I waved my arm. “It doesn’t matter. He didn’t get it.”

Andrea shook her blond head. “Oh no. He got it.”

“How do you know?”

“Your office smells like him.”

Oh crap.

“Can you sniff out what he did?”

Andrea grimaced. “I can try. But no promises.”

THE OFFICE LOOKED PERFECTLY NORMAL.

Andrea wrinkled her nose and surveyed my working space. “Well, he definitely was here. I’d say about two hours ago.”

She closed her eyes and moved to my desk. “He stood here for a while.” She turned, eyes still closed, and paused by my bookshelves. “Yep, here, too.” She opened her eyes and pulled a book from the far end. The cover showed a drawing of a lion sprawled on a rock outcropping. “You’re reading about lions?”

“Research,” I told her. “In self-defense.”

“Well, he flipped through it.”

Probably chuckled to himself, too.

“I’m not sure how he came in . . .” Andrea frowned.

“Through the window,” I told her.

Her blond eyebrows came together. “How do you figure?”

“The bars are missing.” He must’ve disabled the alarm, too. If the magic had been up, he wouldn’t have gotten through the wards in a million years.

She stared at the window, where the fastenings of a once mighty metal grate jutted sadly into the empty space.

“Good call.”

“Thank you, ma’am. I’m a trained investigator—that’s just the way we roll.”

Andrea rolled her eyes. “If he did anything, I don’t see it. Sorry.”

“Thanks anyway.”

She left. I trudged down to the rec room and got a small doughnut and a cup of coffee. On my return, the office didn’t look any different. Nothing out of place. Nothing jumping out at me. What the hell did he do? Maybe he did something to my desk. I sat into my chair and checked the drawers. Nope, all my magic crap was still where it was supposed to be.

The phone rang. I picked it up.

“Are you sitting down?” Curran’s voice asked.

“Yes.”

“Good.”

Click.

I listened to the disconnect signal. If he wanted me to sit, then I’d stand. I got up. The chair got up with me and I ended up bent over my desk, with the chair stuck to my butt. I grabbed the edge of the chair and tried to pull it off. It remained stuck.

I would murder him. Slowly. And I’d enjoy every second of it.

I sat back down and tried to push from the chair. No dice. I clamped the sides of the table and tried to twist myself off. The chair legs screeched, scraping across the carpet.

Okay.

I picked up the phone and dialed Andrea’s extension.

“Yes?”

“He glued the chair to my ass.”

Silence.

“Is it still . . . attached?”

“I can’t get it off.”

Andrea made some choking noises that sounded suspiciously like laughter. “Does it hurt?”

“No. But I can’t get up.”

Choking turned into moans.

“Visitor,” Maxine murmured in my head.

That’s just perfect. I hung up and crossed my arms over my chest. When your butt is permanently attached to a chair, the only thing you can do is sit and hope to look professional.

A familiar man stepped into my office. Of average height and average build, he had a pleasantly unremarkable face, well formed, but neither handsome, nor affected by any strong emotion. If you passed him on a street, you might overlook him the same way you would overlook a familiar building. He was a perfect blank slate, except for the eyes and his black overcoat. Elegant and soft, it was made of some wool I’d never seen before.

“Hello, Saiman.”

“Good morning.”

He paused, probably hoping I’d get up to greet him. Fat chance.

“What can I do for you?”

Saiman sat in my client chair and surveyed my office. “So this is where you work?”

“This is my secret HQ.”

“Your Batcave?”

I nodded. “Complete with Robin.”

The attack poodle showed Saiman his teeth.

“He’s delightful.”

“What is your coat made out of?”

Saiman gave me a blank look. “Cashmere.”

I didn’t know they made coats out of cashmere. “Is it warm?”

“Very.” He sat back.

“So why do you need it?” I’d seen him dance naked in the snow before, with snowflakes chasing him like happy puppies.

He shrugged. “Appearances are everything. Speaking of appearances, your Batcave looks . . . what is the word I’m looking for?”

“Sparse, functional . . .”

“Shabby.”

I hit him with my hard stare. “Shabby?”

“Shopworn. Which brings me to my point.” He reached into his spiffy coat and pulled out the petition report I’d given him the day before. My summary of the case so far, listing facts, research, and theories. “I’ve read your summary.”

“And?”

“It’s not incompetent.”

Be still, my heart, so I don’t faint from such faint praise. “Did you expect it to be written in crayon?”

Saiman grimaced and raised his hand. “Hear me out. You’ve surprised me. This analysis is mercifully free of the amateurish enthusiasm and faulty reasoning I expected from you. If you can forgive a colloquialism, you do project the image of brawn over brains. Which isn’t to say that your native intelligence isn’t evident; on the contrary, but there is a great deal of difference between a naturally agile mind and a mind trained in logical deduction.”

I rubbed my face. “For a man trained in logical deduction, you should be able to deduce the consequences of insulting a person of brawn in her shabby office.”

He shook his head. “You know what you could be, Kate? An expert. You have the potential to become a true professional. All you need are the proper tools and freedom to use them. Here is my offer to you: I will lease and furnish a space, providing starting capital for, let us say, six months to a year. The main expense will come in the form of equipment. You’ll need a quality m-scanner.” He counted off on his fingers. “A working computer with a printer station, and a well-stocked herbal and chemical supply room, and an arsenal, all of which I’ll obtain for you. We’ll set up a relaxed repayment schedule. You can be completely independent. You can pick and choose your clients, provided that, when needed, my professional needs take precedence over the rest of your client list. You have a solid reputation, and with my backing, you can capitalize on it and be very successful. This is a professional offer, Kate. Strictly business, with no personal strings attached.”


Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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