Chase said nothing, just opened his arms. I walked into his embrace, and he pulled me close. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm sorry I was such an ass out there on the porch. I know what you are, and I love what you are. I don't want you to change just for me, but it's hard. I've never felt this way about a woman before. I never expected to feel like this."
I wrapped my arms around his waist and rested my head on his shoulder. "My mother and father made it work, Chase, but I don't know if I can. I'm… I'm a Windwalker. I don't fit in anywhere. Can you live with uncertainty? Can you live with the possibility that I might sleep with someone else? I'm not like Camille. I'm not experienced enough to know what I want yet. I'm still new at this whole sex thing, but my hormones have woken up, and for the Fae, they're a powerful and driving force."
Chase kissed my forehead, then tipped my chin up and kissed me on the lips. "I guess I'll have to live with it. I wondered how Trillian and Morio could stand sharing Camille, but I think I understand. Being with you part of the time is better than the thought of never touching you again, never making love to you, never kissing you."
I swallowed a lump that rose straight from my heart to my throat. I wanted to tell him that I'd be his. I wanted to make the promises that I knew he wanted to hear. But I couldn't. And I wouldn't lie to him or to myself. So I did the next best thing. I took his hand and led him up to my bedroom.
* * *
As I closed the bedroom door, Chase gave me a long, smoldering look. My stomach lurched, and suddenly, the only thing I could think about was screwing our brains out. He usually took the lead, but this time, I wanted to be in charge.
I took two quick steps and, before he could speak, pushed him back onto my big four-poster bed. His eyes widened with surprise as I straddled him, and he gave me a wicked grin that told me he didn't mind being on the bottom one bit.
I unfastened his shirt, one button at a time, leaning over to trail kisses down his chest as I pulled away the material. I let my tongue linger on his salty skin, then kiss by kiss, inched my way down. As I unbuckled his belt, I was gratified to see the impression I'd made. He moaned gently as I slid his pants down.
"Delilah-" he started to say, but I shushed him, slowly licking the length of his cock, using only the tip of my tongue as I worked my way from the root to the head. I couldn't take him fully in my mouth-we'd tried that and lost the battle to my fangs-but I tickled him, fluttering lightly up and down his rigid length. The scent of his lust was heady as he gently reached down to run his fingers through my hair.
Leaning back, I pulled off my turtleneck. Chase stared at me with naked lust, his gaze taking in every movement I made, every jiggle and bounce of my breasts as I unhooked my bra. I pushed myself off the bed, quickly unzipping my jeans and stepping out of them. Chase folded his hands under his head, silently watching as I slid my panties down my hips.
Somehow understanding that I needed to call the shots, he waited. I knelt by his feet and took off his shoes, then helped him out of his pants. As he sat up, I climbed astride his lap, and he wrapped his arms around my lower back, his lips closing around my nipple. The warmth of his tongue on my skin echoed through my body, and I let out a little sigh as he slid one of his hands between my legs, fingering me gently at first. The tension began to build, rippling through my body until it cascaded into a tidal wave.
The sight of him, all sweaty with breath coming hard, pushed me over the edge, and I squirmed, lowering myself onto his hips, sliding down his length with silken ease, nestling him as deep inside me as he could get. Pushing him back on the bed, I leaned down to kiss him.
Chase wrapped his arms around my waist, holding me tight. As our rhythms flowed into synch, I forgot about the Autumn Lord, forgot about the war, forgot about everything except the rocking of our bodies.
As we were lying in bed afterward, Chase changed his nicotine patch, slapping a new one on his shoulder, while I sipped a bottle of root beer. Reluctantly, I brought myself back to the present and our problems.
"Chase, remember I mentioned what the Autumn Lord said about the Hunters Moon Clan?" I dug into my nightstand, looking for a candy bar. Success! A Snickers was hiding right below the notepad that I kept at the ready for any odd ideas that might surface while I was sleeping.
Chase adjusted the comforter-a thick, blue patchwork quilt-so that it covered his chest. "Damn it's cold. Has the snow let up yet?"
"Dunno, but I'll check." I padded over to the window, shivering in the chill of the room. Outside, the snow had picked up, and I estimated there was a good three inches on the roof right now. "Nope, and it doesn't look like it's going to. I think we're in for quite a storm. So, do you?"
"Do I what? Oh, you mean the werespiders. No, not really. I kind of lost track of things when the whole Death Maiden business came up." He finished applying the new patch and dropped the old one in the garbage. "Hey, I'm going down a step tomorrow. I may actually kick this habit because of you, babe."
I gave him one of my happy smiles. Cigarette smoke bothered me so much that I went to great lengths to avoid it. And he'd be healthier when he quit.
"Good for you! I'm proud of you," I said, unwrapping the candy, ready to scarf the entire thing down. He looked at the chocolate bar with those puppy-dog eyes of his, and I relented, handing him half of it. "Why I was asking was this: the waterfall that the Autumn Lord mentioned is supposed to be in a city east of Seattle. Do you know anything about any waterfalls around here?"
I swallowed the last bite of chocolate and jumped out of bed to slip into my pajamas. Contrary to popular belief, the heat in our house sure didn't rise to the top. It just seeped out the cracks. My floor was always the coldest.
Chase thought for a moment. "Yeah, actually, I think I know what he was talking about. The town of Snoqualmie is just east of Issaquah, and Snoqualmie Falls are there. They're beautiful-they were featured in the show Twin Peaks some years back. Weird-ass show, though now it seems tame compared to what life's become with you guys around. Anyway, there's a lodge there, very pretty place. And once you hit Snoqualmie, you're heading into the foothills of the Cascades. A lot of undeveloped country out there."
"Foothills… that fits. The Autumn Lord said we'd find their nest in the foothills near this waterfall. It's perfect. Close enough to the city that it wouldn't take them long to drive in, yet out where they won't be noticed." I thought about it for a moment. "Chase, we have to hunt them down. Zachary's going to keep an eye on Tyler. If he's mixed up with this, then he's probably going back to the nest every now and then, especially if he doesn't think anybody's onto him
Chase flinched at Zach's name but let it pass without comment. "I'm tempted to sneak onto the Puma Pride's land and tail this guy the minute he leaves the compound."
I gave him a sideways glance. "I could do that. Or Morio. Or both of us. If I was in my tabby form, or Morio in his fox form, it would be easy enough to hide without attracting attention."
"They know you're a werecat, though, don't they?" Chase shook his head. "It might be better to send Morio in. I don't like the thought of you trying to fend off a racing puma. Morio can run a lot faster than you in his superhero form, can't he?"
I snorted. "Superhero? That's a good one. I'm going to have to tell him what you said. But yeah, you're right. Morio's greased lightning when he's in fox form. We can send him in, and he can let us know when Tyler's getting ready to leave the compound."
Chase yawned and leaned back against the headboard, playing with the necklace of worry stones I'd bought for him. He used them to keep his hands busy and keep his mind off what it would be like to be holding a cigarette.
"I've been meaning to ask you. What do you think the connections between the murder victims are? I know they're all members of the Puma Pride Clan, so don't even start with that, but what else? Why them? Why were they killed and not anybody else?" He frowned. "It seems so random to me."
I pulled my knees up to my chest and gave a little purp. Chase was always good at thinking of the questions that eluded me. Of course, being a detective was his job, while being an agent for the OIA was more of a hobby for me. It's true that I'd been learning the ropes of the PI business, but at home my assignments had mainly been being sent in to rescue someone, or to hunt down criminals and take them out. The OIA wasn't known for its apprehension ratio so much as for its extermination record.
"I'm not sure. Several of them were off the books, if you'll remember. They didn't even try to pass in society and kept to their own kind."
Chase let out a little sigh. "Seems like a lonely life to me. It must have been hard to be an Earthside Supe before you guys opened the portals. They had to hide or pass. I feel sorry for them."
"Humans rule this world, or so they think, but there have been minority groups down through history, Chase. There's always somebody on top, and too often they've gotten there on the shoulders of those who don't have the strength or numbers to protest." I slipped out from under the covers. "Hold on a minute; I'll be right back."
I hurried into my studio, where I kept my laptop, and then scampered back into bed. Plugging it into the outlet by my nightstand, I turned it on and waited for it to boot up. After typing my password in, I pulled up a browser.
"What are you doing?" Chase asked, scooting closer so he could look over my shoulder.
"I'm going to look up my notes on the victims." I pulled up Note One and clicked on the tab labeled Puma Pride, then the section I'd created for notes about the victims. "They had two things in common. One, they were all members of the Puma Pride."
"Not all," Chase said. "Don't forget about the plumber guy. Ben Jones?"
"You're right-okay, but Ben seems to be the lone oddball. Maybe the murderer thought he was a member of the Pride? Anyway, the other commonality is that they were found out by the arrastra in Pinnacle Creek. And that's right below Pinnacle Rock, where we found the cave that the werespiders were using."
I thought about it for a moment. "You know what I think? I don't think there is a pattern other than the werespiders believing they were all Puma Pride members. I think that they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But nobody is safe on that land now. The Hunters Moon Clan has to know their cave's been discovered, especially if Tyler's mixed up in this. They won't wait much longer before they start moving toward the houses. They're taking down the entire clan as they search for any sign of the second spirit seal. My guess is that Kyoka's killing off the Puma Pride members for revenge. Wipe out the Puma Pride, get the spirit seal, kill two birds with one stone."
"So Shadow Wing reincarnated this Kyoka as a werepuma?" Chase looked confused. "I don't understand how that works."
"Neither do I, but it's my bet that Kyoka wasn't reincarnated. I think he stole a body. Shamans can do that, if they're strong enough, and Kyoka had to be incredibly strong to turn his tribe into werespiders. With the other two newcomers to the Pride checking out, ten to one it's Tyler. And Tyler's probably the real name of whoever it was that owned that body before Kyoka took possession as a walk-in."
Walkins were souls who literally went on body-snatching missions. They either obliterated or possessed a soul, imposing their will over that of the original host. It was a frightening power, and rare, but it happened from time to time. Tyler must have been weak-willed, sickly, or willing to let himself be used. Or Kyoka was just a freakishly strong shaman.
"Walkins," Chase said. "I've heard of them but never really believed in their existence. Of course, I didn't believe in a lot of things until you girls came along." He let out a rueful laugh. "Boy, did I have a lot to learn. Looks like I still do. Makes work a blast, though."
"Speaking of work, do you still have a job with the force since the OIA is pulling out?"
"Yeah, though Devins would give his right arm to bust my butt down to the street again. But I've done too much for the department. They'll probably just put me back on a basic beat. Homicide, no doubt."
"Hmmm," I said, thinking. "Who does the OIA officially report to in your department?"
Chase frowned. "Me. Why?"
I grinned. "Good. And who else do they talk to there?" The idea just seemed better and better to me. We could create our own OIA and still have full use of the department's files.
"Just the medics-wait a minute, I think I can see where you're going with this. You want me to go on like nothing happened!" He rolled out of bed and strode toward the bathroom. "That's ridiculous. We're bound to get caught."
"How?" I called out, following him and standing beside the closed door. "Devins doesn't ever ask you what's going on. You, yourself, told me that he doesn't give a damn unless it's something that could make him look like a hero. The medics report to you, and they're all elves. They're not going to pull out. It's perfect. We can remake the OIA the way it should be run. Once we contact the other agents who are staying here, we can include them in the loop. Since they're pro-Tanaquar, they'll be eager to help. I'm certain of it!"
Chase finished peeing and came out of the room, wiping his hands on the towel. I liked that he was clean. He smelled like the wildflower soap I had on the vanity counter.