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Authors: Loribelle Hunt

Tags: #Romance, #Fiction, #Paranormal, #Fantasy

Kiss Of Twilight (2 page)

BOOK: Kiss Of Twilight
12.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Chapter Two

Everyone on the council has their own agenda. Remember that and you'll be fine.

--Text message from Gray Miller to Dupree Jackson

A few days later Dupree was still reeling from Kara's kiss. He was more determined than ever not to take advantage of her, but the only way to do that was to stay away. That was easy enough for the Order's second in command to arrange. There was no end to the work that needed to be done, which was how he discovered the latest disaster waiting to blow up in their faces.

He knelt next to the dead man and muttered every cuss word he knew under his breath. What was Councilor Baas Contee doing in their territory? And why hadn't he been informed? This had cluster fuck written all over it. Across the room Timothy, the region's chief scientist, waited with his arms crossed over his chest. Dupree looked up and motioned him over. Timothy knelt on the opposite side, his brilliant gaze studying the damage to the body.

"Demon attack?" Dupree asked.

"Looks like it. I'll know in the lab, but you see these jagged tears? The gouges?" He waited for Dupree to look and nod his head. "Those most likely came from demon claws."

They were hard to miss. Dupree felt a moment of pity, but squashed it down. He had a job to do. He studied the scene carefully. Formerly the office of the Southern regional commander of the Order, it was spacious and bare of everything except the large metal desk and a couple chairs. Behind him, the wall safe was left open. Dupree had supervised the transfer of its contents weeks ago after the compound had been attacked.

"Do you know who this poor SOB is?" Timothy asked.

"He's a councilor."

Tim's head jerked up. "You sure?"

Dupree didn't have to be a strong telepath to read the other man's surprised curiosity. He pointed out the distinctive tribal dragon tattoo that stretched from Contee's left shoulder to his elbow. "I'm sure."

Like Dupree and Timothy, the councilor was a hybrid, a member of the Order of Templar and sworn to protect humanity from their demon enemies. Dupree knew that Contee was extremely powerful. He should have been hard to kill. But the man had been caught unawares. He was in jeans and casual slip on loafers. His wedding band gleamed on his left hand. Dupree refused to try to identify the mess that used to be his torso and face. If it wasn't for the tattoo he would have been unidentifiable. Dupree noticed there were no wounds on his arms or hands. Contee hadn't had the chance to defend himself. The blood was fresh, his body still warm. Dupree's demon half fought for control, intoxicated by the scent.

"His heart is still here," Timothy said quietly.

Dupree knew exactly what Timothy was getting at. They knew this wasn't Ben's kill because the heart and brain were still intact. By consuming them the former commander, who was now their most hunted rogue, would have assumed Contee's power, a temptation too big for him to pass up. So the killer wasn't Ben, but more likely a full demon and not one of the half human hybrids.

Grunting, Dupree rose to his feet, taking care to hide his weakness and fatigue. The last thing he needed was for word to get around he wasn't at his full strength yet. He wasn't complaining. Much. Hell, he should still be laid out from his last injury. That he was up and walking around so soon was a miracle. Timothy thought it was because the poison had been delivered on a blade instead of the tip of the donating demon's tail, but Dupree knew better. It was grit and necessity. The Order couldn't afford for him to be out of commission for any length of time.

Refocusing on the present, he looked around a last time. No one had been here in weeks, So why was Contee in Ben's old office? It was only by chance that his body had been discovered. Nostalgia had driven Dupree here. Thank God he'd given into the urge to see it one last time. Dupree shuddered to think what would have happened if he hadn't dropped by for a quick inspection before turning it over to the real estate agent, who was unloading several of the Order's properties.

"He's all yours, Timothy. Call me as soon as you have something. No one else."

The scientist nodded, understanding the need for circumspection. Dupree took a slow, careful walk through the rest of the compound. He'd teleported straight to the house and hadn't checked the place out before Timothy's arrival since he hadn't felt anyone close by. Now he searched for signs of what the councilor was doing here. Was he meeting someone? Looking for something? Why would he look here? It was a mystery and Dupree did
like mysteries.

It was weird being here now. After his wife's death, Ben had gone rogue, joined the real demons, and led an attack on this and several other compounds. It had just been a couple of weeks, but already the place felt long abandoned. If Dupree listened hard he could just hear the ghost of voices of those who'd once lived and mostly died within the plain bare walls. There was only one survivor, Kara, because she hadn't been home. The compound had never been very welcoming, but now it felt like a place begging to be left alone with its memories of better times. Snorting, he shook his head and walked down the hall that led to the bedrooms and eventually circled back to Ben's office. He was getting fanciful. Or losing his damned mind. That was a distinct possibility.

He reached the sleeping quarters and began his search. Beds and dressers had been left, but all the personal items had been packed up and removed. He didn't find a damned thing and he knew that was all wrong. He returned to the office where the techs were finishing.

"Anything in his pockets?" he asked Timothy.


Dupree looked around and then checked all the desk drawers. Nothing.

"What are you looking for?"

Dupree shrugged one shoulder. "A wallet. A phone." He snorted. "A car? He couldn't have teleported from home."

Contee kept quarters in both his home territory in the Carolinas and Order headquarters in north Georgia. Dupree was the strongest teleporter in the Order, but even he couldn't travel that distance. Timothy looked at him a long moment.

"I didn't find anything, and I'm guessing you didn't either." He waited until the techs carried the stretcher out. "That's damned strange, Dupree. Demons don't take souvenirs."

No they didn't. "Keep it to yourself," he warned.

Until he figured out what was going on he didn't want any wild rumors to start flying. Things had just begun to calm down since Winter had become the new regional commander. They all needed the break. Timothy nodded and followed his people out, leaving Dupree alone with his questions. His phone buzzed with an incoming message and he gritted his teeth against disappointment when he saw who it was from.

He shouldn't be surprised it wasn't Kara. He should be thrilled, but his demon side surged against the chains in his mind at the thought of her. Dupree took a deep breath, fighting it down. Half the time the monster wanted her as fiercely as his human side did. The other half it viewed her as a threat. Like all hybrids, he had three choices: suicide, being hunting by his own, or bonding. There were a lot of benefits to merging souls with a demon, and one major drawback. After a few decades, the hybrid started to lose the battle they waged with their demon side. Eventually, the demon took over completely and the hybrid went rogue. The only way to prevent it was a blood bond with a purer soul. As long as the hybrid lived, so would the mate. Dupree had merged with his demon sixty years ago. He was way past his expiration date and his fight with the demon was constant now. Kara could save him if he let her.

stay away from Kara, watch over her from a distance as he'd always done. But he doubted he had the strength to stay away anymore. At best, he could take things slow. Let her get to know him better. He looked down at the phone in his grip but didn't read the message before it chirped again. This time with a text from Timothy letting him know they'd arrived at the lab and asking if he should wait for Dupree. He responded no and stepped outside to do a sweep of the property.

He found a wallet and cell phone under a flower pot that had been turned upside down. If it hadn't seemed so out of place, he never would have looked there and he wondered if Contee had left it there or the demon who'd killed him. That was ridiculous, though. Why would a demon take them in the first place, much less hide them in the yard? So why had Contee done it?

It didn't look like either had been touched. The wallet had the councilor's license, credit cards and several hundred dollars in cash. But it was the old fashioned hotel key tucked between the bills that excited him. He knew where Contee was staying now. There was only one nearby hotel, small and privately owned, that still used real keys instead of cards. The owners engraved the room numbers on the keys, which made it much easier for him to search Contee's room without alerting anyone to his activity. He slipped the key into his pocket and opened the phone. There was one local number in the recent call list. The region's headquarters downtown. The call hadn't lasted long enough for a conversation. Had he been looking for someone? Dupree put the phone in his pocket with the key. Scowling, more confused and worried than when he'd discovered the body, he straightened and let his senses, such as they were, flare out.

He had a little bit of telepathic capability, just enough to speak to someone who was close by. His main power was his ability to teleport people and objects with him. Right now he used the telepathy and his superior sense of sight and smell, to search for life nearby. He didn't sense anyone, but wasn't surprised. He hadn't expected to.

He had time to see what Timothy had to say and visit Contee's hotel room, then he'd have to go back to the nightwalker's mansion to fill Winter in. He focused on the lobby of the building downtown where they conducted business with its hidden lab in the basement and pushed himself there. It was a weird sensation, forcing the molecules in his body through space, but exhilarating.

Seconds later he arrived and went straight for the basement stairs. He jogged down, entered his id on the keypad and walked in to find it practically deserted. Timothy must have really taken his command seriously because usually the place was hopping.

"Give everyone the night off?"

"It seemed prudent," Timothy said behind his face mask.

He had the body on an autopsy table and gestured Dupree closer. The smell of blood rushed over him, and his demon, always eager for the scent, surged in his mind. He ignored it and went to see what Timothy had found.

"This might be the work of claws, but not demon claws." Timothy pointed at the tears along the body. Dupree had no idea what he saw.

"Why do you say that?"

"Too smooth." Dupree looked where he pointed. Didn't look smooth to him. Timothy took on a patient, lecturing expression. "Demon claws are serrated. Once we got the body back here and cleaned off the blood I could see the difference right away. The tears aren't clean like from a razor, no, but they aren't jagged enough for demon claws either. These could be from an animal or could have been a knife. I'm going to test some samples. Hopefully we can pinpoint something, but don't hold your breath."

Dupree was doing just that and exhaled with a grunt. Well, fuck. " animal attack? Or some kind of weapon?"

"Some kind of weapon would be my guess."

"So we're looking for a human."

Or a hybrid, but he didn't say that out loud. He didn't need to judging by Timothy's look.

"Where do you want this?" Dupree asked, holding up the wallet.

"Over there." Timothy indicated a desk with his chin as he returned to the body.

"I want DNA confirmation this is Contee before we go to the council. That's your number one priority. Let me know what else you find," he said before leaving the lab and heading upstairs.

Dupree's phone buzzed that he'd missed a call as soon as he hit the lobby, and he sighed as he pulled it out to look at the screen. Lance. One of the quadrant leaders. No rest for the wicked. He walked out into the warm summer evening and flipped the cell open, pushing the button to call back. Lance answered on the first ring.

"Are you serious about these patrol assignments? I know we're all working together now, but this is a bit over the top. What the hell is Winter thinking?"

Dupree snarled, "You follow orders, captain. You don't question them." He didn't have the time--or inclination--to explain command decisions to a subordinate. He expected his orders to be followed. End of story.

"Is that right?" Lance countered, the hothead's voice going cold.

Dupree held onto his irritation by a thin thread. "Lance, we're undermanned and outnumbered. You really want to refuse help because the nightwalkers stood in the arrogance line instead of the making-nice-with-others line?"

There was a long silence on the other end but Dupree just waited him out and continued his walk down the street. It was a nice quiet evening. The sun glowed on the horizon with its last gasp of the day, and though he couldn't see any stars because of the city lights he knew back at the house in another hour they'd be bright and clear. He'd like to see Kara there, under the moonlight, relaxed and laughing. There was something about her laugh that lit up his world.

"I don't like this, Dupree. It makes more sense to pair the walkers together and have them cover some of our routes."

It did if you had no interest in strengthening the alliance between the hybrids, nightwalkers and lupines, but that wasn't Winter's goal. "I'll bring it up to Winter, but she isn't going to change her mind."

Lance sighed. "Ask at least." He hung up without saying goodbye.

Dupree walked awhile longer, until it was full dark. He wanted nothing more than to return to the house, share a meal with Kara and later take them both to heaven. The fantasy of normalcy just increased his desire to take her to his bed and keep her there forever. The urge was strong tonight, and if not for Baas Contee's murder, Dupree would have found someplace else to sleep, but he needed to speak to Winter.

First he wanted to check out Contee's hotel room, though. He stepped into an alley out of sight of the few people hurrying along the streets, and teleported to the back door of the hotel. It was early enough that the rear entrance was still unlocked, and he opened it casually, as if he had every right to be there. Once inside he was careful the door didn't slam shut, walked the few feet into the hall and opened another door into the stairwell. He hurried to the second story and stuck his head out to check the hall. Seeing it was clear, he exited and walked a few rooms down, pulling the key from his pocket. He was inside in seconds.

BOOK: Kiss Of Twilight
12.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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