That left us with three.

Raphael's knife touched the list. "Shiv," he said. "Fast fighter."

"Are you sure?" I glanced at Raphael.

"If the lot of you survives, Curran will flay the skin off your backs," Doolittle said.

"That's what I always love about you, Doctor." Raphael grinned. "You're a cup-halfway-full kind of guy. All flowers and sunshine."

"He isn't joking, Raphael. You don't have to do this." I looked at him.

Raphael's smile got wider. "I'm a bouda, Kate. I've got no principles and no honor, but you scratch one of our own, and I'll kill you."

"I'm touched," Derek quipped. "I didn't know you cared."

"About you? I don't give a fuck." Raphael looked slightly deranged. "No, I care about her.

They tried to kill her in a parking lot."

"Since when am I beloved by boudas?"

"Since you drove one of us through the flare so she wouldn't die," Raphael said. "Nobody would do that for us. Not even the other clans. Ask the cat."

Jim didn't say anything.

"I'll take Shiv." Raphael tapped the list again. "Andrea will take Sling. Don't argue, Kate.

She'll shoot us both if we keep her out."

"Andrea is a knight of the Order," I said. "I don't think she can compete."

"Neither can any of us," Raphael countered and reached for the phone.

"That leaves Spell," Jim said.

We stared at it. Spell. Obviously a magic user. "Any of your crew?"

Jim shook his head.

"You should ask him where his crew is." Doolittle's face wrinkled in disgust. "Go on. Tell her."

Jim didn't look like he wanted to tell me anything.

"Where is Brenna?"

"On the roof, keeping a lookout," Jim said,

"And the rest?" Come to think of it, I hadn't seen any of them since we came out of Unicorn.

"Apparently there is a band of loups near Augusta." Doolittle leveled an outraged glare at Jim.

"I've been listening to it on the radio. The city's on the verge of panic. Odd loups these.

Mellow. Although they apparently performed shocking acts of animal mutilation within plain view of the farmhouse, the farmer's family slept through the whole thing. Curiously, no humans were harmed."

I almost laughed. No loup would attack livestock if human prey was available. They craved human flesh.

"They're creating a diversion," Jim said.

Raphael halted his conversation with Andrea to emit a short, distinctly hyena guff. "That's the best plan you could come up with?"

"Apparently he thinks that Curran's a moron." Doolittle shook his head.

"I'll take Spell," Dali said.

The kitchen was suddenly silent.

"I can do it. I was taught."

"No," Jim said.

"You have nobody else." Dali's jaw took on a stubborn tilt. "I'm not a fragile flower. I can do this."

"What do you do?" I asked.

She drew herself to her full height. "I curse."

"This isn't a game. You can die in that Arena," Jim snarled.

"I'm not playing," Dali snarled back.

Brenna burst through the door. "Curran!"

Oh shit.

Everybody jumped to their feet. "How close?" Jim growled.

"Two blocks, coming fast. He's heading straight for us."

"Back door! Now!" Jim ordered. "Kate - "

I shook my head. "Take Derek and go. He can't get you out of the Arena. I'll delay him. Go!"

Jim swiped Derek into his arms like a child and took off. The rest followed, including Doolittle. They galloped down the stairs, right past Julie, who stumbled to the hallway, her face looking like she had slept on it. I grabbed her by the shoulder. "Get out the back door and hide someplace close until you see me come out."

She took off without a word. That was my kid.

I FINISHED ARRANGING THE BLANKET AND A PILLOW on the floor to make it look like someone had slept there. I stepped away to admire my handiwork. Good enough. I took out Slayer and backed away. About a foot from the blanket should do it . . .

The door burst off its hinges and flew into the room, revealing Curran. His teeth were bared in a snarl and his eyes were feral. He was wearing the Pack's trademark sweatpants and a Tshirt. Bad. Very bad. Sweatpants meant he expected to change shape. Curran in a warrior form was my ultimate nightmare.

Curran bared his fangs. "Kate."

"Took you long enough."

"Where are they?"

I arched my eyebrow. "Why would I tell you?"

"Kate, don't make me force you to answer." The muscles in his thigh tensed, straining the fabric of his sweatpants.

"What happened to your seduction plan? Or are you man enough to come close only when you've kicked my sword under my bed, where I can't reach it?"

He cleared the room in a single leap. I jumped up and kicked him in midair as hard as I could.

My foot collided with his chest. Like kicking a brick wall. He dropped on the makeshift bed.

The blanket gave and he crashed down into the loup cage sunken deep into the floor.

I slammed the top frame shut. The complex lock clicked closed and I slid the thick bars in place, locking it down.

Curran ripped apart the blanket. His face was pure rage. He grasped the bars and recoiled.

I sat on the edge of the floor and rubbed my leg. It had gone numb from kicking him. I'd have to thank Julie for this idea. She'd almost fallen into the cage twice.

He snarled and clasped the bars. I had to give it to Curran - he lasted a full five seconds. The bars bent under the pressure but held. Made to withstand the fury of an insane shapeshifter, the cage had enough silver to burn the skin off a shapeshifter's hands. When Curran let go, gray stripes of flesh marked his palms.

Curran cursed. "It won't hold me."

No doubt. Good that it wasn't meant to hold him, only to delay him. The feeling still hadn't returned into my leg.

Gold flared in Curran's eyes. His voice became a bestial growl. "Unlock it."

The force in his eyes was so intense, I thought my heart would stop. "No."

"Kate! Release me."

"Not a chance."

"When I get out, I'll make you regret this."

I frowned. "When you get out, I'll be in the Arena of the Midnight Games, probably on my way to becoming a fresh corpse. I'll be regretting a whole lot of things, but you in this cage won't be one of them."

Curran stepped back. The rage vanished from his face. He simply quashed it, pulling calm composure on like a helmet. It had never failed to terrify me before, and it did so now.

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires