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“What do you mean?” Phin asked, his voice growing dark, like Eli’s did.

I shrugged. “You know—his touch lingered way too long when cuffing or uncuffing me, and whenever we were alone he’d touch my hair, brush against me—sick stuff like that.” I laughed cynically. “I guess because I was a little junkie at the time, he thought he could get away with it. And he had. I’d been privately scared of him back then. Now? I’ll kick his ass, even if it means a night or two in jail.”

Phin sat quietly in the passenger seat and listened, his face growing angrier by the second, and I knew then that Detective Claude Murray was now on the Duprés’ lifelong shit list.

“Hey,” I said, and punched him in the arm. “I got it. No worries. I’m a big girl now, not some crazy little druggie teenager. Okay?”

He glanced at me, and although I couldn’t see his eyes through his shades, I knew he was scowling. “Right.”

I parked the Jeep and popped some quarters in the meter, and Phin walked into the station with me. He stood against the wall and waited, arms folded over his chest, and I was led into the back. When I glanced back, he had his cell phone out, and I knew he was calling Eli. Oh, boy. Phin shrugged, and I continued down the hall.

I knew the way, of course, and saw that things really hadn’t changed in ten years. Claude was waiting farther up the hall—the inside of the station reminded me a lot of junior high, with dingy white concrete walls and tile floors, wooden doors with little brown nameplates screwed onto them. And . . . it smelled funny. Weird-funny, and it brought back old, unwanted memories. Claude smiled at me as the police officer escorted me to the interrogation room, and I went quietly in and sat down.

“So you’re hanging out with old friends, Ms. Poe?” Claude asked.

“No. Just went by for a few drinks.”

Claude leaned over my shoulder. “I have a witness that says she watched you enter the back rooms with Kelter Phillips after making nicey with him at the bar. And you know we know what goes on back there.”

I gave him a glare. “Get to the point, Detective. Yes, I saw him that night, but so did hundreds of others. When I left, he was very much alive.”

“Alibi?” he asked.

“Sure. Why don’t you ask the doorman, Zetty? He watched me leave.”

“Were you with anyone?” He walked around to face me. “Oh—let me clarify that. Were you with someone whose last name you knew?”

Prick. “Yes.”

Claude blinked and waited. “Well, are you going to give me a name?”

I looked him in the eye, although I hated bringing Eli into this. “Eligius Dupré, and I was with him all night.”

“We’ll need to speak with him.”

I didn’t even blink. “No problem. Can I go now? I have an appointment.”

Claude’s slow, thin-lipped grin stretched over tobacco-stained teeth. “I bet you do.” He inclined his head. “You’re free to go. But we may need to drop by and have a look around.”

I stood and shrugged. “Be my guest. I have nothing to hide.” I gave him a look that I hope mirrored my revulsion. “Later, Claude. Much, much later.”

I walked out and let the door slam behind me. When I reached the waiting area, Eli stood next to Phin and Luc, an infuriated look on his face. I walked up to him. “I’m sorry—but he wanted to know if I’d been with anyone at the time we left the Panic Room.” I felt awful. “He wants to talk to you.” I lowered my voice. “Did you kill him? Kelter?”

Eli said nothing, and I guessed that meant no. He walked to the counter and spoke to the clerk, and within seconds another officer escorted him down to interrogation.

I glanced at Phin. “Did you tell him?”


“Everything?” I asked.

“Yep,” he confirmed.

I let out a sigh. I’d known he would, but no way would Eli be able to hide his anger at Murray. Surprisingly, within minutes, Eli strode from the back, his eyes glued to mine. Still furious. “Let’s get out of here,” he said.

The afternoon went by relatively quickly, and I heard nothing else from Murray; Eli and the guys disappeared while Nyx and I wrapped up appointments. I always dressed the part on workdays—clients had come to expect it of me. It was as much a part of my reputation as my artwork. So I wore a kick-ass outfit: a burgundy leather minidress, sleeveless and laced from the waist up, and a pair of over-the-knee black leather boots. A plain black velvet choker and matching velvet wrist cuffs completed my attire. The clients were more than satisfied. Nyx had decided to take the next day off and take care of some family business with her parents on Wilmington Island; she finished up just before I did; it was almost seven. As she grabbed her skull-and-crossbones shoulder bag, she came over and gave me a tight hug. “I’m going to miss you,” she said, and looked at me with those big, round, always-wide-open blue eyes. “Don’t worry about a thing. If the police come by to check the place out, I’ll make sure I’m here.”

“Thanks,” I said, and rubbed her arms. “I’ll be around until late tomorrow afternoon anyway. And I really appreciate your help, Nyx. Call me on my cell if anything comes up.”

We said good-bye, Gene cawing sharply as Nyx left out the front door. I locked up—earlier than usual, but I’d canceled all my appointments and still needed to handle a few loose ends for the business. I flipped the sign to CLOSED, pulled the blinds, and cranked up some Linkin Park. I was at the computer, printing out some of my latest designs on transfer paper for Nyx, when I felt Eli’s presence and glanced up. He stood leaning against the doorjamb with his arms crossed over his chest, watching me.

“Hey,” I said, casual, as I’d tried to keep it since his return. I continued my work. Eli pushed off the frame and walked up front, plopping down on the sofa. He picked up a design album and started thumbing through the pages.

“I wanted to kill that detective today.”

I glanced up. “Yeah, I’ve had that same thought myself before,” I said, trying to lighten the mood. I gathered the transfers and hung them on the backlights—similar to what doctors use when viewing X-rays. I stood there, inspecting for imperfections, and suddenly felt Eli directly behind me.

“No,” he said quietly. “You don’t understand. I wanted to kill him.”

I turned around and met his enraged gaze. “Why?” And it was then I saw that anger had been brewing in Eli all day.

“Because of how he treated you as a kid,” he said. “And for his thoughts today.” His eyes bored into mine. “It would have been so easy.”

I placed a hand on Eli’s chest. “I appreciate your chivalry. Really. But he’s just a stupid mortal. I can handle him.” I smiled. “Trust me.”

The air around us stilled; Eli’s gaze grew dark. “What do you feel when you touch me?” he asked, and slid my hand over his heart. “Anything?”

It was something I’d been avoiding; it hadn’t been easy. The thing between us was palpable, dangerous, and I’d known it went deeper than sex the moment we’d met. He’d told me quite seriously that I was his. I’d told him the same, yet the subject hadn’t been approached again. What did mine actually mean? I lowered my hand and moved away. “I don’t know, Eli.”

Silence gripped the interior of Inksomnia for several moments before Eli surprised me with a request. “I want you to ink me.”

I looked at him, gauged him. “Tats are for life—and with yours that’s a long damn time.” I cocked my head. “Do you know what you want?”

Eli kept his gaze on mine. “Yes.” He lifted the medallion from his neck. “This. It’s our family crest.”

Bending my head over the medallion, I inspected the design and detailing. I’d not noticed it before, and I now found it fascinating. A griffin clutching a pair of daggers sat in the center of a fleur-de-lis, encased by a thorny vine. At the bottom, the name Dupré. I looked at him. “That’s pretty wicked.”

“Can you do it?” he asked.

I grinned, grasped him by the hand, and shoved him in the chair. “Sit.” I grabbed a pencil and sketch pad and within minutes had the entire design on paper—it was roughly the size of an orange. I showed it to Eli, and he nodded.

“Perfect,” he said.

I scanned the design, then printed out a transfer and walked back to Eli, whose gaze remained locked onto mine. “Where?” I asked.

“Between my shoulder blades,” he returned. “Black ink.”

My heart beat faster, and I nodded. “Off with the shirt, and let’s get going.”

Eli pulled his shirt over his head and turned onto his stomach on the inking table. I slowly wiped his skin with antiseptic and let it air dry, then laid the transfer print-side down, directly between his shoulder blades. I started the Widow, pulled on my gloves, loaded the ink, and bent over to Eli’s ear. “This might sting a little.” I settled into my chair.

He chuckled. “Yeah, okay.”

“No laughing,” I warned. I peeled the transfer off and began. Eli didn’t even flinch. “Nice,” I said, and concentrated on my design. I admit, it was a pretty cool design and would make a sick tat. With a steady hand I inked the Dupré crest over the muscular back of the eldest son. Tattooing Eli under such intimate conditions was beyond erotic—my breathing increased; my heart quickened. My breasts brushed his side as I bent over him, and even through gloves the contact of my skin against his aroused me. His scent radiated off of him in waves, and I drew it into my lungs, and that aroused me, too. It took about an hour and forty minutes to complete, and swear to God, I didn’t want it to end. Finally, it was finished, and it looked badass.

I handed Eli the hand mirror, and he turned and checked out my work. “Nice,” he said appreciatively, then turned to me. “You’re a superb artist.”