but others as well. A story part true—he was drugged and he actually did have several sexual partners that weekend—part fiction—there was no drunken rave. Judith Williams kidnapped him to ensure my presence at a little soiree she had planned. But casual sex is so far out of character for David, he was determined to question Judith Williams himself.

Something that now is never going to happen.

David listens to me as I reprise Harris’ frustration that he can’t pin either Williams’ disappearance on me.

“Why would he do that?” David asks, his own frustration adding an edge to his voice. “Just because you were a friend of her husband’s? He’s making you a scapegoat for his own incompetence. If he comes sniffing around again, I think you should file a harassment suit.”

He grabs his jacket from the back of the chair. “Got to run. Finding a place to park around Sammi’s at this time of day is going to be a bitch.”


He stops at the door and turns around.

“I want to fix up the guest room in the cottage for John-John. I don’t have any experience decorating for a boy. I thought maybe you could help me pick out some stuff?”

His eyes widen. “Wow. You aren’t kidding about this relationship being serious, are you?”

I shrug. “And who knows? Maybe this will be good practice for you and Tracey?”

He holds up a hand. “Whoa. Not even remotely ready for anything like that.” Then he grins. “But I’d love to help you. When do you want to go?”

I look over the desktop calendar. “We don’t have anything going on tomorrow. After lunch?”

“Sounds good. I know just the place to go, too.”

Before I can ask where, he’s out the door. Is it my imagination or was that smile on his face one of genuine delight at the prospect? Who would have thunk it?

* * *

THE CLOSER IT GETS TO FREY AND JOHN-JOHN’S VISIT, the first time they’ll be staying at the cottage, the more excited I get. I had all the furniture in my guest room moved into a storage area I share with my parents and set about deciding on a color for the walls. They’re vanilla-bean bland right now. Perfectly suited for the (very) few adult visitors I’ve ever had and for the cherry bed and dresser formerly occupying the space. Not suited for an active five-year-old. I spend the afternoon looking through home-decorating magazines and the next morning at Lowe’s picking up swatches and paint samples.

It’s one when I get to the office.

The voice mail indicator is blinking. Since Tracey and David are MIA, maybe at lunch, I dial in and take the message. It’s one of the bondsmen we work for out of L.A. and he has a tip. A skip he’s been looking for was spotted eating lunch at Jake’s in Del Mar. I call him back, tell him we’re on it. I pull the guy’s file. Wanted for two counts of aggravated assault. Skipped his first hearing. If he’s not in custody by five p.m. this afternoon, his bond is forfeit. Fifty thousand dollars. Not a big payday for us but it’d take care of the tax bill, so after scribbling a hasty note to David and Tracey, I take off.

Since becoming vampire, much of my life has been consumed with adjusting to a dual nature. Most of that has been concealing that dual nature from the people I care for most. Every once in a while I enjoy giving the vamp free rein and setting out on my own to bring in a skip (especially one wanted for violent crimes) without Tracey and David along. I don’t have to pretend I’m not as strong as I am or as fast or as invulnerable.

The guy is right where the bondsman said he’d be. He’s seated in the patio area in the back of the restaurant so I watch as he finishes his meal, pays the check (with cash), takes one last pull of a cup of coffee and starts for the door.

He isn’t a big guy, five-nine I’d guess, and slight of build. He’s wearing a suit and tie and good shoes. He looks like any other businessman grabbing a quick lunch before heading back to the office. He doesn’t look like the type who beat the crap out of his ex-wife twice before she got the nerve to press charges. What he’s doing here in Del Mar I have no idea. And I couldn’t care less.

The suit is well tailored and I see no telltale bulges that would indicate a gun. ’Course, he could be wearing an ankle holster. Or carrying a knife. The vampire hopes he goes for it.

I’ve already set the trap. The hood on my Jag is up and I’m leaning over the engine with a puzzled look of feminine bewilderment.

He has to stroll right by and right on cue, he stops, whether from my predicament or the outline of my ass against a pair of tight jeans, I can only guess.

“Having trouble?” he asks.

I straighten and sigh. “It’s the third time this week. Can’t get it to start.”

He joins me so that our hips are touching. “Don’t know too much about foreign cars, but let me have a look.”

He bends over and begins touching this cable and that piston, checking gaskets and pulleys. “Well,” he says at last, “I can’t see anything. Do you have AAA?”

I nod. “Just called them. It’ll be about thirty minutes.”

My left hand is resting on the edge of the engine well and he places his right hand over mine. “You’re cold. Let’s go inside. I’d be happy to buy you a drink while we wait for them.”

I slip my hand out from under his, grasp his wrist and he’s handcuffed before he can say, “What the fuck?”

He struggles, but not too much. My grip is tight. He looks at me and snipes, “You’re strong for a woman. What are you? A fucking dyke?”

Nice. I pat him down, none too gently. No gun. No knife.

I manhandle him into the backseat of the Jag. He’s cursing and yelling and demanding to know what I’m doing. But he doesn’t try to fight back or make a break for it.

Damn it.

I ignore his howls of protest, snapping the cuffs through a metal bar I’ve had installed on the door of the Jag for just this purpose. Once I get him to SDPD, he’ll catch on. Now I’m just disappointed I didn’t get to have any fun after all.

* * *

DAVID AND TRACEY ARE WAITING FOR ME WHEN I GET back. The whole episode didn’t take more than two hours. I throw the paperwork on the desk and David looks it over.

“Didn’t give you any trouble?”

Not really a question. Little veins are bulging at his temple. He’s pissed.

I pretend not to notice, knowing what’s coming. “Nope. Cakewalk.”

He purses his lips. “I thought we decided we wouldn’t do any lone-ranger pickups. This guy is wanted for aggravated assault. He could have given you trouble.”

I can’t say what I’m thinking—that a little trouble was what I went looking for—so I just smile like I don’t understand his irritation. “Worked out fine. Came along gentle as a little lamb.”

“Damn it, Anna, don’t play innocent.” He slaps the file down on the desktop. “You should have waited for backup.”

I look at Tracey, but she’s shaking her head. “He’s right, Anna. One of us should have gone with you.”

Two against one. I raise my hands in surrender. “Okay. You’re right. Next time I’ll wait.”

Tracey smiles, but David isn’t ready to let go of his frustration. I understand. I know he’s remembering a time when a skip got away from us and I was raped and beaten while David lay unconscious a few feet away. What he doesn’t know, what he can’t know, is that attack resulted in my becoming vampire. The reason he’s so protective is the reason he no longer needs to be.

He shoves the file into the cabinet and slams the drawer shut.

I clear my throat. “Does this mean you don’t want to go shopping with me this afternoon?”

“Of course he’ll go shopping with you,” Tracey answers before he can, her tone as barbed as a fishhook. “I’ll stay here and tend the office.”

“You speaking for me now?” David snaps.

But Tracey takes no umbrage from his tone or annoyed glance. “It’s all you’ve been talking about,” she says

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