“Eve.” It was all he said. All he needed to say.

“I saw my father. I stood there in that ugly place, and he came toward me. Toward me,” she repeated. “Not us, not the group of us, but me.”

“Yes. Yes, he did.”

“Like a dream, in a way. The fog, the lights, the noise. I knew it was for effect, for show, but…I got a hook in me, I guess, and then I looked in his eyes. You said sociopath. You said killer. And yeah, I saw that. But I saw more than that. When I looked into him I saw whatever monster it was that lived in my father. I saw it staring out at me. And it…it sickens me. It scares me.”

Roarke reached down, took her hand. “Knowing monsters exist, as you and I do, Eve, may not always make for easy sleep, or even an easy heart. But it arms us against them.”

“It was like he knew.” She tightened her grip on his hand. There was no one else she could have told such things to. There had been a time when there’d been no one at all she could have told such things to. “I know it was my imagination, my own…demons, I guess you could say, but when he stared back into me, it was like he knew. Like he could see what was small and scared inside of me.”

“You’re wrong on that. What he saw was a woman who won’t stand down.”

“I hope so, because for a couple seconds I wanted to run. Just rabbit the hell out of there.” She let out a shaky breath. “There are all kinds of vampires, you said that, too. Isn’t that what my father was? Trying to suck the life out of me, trying to make me into something less than human? I put a knife into him instead of a stake. Maybe that’s why he keeps coming back in my head.”

“It’s you who made you.” He leaned down now, framed her face with his hands. “And what you are your father would never have understood. Neither would Vadim. No matter how he looks, he’ll never really see you.”

“He thinks he does.”

“His mistake. Eve, do you want to talk to Mira about this?”

“No.” She considered it another moment, then shook her head and repeated, “No, not now anyway. Dumping on you levels it out a little. Taking him down, all the way down—that’ll take care of the rest.”

For a moment she studied their joined hands, then shifted her gaze up to his. “I didn’t want to tell you I’d been scared, much less why. I guess that was stupid.”

“It was.”

She scowled. “Aren’t you supposed to say something like ‘No, it wasn’t. Blah, blah, support, stroke, let me get you some chocolate’?”

“You haven’t read the marriage handbook, footnotes. It’s another woman who does that sort of thing. I believe I’m allowed to be more blunt, then ask if you’d like a quick shag.”

“Shag yourself,” she said and made him laugh. “But thanks anyway.”

“Offer’s always on the table.”

“Yeah, yeah, and the floor, in the closet, or on the front stairs. Time to work, ace, not to play.”

She pushed up to study and circle her murder board, and he knew she was soothed and settled.

“Prior bad acts, and plenty of them. Mysterious income. Contact with the vic, and the profile fits him like a tailor-made suit. Bullshit alibi. He’s running a game in that club, skinning rich idiots with his vampire fantasy, maybe blackmailing them, selling illegals. But that’s only part of the picture. He’s got something,” she said in a mutter now. “He’s got something, and he’s feeling fucking smug about it.”

“Heads up, Lieutenant,” Roarke warned.

She glanced his way, caught the candy bar he tossed across the room. She grinned, tore the wrapper, and biting in, continued to study her board.

When Allesseria finished her shift, she was careful not to rush, careful to do everything just as she did every night. She closed down her tabs, keyed in her codes, passed her station off to her replacement.

She stretched her back as she walked, casually, to the employee-only area where she stowed her bag and her jacket every shift. Even there, behind closed doors, she kept her expressi

on neutral and her movements routine. Everyone knew there were cameras in every section of the club, the boss had made that clear.

You never knew who was watching.

Her yawn wasn’t entirely feigned. It had been a long shift, and a busy one as the crowds that patronized Bloodbath liked to stay thoroughly lubed. As she always did, she transferred her tips to her bag, zipped them into its inside pocket. After fitting the bag’s strap across her body, she put her jacket over it.

She hung the illuminated cards, given to all employees, around her neck so that one glowed between her breasts, the other between her shoulder blades.

With the gleaming gold pentagram with its boldly red double B’s in the center like a shield front and back, nobody would bother her on the way out of the club, on the nasty route through the tunnels. It was something else Dorian had made clear from the get-go, and he’d made an example of a souped-up chemi-head who’d tried a move on one of the waitresses the first week the club opened.

Tags: J.D. Robb In Death Mystery
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