He passed me the can. I glanced into it. Spent shell casings.

“Every time I get shot at, I drop the shells in the can,” Beau said.

The can was about halfway full. I handed it back to him.

“The last time we met, I did say you would one day need a favor from me.” He spread his huge arms. “And here we are.”

We’d worked the same case before, I from the Order’s side and he from the sheriff’s side. He’d asked me to do him a favor, arguing that one day I would need one from him, and I had agreed. You never know on whose door you might have to knock next.

“What did Andrea do?”

He opened a manila folder and glanced at it. “Ever heard of Paradise Mission?”

“No.”

“It’s a high-class hotel. Built like a Spanish mission, with the courtyard screened in. The roof is glass and they keep the temperature nice and steady.”

“Like a hothouse.”

“Basically. The courtyard is a beautiful place. Flowers everywhere, a pool, hot tubs. Favorite getaway for rich couples from the city. I took Erica there once. Costs an arm and a leg, but it’s worth it. Had to be on the waiting list for four months before we got in.”

Beau wasn’t in a hurry. Screaming at him would just make him slow down more, so I nodded.

“From what I understand, your girl was staying at the place with her significant other. I’ve got him in the cell next to hers. Now, I’m completely straight, mind you, but he was likely the prettiest man I ever seen.”

Raphael. It must’ve been their big romantic night. He had probably reserved the hotel room weeks in advance.

“Apparently, they were both in the hot tub.”

“Hot tubs are nothing but trouble,” I told him.

“Oh, I don’t know.” Beau shrugged. “With a beer and good company, they aren’t bad. Relaxing. Soothing, even. In this case, however, they failed to bring about the desired relaxation. Miss Nash got up to go to the bathroom and get some drinks. When Miss Nash came back, she found a young female talking to her significant other.” His eyes sparkled a little. He pretended to check his report. “Apparently, the inter-loping female was scantily clad.”

He must’ve waited years to use that in a report. “Go on.”

“According to the hotel staff, the poor man did try to discourage the femme fatale the best he could, but she was either dense or really hoped to take him for a ride. Having met her, I’d say both.”

I sighed. I knew where this was going.

“When Miss Nash approached, her fella informed the scantily clad female that Miss Nash and he were together. He says the female appraised Miss Nash as ‘cute.’ ”

I put my head down and bumped it on the table a couple of times.

The two furry caterpillars Beau used as his eyebrows crept up. “Do you need a minute?”

“No, I’ll be alright. Sorry.”

“It seems that the young woman made some indelicate suggestion of a threesome. Nobody is quite sure what happened next, but everybody agrees it was damn fast. When I got there, Miss Nash was standing by the hot tub in a small bikini, pointing the business end of a SIG-Sauer P-226 at her fella and concerned members of the hotel staff, while dunking the scantily clad female’s head under the water and asking, ‘Who’s diving for clams now, bitch?’ ”

My pain must’ve reflected on my face, because Beau reached into his desk drawer and handed me a small bottle of aspirin. I popped two tablets into my mouth and swallowed, grimacing against the bitterness. “Then what?”

“Well, Miss Nash and I had a conversation. I bet that she wouldn’t shoot a badge and I won that bet. She had no ID on her—it was a very small bikini—so we invited her, her fella, and the aggrieved party to be our guests here in this lovely jailhouse. Spending the night with us calmed her down.”

Oh, boy. “She had no ID, but she had a gun?”

“Brought it in a towel, from what I understand.”

Why wasn’t I surprised? “She’s a knight.”

“I figured that when she called the Order.”

I took the parcel off my lap, placed it on his desk, and carefully unwrapped the rags. Beau sucked in a lungful of air in a sharp breath.

A beautiful rapier lay in the rags.

“The schiavona,” I said. “The preferred weapon of Dalmatian Slavs, who served in the Venetian Doge Guard in the sixteenth century. Deep basket hilt.” I traced the gleaming spider web of deceptively narrow metal strips forming the sword’s guard. “Thirty-six-point-seven-inch blade, efficient for both cut and thrust. A genuine Ragnas Dream sword.”

I turned the schiavona to the side, letting the light of the feylantern catch the stylized RD on the ornate pommel. Ragnas Dream didn’t make swords, he created masterpieces. The schiavona alone would pay the mortgages on both my apartment and my father’s house in Savannah for a year. Greg, my deceased guardian, had purchased it years ago and hung it on a wall in his library, the way one would display a treasured work of art. It was the kind of sword that would make a life-long pacifist look for tall boots and a hat with feathers.

Beau’s face acquired a greenish tint.

“Breathe, Beau.”

He exhaled in a rush. “May I?”

Every person had a weakness. Beau loved rapiers. I smiled. Once he touched it, I had him. “Feel free.”

He got up, took the rapier gently, as if it were made of glass, and slid his big hand around the leather hilt. He raised the sword point up, admiring the elegant steel blade. A deep serenity claimed his face. Beau thrust, a textbook perfect, liquid movement, elegant and precise and so completely at odds with his huge body. “Christ,”

he murmured. “It’s perfect.”

“She was never here,” I told him. “Her ‘fella’ was never here. You don’t know their names and you’ve never seen them before.”

Beau was a very good cop, because he made himself put the rapier down. “Are you trying to bribe a law enforcement official, Kate?”

“I’m trying to present a law enforcement official with a token of appreciation for his delicate handling of the Order’s personnel issues. Knights of the Order are under a lot of pressure. Andrea Nash is one of the best knights I’ve ever met.”

Beau looked at the schiavona. A minute stretched into eternity.

I gave him a wide smile. “Oh, and one more thing.” I reached over and touched the pale opal in the base of the hilt.


Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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