And she was one hundred percent human.
A human with a serious attitude.
“I couldn’t let that asshole stay on the streets.” Because he’d seen the pictures. Seen just what good old Bobby had done to the women who’d “wronged” him.
Poor Sheila Gentry had gotten seventeen stitches in her face because she’d made the mistake of saying no when the guy asked her out for dinner. She’d taken a pit stop at a gas station and found one hell of a Romeo who wanted to pick her up.
Caged psycho now.
The little ADA had better do her job and keep him there.
He eased into his chair. Heard the grunt of the leather. “Dee, what do you know about Erin Jerome?”
She blinked her chocolate eyes. The lady was all of five-foot-three. One hundred and fifteen pounds. She looked like a hard wind would blow her over.
But he’d seen her take down demons twice her size.
Dee knew the score about the Other world. Knew it, and often hated it.
A frown had her brows pulling low. “The new ADA? She just started.”
Yeah, he knew that. He would have known about her if she’d been around for more than a few weeks.
Her scent. He’d never smelled anything like it. Roses. Soft, subtle. And…more. An alluring, haunting scent of woman.
She didn’t smell like an animal. Didn’t give off the wild, rich scent of female shifters.
But the minute he’d seen her, the minute he’d caught her fragrance in the air, his whole body had stiffened.
And he’d gotten the biggest hard-on of his life. There was something there. He knew it.
“Oh, hell, she’s Other.” Dee curled her lip. “I swear, you guys are taking over the city.”
Yeah, they were.
“What is she? Witch? Djinn? One of those charmers?”
Jude didn’t speak. Because he didn’t know.
“A vampire?” Ice dripped from her voice. Dee hated the vamps. Her mission in life was to exterminate as many of them as she could.
Not that he blamed her, really. A vampire master had slaughtered her family years ago.
Dee was real big on the “eye for an eye” mentality.
“I don’t…think so.” Erin’s skin had been flushed with color. Kissed by the sun. Vamps were usually paler than, well, death.
The lady had been a real looker. Coal black hair, thick, spilling to her shoulders. Red lips. Cheeks almost brutally sharp.
Eyes wide and gold. And a little black mole near the corner of her left eye.
Great body. High breasts. Round hips. Long, long legs.
Tall, slender, she’d walked with confidence, grace.
Until she’d seen him.
Then he’d watched her stumble, for just a moment.
Because she’d sensed what I am.
Only another shifter should have been able to sense him.
“She didn’t smell like a shifter,” he muttered, rubbing his hand over his face. Hell, he shouldn’t even be worrying about this now. He should be sleeping. Drinking. Congratulating himself on another job well done.
Not obsessing over a woman who clearly wasn’t interested in him.
Yeah, ’cause smelling a woman, sniffing her like a freaking dog—that was the way to get a date.
“Just let me know if you hear anything about her, okay?” he finally said.
A cautious nod.
“Thanks, Dee.” He closed his eyes…and saw Erin.
Shit. He needed to get a life.
He needed to take a life. Needed to kill. Needed to feel the sweet trickle of life being washed away.
The Slasher, Bobby Burrows, waited just behind the bars. There he stood, stalking around and muttering about evil and devils and hell.
And annoying the hell out of him.
That bastard had been on the news for the last two nights.
Bobby’s fat, ugly face had been splashed across the screen—making him sick.
Bobby Burrows didn’t deserve fifteen minutes of fame. He deserved a trip to the grave.
Bobby grabbed the bars of his cell. Tightened his thick hands into straining fists around the metal and screamed, “The fuckin’ devil marked me! I want reporters in here, I want my lawyer, I want—”
“Relax.” He sidled closer to Bobby, finally stepping out of the shadows he loved so much and smiling. He jerked his thumb toward the group of guards who were watching television near the entrance to the cages.
Cages. That’s what he called ’em. To keep the animals inside.
But sometimes, the cages couldn’t hold the animals.
He drew in a deep breath and caught the scent of the man’s sweat and blood. “They’re not gonna help you.” They were too busy huddling up and watching a game to give a shit about the guy left in holding. He smiled and hoped he didn’t look too hungry. “But I will.”
Bobby squinted at him. The left side of his face was covered by a large, white bandage. “What? Who are you?”
His hands rose to the bars, reached for Bobby’s—
The Slasher jumped back.
Ah…not as stupid as he looked. “Why don’t you tell me who hurt you, Bobby?”
“I-I did. The devil—”
“The devil’s not real.” He’d never seen him. Judgment wasn’t for the afterlife. It was for here and now, to be delivered by the strong.
“Yes, he is.” Absolute certainty. “Found me in the swamp. Changed before me. I shot the bastard, but he still came after me.” He licked his lips. “Then he cut me.”
The bars were so thin. Not nearly strong enough to keep him out.
But strong enough to trap the human inside.
“He let you live, didn’t he? I don’t think the devil would do that.”
“He’s a monster!” Spittle flew from Bobby’s mouth. “Hiding behind the face of a man. That fuckin’ hunter! Pretendin’, he’s pretendin’!”
“We all pretend,” he told him softly, aware of the excitement burning through his gut. He didn’t have any more time to waste. “It’s how we live.” His hands flew through the gap in the bars. His right hand locked around the Slasher’s throat.
A wheeze slipped past Bobby’s lips.
Smiling, he jerked the human’s head to the right. He heard the sharp snap of bones.
And felt a rush of power as the man sagged in his grip.
Slowly, his left hand rose. He cast a glance back toward the guards. They were still glued to their TV.
Fucking oblivious humans.
Claws pushed from the ends of his fingertips. He raised his left hand and plunged the claws into Bobby’s heart.
As the blood flowed, a soft sigh escaped his lips.
No way was the media going to be able to overlook this kill.
He’d be taking over the news now.
Jude got the call from the police station forty-five minutes later. A cop who owed him a favor tipped him off.
The call was brief, and the details came fast. Burrows was dead. The ADA was on her way.
And, oh, yeah, it looked like an animal had attacked the guy—while he was locked up. Of course, the cops hadn’t seen a thing. Bobby had been all alone in holding one minute, then sliced and diced the next.
Jude grabbed his jacket. Slung it over his shoulder—almost healed now. He ran for the door.
And ignored Dee’s shout behind him.
“You don’t want to see the body.”
His voice, even deeper now, stopped her as Erin began to climb the steps leading to the police station and to the dead man.
She glanced back over her shoulder. She’d caught his scent seconds before he’d spoken. “How do you even know there’s a body here, Donovan?” The District Attorney’s office had received the call less than fifteen minutes ago. Just how had the hunter learned about the death?
Suspicion had her eyes narrowing. “You didn’t—”
He jumped up the steps. Grabbed her arms. “I didn’t kill the bastard, no. If I’d killed him, well, he would’ve been left in the swamp and been gator bait by now.”
Erin swallowed. Nice, to, ah, know. “Then why are you here?”
“Same as you. I want to know what happened to the Slasher.”
Her eyes narrowed. You don’t want to see the body. “Sounds to me like you already know.” Which meant she had a leak in the department. Not surprising. Not particularly good news, either.
His wide shoulders lifted in a shrug. “Trust me on this, you don’t want to see Bobby Burrows right now.”
She licked her lips. “And, trust me, I’m a big girl. I can handle it.” Not like it was her first murder scene. Not by a long shot. She was twenty-nine years old, and she’d been working the rough cases since she’d passed the bar years ago.
To make a difference, sometimes you had to get your hands dirty.
Erin turned and continued stalking up the stone steps. Jude shadowed her moves, his body a ripple of muscle.
His scent filled the air around them.
Her heart raced, too fast. Was the frantic beat from the dread filling her at the thought of a dead man waiting in what should have been a secure cell?
Or was it from something more?
She shoved open the glass doors. A guard near the front rushed forward. “Ms. Jerome—”
Her thumb jerked toward her hulking shadow. “Keep Donovan up here. I don’t want him anywhere near my crime scene.”
Her sensitive ears picked up the hunter’s swift inhalation and the nearly soundless…“You’ll need me on this one, sweetheart.”
Sweetheart. She slanted him a scathing glance. “Doubt it, hunter. Doubt it.” Then she stalked down the tiled hallway, heading for lockup, and wondering just what sort of sight waited for her.
You don’t want to see the body.
The lady had one fine ass.
Even as anger tightened his body, Jude couldn’t help but admire that beautiful sway.
His nostrils were full of her scent. Woman, roses, and just a hint of rich, wild forest. Yeah, that wildness—that fragrance had slipped into the air when those gorgeous eyes had narrowed and rage coated her voice.
Erin Jerome was so much more than she pretended to be.
The beast within him roared when she got close, and when she got too far away.
“Sorry, man, you heard the orders.” Jamison McGee, a good cop and a good human, frowned at him. “You’re gonna have to stay—”
“It’s all right, James.” Jude rocked back on his heels. He could smell the blood from here. “She’ll be changing her mind.”
Because he hadn’t been kidding when he told the pretty ADA that she’d need him.
Jude glanced toward the vinyl chairs near the entrance. “When she comes looking for me, I’ll be waiting.”
Five minutes, ten tops, and he’d wager his ADA would be running her sexy ass right back to him.
Because it seemed that another monster was out hunting. One that had killed right under the noses of the Baton Rouge PD.
Talk about a bold asshole.
Jude almost could admire that. Almost.
The scent of the blood burned her nostrils. Most of her kind liked that smell. She hated it.
Erin straightened her shoulders and strode forward. Four uniformed cops stood just in front of the entrance to the pen.
They glanced up at the clicking of her heels. One of them, an older guy with rich coffee skin, graying hair and a strong chin, stepped toward her. “Ms. Jerome, you’d better brace yourself.”
He looked worried. Looked like he thought she was going to pass out after one glance at the stiff.
She really wasn’t the passing out kind of girl.
“Thanks for the warning.” The second one she’d gotten in less than three minutes. But Grant Tyler wasn’t being an ass with his warning. The young cop next to him was stark white and shaking. He looked like he might be doing some fainting at any moment.
Oh, hell. A cop ready to hit the floor was never a good sign.
Erin pointed toward the door. “Show him to me.”
Grant pushed open the door.
The stench nearly made her gag. Then she saw him.
Bobby’s arms had been yanked through the bars, left to hang over the edges of his prison. His wrists had been cut, long, thick slices, and his blood pooled on the floor. His eyes were open, wide, and his face had been slashed. A bloodred smile stretched from one ear to the next.
Positioned. Styled. His body had been arranged for the ultimate shock value.
Erin’s lips pressed together.
“You okay?” Grant whispered.
There was a flash of light as the crime scene guy snapped a photo.
She flinched. “Fine.” No, no, she wasn’t fine. What the hell had happened? Her gaze jerked to the left, then the right. The other cells were empty. Transfer had been made just hours before, and she knew Bobby had been the only prisoner in holding.
She’d planned for him to be the only one there—all the better for the cops to keep an eye on him.
This was so not good.
A killer, murdered while he was surrounded by cops.
Murdered by cops? Her stomach knotted.
Erin turned away from the body. Goosebumps rose on her flesh. “Who was here?”
“I was.” Admitted quietly. “Burns, Grimes, and Hyde.”
Her fingers pressed into her right temple. The blood. “And you didn’t see a thing?” Doubt had her voice rising. No way, no way was that possible.
“We were up front.” His lips tightened. “Didn’t see what happened and didn’t hear a peep.”
Oh, shit. This was a nightmare.
Captain Antonio Young strolled in then. Wearing a perfect suit, not so much as a wrinkle anywhere to be found.