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Dark Moon (Chapter Twenty Nine)

"Perhaps you killed someone dear to him – by accident or design."

Edward stepped out of the cabin. Nic backed up, putting himself between me and my boss.

"When did you get here, sir?"

"Not very long ago. Imagine my surprise to hear gunshots, find out that once again, strangers are shooting at you with silver. Are there no secrets anymore?"

"Apparently not. I see you managed to escape from the latest round of people who were trying to kill you."

"Escape makes it sound as if I were running away. I ran to them and now they are… gone."

I knew what gone meant, so I let the matter drop.

Edward's gaze wandered from the top of my wild and tousled head, past the sarong blanket, down to my dirty toes. He said nothing, but I felt his censure just the same.

Edward turned to Nic. "Why are you still here?"

"We've been working together," I said.

"Is that what they call it nowadays?"

Nic's hands curled into fists. I touched his shoulder and slowly his fingers relaxed.

Edward saw the interaction and scowled. He believed that the fewer attachments J��ger-Suchers had, the less they had to lose. And a person with little to lose was much more dangerous than one who had everything. That he allowed Jessie and Will, Damien and Leigh, to work together, to be together, meant he was softening.

And the idea that this man was a softer version of the one he'd always been was a frightening thought, indeed.

"Now that I am back" – Edward gave Nic a hard stare – "you can go away."

"We already played that tune, Mandenauer. I'm not leaving."

"Just because Elise has shown extremely bad judgment in letting her personal feelings interfere with her job does not mean that I will."

Edward stalked into the cabin. Nic followed, ignoring me when I plucked at his sleeve.

"Shouldn't we go see Lydia?" I asked.

"Soon."

Nic sounded distracted. I had no choice but to trail them both into the living room where Edward turned to me. "Make him go away or I will."

"Wait." I jiggled my ear. "Time warp. We're having the same conversation twice."

"Sarcasm does not become you, Elise."

Huh, and I thought I was getting the hang of it, too.

"We will not have the same conversation, either." He lifted a yellowed brow.

"What more can you tell me?" Nic asked. "She's a werewolf. I don't care."

I glanced at him in shock. "You don't?"

He shrugged. "I'm getting used to it."

"She has not told you of her other hobby."

I stilled. Nic might not care that I was a werewolf, but I doubted he could as easily forgive my being a murderer.

"You have to go," I blurted.

Nic merely rolled his eyes.

"That list of names?" Edward murmured. "She killed every one of them."

Instead of drawing his gun and arresting me, Nic merely appeared resigned. "Is that true?" he asked.

"Yes."

He nodded slowly. "You're not just his right-hand woman, you're an assassin. And a damned clever one, since you're freaking hard to kill."

I didn't bother to answer what hadn't been a question.

"You do not seem upset, Agent Franklin. You are not horrified to discover you have been sleeping with a killer?"

"The people on that list were monsters," he said. "The world is a much better place without them in it."

My eyes widened. I wasn't sure what to say.

"Such an attitude for a law enforcement officer." Edward tsk-tsked.

"Sue me." Nic kept his gaze on my face. "He sent you after them on the nights of the full moon, didn't he?"

I nodded.

"He's using you."

"It's all right."

"It isn't. Killing upsets you." He narrowed his eyes, tilted his head. "A lot more than it's ever upset me."

The travesties I'd read about in Edward's dossiers… Rapists, serial killers, child molesters, scientists experimenting with new ways to birth ancient horrors – both monsters and monster makers. They'd have given me nightmares if I hadn't ended their existence myself. Hell, they did anyway. Nevertheless –

"Who are we to play God?" I murmured.

"Better us than Mengele," Edward snapped. "Or another like him."

"He has a point," Nic agreed.

Instead of being thankful for the support, Edward merely scowled. "I am going to take care of the latest body in the woods."

He slammed out of the cabin.

Nic crossed the room, pausing right in front of me. I tensed, not exactly sure what he planned to say or do. Though he hadn't flipped out at the news I was an assassin, as well as a werewolf, that didn't mean he wouldn't. Nic was an FBI agent; he should arrest me. Or have someone else do it. Instead, he leaned down and softly pressed his lips to mine.

The embrace was completely different from most of those we'd shared since he'd walked back into my life. On almost every occasion he'd been angry with me, furious at himself for wanting me. So what was the matter with him now?

Nic lifted his head. "I was scared."

"Of me?"

"No." He straightened. "Never."

"Never? You're not as bright as you look."

His lips tightened. "Don't try to push me away, Elise. I know all there is to know about you, and I don't give a flying fuck."

He was mad again. I couldn't win.

"What exactly is a flying fuck?"

Nic made an annoyed sound, pushing past me and into my bedroom. I stood in the living room alone for a minute, then followed.

A box lay on my bed. A glance at the label revealed the clothes I'd ordered online had arrived. The only way for that to happen so fast was if Edward had made some calls. I didn't bother to wonder how he'd known about the order. Edward knew everything.

Nic plucked at the tape on the box. "That bullet barely missed your head."

"Oh," I said, as understanding dawned. "You didn't seem scared."

"I'll let you in on one of my secrets." His eyes met mine. "When I seem the least scared? I'm terrified."

His gaze returned to the box. "I know everything now, don't I?"

He didn't know I still loved him – always had, probably always would – but I planned to keep that to myself. As previously noted, I was brighter than I looked.

"I think you've heard all the secrets," I said. "Yep."

The box popped open and brightly colored clothes tumbled out. I snatched up a fuzzy sweater in neon green and a pair of bright blue sweatpants.

Had I ordered items so vibrant? They were so unlike me – or maybe they were perfect for a new me.

I dropped the blanket and got dressed without concern for my nakedness. The wild, tangled length of my hair cascaded down my back, brushing the swell of my rear. I hadn't braided the strands since leaving Montana.

I wasn't the woman I'd been at the compound, and I was glad. I'd been hiding inside those stone walls, hating what I was, constructing a life that wasn't really a life.

In Fairhaven I'd been almost happy and that was strange. People were dying; I'd stopped fighting my werewolf nature, pretty much embracing it, inching closer to the beast and further from the woman, and Nic didn't seem to care.

"You aren't scared I might tear out your throat when you aren't paying attention?" I asked.

Nic picked up a lock of my hair and tugged. "Should I be?"

Hell. There was one more secret I'd neglected to tell, not only to him but to anyone.

"I heard a voice," I said.

"Just now?" He glanced around the room with a frown.

"No. On the wind."

"What was it telling you to do?"

"Give in to the power. Embrace what you are and discover the secret you seek."

"Doesn't sound like bad advice," Nic murmured.

"Unless Satan's giving it to me."

Nic lifted a brow. "You really think Satan's speaking to you?"

"Stranger things have happened."

"I'll have to take your word on that."

"I'm stronger since I came here."

"Because of the talisman?"

"No. Yes." I threw up my hands. "I don't know. Either way, I don't need the icon anymore to do amazing things."

"What's the secret you seek?" he asked.

"The cure?"

"You don't sound convinced."

"If the talisman increased my power – or at least began this change – and tempted me to become more of a wolf, why would it tell me to seek a cure?"

"Who said the voice and the talisman are connected?" he pointed out.

"I'm getting a headache." I pushed my thumb against the throb in my temple.

"Get in line," Nic muttered.

"Maybe the talisman didn't make me stronger. Maybe it's just that I'm not fighting what I am anymore.

Now that everyone knows and they haven't shot me – " I broke off.

"What? You can tell me, Elise."

I stared into Nic's eyes, and I realized that I could. He'd heard the worst, and he hadn't run screaming.

"I don't hate what I am so much anymore," I murmured. "There are times I even like it."

"You're basically the perfect werewolf," he said. "Power without pain, strength without evil."

He was right. Why hadn't I seen that and accepted it before? Because of one thing I could never make right.

"At Stanford, I killed someone who just happened to be in the wrong place under the wolf moon. I can never forgive myself for that. I can never forget it."

"You shouldn't. That you can't makes you human, not an animal. Do you think the monsters care who they've killed? Do you think they spend their lives atoning for their mistakes?" Nic shrugged. "Except for Damien, I guess, though when he did those things he was as evil as the rest. You were just out of your head."

"Not guilty by reason of insanity?"

"It's a credible defense, Elise."

"And used far too often to excuse the inexcusable."

"You need to put the past behind you, look forward, finish what we've started in Fairhaven, then focus on a cure."

"And then?"

The words left my mouth before I could stop them.

What did I want him to say? That we could be together forever as we'd once dreamed of being? We couldn't.

I wasn't human, and I might never be.

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