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As Boone sat across from the female, he tried to look like he was focusing on her in a professional, not personal, fashion. And the former was true. He was thinking of her as a witness who might well possess more information than she’d so far shared.

But there was also an undercurrent that he could not deny.

“Like I said,” the Brother stated as he took out a small, spiral-bound notebook, “this will not take long. I’m Detective O’Neal—I mean, the Brother Butch. I’m Butch. And you are?”

“Helania.” She shook her covered head. “But I told him everything I know, and it’s not much.”

Crossing his legs at the knees, Butch stared across at her with hazel eyes that were full of compassion and understanding. “I’ll bet you haven’t been able to sleep or eat since you found her.”

There was a long pause. And then Helania shook her head again. “Not really, no.”

“I’m really sorry you had to see that.” Butch’s eyes stayed steady on the female, even as his pen jotted something down. “I know it’s been tearing you up. My victim really suffered when she died. Can you tell me what her name is?”

“I don’t know her,” Helania said sadly. “I just . . . I was worried because she’d been down there with that male for so long.”

“Of course you were worried about her. Females have to look after each other.”

The hood of the cloak nodded. “That’s how I feel. It could have been me.”

“I know. It’s dangerous here. Dangerous everywhere.” The Brother leaned forward earnestly. “I know it’s hard to trust us. Even with the black daggers I’m wearing, you don’t know him or me from a hole in the wall. But I just want you to know that she’s my victim now. I’m going to take care of her, and the way I do that is by finding out what happened to her and making sure whoever killed her is taken care of. The way you can continue to help her is to tell me whatever you know. No matter how trivial or inconsequential you think it might be. And the sooner you do that, the better for her.”

There was another long silence, and the background thumping of the music rose to fill the void. Meanwhile, Boone tried not to interrupt. Fidget. Be an ass.

“You can trust us to take care of her,” Butch reiterated. “We’re all on the same team.”

“What will you do if you find the killer?” came the soft inquiry.

“When,” Butch corrected. “It’s when I find them. And whether they are a human or one of us, they will get what they deserve, I promise you.”

After a moment, a pair of shaking hands rose to the hood that covered Helania’s head. As she drew the fall of black fabric back, Boone gasped before he could hide his reaction. Her features were fine to the point of being delicate, her yellow eyes rounded, her brows arched, her bow-shaped mouth and her pinpoint nose balanced perfectly in the oval of her face. Her hair was long and wavy, streaked with blond and red, and her skin was darker than his.

She was . . . astounding.

“I can’t stop seeing her,” Helania whispered. “Every time I close my eyes, I . . . I see her hanging from that ceiling. That hook . . .”

“I know.” Butch put a fatherly hand on her knee. “It’s really terrible. But together, we can do something about it.”

Those yellow eyes lifted to the Brother’s. “You won’t let him get away with this.”

“No, I won’t.”

“I’ve been looking for him, you see.” She nodded toward the open area where the club’s members were. “I know he’ll come back here.”

“Because he’s killed before.”

That yellow stare went to the floor. “Yes.”

“How did you know about the other deaths?”

“There was more than one?” she asked with surprise.


“Oh, God . . . well, I only knew about the one other.” Her lids lowered. “That female’s murder was all over the species’ groups on social media. It made everyone uneasy.”

Boone spoke up. “So that was why you were looking out for the victim last night. Even though you didn’t know her.”

“Everyone’s nervous,” Helania said. “Who’s a vampire, that is.”

“Which is understandable,” Butch murmured. “Now, the male or man you saw with my victim. Had you seen him in the club before?”

“I think I have. I’m not sure, though. It’s dark and there are so many people.”

“What’s he look like?”

“He’s enormous. Black sunglasses. Black skull cap pulled down low. Black leather clothes—although that’s not saying much.”

“Could you identify him if you saw him again?”

“Maybe. But I never got a good, clear picture of his face. His hat and glasses covered a lot of his features, and again, it’s difficult to see in there.”

“How about his scent? Would you recognize that?”

“I don’t know.” Helania touched the side of her nose. “I followed the blood, not him or her.”

“So you saw the male with my victim. What were they doing?”

A blush flared in her cheeks. “What people do here. Kissing. You know.”

Boone’s eyes focused on her mouth and refused to be redirected. In all of his life, he couldn’t remember being so captivated by a member of the opposite sex. He was liable to forget why he was sitting this close to her, and that would be unacceptable.

Kicking himself in the ass, he shifted in his seat and thought of the dead body he’d seen on the Brother’s phone.

Butch was nodding. “And do you remember what time it was when you noticed the female leave with him to go to the lower level?”

“Not really.” Helania’s stare moved over to Boone—and what do you know, he felt like he’d been put under a heat lamp. “As I told him, I saw the male take her downstairs. I stayed on the main floor until I scented the blood. It was so faint that I wasn’t sure whether I was imagining it. But then I thought about that female alone with that male and I got worried so I went looking for her.”

“How long was it between when you saw them leave together and when you went to check on her?”

“Like, an hour or more. But I couldn’t say for sure.”

Butch took down some notes, mostly without looking at his notebook. “Did you see anyone else down there? When you found her?”

“There was no one.”

“And you were all alone?”

“That’s right.”

“Any idea about what time this was?”

“It’s hard to say. I wasn’t keeping track. I had already been at the club for a couple of hours when I saw him.”

“Did you come to the club with anybody last night?” After she shook her head, Butch said, “Can you give us the names of some people you talked to while you were here? You know, anyone who could give us a clue about when you arrived and when you left?”

Her jawline tightened. “What exactly are you suggesting?”

“Nothing at all. I’m just wondering if someone else might have glanced at their watch or their cell phone while they were talking to you so we could get a time frame going.”

“I didn’t talk to anyone. I never do.”

“So why do you come here?”

Helania’s eyes flared with anger. “I am of age and no one’s sehcluded female. I can go where I wish.”

“I’m sorry.” Butch touched the center of his chest in apology. “That came out badly on my side. And I did not mean to suggest that you were involved in hurting her.”

“Are we finished?”

“Sure, we can be finished.” The Brother flipped a page over and wrote something. Tearing the sheet off, he offered it to Helania. “This is my number. I’m going to stay in touch and I want you to do the same. I’m assuming that the number you called into the service from is your cell—and that we can reach you on it?”

Helania leaned forward to take the page, her narrow wrist flashing out of the voluminous sleeve of her cloak. “Yes, it is. And yes, you can.”

“I called you a number of times tonight.”

“I was here and I have it on mute.”

Butch nodded. “If you remember anything else, you let me know.”

Helania tucked the paper somewhere in her cloak. Then she got up from her chair, and Butch did the same, and some things were said. As Boone rose to his own feet, he didn’t track the conversation. He was too busy willing the female to look at him one last time.

And then she did.

Citrines. She had eyes like those sunshine gems, deep and mysterious . . . tantalizing. It was so easy to get lost in them.

“My name is Boone,” he blurted. Which was stupid. Like he hadn’t told her before. Twice. Or had it been three times, for godsakes.

She just nodded. Or at least he thought she did. Then she put the hood up over her spectacular hair and walked into the club, her slight body disappearing into the crowd.

She should be leaving, Boone thought. Not going back in there.

“Come on,” Butch said. “We’ve got to drive over to Havers’s next. Before we hit your cousin’s just before dawn.”

It was a moment longer before Boone could turn away, and as they exited the makeshift club, he felt like he had left something crucial to his well-being behind. The urge to turn around was nearly overwhelming.

He told himself that at least she knew how to point a gun at someone.

They were almost halfway back to the car—and yup, Butch had been right, the R8 was still where they’d left it—when the Brother stopped in the middle of the street. Boone went a couple of steps farther and then pivoted around in the snow, expecting the Brother to be checking his phone for a call or a text.


Those hazel eyes were locked on Boone. “Watch yourself, son. She could be in on this in a small way, in a big way. You don’t know.”