I hiked up my dress and ran into the building, taking the stairs two at a time. It took me three precious seconds to get the door open. I burst inside, dropped the sword, ran to the living room window, and slid it open. A thick grate of steel and silver bars guarded my window. I grabbed the two handles and twisted. The lock snapped open. The grate swung to the left and I saw him, a nightmarish beast charging up the roofs across the street, like a demon caught between the black sky and the white snow.
He saw me and changed direction in midleap. That’s right. Come let me kiss you with my fist, baby.
I backed away from the window. Shoes. I had spiked heels on. I pulled them off and tossed them into the hallway. If I had to kick him, the heel would go right into the body like a knife. It would hurt, but not enough to stop him, and I’d have a hell of a time getting free.
Curran dropped off the roof and dashed across the street to my building. I backed away, giving myself room to kick. My heart hammered. My mouth went completely dry.
A second passed.
Come on. Come on.
A clawed half-paw gouged the windowsill. Curran lunged through the window.
He was huge, neither a man, nor a lion. Curran’s usual warrior form stood upright. This creature moved on all fours. Enormous, bulging with muscle under a gray pelt striped with whip marks of darker gray, six hundred pounds at least. His head was lion, his eyes were human, and his fangs were monster.
So that’s what the Beast Lord with no brakes looked like.
He landed on the floor of my living room. Muscles twisted and crawled, stretching and snapping. The gray fur melted, fading into human skin, and Curran stood on my carpet, nude and pissed off, his eyes glowing gold.
His voice was a deep snarl. “I know he’s here. I can smell him.”
I felt an irresistible urge to brain him with something heavy. “Did you lose your sense of smell? Saiman’s scent is two hours old.”
Golden eyes burned me. “Where is he?”
“Under my bed.”
The bed went airborne. It flew across the living room and slammed into the wall with a thud.
That was just about enough of that. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Saving you from whatever mess you got yourself into this time.”
Why me? “There is no mess! It’s a professional arrangement.”
“He’s paying you?” Curran snarled.
“No. I’m paying him.”
He roared. His mouth was human, but the blast of sound that shot out of it was like thunder.
“Ran out of words, Your Majesty?”
“Why him?” he growled. “Of all the men you could have, why would you hire him for that?”
“Because he has the best equipment in the city and he knows how to use it!”
As soon as I said it, I realized how he would take it.
The beginnings of another thundering roar died in Curran’s throat. He stared at me, mute.
Oh, this was too good. I threw my hands up. “The lab! I’m talking about his lab, not his dick, you idiot. He’s the only one I know with a Class Four lab in the city. He can take a blank piece of paper and read an invisible incantation on it.”
It must’ve penetrated, because he regained his ability to speak. “That’s not what I was told. Don’t lie to me, Kate.”
“Get out of my apartment!”
“I know he was planning a long night and you had no choice about it.”
The next time I saw Jim, I’d kick him in the throat. “Do I look like a fragile flower to you? I can kill Saiman three times before his body ever hits the ground. If I don’t want to sleep with him, no force on earth would make me. See, in our world, we have this pesky thing called reality. Before you ran over here in your beastly glory to rescue me, did that concept ever cross your mind?”
He opened his mouth.
“No!” I growled, pacing back and forth. “I’m not done. I need him for the Order’s investigation. He made going out with him a condition of his services, because you made him spend the Midnight Games between Mahon and Aunt B and this is his petty version of revenge. You knew I was guarding him, and you still went after him. You fucked up my personal life, now you’re trying to destroy my professional one. If you kill him tonight, I swear to God I will murder you.”
“Is he forcing you to sleep with him?”
One-track mind, Your Majesty. “No. But even if I wanted to jump into the sack with him and screw his brains out, you have no right to an opinion on it.”
Rage shivered in the corners of Curran’s mouth. He stalked back and forth like a caged cat. “I have every right.”
“You. You gave me that right when you dumped catnip all over my bed.”
I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. He had me there. “I changed my mind.”
“What, again? Why am I not surprised?”
“What do you mean, again? You stood me up, remember?”
“You were relieved I didn’t show up.”
Argh. “Let’s review. I cooked the dinner. I made you a pie. I set the table. I took a shower. I put on makeup. I bought condoms, Curran. And then I sat in my kitchen for hours, waiting for you. I sat and waited for three hours. Then I called to the Keep and was told not to contact you again. And you have the audacity to snarl at me?”
He showed me his teeth. “The phone call came when Doolittle was setting my bones. It went to Mahon, who thought it wasn’t important. It never got to me. I had no idea you had called. It was a fuckup, it happened on my end, and I accept full responsibility for it. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“On that we’re in complete agreement.”
His eyes flashed. “But you, you didn’t even try to find me and figure out what happened.”
“You made me feel this small.” I held my thumb and index finger barely apart. “Was I supposed to crawl to the Keep, collapse at your feet, and beg you to take me?”
He snarled. “You were supposed to march to the Keep and punch me in the face. That would’ve been fine. But you ran away.”
The fury in his eyes made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
“I was trying to avoid a conflict between the Pack and the Order, you stupid idiot!”
“Bullshit.” He kept going like he didn’t hear me. “You could’ve found me. You could’ve demanded an explanation. Instead your bright idea to deal with this mess was not to talk to me. Do you get off on having me chase after you like some sixteen-year-old?”