Authors: J. C. Daniels
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Vampires, #Tagline… A knife in the dark
“Why is Banner in interested in this?” I looked back at the board, shaking my head. “It doesn’t make sense. Those are Assembly members and if anybody should be investigating, it should be them.”
“Two reasons. The first—we were asked.” Justin stared at the board. “Apparently, they feel they have a snake in their ranks and that just means they are idiots for not realizing that earlier. The second—a few people in Banner are worried it’s somebody moving for a power play, which is why they are so damned worked up about an aggressive extermination.” He shrugged, a restless uneasy gesture. “But they want an impartial party doing it…which is why
were approached. With the new Alpha just settling in and a lot of the cats pretty damned pleased with the new change of leadership…”
I stared at him. “None of the bastards in the Assembly want to dirty their hands. They are dumping it on you—they don’t want to piss off the cats when this goes bad.”
“Entirely possible.” Justin looked about as troubled as I’d ever seen him. “The Assembly members who reached out are claiming that he’s acting
out of control
…enough to warrant said aggressive extermination. All tied into that so-called power play, one they feel is a threat to the mortals in the area.”
“Damon’s not moving for a power play,” I said as everything inside me went cold. “He didn’t even want to take over the East Orlando clan.”
He did it for me—
I kept that behind my teeth, but it was true nonetheless.
“You might well believe that, and I’m fine buying it,” Justin said quietly. “But that doesn’t mean I can make my superiors believe it. I need to convince them he had another reason for killing five speakers to the Assembly.”
I met his gaze and my heart slammed hard against my ribs as I saw the seriousness in his eyes.
“If I don’t get them a valid reason? He’s dead, Kit.”
“What’s a valid reason?” I demanded.
Now he smiled a little. “Oh, come on, Kit…the charter was written for a reason. They know we’re going to kill. Unlike humans, we even have
to do it.” His green eyes glowed a little as he leaned in close. “Just find me a damn reason.”
Thanks to everybody who encouraged me to continue with Kit’s story. Be warned…she’s got a rocky road ahead of her. But I hope it’s worth it in the end.
With love, always, to my husband and kids. You’re my everything…thank God for you.
Copyright © 2012 Shiloh Walker
First digital edition 2012
Cover Art by Angela Waters
Editorial Work Sara Reinke
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
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I am aneira.
My blade is strong.
Strong enough to handle a lot of things but not enough to handle the four shifters who had been trailing me all day. Cutting through the streets of East Orlando, I checked them out again and sighed.
That was what was my gut said, although it was hard to be one-hundred percent positive, considering I had to watch them from my rear-view mirror and they were tucked away inside their nice, shiny little luxury sedans.
East Orlando was lousy with weres. We had the wolf pack, the cat clan, and over the past few months, rats had been trickling back in. They’d been scarce in these parts for a good six years, ever since the last nest had been wiped out.
I didn’t know why the rats had decided to start moving back in now, but that was a puzzle to solve later. Right now, I had to get to my office. Once I was there, I’d feel better about facing these guys and seeing just what in the hell they wanted.
Whatever it was, they had to want it pretty damn bad, because they had been tailing me since shortly before lunchtime and it was nearly four now.
The office for Colbana Investigations, Inc. is officially Assembly of Non-Humans—or ANH—neutral ground and if the wolves got testy there, things would go bad for them. The ANH frowned when their members got involved in bloodshed on neutral territory. That was why we had it. So we could carry on business like civilized people.
Not that we were. Well, some of us were more civilized than others. I tried to be. Civility proved useful in my case, since I wasn’t strong enough to separate a body from its body parts unless I used a sword.
Still, if those were the wolves, I was probably being paranoid for nothing. Wolves were nice and orderly and all about following rules. They drove BMWs and Audis. They kept to the speed limit; they used their turning signal and they let other people in when the traffic was tight.
Yeah, the wolves were all about courtesy.
If it had been the rats, the cars would be clean but simpler—none of them had been around long enough to drive cars that nice. Plus, they wouldn’t be so damned patient, they wouldn’t be following the speed limit and they damn for sure wouldn’t have waited all day like this while I led them on a merry chase.
And they weren’t cats. The cat clan had a better way of getting my attention.
I was probably worrying about nothing. Still, I had ended up on the wrong side of the shifters before. I believed in better safe than sorry.
Just in case, I had already thought through my options. The best one was out. His name was Damon, and he was…well, my boyfriend, I guess, although nobody who ever looked at Damon Lee would think
He was Alpha of the cat clan and there had been a time when he had terrified me. Now, he alternately dazzled, delighted and pissed me off. On occasion, he dismayed me, too.
I couldn’t rely on him. For a couple of reasons. He was out of town. That happened a lot lately. I also had problems with turning to him every time a situation got dicey. It didn’t matter if there were four shifters and just one of me. I’d been handling myself for a long time and I’d prefer to keep it that way, even if
pissed him off.
Best option: get to the office, activate the new wards I had paid for recently. Hope for the best.
* * * * *
It all turned out to be in vain.
I had just come off one fairly lucrative courier job. Having another fall into my lap was unexpected but here it was.
Staring at the soft-sided cooling unit for a long minute, I debated. Five thousand and expenses to take that thing and its contents to a pack in the Smokies and deliver a message. It was too easy.
There had to be a catch.
Lifting my head, I looked from one wolf to another. All of them were staring at me with variations of polite, bored smiles. All but the Alpha. His name was Alisdair MacDonald. A few select people were allowed to call him Dair.
I wasn’t on that list.
MacDonald didn’t look bored at all. He looked very interested in my answer. And although there was nothing threatening about his demeanor, I suspected he really, really wanted me to say yes.
I hated when alpha were-anything showed up in my office and expected me to say yes. Well, except for Damon. Some of the things
asked for, I was more than happy to say
“Before I even agree to discuss this, I have a question,” I said, pulling out one of my knives and tossing it absently. I heard a grumble from one of the suits and I shot a look in his direction. “Calm down, beefcake. I think better when my hands are busy.”
MacDonald chuckled. “Beefcake…really?”
“Well, he isn’t wearing a nametag.” I shrugged and shifted my attention back to MacDonald. “If I say no, or even if I do this job or
to do it and I screw up, you’re not going to threaten to eat my kidneys or my heart or anything, are you?”
“Good heavens, no,” he said, scowling. A look of utter distaste crossed his face. He narrowed his eyes as he moved forward a few more steps. I had the impression of a dog—maybe a wolf—sniffing at something it had discovered on the ground. “Why on earth would you ask that?”
“The last time I had an Alpha asking me to do a high-paying job, I ended up being told if I failed, I was dead.” The job had ended up leading me down the road to Damon so all in all, I couldn’t complain, but I was trying to learn more caution.
“I give you word as Alpha that the only thing I plan to do if you fail to complete the job is just not
“Fair enough.” I put my knife away and leaned forward, staring at the red cooling unit that sat on the ground by the suit’s feet. “So…what’s in there?”
MacDonald nodded to Beefcake.
Beefcake was a less-impressive version of what Damon had sold the world. Lots of muscle, power and loyalty. Beefcake would kill me in a blink if his Alpha told him to. Or… unseal the unit and lift out two plastic-wrapped heads.
All without changing his expression or showing any sign of emotion.
Dead eyes stared at me from behind the sturdy wrap of plastic.
“Please tell me that isn’t your idea of lunch for my roadtrip.”
The muscle in the suit gave me a hard stare.
But MacDonald laughed. “No. That’s your delivery. I want you to deliver those…and a message.”
Suddenly, that big pile of money made a little more sense.
“What is the message?”
* * * * *
Five thousand wasn’t enough. I pushed for ten. We settled on seven-five. I suspected that was what he had been willing to pay anyway.
Contracts signed, I agreed to head out immediately. He informed that he had a rental car already waiting. I appreciated the courtesy. My car didn’t need the extra miles, nor did I want to run the risk of those heads stinking it up.
“One final detail,” MacDonald said as he rounded up his men. The only one not moving for the door was the pretty, dark-eyed woman seated in the corner. She wore a dove gray suit and had legs that made me wanna cry.
“I am aware of your relationship with the cat clan. While I don’t foresee you encountering much difficulty on this job, I would be remiss in not taking into account your human…nature.”
That was a polite way of telling me,
you’re human and while nothing bad should happen, if it does, your ass is toast and I’ll be in big trouble so I better make sure there’s somebody here to take care of you
Ah, no, thanks.
I didn’t bother telling him I wasn’t human; I was half. He would see it as splitting hairs. Leaning back against the desk, I stroked the black leather bracer I wore on my left wrist as I studied him. “I’m handling a courier job. ANH law covers me fairly well and I’m pretty good at handling myself.”
“Nevertheless, you’ll have an escort.” MacDonald smiled politely. “It’s covered by the contract—the pack will see to any precautions deemed necessary. I consider this necessary.”
I clenched a hand into a fist, glad it was covered by my desk. It wasn’t my human
that had him worried. It was my
boyfriend and the fact that the cats outnumbered the wolves two to one in East Orlando. MacDonald was worried that if something happened to me, Damon would take it personally and come after his ass.
It was possible.
And I didn’t care.
“I’ve been doing my job with my human
for quite a while, MacDonald. I don’t need your bodyguard. It’s a fucking
job,” I said quietly.
Behind MacDonald, Beefcake made a grumbling noise in his throat. It was an odd sound—I was used to hearing grumbling, all right. Damon did that at me a lot. But this wasn’t quite the same. I shifted my gaze away from MacDonald and focused on the wolf, staring him down.
I hadn’t played the territorial, kow-towing bullshit with Damon. I wasn’t doing it
. And Damon had been so much scarier.
The woman sitting in the chair laughed. “You know, it takes balls to try and stare down a werewolf.”
“No. It just takes common sense,” I said, not looking away from the wolf. “I’m not were. I understand the ANH charter—I can quote more than a lot of people
. I haven’t done a damn thing wrong and he’s in my place of business. He’s got no reason growling at me unless he’s pissed off that I used the word
. Now, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been outlawed to say the word
in front of the wolf Alpha.”