Della’s thoughts jumped from love to the case. “Do you suspect the vampire gang of the murders?”
“We don’t have a firm lead, yet,” he said. “The morgue report is a bit confusing. The killer fed on the victims, was more physically violent than normal, which almost says the killer had motive, anger issues. The male victim was worse than the female.”
“You think the vampire knew them?”
“It’s a possibility, but it’s more likely that he was a fresh turn and he was simply overzealous.”
“He?” she asked, wondering how he knew it wasn’t a female.
“Usually males will go easier on a female. And the size of the bite marks puts the jaw size more consistent with a male. There was also a hair found. DNA hasn’t come back yet, but it was black and short.”
“Could it have been some random hair?”
“It had both victims’ blood on it,” he said matter-of-factly. “So it’s unlikely. But still possible.”
She almost shivered at the thought. “So a male with short, dark hair.”
Burnett nodded. “Perhaps a fresh turn.” He hesitated. “We’re hoping if you and Chase hang out with a few gang members you will hear something that could help. And since both you and Chase got a trace of the killer, if he’s there, you’ll know. That said, my main concern is that if you got his trace, he might have gotten both of yours.”
“I don’t think so,” Della said, having already thought about it. “He was escaping, running. I don’t think his senses were on alert. The only reason I got his scent was because it was late and I knew he had to be an intruder.”
“Maybe,” he said. “But I still want you to be on high alert. And while you’re out in the field, under no circumstances are you to leave Chase’s side.” He pointed a finger at her, and his expression went stern. “If you disobey this rule, your chances of ever working another case for the FRU are nil. Is that clear?”
Oh, it was clear, but she didn’t like it. The last thing she wanted was to be attached to the hip of the panty perv. But if that’s what it took to find the dirty vamp who’d killed Lorraine and her boyfriend, her hip had better just get used to the idea of having company.
“Is that clear, Della?”
“Crystal,” she said. Like it or not, she and Chase were a team. And in the back of her mind, she thought about how Steve was going to feel when he heard about it.
Not that she should worry. Whatever they had was history. She had to accept that.
When Della walked into the cabin, Miranda and Kylie were sitting at the kitchen table with three unopened Diet Cokes out. A sure sign someone had a problem and they needed to hold a powwow. In the back of her mind, she recalled Miranda asking questions about to do the deed or not to do the deed with Perry. Were there problems in paradise?
“What’s wrong?” Della asked, looking at the little witch, hoping that she and her shape-shifter weren’t having issues. The last time they’d broken up, Miranda had cried constantly, and ate a truckload of ice cream. It drove Della nuts.
“This is an intervention,” Miranda said. “Sit down.” She picked up a pencil and pulled over a pad.
“An intervention? Whose intervention?”
Miranda continued to stare at her.
Double damn! “My intervention? What, do you want me to pee on drug-test and pregnancy sticks like my parents now?”
“It’s not that kind of intervention,” Miranda said, all serious like.
Della made a face and looked at Kylie, the reasonable friend. “What’s going on?”
“Miranda’s dramatizing it,” Kylie said. “But … Perry told her that Steve told him that you two had a fight.”
“A big fight and it involved that girl at the vet’s office,” Miranda added.
Della dropped down in her chair. “Oh, hell! Isn’t anything private around this place?”
“It shouldn’t be private,” Miranda said. “We’re your best friends and we’re supposed to tell each other everything. You needed us and didn’t even let us help you. So we need to come up with a list of things that will help you deal with this.” She pulled the paper closer. “I’ve already come up with a few ideas.”
Della groaned. “Right now, Steve’s the least of my problems.” She’d told herself this ever since he walked out her door, and maybe if she said it enough times it would feel like the truth. Sure, it didn’t compare to Chan’s death, or the murderer she wanted to hunt down and teach a lesson, but it still hurt like the devil.
“That’s why we’re concerned,” Kylie said. “You’ve had a tough time lately. The FRU case, your dad, Chan, trying to find your aunt and uncle, and now Steve. We just want to help.”
“Help how?” Della asked. “There’s nothing you can do. Nothing anyone can do.” Her chest instantly felt heavy. “Besides, the break up’s probably best. We weren’t really together. I didn’t want to be together. I don’t even know why I let it go as far as it did.”
“You like him, that’s why,” Miranda said. “You should see your eyes light up when you see him. He makes you happy. Now you’re not happy. And for the last week, your aura has been really dark. It’s a weird murky color, too. I told Kylie a couple of days ago that something was wrong. Now, it looks even worse.”
“My aura is always kind of dark. I’m vampire, remember? You told me that once,” Della remarked.
“Yeah, but not this dark. It’s scary-looking.”
“Then do some magic mojo and paint it a different color,” Della said. And while the witch was at it, maybe she could fix her hearing problems. Della had tried to tune in to the distant sounds on the way here and couldn’t.
“If I could fix your aura I would. Only you can fix it. But we can come up with ideas. Things you can do to make yourself happy and that are aura-cleansing. I’ve already listed several.” She started reading from the list: “Enjoy a sunset. Take a slow walk in nature. And the best one, bird watching. Something about birds always lightens up an aura.” Miranda smiled as if so proud of herself.
Della snagged the pen and paper from Miranda. “Here, I’ve got a few better ones.” She started scribbling and reading it off as she did: “Find my uncle and aunt, find a killer, get my cousin buried, forget that my dad hates me, stop missing Steve. Damn, it looks as if I won’t have time to watch any friggin’ birds!” Della tossed down the pencil and shot across the kitchen to her bedroom.
Ten minutes later the knock came at Della’s door. Ten entire slow minutes that Della had used to realize she was taking her problems out on her friends.
“Come in.” She sat up, ready to take the blame.
Kylie stepped in. “Hey.”
“Let me save you the trouble. I know I was a bitch and I’ll apologize to the witch.” She made a face. “But bird watching?”
Kylie chuckled. “Personally, I thought watching the sunset would have set you off. But…” Kylie’s smile faded. “Miranda’s seriously worried. This aura thing has her freaked out.”
Della exhaled. “Aren’t auras connected to our moods?”
“I think,” Kylie said. “I skipped Auras 101.”
“Well, I’ve been in a really dark, pissy mood. So it’s understandable.”
“But Miranda thinks a really dark aura can bring on more darkness, sort of like bad attracts bad. That’s why she wants you to … find your happy place.”
“My happy place is going to be finding a killer and getting Chan in his proper grave.”
Kylie dropped on the bed. “Is that what Burnett wanted with you just now?”
“Yeah,” Della said. “It’s going to be a week before they can do Chan’s autopsy, so they won’t be burying him until after that. And I start on the case in … less than an hour.”
“Less than an hour? Doing what?”
“Hanging out someplace that vampire gangs are known to be. Oh, and the real pisser is that I’ll be working with Chase.”
Kylie grimaced. “And you still don’t like him.”
“Do bears shit in the woods?”
Kylie made a face. “I don’t know, I’ve never seen one.”
Della shook her head. “I don’t like him. I don’t trust him.”
“He’s awfully cute,” Kylie said, her voice laced with humor. “Might that be why you don’t want to spend too much time with him?”
Della shook her head. “I don’t like him that way. He’s too … irritating.”
Kylie’s brow, now quirked with suspicion, didn’t go down. Della finally blurted out the truth. “Fine, I find him attractive. But that doesn’t mean anything. It’s not as if he’s…”
“Steve?” Kylie asked.
“Yeah,” Della admitted, but hated doing it.
They sat silently for a second, and then Kylie asked, “Why didn’t you tell us about Steve?”
Della shrugged. “It seems all I’ve been doing is whining about things. And it hurts to talk about it.”
“But we’re best friends. We just want to help.”
“I know,” Della said.
“Is it really over?” Kylie asked.
“I think so.” Della bit down on her lip and suddenly wanted to talk. “He kissed Jessie. Or I should say, she kissed him. And he was all guilt-ridden so I know he enjoyed it. It makes me furious, but … last weekend he wanted me to meet his parents, and I totally freaked. I don’t want to meet his parents. I don’t want whatever we have to become … official. So is it fair for me to let this ‘thing’ we have keep going, when I don’t know if I’ll let it go anywhere?”
“Has he called you since then?” Kylie asked.
“No. And it’s probably best.” But Della had been checking her phone constantly. She wasn’t sure if it was relief or disappointment she felt when she found he hadn’t tried to contact her.
Kylie dropped back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. “Holiday once told me that women who have daddy issues usually find a way to have issues with guys. We project our problems with our daddies onto other guys. It sounded like a bunch of crap at first, but then was it a coincidence that I finally gave in to Lucas after I resolved the issues with my stepdad.”
Della reclined on the bed beside Kylie. “So, you’re saying I need to fix my relationship with my dad before I can ever have a boyfriend?” She slapped her forehead. “Damn, looks like I might be going lesbian, because I don’t think that will happen.”
Kylie chuckled. “Sorry, I’m taken.”
Socks, Kylie’s cat, jumped up on the bed and rubbed against Della’s side. She grinned. “Yeah, you and your hottie werewolf. You know, Socks here doesn’t approve of the dog at all. I think Sock’s is afraid Lucas will give him fleas.”
Kylie frowned as she petted her cat. “Lucas doesn’t have fleas. And besides, I approve of Lucas.” Her eyes widened with affection. “I love him so much. Even when he’s overbearing and a bit macho like he was at the funeral home. He makes me … feel complete. And I think you deserve to have that, too. Someone who just makes you feel so good inside. They touch you and you melt. They look at you all sexy like and you feel gooey inside. They hold you and whatever problems you’ve got going on, they just seem smaller.”
“Maybe I’m not meant to have that.” Della looked at Socks. “I’ll get old and get a bunch of cats. That seems to be what women do who don’t get married.” But Della couldn’t help but think about how Steve made her feel. And no cat would ever do that.
“I don’t believe that,” Kylie insisted. “And maybe all this crap happening right now is messing with your head. If none of this other stuff would have happened, you might not have panicked about meeting Steve’s parents.”
“What about him kissing Jessie and enjoying it?” Della asked.
“Did he tell you he enjoyed it?” Kylie asked. “Because I’ve seen the way he looks at you, and I find it hard to believe he enjoyed kissing anyone besides you.”
“He didn’t say it, but he’s a guy. Of course he enjoyed it.”
Kylie made a face. “Okay, I won’t argue with that, but it sounds to me like you’re looking for a reason to distance yourself from him. Maybe what’s really going on is that you know how much you like him and you’re just afraid?”
Della opened her mouth to deny it, but she couldn’t push the damn words out. Was Kylie right? “I still can’t stand that he kissed her—even if she started it,” Della muttered, and then, wanting to change the subject, she popped up. “Is Miranda still here? I should go eat crow now and apologize. I hate cold crow.”
Kylie smiled. “Nope, Perry called her and asked her to meet him.”
“So they’re off sucking face, huh,” Della said, hoping to take the conversation off her own boy issues by focusing on someone else’s romance.
Kylie pursed her lips as if all too aware of Della’s ploy. That chick was just way too smart. “Look, you don’t have to like that Steve kissed her. It’s natural that you’re pissed, believe me, I know, but it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Look at Miranda and Perry’s and my and Lucas’s relationships. We both had some similar rough spots. And don’t think I’m looking out for Steve’s interest here, I’m looking out for yours. Take my advice and give this thing with Steve a chance. Don’t give up on him.”