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No Werewolves Allowed
By Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2010 Cheyenne McCray
All rights reserved.
Was it so difficult to grasp the concept of by appointment only?
I met the alpha Were's tawny-gold eyes and tried not to let irritation show in my gaze. And hoped Olivia would keep her mouth shut.
As usual, my hopes were futile.
"Your appointment is for nine tonight at the Pit, Furry." Olivia stood in front of Dmitri Kral Beketov, her hands propped on her hips, her five-two to his six-four forcing her to look up. Way, way up.
Touched by the afternoon sunlight that spilled through the window, Olivia was as stunningly beautiful as ever. From her Puerto Rican and Kenyan ancestry, she had rich golden skin and sharp black eyes. Add high cheekbones and striking features, and she could have been a model — if she had been about a foot taller.
A petite package, Olivia was usually underestimated. But not for long. A third-degree black belt and former officer on the NYPD SWAT team, she kicked "major ass," as she would put it.
Beketov and Olivia were having a scowling contest. Her tone had been sharp, but a wicked glint was in her dark eyes.
She looked up at the Were with total confidence and not an ounce of fear. "We don't take drop-ins, no matter how important they think they are." She gestured toward the front door where that fact was presented in iridescent purple and blue on the door's window.
by appointment only
When she adjusted her hands back on her hips, the movement pushed aside her New York Mets sweat jacket. The vivid green T-shirt that stretched across her melon-sized breasts was classic Olivia.
Don't make me break out the flying monkeys.
I wanted to grin but managed not to. Beketov didn't smile. He probably hadn't gotten Olivia's T-shirt. It was hard to imagine the big Were kicking back and watching a vid of The Wizard of Oz or sitting in the audience at the Broadway show, Wicked.
Beketov shifted, widening his stance. His Werewolf scent of woods and fresh air mingled with the smells of spicy Kung Pao chicken. The almost-empty cartons of Chinese takeout were perched on my desk in the midst of a bunch of bright pink sticky notes from a case I'd been working on.
"I do not have time for this." His muscular biceps, revealed by a sleeveless beige leather shirt, flexed as he folded his arms across his chest. I had to admit the Were was mouthwateringly delicious despite his scowl and his harsh, angular features.
Most Werewolves had emigrated from the Czech Republic hundreds of years ago. He was Slavic in appearance, his eyes deep-set, his cheekbones high, his features striking. His long hair, which fell to the middle of his back, was the most beautiful shade of bronze I'd ever seen.
I imagined him in his pure wolf form and not what he would look like at the full moon. No doubt as a wolf he would be large and sleek, with glossy fur that shone like rich bronze in the sunlight.
He slid his tawny gaze over Olivia's petite but voluptuous frame. He had that arrogant alpha Were expression down pat as he assessed her.
"Give it up, Furry." Olivia gestured to the door again, this time in a manner meant to tell him to get the Underworlds out of our office.
Yeah, we liked business, but neither one of us tolerated arrogant bastards. However, this was a client that Rodán — my Proctor, friend, and former lover — had referred to us, so we couldn't completely send the Were away.
Beketov turned to me, blatantly dismissing Olivia. She narrowed her eyes and slid her fingers along her waistband so her hand was closer to her Sig Sauer P226 that was secured in her shoulder holster.
If I didn't control myself I was going to roll my eyes or sigh. This was getting ridiculous.
"We have business to discuss. Immediately." Beketov's Czech-accented English added to his knife-edged tone. His accent was strong, so it was possible he was over a hundred years old. That was nothing compared to Dark Elves like my father, who had lived for a couple of millennia.
Beketov stepped closer so that he towered over where I sat behind my desk. His intimidation tactic was not fair, but it didn't work anyway.
Elemental powers stirred inside me but I bade them to rest. No, this was not the time or place to use my powers. Yet. If he pushed me ... no telling what I might do with them. Send him flying across the room with my air element, for starters. Maybe use my fire element to set his butt on fire ...
I almost smiled at that image.
To show I wasn't impressed by his show of dominance, I kept my expression calm and my fingers relaxed on the opening of my Dolce & Gabbana gold evening clutch. It was just big enough to hold my XPhone, my Kahr K40 and my smallest Elvin-made — but very wicked — serrated dagger. I'm Drow, and I could have had either weapon in my hand instantly. I'm lightning fast when I need to be and I could have carved out his heart.
Thanks to an earlier conversation with Rodán, I knew Beketov was here for a missing persons case, but I didn't mention I already had that information. We didn't usually handle missing persons, but some of our competition did. We had bigger paranorms to fry.
"I'll determine how important your business is," I said in a cool and calm tone. "During your appointment later tonight."
He said in a guttural tone, "We are going to discuss this matter now."
Again, I tried not to grip my clutch tight, this time out of sheer irritation. Dominant males who like to intimidate people make hair bristle on the back of my neck and cause my elemental powers to stir. Not to mention said males give me the desire to draw one of my dragon-claw daggers and skewer them.
"No. We're not." I met his gaze head-on. I had to calm myself to keep the dangerous white light from flashing in my sapphire eyes.
A predatory growl rose up in the Werewolf's throat and his tawny-gold eyes brightened. It would have been a little frightening if he was dealing with anyone other than Olivia and me.
Nothing scared Olivia — not that she had ever shown — even though she was one hundred percent human.
Of course, as a Night Tracker, I had dealt with Beketov's kind for over two years. That included taking care of more than my fair share of Werewolves during the full moon. I had no reason to be concerned about his show of dominance, other than retaining a good dose of irritation.
Although ... Beketov was an alpha. A big one. I'd never faced an alpha. Come to think of it, it was getting close to the full moon ... just a few days.
A small shiver ran through me that I hoped didn't show. Okay, maybe I was a little intimidated at the thought of this massive man during the full moon. The only Weres that had needed to be taken care of in New York City had been rogues. Rogues were usually wannabe alphas with no pack to lead.
Deep breath. Be professional, Nyx. "Our PI firm is closed for the day, Mr. Beketov." How many times did we have to tell the big Troll? I was running out of time before Nadia would be there. I couldn't disappoint her again.
Considering I was wearing a short, black, low-cut and backless evening dress, you'd think that would have given the Were a clue. If I made it to the matinee at the Metropolitan Opera House, the Thursday performance of L'Elisir d'Amore was early enough that I could be in and out without going blue.
One of the things about being half-Drow is that going anywhere humans do after sundown isn't an option. I miss out on evening activities — although I can get away with a costume ball and Halloween.
"Unacceptable." Beketov's tone caused me to bristle more, my skin prickling. His gaze rolled over what he could see of me from where I sat.
Beketov braced his hands on my desk, bringing his Werewolf scent of woodlands closer, richer, as he added, "This matter is far more important than whatever you have planned."
An angry, hot flush rose from my chest. I set my clutch on the desk, managing not to slam it on the surface, but kept it close enough that I still had access to it. My elemental powers stirred harsh enough to scald my skin and I had a powerful urge to take the Were down a notch. Or several.
I slowly stood, never letting my gaze waver from his as I rose to my full five-eight height. My long straight black hair swung around my shoulders as I leaned forward, getting in his face.
"Stop trying to intimidate us," I said, keeping my voice as calm as possible. "It's not going to work."
He glared. "Don't fuck with me."
"As if you'd get so lucky." Olivia moved beside me and she leaned her hip against my desk, bumping into a haphazard pile of files on my desk. Despite my anger, I winced as the pile rocked, and hoped the files didn't slip off my desk. Olivia crossed her arms over her chest. "Nyx doesn't do furry critters."
I wanted to laugh, but held it back.
The Were straightened and his massive chest rose and fell as he inhaled, then exhaled. It must have killed him to not try to put Olivia in her place.
Beketov studied me for a long time. We had a lovely staring contest.
Finally, I saw realization flicker in his eyes. Now he understood that his behavior wasn't going to get him anywhere with Olivia and me. We weren't the type to back down, no matter how much of an arrogant jerk we were facing.
The Werewolf sighed, harsh and audible, as if letting out the anger and frustration he'd been exhibiting. He unclenched his fists and his jaw tightened, then relaxed, like he was forcing a decent look on his face.
His expression shifted so quickly it startled me into frowning. He now appeared like he was going to choke on a huge chunk of stringy raw meat because his following words were so hard to get out.
"My people's lives are at stake." He spoke in a tone that was dark, but with an almost humble quality that didn't fit him. "I need your assistance."
"My, my." Olivia's sarcastic tone brought Beketov's attention to her. "The Big Scary Wolfman admitting he needs help." She picked up her cellphone and pretended to dial. "I'll alert the media. I think I'll start with CNN."
His gaze darkened and it must have killed him to stop yet again from trying to put Olivia in her place.
"Members of my pack are disappearing." Pain flashed through the big alpha's eyes. "Then turning up mutilated ... and dead."
My scalp prickled and the feeling traveled down my spine in a rush. I pushed aside my clutch and slowly sat again, my palms flat on the glossy Dryad-wood desk as I stared at Beketov. "You have my attention."
Veins stood out along Beketov's neck and one pulsed on his forehead. "After they disappear, my packmates are eventually found, but always dead, their skin nearly in shreds."
My stomach churned at the image and the horror of what he was telling us. In a habit I'd developed years ago, I ran my finger along the band around my neck. The collar engraved with Drow runes announced my position as royalty among the Dark Elves — it was my one concession to my father, the Drow King.
I hadn't been informed yet on Beketov's case — just that it was missing persons. To hear Beketov now explaining the Weres were mutilated and murdered ... The thought threatened to make my whole body shudder.
"Every time the mutilation occurred while the Were was alive." Was his body shaking? With anger? Fear for his people? Both? "This has been confirmed by our pack medical staff," he added.
"Damn." Olivia shifted her stance against my desk and one file folder landed with a plop and a whoosh, then skidded a couple of feet on the ceramic tiled floor. Right then I could have cared less about that file folder, or even the rest of the stack. Olivia also ignored the folder with its contents now scattered on the floor.
Beketov clenched his fists so hard I saw small wells of blood appear from where his nails dug into his palms. "From my pack, a total of six Weres have disappeared. All but two have been recovered and those we have found have been dead."
Chills scrabbled up and down my spine. "Here? In Manhattan?" The thought that this could be happening without Trackers or Rodán — especially Rodán — being aware was virtually unfathomable.
Beketov shook his head and a lock of his thick bronze hair fell across his forehead. "From the places we feed."
"Where do you feed?" Olivia's tone was sharp, her expression focused, all antagonism and sarcasm gone.
Beketov's intense gaze flicked from me to Olivia. When he spoke, he did so with the recognition that my partner was all business now, as was I. "The Catskills. We have changed encampments several times but it is not enough. There are only so many places we can go. We must stay close to the locations where our pack members have disappeared so that we can continue to search for the two who are still missing."
His chest expanded as he took in a deep breath. "We must also feed without endangering the wild animal population in any one area with a prolonged stay. Yet I cannot allow my people to leave."
Olivia raised her eyebrows.
"Weres rotate their feeding grounds to make sure they don't eliminate their food source in any one area," I said to Olivia. "The packs also have great respect for the balance of nature."
Beketov gave me an approving look before I swear his eyes clouded, almost misty as he added, softly, "The two that remain missing are mere pups."
My lips parted and I felt pain wash over me, as if his own was covering me in a wave. "Children?"
He looked away. "One of the pups is my son. Simon."
More chills prickled my skin and I spread my fingers on the cool surface of my desktop. My air elemental power stirred my hair around my shoulders and I had to rein the power in.
The thought of children being kidnapped and possibly murdered made me bite the inside of my cheek to control my anger. Dmitri Beketov's son's disappearance made it seem all the more real.
Beketov turned his face back to Olivia and me, looking as hardened as one of the statues in Central Park. I could almost picture the statues' Gargoyles funneling through him, exploding into the night and ripping to shreds whoever, whatever, was doing this to the Were's people.
Then in his manner and bearing, Beketov returned to being one hundred percent alpha. An alpha who was beyond furious because his people were vanishing and turning up dead ... but also a man who was damaged from the fact that his own son was one of the missing.
And an alpha who hated to admit he hadn't been able to help his people and was forced to ask for assistance. Likely it was even harder to have to ask two females who weren't of his kind. Weres are tight-knit and aren't crazy about letting outsiders into their ranks, much less having to ask their help.
"Have a seat." I gestured to one of the black leather chairs in front of my desk. "We need details."
Olivia moved her hip away from my desk without upsetting any more file folders. "Instead of being an ass, you could have started with that information."
Uh, yeah. It sure would have made things simpler.
"That is of no matter." Beketov scowled. "What is important is finding out what is happening to my people and getting our children back."
Olivia stepped over the folder and its contents still on the tile floor, and she rounded her desk before she sat in her black leather office chair. The wheels rumbled on the ceramic tile and the chair squeaked with the shift in weight. She arranged herself so that her forearms were on the desktop, in between her own piles of stuffed file folders and the neon-green sticky notes she used. "Tell us everything. From the beginning."
Beketov didn't sit. Instead he began to pace and growl like the animal he was when not in human form.
Fae bells tinkled at the door and I cut my attention to see Nadia, a Siren, and one of my best friends. A wash of early October air followed in her wake.
As usual, Nadia was absolutely gorgeous, but even more so in her thigh-length, glittering dinner dress that was a shade of sea foam. Strands of aquamarines sparkled in her upswept dark red hair.
My heart sank. I was supposed to be leaving now for L'Elisir d'Amore with Nadia, but how could I go with a case this urgent? With children's lives at stake as well as adults. The children ... that seemed to make what was happening even more powerfully wrong.
Nadia pushed a loose curl of her luxurious, thick hair away from her cheek. She looked from me to the Were to Olivia and back to me. Her musical voice sounded resigned when she spoke. "Not again, Nyx."
Excerpted from No Werewolves Allowed by Cheyenne McCray. Copyright © 2010 Cheyenne McCray. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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