Midnight's Master Page 22


"We don't think the attacker was after Ms. Went." Brooks stared straight at Holly. "When the guards found her, the lights in your office were off." One shoulder lifted. "Kim is your rough height and size, and in the darkness-"


"She looked like me." Another blood mark on her soul. Another innocent hurt because of her.


She was so tired of this. "Why? Why was Kim even in my office? She should've gone home hours ago."


"Looks like she was searching your files." Gyth tilted his head to the left. "Any idea just why she'd be doing that, Storm?"


Searching your files. Holly shook her head. "No." There hadn't been anything important in her desk files. The only case she'd focused on lately was the demon hunter and-


Holly glanced at Niol. Kim had seemed like such a nice, normal girl. Smart. Pretty. Eager to please.


Too eager?


Holly remembered her own interning days at the station over in Birmingham. She'd spent too many hours fetching coffee and not enough chasing stories. She'd been about to go crazy when she'd literally stumbled into an armed robbery and made the evening news.


Her big break-one that had left her shaking.


In those early days, she'd been desperate to make her mark, though. Desperate to get the camera on her and to broadcast her stories.


Had Kim felt that same desperation? It would sure explain a little late-night snooping.


Maybe.


Or maybe there was more to the story.


Either way, Kim hadn't deserved to get her head bashed. Holly licked her lips. "I want to talk to her."


"I'm sure you do." Gyth offered a hint of fang. "But we get first crack at her, once she wakes up." He pinned Niol with his stare. "Anything I need to know about this attack? This woman?"


What did he think Niol knew?


Her lover just shrugged.


"Fucking thought so." Gyth shook his head and turned his attention back to Holly. "Be careful, Storm. Looks to me like you're starting to run out of lives."


Yeah, tell her something she hadn't already figured out. "Do you think this attack is connected to the other killings?" From what they'd said, it sure didn't fit the MO.


"I think you're connected to the killings," Brooks answered. "And I don't believe it was any coincidence that a woman in your office had her head smashed in the same night you went live with your story on the killer."


She'd never been big into coincidences, either. Her gut was in knots. Shouldn't have been Kim.


Shouldn't have been her.


Should have been me.


"You're gonna need protection." Gyth made the announcement with his eyes on Holly.


"She's already got it," Niol responded quietly.


"I hope so-and I hope it's damn good." Gyth rubbed the bridge of his nose. "You wanted the bastard's attention. Well, no doubt, Storm, you've got it now."


Her gaze tracked back to the line of police cars. The swirl of blue lights danced before her eyes.


Yeah, she'd gotten the bastard's attention.


Now if she could just get him, before he hurt anyone else.


I'm so sorry, Kim.


CHAPTER 12


"Mom? Listen, it's Holly…" Like her mom wouldn't recognize her own daughter's voice. Holly juggled her purse, kept her cell phone to her ear with a raised shoulder, and fumbled with her car door. "You might see some stuff on the news-ah, damn-I'm okay ." Talking with her mom's machine sucked, but, generally, it was the way they communicated.


Saying she and her mom were close, yeah, that would have been a flat-out lie. Her mom had all but closed her out emotionally since Peter's death.


"Mom, I need you to call me, all right? We have to talk." Do you know I'm a demon? That Peter was? Why the hell didn't you tell me? "It's really important." She rounded the front of the car.


"And I need you to call me, all right?" Please call me.


The squeal of brakes.


She spun around.


A black sports car gleamed in the morning sunshine. The door shoved open and Zack jumped out.


Zack. Dammit.


One rotten start to the day.


"Call me," she finished in a whisper and managed to shove the phone back into her purse. Then she shook her head, aware that her mouth was hanging open a bit.


The last thing I need right now.


"Holly," he breathed her name and ran toward her, arms up.


As if he'd hug her.


She jerked back. "What are you doing here?"


His arms fell. "I saw the news this morning. Saw what happened at the station. I was…worried about you." His perfect features pinched with concern.


Holly pulled in a quick breath. "I-I'm okay. I wasn't there when-" When poor Kim had gotten slammed with the lamp.


"It could have been you, Holly." His hands fisted. "I told you before, working these stories– it's not safe. "


They'd had this argument more than a few times. "It's my job, Zack."


"Getting fucking targeted by a killer isn't your job!"


The fury caught her off guard. The roar of his rage. "I appreciate your concern," she managed evenly, "but what I do-that's no longer really your business." Carefully, she began to walk around him. "The work I do is important to me, and I'm good at what I do."


He caught her wrist in a grip that was a lot stronger than she remembered. "Don't walk away from me."


"Don't tell me to-"


"I'm worried about you."


His face was inches from hers, his eyes shooting blue and deeper sparks of gold fire at her.


"There's a killer on the streets. Cutting people apart, and you're the reporter who is dogging him.


You don't want that guy as your enemy. Hell, even I realize this is too hot." His hold gentled, just a bit. "That's too much of a risk. You need to back off."


Her eyes narrowed.


"Ah, Ms. Storm?" The voice was strangely muffled, a grating whisper.


Her head turned, titlted back, and she met the stare of a tall, muscled man with a buzz cut, green eyes, and a face hard as stone.


One of her bodyguards. She'd figured they'd stop hanging back after last night. Looked like they'd already stepped up their game.


The guard looked over at Zack. "This guy bothering you?"


"What?" Zack jerked his hand away. "Who the hell are you?" He puffed out his chest and took a step forward. Probably not a good idea, because the move just made the fact that he was a good seven inches shorter and hundred pounds lighter than the Hercules in front of them all that more obvious.


The guard rolled his shoulders and smiled, as if he were really looking forward to some action.


Or kicking Zack's ass.


Holly shook her head. Not here. The last thing she needed was this crap on her front lawn. "I'm fine." She glanced back at Zack. "And Dr. Hall was just leaving."


"What? No, we've got to talk, Holly-"


She stepped away from him. "No. We don't." She'd been polite, sickeningly so, in her mind.


"I'm not hurt. Thanks for checking on me. But, Zack, you don't need to come over here again. My life-and what I do isn't your business." When was he going to get that?


"Because you're screwing that asshole Lapen?"


More rage. Flashing from his eyes and twisting his face. And she'd once thought the guy was so controlled.


"No, although, well, yeah, I am." She didn't stop the smile that curved her lips. "But mostly because we're over, and have been since you screwed Michelle." Her shoes tapped against the steps. "I want you to have a good life, Zack, I really do, but stay out of mine from now on, got it?"


A growl sounded. One that was very, very unlike the staid doctor she'd thought she knew.


Talk about having a close escape.


Marriage to that guy would have been the worst mistake she'd made in years.


Because if she'd stayed with him, she wouldn't have enjoyed the pleasure of…


Screwing that asshole Lapen.


Bruce Piler waited until Holly climbed into her car and the pissed-off doc stomped away. Then he pulled out his cell phone and called the boss.


"Thought you'd want to know," he muttered. "The jerkoff paid her a visit today. I'm thinking maybe he needs a little…intervention." And wouldn't he like to pound the shit out of the asshole who'd looked at him like he was some kind of trash? He'd gotten too many looks like that before and they always pissed him the hell off. "If you want, I'll be more than happy to-"


Bruce stopped, listening to his boss's reply. "Uh, figured you'd handle it yourself." He couldn't quite hide the disappointment, but he knew the boss liked to get his hands dirty every now and then.


The doc wouldn't know what hit him.


Niol waited for the esteemed Dr. Zachariah Hall in the third-floor lab of Brighton Hall.


No classes were in session. No students were in his way. Niol glanced around the classroom, vaguely curious. Sketches of the human body lined the walls. A skeleton dangled near the front of the room. Books were scattered. Lab coats hung from hooks on the walls. The thick scent of bleach filled the air, stinging his nose.


The door creaked open. Zachariah strolled in, his head down, a book in his hands. He skirted around the chairs and lab tables automatically, never glancing up. Niol crossed his arms and waited.


The guy eased to a halt. He looked up-


Niol smiled. "Boo." He'd left his sunglasses in the car and his eyes were demon black.


"Shit!" The dick jumped and the book, anatomy judging by the bloody red pictures, tumbled to the floor. "How did you get in here? How did-"


"Easy there, Z." His smile faded. "I came in through the door. You know, that thing that opens."


The man's face bleached of color. "She sent you, didn't she? Hell, you think I don't know who you are? Everyone knows about you-you're-"


Niol straightened. "Oh? Just what am I?"


Blue eyes jerked toward the door, then back to Niol. "Criminal." A whisper. "Probably a killer.


I've heard folks talk about you, Lapen. I know. "


The guy didn't know jack or shit. Niol pushed away from the counter he'd been lounging against and stalked toward the guy. Old Zack flinched back with every step he took. "You think you know me, huh?" This was the bastard who'd thought to marry Holly?


Too fucking tame. She would have been bored out of her mind with this jerk.


Holly needed fire. Passion. Not a dumbass in an ivory tower coat who'd been stupid enough to let a woman like her slip away.


"I-I know you're trouble." The guy's jaw jerked up. "And Holly doesn't need you in her-"


Niol moved in a flash, coming to stand toe-to-toe with the bastard. He didn't like the sound of Holly's name on his lips, not at all. The hot rush of his power filled him. It would be so easy to rip into this asshole's head. To make him forget he'd ever known Holly.


So easy.


"What Holly doesn't need," Niol gritted, holding on to his control, barely, "is a shithead like you trying to come back into her life."


Hall's lips twisted. "Because she's got you now? You think because you're screwing her-"


"Yes, I am-and enjoying the hell out of it," Niol drawled deliberately.


It was the shithead's control that snapped. In a blink. He attacked, screaming, coming at Niol with fingers fisted.


Humans.


Niol stepped aside, waving his hand to stir the air around his body. Hall missed him, but caught his psychic blast and hurtled into the side of a lab table, moaning at the impact.


Shaking his head, Niol stared down at the human. "I'm here as a courtesy, but if you want an ass-kicking…" He knew his smile was evil, because damn but he liked that thought, "I'll be more than happy to give you one." And he'd even do it old-school style. No power. Just brutal blows until one man fell.


He wouldn't be the one to fall.


Zachariah was already down-and making no move to get up.


"Huh. Kinda thought that'd be your response." He squatted before the jerk. "You had your chance with Holly. You fucked up. Now back the hell away because she's mine now and I don't share. " There was a push with those final words, one that he couldn't control.


Because she is mine.


The human blinked, then nodded slowly.


Satisfied, for now, Niol rose. He strolled toward the door, pushed it open, and ignored the slim brunette who stood on the other side, eyes wide.


He pulled out his cell phone, a new need rising in him.


Niol wanted to see Holly again. Just to make certain that she was all right. Just to…


Fuck, he wanted her.


"Bruce? Yes, that's done. Where is she?"


The response was one he'd expected, but his fingers still tightened around the phone. "Lay back.


I'll be there soon and I'll take over."


Because lately, he didn't feel Holly was safe enough, not unless he had her in his sight.


Zachariah rose slowly after Lapen left. He knew his hands were shaking, but couldn't seem to stop the tremble.


"Zack?" Denise's worried voice squeaked from his right.


Denise. Hell. The girl had been giving him come-and-get-me signals for the last two months. She just wasn't getting that he wasn't interested. Not anymore. "Leave," he snarled. He couldn't deal with her now. Too many girls like her-he'd screwed up his life with them.


One mistake after the other.

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