Midnight's Master Page 21


Time to cut through the shit. "Why were you running?" Simple question. He knew they'd been fleeing, that was one of the reasons he'd had to pounce so hard on the men.


The two looked at each other. Didn't speak.


"Why. Were. You. Running?" Scared men ran. So did guilty men. He didn't think these guys were guilty of murder. They didn't have the look for it, but he'd been wrong before.


"S-someone's d-demon hunting, man." Ted. For his size, he seemed to scare easier. "You know th-this sh-shit." His watery eyes went to Holly. "You know."


She inclined her head.


"F-first Carl. Shit." He shuddered and squeezed his eyes shut. The ropes were on the ground at his feet-feet that were moving back and forth in a fast tap.


"We heard-we heard what the bastard did to him," Sean said quietly. He swallowed, and the thick ball of his Adam's apple bounced. "Then we heard about Julia-"


"She never hurt nobody!" A snarl from Ted. Hmmm…hadn't quite expected that flash of fury.


"No." Niol pitched his voice low. "I don't imagine she did." The killer would pay particularly for Julia. Sweet girl. Sad smile.


"When we heard about her, we knew we could be next." The words from Sean came fast, nearly tumbling over one another.


"How did you hear about Julia?" Holly's head was cocked, her gaze watchful. "Her body was just discovered by the cops."


"She's been gone for days ." Sean nodded, that weak chin lifting. "Then we caught word tonight that the cops had found a woman all cut up, just like Carl-"


"Knew it-it had to be J-Julia…" Ted's hands knotted.


The smaller demon sniffed. "The people who were close to Carl, don't you see? We're gettin' picked off! That bastard knows what we are. He was watchin' just like Carl said and-"


"What did Carl say?" Holly's voice cut through the tumble of the demon's words.


Sean's mouth hung open for a moment.


Niol took a step forward. "Answer."


"He was being watched." Much slower now and hushed. "Saw a woman tailing him a few times."


"A woman? Did he say what she looked like?" Holly's voice vibrated with tension.


"She was pretty. Young. Short blond hair. Curly." He shook his head. "Said he caught a glimpse of her a few times, and didn't think anything of her at first…"


"Un-until the n-note appeared," Ted said, his breathing came harder, faster.


"The note?" Holly asked. Tension had her body strung tight. Her brows furrowed. Niol had the urge to reach for her, to stroke her shoulders and ease that terrible tension.


Not the time. Not the place.


"A note…and a picture arrived." Sean's lips pressed together and then he gritted, "A fuckin' threat, that's what it was. Some shit about getting rid of the impure-"


"We're the im-impure!" Ted erupted, shoving to his feet.


Niol locked a hand on the guy's shoulder and shoved him back down. "The hell we are." He was so tired of that demons-are-evil crap. "The bastard out there slicing up demons-he's the impure one." The fucked-up one. "We're just the jerks who've gotten blamed for messed-up shit for centuries." And he was tired as all hell of being persecuted.


"Carl thought the woman left the note?" Holly's voice seemed too calm after Ted's furious intensity.


"Yeah." Sean nodded. "Her-or that guy Carl caught her with."


Now they were getting someplace. "Tell me about him," Niol ordered.


Another bounce of that Adam's apple. "Carl didn't see him well, and only caught a glimpse of the guy once, right before he found that damn note."


"What did he say about the guy?" Holly shifted from one foot to the other.


"He was tall. Had on a big coat." A helpless shrug. "That he'd kick the bastard's ass if he saw him again?"


Only he hadn't gotten to give the bastard that promised ass-kicking.


"W-we don't know any-anything else." Ted's voice was calmer now, but his eyes were pure black. Niol didn't take his hand off the guy's shoulder. Not yet. That demon was wrapped way too tight and ready to explode.


"Yeah, we do." Sean's eyes flickered between gray and black. "We know if we don't get our asses out of town, we're next."


"Why?" Holly's eyes narrowed. "Did you get one of those notes, too?"


The guy went even paler. "Not yet and shit, I'm not staying around to get one! Fucking death card. Found one at Julia's. She had one, Carl had one-you get that shit, you die. "


Holly turned her head and met Niol's stare. He could see the worry. The fear.


He released the demon. Caught Holly's shoulders. "Nothing's going to happen to me."


"Ah…shit." Sean's horror-filled whimper. "The guy's marked you, man? You? "


Niol glared at the punk. "I'm not scared of a human with a death wish."


" I am."


Yes, that was why the two had been breaking their necks to get out of town.


"Running isn't going to solve this problem." He didn't think the men were targets, at least not yet. Pity, he could have used some bait.


"It'll solve my problem," Sean snapped. "I ain't watchin' them bury my friend. I ain't gonna sit there and watch 'em lower his coffin into the ground-"


"Hell, n-no." Ted seconded and looked like he might vomit. "Not Carl. He was my b-best friend since we were s-six . I won't w-watch him-"


"Niol." Holly's voice was so quiet he almost didn't hear her. Then he glanced back into her eyes.


Saw the plea.


Aw, fuck.


Help them. Her lips moved, but she didn't speak.


Fuck.


His back teeth ground together. He'd planned to cut the demons loose, let them slink away as fast as they could, and get on with the hunting.


He'd put out the word to watch for the blond woman and see if anyone else had noticed her hanging around Carl.


But his money wasn't on the woman for the kills. Maybe she'd been a lookout. Maybe she'd been some kind of lure-


The killer Niol wanted was the man. He knew it. The way Carl and Sam had been taken down-


and even poor Julia-that much strength came from a man. The wounds had been too deep. Too hard.


Yes, it was the man he wanted and the man he'd find.


Only a matter of time.


Especially since it looked like he was next on the bastard's list. Looked as if he'd be the bait.


"Niol." Holly's whisper. A sexy sound, really. Breathy. One that stroked over his skin and made his cock twitch. He remembered the feel of silk sheets against his flesh and warm, soft woman around his body.


He really didn't have time for this shit with the demon duo. Hell, what was he? The freaking guardian of the demons? He was looking for the asshole who was slicing and dicing them but-


Her hand pressed against his shoulder.


He clenched his teeth and gritted, "I'll put guards on you. They'll get you out of town and to someplace safe." But that was all that he was doing for them. Big green eyes or not.


Thank you. Her lips moved quickly.


Niol grunted.


The duo blinked at him.


"Are you-are you shitting us?" Sean asked suspiciously.


If only. Niol shook his head.


"I-I thought y-you were g-gonna k-kill us…" Ted's stark voice.


Holly sighed. "Oh, come on, what gave you that idea?"


Sean glanced at the ropes near his feet.


"Hmm…let's just call that even, shall we?" She said brightly. "No need to dwell on a bit of, ah, miscommunication."


"Miscommunication, my ass." Sean's eyes were on Niol.


He could almost like the little prick. Kinda reminded him of Carl. Niol stared back at the demon, mouth shut. There'd been no miscommunication, but he didn't worry for a minute that these guys were going to go running to the cops. As a rule, demons didn't handle things that way.


"G-give us the g-guards…" Ted was still shaking. Despite his size, obviously he was the weaker of the two. "And I-I'll fuckin' f-forget everything!"


"Good plan," Niol murmured.


Holly's fingers tightened around him. "Niol…"


He caught her hand and pressed a quick kiss into the center of her soft flesh.


He heard the sharp inhalation of her breath, saw the flare of her pupils. He'd played the good guy for her. Hard, that. They'd just see how much she appreciated his efforts when they were alone and-


A heavy fist banged on the door upstairs.


"Niol! Problem!" Thomas's voice.


And Thomas didn't consider many things to be in the "problem" category.


He pointed to the male demons. "Stay here."


Their nods were instant.


His gaze slanted back to Holly. "And you-"


"No way." Her chin was up. "Whatever's happening up there, well, I'm gonna be by your side."


By your side.


When was the last time a woman had said that to him?


Fucking never.


He kissed her. Hard and deep. Lips taking. Tongue thrusting.


This woman was more dangerous than he'd thought.


"Niol! " Another punch with a fist, this time, it was strong enough that the door groaned as if in agony.


He broke away from Holly and took the stairs three at a time, and he wondered just what hell was waiting for him in Paradise.


The man moved too fast. Holly hopped up the stairs as quickly as she could, but she was still six steps away from the top when Niol shoved open the door.


She caught a glimpse of Thomas's tense face.


Uh, oh. The guy looked nervous and when a demon as big as he was got nervous, that couldn't be a good thing.


She scampered up the steps.


"What the hell is going on?" Niol's hands were on his hips. His gaze scanned the crowd and so did hers. Other than the two vampires who were enjoying a quick drink-Christ, but that skeeved her out-things looked, um, normal. Normal for Paradise, anyway.


"Picked up a call on the police monitor." Thomas's voice had her glancing back at him, her eyes narrowed.


The guy was sweating a bit.


He glanced at her. "There's trouble at Flash Five."


Her heart lurched in her chest. "What kind of trouble?" It was the middle of the night. The place should have been all but deserted. Security guards, sure. A skeletal staff to monitor the phone lines but-


He pointed one beefy finger at her. "According to what I just heard, you were attacked."


"What?"


"Obviously, someone's wrong about the victim." His voice was a rumble. "But the body was found in your office. A female body and-"


The body was found… "Someone was killed at the station?" That wasn't possible. They'd stepped up security and-


In her office. Her face went numb as understanding dawned.


You were attacked.


No, no, she wasn't the one who'd been hurt, but it sure was a safe bet she'd been the intended target.


Only someone else had gotten caught in the killer's sights.


Holly took off for the door at a run.


All-too-familiar blue lights swirled in front of News Flash Five. Reporters were out en masse.


Cameras rolling as the competition cashed in on another Flash Five tragedy.


Dammit. This was not-


"Easy, Holly." Niol's voice in her ear. He'd caught her just outside Paradise. Driven her here.


Probably a good thing, that. Her hands had been shaking a bit too much for control of the steering wheel.


I have to find out who's been attacked.


In my office.


"There's Gyth," he continued quietly. "We'll figure out-"


Gyth looked up right then and zeroed in on her. Then he started stalking toward them, fast, and the cop sure didn't look happy.


Good. She wasn't feeling particularly happy, either.


Scared. Furious.


Not happy.


Gyth pushed past the line of cops and reporters. In seconds, he stood in front of them, arms crossed over his chest, a muscle jerking along his jaw. "When I got the call about a woman's body being found in Office B-12, I fucking thought you'd bought it, Storm."


A ripple of movement beside her as Niol slid forward. "Watch the tone, asshole, and just tell us what's happening here."


The cop's brows rose. "Don't know this time? And here I thought you were always one step ahead."


" What happened? " The fury in her voice surprised even her.


Gyth glanced at her again, and a line appeared on his forehead as he squinted, saying, "You look different-"


"What she looks is mighty fine for an attack victim." Brooks. She hadn't even seen the guy sidling up to them. He motioned with his hand, indicating they needed to step back and, "Away from the vultures."


She was one of those "vultures" and if she hadn't already had so much crap on her mind, she would have torn into him.


Later.


They stepped away from the crowd.


"Kim Went was found by one of the station's security guards. She was on the floor of your office-"


"Dead?" Niol's emotionless voice.


A shake of Gyth's head. "Alive."


Holly finally took a deep breath. Thank God. "I don't understand. What was she-"


"Someone hit her, hard, looks like with the lamp on your desk. Bashed the hell out of her head, but the EMTs say she should pull through. She's concussed, but after a few days in the hospital, they expect her to recover."

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