Midnight's Master Page 10


The guard's timing sucked, but at least their cover was being firmly established. Now the guard wouldn't question his arrival at the station.


Because the guy-Steve-he was a demon. Niol could see right past the glamour and to the real man. He wouldn't have been able to use his compulsion power on Steve. Now, well, it didn't matter.


Niol smiled at the guy. "Couldn't leave without a kiss."


The guy grunted, then gave a low whistle. " Niol. Shit…didn't expect to see you."


Ah, everywhere he went in the city, folks seemed to know him. Sometimes that was good.


"Ms. Storm, you should get out, now. "


Sometimes it wasn't.


Niol raised a brow. "Do we have a problem here?"


The guard swallowed and his Adam's apple bobbed. "N-no."


"Good."


Holly shoved open her door. She stalked around the front of the SUV. The beams of the headlights bounced off her pants.


"Thanks for checking on me, Steve. I'm gonna be heading home now."


Steve inched back.


Holly paused. "Niol, I'll see you later."


Oh, she definitely would.


After giving a nod, she turned away and marched toward her waiting car.


"She's human." A whisper from Steve as he bent to grab his flashlight.


Niol lifted his brows. "Does it matter?"


The guy's jaw worked, then he said, "Holly Storm-she's decent, okay? She's not like those other pricks who just like to see themselves on TV."


Well, well. A warning after all.


"Don't worry about Holly. I'll take care of her."


The guard shoved his flashlight back into the holder on his waist. "That's what I'm afraid of…"


Then he was gone.


And Holly's taillights flickered as she cranked her car.


Niol reached for his phone. Hit speed dial. His contact answered on the second ring. "Everything in place?" He asked as Holly's sporty little red car reversed and headed for the exit.


"Yes, sir."


She braked for a moment, then turned left.


"Make sure she gets home, then keep a guard on her until dawn."


No need for Holly to know about the security. She'd never realize the men were there, unless something happened and she needed them.


Niol didn't believe in taking chances. Not anymore.


He shifted gears, shoving the SUV into reverse. It wasn't even one a.m. yet. The night was still young.


Plenty of time for more hunting.


This time, he'd be going straight to the darkest side of town. The side where demons huddled in smoky rooms, black eyes glassy as they let the drugs run in their blood.


Sam hadn't been the only one to seek oblivion.


Addiction-it was the true devil for demons.


He didn't want Holly in those rooms.


Best to hunt alone.


Fucking demon.


He crouched behind the fence when the black SUV swept by him.


He knew what Holly had been doing in that SUV with that bastard demon, and Niol Lapen was most definitely a demon.


Impure.


His fingers tightened around the camera in his hand.


Who would have thought that Holly would have such a taste for evil? And he'd believed he knew her so well.


That bitch would get what she deserved in the end.


So would Niol.


Man had been created in God's image. Demons belonged only in hell.


And that's exactly where he'd send them. One at a time…


Piece by piece, if need be.


CHAPTER 6


Holly was hot for the demon, no denying it. And she hadn't been hot for a guy since…Zack.


Not that she'd ever actually been hot for Dr. Zachariah Hall, but she'd been interested.


Interested enough to get engaged. Stupid, stupid mistake.


Her gaze darted down to her left hand and to the bare ring finger that stared back at her.


Oh, yeah, stupid.


She'd thrown that ring back at him that last, fateful night. When she'd found him kneeling between the spread legs of one of his female grad students-right in his office.


Prick.


Her teeth ground together. Niol wasn't like Zack. Not. One. Bit.


Zack had seemed so safe and steady.


When he was really a lying asshole.


There was no way Niol would ever be called safe –and she sure liked that, she-


"Uh, Holly?"


She blinked, and found Mac staring at her, a deep furrow between his now-bushy eyebrows.


He'd plucked like a fiend when he was on-air. But no more…


"Hon, you all right? I've been calling your name for the last two minutes."


And she'd been busy with lust and a pity party. Holly straightened behind her desk. "Sorry.


Thinking about a story."


"Ah…" Sounded kinda like a bear's growl. "Good girl." His fingers curled around her open door. "That what you wanted to see me about?"


She pushed against her chair, letting the wheels rock back and forth just a bit. "Yeah, yeah, it was." Holly motioned to the seat across from her. "Mac, I've got a lead."


"Then you've got me." He crossed the room and threw himself into the chair. "Talk."


"Carl Bronx-"


"The guy who almost made you pass out on camera?"


He would remember that.


"Carl was one of my sources."


Another bear's growl.


"And the guy the cops found yesterday-Sam Miters-he was, too."


No growl this time, just silence.


Holly exhaled. That beady stare he was aiming at her had made governors break.


"What the hell are you involved in?"


She bit her lip. Demon business. Did Mac know? The guy was sharp, the sharpest she'd ever met. Surely he'd realized what was happening around him. She wanted to ask him-


"Are you in trouble?" Quieter.


"I don't-I was at the station, okay? I wasn't there when he-" Was carved up. No. "The cops pulled me in to identify Sam's body." She would not think about that scene again. It was bad enough that the images kept slipping into her dreams.


"Do they think you're a suspect?"


Fair question. "Maybe."


More intense staring.


She would not squirm. "Their deaths are linked, Mac, no getting around it. Someone's out there, hunting these men-and no matter what the cops think, it's not me. " Or Niol. "I want to run this story, see if I can-"


"Scare someone," he finished, rubbing his chin.


"Yes."


"You scare the wrong person, you might just find yourself in a killer's sights."


I know. "These men deserve justice."


"That's for the cops." Now his fingertips tapped on the arm of the chair. The guy moved a lot when he was in his deep-think mode.


"They're looking in the wrong place for this guy. The trail's gonna get cold. I want to go on the air."


"With what? We've already covered the killings-"


But they hadn't covered the link between the two men. They hadn't been able to talk about the vicious attacks, the mutilation. "Just let me run with this. Schedule me a slot and let me run." Her voice wasn't desperate. Okay, maybe it was.


He exhaled. "The cops haven't talked to the media yet."


No, and they weren't planning to have a chat fest. She knew the PD wanted to bury this story, and it was an easy bury. Not like the high-profile killings that had plagued the city months before.


A shiver slid over her.


The office down the hall waited, empty and silent, because of those killings. The door always stayed shut. Just walking past that locked door gave her the creeps.


"Get 'em to give you a statement, on camera, and you can run any damn place you want with this story."


A smile broke her lips. "Thanks, Mac!" Sure, getting the interview would be a bitch, but she'd played nice with the cops-now it was their turn to play nice with her. "You won't regret this-"


"Better not."


A knock on the door frame.


Her head tilted. "Kim? What is it?"


One of the interns stood in the doorway, a manila envelope in her hand. Pretty, tall, slim, and only twenty-two, Kim was one that Holly knew had an eye out for her future.


"This was dropped off at the front desk for you." She stepped forward, the envelope outstretched. "I don't even remember when it was delivered-sorry, Holly. I think it might have gotten misplaced. It was under some papers…"


Holly took the envelope. "It's all right." Why was her stomach knotting? Her fingers trembling just the faintest bit?


Because there wasn't a return address on the envelope. Just her name, scrawled across the front in big, loopy letters-a script she'd seen before.


Her index finger slid under the top flap and jerked back. She felt the sting of a paper cut, saw the well of blood, but kept ripping anyway.


Then the picture fell into her hands.


Niol, sitting in his SUV, watching her walk in front of the headlights.


A piece of paper fluttered onto her desk.


The impure will die.


"Holly?" Mac jumped to his feet. "What's wrong?"


She was supposed to go live in less than an hour.


Can't.


Holly grabbed the photo and slip of paper-and shoved them back into the envelope. Her index finger pulsed. "I've got to leave, Mac."


Kim was in the doorway now, shifting from her left foot to her right. Her black hair fluttered around her shoulders. "Everything okay, Ms. Storm?" Her blue eyes were wide.


No. "Get me the security tapes from today. Have them waiting on me when I get back. I want to know exactly who left this envelope." If the bastard's face was on the tape, she'd have him.


The impure will die.


Whoever the sick freak was, he knew just what Niol was.


"Holly?" Mac demanded again.


But she was already grabbing her bag and brushing past him. "Mac, I swear, I wouldn't do this if-" It wasn't a matter of life and death. "Run the footage from yesterday's interview-okay? It'll cover my time."


"What the hell?"


"I-I have to go." She fumbled for her cell phone. Dialed the number Niol had given her. Listened to the relentless ring.


Die.


"I have to go…" She repeated even as the voice mail picked up. Then she was running into the hallway and muttering into the phone, "Niol, when you get this message-watch your ass! You'd better-"


The damn thing disconnected.


Her heels rapped against the tiled floor. She shuddered when she passed the locked door on the left.


And Holly realized she couldn't get to her demon fast enough.


There was a line leading into the club, a long snaking line full of men and women, some folks dressed up, some in tattered jeans. It was Friday night, and though it was still way early by party standards-not even ten-it looked like folks were ready for a wild ride in Paradise.


Holly passed the line and headed straight for the doors-


And was brought up short by a giant with tattoos swirling over his body.


"And just where do you think you're goin', princess?" His hand landed heavily on her shoulder.


Behind her, she heard muttering, and caught a woman's voice loud and sharp, yelling, "That bitch knows there's a line!"


She ignored the crowd and focused on the bouncer. Really, really big bouncer. The muscles of his arms were so big they looked like they were in danger of bursting. And, Jesus, what was the guy? Like seven foot?


Holly rolled her shoulders, dislodging his hand. The giant raised a brow and pointed toward the end of that long, long line. "At the end, princess."


No way. "I need to see Niol."


The lines around the guy's eyes tightened, just a bit. "You and everyone else."


She rocked on her heels. "Don't you guys have a list or something? Check it. Niol gave me a pass in here, anytime I want." Okay, not really, but he should have. The cover story had been his idea and surely the guy had bothered to tell his muscle that his girlfriend would be dropping by-


"Oh, we've got a list." A smaller man with greasy black hair sidled up to him. His nostrils flared, and he said, "Tell us your name and-"


"Holly Storm-and I don't have time for this shit. I need to see Niol, and I need to see him now. "


Big and mean and small and greasy weren't going to intimidate her.


No, someone else had already done the intimidating job, and she wasn't stopping until she made sure that freak bastard hadn't gotten to Niol.


The bouncers shared a brief glance, then the giant opened the door. "Sorry, Ms. Storm. I hadn't seen you here before-didn't realize you were…you."


She wasn't particularly surprised he hadn't recognized her from the news-most folks didn't.


Maybe it was the fact that she didn't have a microphone in her hand that threw 'em off, or maybe the bouncers weren't the news-watching types.


Holly managed a nod and stepped forward. So Niol had told his goons to give her free rein. Nice.


"Oh, what the hell ?"


Holly ignored the woman's shriek behind her as she stormed inside. The crowd was just as thick inside the double doors. Bodies packed tight. Music blaring.


Where was Niol?


His office was in the far back. She shoved her way through the men and women, humans and Other. Holly ignored the occasional flash of fang and the scrape of claws, moving as quickly as she could. Her heart seemed to pound in fast rhythm with the band.


Then she was at the door marked PRIVATE . Raising her hand and pounding. "Niol? Niol!"

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