"Gentlemen," he murmured, greeting the other law enforcement officials as he walked farther inside.

At his approach to the viewing window, a low growl erupted from inside the lineup area. It was an inhuman sound. An otherworldly snarl that made the blood go cold in Tavia's veins. Alarm shot through her in an instant, every instinct clanging with warning. Something terrible was about to happen. She pivoted back into the room. "Senator Clarence, be careful - "

Glass broke and shattered, spitting tiny pebbles in all directions as something huge came crashing through the opening and landed in a heap in the middle of the viewing room.

It was one of the men from the lineup - the dark-haired bull in the Patriots shirt. He was howling in pain, limbs twisted unnaturally. The skin on his face and neck and hands was torn open and bleeding from the impact.

Tavia shot a startled look behind her.

The large pane of one-way safety glass was nothing but air now.

Nothing but air ... and, standing in front of its broken frame, a towering menace of hard muscle and deadly intent.

The handcuffs that had restrained him in the lineup dangled useless, one at each wrist. He'd somehow broken free of them. Good lord, how strong must he be if he was able to do not only that but also throw a full-grown man through a plate of safety glass? And how fast must he have moved to have done all of this before any of the officers in the lineup room could stop him? Cold blue eyes looked past her, rooted like lasers onto Senator Clarence. "Goddamn Dragos," the man seethed, fury simmering in his gaze and in the low hiss of his voice. "He already got to you, didn't he? He already fucking owns you."

His right arm shot forward, reaching through the open space of the window. As swift as a cobra strike, he had the sleeve of Senator Clarence's coat in his fist. He yanked backward, pulling the senator off his feet. He hauled the man's entire weight with one hand, dragging him in mere instants through the broken glass and debris.

Oh, God. This man was going to kill Senator Clarence, right here and now.

"No." Tavia was moving before she realized it. She took hold of the metal handcuff that ringed his wrist and pulled with all she had. "No!"

Her paltry attempt to stop him hardly made him pause. But in that split-second moment, his gaze broke to hers. There was something unearthly in those eyes ... something that seemed to crackle with unholy fire. Something that cleaved straight into the center of her being like the sharp edge of a blade, even as it stirred a dark curiosity that beckoned her closer. Her heart was racing in her chest. Her pulse hammered, as loud as a drumbeat in her ears. For the first time in her life, Tavia Fairchild knew true terror. She stared into those strangely hypnotic blue eyes, and she screamed.

SHE DIDN'T LET GO OF HIM, even while her scream tore past her lips. Slender but deceptively strong fingers held on to the metal cuff at his wrist, as though her reflexes were ready for a fight regardless of the fear and panic that vibrated from all around the chaos-stricken room. Tavia Fairchild was tenacious; Chase had to give her that.

She hadn't been afraid of him the night of the senator's party or a few minutes ago, when she'd looked him in the eyes through the one-way glass and condemned him to the cops and feds camped out in the viewing room.

He couldn't blame her for that. She and law enforcement both believed they were doing the right thing, trying to keep a dangerous man - a confessed killer - off the streets. Their human minds could not comprehend the kind of evil Chase and the rest of the Order were up against. Nor did Tavia Fairchild have any idea that her boss was a dead man.

Senator Robert Clarence might look unchanged to mortal eyes, but Chase's Breed senses sniffed out the Minion the instant he walked into the viewing room. The man belonged to Dragos now, obedient to none but his Master. Chase saw the truth of it in the dull glint of the politician's gaze and in the utter lack of concern for himself or any other life in the room. Dragos had sent him to the police station. Chase meant to send the Minion back to the son of a bitch in pieces. He swung his gaze away from Tavia Fairchild and ripped loose from her distracting grasp. "Where is Dragos?" He tightened his fist around the senator's arm and squeezed until he felt bones crack and pop against his palm. "Tell me now."

The Minion only howled in agony.

"Stand down!" shouted one of the cops from behind him in the lineup room. There was a scuffle of foot movement, a blur of motion in the viewing room as federal agents and the officers inside hustled to get Tavia clear of the struggle.

Chase squeezed the senator harder, shattering his forearm in a bruising grip. "I'm gonna find him. And you're gonna tell me where, you goddamn waste of - "

Something sharp slammed into his shoulder from behind. Not a bullet, but the piercing bite of fine twin barbs. Like fishhooks, sunk deep into his flesh. His ears filled with the rapid clickety- clickety staccato report of a Taser being discharged. At the same time, his body was pumped with fifty thousand volts of electricity. The current went through him in a violent jolt. The juice lit him up from scalp to heel, making his muscles scream in protest.

Chase roared, more from fury than pain. The hit was about as debilitating as a bee sting to one of his kind. He took a step forward, one hand still fastened on Senator Clarence, the other swinging around to find a better hold.

"For fuck's sake," someone in the viewing room gasped. "Did anyone check this guy for drugs? What the hell is he on?"

One of the feds in a dark suit had his semiauto out of its holster. "Hit this bastard again!" he commanded. "Take him down, damn it, or I'll make it permanent right here and now!"

Another Taser shot found its mark. The barbs latched on to the center of his spine this time, and he took another round of fifty thousand volts. The double whammy did the job well enough. Chase lost his grip on his prey. The instant Clarence was freed, several cops and feds rushed him and Tavia out of the room.

Chase swung his left arm around to rip away the electrodes that were stuck in the meat of his other shoulder. With the current from the second shot still riding his central nervous system, he charged the broken windowsill and made a clumsy leap onto the cracked metal frame.

The federal agent opened fire. So did one of the uniformed officers in the viewing room beside him.

Bullets chewed into Chase's chest and torso. Round after round, knocking him backward onto his heels. He staggered, looking down at the mess of red that was blooming all over him. Not good. Not fucking good at all, but he was Breed. He could survive it.

And there was still a chance that he could get his hands on Dragos's Minion before the cops whisked him out of the station ...

While the fed reloaded his empty weapon, one of the straggler cops in the nearly empty viewing room edged forward, service pistol trained on Chase. "Stay where you are!" The cop was young, and his voice cracked a little, but his aim was steady. "Don't you fucking move, asshole."

Chase was dripping blood like water through a sieve. It pooled around his feet and in the broken glass that littered the floor. He took a step back, reaching inward for the speed and agility that was part of who - and what - he was. But the power wouldn't respond to his call. His body was already compromised from the Bloodlust that had been nipping at his heels for so many months.

And he was losing blood. Too much, too fast.

But he could still smell Dragos's Minion somewhere in the building. He knew the mind slave was still within his reach, and there was another part of him - a tarnished bit of chivalry in him - that bristled at the thought of letting an innocent woman get within ten feet of one of Dragos's soulless servants.

He would see the Minion dead before he'd willingly allow Tavia Fairchild anywhere near that kind of evil.

Chase pivoted around, his fading vision seeking the door that would lead him to the corridor outside. He took a sluggish step, his feet dragging beneath him.

"Ah, shit," muttered one of the anxious cops.

A gun clicked hard behind him. The fed's voice again, all business. "One more step, and it's your funeral, asshole."

Chase couldn't have kept his legs from moving if he'd been shackled to an army tank. He walked forward another pace.

The only shot he felt was the first one. The others hammered into him one after the other, until the floor went out from under him. He smelled gunpowder and a burst of spent human adrenaline. And as his legs crumpled, and his body came to a hard rest on the floor of the lineup room, he smelled the dark scent of his own blood pumping onto the field of filthy white linoleum in all directions around him.

THE BREED MALE took his time making the short stroll from his chauffeured limousine standing at the curb and the private club tucked into the back of a narrow Chinatown alley. He took no bodyguards with him, made no cautionary glances into the surrounding gloom of the wintry streets or night-cloaked shadows of the buildings rising up on all sides of him.

Tonight, he strode into the heart of Boston - into the heart of the Order's domain - without a single care. In place of guards, he'd opted for more amusing, more serviceable, companions. The pair of delectable human females hurried to keep pace with him, their high heels clicking rapidly on the ice-crusted pavement. He didn't know their names, didn't care. They were merely playthings, the leggy redhead and the fresh-faced blonde selected by him a few minutes ago, as he'd noticed the underage young women waiting on line to get into LaNotte, the city's current hot spot.

They trotted along after him, giggling and eager, as he approached the large bulk of a Breed male posted as sentry near the arched vestibule and metal door of the private club. The guard, an Enforcement Agency brute named Taggart who'd done the odd job for him during his tenure in the highest ranks of that impotent organization, glowered as he took up a forbidding stance in front of the door. But then the beady eyes under the heavy brow widened in surprise and recognition.

"Sir," Taggart murmured, offering a bow of his head as he reached for the door, opened it, and stepped aside to permit the trio into the club.

The respect was welcome, as was the feeling of freedom that he wore around his shoulders like a king's mantle as he cut through the crowded room of Breed males and scantily clad human men and women who provided the club's specialized entertainment. On the central stage, a dark- skinned beauty wrapped her naked body around a Lucite pole with the boneless grace of a serpent. At the tables and banquettes below the raised platform of the stage, dozens of Breed males watched in rapt attention. Still others reclined in their booths and private alcoves, enjoying more personalized services from the humans employed by this Agency-run sip-and- strip.

Yet despite the various sex acts and blood-drinking taking place on the floor of the club, there was an air of restraint about the place. Breed law prohibited the killing of humans, and for most members of the Enforcement Agency in particular, that law was inviolable. It was as sacrosanct as the tenet of secrecy, the vow that had allowed the Breed to live alongside mankind - to feed upon them - undetected and unchallenged for centuries.

For some, like him and the other male now making his way through the club to greet him, that shackle had long begun to chafe.

Dragos watched as his lieutenant approached. He was one of a handful of like-minded, loyal members of Dragos's inner circle - a dwindling handful, thanks to a number of fuck-ups and failures along the way that had forced him to cull the weakest members from the herd. But that was behind him now. He was looking ahead, toward victory. It was so near, he could practically taste it on his tongue. "Good evening, Deputy Director Pike."

"Sir." The Enforcement Agent cast a furtive look around him before he met Dragos's gaze. "This is a ... well, sir, it's an unexpected pleasure to see you here in the city."

"Then why do you look as though you're about to piss yourself?" Dragos replied, baring his teeth in a brief smile. Usually an unannounced, personal appearance from him meant a head was about to roll. "Relax, Pike. I'm here on pleasure tonight, not business."

"So, nothing is wrong, sir?"

"Not at all," Dragos replied.

His lieutenant still didn't look comfortable. He kept his voice lowered, no doubt afraid of being seen speaking too familiarly with him in such a public place. "But, sir, do you really think it's wise coming into the city like this - or coming here, of all places? It was only last week that the Order sent two of their warriors into this club asking questions about you."

Dragos gave a mild shake of his head. "I'm not concerned about the Order. They have their hands full right now. I saw to that personally today."

Pike stared for a moment. "The rumors are true? The Order's compound was uncovered by the hu - " Looking at Dragos's two mortal companions, Pike abruptly cleared his throat. "They were found out by local police?"

Dragos grinned. "Let's just say Boston's finest had a little help in that area."

The Breed male returned the smile, but his eyes kept straying uncertainly from Dragos to the pair of human females latched on to him from both sides. Dragos shrugged idly at the question in his cautious lieutenant's eyes. "Speak freely, Pike. I fed them so much liquor and cocaine on the way over, they won't remember their names in the morning. If I let them survive that long," he drawled, leering at the young women he could hardly wait to sample.

"Are you saying that the bombing downtown this morning and the police chase of the suspects that followed - "

"That's precisely what I'm saying, Pike." Dragos watched the impressed expression of his lieutenant deepen. "From the orchestration of the explosion by the Minions I recruited to do the job, to the pursuit that led law enforcement right to Lucan Thorne's front door. All of it was my doing."