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Mira had to wait for Drake to finish teaching his fencing class. It was a night course, which was something Mira was privately irritated with. She’d quit her own night job so that she’d have more time to see Drake. But he still had classes he taught at night, so it hadn’t worked as well as she hoped. This left her at loose ends enough for her to adopt a habit of going on long, late night walks or hanging out with some of her vampire friends. Tonight, however, she needed to talk to him. It had waited long enough. It was affecting their relationship and that was too important for Mira to risk.

She was sitting in the long hall of the recreation center outside the spacious, tiled room in which Drake held class, when the last student finally left, her fencing equipment tucked under her arm. The college-age girl looked at Mira as she walked away a little nervously, probably because Mira was glaring. She’d meant to surprise Drake. She hadn’t expected it to take this long for him to be done with class.

Mira continued to wait, and still Drake didn’t appear. Just when she was thinking about going in after him, the door opened and he stepped out, a big duffle slung over one shoulder. He paused mid step when he saw her, and the fatigue on his face disappeared in a smile that he reserved just for her.

Mira’s smile was just as pleasant, but her eyes flashed. “Who was that girl that kept you an extra twenty minutes?”

“She’s trying out for the university’s fencing team, and wanted a bit of extra help with her defense against some specific attacks,” Drake answered. He set the bag on the floor and extended his arms to her in invitation.

She took a step toward him, as if tempting him. “And how would you rate her performance, master swordsman?”

“She might make the university team,” Drake replied. “But she’ll never be on mine.”

Mira laughed. “Good answer!” She’d been irritated as hell having to wait, but she wasn’t a jealous person. “Did I play jealous well? I know I’ve been distant lately, so I wanted to show you how you are always in my thoughts. That girl would jump your bones in a heartbeat, by the way. I’m glad you didn’t let her. I’d be in a really bad mood if I had to sit in this hallway much longer.”

Drake chuckled and shook his head. “She’d be far more likely to be jumping your bones, as she prefers women. Now come here and give me a hug.”

Mira embraced him. Her grip on him tightened as if she would warm herself against his heat. She wouldn’t let go for for a long minute. Finally she said, “I’m sorry Drake.”

“For what?” he asked, his hand caressing the back of her head.

“Something happened and I haven’t been able to talk about it. I think I could talk to you about anything, just not this. At least, not easily.” She looked up and down the hall. A janitor was beginning his rounds. “Is there someplace we can talk?”

Drake nodded. “I need to take this gear and put it away. We’ll have some privacy in the equipment locker.” Reluctantly, he released her and slung the large bag over his shoulder. “It’s this way.”

She followed him down the hall to another door, which he unlocked with a key. They went inside, he hit the lights, and then put down his gear. Mira hopped up and sat on the top of the desk near him. She looked around the room, perhaps buying time before she had to tell him what she’d come to say.

He moved to stand in front over her, sliding a leg between hers so he ended up standing between her thighs. “You know you can tell me anything,” he said softly, and cupped her face between his hands as if she were something extremely precious to him.

The attraction for him that ignited at his presence warred with the conflicting emotions she had surrounding what she needed to talk about.

“In the process of finding a way to stop the spread of a Breach all those months ago, Less, Rey and I got stuck in a land very far from here.” She hesitated, reconsidered telling him. What good would it really do? She tried to remind herself that Drake might continue to think that he’d done something or worse, that she meant to replace him somehow. She had to clear the air. She swallowed and looked down, resting her forehead on his shoulder. “Before I say any more, will you promise to make an effort not to lose your temper or do anything… crazy?”

“You know me,” Drake said softly. “When have I ever done something like that?”

“Well, Summer isn’t known for cool heads,” she pointed out. “Promise?”

His eyes narrowed. “If you can’t trust me to behave myself without forcing a promise on me,” he said, his hands lowering to his sides. “Perhaps you ought to keep it to yourself.” Drake couldn’t hide the hurt he felt at her insistence that he do something as powerful as make a promise. What had happened, what had she done, that she wouldn’t tell him freely?

“Well, I am upset about it. I’m not even close to rational about it. I would think that if you loved me, then you would feel the same. I only ask because I need a level head, one that isn’t mine. I would expect you to be upset. I would want you to be upset. I’d wish that you would do something completely irrational and dangerous because you felt that strongly. But I can’t let that happen. At least, I should try to ask you to be calm when I can’t.”

“Then just ask me,” Drake said. “You have known me for a while. Have you ever known me to completely lose it because something really bad happened?”

In all the time that Mira had known Drake, through everything they’d been through, and all the stories she’d heard of his exploits, not once had he ever “lost it”. Yes, he’d rushed into battle, but he never seemed to be without control.

“There are many kinds of bad things, Drake. And more seem to be invented every single day.” She sighed and gathered her wits. She had a certain amount she planned to tell him, but no more. She hoped she could stick to her plan. “Something was taken from me. Something that was not freely given. It was done in front of my friends and in such a way that I know he can do it again any time he wants to.” She clutched at the edge of the desk and hoped she didn’t have to say the word.

“He could find me if he wanted to, I think. I’ve been in terror of it since the Breaches closed. Rey thinks I’m being foolish. After all, I was not the one he took, only the one that ended up being taken. But I think they did find me. That man and his people. I think they are out there in the wilds. This has been on my mind all the time since I got back. I’m ashamed it happened. I couldn’t stop it, but I am anyway. I feel like I betrayed you, but I swear that’s not what happened.”

Only seconds passed as Drake stood there, silent, but it felt like hours. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner,” he said, and once more he cradled her face in his hands. “Don’t you know I’d help you if you’d only ask?” His thumb lightly skimmed her cheekbone. “It’s what people who love each other do.”

“I know. It’s not that I didn’t think you could help. It’s that I haven’t been able to get a grip on this. Most of me just wanted to curl up and disappear. But the part of me that turned into a monster to handle my problems for me is gone. I had to try to get a grip on my fear. Well, that hasn’t worked so great. At least now the fear I might be carrying his young is past.” She probably would have strangled any were-cat child she birthed, or at last she told herself that.

Drake’s entire body stilled, and for a moment, it was like he wasn’t breathing at all either. He moved again, time brushing his thumb ever so lightly along her lower lip. “How can I help? What can I do?”

She shook her head. “Nothing. Less tried to help, too. He dueled them, but it was three or four against one. He was shredded and nearly killed.” She didn’t add how it felt to have him see her so humiliated, but it showed on her face. She knew Less had been horrified he wasn’t able to get them out of there.

“He is more of a spy than a soldier,” Drake said softly. “And if they come, they will be on our home turf, not theirs. What makes you believe they can find you so easily?”

“When I finally escaped, I just grabbed Rey and ran. My cell phone was in my pants, which was somewhere in his crummy little treehouse. That cell phone had my name and address to return it should it be lost. Because I lose them a lot.” As if she had to add that. Well, it did explain why she hadn’t replaced the phone. She considered them merely liabilities now.

“That explains why you weren’t returning my calls.” A relieved little smile curved his lips. “If you are so worried about him finding where you live, why haven’t you moved?”

“Because I don’t think he can get into my apartment. I still have my wards; anywhere else wouldn’t have them.”

Drake fought back a frown. He knew that wasn’t the only reason. “I wish you’d let me take care of you.” He wanted to be as much of a part of her life as he could, despite the danger to both of them. It hurt, and sometimes infuriated him, that she would so casually let him be such a large part of her life, but not the man who truly loved her.

Mira considered. “I might need to take you up on that offer. But if I did, what would happen if the Countess, or even just other seelie found out you were sleeping with the ‘enemy’? Can we stay hidden somewhere?”

“I’ll make it happen,” he said. “Just say the word.” He brushed his lips over hers in a feather light kiss.

She smiled and her eyes cheered. “Or maybe I should take you away instead. I would tell the Duke you were my prisoner and therefore allowed to do whatever I want with you.” She hooked her heels behind his knees.

“And what would you do first?” Drake leaned closer, his chest almost touching hers.

“So you think you can so easily pry the secrets of a siren from her lips?” Mira sighed and leaned back on her hands. “Well, since you have me trapped here, I suppose I must tell you. First I would let my handsome quarry get a good look at what he desires.” She arched her back, thrust out her chest and let Drake have good look at her cleavage through the deep cut of her neckline.

“Do you think a warrior of Summer would be so easily distracted by such a ploy?” His hands moved to cup her breasts, supporting them higher as he bent his head to lick the top edge of her aureole now visible from under the dark fabric of her shirt. It felt to her like the warmth of his hands upon her breasts, the touch of his tongue sent heat through her body. She knew what drew a moth, chilled by the night, to a flame.

“No,” she said. “The siren knows that such a man takes more.” She looked into his eyes and wrapped her arms about his neck, lacing fingers behind him. Her gaze locked onto his. “She must meet his eyes. There she sees the Passion of Summer and knows only the ballads of old can tame his wild heart. Then she sings her spell.”

Mira hummed something old, something low. It seemed to have a beat of its own. When she wanted to, she could use her voice to entrance, bespell, distract. But now she used it only to encourage him to relax and simply enjoy the moment.

Drake hooked his right thumb in the neckline of her shirt while his palm and fingers manipulated her breast, causing it to shift up and out, baring it completely. It didn’t remain exposed for long, for his mouth swooped down and captured it, sucking her nipple deep into his mouth in a single powerful movement, and his teeth bit down with just the perfect amount of force.

Her siren song faltered and ended as Mira took shuddering, thrilled gasps. She let her head roll back as her body felt like it was melting under his touch. “No fair,” she said. “You know that’s a siren’s weak spot.”

“A warrior seeks all advantages,” he says, his voice a husky, almost growl. His other hand moves, and soon he is lavishing the same attention on her left breast, while his fingers torment and tease the right. She ran her fingers through his hair, gripping it when his attentions became intense.

His hands left her breasts to take hold of the shoulders of her shirt. With one swift, deft motion, he pulled it down over her shoulders and down her arms. The action pulled her hands from his hair and trapped her arms at her side, though if she truly wished to be free, it would be no hinderance.

She looked up at him, all demure innocence. The hungry anticipation in her eyes didn’t match the innocent look on her face as she waited to see what he would do next.

Get's a little racy, but if you are up for it, you can find the details here!

She pulled her shirt on. “Okay. You’ve convinced me to make a new plan. If I find those damned jaguars, then I’m coming to get you and we’ll wipe them out together. I can only think they are doing this to other women out there somewhere. If they show up here, then you and I will put an end to them. Deal?”

“If they are doing it to other women,” Drake said, “then I will help you put a stop to it. I will not just go slaughter them.”

She eyed him, and then smiled. “You are a good man, Drake.”

“I try to be.” He smoothed her hair with his clean hand. “Let me get things tidied up, and then I’ll drive you home. Okay?”

“Okay,” she said. She could never say that she wouldn’t kill the jaguar-man if she had the chance, just for the rape. A part of her told her she would hesitate, wondering if he really deserved to die for what he did. But it wasn’t a moral reason. She knew she wasn’t a moral person. At the same time, she valued very much that Drake was. That, and honorable. It made him feel… predictable. She would not tell him that, but she didn’t view it as a negative thing. Predictable meant safe to her. Sometimes, she needed that more than anything else.

After Drake let her off at her apartment, Mira decided she would take a walk to enjoy the evening. The days had been very hot, but here the temperature at night fell quite a bit. She enjoyed the cool and since she felt wide awake after seeing Drake, she wanted to walk off a bit of extra energy.

She left her apartment building and headed around back. Dark alleys at night weren’t a wise place for an attractive woman to be alone, but she was no ordinary woman. In addition, she had a specific reason for being there.

Not long ago, perhaps half a year, a Shadow Gate had opened there, and a number of deadly creatures had streamed out of it and invaded the apartment. She was still unsure if someone had set this up as an attack, but she and her friends were able to wipe out the creatures and take the fight right back to the source in the Fae Realm. Since then she hadn’t been bothered, but she still kept an eye on the place where the gate had opened in case something else dangerous might slip through. The alley was quiet, so Mira kept walking.

She reflected as she continued to better-lit sidewalks along streets that had steady traffic. The Desert Duchy, of which she was a member, was the oldest court of unseelie fae in the area. That meant it was rife with decades and centuries-old feuds and politics, though it was relatively stable. It was so well established in Santa Fe that it lent a certain stability, despite the sly and often unpleasant ways of the fae that were part of it. In the Desert Duchy, she was known as a sorceress as well as someone who refused to make alliances of any kind within the court. The only one whose commands she was compelled to obey and the only one she was obliged to aid if there was need, was the Duke himself. That’s how she liked it.

Although she didn’t not consider the fae of the Desert Duchy her allies, that didn’t mean she didn’t have any. She’d also allied herself with a band of vampires. That was a matter she did not speak of to other members of the Duchy. It wasn’t that they’d have a big problem with it (though some might), it was simply that she didn’t consider it anyone’s business but hers alone. Her other allies included seelie fae of the Golden Mesa court in Mythic City. So far, she hadn’t been openly challenged over that, but it was also something she didn’t publicize. However, she thought the Duke was well aware of her alliances. If he disapproved, he hadn’t said so. Or perhaps he was waiting to use that information to some advantage of his own in due time. Either way, Mira had long ago decided she could not and would not waste energy worrying about it. She felt she’d been tricked into joining the Desert Duchy to begin with so she didn’t care how close to the line she tread in terms of defiance.

All this did mean she felt relatively safe in Santa Fe. Even though she’d been attacked here, even in her own home, on several occasions, she still felt at home in the Santa Fe night. For that reason, she felt perfectly safe walking at any hour of the night. She often even noticed other fae doing their own thing. A simple nod in passing or quick look of acknowledge was all that need be done. Other times, she might spot one of her vampires leading some new prey into a hotel or dark alley. Those rare times made her smile because she knew they wouldn’t be leaving corpses in their wakes. At least, none that she noticed. She considered them very nice vampires. The best part was that, because they knew her, she was off the menu.

She’d walked a long way down the main drag in town. It was lined with old bars, dives, non-franchised restaurants, and even a couple classic theaters. It lacked some of the glitz of Mythic City itself, but it also lacked the seedier and more unpleasant streetlife the big city tended to have. It also retained much more classic Southwestern-style architecture. To Mira, it was interesting no matter how many times she walked down the street.

Tonight was no different. In fact, she was a little surprised to see Jason, the werewolf she’d met at the Rusty Sprocket not long ago. She had a view of him, on the same side of the street as her, walking down the sidewalk in the same direction. She was pretty sure he hadn’t noticed her yet since she was behind him a good fifty feet or more. Nor was she interested in getting his attention. She mostly had noticed him because she wanted to be sure she didn’t cross his path.

That’s when she noticed the woman in black. The unnatural pallor of her skin immediately made her think of a vampire. But this one was no vampire. This one had pointed ears and almond-shaped eyes that betrayed her true heritage as fae only to other fae that could see through the false “mask” that mortals perceived. Mira imagined that Jason simply saw an attractive, pale woman whose posture and approach indicated she was interested in him.

Mira hurried to get closer. This fae was unseelie, but not a member of her own court. That meant trouble of a kind that Jason’s pack would not appreciate. “Hey! Jason!” she yelled and started hurrying over.

Just then a tall white van screeched to stop. Jason, bewildered turned toward Mira. So did the woman with him.

“Shit!” Mira muttered. “Stop! Jason get away from her!”

It was too late. The side door of the van slid open and a pair of arms reached out for Jason from the darkness. The pale fae shoved Jason off balance and then those arms snatched into the dark interior of that van. The woman jumped in after him as she door slid shut and the van pulled back out into traffic.

Mira ran flat out to try to keep them in sight. Her options were limited to something she might do to stop the van, but that would have immediately resulted in an accident involving a lot of other people.

On the other hand, it was an unseelie fae kidnapping a werewolf right in front of her. And she was pretty sure she she knew that particular fae. She flung out her hand and crystalline, dagger-shaped shards of ice zipped through the air directly at the nearest tire of the retreating van. With an angry grunt of frustration, she saw them penetrate the tire. It hissed and popped angrily, but the tire held together and van sped away. She decided she hated those new run-a-flat tires.


It was two in the morning when Rey’s phone began ringing. She was pretty sure it had been ringing a long time because when the answering machine picked up, the caller just hung up and then called again. It was as if someone were deliberately trying to wake her.

Rey groaned and dragged herself out of bed. She had just fallen asleep, having spent several hours hanging out with Chase, followed by hours editing her manuscript. Her brain was still half-full of blood drinking shapeshifters and how the heroes of her novel were trying to deal with them. She managed to reach the phone in the kitchen when it reached the sixth ring for the second time.

As soon as she answered it, she heard a familiar voice. “Good morning, Rey.”

“It isn’t morning until the sun has risen, Mira,” Rey grumbled.

“I’m sure it has risen somewhere,” Mira said, a smile in her voice.

Rey let out a rather unladylike grunt. “What do you want, Mira. I got to bed just over an hour ago after a very long day.”

“I want to help you,” Mira said. “Something has happened to one of your werewolf friends.”

Rey didn’t say anything for a minute, but when she spoke again, she sounded far more awake and coherent. “What happened?”

“If you come and pick me up, I can tell you all about it in the car,” Mira said. “We are going to need to make contact with some people and it’s much too far to walk in any reasonable amount of time.”


“I’d rather not say over the phone.”

“Damn it, Mira,” Rey swore. “I wish you wouldn’t do this. Where the hell are you.”

“I will be at my apartment by the time you can get down here. I’ll wait in the lobby.”

When Rey arrived at Mira’s building, she was in an incredibly foul mood. Her friend’s cutsie routine of not wanting to tell her anything over the phone had done nothing to improve the Fair One’s state of mind after been woken up by a ringing phone less than an hour after having fallen asleep.

Rey did not get out of the car, staying in it in front of the entrance where Mira should be able to see her.

The nymph walked out of the building momentarily and made her way to Rey’s car. “Please head for downtown Mythic City,” Mira said.

“I’m not some fucking cab,” Rey muttered as she pulled out of the driveway before Mira had even finished doing up her seatbelt.

Mira said, “Check the attitude. I don’t want to be here doing this. I’m trying to help you because you are my friend and because you care about those wolves. If you don’t want to help them, then stop the car and I’ll go home after I apologize for waking you.”

“I’ve had less than an hour’s sleep in the past 36 hours,” Rey replied. “I’m sorry if my grumpiness at lack of sleep and my concern for my friends offends you. You could have told me a bit more, and not imply you wouldn’t tell me anything at all unless I came to you.” She sighed, and deliberately unclenched her hands on the steering wheel. Things had been stressful the past two days, and getting a phone call like this did not make things any easier. “It’s been a rough couple of days, nothing that has anything to do with you, and I shouldn’t be taking it out on my friends.”

“You are right. Your lack of sleep is not my fault. Further, I could not discuss you and your werewolves on a public phone in the middle of a bar without making you far grumpier than this,” Mira stated. She still had no cell phone, and had no intention of keeping one anymore. They’d prove far more trouble than they were worth to her.

Actually, part of Rey’s lack of sleep was Mira’s fault, as Rey had discovered someone was nosing around about the nymph’s connection to some members of the Summer Court. Rey had stepped in to try and mitigate things. She was pretty sure she had, at least for now.

Once they were on their way, Mira continued. “Do you remember that first werewolf that hit on me at the Rusty Sprocket?”

“Of course.”

“I think he said his name was Jason. I saw him on the street tonight. A dark fae approached him. I tried to warn him, but their plan to take him was already in motion. A white van hardly stopped but she shoved him inside and they took off. I wrecked a tire, but they must have those stupid run-a-flats. It didn’t slow them down.” She turned her face to Rey to get her reaction. “I recognized the dark fae. It was Viscissitude of the Brimstone Barony.”

“That cow,” Rey said. “I should have burned her to ashes when I had the chance. I don’t suppose you got the license plate number off the van?”

Mira smiled. “In fact, I did. TLN 816. They are New Mexico plates.”

“Good. We can find a payphone and make an anonymous report to the police about witnessing the van, or people in the van, committing a crime,” Rey said. “That should get it in the system, even if it’s a stolen van or stolen plates. So, why are we heading downtown? Do you know where Sissy hangs out?”

“Not exactly. I know a couple people that might be willing to tell us, though. My contacts among the Brimstone fae are sparse, but I might be able to wrangle information. I also know that downtown is close to the heart of Brimstone, if not the heart of the Baron’s power. I could think of no better place to begin our search than there.”

“Do you think they might have known what Jason was?” Rey asked, already trying to figure out what the motive might be. If they knew that, they might better know how to deal with it, or how fast they would have to move to rescue him.

“The kidnapping happened very quickly. They knew exactly what they were doing and since I didn’t see a werewolf rip the back half of the van apart, I’d say they knew who they had.” Mira added, “But that’s my opinion based on very little evidence. Any number of things could have happened in that van that I did not see. I don’t want to make an assumption, but it really feels like a purposeful wolf-napping.”

Rey didn’t know whether or not Jason could change form at will, as he was new to the pack, but she wasn’t about to tell Mira that information. Better to assume they knew what Sissy and her compatriots knew what they were doing.

“We need to get him back, and fast,” Rey did say. “Things could get ugly quickly if the rest of the pack finds out.” She knew how protective Lyla and Chaska could be of those they cared about.

“I thought that might be the case,” Mira said. “Besides, if Sissy is involved, then I know it can’t be good for him to be in her claws for long.”

Rey thought of enlisting her group of sprites to help them look for Jason and his kidnappers, so they veered west and stopped at Rey’s place first. Once Rey was certain they understood the need and had promised heaps of extra cheesy mac and cheese, they proceeded to downtown Mythic to see if Mira’s contacts might pan out.

The people that Mira knew as contacts were really street people. Bums, homeless, even criminals that scrape by any way they can. These were people that she had associated with most before befriending Less and Rey, but she still kept up to them, even if she wasn’t really one of them anymore.

Since Mira knew that Sissy was a member of the Brimstone Barony court of unseelie fae, she felt certain that the proper place to begin their search would be in the heart of Brimstone territory; downtown.

It was after three in the morning when they began. At this time of night, the streets had calmed as even late night traffic diminished due to the closure of most bars and clubs an hour before. Those things that still moved about weren’t always human, and certainly weren’t the kinds of things that mortals wanted to know about. In short, it was the perfect time to find exactly the sort of people that Mira hoped to find and question.

After finding a well-lit parking garage in which to park the car, Mira and Rey headed out onto the streets and alleys of old downtown Mythic. It proved a difficult search because people many of the people Mira wished to speak with had settled down to sleep for the night. Still, she was determined and persistent.

At last, she came across a nervous woman who was able to give them a clue. Yes, she’d seen someone that looked like Sissy and a van of the description Mira gave. The homeless woman told Mira to go to the “hollow building” and directed her several blocks to the east, near an old residential district. There, her questions might be answered.

“Our questions might be answered,” Rey muttered as they moved off. “What questions, and will we like the answers.”

“I’m hoping,” said Mira, “that the questions of where Sissy and Jason are might be answered.”

After several blocks, they came to the building the woman spoke of. There were three men hanging out on the front steps of what was a brownstone-style house, though that term was used loosely. Both Rey and Mira immediately knew they were fae. They were drinking beer and huddled around a game of dice they were playing on the top stop in front of the door. The house behind them had boarded up windows and a decrepit, abandoned feel, yet there was a dim, yellow light visible through shards of a broken window on the second floor.

Mira offered, “I could get their attention while you sneak into the house.”

“You’d have to hold their attention good and tight,” Rey replied. “Because I suck at being sneaky.”

They considered the problem. Mira said, “Let’s see. They have a dark satyr, I think the one in the middle drinking beer does something with shadows, and the third is obviously an ogre. They are not Desert Duchy material and they sure as heck don’t strike me as seelie all the way out here. They are also pretty obviously bored. Maybe they are on some kind of guard duty. Sitting out there all night long probably sucks. And if they are guarding something or something, or just the building, then it means someone or something valuable is inside. Maybe a couple hot fae chicks might distract them so much that we can get the drop on them and take them out before they realize what we’re really here for?”

“Let’s give that a try,” Rey replied. “If it doesn’t work, you can kick them in the head.” Rey unbuttoned her shirt until she revealed a generous amount of cleavage and the edges of her black lace bra. She then put her hands in her hair and tousled it a bit, giving it a not-quite-just-out-of-bed look. “What do you think?”

“I’d do you,” she said agreeably. “How do I look?” She was uncertain how to make herself more alluring without actually removing her clothes.

“You don’t need to do anything,” Rey replied with a nod.

They descended on the hapless male fae like scorpions after prey.

Mira approached the satyr and the dark fae while Rey caught the eye of the ogre. Murmuring sweet compliments and walking fearlessly up to them, they quickly forgot to wonder why an extraordinarily beautiful nymph might be out on the street so late at night. Her honeyed words combined with the inviting curves of her body she was not shy about displaying captured their attention. From there it was little effort for her to lead them into an alley.

The dark one maneuvered behind her, but Mira’s eyes were on the satyr. She paid no mind as the dark fae grabbed her arms -- not too roughly -- from behind and the satyr got ready by dropping his worn blue jeans. The time for talk had passed. When he pressed against her, she pressed her body against him and breathed lustily on his neck. In moments, the satyr was practically drooling on himself.

Trying to feel part of the action, the dark fae clumsily held her hands behind her back while he kissed her neck. The satyr pulled her skirt up -- and then she kissed him. The passionate heat behind her lips swept through his body right along with the spells she unleashed. He went rigid, then passed out. She tied off her Eternal Sleep spell with the stipulation that he would awaken only when someone kissed him on his exceptionally huge lower member, which now rose completely exposed, a defeated pole marking the prone man’s failure.

That was remarkable enough for the dark fae to let Mira go. “Johnny? Johnny! Hey did you pass out you wuss?” He would have knelt by his buddy and shook him awake, but he couldn’t bring himself to touch his satyr buddy half-exposed with his pants down around his ankles like that. It was kind of gross.

Not wanting to give the dark fae time to figure out what she’d done, she put a hand on his shoulder and channeled more magic into him, as well. His eyelids grew immediately heavy and he collapsed across the slumbering form of his friend. Mira whispered, “Awake when he who most disgusts you kisses you.”

Rather than going sweet, Rey went for larger than life. Overwhelming the ogre with the fact she, someone as drop dead gorgeous as she was, wanted him. He couldn’t help but be flattered, and eagerly followed her into the alley.

Rey pushed the ogre so his back is against the wall, and shoves her hands up under his shirt to caress his skin. "Oh baby, you're so hot!" she says, rubbing up against him, and uses Seelie magic to heat him up, heading him toward heat exhaustion, but only a faint warmth radiates from her hands.

Excited, the ogre tries to wrap his arms around her and pull her close, but she deftly moves out of the way. She takes a step back and smiles. "Oh, you like to play." Rey catches her bottom lip between her teeth and gives him a look. She reaches for the buttons of her shirt. "I'll show you mine if you show me yours.”

Without a word, the ogre fumbles with his belt and drops his pants to reveal his member in all its large, impressive and warty glory.

Rey managed to keep herself from flinching at the disgusting thing in front of her, and instead smiles. He was one step closer to being under her control. Rey smiles, pleased she's gotten him deeper into her trap. "I like," she said, and finished unbuttoning her shirt and opens it wide to reveal her black lace cupped breasts. She closes the distance between them, took his big warty thing in her hand with a firm grip and gave it a stroke.

The ogre groaned and fell back against the wall, his eyes falling closed at the sensations he’d never felt before. It seemed like all he could do was remain standing, and it didn’t take long for him to be completely taken in by what she was doing.

Unfortunately for Rey, while it was easy to get him going, it was proving far more difficult to finish him off. It took a strong surge of her Seelie magic to send him spurting in the direction of Mira’s victims and to knock him out from heat exhaustion.

Rey let him fall to the ground without any concern for his safety or comfort, leaving his pants down around his ankles and all his warts open for the world to see.

Mira had only just finished putting the dark one to sleep and stepped well back out of the way.

”I need a couple gallons of bleach to wash my hands,” Rey said with no small amount of disgust.

“That was totally disgusting!” Mira said. She actually looked ill. Ogres were a huge turnoff for her and warty ones especially so. She eyed Rey’s hands warily. “I hope you haven’t caught something.”

“If I have,” Rey replied. “I will hunt him down and kill him.” She pulled a disposable moist towelettes from her pocket and carefully wiped her hands.

“Well, I appreciate you taking on the big guy. I think ogres are gross.”

They crept to the mouth of the alley and observed the tall, narrow house again. It seemed quiet. The only thing now out on the front step was a set of dice the guards had forgotten.

“How do you think we should get in there?” Mira wondered aloud.

“Let’s check out the back,” Rey said. “But first, let me set up a glamour to make people think the guards are still there.” She pulled light from the porchlights and shadows from the alley and fashioned the images of the three fae who were supposed to be stationed there. She did a really good job of it - they almost looked real, but it would be good enough to pass for casual inspection in the dim light of the porch.

“There. Done.” Rey smiled with satisfaction. “Let’s wait a few moments, then head out.”

Mira was impressed. “You are a master of the art of glamour.”

After a few moments, it felt safe enough to proceed down the next alley, which served as a back-alley entrance for the block of apartments. Each had basement access car ports so that residents need only drive down the back alley and turn into their homes. Most of the ports were secured with garage doors to protect the owners’ investments and homes, however.

Still, there was a fire escape. For the particular building into which they were seeking entry, that meant the fire escape served the upper two floors, but didn’t descend to the ground because that would block the garage. Instead, about ten feet off the ground, was a ladder that could be lowered from above. The problem was that neither Rey nor Mira were ten feet tall.

“Well,” Mira noted in a quiet voice, “I guess we can try to get the garage door open, but it’s probably automated. Otherwise… what’s your vertical leap?”

“About as good as a slug’s,” Rey answers with a wry smile.

Mira smiled. “Yeah, I don’t exactly slam dunk basketballs, either.” She looked around. “Do you see any video cameras watching this back here?”

Rey shook her head. Mira considered, making a thoughtful sound as she stepped to the side, trying to get a view of all angles. She was just looking at the fire escape, since that’s what she wanted to use without being spotted, but she bumped into something, which then fell to the pavement with the sound of breaking glass.

“Oops,” she muttered, rubbing her bruised behind.

Rey discovered a small, cylindrical camera had been set atop a post intended as a guard to prevent cars from turning too early and bumping a house wall. The retaining clip hadn’t survived Mira’s clueless wanderings. It wasn’t angled to view the alley -- just the back of the house, so it seemed unlikely it had caught either of them before Mira bumped into it.

“You found a camera,” Rey said. “I doubt it’s working anymore, but the sound may have attracted some attention, so we’d better move.”

Mira nodded. “Do you think you can stand on my shoulders without falling, and reach that ladder on the fire escape?”

“I could try.” Rey was glad she’d worn her boots, as they didn’t have pointy heels that could stab themselves into her friend.

Working together, Mira was able to lift Rey up onto her shoulders, while Rey quickly grabbed the bottom rung of the ladder before she might lose her balance. It was a careful procedure not to let the ladder descend with noisey clangs, and the sound couldn’t be dampened perfectly. Finally, with the ladder extended, the two fae could climb up the fire escape. That put them level with the second floor. There was one more floor and then the roof.

Interestingly, the second floor had a door next to a window that both had access to the fire escape. The third floor had access only via a large window. Trying the door on the second floor first, they found it to be locked. Rey didn’t have any luck trying to jiggle it open, but Mira produced a couple lockpicks she must have hid in her bra. She expertly knelt in front of the door and carefully inserted the picks. After a moment’s work she heard the sound of tumblers falling into place. In triumph, she twisted the knob and promptly snapped off the ends of her lock picks still inside the lock.

“Oh ‘’goddammit’’ she said too loudly as the door swung open. Now, of course, if the door closed, it would be locked with no way to open it again.

Rey sighed. “Are we on an episode of Candid Camera?” She looked through the doorway into the building, and figured their chances at stealth were truly gone now.

“Well, we handled the boys just fine,” Mira said quietly.

Beyond the doorway was a short hall that opened directly into a wide study. At the far end was what appeared to be railing for a balcony. To the left and right were some doors that no doubt led to storage closets. Off to the immediate left were stairs that continued to the third floor and also descended to the second.

The study was decorated with real wood book shelves, lots of what looked like hand-bound books, a couple comfortable overstuffed chairs next to dim reading floor lamps, and a huge desk that dominated the room. It was behind this desk that a pale woman with black eyes and blacker hair sat watching them curiously. Her hands were spread on the desk and in front of her was a large, heavy revolver. It sat untouched on the desk but yet close at hand.

“Bravo, ladies,” said the woman, “but lucky for me I’m a night owl. How did you get around to the back without attracting the attention of my boys out front? They were supposed to be watching for things like that.”

Mira sighed. Might as well come in, she decided. She walked into the room and said, “Good evening, Sissy.”

“Good evening,” Rey said, if only for manners’ sake. No need to antagonize the bitch, she thought.

“Your ‘boys’ are fine. They are just taking a nice nap in the alley,” Mira told her. “Do you know why we are here?”

“I haven’t the faintest. But since you came in the back and subsequently broke my door lock, I can only assume you meant trouble for me.” She leaned forward slightly but didn’t get up from her seat. “Rest assured I can and will defend myself should you decide to press. You are intruders here. This is my home.”

“We’re not here to hurt you,” Rey said. “We’ve just come to pick up a friend of mine.”

“And you think this friend is in my house? I am the only one here,” she stated.

“I saw you take someone,” Mira said. “He is a friend of ours. Male, young, you shoved him in a van. Ring any bells, Sissy?”

Sissy smoothly shrugged. “I’m sure you think you saw something.” She read that course of discussion could quickly lead to a fight and while the outcome was something she thought might be interesting, she didn’t care to mess up her house. She sighed. “Oh very well. It isn’t as if I was paid to keep this secret. Yes, I took someone tonight. I was offered a very substantial sum to do it, too. But I don’t have him anymore. He was delivered as promised. If you want him, go get him yourself.”

“Who has him now?” Rey asked

“I suspect he’s being held for sale later tonight or tomorrow night,” she said. “There is a warehouse on South Baker street. 1161. If you plan on getting him out, bring your wallets. It won’t be cheap.”

“Who hired you?” Rey didn’t expect Sissy to answer, but the question needed to be asked.

“The generous folks at the address I just gave you. That’s why it will be expensive to get him out; they’ll want to cover their losses plus lost profit,” she said.

I hope you made enough on the kidnapping to cover the loss of this place, Rey thought to herself. It’s a pity something horrible is going to happen to it. She looked at Mira to see if she had anything to add to the discussion, but she didn’t seem to. Mira looked to be just waiting.

Rey gave a mental shrug. Perhaps she’ll talk to Mira for suggestions on how to hit Sissy where it really hurts, with minimal effort and trackability. She nods at Sissy. “See you around, then,” she says, and backs toward the door. There was no way she was going to turn her back on the Unseelie assassin.

Mira decided there was little point in daring the rickety fire escape again and simply headed for the front door. Rey went with her but noted that Sissy was following and keeping a watchful eye on them.

Outside, they found themselves in the darkest part of night before dawn. Mira remarked, “We should hurry. Vampires are especially paranoid when it comes to security during daytime hours. They may lock down their places once the sun rises.”

“Then let’s go,” Rey replied, and lead the way to her car, sparing only a short glance for the alley where the three male fae had been left.

Mira paused. “Wait. Give me just half a minute.” She ran off toward the alley they left the fae “guards”. When she came back it was with the Satyr draped over her unexpectedly strong shoulders.

“What are you doing?” Rey wasn’t exactly sure she wanted to know.

“I’m freeing him from the evil dominion of the Baron,” she said.

“And how do you intend to do that?”

“I intend to take him home with me and give him shelter and food. He can then choose to stay or leave as he will,” Mira said. “I don’t like the idea of Baron Carnifex getting his hooks into a satyr. They are not bad or cruel people by nature.”

“He’s not a satyr,” Rey said.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because he’s not a satyr, that’s why. He’s a Silenus. They look like satyrs, but their features are more horselike.”

“Yeah, so I noticed.” With the silinus draped around her shoulders his member was angled such that she could hardly miss it. “He kind of smells like a horse. Is that it? Minor appearance difference?” She couldn’t shake the strong feeling she had of familiarity here and wasn’t inclined to drop him and leave him just yet.

“Well, despite his ever-ready condition,” Rey said with a glance at it, “he’s not driven by lust. The Sileni do like chasing nymphs and maenads, and are said to be the inventor of pipes as musical instruments. And they’re supposed to be the father figure for Dionysus. And pulling up his pants might be a nice thing to do.”

“Yeah, that’s getting annoying. Would you mind?” She could quite reach his pants, hanging from his ankles. While Rey got them pulled up, Mira said, “A sileni then. I still don’t like the idea of this guy having to work for people in the Brimstone Baron. He should be free. He shouldn’t be anyone’s servant. Nor do I feel very good about putting him in a coma for the rest of his life. Unless someone kisses him, of course.”

“So give him a kiss, wake him up, and let him make up his own mind,” Rey said. “If he’s bound to the Baron, then he’d be breaking an oath to leave.”

“Not here,” Mira said. “If he’s bound to the Baron, then he couldn’t make a free choice. I can do better than that.”

“Like what?”

“I told you. I’m going to take him home and give him shelter and food. If he’s bound to the baron then he can choose to be my ‘prisoner’ and stay there. Or if he’s not he can leave,” Mira said. “If he wants to.”

“So, you’re in effect kidnapping him.” Rey said. “At least at first.”


“And how do you intend to get him to your place?” Rey was afraid she knew the answer.

“I’ll just take him with me when you drop me off. May I stick him in the back seat, please?”

“Mira, that makes me an accessory to kidnapping,” Rey said. “And we’re going to need the back seat for Jason, and whoever else we might be able to rescue from the warehouse.”

“It’s liberating him,” she said. Mira turned her head to look at the silenus’ face. It simply felt wrong to leave him. She couldn’t bring herself to do it, nor did she know how to explain it.

Rey sighed, knowing from the expression on Mira’s face that the nymph was just not going to let it go. “Alright. If we need the back seat, he goes in the trunk. If we need the trunk, he’s your responsibility to transport. We are not tying him to the room of my car.”

Mira grinned. “I thought I would just buckle him in the back seat. Since he’s just asleep, even if we get pulled over for some reason, he shouldn’t arouse much suspicion. Plus we should have room for Jason then, and maybe another person, too before resorting to trunk space.”

“Let’s go to it, then.” Rey opened the rear door of her car and stepped back to give Mira room.

After Mira got the silenus buckled in, they hopped in and motored to the address Sissy gave them.

They pulled up a short distance away.

“Oh gods below,” Mira said as they looked at their destination. “Another warehouse. Really, you’d think bad guys would find another creepy place to do illicit things.”

“They’re big, it’s pretty easy to hide what you’re doing in one,” Rey commented, “and people generally don’t hang around them so security is a bit easier.” She shrugs. “And sometimes, bad guys just can’t help but fall into stereotypes, as they have no creativity of their own. Which, for us, is a good thing.”

“Yeah, I guess so. Do you suppose they have cameras and that sort of thing watching?”

“Possibly,” Rey replied. “It would depend on how often they use the place, and how paranoid they are.”

“I don’t see any windows. This place looks new and well built. Other than doors at the docks that look like they are made for trucks, I see only a little door facing a parking lot.” She frowned. “I broke my lock picks on the last door.”

“Maybe we’ll be lucky and the door will be open,” Rey said with mock optimism. “If it’s not, we’ll just have to look for another way.” Her mouth twisted. “I wish there was a way to see what’s inside.”

“I could look into the past and see how we might most safely get in, but it will not provide us a key.” She paused. “Unless there is a keypad.”

“Let’s leave that as Plan Z,” Rey said. “First, let’s just see if the door is actually unlocked and we can open it. If not, maybe you could freeze the door handle and lock, and then shatter it. That way we could get to the mechanism inside and open the door that way. Of course, that wouldn’t stop the alarm from going off when we open the door.”

“True,” Mira said. “Or I bet you could glamour up some new lockpicks for me! We might still have an issue with an alarm or whatever video surveillance they might have, but I bet your glamours could shelter us from some of that.”

Rey nodded. “I could obscure us from the cameras, make things around us hazy, hard to get details, and thus difficult to identify us. When we get to the door, we can see if there’s a lock to pick and go with that first.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Mira said. “I’m ready when you are.”

Rey nodded and raised her hand to eye level and regarded Mira. Her head tilted slightly to one side, kind of like a wolf looking at something curious. She moved her hand from side to side, as if rubbing on something. As she did so, Mira became blurry and out of focus. “That should do it. It will cover visual stuff, but not sound, scent or other senses.”

Rey did the same thing for herself, and the magic took a strong hold around her. “That’s done. Let’s go.”

When they arrived at the door, they did find a keyhole on it. It looked to be a standard, if well-built lock. There were also no cameras they noticed on this side of the door. Since the building was windowless here without so much as a handle for the door, there was no place to hide a camera, either.

Mira examined the lock. “I think I could get this open,” she said.

“Then let’s get you the tools you need.” Rey held out her hand and the air around it seemed to swirl, then coalesced into a set of lockpicks. They gleamed for a moment, then settled into a dull, matte black.

Mira watched and when Rey was done, she smiled and nodded. “Those will work perfectly.” After Rey gave them to Mira, she worked at the lock for a minute before there was a quiet ping and click. Rolling the bolt back allowed the heavy steel door to open smoothly and quietly.

Rey did a quick look around to make sure they’re not being watched, then stepped inside. She noticed there was a camera aimed at the door. It would likely record anyone coming through the door, but she did have the benefit of the blurring spell.

Other than that, it was dimly lit inside the warehouse. Here she was looking into an office. Although it appeared serviceable, the layer of dust on everything told her it wasn’t really used. There was a desk and chair in the room and one other exit. The video camera hung from the ceiling to the left and probably covered both the outer door and the inside door.

Rey turned her head so the camera - if working - wouldn’t see her lips moving. “Camera, up and to the left.” She moved forward quickly but carefully. They likely didn’t have much time, if there was an alarm - or someone watching the video feed.

Mira threw a cold glance in the direction of the camera and it immediately froze up. It froze so hard, in fact, the lens popped out and shattered on the floor. The way frost covered the rest of the camera, inside and out, proved it was quite dead. The little red light faded and disappeared almost as fast as it appeared.

“Motion detecting camera, too,” Mira remarked. “It seems to require service.”

The next door was not locked and opened into the warehouse proper. It was divided into a maze of semi-translucent hanging plastic dividers that created rooms and corridors without really providing privacy. The place smelled of blood, urine and fecal matter.

Mira wrinkled her nose. “You know what?” she said just louder than a whisper. “I think Sissy actually gave us the right address.”

“We get everyone out,” Rey replied at the same volume, “Then we burn this place to the ground.” She carefully moved forward down the “corridor”, looking around for signs of movement.

The first room they came had a modified operating table that was angled at 45 degrees from horizontal. Strapped to it was the pale, dead corpse of a scruffy and abused-looking young man with surgical tubes inserted into each arm. He lay with his arms out, the table he was one having had wings that folded out. Bags the tubes were attached too were nearly empty, providing a clue that the young many had been drained entirely. The last few drops were left behind in partial bags. From his expression, he’d been alive and screaming to the end when his strength failed him and his eyes closed forever.

Other rooms had different signs of horror. Most simply had cages no more than three or four feet tall. Anyone put in them would be unable to stand up straight. Most had been hosed down and stood open, awaiting new occupants.

Eventually, they made their way to a wide, central area where there were several people gathered in a circle. Bright spotlights glared down at a subject chained to a post who stood naked and glaring. He was dirty and likely had taken some lumps, but there was no sign of bruising or open wounds. He squinted around at his tormentors, but obviously couldn’t see due to the bright lights.

Mira, standing silently next to Rey stared curiously but made no remark.

Rey tapped Mira’s shoulder, and when she had her friend’s attention, used her fingers to mimic fangs, then gestured towards the people with a questioning look.

Mira pursed her lips and squinted at them, muttering something rhythmic under her breath, a chant. Then she held up three fingers; three of them were vampires. She continued using sign language to indicate the fourth was human and the last was a shape shifter of some kind bound in silver.

Rey couldn’t help but frown, and her eyes narrowed in anger. She needed to get the shapeshifter free, regardless of who or what he was. Let’s see if we can disrupt their little chat session, she thought. The arrival of the police might be just the thing.

She gestured to Mira to get off to one side, out of easy sight. Her friend was hidden, Rey gathered all the ambient sound and changed it, creating the sound of the door they came through being smashed to splinters, followed by deep, angry, wolf-like growls.

Three startled vampires whirled around and looked for the source of the conflict while one human hoofed it to the nearest exist. They spotted Rey right off, and one spotted Mira.

“Darn,” said Mira. “Rey, best you get behind me. I’ll handle this.” She came out of hiding then. Her body iced up, dropping to a temperature so cold her clothes shattered as she moved and her body became translucent. She flung out a hand and jagged missiles of black ice ripped through the air with a coarse whistling. It struck one vampire in the head, chest, and gut, knocking him backward. He hit the floor of the warehouse with a wet smack and his body immediately began to dissolve into bloody gue.

Rey took a pot shot at the retreating human, but he slipped away. Then one vampire went to take the captive hostage, underscoring the point by placing the point of his knife against the victim’s throat. The remaining vampire charged Mira with a hiss and snarl. He slammed his knife into her icy body full force, right to the hilt, but Mira simply gave him a chilly smile. Then she pulled her fist back and slammed it into his chest. She ripped out his dead, ichor-encrusted heart. She looked disgusted, then looked him in his shocked eyes and said, “Here. You keep it.” She put it into his numb hands and he stared at it a moment before his body fell apart and he was no more than a bubbling pile of goo on the cold warehouse floor.

Rey raised her gun and aimed it at the remaining vampire. “Drop the knife,” she said, her voice ringing with the full force of her fae nature behind her words. “Or you’re next.”

He wasted no time dropping the knife and then running for his life.

Mira could not allow him to escape, however. She took off at a sprint after the vampire. She managed to close with him and tackle him before he realized he was in danger.

Rey whipped up her gun to shoot the vampire, but her shot went wide, ricocheting off into the dark corners of the warehouse.

Mira tightened her grip and the vampire froze solid, then shattered. She stood up, brushed herself off, and looked around.

Rey walked over to the chained man, reholstering her gun on the way. “We’ll get you out of these chains as quickly as we can.” She looked at the chains to see if it was something she could get open, or if it called for Mira’s special touch. The chains were held by a hook screwed into the metal post so his arms were suspended above him. It was hard to get a look at things, but she noticed how raw and bloody his wrists were. His flesh continued to sizzle as he watched her silently and that flesh had a bronzed look to it. His features were native, perhaps central or south american.

The manacles had little padlocks on them. “The keys are probably in the puddle there,” he said in a soft, calm voice that belied the immense strain he was under. “But I don’t recommend you letting me go. Just unhook me please.”

Rey looked at his wrists then at his face, meeting his eyes for a moment, then nods. "I understand," she said. "My name is Rey Lafitte." She didn't expect him to know it. She stood and looked for the keys. When she found them, she tucked them into her pocket. Then she looked up to see how she could get him down. He’d need to be lifted, but that didn’t seem like a good option. Luckily, she spotted a stool not far away. If she put that where he could stand on it, he’d be able to unhook himself.

“Do you feel up to standing on a stool?” she asked him. “I don’t think I can managed those chains, but I can get you up to them so you can unhook them.”

He nodded to the affirmative.

Rey retrieved the stool and, carefully and calmly, placed it beneath the overhead hook. She backed away, fully conscious of the stress he was under, and that it was the silver that was keeping him in check. “Will you tell me a name I can call you? I’d rather not have to say ‘hey you’,” she said with a slight, friendly smile.

He returned her smile as he stepped on the stool and lifted his chains off the hook. He sighed with some relief as he moved his shoulders to get feeling back into his arms.

Mira walked back to Rey. She’d taken enough time to find a sheet along the way and wrap it around her middle to cover herself now that she was no longer in her ice form. She arrived in time for the man to say, “Tlaloc.”

Mira froze at the sound of his voice and then for the first time really took a look at this prisoner. Rey thought she looked white as the sheet she wore.

Rey know exactly what Mira was probably thinking. “No,” she said firmly to Mira as she interposed herself between her friend and Tlaloc. “Don’t. Even. Go. There.”

“Tlaloc,” Rey says, without turned her head to look at him, not wanting to take her eyes of Mira for even a moment. “Are you a jaguar shifter?”

“Yes,” he said. “But not what these walking dead wanted, apparently. The puddle there was trying to convince those other two I had still some value to whoever their masters were.” His accent was hispanic but his English was very good, Rey noted.

Mira was caught between attacking, wondering if she was suddenly going to want to jump his naked and rather well-formed body, and fleeing. Unable to make a decision, she stood there with her mouth working. Finally, when Tlaloc admitted he was a jaguar shifter, she fainted.

Tlaloc observed calmly, seeing Mira pass out. “Apparently we’ve met.”

“Were you the one with the cozy little tree house near the ancient ruins somewhere in South America a couple of weeks ago,” Rey asked. “Invited us in for a cup of tea and biscuits?”

“We should consider leaving,” Tlaloc said. “Many more will be coming very soon.”

“We came here looking to free someone else,” Rey said. “We’re not leaving until we know if he’s here or not.” She walked over to Mira and nudged her with her foot. “Wake up Mira.” She didn’t move.

“Mira,” Rey said louder, as she crouched down next to her friend, but keeping the hunky Tlaloc in sight. “Wake the hell up. If you don’t, I will tell your boyfriend you fainted like a little girl at the sight of a naked man.”

Rey wasn’t sure if Mira heard or not, but she did stir, blink, and then open her eyes. “What? What happened?”

“You took one look at the hot naked guy and fainted,” Rey said with a little smile. As she stood, she held out her hand to help her friend up. “No more sleeping on the job. We’ve got to find any other prisoners and get them and us out of here before more bad guys arrive.”

Mira levered herself up onto her feet, tripping on the sheet a little, then saw Tlaloc again. This time, her reaction was to launch herself at him. Surprised, he went down from a tackle aimed at his midsection, but he rolled and kicked her right over his head. He was on his feet and ready in an instant while Mira went sprawling.

“God damn it, Mira! Stop!” Rey rushed to put herself between Mira and Tlaloc, her anger causing her brambles to shift and her thorns to lengthen. “We don’t have time for this. We’re here to save Jason. Remember? We don’t have time for this shit.”

“He’s dangerous,” Mira stated. Her sheet had come loose when Tlaloc sent her flying and she noticed he was looking at her. Normally unperturbed at being naked or stared at, she was not comfortable with a Tlaloc’s openly assessing stare. To Rey’s relief she didn’t try to attack him again, but instead grabbed the sheet and wrapped it around herself again. “And he needs to cover himself,” she muttered.

Rey rolled her eyes. “I’ve got some sweats in the trunk of the car that might fit him. I keep a bunch of stuff for the pack, in case of emergencies. Now come on.”

She looks at Tlaloc. “Can you… Oh for god sake.” Of all the times for Rey to see a guy aroused by some rough play. She put her attention back on the man’s face. “Can you show us where they keep the people being held here?”

He gestured with his hands. “All around. Many were sold today. Only the newest ones, not yet broken, or those that did not meet expectations such as myself, remain. It should be safe to open these now.” He presented his chained manacles to Rey.

As Rey put her fingers into her pocket to retrieve the keys, she pauses for a moment. “You’re a shifter, but not what they wanted.” She looks from the manacles back to his face, and it is obvious from the look on her face that she knows what he is. “Forgive me for being hesitant, but are you sure you’ve got things under control?”

He nodded.

“I have your word on that? Because I really would like to free you,” she says as she pulls the keys out of her pocket.

Tlaloc took a deep breath through his nose. “I am sure,” he said.

A little smile curved Rey’s lips. “Interesting smells in this place, aren’t there.’ She approached him, key in hand, to open the manacles, but still prepared for treachery. He didn’t move or change position, but remained standing with his arms toward her so she could get to the locks.

Rey allowed the chains to fall to the ground. “I’ll see about getting rid of these,” she said. There was no way she would leave these behind so that they could be used against Ferals ever again. “Now, we have to find the others.”

“I’ll find something to wear,” he told them. “They dropped my clothes in a foot locker over there.” He pointed through another curtained-off area that appeared to be some kind of shower with a drain set in the floor. Along one side the fuzzy image of a foot locker could be seen through the semi-translucent curtains. He made his way over to the curtains, paused to glance back at the women and caught Mira and Rey watching him. He smiled and ducked through the curtains. He found his jeans and pulled them on, then retrieved a phone and stuck that in his pocket before returning to help Rey and Mira with their search.

It took only a few minutes to quickly run through the place and find two mortals and Jason in cages. The mortals were terrified and refused to leave, but Jason was quick about joining them. The sound of banging and a heavy docking door being rolled up told them that their time was up.

“We’ve got to grab those chains and go,” Rey said softly. “Now.” She looked around to see if there was an exit closer to them that would allow an easy way out.

That meant it was up to Mira to pick up the heavy silvered things. “Oof,” Mira said. They didn’t seem like they should be long or heavy, though the manacles were certainly not lightweight. She struggled with them, but as the only one strong enough that would also not be burned by the silver, it was up to her.

Jason, having been cramped in the cage all night, was stiff and limped along. Tlaloc took up the rear. Soon the four of them were racing through the front office, and out onto the street. Since company was arriving at the loading dock, they wouldn’t be seen on this side of the building.

Because they were the only ones out on the street this time of the early morning, they were conspicuous. So, they lost no time getting into Rey’s car.

After tossing the chains and manacles into the trunk, Jason and Mira, being smaller than Tlaloc, squeezed in the back seat with the sleeping satyr (who looked like an average joe to most people, including Jason and Tlaloc).

Mira remarked. “Hey Rey? Be careful who gets hold of those chains, okay? They aren’t pure silver.” Her hint was clear; they probably had a wrought iron core. That meant they’d be effective on primals -- and even the fae.

“I’ve already got someone in mind,” Rey replied easily as she pulled out onto the street and away from the warehouse. She didn’t speed, just drove as normal, like she drove long these dark, deserted streets every night.

“How did they grab you?” Rey asked Tlaloc. She wanted to know if there was a pattern to how the victims were being kidnapped, or if it was however the kidnappers found most convenient. She also wanted to know if he was the cat Chase had caught scent of in the hills.

“I was overly curious. I had not encountered one of their kind before. I walked into an ambush and shifted quite… reflexively. But once they had silver on me, they were able to capture me,” he said.

“They know what they are doing,” Rey said with disgust. “I wish there was a way to shut them down permanently.”

Tlaloc didn’t have anything to contribute to that wish, though he’d be all for it. “I’m very glad to have met the two of you tonight.”

“I’ll bet,” Mira muttered loud enough for everyone to hear. She was still highly suspicious of Tlaloc.

He’d picked up on Jason’s name when they called out to him in the warehouse. “I know Jason and I will always remember your gracious rescue, Rey Lafitte. And,” he craned his neck to look at Mira, “is it Mira?”

She sat back and looked out the window. Jason misread her body language and helpfully added, “That’s right. Mira Naia. Ow!” His “help” earned him a stomped foot.

Tlaloc nodded at Mira and turned to face forward again. “Rey Lafitte and Mira Naia. I’m glad to have met you both. May I have permission to get in touch with you both again?”

Rey smiled. “Now why would you want to do that?” she asked. Most people would turn their backs and keep walking, eager to put what had happened behind them.

“I think the least I could do is treat you both to dinner for your help,” he said.

The image of Mira stabbing Tlaloc with a fork or steak knife popped into Rey’s head. “I suppose that would be alright.” If only to help Mira see not all jaguar shifters are rapists who follow their victims thousands of miles in order to find them again. Even if this one was one of the Cursed.

“How might I reach you?” He didn’t try to ask Mira since Rey was being more friendly.

Rey gave him her cell phone number. “If I don’t answer, please leave a message. I don’t always have the ringer on my phone turned up.”

“As your cowboys say, ‘much obliged’.”

About a minute later he said, “If you pull over here, this is far enough I think. I see dawn is here as well.”

“Wait,” Mira said. “I have some questions for you.”

“Perhaps over dinner? I will call --”

“I don’t have a phone,” Mira interrupted rudely.

“-- your friend to make arrangements perhaps in a few days. I am certain we will have good conversations together, sí?” He seemed unbothered by Mira’s pointed reactions and rudeness.

As Rey slowed the car and pulled over by the side of the road, she looked around, trying to recognize - and remember - where she was dropping Tlaloc off. “I’m glad we were able to help you tonight,” she said.

“Not half as glad as I am, I am sure,” he said with a grateful smile. He opened the door and stepped out. He waved goodbye as Rey pulled away.

Mira turned in her seat to watch him as they pulled away. A few moments later she said, “What’s that? What is that? No! No no no!!”

“Jesus,” Jason remarked. “For a hot chick you are kind of a basket case.” Which was something he should never, ever say to someone like Mira. Luckily for him, she was too busy freaking out over something.

Rey checked her rearview mirror and saw Tlaloc turning and walking away, his cell phone in his hand. He was tapping on it, likely adding Rey’s number before he forgot it.

“Mira,” Rey said. “Mira. Chill. I’m sure he’s not doing what you think he’s doing.” Which, Rey was certain, reporting back to his jaguar gang as to Mira’s whereabouts so they could find her and have a gangbang.

Mira turned around in her seat, a hopeless look on her face. “No!” she wailed. “You don’t understand! He’s got my cell phone!”