Erin growled at him. He wasn’t on her top ten list. Over the last week, she’d gotten a pretty up close look at the captain, and came away thinking the guy was a bit of a prick. He was secretive, he didn’t share his case files with the rest of the PD, and the guy was given to disappearing for long periods of time. Hardly upfront police behavior.
Erin had no idea how the man had ever been promoted through the ranks.
He must’ve had some serious connections somewhere or else he’d known where some bodies were buried. Maybe he’d helped to bury those bodies.
“Your men have to be cleared.” Her voice was sharp. The captain knew this, and he still had Grant and the others less than ten feet away from the victim. “What the hell are you thinking?”
His dark eyes narrowed. “I don’t need you to tell me how to do my job.”
“Uh, yeah, obviously, you do.” The press would go wild with this story. Wild. “Four cops. One dead perp. You do the math, Young.” Okay, so she sounded like a bitch. Screw the polite chitchat. The man knew better.
Bobby Burrows was dead—not just dead—slaughtered. Aw, hell.
Young’s handsome face—cause, yeah, no denying he was a pretty boy with those elegant planes and hollows on his face—tightened. No sign of his flashing dimple. He glared at her, and she glared right back.
“We didn’t do it.” From Grant. Strong, steady Grant. She’d had a good feeling about the guy from the beginning, from the first moment she’d met him at the courthouse. A real upfront kind of guy.
“We’re going to have to prove that,” she said. Not going to be easy.
Another flash of light.
Erin licked her lips and knew what she had to do. “Excuse me.” Much as she hated it…
She was going to have to get close to that body. She spun and headed for the perp. Um, victim now. Her steps slowed as she approached the body. “Give me a minute, Mark,” she said to the crime scene analyst, and he moved back.
Less than a foot away, she stopped. She didn’t touch Bobby or the bars, no way was she going to risk contaminating evidence. But…
But her eyes touched him. Her gaze scanned every inch of him, paying careful attention to the wounds and—
Her heart slammed into her chest.
Those weren’t knife wounds. No, she knew the shape of those wounds.
Those slices had been made by claws. She’d seen marks like that too many times in the past.
Her nostrils twitched and she stared at Bobby’s bloody form.
The cops there—the captain, the three men, and the woman—they were human. So were the crime scene guys.
But a shifter had been here. He’d killed.
And she knew there was a shifter close by, one who didn’t mind a little blood and who sure had a hard-on for Bobby.
Her steps were very precise as she turned and left the holding area. Once she was clear, her fingers knotted into fists, and she stormed down the hallway, racing back to face the hunter.
Jude stretched his legs out, letting the heels of his boots press into the old floor. He didn’t glance at his watch, but he figured Erin had been with the body about eight minutes or so now and—
Click. Click. Click.
The sound of fast-approaching high heels.
He glanced up.
And saw Erin bearing down on him, her face tight with fury and her eyes blazing.
She stalked right up to him, put her hands on the hips he’d like to touch and demanded, “What did you do?”
Whoa. Jude stood up, slowly, aware that he towered over her slender figure and using that to his advantage. “I think you’ve got the wrong idea here, sweetheart.”
“I am not your sweetheart.” She jabbed a finger into his chest. “You think I don’t know what got a hold of that bastard?”
Her voice was fierce, but pitched low enough that only he would be able to hear her. “I recognize the work of claws when I see
“Not my claws.” The words came out more growl than anything else. He cleared his throat, tried again. It was hard to speak normally, with her so close, with that sweet scent filling his nose, and with the beast roaring. “I told you, if I wanted him dead, he wouldn’t have made it out of that swamp.”
“You knew what I’d find in that cell.” A pause, just for a beat of time. “How’d you know, hunter? Because you’d been the one to send Bobby to hell? Just had to put a smile on his face, didn’t you? A grin for him to greet the devil with?”
He grabbed her hand, tired of her fingernail digging into his chest. “I didn’t do it, sweetheart. I’ve got an alibi. I was at Night Watch and at least four other agents can attest to that.” Good thing, too. He rotated his shoulders. No more pain. Not even a twinge.
“How did you know? ” Gritted from between her teeth. Teeth that were starting to look a bit sharper than before.
He almost smiled. Would have, if they weren’t talking about a dead body and if they hadn’t been surrounded by cops.
“I’ve got a friend in the department. He called me.” Because he owed me and because the sly bastard knew he’d need my help. Just like she would.
Erin just didn’t want to admit it yet.
“Aw, now, you can’t expect me to—”
“What. Friend!” Her voice wasn’t soft anymore, and a couple of cops glanced their way. “Tell me, because I’m sure as hell thinking you’re—”
“It was me, ma’am.” A slow-drawling southern voice said.
Erin’s head whipped to the left and her mouth dropped open as she stared at Antonio. “Bullshit.”
He smiled at her, flashing his perfectly capped, too-white teeth. The teeth looked even whiter next to his caramel skin—coloring Jude knew the guy had gotten courtesy of his very lovely Mexican mother. “’Fraid so, Ms. Jerome. ’Fraid so.”
“Because I’m not quite as clueless as you seem to think I am.” His voice was low but fierce. “And one look at that body told me the cops in that room weren’t suspects.” He jerked his thumb toward Jude. “But one of his kind sure as hell was.”
She froze. Then, it was as if a veil fell over her face. Erin’s expression cleared, until only a false mask remained. “His kind?
What’s that supposed to mean?”
Jude blinked. The lady was good. If she hadn’t just been snarling at him about claw marks, he might have bought her confused act.
Or maybe not.
Because apparently even Tony wasn’t buying it. The captain snorted and said, “If you really don’t know, ma’am, then you’re gonna have one hell of a time survivin’ in this town.”
She was living a nightmare. An absolute somebody-please-wake-me-up screaming nightmare.
Antonio knew about the Other.
Yeah, that was a problem, but the big deal was that she had a shifter gone bad who was slicing up killers right under the noses of the PD.
The news headlines would be brutal.
“I hate to break this to you, Ms. Jerome—”
“Erin,” she choked out because the captain drawled her surname out in a way that was like nails grating on her nerves.
“But the world you live in, well, only half of what you see is real.” Antonio paced the small confines of his office, looking very much like a caged cat.
He wasn’t. The guy didn’t so much as give off one whiff of shifter scent.
But then, her smell was pretty damn hard to detect, too.
“Really?” She kept her voice mild with an effort. After the captain’s big revelation, he’d herded her and Jude into his office.
She was playing the innocent human, for now. And for as long as necessary.
“Two years ago, I was out in the swamps. A vampire tried to drain me and leave my body for gator bait.”
Nice visual. “A vampire?” Erin shook her head. “Sorry, captain, but vampires aren’t real.” Yeah, right. Those bastards were as real as she was.
Jude rolled his shoulders beside her. He’d been doing that every few moments. What was up with that?
“They’re real.” Antonio stopped his pacing. “Get used to the idea.”
She had, about twenty-five years ago, when she’d watched her mother go claw to teeth with a vamp. “Um…tell me, captain, have you been in for an evaluation recently? Perhaps a trip to the police shrink is in order.” Erin braced her hands on the armrests of her chair and pushed to her feet. “Now, unless you want to tell me a few fairy tales about some trolls running loose in the city, I’ve got a murder to solve. I don’t have time for this crap.” A good exit line. She headed for the door, chin up, shoulders back.
And heard clapping behind her. Glancing over her shoulder, Erin saw Jude smiling at her.
“Nice.” He pointed one long finger at her. “But why don’t you cut the crap, ADA? We both know you understand all about the monsters in the dark, and playing the innocent isn’t gonna work with me.”
We both know you understand all about the monsters in the dark. Her lips parted.
He rose slowly and stalked toward her. Yeah, stalked, his movements slow and steady, strangely graceful, his eyes predatory. His bright gaze dropped to her mouth. Seemed to heat.
Trouble. Oh, but the man was going to be dangerous to her. She’d known it from that first glance. Erin licked her lips. “I, uh…” No, that wouldn’t work at all. She cleared her throat. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Donovan.” One fast glance toward Antonio. “I’m not going to jump on this insanity parade—”
“Gloves are off, lady. You know what I am.”
He leaned in close and she watched the flare of his nostrils. “And I know what you’re not.”
“So let’s cut to the chase, here, okay? No pretending’s necessary when the door’s closed.” And the door was closed.
Closed and locked. She’d heard the soft snick after Antonio shut the door. “You saw the body. You said yourself—those were claw marks, right?”
Her gaze darted once more to the left. Antonio stared at her with his wide eyes. Denial was still an option. She didn’t have to blow her cover, the cover she’d worked so hard to get. Four months. It had taken her four months to find this job and to escape from her past.
A past that had come calling today—memories stirred up by the cloying scent of blood and death.
Running from monsters was hard work, because they were everywhere.
Silence hung in the room, too thick.
Jude swore. “Fine. I’ll take a look at the body and see what I—”
Erin grabbed his hand when he tried to push past her, and she kissed her new life good-bye. “It was a shifter.”
Antonio exhaled. “Damn woman.”
Jude’s skin felt warm beneath her fingertips. His eyes bored into hers, and she watched his pupils flare.
She pulled her hand back and smoothed her fingers over the soft cotton of her pants. “It was a shifter, and, how convenient—there’s a shifter standing right in front of me.” Towering over her. Surrounding her with his heat and scent.
“I didn’t kill him—”
Their words twisted and blurred in her mind. She waited for the denials to finish, then raised a brow. “You said you could prove your innocence.”
His eyes narrowed, but Jude nodded. “Good,” she muttered. “’Cause you’ll have to do that.” And she believed he could.
After that whole alibi business was taken care of, it would be time to get down to business.
“Call Night Watch,” Jude said. “You can verify my whereabouts in less than two minutes.”
She’d do that, but first…“Are you up for another case, hunter?” She knew just how hard it was to catch a shifter, especially one who hungered for the sweet thrill of human prey.
“You trying to hire me?”
Yeah, she was. She knew that Jude Donovan would be her best bet for catching this killer. The cops wouldn’t be able to track a shifter.
It takes a beast to catch a beast.
Oh, the games the Other played.
“The DA gonna be up for this?” Antonio asked, inching closer.
Erin didn’t glance his way. “He’ll go for it.” She’d make absolutely certain he did. “But will you?” she asked Jude.
His hard face was unreadable. Jeez but the man was big. She topped out at just under six feet, but he towered over her by several inches.
Just what kind of beast did Jude carry? Shifters—the beings that most said carried two souls.
The soul of a man.
The soul of an animal.
Most shifters were pretty harmless. They could transform into foxes, birds, or snakes.
Others were more dangerous. Bears, panthers, wolves.
Wolves. Some believed—with good reason—that those were the most dangerous of the shifters. Fierce, bloodthirsty, and, just for fun, every now and then…psychotic.
“I’ll hunt for you.” His gaze never left her face. “For a price.”
“The city will pay you.” She’d talk to the mayor and the DA. She wasn’t planning a big reveal about the Other world with them; at least, not unless she wasn’t given a choice. But Gus and Clark were smart guys. They’d wise up real fast to the benefits of having this case handled as quietly and quickly as possible.