Kieran Smith parked his brand new Harley two blocks up on Falcon Ave from the Murphy Institute before jogging toward the building. Anyone else who walked by wouldn’t think there was anything weird about the normal-looking place, but inside an entire division of supernatural people worked tirelessly to save the world from the paranormal creatures that would harm them. Or protected the mystical citizens from the humans that hunted them for far worse reasons. The reason Kieran had gotten involved with them in the first place.
As a highly trained agent for the secret agency, the Organization, Kieran could just walk in through the front door if he wanted. Instead, he stopped right outside the line of sight of the guardhouse. The building had underground parking for their agents, but everyone had to be authorized to get in. Or at least they were supposed to be. Kieran had other plans.
Spotting the familiar figure inside the tiny house, Kieran grinned. His good old buddy Charlie. Actually, the little shifter was terrified of Kieran. Anytime Kieran drove by or was in the passenger seat of a vehicle, Charlie would hit the button to open the gates as fast as he could before scrambling away. The fear that wafted off Charlie would normally send Kieran’s predator instincts through the roof, but luckily he had much more control than other Walkers. So he just enjoyed screwing with the man.
And maybe, just maybe, he’d flashed his fangs at the small shifter one too many times, but seriously, as an agent, Charlie should really be able to handle him.
“Let’s have some fun,” Kieran whispered to himself as he pressed back against a neighboring wall. Using the supernatural speed of his Day Walker genes, Kieran rushed right past the guard with only a dozen feet between them.
That was too easy. For an association that employed the best, brightest and most dangerous paranormal people, their security was really lacking. He’d already broken in once before. The first time he’d been in the place and still he’d gotten what he’d wanted. Of course, he’d also gotten caught. This time he had an even better plan. Kieran strolled casually across the parking garage, not worried about the cameras at all. Inside his pocket he fingered the little device he’d pressed as he’d gotten in. The cameras should now be playing an animated cartoon from Japan. That should give security a little shock. But that also meant he needed to hurry before they got off their lazy asses and investigated. Not that Kieran knew if they were lazy or not, but that was beside the point.
He hurried over to the shiny black SUV parked in the corner in one of the few reserved spots in the parking garage. The director, Marcello Sparro, had just gotten the new ride and Kieran was sure he would have a state-of-the-art alarm system. In fact, he was counting on it.
Kieran glanced around quickly. His senses told him he was alone, but he double-checked before he walked right up to the vehicle. He had to fight the temptation to see if he could break in without setting off the alarm. He was almost certain he could, but Kieran knew he was running out of time. Maybe he’d save that for another day when he wanted to piss off his new boss.
Instead Kieran began to rock the SUV back and forth. It only took until his second push to have the loud, piercing alarm blare. Perfect.
Kieran leapt away before he ran to the front again. He hid in the shadows as Charlie raced by him. Just as planned. Kieran rushed back to the guardhouse and grinned at seeing Charlie hadn’t locked it behind him. He pushed the door open and grabbed the extra radio off the counter. Now he would be able to hear the communication between the agents. He turned the small device on and immediately picked up the chaotic chatter.
No one knew what was going on or who was responsible. Kieran backed out of the building before pressing the knob to lock it up. Since Charlie’s keys were sitting next to the small television, the poor shifter wouldn’t be able to get back in.
He felt a small twinge of regret but quickly pushed it away. He was doing this to show Charlie and all the other agents they had a lot more training to do. He’d seen so many holes in security and he was going to help plug them up. He just happened to be an asshole, so in his opinion the best way to show the company was to make everyone else feel like fucking idiots. Plus, anything that pissed off the director made Kieran happy.
Although he knew two people who would be mad at his latest stunt, since both his lover Dakota and his partner Remy had taken to not leaving him alone at the office in an attempt to make sure he was behaving properly. They’d both gotten busy earlier and he’d found himself driving to work by alone. Really, he could blame them for not keeping a better eye on him. He chuckled and thought about how that argument would play out.
The sound of running footsteps reached him, so Kieran knew he had to get a move on.
Kieran double-timed it to the stairwell he normally used. To move around inside the building, agents were required to use the elevators that were only operable with an authorized key card. That way the higher ups could track their agents. Kieran refused to use the elevators and on his first day there had disabled the stairway door monitors. They’d never been fixed.
Pounding up the stairs, he could hear agents scrambling around on their level even through the thick fire doors. His hearing was better than a shifter’s, so he knew just where to go. This little experiment was turning out better than he could have hoped.
He reached the second floor and skittered to a stop. His partner, Remy, was leaning casually against the exit with his arms folded across his chest. Fuck, he had two more parts of his plan to carry out.
“Really?” Remy drawled.
“What? I just got here—what’s going on?”
Remy snorted. “I watched your entire show.”
“And you didn’t interfere?” Kieran asked, surprised.
“I figured it would just be easier to let you do your thing. Just answer me one question.”
“Okay,” Kieran agreed. There was no telling what was going on in Remy’s head. While his partner was trying to keep him out of trouble, he also helped him out from time to time.
“They need to tighten security. Just thought I’d help out.”
“And you couldn’t just send a report?”
“That’s two questions,” Kieran pointed out.
Remy pushed off the wall while shaking his head. “Come on, we got a call to take.”
“But I want to watch them scramble around,” Kieran whined.
“Do you really want to be here when Sparro finds out it was you who was responsible?”
“What makes you think he will? I never checked in tonight.”
“Because no one else would be as stupid.”
“I really don’t think calling me stupid is nice,” Kieran pouted.
“It’s true, though.” Remy slapped him on the back. “Now let’s go.”
Kieran knew his partner was right, but he’d really been looking forward to seeing the look on Director Sparro’s face when he figured out what Kieran had done. It was petty, but since Kieran and Sparro’s first meeting had ended with Sparro besting him, Kieran was still looking for revenge.
The last month had been full of too many changes for Kieran and he blamed Sparro for most of them.
If Sparro hadn’t allowed Kieran’s real boss Caspar to take a dangerous undercover assignment, Kieran would still be working for Caspar and wouldn’t be in this city in the first place. Plus, he wouldn’t be struggling with his feelings for a certain sexy jaguar shifter. Of course, if he hadn’t been transferred to Las Vegas, he wouldn’t have met Dakota and, shifter or not, Kieran was pretty sure he was in love with her. Then there was the ghost from his past, the only man who had seen Kieran going through the darkest time of his life. Kieran and Jackson had a bond only two men who’d survived hell could form. If he hadn’t landed in Vegas, Kieran would still believe his old friend dead.
So maybe the changes weren’t all bad.
That was a thought for another day.
“Hurry,” Remy called back over his shoulder. “We want to get away before anyone sees us.”
“Hey, I’m waiting on you, fur ball,” Kieran teased.
As expected, Remy growled before he sped up. They reached the ground floor and burst through the door into complete and utter chaos. Remy grabbed Kieran’s arm and yanked him around a running agent and away. Remy pointed to one of the black SUVs the agents on shift used. Kieran hated the damn vehicles, preferring his bike, but Remy refused to ride with him. Something about a shifter not being able to survive a hundred-mile-an-hour crash no matter how easily he normally healed.
Remy ran over to the driver’s side, so Kieran threw open the passenger door and jumped inside. Before Kieran even had his seat belt on, Remy was taking off. Kieran glanced behind him and grinned. No one had even been paying attention to them. He spotted Charlie in front of his guardhouse, trying to yank the door open. Kieran had created enough of a mess that he could hold off on the other pranks he had planned. It might even work out better, since Sparro was sure to still be pissed for a while.
“Dakota is going to kick my ass,” Remy muttered.
Kieran couldn’t help but smile. His jaguar shifter was a force to be reckoned with and she was going to blame Remy for not watching Kieran better. Although he was sure she’d have a few choice words for him as well. Except Kieran knew how to distract his lover. So, while she might be mad, there was no way she’d stay so.
“You really should’ve picked me up on the way to the office.”
“You’re a grown fucking man!” Remy shouted. “I had to take a call from the local Alpha and be there early. It would have been just as bad if you’d been in the office for two hours longer than normal.”
“That’s a good point,” Kieran agreed. “Maybe she won’t be too upset with you.”
His partner only glared at him before turning his attention back to the road. Kieran watched the scenery fly by as they headed away from the middle of the city. He preferred the less populated areas, but living in a hotel on the Strip, and with the office not far from it, he always seemed to be surrounded by people. He hated people.
“What did the Alpha want?” Kieran asked. Remy was a wolf shifter, but he didn’t belong to the local Pack. Instead, he remained bonded to his birth Pack, which was made up of his family. It was rare for an Organization agent to have contact with family, but Remy’s relatives were different. Kieran loved that his best friend still had that connection. Even if he was a little envious.
“Another Pack member disappeared,” Remy told him.
“Shit!” That was the second wolf and fourth shifter total that had gone missing in the past month and a half. From what Kieran could piece together, the disappearances had started right before he’d gotten into town. Remy and he had only been looking into them for the past two weeks, though. The other agents that had been in charge of the case had been reassigned when the Alpha refused to work with them. It had taken some digging around, or bribing the hacker from his old division, to find out what had happened.
Instead of looking for the wolf shifter that had never returned to the Pack house, the agents had been stopping in at strip joints and spending their money on booze and women. The Alpha, frustrated at the lack of progress, had ordered the agents followed by some of his enforcers and they’d reported back their findings to the Alpha.
Kieran would have loved to have been a fly in the wall when the Alpha had shown up at their office and screamed at Sparro. From what the gossip mill shared, Sparro and the Alpha had almost come to blows. But when things had finally calmed down, the two agents had been suspended and sent somewhere like Alaska while Remy and Kieran had taken over the search.
Remy being a wolf shifter had helped calm the Alpha. And since Kieran never met with any of the shifters, neither of them had to worry about Kieran pissing the Alpha off.
Leaving Remy in charge of all contact worked best for them.
“The file’s in the back seat,” Remy said.
Kieran reached out and grabbed the manila folder lying in the back of the car. It had grown thick in the past few weeks while Kieran and Remy had added notes as they’d investigated. Every night for fourteen nights they’d been trying to find a link between the three, now four shifters that had disappeared, and had already gathered more information than the first idiot agents.
“Where are we headed?” he asked as he opened the folder.
“The tunnels. Last place the wolf, Max, was seen,” Remy informed him.
Max Webb was twenty-seven years old, dark-haired and hazel-eyed. A reporter for one of the local news stations, he’d been interviewing some of the tunnel people when he hadn’t returned to work or the territory. Kieran would have suspected someone hadn’t liked Max looking into the very quiet, secretive community of the tunnel people, but with other shifters missing, all avenues would have to be investigated.
“We’re meeting with the guy the Alpha said was the last to speak to Max,” Remy said.
“That can’t be good.”
“The Alpha vouched for him. Stated he was being cooperative and wanted to help Max.”
Kieran snorted. The Alpha had probably applied some pressure to get that promise. Even he’d heard the local Alpha was sort of a badass. Kieran would never give much credit to a shifter, but from what he’d heard about the Alpha, Damon, even Kieran could admit the man did a damn good job of running a Pack.
“Just let me do the talking to this guy,” Remy requested.
Kieran shrugged. Didn’t matter to him. “Just park far enough away that we can check out the area first.” It might be Remy’s job to handle interviews, but Kieran would make sure his partner was safe. “This isn’t the kind of place we want to be strolling around in the dark.”
“Okay,” Remy agreed easily.
The farther away from the busy tourist roads they got, the more Kieran felt at home. If he had his choice, he’d spend all his time outdoors, like he’d used to when he first started with the Organization.
In the old days, he’d be going up and down the streets and alleys, hoping to come across a paranormal creating trouble. Now there was a lot more investigating than there’d ever been before. Kieran was still hunting late at night or when no one else knew. Actually, both Remy and Dakota probably knew Kieran didn’t just come across the situations that led him to call for a car to pick up suspects he’d taken down. Neither said anything to him, and he didn’t think they would unless he got hurt. And that wasn’t going to happen.
Remy pulled off to the side of the road and Kieran peered down at the drainage ditch and tunnels beyond. There didn’t seem to be anyone around, but he was still cautious when it came to his partner.
“Ready?” Remy asked.
“Where you meeting this guy?” Kieran questioned as he climbed out of the SUV.
“At the entrance. He’s sort of nervous about talking to me.”
“He should be,” Kieran muttered. He really didn’t like this. His gut was screaming at him that he and Remy were walking into a trap.
“Just go.” Remy waved him on.
The shadows deepened the closer Kieran and Remy got to the entrance of the tunnels. When Kieran had first arrived in Las Vegas, he’d had no idea there was an entire underground community beneath the city. Now he was more familiar with the area, he knew the dangers that lurked around him. He’d only been there once before, when he’d been tracking a thief who was a shifter and hiding out. The residents had been wary of him, but when Kieran had only taken his suspect and left them alone, they’d disappeared without trying to stop him. Kieran was thankful for that. He might be an asshole, but he never hurt innocents.
Still, coming down here again made Kieran nervous. Sure, most of the homeless people were harmless, but not all of them. There would always be an element of society that would abuse and take advantage of the less fortunate. Those types thrived in this environment.
“Are you sure about this contact?” Kieran asked his partner. Remy had great instincts when it came to investigating cases, which was why he was always the one to communicate with witnesses or potential suspects. In the past, when they’d worked with Angel as their third partner, Kieran hadn’t been brought in until Remy and Angel were ready to take down the bad guy.
But with the recent changes, he and Remy were now working in a new city, under a new boss, and Kieran served as Remy’s backup all the time. It wasn’t how Kieran liked to work, but for the moment he was playing nice. Or, at least, making it appear so. If his little prank earlier didn’t get him on Sparro’s shit list, Kieran didn’t know what would.
He was pressing his luck, but he needed to know how Sparro would handle him. Plus, he really did want the building Remy and Dakota worked in to be safe. He would not let anything happen to the two of them. So, while he was having some fun, there was a purpose behind it. He didn’t trust their safety to anyone but himself.
Kieran had trust issues, but after ten years of torture at the hands of shifters, that had to be expected. The other agents in the Organization avoided him at all costs, but Remy and Dakota had his back. Them, he trusted. Sparro and the others had yet to prove themselves to Kieran.
“Remy! Are you sure your contact is coming?” Kieran was getting a really bad feeling.
Remy shrugged, which really didn’t make Kieran feel any better. “He called the local Alpha, who passed on the message to us. The only time he could meet with us tonight was now. He’s a shifter also, so he should want to help us.”
Kieran grunted in response. He couldn’t tell Remy they’d probably be better off with fewer shifters in general. As much as he hated shifters, he found himself caring about a few of them, and that was fucking with his head.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Remy claimed as he waved a finger in Kieran’s face.
“Stop it.” Kieran smacked Remy’s hand away.
“Damn, I can’t believe you’re still so grumpy. I would have guessed getting laid regularly improved your disposition,” Remy bitched.
Instead of answering, Kieran peered around him. It was best not to encourage Remy when he brought up Dakota. Kieran’s partner loved the fact that after years of attempting to forget shifters even existed, Kieran was now living with one. Better to just focus on what had brought them out here in the middle of the night.
He could just make out the opening to the two tunnels that were supposed to be empty. This time of night, when the creatures came out to hunt, the tunnel people had worked out a safety program to watch out for one another. Kieran had discreetly kept an eye on them and found the people who lived there were very smart. So Kieran knew they were deep back, protected by traps they’d set. But even though Kieran expected them to be hidden, there was still an eerie feel around him.
It was weird how quiet it was. Even with his superior hearing, Kieran didn’t pick up the usual sounds that would echo around the abandoned area. He motioned to Remy, so his partner would stop giving him a hard time and pay attention. Remy did a little stutter step before nodding. Maybe Kieran wasn’t the only one feeling uneasy.
When Remy tilted his head up and sniffed, Kieran swiftly moved to press back to back with him. Years of having worked together in dangerous situations made it easy for him to anticipate what his partner would need. In the event Remy needed to shift, Kieran literally had his back.
“Something’s coming,” Remy whispered.
Kieran already knew that, so he didn’t bother to respond. He’d just picked up the faint sound of footsteps. He turned his head then narrowed his eyes and concentrated his gaze on the entrance to the right tunnel. The echoes seemed to be loud in the quiet, dark night, but Kieran knew very few would be able to pick them up like he and Remy could.
He took a deep breath, but all he could smell was the stink of body odor and old blood. Remy was already growling, which made the hair on the back of Kieran’s neck stand up.
“Do we attack?” Remy asked in a low murmur.
“Wait,” Kieran cautioned. While the situation didn’t feel normal, they couldn’t risk the chance of whoever was exiting the tunnels being human.
It didn’t take long for the shape of a man to appear, but Kieran knew right away this wasn’t a normal human. Neither was the person the figure was carrying.
“Stop!” Kieran ordered in his most commanding voice.
The figure stopped just outside the tunnel entrance. It was easier to see it was a young man, even with the black hoodie over his head and clenched tight around his face. But enough was visible. In his arms was the body of a small woman. Kieran couldn’t determine age, but he could see the female was at least still breathing.
“Put her down,” Kieran shouted. “Now!”
“I can’t,” the younger shifter called back. “I have to take them another one.”
“Keep his attention,” Remy whispered. “I’ll try to edge closer.”
“Be careful,” Kieran murmured. “He’s a bear shifter.”
“He’s also scared to death,” Remy replied. “He doesn’t want to hurt anyone.”
“We can help you,” Kieran told the bear shifter. “Just put her down and let us help you.”
“No,” the newcomer cried. “No one can. I’m in too deep now.”
Kieran relaxed his stance, certain, even though he didn’t know exactly what this kid was talking about, they could take care of this without violence. The more the bear shifter spoke, the more Kieran was certain he was young, no more than twenty, and Remy was right—he was scared. Kieran was sure this guy was involved with the missing shifters.
“Listen to me,” Kieran ordered. “It’s not too late.”
The kid laughed then. Threw his head back and howled. “Too late? It is for me and now for you too. We’re all screwed.”
A growl came from behind him and Kieran spun right before he was knocked back. He caught his balance then launched himself at his two attackers. They were shifters and one smelt like a feline, but Kieran couldn’t place the other right away. It didn’t matter though. A Day Walker going up against shifters? The Walker would win every time, even if the two teamed up, which only the smart did. It would take at least four to bring him down. He took them both to the ground, but the feline was instantly back up.
The feline’s eyes widened as Kieran bared his teeth. He actually took a step back. Yeah, they hadn’t known he was a Walker. Probably pegged him as just being human. That had been a mistake.
Instead of giving up like Kieran had hoped, the feline crouched then leapt.
Kieran didn’t have time to check on Remy, but he could hear the battle going on behind him, and his partner’s grunt. Oh, this was fucking bullshit. They’d either been set up or had gotten lucky enough to see a shifter snatching up close and personal. Either way, these assholes were not going to get away with another victim.
“Fucker,” Kieran snarled when the feline managed to land a hard punch to Kieran’s jaw. Kieran drew back his arm and landed three quick jabs to the man’s temple, which took him out. He turned then crouched as the other shifter jumped at him. Kieran caught him by his neck and held him up with his legs dangling. Damn, a horse shifter. That species was strong, but they were also slow.
“Who are you working for?” Kieran asked as he tightened his grip.
“Not telling you!” the horse shifter spat.
Kieran yanked him close and let his eyes glow. Anyone who knew anything about Walkers would know about feeding.
“Shit! Get off me, you freak.” The horse shifter tried to claw at Kieran’s hand.
“Who are you working for?” Kieran repeated.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” the horse shifter replied. He grinned then kicked Kieran in the nuts.
“Fuck!” Kieran roared as his grip on his opponent loosened and he dropped to his knees. Yep, no matter the species of man, a solid kick in the balls was a good move. Kieran was used to real fighters and not elementary antics.
Before Kieran could recover, his feet were swept out from under him and he fell, hard. As he landed, his suspect leapt over him and ran toward the other fight involving Remy. Kieran rolled up onto his feet as he searched for the horse.
Remy was holding his own against what appeared to be yet another shifter. At least the bear shifter seemed to be down and the woman safely tucked into the entrance of the tunnels.
“Rem!” Kieran called in warning.
His partner ducked just in time to avoid a blow to the back of his head. Kieran yelled before he launched himself toward the group. The shifters scrambled away and started to run. Instead of following after them, Kieran went to his partner’s aid. Remy’s head was bleeding pretty badly. Kieran had no trouble fighting his urge for the liquid his body craved. When it came to his partner, the sight of Remy’s blood was enough to make him feel sick.
“I’m okay.” Remy waved him off. “Go check on the girl.”
Kieran made sure Remy’s wound was already closing up before he agreed. “All right, stay here.” He patted Remy on the back before he rushed to the tunnel entrance. Kieran wasn’t surprised when Remy pushed himself up off the ground and started to follow him.
The woman, an owl shifter by her scent, was still knocked out. Kieran bent and sniffed. They must have given her something to put her to sleep. He could pick up the faint trace of metal and saline. An odor that threatened to finish off his stomach and have him vomiting.
The memories, dark and scary, that went along with that scent had his head spinning and Kieran had to clench his teeth to fight to remain in control. As he breathed deeply, he kept his eyes open. He was afraid if he closed them, flashes from his past would assault him.
Once the sensation passed, Kieran laid the woman flat on her back and took her wrist to monitor her pulse. “We need to call for an ambulance.”
“And backup,” Remy agreed as he stood and pulled out his phone. “I don’t know what happened here, but this shit was fucked up. If we hadn’t been here…”
“Yeah,” Kieran replied. Remy didn’t need to finish the thought. Would someone have even reported the young woman missing? If she was living in the tunnels, there was a good chance the answer to that question would have been no. He hadn’t really considered before how many shifters might not have been reported to the police as missing. It looked like their case had just gotten a whole lot more complicated.
He gazed down at the young woman. Her pulse was still steady, so that was good. She couldn’t have been much older than the bear shifter who had tried to take her. What she was doing in the tunnels, he couldn’t guess. Her high-priced jeans and shoes told him she didn’t live down there. On the streets, no way would she have kept those items. If she hadn’t been mugged for them, she could have sold them for money.
There had to be a connection between the tunnels and missing shifters. Kieran just needed to figure out what. He glanced up at his partner when he heard the soft footsteps.
“Backup and ambulance should be here soon,” Remy said. He crouched down while shaking his head. “She’s young, just like the others.”
Kieran peered around. “Now what?” he asked. There was no sign of anyone else, but he could hear a few people had come close to the tunnel entrance.
“Now, we’ll get some agents down here to question potential witnesses,” Remy said.
“No one is going to talk to us.”
“I know. We have to try, though. Once we’re done here, I’ll go see the Alpha and try to get more out of him about this call that brought us down. I have a feeling he didn’t tell me everything.”
“I’m going with you,” Kieran demanded. He might not like dealing with shifters, but this was different.
“Oh no, you’re not.”
Kieran glared. “Yes, I am. He already set you up once.”
“We don’t know that. We’re lucky the Alpha even called us. He doesn’t exactly trust us after what happened with the other agents.”
Kieran couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “And you just made my point. This could be payback.”
“K, trust me.” Remy glanced up so he could meet his gaze. “I need to do this on my own. I can’t have you threatening the Alpha. This is our best chance to get answers on what happened here tonight.”
“I won’t threaten him,” he promised. If it kept his partner safe, then Kieran would maintain a tight hold on his control.
“If I don’t find out what I want, I’ll start taking you with me. A face-to-face between the Alpha and me is all I’m asking for first,” Remy insisted.
Kieran wanted to argue more, but he knew Remy had his mind made up. “You call me before you meet and as soon as you’re done. One hour. If I don’t hear from you in one hour, I will bust into that place and tear apart every shifter there.”
Remy merely lifted a brow at him.
“I mean it,” Kieran declared.
“Okay,” Remy agreed as sirens and lights started to fill up the quiet space.
Kieran turned and saw some of their agents were the first to arrive. “I’m going to start the interviews. You deal with them.” He waved his hand toward the approaching agents.
“Got it, partner.”