"Were you at the Seattle Animal Shelter a short time ago?"
"Is there a problem?"
The blond gave her a smile so fake that someone should post it in a toothpaste ad. "No problem. You just left the facilities with a cat that wasn’t meant to be adopted. We’re here to collect him."
Every nerve in her body rang out with suspicion. Why would two cops-
Oh wait. Jimmy. He’d probably put them up to this just to get her goat. Susan stared blankly at them. "Don’t you guys have something better to do, like actually investigate real crimes or something?"
"This is a matter of public safety, ma’am," he said seriously. She had to give him credit. He was much better at acting than Angie had been. "That cat is extremely feral and might be rabid."
Sure it was. "Well, I’m afraid you’re too late. The cat has already turned into Mr. Supermodel and has now taken up residency in my home. I don’t know what Jimmy paid you guys for this, but whatever it was, I’m sure it wasn’t enough. Have a nice day, gentlemen." She closed the door.
But before she could step away, she heard a faint voice through the door. "It’s her and he’s here in human form. She won’t hand him over, so what do you want us to do?"
Susan scowled as she heard a voice answer him, but she couldn’t make out any of the words.
"Yes, sir." There was a brief pause until she heard footsteps on her porch. At first, she thought it was the police leaving. But the sound was getting closer, not farther away.
"He said to kill the Dark-Hunter and take the woman back to the shelter for questioning. If she gives us any problems, kill her, too."
Her heart shrank at those words. They had to be joking… right? This wasn’t real. It couldn’t be.
"I told you not to answer it, didn’t I?" Ravyn snarled as he pulled her away from the door.
Two seconds later the front door flew open. The two uniformed officers angled guns at them. "Don’t move."
She raised her hands up as fear gripped her hard. They were going way out of line on this one. "What’s the meaning of this?"
They didn’t answer as she saw two more men in street clothes coming in behind them. Large and tough, they each looked like they had a rap sheet to make Scar face proud.
Ravyn silently debated on how to handle this. The tall blond was half-Apollite without a doubt, but the other three were humans. By Dark-Hunter code, he wasn’t allowed to harm humans. Then again he’d never lived by anyone’s code but his own.
For now, he had to move quickly to keep Susan safe and himself alive. "Susan…"
She looked at him as he reacted instinctively.
He dove for her at the same time the cops opened fire on him. Ravyn cursed as the bullets sliced into his flesh. They wouldn’t kill him, but it didn’t mean they didn’t hurt.
Susan was momentarily stunned by what was happening. This wasn’t a practical joke. They were trying to kill him and take her. The horror of it all held her immobile as she stared at the blood pouring out of Ravyn’s body while he shielded her from the gunfire.
"He’s still moving," one of the thugs said to the blond officer.
"The bullets won’t kill him. Tear down the blinds."
She heard Ravyn’s curse before he breathed in her ear, "Run for the back door while I distract them."
He rolled from her as the men started ripping her blinds from their tracks, causing the afternoon sun to spill through her living room.
That’s my house, you ass**les, she wanted to shout at them, but thought better of it. They didn’t seem to be in the most reasonable of moods as they riddled her home with more bullets while tearing it apart. She was amazed that they hadn’t shot her in the chaos.
Ravyn hissed as a ray of sunlight cut across his skin. But what stunned her most was that his skin blistered and began smoking.
That wasn’t normal and that wasn’t fake, especially not the stench of it… what was going on?
Ravyn dropped the blanket and shoved her toward the back of her house. "Go!"
"What about you?"
He recoiled as they opened fire on him again. "Go, Susan. Run!"
She did but she didn’t go far. She ran to her closet and pulled out her baseball bat that she kept there just in case of intruders. And this definitely qualified as that. Too bad she hadn’t had time to get to her gun before all this started.
Susan ran back to the fray. Ravyn went down hard on the floor as she swung at the thug closest to her.
She caught him against the arm with enough force that it caused him to drop his gun. Then she swung another blow at him with all her strength, catching him against the head. He hit the ground hard. The brunette officer turned toward her and took aim. She ducked as he unloaded his clip into her wall.
Ravyn was dazed as his body burned. Daylight was now all around him so much so that he could barely move for it.
He saw Susan swinging at the other thug as the halfblood officer grabbed him by the ankle and tried to pull him toward the light on the floor. Every fiber of his body ached as he watched the brunette officer grab Susan from behind. The thug took the bat from her hand and shoved it into her stomach. She cried out before doubling over in pain.
Screw this. He was through playing with them. As a Dark-Hunter he wasn’t supposed to ever attack a human being, but then humans had never been all that high in his estimation and he wasn’t about to die and let these bastards live to do whatever they wanted with Susan. Pain though she was, she was a Squire and that brought with it a certain degree of protection.
Not to mention, it wasn’t in his genetic makeup to go quietly into that good night and since one of these ass**les was part Apollite… well, he knew of one way to rejuvenate his weakened powers. Apollites and Daimons liked to feed on Were-Hunters so that they could not only steal the Were-Hunters’ souls but claim their psychic powers as well.
That channel worked both ways…
His rage swelling, Ravyn kicked out at the officer holding him. He felt the beast inside him snarl as it rose to the forefront. His eyesight changed from human to that of a vicious predator.
Lowering his head, he ignored the bullets that riddled him as he rushed toward the half-Apollite and caught him about the waist. "You stupid fool," he snarled as he turned the man so that his back was against Ravyn’s front. "You should have brought a Taser."
"Shoot me!" the blond officer screamed at the other two who were still standing. "Quick!"
Susan froze in her struggling as she caught sight of Ravyn. He held the blond cop in front of him, but that wasn’t what stunned her. It was the fact that his eyes were no longer black. They were a deep, insidious red. He tilted his head back, opening his mouth so that she could see long, sharp incisors. The other men in the room froze as if they were every bit as terrified as she was.
And before she could release her pent-up breath, Ravyn sank his teeth into the officer’s neck.
I don’t believe in vampires. I don’t believe in vampires… The litany repeated itself over and over again in her mind as she watched the blood pour down the officer’s shirt while he struggled to get away from Ravyn, who effortlessly held him with one arm.
Suddenly, the two thugs opened fire on both Ravyn and the cop he held. The cop’s entire body shook in response to the bullets pummeling him as his eyes turned glassy and dull. Ravyn laughed evilly as he released the lifeless body to sink slowly to the floor at his feet.
He threw his hands out and some kind of invisible wave went through the room, knocking the two men off their feet. His eyes matched the red blood that still dripped from his chin as black clothing appeared on his body.
"You don’t knock on the devil’s door, boys, unless you want him to answer," he said, his voice deep and evil. He wiped the blood from his chin.
"Th-they said you wouldn’t attack us," one of the thugs said in a frightened tone.
Some unseen force ripped her out of the arms of the officer who held her. Ravyn rushed the thug closest to him and hit him so hard that he was knocked off his feet, and three feet up, into her wall, which shattered as the thug hit it. The brunette officer rushed at Ravyn, who spun about and caught him a powerful blow to his jaw. The sound of bones breaking echoed in the room as the officer fired more bullets.
Ravyn’s eyes turned an even brighter red before he waved his hand in the air. The bullets stopped dead in the air, hanging there for two heartbeats before they reversed direction and struck the cop.
Susan couldn’t breathe as her gaze scanned the carnage of the four men who’d entered her home. Now the only one standing was…
The male stripper.
"Please, please tell me that I’m having an acid flashback."
His eyes faded back to black. "You drop acid?"
All she could do was shake her head no as some foreign coldness invaded every part of her body. This couldn’t be real. She couldn’t have seen what she’d just seen.
I’m having a psychotic episode.
Maybe they weren’t dead. Maybe all of this was still part of the hoax Leo had perpetrated. She took a step toward the blond officer to feel for a pulse… only there was no way to press her fingertips against his carotid since it was no longer intact. It had been ripped out.
And that wasn’t makeup. It was real. Disgusting and real. At one time, she’d been on the police beat and seen more than her fair share of dead bodies. This was no hoax. Her male stripper had just killed four men in her house, which would make her an accomplice if she didn’t report this.
"We have to go to the police," she said in a strangely serene tone. "Tell them what happened."
He shook his head. "We can’t go to the police. They’re in on this."
"Susan," he snapped, shaking her lightly. "Look at me."
Even though she wanted to run, she stood her ground and met those spooky black eyes.
"This isn’t a game. Didn’t you hear what your friend was trying to tell you earlier? There’s some serious shit going down here. Now that I know what’s going on, I can take care of myself, but you’re another matter. We have to get you to a sanctuary before more of them come to find you. Do you understand?"
"But I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t kill them. You did."
"Bobby? Alan? What’s going on? You got the woman yet?"
Her breath caught as she heard the officer’s radio going off. Were there more of them outside waiting to come in?
"Bobby? Respond. Over?"
Ravyn cursed as he heard heavy footsteps outside. "There’s two more men coming up the walkway."
"How do you know?"
Before he could answer, her door was kicked wide open. Ravyn shoved her toward the kitchen before he slung his hands and knocked the two human males down. He took a step forward only to realize that these two were smarter than the others… they had the one weapon that would incapacitate him. A Taser. One shot and the electricity would bounce around his cells, turning him from cat to man and back again without his control. His magick would be haywire and he would be defenseless against them.
As much as he hated it, it was time to retreat. Changing to cat form, he ran after Susan, who was making her way toward the back door.
"We have to get to your car. "
Susan froze as she heard the male voice in her head and saw the small leopard back in her house. "Please tell me I’m having some kind of stress-induced hallucination." It was better than the thought that she had actually lost her mind completely.
But insane or not, she needed to get out of here until she figured out what was going on. Since there was no way to get to her front door without confronting the two newcomers, she grabbed the spare set of car keys from the small hanger inside her back door. She rushed out of her door as bullets sprayed the wall beside her, narrowly missing her.
Too afraid to look back, she ran to the driveway only to realize that they’d blocked her in. Damn. Another shot rang out before the passenger window of her Toyota shattered. Susan crouched down as she made her way around the car, to the driver’s side. She didn’t dare glance back until she had the door open.
She couldn’t see anything until the small leopard came bounding out of the door, headed for her. Before she could move, it leaped into her car and jumped into the backseat.
Deciding not to argue, she got in, slammed the door, then started the engine.
Normally, she didn’t obey anyone’s orders, never mind a disembodied voice in her head, but given the oddness of this day, she decided not to argue or hesitate. No sooner was she down than more bullets sprayed her Toyota.
"This is ridiculous!" Infuriated over the damage done to her car, she put it in drive and gunned the engine as more shots were fired. The car lurched as it went tearing through her neighbor’s yard, over their small white garden fence. "Jenna is going to kill me." But she’d deal with her neighbor later, provided she survived this and had a later.
Her heart pounding, she sat up so that she could actually see where she was going. Off in the distance, she heard the sound of sirens. The saner part of herself wanted to head toward them, but she thought better of it. Those had been cops at her door…
Jimmy had been terrified of his compadres in uniform. For argument’s sake, what if that part of his psychosis had been real? She knew more about police corruption than any human had a right to, and though she’d always thought of the Seattle cops as much more honest than others, there could very well be more than one dirty apple in the barrel.