between them when they touched, he knew better. He’d already thought too much with his lower head tonight.

She was right about the evidence. With no blood on her, no weapons and a different scent, there was no question she hadn’t killed that girl. But either way, letting her live was a betrayal of his job and his fellow hunters. And damn it, he sure as hell wasn’t about to change his convictions for a sweet lay. Werewolves were his enemies and always had been. He slammed his fist onto the steering wheel. The whole situation was bullshit. She hadn’t done anything wrong, so he wasn’t sure he could bring himself to kill her, but shit, she was a wolf.

He revved the engine and glanced in the mirror one more time. Her jaw clenched, pure frustration evident on her face as she continued to struggle with the handcuffs. Princess was seriously pissed off. Ripping his eyes from her gorgeous body, he pulled away from the curb and floored the gas pedal. Damn meeting started in fifteen minutes.

He patted his pocket, searching for his cigarettes, and slipped one out. He fumbled with his lighter until he finally lit up, then exhaled the smoke with the cancer stick still in his mouth.

A feminine cough sounded from the backseat. “Just because you want to destroy your lungs, doesn’t mean I want to ruin mine.”

Jace lifted the cigarette from his lips and blew the smoke into the air. “Rather demanding for a captive, don’t you think? Besides, we both know it isn’t going to kill you. You werewolves are pretty damn indestructible when it comes to drugs and alcohol.” He fought back a near laugh. He knew that all too well, didn’t he?

“I’m no one’s captive.” She glared at him in the rearview mirror.

Jace raised a single eyebrow. “Then what do you call those cuffs there?”

A deep scowl crossed her face, and even with an angry frown, she was still beautiful. “I’ll get out of here, and the first thing on my to-do list will be ripping your throat out with my teeth.”

“Feisty much?” He blew out more smoke before lifting one side of his mouth into a half grin.

“Kiss my ass.”

“Gladly.” He smirked. “Though I’d prefer to feel it first, if you don’t mind.” He checked the mirror; a blush bloomed across her high cheekbones, strong enough to show through her golden brown skin. His heart jumped, revving to life like his car’s engine.

His fingers whitened against the steering wheel before he slammed his fist into it again. He needed to focus., those big brown eyes.

“Damn it.” She was killing him. She’d been around maybe twenty minutes, at the most, and already he regretted every decision he’d made thus far.

Why didn’t I shoot her in the head? Boom, problem solved.

“What’s your problem?” she asked. An electric shock zoomed down his spine at the sound of her voice.

“Captive, remember? That means you’re supposed to be quiet.”

“I won’t shut up until you gag me.”

“That can be arranged.” He puffed harder on his cigarette, filling the car with smoke.

“Try it,” she taunted.

Nothing he felt like trying, he thought. He would likely lose a finger or two in the process.

She coughed again. “Could you roll down a window or something for hell’s sake?”

He flicked the ashes out the window. “You’ve got a really big mouth, don’t you?”

“The better to rip your throat out.” She smiled, and in the rearview mirror he saw her long canines. He ran his tongue across his teeth—he had a pair of his own.


The word ran through his mind before he could stop it, and he instantly hated himself all the more. He thought of his mother’s face: the purple and yellow bruises that marred her porcelain skin and the wrinkles around her eyes as she sobbed. That was the night he walked out, leaving her unable to provide for her rapidly growing son, and slamming Jace with a life-long curse. Damn. He wasn’t right in the head, fantasizing about sex with one those monsters.

And as if his self-hate wasn’t enough, her voice taunted him, poking fun at his agony by driving him wild.

“You know, I—”

He stomped on the Hummer’s brakes, and the car jerked. Princess toppled halfway into the front seat, and only his death grip on the steering wheel stopped his forehead from colliding with the dashboard.

“Ow! What the—”

He turned to her, eyes narrowed in anger. Her mouth snapped shut when she met his gaze. As he spoke, his beast’s rage overtook him.

“Enough. Let’s get something straight. Unless you want a forty-caliber lodged in your skull, I suggest you keep your mouth zipped up nice and tight. Got it?”

She shook her head, the movement almost imperceptible, so it looked like she was trembling. Maybe she was. Shit. She peeled herself off the floorboard and retreated back to her spot without another word. He hit the gas again and sped toward the council’s warehouse four blocks away.

The small sniffle he heard behind him ripped at his heart. He tried to ignore it and focus on driving. Another sniffle. He couldn’t help himself. He checked the mirror.

Tears were streaming down her cheeks, staining her perfect face. Her legs were hunched up to her breasts, and she was staring at the floor. His heart ached, threatening to explode. She was naked and vulnerable, and he’d just issued her a death threat. A wave of guilt shot through him as he thought of how he’d roughed her up in the alley. He really was a worthless bastard. He’d sworn to himself that he would never be like his father, never hurt a woman, but in the end he was no better than his asshole dad. Did it matter that she was a werewolf? She was still a woman. The angel and devil on his shoulders duked it out. He wasn’t quite sure which one was calling him a jackass. Maybe both.

Speeding around a final corner, he spotted the abandoned warehouse where the council held its meetings. He drove to the entrance and parked the H3, glad he had tinted windows. Before he chanced doing something stupid, he twisted the rearview mirror away from him, so her reflection wouldn’t tear him apart.

He stepped out of the car and glanced back at her. “This car is alarmed. Open a door, shatter the glass, fuck with the wiring, and the noise will wake the dead. That’ll bring me and three other supernatural-hating sons of bitches running.” His gaze raked over her nude form. “Unless you want that kind of attention...”

He slammed the door and walked toward the warehouse. Never in his life had he wanted to attend a council meeting so badly.

* * *

JACE STRODE INTO the rusted, run-down warehouse as he pulled yet another Marlboro from his trench coat and stuck it between his lips. Looking up from his lighter, he glanced at the three other hunters. Damon was sitting at the far end of the table, his hands folded together on his lap as he shot daggers at Jace with his ice-blue eyes. The usual warm fuzzy welcome.

The massive building was empty save for the single table, several overhead drop lights and the mounds upon mounds of old crates they’d put in to make the place seem more like an actual warehouse. Someone would be hard-pressed to find the switch that opened the door to the hidden room that held the Rochester division’s headquarters, unless they moved a hell of a lot of wooden crates. Even if they located the keypad, they would still be faced with the code and the body scanner.

Damon spoke. “You’re la—”

“No.” Jace held up one finger, cutting Damon off. He took a long pull on his cigarette, exhaled, then glanced down at his watch with a smug grin on his face. “Now I’m late.”

Damon’s face hardened into a frozen mask, but Jace knew the overwhelming anger that lay beneath that cold, impassive stare. Jace felt rage—it was in his blood—but Damon took angst and made it into a lifestyle. Head of the council and the fiercest vampire slayer Jace had ever seen, Damon Brock never smiled, and he sure as hell couldn’t take a joke.

“Sit down,” Damon ordered.

Jace flopped into one of the hard, metal chairs and propped his dirt-covered boots on the table. David sat at Damon’s right side with his large hand covering his black goatee as he snickered.

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