"Why shouldn't I be? They're my parents."

"And that was my e-mail on my computer." He dropped her clothes and backpack on the red velvet chaise. "I hope ye have yer cell phone here somewhere." It certainly hadn't been on her body. He'd explored every inch of that.

"It's in my backpack. Why?" She removed the paper from the printer.

He tamped down on the anger growing inside him. "Sean Whelan will be calling ye any second now. He's downstairs and refuses to leave until he knows ye're all right. He thinks I'm holding ye prisoner and torturing you."

"Oh." A light blush dusted her cheeks. The afghan around her waist loosened, and she dropped the paper on the desk to adjust her makeshift skirt. "What did you tell him?"

Angus gritted his teeth. She was so damned lovely when she blushed. "I lied. I told him I'd taken ye home."

A jangling sound came from her backpack. She dashed around the desk to the chaise and unzipped her backpack. The phone continued its annoying musical phrase.

"Shit," she muttered as she rummaged through the backpack. The afghan slipped just as she located her phone.

He caught the afghan around her hips.

"Thanks," she breathed, then opened her phone. "Hello?"

Angus yanked the afghan off. Her mouth opened with indignation.

"Oh, hello, Sean," she spoke into the phone while giving Angus an annoyed look.

He stepped back, dropped the afghan on the desk, and picked up the paper she'd printed.

He leaned against the desk, examining the list of names Mikhail had sent. They were all Malcontents who had been in Moscow the summer Emma's parents had been murdered. Angus wondered if he'd overreacted to her snooping. It was natural for her to be curious about her parents. How could she have resisted such a message?

He could hear Sean Whelan's strident voice on the other end of Emma's phone.

"No, he didn't harm me." She smoothed down the tail ends of her shirt as if to make sure all her private parts were covered. When she glanced up, Angus winked at her. She made a face and turned her back to him.

He cocked his head, admiring the sweet curve where her upper thighs met her rounded arse. A man didn't need to be undead to want to sink his teeth into that glorious flesh.

"He took me home, using teleportation," Emma continued to talk to Sean. "No, I'm fine. I felt a little woozy, but that's all. And they took Garrett home, too. What happened to you?"

Angus winced as he heard Sean's tirade on evil experiments, his victimized daughter, and the demon baby she would deliver in a few days.

Emma glanced back at Angus with a worried look. "I don't know what to say, Sean. We can only hope for the best."

She leaned over to examine the clothes Angus had deposited on the chaise. He tilted his head more to the side. What a view.

"There's nothing more you can do right now." She leaned over more. "I'm sure they'll let you go. They let me go."

Angus tilted more. Good God, he could see heaven.

"All right. Good-bye." She closed her phone and dropped it in the backpack. "Sean says the Scotsman is escorting him to his car. But there's another problem. I can't find my underwear." She glanced back, then straightened with a jerk.

Her cheeks blushed. She tugged at her shirttails. "Your eyes are red again."

"You saw my ass. Where's my underwear?"

"I saw a vision of beauty. I saw our future."

A pained look crossed her face. "We have no future. You know that."

He stepped toward her. "I know I promised to make ye scream several times, and I'm a man of my word."

"I - I release you from that promise."

"'Tis no' what ye want."

"We don't always get what we want." She snatched her pants up and began putting them on.

"What were ye going to do with this list? Were ye planning to kill all seventeen?"

She turned her back to him to zip up her pants. "If you want to help me, I'd appreciate it."

"And if I doona help ye?"

She glanced at him, frowning. "I have to do it. My father's last words to me were Avenge us."

"Then ye did witness the murders. That's how ye knew about vampires."

She sat on the chaise. "A part of me died that night with them."

"Lass, revenge is no' going to bring yer parents back."

"It's not revenge! It's justice."

He picked up the list of names. "I know most of these men. They're the worst assassins in the vampire world." She was trying to kill her grief with violence. He recognized the signs. He'd done it himself after his wife's rejection.

Emma stuffed her feet into her shoes. "I've come too far to give up now. Everything I have done and learned for the past six years has led me to this moment."

"Then it has all led you to me."

Her eyes widened. "I don't believe in fate. We make our own choices in life."

"And you have chosen to trust me. Please, Emma, doona go after these men. You doona need to slay every dragon in the world to prove yer love. Yer parents know ye love them."

She looked away, clenching her fists.

"Let me find the two who are responsible."

She met his eyes. "And then?"

"I'll help you find the justice ye need. In the meantime, I'll transfer two of my employees here and have them watch over Central Park."

"I thought you and I were going to police the park."

She actually looked disappointed. Would she miss him? "We will until my employees arrive. I canna stay here indefinitely. I have to find Casimir. He's growing an evil army, and if there's another war, many will die."

He pushed away from the desk and strode toward her. "Imagine an army of over five hundred Malcontents, all feeding off mortals every night, then killing them because they know too much. 'Twill be a massacre."

Her face paled. "Is that what happened with the first war?"

"Aye. The battle raged on for three nights. A dozen villages in Hungary were destroyed. A few mortals escaped, and their tales spawned some of the legends ye still hear today."

"Aye." He sat on the chaise beside her. "That was long before synthetic blood. Both sides had to feed off humans. Both sides were killing. Although we tried never to kill mortals, we probably appeared as evil as the enemy."

"If there's another war, will you be the general?"

She winced. "I hate to think of you in so much danger."

"Hopefully, it willna come to that."

"Do you want me to tell Sean about this? I could tell him that we talked before you took me home."

"From what I've seen of yer boss, I doubt he'll believe any of this."

She sighed. "He hates vampires with a passion. I don't know why."

"Ye have cause to hate, too, but ye believe me."

Smiling, she touched his cheek. "I like you too much."

He took her hand and kissed the palm. There was no such thing as too much. He wanted it all. "Where shall I teleport you - yer apartment or Austin Erickson's?"

"I've been meaning to ask you. How do you know about Austin?"

"He works for me."

Her mouth dropped open. "I thought he was constructing something in Malaysia."

"He and his wife, Darcy, are in Eastern Europe, helping with the search for Casimir."

"No longer undead. 'Tis a long story, but Roman was able to change her back."

"You're kidding! There's a cure?" Emma gave him an incredulous look. "Why don't more of you change back?"

He gritted his teeth. "Maybe some of us like being the way we are."

"Oh." She winced. "I didn't mean to offend you."

He arched a brow. "Being undead comes with some valuable talents. Being mortal does, too. I have quite a few mortals working for me. Ye have the advantage of daylight."

"So Austin is still fighting vampires."

"The bad ones, aye." Angus tilted his head. "Ye could work for me. I'd hire ye in a second."

Her mouth dropped open again. "You would hire me after I tried to kill you?"

"Somehow I was under the impression, while ye were climaxing in my arms, that ye'd gotten over yer ill feelings."

Her cheeks tinted pink. "It is true that I no longer harbor any ill will toward you."

"Yer kindness is overwhelming. But ye seemed downright happy when ye were shuddering and screaming in - "

"All right!" She held up a hand. "But that's a very good reason why I shouldn't work for you. People would suspect that we were a bit... involved, and that's never - "

"A bit involved?" He motioned toward the bedroom. "If Connor hadn't returned with yer boss, we'd be in there right now, tupping like rabbits."

She scoffed. "That's not true." She glanced at the bedroom. "I would have - I might have said no."

"When?" He moved closer. "Would ye have said no after I had kissed every inch of yer beautiful body? Or would ye have waited till I made ye scream for a second or third time?"

She pressed her hands to her reddened cheeks. "Please. I - I can't... "

"What?" He held her by the shoulders.

She closed her eyes and whispered, "I can't love you."

The words slammed into him like a thunderbolt. He released her and moved back. His heart squeezed in his chest. The devil take it, he wanted her love. When the hell had that happened? She looked so miserable. Bugger. "I'm sorry. I'll take ye home."

She nodded, refusing to look at him.

He handed her the backpack. "Which apartment?"

"I've teleported there before. I remember the way." He stood next to her, his arms opening. "I have to hold you."

"I understand." She stood stiffly as he embraced her.

"Ye need to hold on." Once she'd placed her hands on his shoulders, he closed his eyes and concentrated. When their bodies wavered, her fingers tensed and she clung to him.

In a few seconds, they arrived in her small living room. As soon as she was solid, she released him.

She dropped her backpack on the loveseat. "When will your men be able to guard Central Park?"

"In a night or two. Most of them are working undercover right now in Eastern Europe, so there's a problem with the time difference and locating them. And I'll have to do some shuffling around to make sure my clients are still protected."

"Then tomorrow you and I will patrol the park?"

"Aye. But ye must understand, Emma, we canna kill the Malcontents at this time. It would only serve to push the vampire world into a war we doona want."

She nodded. "All right. As long as the humans are protected. I'll meet you at the stone bridge by the Pond at nine o'clock?"

"I'll be there." He extended his hand. "Allies?" He wanted to say lovers, but this would have to do for now.

She shook his hand briefly, then let go. "Allies."

He was going to be late. Emma checked her watch once again. Two minutes till nine, and he was nowhere in sight. Granted her eyesight wasn't nearly as good as his in the dark, moonlit surroundings of Central Park. She could always reach out to him psychically, but she really didn't want him inside her head. He was already too much in her heart.

She leaned her elbows on the bridge's stone wall and surveyed the area around the Pond. No men in kilts. He could be wearing trousers, though. The rascal looked equally gorgeous in both. Her gaze zeroed in on a young man in the distance, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. No, not Angus. There was no mistaking his broad shoulders and long auburn hair.

There was simply no one like him.

Her heart grew heavy. Why couldn't he be human? Fifty years from now, he would have forgotten all about her. She'd be one of many humans who had come and gone, swept away like the dead leaves of autumn. God help her, she wanted to be different. She wanted to be special to him. She wanted to be loved.

Her heart sank lower. Why couldn't she be attracted to a normal guy? Ha! Who on earth would be attracted to a normal guy when Angus was around? His old-fashioned sense of honor and gentlemanly behavior touched her heart. He was the hero of a young girl's fantasies. Strong, brave, dependable, intelligent. But he was also a grown woman's fantasy - sexy, aggressive, and a little bit dangerous. How could she resist such a man?

She turned with a gasp. "I didn't see you coming."

Thinking about him. Thank God she could block her mind from him. Even so, she realized the warmth invading her cheeks betrayed her innermost thoughts. Angus looked gorgeous as usual. He was wearing the blue and green plaid kilt. His hunter-green socks matched his sweater. The hilt of a knife showed above his right sock. The leather straps crossing his chest could only mean his claymore was on his back.

She cleared her throat. "You came prepared."