The seventh book in the Riley Jenson Guardian series, 2009
The almost ripe moon hung in the midnight sky, and the heat of it sang through my veins. Being a werewolf at this time of the month generally meant fun times, because we celebrated the moon's bloom with a sensual week of intimacy. One that involved much loving and many different partners. Although for me, there was currently only one man, and he was neither an ordinary man nor a werewolf-although as a vampire, he certainly had enough stamina to satisfy the hunger of any wolf.
Of course, I wasn't just a wolf, but when the moon bloomed toward fullness, it was she who reigned supreme, rather than the vampire half of my soul.
But I was also a guardian, and it was an unfortunate fact that the bad guys of this world had absolutely no respect for the moon or a werewolf's needs.
Which was why I was now stalking through the deserted backstreets of Coolaroo, following a scent that was all death and violence, rather than being curled up beside my vampire, enjoying his caresses.
The night itself was crisp and cold, and I had a killer case of goose bumps. If I'd had the time, I would have gone home to grab a sweater, but Jack-my boss, and the vampire in charge of the whole Guardian division-had insisted it couldn't wait. That lives depended on me catching this idiot before he could kill again.
Of course, I'd felt the need to point out that he had a veritable truckload of leashed killers sitting in the underground floors of the Directorate, every one of them just aching to be set loose on bad guys. After which, he'd kindly pointed out that if I hadn't lost said killer in the first place, he wouldn't be out killing tonight.
A point I could hardly argue with given it was true, so I'd shut up, kissed Quinn good-bye, and driven straight to the crime scene.
Only to discover another dead human. Like the teenager who'd been killed several nights ago, tonight's victim had been drained of blood. But it wasn't a vampire doing this, because their throats had been slashed rather than bitten, and vampires rarely went to that sort of trouble. Not unless they considered mutilating the bodies of their victims part of the fun, anyway.
Besides, vampires were rarely wasteful when it came to blood, and while both these teenagers had been drained, a whole lot of blood had been smeared across their necks, faces, and the ground. It was almost as if someone had slashed, and then tried to gulp down the resulting surge.
I shuddered. Tonight's death was my fault, because I'd let the damned killer escape me days before.
And the fact that he'd seemingly disappeared into thin air wasn't an excuse. I was a trained hunter-killer, and no matter how much I might sometimes rail against it, there was no going back for me now. Therefore, I had to do the best that I could. And letting a killer go free to kill again definitely wasn't my best.
I blew out a breath and studied the night ahead. Evil was out there, just beyond my line of sight. The scent I followed was a foul thing that hung heavily on the cool night air, reminding me oddly of meat left rotting in the sun.
And I had no idea what it was, because he certainly didn't smell like any other nonhuman I'd ever come across.
Although he didn't smell human, either, even if the description we'd gotten off a witness matched that of a man who was listed as human. Only he was also very dead.
I'd immediately starting imagining scenarios featuring killer zombies out for vengeance, but Jack claimed I'd been watching too many horror movies. According to him, while zombies could kill, it wasn't through any basic desire or need of their own. They weren't capable of thought or emotion, and were little more than receptacles for the deadly desires of others.
Which was a fancy way of saying someone else was in charge and directing the action. Only there was never any hint of that other person, either at the crime scene or when I'd been tracking the dead man.
If there was another nut behind the wheel, though, then he'd found himself the perfect killer. One that did whatever he was raised to do without question or deviation, then fell down dead again afterward.
Except that this man, whether he be zombie or something else, didn't seem to be showing any signs of slowing down or dropping dead.
Although surely a dead body could only move around for so long before bits began falling off or rotting started becoming a real problem.
And given the scent I was following, he was definitely well on the way to putrefaction. It was surprising he could move so quickly without doing himself serious damage.
I shivered and rubbed my arms, suddenly glad that I made a habit of keeping my laser in the car. Its weight was a comfortable presence in my back pocket.
Once upon a time, a thought like that might have scared me, but I'd been through too much of late. Even a werewolf intent on not becoming a mindless killer needed the help of a weapon occasionally.
I walked on. In the distance, a freight train whistled, the lonely sound mingling with the roar of traffic traveling along nearby Pascoe Vale road. Little seemed to be moving through these streets however, although there were lights on in several of the nearby houses. And the scent of lust and sex coming from the warehouse opposite was so strong my blood just about boiled over.
I wondered if the cops knew that the sedate Asian grocery warehouse was a front for a whorehouse. And a popular one, if the cars parked out the front were any indication.
Of course, brothels had been legal in Melbourne for ages, but they had strict guidelines to follow and generally had to be situated well away from residential areas. This area might have been a mix of residential and industrial, but the mere fact it was hiding behind the cover of a grocery store suggested it wasn't entirely legit.
For all of two seconds I thought about reporting it, then indifference struck and I walked past. Those who were so obviously enjoying themselves within the dour concrete walls were not my target tonight.