"These people are shapechangers," I said. "Several of their pack mates are dead. I'm involved in the investigation and the murderer has developed an unhealthy fascination with me. He left a rotting head in my yard with a love note."

Crest's face lost its expression. "I see," he said. "You think that I'm the guy."

Doolittle stepped forward. "If you'd be so good as to volunteer a blood sample, the matter can be cleared up within minutes."

Crest was looking at the kid with the shotgun. Wrong. Excluding himself, the kid was the least dangerous of those present. "And if I don't volunteer?"

"You should," Curran said flatly.

Crest looked at me. "Kate? You believe that I'm the killer?"

"No. But I have to know for sure."

A mix of emotions twisted his face. He thought that I had betrayed him. So did I.

"You said you wanted to be part of what I do," I said softly. "Now you are. Please give us the blood, Dr. Crest." I don't want to see you hurt.

Crest clenched his teeth. Around me the shapechangers tensed. His gaze fastened on my face, Crest rolled up the sleeve of his shirt and held out his arm. "Might just as well get it over with."

Doolittle tied his biceps with a strip of rubber. A long needle pierced the skin and the dark blood squirted into the clear tube.

"So tell me," Crest said. "What exactly am I supposed to be? I assume since Kate's involved, I'm not an ordinary human. What am I guilty of?"

"She thinks you feed on the dead," Jim said.


"Yeah. You hunt them. In the night. Human, vampire, Pack, doesn't matter. You hunt them, you kill them, and then you eat the corpses."

"Lovely." Crest's gaze didn't waver. Doolittle carried the sample to the scanner.

"Oh, it gets better, Doc." Jim was on a roll. Sonovabitch. "You also kidnap young women. You fuck them, then eat them. You mate with animals and make kids. Hordes of little misshapen Crests that roam the city in search of human meat."

"How nice."

The scanner chattered, printing out the signature. Jim shut up and leaned forward, his eyes fixed on his prey. The shapechangers hovered on the verge of shedding their humanity, ready to rip into the warm meat. They breathed deep, their muscles taut with concealed motion, their eyes hungry and unblinking. And their prey, the human in the middle of the room, stood surrounded and alone, looking at me like a lost child. I slid Slayer from its sheath and held it ready.

"Human," Doolittle said. "He's clean."

"You sure?" Curran said.

"Not a scintilla of doubt."

A shiver passed through the group as if someone turned off an invisible switch. I put away Slayer. Curran looked at me. His face was calm, that particular calm that contained a storm. "Do me a favor," he said. "Next time you get a hunch, don't tell me."

He turned to Crest. "On behalf of the Pack, I offer you a formal apology and our friendship. A suitable compensation will be rendered for the offense to your person. You would honor us by accepting it."

Crest made a dismissive gesture with his hand. "Don't worry about it."

Curran strode past me and the shapechangers filed out of the room one by one, until only Crest and I were left.

"You really thought I was a monster." Crest's voice held quiet wonder. "Tell me, how long did you suspect me? Did you go to dinner with me thinking that I rape and kill women so I can feed on their corpses?"


"No? Why should I believe you?"

"If I suspected you then, I would've tried to kill you then."

"As opposed to being ready to kill me now?" He paced, suddenly breaking into motion as if standing still had become too great of an effort. "I saw your eyes. If that printout had said anything but what it said, you would've run me through with that sword. And it wouldn't have bothered you!"

"It would've bothered me a great deal."

He spun about. "You know, I really thought we had something there. Something nice. But I was wrong."

No reply would have been a good answer to that, so I kept my mouth shut. Crest's face had gone pale with bitterness, his mouth a narrow straight slash. "Worst of all, I think you would've preferred it to be the other way. You wanted me to be that thing."

I shook my head.

"No, you did. What was it, Kate? Did you just have to be right or was I too much of a departure from your world? Do I have to be a monster for you to fuck me?"

Coming from him the expletive gained an edge, like a knife. "I'm sorry."

He shook his hands in front of him, trying to grasp the air. "Sorry doesn't begin to cover it!" He glared at me and exhaled forcefully. "I'm through with this conversation and I'm through with you. Go. Just go away."

I left. He closed the door behind me. I wished he would've slammed it, but he closed it very carefully.

Nobody waited for me on the stairs. I got down to the lobby and walked up to the clerk. "Is there a back door out of here?"

He pointed down the hall. I took it, walked out of the building, and kept walking. The shapechangers could find me by scent. If they really wanted to track me down, there wasn't a thing I could do to stop them. But I had a feeling Curran was too disgusted with me to care one way or the other. I hailed a horse buggy and paid the driver fifty bucks to take me to the ley point.

Chapter 9

I SAT ON MY PORCH, ALTERNATING BETWEEN A bottle of Hard Lemonade and Boone's Farm Sangria, and watched the night breathe. It was very quiet. The night breezes had died and nothing troubled the dark leaves on poplar branches. Not a blade of grass stirred on the lawn below.

I took a big swig of sangria and another of lemonade. Not drinking so much, but getting drunk. Making my body feel as bad as my mind. I wished I had some beer to chase down the wine. It would make me sick faster.

I'd accomplished quite a bit. It was hard to sit here and not be proud of myself. I'd failed to find Greg's killer. He would murder again, he would kill young women, he would kill shapechangers, and I didn't even know where to look for him. I'd pissed away whatever meager credibility I'd had with the Pack. And with the Order, for that matter. I had a thing going with a nice guy. It wasn't perfect, but he liked me. He had tried pretty hard. A normal, decent guy. And I had broken our little relationship beyond all repair. He wasn't a part of my world so I brought him into it. On my terms.

I turned one of the bottles upside down, guzzling the liquid without tasting it, until I almost choked, and raised it in a salute to the distant line of trees. "Nice going."

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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