Make me, p.13

Make Me, page 13

 

Make Me
 


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  “He’s not answering,” I told Austin. I dialed again, frantically, hoping I’d somehow misdialed the first time. Same result. This time I left a voice-mail message. In a rush, I said, “Please, please don’t hurt them. I didn’t get your message until now. I’ll go to the club right away. Or call me again, tell me where to meet you. I’ll be there, I promise. Don’t hurt them.”

  I stared at the phone, willing it to ring, then realized how stupid that was. But I needed to do something, anything, “I have to tell Fang,” I told Austin.

  “Okay, I’ll come with you.”

  I didn’t wait for him or the elevator, but took off down the stairs as fast as I could. I burst into the room, and Jack and Fang looked up from their television watching, startled. I knew Fang could read it from my mind, but for some reason, I had to say it out loud anyway. “Micah, Gwen and Princess have been kidnapped.”

  “What?” Jack said, leaping to his feet as Austin arrived more calmly than I’d managed.

  “I’m so sorry,” I told Fang.

  NO, I DON’T BELIEVE IT, Fang said, shaking his head.

  Denial wasn’t going to help get them back. Sighing, I let him listen to the voice mail.

  Fang’s lips pulled back away from his teeth in a snarl, his hackles rose, and his eyes turned feral, like he was about to go Terminator on someone’s butt. PLAY IT AGAIN, he demanded.

  What good would that do? But I played the voice mail again anyway. It was just as chilling the third time around.

  I DON’T KNOW THAT VOICE, Fang said, his voice in my head coming in hard, rapid spurts. DO YOU?

  I shook my head.

  IF HE HURTS EVEN ONE OF THEM—

  I didn’t hear what Fang would do because his mental voice deteriorated into nothing but snarls and growls.

  I stared at the phone again, then noticed the charge was getting low. What if he called back and the phone was dead? I found the charger quickly and plugged in the phone. “We’re going to the club, just as soon as the phone is charged.” And hope like hell he’d meet us there.

  Jack sank down on my bed, looking stunned. “Do you think they’re still alive?”

  “Yes,” I bit out. They had to be. I wouldn’t consider anything else. “He wants the books.” I couldn’t help but pace. “He’ll keep them alive to trade.”

  “I hope you’re right,” Jack said.

  OF COURSE SHE’S RIGHT, Fang snapped. AND WHILE SHE WAITS AT THE CLUB, WE’LL FIND MICAH, GWEN AND PRINCESS AND SAVE THEM.

  Sounded like an excellent plan, with just one teensy flaw. “How?” I asked. “We don’t know who it is or where they are.”

  Austin moved closer to stare down at the phone. “Think. He wants the books. Who could it be?”

  Frustrated, I snapped, “It could be anyone.”

  “Not just anyone,” Austin corrected me. “Only those who know what the books are and what they can do.”

  He was right. That narrowed it down a little. “Then it’s either a demon or a vampire. Humans wouldn’t know about the books.” Except for a few—some of my friends in the Special Crimes Unit. And Gwen. But none of them could even use the books if they had them.

  “This doesn’t sound like one of us,” Austin said. “Alejandro prefers you control the books, and Lisette thinks they’re too dangerous to have around.”

  “Then it must be a demon,” I concluded, pacing. “Someone in San Antonio or here.” I glanced at Jack. “Unless you told the Los Angeles Underground.”

  He shook his head. “I don’t know anyone there anymore.”

  IT’S SOMEONE IN AUSTIN, Fang snarled. HE WANTED TO MEET YOU AT THE DEMON HEADQUARTERS HERE.

  He was right. “Dina Bellama,” I said with disgust. “She’s mixed up in this somehow, I know it.”

  Austin lounged against the door. “Think. Are you sure you’re not just saying that because she’s playing footsie with your boyfriend?”

  I don’t know how, but he managed to make the word boyfriend sound childish. My mouth tightened, but I refused to let Austin get to me. He had a point. “No. I’m saying it because she wants the books, she can control any man she wants, and he asked us to meet at her hangout. Isn’t it interesting that they were kidnapped after Dina found out I had the books? Who else could it be?”

  “She has a point,” Jack said.

  Yeah, several of them. All nicely sharpened and ready to plunge into a heart. I’d only used my stakes on vampires before, but they’d make a demon just as dead.

  “So what’s your plan?” Austin asked.

  KILL DINA, RESCUE OUR FRIENDS AND GET THE HELL OUT OF THIS TOWN, Fang snarled.

  “You need proof first,” Jack protested. “You can’t just kill people because you suspect them of doing something.”

  The voice of sanity. I hated sanity.

  Austin looked confused, so Jack filled him in on what Fang had said. The cowboy didn’t say anything. He just looked at me with his eyebrows raised, as if silently asking me if I was really going to do this thing.

  Crap. They were both right. I couldn’t stake her without proof. That would make me just as bad as those I fought. But what could I do?

  “What can we do if he doesn’t show up at the club or call you?” Austin asked.

  I didn’t even want to think about that. “We grab Dina and force her to tell us what’s going on.” I suddenly remembered something very important. “Wait. Maybe we can find them on our own.”

  Fang’s head snapped toward me. HOW? he demanded.

  I smiled. “Erica. She’s a finder and she owes us big time.” Shade had cured her inability to have children, and I’d been instrumental in making that happen. “She’ll help,” I said with certainty.

  GOOD IDEA, Fang said. CALL HER.

  I didn’t have her number, but Tessa probably did, and I had to break the bad news to her anyway. I dialed her number.

  “Hi, Val,” Tessa said. “I was just going to call you. That guy whose wallet you called about, Adam Bukowski? He belongs to the Underground there in Austin.”

  Everything bad seemed to point back to Dina’s organization. “Thanks, Tessa, but that’s not why I called. I have bad news.” I explained about the phone call and waited for Tessa to calm down. “I’m sure they’re still alive,” I assured her. “I just need Erica’s help to find them. Can you give me her number?”

  “Sorry,” Tessa said. “But she’s not in town. She and her husband went on a cruise to celebrate her cure and make a baby. She didn’t take her cell and won’t be back until next week.”

  I shut my eyes in frustration, then I remembered her ability. “You’re a soothsayer. Can’t you get a prophecy to find out where they are?”

  “My gift doesn’t work that way.”

  I knew she had no control over it, but… “Can’t you at least try?” I was desperate here.

  She sighed. “Okay. I’ll let you know if I have any luck. Call me as soon as you know something.”

  We hung up and I checked my phone to see if the kidnapper had called while I’d been on the phone. Nope. Now what? I glanced around and my gaze fell on my backpack. The books.

  I dumped them onto the bed and grabbed one of the volumes, clutching it tightly. “Please, please, please, for your sake as well as mine, give me a power that will help me find them.”

  Light glowed on one of the pages and I opened it, my hope rising. I read the page eagerly, then threw the book back on the bed with disgust. That again. “Paranoid much?” I asked the books, knowing it was useless and petty, but not caring.

  “What is it?” Jack asked.

  “It’s the spell to locate mage demons,” I bit out. As Jack had mentioned before, the books were more concerned about protecting themselves than about helping me. “No help there.”

  BACK TO MY PLAN, Fang insisted.

  “Okay,” I said. “We find a way to go after them after my phone is charged. I want to make sure it’s fully operational in case someone calls back.”

  “You can’t jus
t show up at the club with the books,” Jack protested.

  I couldn’t stop pacing. “Yeah, I know. I have to leave them behind, so I’ll have something to trade once he assures me Micah and Gwen are safe.”

  AND PRINCESS, Fang added, a dangerous edge to his voice.

  “Of course, Princess, too.” I thought it went without saying.

  Fang seemed mollified, so I added, “Jack, you’ll have to stay here.”

  “Why?” he protested. “I can help. Give me something to do.”

  I didn’t have time right now to worry about his need to be useful. “You can help by safeguarding the books. You said it yourself—I can’t take them with me.”

  Jack looked annoyed. “You need some muscle beside you. You can’t do this alone.”

  SHE HAS ME, Fang informed him.

  “I’ll go with you,” Austin said.

  I glanced at him in surprise. “Don’t you want to follow up on the chupacabra thing, find Lisette’s missing vampire?”

  He shrugged. “I’ll text Vincent and ask him to do that. You need my help.”

  I hadn’t expected that, but I did appreciate it. “Thanks.”

  “They don’t know me, so I can blend in, help when needed.”

  Austin, blend in? With his good looks and cowboy drawl, he was more likely to cause a stampede… in his direction. But there was no way I was gonna feed his ego by saying that aloud. I glanced at Fang, expecting some kind of snarky remark, but he was too wired to banter.

  “Good idea,” I said. “But Dina is a succubus as well. To make sure she doesn’t grab you in her chakras, I’ll have to hold you in my thrall.”

  A slow grin spread across his face and he looked up from his phone. “If you think you can handle me.”

  Annoyed, I shot back, “Of course I can.”

  He leaned back in the chair and crossed his booted ankles. “So, what do you plan to do if he doesn’t show?”

  HOW ABOUT WE CATCH US A SUCCUBUS AND TORTURE HER UNTIL SHE TALKS? Fang said.

  Whoa. Remind me not to get you pissed at me. And if he was going in looking for blood, I was afraid this wasn’t going to go well. Aloud, I said, “If necessary. But let’s try something simpler first. Fang can overhear demon thoughts. If anyone knows anything about them or the demon who kidnapped them, he’ll hear it and let me know.”

  Fang snorted. MY PLAN SOUNDED LIKE MORE FUN.

  Good, a little snark. Maybe he wouldn’t be as much of a loose cannon as I feared. “If we don’t find out anything that way, we’ll corner Dina and make her talk.” Somehow. “More backup would be good, too. No more vamps—they’d stand out. And if too many San Antonio demons show up, it’ll make Dina suspicious.” But I did need to let Shade know what was going on with his dog.

  “How about David?” Jack asked.

  Yes, of course. He was watching Shade for us so he should be nearby. I called him and filled him in, and he was glad to help. “He’ll meet us there,” I told the rest of them.

  We stashed as many hidden weapons on us as we could, and, once the phone was charged, we left Jack and the books in our adjoining rooms, then headed out. When we got there, Club Purgatory was rockin’, and with a few don’t look nudges from Lola, Austin was able to sneak Fang in under his coat. But we changed our minds about Austin blending in, figuring it would be better to have him close by. We grabbed a corner table on the main floor, and Fang slid into the shadows under the table. I ordered a Coke—all they’d let me have since I was underage—and Austin ordered a beer. He was way over-age.

  “Make that two beers,” David said as he joined us, a ski cap pulled down over his head to hide the majority of his scars.

  The server nodded and I introduced the two guys. They nodded at each other, and David reached down to scratch Fang’s ears. “Hey, buddy.”

  When Fang didn’t respond, I explained, “He’s listening in to demon conversations, to see if he can catch a hint of who the kidnapper is or where they’re holding our friends.”

  David nodded, and the four of us resorted to searching the room with our gazes, looking for clues and watching for trouble. Plus, I had to admit, I was also looking for Shade. I kinda wanted to see him, but kinda didn’t. I was afraid he’d still be ticked off at me, but I had this fantasy that he’d spot me in the crowd, run to me in slow motion, and we’d kiss and make up.

  Insert flat buzzer sound here. Wasn’t gonna happen. I’d be lucky if he wasn’t Dina’s personal love slave by now. I winced at the thought.

  No, you can’t blame this on Dina. He’d find a way to get free if he needed to.

  After a couple of hours of sitting there, doing nothing but drinking and getting on each other’s nerves, I asked Fang, Anything yet?

  NO, FOR THE FIFTIETH TIME. IF I LEARN ANYTHING, YOU’LL BE THE FIRST TO KNOW.

  I knew that, but I hated waiting. Doing was my thing. Standing, I said, “I’ll be right back. Bathroom.” After all that Coke, I really did need to visit the ladies’. And that would keep the guys from coming with me.

  After I used the facilities, I was too antsy to sit still again, so I wandered off down the hallway and through a door that said Staff Only. No one seemed to be paying attention to me back here amongst the bottle storage and dishwashing equipment. I snooped around a bit, but didn’t find anything useful, so I slipped down the back stairs to the underground lair where I’d met Shade and Dina before. I heard voices in the break room, so I stopped outside the door to listen in.

  “Snooping, are you?” a voice asked behind me.

  I whirled and there was Dina with two boy toys in tow. Unfortunately, I knew one of them all too well—Shade. There went my dumb fantasy. I reached for him with Lola, but Dina already had control of him. It figured.

  Backup, I yelled to Fang, I’m in the basement and I need backup. I hoped he was close enough to hear me.

  ON OUR WAY, came the faint thought.

  I relaxed and shrugged nonchalantly, pretending it didn’t bother me that Shade was slobbering all over her. I had to remind myself that she’d probably ordered him to do that and he had no choice to obey her. “Just thought I’d visit again because, you know, last time was so much fun.”

  “Oh, really? I thought you’d come back to tell me you were leaving my city.”

  Wishful thinking, bitch. “No, I just have a few questions for you. Like why did you enthrall Shade? You promised not to.”

  She shrugged. “Actually, I promised I’d take care of him. And I have been.” She leaned her forearm on Shade’s shoulder. “Haven’t I, sweet thing?” He pulled her close and planted a slow kiss on her neck.

  I wanted to scream, throw things, or cut out her black heart, but none of that was acceptable. “Try that without your succubus thrall and see how far you get,” I challenged. Shade wouldn’t do that on his own. Would he? I forcibly tamped down my simmering anger, refusing to let it overflow and show her that she’d gotten to me.

  “No, thank you,” Dina said. “I rather like having a shadow demon around.”

  Austin, David and Fang arrived then, pelting down the stairs. Fang let out one explosive humph when he saw Dina, then settled down.

  I felt a little better with my friends behind me. “I was just telling our hostess that we have a few questions for her.”

  Naturally, Dina reached out to try and seduce them into being her slaves, but I already had hold of Austin. And I couldn’t even reach David. Huh. Well, if I couldn’t, she couldn’t either.

  “Micah’s missing,” David said. “What do you know about that?”

  “Missing?” Dina repeated, then fondled her crystal teardrop again, drawing the guys’ attention to her cleavage. “I don’t know anything about that.”

  Fang growled. SHE’S TELLING THE TRUTH, BUT SHE’S HIDING SOMETHING. FIND OUT WHAT IT IS.

  How was I supposed to do that? “Have you heard from him lately?” I asked.

  “No, not since he called to tell me about you and the books. Why? Have you misplaced him?”
>
  “No, he’s been kidnapped.”

  “Kidnapped?” she repeated in surprise. “You think I had something to do with it?”

  “The thought had crossed my mind,” I said dryly.

  “Well, I didn’t.”

  TRUTH, Fang confirmed.

  Dina gasped, looking suddenly apprehensive. “You think I might be next?”

  I thought about relieving her mind, telling her that the kidnapper wanted the books, but I felt like being petty. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

  GEE, THANKS, Fang said. NOW ALL SHE CAN THINK ABOUT IS HOW TO PROTECT HERSELF.

  I shrugged it off. She probably didn’t have any information anyway.

  “What else can you tell me?” she demanded. “My security detail has to know everything to protect me.”

  Aha, I had something she wanted. I smiled. “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll tell you what I know about the kidnapping if you release Shade.”

  “I don’t want to leave,” he said.

  Was that Shade talking? Or Dina forcing Shade to want to stay?

  Dina crossed her arms and glared at me. “No deal.”

  “Okay, then give me five minutes alone with him—without him under your control—and I’ll tell him what I know. He can tell you.” When she hesitated, I added, “It’s the only way you’ll learn anything.”

  Her eyes narrowed, then she spat, “Fine. Five minutes.” She whispered something in his ear, then drew away from him. Dina gave me a confident smile. “Not that it’ll do you any good,” she murmured.

  We’ll see about that. I grabbed Shade’s hand and tugged him through the door and into the phone room again. Once we were alone inside, Lola reached for him. It wasn’t conscious on my part, but Lola hadn’t fed in a while and was getting edgy from lack of energy. She was accustomed to feeding on Shade whenever she liked… and she liked right now.

  But his chakras felt different, tight and closed off. Was that from having another succubus in them for so long?

  “Stop it,” he said, drawing away from me to the limits of the room.

  I could see why he was tired of being controlled. “It’s not me,” I protested. “It’s Lola. She likes you.”

  “You have control of her,” Shade said, his voice uncharacteristically terse. “You can stop it.”

 
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