Oh dear God, she had deified her husband. Shapeshifters were already paranoid, but Jennifer’s grief combined with her pregnancy must’ve catapulted her into a seriously bad place. No matter how many rational arguments I made, she wouldn’t listen, because I couldn’t compete with Daniel’s memory.

“Someone asked Desandra the same question,” I said. “She said, ‘Because I can make the people in the clan safer and happier.’”

Jennifer stared at me, her eyes luminous with green. “You owe me. You killed my sister, my husband died because of the fight you dragged us into, and then you brought Desandra here. If she wins, if you can imagine it for a second, she would tell me what to do. I won’t take orders from that bitch!” Her voice rose. “I won’t! My child won’t call that crude lowlife alpha. You made this mess; you’ll fix it for me or you will regret it.”

Okay, that was just about enough of that. “No.”

Jennifer glared at me, her eyes blazing with green.

“Tone down your flashlights, or I’ll resolve this power struggle right here and right now.”

She drew back. The glow dimmed.

“Let me spell it out for you. I didn’t kill your sister because I felt like it. I killed her because she had turned loup and was in pain. Ending her life was an act of mercy. Daniel didn’t die so you could be an alpha. He died so fanatics wouldn’t detonate a device that would’ve killed every shapeshifter in a ten-mile radius. You’re fighting Desandra for the confidence of your clan and you’re losing. The very fact that you are here now makes you weak. If I helped you, it would only make you look weaker. You have to stand on your own. No bodyguards, no Beast Lord to hide behind, just you.”

She stared at me, her face completely white. I should’ve stopped, but in the past twelve hours I’d run around the frozen city trying to prevent a supernatural war, I’d nearly lost a child who relied on me for protection, and I’d watched Hugh d’Ambray slaughter people and hadn’t been able to do a damn thing about it, and all the while, the man I loved was missing. My brakes had malfunctioned and I kept barreling on, right off the cliff.

“Explain to me why I would help you? For the entire time you’ve known me, you’ve done nothing but throw rocks at my head. Last night I had to go into the People’s territory and I didn’t know if we would survive. I went because the future of the entire Pack depended on it. The alpha rat volunteered to go with me. The alpha cat did, too. A member of your clan couldn’t wait to join me. A child from the boudas followed me because he wanted to make a difference. They did this because they felt responsible for the safety of their friends. They did it to protect the Pack. Did you volunteer to help me?”

My voice snapped like a whip. Jennifer flinched.

“Did you come with me, Jennifer? Did you fight with me? Did you sacrifice yourself to draw off four vampires, so I could get to where I was going? Did you fight a knight with a kind of magic we’ve never seen before? Did you throw yourself at a fucking wendigo while poisoned and puking your guts out to save a boy? No. You sat here, plotted, and felt sorry for yourself. And less than an hour ago, when the Pack Council was trying to decide what to do with Dorie, where the bloody hell were you? You sent Desandra in, because you didn’t want to face the heat.”

Jennifer bared her teeth, drawing back.

“Desandra might be crude and manipulative, but you know what, she shows up. She gets into the mud and blood with the rest of us and gets her hands dirty. None of us like it, but we do it. I won’t help her pull you off your alpha rock, but I won’t stop her either. And after what she did, if she needs me, I’ll be there to back her up, because she watched my back when it counted. You are not special. You don’t get to not show up. You don’t get to avoid difficult decisions. You get to climb into the muck with the rest of us. So, if you want to be in charge, fine. Reach deep down, find a backbone, and handle your own shit. Otherwise, step down and make way for someone who would actually matter.”

Jennifer sat frozen, her face stunned. Her hand squeezed the water bottle.

I waited to see if she would explode.

Someone knocked and the door swung open. Barabas ducked in. “I have Gray on the phone.”

Finally. I turned to Jennifer. “Are we done?”

“I can’t do it,” she said quietly, her voice sad. “I should do it, but I can’t. It’s wrong. It would be like spitting on his memory.”

What was she talking about? How was fighting Desandra spitting on Daniel’s memory? I didn’t understand her at all. “You can step down and be a mother . . .”

She got up and fled out of the room.

• • •

BARABAS SHOWED ME to one of the conference rooms. Jim was already there, leaning against the wall, like a grim shadow, his eyes hard. Uh-oh.

“How did you get him on the phone?” I asked.

“I had two of our people walk into his office and refuse to leave,” Jim said. “He was there all morning.”

Gray had been ducking our calls. That was exactly what I didn’t want to hear. I landed in a chair and pushed the button on speaker.

“Detective Gray.”

“Hello, Kate.”

“You’re a hard man to find.”

“What do you want?” Gray sounded tired.

“I want to surrender a suspect implicated in the murder of Mulradin Grant to your custody.”


More silence.

I imagined a hole suddenly manifesting under Gray’s feet and swallowing him whole. The way my day had been going so far, I wouldn’t be surprised.

“We are not aware of any murder,” Gray said.

Aha. “I’m making you aware of it now. Mr. Grant is dead, he was murdered by a shapeshifter, and a member of the Pack has been implicated in this murder. I’m reaching out to you and offering to surrender her to your custody.”

“This is a jurisdictional issue,” Gray said. “The Keep is in DeKalb County.”

Are you kidding me? “The murder was committed in Atlanta’s city limits.”

“The alleged murder.”

Argh. I leaned closer to the phone. “We’ve always strived to maintain good relations with the PAD. Last year alone we’ve assisted you on—”

Jim raised nine fingers.

“—on nine cases. I’m asking you to help us.”


“I’m sorry,” Gray said. “I can’t.”

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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