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“Tell me more about what it was like for you growing up. And the training program. And . . . what happened with your father when he went unto the Fade.”

Instead of feeling burdened or obligated, it was a relief to open up to someone. To her, specifically. “Where do you want me to start?”

Helania’s smile was full of compassion, and so were her beautiful yellow eyes. “Wherever you want. We have all day long.”

Yes, he thought to himself. We do.

And wasn’t that a great thing.

Butch silenced the recording that was playing out of his cell phone’s little speaker and turned his head on his pillow toward his shellan. Marissa was curled up under the covers beside him, her blond hair fanned over her naked shoulders, her pale blue eyes somber.

“He did a great job,” Butch murmured. “Boone’s a natural at interrogation. I was prepared to have to talk to her again, but he covered everything I would have asked.”

“That poor female.” Marissa shook her head. “I wonder if you should ask her if she’d like to talk to Mary? That’s a lot of trauma to go through right there. Her sister first and then finding that body.”

Butch put the phone down on the comforter between them. “I will suggest that.”

“But . . . what.”

Glancing at his female, he shrugged. “Nothing.” When Marissa just kept staring at him, he cursed and looked at the ceiling of their bedroom. “God, you know me so well.”

Which in moments like this was the good news and the bad news.

“You think she had something to do with the deaths?” Marissa said.

Butch shrugged and rubbed the heavy gold cross that hung around his neck. “I don’t trust anybody. Not at this stage of things. Although putting that into words after listening to a recording like that makes me feel like an asshole.”

“You have a job to do. You’re being professional.” She frowned. “So there were two deaths?”

“Three.” He turned to face Marissa again. “Vishous looked into the first one. It was a human. There were various reports in the Caldwell Courier Journal about it. She was found in a storage room at the club, just like the two females, and she was killed by a knife. There was no hanging her up, however. According to the latest update from the CPD, it’s still an open case. Homicide hasn’t found the killer, but that doesn’t mean it was a vampire, so it’s hard to know how that victim fits in. We either have a serial killer who is refining his technique, or there is a coincidence with that one.”

“The third female who was killed . . . her family has her remains now?”

“No.” He shook his head. “Havers is doing an autopsy on her. With their permission, thank God. When they came forward and confirmed her identity, I really didn’t want to put them through the hell of forcing that kind of thing. But they want to know who did this.”

As things got quiet, he reflected that it did not seem strange at all to refer to his shellan’s blooded brother as if the male were an unrelated third party. Havers was exceedingly competent at his job, taking such very good care of his patients and staff. But as a sibling? To Marissa?

Butch was never going to forgive that guy for turning her out when she had nowhere to go. Just before dawn.

The thing with true family, from everything he’d learned? Sometimes they shared DNA with you. Sometimes they didn’t. And given that the blood connection only went so far, the friends you chose were what made up the slack when your relatives sucked.

“Havers will do a very thorough job.” Marissa looked away. “That is one thing you can always depend on him for. He is a superior physician.”

After everything she had been through with her only sibling, she still had the class to shine some light on the positive traits the male had. But that was his shellan. She was way too good for Butch. And for that brother of hers.

Butch moved the phone out of the way and pulled her into him. “You are a female of worth, you know that?”

“You’re biased,” she whispered as she kissed his mouth.

“Are you kidding me?” He stroked her lower lip with his thumb.

“I’m a facts-only kind of man. I speak the truth and only the truth, so help me God.”

“The truth, hmm. Well, tell me something, Mr. Veracity. How does this feel?”

As her hand wrapped around a very personal and private place on his body, he closed his eyes and moaned.

Gritting his molars, he said, “I don’t know. I can’t tell. Maybe you should squeeze it a little or move things around down—oh . . . yeah . . . more of that. I think something’s coming to me.”

Marissa laughed low in her throat and nipped his lower lip with her fang. “More like coming for me, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Definitely. Always—what was the question?”

* * *

The daylight hours came and went with depressing alacrity.

At least that was what Boone thought when he glanced at the digital clock on Helania’s bedside table and saw that it was a little past six p.m.

Shit, he thought. He felt like he’d just walked through her door. “Where has the time gone,” he muttered.

Helania yawned. “We’ve talked all day.”

And yet there hadn’t been one moment that he had struggled to find something to tell her or been less than totally interested in everything she had to say. Well . . . and they had also done some things that hadn’t been exactly conversational.

“Eight minutes,” he murmured.


“I feel like all these hours lasted no longer than the eight minutes those humans spent in the shower—”

Boom! Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom . . .

“Speak of the devil,” she said with a laugh as they looked at the ceiling.

“They’re back already?” Boone groused. “Did I invoke them like an evil spell?”

“The human workday is over and their commute is short.”

The sound of a distant ringing brought his head up. It was his phone. Out on her kitchen table in his jacket. “And our work night is just beginning. That’s me. Will you excuse me?”


As he got out of bed, he stretched and felt his spine crack back into place. Crossing over to the door, he opened things, strode out to his leather jacket and palmed his phone.

“Hello?” he said. “Yes. Okay, sure. Yup. Ah . . . give me twenty minutes? Okay, thanks. Bye.”

Ending the call, he stared at the Samsung for a moment. Then he pivoted around. Helania was in the doorway to her bedroom, her spectacularly naked body such a sight, he lost his train of thought.

“You don’t have to explain yourself,” she said gently. “You have a life to get back to, and I am not asking for an accounting—”

“It’s about my father.”

She frowned. “Is there anything I can do?”

“I just have to go deal with some unpleasantness, but I’ve known it was coming. One way or the other, it’s all going to be okay.”

Walking over to his female, he took her face in his hands and let his eyes roam around her features, his mind memorizing each one of them sure as if he were never going to be with her again.

“When can I see you?” he whispered.

Helania’s smile was so beautiful, he felt like his heart expanded to fill his entire body.

“Whenever you want.” She lifted up onto her tiptoes and kissed his mouth. “I’m just here.”

“Well, my friends Craeg and Paradise asked me to a late First Meal tonight. Would you like to join us?”

“Really?” The shy happiness that came over her made her glow. “I would love to.”

“It’s a date. I’ll text you the where and when ASAP.”

“Okay. I’ll meet you wherever.”

Boone pulled her into his chest and just held her against his naked body. The contact was instantly electric, but he couldn’t give in to temptaion. He was liable to not resurface until the dawn.

Days and days from now.

And given where he was headed, he had to be good right now so he wasn’t late. Besides, if the Scribe Virgin so provided, this would be far from the last time he had a chance to be with Helania.

“I can’t wait to see you again,” he said as he put his chin on the top of her head. “And I’ll be counting down the eight minutes until I do.”

As she laughed, he felt the reverberation in his own flesh.

“Good deal,” she said as she looked up at him. “I’ll be doing the same.”

As Boone rematerialized on the front stoop of his house, he was distracted by the slideshow of Helania that was playing on the backs of his eyelids. And what do you know, he especially liked the image of her as the bedroom light had come on when they’d first been making love, her body arched as she rode him, her hands capturing her hair and holding it up, her breasts spectacular as they swayed to the undulations of her hips—

Wait, what he was doing?

Oh, right. The door. He was trying to open the front door to the house, but the thing wasn’t budging.

Frowning, he looked around—just to make sure he had the right mansion. Yup. Those were his bedroom windows.

He tried the brass latch again with his hand and then made an attempt with his mind—but obviously things were copper, so he was unable to will the lock to release. As a last resort, he put his shoulder into the heavy panels—which was stupid because it wasn’t a case of the door being jammed. All he got was a sore spot.

Backing up into the snowy yard, he checked out all the windows. The daylight shutters had risen and he could see all the familiar things he’d grown up with through the panes of old-fashioned glass. Then he glanced over the grounds. Nothing particularly out of place. No tire tracks that were fresh. No strange scents.

So it wasn’t as if Marquist had packed up his crap, moved out, and locked things behind himself.

Refocusing, Boone was not about to use the knocker on his own goddamn house.