Read Night Blade Online

Authors: J. C. Daniels

Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Vampires, #Tagline… A knife in the dark

Night Blade (11 page)

BOOK: Night Blade
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Gee, way to ramp up the pressure.

So. First things first.

I had to start looking at all the various deaths, see if there were connections and look for more victims.

Because another thing Justin hadn’t outright said—the Assembly was worried there would be more deaths.

I felt sick.

And when this job was done, I was changing my fucking business. I wasn’t going to be
Colbana Investigations
anymore. I’d change my name to
Colbana Taxidermy. Colbana Interior Designers
. Anything. Shoot, I might even enroll in college courses and take some classes in accounting. Being an accountant would be less painful than this, had to be.

Colbana Accounting. At your service
.

I could do that. I’d gotten away from the evil bitch that was my grandmother. I’d helped bring down the rat pack. I’d faced a son-of-a-bitch master vampire and lived to tell about it…barely. I could crunch numbers, right?

Anything would be better this.

How in the hell was I going to investigate Damon?

I adored him. Sometimes I thought I was in love with him, when I let myself think that way. It wasn’t often because I was terrified of what might happen if I let myself actually be happy.

Things like
this
would happen.

The ache in my chest just wouldn’t go away. It was still choking me four hours later as I finished going through the names and making a board of my own. I used string and pins. Sounded simple, but it worked for me. I liked looking for connections and sometimes there were connections where there didn’t seem to be any.

Right now…there wasn’t
any
connection to Damon.

His only connection to the Assembly was the fact that as Alpha, he was afforded the status as speaker, something he’d grudgingly acted on only twice, to my knowledge.

And I’d double-checked that, too, logging in using my Assembly code. As one of their registered investigators, I had clearance to access the public logs and I could even go a little deeper, but I didn’t need to in order to see that Damon had attended all of two meetings in the four months since he’d killed Annette. The first one had been four days after that.

I clicked on the file that would let me view the meeting.

As always, the sight of him made my heart lurch a little.

He was sitting in the front row where the speakers were allowed to sit and Chang stood at his back. I wasn’t surprised by Chang’s presence. Sometimes I wondered just what their connection was—they were friends, but it was more than that. I had a few casual friends, and I had a few closer friends. But I didn’t have a bond with any of them that was quite like the bond Damon shared with Chang.

They’d bleed for each other, I knew. They’d bleed. They’d burn. They’d hurt. I somehow suspected they’d done all of that already and were prepared to do more.

Friendships like that alternately confused me and filled me with a wistful sort of yearning. I didn’t let myself form those kinds of bonds, because I didn’t trust them. Even the friends I had, I knew I could take off running tomorrow and leave it all behind if I had to. All except Damon that is…he’d be harder to leave.

The kind of friendship he and Chang had? It wouldn’t allow for that, I didn’t think.

I envied it. But I didn’t understand it, either. Absently, I rubbed my finger over the scars on my wrists as I watched the vid play out. Once, Chang bent down to murmur in Damon’s ear and I had to wonder at what was said. There was no telling, if I went by Damon’s expression. He simply didn’t make one. That hard face was impassive as all get out. So far, nothing that had taken place at the meeting had caused much of a reaction.

Somebody called his name and he canted his head to the side, stayed sprawled in his seat for a minute.

It wasn’t until somebody said
Alpha Damon Lee
that he bothered to rise and he did it with all cagey, coiled grace.

The video image just didn’t do him justice, I thought, crossing my arms over my chest.

When he spoke, there was an odd sort of power in his voice that I hadn’t ever really noticed before. I knew he kept the brakes on around me, but he wasn’t bothering with these guys.

Of course, the Assembly was all
about
power. The more you had, the more they respected you.

“I present myself as new Alpha of the Cats in the Southern Region,” Damon said. Despite the power rolling from him, from his voice, his tone was…bored. Very bored. Like he’d rather be anywhere but there.

“So noted,” one of the Councilors said—I recognize that voice. One of the Green Road witches. Her name was Anice, I thought. Stern. Borderline mean, but fair. She didn’t like me, but she wasn’t cruel with it. All in all…fair.

“Why did you just now decide to take these actions?”

I studied the video screen, hands braced on the desk until I found the person speaking that time. A fairy’s voice.
That
witch, I knew. Max. The dead witch. Seer abilities. She had her legs crossed, hands folded neatly and resting on her knees as she studied Damon.

And the look on her face was the kind of look you’d expect to see on a cat’s face when it had a mouse corned.

Idiot.

You don’t play cat and mouse games with another cat.

He flicked a look at her and went to sit back down. “To my knowledge, I’m not required to answer to the independents,” he drawled.

“Perhaps not.”

My lip curled when I heard
that
voice. I didn’t even need to look for him. It was Jude. The son of a bitch who’d been behind the hunting games—the bastard who’d broken seven of my ribs not that long ago. I still hadn’t made him pay for that.

“But the house of vampires is curious about it. Alpha Annette had long been our ally. We’ve yet to determine if you will be. Why was she taken out, Alpha Lee?”

A slow smile curled Damon’s lips as he stretched his legs out in front of him. The indolent way he sat there, the look in his eyes, everything about him pretty much screamed
fuck you
. “I guess maybe I was tired of having a crazy bitch run my fellow cats into the ground when I could do better,” he said easily, with no sign of anger.

Maybe nobody else saw it.

But it was there.

Damon hated Jude about as much as I did.

“There have never been formal complaints against her,” Alisdair MacDonald said quietly. “Are you certain this was a legitimate action and nothing to do with…personal reasons?”

“Oh, it was entirely personal.” Damon shrugged. “And it was entirely legitimate. It was a fair kill. I challenged her in view of witnesses and she lost. She tried to bring in three others at my back and I could have killed them. I chose not to. It’s over and it’s done—the pack is mine now.”

MacDonald nodded. “I, for one, have no complaints.”

“I’m curious how much this has to do with the assassin.”

I didn’t know that voice.

It was low and insidious. Deadly cold, iced poison dripping against my skin. Even though I was just watching a fucking
video
, I felt my heart jump into my throat and lodge there, swell up and choke me as a man moved into view.

Old. He was old. I could feel the punch of his power even though it wasn’t him I was facing. It was just a digital recording.

He was pale, in that way the old vampires are—his skin hadn’t seen the sun in centuries, and his hair was black as coal, pulled back to reveal a face that was harsh and blunt and unyielding.

I’d seen his picture just hours ago. Minutes ago, really, as I had finished stringing my web and looking for connections that didn’t seem to exist.

This was the vampire Samuel and he had power that made my teeth hurt, even just watching him on a fucking
video
.

Damon kicked up his booted feet and rested them on the desk in front of him, arching his brows.

Lazy, arrogant cat.

Fear flooded me even as I wished I could be that cocky in the face of something as terrifying as the monster moving across the screen. I could maybe fake it—sometimes—but Damon didn’t fake it. He sat there, all but silently laughing at anybody and everybody who thought they could fuck with him.

“Tell me about the assassin, cat…what does this have to do with her?”

“Seeing as how she can’t serve as Alpha or speak for us, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have anything to do with her,” Damon said, shrugging.

“So your attack on Annette had nothing to do with the fact that she wouldn’t give you leave to go chasing after your little whore? Is she really that good? I have to admit…I’m tempted to find out.”

Damon’s laziness disappeared in a blink.

He went from that lazy, feline sprawl to a springing attack, landing on the desk. The vampire, who’d stopped just in front of it, now had a shifted, clawed hand gripping his throat.

“What did you say, leech?”

“Ah, ah, ah…You can’t attack me here,” Samuel said, chuckling.

“Oh.” Damon’s eyes flashed. “I think I can. The charter gives me to leave to do what
ever
in the fuck I want on any ground except human territory if I feel a threat has been issued against one of mine.” He leaned in. “She’s mine, leech.”

“Enough!”

Voices rang out through the grand room and Samuel fell back, laughing.

“Alpha, that wasn’t a threat. When I make a threat against her, you’ll know.”

I swallowed the gorge rising up in my throat.

Well. There was one I could probably mark off Justin’s list. Damon wouldn’t have walked away from that.

 

The rest of the video was no help. Neither was the next session. Damon neither spoke to anybody nor responded to any questions. Anything directed at him was handled by Chang.

Nothing had been put before the Assembly on his behalf, either.

A shitload of deaths had been filed under his name, though.

All deemed righteous.

When a new Alpha settled in, they had a period of six months to determine loyalties. During that period, anybody could request leave of the new Alpha and it was to be granted.

A handful had requested and Damon had accepted all requests.

More than a dozen new cats had requested to come into the clan, though and that was…interesting.

The numbers were still lower than they had been before Annette’s death, though. He was taking the ‘
cleaning up
’ seriously. We hadn’t seen each other as much as either of us would have liked and a lot of the time was because he had his attention split between regular clan leader responsibilities and his new duties. Running the clan was like running a company with a thousand employees and he seemed to be taking it seriously.

Obviously. He’d killed more than seventy people in the past three months. I grimaced as I read through the death reports.

Seventy-five challenges.

Each report was concise and simple.

He explained why he’d called each member out.

Some had plainly said they’d been happy with Annette’s rule and didn’t plan to change how they lived.

Damon advised them that they
would
change or they’d leave. Or die.

In the end, a few left. Many had died, thinking they could handle the cat who’d previously held only the rank of enforcer in the clan.

In the past month, the reports had finally slowed down. Were they figuring things out?

I hoped so.

Finally, I logged out of the Assembly’s website and stood up. I was in the middle of stretching out the kinks in my back when I felt the familiar warning prickle of heat dancing on my skin.

Shifter

A moment later my senses whispered:
Cat
.

It wasn’t Damon.

I knew that much.

I rested my hand on the grip of my sword. She rested against my desk, and the feel of her sent a warm rush running through me. Her music sounded in the back of my mind.
I am here

Yeah. I knew that. But I left her where she was, out of sight and hidden behind my desk as the door swung open.

The sight of Doyle standing there didn’t do anything to improve my mood. His mood, his attitude would just have to wait. Until forever sounded good to me, I figured as I grabbed my blade. Sliding her into place, I leveled a flat look at Doyle. “Kid, I’ve got a huge job and I’ve got to do a deadline like a chopping block. Whatever it is…just go away.”

“Ah…I need a minute, Kit. Just a minute.”

If it hadn’t been the nervous, erratic tone of his voice, I would have just ignored him as I gathered up the files. Ironically enough, I noticed those files were all blank.

They hadn’t been thirty seconds ago.

Apparently just the presence of another was enough to activate whatever spell Justin had laid on them.

Frowning, I shoved them into my bag and then looked at Doyle’s face. He was staring at his feet. His shoulders were slumped and he had his hands loosely linked together in front of him.

I’d seen that position before…every time Damon dressed him down over something.

“Doyle,” I said tiredly. “I’m serious. If Damon’s trying to get you to babysit me or check up on me again, I’m going to kick his ass. I’ve got work.”

Doyle jerked his head nervously. “No. He…ah. He’s out of town for a few days again. Chang’s covering. They don’t know I’m here.”

“He’s gone? Again?” I scowled. The guy didn’t even bother to tell me? Then I wanted to kick myself. Wasn’t like he was required. But still…

“I asked Damon,” Doyle said, the words spilling out of him in a rush.

“Asked what?” I glanced at him, distracted. I took one of the longer blades from the wall and swung it. It would work. I grabbed a bag from the floor and slid the blade inside. When hunting for bear…

“About…” His breathing hitched and I felt the crush of his power as his fear spiked.

Slowly, I turned, bracing myself.

But he wasn’t staring at me with that panicked, focused gaze. He was still staring, docilely, at the floor. “I asked about the Glades,” he whispered. “He said…”

Shoving a hand through my hair, I snagged a few of my throwing knives and then headed back to my desk and got my vest. I slid it on and zipped it halfway, tucking the blades into the concealed sheaths at the sides. “Doyle. You’re fine. Go home.”

BOOK: Night Blade
10.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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