Katya nodded. The night was full of surprises. She hadn't realized Galina had a brain.
Emma checked the time on her cell phone. Shit. An hour and twenty minutes had passed since she'd left Central Park. After Angus MacKay's remark about visiting her at home, she'd realized she was in dire need of more ammunition. She'd taken a cab to the federal office building in Midtown, then rushed to the Stake-Out team's office on the sixth floor. There she'd helped herself to several items from the armory - a pair of silver handcuffs, some silver chains, silver bullets for her Glock, and a crate full of stakes since she had only a handful left in her apartment.
Unfortunately, the security guards on the first floor hadn't liked her waltzing off with so much equipment and no requisition forms. She'd been forced to spend fifteen minutes filling out bloody paperwork. And then she'd had trouble finding another cab. They didn't hang around office buildings on a Saturday night.
Now she was almost home with her stash of goodies. She glanced at the meter on the taxi dashboard and pulled out some bills to pay the driver. She could only hope Angus MacKay hadn't beaten her to the apartment.
The driver pulled to a stop in front of her building in SoHo. The street was dark, except for little circles of light surrounding the street lamps. A few people were out, walking dogs or chatting happily with neighbors. She paid the driver and climbed from the backseat. The silver stuff had all been stuffed into a grocery sack. She set the sack on the roof of the taxi, then reached in for the crate of stakes.
As she straightened, something prickled the back of her neck and caused her to hunch her shoulders. She was being watched. Even with her psychic powers relaxed, she could feel a presence.
She glanced at the third floor of her apartment building. All the windows were covered with closed blinds. Her apartment was the third window from the left. Was that a gap between two slats? She narrowed her eyes.
"Hey, lady!" the cabbie yelled. "You gonna stand there all night? Shut the door."
Emma tossed the crate back into the cab, grabbed the sack off the roof, and climbed back into the cab. "Drive."
"What?" The cabbie gave her an annoyed look. "Where to?"
He stomped on the accelerator.
Emma twisted to look out the back window. The blinds had been pulled up in her apartment, and the dark silhouette of a man filled her window. She could feel his eyes on her, watching. She could feel his presence, hovering around her.
She faced front. Shit, she hated running away. But there was no way she was going to fight a vampire un-prepared. And it wasn't like she could ask him to please step out for ten minutes while she set a trap to kill his ass.
His gorgeous ass. The memory of him hanging upside down sneaked into her head.
The taxi reached the end of the street. "Where to, lady?"
"Ah, turn right." Emma pounded a fist on her knee in frustration. She hated to retreat, even when it was the best choice. Think, think. She needed a place where she could prepare for battle in secret. Then, when she was ready, she'd invite him over.
Of course! Austin's apartment. It was close by in Greenwich Village. And it was bigger than her place. A much better place for battling a vampire.
She gave the cabbie the address. She had become good friends with Austin Erickson while he was on the Stake-Out team. After Sean had blacklisted him from any decent work, Austin had taken a construction job in Malaysia. It had to be paying really well, since he'd kept his apartment in Manhattan.
Emma had volunteered to keep an eye on it. Thank goodness. It afforded her the perfect place to set her trap. Maybe she would lure Angus into the bedroom. The bed was decorated with cast-iron spindles. It was perfect for the silver handcuffs.
And Angus - surely he would follow her into the bedroom. His attraction to her was no secret. She recalled the feel of his erection pressed against her thigh. The touch of his hand as he caressed her hip. His boast about leaving women verra satisfied.
She was tempted to see if that was true. He did claim to be a man of his word.
No! He wasn't a man. With a groan, Emma leaned back against the seat. A part of the battle was within herself.
The devil take it, she was getting away. Angus had been disappointed when Emma didn't answer the phone. He'd been forced to use her answering machine as a directional beacon.
Since his arrival a few minutes earlier, he'd taken the liberty of examining her tiny apartment. Nothing interesting but a handful of stakes on her coffee table with a permanent marker nearby. He could imagine her watching the telly while she labeled each stake with Mum or Dad.
He wondered if she was simply going somewhere to wait for sunrise. He'd be forced to leave before dawn. Still, he wanted to talk to her tonight. He needed to convince her once and for all to give up slaying.
He gazed out the window. Her cab had reached the end of the block. He could teleport to the corner in a second, but an elderly woman was standing there with her dog, waiting to cross the street. If he suddenly appeared beside her, she might keel over and die of fright. Or break a hip. Mortals, especially old ones, seemed so fragile. Angus spotted a dark area next to a flight of stairs leading into the corner building. He focused and teleported into the shadowed area. He felt under his sporran to make sure he was intact, then stepped from the shadow.
The cab turned right. The lady hobbled across the street, unaware of his presence. Her dog spotted him, though, and pranced about, yapping. He glared at the little terrier. Silence. With a whimper, the dog sidled up to the old woman.
Angus groaned inwardly. He'd always loved animals as a mortal, so it irked him when they acted terrified of him. Not quite human. Roman's discovery still nettled him. No wonder animals reacted poorly around him. They could sense what he hadn't realized all these years.
He watched Emma's cab driving away in the distance. It slowed to make a left turn. He zoomed after it at vampire speed and continued to follow. Whenever the cab stopped, he remained hidden. If Emma saw him, she'd lead him on a wild-goose chase all over Manhattan.
Luckily she didn't go far. The cab halted in front of an apartment building in Greenwich Village. He waited behind a delivery van while she unloaded a bag and a crate from the backseat onto the sidewalk. More stakes? He'd seen an empty crate like that at her apartment.
She paid the driver, then dug a key ring from her pants pocket. A key? She had a boyfriend. The conclusion slunk into his thoughts like a poisonous snake. He gritted his teeth as she unlocked the entrance door and carried her belongings into the foyer. A damned boyfriend. A mortal lover. Whoever he was, he wasn't good enough for her. Did he even know what she was doing at night? There was no way he could protect her. Angus was the only one for that job.
He clenched his fists, knowing good and well that the snake coiled in his belly had a name. Jealousy. He marched across the street, scowling at the glass door Emma had just entered. It would be locked now, but that wouldn't keep him out. He'd simply teleport -
Brakes squealed, and a horn blared. He spun to his left just as a taxi screeched to a halt a few inches in front of him. The devil take it! He'd nearly been run over. Not that a few broken bones would kill him, but it would have hurt like hell. The taxi driver yelled a few obscenities at him. Angus nodded in agreement. He was a damned fool. He'd let an alleged boyfriend get him so upset, he'd walked right in front of a moving car.
He stepped onto the sidewalk to let the taxi pass. He needed to get a grip. Emma could be staying with a girlfriend. Why would he automatically assume she had a boyfriend? Well, maybe because she was beautiful, clever, courageous, virtuous, and everything else a man could ever want.
He strode to the glass entrance door and peered inside. She'd already taken the elevator, but if he scrunched to the left, he could make out the floor lights above the elevator door. She had stopped on the fourth floor. He glanced around to see if it was safe to teleport inside.
Bugger. The cab that had nearly run him over had stopped in front of the apartment building. Two young blond women stumbled from the backseat, giggling. The taller one handed the driver some money and planted a loud smacking kiss on his cheek. This caused the shorter blonde to burst into more giggles. She waited on the sidewalk, wavering on her shiny silver stilettos that matched her sparkly silver halter top and handbag. Her shorts were pink, and across her rump, written in silver glitter, was the word Juicy.
Angus shuddered. He couldn't teleport into the building with these women as witnesses. He pressed into the shadows, hoping they wouldn't see him.
"Come on, Lindsey," the juicy blonde whined. "We can't stop partying now. Let's go to The Hiccup and Hook Up."
The taller blonde, Lindsey, tripped onto the sidewalk and wobbled toward them in high wedge-heeled sandals that matched her turquoise purse and T-shirt. Brown letters crossed her chest, saying cute is okay, but rich is better. She planted her fists on the strip of bare skin above her brown mini-skirt. "I am never going back to that club. The guys there are a bunch of losers! I swear all the hot guys have left town."
"I know, right?" Juicy flipped her long hair over her shoulder. "I think they all left the country."
"Yeah, I think they all went to like... Pittsburgh," Lindsey concluded.
Angus sighed. How long were these ladies going to stand around, talking about nothing? He realized there were hot-pink streaks in Juicy's hair. Could that cause brain damage? Hard to tell with these two. Maybe he should go ahead and teleport inside. They were so drunk, they'd never notice.
"Ooooh. Look, Tina." Lindsey careened toward her friend. "There's a hot guy behind you."
Tina, the princess formerly known as Juicy, whirled around, lost her balance, and crashed into Lindsey. They both giggled.
"I saw him first." Lindsey pushed her friend, and Tina crashed into a potted plant next to the door.
"Ouch." Tina rubbed the wrong hip while she gave Angus a helpless, injured look.
"Aren't you the guy we almost ran over?" Lindsey squinted at him. "We stopped so fast, I thought I was gonna hurl."
"You wish," Tina muttered. "You only drank like ten thousand calories tonight."
Lindsey leaned toward Angus, making his eyes water from the fumes on her breath. "I love your skirt. Is it Versace?"
"Oooh, you must be Irish." Tina lurched toward him. "I just love your accent."
"Actually, I'm Scottish." He tried to back up, but was already pressed against the building's brick wall.
Lindsey ran a long pink fingernail down his arm. "Would you like to come upstairs for some coffee?"
"You look a little hot in this sweater." Lindsay traced a knitted cable with her polished fingernail. "We could help you get more comfortable."
"It'll be fun." Tina pulled a key from her silver spangled purse and unlocked the entrance door.
Angus cleared his throat. "I do need to see someone inside this building, if ye doona mind letting me in."
"Oh, darling. We'll let you in." Lindsey gripped his arm to drag him into the foyer.
Tina punched the elevator button. "I get him first."
"Do not." Lindsey released Angus to get in front of Tina's face. "I saw him first."
Angus wandered over to the mailboxes while the two blondes argued over him. Luckily, each box was listed by number and the last name of the occupant. He examined the boxes for the fourth floor. One name looked familiar.
"I know!" Tina announced. "Let's do him together!"
They burst into giggles. The elevator door opened.
"Come on!" Lindsey called. "Irish boy! Let's go."
He frowned at them. "Would ye really let a strange man into yer apartment? I could turn out to be some kind of... monster."
The girls' eyes widened and they stared at him, then at each other. Then they erupted with laughter.
"Yeah, right." Tina held the elevator doors open. "I'm so scared, I think I wet my panties."
"Mine are already wet." Lindsey slunk toward him, trying to give him a sexy look through her lashes. Unfortunately, her wilted mascara stuck one of her eyes shut, and she ended up twitching and blinking to get her eye open.
"Would ye happen to know this person?" Angus pointed at the mailbox for apartment 421. "The name is Erickson."
Lindsey wrinkled her nose. "Yeah, I know him." She turned to Tina. "Remember the guy in 421? He was like... so rude."
"I know, right?" Tina leaned against the elevator door. "I asked him to help me open a jar of pickles, and he said I was already pickled."
"I haven't seen him in months," Lindsey said. "But he was really cute. I swear all the hot ones have left town."
"Is his name Austin?" Angus asked.
"You're looking for Austin?" Lindsey's mouth fell open. "Oh my God, you're gay."
"Shit! We should have known." Tina pointed at him. "I mean, look, he's wearing a purse."
"'Tis no' a purse." Angus gritted his teeth. "'Tis called a sporran, and 'tis a fine, manly tradition - "
"Whatever." Lindsey waved a hand in dismissal. "Why were you trying to pick us up when you're gay?"