I’m not prey.
Zane wasn’t looking quite as tan as he’d been when he first sauntered into the bar. He was braced against the woman, Catalina, and she didn’t so much as buckle beneath his six-foot-plus frame.
Zane licked his lips. “Just…checking out the waters for you…hunter.”
Erin swallowed. “Don’t ever do that again.”
Slowly, very, very slowly, he lifted his arm from Catalina’s shoulders. “Don’t…worry. Won’t.”
“No, you won’t.” Jude’s fierce voice.
“Just wanted to see…what you were.”
Her cheeks flushed. Not with fury—that would have been good. Humiliation. What I am. No one knows, not even me.
One person thought he knew, and that guy was a sadistic freak.
No, I’m not like him. I won’t ever be.
She hoped, anyway. Because with her mother’s genes, there really weren’t any guarantees that she wouldn’t go bad one day.
“Not demon.” Zane’s eyes were on hers now, his head up. She held that stare, refusing to look away. Erin wasn’t really sure what had happened to the guy. Okay, what she’d done to him. She’d acted on instinct when she felt the probe in her mind.
There’d been a push at her, shoving at her thoughts—
So she’d shoved right back.
Her lip curled. Demon? Had he really thought she was like him? “No, I’m not.” And just what the hell had Jude done?
Gone running back to his hunter friends and told them about her secrets?
Can’t trust anyone. She knew that.
So why did it feel like she’d just been punched?
Erin straightened her shoulders. “If this little game or test or whatever the hell it was has finished, I’ll call the cops and get out of here.” The sooner, the better.
“Erin.” A rumble from Jude. Dark and intense.
Damn him. Her eyes narrowed. “I told you what I am. You didn’t need to have your friend attack me.”
Then, because her claws were almost out and her teeth were burning and the rage had her heart racing, Erin marched for the door. She’d call for backup once she was outside. That’s what cell phones were for—screw making a call from the bar.
The demon and the witch very wisely sidled out of her way.
But Jude grabbed her arm, spinning her around, and she tumbled against his chest.
Too close. Her nostrils widened and she caught his heady scent. No, no, no.
“This wasn’t my plan.”
“Wasn’t it?” Because she didn’t believe him, not for a minute. He’d wanted to know. He’d said it himself. He’d wanted that demon to see her. Thought the plan was to go to the courthouse. Asshole. He hadn’t trusted her.
Granted, she hadn’t trusted him, either. But Erin decided to ignore that point, for now.
“You just told me about your mother,” Jude said, his hold tight. “You never said what your father was.”
She jerked away from him. Too easy, that. “He was a man, Jude. Just a man.” With psychic powers, sure. But her father had been all too human. After tossing one last glare at her hunter, she shoved open the glass door and strode into the harsh sunlight.
Silence. One minute. Two.
Catalina cleared her throat and pointed to the destruction that was her bar. “Night Watch is going to be paying for that. Tell Pak I don’t want a check this time. Cash only.”
Her fingers trailed down Zane’s cheek. “Never gonna learn, are you?” Then she eased away from him, shaking her head.
Jude glared at the bastard.
Zane winced and lifted a hand to his head. “Uh, some sympathy would be good here, man. I mean, your girlfriend just tried to fry my brain.”
Jude’s back teeth clenched. Control. Probably a good idea. He should stay in—
“And talk about being ungrateful. Where’s my thanks? At least you know she’s not a demon hybrid now. I got in her head enough to know she’s human, part anyway. But she’s—”
Jude grabbed the demon and lifted him a foot in the air. “You hurt her.”
Zane’s eyes widened even as they flashed black. “I’m the one with the sledgehammer banging in his head.”
“Don’t ever hurt her again, got me?” He didn’t care how many cases they’d worked together. “A look—you told me you just wanted a look to see if she was using glamour.” Demons could see right past the glamour that disguised others of their kind, unless you were dealing with a level ten. Nothing and no one could penetrate a level ten powerhouse’s veil.
The faint lines around Zane’s eyes tightened. “I was takin’ a look. A real long, deep look into your girl.”
Yeah, and judging from the way she’d looked at Jude before she’d stormed out of the bar, Erin was pissed. Because she thought he’d set her up.
And didn’t I?
He dropped the demon. The agile asshole landed easily. “Why’d your look hurt her?” He’d seen Zane work humans before. They usually had no clue what was happening to them. Zane’s psychic skills, his ability to ferret out secrets, were part of the reason why their cases broke so quickly.
When the two of them worked together, they were usually a pretty good team. Usually.
“Why’d it hurt her?” Jude demanded again.
Zane’s shoulders lifted, then fell. “Don’t know.” His lips thinned. “Never happened quite like…that before.” He exhaled.
“That lady packs one hell of a psychic punch.”
Physically stronger, psychically stronger. No way was she a weak hybrid.
Shifting abilities or not.
“There is something…something you should know—”
A groan from the floor—one that came from a slow-waking Mickey—broke across Zane’s words.
Jude glanced down at the shifter, frowning.
“I didn’t get deep in her mind,” Zane said. “She blocked me before I could, but, hell, it was dark in there, man.”
Jude’s eyes rose to the demon once more.
Now what the hell did that mean?
“There’s power there. A lot of power. You’d better watch your step with her.”
What? “She’s the victim, Zane, not the perp. The job’s to keep her safe.” His goal wasn’t to bring her ass down. Erin hadn’t done anything wrong, no matter what Zane was rambling about with his “dark” crap.
“I don’t know exactly what she is…yet.”
Jude jabbed his finger into the guy’s chest. “I do. She’s the client, and our job is to keep her safe.”
A rush of air as Zane sighed. “Gotta wonder…what would scare her?”
Sirens shrieked in the distance. Erin had obviously done as she’d promised and called for her backup. Being the ADA, she’d gotten that backup, fast.
Jude reached down and grabbed Mickey, jerking the other shifter to his feet. The hyena’s head snapped back and his bleary eyes opened.
“What did the woman smell like to you?” he grated. Not much time. He had to know.
The bastard’s lips peeled back from his pointed, yellow teeth. “Prey.”
No, that didn’t make any sense. Sure, sometimes humans could smell like prey to a hunter, especially to one as screwed-ass up as Mickey. But Erin had shifter blood. The hyena should have recognized her true scent.
He caught sight of a patrol car outside. The car slammed to a stop. The cops jumped out, fast and ready for action.
Then they hesitated outside of the bar. They looked to the left, to the right, and Jude saw them begin to step away from the bar.
Erin grabbed the arm of the taller guy and yanked him toward the entrance. She shoved open the door. “In there!” he heard her say.
The cop blinked and gave a small shake of his head.
The spell had ’em confused. Jude sighed and pushed the shifter toward the door. “My collar.” So he’d be the one to take him out. He’d be earning a couple grand from Mickey’s case. But, unfortunately, he hadn’t learned what he’d wanted from the shifter.
The humid air hit him the minute he stepped outside Delaney’s. The color had come back to Erin’s cheeks, giving her skin a warm glow. Her eyes were warm, scorching as she eyed him with her hands fisted at her sides.
He helped load the prisoner. Jude fought the urge to give the guy an ass-kicking, and in moments, the cops pulled away with their prisoner.
Jude turned to her, his hands on his hips. Zane hadn’t followed him outside. Had to give the demon credit on that one.
Staying inside was definitely the best plan for him.
He stalked to her slowly. The woman didn’t back up even a single step. Jude raised a brow and asked the question that was driving him crazy. “Why didn’t Mickey sense you?”
“The hyena shifter—you recognized him, why the hell didn’t he recognize you?” Her scent had been off that first day. A mix that had tempted and teased, but he’d known right away that she wasn’t human. Not completely, anyway. But, Mickey had only thought of her as prey. Didn’t make a bit of sense. Like to like. The other shifter should have been able to recognize her, too.
“You just can’t keep a low profile, can you?” she grated, craning her neck to the left then the right as she searched the street. “How in the world you’ve kept your tiger hidden—”
“No one’s around.” Thanks to Catalina. He pinned her with his gaze. “Why didn’t he know, sweetheart?” The words were easy, but the demand underlying them was steel hard.
Her delicate nostrils widened. “Most don’t.” A shrug. “Your senses must be stronger than the average shifter’s—or you wouldn’t have known about me at first, either.”
Yeah, they were stronger. Came from being a white tiger. Rare breed, stronger shifter talents.
But if her scent couldn’t be detected by the others…shit. The woman had some serious camouflage going on. “So you’ve been just slipping right by your kind haven’t you? Walking right past the shifters your whole life.”
“Not my kind,” she interrupted, voice rising.
His turn to blink. “Yeah, we are.” A slow anger began to burn in his gut.
She swallowed. “I-I’m not going to do this with you, not now. You don’t understand.”
Because she hasn’t told me a damn thing. The lady kept telling him, “not now.” Well, when? He stared her down. “Try me.”
“Shifters…” Her shoulders straightened. “That’s not my world. When I didn’t change at puberty, the shifter world kicked my ass out and left me in the cold.”
Her mom abandoned her, dropped her off on her father’s doorstep when she was fifteen.
“I’ve lived as a human since then. I don’t transform. For all intents, I am human, and that’s the only world I know.”
No, last night, she’d found another world, with him. He’d felt her beast, raging just below the smooth, controlled surface she presented.
Erin turned away and began walking toward her waiting car.
Stop her. “Shifters don’t play by the same rules as humans.” She knew that. He shouldn’t have to shout it at her. Shouting.
He winced. Good thing that spell of Catalina’s was keeping the humans away. “Sometimes we have to play rough.” Like when he’d dug his claws into Mickey the asshole.
Erin glanced back at him, black hair sliding over her shoulders. “I know how shifters play.” Anger. Fear?
“I’m trying to find the bastard after you, and believe me, I’ll play by any rules that I have to. I’ll break any rules I have to, in order to find that bastard.” Find him, stop him, put him in a shallow grave.
He’d marked her.
The killer wasn’t gonna play nice and easy. And Jude had never been that dumb nice-and-stupidly-easy type.
Their eyes held. When Erin spoke, her voice was soft but it carried easily to him as she said, “My job is about protecting the rules of the human world. Following the law.”
Sometimes, you had to bend that law.
And maybe even break it in order to stop the bad-asses. “Human laws and human jails don’t do much for our kind.” Oh, yeah, maybe he’d put too much emphasis on the our, but screw it. She was just like him beneath the skin.
Animal to animal.
Night Watch brought down criminals and sometimes, bringing down the supernatural scum meant putting a power-mad demon, a blood-sucking vamp, or even a rabid shifter out of his misery.
No, human jails couldn’t hold a strong supernatural for long. Hell, a level ten demon could blow the walls out of a jail with barely a thought. And if a guard got too close to a vamp…
Some monsters couldn’t be stopped by the normal means.
That was the reason Night Watch had been formed.
Night Watch’s mission was to bring down the supernatural criminals—one way or another.
When Mickey got to the jail, his ass would be tossed in a cage. Just where he belonged. And he’d stay in the pen, doing his time, kicking the crap out of any human foolish enough to cross him.
But someone stronger than low-life Mickey…hell, no, a prison would never work.
“Accept it,” Jude said. “Your laws just don’t work for everyone.”
Her eyes narrowed.
“Like that bastard after you. Do you really think a cage will hold him?”