Authors: D. B. Reynolds
“Fortunate on two fronts then. If the bullet is recovered, it can tell us a lot.”
“So Cyn informed me,” Raphael agreed.
Lucas’s entire face lit up. Raphael gave him a flat stare, but it didn’t stop him.
“Ah, yes,” Lucas said speculatively.
“The beautiful Cynthia.
I assume she’ll be leading your investigation. Her skills are well known in this area. Of course, that means she and I will be working together quite closely in the coming days.”
“Lucas.” Raphael said no more than his name, but it was enough. Lucas grinned, but he backed off, sinking deeper into his chair and lowering his head in a slight bow of acknowledgment that did nothing to quell the sparkle of mischief in his eye.
“We are investigating,” Raphael said, getting back to the topic at hand. “My Cyn is making inquiries, and
has his people combing the hillsides, although I’m told we may have to wait for daybreak before that particular search will turn up anything useful.”
Lucas looked up and met Raphael’s gaze directly. “We will share information, my lord. But the killer is mine.”
“My people will dispute that,” Raphael replied evenly. “They are as eager as you for retribution. The attack was against me, on my territory and their watch.”
“But the vampire who hired the killer belongs to
Raphael tilted his head curiously. “You don’t think it was
was behind it, I’ve no doubt on that score. But I know that bastard. He’d never hire a human killer personally. He’ll have sent word down the line. Someone lower on the food chain did his dirty work for him, found the human and hired him for the job. It won’t save his ass, though. I don’t care if he was just obeying orders. Whatever vampire hired the human will die for it, and so will
.” Lucas leaned even closer and said intently, “Let me do this, Sire. Your people can have the human, but I want the vampire who hired him. He’s almost certainly hiding in my territory or
Raphael nodded his agreement. After all, Lucas was at war right now because he honored what Raphael was trying to do. Some of his vampires would surely die before it was over, perhaps even Lucas himself. Although if Raphael had truly believed Lucas couldn’t defeat
, he’d have been the first one to talk him out of fighting this war. Raphael had lost too many of his children lately. He didn’t need to add to that list.
But if Lucas was assuming the risks, he deserved some of the honor as well. And it was important to Lucas that he
the one to destroy the vampire who’d gone after Raphael. That death, and the deaths that would surely accompany it, would send a message to
—whether Lucas and Raphael had been
would sleep a little less soundly for knowing that.
At the same time, Raphael knew Cyn would be deeply unhappy at this arrangement. Her mate had been attacked, and she wanted blood. She might well have been a vampire for all her possessiveness when it came to him. Raphael was hers, and she had no forgiveness for anyone who tried to harm him. And he was vain enough that the idea pleased him.
and his vampire fixer are yours,” Raphael confirmed. “But the human assassin is mine.”
“Done,” Lucas said instantly.
“Yes,” Raphael drawled in amusement. “Now we’ve only to find who did it and prove
was behind it.”
“I don’t need proof against
. He dies either way.”
“True enough—” Raphael paused as his cell phone rang. The caller ID told him it was
calling, although he didn’t need the phone to tell him that. He hit the answer key. “
,” he said.
began. “We have recovered the bullet.”
“Excellent. You’re down in Security?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Lucas and I will be there shortly. Ask Cyn to join us, please.”
Lucas looked up expectantly, pretending not to have heard every word of the conversation. Or he
actually have been polite enough to have tuned out the conversation.
Most likely the former.
Lucas, after all.
has some information for us.”
* * * *
“You call Murphy, yet?” It was the first question Robbie asked Cyn once they’d left the vampires behind and headed for the alcove of the bedroom suite’s main room, where she had her laptop set up on a small built-in desk.
“First thing,” she assured him. “In fact—” She glanced at her watch. “—another half
and I’ll call him back.” She settled into the desk chair and rocked back, pulling the laptop onto her lap.
“Tell me everything you know about snipers,” she told him and lifted her fingers, ready to type.
Robbie gave her a bemused look.
“What?” she demanded.
“Cyn baby, I know an awful lot about snipers. Besides, I’m not sure what you’re dealing with here really is a sniper.”
“Who else could it be? When we locate the shooter’s nest in the morning—and we will—I’ll bet it ends up at least 700 yards away.”
“Sweetheart, with the guns we have now, a lot of people could make that shot. Besides, most of the snipers I knew would never have become contract killers. When their tour was up, they went home to their wives and kids. They didn’t start killing people for money.”
“Rob,” Cyn said patiently. “I’m not casting blame on snipers everywhere. I only want the one guy who did this.”
“Yeah, okay. I know you’re right. It’s just so many movies don’t get it right.”
Cyn snorted. “Tell me about it. Look what they do to vampires.”
Okay. First, I heard we had a slug. Is that true?”
“Yeah, it should be. Let me call
. . . oops, speak of the devil,” she said as her phone rang. “Hey,” she answered, then, after listening for a minute, “We’ll be right there.”
Cyn disconnected, then closed her laptop and stood. “
got some data for us.” She rubbed her hands together gleefully.
“Big confab downstairs in the secret room!”
Robbie rolled his eyes. “The things that make you happy,” he said, shaking his head. “You are one weird chick.”
“Yeah, but you love me. Come on, I’ll call Murphy later.”
* * * *
Raphael looked up a moment before Cyn appeared in the doorway of the
, pleased to see that Robbie filed in right behind her. He’d ordered the human bodyguard to stick by her side, knowing he was one of the few Cyn wouldn’t try to evade anymore. Raphael was seated on the far side of the big conference table which was wedged into a room crowded with equipment of various kinds. The computers and monitoring stations which made up a modern security system these days made up the bulk of it. Every inch of the house’s perimeter was under video surveillance twenty-four hours a day, and there were separate security measures at each of the three daytime sleeping vaults on the property. During the daylight hours, humans manned the security console, which was in a separate wing from all three of the sleep vaults. But tonight, and every night that Raphael was in residence, the security console was manned by his personal security team.
was set up at the far end of the long conference table, which was pushed into one corner. In the other corner was the armory, fenced off from the rest of the room, and with separate security measures of its own.
Raphael pulled out the chair next to him as Cyn maneuvered around the table. She smiled and dropped a hand on his shoulder in a caress, leaning over for a kiss before sitting. Robbie took up the chair on the other side of her. Lucas had seated himself directly across from them, along with his lieutenant, Nicholas, who’d joined them for this briefing, with Raphael’s blessing. If Lucas was going after
and his henchman, Nicholas needed to be informed as much as Lucas did.
Along those same lines, Jared sat at the other end of the table next to where
now stood to begin the briefing.
said, bowing his head in Raphael’s direction. “My lord,” he added, with a dubious glance at Lucas who only grinned. The antagonism between
and Lucas was as old as it was mutually respectful.
“We recovered the bullet from the fireplace,”
went on, “or more accurately, from the wall above the fireplace, which fortunately was constructed of stone and thus trapped the bullet quite effectively. We believe this was the second of the two shots fired by the assassin. We’re still searching for the other, although, as near as we can tell now, it appears to have been deflected into the desert. As it turns out, however, the bullet we did recover tells us everything we could hope to glean from it. It’s doubtful the first bullet could give us anything more than what we have.”
Next to him, Raphael saw Cyn blink in surprise. She’d never heard
give a full briefing before, and Raphael bit back a smile at her reaction. It wasn’t that
speak, he simply chose not to until it was necessary.
“This,” he held up a small plastic bag which contained the warped bit of metal that was the recovered bullet, “is a fifty caliber round, capable of doing a tremendous amount of damage. I have no doubt a direct head or heart shot with this particular type of ammunition
kill even a vampire. It is also true that a weapon capable of firing this bullet is not quiet. And outdoors, in this dry air, it would be almost impossible to sound proof the shooter’s hide, no matter how long he had to work on it. Certainly not without at least our daytime security noticing someone was building an acoustic shelter on that hillside. Steven
,” he nodded in
direction, “assures me that his daytime guards routinely scan the surrounding hillsides with binoculars looking for any unusual activity.
“At the time of the shooting, we had both human and vampire guards on the roof and around the property. Sunset was less than an hour past, and the shift change was still in progress. Most of those guards heard both shots. Three guards on the back of the house, which is where the shots originated, saw the muzzle flash of the second shot, which enabled us to locate the shooter’s location fairly quickly, but not quickly enough. He had a vehicle waiting on the far side of the hill.
will be sending a team of investigators out first thing in the morning to do a thorough search, but we
able to confirm the location and the fact that he was human. We’re exploring various avenues of investigation with regard to snipers, possibly former military, given the difficulty of the shot.”
Lucas interrupted, saying, “I don’t think you should narrow your search to former government-run snipers. I’m not even sure you should be looking at snipers period. This is
, after all. Hell, I live right next door in
, and everyone there has a gun.
Men, women, even kids.
That shot was half a mile with a clear line of sight.”
“That’s what I’m saying,” Robbie muttered.
frowned, but listened intently to Lucas’s reasoning.
“A well-tuned Remington 700 with a decent scope could make that shot,” Lucas continued. “And those are a dime a dozen around here. Hell, I have several in my arsenal at the ranch, and I have vampires on my own staff
can use them as well as any government-trained sniper.”
“I had no idea your knowledge of guns was so extensive, Lucas,” Raphael commented dryly.
Lucas gave him a crooked grin. “
is my territory, my lord. I know my people, human and vampire. But
knows all this bullshit, too. He’s just letting me talk because he’s the strong silent type.”
“Which no one has ever accused
But Lucas only laughed. “True enough. But that doesn’t take away from my point. The shooter’s only mistake was in not fully understanding his target. He doesn’t know vamps, and didn’t expect Raphael to react as quickly as he did. That alone tells me he was a human. I agree with
and your lovely Cyn on that much.”