Tempting Evil Chapter Sixteen
I drew together the edges of my borrowed coat and watched the dawn color the sky with flags of red and gold.
From where I sat near the stables, I had a full view of what was going on. The house was a hive of activity. Trucks lined the driveway and people were bustling back and forth, most leading prisoners but some carrying boxes and files.
I rubbed my forehead wearily. The sense of deja vu was strong, and like before, I just wanted to go home, take a long bath, and forget this whole damn episode.
And while I could finally go home and be safe, forgetting wasn't an option. Like it or not, my actions here in this place had changed my life forever. I had my revenge all right, but the cost was still to be counted.
Warm awareness tingled across my skin, and I looked around. Quinn walked out of the trees and sat down beside me.
’’How are you feeling?’’
’’Like shit.’’ I shrugged. ’’Several gallons of coffee, a long hot bath, and several days of sleep will make a serious difference, though.’’
His smile reached his dark eyes and my hormones reacted accordingly. ’’Thought that might be the case.’’ He produced a china mug from behind his back. ’’It's not hazelnut, but it is hot.’’
’’God, I think I love you.’’ I wrapped my chilled hands around the mug and inhaled deeply. ’’Bliss, even if it's not hazelnut.’’
’’I'll treat you to hazelnut when we go out this weekend.’’
Amusement ran through me. ’’When? Don't I get a say in it?’’
’’You can chose the day. You can chose the time. But you cannot refuse.’’ His eyes were filled not only with determination, but a warmth that did strange things to the beat of my heart. ’’Because I will hunt you down, throw you over my shoulder, and forcibly abduct you to our date.’’
The vampire had joined the chase and fully intended to give Kellen a run for his money. Modern wolf or not, my blood raced at the thought.
’’You do realize part of me is tempted to test whether you'd carry through with the threat?’’
He shrugged. ’’I don't intend to play by the rules anymore. I'm playing to win.’’
’’Love is not a game.’’
He raised an eyebrow. ’’Life itself is a game. Love is the greatest prize. One I've held myself apart from for entirely too long.’’
Nice words, but I wasn't exactly believing them. ’’So why the change, Quinn? What makes me so acceptable now when I was so unacceptable four months ago? I can never change what I am.’’
’’Unless you find your soul mate. Unless you promise yourself to the moon and him.’’ He touched a finger to my chin, holding it still as he leaned forward and gently kissed my lips. ’’I intend to prove I am that man.’’
’’You're not a wolf.’’
’’Neither are you. Not entirely.’’
’’But I want what all wolves want. A wolf mate. A home. Children.’’
’’We both know some dreams are never meant to be.’’
’’But there are still options left for me, Quinn.’’ I freed my chin from his grip and looked away from him. ’’And I will not give up on my dreams until I draw my very last breath.’’
’’Then I will have to remain by your side until those dreams turn to dust or you accept what is meant to be.’’
I glanced at him. ’’You can stay for as long as you like, but I will never play us solo. Never.’’
He looked away, but not before I'd seen the flicker of cold determination in his eyes. The vampire might be saying all the right things, but in the end, the result he wanted was me and him, his way, not mine.
And only time would tell which of us was the stronger.
I followed his gaze and saw Jack approaching. Bad timing in some respects, good timing in others.
As Quinn rose to his feet, I said, ’’You never answered my question earlier.’’
’’What question?’’ But the sparkle in his dark eyes suggested he knew entirely too well what question.
’’You had the chance to take your revenge on Starr but didn't grab it. Why not, when you've declared from the beginning that nothing and no one would get in the way of your revenge?’’
He paused, as if searching for an answer, then said, ’’Because Henri would have called me all sorts of a fool for choosing revenge over matters of the heart. In the end, Starr died anyway, so what did it matter who actually pulled the trigger?’’
’’That decision could earn you brownie points, you know.’’
He grinned. ’’I'm counting on it.’’ He touched a finger lightly to my shoulder, then walked away.
jack took his place beside me. ’’So, how is my favorite recruit feeling?’’
’’I'm not making killing a full-time habit. You can't make me.’’ I paused for impact, even though I doubted there would be any, then added, ’’Can I go home now?’’
’’Not yet.’’ He grinned. ’’And killing will come in time.’’
I sniffed. ’’How goes the cleanup?’’
He shrugged. ’’Here, fine, though we've had to bring in local cops to help handle all the arrests and documentation.’’
’’And the lab?’’
He looked at me. For the first time ever, I saw anger, true, unforgiving anger, in Jack's green eyes. ’’That bastard didn't deserve the easy death you gave him, Riley. What he has done - ’’ He blew out a breath. ’’I've seen some truly horrific things in my time, but this lab takes the cake.’’
I didn't want to know the details, I really didn't, so I changed the subject. ’’What about the spirit lizards?’’
Iktar's people, despite his confidence, hadn't been able to free themselves from the implants as quickly and as easily as he'd boasted. They were all still here when the Directorate swept in.
’’We've come to an agreement. His people I've let go. The clones will be held for study to insure they have no Starr-implanted agendas in their subconscious.’’
They'd already had an agreement in place, but I didn't bother pointing that out. ’’And Iktar?’’
He grinned. ’’Will be joining the Directorate's new daytime division, along with a few of his people.’’
’’Don't you think their featureless face is going to be a little noticeable?’’
’’Just because it's called a daytime division doesn't mean it'll actually be all daytime work.’’
’’Did you come all the way up here just to give me that cheery piece of news?’’
His amusement faded away. ’’No.’’
’’You can't go home.’’ His gaze met mine. ’’Not immediately. We're arranging a new apartment for you and Rhoan.’’
I had no reaction to the news. I think I was simply too darn tired. ’’Why?’’
’’Gautier slipped the noose.’’
’’Bound to happen given he was our best guardian.’’ I rubbed my eyes wearily. ’’Maybe he'll just move to another state and leave us alone.’’
’’You don't believe that any more than I do.’’ He slipped a hand into his pocket and drew out his cell phone. ’’You'd better read this.’’
He pressed a button then held the phone out. I took, it, and read the message.
Thank you for freeing me from the restraints of servitude. For that, I shall give you time to recover. But not long. We have unfinished business, Riley, and I fully intend to make good the promise I made in the arena.
I handed Jack back the phone but didn't immediately say anything. Because what was there to say?
The Directorate's best guardian had turned rogue. The hunter had become the hunted.
And the hunted was coming after me.
I hugged my knees a little closer to my chest. ’’I guess the one good thing is that bringing clown Gautier will probably be a piece of cake compared to Starr.’’
’’If you think that, then you're not as bright as I thought you were.’’
’’Way to kill feeble hopes, boss.’’ I blew out a breath. ’’So what do we do now?’’
He shrugged. ’’We wait. And when he finally shows himself, we'll kill him.’’
How? I wanted to ask, When you couldn't even contain him when surprise was on our side? When he didn't even know he was being watched?
’’He won't get you, Riley. I promise.’’ Jack raised a hand and lightly squeezed my shoulder. ’’There's a car waiting near the gates - why don't you go see your brother?’’
’’And the cleanup here?’’
’’Could take days yet. But there's plenty of people here to worry about it. You need to rest and recuperate.’’
I blew out a breath, then rose. I'd go see my brother, then get the bath and coffee I desperately craved.
After that, there was nothing I could do but wait.
Because death was coming after me, and it was going to take every ounce of strength I had to survive him.