Indirectly? I had challenged him deliberately.

"Your knowledge of our customs is unusual," he continued. "For a human outsider. How did you come by this information?" His voice promised no confrontation.

"My father," I said.

"A man of the Code?"

"In his own way. Not your Code but his own."

"You've learned well."

"No," I said. "He taught me well. I was difficult."

"Children can be sometimes," he said.

We stopped before a door.

"Do you need some ointment for your arm?"

I looked at the angry red welt marring my skin. "No. Unless you catch it right away, the ointment won't do any good. But I appreciate the offer." I shook my head. "Tell me, do you always pacify irate guests of the Pack?"

He opened the door. "Sometimes. I suppose I have a calming influence on misbehaving children. Please."

I stepped through the door and he closed it behind me. The room was small. A single lamp threw a sharp cone of light onto a table in its center. Two chairs stood by the table, the farther one occupied by a man. He had purposefully positioned himself so the light was turned away from him.

The setup reminded me of the spy movies from my childhood.

"Finessed you, didn't he?" the man said. His voice had a scratchy quality to it. "I bet another ten minutes and you ready to apologize."

"I don't think so." I pulled up a chair to the table. The man leaned back, remaining in the shadows.

"Don't beat yourself over it. He do it to everybody. Why I don't talk to him."

"You're Corwin?"

"No, I'm Snow White." He rocked back, balancing on the back legs of his chair.

"And who's the man that walked me here?"

"Mahon," he said. "The Kodiak of Atlanta."

"The Pack Executioner?"

"The very same."

I digested the news.

"He raise Curran, you know," the man said.

"Oh? And he calls him lord like the rest of you?"

The man shrugged. "That what Curran is."

"She has trouble with that concept," Curran's voice said from behind me.

I was learning. This time I didn't jump. "You may be their lord. You sure as hell aren't mine."

Curran was leaning against the wall.

"Where are the rest?" I asked. There had to be more people watching, probably the eight that greeted me in the room where I almost talked myself into death. The alpha male of the wolf pack, the head of the rats, the person that spoke for the "scouts," the smaller shapechangers, and someone who stood for the larger beasts.

"They are watching," Curran said, nodding toward the wall.

For the first time I noticed a one-way mirror.

I looked at Corwin. "Why don't you move into the light."

"You sure?" he asked.

"Yeah."

He leaned forward, letting the light play on his features. His face was horrible. Large, flint-hard eyes sat deep in his skull, overshadowed by heavy eyebrows. His nose was massive, his jaw too heavy and prominent to be human; he looked like he could bite through a steel wire with little effort. His reddish hair, thick and textured like fur, was combed back into a ponytail. Long side burns hung from his cheekbones almost to his chest, framing tall, pointed ears with small tufts of fur on their ends. The same hair, only shorter and thicker, sheathed his neck and his throat, leaving his chin bare at such a precise line that he must have shaved.

His hands, resting on the table, were misshapen and out of proportion to his body. Despite short, thick fingers, each hand could enclose my entire head. Clumps of reddish fur grew between his knuckles.

Corwin grinned. His teeth were huge and pointed.

Sickle claws shot from the tips of his stubby fingers. He spread his fingers in a catlike kneading motion, scraping the wooden surface of the table.

"Oh, boy," I said. "How do you fluff your pillows at night?"

Corwin licked his canines at me and glanced at Curran. "I like this one."

"Let's start," I said.

"You haven't asked me what I am." Corwin tapped the table with his claws.

"I'll figure it out." The familiar words from the long sessions at the Academy resurfaced. "I'm Kate Daniels. I'm a lawful and documented representative of the Order. I'm investigating a murder and you are one of the suspects. With me so far?"

"Yes," Corwin said.

"I'm here to question you with the purpose of establishing or eliminating you as a primary suspect. If you've committed this murder, you may incriminate yourself by answering my questions. I can't compel you to answer."

"He can," Corwin said in his scratchy voice, nodding toward Curran.

"That's between you and him. Just as long as we are clear that I can't force you to cooperate."

"We clear, sweetheart."

I flashed him a smile. "The information you provide today is confidential but not privileged."

"What do that means?"

"It means," Curran said, "that she'll keep it to herself but she'll have to give it up if subpoenaed by court."

"He's right." I looked at Corwin. "I must also warn you that if you murdered Greg Feldman, I'll try my best to kill you."

Corwin leaned back and a strange gurgling rumble emanated from his throat. A moment later I realized he was laughing.

"I understand," he said, his irises shining with green.

"Let's begin then. Have you taken any part, directly or indirectly, in the murder of Greg Feldman?"

"No."

I hit all of the major points. He knew what was in the papers and nothing more. He had never met Greg or the vamp in question. He had no idea why anyone would try to kill them. He did not know who Ghastek was.

"Would you be willing to donate some tissue for an m-scan?" I asked finally.

"Tissue?"

"Blood, spit, urine, hair. Something I can scan."

He leaned forward with a low murmur in his throat. "I could donate something to you. Something other than blood and spit."

I leaned to him until our gazes crossed. "Thanks," I said. "But I'm not available."

"Mated?"

"No. Busy."

"You won't stay busy forever."

On impulse I reached and scratched him under the chin. He closed his eyes and purred. "There are werecats," I said.

"Yeeeees." He turned to offer my fingers better access to his chin.

"And then there are cat-weres."


Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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