Read The Renegade Hunter Online
Authors: Lynsay Sands
Nicholas came to the edge of the small copse of woods and quietly cursed.
Somehow he must have missed the rogue,
must have walked right past him. The thought made him turn and glance back the way he'd come, but Nicholas was sure there was no way he could have missed him. The woods lining the road were only ten feet deep and he'd moved through them slowly, eyes searching the trees as he'd gone. He couldn't have missed him, but it was the only thing that made sense.
Nicholas retrieved the signal receiver from his pocket and glanced at the screen. The small blip that was the rogue's car was still exactly where it had been earlier. The fellow hadn't doubled back and driven away. He slipped the device back in his pocket and turned to peer at the driveway before him.
There was no way the rogue had gotten in there on foot, he was sure. It was the entry to the new enforcer house. The equivalent of a police station for vampire hunters, it had better security than a mortal prison from what he could see. The gate blocking the driveway was ten feet high and made of thick wrought iron. There was an equally high brick wall that disappeared into the trees on either side of it. Every foot or so along the wall, metal spikes shot up and three lengths of
barbed wire were threaded through them, running along the top as a deterrent to anyone trying to climb it. A sign on the fence warned that it was electrified. If that wasn't enough security, there appeared to be a second gate some fifteen feet inside the first with a chain-link fence, also topped with barbed wire and no doubt electrified.
He shook his head slightly. This was something Nicholas never thought he'd see. The enforcers had always been rather loosely based, run out of Lucian Argeneau's home. However, it seemed his uncle had decided to make it all more official and organized. It was about time, Nicholas supposed. This should have been done centuries ago.
His gaze slid away from the gate and to the woods on the other side of the drive from where he stood. It was hard to believe the rogue he was following had slipped across that wide open expanse under the nose of the guard inside. Aside from that, there was a pillar before the gate with a camera and intercom system built into it. The rogue wouldn't have risked trying to cross the open area and getting caught on that camera.
However, either the rogue had risked it and
snuck across, or Nicholas had somehow managed to move right past the man as he'd made his way here.
Nicholas glanced over his shoulder at the woods at his back. While his mind was telling him he couldn't have walked right past the rogue without noticing, he was starting to worry that perhaps his instincts weren't as good as they used to be.
The sound of an engine caught his attention and Nicholas turned back to the driveway just in time to see a catering van pull in. He watched silently as it stopped between the pillars.
"Yes?" a metallic voice asked over the intercom.
"Cally's Catering," the van driver announced. "We're here to pick up our people and dishes."
"Come on in." The first gate slid open.
Nicholas expected the vehicle to be stopped between the two gates and inspected, but instead the guard in the small guardhouse inside the second gate came out and manually opened the inner gate for the van to enter. He did wave it to a stop, however, the moment it was inside.
The guard spoke briefly to the driver, and then moved around and opened the back door of the van to check inside. With
his attention on the guard, Nicholas almost missed the man who suddenly slid out from under the side of the van, shifted to a crouch, and sprinted for the woods behind the guardhouse.
The sight almost made him shout out a warning, but Nicholas caught himself and instead reached for his phone. It was the damned rogue, of course. The tricky bastard must have waited at the side of the road for a likely vehicle to approach, taken control of the driver to make him stop, and then slid under the van and clung to something on the undercarriage to hitch a ride in.
Clever little prick, Nicholas thought, frowning as he continued to search for his cell phone. He had to warn them inside and tell them to put a guard on the sisters and then start searching the property for the rogue that had gotten in. He'd tell them to start having the guard check under the vehicles as well. At least he would if he could find his damned phone, Nicholas thought with frustration as his search came up empty. What the hell had he done with it? It had been beeping a warning that the battery was low earlier in the evening and he'd plugged it into the car lighter with its special adapter to charge it up, and-
"Hell," Nicholas muttered, glancing back the way he'd come. He'd left the damned thing in the car. He briefly considered running back to get it, but while the rogue he was following had merely pulled over and parked at the edge of this property, Nicholas himself had parked in the woods nearer the next property to avoid being spotted. The man, Ernie Brubaker, was one of Leonius's spawn, and Nicholas hoped if he followed him long enough, Ernie would lead him to Leo's hideout. Leonius Livius was one nasty rogue who needed to be dealt with, and Nicholas had set himself the task of doing just that. However, his caution meant that his van was a good distance away... and by the time he ran back and grabbed his phone to make the call, Ernie could have grabbed one of the girls and gotten out again.
That was the only reason he could think that the fellow was here. At least that's what Nicholas had come up with when he'd realized he'd followed the man to the new enforcer house.
Nicholas sighed and swiveled back to peer at the gate and the driveway beyond again. The guard had already returned to
his little shack and the van had disappeared from view. No doubt at that very minute the rogue was racing through the trees toward the house. He had to warn them, but the only way to do that without his phone was to walk up to the gate and flatout
tell the guard... and that would pretty much toast his cojones, Nicholas acknowledged. Unfortunately, he didn't have much choice. If he didn't—
Nicholas was distracted from his thoughts by the arrival of another vehicle.
He turned his head to watch a van approach
the gate, and felt a grim smile curve his lips as he noted the cleaning service name on the side of the vehicle stopped beside the pillar. It was blocking the camera and intercom from his view...
and him from the camera's view, he realized.
Without pausing to think about how risky it was for him personally, Nicholas slid from the cover of the trees and raced across the short open expanse to the back of the van. Once there, he took hold of the handle on the back door and stepped onto the back bumper, careful not to cause unnecessary motion in the vehicle with his weight. He then held on for dear life and waited as the driver explained into the inter com that they were there to clean up after the party.
The guard repeated his invitation to "come on in," and after a short pause as the outer gate swung open, the van started forward with Nicholas clinging to the back like some bad imitation of Spider-Man. He was passing the camera on the pillar before he recalled its presence, but by then it was too late. Telling himself the guard wouldn't be inside the guardhouse to see him riding by, but had no doubt headed out to open the inner gate, Nicholas stayed on his perch until the back end of the van was even with the second open gate. He then leaped off and made a charge for the bushes by the guardhouse as he'd seen the rogue do. Nicholas prayed the whole way that the guard stuck to the routine he'd used the first time. If so, the van would block the guard's view of his mad dash for the trees. If not, he was likely to get a bullet in the back.
Nicholas didn't release the breath he was holding until he reached the safety of the woods behind the guard shack without anyone shouting out or shooting at him. He then allowed himself to breathe out and suck in a fresh gust of air,
but barely slowed his step as he followed the trail he suspected the rogue had taken, heading straight toward the house on the hill.
"Oh brother," Jo muttered.
"What?" Alex asked, lowering her glass and raising an eyebrow.
"More arrivals." Jo nodded toward the doorway where their sister, Sam, and her fiancé, Mortimer, were greeting a newcomer. It was yet another tall, well-built hunk in leather. Every male here appeared to be wearing leather of some description or other, either leather pants, a leather jacket, a leather vest, or some combination of the items. One or two were even wearing the whole deal. It was like a biker convention without the tats. That was the one thing Jo had noticed; while all the men looked mean and gruff, and several even had long hair, not a single one had a tattoo or piercing of any kind. They were the most clean-cut bikers she'd ever seen.
If they were bikers, she thought. Maybe they were all in rock bands like Mortimer and his friends Bricker and Decker. If that was the case, then it made them the most clean-cut rockers she'd ever seen.
"Come on, it isn't that bad," Alex said with amusement.
"Isn't it?" Jo asked dryly.
"No," Alex assured her. "I mean look around. We are presently in a room full of really good-looking men. I haven't seen this much eye candy in one place in a long, long time."
"Eye candy?" Jo asked.
"Yes, eye candy. Look around you, Jo, every single guy here is built. They all have muscly chests and narrow waists." She shook her head, her marveling eyes sliding over the men gathered in small groups that were dotted throughout the room.
"There isn't a paunch, a set of crooked teeth, or a knobby knee to be seen."
"Yeah, and if they weren't treating us like lepers it might be nice," Jo said.
"They aren't treating us like lepers," Alex said with a laugh.
"Are you kidding me? Are we at the same party or are you just not paying attention?" Jo asked with amazement. "Alex, they come in, Sam and Mortimer greet and have a little huddle with them, and then they bring them over to us, and the men all-every last one-stare at us with this weird intense look for a minute, saying absolutely nothing. They then glance
to Mortimer, shake their head, and move off. Some even just turn around and leave right away. The rest just stand around talking to each other and ignoring us," she pointed out, and then asked, "And you don't think this is strange?"
"Well, when you put it that way," Alex said wryly and shrugged. "It is kind of weird."
"Yes, it is," Jo said firmly. "And it isn't the only weird thing here. What about the security on this place? That's a bit over the top, don't you think?"
"Yeah, but Sam explained that Mortimer and the boys are having trouble with a stalker fan," Alex reminded her.
"Right," Jo snorted. "A stalker fan for a band who hasn't even agreed on a name yet."
"I thought they were going with Morty and the Muppets," Alex said with a frown.
"Alex," Jo said. "Even if they have a name now and a stalker from some Podunk little town they've played, where the heck did they get the money for this place and all its security? For God's sake, they're tricked out here like a third world dictator or big-wheel drug dealer. I doubt even the president of the U.S. or the prime minster here in Canada have twenty feet of barbed wire between them and the world."
Alex grinned and said, "I have a theory about that."
"Oh?" Jo asked. "And what is that?"
"That Mortimer isn't really in a band. That the story was all just some cover to hide the fact that he's really some big-deal rich guy. Like Gates maybe."
Jo raised her eyebrows. "Gates is a skinny old dude with glasses and graying hair. Mortimer is not Bill Gates."
"Well, his son or some other rich guy then," Alex said with exasperation.
"The point is, he just pretended to be some poor schmuck in a band so that Sam wouldn't fall for his money rather than him."
"Right," Jo said doubtfully, although, really, it made more sense than that Mortimer, Decker, and Bricker were in some little band and having trouble with a stalker fan. She supposed Sam probably knew the truth of the situation by now, and would eventually clue them in. In the meantime, Sam and Mortimer had finished their little huddle and were now leading over the latest arrival at the party-late being the key word since it was late and the caterers and cleaners were moving
through cleaning up around the guests. Turning, she handed Alex her drink.
"Here. Hold this. I have to go to the
Alex accepted the drink, but narrowed her eyes. "You'd best really have to go. You are not leaving me here to handle all these men by myself."
Jo gave a wry laugh. "As far as I can tell, there's nothing to handle, they're all more interested in each other than us.
They're probably all gay."
"You think?" Alex asked with wide-eyed alarm.
Jo merely rolled her eyes and slid quickly away before Sam, Mortimer, and Mr. Late-to-the-Party could reach them. She had to wonder about the question, though, as she moved through the milling men. They all looked kind of perfect. Not perfect as in model gorgeous. Despite Alex's words, there were some men there who were not picture-perfect pretty.