Home > Fated (Relentless #6)(8)

Fated (Relentless #6)(8)
Author: Karen Lynch

Tactical operations had come a long way in the last few decades. I remembered when we didn’t have cell phones or computers, and now we had surveillance equipment that would make the CIA wet its collective pants.

“You planning to stick around a while?” Raoul asked.

“Until I get bored with you guys.”

He chuckled. “Plenty to keep you busy and entertained in LA.”

I looked around. “Speaking of busy, where is the boss man?”

“I think he’s in the garage, working on his bike. You know how he is with that thing.”

“Yeah, I do.”

We had service contracts with mechanics in every state, but Nikolas and I preferred to maintain our own motorcycles. Some of the places we’d ended up, you couldn’t count on help if you had bike trouble.

My Ducati was being shipped from Westhorne and should be here tomorrow. Not soon enough. After a month away, I couldn’t wait to have my own wheels under me again.

Raoul pointed me toward a door that led to the garage. As soon as the door closed behind me, I heard the clink of tools and saw Nikolas up to his elbows in grease.

“Need some help?” I called, walking toward him.

He stood, wearing a smile. “About time you got your lazy ass back here. How was Germany?”

“Too quiet.” I leaned against the SUV closest to him. “Living here, it’s easy to forget some countries don’t have as much trouble as we do. I did a few jobs, but the trip was a little more relaxing than I’d hoped for.”

Laughing, he reached for a rag to wipe his hands. “Well, we’ve got plenty for you to do here.”

“That’s what Raoul said. Trouble?”

He shook his head. “It’s not as bad as it was last year, but I can see why this command center was needed. We manage everything from here to San Diego, and already we’ve seen a slight dip in vampire activity in the area. Tristan said the Council is planning to establish a center in New York City next and then Miami.”

“Let me guess, he wants you to oversee the setup.”

“Yes. Sara wants to see New York, so we’ll probably go there.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “You going to do the sightseeing thing now?”

“Sara heard there’s a big demon community there, and she wants us to build relations with them.”

A laugh burst from me at his pained expression. “Sara in the Big Apple. What could possibly go wrong?”

He made a sound that was suspiciously like a groan, and I laughed harder, earning a scowl from him.

“Has she transported again since that time in Atlanta?”

“No. Eldeorin thinks it’s linked to her emotions. She was afraid for us, so she did it subconsciously. No telling when it will happen again.”

His expression told me he’d be happy if it didn’t happen for a long time.

“How much longer are you two staying in LA?” I asked.

“That depends on what your plans are.”

Plans were something I didn’t have. Nikolas and I had been partners for years, and there’d been no shortage of jobs to keep us on the road together. Now that he and Sara had mated, the three of us were a team. The dynamic was different, but I enjoyed working with them.

There was one place I’d been meaning to go for a while. I hadn’t been home to Longstone in years, and on the long flight from Germany, I’d thought about driving up there for a few days. I wasn’t sure what reception I’d get, but it was time to go back, to see her.

“I’ll probably do a short trip to Oregon, and then I’m here as long as you need me.”

“Good.” He crouched beside the Ducati again. “I’ll show you around when I finish up, and we’ll talk about the setup here.”

“Sounds good.”

A rumble filled the air, and I turned to see two motorcycles pull up outside the open garage door. The first rider shut off her Ducati and removed her helmet to reveal short blonde hair and a face I knew all too well.

The other rider dismounted, facing away from us, and I couldn’t help but admire the figure she cut in her jeans, boots, and black leather jacket. There weren’t many things sexier in my book than a woman riding a Harley.

She removed her helmet, and I watched as she shook out long blonde hair that tumbled past her shoulders. Her hand came up to smooth down one side of her hair, and I found myself waiting for her to turn around so I could see her face.

Jordan said something to her companion as they removed shopping bags from their bikes’ storage compartments. Feminine laughter floated toward me.

I frowned. I knew that laugh…

The women turned toward me, and a jolt of recognition stole my breath when I saw Jordan’s friend’s face. Shock rippled through me.

Beth.

It had been four years since I’d last seen her, but I’d know her face anywhere. I stared at her, unable to believe she was here and looking even more beautiful, if that was possible. At sixteen, her features had still borne the traces of youth, but at twenty, there was nothing childlike about her. She was curvier and a little taller now, and she walked with all the self-assurance of a young warrior.

I’d heard she had finished training, and so many times in the last two years I’d thought about going home to see her. But something had always seemed to get in the way. I’d assumed she was still at Longstone, and the last place I’d expected to see her was here in Los Angeles.

I knew the moment Beth saw me. Her eyes widened, and she faltered for a brief moment before her face took on a closed expression.

Jordan, who didn’t seem to notice the change in Beth, smiled widely when she caught sight of me. “Blondie! I had no idea you were back in the country.”

I returned her smile. “Got back today. I figured you guys were missing me, so I flew directly to LAX.”

She chuckled. “You’re so full of yourself. And I haven’t missed you at all because I’ve been making new friends.”

“So I see.”

My eyes went to Beth, who met my gaze with the polite interest of a stranger, nothing that resembled the adoring looks from the girl I had known.

“Hello, Beth.”

“Hello,” she said. “It’s nice to see you again.”

Hearing her voice after all these years made warmth flood my chest. God, I’d missed her. The urge to hug her was strong, but her cool demeanor held me back. Regret filled me. We used to be so close, but she looked at me as if I was little more than an old acquaintance. And it was all my doing.

“What brings you to LA?” I asked.

She adjusted her hold on her shopping bags. “I work here now.”

“At the command center?”

My eyes went to Jordan and then to Nikolas, who nodded. It was on the tip of my tongue to say Beth was too young for a place like LA, but I refrained when I remembered she had been a warrior longer than Jordan had.

“Yep!” Jordan gave Beth a one-armed hug. “Beth is the newest member of the Scooby gang.”

“Scooby gang?”

Jordan laughed. “Sara has us watching reruns of Buffy with her.”

“Ah.” I had no idea what Buffy was, and I didn’t ask.

Beth shifted on her feet, looking like she was about to leave. I wasn’t ready for her to go, and I searched for something to say to keep her there a little longer.

“Have you been in LA long?” I asked her.

“We got here two weeks ago,” she said in the same detached voice.

We? “Is Rachel here, too?”

Her brows drew together slightly, and she shook her head. “Mason and me.”

“Mason?” I repeated, trying to ignore the sudden tightening in my gut.

“He’s my friend from home.” She took a step back. “I should go. I’m working tonight. It was nice seeing you again.”

She turned toward the garage door, but Jordan snagged her arm.

“Wait. We have to show Sara what we got.” Jordan looked at me. “Later, Blondie.”

Without another glance in my direction, Beth followed Jordan into the house.

I stared after them, unable to take my eyes off Beth until the door closed behind her. I let out a long, slow breath as I recovered from the impact of seeing her again and the knowledge that she could still affect me after all this time.

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