Dark Hunger

Page 45

Jessa closed her eyes on the last of her tears before she put her hand over his. “Yes.”

Rowan violated every speed limit on the highway, but she rolled into Atlanta just after dawn. Since she’d arrived too early to hit a Starbucks, she stopped at a combination gas station and food mart to top off her tank and grab something to eat.

The muddy-looking carafe of coffee at the hot-beverage station made her wrinkle her nose, but they had bottled springwater and bags of powdered sugar-covered mini-doughnuts, one of her guilty pleasures. She sat on the curb outside the store and dialed home to let Matthias know she’d made it, but he didn’t pick up the line.

“How much you want to bet that he and Queenie are sharing a shower this morning?” she asked one of the doughnuts before she popped it into her mouth.

Polishing off the rest of the bag took her less than two minutes, and she washed them down with half the bottle of water before splashing her hands with the remainder. Once she’d wiped her fingers dry with her bandanna, she took out the photo of Drew Riordan and studied it.

He had pale skin like Queenie, but the glorious blaze of his spiky red hair washed out everything else in the shot. He had very dark eyes, but they didn’t look black or brown. Navy blue or hunter green, she decided. He wasn’t smiling, but the faint bracketed lines on either side of his very decent mouth made it obvious he did, and often. The hump from a broken nose—probably from a schoolyard brawl with some kid who’d called him Bozo—didn’t spoil his face. Neither did the beard he wore trimmed close to the square angles of his jaw.

“Irish,” she murmured. With a name like Riordan, that was a given, although he’d been adopted out like the rest of them. “Your parents probably picked you because you had the right color hair.”

She tucked away the photo and stood, brushing the light dusting of crumbs and powdered sugar from the front of her jacket. On impulse she tried dialing Matthias’s mobile number, but that went almost immediately to voice mail.

“This is Ro,” she said after the tone. “It’s morning, and I’m here. I’ll call in later when I hook up with Drew. And I’m worried, so answer one of the phones next time, okay?”

She pocketed her phone and blew out a frustrated breath. Queenie might be a champion conniver, but she wouldn’t do anything to Matt. For one thing, she couldn’t—the boss had serious muscle and skill, and he could take her down with one hand tied behind his back. She also didn’t think Queenie would try to screw with him, at least not physically. She watched him the same way he watched her, and while her expression never gave away anything, the eyes said it all.

“Face it: They’re about to become a couple, and you have to deal with it,” she said to herself as she walked to her bike. “She’s classy, and he deserves her. But she’ll never feed him as well as you have.”

Nor would she ever deserve him. None of them did.

She nodded to an older man at the next pump who was filling up his Lexus, and had just straddled her bike when her phone rang.

She answered it without checking the display. “About time, boss.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m not your boss,” a soft, feminine voice said. “This isn’t even my phone. It belongs to my boyfriend, Andy.”

Rowan checked the display, which showed Drew’s mobile number. “What’s up, Andy’s girlfriend?”

“I hate to bother you,” she said, “but his family has been calling here all night trying to reach him. There’s some kind of emergency back at home, and they need to speak to him right away, but this is the only phone he carried with him, and honestly, I have no idea where he is today. I thought I’d try some of his friends and see if they could get a message to him for me.”

“Good try, bitch,” Rowan said, checking her watch. It would take the people monitoring the call another two minutes to track her signal.

“Excuse me?” the girl said faintly.

“Come on, you people are supposed to be better than this,” she taunted. “That’s not the only phone he has. He has no family and, oops, his name isn’t even Andy.”

The sweet tone became crisp. “Mr. Riordan is in a great deal of legal trouble. We know he’s responsible for destroying company property as well as flagrantly violating the confidentiality clause in his employment contract.”

“Flagrantly.” Rowan was sorry to see she had only forty seconds left; she was really beginning to enjoy herself. “That’s a beautiful word. They send you to corporate pretty-speak school or something, babe?”

“We assume Mr. Riordan is your friend,” the woman continued, her tone tight and unfriendly now. “If he wants to avoid a lengthy prison term, he must return to GenHance at once. Perhaps you could—”

Rowan made a dinging sound. “Whoops, time’s up. Give Jonah this message: Andy says he can go fuck himself.” With five seconds to spare Rowan switched off her phone, pulled off the back, and popped out the battery, heaving it into the road. The phone she wiped clean before dropping it into the courtesy container of window cleaner beside the pump.

The old man at the Lexus gave her a cautious look. “Everything okay there, miss?”

Rowan bared her teeth. “Just found out my boyfriend’s cheating on me.”

“Then he’s an idiot, honey.” He gave her an admiring look, and for a moment she could see the handsome young man he had been. “I’d dump him. I’d make him pay for the phone, too.”

She gave him a genuine smile this time. “Oh, yes, sir. He’s going to pay. He surely is.”

Chapter 19

Genaro listened to the recording of the girl’s voice for a third time, switching it off just before she uttered her obscene message meant for him.

“She must have destroyed the phone immediately after she ended the call, sir,” Delaporte said. “It’s the only way she could have terminated the signal before we located her. We know she was somewhere downtown, so she’s in the city.”

He suspected Riordan wasn’t working alone, but the girl’s speedy arrival meant that his cohorts were well organized. “What were you able to glean from the background noise?”

“The beeps are from a gas pump being used,” Bill, the technician who had assumed Riordan’s position, said. “There’re also two repeating tones from an audible walk signal used exclusively in the business district. The station was on a corner at an intersection with a pedestrian crossing, and there are only two of those in that area.”

“Obtain the security videos from both stations, and interview the clerks,” he told Delaporte. “I want to know what she looks like and what she’s driving.” He turned to Bill. “What other numbers were you able to salvage from Riordan’s SIM card?”

“Just that one, sir. The rest of the data was too badly corrupted by the virus he triggered.” He shuffled his weight from one foot to the other. “Sir, I know it’s not my place, but I can’t believe Andy had anything to do with this. Maybe someone blackmailed him, or …” He saw Genaro’s expression and paled. “Right. Well, I think I’ll get back and try to run the SIM card again.”

Delaporte watched the younger man flee from the office. “I recommend we put someone else in Riordan’s position.”

“He’ll do for now.” Genaro saw his private-line light flash and picked up the phone. “What is it?” He listened as one of the police captains, a man with a predilection for very young girls, related two reports that had come in from the authorities in the eastern section of the state. “Fax all of the witness statements to us at once, and keep me updated.” He hung up the receiver. “Lawson was seen in Savannah last night. He confronted Jessa Bellamy and the man who took her from the restaurant, and shortly after was struck by lightning.”

“Lightning?” Delaporte’s brows rose. “He’s dead, then.”

“He was for several hours,” Genaro said, and templed his fingers. “Lawson revived this morning and killed three people working in the county morgue. Shortly thereafter he was seen down at the docks, where he hijacked a truck.”

“What interests me is the man with Bellamy. There was a lightning storm the day Lawson tried to retrieve her at the restaurant.”

“If he’s one of them, and he has control over weather …” His security chief sighed. “We’ve never encountered one with that kind of ability, sir.”

“He could be a progenitor.” Genaro stood. “We will need to contain Lawson now. Tell your men to use whatever force is necessary, but get him out of the truck first.”

“It would be simpler to shoot him while he’s driving, sir.”

“The truck is a tanker used to fuel ships,” he told him. “It’s filled with enough high-grade marine fuel to take out a city block.”

“We’ll get him out of the truck first, sir,” Delaporte promised.

Genaro went to the lab, where Kirchner was working with one of the engineers on the new containment unit. “We’re bringing Lawson in today,” he told him after sending the engineer out of the cell. “You’ll need to be ready to process him.”

“We will, sir.” The doctor picked up a chart and took out his pen to make some notes. “I’d like to do a full workup on him if there’s time.”

“He survived a lightning strike,” Genaro told him.

Kirchner stopped writing and glanced up. “A direct hit?”

“Apparently so. He was pronounced dead and transported to the morgue, where he revived a few hours later. I’ll send over the reports as soon as they arrive. You’ll need to investigate this further.”

“Sir, the transerum does have its limitations,” the doctor said. “The resurrection factor is directly related to pathogen stimulation. The death of the host effectively ends the dormant stage. We’ve never known a host to survive a second death experience.” His cold eyes grew dreamy. “Unless a new mutation has occurred that revives the host indefinitely.”

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