“Stop it,” I growled under my breath.

Jardin tossed a rag over the lantern. Darkness drowned the room. The curtain whispered as he moved it aside, revealing a long narrow space, filled with moonlight. Jardin hunched over, bending his six-and-a-half-foot body, and slipped through the opening. Robert followed and I did, too. My eyes acclimated to darkness and I saw Robert and Jardin leaning against the wall by a narrow gap in the concrete. The space was barely large enough for the five of us.

I crouched next to them and glanced through the gap. A hundred yards to the left the Casino glowed. Vampires scoured the walls, crawling on the textured parapets. We were inside the overpass.

“How did you even find this place?”

“By accident,” Robert said so quietly, I barely heard it. “Before the overpasses collapsed, they crossed in this spot. This is a reinforced section, designed to hold the weight of all three in case a collapse occurred. When the top overpasses crashed, the magic began eating them from the inside, and eventually the three sections of the road fused, forming this hole.”

“To what to I owe zhe pleashure?” Jardin asked.

“We’re at war,” Robert told him. “Someone in the Pack killed Mulradin.”

The wererat blinked. “Oh. I ssshaw him leave the Casino tonight.”

“How long ago?” Derek asked.

“Five houuursh.”

Mulradin must’ve bailed right after Ghastek left for the Conclave. What could’ve been so urgent?

“You said you saw him in the Warren before as well,” Robert said. “Where?”

“Corrrner of Marsharet and Joneshhboro.”

Robert’s eyebrows crept up. “The Fox Den?”


“Did you see with whom?” Robert asked.

Jardin shook his head. “But I sshaw him there twice.” He raised two long fingers.

“The Fox Den is a hit-’n’-split,” Robert said to me.

A hit-’n’-split was a lovely post-Shift euphemism. It wasn’t exactly a whorehouse and it wasn’t exactly a hotel. Most of the hit-’n’-splits were run out of converted apartment buildings. If you wanted to have sex with something that grew fur, scales, or feathers and you wanted to do it privately, you went to a hit-’n’-split, worked your kinks out of your system, and left with your humanity mostly intact. Nobody would be the wiser.

I’d run across a couple of hit-’n’-splits in my time with the Guild and the Order. Most operated under the radar. A prospective client somehow got hold of a phone number, called the management, stated their preferences, and paid the quoted price. In return he would receive a key in the mail. At designated times he’d show up at the apartments, use the key, get his freak on, then leave. It was an “at your own risk” kind of venture. No security, no front desk, no witnesses. The management charged both parties a flat fee, but there was no pimp and no madam. Everyone operated independently. If Mulradin frequented a hit-’n’-split, he had a fetish and he wanted to keep it hidden.

“Red brick building,” Jardin said. “Second one from the easht.”

“We need to get back to Centennial Park first,” I told him. I wouldn’t leave Desandra stranded. Not after what she did. As far as I was concerned, she’d earned whatever support she wanted from me.

“You can ushe the other tunnel, but you can’t leave now. The sshift change is in ten minutessh and they will do a shweep right past the entranshe.”

“How long?” I asked.

“Sssshoould be clear in forty minutessh.”

“We wait, then.” I curled against the concrete.

Ascanio landed next to me. “Are you still mad at me for coming with?”


“It will be okay,” he told me.

Derek sat down across from us.

“Did you know about Ascanio’s master plan?” I asked.

“No,” Derek said. “But I saw him walk off into the woods while everyone was talking.”

“I don’t know Desandra,” Ascanio said. “I don’t know Robert either.”

“I do know Desandra,” Derek said. “Ascanio’s annoying, but extra backup is always nice.”

Robert chuckled quietly. “You two were planning to fight me?”

“Not planning,” Ascanio said. “Just ready. In case.”

Teenage bodyguards. I closed my eyes. It would be a long night and I needed every drop of sleep I could get. I let myself drift, as Robert’s and Jardin’s soft voices receded into drowsiness.

“Thank you, Jardin. This will help us tremendously.”

“Happy to hhhear it, Alpha.”

“Once we are gone, I need you to return to Rat House.”

“I have ennough food for two weekssh,” Jardin said. “I could be ussheful.”

“No,” Robert said. “You’re too valuable to us and this post is too dangerous. Your life isn’t worth the risk . . .”

Sleep cushioned me, like a blanket wrapped around my body.

• • •

THE SEA WAS smooth, like the surface of a coin. I was lying in the sand next to Curran. My cheek rested on his chest, his skin heated by the sun. My hand was on his stomach, the ridges of hard muscle hot under my fingertips. His right arm was around me and he was playing with a strand of my hair. Lazy waves splashed against our feet, warm and soothing.

“We have to get up, baby,” he said.


“We have to get up. Tide is coming in.”

“Let it come,” I murmured. “I just want to have more time. There’s never enough time . . .”

“Kate . . .”

I hugged him to me.


Something touched me. I moved. My eyes snapped open. I was sitting on top of Jardin, holding my sword to his throat.

It was a dream. It wasn’t real. Curran was still gone. I wanted to howl like an animal.

It wasn’t real.

Losing him hurt like a punch to the gut. I was awake and back to my nightmare.

“Ssshecond time,” Jardin smiled.

“Sorry.” I got off of Jardin.

“Pay up,” Derek said to Jardin.

The wererat rolled to his feet and dropped a dollar into Ascanio’s palm.

“Did the two of you bet him I’d do this?”

Derek’s eyebrows rose. “We can neither confirm nor deny that a bet took place.”

“But we have seen you wake up when you’re stressed out.” Ascanio winked.

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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