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Authors: J. C. Daniels

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

Night Blade (24 page)

BOOK: Night Blade
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He laughed a little. “If I did that, you’d make me eat them. Besides…where would be the fun?”

“So biting me is fun,” I muttered. Stroking my hand down the letter in my bag, I closed my eyes.
Justin. Where the hell are you?

“Maybe it’s a little more for me.” He sighed.

In my mind, I could see him, rubbing his palm across his head, scraping it over his close-cropped hair the way he did.

“What are you up to do today?” he asked, his voice soft. “Gotten yourself into trouble or banged up much?”

Thinking back to the two or three pounds of flesh I’d left on the pavement, I made a face. “No more than normal.”

“And this job you’re working? How much longer until it’s done?”

“Not soon enough.” Even if Justin were to somehow magically appear in front of me—and I didn’t think
that
was possible—this thing had still gone on too long. It needed to be done yesterday. It needed to never have
started
. I stroked the letter I held. Like it was a talisman. Justin. Had to get it to Justin. “It’s wrapping up, but there’s still a mess I have to deal with.”

“And you’re not in trouble.”

I snarled and shoved off the car, turning around and driving my foot into the tire. “No, damn it. I
am
not in trouble.”
You are. Because you’re trying to fight my battles. And I…shit. I love you.

The knot jumped into my throat and I had to squeeze the words out. “I don’t think I’ve told you this, but I love you,” I whispered. It came out ragged. Broken, almost.

Fear grabbed me and held me tight. I’d never let myself love anything, anybody before. Not really. What would happen now—
no. Don’t think that way
.

“Kit—”

“Even when you are giving me grief over doing my job,” I said, managing to make my voice sound a little more level. Almost the normal smart-ass me—maybe. “I gotta go. See you later, okay?”

“Kit!”

I hung up in the middle of his familiar snarl.

Swearing, I shoved the phone into my pocket and covered my face with my hands. It rang. And rang. And rang. I ignored as I stormed into my office and set the wards. The past few days had strained my nerves to the breaking point and while I desperately
wanted
to talk to Damon, the things I
needed
to say? I couldn’t tell him if my life depended on it.

My phone continued to ring in my pocket and I didn’t trust myself to pull it out and not answer it so I grabbed the office phone and punched in another call. When Justin didn’t answer that time, I was ready to scream.

 

* * * * *

 

Twenty-five minutes later, I tore out of my office like somebody had set it on fire.

When I hadn’t answered my personal phone, Damon had taken to calling the office line and he alternated. Doing that
annoying
thing where he called just once. One single ring. My personal line. The office line. One ring. Every five minutes.

The good thing was that he was calling from his personal phone back at the lair. He wasn’t coming after me…yet.

I could only thank God, because if he saw me anytime soon, he’d see what a mess I was. And damn it, I was a mess.

Such a mess that I didn’t know where to go, what to do with myself.

My first stop was Banner HQ but if Justin was there, he didn’t come out even after I stood at the desk swearing like a whore who’d just discovered she’d been short-changed.

Everybody there was giving me a very wary look and a wide berth and I left only because I knew I couldn’t help Damon if I ended up arrested by Banner cops—might be hard to get the letter to Justin that way. It sat in the bag I carried, burning a hole in my hip and driving me insane.

There was one other stop I thought about making, one more question that needed to be answered. If I could figure out the right way to voice it. And maybe I could burn off some of the energy raging inside me while I waited for Justin. Justin, damn him.

Riding my ass about getting this job done and here I was,
done
and where the hell
was

A horn blared behind me and I looked up, realizing that I’d been stopped at a red light for I don’t know how long.

Stopped, right in front of the rec club where I’d first met Chang months ago. As the driver behind me laid on their horn again, I darted into a parking space and parked haphazardly. The car shot past me and I climbed out, staring at the long, low building. It clung to the ground, squat and solid, and everything about it looked unfriendly.
Outsiders…stay away
, it practically screamed.

Four months ago, I’d been getting ready to go in there to question a bunch of punk kids about a missing teenager.

Damon had made me remove all of my weapons and then, because of my smart ass mouth, because he’d noticed I liked to tote around shiny objects and hide lots of weapons, he’d grabbed me, slammed me against the trunk of my car and threatened me…who says the path to true love is paved with roses? Then he warned me about what would happen if I caused him any more problems.

For days after, I’d been terrified of him. And yes, I’d still caused problems.

Now I was terrified
for
him and ready to cause so many problems, they might have to send a Banner unit out for me if things didn’t settle down soon.

The phone in my pocket rang again and I tugged it out, checked—the single ring wasn’t going to be Justin, but I had to make sure. Damon. My heart bumped against my ribs once, hard and fast and I curled my free hand into a fist as I waited for the ring to stop. After it did, I put in another call and this time, I also called Banner HQ and asked for Justin’s immediate superior.

“Ms. Colbana, I’m afraid this is a bad—”

“I don’t
care
if it’s a bad time,” I snapped. “I’m trying to work a job
you
hired me to do, a job I never wanted to work, that’s almost impossible for me to do, and one that’s gutting me
to
do—and I suspect that’s why you assholes
chose
me. I need to talk to Justin,
now
. He wanted proof? I’ve got the fucking proof so why hasn’t he come to get it? He’ll know what I’m talking about. Get him the message. Now.”

As I disconnected, I rubbed my thumb across the surface of my phone. One thing about the incessant calls. They were coming from the Lair. As long as he was tucked inside the Lair, I could trust that he was safe.

Banner would risk an inter-House disaster and it would be a disaster of epic proportions if they went after an Alpha on his home turf. They’d have to cut down too many of his people and they wouldn’t do that.

They operated like a knife in the dark. They’d move when he was out of the Lair and not before.

A knot swelled in my throat and I rubbed the heel of my hand over my chest. My grandmother knew about me. I had to know how.

And Chang…somehow Chang and Damon knew.

Could I figure out a way to ask?

I didn’t know. I just didn’t.

One thing I had to do, though. I had to move. People were looking at me, including the men Chang had on the gate and they knew me. Which meant Chang knew I was out there.

 

* * * * *

 

“You look tired.”

My visits here lately were a far cry from the first one. That time,
after
Damon had bruised the hell out of my windpipe, a sweet talker at the door had groped my tits. I’d busted his nose. Damon had then knocked him into the wall. Apparently the groping hadn’t been approved of.

Today, I was sprawled in a soft, plush chair that was big enough to sit five of me while Chang sat behind a carved oak desk that made mine look like even more of a disaster.

“I am tired,” I said sourly.

“You should rest more.” The phone rang, but he flicked a glance at it and ignored it. A curious little smile curved his lips as he added, “It’s the key to a long life, you know. Eat right, a solid night’s rest.”

I curled my lip at him. “That applies to humans. I don’t think the same goes for us.” As his phone continued to ring, I glanced at it. “If I’m interrupting business, I can leave or wait outside,” I said, absently rubbing a thumb down the scar on my wrist. I hadn’t put the leather bracer on today. Didn’t see the point, considering what my neck looked like.

“No. That’s the beauty of being the boss.” He grinned at me. “I can ignore them for a little while.”

“As long as no investigators come and get groped?”

The smile faded from his face and for the first time, Chang looked…less than polite. He looked grim. “That will not happen again here, Kit.”

Snorting, I shoved up and started to pace. “Oh, I’m not worried about it happening to
me
.” I popped my wrist and realized I had the urge to rub my hands together—the heat was there, gathering and spreading. Even though I didn’t feel threatened, I was…bothered. So very bothered. And the weapons always spoke to me when I was upset.

“I believe you misunderstand me,” Chang said.

Turning, I glanced at him.

He’d come out from the behind the desk and I’d never even realized it. I hated that about him. All the other shifters I knew, I could read
something
about them, sense things because I could feel the energy of their beast and if they were angry, it was even better. I could even sometimes
see
the beast crouching above them in the air. It was a lovely, amazing thing…and one hell of a warning system, for me.

But Chang had none of it. I knew he was a cat. My gut told me that and he moved too fast, with a grace that just wasn’t human. But I could never
feel
anything off him and I never felt it when he was on the move.

Chang’s eyes held mine steadily. “It will not happen within my establishment again. Ever. If it does, the man answers to me. I made this clear, and it doesn’t matter who the person accosted is.”

I studied him, wondered why he cared.

The question must have been written on my face because Chang said quietly. “You asked how I’d care if it was a wife, a sister, a mother.” He flexed a hand and that façade cracked, for just a moment. “My mother died when both my sister and I were young. But my sister, well, perhaps life would have been kinder had she died with my mother. The men who hurt her didn’t leave anything behind but a broken husk. She killed herself before I could rescue her. So I can tell you very much that it matters.”

“I take it the bastard in question wasn’t aware of this…issue,” I said, looking away from him. Chang angry was disturbing enough. Chang
hurting
was just downright wrong. It was like seeing a statue weep.

“Irrelevant. He never made it out of my club alive.” Chang shrugged and moved back behind the desk.

I blinked. Wiping a hand over the back of my mouth, I asked, “Damon?”

“No.”

Okay, then.

“As much as it’s always a pleasure to have you visit, Kit, is there a reason you’re…hiding out?” he asked as I went back to pacing.

“I’m not hiding out,” I muttered. The phone rang again and I cringed.

“That phone has rung like that exactly seven times. I’m something of an observer,” he said.

“An observer.” I smirked a little as I tugged the phone out, checked the display. Right on time. “Is that what they call nosy espionage types?”

“Spy is so much easier,” Chang said, laughing. “But both work. I see things. I notice things. And I can’t help my noticing you’re acting the way you always do around Damon when you’re nervous. Which makes me think he is the one calling you. And you’re avoiding his calls. So that naturally leads to the conclusion…you’re hiding out.”

“Maybe I’m just hiding from wolves.” I leaped on that with the desperation of the drowning and although I’d forgotten about them, it was a legit reason. One I could kick myself for not thinking up earlier.

Chang’s lids flickered and I thought I could almost see that sharp mind of his whirling. “No,” he said slowly. “That’s not it. Because you wouldn’t come to a club where the young are if you were really concerned you had a dangerous threat after you. That’s not your way. You came here as a last ditch effort to get away from something that’s bothering you. I assume you don’t want Damon to know why you’re upset. Try again.”

“You know, Chang, I like you.” I paused in front of the far wall and admired the katanas he had on display there. Some of them were
old
. I heard music from one of them and I wondered if he’d let me use him. I brushed my fingers down the hilt and smiled, closing my eyes at his music. Flutes…flutes and drums. Lovely. “I like you a lot and looking at the excellent taste you have in weapons only makes me respect you more.”

Then I glanced over my shoulder at him and said softly, “But that doesn’t mean I came here needing to confide in you.”

“Then why
are
you here?”

“Because I’m trying to puzzle some things out. Wait something out so I can finish this job.” I shrugged and went back to staring at the weapons. It wasn’t a lie. I was still puzzling through a great mess of things, and I was still waiting on Justin.

I opened my mouth to ask about my grandmother.
How does she know about me? How do you know about her?
But the damn words were trapped in my throat.

Great.

Just great. It was too closely connected to the job and I couldn’t utter those words without violating the binding laid on me. Swallowing, I shook my head. “But even if I
wanted
to explain what was bothering me? I can’t. I’ve got an oath on me.” Nerves tore their ugly hooks into me as I said it and I realized there was
another
reason I’d come. It was for a reason and not just because I wanted to pry information loose about my grandmother.

This was Damon’s closest friend.

He trusted nobody the way he trusted Chang. Raking my nails down my forearm, I turned and stared at the man waiting patiently behind the table. “Have you ever had to do a job that you hated with every fiber of you being?”

He inclined his head. “At times. I usually try to find a way to avoid such jobs.”

“Sometimes you can’t. Because it’s the only way to take care of things that matter most.” I was able to force
those
words out, but just barely. The binding of weighed in closer and closer, making it hard to breathe. “Sometimes, the only way to care for those things is to do something that leaves you feeling sick, twisted, broken inside.”

BOOK: Night Blade
11.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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