Head tipped down toward his chest, he drew in a shallow breath and caught a whiff of something even more disturbing beneath the stale foulness of the room and the coppery tang of coagulating red cells - something raw and feral, verging on rabid.
The realization made his mouth quirk, but it was hard to appreciate the irony when his gums were throbbing with the need to feed.
Thanks to the fierce thirst that had been his constant companion for longer than he cared to admit, his sensory inputs were locked in overdrive. He felt every minute shift in the air around him. Saw every twitch and tic in the movements of his restless cellmates. He heard every anxious breath taken and expelled, every rhythmic heartbeat, every rush of blood pulsing through the veins of all three humans, who were little more than arm's reach from him inside the room. His mouth watered feverishly at the thought. Behind his flattened upper lip, the points of his fangs pressed like twin daggers into the cushion of his tongue. His vision started to tighten, burning amber as his pupils narrowed to thin slits under his closed lids.
Fuck. This was a bad place for him to be, especially in his condition.
Bad place, bad idea. Bad damned odds of walking away from this whole situation in any way, shape, or form.
Not that he'd given a shit about bad ideas and doomed outcomes when he'd offered himself up to the police on the front lawn of the Order's estate earlier that day. His only concern had been protecting his friends. Giving them the opportunity - very likely their only prayer of a chance - to avoid discovery by human law enforcement and, he hoped, find a way to clear out of the compound and get to someplace safe.
And so he hadn't resisted when the cops clamped handcuffs on him and hauled him into the station. He'd cooperated during the seven hours of interrogation, doling out just enough information to the local boys and the feds to satisfy their endless questioning and keep them focused solely on him as the kingpin and mastermind of the violence that had taken place in the city over the last couple of days. Violence that had begun a few nights ago with a holiday party shooting at an up-and-coming young politician's swank North Shore home.
The botched assassination attempt had been Chase's doing, but the intended target wasn't the golden-boy senator or even his highprofile guest of honor, the United States vice president, as the cops and federal agents were inclined to believe. Chase had been gunning for a vampire named Dragos that night. The Order had been hunting Dragos for more than a year, and suddenly Chase had found the bastard rubbing elbows with influential, well-connected humans, passing himself off as one of them. To what end, Chase could only imagine, and none of it was good. Which is why, when he saw the opportunity to act, he didn't hesitate to pull the trigger on the son of a bitch. But he'd failed. Not only had Dragos apparently walked away from the assault, but Chase found himself the focus of every media outlet in the country in the hours that followed. He'd been spotted at the senator's party, and the eyewitness had given law enforcement a nearly photographic description of him.
Couple that with a bombing the next day at Boston's United Nations and a police pursuit of the suspects - a carload of heavily armed backwoods malcontents who led the cops right to the Order's front door - and Boston's finest were sure they had uncovered a major domestic terrorist cell.
A misconception Chase was happy to indulge, at least for the time being.
He'd spent the daylight hours inside the station, content to let the cops believe he was cooperative and under their control. The longer he sat there, pretending that the blame for all that had gone down lately rested squarely on him, telling them all the things they wanted to hear, the less impatient law enforcement was to stake out the mansion or raid the place. He'd done all he could to deflect attention from his friends at the compound. If they hadn't used the time wisely and evacuated by now, there wasn't much he could do to fix that.
As for him, he had to get moving too.
He had payback to deliver on Dragos - payback and then some. The bastard had stepped up his game in the past few weeks, and after this latest strike, which had nearly exposed the Order to humankind, Chase dreaded to think what Dragos might be willing to do next. For what wasn't the first time, Chase considered the senator Dragos had been currying favor from lately. The man was in danger purely by association, if Dragos hadn't already recruited him into service since Chase had last seen him.
And if Dragos had turned a United States senator into one of his Minions - particularly a senator with Robert Clarence's personal access to the White House via his friendship with his university mentor, the vice president? The ramifications were unthinkable. The fallout from a move like that would be irreparable.
All the more reason to get the hell out of this place ASAP. He had to make sure Senator Robert Clarence wasn't already under Dragos's control. Better still, he had to find Dragos. He had to take him out once and for all, even if he had to do it single-handed.
The metal handcuffs at his back couldn't hold him any longer than he allowed. Neither could this locked room, nor any of the cops who'd strayed by the hallway and paused to glower in at him through the small glass pane in the holding cell's door.
Night had fallen. Chase knew that without the benefit of a clock on the bare walls or a window looking onto the city street outside the building. He could feel it in his bones, all the way to his weak and starving marrow. And with the night came the reminder of his hunger, the wild thirst that owned him now.
He shoved it down deep inside him and rallied his thoughts around his unfinished business with Dragos.
Hard to do when Man of the Year and his oozing cat scratches were making a slow swagger toward Chase's seat in the corner of the small room.
"Fuckin' cops, eh? Think they can leave us sitting in here without food or water, shackle us up together like a bunch of animals." He scoffed and planted his ass down next to Chase on the bench. "What'd they bust you for?"
Chase didn't answer. It took enough effort just to contain the low growl that was curling up from the back of his parched throat. He kept his head down, eyes averted so the human wouldn't catch the hungered glow radiating out of them.
"Whatta ya, too good to make conversation or sumthin'?"
He felt the guy sizing him up, checking out the sweats and T-shirt Chase had been wearing when the cops brought him in - the same clothes he'd had on in the compound's subterranean infirmary in the moments before he'd broken loose and ran topside in the effort to spare his friends. He'd been barefoot then too, but now he sported a pair of black plastic shower shoes, courtesy of the Suffolk County jail.
Even with his short blond hair raked down over his brow, his gaze averted, Chase could sense the human's eyes fixed on him. "Looks like somebody banged you up pretty good too, sport. Ya leg is bleedin' through ya pants."
So it was. Chase glanced at the small red bloom that was seeping through the gray fabric covering his right thigh. Bad sign, his wounds from the other night still not healing up. He needed blood for that.
"Cops do that to you, or what, man?"
"Or what," Chase muttered, his voice rough like gravel. He slid a low glance at the human and let his upper lip curl back from just the tips of his fangs.
"Motherfu - " The big man's eyes flew wide. "What the fuck!"
He scrambled away from Chase in a clumsy backpedal that had him knocking into the holding cell door just as a pair of uniformed officers were opening it.
"Time to take a walk, fellas," the first cop said. He looked around the room, from the pedophile and the junkie, both oblivious to anything but their own misery, to the bruiser who now had his spine plastered against the opposite wall, jaw slack, sucking in air like he'd just run a marathon. "We got a problem in here?"
Chase lifted his chin only high enough to send a narrow glare at the wheezing human across the room. This time, he kept his lips closed and schooled the amber glow of his irises into a dull glimmer. But the threat was there, and the big, tough wife-beater seemed unwilling to test him. "N-naw," he stammered, and gave a quick shake of his head. "No problem in here, Officer. Everything's cool."
"Good." The cop strode farther into the holding cell while his partner held the door open. "Everybody up. Follow me." He paused in front of Chase and jerked his chin in the direction of the hallway outside. "You first, asshole."
Chase rose from the bench. At six-and-a-half-feet tall, he towered over the officer and the other humans in the cell with him. Although he'd never worked out a minute in his life, thanks to Breed genetics and a metabolism that ran like a high-performance vehicle, the muscular bulk of his body dwarfed the gym-rat cop. As if to assert his authority over Chase, the human drew up his chest and pointed him toward the door, letting his other hand settle on the butt of his holstered pistol.
Chase walked ahead of him, but only because it would be less hassle to make his escape from the hallway than from inside the holding cell.
Behind him, the pedophile's voice was oily, overly polite. "Would it be all right to ask where you're taking us, Officer?"
"This way," the other cop said, directing the group of them past the desk clerk in the hall and toward a length of corridor that stretched out in a long track toward the back of the station. Chase stalked along the worn industrial-grade linoleum, gauging the opportune moment for him to make his break and speed out of the station before any of the humans could realize he was gone. It was a risky move, one certain to leave a hell of a lot of questions in its wake, but unfortunately he didn't see much choice.
As he prepared to take that first step toward freedom, a metal door opened at the far end of the corridor. Cold night air swept in, fine December snowflakes dancing around the tall, slender form of a young woman. She was bundled in a hooded, long wool coat. Waves of caramel- brown hair clung to her chill-reddened cheeks and drooped down toward calm, intelligent eyes. Chase froze, watching as she stomped some of the fresh snow from her glossy leather boots and turned to say something to the police officer who accompanied her into the station.
Holy hell. It was the witness from the senator's party.
The cop escorting her inside caught Chase's gaze and his face went tight. With a scowl at the officers leading the poorly timed perp parade, he steered Senator Clarence's attractive personal assistant into a room off the corridor and out of view.
"Keep moving," said the cop at the rear of the group.
If Chase wanted to reach the senator, he figured there was a good chance Bobby Clarence might be in the police station tonight along with his pretty aide.
Curious enough to find out, Chase reconsidered his plan to bolt. Instead he fell in line and let the cops march him farther down the corridor toward the room where his eyewitness had gone.
"PLEASE MAKE YOURSELF COMFORTABLE, Ms. Fairchild. This shouldn't take long." The police detective who met her at the station opened the door to the witness viewing room and waited as she walked in ahead of him. Several grim-faced men in dark suits and a handful of uniformed officers were already waiting inside.
Tavia recognized the federal agents, men she'd first been introduced to in the hours following the recent shooting at the senator's party. She nodded to the group in greeting as she stepped farther into the room.
It was movie-theater dark inside, the only light coming from the oversized pane of glass that looked into the empty lineup area on the other side. Overhead fluorescent panels bathed the room in a stark white glow that didn't make the place any more inviting. A height measurement chart traveled the length of the back wall, with the numbers 1 through 5 stenciled in evenly placed intervals above the seven-foot mark.
The detective gestured to one of several vinyl-upholstered chairs positioned in front of the large window. "We'll be starting soon, Ms. Fairchild. Have a seat, if you like."
"I'd prefer to stand," she replied. "And please, Detective Avery, call me Tavia."
He nodded, then strode over to a watercooler and countertop coffeemaker in the far corner. "I'd offer you coffee, but it's nasty even when it's freshly made. End of the day like this, it's worse than crude oil." He put a paper cup under the watercooler dispenser and pushed the lever. The clear jug belched a few big bubbles as the cup filled. "House white," he said, turning to hold the water out to her. "Yours, if you'd like it."
"No, thank you." Although she appreciated his efforts to make her feel at ease, she wasn't interested in pleasantries or delays. She had a job to do here, and a laptop full of schedules, spreadsheets, and presentations to be reviewed once she got home. Normally she didn't mind long hours of work that spilled into long nights of the same. God knew, she didn't have to worry about a social life getting in the way.
But she was on edge tonight, feeling the strange mix of mental hyperintensity and physical exhaustion that always dogged her after a round of treatments and examinations at her doctor's private clinic. She'd been under her specialist's care for most of the day, and while she wasn't thrilled about having to make an evening pit stop at the police station, part of her was anxious to see firsthand that the man who'd opened fire on a crowded room of people a few nights ago and then went on to orchestrate a bombing in the heart of the city this morning was, in fact, behind bars where he belonged.
Tavia walked closer to the viewing window and gave it an experimental tap with her fingernail. "This glass must be fairly thick."
"Yep. Quarter-inch safety." Avery met her there and took a sip of water. "It's one-way glass, looks like a mirror on the other side. We can see them, but they can't see us. Same goes for audio; our room is soundproof, but we have speakers tuned in to monitor their side. So when the bad guys are standing against that wall out there, you don't have to worry about any of them being able to ID you or hear anything you say."