However, I had also made some inquiries with a couple of female boudas. His name was Raphael Medrano. The Pack owned a number of businesses, and Raphael ran one of them: Medrano Extractors. When magic brought down a structure, it ground concrete to useless powder, but it left the metal behind. The extractors went in and salvaged what could be saved and then sold it to the highest bidder or bought it themselves. The job carried a high level of danger, but with half of the world in ruins, Raphael wouldn’t be out of a job anytime soon.

He took my duffel, unlocked the door, and held it open for me while I carried Boom Baby inside. The door opened into a spacious living room with a vaulted ceiling. The floor was wood, the rug plain and beige, matching an oversized soft sofa diligently guarded by a blocky dark wood coffee table. A flat screen hung on the wall, angled toward the couch. Massive cubes of wooden shelves lined the opposite wall, housing books and DVDs.

The walls were custom painted in a light-brown-and-gray pattern resembling stone. No pictures decorated them; instead, Raphael displayed weapons: swords and knives in every shape and size imaginable. The place was clean, neat, and uncluttered, free of knickknacks and throw pillows. A very masculine house. Like stepping into the lair of some medieval lord with a penchant for frequent dusting.

Raphael locked the door. “Make yourself comfortable. My fridge is your fridge. I’m off to shower.”

I placed Boom Baby under the window for easy access in case of emergency and sat on the couch. Above me the soothing noise of the shower announced Raphael scrubbing himself clean. He’d napped on the way to the Order, so he would likely manage the transformation without passing out. The thought of naked human Raphael in the shower was terribly distracting.

Suddenly I was so tired.

I crawled off the couch and forced myself into the kitchen. Eating Raphael’s food was out of the question. Shapeshifters attached a special significance to food. A shapeshifter approaching his or her mate would try to feed them. That’s how Kate got burned once: the Beast Lord of Atlanta, the Pack’s head alpha and the final authority, fed her some chicken soup. She ate it, having no clue what it meant, which, according to her, the Beast Lord found incredibly amusing. Curran had a peculiar sense of humor. Cats. Weird creatures.

I tried the phone. No dial tone. The magic was still up.

I went back to the sofa and closed my eyes just for a moment.

The enticing aroma of meat tickled my nostrils. My eyes snapped open. Raphael, clean and mind-numbingly gorgeous, stood in the kitchen, trimming a piece of steak.

My mouth watered, and I wasn’t sure if it was the man or the steak that caused the reaction. Probably both. I was so hungry. And I so deeply wanted Raphael. I should’ve never come here.

Raphael glanced at me, his eyes like blue fire. My heart actually skipped a beat. “I’m cooking you dinner,” he said. “Shocking.”

“You know I can’t take that from you,” I said.

“Why not?”

I shook my head.

He casually flipped the knife in his fingers. His knife skills were uncanny. A flash of irritation flared in his eyes. He hesitated. “Look, I know you’re starving. If you won’t let me cook for you, will you at least cook for yourself?”

That was the first time I had ever seen him irritated. I pushed off the couch. “Sure.”

He opened the fridge. A complicated web glistened in the back of it, gathering into a knot in the corner. An ice spider. It cost an arm and a leg. I, like most other normal people, had to buy friz-ice from the Water and Sewer Department to keep my fridge from getting warm when the tech failed and magic robbed it of electricity.

Raphael pulled another steak and slapped it on the cutting board next to his. “Here.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

We stared at each other for a second, and then I took the saltshaker and began to season my steak.

We glided in the small space of the kitchen, boxed in by the island and counters like two dancers, never touching each other, until we ended up next to each other searing our steaks on twin burners.

“I would just like to know if I have a chance,” Raphael ground out. “I’ve been patient.”

“And I owe you something because of that?”

He glared at me. “I just want an answer. Look, it’s been half a year now. I call you every day—you don’t take my calls. I try to meet you and you blow me off. But you look at me like you want me. Just tell me yes or no.”


“Is that your answer or are you refusing to tell me?”

“My answer is no. I won’t sleep with you. I’ve never led you on, Raphael. I told you from the beginning this wasn’t going to happen.”

Raphael’s eyes went dark. “Fair enough. Why?”


“Yes, why? I know you want me. I see it in your face, I smell it in your body, I hear it in your voice. That’s why I kept coming back after you like a f**king idiot. At least you can tell me why.”

I unclenched my teeth. This talk was almost six months in coming. “Your mother is a good person, Raphael. Her clan is a good clan. But it’s not like that everywhere. My mother was the weakest of six females in a small bouda clan. The others beat her every day. There were only two males and my mother didn’t get to mate. Hell, if one of them looked at her, the others attacked her. In other places boudas don’t stick that strictly to the Code. There’s no Beast Lord to hold them to it and no punishment. They get to govern themselves, and the pack’s only as good as the alpha. You know what my first memory is? I’m sitting in the dirt and our f**king alpha, Clarissa, is beating my mother in the face with a brick!”

He recoiled.

“My mother didn’t want to mate with my father. They forced her to do it, because they got off on the perversity of it. He didn’t know any better. He didn’t understand the concept of rape. All he knew was that there was a female and she was made available to him. For three years my mother was raped by a man who had started his life as a hyena. He had the mental capacity of a five-year-old. And when I was born, they started beating me as soon as I could walk. I was beastkin. No rules applied to me. Under your precious Code, I was an abomination. Every bone in my body was broken before I turned ten. As soon as I healed, they started on me again. And my mother couldn’t stop it. She could do nothing. They would’ve killed me, Raphael. I was weaker and smaller than them and they would’ve kept beating me and beating me until there was nothing left, if my mother hadn’t gotten together what little shreds of courage she had left. I live now because she grabbed me and ran across the country.”

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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