“What do you want to know?”
Time to find out if she lied as much as Sen indicated or if Sen really was singling her out unfairly, as she believed. “What do you know about the demon killed in Atlanta this morning?”
Silence is usually the first sign of a lie, and her lips were buttoned tight.
Evalle cursed herself for letting her mouth walk her from an annoying conversation into a dangerous one.
She shouldn’t have gotten her dander up when Storm asked about Alterants and played the conversation for a bit. Now she had to talk about the demons, a topic where she might not be able to answer every question truthfully. With his ability to tell a lie from the truth, running blind across an interstate in Atlanta at rush hour was safer than any discussion with him.
“Your demon problem?” Storm pressed.
As if there was only one?
The blasted clock and traffic were conspiring against her. She needed a diversion. “Got any water in here?”
Storm didn’t respond or acknowledge her comment.
Not verbally anyhow.
He drove his olive-green Land Cruiser—not one of the hot new models but a classic from the ’70s—with one hand on the steering wheel, eyes staring at nothing, yet taking in everything. Including her, but the only change in his face that indicated he’d heard her speak was the dubious tilt of his mouth. She wouldn’t call it a full commitment to smile, just enough to let her know he’d only allow her to evade him for so long. “Water’s behind your seat. Grab me one, too.”
She wrenched around and lifted the lid on a scarred-up six-pack-size cooler and dragged two plastic bottles out of the ice. After handing one to him, she slumped back against her seat, wishing she could use her power to lift cars out of the way.
It would take maybe another fifteen minutes to reach her exit. Sen had never liked her much, but bringing in Storm to hang her surprised even Evalle.
That she’d actually fallen asleep in front of him surprised her even more.
Storm cleared his throat. That would be warning number two that he was not going to wait much longer.
She zipped her jacket, appreciating the cool air circulating through the truck even if it did push his attractive scent past her defenses to make her notice. “What do you want to know about our demons?”
“I’m most interested in the Birrn.”
Of course he was, ’cause she was just that lucky. “What about him?”
“Did you kill him?”
That was direct as all get-out, but she had an honest answer. “No.”
“Do you have any idea who killed him?”
Think, Evalle … If she gave up Isak, it would implicate her in the worst sort of way. So she settled on another truth that would keep Polygraph off her back. “Yes, but I’m not ready to say until I have solid evidence. VIPER’s rules,” she added, reminding him that agents couldn’t make claims of any wrongdoing without proof. Isak hadn’t killed the demon.
His friggin’ awesome gun had.
More to the point, the Birrn’s master had killed him by sending the demon into the line of fire.
Storm flipped on the truck’s turn signal and slipped into a space in the bumper-to-bumper traffic that magically opened up. She eyed him closely, trying to discern if he’d used any power to do that. He drove with a fluid grace, confidence in every move.
This guy could probably do ten things at once, so why had he stopped rattling off questions?
She would normally welcome silence right now if she didn’t feel as though she was waiting on the hangman to build his gallows.
“Sen said you had other demon problems?” He asked that in a smooth and disarming voice, but she lived every day watching over her shoulder for a threat, with Sen and Tribunals leading the pack.
Nothing Storm could say in any tone could disarm her.
“As far as I know we have no current demon problem, especially since the Birrn was killed.” Truth. Technically. The Cresyl demons were also dead so, poof, no demon problem at this very minute.
However, the mauled body in the morgue?
Still a problem.
But she was getting the hang of maneuvering around his questions. She allowed her shoulders to relax.
“Is there any other problem connected to the demon death I should know about?”
“No.” That was the absolute truth. The less he knew, the better for her. She cheered silently when Storm turned onto Centennial Boulevard. A couple minutes and she’d be out of this truck. “Take the next left, then cross over Peachtree Street. I’ll show you where to park.”
He gave her a quiet nod.
Something warned her quiet was not necessarily an encouraging sign with him. He couldn’t have run out of questions, and she’d sparred nicely so far, if she did say so herself.
Bring it on.
When he reached a parking lot at the rear of a closed restaurant off Peachtree Street near North Avenue, she directed him to pull in and park. He should appreciate that the lot was empty, which allowed him plenty of open space for jockeying the motorcycle trailer.
As he parked the truck, his mouth quirked with that hint of a smile again, one that lacked any humor. “You want me to believe you live in this abandoned restaurant?”
“No. I don’t live here.” Evalle zipped her jacket up the last few inches to her chin and pulled her leather gloves on. She reached around to lift her helmet from the backseat. Every inch of her skin would be covered before she stepped outside. “Thanks for the ride.”
“Thank Sen. He’s the one who warded the truck so the sun wouldn’t affect you.”
Yeah, so the bastard could spy on her. She lowered the helmet to the top of her thighs. “I’ll be sure to do that.” She let her sarcasm flag fly high.
Other than the lifting of one eyebrow, Storm didn’t ask why she and Sen were like a cobra and a mongoose around each other. “First watch is scouting Piedmont for any sign of the Ngak Stone or anything out of the norm during the daylight hours. You and I are to take over for that team at dark. Give me your address and I’ll pick you up at eight.”
Did he really think that would work? That she’d tell him her address when she hadn’t let him drive her home? She had to find Isak, deal with a mauled body in the morgue, find the twins and talk to Grady first. “I’ve got a few things to do before I get to the park. I’ll meet you at the Piedmont Road entrance at midnight.”
No smile this time. Storm didn’t take the brush-off well. “Sen expects you to work with me.”
“Sen doesn’t own me, and VIPER doesn’t feed me or pay my bills.” She’d spoken softly, but he shouldn’t have missed the warning in her words.
“He is your superior.”
“Only in his mind. I answer to him because, as a Belador assigned to VIPER, I have an obligation to the team and I always honor my commitments.” She should just go along to get along, but she’d learned a few things after working around so many alpha males. The worst mistake she could make was allowing one to think he gave her orders. Storm was no higher in rank than her, even if Sen treated everyone else—even a Sterling witch no one in their right mind would trust—with more regard than Evalle.
For me, Sen brought in a two-legged truth serum who could track preternaturals.
But the bitch-witch had carte blanche.
Yeah, Sen was an idiot who let hatred blind him and make decisions he would one day come to regret.
Her thoughts went back to Storm and what he’d done to settle her panic during the meeting. Had he been giving her a sample of his powers, proving he could influence her at will? She hated being at anyone’s mercy and would not tolerate him using his powers or majik to get his way.
No one controlled her. Ever. She was free and she intended to stay that way. No matter who or what she had to sacrifice.
Storm turned to her, a picture of calm if you didn’t notice the anger kindling in his brown eyes. “You have a duty to VIPER, which means following orders even if you don’t like Sen. You don’t want to answer questions. You don’t want to meet at a reasonable time to get started. You don’t want to work together, period. Sen said no one else would work with you besides your buddies Tzader and Quinn. I’m starting to see why.”
Oh, that set her off. The others wouldn’t work with her over a birth defect she couldn’t help, and all of them were quick to rub her nose in it. As for Sen …
“Let’s get something clear, Storm. My duty requires that I follow the agency rules—just like every other agent—but no one dictates what personal information I share, like where I live or what hours I work.” Because if they knew, they could come for her, spy on her, or worse, find evidence to lock her up for eternity. “Not unless Sen wants to make that a new rule for all the agents to declare their addresses on a community database.”
“Look, I didn’t mean—”
She didn’t take a breath. “I also have a job at the city morgue, a position that allows me access to vital information we need, especially for containment to protect the civilians. If I don’t check in with my supervisor there tonight, I will lose my job, and you don’t ever want to know how hard it is to find a night job with flexible hours that pays over minimum wage. And in case you were born on the sun and haven’t noticed, it’s summer and the night hours are short.”
“No, you don’t.” He had the option of living a normal life in a normal world. People didn’t judge him based on genetics he couldn’t help, and no one had ever locked him away like an animal because of it.
She curled her fingers against the helmet so she didn’t throw it out of frustration as her emotions swelled. She was so tired of all the crap. So tired of always having to be on the defensive. Having to weigh and measure every word ten times over to keep from condemning herself by a simple slip. “My day starts at sunset and ends at daylight, which gives me extremely limited time to accomplish anything in the summer, so I can’t afford to waste even a nanosecond. Everyone knows I’m nocturnal, especially Sen.”
“He got his kicks once today by making me drive two hours in the heat in full gear while my skin boiled. So I don’t give a flying effing fig what he wants right now. I’ll do my job. I always do, because I am not the animal that bastard thinks I am.” She lifted the helmet halfway and paused, shooting a glance loaded with warning at Storm. “And one more thing. About that little show of power at headquarters this morning? Don’t ever screw with my emotions again or I’ll make you regret it.”
She pulled on her helmet and stepped out of the truck before he could answer. The driver door slammed at the same time hers shut. When she reached the trailer, Storm was already there. She’d order him to get his hands off her bike if not for her helmet, which would muffle her words.
He cranked open the wheel chock that prevented the front tire from moving, then leaned the bike against his hip. Someone walking along the street wouldn’t notice the harsh flex of his shoulders as he moved.
She’d hit a nerve, but taking the words back or smoothing things over would destroy any ground she’d just gained with him.
When he had the wheel free to move, he toed the gearshift up one click to neutral, then rolled her bike off the trailer with the same graceful ease with which he seemed to do everything else.
The bike would roll for him as long as he didn’t straddle it and the motorcycle was within her energy range.
The minute he put the side stand down and backed away, she walked over and slung a leg over the seat.
Storm stepped in front of her and stood alongside her front tire, waiting.
Ignoring him wouldn’t budge that determined angle of his chin. When she did look up, she was glad for the black shield on her helmet that prevented her from having to meet his eyes.
Or so she’d thought.
He put a hand on her handlebar and leaned forward, eyes staring as though he saw right through the mirror shield. “Are you finished issuing orders?”
The quiet words would have sounded like a gentle caress if not for the low vibration of anger thrumming in his voice. She didn’t say a word, just gave a slight move of her head to indicate she was listening.
“Good. I have a job to do, too, and it’s not all about you. It’s about saving the world and all those humans who know nothing about what might hit this world in three days. I’ll be at Piedmont Park at midnight. Come prepared to work together, which means answering questions. Truthfully. Not playing a word game two-step. And as for the comfort spell I sent you at HQ, I didn’t do it to screw with your emotions or show off my powers. I did it because I didn’t like seeing you feel threatened and figured you didn’t want to give Sen the pleasure of knowing he’d rattled you.”
Her heart thumped an extra beat. Storm had been trying to do something nice for her when he’d used his power to calm her? That floored her. Kindness from strangers was not something she was used to, and she was sorry she’d misjudged him.