"He didn't call you?"

"Nope." But his goons beat the daylights out of me.

"What about Derek?"

"Nope. Haven't seen him either."

There was a momentary pause. "You're lying."

Shit. "Now what would make you think that?"

"You didn't ask me if Derek is okay, Kate."

That will teach me to have delicate diplomatic conversations first thing in the morning.

"That's because I don't care. You told me you'd bring me in on the investigation. You promised me full cooperation and interviews. That was Friday morning. It's Sunday now.

Forty-eight hours have passed. You blew me off, Curran. Just like always. Because you expect me to trip over my feet in a rush to help you, but the precious Pack can't cooperate with outsiders. What you hear in my voice is apathy." And bullshit. Lots and lots of bullshit.

"You're rambling."

Curran two, Kate zero.

"This is very important, Kate. Jim defied me. He's refused a direct order to pull his crew in. I can't let it stand. He has seventy-two hours to decide what to do. Then I'll have to find him."

"You've known Jim for years. Doesn't he get the benefit of the doubt?"

"Not for this." The hard shell on Curran's voice broke. The alpha vanished for a moment, leaving a man in his place. "I don't want to have to find him."

I swallowed. "I'd imagine he doesn't want you to find him either."

"Then help me. Tell me what you know."

"No."

He sighed. "For one moment, forget it's me. Put aside your ego. I'm the Beast Lord. You're a member of the Order. You're subordinate to me in this investigation. I order you to disclose the information. Do your job."

It stung. I was doing my job to the best of my ability. "You're mistaken. I'm not subordinate to you. You and I are on equal footing."

"I see. Is Jim with you now?"

"Yes, he is. We're having rough sex. You're interrupting."

I hung up.

The phone rang again.

Answering machine. ". . . not helping, Ka . . ."

I picked up the phone, held it for a second, and hung up. I didn't want to lie to Curran. Even if it was for his own sake. Making shit up and trading witty barbs just wasn't in me at the moment.

My bedroom was full of comfortable gloom, except for a narrow slash of light, which snuck through the gap between my curtains to fall right on my face. I stuck a pillow on my head.

I was drifting off into dreamland, the pillow on my head blocking the annoyingly persistent ray of light, when I heard a key turn in my lock. My door swung open.

The only person with a key to my place was the super, and he would never enter unannounced.

I forced myself to lie still, my limbs loose. Some picture I presented: my butt in white cotton panties sticking out, my head under the pillow. Not the most advantageous fighting stance.

I lay, hyperaware, all my senses straining. Very soft footsteps approached the bed. Closer.

Closer.

Now!

I whipped about, launching a sweeping kick. It caught the intruder in the midsection, eliciting a distinctly male groan, and he went down. I leapt off the bed and lunged for Slayer, but it wasn't where I'd left it. I dropped and saw it far under the bed. He'd kicked it on his way down.

A steel hand grasped my ankle. I flipped on my back and hammered a kick into his shoulder that had the entire force of my body behind it.

He groaned and I saw his face. "Curran!" I would've preferred a homicidal lunatic. Oh, wait . . .

That second of amazement cost me: he lunged at me, knocked my arm aside as if it were nothing, and pinned me to the floor. His legs clamped mine. He held my right arm above my head, my left between our bodies, and leaned, his face only inches from mine, my side touching his chest.

He wrapped me up like a package. I couldn't move an inch.

"I thought you were some sort of maniac!" I growled.

"I am."

"What are you doing here?"

"Looking for Jim in your bed."

"He isn't here."

"I see that."

Little golden sparks danced in his dark gray eyes. He looked terribly pleased with himself and slightly hungry.

I squirmed away from him, but he just clamped me tighter. It felt like fighting in a straitjacket made of heated steel. There was absolutely no give in him. Pinned by his Beastly Majesty. I'd never live that down.

"You can let me go now," I told him.

"Do I have your permission?"

"Yes, you do. I promise not to hurt you."

A hint of a grin curved his mouth. He had no plans to let me go. And I couldn't outmuscle him. Crap.

"You're enjoying this, aren't you?"

He bobbed his head up and down, the smile like a smudge of white paint across his face.

"How did you get in?"

"I have my ways."

The light dawned on me. He was the one who had replaced my door two months ago, because I was rather busy trying not to die. "You kept a key to my apartment. You bastard. How often do you come here?"

"Once in a while."

"Why?"

"To check on you. Saves me the trouble of sitting by the phone waiting for your 'come and rescue me' calls."

"You don't have to be troubled: there won't be any more calls. I'd rather die than call you."

"That's what worries me," he said.

His legs pinned mine, his thighs hard like they were carved of wood. His chest pressed against my breasts. If I could turn a little to the right, my butt would slide against his groin. A little to the left and my face would end up in his neck.

"I'm not one of your subjects," I told him. He was entirely too close, too warm, and too real.

"I don't follow your orders and I sure as hell don't need your protection."

"Mmhm," he said. He apparently found my face incredibly fascinating, because he kept looking at me, at my eyes, at my mouth . . .

"Do you ever come here when I'm here?"

"Occasionally."

"I would've heard you."

"You put in twelve hours and get wiped out, and I'm very quiet." His hold eased a little. I lay limp. That was it - lure him into a false sense of security. We weren't that far from the night table, and under the table on the bottom shelf was a dagger.

"The Beast Lord - my own personal stalker. Gee, every girl's dream."

"I don't engage in stalking."

I stared at him in disbelief. "And what do you call this?" "This I call controlling my opponent so she doesn't injure me."


Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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