Stakeout

“Did you know Neptune and Uranus may have oceans of liquid diamond?” Luis asked.

Claudia murmured, without paying much attention, “Really?”

“There may be diamond icebergs in the oceans,” he told her. “Man, if only the Djinn could travel that far. If we could bargain with a Djinn to bring back one of those icebergs, we’d be so rich.”

That caught her attention. She squinted at him. “What are you reading, National Enquirer?”

He gave her a look filled with lazy scorn. “As if. It’s a physics website.”

“Hm.” She turned back to the dockside warehouse they were watching.

The Miami night was cloudy and overcast, and it was both muggy and hot as they lounged in Luis’s Mustang, but it didn’t make sense to keep the car running for hours so they turned it on for bursts of cool air but spent the rest of the time sweltering with the windows down.

Luis had put the driver’s seat back as far as it would go, and he had one boot propped on the edge of the seat while he toyed with his smartphone. The big, powerful muscle car suited him. If pressed, Claudia would have pretended to be too cool to admit to sneaking sidelong glances at him, but that’s what she was doing.

In his human form, Luis was one of the biggest Wyr she had ever met, well over six feet tall and built like a linebacker, with raven black hair that he never managed to keep cut at a reasonable length, the kind of Latino good looks that made even the smartest women tongue tied idiots around him (Claudia should know; she was one of them), and a bitter chocolate, intelligent gaze that had a way of making her feel warm all over.

He was smart, dangerous, utterly loyal, completely devoted to her, and a good fifteen years younger than she was. At first she had tried to deny the deep soul connection that had developed between them, to deny him, but he wouldn’t listen to reason. When they’d met, he’d been an investigator for the Elder tribunal and close to death. After she had saved his life and together they had taken down the man responsible, he had followed her across the country and argued his way into her life.

When he had sensed she had erected a wall between them that no words could penetrate, with a simple, wily wisdom that overturned everything, he had turned into his Wyr form, an immense black Rottweiller-looking dog, and laid down in front of her with a sigh.

And rested his head on her foot.

The memory made her smile. She’d never had a chance.

So, what did one do when one was a forty-year-old woman who had just been handed a treasure like Luis, who had mated with her and would never leave her? She was an army veteran and kept herself in peak physical condition, but not only was she older than he was, she was human too. They literally had different life spans, and she couldn’t bear the thought of being the cause of his early death. The problem had kept her up at night.

When a solution had come, it had been breathtaking in its simplicity. Both Claudia and Luis had been job hunting at the time, and they had applied to work at a new investigations agency in Miami, which happened to be run by Carling Severan, one of the most famous Vampyres in the world and her mate, former Wyr sentinel Rune Ainissesthai.

Carling hadn’t been looking to take on any Vampyre attendants, and Claudia certainly hadn’t considered such an option. But once they had met, they quickly realized there were advantages to both parties and came to an agreement—as long as Claudia worked for the agency, she would also offer blood to Carling.

Carling gained a safe source of nourishment outside her mate, which was useful whenever Rune was called away. In return, Claudia would gain all the enhancements that Vampyre attendants did. She would be stronger and faster than a normal human, and she would also live longer, which helped her sleep at night and fully accept Luis as her mate. It was a good solution that worked for everyone.

Tonight, they were working a local case that had turned into a snoozefest. Rune had gotten a tip that Jimmy Hidalgo, a man notorious for smuggling illegal magic items into the U.S., would be landing a shipment at the warehouse sometime in the next week. The agency’s client had lost a daughter to one of those illegal magic items and wanted Hidalgo’s operation stopped. This was the third night of their stakeout, and they were both getting bored. To try to combat boredom, they took turns watching the warehouse in hour-long shifts.

The alarm on Luis’s phone sounded, and he clicked it off. “Your turn. Why don’t you try to take a nap?”

“Sounds good to me.” She groaned in relief, felt for the lever on her seat and put the back all the way down so she could stretch out as much as possible. “Wake me in an hour.”

She had already closed her eyes, so when Luis’s warm mouth settled over hers it made her start. He murmured, “Sorry. Didn’t mean to make you jump.”

“Mm.” Half opening her eyes, she kissed him back. He was a massive, shadowed bulk in the confines of the car. “This isn’t doing our job.”

“When you stretched out like that, you looked so sexy I couldn’t resist.”

Chuckling, she played with a strand of his overlong hair. “We’ve been living in this car for three nights. There isn’t anything sexy about this.”

“I beg to differ. I would rather do nothing with you than do anything with anybody else.” With obvious reluctance, he straightened. “Why don’t you nap longer than an hour, if you want? I’m not sleepy.”

“Let’s play it by ear,” she murmured, settling into as comfortable a position as she could. Napping in a car, no matter how nice it was, wasn’t nearly as refreshing as stretching out on a bed. “I doubt I’ll really fall asleep anyway. Just want to rest my eyes.”

“Okay.” He took her hand and laced his fingers through hers.

Warmed by the gesture, she squeezed his hand then drifted into a doze.

When his hand tightened on hers, she came awake all at once, a product of her years in the army. “What is it?”

“A boat’s coming in,” he whispered. “And Jimmy Hidalgo is on it.”

She sat up fast to study the deep sea fishing boat that was coming to settle gently at the warehouse dock. They’d both seen photos of Hidalgo, who was unmistakable on the deck, standing beside two other men.

Grabbing her phone, she texted Rune. Hidalgo’s here. You want us to take him right now, or just monitor the unloading of the shipment first? We can take photos for evidence.

Even though her phone said it was almost four in the morning, Rune responded almost immediately. We don’t need photos. The shipment will be enough. Take him. You need backup?

She showed Luis the text and watched the calculation in his expression. There were three men on the deck. Assorted dangerous magic items in the shipment. At least one other man at the helm, possibly two. The boat couldn’t carry any more.

Then she watched a slow grin spread over Luis’s face. As he shook his head, she grinned back.

She texted: Naw. We got this.

Good deal, Rune replied. Call me when it’s done.

She put her phone on vibrate and slipped it into her pocket. Then, both she and Luis eased out of the car. Sound carried over the water, so neither one of them fully closed their doors. Luis glided up beside her. He looked calm, interested. Sexy as hell. He’d slipped a piece of gum into his mouth and chewed it slowly.

He nodded in the direction of the alley. “I’ll go around and slip onto the boat. I want to get the pilot first so he can’t take off again.”

“Sounds good.”

He kissed her, swift and hard. His breath tasted of peppermint. “See you in a few minutes.”

She touched his lean cheek. Loving him the way she did and working with him…

She was having the time of her life.

“Go,” she said.

He shot off down the alley silently.

She started to chuckle. He’d left the gum in her mouth. Chewing it, she leaned back against the fender of the Mustang and waited. Those poor bastards on the boat didn’t stand a chance.