Phil growled low in his throat as he unleashed his Alpha power. Because of his blue eyes, everything took on a luminous blue tint. His sight sharpened until he could see each vein in his prey's neck. Smell the fear emanating from him. Hear his heart racing like a scared rabbit.
His form wavered on the brink of an instant shift. He controlled it for now as he stalked toward his prey.
Sigismund pressed back against the table. "What—What kind of shifter are you?"
Phil allowed his face to change. His nose and jaw crackled as they elongated. His canine teeth sprang out. He snarled.
"No!" Sigismund fought frantically against his restraints. He shot Connor a desperate look. "Call off your wolf!"
Connor shrugged. "He's no' my wolf."
Phil halted in front of the prisoner. A primeval urge to kill swept through him, more powerful than he'd ever felt before. In the past, he'd killed animals while in wolf form. Werewolves always enjoyed a good hunt when the moon was full. And he'd killed Malcontents while engaged in battle. But never had he been tempted to commit murder—till now.
Sigismund extended his fangs in a futile attempt to defend himself. Phil knew if he drew too close, the vampire would snap at him. But he was seized by a murderous rage that dismissed any threat. His body vibrated with raw power. With lightning speed he latched onto the prisoner's neck with one hand. He clamped down, squeezing with his superior strength.
Sigismund twisted his neck, trying in vain to bite.
Phil sent a flood of Alpha power down his arm, and his hand shifted. Fur sprouted. His nails elongated and curled into sharp claws.
Sigismund's eyes bulged with terror. "Call him off! Call—" He choked as Phil's claws punctured his skin.
Austin moved closer for a better view. "Holy shape-shifting, Phil! Only parts of you have shifted. And the moon isn't even full. How can you do that?"
Phil growled. In his current condition his senses were all heightened, but with his head shifted, he could no longer talk.
"He's an Alpha," Connor replied for him. "He has powers other shifters only dream about."
"Damn," Austin muttered. "I'm glad he's on our side."
"Oh yeah!" Phineas punched the air with a fist. "He's big! He's bad! He'll blow your house down, sucker."
Phil snarled as the scent of blood reached his elongated snout. Blood dripped down the prisoner's neck where his claws had penetrated.
Connor stepped closer. "Phil, can ye tone it down a wee bit? The prisoner canna answer our questions if he's unconscious."
Through a blue-tinted haze Phil realized the prisoner's eyes had grown dull. He retracted his claws, reined in his Alpha power, and with one last shimmer his body returned to full human form. He let go of the Malcontent and stepped back.
Sigismund gasped for air as he slumped against the chains. "Don't…don't let him hurt me. I…I'll tell you everything I know."
"Verra good." Connor nodded at Phil with an appreciative gleam in his eyes. "Well done, lad."
"You da man." Phineas gave him a knuckle pound. "Half man, half wolf, half son of a bitch."
Phil snorted. Technically speaking, all male wolves were sons of bitches. He wandered into the kitchen to retrieve a bottle of water from the fridge. He was painfully aware of the admiring glances that Austin and Phineas kept aiming his way. Personally, he was embarrassed. Ashamed, even.
He'd worked hard at the Navajo reservation in New Mexico to achieve his Alpha status. His old shaman friend and mentor, Joe, had stressed the great responsibility that came with Alpha power. Phil had sworn to be true to the noble character of the wolf and use his powers to protect those who depended on him. He was to hone his skills so he would always be victorious in battle. In all things, he was to honor the wolf.
Never was he to use his power for personal gain or to exact revenge. He was a chosen one, destined to be a leader among his own kind.
And he'd nearly murdered a man out of rage. He recalled Vanda's words when she'd thought he had killed Max the Mega Member.
I understand the kind of rage that leads a person to take a life.
Was that what she was hiding? Had Vanda been so traumatized by the cruelty of war that she'd stepped over the line? She'd mentioned that Karl was the leader of the underground resistance, so it was logical to assume that Vanda had been involved in dangerous activities. The Nazis had sent wolves to kill her, so she'd clearly pissed them off. More of her words came back to him.
I don't want any more deaths on my conscience.
"Where is Casimir hiding?" Connor asked, bringing Phil's attention back to the present.
"He moves around, a different place every night," Sigismund rasped. "I need to feed."
"And I need real information," Connor replied. "Phineas, is there any Blissky in the kitchen?"
"I'll look." Phineas rummaged through the cabinets.
"I'm not drinking that synthetic piss," Sigismund growled.
"Ye doona have a choice." Connor sat in a kitchen chair close to the prisoner.
"Found one!" Phineas opened a bottle of Blissky and inhaled deeply. "I'd better test it to make sure it's all right." He took a swig. "Oh yeah, baby! Now we're talking." He filled a glass to the brim.
Phil located a straw and plopped it into the amber liquid. The fridge was full of plain synthetic blood, but he figured Connor was hoping the Blissky would loosen Sigismund's tongue. Since it was highly doubtful the prisoner had imbibed any whiskey in the last four hundred years, he would be hammered in no time.
"What does Casimir hope to accomplish here in America?" Connor asked.
Sigismund snorted. "What do you think? He came here to be your friend?"
"World domination," Phineas muttered as he approached the prisoner with the glass of Blissky. "You bad guys are so predictable. Don't you get bored with yourselves?"
Sigismund sneered. "We'll take great pleasure in seeing you all dead." He turned his head away from the glass Phineas offered. "Bring me a mortal."
"You don't know what you're missing, man." Phineas swirled the glass under the prisoner's nose. "Smells really good, doesn't it? Tastes like heaven."
Sigismund's nostrils flared and his fangs shot out.
"Hard to stop those reflexes, huh?" Phineas stuck the straw in Sigismund's mouth.
The prisoner slurped down all the Blissky in just a few seconds. Then he coughed, his eyes watering. His fangs retracted.
Phineas chuckled. "Good shit, huh?"
"Not as good as a mortal." Sigismund eyed the empty glass. "Bring me more."
Phineas snorted. "You don't want to admit it's good." He returned to the kitchen to pour another glass.
Phil noted there was color back in Sigismund's face. "How big an army does Casimir have?"
"Big enough to destroy you. And about to get even bigger." Sigismund smiled. "Casimir knows how to take advantage of your weakness."
"And what would that be?" Connor asked.
Phineas brought another glass of Blissky, and Sigismund drank it down.
He licked his lips. "You claim to be good because you drink synthetic blood. But if you lost your supply, you'd go right back to biting mortals. Then hundreds of vampires would realize how much they enjoy biting and never want to go back. They'll join us. You'll be so outnumbered, you won't stand a chance."
Connor stood. "You're planning to attack our supply lines?"
Sigismund snorted, then hiccuped. "We'll stop you from even making the crap."
All the Romatech facilities were in danger. Phil knew there were several in the United States. The one in White Plains supplied the East Coast, but there were others in Ohio, Texas, Colorado, and California.
"I need to warn Angus." As Connor strode from the room, he yelled back, "I'll send Jack down. Keep the prisoner talking."
"Will do." Phil approached Sigismund. "Did you go to Apollo's compound often?"
"Sure. It was great. All those stupid girls just begging us to bite and screw them."
Phil squeezed his fists to keep from socking him. "The party's over. We set the girls free. We killed Apollo and Athena."
Sigismund glowered at him. "Their deaths will be avenged."
Phil snorted. "You think Casimir gives a damn about his so-called friends? He knows you were captured last night, but he never went back to rescue you."
"He avenges his friends," Sigismund insisted. "He has a hit list. In a week, everyone on the list will be dead."
"Who's on this hit list?" Austin asked.
"The ones responsible for the massacre at DVN and the murder of Jedrek Janow," Sigismund sneered. "At the top of the list there's Ian MacPhie and his mortal bitch, Toni."
"Wife," Phil corrected him. "They're married." And as long as they remained hidden away on their honeymoon, they should be safe. Still, they needed to be warned.
"Next on the list—those bloody assassins, Giacomo di Venezia and Zoltan Czakvar," Sigismund continued. "Then Dougal Kincaid and the traitor, Phineas McKinney."
"Cool," Phineas said. "I'd feel really left out if you forgot me."
"Anyone else?" Phil asked. He knew Carlos Panterra, Howard Barr, and Gregori had also been at DVN that night, but Casimir might not be aware of their involvement.
"There's one more," Sigismund grumbled. "That crazy bitch from Poland. Vanda Barkowski."
Phil's heart lurched in his chest. "That's not right. She didn't kill anyone."
"She was there, causing trouble like she always does," Sigismund growled. "Don't think she's innocent. Jedrek tried for years to kill her off. Casimir just wants to finish the job once and for all."
Phil swallowed hard. "These hits start in a week?" He had to hide her someplace no one would ever find her.
"They'll be dead in a week." Sigismund chuckled. "The hits start tonight."
Phil grabbed Phineas by the arm. "Teleport me to the club now!" He dragged the young Vamp out into the hallway just as Jack stepped out of the elevator. "We're going to the Horny Devils. Austin can fill you in."
"All right." Jack hurried through the open door into the silver room.
"Let's go!" Phil heard Sigismund's mocking laughter as everything went black.
Vanda eyed Terrance the Turgid's sleek, hairless chest and decided life wasn't at all fair. She'd had sex with Phil and didn't even know what his chest looked like. But the rascal certainly knew what she looked like. All over.
Terrance rotated his hips in time with the bongo drums. "Do you like the music I selected?"
"Jolly good." Pamela tapped her foot on the floor.
Vanda sighed. Every month, her performers gave her a preview of the next month's dances for approval. Cora Lee and Pamela loved this part of the job. Vanda used to love it, too, but now she found herself comparing every man she saw to Phil. And they never matched up.
While Terrance gyrated his hips, he ripped apart the Velcro that fastened the fake leopard cape around his neck. He tossed the cape, and it landed on Cora Lee's head. Giggling, she pulled it down onto her lap.
Vanda could now see Terrance's bare shoulders, but they didn't look as broad and muscular as Phil's. Of course, it was hard to tell 'cause she'd never actually seen Phil's shoulders. Dammit. She should have insisted he take off that tuxedo.
Terrance pranced about the office in his sparkly Tarzan loincloth. "You hear the trumpet sound? When it trills, that's when I'll swing across the stage on a vine."
Pamela clasped her hands together. "Capital idea."
"And then, when the music crescendos, I rip off the loincloth!" Terrance flung the loincloth across the office, revealing his tan-colored thong decorated with ivy leaves.
Pamela clapped. "Outstanding!"
"Yee haw!" Cora Lee shouted.
Vanda eyed Terrance's thong. Definitely not in the same league as Phil, and that she could be sure of. It was the one part of Phil's anatomy that she had seen. And touched. He had truly been magnificent. Long and thick. Incredibly hard, but covered with the softest skin. He'd felt so good inside her. Filling her. Stroking her.
She squeezed her thighs together as a sudden yearning ached deep inside her. Damn. How was she going to resist him? With a sigh, she realized she couldn't. She wanted him. Once had not been enough. A hundred times wouldn't be enough. She was falling in love with him. If she had any willpower at all, she'd never see him again.
The door burst open and Phil marched in.
So much for willpower. With a silent groan she turned off the CD player. The jungle music stopped.
"Phil! How nice of you to drop by." Terrance struck a pose. "How do you like my costume?"
He glanced briefly at the dancer. "Good muscle tone. Guard the door. Don't let anyone in."
"Oh, of course. Anything for you, Phil." Terrance scurried out the door.
"Somebody has a crush," Cora Lee murmured in a singsong voice.
"Enough," Vanda muttered. "What are you doing here, Phil?" And why was he looking around so carefully?
He circled her desk. "Phineas and Hugo are checking the main room. Have you seen any suspicious-looking people here tonight?"
Vanda shrugged. "Most of our customers look a little strange. What's going on?"
He moved closer to the credenza where her printer and fax machine rested. "You're in grave danger."
Was he sniffing her office equipment? "In danger from what? Overpriced ink cartridges?"
"It must be Max the Mega Member," Pamela whispered dramatically. "He's come to exact the ultimate revenge."
"Ultimate?" Vanda asked wryly. "He's already tried to kill me. How do you get more ultimate than that?"
"He would kill you in an extremely gruesome manner," Pamela explained. "Mind you, it would be hard to top a python, but I'm sure he could come up with something completely horrid."
"Thanks for the thought." Vanda continued to watch Phil. Now he was sniffing around her file cabinets.
"Maybe it's Corky Courrant," Cora Lee suggested. "She's sworn to see you ruined."
"Thanks for reminding me." Vanda stood and wandered closer to Phil. "Are you going to tell me who—"
He stiffened suddenly. "Cora Lee, Pamela, go tell all the customers to teleport away immediately."
"What?" Vanda set her hands on her hips. "Are you trying to ruin my business?"
"There's a bomb in your file cabinet," Phil said softly.
Cora Lee and Pamela both gasped and jumped to their feet.
Vanda's heart stuttered in her chest. She eyed the cabinet. "Are you sure? You didn't even look inside."
He put up an arm to stop her. "Don't open it. That could be the trigger. We can't be sure, though. It could be on a timer and go off any second. Try to remain calm—"
"Eek!" Cora Lee ran from the office screaming. She knocked Terrance aside. "There's a bomb!"
Screams erupted from the main room.
Pamela ran toward the door. "I'll make sure everyone leaves. We'll meet you at the townhouse."
"No!" Phil shouted. "The townhouse may not be safe."
Pamela glanced back with a frantic look. "The apartment, then!"
"But—" Phil started to say that the apartment wasn't safe either, but Pamela had already dashed into the main room.
She yelled at the crowd. "Teleport away! Leave immediately!"
Vanda remained still as a cold fog settled over her. A bomb. Her club would be destroyed. She couldn't let that happen.
"Come on." Phil grabbed her arm. "Teleport us out of here now."
She stared at the filing cabinet. "How do you know it's in there?"
"I'm an expert in bomb detection. Come on. Let's go."
"You're an expert? Then turn it off!"
"It's not that simple." He pulled her toward the door. "Just opening the drawer might set it off. We have to get you someplace safe."
"But—But—" She looked around as they entered the quiet warehouse. Everyone had teleported away. The laser lights flashed, highlighting the empty dance floor, the stage, the bar. How could she leave? She loved this place. It was everything to her.
Phil flung her onto his shoulder and ran for the entrance. His desperation penetrated the cold fog that had marred her thinking. Someone wanted to kill her. Someone wanted to kill her so badly they hadn't given a second thought to killing a hundred or more innocent bystanders.
Once again she was being hunted.
Phil sprinted down the alley, then turned onto the street. She clutched at his shirt. She needed to teleport them farther away.
The explosion deafened her ears. She screamed. Bricks flew into the air and flames shot toward her face.
She flinched from the heat, and their bodies were thrown. She held onto Phil as the world went black.