Home > The Renegade Hunter (Argeneau #12)

The Renegade Hunter (Argeneau #12)
Author: Lynsay Sands

Chapter One

Nicholas came to the edge of the small copse of woods and quietly cursed. Somehow he must have missed the rogue, must have walked right past him. The thought made him turn and glance back the way he'd come, but Nicholas was sure there was no way he could have missed him. The woods lining the road were only ten feet deep and he'd moved through them slowly, eyes searching the trees as he'd gone. He couldn't have missed him, but it was the only thing that made sense.

Nicholas retrieved the signal receiver from his pocket and glanced at the screen. The small blip that was the rogue's car was still exactly where it had been earlier. The fellow hadn't doubled back and driven away. He slipped the device back in his pocket and turned to peer at the driveway before him.

There was no way the rogue had gotten in there on foot, he was sure. It was the entry to the new enforcer house. The equivalent of a police station for vampire hunters, it had better security than a mortal prison from what he could see. The gate blocking the driveway was ten feet high and made of thick wrought iron. There was an equally high brick wall that disappeared into the trees on either side of it. Every foot or so along the wall, metal spikes shot up and three lengths of barbed wire were threaded through them, running along the top as a deterrent to anyone trying to climb it. A sign on the fence warned that it was electrified. If that wasn't enough security, there appeared to be a second gate some fifteen feet inside the first with a chain-link fence, also topped with barbed wire and no doubt electrified.

He shook his head slightly. This was something Nicholas never thought he'd see. The enforcers had always been rather loosely based, run out of Lucian Argeneau's home. However, it seemed his uncle had decided to make it all more official and organized. It was about time, Nicholas supposed. This should have been done centuries ago.

His gaze slid away from the gate and to the woods on the other side of the drive from where he stood. It was hard to believe the rogue he was following had slipped across that wide open expanse under the nose of the guard inside. Aside from that, there was a pillar before the gate with a camera and intercom system built into it. The rogue wouldn't have risked trying to cross the open area and getting caught on that camera. However, either the rogue had risked it and snuck across, or Nicholas had somehow managed to move right past the man as he'd made his way here.

Nicholas glanced over his shoulder at the woods at his back. While his mind was telling him he couldn't have walked right past the rogue without noticing, he was starting to worry that perhaps his instincts weren't as good as they used to be.

The sound of an engine caught his attention and Nicholas turned back to the driveway just in time to see a catering van pull in. He watched silently as it stopped between the pillars.

"Yes?" a metallic voice asked over the intercom.

"Cally's Catering," the van driver announced. "We're here to pick up our people and dishes."

"Come on in." The first gate slid open.

Nicholas expected the vehicle to be stopped between the two gates and inspected, but instead the guard in the small guardhouse inside the second gate came out and manually opened the inner gate for the van to enter. He did wave it to a stop, however, the moment it was inside.

The guard spoke briefly to the driver, and then moved around and opened the back door of the van to check inside. With his attention on the guard, Nicholas almost missed the man who suddenly slid out from under the side of the van, shifted to a crouch, and sprinted for the woods behind the guardhouse.

The sight almost made him shout out a warning, but Nicholas caught himself and instead reached for his phone. It was the damned rogue, of course. The tricky bastard must have waited at the side of the road for a likely vehicle to approach, taken control of the driver to make him stop, and then slid under the van and clung to something on the undercarriage to hitch a ride in.

Clever little prick, Nicholas thought, frowning as he continued to search for his cell phone. He had to warn them inside and tell them to put a guard on the sisters and then start searching the property for the rogue that had gotten in. He'd tell them to start having the guard check under the vehicles as well. At least he would if he could find his damned phone, Nicholas thought with frustration as his search came up empty. What the hell had he done with it? It had been beeping a warning that the battery was low earlier in the evening and he'd plugged it into the car lighter with its special adapter to charge it up, and-

"Hell," Nicholas muttered, glancing back the way he'd come. He'd left the damned thing in the car. He briefly considered running back to get it, but while the rogue he was following had merely pulled over and parked at the edge of this property, Nicholas himself had parked in the woods nearer the next property to avoid being spotted. The man, Ernie Brubaker, was one of Leonius's spawn, and Nicholas hoped if he followed him long enough, Ernie would lead him to Leo's hideout. Leonius Livius was one nasty rogue who needed to be dealt with, and Nicholas had set himself the task of doing just that. However, his caution meant that his van was a good distance away... and by the time he ran back and grabbed his phone to make the call, Ernie could have grabbed one of the girls and gotten out again.

That was the only reason he could think that the fellow was here. At least that's what Nicholas had come up with when he'd realized he'd followed the man to the new enforcer house.

Nicholas sighed and swiveled back to peer at the gate and the driveway beyond again. The guard had already returned to his little shack and the van had disappeared from view. No doubt at that very minute the rogue was racing through the trees toward the house. He had to warn them, but the only way to do that without his phone was to walk up to the gate and flat-out tell the guard... and that would pretty much toast his cojones, Nicholas acknowledged. Unfortunately, he didn't have much choice. If he didn't-

Nicholas was distracted from his thoughts by the arrival of another vehicle. He turned his head to watch a van approach the gate, and felt a grim smile curve his lips as he noted the cleaning service name on the side of the vehicle stopped beside the pillar. It was blocking the camera and intercom from his view... and him from the camera's view, he realized.

Without pausing to think about how risky it was for him personally, Nicholas slid from the cover of the trees and raced across the short open expanse to the back of the van. Once there, he took hold of the handle on the back door and stepped onto the back bumper, careful not to cause unnecessary motion in the vehicle with his weight. He then held on for dear life and waited as the driver explained into the inter com that they were there to clean up after the party.

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