Hey, Donovan. You got a visitor. The sound of his commander, Achilles Stefano's voice echoed in his head, waking him from a dead sleep and leaving his ears ringing.
Slade grimaced, turned over in his tangled sheets. Talk about lousy timing. Can it wait?
No. Get your ass in here.
What vampire on earth would want to speak to him at this ungodly hour? Either something was wrong, or was going to be. Slade grumbled. He grappled the sides of his sleeping spot, a double-wide grave-sized hole carved out of the gray bedrock, the black satin sheets pooling around his hips as he sat up.
He phased himself a fresh-showered look and clean fatigues so he'd at least look presentable, then focused pulling his energy together at his core, visualizing the security room inside the clan headquarters, so he could transport.
An image of pale green smooth walls and military issue furniture circa 1950 filled his mind, accented by the musty smell that pervaded the room despite the heat thrown off by the banks of flat-screen computers. A pull, centered at his navel yanked him by the balls inside out as he transported from his position in the Cascade Mountains to the complex system of passages and rooms fifty feet below the asphalt streets and buildings of Seattle.
The minute his particles knit back together he could see exactly why the hour was so damn late, or rather so damn early. His visitor wasn't a vampire. It was the woman from the woods, only now she was in full uniform for a state police officer - a pair of olive green pants, a short-sleeved khaki shirt with matching olive green breast pocket flaps and epaulets, a standard issue gun belt, ugly black shoes, and her glorious ebony hair pulled back in a no-nonsense bun at her nape. Damn. Double Damn. The cop.
Before being brought into the clan, he'd had his share of run-ins with the law and still felt uncomfortable around cops. Even pretty, strawberry-scented ones. He glanced at Achilles. His commander was one-hundred-percent pure golden Spartan warrior, but his modern military-short hair cut was starting to grow out. His hard jaw didn't flex in a smile, but the wicked twinkle in his unnaturally green eyes said he knew something about this woman Slade didn't.
Slade shifted, crossing his arms over his chest, forcing himself not to wince at the sharp sting in his ribs that were still a little tender. "Can I help you?"
She extended a slender hand. Her nails were short and mostly clean, only a few had fine traces of dirt underneath.
"I'm Raina Ravenwing, Mr. Blackwolf." She said smoothly, extending her hand. There was no sign of recognition in her dark brown eyes. "Fish and Wildlife Officer with the state wildlife department." She clarified, just in case the emblem on her sleeve didn't do the job.
He stared at her hand but didn't take it, and she let it drop. "Sorry, wrong guy. Last name's Donovan. If that's it, I'm out of here." He turned on his heel, giving her his back as he headed for the door.
"So you go by your mother's maiden name?"
That stopped him cold. His mother's maiden name? He didn't know whose name it was, let alone why he'd used it for as long as he could remember. The only glimpse of his mother - at least he thought it was her - were distorted slow-motion images he saw in his daymares.
Dark hair, wide brown-sugar eyes. A wide-generous mouth, which smiled one moment and screamed the next. A wash of red blood and the howl of wolves.
To think Officer Raina Ravenwing knew something about him that he didn't even know about himself rankled. He turned slowly, facing her once more. "Couldn't tell you. Don't know."
The petite woman widened her stance, pulled her shoulders back and stiffened her spine. "Well, Mr. Donovan, I've been told you're a wolf expert of sorts." Her gaze flicked to Achilles briefly, disbelief evident in the firm set of her generous mouth.
The dark hairs prickled all along Slade's arm. Somehow, gut deep, he knew she wasn't here to talk about just wolves. "I guess."
"Don't let him fool you Officer Ravenwing. There's not another vampire who can track better than Donovan." It was true. Slade's senses were more finely tuned than most of the other vamps in the clan. That's why he'd been tapped to be in the security detail by the commander himself. While his technical specialty was explosives, tracking came in a close second. Very close.
She stuck her chin out a bit, almost daring him. "What do you know about unusually large wolves in our area?"
Slade brushed at the slowly healing cut at his scalp line. Good. She didn't remember a thing. Weres weren't something you talked about in polite vampire society, let alone with mortals. They were less than mortal. A cruel joke of the gods. A cross between an unpredictable animal and an unsympathetic mortal.
"There've been reports of some rather unusual wolves causing trouble in the edges of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. The people are getting lathered up about it and ready to go on a wolf hunt."
"So let them."
Her eyes narrowed. She crossed her arms over her chest, making her B-cup breasts jut out enticingly. At least he thought they were B-cups. They might be just a shade larger, but he wouldn't be able to tell unless he got his hands on them.
Whoa. Where had that come from? Slade flexed his fingers, reigning in his wayward thoughts. She wasn't even his type. Of course, who the hell did he think he was kidding? Female was his type. It was police officer that wasn't.
"My job as a Game Warden, Mr. Donovan, is to protect these animals and enforce the laws in this state. The fact that they've returned at all and may be migrants from the reestablished packs in Idaho or Montana is significant enough. They're an important part of our ecosystem and until I find out who or what is really behind these attacks, I'm doing my best not to let anyone near those wolves."
The scrape on his scalp was beginning to itch like holy hell and he wasn't really interested in her long-winded eco lecture. "Lady, the wolves aren't in any danger. If you want my advice, you'd do better to worry about keeping people away from them."
"It's Officer Ravenwing, Mr. Donovan, and that's about what I expected from a vampire." She said the last word with such distain that Slade could smell the sulfur of it like rotten eggs tainting the air.
Achilles stepped closer placing a huge hand on her delicate shoulder. "Officer Ravenwing, Donovan will be happy to help you with whatever you need to bring your investigation to a close."
Slade glared at his commander. What the hell? I don't want to be anywhere near her.
Achilles glanced back at him, his words echoing loud and clear in Slade's head. She's part of the mortals' law enforcers, so we will cooperate fully. We don't need them digging up problems with the Wenatchee Were Pack to put at our door. You'll help her or you'll be pulling day shift for the next decade. Do I make myself clear?
Achilles gave the game warden a nod, and she relaxed. "If you'll excuse me, Officer Ravenwing, I have another pressing matter." He grasped her free hand and lightly brushed the back of it with a brief kiss. "I'll leave you to fill Donovan in on how you want this handled."
She gave Achilles a generous smile that pissed off Slade even more.
She blushed slightly. "Thanks for your help."
Achilles vanished in a swirl of dark particles as he transported from the room leaving Slade alone with the cop.
He glared at Officer nature girl. Just because he had to help her didn't mean he had to like it. "What do you need?"
"I need your help tracking one of them down so I can find out if they've established a new pack from the groups further east, or if they are a new breed or rare mutation. And find out what's really going on with this rash of incidents."
Damn. Double Damn. Sure, waltz in on the Were territory and give them a 'hey, whatz up?' Why didn't she just ask him to go stake his balls to the ground and sunbathe nude? That would be less painful. Well, maybe. "So you want me to go on a nature hike with you?"
Raina restrained herself from making a smart-ass comeback. If nothing else she was a professional. She would have preferred to have Achilles go with her. At least he could be trusted and had some respect for her badge. With Donovan it was a whole other matter.
Everything about him shouted 'danger', from the rumble of his deep voice and dark good looks to his tiger-like topaz eyes. But it was his broad shoulders encased in black tight black t-shirt and military cut camo fatigues and wide jaw bisected by a devil-may-care dent in his chin that made him appear intriguing, which were an even greater danger to any female in sight. That was, if he'd been her type. Which he wasn't.
Something at the edge of her mind nagged her. She'd seen him before. He'd done something horrible. But no matter how hard she concentrated it floated in her memory just out of reach.
"It's a bit more complicated than that. There's an investigation currently underway. I need to track one down and put a locator on it."
He glanced away, sending not so subtle uninterested signals her way. "I'm sorry am I boring you, Mr. Donovan?"
He shook his head. "Locator. Please continue."
Raina was slightly surprised he had actually been listening. "I need to know if there's only one, or if there are more and if so, what the pack's territory is so I can advise the state game department of potential impact on the local farmers and the game in the area."
She didn't like the way he narrowed his eyes. The air around him swirled with a potent mixture of testosterone and wild side that were too intense to be comfortable. While his commander was at least polite, Slade Blackwolf, or Donovan, or whatever he wanted to call himself, was barely civilized.
He reeked of bad boy, something she'd tried scrupulously to avoid since graduating the police academy. If she got close enough she could probably smell motorcycle fumes and leather on him if she tried. But she had no intention of getting that close, now or ever. Getting mixed up with a bad boy was career suicide for a cop, especially a young female cop, no matter what department she worked in.
This was business, plain and simple. Being a game warden offered her an opportunity to help out her tribe in a practical way instead of all the hocus-pocus they kept insisting she was somehow tied to as part of their hopelessly outdated beliefs.
From what she'd been able to discover he was her best chance at finding the elusive wolves. So far everything else she'd tried had gotten her squat. And if things went on much longer it wouldn't be just the state she'd have to deal with, the Feds would get involved since her investigation was criss-crossing areas of the Wenatchee National Forest. She needed to find those wolves. Now.
"Sounds like a lost cause. Can't prove something's perfectly harmless when it's not."
Raina didn't like his belligerent attitude any more than his bad-boy demeanor. "Look, if you aren't capable of helping me-"
Between one breath and the next she found herself wedged up against the wall. A hard male body too dangerously close to her own in front and the rough edges of a cold brick wall digging into her back. Power, like smoke billowing from a forest fire, rolled off of him in waves. He pinned her, his arms on either side, a lethal look in his golden eyes that was mesmerizing like a wild animal's. She'd never been this close to an actual vampire before and it scared the hell out of her.
With an audible flick his sharp fangs appeared out of the gums just above his very normal looking teeth. His voice came out low, almost a growl. "I'm perfectly capable of doing anything you could possibly need done, Officer Ravenwing. But let's get one thing straight. You came to me. You need me. So if I tell you to jump when we're out there bushwhacking, you don't ask why, you just jump. I don't want have to explain to my commander why I came back with a dead game warden. Are we clear?"
Rania managed to gather enough moisture in her dry mouth to swallow, but words were beyond her. All she could manage was a nod, her heart pounding so hard her pulse throbbed in her fingers and toes.
All the resolve she'd made to keep good and gone from bad boys of any kind began to dissolve, running like heated honey through her veins. He was too close and it was too confining. She tried to push against him, her hands on his broad chest, and found herself falling forward and stumbling.
He'd dissolved beneath her touch into nothing but smoke, then reappeared on the other side of the room, in less time than it had taken her to blink. His large hand was where hers had been a moment before, his eyes darker than before.
His voice came out almost a growl. "Next time you touch me, it had better be because you want to."