Ivanna for sure, I wrote. Radomil's sister had offered to hold Desandra's hand in case she was scared. At the time I thought she was a decent human being. Anybody could've seen it. Radomil and Ignazio were all brawling in the hallway while Doolittle worked.

A familiar careful knock sounded through the door. Barabas.

"Just a minute." I flipped the piece of paper over. I'm going to ruffle the packs to see if I can get a reaction.

Anybody who isn't watching Desandra will be watching Doolittle, he wrote.

Perfect. "I have to go meet with the packs this morning," I said aloud. "Anything you may want me to pass along?"

"Yes." Curran took the note folded it and methodically tore it into confetti. "Tell them that there is no escape from me."

* * *

The Belve Ravennati were my first stop. We met by a giant bay window in one of the public rooms where soft tan furniture sat arranged around a coffee table. The wolves from Ravenna didn't want me in their quarters.

I sat in a love seat across from Isabella Lovari. Gerardo sat on her left. His brother was nowhere to be found. Three other people joined us, all with a similar bearing: clean-cut, the two men clean-shaven, the woman's hair pulled back into a ponytail. They gave off an almost military air, and they watched me with a single-minded attention. This was a wolf pack, and I was clearly the enemy.

Barabas stood behind me, taking notes on a legal pad.

"Thank you for agreeing to meet me," I said. The swelling hadn't gone down as much as I would've liked, and talking hurt.

Isabella looked me over. "I'm surprised you're still here."

"I'm hard to kill."

"Like a cockroach."

"Not sure that's a good comparison. I never had trouble killing small insects," I said.

Barabas quietly cleared his throat.

Isabella raised her eyebrows. In her early fifties, she had a kind of sharp precision about her. Over my time with the Pack I had watched alphas work. Some struggled, like Jennifer. Some, like the Lonescos of Clan Rat, had a natural ease about interacting with people in their charge. Isabella had neither. She radiated the air of command. It was obedience or else.

"As you know, we're attempting to discover the nature of the attacks on Desandra's life," I said. "Her well-being and the well-being of her children is our first priority."

"Are you trying to imply that we're under suspicion?" Isabella asked.

"I'm not implying; I'm saying it. I'd like nothing better than to strike you from my list."

Barabas passed me a small note card with a single word: diplomatic.

Isabella leaned back. "I'm insulted."

"I don't give a f**k," I said. "Last night your daughter-in-law was attacked. Our people were hurt. I've got ten shapeshifters howling for blood. I'm looking for someone to hunt. It can be you or it can be Kral or the Volkodavi. I don't really care. So go ahead. Give me a reason to paint a target on your chest."

The Belve Ravennati stared at me in stunned silence.

Isabella laughed quietly. "Ask your questions."

"Where were you last night around midnight?"

"In our quarters. My sons were with my husband and me."

"Can the guards account for your whereabouts?"


Isabella's wolves turned their heads toward the hallway. Someone large was coming toward us. I leaned forward to get a better look. Mahon. Now what?

The bear of Atlanta approached us, slowly, clearly in no hurry, and came to stand next to Barabas behind me. "Sorry I'm late."

Backup. Wow. Knock me over with a feather.

The Belve Ravennati were looking at me. Right. Where were we?

I concentrated on Isabella's face. This was the reason I had come here in the first place. "We have reason to believe we can identify the creatures who attacked Desandra through a blood test. Would you be willing to provide us with a blood sample?"

"Absolutely not."

Unfazed. She wouldn't give us the blood, but the fact that we could test it didn't bother her any. Gerardo's face showed no anxiety either. "Why?"

"Because blood is a precious commodity. I won't give you access to it only to have it used against my family by magical means."

Well, it was worth a shot. I looked at Gerardo. "When did you find out that Desandra had been attacked?"

"A guard told us after it happened," he said.

"Did you make any efforts to assist us in making sure Desandra was safe?"

Gerardo unlocked his jaw. "No."

"Did you make any efforts to visit the future mother of your child and make sure she is alright?"



"I forbade it," Isabella said. "My son is overly fond of that woman. Since she's now a target, being near her puts him in danger."

I looked at Gerardo. "Don't you think you owe some loyalty-"

"To a slut who slept with another man?" Isabella raised her eyebrows. "I can understand why you might feel sympathy for her. You are not married either."

Behind me the pen creaked in Barabas's fingers. He must've squeezed it too hard.

I regarded Isabella. Straight for the jugular, huh? The strange thing was, it hurt. It stabbed me right in some deep female part of my psyche that I had no idea existed. "Loyalty to the woman who was your wife for two years and who is now carrying your child."

"You don't understand what it's like," Gerardo said. "To never know if your wife loves you or if she's just waiting for the right moment to stab you in the back because her father told her so."

Isabella's eyebrows came together. "My son deserves a woman who is honorable and strong, who will be a partner and an alpha, instead of a weak half-wit who is only a liability. This is a pointless conversation." Isabella looked past me at Mahon. "We all know that the human is being replaced. Last night's dinner was definitive proof of that."

What happened last night?

Mahon leaned forward, his hands on the back of my chair. The wood groaned under the pressure of his fingers. "She's earned my loyalty. Do not insult her again."

The world stood on its ear.

"Fine," Isabella said. "You may play this game of pretend, but I'm done. Your human knows it, too. One only has to see the look on her face when Lorelei Wilson walks into the room." She looked at me. "You are an open book, and you know you are being set aside. Take your pets and leave us."

I rose.

Mahon looked at Gerardo. "You can't hold on to your mother's skirt forever."

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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