“Not at the moment.”
She gave him an arch look. “Let me guess, you need to recharge your batteries or something, right?”
She was eerily astute. “Yes.”
The disbelief on her face was almost comical. “I do have some pink sweats that might not be too bad.”
“I’d rather go naked.”
“Suit yourself. Not like it bothers me.”
“Then we’re even.” Like patience, modesty had never been his virtue. But one thing he did hate was being around people he didn’t know. Then again, he didn’t like being around people he did know, either. He much preferred solitude—it couldn’t betray him.
She cocked her head. “So how long have you known Leo, anyway?”
He frowned at her. He’d known Leo vicariously for years. Like his Squire substitute, Erika, Leo was one of the humans who served the Dark-Hunters. Paid employees, they helped to keep the paranormal world hidden from the rest of mankind, who would most likely panic if they ever learned what inhuman beasts prowled the night, waiting to prey on them. “Are you a Squire?”
“No, I’m a Michaels.”
He rolled his eyes. She had to be the biggest smart-ass on the planet; well, maybe second only to Erika.
“That’s not what I mean and you know it. Do you work with Leo?”
“Of course I do. Why else would you be here?”
Ravyn nodded. It explained her snotty attitude. For some reason, the latest generation of Squires seemed to have a problem with their duties. “Why didn’t you tell me you worked for him?”
“I assumed you knew it.”
“Yeah, right. The way you guys come and go, it’s impossible to remember more than one or two of you at a time.”
She nodded in agreement. “Leo does have a way of burning people out. So how did he talk you into this?”
“Showing up here, naked to yank my chain.”
Yeah… like Leo could have ever done that. “He didn’t. I assumed he sent you to me to get me out of the shelter.”
“I guess in a roundabout way he did. So tell me something, how did you do that earlier trick?”
Ravyn grimaced. “What trick?”
“The cat thing. How did you switch?”
Why did humans always want that question answered? Even if he explained it, it wasn’t like they could do it. “It’s magick,” he said sarcastically. “I mumble hocus-pocus and the next thing you know, I’m a cat.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I suppose it’s a step up. The last guy I had in my house could only turn into a beer-drinking Pig.”
In spite of himself, he gave a short laugh at her dry tone. He had to give her credit, she had a quick sense of humor, and he was quirky enough to appreciate that in other people.
Suddenly, he was exhausted. He hadn’t been able to sleep since the Apollites had captured him—to have done so would have caused him to revert instantly to human form, which would have resulted in head explosion. Now he felt the deep need to rest. “So can I take the bed until tonight?”
Her eyes widened. “Excuse me?”
“I need sleep. You know? Whole point of you getting me from the shelter? You said Leo sent you, right?”
She put her hands on her hips and gave him a sharp glare that said she wasn’t keen on that idea. “Yeah, but not to let you sleep in my bed. This isn’t a flophouse, you know?”
That raised his ire. “What is happening to the Squire’s code? I remember a time when that actually meant something.”
“What Squire’s code?”
“Up the ginkgo, babe. Don’t you remember the one you had to take when you went to work for Leo?”
Her eyes snapped blue fire at him. “Leo didn’t make me promise anything other than to leave my sanity at home.”
His disgust tripled. “That figures. You must be first-generation.”
“What has that got to do with anything?”
“It explains why you don’t know your job any better than you do.”
She crossed the floor to stand right in front of him as she glared her anger at him. “Excuse me? I don’t know my job? At least, I’m not the one standing naked in a stranger’s house, clutching a throw to cover my vital parts.” She raked him with a less than complimentary glare. “Who the heck are you to lecture me on what I should be doing?”
“I’m a Dark-Hunter.”
Susan stiffened. He said that as if it explained everything. “And that’s supposed to mean something to me?”
He curled his lip. “Of course it should. What the hell has gotten into all of you that you no longer care about us? Or your duties? Have the Daimons sucked you in to work for them, too?”
What was he talking about? “Who are the Daimons? Last time I checked, the paper was owned by the Kirbys.”
He curled his lip at her. “Like you don’t know who they are. Look, Susan, I don’t have time for you to jerk me around. I need some sleep before tonight. We’ve got a lot of stuff we have to do and I’ll need for you to e-mail the rest of your group and let them know what’s going on.”
Boy, he had some nerve. She’d never seen anyone so commanding and sure of himself. Especially given the fact that he was standing here bare-butt naked. “Excuse me? Do I look like your personal secretary or slave? Uh… no. You don’t own me. I don’t even know you and I don’t care how cute you look naked in my living room, I don’t take orders from anyone. So there’s the door—”
“You know I can’t go out there. There’s daylight outside.”
She gave him a droll stare. “Well, that’s what happens when the big yellow ball comes up over the mountains. Amazing, isn’t it?”
Ravyn wanted to choke her. And he’d stupidly thought Erika was a pain. That’s what you get for thinking there couldn’t be a worse Squire in existence… here’s Erika in another fifteen years or so.
And Acheron thought that saving mankind from the Daimons was nothing. Gods spare him from women such as these two.
Just as he opened his mouth to speak, there was a knock on the front door.
Ravyn exchanged a puzzled frown with Susan. A small preternatural frisson went up his spine. Since it was daylight, he knew there couldn’t be a Daimon or Apollite out there—daylight would fry them on the spot.
Yet that’s what it felt like. There was no denying or excusing away the unique sensation.
Which meant it had to be a halfblood. Only a half-Apollite would be able to set off his senses and still walk in daylight without dying.
“Ms. Michaels?” a deep, masculine voice called through the door.
Susan started toward it only to have Ravyn pull her to a stop. “No.”
“No?” she asked, her voice frigid. “Boy, I’m not your bitch or your ho. You don’t order me about. Ever.” Susan twisted away from his grip.
Ravyn cursed at her stubbornness. Something wasn’t right. He could feel it with every heightened sense he possessed.
Susan ignored him as she opened her door to find two uniformed police officers on her front porch. One of them was incredibly tall, probably around six six or so, with short blond hair and dark brown eyes. The other officer was a brunette who only stood about four inches taller than her.
“Can I help you?”
The brunette looked up at the blond as if he were the one in charge. “Are you Susan Michaels?” the blond officer asked.
“Were you at the Seattle Animal Shelter a short time ago?”
“Is there a problem?”
The blond gave her a smile so fake that someone should post it in a toothpaste ad. “No problem. You just left the facilities with a cat that wasn’t meant to be adopted. We’re here to collect him.”
Every nerve in her body rang out with suspicion. Why would two cops—
Oh wait. Jimmy. He’d probably put them up to this just to get her goat. Susan stared blankly at them.
“Don’t you guys have something better to do, like actually investigate real crimes or something?”
“This is a matter of public safety, ma’am,” he said seriously. She had to give him credit. He was much better at acting than Angie had been. “That cat is extremely feral and might be rabid.”
Sure it was. “Well, I’m afraid you’re too late. The cat has already turned into Mr. Supermodel and has now taken up residency in my home. I don’t know what Jimmy paid you guys for this, but whatever it was, I’m sure it wasn’t enough. Have a nice day, gentlemen.” She closed the door.
But before she could step away, she heard a faint voice through the door. “It’s her and he’s here in human form. She won’t hand him over, so what do you want us to do?”
Susan scowled as she heard a voice answer him, but she couldn’t make out any of the words.
“Yes, sir.” There was a brief pause until she heard footsteps on her porch. At first, she thought it was the police leaving. But the sound was getting closer, not farther away.
“He said to kill the Dark-Hunter and take the woman back to the shelter for questioning. If she gives us any problems, kill her, too.”
Her heart shrank at those words. They had to be joking… right? This wasn’t real. It couldn’t be.
“I told you not to answer it, didn’t I?” Ravyn snarled as he pulled her away from the door.
Two seconds later the front door flew open. The two uniformed officers angled guns at them. “Don’t move.”
She raised her hands up as fear gripped her hard. They were going way out of line on this one. “What’s the meaning of this?”
They didn’t answer as she saw two more men in street clothes coming in behind them. Large and tough, they each looked like they had a rap sheet to make Scar face proud.
Ravyn silently debated on how to handle this. The tall blond was half-Apollite without a doubt, but the other three were humans. By Dark-Hunter code, he wasn’t allowed to harm humans. Then again he’d never lived by anyone’s code but his own.
For now, he had to move quickly to keep Susan safe and himself alive. “Susan…”
She looked at him as he reacted instinctively.
He dove for her at the same time the cops opened fire on him. Ravyn cursed as the bullets sliced into his flesh. They wouldn’t kill him, but it didn’t mean they didn’t hurt.
Susan was momentarily stunned by what was happening. This wasn’t a practical joke. They were trying to kill him and take her. The horror of it all held her immobile as she stared at the blood pouring out of Ravyn’s body while he shielded her from the gunfire.
“He’s still moving,” one of the thugs said to the blond officer.
“The bullets won’t kill him. Tear down the blinds.”
She heard Ravyn’s curse before he breathed in her ear, “Run for the back door while I distract them.”
He rolled from her as the men started ripping her blinds from their tracks, causing the afternoon sun to spill through her living room.
That’s my house, you assholes, she wanted to shout at them, but thought better of it. They didn’t seem to be in the most reasonable of moods as they riddled her home with more bullets while tearing it apart. She was amazed that they hadn’t shot her in the chaos.
Ravyn hissed as a ray of sunlight cut across his skin. But what stunned her most was that his skin blistered and began smoking.
That wasn’t normal and that wasn’t fake, especially not the stench of it… what was going on?
Ravyn dropped the blanket and shoved her toward the back of her house. “Go!”
“What about you?”
He recoiled as they opened fire on him again. “Go, Susan. Run!”
She did but she didn’t go far. She ran to her closet and pulled out her baseball bat that she kept there just in case of intruders. And this definitely qualified as that. Too bad she hadn’t had time to get to her gun before all this started.
Susan ran back to the fray. Ravyn went down hard on the floor as she swung at the thug closest to her.
She caught him against the arm with enough force that it caused him to drop his gun. Then she swung another blow at him with all her strength, catching him against the head. He hit the ground hard. The brunette officer turned toward her and took aim. She ducked as he unloaded his clip into her wall.
Ravyn was dazed as his body burned. Daylight was now all around him so much so that he could barely move for it.
He saw Susan swinging at the other thug as the halfblood officer grabbed him by the ankle and tried to pull him toward the light on the floor. Every fiber of his body ached as he watched the brunette officer grab Susan from behind. The thug took the bat from her hand and shoved it into her stomach. She cried out before doubling over in pain.
Screw this. He was through playing with them. As a Dark-Hunter he wasn’t supposed to ever attack a human being, but then humans had never been all that high in his estimation and he wasn’t about to die and let these bastards live to do whatever they wanted with Susan. Pain though she was, she was a Squire and that brought with it a certain degree of protection.
Not to mention, it wasn’t in his genetic makeup to go quietly into that good night and since one of these assholes was part Apollite… well, he knew of one way to rejuvenate his weakened powers. Apollites and Daimons liked to feed on Were-Hunters so that they could not only steal the Were-Hunters’ souls but claim their psychic powers as well.
That channel worked both ways…
His rage swelling, Ravyn kicked out at the officer holding him. He felt the beast inside him snarl as it rose to the forefront. His eyesight changed from human to that of a vicious predator.
Lowering his head, he ignored the bullets that riddled him as he rushed toward the half-Apollite and caught him about the waist. “You stupid fool,” he snarled as he turned the man so that his back was against Ravyn’s front. “You should have brought a Taser.”
“Shoot me!” the blond officer screamed at the other two who were still standing. “Quick!”
Susan froze in her struggling as she caught sight of Ravyn. He held the blond cop in front of him, but that wasn’t what stunned her. It was the fact that his eyes were no longer black. They were a deep, insidious red. He tilted his head back, opening his mouth so that she could see long, sharp incisors. The other men in the room froze as if they were every bit as terrified as she was.
And before she could release her pent-up breath, Ravyn sank his teeth into the officer’s neck.
I don’t believe in vampires. I don’t believe in vampires … The litany repeated itself over and over again in her mind as she watched the blood pour down the officer’s shirt while he struggled to get away from Ravyn, who effortlessly held him with one arm.
Suddenly, the two thugs opened fire on both Ravyn and the cop he held. The cop’s entire body shook in response to the bullets pummeling him as his eyes turned glassy and dull. Ravyn laughed evilly as he released the lifeless body to sink slowly to the floor at his feet.
He threw his hands out and some kind of invisible wave went through the room, knocking the two men off their feet. His eyes matched the red blood that still dripped from his chin as black clothing appeared on his body.
“You don’t knock on the devil’s door, boys, unless you want him to answer,” he said, his voice deep and evil. He wiped the blood from his chin.