I have to mull that over in my mind. There are more things I can’t say about him to my human business partners than I can—like the fact that he’s a shape-shifter, that his other form is panther, that his son is already manifesting his powers as a shape-shifter years ahead of the curve, that he’s saved my vampire ass more than once over the past year and a half I’ve known him.

I draw in a breath and meet Tracey’s gaze. “He’s generous, handsome, strong. Has tremendous endurance.” A wink to her here. “Has a five-year-old son that I’m crazy about. And he loves me almost as much as I love him.”

I hear a gasp from David. “Holy fucking shit. You sound like a girl.”

“She is a girl, stupid,” Tracey snaps. “Jesus.” She turns to me. “He sounds wonderful. And I’m getting so jealous. When do I get to meet Mr. Wonderful?”

“In two weeks. His son has a school break the middle of March and they’re spending it here.”

“What’s his name?”

“Daniel Frey.”

“Frey lives in Monument Valley now? And he has a son?” David asks, startled. “Since when?”

I forgot that David met Frey several months ago. They spent some time together at a local bar while I slipped out to attend to some vampire business. “He moved a while ago. I didn’t find out about his son myself until just recently.”

A white lie. Frey told me about his son the same time he distracted David so I could sneak away. I did just meet John-John, though, right after Christmas.

“Wow, that’s so romantic,” Tracey says.

David sticks a finger in his open mouth and makes a gagging sound. “Jesus. Is this what I’m going to have to listen to in the office now? You two hard-asses cooing like characters in a romance novel?”

I get out of my chair and cross to his side of the desk, leaning down so we’re eye level. “I have just three words for you,” I growl. “Gloria. Fucking. Estrella.”

“Who’s that?” Tracey asks.

Color floods up David’s neck.

I grin. “Ask him to tell you about her sometime,” I reply. “Now that’s a story out of a romance novel.”

David grows suddenly quiet, busying himself with a stack of papers he’s probably been through a dozen times.

“Who’s Gloria Estrella?” Tracey repeats. Then she stops. “Wait a minute. The Gloria Estrella?”

You can see the gleam of recognition spark in her eyes. “You told me you had dated a Gloria, but Gloria Estrella? She was your ex?”

“That was before you moved to San Diego and joined SDPD,” David blurts. “It’s been over for a long time!”

“You mean you missed the glamorous couple on the cover of People every other week?” I can’t believe I’m spouting off like this, but once started, the sarcasm pours forth. “The actress and the football player. They were news, baby!”

David shoots me a look that’s pure poison. “That’s enough, Anna. Unless you want me to enumerate your less-than-stellar relationships.”

But his tone is more hurt than angry and I’m suddenly flooded with guilt. It was unfair to bring Gloria into the conversation. Gloria Estrella was the big, stupid, “you are the love of my life” mistake every one of us makes at least once. David loved her to the depths of his soul, refusing to see what lay beneath the gleaming facade.

Yes, she was beautiful, a successful model and actress, but she was also vain, self-centered and utterly without conscience. David is handsome, trusting, an ex–football player of some local renown. Perfect for Gloria to use as a camera-friendly public consort and since I was his partner and friend, perfect to use me to save her ass with the police when she screwed up. Which she did on more than one occasion. Big-time. But it came to an end when I saw what she was doing to David. I made a bargain with her. I’d help get her out of yet another scrape (a very big one) if she promised to let David go. I did and remarkably, she’s kept her word.

It took David a long time to get over her.

And now, I’ve raised the specter again. Just when he and Tracey were beginning a relationship of their own. Tracey is an ex-cop, almost as tough as I am, and just as street-smart. She and David do make a good couple, and she’s more than a match for any of David’s exes, except maybe Gloria.

Tracey is about to start asking questions again, I can see it in the confused way she looks from David to me.

I made this mess; I’d better clean it up.

I wave a hand and laugh. “Foget it, Tracey. Gloria is old news—a joke between David and me. It was over a long time ago.”

I see David’s shoulders relax ever so slightly.

But so does Tracey. Her eyes tighten at the corners. “Are you sure?”

And then, as if stage directed to enter at precisely the right moment, someone opens the door to our office.

The three of us swivel toward it. I might be imagining it, but a wave of relief at the interruption is so palpable, our visitor seems to feel it, too. He pauses, hand on the door, his expression curious but detached.

“Am I interrupting?” Detective Harris says.

Shit. “When aren’t you interrupting?” I groan under my breath.

He comes in and closes the door behind him. He is smiling, but he’s a cop. A middle-aged, built-like-a-boxer, craggy-faced bulldog of a cop. His smiles can’t be trusted. He was involved in the Gloria Estrella fiasco, which brings David’s shoulders up again. But we both know he isn’t here about that long-closed case.

Harris strides over to the visitor’s chair and pulls it up to the desk. He turns it around and straddles it backward, grinning. “Hope you all had a good holiday.”

Small talk? And now he’s grinning. Christ. This can’t be good. When no one follows up with the usual banalities about how good their holidays were, I pipe in. “What can we do for you?”

Harris ignores my question and directs one to Tracey. “How’s the bounty-hunting business treating you, Officer Banker?”

“Ex-officer,” Tracey spits back with the malevolence of a striking rattlesnake, her ferocity startling us all.

Jaw clenched, she adds, “As you well know since it was at your recommendation that I was granted disability retirement.”

I snap to attention at this unexpected bit of information—and at the heat in Tracey’s response. I’d assumed Tracey had agreed to retirement after an off-duty scuffle with an armed bank robber resulted in a hero’s commendation and a back injury. Should have known after seeing Tracey in action with us that it hadn’t been her choice to retire from the force.

She’s on her feet now, gathering the tax papers we’d assembled and the sheaf of receipts I was working on and stuffing them into a large envelope with jabs that would do a boxer proud. “I’ll take these downtown,” she says, jaw tight. “Finish it there. See you later.”

And she’s gone . . . fairly flying out the door. David and I look at each other and then at Harris.

“Well. I don’t think she likes you very much,” David says.

Harris shifts in his chair. The fact that he didn’t jump to defend his actions with Tracey makes me think he might realize he acted precipitously in forcing her to retire. “I’m sorry she’s still so angry,” he says.

David shakes his head. “It’s not Anna and me you should be apologizing to. It’s Tracey.” He pushes back his chair and gets to his feet. “I’m going with her.” He’s looking at Harris, daring the detective to try to stop him.

Harris lifts his shoulders. “Tell her I didn’t mean to upset her,” he says quietly.

David mumbles something that sounds a lot like “right, you fucking jerk” and brushes past Harris.

Then it’s just the two of us alone in the office.


“I see your social skills haven’t improved.”

Then, since I think I’m going to need fortification, I get up and head for the coffeemaker in the corner.

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