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|Shadowed(Dark Protectors #6) by Rebecca Zanetti|
Max eyed the far wall, his odd metallic eyes narrowing. “I think I like the big table over there.”
Brenna hid a grin. The king’s deadly bodyguard had a thing for feng shui. “Maybe you’re right.”
Max lifted the heavy oak with one hand to carry it across the room. “When did you say Jase would be back?”
She hadn’t. “Soon.” Probably.
“Okay.” Max loped over to the demolished window and tugged a shard from the top frame. At well over six feet, the hulking soldier came in handy. Humming to himself, he ran his hand along the entire length, dropping glass to the floor. “These might fall on somebody,” he murmured.
The front door opened, and he pivoted, instantly on alert.
Brenna stilled. There was the killer with the reputation people whispered about. She turned and smiled. “Hi, Jase. Max was just helping me with the tables.”
Amusement lightened Jase’s eyes. “Max is actually a great decorator.”
Max snorted. “I don’t mind embracing my softer side.”
Brenna chuckled. There was nothing soft about any of the vampires. “We need more furniture.”
“How about we go buy some?” Jase asked.
Was he serious? Brenna leaned against the wall. “Now?”
“Yes.” Jase frowned at the missing windows. “We should have replacement glass soon, so we might as well furnish the room.”
Her heart pitter-pattered. Jase wanted to go buy furniture with her? Like a real married couple? “What about Garrett? I mean, we can’t just leave.”
“The best people in the world are working on finding Garrett. The second they have a lead, they’ll call us.” Jase nodded toward the sofa table. “I like the table on the other wall.”
Max shook his head. “Amateur.”
“Hmph.” Jase surveyed Max. “Are you here to see me?”
“Yes. How was your visit with Lily?” Max asked.
“Good.” Jase frowned. “Why?”
“I was being polite. Has she hit you with the ruler yet?” Max absently rubbed his thigh.
Jase grinned. “Not yet, but I’m sure it’ll happen. What can I help you with, Max?”
Max prowled toward the door. “I need to collect all of the Degoller Stars from you. The king wants them put away.”
Jase stilled. “No.”
Max rubbed his chin. “I have an order.”
“No,” Jase said levelly.
Max paused by the door. “Okay-dokey.”
Brenna frowned. “That’s it?”
Max shrugged. “Yep. I’m not getting between two Kayrs brothers.”
“You’re a brother, too,” Jase muttered.
“Exactly.” Max shoved past Jase to the front porch. “Which means I get to stay out of this one. Thank God,” he muttered as he loped down the steps.
Jase turned back toward Brenna. “That was odd.”
Not really. Centuries ago, the Kayrs family had taken in Max, making him one of them. As family, Max had wanted to check up on Jase. The hulk had a sweet side. “Are you serious about going furniture shopping?”
Jase shuffled his feet. “Yes, it’ll be nice to get away from headquarters for an afternoon.”
Yeah, it would. Brenna smiled, her heart lighter than it had been for days. “I do love shopping.”
Jase’s smile seemed forced. “Ah, me, too.”
Brenna snorted. “I’m sure.” A vampire shopping for furniture? This was going to be an afternoon to remember.
Jase sprawled on the zillionth leather couch he’d sat on that afternoon. “What’s wrong with this one?”
Brenna twisted to see around a tall clock. “That’s real leather.”
“So, one of your brothers married a vegan who will light it on fire if it’s in our house.” Brenna leaned down and grabbed his hand. “I kind of agree with her, actually. Come on, there’s a faux leather ensemble over behind the dining room table I love.”
He tugged back just enough to tumble her into his lap, contenting himself with the feel of woman in his arms. “I refuse to sit on any more sofas.”
She chuckled and tried to lever herself away from him. “Knock it off.”
“No.” He buried his face in her neck, inhaling the scent of Ireland. Warmth flushed down his torso, and his jeans became too tight.
The loud clearing of a throat caught his attention. The shop owner peered down his pointed nose. “Sir. I’ve already asked you twice to stop the shenanigans.” He patted his slicked-back hair and nodded toward two human females watching. “You’re causing a scene.”
The two middle-aged women had been watching Jase since he’d walked into the store, and one kept fanning herself. Maybe she was having heart problems or something. Jase stood and whipped out a credit card with no limit. “We’ll take the dining set, the sofa set behind that, the clock, and all of the office furniture my, ah, wife has tagged.”
The man straightened, a blush spreading across his face as he was suddenly all teeth. “Excellent. Very good, sir. I’ll go write these up.” He tripped over a potted plant in his hurry toward the cash register.
Jase shook his head and stood, settling Brenna on her feet. Closing his eyes, he tried to concentrate. Nothing happened.
Brenna elbowed him in the gut. “What are you doing?”
“I’m trying to make it rain in here.” He opened his eyes. “But no altering the air for me today.” Someday he hoped to regain the skill. Tangling his fingers with hers, he tugged her toward the counter.
She stumbled, glancing at a dining room set in the window. “Maybe—”
“No.” God, if he didn’t get out of there, he was going to start flashing fangs.
That was it. Turning, he yanked her against him and slid his mouth over hers, kissing her hard. Heat roared between his ears and down his spine to pool in his groin. Releasing her and leaning back, he studied her flushed face. “Somebody so sweet shouldn’t be so damn sexy,” he rumbled.
Twin “ahs” came from the women behind the potted plants.
Brenna grinned. “You just can’t behave.”
“If you cared about me, you’d set this place on fire.” He was only half-joking.
Her eyes sparkled, while her smile slid away. “I do care about you. Probably too much.”
The temptation to slide into such honest sweetness grabbed him around the heart.
The owner cleared his throat. Again. “For an additional ten percent, we can deliver your furniture today.”
Jase kept his gaze on his woman. “Somebody will pick it up later today.” He turned and flashed his teeth. “Be nice to them. They’re not nearly as polite as I am.”
The guy paled.
Jase signed, accepted his card, and bulldozed Brenna out of the store before she could change her mind. “You promised me ice cream if I bought you the dining room set.”
She slipped her small hand into his and pointed down the sidewalk. “There’s a place down there.” As they passed teenagers on skateboards, joggers with yapping dogs, and little old ladies with puffed hair and brightly colored purses, Brenna snuggled into his side. “It feels weird to be doing normal stuff.”
A kid dressed in all black careened a skateboard by the elderly ladies, grabbing a pink purse and angling away from Jase.
Jase manacled the kid by the throat, lifting him several feet as the board crashed into a parking meter. “Give it back.”
The kid’s eyes widened, popping out. He held the purse away, and the woman reached for it. “Bad boy.” Tucking it to her ample chest, she smiled at Jase. “Thank you, young man.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Jase smiled and dropped the kid. He ran across the street.
Brenna sighed. “Now that’s normal for us.”
Jase looked up at the ice cream sign. “Let’s get a snack, and then we need to get home. We should have news on Garrett.”
Reality just wouldn’t stay away, no matter how much he wanted to pretend.
Garrett eyed the wires lining the wall. He’d broken through the first few layers, but the explosives were well set. Blowing up the boat held a certain appeal, but he’d like to jump off first.
The outside door opened, and Kalin appeared. He eyed the damaged walls and exposed wires. “You’re about to blow yourself up.” He held a latte cup in one hand.
Garrett frowned. “You drink lattes?” For some reason, he’d figured the butcher only drank blood and sucked on dead things.
“Sure. With soy milk. That cow’s milk is full of hormones.” Kalin mock-shrugged.
Who the hell was this guy? “I figured I’d cut the blue wires.”
“Interesting.” Kalin took a gulp of the steaming brew and hummed in appreciation. “You’ll be dead in seconds if you cut all the blue wires. Or the red. Or the green.”
Garrett eyed the wires. “That leaves yellow.”
“Nope. Those, too.”
So the release was in a pattern. One he had no clue how to decipher. “How extensive is the blast?”
“You’ll only kill yourself.” Kalin leaned against the far wall. “The boat may sink, but we’ll all survive. So, young Kayrs, I wouldn’t cut a wire, were I you.”
He might survive the blast so long as his head remained attached to his body. Garrett rubbed his chin. Might as well take advantage of the calm Kurjan. “What’s your plan, anyway? I mean, your best-case scenario. You mate Janie, and what?” Not that there was a chance in hell Janie would mate this asshole.
Kalin shrugged. “First, I figure out what the big deal is with her powers, then I use them. Subsequently, we have many, many sons with power . . .”
“And you rule the world?” Was this a comic book, or what? “You know that’s crazy, right?”
“It’s not a bad plan, really. Our scientists are working on a cure for our aversion to the sun. Someday, I’ll live in the Caribbean.” His eyes swirled purple through the bright green. “Once I take care of the vampires and the lowly shifters, I’m taking out the demons.”
“Isn’t this the part where you let loose with your evil laugh?”
Kalin flashed a grin. “You’re a smart-ass, Kayrs.”
Like he’d never heard that before. “I’m realizing that you’re going to be my first kill.”
“Oh no, I’m not. I may not have your sister’s psychic powers, but there’s a moment coming up soon where somebody is headless, and it might be me. Or not. Either way, you’re not present.”
“Who is?” Garrett moved closer to the bars.
“Ask your sister.”
Oh, he would. First second he got off this stupid boat. “I take it your plan didn’t work?”
“No.” Kalin sighed. “The vampires repaired the security system faster than we’d hoped, and we didn’t get Janet out fast enough. Lost six good men, too.”
“You shouldn’t have sent them up against my family.”
“I still have you, now don’t I?” Kalin took another drink.
For now. Garrett cocked his head. “Are you really a serial killer?”
Kalin grimaced. “I do enjoy a good hunt.”
“You hunt women—even human ones. Easy prey.” Garrett’s gut clenched.
“Well, a guy does need a hobby.”
Several loud thunks echoed from up above. What the hell? Slivers of pain pierced Garrett’s brain.
Kalin lifted his head. “Damn it.” Throwing his latte on the carpet, he yanked the door opened and ran upstairs.
Garrett pressed his temples, dropping to one knee.
The air filled with tension until oxygen held weight. His back trembled. What was going on?
Fear made his ears ring. His vision blurred.
His fangs dropped.
Gunfire shook the boat. Shit. If they sank, could he get out?
The boat pitched. Men screamed. Boots thumped on the stairs.
Reality swam out of focus. Had they somehow drugged him again? Explosions shattered his mind. His stomach lurched. Stumbling to the corner, he puked up the sandwich they’d fed him earlier.
The boat rocked, and he slammed into the bars. His shoulder cracked. Pain blurred his vision. He bit through his lip to keep from crying out.
Okay. Dropping to his knees in front of the wires, he struggled to focus. Uncle Conn had spent years teaching him about bombs and detonation. The multicolored wires spread out in every direction.
The room spun, and he coughed out a laugh. Damn, he needed to focus. Sticking his pinkie in his ear, he swirled it around. Nope. No blood. Why did his brain hurt so bad?
A high-pitched shriek ripped through the night. Were his people attacking? Boots thumped down the stairs, and the door flew open.
Fear nearly knocked him down. On the other side of the bars stood a demon. White hair, black eyes, plenty of silver medals on his right breast. A soldier.
Garrett snarled and rose to a fighting stance.
The demon smiled.
Brutal images of death flashed behind Garrett’s eyes. He staggered back, his stomach revolting again. Drawing a deep breath, he tried to focus and fight through the pain.
His nerves misfired, shrieking agony into his central nervous system. Blood dripped over his upper lip from his nose. Red hazed across his vision.
The demon drew a glowing green gun from a side holster.
Garrett settled his stance. If he was going to die, he was going to face the bastard shooting him.