Kinked (Elder Races, #6)(8)

She had been here, very recently, after the sleet storm that had only tapered off about an hour ago.

Had she watched him having sex with the hooker? While he f*cked a woman he didn’t care about and wasn’t interested in, with his eyes closed as his mind wandered and he barely maintained his erection, and he wondered what the hell he was doing with his life?

His chest heaved. He couldn’t take in enough air.

She had used her talons to balance at the window. That meant she had been in her Wyr form. As a human woman, she was a constant shock to the system, tall and lean and strong, and completely, rampantly uncompromising. She carried the kind of energy that all ancient, immortal Wyr carried. It shimmered in the air around her, like a jolt of raw electricity. In her Wyr form, she was a gorgeous nightmare, angular features upswept, accentuated, with massive wings colored from gray to black.

How could he have not noticed her presence?

As he thought of Aryal outside in the dark, watching him with those piercing gray eyes of hers, his cock started to stiffen.

Oh, no. He jerked away from that mental image like a scalded cat. Oh, hell no. The impulse to violence sparked along all of his synapses, until it became a cascade too powerful to ignore.

Almost two years ago, he had been traveling through his life, complacent with his abilities and his activities, content with the success of both his legitimate and illegitimate businesses, when gradually he became aware that he was under investigation. He did a little digging of his own and discovered who was investigating him.

Aryal had a reputation for being a relentless, inventive investigator, but he hadn’t been worried. He knew precisely how he had come to the harpy sentinel’s attention—by word of mouth and association. She wasn’t going to find anything concrete, because he had always covered his tracks too well. He was talented at doing that.

But then last May happened, he almost got his friend killed and had his change of heart, of sorts. He changed direction in his life and went legit.

Of sorts.

He decided he wanted to have a say in what happened in the Wyr demesne, to invest time and energy into the place where he lived. When the opportunity came available to sign up for the Sentinel Games, he went for it.

If he thought Aryal had been relentless before, it was nothing compared to how she dug into his life after that point. Somehow she was always present. She stopped in at Elfie’s a couple of times a week, talked to his employees, issued a warrant for his business books and went over them with a fine-toothed comb, and interviewed his neighbors. He caught hints of her scent several times in the alley behind the bar.

He laughed at her. Ignored her. Pretended to ignore her. Stopped pretending.

Pretended not to lose his temper. Stopped pretending.

Started to push back. Pushed back harder.

Meanwhile, she never, ever stopped.

I have all the time in the world.

All the time.

Had he ever really thought things might change once he became a sentinel? If he had, he couldn’t remember it. She had ground that to dust. Of course she had.

Dragos knew exactly how to best use Aryal’s talents and personality when he put her in charge of investigations. As the two new sentinels, Quentin and Alexander, worked to settle into their positions, there had been some question of movement of duties among the seven, as they all assessed who might be best for what role—all except for Aryal. She was perfect right where she was. She was a harpy, for God’s sake.

They say the skies tore the day the harpies screamed into existence.

This time—THIS TIME—she had gone too goddamn far.

This time he wasn’t going to just throttle her. Swear to gods, this time he was going to kill her.

He showered in painfully hot water and scrubbed all traces of the woman’s scent from his body. Then he yanked on fresh clothes, jeans, boots and a T-shirt. Sentinel clothes, the sturdy kind that had some chance of holding up in a fight and were easy to throw away afterward. Because he’d earned the right to go armed in the Tower now, he strapped on weapons too, a knife in a thigh sheath and a Glock in a shoulder holster.

The sheet of ice on the roads forced him to take the drive to the Tower slowly. The sedate trip did nothing to calm his seething temper, which settled into cold, predatory intent. By the time he strode into the Tower, traffic had begun to pick up as dawn lightened the sky and the city awakened.

A study of affluence in every detail, Cuelebre Tower was eighty stories tall. Nobody in their right mind took the stairs. He wasn’t in his right mind. He didn’t want to have to talk to anybody.

He took the stairs at a steady, relentless pace that did nothing to calm him down either. It did limber up his body, until he felt warm, loose and ready for a confrontation.

Except then he couldn’t find her.

One of the first things he had learned about the Tower was where Aryal slept at night, so he went to her apartment and pounded on her door. Nobody answered, and he could hear no sound of movement from within.

He whirled and stalked to the cafeteria. It had just opened to serve breakfast, and people were beginning to trickle in. No harpy. People took note of his rigid face and swift, angry movements and gave him plenty of room. Next stop on his hunt was the massive gym and training area. He circled through, and even went so far as to check the locker rooms.

Goddammit, no.

He was going to have to pause to think about this. He didn’t want to. His hands remembered how it felt to latch around her neck, and they wanted to do it again. Flexing his long fingers, he exited the gym—

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