Daemon wouldn’t be dictated to, not by any vampire or even one sexy special crimes investigator. Before he could say so, Tezra said, “Chief O’Malley wanted me on the case. He’ll speak with me. You’re a vampire. Why should he talk to you?”
Because Daemon could force him to? “Why does he want you on the case so badly?”
“Krustalus killed my parents! The chief wants me to stop the murdering bastard, and I’m the only one who believes he’s involved. That’s why.”
Reaching down, Daemon touched her silky hair. “I want to help you and Katie.” He pressed his head against her chest and listened to her rapid heartbeat. Then he lifted her chin and looked into her eyes, which were filled with condemnation. “Against my better judgment, I’ll take you with me. But know this, Tezra, I will use whatever means necessary to force the chief to tell me the truth.”
“Fine, no problem. Let’s go.”
He gave her a hard look. “As an investigator for the SCU, you’re supposed to frown on actions like that.”
She hmpfed. “I’ll frown deeply while you question him if it makes you feel any better.”
She tightened her grip around his waist. The treacherous notion of hauling her off to his bed sprang to mind.
* * *
Mist coated the entire warehouse district in a leaden, wet blanket and everything was deathly silent. When Tezra, Daemon and Voltan approached Cafferty’s Tavern, a couple of blocks from the police killings, the icy air sent a shiver through her. Daemon reached for her hand and she was certain he regretted taking her.
“I’m cold, not afraid,” she said.
An obscure smile curved his lips while he and Voltan scanned the area.
“When we return, I want my weapons back,” she snapped, hating that he thought she was afraid, though she did feel more vulnerable without her sword, despite having vampire bodyguards. But she wasn’t scared!
Daemon opened the metal door to the bar, the rusted hinges sending a creak echoing across the narrow street where several pickups parked curbside. Despite the sleaziness of the place, business appeared brisk.
When they walked inside the dimly lit building, all conversation faded and everyone looked them over. A scantily dressed woman, the only other female in the room, set a tray of beers on a marred table with a clunk.
Tezra brushed past Daemon and the murmurs began. He seized her wrist and she frowned up at him. He didn’t lighten his grip. Possessiveness or protectiveness? She should have been annoyed, but instead she felt as though he genuinely cared for her. Nobody had acted that way toward her in a very long time, and she hated how much she craved it.
Voltan’s heavy step followed close behind.
“He plays cards back there.” Tezra motioned past a bar stretching across the room to a door in the back. She recognized some of the men as off-duty cops, others probably closer to the criminal element they arrested during duty hours, though maybe some were undercover.
“You’ve been here before?” Daemon asked, his voice surprised.
She shrugged. “Not to drink, but yeah, when I investigated the first of the most recent police murders.”
A burly cop stood and moved into their path. His neck was about as thick as his waistline, and the image of a gruff bulldog came to mind. He gave Daemon a sinister look and smiled at Tezra. “Investigator Campbell, the chief’s busy.”
“We have an appointment.”
“Chief’s busy,” the officer repeated.
“Step aside,” Daemon said, as if the guy was just one of his minions.
Voltan moved closer. Though the policeman attempted to stand his ground, everyone watched the situation with wariness, but no one else came to the man’s aid. Voltan towered over the guy until he finally lifted a massive shoulder and sat.
Daemon opened the door to the backroom, and four men looked up from a game of cards. Chief O’Malley sat at the far side of the table, facing him. More gray seemed to stripe his fiery red hair than the last time Tezra had seen him a few days ago. He glowered at Daemon and Voltan, then he shifted his attention to Tezra.
He motioned to the other men. “Can you give us some privacy for a while?”
“Yeah, we’ll get a drink.”
Though several half finished and empty bottles of beer sat on the table already, the men moved past the vampires, giving them a wide berth, and the last man winked at Tezra. “Campbell.”
Daemon turned his head so quickly, he looked like he intended to bite the guy.
She squeezed Daemon’s hand, which brought his attention back to her, then the cop shut the door with a jolt.
“Tezra, gentlemen,” Chief O’Malley said. “What can I do for you?”
He acted like he’d never called the meeting, and now Tezra wondered if he had.
“Stand outside the room, Voltan,” Daemon said.
Voltan bowed and did as he was told.
“Could you please tell us how you knew Krustalus murdered my parents?” Tezra said, her voice sugar sweet in an attempt to get him to reveal the truth.
The chief’s bushy brows rose. “How would I have known that?”
Daemon moved so swiftly Tezra only heard O’Malley’s chair crash on its back. In the next instant, Daemon pinned the chief against the wall, his hand around the chief’s throat. “Tell…me…the truth.”
“H-he told me to say he was the one.”
“Why?” Daemon growled.
“H-he said it was a long-running game he had with Ms. Campbell. I had to tell her.”
A game—the bastard. Tezra’s heart sank. “So you have no evidence. Nothing to prove he was the one. Did he appear before you?”
“Yes, he came to me,” the chief choked out, his eyes bulging.
“And Stevens, how come he knew?” she asked.
“Krustalus told him to tell you. I didn’t know he was going to kill Stevens.”
Daemon released the pressure on the chief’s throat, though he didn’t let go.
“So then Krustalus returned and ordered you to tell me the same thing?” Tezra asked.
“No. I mean, he told Stevens in front of me. After you called and said Stevens was dead, I wanted you to catch and…terminate the bastard.”
Wary that this was another of Krustalus’s games, she didn’t trust the chief in the least bit now. “I’m not a huntress.”
“Mandy says you were trained as one before the SCU switched your job. I figured you’d have reason enough to want him dead.”
She sure as hell did, but no one would use her to bring Krustalus down for their own dark purposes.
“What was the connection between your police officers and the killer?” Daemon asked, his voice as smooth as black velvet but as deadly as the honed edge of a steel blade.
“There had to be a connection,” Tezra insisted. She wanted to mention how Mandy had overheard the police officers talking, then all of them ended up dead, but she thought better of it in case the chief was involved.
“Nothing I could discover,” the chief sputtered.
Not getting the answers she wanted, she focused to read his mind when Voltan relayed, “Everyone’s clearing out. Looks like we’re in for some trouble.”
“Krustalus,” Daemon said, and Tezra sensed him nearby too.
She barely breathed when the number of vampires with him increased by several. “Did you want to meet me here because Krustalus made you call me?”
“No,” the chief said.
Daemon squeezed the chief’s throat tighter.
O’Malley grappled with Daemon’s fingers. “Yes,” he croaked. “He said it was part of the game.”
Daemon released him, then joined Tezra. “We return now.”
“But if Krustalus is here, we could kill him. Well, I could help if you’d given my swords back.”
“I wouldn’t risk it. There are too many with him.” Daemon telepathically communicated, “Voltan, we return home.”
But Voltan was already in a fight to the death and Daemon cursed under his breath. “Atreides, Maison, send men to Cafferty’s Tavern. Now!”
Slipping Tezra’s wrist daggers out from underneath his coat, he handed them to her.
Relieved and surprised, she raised her brows, then hurriedly strapped the wrist blades in place.
Daemon yanked the door open and kept Tezra by his side. Krustalus wasn’t in the bar, but several others were and some of them were attacking Voltan. The others waited patiently to get a piece of the action around the perimeter of the melee.
Like a choreographed dancer, the giant swept around, clanking his sword against his attackers’ weapons.
“Stay close,” Daemon said to Tezra, then swung his sword at a vampire. With one swift strike, he severed the vampire’s head from his neck.
Tezra dodged a vampire who tried to grab her wrist. Then she twisted around and hit him in the chest with her dagger. As soon as the blade reached his heart, he dissolved into ashes.
Only five of the vampires remained when Krustalus appeared. At once, she smelled her father’s cologne on the bastard and knew it was him. But he was taller than she had imagined, his hair darker, his eyes smaller, and his chin longer with a cleft the size of the Grand Canyon dividing it.
“Sorry,” he said, whipping out his sword, his black eyes sparkling with humor as he shifted his attention from Tezra to Daemon, then back to her again. “I had some other pressing business. Why don’t you come with me, dear Tezra, and Daemon and his friend can live?”