Midnight's Master Page 33


"Stay here. You'll be safe." He kissed her because he had to. "I'll be back before you know it."


Niol started to rise.


Holly caught his arm. "I heard what Cara told you."


Cara was like family to him, but right then, he could have easily kicked her curvy ass from the city.


"Don't do this for me. Don't hurt innocents for me. I don't want that-dammit, Niol, that's not who you are-"


"Isn't it?" Maybe it was time they both stopped pretending. Nice little fantasy, but here's ugly reality. "You need to see me, Holly. All of me." Before it was too late for her.


Maybe it already was. He stared into her eyes and saw straight to her soul.


I don't deserve her.


But he'd fight like hell on fire for her. "Stay here, Holly-"


"While you go out and fight the monster in the dark?"


He was the monster in the dark. "You can't come with me this time."


She pushed up on her elbows. "I thought we were partners on this case, remember? The whole point was that you were supposed to give me access to your world."


Not this part. "Is that what we are now?" He asked softly. "Partners, just working on the case?"


Her pupils flared at that. "You tell me."


Stubborn woman. He even liked that. "I agreed to help you because I wanted you in my bed."


Couldn't get more stark and honest than that.


She wet her lips. "I came to you because I wanted your help…and because I wanted you in my bed." Her chin was up. "After the shit hit the fan-"


Not delicate, his Holly. He didn't want delicate.


"I stayed around because I wanted you ."


Good that, he liked-


"But we're still partners, Niol, and partners don't abandon each other."


He stiffened. "I'm not abandoning you."


"Let me come with you then, let me-"


His gaze fell away from hers. Because when he admitted this, he couldn't stare into her eyes.


"You make me weak."


Silence.


"I think of you too much, worry about you. I-I can't do that when I hunt." When he used his powers, like he planned tonight, when he went into the darkness so far, there was no room for inattention.


"Niol…"


His stare returned to her. "You're hurt, Holly. You have to heal, and I can't hunt tonight with you." No more to say. She might be pissed at him, but there was no choice.


He wouldn't risk her.


Niol headed for the door.


"Don't hurt an innocent, Niol."


Glancing back over his shoulder, he forced a smile. "Love, there aren't any of those left anymore."


Not true.


He was staring straight into the soul of an innocent right then. One who'd never touched evil, well, not until she'd touched him.


Sleeping wasn't an option for her. After Niol left, Holly paced the floor of his house. Upstairs, downstairs, as she went crazy.


She called the hospital to check on Kim. Of course, they told her nothing. Not that she blamed the staff, really. She knew Kim was being protected and information on her had to be kept close to the vest.


Before she and Niol had left the hospital, they'd stopped with Brooks to check on Kim.


Still unconscious and the doctors had no idea when or if she'd wake up.


Holly rubbed her eyes. They were so grainy at this point that they hurt, but she couldn't stop thinking about Niol or about the bastard who'd attacked her.


A man. Tall, broad-shouldered.


But she'd heard a woman's voice calling for help, and Kim had been attacked by a woman.


Holly didn't think for even a moment that the two incidents weren't related. Coincidence-hell, no, she wasn't buying that anymore. So that meant-


Either the woman had hired another guy to do her dirty work for her, a distinct possibility…


Or maybe…just maybe she wasn't looking at a single killer.


Her breath hitched.


A team. She'd seen this before. In her last big murder case, a woman had been helping the killer lure in his victims. They'd been a bloodthirsty team, right until the end-when the male had decided it was time to ditch his partner in crime.


He'd ditched her the nice, old-fashioned way. He'd left her broken body for the police to find.


A team. The more she thought about the idea, the harder her heart pounded.


The shrill ring of her cell phone had Holly jumping. She whirled around and saw her bag on the nearby countertop.


Holly answered on the fifth ring.


"Dammit, Storm, where the hell are you?" Mac's voice.


Her blood chilled. She didn't trust him, not anymore. "I'm resting because it's the middle of the night. Where the hell are you?"


"At Kent Towers downtown. We've got a bomb threat and I need your ass down here to get this story! The idiots from Channel Seven are already on the scene. Ben's on his way but I need you here, Holly."


"Get someone else." Don't trust him. He'd sent her to the house on Nemoy. He'd warned her.


Okay, she was pretty sure he'd threatened her, too.


" There is nobody else. You're the best damned reporter at the station and you know it! Christ, look, I'm sorry for stepping on your toes, earlier, okay? You wanna date the king of all demons-


fine, date the king of all demons. Just get your ass down here!" The scream of a siren sounded in the background. "Fuck, bomb squad is here. I need you. "


He sounded just like the old Mac. Not dark and threatening. Just…Mac.


This is my job.


"They're gonna scoop me, Holly. Come on…"


But I can't take a chance with my life . "I'll be there, but I'm not coming alone." She'd take the guards and they'd better stay close this time.


"Fine-bring a damn entourage, I don't care! Just get your ass over here!"


Click.


Sure didn't sound like a man bent on her death.


Holly grabbed her keys and rushed for the door.


"This is Holly Storm, reporting live from Kent Towers, where bomb squad members have just wrapped up an intensive four-hour search of the building. No bombs were found…" A good thing in her mind. "But investigators aren't closing the case yet. Now their attention will turn to tracking the person who made the false claim." And throwing his ass in jail. "I'll be back with more live news later in the day." When most of the folks would actually be awake . "Back to you in the newsroom, Steve…"


She waited a beat until she got the clear from Ben, then her shoulders dropped.


For the last two hours, she'd been running on fumes. Those fumes were gone now and she'd be crashing in the next half hour.


Where was Niol?


Maybe he'd be back home when she got there.


As long as he's safe.


Mac was gone. He'd cleared out when word had first come down about the hoax. The guy had been assured that he wouldn't be scooped, and, satisfied, he'd taken off.


And left her and Ben to carry the story.


Poor Ben looked like he'd been beat, hard.


But, then again, he had.


"Get some sleep, Holly," he said and she realized she probably looked the same way.


Her side throbbed.


"I'll see you tonight at the station." He dragged his camera away.


Her guards stepped forward.


"Holly!"


She winced at the call, recognizing the voice instantly. Not what I need.


She turned and caught sight of Zack. His face was flushed as he hurried toward her.


"Your mother called and told me what happened-"


Her mother had done what?


"When I found out you were here, I had to come-"


"Give me a minute," she told the guards. Just seeing the man made her head throb.


Some of the other reporters were still around and she sure didn't want them hearing this conversation. The entrance to a parking garage was just a few feet away. She maneuvered Zack that way. The guards could still see her there, but the reporters wouldn't be able to overhear this little talk.


The sun had just begun its ascent and the pink colors from the sky spilled a few steps inside the cavelike entrance of the garage.


He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her close. "You could have been killed."


"But I wasn't." She pushed him away. "Zack, stop doing this, okay? I am not your concern anymore."


A muscle flexed in his jaw. "I want you to be."


The guy was thick. "I'm with someone else now, Zack, and I'm happy with him." True, and that realization stopped her. They were neck-high in trouble, but when she was with Niol, she was…happy.


Well, damn.


"I've met your 'someone else.' He's not right for you." His lips thinned. "He's dead wrong."


"Not your call to make." Holly took a deep breath. "You came. You saw that I was all right.


There's no reason for you to stay here anymore."


"Holly, I-"


"We're over, Zack." Couldn't get clearer than that. Her voice was calm as she said, "Stay away from now on, okay?"


He stared at her. Eyes so intense. "If that's what you really want…"


It was.


"I'm sorry for what happened. Sorrier than I can ever say." He swallowed. "I fucked up, but I guess-I guess there are some things that can't ever be changed, huh?"


For a second, he was the guy she'd first met. The nice guy. Smart. With the kind eyes.


"Good luck, Holly. I mean that. Have a good life." He snapped his mouth closed, as if he wanted to say something else, but he was stopping himself. Then he spun on his heel. Strode to the row of cars parked on the far right side of the garage.


Holly blinked. Well, okay, that had gone much better than she'd hoped.


Now, time to get out of there before the exhaustion had her falling on her face. She needed to-


Holly froze. Then her gaze very slowly backtracked to the row of cars on the right side of the garage. Zack was sliding into his Corvette, his back to her, but two cars over-


A white van sat parked in the semidarkness.


There had to be hundreds of white vans in the city. Doesn't mean that was the one that nearly ran me over.


But…


But she'd already stopped believing in coincidence.


Her guards. Holly spun around. They were talking to someone. Who was that? Mac?


"Hey! Hey, I-" Something slammed into the side of her head and Holly hit the concrete.


CHAPTER 17


She hurt. Holly didn't want to open her eyes because the pain was so intense.


And because she was afraid.


A grinding teased her ears. Grinding, grinding…


No, not a grinding, the sound of a car moving.


The van.


Her eyes flew open, but she could see only darkness. What the hell?


She shook her head, twisting– oh, God, what happened to me? Her eyes-no, not blind, a blindfold . The fabric slipped just a bit. Holly tried to wrench her hands up but couldn't move.


She was tied, her hands bound behind her, her feet strapped together.


No! Someone had lodged a thick cloth in her mouth, so she couldn't cry out. Holly could only lay there, and wait for whatever the hell would come next.


Kim, strapped to that table, blood all around her.


No.


Niol stared at the vampire before him, the stench of decay filling his nose. The bastard was smiling, long, thin fangs glinting.


"You think I'm scared of you, demon? I'm fucking immortal! Nothing scares me!"


Idiot. Had to be newly turned. Niol smiled. "Just because you can live forever, asshole, doesn't mean you will ." He focused his power, felt that sweet rush of dark heat, and threw the vamp across the room.


The guy smashed into a table. Niol moved fast, grabbed a broken piece of wood, and shoved it right over the vampire's heart. "Now, for the last time, what do you know about the woman at Myer's who hired those idiots to torch my bar?" Because it was all connected. Dots . Little fucking dots. All he had to do was follow the trail and find his killer.


"S-she w-wasn't into v-vamps…" Gasped out.


Better. At least the asshole wasn't denying he'd seen the woman anymore. Niol had gone through three demons and one shifter to get to this asshole. Connecting the fucking dots. Everybody remembered something. Remembered seeing someone, somewhere.


This guy-Lane Mims-he was the link Niol needed.


"Who was she interested in?"


"D-demons. Only w-wanted to w-watch d-demons…"


Niol's muscles tightened. "Why?"


"L-let me go!"


"Tell me what I want and maybe I will." He shoved the weapon a good half-inch into the vampire's chest. "Tell me nothing and I'll kill you."


Blood coated the vamp's shirt. "D-don't know wh-why. She-she just watched d-demons."


Because she wanted to slice them to bits?


"What else do you know about her?"


"She-she was a student at MU."


Mellrune University. Niol's blood heated. What were the odds?


Lines of pain etched onto the vamp's face. "F-followed her one n-night."


Yes, he knew that. Knew that old Lane made a habit of following human women-and sometimes doing more. When he'd been human, the guy had landed in jail twice for rape. Becoming a vampire sure hadn't changed the guy for the better, and Niol knew his human habits hadn't faded. "And?"


"W-went to some lab at the u-university." The vamp's breath blew into his face. Rancid.


"You mean to tell me you followed the blonde back to the university one quiet night…" Lane only hunted at night. "She went into a deserted lab, and you didn't take a bite?" Niol shook his head. "Lane, I'm disappointed." By your bullshit.

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