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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
Paige nodded. “Because they’ll be one of us, too. So they’re choosing men and women who’d have some say in how revealed supernaturals are treated. Politicians, I presume.”
Adam shook his head. “Eventually, but according to Asmondai, their first targets are deeper sources of power. Money men. Guys with deep pockets and lots of clout. Would that work? I have no idea. But I’m thinking we don’t want to find out. We need to get to the targets before they do.”
“Wonderful,” one of the VPs said. “And how do you propose we do that? Determine the most powerful financial leaders in America and hope these terrorists use the same criteria?”
“No. Asmondai gave us names. He wants this stopped and thinks we can do it. There are two initial test cases. Two more will follow immediately after.”
“Good,” Benicio said, getting to his feet. “We’ll get there before they strike and establish round-the-clock surveillance. We’ll be ready for them.”
“We need to dispatch those teams now,” I said. “According to Asmondai, they’re hitting the first two tonight.”
I was heading back into the field. Adam, Elena, and Clay were going with me, so I’d be well protected on all sides. Also, we were in serious shit and already overextended. They needed everyone out there.
While Asmondai had been very helpful, there was a lot he couldn’t know. How exactly did SLAM plan to do this? How long would they wait after the two test cases before hitting the next two? And, most important, what were the risks of this injection? Bryce said they called it a virus. How did it spread? It wasn’t airborne, it seemed, or even spread by close contact—I’d had lots of contact with Bryce when I was getting him out of the lab and I was fine. Did it spread at all? Or was “virus” just a convenient name?
The linguists were still working on Hope’s message. They’d deciphered most of it. Now the problem was figuring out what it meant. It seemed to be about a place … if the person describing it was a sideshow fortune-teller. A winding road. Fields of gold. A house in ruins. Cows in a meadow. That could describe a million locations in America alone. Really not helpful.
But we had as much as we were getting for now.
Lucas, Paige, Jeremy, and Jaime were going after one of the initial test cases in Dallas. Adam, Elena, Clay, and I were taking the other in Austin. There would be a security team dispatched to each city with us, but this wasn’t a “swoop in with a SWAT team” kind of mission. The bulk of the Cortez and Boyd security forces—along with Cassandra, Aaron, Sean, and others—were being sent to track down and begin surveil-lance on the second wave of targets.
In just over an hour, we were at the airfield, bags in hand. We were going to Austin. Cassandra and Aaron were with us—they were heading to Houston to meet a security team and monitor a second-wave subject. Yep, there’s money in Texas.
The leaders of the Austin and Houston contingent were on the jet, too. They kept their distance, though. They obviously weren’t comfortable being so close to werewolves.
The easiest way to thwart the Austin attack would be to kidnap the target—Maurice B. Lester, head of Lester Oil. Yet that wouldn’t help us catch those who planned to infect him. If he wasn’t available, they could move on to Lester’s wife and kids—the next best thing to infecting a bigwig is to infect his loved ones, which guarantees he won’t be advocating universal imprisonment for supernaturals.
In the end, we were stuck with the simplest and most frustrating plan. Watch and wait.
After half a day of following Maurice Lester, we’d been at BJ’s BBQ for an hour now. Lester and his party had only just ordered dinner. We’d almost finished eating in a side room, where we were out of sight, but Elena and Clay could follow the conversation at Lester’s table.
“I’m sure the discussion is fascinating,” Clay said, “if you give a shit about oil.”
“Antonio appreciates it,” Elena said as she tapped her phone. “I’m texting him stock tips. Get a few pitchers of beer in these guys and they forget they aren’t alone in the place.”
“No,” Adam said. “They just don’t care. Only people they can see are minimum-wage servers and a table of college kids. Their stock tips are safe.”
“Can you pass those to me?” I said to Elena. “I wouldn’t know a stock tip if someone wrote it on the table, but my investment guy can use them.”
“Speaking of writing on the table,” Elena said, gesturing at the art unfolding beneath me. “You’re going to have to cut that out before you go.”
Adam nodded. “It’s the best crayon-on-tablecloth work you’ve ever done.”
I laughed and kept sketching. It was nothing really, just a shot of the restaurant interior, more doodling than drawing.
“I haven’t seen you draw in a while,” Elena said.
I shrugged. “I do. Just … not as much these days. But as long as I’m sitting here with a brown paper tablecloth and crayons …”
She leaned over to look more closely. “There’s a lot more color than your usual stuff.”
“Because there aren’t any grays and blacks in the crayon cup,” I said.
Clay rocked back in his chair, casting bored glances at Lester’s table. At first, we’d jumped every time someone walked past him and nearly raced in when a colleague thumped him on the shoulder. By now, even when the server leaned over to ask something, we didn’t twitch. Asmondai had said the group would strike tonight. While that wasn’t set in stone, it was unlikely they would inject Lester in a restaurant, surrounded by his friends and associates.
“Go scout outside,” Elena said as Clay thumped his chair back down.
“That an order?”
She smiled. “It is.”
As he got up to go, his fingers brushed her back. Just a light touch. Making contact. I’m sure that as we’d been sitting there, Clay had his leg against hers under the table.
When Clay zipped back a few minutes later, Elena got up.
“Are they leaving?” she asked him.
“Nope. And they won’t be for a while. A car full of Saudis just drove up. I’m guessing they’re here for Lester.”
They were. Seemed they were supposed to be here an hour ago, but were delayed. Dinner was about to begin in earnest.
“I say we give the kids a break.” She looked at us. “I know you’ve had a rough couple of days, and I already reserved the hotel rooms so—”
“Great,” Adam said. Then quickly added, “I mean, great that you reserved them already. But we’d hate to cut out on you guys like that.”
“Cut,” Clay said. “While you have the chance.”
“The Omni up the road,” Elena said. “The room is under Vasic. You guys usually share when you’re on a case, right? So you can watch each other’s backs?”
“Good,” Elena said. “Go on then. Rest. The hotel is a couple blocks from here. We’ll call if anything happens.”
As we headed out, I whispered to Adam, “Do you think they know?”
“Nah. Elena’s just being considerate.”
We did not walk. We went out the front door, saw a cab, and decided speed was of the essence.
We tactfully avoided making out in the cab or the elevator. Once we got the room door open, though, all bets were off. Adam had me inside and up against the wall before the door swung shut.
As I started to kiss him back, I caught a glimpse of the room over his shoulder and stopped.
“I don’t think we’ve been nearly as discreet as we thought,” I said as I nodded at the king-sized bed.
He turned to look. “Nope, apparently we weren’t.”
I laughed and pulled him close. Before our lips could touch, he backed up. He looked over his shoulder at the bed, then at me.
“I think we should wait,” he said.
He put his hands on my shoulders. “Let’s not rush into this.”
“Rush?” I sputtered.
“I want you to be sure, Savannah.”
“Hell, yes, I’m sure. I’ve never been more sure …”
I caught the glitter in his eyes then. The twist of his mouth, like he was biting his cheek to keep from laughing.
“You … you …”
He let out a whoop of a laugh. “Sorry. I had to. The look on your face …” He was laughing too hard to finish his sentence, hands falling from my shoulders.
I narrowed my eyes and took a step toward him. “May I remind you that my spells are much improved?”
“Sorry.” His hand went up as he choked on a laugh. When I glowered, he reached for me, hands going to my hips. “Come here.”
“Mmm, maybe not.” I backed away.
He moved forward, putting his hands on my hips again, warming me through my jeans as his lips went to my ear. “I’ll make it up to you.”
I grasped his wrists and pushed his hands away. “No, I think you might have a point. We are rushing things and it’s not like we really need to do this now.”
“I know I don’t.”
I kept backing up. He started to step forward, then stopped himself. The start of a smile disappeared in a flicker of uncertainty, as if he was pretty sure I was joking—really hoped I was joking—but wasn’t completely sure.
I started unbuttoning my shirt. He grinned and tried to grab me again, but I put my hand against his chest.
“But …” He gestured at my open shirt buttons.
“We told Elena we were getting some rest. I’m not going to nap in my clothing.”
I unbuttoned the shirt halfway, then flicked open the clasp on my jeans and shimmied them down. I took the clip from my hair next and shook it out. Then I finished with the shirt, letting it fall open. Adam let out a soft breath.
I backed up onto the bed. He watched me. Just stood there, watching me. I peeled the bedspread back and slid onto the sheets, pulling my bare legs up under me, shirt opening, swinging my hair over to cover my breasts.
“Do you want to take a nap with me?” I asked.
“Yes,” he answered hoarsely.
I shrugged off the shirt. Then I reclined on the pillows, one knee up, hair brushed aside. I hooked my thumbs in the sides of my panties and inched them down my hips.
“Are you sure?” I said. “Because if you aren’t sure—”
He was across the room, on the bed, mouth to mine before I could finish.
I leaned over the side of the bed, hair falling in a curtain as I peered at the carpet. Adam tugged me back up.
“What’s wrong?” he murmured as he pulled me against him.
“I have rug burns.” I rubbed my ass. “I’m trying to figure out how I got rug burns.”
“We were on the floor.”
“Huh.” I pushed up in bed. “How’d I miss that?”
He chuckled. “Well, either it was so good you lost track of where we were, or it was so bad you were busy compiling your grocery list.”
“I don’t buy the groceries. Paige does.”
Another chuckle, this one vibrating through me as he pulled me on top of him. “Then I’m going to pick option one. And if I’m wrong, don’t tell me.”
I stretched out on him, arms folded on his chest, chin propped on them. “No, it was option one. You were very good. Of course, I expected it. I’d heard that about you.”
He blinked and lifted his head to meet my eyes.
“Purely unsolicited information,” I said. “Some of your hookups liked to share.”
“That’s not at all awkward.”
“It never bothered me. I always figured since you had to wait for me, you might as well be getting some practice.”
He laughed. “Well, you’re very good, too. I might remember the floor, but only because I hit my knee on the nightstand. Otherwise, it’s all a blur. A nice blur.”
“Thank you. I had practice, too.”
Another laugh. “And that doesn’t bother me. As long as you don’t get any more practice anyplace else.”
“Mmm. Maybe. Depends on whether you can keep up.”
“Oh, believe me, I can keep up.”
He flipped me onto my back, slid onto me, and we “rested” some more.
I woke up first. I stretched and felt Adam’s arm over me, his leg across mine, and there was a moment, confused and drowsy, when I forgot what had happened. I was shot back to all the other times we’d shared a bed on a case or a tent on a camping trip, and I’d lain there, knowing he’d only thrown his arm across me in his sleep, and I’d think I wish …
Now I opened my eyes and saw him there, naked, his arm around my waist, his leg over mine and I thought Oh. That’s all I could think for a minute. Just Oh. Then I squeezed my eyes shut and felt a prickle of tears, emotions cycloning through me, joy and wonder and bliss and a little terror, too, the terror of finally getting the one thing I wanted above all others, and realizing that getting it doesn’t mean keeping it. But whatever happened, I would never forget the feeling of waking up and seeing him there, and I’d never regret it.
His eye cracked open and he hesitated, as if, like me, he had to take a moment to clear his head and remember. Then he smiled, slid his other arm under me, and pulled me into a slow, delicious kiss.