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A Perfect Blood (The Hollows #10)(3)

By:Kim Harrison

“I might work a job for you, though,” I added grudgingly. Still Nina said nothing, her black eyes making me fidget. If the dead vampire had really been here, he could have tempted me into anything, but Nina was a young, forgotten vampire, and she didn’t have the right hormones turned on for the vampire she was channeling to use. Yet.
“What is the job?” I prompted, wanting to get out of here before I asked to have her baby.
The light in her eyes speaking of a possessive strength, Nina smiled, showing enough teeth to make me stifle a shiver. “Right to the point,” she said as if it pleased her, and I stared when she tried to put a foot on one knee, checking her motion at the last moment when her skirt caught. She reclined instead to look even more masculine, more in control, not caring that she was showing a healthy portion of leg. “You do know the only reason I didn’t notice you was because Piscary saw you first?”
Piscary was dead now, but I liked this even less. “What do you want?”
Nina tilted her head, dangerously suave as she eyed me from under her thick eyelashes. Ivy had given me that look before, and I stifled a flash of libido, knowing it was coming from the pheromones Nina was kicking out.“I want you and Ivy Tamwood to help us find a group of Inderlanders committing demonlike crimes in and around the Cincinnati area. We have three sites to look at.”
I sat up, shocked. “Three! How long has this been going on?” There’d been nothing in the papers, but then, if the I.S. didn’t want it in the news, it wouldn’t be.
“Several weeks,” Nina said in regret, her gaze falling from mine for the first time, “which would be evident once you looked at the data, so listen as I tell you what you won’t find there.”
My eyes squinted. But ticked off was better than being turned on. “You should have come to me right away,” I said. “It will be harder now.”
“We thought it was you, Ms. Morgan. We had to make sure it wasn’t. Now that we know for sure, we wish to engage your services.”
Engage my services. How old is this guy? “You’ve been following me,” I said, remembering that itchy feeling between my shoulder blades whenever I was out: the grocery store, the shoe mall, the movies. I had thought it was Wayde, but maybe not. Crap, how long had they been shadowing me?
“Three weeks,” Wayde said, answering my unspoken question. “I didn’t know it was the I.S. or I would have told you.”
I turned to him, appalled. “You knew someone was following me and didn’t think I needed to know? Isn’t that your job?” I snapped, and Nina chuckled.
His expression closed, Wayde looked first at Nina, then at me. “It’s my job, and my call.”
“We believe there’s more than one person responsible for the crimes,” Nina broke in, and my attention was recaptured by his/her silken, aged voice. It was still Nina’s, but the self-assurance was mesmerizing. “There seem to be two modes of operation, harvesting, then dumping. Witches. All the bodies were those of witches.”
My expression twisted. I didn’t like the sound of that. “Harvesting? That’s ugly.”
Nina took a deep breath, almost as if she’d forgotten to breathe—which was a distinct possibility. “It’s the dumping that’s disturbing us the most. Nina will escort you through the newest site, and by the time you’re done, a courier will have delivered to your church the information we have on the earlier crimes. I’d rather you not come into the I.S. tower, if you don’t mind.”
“Not a problem,” I said softly, thinking it over. Demonlike crime, not demon crime. I didn’t want to risk the demons knowing that I was still alive. But if it was truly demonic work, it would be all over the airways. Demons are not subtle. No, it was probably a group of wannabe witches dabbling in black magic, giving demons a bad name. Taking them out would not only make me feel good but it might help me get my citizenship pushed through. 
“Okay,” I said, and her soft, pleased sigh slipped over my skin like a silk scarf, raising gooseflesh. “I have to make a call. And that’s even assuming I take the job. What does it pay?”
Nina reclined in her chair as if she owned the entire building. “What do you want?” she asked, her slim fingers gesturing gracefully, the red-painted nails catching the light. “Money?”
The word held a badly hidden disdain, but no, I didn’t need money. My purse was plenty fat. Literally. My credit cards had been canceled, my bank account, my phone plan, everything. I was unwillingly off the grid and carrying cash thanks to the money Trent Kalamack had given me, money originally from the Withons, a small (by his standards, not mine) token amount he’d demanded as an apology for their trying to kill him. Good thing I had a bodyguard.
“A valid driver’s license would be nice,” I said, fighting not to look at the form on the desk. With that, I might get my bank account back. “And my car registered in my name.” The independence would do wonders for my self-esteem.
Leaning forward with a masculine huff of air, Nina brushed her long fingers through the forms between us, making me wonder what it would feel like to have those sensitive fingertips on me, and I shivered again. It wasn’t her/him, it was the vamp pheromones rising in here, and I leaned past Wayde to crack the door. Office chatter, loud and excited, drifted in, and the undead vampire smiled, knowing why I had cracked it, though Nina wouldn’t have had a clue.
“I’d appreciate a list of the curses and how they’re performed so we can decide which are legal and which are not,” she said, and I caught back a bitter laugh.
“You have a library card, right?” I said flippantly. “It’s all in there.”
Nina cocked her head and eyed me from around her long, beautiful eyelashes, making my heart thump. “Not all of it,” she said softly, her words like an old jazz song down my spine.
I licked my lips and sat straighter, knees pressed together and hands clasped in my lap. “I don’t deal with my legal kin—Nina,” I said tightly, not liking the undead playing on my libido, and not through a young, innocent woman. Raising my hand, I jiggled the band of silver preventing me from tapping a line. He knew I had it. They all did. “I’m a limited-magic demon. Give me my car registration and my license, and I’ll find them for you. That’s my offer.”
“Done,” Nina said so quickly that I wished I’d asked for more.
Nina leaned forward, her long hand extended. I took it, and as we shook, the undead vampire left and I was suddenly shaking Nina the DMV worker’s hand.
Nina’s eyes widened as she gasped and pulled away. The scent of sweat rose, thick, and she fell back into her chair, her head lolling as her legs splayed awkwardly under the desk. “Wow,” she gasped to the ceiling, her lungs heaving as she struggled to catch up on the air her guest had probably forgotten to take in. Her face was pale and her fingers were trembling, but her eyes were so bright it was as if electricity was arcing through her. “What a rush!”
I looked at Wayde, who seemed nonplussed, and Nina suddenly sat up as if remembering that we were still in here. “Ah, thank you, Ms. Morgan,” she said, rising to her feet, full of energy. “I’ll get your registration started and give you the address to the cemetery. I’d take you there myself, but I have to do something for him first and will meet you there. I have to go.” Eyes wide, she caught her breath, and I swear I saw her shiver.
The paper was a soft rustle as she darted for the door, her speed edging into that eerie vampire quickness that Ivy, at least, took great pains to hide from me. I jerked, staring at Wayde as Nina’s exuberant voice echoed in the outer offices. “My God! I could hear everything!”Exhaling, I unclenched my fists. Track down some bad witches. I could do that. Like Nina had said. All it would take would be some detective work—which I sucked at—and some earth charms—which I could still do. “I should call Ivy,” I said softly.
Looking uncomfortable, Wayde handed me my bag, and I slipped a hand inside to find my cell phone. I frowned at the missed-call number. Trent? What does he want?
“That’s probably a good idea, Ms. Morgan,” Wayde said, leaning over to look out the office door, but I was having second, third, and fourth thoughts.
Good idea? Right. That was the last thing this was.
Chapter Two
Friday traffic was thick this time of day in downtown Cincinnati, and I huffed as I stopped at yet another red light, my head tilted as I held my cell phone to my ear. The woman had put me on hold to check the appointment books, and I was ready to hang up on her.
Just getting across the city had been trying. The little blue sticky note Nina had given me two hours ago had only a street name and number. I didn’t remember a cemetery on Washington Street, and I wondered if she’d meant the old potters’ field where they’d built the music hall. God, I hoped not. Dead people gave me the willies.
Wayde sat beside me, his legs flopped open and taking up the entire passenger seat, trying not to look uneasy as I slipped my little car through traffic—I’d shaved at least five minutes off our travel time. I hadn’t had the chance to try the Mini Cooper out in traffic until today, and the new-to-me vehicle was fantastic for turning on a dime.