The flashy car executing a precise three-point turn tickled the back of Boaz’s memory, but he couldn’t place where he had seen it. The blonde behind the wheel also struck a chord, but the tinted windows made an ID impossible from this distance. His night vision was good, but the IED that cost him his left leg nearly took his sight in that eye. The charm he kept on a keyring in his pocket helped, but magic could only do so much.
Parker stepped onto the asphalt beside him and watched the taillights until they burned out. “What?”
“That car look familiar to you?”
“I’ve seen it around.” The sentinel hooked his hands on his hips. “Pretty sure it belongs to a local vampire.”
“Find out who.” A tightness in his gut told him the car or the vampire or both were important, and that same instinct was what saved his life overseas. “I’ve seen it before, maybe at the railroad museum.”
He preferred motorcycles, but fast cars did it for him too. A sleek beauty like that would have earned a passing glance. Too bad he hadn’t had time for a closer inspection. Maybe next time.
And there would be a next time.
His near certainty of where he had seen the car, and its driver, guaranteed it.
“I’ll ask Abernathy for the plate number, and we’ll run it.” Parker made a note. “You’re staying out at the old Whitaker place, right?”
Tension shot through Boaz’s shoulders, curving them in an instinctive hunch as if he’d been caught misbehaving instead of engaging in Society appropriate conduct for a man engaged to the Whitaker matron.
Then again, he had the next best thing to a girlfriend back in Savannah who would be less than thrilled to learn of his travel accommodations, let alone his recent and secret engagement.
Goddess, he was tired.
Dragging a hand down his face, he wished he could hop on his bike, drive home, and pretend none of this had happened. That he could find another way to save his sister, his family, that didn’t cost him the first woman to make him think, to make him feel.
I am so sorry.
Uncertain if he meant the apology for Grier or Adelaide, he forced his mind back on task.
“Yeah,” he rasped. “That’s where I’ll be.” He hesitated. “I would prefer a call to a drop-in.”
Parker, who had known him a long time, shook his head. “Her father know you’re staying with them?”
Boaz ran a finger along the inside of the collar of his tee. “Yeah.”
And he was about as thrilled with the prospect of Boaz for a son-in-law as learning Godzilla was rampaging through their small town.
His tone or expression must have set Parker’s detective instincts tingling. “You’re getting serious?”
The other man laughed at what he must consider a witty one-liner, but Boaz played dumb and took the words at face value.
“Everybody’s gotta settle down some time.” He clasped Parker on the shoulder. “I’m going back for another look.”
“Make it quick.” He shook his head, still chuckling, and checked his watch. “The cleaners are getting antsy.”
Leaving the pitted strip of asphalt, Boaz trudged back into the woods to do what he did best.
The victim had been identified as Angelo Willis of Clan Willis, whose newly turned lover, Ron Turner, had met his end at the railroad museum.
Prior to this, the thought had entered Boaz’s mind that Ron’s murder was a punishment for the younger vampire stepping out on his lover and sire, but this killed that line of inquiry stone dead.
Ron hadn’t had it easy, but Angelo, the poor bastard, had suffered more.
Wrists opened from palm to elbow, throat slit, and femoral arteries gaping, he had been hung suspended between two pines and left to bleed out. Beneath him, the pine straw glistened, black in the moonlight, and the size of the puddle made it clear the vampire hadn’t fed since news of Ron’s true death had reached him.
“He’s still alive, well, undead,” Honeywell murmured from right behind him. “We need to cut him down.”
Jessica “Honey” Honeywell was the reason Boaz was out in the middle of nowhere debating that very thing. How dead was too dead when you were already undead? He had no clue. Only a master vampire could tell him if Angelo was redeemable. His corpse was intact, his decapitation thwarted by a thin strip of meat.
Boaz examined the knots used and made a mental note of them. “How old is he?”
“Two-fifty or three hundred.” She leaned over his shoulder, her breath in his ear. “He’ll turn to dust and blow away come morning.”
Choosing to ignore the come-on, he kept his game face on. “Can they revive him in this condition?”
“Hard to say.” She withdrew a fraction when he didn’t reciprocate. Honey was smart like that. “The master of Clan Willis is upper limits for a made vampire. If it can be done, he’ll know how to do it.”
“The head is still attached.” Boaz leaned in as close as he dared without disrupting the evidence underfoot. “Might explain why decay hasn’t set in.”
New vampires, like Ron Turner, died much the same as humans. Old ones, like Angelo, crumpled into ash, one thing the movies had gotten right.
“I heard you got yourself a girlfriend.”
The change of topic didn’t surprise him. “And?”
“Also heard you were staying at the Whitaker place.”
“Yeah.” He rolled his hand, waiting on her to get to the point. “What about it?”
“Rumor has it you’re off the market, but I didn’t buy it for a minute.” She sized him up, made sure he knew she still liked what she saw. “Sounds like you’re as available as ever to me.”
The words got stuck in his throat, but he pushed them out in the face of her amusement. “I’m not.”
“Oh, honey, no. You can’t have a sweetie in every city. You’re either monogamous, goddess help us all, or you’re the same old Boaz who’s always known how to show a girl a good time.”
A reluctant smile kicked up his lips. “Why can’t it be both?”
“Mm-hmm. See? You never change.” She bumped shoulders with him. “Can you make it by my place?”
Again, the words didn’t want to come. This time he figured it was because his heart was pulling him in one direction while duty yanked him in another. The idea of belonging to someone was…not terrible. Strange, but doable. He might even grow to like it.
His parents weren’t the lovey-dovey type, but they had built a solid life for each other and their kids. Sure, Mom and Amelie fought like cats and dogs, and Dad would rather stare into space than see what was right in front of him, but that’s just how things shook out for them.
Things could have been a lot worse.
“I’m an honest man these days,” he joked to let her down easy. “Don’t tempt me.”
“You really mean that.” She spun an earring through her fingers. “Huh.”
“It’s new,” he said gruffly. “I’m still figuring out what to do and how to act.”
“Seems like you’ve got what not to do down pat,” she teased back. “That’s the big one.”
The old Boaz might have viewed juggling three women as a challenge, but that was before he set eyes on Grier, all grown up and everything he ever wanted. And even then, he still took Adelaide’s hand and made her a promise he couldn’t break. Slowly but surely, it was sinking in that he was too damn old for the bullshit he got up to in his youth.
“Okay.” She picked her way behind the corpse. “Do you think whoever did this realized they were leaving us a witness?”
The smooth transition from personal to business was one of the reasons he liked her so well.
“The other kills were similar to Ron’s death,” he reminded her. “Newly resuscitated vampires.”
“You can’t think we’ve got a vampire hunter.” She laughed hard once then sobered. “Seriously, those went out of style ages ago.”
“They crop up now and then.” Humans watched movies, read books, got ideas. “People notice neighbors, coworkers, even their friends acting strange. They hold that behavior up against what they think they know about vampires and decide it’s their civic duty to go on a killing spree.”
“Goddess,” she breathed. “How many humans have been collateral damage this time?”
“That would explain why they’re sticking to freshies.” She frowned. “They’re easier to identify and simpler to kill.”
“Ron was the link to Angelo.” Boaz exhaled. “That’s how the killer found Angelo, why they risked it.”
A cautious hunter was rarer still, and even more dangerous. Most humans made mistakes identifying the monsters among them. This one wasn’t taking any chances.
“Then we’ve got problems.” She glanced toward the flashing lights. “The woman who reported Ron Turner’s murder is a bounty hunter, a vampire. She was tracking him for a payday when she stumbled across his corpse.”
“We need to beat the killer to her.”
“With a job like hers?” Honey scoffed. “She can protect herself.”
The brutal tableau before him burned in his mind’s eye. “I bet Angelo thought the same thing.”
Waving the cleaners in, Boaz tipped his chin to Honey then set out for his bike.
Come dusk, he had a vampire to interrogate.
He bet he could guess what type of car she drove.