"Who the hell are you?" she demanded of the tall, lean man who was still mostly in the shadows. Whoever he was, he was dangerous, maybe even more so than the creature she'd just beheaded. He'd come out of nowhere and snatched the crossbow bolt out of the air like it hadn't even been moving.
A shiver raced down her spine.
Dressed all in black, he blended with the dark. She hadn't known he was there until he'd deliberately come forward. And she always had total situational awareness. It was a matter of survival.
Her profession had a very high mortality rate.
A nudge of his foot sent the vampire's head rolling back toward the body. The undead would need to be burned if he didn't start disintegrating soon, but she was keeping her distance from the man in black.
"Asher." He gave her a half bow. "And you are?"
A quick shake of her head. "You don't need to know."
"That hardly seems fair considering I saved your life."
"It didn't need saving," she asserted. "I'd already moved."
"True," Asher conceded. "You're fast, but I didn't know that. I should get points for the attempt." He sauntered out of the dark and fully into the candlelight. The flames flickered over his face, exposing a strong jaw, straight nose, and high forehead. His blond hair was pulled back in a short tail at his nape. His skin was olive-toned or tanned, hard to say. Piercing brown eyes stared at her.
Good looking was much to tame. Handsome didn't fit either. There was something dangerous and predatory lurking beneath the surface. Primal. Compelling. Yeah, that was it.
It was time for her to leave.
"While I appreciate the assist, I've got this." She jerked her head toward the door, hoping he'd take the hint.
A ghost of a smile flickered on his full lips before it disappeared. "I've got nowhere I need to be."
"Great," she muttered.
His laugh slid down her spine, a whisper of heat. Her nipples puckered and rubbed against her bra. Uh. No. The last thing she needed was some kind of fatal attraction. Because he was one of two things--a fellow hunter or another vampire. Neither of which were good for her.
"Come now, I'll help you clean up this mess. Then we can get a cup of coffee somewhere, maybe talk."
"It's almost one in the morning. Nothing around here is open." God, she was tired. She just wanted to fry this vampire and leave. Usually they disintegrated fairly quickly. This one was taking his sweet time. He either wasn't truly dead yet or he was very young. The older they were, the quicker they turned to ash.
"Your name is Asher?"
He inclined his head. "At your service."
Just her luck. She finally was attracted to a guy and he was probably here to take her home. Or maybe exterminate her. Did he even know what she was? Or was this nothing more than her overactive imagination? Maybe he was socially awkward. No crime in that.
She swallowed back a scream of frustration. She was making herself crazy with all this speculation.
He remained silent, but he did finally raise his head. There was something in his expression she couldn't quite distinguish, and it gave her pause. Was it regret? Pity? Anger bubbled up inside her. Swallowing it back took a real effort, but she managed. With anger would come a burst of energy. That could alert one of her kind to her presence here.
"Just who the hell are you?" she demanded.
He frowned and tilted his head to one side, seeming honestly bewildered by her question. "Alexei Medvedev."
It was tempting to let it go, but she couldn't afford to. She leaned closer until their foreheads were almost touching. "Let me rephrase the question. What are you?" If she was wrong about him, he'd be confused by her question. If she could catch him off guard, she might get an honest reaction.
He released a chuff, the sound more animalistic than human.
It all suddenly made sense--his big size, his enormous appetite, his ability to easily handle whiskey like it was water. The dark, musky scent that clung to his skin. She checked to make sure no one else could hear. For once, the jukebox was quiet and there was only the hum of the television over the bar.
"You're a shifter of some kind, aren't you?" She had no idea just what she was dealing with, but having one of his kind show up in Alaska and come to her place of work was no coincidence.
Without waiting for an answer, she demanded, "Why are you here?"
He straightened--his great size more intimidating than it had been up until this very moment. Without the haze of sexual attraction blinding her, it was easy to see what was glaringly obvious, to put all the clues together.
Ignorance might be bliss, but it could also be her undoing. Too bad she hadn't seduced him last night. That ship had sailed. And that saddened her even as dread made her stomach clench.
He stared right at her, his icy-blue eyes filled with determination. "I'm here for you.'
What the hell am I doing?
Her job, for one.
Yeah, right. She hadn't followed Maccus because Lucifer wanted the man dead.
I have no idea why I'm here.
Her lips still tingled where he'd kissed her. It had been more than ten years since she'd had a sexual reaction to a man. Being dragged into Hell to train as a bounty hunter had killed her libido. And since then, the only contact she'd had with the opposite sex was either demon--no thank yo--or human scum like the group she'd encountered tonight. Not exactly designed to make a girl want to rip off her panties and jump into bed.
But Maccus knew what she was and wasn't the least bit intimidated or bothered by it. That was a turn-on.
But she was no closer to understanding exactly who or what he was beyond his name and that fact that he was badass.
Her boss ordered her to sleep with him if necessary. And if sex with a stranger helped keep her alive, she'd been prepared to do it.
Then she'd met him in person and decided it might not be such a hardship after all.
It was smart to go with him, maybe find out where he lived and discover his weaknesses, if he had any. It would make it easier to kill him when the time came. If she tried now, she was as good as dead. There was no time limit on the contract. It made sense to discover all she could about her target before setting the trap.
And she was lying to herself.
Maccus was almost seven feet of muscle and menace. The only thing soft about him was his silky black hair. In person, his features were even more rugged. And his eyes seemed to hold all the secrets of the universe, all the pain.
Black pants clung to his powerful thighs. A black tank top stretched across his massive chest beneath a light leather jacket. They were dressed in an almost identical manner, blending seamlessly with the night.
He woke long forgotten yearnings from back when she'd been nothing more than an unsuspecting human living her ordinary life.
He made her remember who she'd been, not what she'd become.
Primal instincts urged her to run.
Softness was not something she could afford. Not with her life and that of her sister hanging in the balance. Until she'd fulfilled her contract and paid the debt in full, Lucifer was within his rights to grab her sister. And there was nothing she wouldn't do to keep Kayley safe.
That was her objective. She couldn't forget it for one second.