I blinked up at him, trying to make my brain work as my body protested the thought of moving from the nice warm bed. His bedside clock insisted it was just after seven a.m. Given I usually work midday to midnight to accommodate my vampire clients, seven was early, early, early. Particularly when it had been close to five when we’d crawled into bed.

He tugged the covers from my grasp. “Get up. There’s been a vamp suicide.” He was already dressed.

How had he managed to avoid waking me? We’d gone to sleep curled around each other, not really talking after we’d come back from the park, neither of us wanting to shatter our temporary truce. I rubbed my eyes, trying to wake up. “Why do you need me?”

“It was right outside your building. Do you know where Jase is?”

Jase? They thought it might be Jase? I froze, pulse pounding, mind flooded with fear.

Jase
.

Shoving the fear away, I scrambled upright, looking around for clothes. “He wouldn’t.” I looked at Dan, wanting to see reassurance in his face.

It wasn’t there. His eyes were the mirrored shade they turn when he doesn’t want anyone to see inside. “Witness reports say it was a guy. I don’t want to take any chances.”

* * *

I hadn’t reached Jase by the time we got downtown, and every time his phone went through to voicemail the knot of fear in my stomach pulled tighter. The uniforms waved us through when Dan flashed his badge. I tried not to let myself think for one second it might be Jase who’d gone up in flames. He was fine. He had no reason to commit suicide—choosing the sunrise the vamps called it—he was
fine
.

Despite what I was telling myself, my fingernails were cutting into my palms as we approached the car. It was blocking the street, parked at a wonky angle across the middle of the road.

From the rear it looked pretty new. Recent tags and lovingly polished metallic red paintwork. But after the cops let us through the crowd and past the yellow and black tape cordoning off the car, we got close enough to see the driver’s side. The door was open, window shattered, the leather of the seat and lining the door smoking and charred black. Vamps burn hot. And they don’t leave much behind. The paint on this side had scorched and blistered, like a giant had smeared something black and acidic along the panels. The road was scorched too, bubbled with heat and covered with fine gray ash. The air smelled like burned tarmac and oil and a greasy throat clogging acrid smell.

“It’s not Jase’s car,” I said, speaking a little too loudly so I could hear myself over the pounding of my heart. My throat tightened, making me cough. Mistake. I just breathed in more of the stinking air with each splutter.

“Does it look familiar at all?” Dan asked.

I studied the car, then the plates. Nothing jogged in my memory. The windows shone with the bluish purple gleam that said they’d been UV treated and were thereforesafe for a vamp to drive but I didn’t think I’d seen the car before. But it was hard to think between the fumes and the fear. “No.”

“Have you run the plates?” Dan asked the bored-looking uniformed cop nearest us.

The cop nodded. “It was reported stolen two days ago. The owner’s from Bellevue, but he’s in D.C. for a business trip. Reported the car missing right before he left. He sounded pretty pissed.”

“You ask if he knew any vampires?”

The cop shook his head.

A muscle tightened in Dan’s jaw. “Then I suggest you contact him and ask. Is anyone else from the Taskforce here?”

That got a headshake. The cop pulled out his phone and walked away, leaving us alone with the ruined car. Dan started circling the car, skirting the burned areas of pavement, studying the vehicle intently.

I didn’t know what he was looking for. I wasn’t an FBI agent or an ex-cop. I wasn’t used to standing next to the spot where someone had burned alive. Or had been burned. The unwelcome thought popped into my head. It seemed stupid; how would you force a vampire to climb out of a car into daylight but I had to ask. “How do you know it was a suicide?”

“Witness saw the vamp get out of the car. And didn’t see anyone else nearby.”

So much for that.

Feeling helpless, if somewhat relieved, I reached for my cell to dial Jase again. I willed him to answer. Where the hell was he? I stared at the car and the ash coating everything, trying to tell myself the tears stinging my eyes were from the fumes as I listened to the sound of nobody picking up. Jase was fine, I told myself firmly.

But looking at the wreckage I couldn’t dispel my fear. I’d never seen the aftermath of a vamp hitting the sunlight before; I’d killed Tate under moonlight using good old-fashioned teeth and claws. The burned acid stench in the air suddenly reminded me of the taste of Tate’s blood and I realized that was what I smelled.

Incinerated vamp blood.

Bile rose in my throat and I stepped backward automatically, not wanting any of the ash to touch me. I didn’t need any more death. Didn’t want to know the scent of torched vampire. Hopefully this would be the last time I’d have to smell it. My stomach swirled uneasily as a breeze stirred the ashes.

“Can you identify anything from that?” I said, hoping conversation would distract me and stop me disgracing myself by puking at Dan’s crime scene. If a suicide was considered a crime scene.

Dan shook his head. “Unless there’s something in the car, it’s pretty unlikely. No one’s ever been able to extract DNA from vamp ash. Burns too hot to leave any bone fragments.” He stared at the car, face twisted in a frown. He smelled nervous. “Anything from Jase?”

I shook my head and walked to him, wanting to breathe Dan-scent instead of dead vampire. I moved slowly, peering at the car, hoping that maybe there’d be something useful like a ‘hey, I’m not Jase’ sign left behind by the mystery vamp. Nothing. Just various degrees of heat damage and stink. I took another step and a glint of silver by the front tire caught my eye.

“I think there’s something down there.” I pointed.

“Where?”

Dan crouched down to look. I squatted beside him to stay close, filling my nose with his comforting smell.

“What the hell is that?” Dan straightened and yelled for some gloves and an evidence bag. Guess it was treated like a crime scene after all. One of the cops jogged over with the stuff Dan had asked for.

When Dan straightened the second time, he held a charred brownish lump. The top of it was partially covered with twisted silver. The whole thing stank like the burned remains of God knows what.

Dan’s nose flared with disgust and he held it away from his body. “I have no idea what this is but maybe it will help.”

The partially melted silver had formed the sort of angles that could give Escher a headache but something about them tugged at my memory. I leaned closer.

“Ash? Do you know what this is?”

I studied it, trying to make sense of the silver, trying to undo the damage done by the fire and imagine the thing whole and untwisted. Angles. Points.
Teeth
. An image of the muzzled vamp from the club flashed in my mind and I jerked backward.

“Ash?” Dan repeated, waving the burned lump near my face.

“There was a vamp at Maelstrom,” I said as the returning memories sped my pulse. “He wore a mask, like a muzzle almost. Brown leather with silver fangs over the mouth.”

“You think this could be that?” His voice went deep.

I looked up to meet his gaze. There were shadows under the silver eyes. Shadows in their depths too. Worry. Fear. My fault. Guilt added another thread to the knotted emotions riding my gut. “Honestly? I don’t know. Maybe.” It could be but the damage was pretty extensive and I’d only seen the muzzled vamp for thirty seconds or so.

Dan frowned. “You saw this vamp last night? At Maelstrom? When?”

“When we first came in, just after that bald guy got in my face.”

“Was he alone?”

I closed my eyes, searched for the memory again. “There was a woman with him. Holding his leash.” Dark hair. Dark eyes. Black painted lips blowing me a kiss. The image in my head made my spine crawl.

“Did you know her?”

“I don’t know anyone who hangs out in dark clubs.”

The frown lines between his eyebrows deepened as he stared down at the muzzle—if that was what it was. “I don’t like it. It’s too much of a damn coincidence. First you see a vamp in the club wearing something like this, then there’s a vamp suicide right outside your office.”

“There must be close to two hundred people who work in my building,” I pointed out. “And thousands more in all the buildings round here. What makes you think this has anything to do with me?”

“Instinct,” he said shortly. “I’m going to get the security tapes from the club.”

Esteban was going to love that. But Dan’s expression suggested he wasn’t going to be dissuaded. A legitimate excuse to rattle Esteban’s chains added to the suspicion that this suicide had something to do with me would make him pretty damned determined. I didn’t want another argument. Plus, a small part of me couldn’t shake off the feeling that maybe, just maybe, Dan was right.

I was trying to work out how to say ‘please try not to piss off my new client too badly’ without starting an argument when my cell rang. Jase. Finally. A smile of relief spread across my face as I answered. “Where were you?”

“I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you,” he said with a laugh. “What’s up?”

The sound of his voice made me feel like I could breathe again.
Safe
. “I’ll tell you when you get here.”

* * *

By the time Dan’s team arrived, so had Jase. He called me from the office.

“I’m here. What’s all the commotion down there?”

“I’ll be up in a minute.” I didn’t want to tell Jase about a vamp suicide over the phone. Most vamps didn’t like to talk about even the possibility of dying.

“I’ve checked the messages. Your aunt called already.”

Aunt Bug? Crap, had she seen something on TV about the suicide? I scanned the crowd and sure enough, there were several pairs of microphone-toting reporters and cameramen. Crap. No doubt there’d be some sensational story on the news already. Or a video on YouTube. There were always people willing to stir up tension between humans and supernaturals. “Did she say what it was about?”

He sighed. “The memorial, what else?”

Oh God. The memorial. I’d forgotten. Next week was the thirteenth anniversary of the Caldwell massacre. The night McCallister Tate had slaughtered thirty people in my hometown.

Including my family. And my best friend.

Damn.

“Give me two minutes.” I hung up and told Dan where I was going. Then walked across the street, trying not to think about the memorial. Which was about as successful as you’d expect.

Every year Caldwell held a service for the victims and my aunt insisted I go, even though I hated it. This year was going to be worse. This year, they were trying to make me into some sort of hero because I’d killed Tate.

If they’d known the details, they wouldn’t be so impressed. Biting someone’s head off—literally—is not so heroic for your average person. But the FBI had kept the specifics of the death quiet and just released pictures of Tate’s coffin being delivered to the crematorium for incineration.

Better safe than sorry, even with no head.

To the general populace of Caldwell, I was the one who’d finally brought some closure to a lot of shattered lives.

Someone to be admired.

But given that most of them had an aversion to supernaturals close-up, I wasn’t sure I wanted them to know all the gory details. Particularly the fact that I was a werewolf now. I wasn’t sure how far that little piece of news had traveled.

Or what my reception would be like once the town knew the truth.

Which was why I didn’t want to go.

And why I’d been avoiding my aunt.

* * *

Jase was waiting for me with coffee and a lot of rapid-fire questions about what was going on downstairs.

I took the coffee and drained half the cup, trying to kick-start my brain. The thirty seconds or so didn’t really reveal a brilliant way to avoid telling Jase the truth so I just said “Vampire suicide.”

Jase went pale. On him pale is
very
pale.

“Hey.” I reached out to grab his hand. His skin was cool under my fingers and I wanted to warm him up. But you can’t warm a vampire. “It’s okay.”

He nodded but his color didn’t come back and his eyes turned toward the window. “Sunrise?”

I nodded, wondering what he was thinking. Jase had chosen to become a vampire when he’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer at twenty-three. Suicide wasn’t a concept that sat well with him. All life was good. “Seems that way.”

“Do they know who it was?”

“No, there’s no ID. The Taskforce will look into it.” I had no idea how you tracked down a missing vampire. I sipped more coffee, waited for the next question.

His gaze came back to me. “You thought it was me,” he said, sounding hurt. “That’s why you’ve been calling. Ash, you know I would never...”

“I know,” I said, gripping his hand tighter. I knew. Jase wouldn’t leave me that way. We’d been friends before he turned and I hadn’t been able to push him out of my life afterward. I was the one who’d flirted with suicide after I’d been infected.

I shivered. Too much death. Jase was right. Life was something to cling to. Fighting Tate—knowing I might die at his hands—had taught me that. “I know. But Dan was worried because of the location.” No need to tell Jase just yet that Dan was maybe a little spooked because of Esteban. One set of bad news at a time. “And then I couldn’t get hold of you.”

BOOK: The Dark Side
3.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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