Adrianna released a sigh that drew everyone’s attention. “Where’s Casper?”
Tzader addressed everyone again. “He’s shaking down the trolls to find out if any of them know of a new powerful female in the city. Quinn and I will continue to track the Noirre majik and see if we can find the Medb source. Trey, you still on baby watch?”
Trey nodded. “Sasha’s doing good, but the baby is due any day now and I don’t want to leave her or Rowan alone if the Kujoo are here in force. Especially if there’s a chance they brought Ekkbar with them.”
“Who’s Ekkbar?” Adrianna asked.
“The Kujoo magician.” Trey’s thick chest bunched when he crossed his arms. “He used dreams to possess Rowan two years ago. I don’t think he can do it again, but I’m not taking that risk with her life, my wife’s or my baby’s.”
Tzader nodded and told the team, “Keep reporting to Trey. He can alert the team if the situation changes. Let’s head out.”
Evalle tested her leg, walking to the steps. All systems were a go. She’d made it to the sidewalk along the street when Storm fell into step beside her. He didn’t say a word until they were out of sight and earshot of the house.
“Why aren’t you telling the team everything?” he asked.
“The same reason I’m not answering your question.” She kept walking, not looking at him. “The less you all know, the safer you’ll be.”
He put his hand on her arm, but she didn’t snarl at him this time. Why was it when he touched her she felt her insides go soft and gooey? “Don’t push me, Storm.”
“Would it be so awful to ask for my help?”
She considered her answer as she listened to the sounds of Atlanta. “Asking for help can sometimes be dangerous.”
“I will not hurt you.”
“I will not let you.”
He breathed quietly for a moment, a quiet gathering of his thoughts. “If you won’t ask for help for yourself, then think about the team and this rock we’re after. We have to find it.”
Evalle turned to him. “I am thinking of the team and that rock. Can you follow someone who has been teleported?”
“Did you sense a trail of any kind when you found me?” Like Tristan’s?
“Only to the street and it disappeared.”
“Then I don’t think there’s anything you can do that is more than we’re already doing.” She didn’t snap at him because she sensed his sincerity.
“Tell me who the other guy was that you stopped from killing Vyan.”
She didn’t reply.
“I think you’re afraid to tell me because you believe it’s going to change your status with the Tribunal, but you’re wrong. I’m not handing you over to Sen or them.”
He was telling the truth. She sensed how important it was to him for her to believe that he meant her no harm. Her empathic ability reared its head at the strangest times. He’d been there for her tonight and hadn’t hesitated to stand up for her with Tzader.
Would it cost her anything to give him an inch?
She lifted her hand but stopped short of touching his cheek. Maybe it was that same maturing empathic ability that was stir-frying her hormones. “I believe you, but I still can’t tell you any more.”
“You better be worth all the trouble I see ahead of me.” He snagged her hand before she dropped it to her side, then kissed her scraped knuckles.
The touch of his lips stroked her heart rhythm into a gallop. She didn’t want that hand back when touching him filled her with an unfamiliar happiness.
But he released her, so she folded her arms over her chest.
He kept nipping at her personal space, but he wasn’t a lecherous doctor.
She’d try to remember that.
“Where’re you going now?” he asked.
“To get my bike, swing by the morgue to see if the body came back on its own because we might be able to use that to track the Noirre majik, and I intend to hunt down some Nightstalkers. One in particular.”
“Then let’s get moving.”
She kept pace with him all the way back to her motorcycle. He wasn’t happy when she said she needed to work Nightstalkers on her own, but he didn’t fight her and agreed his time was better spent seeing if he could pick up any trails. She agreed to meet him at the same entrance to the park at dusk, then hopped on her bike and cruised toward the interstate with a few hours left until daylight.
The morgue was in chaos. A gang fight had ended with four stiffs, and two more arrived from a tractor-trailer pileup. No mangled female body had been returned.
Evalle slipped out before anyone could yank her into service. After taking the Edgewood exit off the downtown interstate connector, she rode past Grady Hospital and parked in her usual place on a side street. She’d dumped her helmet and was putting on her sunshades when six men in black fatigues and all wearing night-vision monoculars emerged from the shadows with weapons trained on her.
When they had her surrounded, the largest one said with a Southern drawl, “You’re to come with us, ma’am.”
Ma’am? “Who the hell are you?” She had a suspicion.
“I’m Laredo Jones. My boss wants to talk to you.”
“Is this where I get to phone a friend?” She made a subtle move with her feet into a fighting position.
Must not have been that subtle, because the leader’s gaze dipped to her feet, then rose back to her face, unconcerned.
She couldn’t use her powers against a human, and he was the size of Texas. She thought about calling Tzader, but he couldn’t get here fast enough if she did. And she wasn’t sure what these weapons would do to Tzader and Quinn.
Her gaze stopped on one weapon to read the word engraved on the side. NYGHT.
Isak was kidnapping her.
“Shh, Brutus,” Laurette whispered when she tiptoed down her hallway to take a look in on the sleeping man in the living room. The night-light she’d left on gave the room a pink glow, pushing the early morning dark away from his angular face.
Holding the stone in her hand, she could read the mantel clock that had belonged to her granddad. Not quite three in the morning yet.
Vyan was still there and more dangerous looking than earlier with his beard now starting to grow in. The pink cast was strangely beautiful on his Mediterranean-dark skin, which she wouldn’t have been able to see if not for this magical rock she clutched in her fingers. The Sunday she’d found it seemed a long time ago, but today was only Tuesday.
Two days of having her vision back.
But now she had this man who actually knew about the rock.
And he’d stepped in front of her to protect her from that lightning-bolt-throwing guy. Why would he risk his life for her like that?
Being the brave dog he was, Brutus padded his way over to the inert man, circling him to sniff at his shoulder.
She squatted down and waved her hand to call Brutus back to her, but he had selective eyesight and ignored her. When she hissed at him to come back, the man’s eyes opened and he turned his head to face her.
Dear Lord. He had two pupils in each eye.
Breathing became impossible.
She should have stayed in her room with the chair jammed under the knob.
“Hello.” His dry voice had a funny accent. She’d noticed something Middle Eastern–sounding in the park, but now she also picked up warm and friendly.
She tried out her voice. “Hello.”
Brutus had lain down next to the man’s side and was currently getting his back rubbed.
The man continued to stare at her until she felt pressed to say something. “Who are you?”
“I am Vyan of the Kujoo.”
Watching him for any signs of aggression, she asked, “How’d you end up here?”
His eyes smiled, as if he’d been asked an easy question she should have been able to answer. “You brought me here.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“The stone you hold brought me here with you then.”
That could have been the case. She’d been standing in Piedmont Park with this guy lying across Brutus’s leash, which she’d been holding when she’d said she wanted to come home. Everything had blurred. She’d felt as though something had been sucking her down a wind tunnel, then all motion had stopped and she was sitting here with Brutus and this guy.
With an injured Vyan. She brushed her tongue over her parched lips. “Who was the guy that hurt you?”
“His name is Tristan.”
“Why were you fighting him?”
“He wants the rock you have and will harm you to get it.”
The thumping in her chest should be loud enough to wake the neighbors. She’d been searching the creek in the park to see if she could find any more glowing rocks when she’d encountered Vyan, Tristan and a strange woman, none of whom seemed to be friends. “Why does he want this rock?”
“You know the answer to that.”
Okay, she did realize that anyone would want a magical rock, but she wasn’t giving it up and losing her vision. She was happy to have someone she could talk to about this rock. “What does he plan to use the rock for?”
“For evil reasons that you may not believe.”
She made a rude sound from deep in her throat. “If this had been two days ago, I might agree, but I’m holding a rock that gives me perfect vision and transported me home. This was after you pulled a sword on that Tristan guy, who had the power to throw lightning bolts at you. And a woman stepped in to stop him with some invisible power that made a force field of some sort. And your eyes aren’t exactly normal. What makes you think I won’t believe anything you have to tell me?”
He laughed, and the room filled with the pleasure of his happiness. “You are correct. I had not considered your experience with the Ngak Stone.”
“Yes, the Ngak Stone.” He studied her eyes. “So you are blind?”
She flushed with self-conscious embarrassment. “Not yet, but I’m losing my eyesight.”
“You must find another way to regain your sight. This stone is dangerous to keep. I will protect you as long as I can, but that time is limited and I will soon be outnumbered.”
How many more people like Vyan were floating around Atlanta? She should have realized finding a magic stone would come with fine print. Standing up, she made a decision. “I guess you’re not going to rape and murder me if you haven’t yet.” She almost laughed at the horrified look on his face until his expression changed to anger.
“I have never harmed a woman and never forced myself on one.”
“I didn’t mean to insult you.” She lost her smile. “I was just thinking out loud. It’s not smart for single women to bring strange men home.”
His brow crinkled with thought. “I sometimes do not understand your language. You were joking, correct?”
“Yes, I was joking … as long as you really aren’t here to harm me.”
“I will not harm you.”
The sincerity in his words touched her. He’d protected her earlier, and Brutus liked him. She ran out of ways to judge his character at that. “If we’re going to talk, I’d like a cup of tea. Want some? I don’t have anything stronger, like alcohol.”
“Tea would be good, but I must find a place to wash my face first.”
“Oh, yes.” She pointed down the hall. “Last door on the right.”
He pushed up to his elbows and gritted his teeth. His nice skin tone turned ashen.
She hurried over to help him before common sense jumped up to warn her about getting too close to the guy. “Take it easy. I’m not a doctor. I don’t have a car or I’d take you to the hospital.”
“No doctors or buildings. I will heal fine.” He gained his feet, stood for a moment getting his balance, then took slow steps down the hallway. The worn jeans fit his body nicely.
It had been a long time since she’d noticed any man. Chuck the Thief hadn’t interested her in a romantic way at all, but any woman would notice this Vyan in a crowd of men.
Especially bare-chested. Much as she hated to cover up that gorgeous body, she told him to wait a minute then ran to find one of her granddad’s old T-shirts. “Here you go.”
“Thank you for your kindness.” He accepted the simple gift as if she’d handed him something of great value. Then he gifted her right back with a smile that would forever be framed in her mind.
Now, if she could just get her heart to stop beating as if she were still in her teens.
When the bathroom door clicked shut, she hurried to the kitchen to make tea. The pot of water was whistling by the time he stepped into the kitchen and dropped into one of four scarred chairs sitting around a small table. She’d planned to do more with this house when she’d moved in a few years ago, once she started growing her art sales. The house wasn’t much to look at right now, but it had potential.