The harsh February wind blew through Chelsea. She shivered in her thick ski jacket and her earrings burned in her cartilage, little icicles of pain. “C-can we get in the car?”
In front of her, Amber glanced at Jackson. Neither demon hunter shivered in the subzero air. Jackson shrugged and looked over his shoulder. “If you want.”
Chelsea rushed over to her car. Her father had rigged the thing together years ago. The body was made in America, but the doors were Japanese, and the engine German. Still, it ran like a dream. Once inside, her shaking hands reached for the ignition.
“Nope, sorry.” Jackson grabbed her hand. “We’re on stake out. A running car will give us away.” He shut his door, cutting off the ever-blowing wind.
Chelsea pouted in her seat. “This is not nearly as fun as TV makes it seem.”
Jack laughed. “Poor thing. Give me your hands.” Not waiting at all, he grabbed her stiff hands and stripped off her gloves. Chelsea’s shivers had little to do with the cold as he huffed hot breath over her frozen fingers.
He glanced up, green eyes all dark and unfathomable in the fading light. Chelsea knew the look on his face, though. It went straight to her groin, as always. He rubbed at a knuckle and her breath sped up.
“Your armpits.” Amber’s voice quivered somewhere between amused and annoyed. “Warmest place on your body.”
Chelsea held back a laugh and tucked her hands under her arms as Jackson flashed a glare towards the backseat. “I was trying to work some magic, here.”
Amber smirked. “Work your magic when we aren’t looking for vampires.”
The word ‘vampire’ killed all the happy, warm feelings Jackson gave her, and Chelsea was grateful. She liked Jackson, but more and more, she found herself wrapped up in sex instead of concentrating on finding the monster that had killed Dink.
Charles Xavier Johnson. Called Dink because it’s the height of hilarity to give people nicknames opposite their physical attributes.
She’d only learned Dink’s name at his memorial service two days ago. It had pounded home what a terrible friend she had been. Dink had appointed himself her guardian after her parents died. He kept her from alcohol poisoning, and assholes who took advantage of drunk women.
And I got him killed by a vampire.
She leaned against her seat, eyes on the seemingly empty building down the street. This was the third place Jackson had heard held vampires. He’d been going alone to check out the buildings while she headed to class, but no more. If he found the vampires, she wanted to be there.
She took her hands out and blew on them. “How do we know if there are vampires in there?”
“Dammit, Jack.” Amber laughed from the backseat. “Do you two even talk?”
Jackson shrugged. “Occasionally. But keeping to the subject at hand. First clue will be a flurry of activity at dusk. Nightlings wake up hungry. Their minions have to make themselves available for feedings as soon as the sun goes down.”
Amber leaned forward. “Second clue, actually spotting a minion.”
Chelsea leaned her head on her hand. “How can I tell if someone is a minion?”
Jackson answered. “Pale, sickly looking, and scars on their necks, wrists, or thighs.”
“Not all of us get to see a lot of thigh, Jack.” Amber’s smirking voice had Chelsea giggling.
“You see plenty.” He laughed as he tugged on Amber’s black hair.
A spike of jealousy writhed through Chelsea. She tried to crush it. Jackson Hawk was charming, sweet, good looking, and utterly indiscriminate about who he took to bed. Worse, she liked Amber, who had made it clear she had no interest in Jackson… anymore.
Jealousy is ugly and unlike me.
Jackson leaned against his door, stretching out long, one booted foot pressing against her leg. “Sun’s almost down, and no lights. I think we’ll have to head back to the bar, see if anybody’s seen a minion.”
Chelsea swallowed bile. “This town isn’t that big. How many places could they be hiding?”
Jack and Amber exchanged glances.
“What?” Chelsea sat up, unsure what she saw in their faces. “What aren’t you telling me?”
Amber sighed. “Nightlings move around almost as much as hunters, Chelsea. There’s a decent chance the one that killed your friend isn’t in town anymore.”
Chelsea stared at the other woman for a moment. Sympathy burned in her dark eyes. Chelsea wasn’t interested in sympathy, though. She threw open her door and stormed away.
Behind her, a car door opened and slammed shut before Jackson called out. “Wait up. Frostbite is a thing.”
“Not now, Jack.”
“Chelsea, stop.” His voice sounded strange. It took her a moment to register the stern tone of command.
She whirled around, temper blazing in the failing light. “You don’t—”
“Shut. Up.” His hard tone shut her mouth. “If there are nightlings on this street, the last thing you want to do is cause a scene and draw attention.”
The wind moaned in the trees, and she began shivering again. Jackson hurried over, her bright purple gloves in his hand. He snugged them on, taking the time to caress her fingers. His green eyes peering up at her through thick lashes as he did.
“More magic, Jackson?”
He smiled. “Damn right, my little nun.”
She shook her head, smiling in spite of herself. It didn’t last long. “How… how will we know if we got the right nightlings?”
“I don’t know.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Were you ever going to tell me?”
He shrugged. “Honestly, I didn’t think it would matter. You won’t stop with just one nightling.”
Her temper flared up again, but she kept her voice down. “You keep saying that, but I don’t want to hunt monsters. I want to kill this one nightling and then go back to my normal life.”
He didn’t say anything for a long moment as he stared at her with solemn eyes. Then he grinned widely. “If that’s what you want, that’s what we’ll do.” One gloved hand hooked around her waist, pulling her tight against him, their faces only a breath apart. “But I’ll miss you, my little nun.”
Don’t get attached. This is Jackson ‘I never met a woman I didn’t like’ Hawk.
“Me and how many others?”
He grinned. “Even if I had a clue as to the number, you’d never believe me.”
She laughed at his unabashed pride in himself. “Do me a favor, never change.”
“Hadn’t planned on it.” He pulled away, half turning to the car. “Let’s go.”
Chelsea pulled on his arm, turning him to face her. “Seriously, no kiss?”
Jackson laughed, low and warm in the growing darkness. “Trying to keep a low profile.” Still, his arm snaked around her. “I’ll make it up back at your place.”
She let him lead her back to the car. As the cold and the dark deepened, the house at the end of the street lit up. It seemed to Chelsea that every light on the entire second floor snapped on simultaneously.
He nodded. “Yes, my little nun. It’s looking like we found them. We have a lot more watching to do though.”
Amber’s face shone with sympathy as Chelsea settled back into the front seat. “We should drive around once, see if any curtains are pulled back. But getting out of here is probably best.”
“I agree.” Jackson smiled over at Chelsea. “Can you casually drive around the block twice?”
A shiver ran down Chelsea’s spine as she started the car. Finally, they were getting somewhere.
Keep the Haven!
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