"Yeah," I said, pressing the garage button as the door swished closed and zoomed us upwards. "But you're running on regular senses - "
"Well, no," he interrupted. "I'm an empath, remember? I couldn't feel him, though."
"But someone has to actually be emoting for you to sense them, don't they? And if he was asleep and not emoting, you wouldn't sense him."
"True." He glanced at me. "I'm sure you're working up to some point with these questions, but I'm damned if I can figure out what."
I grinned. "It's easy. I'll help you find your attacker, and you help me find the moron hacking heads off vampires."
"Deal - though Jack may not approve."
"Jack wants this case solved fast. I doubt he's going to quibble."
"You haven't seen the backlog of cases we have, obviously."
"I try to avoid backlogs," I said, voice solemn but amusement twitching my lips. "They're bad for the health."
"Your health will be on a downward spiral if Jack hears that."
I patted his hand lightly. "But he won't hear, will he? Because otherwise I'll have to tell Sable you've been flirting with the secretary on the ninth floor again."
"It's a stallion's job to flirt," he said, with a twinkle in his eye as he opened the driver's side door and ushered me in.
"Not when you've agreed to hold herd numbers at fifteen."
"Who said anything about adding to the herd?" His grin was mischievous. "I was merely offering to show her the advantages of being with a stallion."
Having tasted those delights myself, I couldn't help feeling a little envious. I might have Quinn, and I might have my soul mate, but that didn't stop the wolf from occasionally hungering for the pleasures to be found in the arms of others. I could have chosen to follow those desires had I wished, but only because I hadn't yet sworn my love to the moon for either man. Although there was only one man with whom I'd take that step, and it sure as hell wasn't my soul mate.
"That's why you all love me so much," he agreed, slamming the door shut and walking around to the passenger side. "And any time you want to revisit past pleasures, just say the word."
"Jack would kill us." I started up the car and reversed out. "And no amount of sex - no matter how brilliant - is worth facing his fury."
"He'll be even more furious if you crash the damn car again. I should be driving, you know."
"I haven't had an accident for over a month. You're perfectly safe."
He gave me a look of complete disbelief, then leaned forward and switched the onboard on. After identifying himself, he called up the police reports on Renatta Bailey's. "Okay, she lives at 13 Hope Street. Head onto the freeway, and I'll direct you once we get there."
I nodded. "Nothing illuminating in the report?"
"Nothing much more than what Jack's already told us." He frowned. "They interviewed her workmates, who said she hadn't been sleeping properly for the last week. Apparently she looked tired and run down as a result, but nothing more than that."
"So if she wasn't sick, maybe she was enjoying a little too much sex."
"Totally possible if she'd had a lover. But according to the report, her last relationship ended six months ago and she wasn't seeing anyone."
Which didn't mean she wasn't having sex. Although I guess the report would have mentioned it if she'd tumbled anyone recently. "If she'd run herself to the ground, the autopsy would have picked it up, wouldn't it?"
"I would have thought so." He leaned back in the seat and shrugged. "Sometimes people just die. It happens."
"Yeah, but apparently it shouldn't happen to the niece of the governor."
We drove on in silence, and quickly reached Hope Street. I parked in the driveway and climbed out. The air was fresh and filled with the scent of the nearby wattle trees and the happy buzzing of bees. The house itself was nondescript - just another large, brown-brick, double fronted house in a street filled with them. The only differences seemed to be the color of the roof tiles.
"She died four days ago," Kade said, walking up the steps and opening the screen door. "I can't see how us coming here now is going to help solve the case."
"I think the point is more us being seen. Jack may hate politicians using the Directorate like this, but those men sign the paychecks, so he does what he has to."
I held the screen door open as he got out what looked like a small black box from his pocket and pressed it against the door lock. A second later, there was a beep and the door clicked open.
"Still carrying illegal electronic lock pickers in your pocket, I see," I said, voice deadpan.
"Unlike you, I prefer not to break down doors." He stood to one side and waved me on. "After you, sweet cheeks."
I snorted and stepped past him. The hallway was dark, and the air had that slightly musty odor of rooms locked up for too long. Which was odd considering Renatta had only been dead for four days.
I looked through the first doorway. It was a bedroom, but obviously not the main one, unless Renatta slept in a single bed. Which I doubted, because it didn't smell used. I walked on.
"Her bedroom is the next on the left," Kade said.
I glanced at him over my shoulder. "How can you tell?"
"There's an echo of ecstasy coming from it."
"Ecstasy? So she did have sex before she died?"
"From what I'm sensing, yes."
I walked into the room and stopped near the end of the bed. The pale sheets were rumpled and the lingering scent of humanity and death emanated from them. I couldn't smell anything else - certainly not sex or even ecstasy.
"Renatta was alone in the bed when she died. I'd smell it if it were otherwise." I looked around the room. It wasn't plush or girlie in design, but more what I'd term 'beachy'. Her furniture was simple and classic, in sun-bleached hues paired with natural, neutral textures. On her dresser were several stands that were full of earrings and rings, and a jewelry case was open, revealing a goodly quality of gold chains and pendants. Whatever had happened here, it certainly hadn't involved robbery. White fingerprint dust lay over everything, even the many perfume bottles. The police had given the room a good going over.
"If the sense of ecstasy is still strong enough to linger, why wouldn't the fact that she'd had sex been picked up?" I asked, my gaze moving back to the bed.
"I don't know." He stood beside me, his hands on his hips and his gaze on the bed. "But regardless of the fact that it wasn't, I'm quite sure she was having a damn fine time before she passed away - and it wasn't just for the one night
. It's too strong a sensation for that."
"So maybe someone cleaned her up before her death was reported?" I spotted her purse on the bedside table and moved around to take a look. "Or maybe she was a lesbian, which would explain the lack of sperm."
"It's possible, although if she was in bed with a woman, you'd be picking up the scent, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah. I'm not getting any vibrations along the clairvoyant lines, either, so her soul hasn't hung about for a chat."
"Meaning it was a natural death?"
I shrugged. "Maybe. Or maybe it was a death she went to willingly." Souls didn't seem to hang about in that case, either.
I opened up her purse and went through it. There were over one hundred dollars sitting in it, as well as several credit cards. There were also half a dozen business cards, all of them for vampire clubs - the higher end ones, not clubs like Dante's. I plucked one out and showed it to Kade.
He raised an eyebrow. "The police report didn't mention that she was a blood whore."
"Maybe daddy hushed it up." It certainly wouldn't be the first time that had happened. "There's been enough press about them lately to make it an unpalatable connection for anyone in power."
Kade snorted. "Yeah, but he also wants her death solved, and that's hard to do if we haven't got all the facts."
"So there was no mention of vampire bite marks in the report?"
"None. If she was a whore, she hadn't gone to the clubs for a while."
"From what I've heard, it's as hard for a whore to give the clubs up as it is for a drug addict to give up substance abuse."
"We don't know she was an addict."
"She's got six business cards in her purse. That suggests a more than casual interest." I put the purse back on the bedside table. "Maybe whoever she was with found out about the addiction and found a sneaky way to get rid of her. "
"Maybe." His voice was lazy, but his expression was intent as he walked around the bed. I didn't say anything, just watched him. After a moment, he added, "There is something else here."
I raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"I don't know. It's very faint." He hesitated, then walked across to the dresser mirror. "It came through here."
"Through the mirror?"
He glanced at me. "The sensation is strongest here."
I walked across and stopped beside him, flaring my nostrils and tasting the flavors in the air. I couldn't find anything that triggered either my mental or psychic alarms.
"Nothing," I murmured. "Whatever it is you're feeling, I'm not catching it."
"It's not really anything I can define."
He shifted the mirror to look behind it. I peeked under his arm, but there was nothing more than dust.
"Jack's going to ask you to, so you'd better try."
"It's a wisp of power, a sensation of age." His frown deepened. "What the hell sort of creature can come through mirrors and attack a person? And why wouldn't Renatta have been terrified?"
"Two good questions I can't possibly answer."
He grinned suddenly. "And here I was thinking you had an answer for everything."
"You're confusing me with Jack."
"Ah," he said, a devilish twinkle in his warm brown eyes. "But you're Jack's little protege."
I snorted and swiped at his arm. The blow had enough power in it to rock him back on his heels. "Watch your mouth or I won't go vamp hunting with you."
"Yeah you will, because you want my help more than I want yours."
He had a point. I trailed after him as he walked from the bedroom and checked out the other rooms. The rest of the house was also done in neutral colors, with easy comfortable furniture. I couldn't feel anything out of place, and nothing seemed to have been touched or broken into.
"I don't think there's anything else to find," I commented, after the last room. "What about you?"
"The only room that has the other scent is her bedroom. I'll snag one of the liaisons to do some research on mirror creatures." He glanced at me, a grin of anticipation twitching his lips. "In the meantime, let's go hunt us a vampire."
* * *
The screams and giggles of children on rides mingled with the blare of music and the scent of fried food and humanity, creating an ambience that was both intriguing and oddly nauseating.
I slammed the car door and stared up at the huge face with its open mouth that was the entrance to the park. Though the face was supposed to be laughing, I'd always thought it had a slightly maniacal edge. But maybe that was just an adult werewolf's natural distaste for anything that involved being confined in a somewhat small area with too many people.
Yet humans certainly didn't seem to have that problem. Despite the fact that it was nearly nine, the park was packed with people. And most of them seemed to be having a good time - if you ignored the high-pitched screams of the little ones who were obviously either tired or not getting what they wanted from their parents.
Something I could look forward to if I agreed to Liander's and Rhoan's plans.
Depending, of course, on whether everything went to plan and the pregnancy and birth went off without a hitch, the disbelieving side of me felt obliged to add.
And really, when had anything in my life gone off without a hitch?
I worried lightly at my bottom lip, and then thrust the concern aside as I fell in step beside Kade. Now was not the time for these sorts of thoughts. Work first, babies later.
"So when was the last attack?" I asked, watching the roller coaster roar overhead, the screams of the people lingering in the air long after the carriages had sped by.
"Last Saturday. He seems to be active only on the weekends." Kade showed his badge to the woman at the ticket counter, but she basically waved him through without even looking at it. Which didn't mean she wasn't looking at Kade - and the amused twitch of his lips suggested he was more than a little aware of it.
"Don't tell me the ticket lady is yet another conquest," I said, voice dry. "Jack won't be pleased if you've been fooling around during investigations."
He might be all for using sex as a tool to get information from suspects, but I very much doubted he'd believe the ticket seller would have any information that couldn't be gained through less involved methods.
"There's been no fooling around as yet," he said cheerfully, "but she's been most helpful during the investigation and is definitely a possibility once this case is handled,"
I shook my head in disbelief. "How can your herd not be satisfying your sexual needs?"