Saying she and her mom were close, yeah, that would have been a flat-out lie. Her mom had all but closed her out emotionally since Peter's death.

"Mom, I need you to call me, all right? We have to talk." Do you know I'm a demon? That Peter was? Why the hell didn't you tell me? "It's really important." She rounded the front of the car.

"And I need you to call me, all right?" Please call me.

The squeal of brakes.

She spun around.

A black sports car gleamed in the morning sunshine. The door shoved open and Zack jumped out.

Zack. Dammit.

One rotten start to the day.

"Call me," she finished in a whisper and managed to shove the phone back into her purse. Then she shook her head, aware that her mouth was hanging open a bit.

The last thing I need right now.

"Holly," he breathed her name and ran toward her, arms up.

As if he'd hug her.

She jerked back. "What are you doing here?"

His arms fell. "I saw the news this morning. Saw what happened at the station. I was…worried about you." His perfect features pinched with concern.

Holly pulled in a quick breath. "I-I'm okay. I wasn't there when-" When poor Kim had gotten slammed with the lamp.

"It could have been you, Holly." His hands fisted. "I told you before, working these stories– it's not safe. "

They'd had this argument more than a few times. "It's my job, Zack."

"Getting f**king targeted by a killer isn't your job!"

The fury caught her off guard. The roar of his rage. "I appreciate your concern," she managed evenly, "but what I do-that's no longer really your business." Carefully, she began to walk around him. "The work I do is important to me, and I'm good at what I do."

He caught her wrist in a grip that was a lot stronger than she remembered. "Don't walk away from me."

"Don't tell me to-"

"I'm worried about you."

His face was inches from hers, his eyes shooting blue and deeper sparks of gold fire at her.

"There's a killer on the streets. Cutting people apart, and you're the reporter who is dogging him.

You don't want that guy as your enemy. Hell, even I realize this is too hot." His hold gentled, just a bit. "That's too much of a risk. You need to back off."

Her eyes narrowed.

"Ah, Ms. Storm?" The voice was strangely muffled, a grating whisper.

Her head turned, titlted back, and she met the stare of a tall, muscled man with a buzz cut, green eyes, and a face hard as stone.

One of her bodyguards. She'd figured they'd stop hanging back after last night. Looked like they'd already stepped up their game.

The guard looked over at Zack. "This guy bothering you?"

"What?" Zack jerked his hand away. "Who the hell are you?" He puffed out his chest and took a step forward. Probably not a good idea, because the move just made the fact that he was a good seven inches shorter and hundred pounds lighter than the Hercules in front of them all that more obvious.

The guard rolled his shoulders and smiled, as if he were really looking forward to some action.

Or kicking Zack's ass.

Holly shook her head. Not here. The last thing she needed was this crap on her front lawn. "I'm fine." She glanced back at Zack. "And Dr. Hall was just leaving."

"What? No, we've got to talk, Holly-"

She stepped away from him. "No. We don't." She'd been polite, sickeningly so, in her mind.

"I'm not hurt. Thanks for checking on me. But, Zack, you don't need to come over here again. My life-and what I do isn't your business." When was he going to get that?

"Because you're screwing that ass**le Lapen?"

More rage. Flashing from his eyes and twisting his face. And she'd once thought the guy was so controlled.

"No, although, well, yeah, I am." She didn't stop the smile that curved her lips. "But mostly because we're over, and have been since you screwed Michelle." Her shoes tapped against the steps. "I want you to have a good life, Zack, I really do, but stay out of mine from now on, got it?"

A growl sounded. One that was very, very unlike the staid doctor she'd thought she knew.

Talk about having a close escape.

Marriage to that guy would have been the worst mistake she'd made in years.

Because if she'd stayed with him, she wouldn't have enjoyed the pleasure of…

Screwing that ass**le Lapen.

Bruce Piler waited until Holly climbed into her car and the pissed-off doc stomped away. Then he pulled out his cell phone and called the boss.

"Thought you'd want to know," he muttered. "The jerkoff paid her a visit today. I'm thinking maybe he needs a little…intervention." And wouldn't he like to pound the shit out of the ass**le who'd looked at him like he was some kind of trash? He'd gotten too many looks like that before and they always pissed him the hell off. "If you want, I'll be more than happy to-"

Bruce stopped, listening to his boss's reply. "Uh, figured you'd handle it yourself." He couldn't quite hide the disappointment, but he knew the boss liked to get his hands dirty every now and then.

The doc wouldn't know what hit him.

Niol waited for the esteemed Dr. Zachariah Hall in the third-floor lab of Brighton Hall.

No classes were in session. No students were in his way. Niol glanced around the classroom, vaguely curious. Sketches of the human body lined the walls. A skeleton dangled near the front of the room. Books were scattered. Lab coats hung from hooks on the walls. The thick scent of bleach filled the air, stinging his nose.

The door creaked open. Zachariah strolled in, his head down, a book in his hands. He skirted around the chairs and lab tables automatically, never glancing up. Niol crossed his arms and waited.

The guy eased to a halt. He looked up-

Niol smiled. "Boo." He'd left his sunglasses in the car and his eyes were demon black.

"Shit!" The dick jumped and the book, anatomy judging by the bloody red pictures, tumbled to the floor. "How did you get in here? How did-"

"Easy there, Z." His smile faded. "I came in through the door. You know, that thing that opens."

The man's face bleached of color. "She sent you, didn't she? Hell, you think I don't know who you are? Everyone knows about you-you're-"

Niol straightened. "Oh? Just what am I?"

Blue eyes jerked toward the door, then back to Niol. "Criminal." A whisper. "Probably a killer.

I've heard folks talk about you, Lapen. I know. "