She raised a brow and turned to find Antonio glaring at her, the lights of the porch shining behind him. His hands were crossed over his chest, his eyes narrowed. He shook his head. “You called in a civilian before you called the cops—”
“He’s the same civilian you called earlier, too,” she reminded him. There hadn’t been a lot of options for her. With the creep on her tail, there never were. Back when she’d lived in Lillian, there sure as hell hadn’t been a choice. As far as she’d known, the police hadn’t known about the Other.
So they certainly wouldn’t have been able to handle a supernatural who’d slipped over the line and gone straight psychotic.
“This is different! This is—”
“My life,” she fired back at him. “I know this isn’t protocol, okay, but this isn’t your average situation.” Her voice lowered to a hard whisper, “Not average at all.”
A grunt. “Trust me, blood on the walls is never average.”
True. Erin sucked in a breath and tried to push her fear and anger aside. Antonio was catching the brunt of her fury, but the guy had already done her a favor by pulling in his team so softly.
The porch boards groaned as he stepped forward. “How long has this guy been after you?”
She swallowed. “A year.” Maybe longer. Hard to say. She’d gotten her first “gift” almost twelve months before. But she’d read up on stalkers and their behavior. She knew they often watched their prey for months or even years before making a real move.
“Did you think running was going to stop him?”
Jude had briefed him on her situation. Well, Jude had told the cop as much as she’d told the shifter. Erin hadn’t revealed everything. Not yet.
“I’d hoped it would,” she said.
He took another step toward her. The scent of his cologne filled her nostrils. The guy always wore his cologne. Not too heavy but—
Another scent. Richer. Filling the air, surrounding her.
Erin looked to the right, just over Antonio’s shoulder, and she found Jude watching her, his big frame filling her doorway.
There was something in his eyes. A heat. Anger?
“Your crew’s working hard,” Jude said as he stalked toward them.
Antonio stiffened just a bit, then eased away from her. “They’re the best I’ve got, and they all know when we need…delicacy.”
So they knew about the Other? Or were they Other?
Jude came to stand beside her, his arm brushing hers and sending some of the chill dissipating from her body. Handy talent, that.
“It’s human blood.” Flat.
The cop nodded. “You’d know.”
Yeah, he would.
“This guy has a real hard-on for our ADA.”
Antonio wasn’t exactly high on the tact scale. Erin lifted a brow and managed not to grind her back teeth.
“He’s chased you across the state,” Antonio continued. “The guy isn’t backing off.”
“We’re gonna make him back off.” The words were little more than a growl from Jude.
Antonio’s dark eyes locked on the shifter. “This gettin’ personal for you, man?”
Jude didn’t bother answering. “Send patrols out, have them keep an extra watch on the neighborhood.”
Erin gave a laugh at that, and she knew the sound held a desperate edge. “A patrol car isn’t going to stop this guy. He’s Other, and he’s damn strong.” Sometimes she worried that nothing could stop him.
She hadn’t been able to. Not that night, that cold night when he’d caught her in her bedroom and dug his claws into her arms as he pinned her to the bed—
Not going back there. Never again.
“Tell us everything you know about him,” Jude said. The crime scene unit was still inside. Gathering their evidence. Walking through her life. They couldn’t hear this. Only Jude and the cop he seemed to trust.
If only she were the trusting kind. But, other than her father, she’d never really trusted anyone fully before.
When you had a lot to lose, trusting was a foolish mistake. Way too easy to get burned.
“Not much to say.” A shrug. He found me. I tried to be so careful and he found me. “He’s a shifter.”
I don’t want to run again.
“You’ve seen him?” From Antonio.
Careful. “I-I caught his scent once.”
Antonio just looked blank.
Jude’s fingers snaked down her arm and the heat burned through her shirt. “Shifters carry a distinct scent. It marks us.”
The cop sniffed. “I don’t smell a damn thing, well…those azaleas but—”
“It’s the way shifters recognize each other,” Jude told him. “Like to like.”
“Oh, shit.” Antonio’s eyes widened as he stared at Erin, his jaw dropping. “You’re a shifter?”
Way to go, hunter. “No, I most certainly am not. ” Her nostrils flared. “I just have very…acute senses.” That part was absolutely true. It felt good to be honest right then.
His gaze raked her. “You holding out on me again, ADA Jerome?”
Yes. “What I am or what I am not really isn’t the issue here.” No, the issue was the psychopath who’d painted blood on her wall. “We could have a victim out there, someone who needs help.”
“That’s why my crime scene gang is here. They’re the best.” Simple. “If the bastard left behind any clues, they’ll find ’em.”
“Good.” Erin realized she was leaning toward Jude. What? She snapped straight back up.
She was tired, that was it. Hell of a day. Even worse of a night. So she’d gotten tired and she’d sagged a bit. That was okay.
But the tight feeling in her gut, the fierce urge to turn and push against him, that was not okay.
She needed to get in bed. Needed to forget the blood and the fear.
But the idea of walking into that house again…“I loved this house,” she muttered, shoving back the hair that had fallen over the side of her face. There had been no ghosts in this house.
Antonio frowned at her and after a moment of silence, he said, “So you’ve never seen the guy.” Ah, trying delicacy now.
“I can’t give you a description. Sorry. I wish that I could.” Her shoulders lifted then fell. “Male, big, strong.” She’d caught that much in the darkness. “But I can’t tell you a single thing about his face.” Not much help at all.
“You got all that from a scent?” Antonio scratched his chin. “One fine nose you got there, lady.”
He didn’t understand. Maybe the guy didn’t know as much about the Other world as she’d thought.
One of the crime scene techs walked out. She had four evidence bags in her hands. Antonio waited for her to pass them, then he leaned forward and said, “You’re gonna need protection.”
She was stronger than any human he’d send to protect her.
A human wouldn’t be strong enough to help her this time. She needed—
“She’s got protection.”
Jude’s words had her head jerking toward him. She stared into his eyes. So deep and wild. “She’s got protection,” he repeated, the words fierce.
Protection…but at what price?
She could sure use his power and strength, but—
But Jude was a danger to her, too. Every moment she spent with him, Erin could feel the thing inside her tensing.
Like to like.
Wasn’t that always the damn way?
“Maybe you should think about moving to a hotel room for the night. The team’s gonna be here for a long while longer,”
“I-I will.” Great idea. The sooner she got out of there, the better.
She couldn’t let him do this to her. Not again.
The hotel room was small. The air conditioner buzzed with a steady whir of sound, and the bed, a queen that looked like a double, waited with perfectly smooth covers.
Jude scanned the room, hands on his hips. “You don’t have to stay here. You can come to my place and—”
“I’ll be fine here,” Erin said, her voice smooth as silk. No more fear. No worry. No anger.
The lady had frozen on him. Jude didn’t like that. Not one bit.
She tossed a small overnight bag onto the foot of the bed. “Thanks for bringing me over, but it really wasn’t necessary. I could have driven myself.”
“I wanted to bring you.” He’d wanted to make certain she was safe.
Blood on her walls. What kind of sick freak was after her?
And why was she so calm now? His fingers clenched. “Tony will send a unit around here, just in case.”
“Nothing else is going to happen tonight.” She kicked off her heels. Suddenly became two inches shorter.
The lady had nice feet. Red toenails. Kinda pretty.
“That’s not the way this guy works.”
She would know.
Erin lifted her hands above her head as she stretched and he really tried— for about three seconds anyway— not to look at her chest. But her breasts stretched the front of the blouse and those buttons looked like they might pop at any moment.
Get a grip. The lust was gonna have to take a backseat for the time being.
Romeo from hell was stalking her. She didn’t need him jumping her then, too.
Her hair brushed over her shoulders. Such a dark, thick curtain.
Focus. “I can…stay here.” Hell, yeah. “Um, to keep an eye out in case—”
Her arms dropped and the stretching show ended. “Not necessary.” Clipped. She marched toward him, eyes glinting.
“Look, hunter, I appreciate all of your help.” Her steps halted, a foot away from him. Her head tilted up, just a bit. “I-I know I shouldn’t have called you. I don’t know why I did.”
He knew. Jude caught her hands, closing that space between them. “Don’t you?” Oh, yeah, she felt the connection, exactly like he did. The hard hunger. The need.
Her lips parted.
Jude wanted those lips. Wanted the soft body that pressed against him. The bed was so close. He could ruin those perfect covers real fast.
He took a breath, tasted her, and said, bluntly, “You need me, sweetheart.”
Jude watched the flare of her golden eyes. Flecks of emerald circled her pupils. So beautiful. He knew the protest was coming even before she sputtered, “Look, you—You might think you’re God’s gift to the ladies, but I don’t need—”
“Not talking about sex right now.” That would come, later. “You’ve got a shifter on your tail, and as good as Tony and his team members are, I’m better.”
Her mouth snapped closed. No argument, because she knew he was telling the truth.
“That’s why you called me.” Her breasts pushed against his chest, the nipples pebbled. He’d always been a breast man, and the lady had some fine breasts.
But business came first.
“I’m the best hunter in the area. You called me, before you called the cops, because you wanted my help.”
Still no denial.
“You want this guy stopped? Let me handle him.”
Secrets were in her eyes. Fair enough, he had his own hard stories to keep, too.
“You really think you can catch him?” Erin asked quietly.
A shrug. “I’m your best bet.” He believed that, one hundred percent.
“What will I…” Her gaze dropped even as her hands rose to push against his chest. Small hands with red nails to match her toes. “What will I have to pay for your services?”
He didn’t answer, not until that stare of hers rose slowly once more. And he didn’t back away from her either. “One hell of a lot,” Jude told her and enjoyed the widening of her eyes. “I don’t come cheap.”
Then he kissed her because he had to taste her. Her lips were parted and he drove his tongue deep.
Damn but she was sweet. He’d been a sucker for sweets as long as he could remember.
She didn’t fight him. Didn’t dig her nails into his chest or twist her head away. No, her tongue swiped against his and she gave a little rumble in her throat, a cross between a growl and a moan—and then he just stopped thinking.
And started feeling.
Lush female curves. Soft skin. Lips. Tongue.
His hands snaked down her spine, caught her hips—squeezed.
His cock rose toward her, swelling and hungering.
Her scent teased him. Those roses…and woman. The rich scent of her need, a fragrance that only made his arousal stronger.
And…something more. Earthier. Subtle, simmering just below the surface, but something familiar in the air.
Her hands shoved against his chest and Jude stumbled back.
Forgot the punch the lady packed.
Her lips, red and wet, tightened. “Is sex with me part of the deal?”
“No,” he told her truthfully. “It’s a bonus.”
Jude knew he’d said the wrong thing even as Erin sucked in a sharp breath. “Listen, shifter—”
He held up his hands and tried to ignore the hard-on that stretched the front of his jeans. “Easy. What I meant”—okay, so he’d never been real good with women and words—“was that the case and us—they’re separate.”
But he did plan on moving into her house, if not her bed, right away.