Back at my apartment, I quickly changed into dry clothes. Dressed in a warm pair of yoga pants and a black tank, I threw my wet hair into a messy bun before padding out of my room.
James was in human form, shirtless and making tea for the two of us in the kitchen. He handed me a steaming cup. The brew had a floral scent with hints of citrus and was exactly what I needed after the events of today.
James and I sat in comfortable silence, each of us drinking our tea. I was gazing out of the living room window, my thoughts elsewhere, when James took the now-empty cup from my hands.
I looked up from my daze, and watched James walk into the kitchen, and place our mugs in the sink. When he came back, rather than taking his seat, he crouched low in front of me. He wrapped his hands around my own. Concern etched in the lines on his face.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
I felt like he was asking me that a lot lately. I nodded before pulling my hands from his grasp.
“Ari, talk to me.”
I shook my head. I didn’t want to talk. I just wanted to curl into a ball and hide for a while. James didn’t move from his position and leveled me with an encouraging gaze, one filled with understanding and patience.
“I haven’t lost control like that in a while. It’s just … frustrating.” I admitted, my voice hushed.
James nodded in apparent understanding.
“Look, we all lose it from time to time.”
I shook my head. “You’re always in control,” I told him, which was true. I’d never seen James go furry unless he wanted to. He was the epitome of self-control and I … well, I wasn’t.
“Ari, believe it or not, I lose it from time to time too. I shifted today. It’s okay. It doesn’t make either of us weak.”
I knew he was trying to make me feel better, but my pride had been stung, and his shifting wasn’t a loss of control. Not really.
He’d realized his wolf needed a release, and he provided it before putting himself in a sticky situation.
My loss of control would have deeply disappointed my father. I refrained from saying that out loud. I didn’t need James’ pity.
“I’m tired,” I told him.
He nodded and picked up his shirt that he’d hung across the back of the dining room chair.
“I can stay if you want?” He stood by the door with an expression I couldn’t quite name.
“It’s okay. Its almost three in the morning. You should get head home and try to get some sleep.”
Was that disappointment that crossed his face?
Before I could think too much about it, he turned and walked out the door, closing it softly behind him.
I stared out my living room window at the early morning traffic and contemplated our progress on finding Daniel’s murderer. It took all of two minutes to realize we hadn’t made any headway these past two days.
There was nothing to go on, and if a lead didn’t come in soon, the case would quickly go cold.
Leaving the culprit out there wasn’t an option.
I closed the curtains and jumped nearly two feet in the air when the siren on my phone went off. I grabbed my phone from the counter and answered without checking the caller ID. “Naveed,” I snapped into the receiver.
“Ms. Naveed, I apologize for the late hour but this is Jackson Harris. I’m with the HPED. I believe we may have some information related to the Daniel Blackmore case.”
Yes! I bit back my excited squeal and sat on the arm of my couch. I waited for him to continue.
The HPED was the Human and Paranormal Enforcement Division. A call from them, especially at three in the morning, wasn’t usually a good sign, but if they had a information, then I was happy they were calling.
“There’s been another murder with a similar MO. The victim is a shifter with significant blood loss, lacerations across the neck and fang marks on the wrist.”
Shit! Okay, maybe not happy after all.
Another vampire attack? Was it a child again?
“I’m on my way,” I told him as he rattled off directions. “Have you notified the Pack yet?”
“Not yet. We attempted through their main contact line but have received no response.”
“I’ll take care of it,” I said. I knew James would answer my call. He likely hadn’t even made it home yet.
“And one more thing, Miss Naveed,” he said, right before I hung up the phone. “There’s a second victim, and this one’s not a shifter.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. The way he said it, I knew that whoever the victim was, it was really going to complicate things.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“A female vampire. Found ten yards away, already turning to ash. She must have been extremely old since the desiccation process happened so quickly. But our people have been able to get close up photographs of the body and the damage.”
“Cause of death?”
“Visible lacerations, consistent with claw-like patterns. Final cause of death”—he was quiet for a moment—“the heart was ripped from the body.”
I thwacked my head against my hand. Could this get any worse?