Angels' Judgment Page 10

The vamp smiled. “Politics is a most unkind mistress.”

“Should I expect any other visits from you?”

“No. The test has been passed.” He blinked, his injured eye healing at a phenomenal rate. “And the archangels have little interest in the inner workings of the Guild.”

“So the whole trying-to-kill-me thing? What was that?”

“It had to be done.” Shrugging, he turned to his troops. “It’s time to go.”

Another five minutes and there wasn’t a single vampire to be seen in the cool dawn light of a winter morning. Sara finally lowered her weapons and glanced at Deacon. He was bloody, his jacket torn in several places, but it was the look in his eyes that rocked her to the core. He was pissed. “Goddamn it, Sara. I don’t like you being hurt.” And then he kissed her.

It was hot and wild and amazing . . . until Lucy began howling. And someone coughed.

Sara tore away from the kiss, gun raised—to see a tall woman with long white blonde hair pulled into a ponytail, her eyes frankly curious and her body plastered with knives. “So,” Ellie said, with a huge smile, “you and the Slayer, huh? I like.” She looked Deacon up and down, and whistled. “Best Friend Seal of Approval bestowed. With gold foil edging, even.”

Grinning, Sara went to hug her. Elena shook her head. “I love you, Sara, but you’re all bloody with vampire.”

“Ugh.” Sara looked down at her soaked clothing. “I thought I told you to stay away.”

“Would you have done that?” Ellie raised an eyebrow. “Exactly.”

Giving up, Sara threw up her hands. “We need to check on Tim—the hunter inside.” She turned to Deacon. “Think we should send Ellie in? We wouldn’t want to get blood all over Tim’s floor.”

Deacon’s eyes gleamed. “Good idea.”

Elena glanced from one to the other. “Do I have ‘sucker’ written on my forehead? I don’t think so. I know all about Timothy’s demon fiend of a sidekick.”

Despite his words, Deacon was already at the door. “Tim?”

“I’m okay,” came the groaning answer as Lucy went into a barking frenzy. “Luce, girl, down.” A few growls but the dog quieted.

“Cover me,” Deacon said and opened the door.

Sara was ready to shoot Lucy—to disable, not kill—but “the damn devil-eyed dog” was sitting attentively by the sprawled form of her master, grinning as if she wasn’t just waiting for a chance to bite off their faces. Tim had a gun in hand, a nasty bruise on the side of his face . . . and smelled like a distillery.

“Jesus, Tim,” Ellie muttered, waving a hand in front of her hunter-sensitive nose. “What, you took a beer bath?”

Tim winced. “Shh.”

“You’ve been on a bender?” Sara blew out an angry breath. “We thought you were dead.” Or a serial killer.

“Hey,” he muttered, “I got conscious long enough to shoot them, didn’t I? And I’m allowed to go on a bender after I find a vampire torn to pieces by a hate group—they even cut off his fingers one by one. How fucking noble.”

Sara had had one of those cases, too. She’d baked nonstop for five days after. Her neighbors loved her. “Who’s been feeding Lucy?”

“Me, of course.” He gave her an indignant look. “As if I’d leave my baby without food.” He kissed that mangy black head. “She knows where her stash is. And I leave fresh water all over the place.”

“Tim,” Sara pushed, “this is important. Can you prove where you’ve been the past few days?”

He gave her an oddly clear look. “Hiding in a corner of Sal’s All-Night-All-the-Time bar. Matchbook’s on the table.”

Deacon called the number and confirmed Tim’s story. Happy at the news, but cognizant of the implications, Sara rubbed her face. “Ellie, can you make sure Tim detoxes and gets that bruise taken care of? Deacon and I have something to handle.”

“I’m fine,” Tim murmured and tried to stand. Only to fall flat on his butt. “Or maybe not.”

Elena nodded. “No sweat. You need a hand?”

It was Deacon who answered. “Stay close. If we need backup, we’ll call.”

“Gotcha.” Pulling “yummy” faces behind Deacon’s back as he walked out to make another call, Ellie gave Sara the thumbs-up.

It was impossible not to smile, but that smile was gone by the time she reached the bike and Deacon. “It has to be Marco. And if not, we’re in deep shit.” Because that meant they had an unknown crazy out there.

“I just checked with Simon. Shah left the city two hours ago, so if there’s another killing . . .” He shook his head. “We can’t wait for that. It’s time to play hardball with Marco.”

“You think you can break him?”

Deacon’s face was a grim mask. “Yeah.”

It should’ve scared her. It didn’t. Because she knew how to play hardball, too. “Let’s do it.” Getting on the bike, she took the helmet he held out. “After this is over, I want a shower in a really big bathroom.”

“I’ll get us the penthouse.”

“What makes you think you’ll be sharing it with me?”

“I live in hope.”

Oh, she definitely wanted to keep him, she thought, as they closed the gate behind themselves and headed out. Maybe there was a way to make it work? But she knew there wasn’t. She could hardly see Deacon in a tux at some “do.” And the Guild Director had to play politics. Nobody liked a powerful presence like the Guild in the city, but that wariness could be turned into respect and even welcome by a little subtle maneuvering.

A long time ago, the Guild had chosen the veil of secrecy. The end result had been a spate of Guild-burnings that had razed many a chapter building to the ground, killing a devastating number of hunters in the process. No one wanted a repeat of that.

Suddenly conscious that Deacon had dramatically reduced his speed, she twisted to peer around one muscular arm. “Oh, no fucking way.” Pulling off her helmet, she stood on the back of the bike, using Deacon’s shoulder for balance. “You yielded,” she told the vampire standing in the middle of the road. “This time, we’ll be aiming to kill.”

Chapter Seven

“Milady, you misunderstand me.” A serious expression. “I have need of the Guild’s services.”

Sara really didn’t feel like helping someone who’d tried to separate her head from her body not that long ago, but hunters existed for a reason. “Someone run out on a Contract?”

“No. One of your hunters has taken one of us captive. If you would please organize a rescue, we’d be most grateful.”

She squeezed Deacon’s shoulder. No way was this a coincidence. As she sat back down, Deacon maneuvered the bike to the side of the road. “Talk,” they both ordered at the same time.

“Silas,” the vampire said, shifting to stand on the sidewalk beside them, “had a relationship with the hunter. Unbeknownst to anyone, they went their separate ways two weeks ago.”

Around the time the killings started.

“The hunter’s name is Marco Giardes.” The vampire spread his hands. “I have no idea of what happened between the two of them. But I received a message from Silas a few minutes ago stating that Marco was holding him captive in the basement of his home.”

Sara wondered if Marco had guessed at her and Deacon’s true motives after all. Something had to have triggered this. “Did he say how long he’d been there?”

“Silas walked into the hunter’s bar an hour ago with his new inamorato.” He snorted. “He is young, thinks being a vampire makes him invincible.” A meaningful rub at the shoulder she’d wounded.

“Damn vampire wanted to rub Marco’s face in his new affair.” Sara almost felt sorry for Marco. Almost. Because if everything this vampire was saying was right, then Marco had gone out and killed five other men, none of whom had done anything to him. Not to mention how he’d terrified Rodney. “Do you have any other information?”

“Silas’s new lover is no more.” A shrug. “Silas got the message out before Marco realized he had a second cell phone. I’ve received no messages since, so the hunter has likely remedied that.”

Deacon stared at the vamp. “If you know where he is, why aren’t you mounting a rescue? You have a big enough group.”

A long pause. The vampire looked up, then down, lowered his voice. “Raphael was not pleased when he found out about the attack on Sara. We are not his people. He has forbidden us from doing anything in his territory except that which relates to our departure—even feeding.” A long, shuddering sigh. “We’re to leave on the first plane out of the country.”

“Silas is a tourist?” Sara asked, rapidly thinking through her options.

“Marco met him during a hunt. Silas came to be with him.” Another glance upward. “We would appeal to our archangel for help, but he doesn’t particularly care for Silas.”

Sara didn’t trust the vampire an inch, but she had a feeling he was telling the truth about Marco and Silas. There was a layer of concern in his voice that betrayed an obvious affection for the younger vampire. That wasn’t as weird as it sounded. Vampires had once been human, after all—it took a long time for the echoes to fade entirely.

“Fine.” She put her helmet back on. “I guess it’s time for the Guild to ride to the rescue.”

Deacon started the engine in silence and they headed off, leaving the vampire standing at the curb. “I think he was straight with us,” she said. “You?”

“It fits with what we know.” His voice was an intimate darkness in her ear. “Looks as if Raphael likes you.”

“I’ve never met him. Or even talked to him on the phone.” She drew in a deep breath. “I don’t think it has anything to do with me.”

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