I paused and glanced at her. "What?"
"There is something else about Nasser you might want to know. Something that is vital if you're to have any hope of tracking him down."
I met her gaze and saw the cunning in them. "We're not paying you for the information, Vinny."
"Oh, consider this a freebie."
I snorted softly. "Hardly, when us getting rid of your creator means we'd actually be doing you a great favor."
"There is that, as well." She smiled benignly. I didn't believe it for a second. "Mirror wraiths have two interesting sets of skills. In vapor form, they can use reflective surfaces to travel through, therefore releasing them from the usual restraints of blood vampires."
Which explained how he managed to attack Sal during the day. "And the second?"
"The second will make your hunt more interesting." She paused - just to be annoying, I'm sure. "You see, they are flesh shifters. They can mold their skins to resemble any person they touch."
"Well, that sure puts a spanner in the works," I grumbled, once we were clear of Vinny's building. "He could be anyone and we'd never know it."
"I think you would," Quinn said. "You've crossed paths with him several times now, so even if he assumes another form, you'd probably pick up his scent."
Maybe, and maybe not. There were ways and means of covering a base scent, and if he were an old vampire - or wraith - then he could probably also tone done his energy 'vibe' or whatever the hell it was. "At least it explains how he managed to use Martez's identity for so long without anyone picking it up."
"The obvious place to look is Dante's. That's where the murders happened."
"And that's where Martez went when I was following him last night." I raised my face to the morning sunshine, letting it warm my skin. "He could even be Dante himself."
But could an emo vamp who was also a mirror wraith constantly exude the sort of sexual allure that Dante did? Vinny could seduce just about anyone, but it was a power she could switch on or off and one that drained her after a while - unless she was feeding while using it. Dante was simply 'on' all the time.
"That is very possible."
For the first time, there was a note of weariness in Quinn's voice and I glanced up at him. His normally tanned skin seemed redder than usual, suggesting the sunlight was beginning to burn him even though midday - the dangerous part of the day for him - was a ways off yet. I lightly touched his arm. Despite his color, his skin was cool, which was unusual considering it generally only happened when he wasn't feeding enough. "Are you okay?"
He nodded. "As I said before, using the Aedh skills has its consequences."
"Meaning it drains you?"
"Depending on how much I use, it can drain me to the point of unconsciousness. Luckily, that was not the case here."
Meaning he hadn't used full power and yet had still been able to pulverize that person...
The thought had another tremor running through me. It was scary to think that one person could contain so much power...
"Yes," Quinn said, before I could ask the question. "Risa will have the skill, which is why I so readily agreed to train her. If she doesn't know how to control it, she could be a threat to everyone around her."
"Maybe that's why Dia is so desperate to get your help. Maybe she saw something in her dreams." And hopefully, the death she'd seen for herself wasn't at the hands of her beautiful little girl. "Do you need to feed or something?"
He hesitated, then shook his head. "I do, but Jack will have my head if I drag you away from this investigation right now."
"You're older than Jack, and more dangerous besides. I don't think you're in any danger from him - metaphorically or otherwise."
"Jack is not someone you should brush aside so easily," Quinn said wryly. "Especially when he's probably listening."
"Hey, he knows I love and respect him. He just can't do what you just did." And thank God for that, I added silently. One and a half atom splitting beings in my little world was more than enough.
"I do not think I need to know the details of what Quinn just did," Jack said into my ear, confirming that he had indeed been listening. "But I agree with him that we need to start with Dante's and it's owner. Do you think Kye still has the place monitored?"
"I have no idea."
"Then find out and get back to me. If he hasn't, then we'll need put cameras and bugs in place."
"We could just go in and talk to Starke." Then the undercurrent in his words hit me, and I added, "You have him marked as a suspect, don't you?"
"Starke is the likely starting point, now that we're dealing with a flesh shifter. For all we know, the real Dante Starke is a rotting headless corpse in a cellar somewhere."
"Someone would have smelled him by now if that was the case." I hesitated, then added, "Would an emo vamp have the same sort of sexual allure that Starke has? Because the Starke I've been meeting is dynamite."
"If he is old enough, yes. And if he has refined his methods, you wouldn't even know he was feeding. All you would feel was lust."
Well, I'd certainly felt that around Starke. And if he was our wraith, then he'd also paid me a visit. Which presented another problem. "There's one sticky point in all this - neither Renatta Bailey nor Janette Crowley apparently had lovers, and yet Sal claims wraiths can only travel through mirrors they've physically seen. How did he drain them nightly then, if he's never been to their houses?" He'd certainly never been near mine.
"I don't know enough about wraiths to answer that question," Jack said heavily.
Quinn and I reached my car and stopped. "Where do you want me to go once I find out whether the bugs are still online or not?"
"Come into the office."
"Will do." I clicked the com-link off and caught Quinn's hands in mine. "Are you going to be okay to drive, or do you want me to drop you off somewhere?"
"And leave the Porsche sitting around here for the vandals? Bite your tongue, woman."
I grinned. "It's not like you can't afford another one. Or a hundred."
"I didn't get rich by being wasteful."
"No, you got rich through becoming a thief."
"Which I did for only for a very brief period in my life. Most of my money has been honestly gained."
"Hey, I've seen the prices your airline charges for tickets. There's nothing honest about that
He smiled, then leaned forward and kissed me. His lips were light on mine, his kiss gentle and yet potent.
"Be careful when dealing with the spirit wraith," he said, his lips still so close that his breath warmed mine. "Have you still got that knife I gave you?"
"It's in the car's weapons stash."
"Then carry it. It works on more than just demons - and on more than those who inhabit flesh."
Then I'd be carrying it. Anything that gave me a slight advantage was a damn good thing right now. I ran my fingertips down his chin. "I do love you. You know that, don't you?"
He raised an eyebrow. "And what has bought about this sudden declaration?"
"I sometimes think I don't say it enough."
He smiled. "Well, it is nice to hear it said out loud every now and again, even if I do know it for a fact."
It didn't stop him fearing Kye, though, or what he might do to us. He might not have said it, but that darkness was there in his eyes. And there was nothing I could say to ease those fears, because they were mine as well.
I gave him another quick kiss. "I'll see you sometime tonight."
"Make sure that you do." He hesitated, his gaze sweeping my face, as if memorizing it. "Shoot to kill, Riley. Don't hesitate."
"Why do people keep telling me that?" I muttered, even as goose bumps ran across my flesh. It was almost as if everyone around me was having premonitions of impending doom. "I'm a guardian. I'll do what I'm paid to do. I think I've more than proven that."
"I know. It doesn't stop me from worrying, though."
At least he didn't try and stop me, or ask me to give up being a guardian. That made him a far better man than Kellen ever was.
"Go get yourself some sustenance." I hesitated, then grinned and added, "Just don't go enjoying the experience too much."
He laughed, touched my chin lightly - almost reverently - then walked over to his car. I waved him goodbye, then dug out my phone again.
"Well, this is an unexpected pleasure," Kye said, his golden eyes glowing on the vid-screen.
"For you, maybe," I said tartly. "For me, it's all business."
He laughed. The sound was so different to the one I'd heard only moments before and yet, in its own way, just as powerful. "That's what I like about you, Riley. You cut straight through the crap."
And yet there was still tons of it in my life. And I was currently talking to the primary source.
"Have you still got your bugs and cameras in Dante's?"
He hesitated. "No, I pulled them this morning. Why?"
I ignored the questions and said, "I hope that doesn't mean you've completed your mission, because if it does, I'm going to have to arrest your ass."
"What it means is the client's wife has moved onto greener pastures." He paused, and his voice lowered several octaves as he added, "Although I'd really like to see you try and arrest me. That could get interesting."
The way he emphasized 'interesting' sent a shudder racing down my spine, and it wasn't entirely the ice of fear.
"And I'd hate to make things interesting for you," I said tartly. "So maybe I'll send someone else." Someone he couldn't seduce.
"I refuse to be caught by anyone else but you." He paused. "I don't suppose you feel like handcuffing and interrogating me now, do you?"
"No," I said briskly. Though the usual stupid part of me wished I did. "I have far more important things to do with my time. And I thought you had a meeting with another client?"
"It's just finished." His smile flashed. "Don't suppose you want to know who it was?"
"Shame, because it's someone you've had a long association with."
I knew who he meant in an instant, and my stomach curled. Why the hell would he be meeting my pack leader? "Not Blake?"
"The very man."
"You could have done me a favor and shot him."
"And why would I do that? Unless, of course, you pay me to do so." Again his grin flashed. He was obviously feeling mighty fine this morning. Whether it had anything to do with our marathon last night or the meeting with Blake was anyone's guess. "And from you," he added, "I'll accept a currency other than cash."
I just bet. "He's tried to hurt me once before. We both know he want to do so again."
"True. And believe me, if he does anything that threatens your life, then I will kill him, and free of charge." He paused. "You are mine to kill, Riley, no one else's."
"Kill me and you kill yourself," I snapped back. "And you don't seem the suicidal type to me."
Crazy, yes. Suicidal, no.
He laughed. There was nothing warm or comforting about it. "You really have no idea what I'm capable of, Riley."
That was certainly true. "Was Blake behind the bug you placed on me last night?"
"Maybe. And it wasn't a bug but a deadener." He paused again. "Why do you need to use the cameras and bugs at the club? Is Dante a suspect?"
I countered his question with one of my own. "Why didn't you put the bug somewhere more subtle?"
He smiled. "Maybe I wanted you to know what Blake was up to. Or maybe it was designed as an earring so I had no choice. Your turn to give an answer."
"At this point of time, everyone is a suspect."
"Even me?" Amusement laced his tone. "Riley, I'm hurt."
I snorted softly. "We know there are two people involved in these killings, so there's no reason why you can't be one of them."
"That's true," he said cheerfully. "So, are you coming to arrest me? Perhaps we can get hot and heavy with the questioning."
"Sorry, you'll have control your deviant fantasies a little longer. I've got a club to bug."
"You never did explain why Dante and his club are suspect."
"No, I didn't. Shame," I added cheerfully, then hung up, climbed into my car and drove to the Directorate.
Jack glanced up as I walked into the otherwise empty sguad room. "Any luck on the bugs?"
"Which bugs are we talking about? The one found on me or the ones Kye placed? Have the labs said anything about that bug?"
"Only that it's black market and not something we've even heard whispers about." His expression was grim. "Which makes me wonder why he left it on you."
"He said it was a warning. And that he couldn't conceal it better because it was designed as an earring." I wasn't entirely sure I believed either reason.
Jack grunted. "And the surveillance equipment he placed at the club?"
"He says his target has moved on and that he's removed them."