"What about the animal children?" Curran demanded.

"The upir will mate with any animal he can anatomically penetrate. The resulting offspring, although viable, is usually sterile. A single upir may have scores of these servant-creatures. Also, since an agrarian cult of fertility centers on regeneration, the upir is likely to have vast recuperative powers. My source lists him as immune to metal, wood, tooth, and claw. He is virtually impossible to kill."

Curran nodded at Mahon. The Bear spoke, "The Pack thanks you for your information."

"I appreciate the gratitude of the Pack. You will receive my bill within three days."

Mahon turned off the phone.

"It has to be Crest," Curran said.

Startled, I asked, "How do you know his name?"

"I know more about you than you do. Do you really think I would deal with you without following your every step?"

"You had Derek spy on me. You promised me he would do no such thing."

"Actually I put a scout in the apartment above you," Jim said. "Greg's place isn't soundproof."

I shut up, stunned by the betrayal. I should've known better - the Pack always came first. They were professionally paranoid.

"How did you and Crest meet?" the alpha-wolf asked.

I didn't answer.

Jim reached over and touched my hand. "Kate, this is one of those times when silence isn't golden."

There was nothing left to do. No way out. If Crest was an upir, I couldn't take him on my own. "I went to the morgue to examine a deceased vamp found at the knight-piner murder scene. I was looking for the brand and he walked in on me. He stated that he was a cosmetic surgeon performing what he called 'charity duty' at the morgue. He wore scrubs and the stripes of a unit supervisor. He asked me to join him for lunch. I refused."

"How did he react?" said a heavyset woman. She was middle-aged and plump. Her graying hair perched in a bun atop her head. The others called her Aunt B, for what reason I didn't know. She looked like every child's favorite grandmother. She was also the alpha female of the twelve hyenas the Pack counted among its members.

"He appeared surprised."

Light murmur rippled through the Council.

"He has access to the morgue," Jennifer said. "A lot of corpses."

"And being a plastic surgeon, he would meet many pretty women," added the alpha-rat through a mouth full of potato chips. The rotting head did nothing to dull his appetite.

"Why didn't he mate with Olathe?" Jennifer wondered. "It's obvious they were working together. He would help her take over the People and in return, he'd get all the vampire flesh he wanted. Plus fresh corpses."

"She was barren," Jim said. "Roland probably had her fixed before he fucked her."

"Did you go to lunch?" Aunt B wanted to know.

"Yes. It was a normal lunch. The next time I saw him was after Derek and I encountered that vampire. Crest was asleep on the stairs when I brought Derek home."

"Did you sleep with him, dear?" asked Aunt B. "We need to be clear."

I tried to keep from gritting my teeth. "No."

"Then you haven't seen him in an uncontrolled environment." Aunt B shook her head. "He could've been cloaking the entire time."

"His cloak would have to be exceptional," I said. "I felt no magic. Nothing at all."

Curran, who had been leaning against the wall, crossed his arms over his chest. "To sum up, he's never appeared at the same time as the upir. He seems to pop up in her life whenever she makes any headway. She's never seen his place or met any of his friends."

"He's familiar with tech." I finally thought of something smart to say. "He owns a car."

"Anything else?" Mahon asked.

"He's fascinated with Lyc-V."

"I like him for it," Jim said. "And the kid thinks he's an asshole."

Thank you, Derek.

Curran pushed himself from the wall. "Either he's the upir or he's not. How would we find out?"

Doolittle stirred. "The only way to know for sure, m'lord, is to scan a blood sample. Blood can't hide the magic when separated from the body. Time is of the essence in this matter. The less time the blood has to degrade, the better. I suggest we take a portable scanner."

"If he is what we think he is," the alpha-wolf said softly, "we'll have to go in force."

"And I doubt he would volunteer the sample." Mahon said.

"We can't compel him," the alpha-wolf said.

To compel a person to give a blood sample with the purpose of scanning it was illegal. It was a violation of privacy and the courts have been adamantly enforcing it. If Crest proved to be human, he could make enough of a stink to keep the Pack in hot water for years.

"Not to mention that he'll know who all of you are," I said.

They mulled it over.

"It doesn't matter," Curran said. "We solve this now."

"DOESN'T FEEL SO GOOD, DOES IT?" JENNIFER SAID to me as we left the black van that ferried us to Crest's apartment.


"It'll be okay," she said and we both knew she lied.

The tight pack of shapechangers cleared the stairs to the lobby. A clerk was on duty, a thin, red-headed man, who started to rise at our approach. Curran nodded to him as if they had known each other for years and the man sank back into his seat.

The six of us took the stairs at a run, Curran in the lead, followed by Jim, Jennifer, Doolittle, and me. Aunt B's oldest son brought up the rear. He chose to carry a shotgun.

We reached the door to Crest's apartment. Behind me Aunt B's son blocked the stairs. I wondered if the shotgun was for me, in case I developed second thoughts.

My stomach tightened. It felt wrong. I should've come alone. I shouldn't have let them pull me along. I will not put myself into this situation again.

Curran knocked on the door. Crest's voice said, "Hello?"

Curran looked at me.

"This is Kate," I said. "I'm not alone and I need to talk to you."

A silence issued as he digested it and the door swung open. Crest looked slightly disheveled. He gazed at the stone-faced gathering outside his doorstep and stepped back. "Come in."

We did. The shapechangers spread through the house, and Crest found himself enclosed in a ring. They maintained their distance, a few feet between them and the human in the middle. Just enough room to gain momentum for a leap without getting in each other's way.

"Mind telling me what this is about?" Crest said. His gaze flickered to Curran.

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
Articles you may like