Angels' Judgment Page 4


“Business,” he said to her surprise. “The Slayer’s rarely called for. I’m a weapons maker by vocation.”

“Deacon? Wait a minute.” Pulling her bag across, she unzipped it and grabbed her crossbow. The familiar, stylized D stared up at her from the bottom of the stock. “This is your work?”

A small nod. “I make tools for hunters.”

“You’re the best there is.” This crossbow had cost her a mint. As had the bow she adored. “And you slay in your spare time? Nice.” Shaking her head, she put the crossbow back into the bag. “How come I’ve never heard of you personally?”

“It’s not a good idea to be friends with the people you might one day have to kill.”

“A lonely life.” She hadn’t meant to be so blunt, but she couldn’t imagine that kind of an existence. She was no social butterfly—not yet, anyway—but she had a core group of friends who kept her sane and balanced.

“Slayers are chosen from the loners.” Raising his hands, he undid the first few buttons of his shirt. “Do you want the shower first?”

She wanted to lick her lips, that’s what she wanted to do. The man’s skin stretched golden and strong over that muscular physique, and she could see dark curls of hair in the open triangle of his shirt. Her body tightened . . . expectant, ready.

Cold shower time.

“Thanks,” she said, getting up. “I’ll make it quick.”

Deacon just nodded as she grabbed her gear and hauled ass. The Slayer was delicious, no question about it, but she wasn’t in the market for a lover. Not when she was about to make the biggest decision of her life. A decision that might make her existence even lonelier than Deacon’s.

Male hunters were macho idiots—and she meant that in the best way—as a rule. Playing second fiddle didn’t come easily. And it didn’t get much more second fiddle than being the Guild Director’s man.

Deacon finally unclenched the hand he’d fisted the instant he sat down in the chair. Sara Haziz was not the woman he’d been led to expect. Simon had some explaining to do.

“Brown skin, brown eyes, black hair, my ass,” he muttered under his breath. The woman was an erotic fantasy come to life. Small, curvy, perfect. Gleaming coffee-and-cream skin, hair that probably fell to her waist when released from that tight braid, and brown eyes so big they saw right through him.

This was not the woman Simon had described as his “sensible successor.” That made her sound about as interesting as shoe leather. It didn’t even hint at the power beneath the surface, the strength in that backbone. He’d met her only a couple of hours ago, and already he knew she could bust balls with the best of them.

The woman would make a perfect Guild Director.

Which meant he should keep his hands, and his thoughts, to himself. No sucking on sexy Sara’s neck. Or other parts of her body. The office of Guild Director was a necessarily public one. Deacon didn’t do public.

“But she’s not director yet.” He tapped a finger on one jean-covered thigh, his eye on the bed.

He wanted Sara. And he didn’t want lightly. But seducing her wasn’t on the agenda.

“Keep her safe. She won’t accept a bodyguard, but you can accomplish the same thing by keeping her with you on the hunt.”

“I work alone.”

Simon’s face was granite. “Tough. She’s one of my best hunters—she won’t slow you down.”

“If she’s one of the best, why does she need babysitting?”

“Because the Cadre knows she’s my chosen successor. I wouldn’t put it past certain archangels to ‘test’ her.”

Deacon raised an eyebrow. “Were you tested?”

“They almost killed me.” Blunt words. “It’s tough to win against five old vamps on your own. I survived only because I happened to be with my wife at the time. Two pissed-off hunters against five vamps is much better odds.”

So here he sat, listening to water cascade in the bathroom as he fantasized about kissing a slow path down Sara’s body. It wasn’t doing anything to lessen his arousal. And if she walked out to find him hard as fucking stone, he knew damn well he’d be spending the night in the corridor outside.

That, he couldn’t chance—he had to keep her in sight. Simon had been very clear about that. If the archangels planned to test her, they’d do it when they thought her vulnerable. So he’d make sure she never was. Shoving a hand through his hair, he got up and checked the room. It was fairly secure. No outside windows—claustrophobic but safe, no entrances or exits aside from the door—which he jammed shut with a special tool of his own making, and no vents large enough for anything to get through.

By the time Sara exited the shower wrapped in a fluffy hotel robe, rubbing at her hair with a matching towel, he was confident enough of her safety to go have his own shower. A freezing one. “Christ.” He gritted his teeth and bore the onslaught. Pleasing his cock wasn’t as important as ensuring that the Guild went on.

He’d asked Simon about that. Why would the archangels potentially sabotage an organization that made their lives a hell of a lot easier?

“It’s a game,” Simon had said. “They need us, but they’ll never allow us to forget that they’re the more powerful. Attacking me, attacking Sara, isn’t about stopping the Guild—it’s about reminding us the Cadre is watching.”

Sara heard the water come on and quickly finished drying her hair before picking up her cell. She had no idea what time zone Ellie was in, but her best friend answered after a single ring.

“Sara,” she said, “do you know what a skill it is to wrap three-feet-tall porcelain vases so they don’t break in transit? And I did it! These gorgeous babies don’t have a scratch on them. Genius, thy name is Elena.”

“Do I even ask?”

“They were a gift.” Ellie sounded delighted. “They’ll look perfect in my living room. Or maybe one in the bedroom, one in the living room.”

Ellie’s preoccupation with her décor struck a familiar chord in Sara. Hunters made nests. It was a response to the fact that they spent so much time on the road, and in the gutter. Sara was worse than most—she loved her parents but they were feckless hippies at best. She’d gone to ten different schools by the time she was seven. A solid, stable home was as necessary to her as breathing. “Can’t wait to see them.”

“You sound funny.”

“I met the Slayer.”

A pause. “No shit.” The whistle was a long one. “Scary?”

“Oh yeah. Built like a tank.” If Deacon ever came after her, she’d have to make sure he never got within punching distance. A single hit with one of those big fists and her neck would snap. “Ellie, there’s a hunter going around killing vampires.”

“Fuck.” Elena’s voice changed, became darker. “You’re hunting him?”


“I’m in New York, landed a few hours ago. I can be on the next flight.”

Sara was already shaking her head. “I don’t know what’s going on yet.”

“You can’t go after him alone.”

“I’m not. Deacon’s with me.”

“The Slayer?” Her relief was open. “Good. Look, Sara, I’m hearing things.”


“All of us know you’ve got Simon’s position anytime you want. But I had a conversation with a high-level vamp on the plane home and he knew your name.”

Simon had warned her of this. “The Cadre takes an interest in the next Guild Director.”

Elena’s silence was long. “I know you can’t run and hide from this, so I’ll just say—be damn careful. The archangels aren’t anything close to human. I wouldn’t want to be within ten feet of one.”

“I don’t think any of them will bother to personally check me out—probably send some of their vampires to have a look.” And she knew how to handle vampires.

“Lucky you have the Slayer with you. Serious manpower when you need it.” A faint pinging sound came over the line. “Gotta go. I think the takeout’s arrived.”

Hanging up, Sara stared at the phone. Yes, it was lucky, wasn’t it, that Deacon had shown himself to her when he spent most of his time in the shadows. And how very convenient that she’d been posted on a hunt to the very city where the serial killings were taking place. Eyes narrowed, she waited.

Chapter Three

Deacon walked out a couple of minutes later, dressed in nothing but a pair of jeans. Her hormones danced. Damn near did the foxtrot. She refused to join in. “Simon sent you.”

To his credit, he didn’t bother to deny it. “Two birds. One stone.” Grabbing a fresh T-shirt from his duffel, he pulled it over his head. “You know it’s the right decision.”

The fact that he sounded so coolly logical made her want to shoot him with the crossbow just to make a point. “The Guild Director can’t be seen as weak.”

“She also can’t be seen as stupid.” Intractable will in those midnight-forest eyes.

Putting down the cell she’d been squeezing half to death, she dug out a brush and began to pull it through her hair. “Tell me about the killer. Is there any chance it could be an impostor?”

He didn’t say anything for several seconds, as if not trusting her sudden capitulation. “Yes. But as of right now, I have three possibles—all hunters. We’ll visit them one by one.”


A small nod. “I figure we give it four hours, enough time for the killer to relax his guard.”

“Why didn’t you follow him after he hit Rodney?”

“There was no visible trail.”

She snorted. “And your job is to babysit me.”

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