Midnight's Master Page 26

Jon looked up, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth. His eyes changed as he stared at her, she could see it. The bravado came back. Doesn't think I'm a threat. She knew what the punk was going to say even before he snarled-

"F-fuck off, bitch, you-"

His words ended in a gasp and his face began to turn purple.

His hands clawed at his throat as he fought for breath.

"Don't ever talk to her like that, asshole."

Holly glanced up at Niol. Lines bracketed his mouth. Fury covered his face. "Give him a breath,"

she ordered softly, her stomach so knotted she ached.

One black brow rose, but she heard Jon take a wrenching breath. "Good." She held Niol's stare a moment longer, then glanced back at the punk. "If you want to keep breathing, answer my questions."

What was this? Holly wondered. Good demon, bad demon? Whatever worked. Time was running out.

A frantic nod.

"Let him keep breathing." Her hands were clenched, her nails digging into her palms. The pavement bit into her knees as she knelt before Jon. "You don't know what you've gotten into, do you?"

"H-how is-is h-he-" Jon broke off, shaking his head. "N-not p-possible-"

"Trust me, it's possible." Lambs to the slaughter. Niol was right. The odds were sure looking good that ol' Jon was human and way out of his league. "Someone sent you to torch Paradise." To rouse the beast. "Who." Not a question, and if the guy truly wanted to draw another strong breath, he'd better answer.

Holly wasn't particularly in the most caring mood. The guy had just tried to burn down the building she'd been inside. If Niol hadn't been there-

No. Not going to think about that.

Sometimes it definitely paid to have the big, psychic badass as your lover.

And as your muscle-because Jon started talking, fast, the stutter all but leaving his voice as he said. "Woman. Found us at M-Myer's."

Myer's. She knew that place. A run-down bar near MU. Frequented most often by freshmen with false IDs.

"Offered us a g-grand apiece, cash, to burn the bar-"

And the guys had what-jumped at the chance to become pyros? "You didn't know who owned Paradise?" She had a suspicion but-

"Hell, no, why would that matter?"

Why, indeed?

"T-told us to go in the day, when no-no one was t-there."

But she and Niol had been there. Chance?


Such a deadly sin.

"Weren't g-gonna hurt anybody."

Just burn down the bar.

"Give me a name." Niol's voice was still thick with barely banked fury, but at least he was letting the guy breathe okay now. That was an improvement.

So the punks hadn't meant to kill them. Just destroy Paradise.

Better, but not the most reassuring thing she'd ever heard.

"I-I didn't get her name." More blood shot from his mouth. Hmm…the guy might have lost a tooth somewhere. "Just her money."


"Tell me exactly what the woman looked-"

The screech of tires. The slam of doors.

Holly didn't need to look over her shoulder to know that the cops had arrived. The siren shrieking full-on in her ears told her that time had run out.


Fury was a red haze that colored his vision. Niol tasted the ashes of rage on his tongue and knew that his control was razor thin.

Holly could have been killed.

If the assholes had attacked while he hadn't been around-

I knew she'd be dangerous to me. Fuck me, I knew.

He couldn't afford this kind of weakness.

Not now. Not ever.

A slim black casket, gleaming in the afternoon light. Nina had been inside. Her laughter gone, her spirit stolen.

Niol swallowed.

Gillian. His half sister. He hadn't even known about her, not until just a few months before her death. Seemed his mother had started a whole new life after she'd ditched his ass.

But, Gillian had come looking for him. Wanted him.

Then he'd found her that cold dawn…

In her red dress. The dress I'd bought for her. Blood soaking the dress and pooling all around her slender body.

He hadn't been able to keep her safe, either.

All his so-called power and two women he'd cared for were dead.

His gaze locked on Holly.

Not three. Not fucking three.

"You'll destroy everything, every damn body! I don't want you near me, got it? I don't want you near me!" His mother's last words to him. Screamed in her fury.

"Niol, pull it back." The clipped man's voice caught him off guard. He flinched. He knew that voice.

Detective Colin Gyth.

The shifter. He'd killed the murdering bastard who'd attacked his Gillian. For all their differences, and there were a hell of a lot of 'em, Niol owed the wolf a debt.

"Pull. It. Back."

It took Niol a moment to understand. He tore his eyes away from Holly and glanced up at the sky. Toward the swirling clouds of red and black. The howl of the wind reached him and lightning crackled across the sky.

Too much power. His curse.

He inhaled slowly. She's alive. Not like the others.

But she could have been dead, because she'd been with me.

So damn arrogant. He'd thought he could keep her safe from everything out there.

He should have known. He hadn't saved the others, and now, he was causing the threat to her.

A cool hand against his. Soft. Feminine. "They didn't get us." Holly's voice. Strong.

But she wasn't strong.

A demon, but as weak as a human.

Gillian had been a low-level demon, too. Fragile.

So easy to destroy.

Not her blood. I won't have Holly's blood on my hands, too. The stains on his hands had already soaked through the skin.

Another deep breath.

She stroked the flesh on his arm.

His eyes stayed locked on those clouds. Control. He wouldn't lose it now. Not in front of the cops who'd fire at him if his power went wild.

Fire and maybe hit Holly.

A long, thick arc of lightning, a blast of thunder, followed by a heavy stench in the air-fire and fury.

Can't. Love. Her.

Deep breath.


Her fingers on him.

Niol squeezed his eyes shut. "Get the bastards away from me if you want them to keep livin'."

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"We need to get the Jaws of Life out here!" Brooks. The one Cara mistakenly had taken to mate.

Cara. So like her sister Nina.

A succubus who loved.

Dangerous, that.

Niol grunted and metal screeched.

"Not anymore we don't," Gyth muttered and there was a clatter as the broken side door hit the ground.

He could hear someone babbling, pleading. The asshole kid.

His eyes opened. Narrowed on his victim. "I see you again, you're dead."

"Ah, Niol, you can't threaten someone in front of cops-"

Slowly, he turned his attention to the human. What did Cara see in him?

"These jerks just tried to kill us!" Holly's fierce voice. She stepped in front of him.

In front of him.

Niol blinked.

"They made molotov cocktails and threw 'em into the bar. Their van crashed when they were hightailing it out of-"

"Lucky coincidence," Gyth said, face straight.

"-here, but this guy-" Holly charged right on, pointing her finger at Mr. Sobbing, "Confessed and right before you came up with sirens blazing-"

Niol finally glanced around at the scene. Fury was settling, for now, and he could think past the immediate need to destroy.

For the moment .

Two patrol cars had braked nearby. Their lights still blazed, doors hung open, and uniformed cops stood on alert, guns drawn.

Then there was Gyth's black Jeep. Right in front of them.

"-he was going to tell us about the woman who hired him to torch the bar."

"Was he?" Gyth, who'd had his own gun drawn, holstered the weapon and jerked the kid to his feet. "Then he can tell us all."

The kid stared at him, at the hint of fang Gyth had let slip loose. Then he looked back at Niol.

His eyes widened and then rolled back into his head.

He sagged in the wolf shifter's arms, out cold.

Lucky bastard.

Niol started walking away from the cops, fast.

Because he couldn't be around the fools in that van a minute longer.

And he had new prey to hunt because he'd slipped into that punk's mind in that one precious instant, gone in hard and fast and deep. His probe had been so brutal he'd made the jerk pass out.

Lucky . It would have been nice if the kid had suffered more from his psychic push, but he'd get that blood punishment later.

For now, Niol had gotten exactly what he wanted.

He'd seen the woman. A perfect image.

Tall and slender. Hair bundled under a long black scarf. Golden skin. Dark sunglasses perched on high cheekbones. Rounded jaw. Thin lips. A small black mole on the side of her neck.

New prey.

I'm coming.

He'd find out just why the bitch had targeted him.

The cops got out of Niol's way. No one moved to stop him. Hell, no one seemed to move at all until Niol was gone.

Holly crossed her arms over her chest, feeling chilled, and, well, abandoned.

Niol hadn't even glanced back at her when he'd marched across the street.

"Storm, you just keep turning up in bad places." Gyth stepped closer to her as he shook his head.

Behind him, Brooks and the uniforms checked out the wounded pyros.

One of the cops had his radio out as he called for an ambulance.

Oh, yeah, they'd need that ambulance.

"I was in the bar, minding my own business." Just finishing up some great sex. "Then these jerkoffs decided to get fire crazy."

He crept even closer. So close that when he spoke again, she knew the others couldn't hear his faint words. "Real stupid to go after Niol with fire."

It was. "They're humans, aren't they?"

His nostrils flared. "Smell that way." His gaze trapped hers. "But then, so do you."

There was a definite question there, one she was going to ignore. "I don't think they know exactly who …" What. "They're dealing with."

"I'd say that's shit straight." One brow rose. Those blue eyes were brilliant with intensity. "And I'd say it's a good thing we arrived when we did. Otherwise, I think our torchers would be dust."

It was hard not to flinch at that. No denying that Niol had been enraged, but he'd held on to his control.

She'd seen him fight to hold it.

She'd also seen him walk away from her without a backward glance and that had hurt.

"Why-" Holly stopped and cleared her throat. Because she'd sounded hoarse, from the wind, of course. It had been blowing like a mini-tornado moments before. Had to be from the wind. "Why were you in the area, detective?"

He scratched the bridge of his nose. There was a groan from the man still in the front seat of the van. Holly glanced over at him. Brooks had his index finger in front of the guy's eyes and the cop was getting him to track the movement.

That one seemed to be coming around, finally.

"I was coming to see Niol."

Her attention turned back to Gyth.

"Had a few questions for your lover," he continued in that same near-whisper voice.

"What kind of questions?" Surely he wasn't back to suspecting Niol-

"Questions about Kim Went and about the fact that I'm pretty sure she's a demon."

Her breath came out, fast. "What?"

"Didn't you know?"

She would have been blind and deaf to have missed the suspicion from the good detective. "How do you know?" Holly asked instead. Niol had said he didn't know, how had-

His lip curled. "Sources, Storm. Sources."

Well, well.

"And I have it from one of the best sources in the city that Kim Went is a demon."

"So you came to ask Niol-"

"If he knew she was one of his brethren…and if the attack at News Flash Five was really aimed at you-"

No way to stop the flinch that time.

"Or at her. Because we all know we've got a demon-hunter on the streets."

And a missing demon now. One already weakened, who could so easily stumble into the hunter's grasp.

His heart thudded in his ears. A hard, blasting beat. Niol yanked open the door of Paradise and stormed inside. The stench of burnt wood and plastic had his nose twitching and a snarl rising to his lips.

Should have ripped the fools apart.

But she'd stopped him. She'd-

The floor creaked behind him.

Tired of this shit.

Niol moved in a blur and grabbed the idiot behind him, locking his fingers around a thick neck.

He shoved the guy-yeah, it was a man-up against the closest wall and held him pinned with his steely grip.

"I'm not in the fucking mood for visitors," he snarled. The rage was still too close to the surface.

His control too thin. And this dumbass had just picked the wrong moment to stumble into Paradise-

"G-girl…y-you…w-want…" The man, some guy with a receding hairline and bulging eyes, struggled to speak as his face began to redden. Hazel eyes shot to black.

Demon. He'd known that from the first glance.

But the fellow's words had him pausing and his grip eased, just a bit. "What girl?"

The demon sucked in a sharp pull of air. His feet dangled off the floor by a good ten inches. Niol wasn't even straining.

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