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Authors: J. K. Beck

Tags: #Romance Speculative Fiction

When Wicked Craves (7 page)

BOOK: When Wicked Craves
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Her already pale skin turned a shade paler, but she stood, her attention not on him, but on the poltergeist. “J’ared, would you ask Martella to contact Mr. Bosch? I’m not sure what’s going on here, but I think he’d like to know about the way Alliance agents are treating Division’s prosecutors.”

The fear that Tariq had hoped to see in Sara’s face flared in the eyes of the poltergeist, who sped from the room like a spectral cloud.

He turned his attention back to Sara. “Move.”

“I don’t report to you, Tariq. And until Mr. Bosch tells me to quit working on this brief, that is what I’m focusing on.” She put her hands on her keyboard and continued typing, her demeanor suggesting he was nothing more than the custodial staff, come to mop the floors.

Goddamned little
bitch
.

He pressed his hands to her desk and got in her face. “By the power vested in me by the chairman of the Shadow Alliance and the high examiner of the convened shadow Tribunal presiding over the matter of
In re Petra Lang
, I order you to step away from your computer. Now.”

Slowly, she lifted her hands from her keyboard. Even more slowly, she nodded. Then she pushed her chair back and rose to her feet.

Tariq circled the desk and slid into the chair. Behind him, Sara stood stock-still. She’d fucked up, but good, and he was going to nail her ass to the wall. He was going to goddamn smell the fear on her. He was going to see it, he was going to taste it. And he was going to rub fucking Lucius Dragos’s face in it.

“Morain,” Tariq said, as he navigated into the security profile and patched through to the relevant logs. “No sense you standing around twiddling your thumbs. While I’m taking a peek at Ms. Constantine’s computer, you take a peek into her head.”

“You have no cause—no cause at all—to get into my head,” Sara said, taking a step backward, and eyeing Morain, who had aimed a toothy smile her direction.

“Don’t I?” Tariq asked as he punched in the final digits of the Alliance security code that allowed him to access the keystroke log that the Alliance had planted in all Division computers across the globe. He pushed away from the desk, the wheels of the chair sending him a good two feet back. With one hand, he indicated the monitor with a flourish. “On the contrary,” he said, reviewing the binder release code she’d entered earlier that day. “I think I have all the reason in the world.”

And there it was—
fear.
Bitter and sharp. It seeped from her pores and hid in the lines of her face. And as Morain stepped closer to her—his hand outstretched for the touch that would take him as deep into Sara’s mind as Tariq had gotten into her computer—that fear filled the room like a wave of cold air.

The girl was fucking terrified.

And considering what she’d done, she damn well should be.

“Stop.”
The voice from the doorway was firm and hard and held authority rather than fear. Tariq turned and found himself looking at the lined face and salt-and-pepper hair of Nostramo Bosch, the subdirector of the violent crimes unit, and Sara’s immediate boss. Beside
him, two uniformed security trolls stood waiting, arms crossed, faces flat and angry.

The subtle scent of cinnamon wafted into the room as Bosch took a step inside.

“I’ve got the Alliance backing me,” Tariq said. “And I’ve got some interesting shit on Ms. Constantine’s computer.”

“Whatever you may think you have,” Bosch said, “I assure you it does not justify the use of invasive measures. Not without a ruling of cause. And whether you’re working for Division or working for the Alliance, Agent Tariq, you are not authorized to make that call.”

“Is that right?” Tariq said, edging up close to the old man.

“Cross me,” Bosch said, his voice low and harsh and deadly, “and I assure you that you will regret it.”

Tariq hesitated, debating. On the one hand, if he backed down now, his authority would be compromised. On the other hand, he didn’t know a single person who had ever seen Bosch put his powers into action. And according to the rumor mill, that was because no one ever survived an encounter with the man, a shadower who refused to make his allegiance known. A crossbreed of any number of species, possibly with the blood of all seven major groups flowing through his veins.

Well,
fuck
.

His phone chirped, and Tariq was never more glad for an interruption than he was right then. He flipped it open, shooting Bosch a contemptuous look and then giving the elder his back. “Go.”

“The brother’s approaching Division.” It was Elric,
one of the members of the team Tariq had assigned to watch Kiril Lang, just in case Petra tried to make contact.

“Any sign of the girl?”

“None. He’s heading in the main entrance now. Probably going to the ninth-floor reception area.”

“Got it.” Tariq flipped his phone closed as Bosch signaled for the trolls to flank Sara. “Lang just got here. Go deal with him, old man. You’re the face of the Alliance here at Division, right?”

“Take her to holding on Alliance Representative Tariq’s authority,” Bosch said to the trolls. He turned to face Tariq. “No Truth Teller. No interrogation. She gets her phone call and she’s held until she retains an advocate.” He cocked his head, sending the trolls toward the door, Sara Constantine scared but proud between them.

“Constantine,” Bosch said, and touched her sleeve as she passed. For the briefest of moments, something soft crossed his expression, but by the time he turned back to Tariq, his expression was hard.

“She fucked up, Bosch.”

Nostramo Bosch looked him straight in the eye, and Tariq saw nothing there except ice. Then Bosch turned and walked out of the room, leaving only silence in his wake.

“She is my sister,” Kiril snarled, his body frenzied with the power coursing through him. He was in the Division 6 reception area, and he wanted to lash out, to set the world to spinning, to bring down the damn PEC from
the inside out, and it was taking every ounce of self-control to not do exactly that.

Why he was bothering, though … well, that was the real question, wasn’t it? Because if Petra was dead … if he’d lost her …

Around him, the wind began to whip, ripping at his clothes, making the papers on the receptionist’s desk fly. “Uh, sir? You really shouldn’t do that in here.”

He didn’t answer, and she licked pretty pink lips and refrained from saying another word. Good decision.

Still, he wanted answers and satisfaction—not to be hauled off to a cell himself.

Slowly, methodically, he clenched his hands at his sides, willing himself to calm and the storm to fade.

To his left, a set of doors opened, and an elegant-looking gentleman stepped into the reception area. Not a vamp, not a para-daemon; Kiril couldn’t get a bead on him. But he was a shadower, that much was for certain.

And that meant Kiril didn’t trust him. Didn’t matter, though. Kiril could hold his own with pretty much any creature that walked this green earth. And they’d fucked with his sister. And that meant that today, the shadowers should be afraid of him.

“Mr. Lang,” the man said, extending his hand. “I’m Nostramo Bosch.”

Kiril ignored the hand. “I want to see my sister.”

Bosch slipped his hand into a pocket. “I realize you’re upset, but nothing could be served by seeing her now—”

“I have a right to see her body.”

“No. Actually, you don’t.”

“Screw that.” It was bad enough she had to die alone,
no way these sons of bitches were keeping him from her. He looked at Bosch, imploring.
“I’ve always been there for her.
Always.
And you people have no right to steal that from me.”

For a moment, he thought he saw sympathy flash in the elder man’s eyes. But it was gone as fast as it had appeared. “The Alliance has executed her, Mr. Lang. Nothing will be gained by viewing her body.”

“Goddammit, I need to see her.” He could still feel her, and until he saw her body, he knew that he’d never get through his head that she was really and truly dead. “You had no right,” he said. “No right. She was human.”

“She was condemned by an Alliance Tribunal,” Bosch said, his voice flat. “Its jurisdiction is clear.”

“Its jurisdiction is shit,” he spat, and around him the wind began to rage.

Bosch didn’t appear the least bit rattled. “Mr. Lang, you have my condolences, but it’s time for you to vacate the premises. Please, let me have one of Division’s agents give you a lift home.”

“Fuck your lift and fuck you. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not—” He stopped, pain and failure overwhelming him. Their grandmother had bound the two of them, charging Kiril with the responsibility of watching over Petra—of protecting her from the world and the world from her.

He’d failed. Epic fail, actually. And he was paying the price now.

But maybe not as deeply as he’d first thought.

He could still feel her.

“Mr. Lang?”

“I’ll go,” he said, because there could be only one explanation. “You fuckers won’t help me, so I might as well go.” He needed to get out of there. Needed to leave fast, get home, and meditate.

It made sense now. It all made sense. And he hoped to hell he was right. Please, God, let him be right.

They wouldn’t show him Petra’s body, because Petra wasn’t dead.

CHAPTER 7

Nick stood in the dark and stared into the dimly lit cell at the thing that slept inside, surrounded by the gnawed and bloody bones of animals that had been dropped down from the trapdoor to feed it. A thing that looked like Sergius, but was Sergius no more.

One touch from Petra, and Nick’s friend had vanished, all possibility of battling down the daemon that had risen within Serge destroyed. Ironic that so recently it had been that very daemon they sought to subdue and control—a house cat compared to the beast that now raged within. Pure evil, conjured with dark magic, no longer gaining life from blood, but from death and pain. Old magic, Nick assumed, drawn from the earth itself, and that wasn’t the kind of thing that Nick knew how to fight.

He would learn, though. Nick had spent much of his life dabbling with alchemy, looking for the cure to death itself. He hadn’t found it—not the way he’d expected, anyway—but he had never abandoned the love of science. Chemistry and biology had been his particular favorites, and he knew one thing for certain: Even with all their differences, humans and shadowers were nothing more spectacular than a pattern of molecules.

The girl’s touch had manipulated those molecules, creating a chemical reaction in Serge that had changed
him at the most basic level. But if those molecules could be manipulated to form a monster, they could be manipulated to restore the man. And even if Nick had to take the girl to the very end of creation to find the answer, he would learn how to restore his friend.

Part of Nick wanted to hate Petra for turning Serge into a monster; the other part pitied the woman whose torment surely rivaled his own. He had battled back his daemon; Petra lived with her curse every moment of every day.

The thing in the cell shifted, eyes slitting open to reveal blood-red irises. Then a slow grin spread across the creature’s face. It loped to the glass, arms hanging down so that fingers dragged on the floor as it moved, apelike, toward Nick.

Once it reached the glass, though, it stood, rising to its full height, its body wide and hard, every old scar healed, every old injury gone. Days earlier, the creature had been in constant motion. It had done nothing but rage and rip, its actions hinting at madness. Lately, there were long moments of calm, during which the creature would sit motionless, its head tilted, as if it were thinking. Or, perhaps, listening.

Then, the body had been twisted, much like a shape-shifter midchange or a para-daemon in a violent fit of temper. Now, though, the body had settled into its old form. Serge’s familiar shape, his familiar stance.

Even the chunk of flesh that Nick and Luke had cut out of its thigh was healed, the skin now perfect and smooth. Somehow, that made the creature that much more terrifying.

It stared at Nick, dark eyes locking onto Nick’s, holding
them in an eerie, unblinking gaze. Nick stared back, refusing to show fear or disgust. Refusing to lose faith in his friend now, even though he knew damn well that the thing in that cage was his friend no more.

The creature’s eyes narrowed, and Nick had the impression the thing was sizing him up, trying to remember.

“Serge,” he said, frustrated by the hope in his voice.

The mouth split wide in a horrible mockery of a smile, then the creature lifted its palm to its mouth and sank its fangs deep into its own flesh. Nick shuddered, but didn’t turn away, and when the creature slammed its bloody palm against the thirty-six-inch-thick reinforced hematite-and-glass barrier, Nick winced and stood frozen, awed by what he saw: The creature dragged its hand over the glass, forming lines and curves on the thick barrier. Behind it, on the cement wall, Nick saw similar shapes, and as he looked more carefully, he realized what he was seeing. Mixed in among the streaks and splotches of blood were letters—A’s and V’s and K’s and L’s. Other lines swirled around those, as if Serge wanted to get a thought out, but couldn’t quite remember how. The only thing that was perfectly clear, in fact, was a single figure. The numeral three, scrawled on the wall over and over and over.

BOOK: When Wicked Craves
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