Hugh opened his mouth.

Curran walked up the stairs carrying a platter heaped with food with one hand. George walked next to him. Curran saw Hugh and focused on him with a single-minded intensity.

"Here comes the cavalry." Hugh winked at me.

Curran stepped between me and Hugh. His voice was cold. "One of us isn't supposed to be here."

"Let me guess, would that be me?"

"Yes. Your guests miss you."

Hugh chuckled. "We'll continue our conversation later, Kate." He walked away.

"Couldn't you have waited thirty seconds?" I growled. "I wanted to hear his answer."

"No. He has no business talking to you and anything he says is a lie."

"Is that food?" Desandra called out. "I am so hungry."

"We were just leaving," Andrea said.

"Yes, we were," George confirmed. "I came to walk you to your room."

They took off. I sighed and passed the platter to Desandra.

Later, after we ate, Desandra fell asleep, exhausted, for real this time. Derek came back from dinner, saw Curran, and excused himself to the bathroom. Curran and I barred the door and checked the balcony door and the windows. I put a spare blanket on the floor. He stretched out on it and I lay next to him. Around us soothing darkness filled Desandra's cavernous bedroom.

Derek was still in the bathroom. The boy wonder was giving us an illusion of privacy.

"Are we being listened to?" I asked.

"If we are, I can't hear them."

Figured. Once we nuked the vampire, the hiding place was exposed.

"I saw Doolittle at dinner," Curran said. "He said he has something important to tell you."

"Is it urgent?"

"He said it would wait till the morning. We couldn't really talk. Too many people around. What did you want to talk about?"

This would have to be done carefully, with some finesse. I opened my mouth, trying to find the right words. Think subtle . . .

He raised his eyebrows. "What's the holdup?"

"Trying to find the right words."

"Why don't you just say it?"

"What the hell is wrong with you? You're letting Lorelei stand next to you naked, kill your crap, and do your hunting? Are you out of your mind or do I need to pack up and leave?"

Damn it. Subtle, really subtle.

He smiled at me. "I love you. You don't need to worry about Lorelei. She's happy she's grown up, so she flaunts it. It's harmless."

"What about the hunt?"

"Who else would she hunt with?" Curran shrugged and pulled me closer. "I have no interest in Lorelei. She's a kid."

"So this is not part of some plan you thought up?"


This should've been the end of it, but the suspicion remained, nagging me. I crushed it. He said he wasn't interested. End of story.

"What did you and Hugh talk about while we hunted?"

"He said he killed Voron." I tried to keep the hurt out of my voice and couldn't.

Curran paused. "Is he lying?"

"I don't think so. Voron raised him the way he raised me, then abandoned him. I took him away from Hugh and then Hugh took him away from me. I suppose that makes us even. I still want to murder him."

"Maybe we'll get that chance," he said.


"Did he say anything else?"

"Nothing important. He feels shapeshifters are ruled by their urges."

"If I were ruled by my urges, he'd be dead."

Or you. "Curran . . ."


"I saw him fight. You remember my aunt? Hugh is better."

"It doesn't matter," Curran said. "I will end him."

But it did matter to me. If Curran killed Hugh but died fighting him, it wouldn't be worth it. I just had to kill Hugh first. Piece of cake.

"It's this place," I told him. "It's driving all of us out of our skin."

"We'll go home soon." He closed his eyes.

A deafening crash shattered the silence. I jumped to my feet. Derek burst out of the bathroom.

The familiar grating roar, like gravel being crushed, rolled down the hallway, followed by an enraged deep bellow, pure fury expelled in a single mindless torrent. I'd heard that sound before and it was impossible to forget. It was the war cry of a werebuffalo.

Chapter 13

Curran flung the door open and charged into the hallway. I slammed the door shut behind him, just as Derek tried to run after Curran. The boy wonder spun on his foot at the last moment, avoiding the collision. Desandra was our first priority. If she died, Maddie and our chance at the panacea died with her.

"What's going on?" Desandra rolled off the bed.

I barred the door and pulled Slayer free. Derek yanked off his clothes. Fur dashed up his frame.

In the hallway a chorus of vicious snarls broke into yelps of pain and deep growls. Something howled. The hair on the back of my neck rose. I flipped the light switch. Bright yellow light flooded the bedroom.

"What's going on?" Desandra yelled.

"I don't know. Get behind me."

Something smashed into the door with a loud thud. The boards creaked.

Another thud hammered the door.

I backed away, Slayer ready. Next to me Derek bared his monster teeth.

The door boards snapped with a sharp crack, the sound of splintering wood like a gunshot. Two bodies tumbled into the room, one gray, one gold. Curran landed on his back, a scaled yellow beast on top of him. The beast raised its feline head and snarled at me, stretching two enormous wings. Two green eyes stared at me with a hot, terrible hatred.

Curran's mouth gaped. He jerked the beast down and bit into its shoulder. The giant lion fangs cut into the flesh like scissors. Thick red blood wet the scales.

The beast howled in pain and raked Curran's side with its hind claws, trying to rip his stomach open. Blood drenched the gray fur. The two cats rolled, clawing and snarling.

The balcony door exploded in a glittering cascade of shards. A second amber beast shot into the dark room.

"Down!" Andrea barked from the doorway.

I shoved Desandra into the corner. Andrea's gun barked, spitting thunder and bullets. Boom! Boom!

The beast jerked, each shot knocking it back.

Boom! Boom!

She kept firing. The bullet tore through the creature's flesh.

The magic wave crashed into us in an invisible flood. Tech vanished from the world in an instant. Lights went out, the sudden darkness pitch-black and blinding. Andrea's gun choked on the bullets.

The lavender feylanterns flared into life, spilling eerie purple-tinted light into the room.

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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