Dae watched as the girl moved down the dark sidewalk in the ever-fading light of the streetlamp. Her awkward tiptoe gait, due to the stiletto shoes she was wearing, made her appear clumsy and slow. Her too-short dress had a splotchy pattern that appeared grey and white in the moonless night. From a distance she appeared young, too thin, and her lamp-highlighted skin gave off a pale glow in the darkness. Oblivious to the dangers on the street, she traveled, she didn’t hesitate to move forward when she approached the black abyss of the alley.
A gloved hand reached out, grabbed her long, black hair, and dragged her toward the alley entrance. A glint of metal traveled up to her neck, dulling as dark liquid covered it. Blood spurted onto the walkway and into the street. She dropped to the cement, her mouth open in a silent scream and her eyes wide with disbelief and fear. The faceless assailant dragged her deeper into the darkness where Dae watched him etch symbols on her chest and arms and slash her body into a bloody parody of the girl she had been.
A scream shattered the night and had Dae leaping from her bed. Confused, she decided the scream must have come from her, causing her to wake her from her nightmare. Glancing at the clock, she saw it was four in the morning. Shaken and knowing sleep wouldn’t return, she showered, dressed and collected her gun and keys before making coffee. As she poured the fresh, hot liquid into a travel mug, her cell phone danced across the kitchen cabinet. Knowing who would be on other side, she immediately answered
Dispatch gave her the location. “Detective, you’re needed in the alley behind the hospital on Granite Hill.”
“On my way,” she replied and moved quickly to her car. “Call Harley, and give the crime scene techs a heads-up. I’ll be there in fifteen.”
The streets were empty of traffic, making the trip faster than she expected. The lights of the parked patrol car led her to the victim’s location. Dae felt queasy as she scanned the scene, noticing how familiar it looked to the nightmare that had woken her. The alley the officer directed her to was the length of the two buildings it lay between. Each structure had a truck ramp for parking below ground in a loading bay. The back of the buildings was windowless, and no security lights or cameras were visible. If there were cameras, they would be fixed on the loading docks but would not provide anything useful, yet the recordings would have to be reviewed.
The five-tier parking garage across the stree held several dozen cars. Every vehicle owner would have to be interviewed, regardless of the time their shift started.
Dae walked carefully into the alley’s dark passage. Her stomach roiled with fury as it twisted and turned. She took shallow breaths as she walked toward the scene of her dream. The girl was several feet from the end of the alley, but there was no escaping the fact that she was the same one Dae had looked down on only an hour earlier. She was older than she had appeared in the nightmare. The dress as colorless here as in the dream. Her throat was slashed, and the woman’s choppy, black locks looked as though they had been cut with a straight razor.
She directed the patrol officer to tape off the area and to have the others document the license plates in the parking garage that overlooked the alley. Additional tasks could be handled as more officers arrived.
Recently another woman had been found with similar symbols carved into her body. Dae had seen photos during a briefing the previous day. But the mutilation was more extensive on this victim. Fortunately, she knew the wounds were postmortem.
“What have we got?” Dae’s partner Harley called out, walking toward her from the sidewalk.
“Throat cut. Symbols and mutilation like that North Dallas victim they told us about.” Dae stepped out of the way to let Harley make his initial inspection.
Harley took his time as he studied the scene, giving Dae a chance to reflect on the tales she had heard since she was a child. Lights flashed across the driveway opening, drawing her from her reverie, and she watched the crime-scene techs pour out of the truck.
“Hey, Vine. Glad you caught this one,” she called out as the head technician walked toward the body.
The scene was a hive of activity as the techs collected every piece of debris that lined the alley and street within a ten-foot radius of the blood and body. The medical examiner, Dr. Erika Reed, arrived and looked over the body. When she was satisfied she had everything she could glean from the site, she gave the all clear to have the body removed.
“Any idea how long she’s been dead?” Harley asked when Erika stepped over to brief them.
“The body’s still warm. No rigor. Probably less than four hours, but I have to confirm that when I do the autopsy, so don’t place any bets with your coworkers.”
“Thanks, Erika,” Dae said, knowing the doctor was right. “You think the symbols were cut by the same guy who killed that Adison victim last week?”
“I didn’t see that body. Doc Herman handled it, but I’ll be doing a comparison. From the photos I’ve seen, it would appear that they are the same.
“Don’t want to rush to judgment, but I caught a couple of killings five or six years back where the victims had what at first appeared to be the same markings. Turned out they were mirror images, etched by cousins who were raised by a fanatical preacher. Like I said, I’ll let you know my findings when I have them.”
“I’ll get you home in a bit. It’s nice to have company to talk to. I don’t know about you, but there are occasions I spend so much time alone that my voice evaporates when I try to speak.”
The truth was she didn’t want him to go. She wanted him to touch her, to run his hands over her. She wanted the fire to race along her nerves as it had done at the diner. She wanted him as she feared what that could mean. She had vowed that she would never belong to another—she had tried and failed—never again.
Leo smiled. “I know what you mean. I sound like a rusty pipe in the mornings.”
He brushed her leg as he leaned over to pour the coffee and give her a cup. The shock of that slight touch sent a lightning bolt straight to his cock. He crossed his legs and held the cup over his arousal with the hope she hadn’t noticed. But, of course, she had. He could see the laughter in her eyes.
Dae reached over and took his cup and saucer, placing it on the table in front of him before leaning close. “Kiss me, Leo. I dream of you.”
He reached out, drawing her lips to his, tasting her. She was sweet and salty as he plunged his tongue into her open mouth. He had wanted to kiss her before but fought the desire while he watched her toss and turn at night. But here, now, he lost himself in her. Heated breath rose as their tongues tangled and danced. The swell of power flowing through her made him lose himself. He could feel the way they matched, the way she would be by his side as his mate—two powerful lions, two invincible night guardians.
He would guide her. Train her. Show her all that she was. He would defend her and shield her from the harshness of the life she now lived. Together they would battle the sickness that surrounded them, and he would protect her for she was his.
Dae’s mind swam with the rush of desire as Leopold’s lips covered hers. It was so familiar, so wonderful. It was her dreams coming true, but she wanted more. She wanted him naked in her bed and his cock deep inside her. As if reading her mind, he pulled her from the couch. Together they frantically tore each other’s clothes off before the kiss deepened. The overwhelming desire made it impossible to walk. Tumbling to the floor and laughing, he grasped her breast and ran his thumb across her nipple. He moaned with pleasure as Dae reached down and stroked his cock. It swelled and twitched under her touch.
Leo trailed kisses along her chin and down her neck and shoulder before capturing her nipple in his mouth, sucking as the areola pebbled and the mound of flesh tightened. He licked and lapped at the soft tissue, flicking the nub with his tongue, and Dae gasped with pleasure. Unable to wait, Dae opened a condom she had retrieved from the pocket of her jeans and rolled it over him before straddling him and guiding his cock into her pussy. She rose and plunged back down over him while he thrust his hips, driving the staff into her deeper and harder.
Dae began to shudder as she encased his cock with her wet tunnel, but Leo wasn’t having it. He rolled her onto the floor, withdrew, and settled himself between her legs. He flicked his tongue between her pussy lips, searching for the one place he knew he could give her the overwhelming pleasure she deserved. The tiny nub hardened with his ministrations as he swept his tongue across it. Dae’s scent filled him with desire, and he slipped his fingers into her hot cunt. His knuckles pounded the sensitive skin between her pussy and ass as he pistoned his fingers in and out of her. Her honeyed fluid filled his hand and leaked onto her ass.
“Leo, fuck me. Please. I need you. Need to come,” she begged him.
He moved his fingers and held himself over her, his hands beside her head, teasing her with his cock.
“By the gods of the earth, fill me. Now!” she screamed, flipping him and plunging her pussy onto his magnificent, hardened shaft. She began to pulse, her body trembling, muscles contracting as she rode him to completion.
Draped across his chest, Dae closed her eyes as he stroked her back. She didn’t want to move. She wanted to keep him with her and fulfill her dreams of falling sleep in his arms, certain that he would shield her from the horror of the nightmares. Something inside her felt a pull as though he was the one she needed more than any other…until he ruined it.