Bound to Shadows

Page 34

And his way meant guns and death.

"Riley," Kade said softly, squeezing my knee again.

"Enough. I mean it."

"You're such a sweet man, but - "

He snorted softly. "You wouldn't be thinking that if you knew just how good your skin feels under my fingers, or what is currently going on in my thoughts."

I grinned. "Once a stallion, always a stallion."

"Too true, my dear." He sighed wistfully, and withdrew his hand.

The computer beeped again. I hit another button and a floor plan popped up on the screen. I studied it for a moment then said, "It looks like we have two main entrances and a fire exit. There's two floor levels and several out buildings."

"He'll be in the main building. There are more options there for running and hiding."

Neither of which I could really imagine Kye doing. "He's run there for a reason."

"Of course he has." Kade turned off the Ring road at Pascoe Vale Road and slowed down for the lights, checking the traffic to the right before pulling out and slapping his foot on the accelerator again. "Professionals always have their escape routes planned beforehand, and I'd be very surprised if Kye didn't have every expectation of walking away from this."

And I'd be very surprised if he did. Kye was a realist, if nothing else.

All too soon we were pulling up several buildings away from the one I suspected held Kye. Kade climbed out and opened the trunk. He had a veritable arsenal inside.

"Good grief," I said, sweeping my gaze over the rifles, lasers, guns and stakes stashed in neat little secured rows. "Does Jack know you've raided the weapon store like this?"

"Nope," he said cheerfully. "And a man can never have enough fire-power."

I snorted softly and reached for a laser. He slapped my hand away. "Take a gun. Lasers don't fire up instantly, and you can't afford to give a man like Kye even a half-second advantage."

He had a point. I reached for a Browning simply because it was more lightweight than some of the others and fit my hand better, yet still packed a hell of a punch.

"So what's the plan? We sneak in front and back and pin him down in the middle?" Kade said, stashing several different pistols and knives about his body before picking up a rifle then slamming the trunk shut.

"You take at the back. I'm walking right in through the front door."

He frowned. "I really don't think - "

"Kade, we're soul mates. He's going to know I'm there the minute I walk into that building." If he wasn't already aware that I was here, that was. "So it's pointless to try any subterfuge. But doing the obvious might just give you the chance to get close enough to bring him down."

"I like the last half of that plan, but the first is decidedly unpalatable." He ran a finger down my cheek, his touch warm and not at all sexual. "He's the sort of man who'd want to go down in a blaze of glory, and it may be that he plans to take you with him."

"Trust me, I'm more than aware of that possibility. But I've been tested by Gautier, the best guardian the Directorate ever had, and I'm the only person to ever score a hit on him. Trust the skills behind that, if nothing else. "

But yet, even that didn't make me the killer Kye was, and that put the advantage squarely in his court.

I reached up on tippy-toes and gave Kade a kiss. "Please be careful. I don't want to have to explain your death to Sable."

"Ditto." His bright smile flashed, but just as quickly faded. "We both know that this job is a walking death sentence. Sooner or later, it's going to happen, Riley, no matter what precautions we take."

"Well, you're not dying on my fucking shift," I said, and slapped his arm. "So please be careful."

"Oh, I have many more mares in the stable yet to service, so don't worry your pretty little head." He flashed me an insolent grin. "I'll see you in the middle, my sweet."

I watched him walk away, then took a deep, calming breath that didn't do one iota to calm the churning in my stomach or the trembling in my limbs, then walked toward the front gate.

It was unlocked, as were the front glass doors that led into what looked to be an old office area. I paused and blinked, briefly flicking my sight to infrared. There was no sign of body heat in the offices lining the walls of the office area, and nothing in the immediate area behind the double swing doors. But there were huge blobs of darkness preventing me from seeing deeper into the factory.

Frowning, I walked forward, pushing the swinging doors open and letting them slap close behind me. The noise echoed, filling the shadowed silence.

I walked on, the click of my heels against the concrete grating against my nerves. One way or another, I wanted this done and over with.

The blobs of darkness that had foiled my infrared turned out to be vast metal machines and long tracks of conveyers. They looked to be still in a usable condition, despite the cobwebs and the dirt that draped them. Maybe the factory hadn't been closed all that long, despite all the smashed windows high up near the roof line.

I punched open another set of swinging doors, but paused in the doorway, my gaze sweeping the room and my senses on high alert. This room was also double height, and like before, silent machines lined the concrete floor. But it also had storage rooms or offices lining the walls of the upper story and a walkway that ran around the entire perimeter.

No familiar, joyous warmth rose to warn me of Kye's presence, but I suspected he was near, regardless. It was the perfect place for a show-down.

"Kade?" I said softly, "I'm in the second machine room. I suspect he's here."

"I just got into the back loading bay," Kade said. "The bastard's set up some trip wires, so I'm going to have to move forward cautiously. Play for time if you can, Riley."

"Will do." I hesitated, then added, "Just remember that this link will go dead once I'm near him."

"At least that'll let me know the game is on."

I stepped forward and let the doors swing closed. They clipped each other on the way through, and the sharp slap of sound had my nerves jumping.

I scanned the room with infrared as I walked forward, but there were still huge swathes of darkness, both on this level and the upper one. Kye could be hiding anywhere.

I was about half way across the room when I sensed him. It was a rush of warmth that flashed across my skin then settled somewhere deep inside. I stopped and turned around, sweeping my gaze across the walkway above the swing doors I'd come in through. I couldn't see him, either through normal vision or infrared, and I couldn't smell him, but he was up there nevertheless.

"Stop hiding and come out, Kye."

For a heartbeat, nothing happened. Then he appeared in a doorway, a teasing smile on his lips and a gun held loosely in his right hand .

Much like me - in both respects.

"You're here sooner than I thought you'd be," he said, stopping a foot away from the walkway railing. His pose was relaxed, his golden eyes warm, and yet he reminded me of a predator about to strike.

"It's always a bad move to underestimate the Directorate." My fingers were starting to sweat against the metal of the Browning and there was a sick, churning sensation beginning to build in my stomach.

I wanted this over with, and yet I didn't, because that would mean having to actually act against the man who was my other half.

"I don't ever underestimate anyone, Riley, least of all the Directorate." He studied me for a moment, and his smile grew. My stomach twisted at the beauty of it. "You've bugged me, haven't you?"

"I'm hardly likely to confirm or deny that."

"Meaning you have. You're good, because I never even suspected."

Neither had I when he'd tagged me with that deadener, so I guess that made us even.

"Why did you do it, Kye? Why take the job from Starke - or whatever the hell his real name was - when you knew it was only going to bring you up against me?"

His smile was lazy and insolent, and so damn sexy my breath caught in my throat. "You said it yourself a million times - I go where the money is, and Nasser offered a lot to take his photos and guard his back while he killed. Besides, I would not have had this opportunity to enjoy time with my oh-so-loving soul mate if I had walked away."

I ignored the sarcasm in his words and said, "So why didn't you run when you had the chance? What is it you want? Because you've left me with no option but to bring you in."

"You know what I want."

"I haven't got a fucking clue what you want. I never have." But I did, and it scared the hell out of me.

"Odd, because you actually hit the nail on the head several days ago."

"I've said a lot of things over the past few days." And some of them I'd even meant. "And you've said even more - none of which I've believed. So what is it now, Kye?"

"It's the same thing I've always wanted." His gaze darkened. "I want you. You. Heart, body, and soul. Not for one night, not for pretend, but for real."

"And the answer is the same one I've continually given you. You have my soul, you can have my body, but you will never have my heart. Never."

"I don't accept that."

Because his need to control his environment wouldn't accept anything less than the whole. "That's your problem, not mine."

Anger flared in his eyes. Anger and determination. My stomach twisted and I flexed my free hand, trying to calm the tension. But that was an impossible task.

Because the confrontation I'd feared was coming.

"Kye," I added softly, "Put down your weapon and come down off the walkway."

"You know I can't do that."

"There's a kill order out on your head if you don't come in with me."

"And if I come in with you, I'll still be killed."

"No. Jack knows you're my soul mate, and he won't risk losing me to kill you."

"If you truly think that, then you are the biggest fool on this green earth." He shook his head, as if in disbelief. Sunlight caught strands of his dark red hair, turning them a rich, molten gold. Deep inside, part of me raged - against fate, against what was going to happen, at the ashes that my long held dreams were rapidly becoming. "He's a vampire, Riley. He may run the Directorate in a fair and even way, but his true allegiance will always be with the council - one of whom is his sister. And they want me dead."

"You're wrong."

"I'm very rarely wrong, Riley." His brief smile was so sad and gentle it made my soul ache. "I guess that leaves us with only one option."

Something inside me clenched, and for a moment I had trouble breathing, let alone thinking. "That's not an option," I somehow managed. "That's suicide."

"It's only suicide if I lose."

Don't do this, I wanted to plead. Don't destroy us.

But there really wasn't an 'us' to destroy. Just two people fate should never have thrown together.

"How should we play it, Riley?" he continued softly. There was an odd light in his eyes - a joyous light. A maniacal light. "As an old fashioned stand and shoot, or shall we play cat-and-mouse in this big old mousetrap?"

Trap being the operative word, given what Kade had told me. "There isn't an option number three?"

"No," he said, then raised the gun, the movement so fast it was almost a blur.

I dove to my right, throwing myself behind a machine, landing on all fours and crushing the fingers on the hand that held the gun. I swore, but the words were lost to the sound of his gunshot. It pinged off the top of the metal above my head, sending sparks flying into the shadows.

"You're as fast as any vampire I've come across," he said, his voice coming from my right. I raised the gun but didn't fire, simply because he was on the move.

"That's because I am part vampire." I was answering more to let Kade know I was okay rather than any real desire to speak to the man who was trying to kill me. "And that's also the reason you can never have what you want, Kye."

I shifted position, keeping the machine at my back as I scanned the walkway above me. A shadow flicked between one office and another, and I pressed the trigger. The shot reverberated and my heart froze, waiting for that moment of soul-death that would indicate I'd aimed accurately.

It didn't come, and I breathed a silent sigh of relief.

God help me, I didn't want to do this. Didn't want to kill my soul mate no matter how intent he was on killing me. No matter what Dia had said, no matter what Kye himself had said, I just didn't want to do it.

"If what you have with the vampire was truly strong, you would not have kept coming back to me," he said. His voice was coming from the shadows just to the left of the doorway. I raised the gun, my mouth so dry it hurt, and fired.

I waited, for what seemed an eternity, as the bullet sped across the distance between us and blasted its way through the wall.

And heaved another sigh of relief when there was no indication that I'd hit anything, let alone flesh.

I ran across to the next machine, hunkering under its protecting weight. Though I could feel his presence in the room, I had no real grip on his actual position. It was as if the deadener he was wearing was somehow blocking my more basic senses as well as the psychic and electronic ones.

I flicked to infrared, quickly scanning the upper floor. There was no telltale blurs of red, but that could just mean he was hiding behind the thick patches of darkness that my infrared couldn't see past.

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