"Not now," Mahon grunted. His reasonable voice had no effect. Curran locked his hands on Mahon's arms. I could see the beginnings of a judo style hold there, but Curran did not follow through. Instead it degenerated into a brute contest of strength. Mahon's face went purple with effort. His feet slid.

I got up. Mahon's arms trembled, but Curran's face had gone pale from the strain. The Bear against the Lion. The room was so thick with testosterone, you could cut it with a knife. I looked at the sentries.

"You and Jim might want to leave," I told them.

The younger lycanthrope stirred. "We don't take orders from..."

The older male cut him off. "Come."

They filed out the door, taking the jaguar with them.

I went to the locked men and very gently took Curran's right wrist and tugged on it. "Let go, Curran. Please, let go. Come on. You are mad at me, not at him. Let go."

Slowly the tension drained from his face. The gold fire ebbed. His fingers relaxed and the two men broke off.

Mahon puffed like an exhausted plow horse. "You are bad for my blood pressure," he said to me.

I shrugged and jerked my head in Curran's direction. "I'm even worse for his."

"You left," Curran said. "You knew how fucking important it was and you still left."

"Nick knows how to kill him. He needs a weapon and you wouldn't let him out," I said.

"And if the upir had caught you," Mahon said softly. "What would you have done then?"

I took a sphere Nick had given me from my pocket and showed them. The size of a walnut, it was metallic and small enough to perfectly fit into the palm of my hand. I squeezed the sides gently and three spikes popped from the sphere, moist with liquid.

"Cyanide," I explained.

"You can't kill him with that." Curran grimaced.

"It's not for him. It's for me."

They stared at me.

"People were dying," I said. "He was laughing, and all I could do was to sit tight and be safe."

Curran growled. "You think it's easy for me?"

"No. But you're used to it. You have experience with responsibility for people's lives. I don't. I don't want anybody else to die for me. I'm up to my knees in blood as is."

"I had to send three patrols out," Curran said. "Because of you. None of them died, but they could have. All because you couldn't stand to not be the center of attention for a few minutes."

"You're an asshole."

"Fuck you."

I started sniffing. "What the hell is that stink? Oh, wait a minute, it's you. You reek. Did you dine on skunk or is that your natural odor?"

"That's enough," Mahon roared, startling both of us into silence. "You're acting like children. Curran, you've missed your meditation, and you need one. Kate, there is a punching bag in your room. Make use of it."

"Why do I have to punch the bag while he meditates?" I mumbled on the way out.

"Because he breaks the bags when he punches them," Mahon said.

I was almost to the room when it occurred to me that I had obeyed Mahon without question or even doubt. He had that eternal father-thing about him that managed to throw me off track every time. There was no defense against it or at least I didn't know of one. He didn't use it when he fought with Curran. I tried to figure out why while I dutifully punched the bag. My punches were rather pathetic. Then exhaustion settled in. A mere twenty minutes later I gave up, took a shower, and fell onto my bed without finding an answer.

Chapter 10

SOMEONE STOOD OVER ME. MY EYES SNAPPED OPEN and Curran's face slammed into focus. He leaned against the wall next to the bed looking at me.

"What?"

"He called," Curran said.

I sat up in bed. "He decided he wants a fight?"

"Yeah. He put Derek on the line. He broke the kid's legs and is keeping him in the leg irons so the bones can't heal."

Better and better. "Bono give you any terms?"

"Me, the Crusader, and you. Tonight."

How nice. A party for the top three on the upir's most wanted list. "Where?"

"South-eastern ley point. He says he'll let us know from there."

"Are you bringing backup?"

"No," he said. He didn't mention any reasons but I knew them all: his word, his pride, his duty, the fact that the upir would kill Derek. Any one of those would do.

I rubbed the sleep from my face. "What time is it?"

"Noon."

The patrols caught me at seven in the morning and I had gone to bed around eight, which gave me a grand total of four hours of sleep. "When do we have to leave?"

"Seven thirty."

I lay back down, pulled the blanket up, and yawned. "Fine, wake me up at seven then."

"So you're coming?"

"Did you expect me to hide here?"

"He referred to you as his little snack."

"He's a sweetie."

"He's also all about screwing you."

I raised my head enough to look at him. "Look, Curran, what do you want from me?"

"Why does he want to mate with you?"

"I'm a good lay. Go away, please."

Curran brushed my quip aside. "I want to know why he's got a hard-on for getting you knocked up."

There was a pun in that sentence somewhere but he didn't look like he was in the mood to notice. "How should I know?" I said. "Maybe the idea of torturing my child gets him hot. I've had four hours of sleep. I need at least four more, Curran. Go away."

"I will find out." He made it sound like a threat.

"You read too much into it."

He peeled himself from the wall. "How will I find the Crusader?"

"He'll be here in a couple of hours. He thought he'd get an invitation. Please don't take his weapons away this time. He comes of his own will."

Curran walked out. I took a deep breath and forced my mind to go blank.

NICK WALKED THROUGH THE DOOR AT TWENTY minutes till four. I was awake and putting on my boots.

He closed the door and leaned against it. His face had gained stubble and his hair looked greasy again.

"What do you do to your hair?"

"Dust, hair gel, and a little gun oil."

"Ever thought of patenting the recipe?"

"No."

I stood up. He locked the door and took a leather roll from the inside of his trenchcoat. He put it on the table, untied the string securing it, and unrolled it with a snap. Inside lay two yellowish blades, one almost a foot long and the other about the size of my hand. I picked up the larger one. It was filed from a human femur split in half, and a long groove ran along the center of the blade where the bone marrow had been.


Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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