Her captain was at the scene before Jane arrived. The captain, several patrol cars, and even Dr. Bob were already on hand.
And the scent of death was strong.
“Stay back here,” Jane said to Aidan as she slipped under the line of yellow police tape that had been put in place to section off the crime scene. “I’ll go see what’s happening.”
He caught her wrist. “I know his scent.”
She waited, brows raised.
“The victim. It’s the guy who stole the body last night. He’s dead in there.” His lips tightened. “I’m guessing he might have been the new vamp’s first meal.”
Jane glanced toward the entrance to the warehouse. “But…but they were working together.”
Keeping his voice low, Aidan said, “I already told you. When a person becomes a vamp, the bloodlust takes over. Doesn’t matter if it’s a friend, family—your own kid, the bloodlust is in control and all the vamp does is feed.”
Yes, but being told that and finding a body that was proof…Two different things. “Stay here,” she said, making sure that her voice was steady. “And if you happen to scent any vamps around, let me know before you go off chasing them.”
She hurried toward the open warehouse. Her captain had just stepped outside, and the light glinted off her dark sunglasses. Captain Vivian Harris was in her late forties, but her smooth coffee cream skin belied that age. She was dressed in a suit, with her badge clipped to her hip. The holster of her weapon was just barely visible beneath her well-cut jacket. As Jane rushed toward her, Vivian lifted a hand.
Jane stilled in front of the captain.
“I hear you’ve had quite a few…incidents within the last twenty-four hours.”
“You mean my apartment fire?” She didn’t look back at Aidan. Jane kept her focus on the captain, but with those tinted glasses that Vivian wore, she couldn’t tell exactly where her boss was looking. At Aidan? The crowd? “I actually think that attack—as well as the attack behind the cathedral—is related to the death of Melanie Wagner.”
“So I’ve heard.”
Vivian smiled at Jane, and for an instant, Jane saw that Vivian’s eye teeth were…long. Like, longer than normal.
“I’m in his pack,” Vivian said simply.
Shit. Holy shit. Her captain was a werewolf, too?
“There are more of us than you realize,” Vivian continued. “Supernaturals hide best in plain sight. If you’re stepping into this world, you need to realize that. Never believe what you see on first glance. Always, always look deeper.”
And in a blink, the captain’s white teeth were back to normal.
“When I got promoted to captain, that promotion took me out of the field,” Vivian said. “I need a detective who can handle our cases.”
Our cases. Paranormal cases.
“You think you’re up for that job?”
Jane didn’t know, but she wanted to find out. “I want to try.” Because everyone deserved justice.
“Good.” Vivian gave her a nod. “Because it’s a real freaking bloodbath in there, and most of the cops on scene went green when they walked inside. You are the one we’ll be calling for these cases. You’re the one who’ll handle things, and it will be so much easier because I won’t have to bring in the alpha to make everyone forget shit all the time.”
So Vivian knew that Aidan’s power didn’t work on her. Did she also know what would occur if Jane happened to—oh, say get shot in the chest?
“You’d better start suiting up with a bullet proof vest more often,” Vivian added, as if she’d just read Jane’s mind. And Jane sure hoped her boss didn’t have that talent. “Makes the likelihood of you being staked later on much less, you know?”
“Bullet proof vest, check,” Jane agreed.
Vivian nodded briskly. “Glad to have you on board. It will be nice not to have to bullshit with at least one of my detectives.” Then she gave Jane a little salute and marched away—straight toward Aidan.
For an instant, Jane wished she had enhanced hearing. She’d love to eavesdrop on their conversation.
“Detective Hart!” Dr. Bob called. “I’ll be transporting the remains soon.”
Jane squared her shoulders and headed into the warehouse. Dr. Bob was someone else she needed to have a little one-on-one chat with. A real Come-To-Jesus and Clear-The-Air meeting. Later.
An ambulance was inside the warehouse. She rounded the back of the abandoned ambulance and saw that its rear doors still swung open. A smashed gurney lay on the cement. And a dead man stretched out in a pool of his own blood. His throat had been savaged, nearly ripped open.
Her lips thinned. I hope this one won’t rise again later as a vamp.
It was starting to seem as if no one could just die in this town anymore.
“I like Jane,” Vivian said as she closed in on Aidan.
Jane had just disappeared into the warehouse. Being very careful with his words, Aidan replied, “I’m finding that I like her, too.”
“I didn’t realize what she was,” Vivian told him, the sunlight glinting off her glasses. “Not when I put her name out for promotion.”
“Only an alpha would have caught her scent.” It was too faint for other wolves to know. He hadn’t even been sure himself, not when he first met her. Hell, he’d never come across another like her, so he’d just thought her scent was extra sweet. No, he hadn’t realized what she truly was—not until he’d been unable to control her mind.
“She could be an asset to us,” Vivian continued, her voice mild. “She doesn’t have to be a threat.”
His head tilted to the right. “Who said she was a threat?”
“There are whispers. Rumors. You know they can spread fast.” She glanced at the warehouse, then back at him. “Others know what she is.”
They can’t know about her scar. Only Paris knows, and he doesn’t even realize what it is. Aidan hadn’t given him any specifics on the mark.
Annette knew. Fuck. As soon as she’d started talking about “the end” then Aidan had known she’d gotten a premonition. One of those hellish visions that came to her when she looked in her dark glass.
Betrayal. Blood. Death.
“She’s different,” Vivian continued thoughtfully, “and different isn’t always good—not in the paranormal world. Different is power. Different is death.”
“Jane isn’t a threat, and she’s under my protection.”
“Some are calling for her end. The only end she can possibly have.”
The end. Omega. Hell, maybe other werewolves did know. Maybe Annette had been spreading whispers.
Annette…or someone else?
Vivian gave a sad shake of her head. “If the vamps get her—especially this bastard who seems intent on hunting her—you know she’ll wake up.”
As a vampire.
“Someone like her hasn’t been around in a long time. Word among the wolves…they’re scared she may be too strong to handle. That even you can’t take her down.”
“No one is too strong for me.” His voice was mild.
“Aidan…” She sighed his name. “We have been friends for a very long time.”
“So I am telling you this…as a friend…there are whispers that you aren’t in control with her. That her scent—” She broke off, waving her hands in the air, and then finally said, “You know the stories…You, better than anyone else.”
He did know the tales. Fuck, yes, he did. One story in particular had been carved into his freaking memory. Once, there had been an alpha that fell too hard for his lover—a lover just like Jane. Aidan had grown up hearing the damn story, again and again. A warning for all alphas. In the fucking story, the alpha had loved his mate too much, and when she’d changed, when she’d become a vampire. He hadn’t been able to take her head.
And she’d killed him. Killed their two children. Been ready to attack the baby that slept in his crib—
But she’d been taken out by the remains of the pack. They’d swarmed her—and wound up losing four more members before she’d eventually been stopped.
Never lead with your heart.
Hell, yes, he knew the warning. Intimately well.
Because he’d been the baby that survived that bloody night. The child who had never known his mother or his father. Only a pack that hated vampires. “I know all too well the dangers.”
“They’ll be coming tonight for her.”
Anger ate at his gut. “I gave her my protection.” And werewolves dared to come after her anyway? They were going to challenge him?
Why hadn’t Graham warned me? Paris was out of town, so he probably hadn’t heard the whispers. But Graham…Graham was in the thick of things. He should have known.
Why didn’t he come to me?
“Some say that your protection isn’t good enough. They’ll be coming.” She reached for his shoulder. Gave it a squeeze. “I won’t be with them. I stand with you. With her. I truly think she can help us. Jane said she’d take the paranormal cases. Tell the others what she can do. We can use her. They just have to understand that. You make them understand that.”
But when fury and fear were involved, logic didn’t always work.
“I will be at your side,” Vivian promised.
It didn’t matter who stood with him, not in the werewolf world. An alpha was expected to fight his own battles. Always. To show strength, never weakness. To win this battle, he would have to act and act alone. “Don’t get caught in the crossfire,” Aidan warned her. It wasn’t the first time he’d been challenged as an alpha, and it wouldn’t be the last.
Vivian squeezed his shoulder before slowly walking away.
Aidan pulled out his phone. A moment later, he had Graham on the line. Graham—the wolf he’d left guarding Annette. Now he understood more about that woman’s whispered ramblings. Perhaps she’d been trying to warn him, too, of the danger that was coming.
Or maybe she was the one who’d set up the whole damn thing. Soon enough, I’ll know the truth.
Graham answered on the second ring. “Everything is secure here, Aidan,” he said right away. “Don’t worry.”
Easier said than done. But at least a plan had formed for him. “Get Annette to make me a Sleeper’s Spell.”
His hold tightened on the phone.
“Are you…sure about that?”
“Have you heard werewolves are coming for Jane?” He threw that out as a test. Was Graham on his side or—
Graham swore. “Hell, no, she’s under your protection! They wouldn’t dare!”
Yeah, some of them fucking would. “They’re coming. They want her dead.”
“But a Sleeper’s Spell will kill—”
“Tell Annette to make it for me.” Because sometimes, he had to make hard, brutal choices in life.
I will know my enemies. I will know my friends. I will know my lover.
He wouldn’t make the same mistake his father had made. It wouldn’t be his heart that led him.
Jane stepped out of the warehouse. Immediately, her gaze swept toward him. When she saw him, some of the sadness seemed to slip from her expression.
“I’ll need you to take Jane tonight,” Aidan ordered. As a leader, he often had to make the hard decisions. Nothing was harder than this. Jane will fight. But she didn’t know what was coming. If he failed…
I won’t fail. “We’re going to the mansion.” A place in the middle of the Louisiana swamps. A perfect spot for the werewolves to run, to fight, to kill. If there was to be a battle, Aidan wanted it there. His home turf. Where he could see the traitors coming. “Keep her secured, understand?”
“I will.” Graham didn’t ask any questions. He understood an order from an alpha, and an order from his friend. “And for what it’s worth, I never doubted you.”
Aidan’s eyes turned to slits. “Good to know.” Jane was closing in. Aidan lowered the phone and ended the call. “Any news?” he asked Jane.
“Only that you’re right. It was the ambulance thief.” She bit her lip. “Will he change, too?”
“If he got the vampire’s blood in him, yes.”
“Then I guess we’ll be staking out the morgue later, huh?”
There were plenty of cops on the scene. And it was day time. Vamps wouldn’t hunt then. “Keep your gun close.”
“You go ahead and stake out the morgue. If the guy so much as twitches, stake him and take his head.” He turned away.
But, faster than he’d expected, Jane slipped under the yellow police tape and grabbed his arm. “What about you? Where are you going?”
“Pack business.” More like a pack clusterfuck. He needed to find out who’d been stirring up the wolves, and he needed to figure out that shit, ASAP. Before someone made the wrong move and death came calling.
“Oh, right. Should have realized…you have a whole pack to run.” But she looked…hurt. “I’ll call you when I find out—” She broke off and gave a little laugh. “I don’t have your number.”
Yes, she did. “I programmed it in your phone while you slept at Hell’s Gate.”
“You did what?”
He shrugged. “If you needed me, I wanted you to be able to reach me.” The way she was eyeing him told him that Jane thought the move had been more stalkerish than thoughtful.
“That’s—that’s a serious invasion of privacy.”
“I promise, I didn’t look at your emails or your texts.” Though he’d been tempted. “But if you want, you can scroll through mine later.”
He bent and pressed a quick kiss to her lips. So what if cops were around? He wanted everyone to know.
She’s with me. Simple. Deep.
Quite possibly, deadly.
“I just want you safe.” He stared into her eyes. Savored her taste. “And I’ll do anything to make sure you stay safe. Remember that.”
She nodded once, briskly. “I need to canvas the area. Maybe someone saw something…” Though she didn’t sound hopeful. They both knew the area was deserted. The warehouse looked as if it had been shut down for years.
“I’ll see you soon,” Aidan promised her.
Jane nodded again.
Sooner than you think, sweetheart.
“Be careful. I get that you’re a werewolf and all, but even werewolves can be hurt.” She turned away from him.
She cared what happened to him? Progress. And…it felt good, knowing she worried. Not many did worry about him. “Don’t forget our deal.” He had to say it. “You owe me trust. Once, blindly, no matter what else happens.”
After a small pause, Jane glanced back over her shoulder at him. “I keep my word, Aidan. That’s something you should know about me.”
And I break mine, sweetheart. That’s something you should know about me, too.
Graham put his phone down on Annette’s scrying table. She sat a few feet away from him, her body tense, her gaze directed at the wall.
She hadn’t said a single word to him during the entire time he’d been there. He totally got that the woman was pissed.
But he had a job to do. “The alpha wants a Sleeper’s Spell.”
Those words had her gaze flying to him. “That’s—that’s not a good idea.”
Graham glanced down at the broken mirror on the table. When he looked into the glass, he saw nothing. But Annette—she saw everything.
She told me once that Aidan would command power longer than any other alpha. That he would be feared, more than any other.
“Has Aidan’s future changed?” he asked quietly. “When you look in the darkness, do you still see the same fate for him?” And what about for me? He had to tread so carefully with her. Yeah, once upon a time, he and Annette had been lovers, but he’d started to wonder if she saw too much. If she knew too much.
He didn’t want a lover who knew his every secret.
Even a lover as sexy as Annette.
“Everything is changing,” Annette said. Her hand rose, touched her scarf. He knew she had bite marks there, and they pissed him off. Vamp shouldn’t have touched her. “Can’t see clearly. I just know…”
Her words trailed off.
“Don’t leave me in fucking suspense.”
“The end,” she said, sadly, softly. “It’s here.”
For some of them, it was. Aidan wasn’t going to take lightly to any werewolf betrayal, and a Sleeper Spell…that wasn’t some toy.
The night was going to be brutal, and when dawn came…who would be left standing?
The hospital had been a fucking dead end.
Paris Cole slammed the door of his SUV as he turned to look at ranch-style house that sat at the end of Magnolia Lane.
A cute name for the street—and sure enough, magnolias lined the sidewalk. But Paris figured magnolias and Mississippi kind of went hand in hand. And he was in Mississippi right then—Biloxi, Mississippi. He’d visited the hospital that Jane had been taken to after her attack so many years ago. No one had been able to give him any intel at the facility. None of the staff members he’d met had even worked there fifteen years ago.
So he’d turned his attention to the shrink who’d sent a very young Mary Jane Hart to a psych ward. The shrink’s name had popped up easily enough in a search of Jane’s past.
Dr. Judith Farley, a child psychologist who’d retired just a year ago. The lady had ditched her condo and her practice and moved to this small piece of property on the outskirts of town.
The little lane was dead silent as Paris made his way up the steps. A welcome mat lay just in front of the door. He was counting on Dr. Farley to help him out with Jane.
Because he sure didn’t want to return to Aidan as a failure. He lifted his hand and knocked on the door.
A few moments later, he heard the shuffle of footsteps inside. Paris pasted on his friendly, I’m-harmless smile as he waited. The door creaked open and a woman with red hair—cut to her chin—and big, brown eyes stared up at him.
He’d been told Dr. Farley was in her fifties. But this woman…
She barely looked thirty-five.
His nostrils flared as he fought to drink in her scent. Plastic surgery or—
“May I help you?” she asked.
Her eyelids flickered, just a bit. “Why, yes, I’m Dr. Farley.”
He wasn’t sure any plastic surgeon was this good. “I’d like to speak with you about one of your former patients.” He let his smile widen a bit, keeping the whole I’m-harmless vibe going. “It’s about a book I’m working on…”
“I don’t discuss my clients. Not with anyone.” She started to close the door.
He moved his foot, a quick, casual slide, and the toe of his boot blocked the door from closing. “Mary Jane Hart.” He threw the name out because he wanted a response.
Her gaze went arctic. “I don’t discuss clients.” She glanced down at his foot. “Now you need to back away before I call the cops.”
Paris held up his hands. “I’m sorry!” And he made sure his voice sounded that way. Terribly apologetic. He didn’t move his foot, though. “Actually, I’ve misled you.”
A furrow appeared between her brows.
“Mary Jane is a friend of mine. She’s having a really hard time lately, talking about monsters left and right, and I…” Paris let his voice roughen. “I’m worried about her. Worried that she may be losing her grasp on sanity. She mentioned you to me the other night. Said you’d helped her before. I was really hoping you could help her again.”
“Mary Jane.” Dr. Farley leaned forward a bit. “She’s talking about monsters?” Sadness flashed on her face. “Poor thing. She did that before, you see. I always knew…Come in, come in…” She opened the door and let Paris step into her house. She waved him toward her den and he strode forward as she shut the door behind him. “I always knew,” Dr. Farley continued, “that she would turn out to be everything we’d hoped.”
Everything we’d hoped.
Paris tensed. He turned to glance back at the doctor.
Too late. A thundering blast sounded just as the jarring impact thudded into him. Paris flew forward, his hands sliding over the hardwood floor, his claws scraping out in instant response to the burning pain that seared him.
Silver. She shot me with silver! And it damn well hurt. He tried to roll over—fought to move his body and—
Dr. Farley aimed her gun straight at his head. “Did you think I didn’t know you’d be coming? Thane said it was time to move. She’s the right age now. No more waiting. She’ll be everything she was meant to be. The end is here, and the werewolves will die. The dominoes are falling, just like we planned.”
He lifted his hand. His jacket sleeve hung low, skimming over the edge of his wrist. “Knew…what you are…too…smelled it…”
She blinked at him, then laughed. “Doubtful. I have a wonderful new perfume, a special batch that was made for me by a certain voodoo seller that is the best. It cloaks a vampire scent and—”
He threw the stake that he’d hidden in his sleeve. Never leave home without one. His motto since he’d been a kid and vamps had taken out his family.
His throw was perfect. Aidan had taught him how to attack just the right way. Aidan had taught him how to pick up the shattered pieces of his life and move the hell on. So when Paris threw that sharpened stake, he didn’t miss. It sank into Dr. Farley’s chest even as Paris jerked to the right, anticipating that she’d fire that gun before she drew her last undead breath.
Her bullet missed him.
And then she fell to the ground, gasping.
His head sagged back against the floor. That silver was burning like a bitch. Fumbling, he managed to pull out his phone and call Aidan. The alpha answered on the second ring. “We’ve got a big problem,” he gasped. “Big.” And I’m gonna need a pack rescue out of here.