"What makes you say that?"
"Because wraiths have certain restrictions when it comes to mirrors, much like vampires with sunshine. The ability really to use mirrors only becomes honed to a true skill as they age."
"How come you know so much about wraiths?" Rhoan asked, voice full of curiosity.
Her smile was bitter. "Because many years ago, one of them killed my family. It took me a very long time to track it down, but I eventually did."
Which was why she'd become a vampire. She didn't say it, but she didn't have to. "So how do you kill them?"
"The best way is to catch them in human form. Then you can dispatch them by any means that would kill a normal human. In smoke form, however, they are virtually unstoppable - though I have been told if you can hold them within the surface of one mirror, then smash that mirror in sunshine, you will destroy them."
"That doesn't exactly sound easy."
"No, which is why I chose the more old fashioned method." Her gaze skated down my body and she smiled when she saw I was wearing wooden heeled stilettos. "I would suggest stronger stakes. Those would not penetrate the heart of most vamps."
The weren't actually designed to do anything more than cause great discomfort, but Sal knew that. She was just getting back to her normal snarky self. Which was a good thing. "Are you able to give Jack a list of the councilors?" I added. "We really need to give these people protection."
Or, at the very least, warn them to get rid of the damn mirrors in their houses.
She hesitated, then nodded. "As long as Jack promises to keep his source confidential. They'd kick my ass if they found out it was me."
I couldn't help grinning. "I think you'll find there'd be more than a couple volunteers at the Directorate ready, willing and able to protect that ass of yours."
An eyebrow winged upwards. "Why, Riley, is that a compliment?"
"God, gag me with a spoon if I ever did that!"
She laughed - a throaty, warm sound. "Of course. How foolish of me."
"Riley," Jack said into my ear. "Get over to Vinny's and get whatever information you can about this man you saw leaving her building last night - and by whatever means necessary. You'll have to fly, because I want Rhoan to bring Sal back to base."
Jack was obviously using a party line to talk to us all, because Sal immediately said, "I am quite capable of bringing myself in."
"Yes, I know, but I refuse to lose any more councilors - or part time councilors - especially when that person is one of my own. So you will do as you're told."
"Boss," I said, "have you managed to get Kye's tracer signal yet?"
"We're only just now picking it up. He's not in the area." Which was no guarantee that he hadn't been. "Get moving, Riley."
"As soon as I finish my coffee." Which was a stupid thing to say, really.
"Now, Riley," he said, in that voice that suggested I'd better or there'd be hell to pay.
I blew out a breath, gulped down as much hot liquid as I could, once again burning my insides in the process, then did as ordered and got the hell out of there.
* * *
Of course, I might have been ordered to drag the information we needed out of Vinny, but that didn't mean I was stupid enough to do it alone. I'd confronted her like that once before, and it was only thanks to fact that Quinn had been there as back-up that Rhoan and I had gotten out relatively unscathed.
Once I'd gotten back to my car - which had been surprisingly ignored by vandals or looters in what was traditionally a high crime area - I grabbed my phone, hit the vid button, and dialed Quinn.
"Well, hello there," he said, in that softly lilting tone that always made my toes want to curl. "I was wondering when I was going to hear from you."
"Sorry, it's been a horrible night." If you could call great sex with a decidedly unwanted man who also happened to be your soul mate horrible, that was. "Have you got anything important on right now?"
The way he said it told me it wouldn't have mattered if he did. He'd be there for me, no matter what I needed. God, I really did love this man - even if it had taken me forever to realize that fact.
"I have to go question Vinny, and I suspect she's not going to like the subject matter - "
"And you'd like my presence as a motivational tool," he finished for me.
I grinned. "Well, she did become very motivated the last time you accompanied us."
"That's because whatever else she is, she possesses a sensible respect for beings that are far older and far more powerful than she is." He paused, and a deliciously sensual smile touched his lips. "Unlike some werewolves who shall remain nameless."
I laughed. "As you've noted repeatedly, werewolves have no sense."
"A truer point has never been made." He glanced at his watch. "I'll be there in twenty minutes."
"I'll be here waiting."
"Let's hope it always remains that way," he said, and hung up before I could say anything.
Making me feel even more horrible than I already did.
I rubbed the heels of my palms against my eyes and wished it would all become simple. Wished that the problem that was Kye would just disappear and that it could go back to being just me and Quinn.
But that was never going to happen, and I had to learn to deal - no matter how much pain that caused to both me and to those I loved.
Of course, Quinn would never understand the way I'd dealt with things last night. He was an old-fashioned sort when it came to sex, and giving in to what was basically blackmail would be something he'd never understand.
Not that he'd ever learn of it. Not if I could help it. I might love the man, but I also knew what he was capable of, and the one thing that worried me was him taking out Kye in a fit of anger. Or - worse - a fit of jealously.
He might know about the soul mate bond of werewolves, but I doubted he understood the true depth of it. Doubted he believed it could really lead to the death of the surviving partner, even though he'd witnessed the devastation Rhoan had gone through when Liander had almost died.
I leaned back against the head rest and turned on the music. But it didn't stop the thoughts from going around and around in my head, like cats chasing their tails. Nor did it help ease the worry that, sooner or later, this was all going to blow up in my face.
Fifteen minutes later, Jack buzzed me. I picked up the phone from the seat and hit the receive button. "If you're wondering why I haven't moved, I'm waiting for Quinn. I've got a feeling I'm going to need his help if we want Vinny to talk."
"Good idea," he said, "but that's not what I'm calling about."
The edge in his voice had my heart just about leaping into my throat
. "Nothing has happened to Rhoan or Sal, has it?"
"No, they're safely on their way into the Directorate. But we did a full trace on Carlos Martez, and have discovered that he died some five and half years ago in a traffic accident."
"Well, he looks pretty good for a dead man."
"Obviously, we are dealing with someone who has usurped his identity."
So had Kye known that the real Carlos was dead when he'd given me his name? And if he had, why not tell me? Or was it simply another of his games? Another way of maintaining some form of control over me? "Was Carlos listed as human or vampire?"
"Then how could he die in a car accident?"
"Easily. He ran into the back of a truck, which subsequently lost its load and decapitated him."
"And it was definitely an accident?"
"Yes. There was a witness." He paused. "Interestingly enough, that witness is a young woman currently residing in Vinny's nest."
"Yes." His voice was heavy with sarcasm. "We've also done a preliminary search for Ammon Nasser. We have no records of him entering the country, but that's not unusual, given we only list those who come here legally. I've applied to the greater council for details, but it may take some time."
"You know, they're not exactly falling over themselves to help us, and that's damn strange, considering it's their people being chopped up."
"We're dealing with a very old, very formal organization here, Riley. And there are set processes in place for good reason, whether they chafe you or not."
I grinned. "Hey, they're the ones with their necks on the line, not me, so it's no skin off my nose."
He snorted softly. "Make sure the com-link is on so we can hear the conversation when you're in Vinny's."
"It'll be my first priority." Which was a dead-set lie, because my first priority would be kissing the hell out of Quinn.
Which is precisely what I did when he arrived eight minutes later.
"You're late," I murmured, when we finally come up for air.
He smiled and lightly traced his finger around my well-kissed lips. "Unfortunately, the traffic was worse than usual. A four-car accident, according to the news."
I kissed his fingertip and barely resisted the temptation to draw the digit into my mouth and suck on it. That would only lead to activities we really didn't have time for.
"Shall we head inside?" he said, even as the scent of desire began emanating from him. I guess after all the time we'd been spending together he'd know exactly where my thoughts had been heading.
"Yeah." I swung around and led the way. He walked beside me, not touching me physically but close enough that the scent of him, the heat of him, swirled around me - a blanket of warm protection that I just wanted to roll up in. But that was a distant likelihood for the next several hours, at least. "Our dear Vinny has been keeping secrets from us. We're about to lean on her to discover them."
"I always did appreciate a good 'lean'," he said, amusement in his voice. "But she's grown stronger since our last visit, and since she thinks she knows exactly what I'm capable of, she will be less tractable."
"Even I don't know exactly what you're capable of," I said wryly, "So she's a fool if she thinks she knows all there is to know."
And Vinny was many things, but a fool wasn't one of them.
My phone beeped as a message came in, and I dug it out of my pocket and glanced down. My heart skipped several beats when I saw it was from Kye.
Lunch is cancelled, it said. Have meeting with a client, Will contact you later.
Hope surged. Maybe last night - and my decision to stop fighting and give him what he wanted - was already beginning to pay off. With the challenge gone, maybe - just maybe - he'd pack up and move on.
It was a slim hope, but one I had to cling to nonetheless.
"Anything important?" Quinn asked, his voice nonchalant.
I glanced at him, noting the sudden remoteness in his expression.
"Just a cancelled lunch meeting." I shoved my phone away. "Nothing important."
"Uh-huh," he said, voice still noncommittal.
I wanted to reach out and catch his hand in mine, but that would only confirm his fears. And even though those fears were very real, I didn't want to cause him any more pain than I already had.
We walked though the doors of Vinny's high rise and began to climb the stairs. A rumble of excitement began to touch the air, growing stronger the higher we climbed. I pressed the com-link, making sure it was on.
"Vinny knows we're here," Quinn said, the amusement back in his voice. "She is excited about it."
I glanced back at him. "Is that why the air feels so charged?"
"Yep. Our mistress of emotions is planning to challenge our authority."
"Then she's a damn fool."
He smiled, but this time there was nothing warm about it. "All youngsters challenge authority at some point in their lives. But most chose their targets more wisely."
We reached the top floor. A different girl guarded the door, but like the previous one, she was dressed casually and had a suspicious bulge on her right hip. Unlike the previous guard, this girl looked arrogant. Confident.
If the fledglings were taking their lead from their master, then Quinn was right. Vinny had grown overly confident. So why the sudden change? There'd been little evidence of this attitude when I'd talked to her a few days ago.
Did the man who'd visited her last night have anything to do with it? If so, it was more important than ever that we find him. And that she help us.
"We're here to see Vinny," I said, stopping little more than a foot away from the guard.
"You may go in, but the old one stays here - "
"His name is Quinn and he accompanies me or I will bust Vinny's ass and drag her down to the Directorate." I raised my voice a little. "So call off your dog, Vinny."
The guard's gaze went blank for a moment, then she said, her voice several octaves lower than it had been moments ago, "She does not wish problems with the Directorate, but she does not wish the old one inside her sanctuary."
"The old one can rip your precious little world apart whether he is inside or outside, Vincenta." Though Quinn's voice was still decidedly mild, there was a hint of steel underneath that was warning enough to anyone with sense. "But perhaps a demonstration is in order?"
The wash of power that suddenly burned across my senses was unlike anything I'd ever felt before. It was dark, dangerous, and somehow unholy, and it sent chills racing across my flesh. My gaze jumped to Quinn, and for a moment he didn't really seem whole or real, but rather a creature of shadow and imagination.