"She just left. Said you were at Pete's, so I thought I'd swing by and have a beer with you." Tucker's voice carried on the chill wind. "What the hell are you doing out here? Were you with someone?" voice carried on the chill wind. "What the hell are you doing out here? Were you with someone?"


"No, not with anyone," she said. Kade felt, rather than saw, the quick backward glance that Alex shot into the shadows where he stood. "I was just leaving. Give me a ride home?"


"Sure, get in," Zach Tucker said, and Alex opened the door and climbed inside. Kade clamped his molars together, curbing the lust that was still coursing through him as he watched her close the door and drive off with the human male. He'd detected the trace odor of bullshit in the trooper's casual tone, and had to guess that Zach Tucker wasn't the only man in Harmony who was happy to use any excuse to put himself in close company with--and in the good graces of--sexy Alexandra Maguire. Kade had a very strong impulse to go after her, whether she'd been glad to escape him or not. But if he needed something to distract him from that idea, he got it in spades as the tavern door banged open and out walked Skeeter Arnold and three of his stoner pals.


Kade observed the knot of twenty-something guys, smiling with satisfaction as the group disbanded and Skeeter was left standing alone while his friends took off in a rumbling old F150. When Skeeter started to walk toward the back lot, Kade peeled away from the shadows to follow him and have a word or two about the hazards of pissing off a bunch of vampires.


But before Kade took two steps toward the asshole, headlights came on in the parking lot and a black Hummer rolled out behind Skeeter Arnold. The vehicle gleamed under the weak lights of the lot, and compared to the other clunkers parked at Pete's, Kade would bet his left nut that whoever was driving it wasn't local. When the truck slowed down to deliberately keep pace with Skeeter, who paused to stick his head inside the open passenger-side window, Kade's hackles raised along with his suspicion. What the hell would someone with Hummer-style tastes want with a low-budget loser like Skeeter Arnold? Something was said to the stoner in barely audible tones before he chuckled and eagerly nodded.


"Yeah, sure. For the right price, I might be interested in hearing more about that," he said, then opened the door and hopped inside.


"What the fuck are you up to?" Kade muttered as the vehicle sped away, kicking up clots of snow in its wake.


He had a feeling that whatever transaction might be taking place between Skeeter Arnold and his newfound business associate, it was going to prove to be much bigger than the small-time dealer's usual fare.


A low, hissing heat and a sentimental old country song drifted from the dashboard of Zach's stateissued Blazer as Alex glanced at the side mirror, watching the parking lot at Pete's fade into the darkness behind her.


"Thanks for the ride, Zach."


"No problem. I've got to run out for eggs and hot sauce, anyway. Breakfast of champions, you know. And single thirty-five-year-old cops with no nutrition sense."


Alex gave him a polite smile as they traveled the last of the short two blocks to her house. She felt every bit as relieved as she did foolish for having run off on Kade as she had, but the fact was, she had welcomed the rescue. God knew she'd needed one, before she'd been tempted to do anything more with him right out there in the open, among the pickup trucks and snowmachines.


What had she been thinking, letting a complete stranger put a move on her like that? She wasn't the type to let a guy take advantage of her with empty flattery or free-range hands--and being a young, unmarried woman in the Alaskan interior, she'd known plenty of men who'd tried. Except with Kade tonight, it hadn't felt like any sort of play or move, as smooth as the art of seduction seemed to come to him. And although she'd never so much as seen his face before he showed up yesterday, she had to admit--to herself at least--that he seemed like anything but a stranger to her. Kade seemed to know her--to understand her--on a level that astonished her. He seemed to be able to look deep inside her, into the dark places not even she was brave enough to face, and that's what terrified her about him the most.


It was that unnerving sense of awareness that had made her so desperate to escape him tonight.


"Home sweet home," Zach said, breaking into her thoughts as he rolled to a stop outside her weathered wood-sided house. "Jenna probably told you already, but I got word the AST unit out of Fairbanks should be here later this week." At Alex's nod, he lifted his right arm up onto her seatback and leaned in a bit closer. "I know this can't be easy for you. Hell, it's not easy for me, either. I knew Wilbur Toms and his family for a lot of years. I don't know how this kind of awful thing could have happened to them. But the truth will come out, Alex. It will."


Zach's face, half illuminated by the pale lights of the dash, seemed troubled, cautious. And after her blurt at the town meeting, she could hardly be surprised if his cop instincts told him she was holding something back.


"If there's anything more that you recall about the crime scene, Alex, I need you to tell me, all right?


Anything at all. I'd like to know we're on the same page by the time the Fairbanks unit arrives and starts throwing its weight around town."


"Sure," she murmured. "Yeah, Zach. If I think of anything else, I'll make sure to tell you." Even as she said it, she knew she would speak no more of the track in the snow or the bone-deep fear she harbored that something terrible was on the loose in the frigid wilderness not far from where they sat now. The thing she feared was worse than any kind of danger posed by man or animal. It was monstrous. It would not be stopped by Zach Tucker or a bunch of Staties, and Alex was going to try her damnedest to forget all about it.


She was going to try to forget everything that had happened in the Florida swamps so long ago, too. Best to just let it all go, bury it deep, and move on.


Or move away.


Run.


"Sleep well," Zach said as she climbed out of the Blazer and closed the passenger door. "You call me anytime, you hear?"


She nodded. "Thanks, Zach. And thanks again for the lift." He flashed a quick smile that was there and gone before he put the truck in gear and drove away. As Alex walked toward the front door of the old house she'd shared with her father since she'd been that frightened little girl, uprooted from her entire world--her entire reality--the notion of running away from it all only deepened. It would be so much easier, leaving her memories behind. Starting over somewhere new would be the best way for her to purge the fears that dogged her, that had come back darker now, more dreadful than ever before.


She could not face horror like that again.


Nor could she allow herself to be wooed into a state of false confidence that anyone--even a man like Kade--could stand firm against an evil like the one she knew existed. Getting involved with him on any level was the last thing she needed. Yet that didn't keep her from wondering what he thought of her now, or from wishing she would have apologized before ditching him in the cold.


She tried not to think about the way his mouth fit so perfectly, so electrifyingly hot, on hers. Tried not to think about the way her heart was still racing, her stomach still coiled in an excited knot at the thought of being in his arms. She tried not to imagine what might have happened if Zach hadn't come along when he did, but picturing herself with Kade--maybe naked together in her bed, maybe hastily unzipped and out of control in the middle of Pete's parking lot if they couldn't make it that far--was disturbingly easy to do.


"Oh, this is so not good," she muttered under her breath as she opened the door and walked in to be greeted by eager wolf dog kisses and much happy tail wagging. "I know, Luna, I know ... I'm late. Sorry, baby. It's been a long day for me, too. Come on, let's go take care of you now." Alex busied herself with turning the dog loose in the back to pee while she prepared a bowl of food and fresh water. After Luna was back inside and gobbling her kibble, Alex stripped off her parka and clothes while she headed down the hallway to the bathroom for an overdue, but indulgently long and hot, shower. The heated spray against her bare skin did nothing to quench the lingering heat of Kade's kiss. She soaped up, trying to recall how long it had been since she'd let a man run his hands in slow appreciation over her naked body. How long had it been since she'd been intimate--truly intimate--with someone? The weak moment she'd spent with Zach a few weeks after her father died didn't really count. That had been one night, a couple of hours, really. She'd been an emotional wreck and supposed she'd just needed someone to help her make it all go away, even for a short while.


Is that what she was doing with Kade? Was she latching on to him, manufacturing something between them that wasn't really there--couldn't possibly be there--because of the new trauma she was going through now?


Maybe that's all this was, a temporary feeling of being left adrift and in search of safe harbor. Tonight Kade had told her she'd be safe with him. While part of her believed that--an instinctual, primal part of her-she also knew that the fire he stoked inside her with just a kiss felt anything but safe. She couldn't help feeling that getting close to him might be the biggest risk she'd ever taken. He saw too much about her, knew too much. And tonight he made her feel too much.


Alex groaned as she leaned forward in the tight tub-and-shower combo, bracing her forearm against the slick tiles and resting her head against her arm as the hot water sluiced off her body. She closed her eyes and there was Kade. His chiseled, striking face. His bright, penetratingly intense eyes. The heat inside her was still there, heat that made her whisper his name as she reached down with her free hand to touch herself as him.


She relaxed into a blissful state of resignation, letting the hot water and steam and thoughts of him melt away everything else.


Chapter Ten


Kade hung back in the darkness, watching from within a tight copse of spruce and pine some five hundred yards from where Skeeter Arnold's fancy ride had taken him. Twenty-plus miles out of Harmony, situated near the base of a small mountain and a narrow tributary that spoked off the Koyukuk, the ten-acre patch of land and squat white buildings sat fenced in and gated by fifteen-foot-high steel links and coiled barbed wire. Security lights and cameras were mounted all around the place, and the pair of uniformed guards trying to keep warm in the shack out front were carrying military-grade assault rifles. Kade might have guessed the friendly little spot to be a supermax prison, if not for the weathered metal sign bolted onto the gate that read in chipped black lettering: COLDSTREAM MINING COMPANY. Outside in the yard, a group of workers were busy unloading various-size sealed crates from two large cargo containers parked near what appeared to be some kind of warehouse. Some crates were wheeled into the storage facility, while others were brought into the secured entrance of the mine itself. Curiouser and curiouser, Kade thought, figuring the more than two hours Skeeter had been inside the main office building hadn't been spent interviewing for a job.


Kade was more than eager to question the human about his business here--along with the rest of his entrepreneurial ventures--but if Skeeter's new friends didn't turn him loose in the next few minutes, his interrogation would have to wait for another time. More important was the need to check in with the Order and let them know what he'd uncovered thus far. He also needed to get his head on straight about Alexandra Maguire.


To his complete irritation, his libido perked up with the eager suggestion that he turn back for Harmony and go find her again. Not that it should surprise him that thoughts of her simmered just beneath the surface of his consciousness. Their kiss still had him on fire inside--banked flames, but embers needing only the slightest trace of fuel to ignite.


And that was bad news.


Bad news to want the female so badly, especially when his mission depended on keeping her silent. Deflecting her suspicions, whatever the cost. Erasing the risk she posed to his mission, the Order's goals, and the security of the Breed nation as a whole.


Whatever Alexandra Maguire knew about the killings in the bush--whatever she knew about Kade's kind in general--had to be shut down, and shut down fast.


Had it only been earlier that day that he'd considered seducing the truth out of her, if necessary? Now that plan had a serious kink in it, because if their kiss had shown him anything, it was that letting himself get close to Alex--even in the name of duty--wasn't going to be easy. She had an unanticipated effect on him already, from the mile-wide independent streak she wore like a carefully placed mask, to the threadbare hint of vulnerability he'd glimpsed in her tonight.


No, going back to find Alex at home right now was not an option. Besides, he doubted she'd look favorably on him stalking her after the way she bolted from him at Pete's. Hell, for all he knew, Zach Tucker might still be with her. Obviously they were friends, and no doubt the clean-cut trooper appealed to her stated need to categorize everything into neat compartments. From his domed hat and meticulously pressed uniform to the tops of his precisely laced boots, Officer Tucker projected cut-and-dried, black-and-white, good-guy appeal.


Except something about the man bothered Kade. Partly the apparent ease of his relationship with Alex, although jealousy wasn't something Kade caved to very often. That didn't keep him from gritting his teeth thinking about the guy, or from wondering if maybe a quick trip back to Harmony just to look in on Alex wasn't in order after all. Picking up where they'd left off in Pete's parking lot was optional. Not to mention sorely tempting.


Before the idea could take root any more than it had already, Kade dismissed it with a curse muttered low under his breath.


Bad fucking news--that's what this entire mission was shaping up to be. With that thought dogging his heels, Kade slipped away from his surveillance of Skeeter Arnold and his new high-security pals, and started off in the direction of his father's Darkhaven a few hours away on foot. He could wait out the daylight there, check in with headquarters in Boston about his findings so far, and see if Gideon could turn up anything of interest on the Coldstream Mining Company. Skeeter Arnold had lost all track of time. He rode in the backseat of the black Hummer, surprised to see the clock on the expensive ride's dashboard up front read 6:00 AM.

***

***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com

***