I paced the carpeted floor of Hollings’s chamber. Jo and I had traveled to Boston to visit with her father. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with the state of our affairs. I couldn’t get out of the military. My discharge papers had been denied. Steven Mason was in jail for murdering the Secretary of the Navy, and I was now in charge of a bag of shit. Yet, all I could think about was marrying Jo. I’d asked her to marry me, and she had said yes. But we couldn’t tie the knot until we were free and clear of the hornets’ nest we were in.
Jo was convinced that Edmund had killed the Secretary of the Navy and pinned the blame on Steven. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe her, because what she said was probably one hundred percent true. The pile of crap we were stuck in was figuring out how to prove Steven’s innocence when the evidence the elders had against him seemed to prove his guilt without a question. They had the murder weapon—the dagger that slit the secretary’s throat—with Steven’s DNA on the blade. Why the dagger suddenly showed up months after the murder was also a burning question.
I shoved a hand through my hair, the back of which fell out of the leather strap.
Jo glided in, all five feet six inches of her. Her black hair was unbound and flowing like a smooth wave on a subtle breeze.
After two weeks of not being able to visit or talk with her father and working hard to help Dr. Vieira in the lab, Jo appeared tired and dazed. She hadn’t been sleeping. I knew firsthand since I’d insisted on staying with her in the apartment that Steven called home on base. She hadn’t protested, but I didn’t think she would. I was the one having a hard time controlling my libido. I was the one who wanted to wait until we were married to make love. I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep the promise that I’d made more for me than for her. Actually, I’d made the promise mostly to show her father that I was a gentleman. Still, with her long, silky legs and lavender scent, I could barely keep my hands off her, let alone sleep. But I would torture myself if it meant that she was happy and safe.
“How did they find the murder weapon? And where?” she asked for the millionth time.
I grabbed her by the shoulders. “The where doesn’t matter. Your father’s DNA is all over that dagger along with the secretary’s.”
Her nostrils flared. “The where does matter. It could lead us to the real murderer. I would bet the trail leads to Edmund. If you recall, around the time of the secretary’s murder, Edmund and your sister, Kate, stole my dad’s blood.”
I flinched when she said Kate’s name. Part of me had come to terms with her death. I flinched more when Jo looked away as she said my sister’s name. She’d killed Kate in self-defense. I got that. I didn’t blame Jo at all, but if the tables had been turned, I probably would have felt the same remorse if I’d killed her brother, Sam.
Jo waved a hand in front of my face. “Webb?” Then her nails grazed my unshaven jaw. “I’m sorry to bring up Kate. I’m also sorry that I was the one to end her life.”
I met her silver gaze. Immediately, I relaxed. Jo had a way of calming me with her soft look and equally soft touch. She was my family now, and the earth could crumble, but we would get our happily ever after.
I sighed as I dragged my fingers down her cheek. “Please stop apologizing. Kate made her choice. You were protecting yourself.”
She wrapped her arms around me. “I can’t help but think that one day you’ll hate me for what I’ve done.”
I grasped her arms gently then eased back as I peered down at her. “Never, angel. I love you. You’re my life now. Forever.”
Her eyes bled from silver to violet, water pooling in them.
“We’ll get through this,” I whispered since I was getting choked up too.
She angled her head as the color of her eyes turned a dark violet. “My dad is innocent.”
“I know he is. I recall that day vividly.” I started pacing again in front of the large cherry credenza while Jo watched me. “Your dad met with the Secretary of the Navy that morning after we dropped you and Sam off at school. If you recall, that’s the same day you killed Blake Turner. So your dad had to rush out of his meeting when I called him. When he left a room full of government officials, the secretary included, no one was dead. But the evidence is damning. Maybe we’ll have luck with the coroner’s report. That should show the time of death, which could prove your father’s innocence.”
She pursed her lips. “Not if Edmund bribed the coroner or threatened him. Or if he’s bribing one of the elders. Maybe one of the elders is in on Edmund’s plan to take out my father. Remember, Edmund wants to run the military. Again, he told me so two weeks ago when I was having a decent conversation with him.” She ran her tongue across the tip of one of her fangs.
“Jo, please. You have to calm down.” I had to calm down. I was as worked up as she was, not only because of her father’s circumstances but because Edmund knew about his daughter, Abbey, and Steven had yet to divulge the whereabouts of Abbey and her mom, Rachel.
I couldn’t protect them if I didn’t know where they were. Edmund wanted his daughter, and if I knew him—and I did—he wouldn’t stop until he got Abbey. I couldn’t blame him. After all, she was his daughter. The problem was that Rachel didn’t want Abbey anywhere near Edmund. Steven and I didn’t, either. Edmund would use his daughter as a lab rat, especially when he found out the little girl had supernatural powers at the age of four, which was unheard of in our world.
Jo darted over to Hollings’s desk that sat in front of the window. “What I need is to get to Edmund. I need to find him and—”
“And what? He’s not going to confess. He’s not coming in to get locked up or put to his death if Victor has any say in this.” Victor Costner was a ticking time bomb who wanted Edmund’s head on a platter for injecting a new form of vampire serum into Victor’s grandson, Matthew. “And let’s not forget that Edmund wants Abbey.”
She sifted through files on the desk. “I would stake my life on the fact that Edmund mailed the murder weapon to Hollings with a letter.”
I hurried over to her as she threw one folder aside and dove into another. I caught her wrist. “Stop. Are you insane? If Hollings walks in, he’ll throw you in a cell.”
She shrugged out of my hold. “So?” She started opening drawers.
I grasped her arm and pulled her to me. She pushed me, but I was stronger.
She let out a soft growl. “I can’t sit around and do nothing. I’m tired of Edmund screwing up our lives. I want him dead.”
I glanced around, hoping the walls weren’t thin. “Keep your voice down. If Edmund did show up dead somewhere, you would be the first one they’d implicate. Besides, if Edmund is responsible for the secretary’s murder, then we need him alive.”
She huffed as she relaxed in my arms.
I rested my chin on her head. “You know what you need?”
“You,” she blurted out as she peered up at me. “I want you. I don’t want to wait for our wedding night to consummate our love for each other. I’m dying here, Webb. I sleep with you every night, and the more we’re together, the more I can’t contain myself. I know you want me. I feel you every damn waking minute. I’m literally going to explode.”
I grinned like an ass. She was so incredibly beautiful with her flushed cheeks and her eyes flashing from silver to violet.
She pouted. “Are you mocking me?”
I ushered her over to the window. The city skyline of Boston twinkled against the backdrop of the setting sun. The days were getting shorter as we entered November.
“I would never mock you. You’re my angel. You do things to me that I’ve never experienced in my life. I want you so badly that it’s hard with you rubbing against me night after night. But I want all the time in the world to show you how much I love you. And tonight, we’ll start with a romantic night in Boston. No phones, no fights, and no biting on nails.” I winked. “Just necks.” I’d been wanting to do something I hadn’t had the chance to do since I proposed, and tonight I was going to do it.
“Time is precious, Webb.” Her voice was breathy. “Who knows if we’ll be here tomorrow or an hour from now? If we wait for Edmund to come clean or die, we could be waiting a lifetime to get married.”
I twisted her to face me, and I wasted no time capturing her lips in mine. “You’re right. But I want to be the perfect gentleman.”
She arched into me. “Screw being a gentleman.” She wiggled her sweet hips into my groin. “See, you want me. It doesn’t take much for you to react to my body. Please, just one night, then we can wait until we’re married.”
I chuckled as my fangs grazed her jaw down to her neck, where her pulse beat rapidly. The best thing about our relationship was the explosion of feelings that erupted when I bit her. Jo’s blood did things to me, and the more blood I took, the stronger those things got. At first, I would get dizzy, high, and I would feel anything she felt. Anything she thought about, I got a glimpse of. But the more we drank from each other, the more we were connected, and the more my body craved her. She was right. Time was precious, and I didn’t want to waste another minute without showing her how beautiful she was.
I was about to sink my fangs into her when I heard footsteps outside the door. An elder’s chambers wasn’t the place to show Jo how I felt, and I certainly needed to be the commander in charge in front of Hollings, not some horny vampire only after my boss’s daughter.
In vampire speed, I had us both settled into the chairs in front of the desk.
Jo giggled as her rosy cheeks darkened. “It’s not a crime to kiss me.”
“It might be if I got out of control,” I teased as the door opened.
Hollings strutted in, smoothing a hand over his thick dark hair. His wide black eyes were trained on me. “Doing something you’re not supposed to?” He circled his desk as his gaze lingered too long on me.
Jo slowly slid her foot over to mine and kicked me. It took me a minute to realize the folders on Hollings’s desk were scattered and not in a neat pile like they had been before Jo tackled the contents.
“Just spending time with my girl,” I said. “Can we see Commander Mason now?”
He collected the out-of-place folders. “He’s meeting with his attorney. They should be done momentarily. Before you head down, I wanted to talk to both of you.” He folded his bulk into his chair. “Let’s start with you, Jo. Tell me about Edmund. I understand you’ve had quality time with him. Has he opened up to you about anything?”
Jo sat back in the wooden armchair as she chewed on her bottom lip. “What exactly do you want to know?”
I opened up a telepathic connection to her. Until we know who the mole is, don’t tell him much.
Hollings leaned forward with his elbows on his desk. “Other than building an army of vampires out of humans who don’t carry the vampire gene, what else is he after?”
“Power. He wants my dad’s job. Hence, why he’s framing my dad.”
“I don’t disagree. Someone definitely wants your father out of the picture. But Edmund knows he could never command a SEAL team or step foot on a military base again.”
She pinched her eyebrows together. “Why would he want something he can’t have?”
“Maybe he thinks he can have it,” Hollings said. “Maybe his plan is to kill you, your family, the elders, the SEAL team—”
“Or maybe Edmund has someone working on the inside,” I said. “So he knows he’ll get what he wants.”
“You mean someone on the council of elders?” Hollings asked.
I rubbed the stubble on my chin. “Someone who can make the decision or at least be Edmund’s cheerleader. Edmund can’t commandeer an entire vampire community without help. And he can’t rule the military without someone on the inside. Which is probably why he killed the Secretary of the Navy. He knew the secretary would never appoint him to any position.”
The puzzle pieces were coming together. Edmund had to have someone on the council in his court or on the team of humans within the government. He needed someone who knew about vampires and who could make those high-level decisions. But as I studied Hollings, I didn’t get the sense he was that person, at least not with the curious expression on his face. If I had hit a nerve, then I would’ve gotten a different reaction.
Hollings tapped his forefinger on his lips. “Interesting observation, Lieutenant.”
“Is Webb right?” Jo blurted out.
Hollings shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“The mole could be you,” Jo said.
Hollings narrowed his eyes. “Jo, be careful.”
Jo slid her butt to the edge of her seat. “With all due respect, I trust no one. Plus, it’s odd that you were appointed to the elder position not that long ago, and now the murder weapon shows up.”
“Jo,” I warned. Elders had free rein to punish someone as they saw fit.
She jumped up. “No, Webb. I’m tired of always looking over my shoulder, of worrying if Edmund is going to kidnap me, or what surprise he’s going to dish out next. We know he’s working with someone within the vampire government. Or maybe he’s working with more than one person. But we have to attack this like everyone is a suspect.”
I chuckled when I should have been agreeing with her. But she was acting as though she was a seasoned detective, and I was dumbfounded at her strategic thinking.
Hollings grinned too.
She stomped her foot, her eyes flashing vampire. “Stop mocking me. Both of you.”
“Jo,” Hollings said. “You raise all good points. And while you might not believe me, I’m not the mole. I do, however, agree that a mole within our organization, whether in my circle or the SEAL’s circle, does exist. But we have to work together to bring Edmund down once and for all.”
Her eyes went wide. “Really?” She sat back down.
Hollings interlocked his fingers. “Yes. Edmund has wreaked havoc since his departure from the military. The elders are tired and quite frustrated with covering up his dirty work. Those within the human government who don’t know about vampires are starting to question things. Their superiors are not going to be able to keep the lid on our world much longer. We thought with Bruno dead, we could breathe a little. But with dead human bodies showing up in alleys and dumpsters in the last two weeks, it’s just a matter of time before humans find out about our existence. With the lab explosion on the Indian reservation, the same place Edmund was holding you, the media and government are wondering why the dead bodies found at the scene have canines that rival wolves. We can’t let the public know about us. We have to put a stop to all this, which is why you’re here. I need your help, Jo.”
My gut told me I wasn’t about to like his next statement.
Hollings sat back. “The elders have agreed that we need someone on the inside of Edmund’s operation. Someone who can gain Edmund’s trust. I feel that person is you, Jo.”
Jo choked then laughed. “Me?”
“No way,” I blurted out. “She almost got killed the last time she was with Edmund. And what if one of the other elders is the mole? They’ll tell Edmund immediately. Sir, let me do my job. You want Edmund’s operation shut down? Then let me handle this. My team and I will do everything we can to bring him in.”
Hollings rose. “Steven believes the only match to take out Edmund is Jo.”
“What?” Jo and I asked at the same time.
Hollings tucked a hand into his pants pocket. “Go down and chat with your father. I need to rethink my strategy. Then we can talk again when I get back from my business trip in a couple of days.”
His strategy wasn’t worth shit. My team and I had come up with the strategy to take out an enemy, not an elder.
“What about my dad?” Jo bounced her knee. “He’s innocent.”
“Until we can put all the pieces of the puzzle together on the secretary’s murder, we can’t let your father out of jail,” Hollings said. “Besides, right now, the top echelons within the human government are content, knowing we have a suspect.”
I stood and held out my hand to Jo, cursing under my breath that Hollings thought he could run the show. Maybe he could with Steven in command, but not with me. Maybe the blessing in disguise was that Steven was out of the picture for now. That way, I could get shit done.