His face grim, he pushed himself up and reached for his brother. "Dori-"
"Don’t touch me, Ravyn." He curled his lip at Susan. "As soon as he’s back to his senses, he needs to get out of here before the others turn on him again. Understood?"
"Yeah," she said, curling her own lip in response, "I completely understand. You’re a heartless bastard and the rest of you aren’t leopards. You’re pigs."
His face hardened. "Be glad you’re human and standing in a sanctuary right now. Otherwise, I’d rip your throat out." He cast one last hating glare at Ravyn before he vanished out of the room.
Unable to believe the gall of him, Susan turned back to Ravyn, who lay completely still. At first she thought he’d fallen unconscious again, but as she brushed his hair back from his face, she saw that his eyes were open.
The look he gave her singed her to the spot. There was so much anguish and self-loathing that it stole her breath. "I didn’t want to be alone anymore. Was that so wrong?"
Her heart clenched at those heartfelt words. She knew exactly how he felt. "No, Ravyn, it wasn’t wrong."
He started shaking uncontrollably as he reached for the blanket on the mattress. "I’m so cold."
Susan pulled the blanket over him, but his teeth continued chattering. She’d never seen anyone so cold. Figuring he was in enough pain from the raw emotions the drug was bringing out, she spooned up against him to try to warm him with her body heat. Poor man. And she’d stupidly thought she was all alone in the world. It was probably better to have no family than to have half of them dead while the other half hated you for causing the deaths.
She couldn’t imagine anything worse. Well, maybe living with Erika, which he also did.
Ravyn continued to tremble in her arms. He covered her hands with his as she held him quietly in the dim light of the room. "Susan?"
She opened her eyes at his faint tone. "Yes?"
"I’m sorry about your friends. I wish it hadn’t happened."
He went suddenly limp in her arms as if he was unconscious again. Her first inclination to pull away from him, she laid her head on his muscular arm instead. How odd that two strangers would find themselves lying on a mattress in the basement of a popular singles club in the heart of Pioneer Square. They were both being hunted for a crime they hadn’t committed and were trapped in a place where no one wanted them.
God, what a day.
Closing her eyes again, she let out a long, tired breath. What lay ahead was even more daunting than when she’d written the story about Senator Kelly and his questionable spending only to learn that her source was completely bogus. Even now she cringed at the memory of that day when her boss had tossed the paper with the story in it in her face and accused her of making it up.
Then she’d come under fire from all of her reporter brethren as they wrote story after story about her. There had been no kindness or forgiveness. Nothing but hostility and glee as they brought her down, and all because she, too, had trusted the wrong person to not lie to her.
And then there had been the lawsuits. Slander. Libel. Defamation. Not only had the senator sued her, but her own paper as well. It’d been the worst time of her life.
Up until now. Now she didn’t even have Angie to hold her hand through it. No Jimmy threatening to kill the people who were hurting her.
Just say the word, Sue, and I’ll arrest them for parking violations…
She was completely alone.
Susan blinked back her tears as she toyed with his silken hair that made her skin itch. But she didn’t care. She needed to feel his presence. This wasn’t the time for weakness. She needed her strength. Especially since she had no idea how all of this would turn out. How to even begin to get her life back.
What was she supposed to do?
You’re a reporter, Sue. What would a good reporter do?
Find the truth. The only way to get back her life was to expose whoever was behind all of this. Granted, she couldn’t expose the vampires without becoming a complete laughingstock, but Jimmy had spoken of a cover-up, and she did trust him. He wouldn’t have lied to her. Ever. Someone in his department was definitely working with the Apollites and Daimons to hide the disappearances, which were probably all murders. Now that she knew what was going on, she could find evidence and expose him or her… They could be brought out and exposed in a human court. Then the Apollites wouldn’t have human help anymore.
Don’t be stupid. The whole thing was ludicrous and she was living it. How could she sell this to people who couldn’t see it for themselves?
Not to mention the small fact that going after a government official who was supposedly on the take was what had led to her disgrace.
"I’m too old to start over again."
More than that, she was too tired.
But even as she thought that, Angie’s beautiful face hovered in her mind. She could see Angie and Jimmy on their wedding day, laughing as they waved good-bye to her from the limo before they headed off on their honeymoon. They were supposed to grow old together and make her a fabulous aunt to their whole brood of raucous children.
They had been her family.
This time there was no stopping the tears that flowed from her eyes. They-the only family she had-were gone and they would never have those kids to mooch off them. There would never be another call from Angie complaining about Jimmy watching football games on TV. No more Jimmy teasing Susan that he’d recently arrested a man who would be perfect for her.
No more late-night movies or laughter. No more Christmas dinners…
They were gone and those bastards had killed them for no reason.
Fierce, unadulterated anger swelled deep from her soul to crawl all the way through her body. She couldn’t let the people responsible for their deaths get away with it. Not to mention that every night they were still out there, ending other people’s dreams. Other people’s lives. Taking away the family someone else loved.
She had to stop them. Somehow. She couldn’t just sit by and let someone else lose their loved one. Not if she could stop it.
Susan paused in her mental tirade as an idea struck her.
"Jimmy’s journal…" As far back as she could remember, Jimmy had kept anal notes in his journal. Both she and Angie had teased him about it endlessly. That incessant need to put everything in writing was what had made him such a great investigator.
Whatever evidence or leads he’d uncovered would be in that notebook. She knew it. There was no chance he didn’t leave clues for her to follow.
But how could she get to his house while the police were looking for her? Not to mention they most likely had it staked out.
It didn’t matter. She was going to find some way over there, and get those notes no matter what it took, and finish this investigation. Even if it killed her.
Ravyn woke up with his vision hazy and the scent of Susan heavy in the air. It was a delicate, warm smell. Unique and inviting. He felt like total shit and yet something about her scent soothed him.
It also set him on fire.
His right shoulder was so sore that he could barely move it. Not that he could anyway, since Susan was lying on it, facing away from him, sound asleep. At first he couldn’t figure out where he was or why on earth she was on top of him. Then suddenly, the earlier events of the night came rushing back.
He’d been hit with a trank outside of the Happy Hunting Ground. Images of their flight and return to the Serengeti shuffled around him as he remembered bits and pieces of being sick… of Susan helping him.
She’d held him while the whole world had fallen apart.
Amazed by that, he rose up to look down at her and brushed a strand of blond hair off her silken cheek. She had the prettiest skin. Fair and unblemished, it was softer than silk. He laid his fingers over her cheekbone and marveled at the texture that was so different from his.
There was something lovely about her. Something that called out to the animal in him and lured it forward. He’d never felt such a pull toward anyone before. Not even Isabeau, and she had been his chosen mate.
He dipped his head down so that he could inhale the scent of her hair. The soft strands tickled his cheek even as the warmth of her body calmed him. He laid his other arm over her and held her close in the darkness. Like a lover. This moment awoke a long forgotten dream inside him. A dream of family. Of love. Of having someone he could love, who would love him, too.
God, it’d been way too long since he’d just held someone…
"If you don’t stop groping on me, Puss in Boots, I don’t care if you are out of it, I’m going to hurt you."
He laughed in spite of himself.
Susan opened those striking blue eyes to stare up at him.
"I’m over it," he said softly to her.
Still she looked suspicious. "Uh-huh, that’s what you said last time, right before you made a head dive for my boobs."
"No, I didn’t… did I?" He frowned as he tried to remember, but the last few hours were all hazy and vague. And he certainly didn’t recall that happening, but then given how much she appealed to him, he couldn’t deny it, either. If he had a chance and a reason to get away with such a thing, he’d have probably taken it.
She narrowed her eyes on him. "You really are back, aren’t you?"
He put the heel of his hand to his right eye in an effort to ease some of the pain that felt like it was cleaving his skull in two. "Yeah, and with a vicious headache."
Susan rolled over to look up into those midnight eyes. Okay, it was only one eye since he still had the other covered with his hand, but it was nice to see clarity there again. "Welcome back."
"Thanks." His gaze dropped to her lips that teased him with an invitation he was finding hard to ignore. "For everything."
She licked her lips, moistening them with her tongue… it was his undoing. Unable to stand it, he lowered his head, half expecting her to pull back or push him away.
Instead, she moved forward in his arms to take his kiss. The instant their lips touched, Ravyn closed his eyes, letting the warmth of her wash over him. She wrapped her arms around him, causing him to tremble at the tenderness she offered. She was exceptional. His heart racing, he deepened the kiss, exploring her mouth.
Susan couldn’t breathe… literally. Her allergies kicked in, but not even they were enough to make her let go as she tasted heaven. Every part of her fired at the touch of his lips. He cupped her face as his delicious weight pinned her to the mattress. She found herself actually resenting their clothing, even though she knew getting physical with him would be a mistake. Dark-Hunters couldn’t have dates and girlfriends, and she had no interest in being someone’s one-night stand.
They had nowhere to go except separate ways. Too bad her emotions weren’t more rational because right now all they wanted was to keep him in her arms and to explore every inch of that wicked body with her tongue. But she couldn’t.
Ravyn fisted his hand in her silken hair as images of her nak*d body writhing underneath him tormented him with desire. He nipped her lips as he felt her heart racing along with his. It took every piece of will he possessed not to lift her shirt and cup her breast in his hands. But she was a Squire, and they were off limits to Dark-Hunters. Even so, she appealed to him on a level he couldn’t even begin to fathom.
If he could, he’d stay here with her for the rest of the night, but they had way too much to deal with at present. And the last thing he wanted was to be involved with another woman who could betray him. He pulled away, then groaned.
Susan put her hand on his sore arm as if she knew exactly what hurt. "You need to rest."
He shook his head. "We’ve got too much to do."
"Believe me, I know. But you’re still hurt."
He snorted at that. "Trust me, this is nothing. I’ll definitely live."
She shook her head at him as she sat up to face him. "Fine then. While you’ve been down and unconscious, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. The Daimons are after all of you so that they can have a full run at Seattle, right?"
Ravyn remained lying back on the mattress. "That’s what we think."
"Well, according to the handbook Leo gave me"-she picked up a huge leather-bound tome and held it against her chest- "whenever one Dark-Hunter goes down, another one is sent in to replace them, especially in an urban setting… such as say, oh, Seattle." She toyed with the edge of the book as she gave him a stern frown. "So what are the Daimons really hoping for? I mean if they kill you and more are sent in, why bother… right?"
She definitely had a point. "I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense, but you can’t deny that they’re doing it. Maybe they hope to pick us off one by one until the last Dark-Hunter falls." Even as he said it, he knew better than that. There were too many Dark-Hunters. It would take years, if not centuries, to get them all.
But then something weird had been happening these last couple of years. A lot of Dark-Hunters had gone free and an even larger number of them had died. Especially recently.
"Or maybe this is an experiment," Susan said. "Think about it for a minute. If they can get away with wiping out all of you here, then they could converge on other cities. Make a studied attack. Claim each city one by one. Right?"