Read Night Blade Online

Authors: J. C. Daniels

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

Night Blade (12 page)

BOOK: Night Blade
6.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“I can’t,” he snapped, jerking up his head and glaring at me. “Damon was going to head one way to look. He told me.
You
are the reason he went east. You made him go that way.
You
are the entire reason he was down there to begin with. The Everglades was your idea, all along. And
you
…” He stopped and swallowed. “It was you all along. Damon caught on our scent, but only because you put him on the right road to begin with.”

I shrugged. “Look, if we hadn’t found you that night, we would have found you the next day.”

“But it would have been too late for me. Erin…” He licked his lips and looked away. “I was already so close to breaking with her and right before we heard you all coming, I was sitting there thinking:
We aren’t going to get out of here. I can just go ahead
….”

His eyes flashed gold as he looked back at me. That soft blue bled away until the eyes of a tiger were staring at me from his human face. Stripes ghosted under his skin and I knew he was holding on by the skin of his teeth. It wasn’t anger causing it. It was fear. He’d been through hell, the poor kid.

Sighing, I tried again. “Doyle… it’s okay. Just go home.”

But he didn’t seem to hear me. “You know what I was telling myself?”

Okay. So he had to do this. Crossing my arms of my chest, I leaned back and waited.

“I had myself convinced that it would better if I just killed her, because at least I could make it quick and I wouldn’t hurt her the way the hunters wanted to. And I was going to do it. That night. Once it was dark, I was going to kill her, and then the wolf girl. I was going to kill them both. I couldn’t handle it anymore.”

My gut twisted as I listened to him. I wasn’t equipped for this. I didn’t know how to handle this. Where in the
hell
was Damon? I dragged my hands over my face. “Have you talked to Damon, Doyle?”

“Yeah. He keeps telling me that I would have been fine, but I know better. I wasn’t fine. And I didn’t want to be…not anymore. I was going to turn into a monster, just like people think we are. You’re the only reason I’m
not
,” he said, his voice cracking. He sounded so terribly young.

It broke my heart that much more.

“If you were a monster, you could have broken at any time in the past four months, Doyle.” I shoved away from the wall and grabbed my bag. I didn’t have time for this hand-holding and I didn’t know what he wanted from me. I wished I could give it to him, but I didn’t know what he wanted. What he needed. “You wouldn’t have bothered trying to control yourself as long as you did. You haven’t broken. You held it together far longer than a lot of others could have.”

Those golden eyes continued to stare at me.

I waited for a minute before I said, “They had fun, watching you all act like animals. Seeing you scared. Why let them win…even now?”

Then I headed for the door. “I have to go. Pesky little thing called work and all that.”

He trailed along at my back and when I chanced a look at him, the golden tiger eyes had faded away, replaced by the tired, dull blue eyes of a kid who still looked more than a little lost.

I could relate.

I hadn’t been able to find my footing ever since that bastard Banner cop had shown up in my office that morning.

 

* * * * *

 

One thing I needed to do.

Talk to the so-called witnesses who claimed they’d seen Damon around when the Assembly members had been killed.

This was where things would get dicey.

Two were cats.

They’d talk.

One was even dicier Jude had been on the grounds of the vampire Samuel’s house and said he’d had an
unpleasant confrontation with Alpha Damon Lee
.

There was something messed up about that, because if Damon had come across Jude, I didn’t see him just letting it end with an
unpleasant confrontation
. A battle nearly to the death? Yes. Had it happened on one of the nights when he’d come to me battered and bruised and bleeding?

I didn’t know.

But one thing was clear; I had to talk to Jude.

It was entirely possible he’d get ugly when I talked to him.

It was entirely possible he’d get physical.

It was entirely possible he’d try to make another violent move in my direction, so the first thing I had to do was log the visit with the Assembly.

The good thing—I was doing this at Banner’s request which made it official as all…

Wait.

I grabbed my phone and dialed a number I hadn’t called in years. Justin didn’t answer. It rolled to voice mail and I was fine with that. I left him a variation of the message he’d left me:
Call me. It’s important
.

He didn’t want me cluing people in to the fact that I was investigating Damon, right?

Not too many ways to do that without people doing something terribly clever and using their brains. So he was going to help me with this. I’d backed Banner up a few times in the past few years. Wasn’t my favorite way to earn a living, but I’d been contracted by them before and that’s what this was.

He could figure out some way to make this look
other
than what it was. Shame punched through me as I acknowledged what I was doing.

Hiding it from Damon.

But I had to.

If he found out what I was doing, he’d get bumped up on the executioner’s block and I’d lie, cheat, steal or kill before I let that happen.

I’d go back to my grandmother’s before I’d let anything happen to him.

There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do to help him.

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

 

I wasn’t meeting Jude at his home.

I didn’t want to meet him in person
if
I could avoid it.

The best thing to do was set up a meeting at my office, which was doable. Damon was going to go ballistic if he found out, but there wasn’t any way around it. And the best time to do it was now.

I put the call in and got passed to his demented tormentor in training, Evangeline. She hated me. I hated her. It worked for both of us.

“Ms. Colbana,” Evangeline said, her voice dripping with ice. “I do not believe Jude has attempted to make use of your…services recently.”

The innuendo there was unmistakable. I suppose it was intended to affect me somehow. I’m not sure how. “Oh, I’m not calling about business…not his, anyway. It’s Banner business.” Even though I didn’t feel at
all
cheerful, I could fake it with the best of them and my voice came all cheerful and chipper, so cheerful that I wanted to gag myself. “I need to speak with him…like
pronto
, or we’ll send an escort for him.”

Banner business tended to be taken seriously. Even though I was bullshitting about the
escort
thing. Evangeline probably didn’t know that.

“Ms. Colbana, would you look out whatever window might be around you?”

I didn’t need to.

“Oh, I know what time it is.” I tapped a stylus against my thigh. “It’s mid-afternoon and I know he’s not required to attend to any…formal…business until after sunset. But if I don’t hear from him
by
sunset, I’ll put in a formal request for his presence at Banner HQ. Since I’m logging off thirty minutes
after
sunset? He’ll spend the night on premises.”

A long, taut silence passed and then, in a frigid voice, she informed me, “I’ll pass the message along. I assume you’ll be at your offices?”

“I’m not sure.” That wasn’t lying, either. I wasn’t
entirely
certain it was safe to speak to Jude without a little more firepower on hand. I’d never gotten my hands on that rocket launcher, either. “For now, he can call me. I’m sure you can track down my info for him, right? If I need to make it a face-to-face meeting, I’ll let you know.”

“Very well.”

Right before I could disconnect the call, she said, “Ms. Colbana. Jude is a busy man…when he does call, keep this short.”

 

* * * * *

 

I wasn’t on the premises when Jude decided to return my call.

And the son of a bitch
did
go by the office. I felt his presence ripple through the wards. The only reason I
could
feel it was because I’d had them made to respond to the presence of anything soulless.

Vampires aren’t undead the way literature paints them to be. But they do lose their souls over time. Something like
that
? Magic can pick up, very well. And since Jude had placed his loathsome ass in my office before, it wasn’t that hard to key my wards in so they reacted to his particular soulless self.

I felt the buzz of his presence echo through me while I was talking to a couple of other
witnesses
and it wasn’t long after that his beloved Angie gave me a call.

“Ms. Colbana. If you’re going to request that he speak with you,
can’t
you have the courtesy to be around when he tries to do just that?” she asked, his voice all tight and prissy.

Sometimes I thought about how much fun it would be to kill her. I could do that. She was almost as soulless, almost as evil as her master, and I don’t say that just because I dislike her. I’ve seen her backhand people for so much as bumping into her as they walk down the street.

Needless to say, she doesn’t leave NH territory much. She has to behave on human turf and she hates that.

“Angie, I think I told you I doubted I’d be
in
the office today.” I glanced over my shoulder as I made tracks for my car. The two I’d just spoken with were watching me and they weren’t really giving me warm, fuzzy feelings. Bottom-level witches—had worked with Max, mostly doing fetch and carry shit and serving as power sources when she did high-level spells, but I still didn’t want to mess with them if they got testy.

It would take time, and time was something I didn’t have.

“Why should he
bother
to speak with you if you can’t be accessible?”

I rolled my eyes. “Oh, for fuck’s sake. Put him on the phone or tell him I’ll send the escort on down his way. His choice—and don’t tell me that he isn’t around. I know better.”

Two seconds later, his voice came on the line and a shiver of cold raced down my spine, followed by the oh-so-unwelcome sensation of pleasure curling through me. Vampires could work their voices like a weapon…one of pain, or one of seduction. “Darling Kit,” he murmured.

“I’m not your darling anything, Jude. I have questions.”

“Come by. We’ll discuss anything you want over dinner.”

“No can do.” As if I’d step foot in his house.

“If you can’t come by for a few minutes, then I’m afraid I can’t answer your questions.”

Curling my lip, I resisted the urge to hit something. Instead I climbed into my car and shut the door. “I’m on the other side of East Orlando and I’m finishing up with other business. Answer a few questions now and if it’s necessary to speak in person, I’ll arrange a meeting.”

“I’d prefer to discuss all of this in public.”

Yeah. I bet. Snakes didn’t like phones—made it harder to attack their prey. As much as I hated it, when it came to vamps as old as Jude, I
felt
like prey. “Look, I’m busy as hell and don’t have time to waste chasing down dead ends. I just need to know if you have any information about a Speaker…vampire by the name Samuel. He was killed and the Assembly asked Banner to look into it.”

A taut silence stretched out between us.

When Jude spoke, his voice was sharp as a blade. “Since when do you care about the comings and goings of Banner, Kit?”

“Since I got dragged into it,” I said, managing a very put-upon sigh. “They dump a case into my lap and leave me to work it blind. Since he’s an old vampire—and so are you—I’m assuming you know each other. Or
knew
. Several Speakers bit the big one lately and I was asked to consult. Who knows why, but I’ve got this job on top of my other work. Now…Jude. Do you know anything about the Speaker’s death?”

“I knew Samuel.” Then, before I could ask him to expand on that, Evangeline was on the phone.

“If you want any more information, you’ll have to speak to Jude in person. Threaten away, if you wish, but I’ll just have one of the lawyers contact you. He’s a Speaker of the Assembly and that grants him certain…protections.”

I curled my lip as the call was disconnected.

Throwing the phone into the seat beside me, I tried to decide if that had been useful, at all.

It only took five seconds to decide.

No. It hadn’t been helpful at all.

 

* * * * *

 

Justin still hadn’t called.

I’d spent most of the day churning up absolutely nothing.

Jude was now expecting me to grace him with my presence—I’d have to figure out a way to suffer through that, and
survive
it, or just put him off until I solved this case on my own.

I
had
, however, figured out a few things…time and locations of death.

The Assembly was almost fanatical about tracking their speakers.

Two of the dead Assemblymen had been killed at one of their other homes. They might be registered in East Orlando, but some of these people had money out the ass and homes all over the damn world.

Veronica and Silas hadn’t died here.

I shrugged my shoulders a little, twitching as I pondered that.

Jude claimed he had seen Damon, but Damon wasn’t an idiot.

He was too smart to get seen outside of East Orlando right before he planned on killing somebody.

A fact I planned on pointing out to Justin, as soon as I talked to him.

This whole damn case had me cranky, and not being able to get answers
immediately
was making it even worse. Plus, I needed some information from Justin and he hadn’t called. Jerk.

I could track his ass down easily enough, but I didn’t even want to spare the time to sleep, much less go looking for him. Before I went home, I swung by the office. There was one more weapon I thought might come in handy. I tugged it off the wall as I made that next call to Justin.

This one wasn’t so polite.

“If you don’t call me, I’m going to hunt you down and use your bike for target practice. I’ve got a Desert Eagle .44 Magnum that I hardly ever get to practice with…it’s getting kind of lonely.”

BOOK: Night Blade
6.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Last Betrayal by L. Grubb
A Cast of Killers by Sidney Kirkpatrick
Scenting Hallowed Blood by Constantine, Storm
Tattoo Thief (BOOK 1) by Heidi Joy Tretheway
Walking to the Moon by Kate Cole-Adams
Don't Expect Magic by Kathy McCullough
The Right Thing by Judy Astley
Gaudi Afternoon by Barbara Wilson
CarnalPromise by Elle Amour