Tucking the keys in her pocket, she ran to catch up to Ravyn.
Ravyn wasn’t expecting Susan to join him, but when he felt her tugging at his hand he couldn’t keep from smiling inside. He laced his fingers with hers before he took her around back and crept along the chief’s house.
"You think he has an alarm system?" Susan whispered as Ravyn located a window low enough to crawl through.
"Then how do we get inside?"
He covered the windowpane with his hand and closed his eyes to sense if there was anything electrical around the window. There was. He put both hands on the glass and used his powers to interfere with the electrical connector. Then he unlocked the window and pushed it open.
There was silence as the alarm continued to think nothing had been breached.
Susan shook her head at him. "How do you do that?"
"He’s a magic man, Mama," he said, quoting the song from Heart, with a grin before he lifted her up to crawl inside.
As soon as she was safe, he joined her, then slid the window closed and locked it. He took a minute to rearrange the curtains over it.
The house was completely dark and silent. There were heavy brown and gold jacquard drapes pulled closed over every window so that not a single ray of sunshine could enter. Definitely the residence of nocturnal beasts who had one serious allergy to daylight.
The house was decorated with a hodgepodge of contemporary and antique furniture. But even so, it looked like a typical home. There were photographs on the wall of Paul, his sons, and his wife.
Susan stared at the pictures, especially the ones of the boys. They appeared so normal. Until you realized their clothing was identical to what she’d worn as a child. His sons weren’t in their twenties as they appeared. They had to be in their mid- to late thirties.
Suddenly, she and Ravyn heard the growling sound of a garage door opening. Someone was coming home.
"What do we do?" she breathed nervously, looking around for a place to hide.
"We wait," Ravyn said aloud.
Nonchalant to the danger they were facing, he went to lean against the arm of the brown leather sofa with his arms crossed over his chest. He crossed his ankles and for all intents and purposes looked like someone waiting on an errant child to come home after being out all night.
She couldn’t fathom his cool exterior. And she really didn’t like his strategy. It was a good thing the man didn’t work for the Pentagon. The "I’ll figure it out as I go" just didn’t jibe with her.
"Don’t worry, Ben," a man said, closing a door that she was sure led to the garage. "We’ll get him."
"I can’t believe that bastard lied." The voices were getting closer and closer.
Susan stepped back into the shadows and whispered a small prayer that this would go the right way.
"Like I said, don’t worry about it. He paid for his lie. We’ll get Kontis and the others. Mark my words."
"They’re marked and noted," Ravyn said in a snide tone as the two men joined them in the room.
Paul and Ben pulled up short.
"What are you doing here?" Paul demanded, his face alternating from pale to red.
Ravyn didn’t move or even blink. "Heard you were looking for me. I figured I’d save you the trouble of having to search."
Paul seemed to get control of himself as he adopted Ravyn’s calm tone and stance. "Hmm… interesting. So what do we do now? Slug it out?"
Ravyn shrugged. "Sure. Why not?"
"I don’t like that plan," Paul said, exchanging a smug look with his son.
Well, at least she and Paul saw eye to eye on something. She didn’t like the idea, either.
"No?" Ravyn asked as he put his hand to his chin introspectively. "Then what do you propose?"
"That we kill you."
That plan she liked even less.
Luckily, Ravyn agreed. "I have to say that I don’t like your plan. Too much…"-he hesitated as if searching for the right word while he waved his hand around his face in a circular motion-"dying on my part, I think." His face turned deadly earnest as he crossed his arms again. "I’d much rather kill you."
The threat didn’t appear to concern Paul at all. "You can’t do that."
He took a step toward them. "If I die, the two of you will never be absolved of the murders. You’ll be hunted by the police forever."
Ravyn laughed. "Forever. There’s a concept you can’t even begin to fathom." He sobered. "Trust me, human. That takes on a whole new meaning in my world. But that’s beside the point. I think you seriously overestimate your people and their attention spans. More than that, you definitely overestimate my giving a shit about them. I’m a Were-Hunter, moron. I’ve spent six hundred years being hunted by things a lot scarier and smarter than you."
"I think you’re wrong. I think you seriously underestimate my kind."
Ravyn paused as he felt something odd run down his spine. It was like there were multiple Daimons in the house, but he knew better than that. He hadn’t felt any when they’d first entered and Ben was in front of him…
He turned to see Susan in the arms of another Daimon. Dammit! How had he gotten behind him?
But then he knew. He could sense a Daimon’s presence, but he couldn’t really pinpoint it. They must have opened a bolt-hole somewhere in the house.
Now there was no telling how many of them might be here.
Paul laughed smugly. "Meet my brother-in-law. He sometimes travels with my sons to keep them out of harm’s way. "
Ravyn glared at the Daimon but knew if he moved to take Susan away from him, the Daimon could rip her throat out. "Let her go."
Smirking, the Daimon shook his head.
"Why should we?" Paul asked, drawing Ravyn’s attention back to the chief. "We’re holding all the cards now."
Ravyn locked gazes with Susan, whose face was stricken by her panic, and he hated that she was endangered.
She tried to flip the Daimon over her body or break his hold, but she couldn’t. He held her so tightly that the only way to get her free would be to kill him and since she was covering the Daimon’s heart…
They were screwed.
Smiling, Paul made his way over to the curtains and pulled one panel back ever so slightly. "Oh look. Daybreak. What great timing." He turned to level a sinister smirk at Ravyn. "Why don’t you come see this for yourself, Dark-Hunter?"
"You know I can’t."
"True. But I really think you’re going to."
"Fine then." He looked past Ravyn to the Daimon. "Terrence? Kill the bitch and take her soul."
"No!" Ravyn shouted. "Don’t you dare touch her."
"If you don’t like this scenario, how about this one? You die painfully so that I can enjoy your suffering. I let Susan go in exchange for her writing a piece about how you killed all the students that my wife and sons have fed on. You’re dead, my wife is avenged, my sons are protected, and Susan lives, as long as she swears to forget all about me and everything she’s seen. "
Ravyn snorted at the very idea. "That would require me to trust you. I have no guarantee that if I die, she lives."
"You have no choice but to trust me, Dark-Hunter."
Ravyn cursed, hating the fact that Paul was right. "And how exactly would this work?"
"Simple. Both of you go to the window. She opens it up, you fry, and then she can crawl through it and leave. Obviously neither Terrance nor Ben can follow after her. "
Ravyn turned it over in his mind, then shook his head. "Empty your gun so I know you won’t shoot her in the back as she runs across the lawn. You’re the chief of police. It’s not like anyone would question it. "
By his face it was obvious Paul didn’t like the idea, but agreed.
"You can’t do this," Susan said, her tone a mix of anger and fear. "I won’t help you to die."
"Yes, you will, Susan," Ravyn said calmly. "Law of the jungle. You do what you have to to survive. And your survival hinges on my death. "
"You’re not trying to survive. Shouldn’t you be fighting this?"
"No. I’m allowing my mate to survive. It’s our way."
Susan clenched her teeth as pain and sorrow tore her apart. It wasn’t her way. She didn’t want to have to kill him in order to live. That wasn’t right.
Ravyn looked at the chief. "Give her your bullets."
No! her mind cried as she tried to fight Terrence. Damn the bastard and his Bondo grip. She had to get free of him. She had to. She couldn’t let Ravyn die.
Not like this.
Paul pulled the gun out of the holster at the small of his back and unloaded it into his hand. Then he handed the bullets to Susan.
Ravyn narrowed his gaze on Paul. "Fire the gun at the wall so that I know it’s empty. "
His features disgusted, Paul did as he said. The gun merely clicked, proving that he was abiding by the agreement. "You satisfied?"
"That your gun is empty, yes. With this solution, not hardly." He turned to look at Susan.
She stopped struggling. Her heart froze at the sad resolve she saw mirrored in his black eyes. The grim determination that marked his handsome features. "Don’t do this, Ravyn. We can find another way out."
Ravyn offered her a comforting smile, but what he really wanted to do was touch her one last time. To feel the softness of her skin. "It’s okay. I’ve had a really long life."
Susan felt the tears prick the back of her eyes. She couldn’t believe he’d be willing to do this for her. That he’d damn himself to being a Shade simply to save her life.
And in that moment, she realized that she really did love him.
More than that, she didn’t want to live if he died.
The Daimon led her to the window.
"Open the latch, Susan," Paul said snidely. "Then Ravyn can join you at the window to help you out."
She parted the curtains only enough to let her hand reach the latch. But as she did that, a thought struck her. She knew how to get out of this.
How to save Ravyn.
"It’s unlocked," she said.
Nodding, Terrence stepped away from the window to a safe corner of the room near Ben.
"Good," Paul said with a laugh. "Now go check out the daylight, Dark-Hunter."
Her heart pounding, Susan felt Ravyn at her back as he approached her. She closed her eyes and savored the strength of him. The heat of his body warmed hers.
And her conviction grew.
"I know I just met you, Susan," Ravyn whispered against her ear. "But I think I love you."
She froze her hand on the latch as a wave of anger went through her. Instead of warming her, those words went over her like ice. Looking at him over her shoulder, she glared at him. "You think? You think you love me? You don’t know?’"
His face baffled, he scowled at her. "Why are you so angry? I’m trying to die here… for you. Nobly."
"Then you should have just dropped dead and not opened your mouth to piss me off. You think? Think? What is that? Obviously it’s only wishful thinking on your part, because if you had thought for a single second, you’d have known it would upset me. Ugh!" Wanting to really kill him, she grabbed the heavy drape and before anyone realized what she was doing, she jerked with all her strength.
The curtain rod was torn free from the wall. Still angry at the beast behind her, she stepped back so that the curtain would fall over Ravyn to protect him as the room was flooded with daylight.
The two Daimons screamed out in pain as the light struck them and set them both on fire. Susan shielded her face from the horror of their deaths. If only she could protect her nose. The stench of burning flesh was revolting.
And in less than a minute, both of them were dead. Black, smoldering piles of ash on the green Persian rug.
"Ben!" Paul shouted in an agonized cry. "No!" He turned on her with his fury blazing. "You f**king bitch! I’ll kill you for this."
He rushed at her, only to have Ravyn, now in leopard form, launch himself at him. The two of them hit the floor hard. Ravyn caught him a vicious swipe on the shoulder.
Rolling over, Paul pushed himself to his feet and held his injured arm to his side, then ran pell-mell to the interior of the house, toward the staircase, with Ravyn bounding up the stairs after him.
Susan followed them, then pulled up short as a hugely tall man stepped out of the shadows at the top of the landing. He was dressed in a pair of jeans with a black turtleneck and motorcycle jacket. Ravyn stopped halfway up the stairs as Paul continued on to the man’s side.
"Stryker," he breathed, turning to point down at them. "Kill them!"
Susan’s jaw went slack at the mention of the Daimon’s name. So this was their infamous leader Nick had mentioned. Tall and lean, with short jet-black hair and wearing a pair of black wraparound sunglasses, he didn’t look like the other Daimons, who were all blond.
But even so he did make an awe-inspiring sight. An aura of brutal, cold power bled from him. He had a demeanor that said he relished cruelty and that he was here for blood.
Ravyn flashed to human form and summoned clothes as he faced the Daimon with grim features.