Sarah’s gaze cut toward Lucas. Her expression was so stark—but then she glanced back at Josette. “He didn’t realize what you’d done for him.”
Her shoulders fell. “I traded everything for him. There’s no going back now. Once the Dark gets you . . .” Her hand lifted and her fingers curled into a fist. “There’s no fighting.”
The hair on his nape was still up. Lucas looked at the symbols she’d written so carefully around her circle. Some signs he recognized. Some had him worried as hell. And some . . . some he didn’t understand at all. “What’s the circle for, Josette?”
“I can hear the dead,” she said, speaking quietly. “They call to me now. Some are stronger than others, and some want to rise.”
Fuck. “Who are you bringing back?”
“No!” Sarah’s voice snapped out, fueled with an angry heat. “No, she doesn’t want to come back. I don’t know what you think you’re hearing, but Marie wouldn’t want to be pulled from the grave.”
“She’s not in the grave yet . . .”
“She wouldn’t want this!” Sarah’s cheeks flushed. Josette’s head whipped toward her. “How would you know? You know nothing about her, you don’t know—”
“Marie could see the future, couldn’t she?”
“She could see everything.”
Lucas knew that was true.
“Then she knew Death was coming,” Sarah said, and Lucas saw her shoes edge closer to that line. No. “She didn’t fight her attacker. She let him in, let him get close enough to kill.”
“Damn you!” Josette lunged forward. Her hand flew out of the circle and caught Sarah’s arm.
A hiss of sound filled the room, just like a snake’s hiss. The candles flickered.
“Marie knew.” Sarah kept talking. Her body was still out of the circle, and Josette was trapped inside. “She said—she told me, ‘There’s no saving everyone. No matter how you fight, Death will still be there.’ ”
“She wants you to let her go. She told me, I didn’t understand then, but she said—”
“I won’t be alone, I won’t!” Josette screamed.
Then Sarah lunged forward, slamming her body into Josette’s, and the two women pitched back, falling right out of that circle.
The hiss died away. The candles stopped flickering.
“She’s gone.” Sarah crouched over Josette. “Let her go.”
Josette started to cry, not just silent trickles of tears. Deep, gulping sobs.
The door shattered, sending wood flying into the room. Lucas spun around, claws up, and saw Maya and her shifter shoving through the wood.
Ah, figured they’d be here now. Always a little late to the party.
But Maya froze after taking just a step. “Why the hell does this place smell . . .” Her nostrils flared a bit and he knew she’d caught the stench of death. “Josie, what have you done?”
“Just raised a little dead,” Lucas muttered, rubbing the back of his neck and wondering what would have happened if Sarah hadn’t gotten Josette out of that circle. “Just a little dead.”
Josette cried harder and he heard her choke out, “Martin.” “Oh, damn.” Understanding filled Maya’s voice. She crept forward, but Josette immediately flinched. Josette’s hands curled tight around Sarah.
“Josette.” Lucas said her name, deliberately making it snap like a whip.
Her head jerked up.
He knew grief was ripping her apart, but time was his enemy right then. He didn’t want any more dead on the streets. “You know Rafe killed Marie, don’t you?”
A slow nod.
He growled, satisfied. “So that means you stay the hell off my back, vampire.”
“He’s still mine.” Figured Maya wouldn’t back off that easily.
Josette’s gaze darted between them.
Maya tried taking another step forward. “Josette, let me help you.”
“No one can help me.” But she kept holding onto Sarah.
Lucas unclenched his teeth. “You have a cure for the Dust?”
“There is no cure.” No more tears. Flat, emotionless. Like the woman had totally shut down now, her fight gone.
Fucking fantastic. “Where’s Rafe?”
She just stared up at him.
His teeth were clenching again. “Where. Is. He?” He stalked toward her. “You want vengeance for what he’s done? I’ll give you vengeance. I’ll rip his head off and I’ll bring it to you and you can make sure no one ever lets that bastard rise.” His breath heaved out. “Just tell me where he is.”
“I don’t know.”
Maya took a few more steps. “That’s a circle for protection, Josie. Did you think he was coming after you?”
“I know he is.” A sad smile. “Rafe always likes to—”
“Tie up loose ends,” Sarah finished.
Josette looked at Sarah then, a deep, probing look. “He told me about you.”
Oh, this wasn’t going to be good. Lucas reached for Sarah’s hand and closed his fingers around hers. “We can’t stay here.” There was nothing more to learn. If Josette wasn’t—
“He thought you were his mate,” she told Sarah.
“He thought wrong,” was her immediate answer.
“Rafael thought you’d be the one to give him the thing he desired most.” Her dark gaze slid to Lucas. “For wolves, it’s always about the base needs, isn’t it? Lust, hunger, vengeance.”
Lucas held her stare. “I didn’t start the war. He came gunning for me.” Not like he’d just stand there and become the asshole’s bitch. “No one makes that mistake and lives.”
Her stare slipped to his savaged ear. “Wound for wound,” she whispered. “The way of the beast.”
No, the way of the beast was tooth and claw until death. Fight and kill. Or damn well be killed.
“He knows your weakness, Lucas Simone.” She rose with Sarah, her body shaking just a bit. “That’s how he works. He knew my weakness, and he used it against me. Knew mine, knew grand-mère’s.”
The mambo had a weakness?
Her breath whispered out. “Rafael always knows how to hurt his prey the most.”
Good damn deal for him. “I’m not afraid of pain.”
For just an instant, her dark gaze seemed to fog, the way he’d seen Marie’s do once. “Very soon, you will be.”
Not likely. “I can handle any pain the bastard throws at me.”
“I never said it would be your pain.” Her gaze drifted over Maya.
“Now you sound like Marie,” Maya said.
Josette’s face tightened.
“Piers, take Josette back to the compound.” His gaze met the other shifter’s. Don’t let her out of your sight. There was much more to learn from Josette, he knew it. He just didn’t want to question her more with the vamp and her bodyguard /mate there.
Sure, they had an alliance, of sorts, and he was in the unfortunate situation of actually owing Brody, but he made it a policy not to trust vamps too far. Or at all, really.
At his words, Maya shook her head. “Josette’s coming with me.” She offered her hand, palm up, to the other woman. “You know I’ll keep you safe.”
Josette didn’t take the offered hand. “The Dust . . .” She cleared her throat. “Why did you ask about it, Lucas? It wouldn’t hurt wolves, just demons.”
“Rafe used it to infect a demon I know.” That’s all he’d say. Josette and the others didn’t need to know about the hybrid in his pack.
Secrets stayed in the pack.
“Is he . . . is he dead?”
“I only gave Rafael one batch.”
Maya and Brody were watching with narrowed eyes. Both of them hearing everything that was said, and what wasn’t.
Her palm brushed at the tear tracks on her cheeks.
“I wasn’t even sure it would work.”
Oh, it had worked.
“I couldn’t make it. But grand-mère . . . could do anything.”
But she’d still died. No matter how powerful, everyone could still die.
“All kinds came to see grand-mère.” Her lips curved down. “When you traded . . . even angels had to fall.”
Almost helplessly then, his stare slid back to Sarah. Just because Marie was dead, it didn’t mean she still wouldn’t claim her payment. No, a payment was always due.
“Come with me, Josie,” Maya said again. “You know I can keep you safe. If you don’t want to stay with me, I’ve got some cops who will—”
“I wouldn’t trust the cops in this town if I were you,” Lucas advised.
“No,” Sarah echoed him. “I wouldn’t either.”
Indecision flashed across Josette’s face.
“Josette.” Intensity fired Maya’s voice. “You trusted me once. Trust me again. I will keep you safe.” Her gaze zeroed in on Lucas. “He just wants to use you.”
True enough. He didn’t exactly trust Josette. That circle hadn’t been all about protection—Maya was wrong. Josette had been set to raise the dead again. Marie, or . . .
No, he didn’t trust her. And he wanted her where he could keep a guard on her.
But Josette reached for Maya’s hand.
Lucas growled. “Wrong choice.”
Maya pulled the woman closer.
And he had to give a warning. Because . . . once, he’d seen past the vampire and glimpsed the woman inside. “Don’t trust her.”
Maya’s jaw dropped. “You bastard! I’d never hurt her, I’d—”
“I was talking to you, Maya.” He caught Sarah’s hand and pulled her toward the door.
“She’s not the good little Josie anymore,” Piers said.
The candles flickered.
Lucas wondered . . . had she ever been that Josie? Or had she been tricking them all along?
Death teased his nostrils.
A strong hand grabbed his shoulder. Ah, now Brody was trying to get a piece of him. Wrong move. Lucas didn’t care how old or strong that shifter was; even legends could die.
“If I find him first,” Adam Brody’s mouth hitched into a hard grin—one that promised pain. “They’ll be nothing left for you to see but ash.”
“I gave you a kill once,” Brody said. “This one’s personal.”
“You’re damn right it is.” He knew Maya had been close with the mambo, but her revenge would have to wait. “He’s after me. After my pack.” Lucas let the wolf off his leash, and he knew his eyes would glow with the power of the beast. “He’ll be dead by my hand.”
“Not if I find him first, wolf.”
Asshole. Brody wasn’t backing down. But Brody also didn’t know this town, not like Lucas did. “You won’t.” He pushed through the broken door, aware of the silence behind him, ahead of him. Everyone in the bar was straining to hear. Not that hearing would be so hard for most of the bastards. Not with their Other senses.
He stalked to the center of the bar. Sarah was at his side. Piers at his back. All the eyes were on him, the silence even thicker now.
He waited, letting his gaze sweep the place. Maya guided Josette up the stairs, glancing back at him only once. He caught the black flash of her eyes.
Brody stayed below, taking up a position right at the foot of the stairs. The blond crossed his arms over his chest and waited, watching Lucas.
“I’m looking for a wolf shifter.” Lucas let his voice ring out. Loud and clear.
No one moved.
“Rafael Santiago. The bastard came to town, started killing in my area, and I want him found.”
“Dead . . .” A woman’s voice called out. “Or alive?”
“Alive.” Because the kill would be his.
He saw a few gazes slide away from him. Two men sidled toward another door on the right-hand side of the room.
The woman who’d questioned him pushed through the crowd. Her hair was red as fire and her mouth was stained with blood. “How much?” Vampire.
He heard Sarah’s quick, indrawn breath. He brushed his fingers lightly over the inside of her wrist.
“Yeah, wolf . . . how much?” Now a big, burly bastard was next to the woman. A bear shifter. McKennis. Their paths had crossed more than a few times. “What will you pay if we bring him to you?”
Lucas smiled at him. “I don’t pay you a damn thing.”
Mutters in the crowd then. Growls. A snarl.
He saw Brody raise a brow.
“Then why the fuck should we tell you anything?” McKennis demanded.
“Because . . .” Lucas strode toward him and in a flash, he had his claws right over the bear’s heart. Dumb asshole. For all his size, he was always too slow to defend. “If I find out someone in this shithole knows where Rafe is or has been helping him hide . . .” His claws sliced right through McKennis’s shirt. The bear didn’t even seem to breathe. “Guess who’ll be next on my hit list?”
That shut ’em up.
He let his gaze scan the room once more. He memorized every face. Because he would be seeing them all. Sooner or later.
No one spoke as he turned and followed Sarah and Piers back to the stairs. He stayed in the rear, deliberately, hoping someone would try to attack.