Angels' Judgment Page 13

Lacarre shook his head. “So human.”

She knew it wasn’t a compliment. “It’s a flaw I can live with.” She never wanted to become anything close to what Lacarre was—so cold, even when he looked at her with such apparent interest.

“So be it.” Walking over to Silas, he bent and gathered the vampire in his arms with effortless strength. “It will be done as you asked.”

As he walked away, Mindy and the others trailing behind the wide sweep of his cream-colored wings, Sara saw Deacon put a hand on Marco’s shoulder. A single squeeze. Words whispered so low that she couldn’t hear what was said. But when Deacon moved back to her side, Marco no longer looked like he was dying a slow, painful death. Oh, he was hurting plenty, but there was also a glimmer of stubborn will, the kind that made humans into hunters.

He turned to Sara. “I’m withdrawing my resignation from the Guild. I thought . . . I hoped, but I can’t stay here anymore.”

“I’ll make sure Simon knows.”

“Not necessary, is it, Sara?” he said quietly. “So long as you do.”

Sara said good-bye to Deacon outside the hotel six hours later. He had his gear and she had hers. Ellie was waiting for her in a clean rental car, ready to start the drive to New York. One last road trip before she became bogged down in the myriad responsibilities that came along with running one of the most powerful and influential chapters of the Guild.

“The next year’s going to be brutal,” she said to Deacon as he sat sideways on his bike, his legs stretched out in front of him, and his arms folded. “Just as well you said no—I probably couldn’t carry on a secret affair even if I tried.” She should’ve laughed then, but she couldn’t find any laughter inside her.

He didn’t do anything sappy. He was Deacon. He stood, put his hand behind her neck, and kissed the breath out of her. Then he kissed her again. “I have some things to do. And you have a directorship waiting for you.”

She nodded, the whiskey and midnight taste of him in her mouth. “Yeah.”

“You better go. Ellie’s waiting.”

Squeezing him tight once more, she turned and walked away. He was right to do it this way. Whatever they had, the sweet, shining promise she could still see hovering on the horizon, it deserved to be left whole, instead of being crushed under the weight of unmet expectations.

“Drive,” she said to Ellie the instant the door closed behind her.

Ellie took one look at her and didn’t say a word. In fact, neither of them spoke until they’d crossed the state line. Then Ellie glanced over and said, “I liked him.”

The unadorned remark splintered every one of Sara’s defenses.

Dropping her head into her hands, she cried. Ellie pulled over to the side of the wide-open road and held her while she sobbed. Her best friend didn’t insult either of them by spouting bullshit platitudes. Instead, she said, “You know, Deacon didn’t strike me as the kind of man who lets go of things that matter.”

Sara smiled, knowing her face was a blotchy mess. “Can you see him in a tux?” Her stomach tightened at the idea.

“Let me get the visual. Okay, I have it.” Elena sighed. “Oh, baby, I could lick him up in a tux.”

“Hey. Mine.” It was a growl.

Ellie grinned. “I have a pulse. He’s hot.”

“You’re an idiot.” One who’d made her smile, if only for an instant. “I can just picture him shaking hands and playing Guild politics. Not.”

“So?” Ellie shrugged. “The Guild Director has to do all that stuff. Who says her lover has to be anything but a big, scary, silent son of a bitch?”

It was tempting to agree, to hold on to hope, but Sara shook her head. “I have to be realistic. The man’s a complete loner. It’s why he’s the Slayer.” Dragging in a shaky breath, she sat back up and said, “Take us to New York. I have a job to do.”

Strong words, but her fingers found their way into a pocket, skating over the tiny serrated sawblade hidden within. It was Deacon’s. The man had some really interesting weapons—like a gun that fired these spinning circular babies instead of bullets. It was what he’d been using out in Tim’s junkyard. That made her wonder how Lucy was doing.

A tiny smile tugged at her lips—who knew her favorite memory of Deacon would be of him cuddling a vicious hellhound of a dog?

Chapter Nine

Two months later, Sara stared at her reflection—the woman who looked back at her appeared both poised and quintessen tially elegant in a strapless black sheath. Her hair had been styled in a sophisticated bun at the back of her head, her new bangs swept to the side with an elegance she’d never have been able to achieve in the field, and her face made up with skill that highlighted her cheekbones, brought out her eyes. “I feel like a fraud.”

Simon chuckled and walked to stand behind her. “But you look precisely what you are—a powerful, beautiful woman.” His eyes dropped to her necklace. “Good choice.”

It was that shiny serrated blade. Deacon’s blade. She’d had it strung on a silver chain. “Thanks.”

“Some of the people you meet tonight will try to sneer at you. There are a few who see hunters as nothing more than jumped-up hired help.”

“Oh, like Mrs. Abernathy?” she said, tone dry as she named the society matron whose party she was about to attend. “She asked me if I’d like some help with ‘appropriate clothing, dear.’”

“Exactly.” Simon squeezed her shoulders. “Here’s some advice—anytime one of those ‘blue bloods’ tries to bring you down, remember that you deal with angels every day. Most of them would pee their pants at the thought.”

She choked. “Simon!”

“It’s true.” He shrugged. “And someday, you might even deal with a member of the Cadre. No matter how important they think they are, most humans will never come within touching distance of an archangel.”

“I’d probably pee my pants then, too,” she muttered.

“No, you won’t.” Unexpectedly serious words. “As for the upper-crust vampires, remember, we hunt them. Not the other way around.”

Sara nodded and blew out a breath. “I wish we didn’t have to do this crap.”

“Angels might scare us, but hunters scare most other people—including a lot of vampires. Reassure them. Convince them we’re civilized.”

“What a con.” She grinned.

Simon grinned back, but it wasn’t his face she wanted to see beside hers in the mirror. “Okay, I’m ready.” This was her first solo outing as Guild-Director-in-training. The transition would be complete by year’s end.

“Go get ’em.”

The party didn’t bore her silly. It was the last sign—had she needed one—that she was the right person for the job. Ellie would’ve shot at least five people by now. Sara smiled and parried another nosy question while soaking up the relentless flow of gossip. It was all intelligence. Hunters needed to know a lot of things—like who a vampire might run to, or which individuals might sympathize with the angels to the extent of going vigilante.

Of course, to all outward appearances, she was simply mingling—just another well-dressed female among dozens of others. Mrs. Abernathy had beamed at her when she arrived. “Probably surprised I didn’t turn up in blood-soaked leathers,” she muttered into her champagne flute during a moment’s respite on the balcony.

“Would’ve worked for me.”

The smile that cracked her face was surely idiotic, but she didn’t turn. “Is it the leathers you like or the body in them?”

“You got me.” Warm breath against her nape, hands on her hips. “But I could get used to this dress.”

“Hey, eyes up.” She put the champagne flute on the waist-high wall that surrounded the balcony. “No scoping the cleavage.”

“Can’t help it.” He turned her with a stroking caress.

And the air rushed out of her.

“Oh, man.” She leaned back and twirled a finger.

Of course Deacon didn’t give her a fashion show. He flicked at her sideswept bangs instead. “I like it.”

“Ransom said it makes me look like I have raccoon eyes.”

“Ransom has hair like a girl.”

She grinned. “That’s what I said.” Throwing her arms around his neck, she kissed him with wild abandon, and it felt way beyond good. So she did it again. “The debutantes are going to wet their panties over you.”

He looked horrified.

“Don’t worry.” She pressed a kiss to his jaw. “I’ll scare them away.”

Deacon caused such a stir she thought they might have a Chanel No. 5-scented stampede in the ballroom. She also thought it’d make him turn and run. That he’d come . . . well, hell, it had stolen her heart right out of her chest. But she didn’t expect him to stand at her side with quiet focus, as if the attention didn’t even register.

A few of the men tried to use his presence to ignore her—male chauvinist pigs—but Deacon deflected the ball back at her so smoothly, the others never knew what hit them. Sexy, dangerous, smart, and he knew how to deal with dunderheads without making a scene. She was so keeping him. And stabbing a knife into the heart of any debutante/trophy-wife-wannabe who came within sniffing distance.

“I expect,” he whispered in her ear during a rare minute of privacy, “large amounts of sexual favors for being this good.”

Her lips twitched. “Done.”

And she was. Done over thoroughly.

By the time they reached the apartment, she was burning up for him. They didn’t make it to the bed the first time. Her pretty, slinky dress ended up in shreds at her feet as Deacon took her against the door, his mouth fused with hers. She came with a hard rush that had her clutching at his white dress shirt with desperate hands.

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