Daughter Of The Dragon Princess(6)

By: Nina Croft



“Yeah. Is that you, Mal? What the hell are you doing calling at this hour?”

“If I give you a cell phone number can you trace the owner?”

“I’m off duty.”

“Come on, Cole. It’s important.”

A huge sigh heaved down the phone line. “Okay. What’s the number?”

Mal reeled it off.

“I’ll call as soon as I have anything.”

He put the phone down, waved over the bartender, and ordered another beer. Ten minutes later, his cell rang.

“Mal? It’s Cole. Where are you?”

“Why?”

“Be a pal and answer the question.”

Mal shrugged. “I’m in a bar, The Dragon’s Breath, off Oxford Street.”

“I know the place. How long have you been there?”

“Half an hour. Why? What’s this about?”

Cole ignored the question. “You have witnesses? Never mind, wait for me. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. Do not leave.” He cut the connection, and Mal stared at the phone.

Something was up.

Something related to Lily Palmer.

Cole’s tall figure strode through the door exactly fifteen minutes later. Even if you didn’t know he was a cop, you would have guessed. He had that look about him—formal but scruffy, in a crumpled gray suit, as though the intention was there but the follow-through was too much effort. Coming to a halt by the bar, he examined Mal carefully, his heavy brows drawing together. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s get a table.” Not waiting for an answer, he headed to one of the alcoves that lined the back wall and sank down onto the bench seat.

Mal sat opposite. “Did you get the information I asked for?”

“The number you gave me,” Cole said, “did it belong to a Lily Palmer?”

“So?”

“The Lily Palmer who phoned in an emergency call just over an hour ago?”

“Could be.”

“The thing is, this Lily Palmer told us she had left an unconscious man on her apartment floor.”

Mal remained silent.

“She’d apparently hit him over the head with a blunt object.”

“Could we get to the point?”

“She hit him over the head after he broke into her bedroom and pulled a gun on her. Kinky, huh? Anyway, thing is, the description she gave was spot on for you. I might not have made the connection, though it’s unlikely—it was pretty accurate. Then out of the blue, you phone and ask me to trace her.” He sat back and folded his arms across his chest. “What’s going on?”

Mal raised one eyebrow. “Do I look like someone just hit me over the head?”

“No. That struck me straight away. Maybe she didn’t hit you as hard as she thought.” He stood up. “May I?”

“I’d rather you didn’t.” But he leaned over and allowed the other man to run his hand over his scalp. Cole wouldn’t find anything—Mal’s kind healed fast.

The detective sat back down, shaking his head. “I was so sure—”

“What? You were so sure I was the kind of guy who would break into a stranger’s bedroom and hold her at gunpoint? What else was I supposed to do?” he asked coldly. “Rape her, then put a bullet in her head?”

“I hadn’t thought that far. But you have to concede it’s a big coincidence.”

“So, you accept it is a coincidence. Do I get my information now?”

“The thing is, buddy, that’s not all.”

A cold feeling stirred in the pit of Mal’s stomach. She couldn’t have come to harm. She couldn’t be dead. It would be the end of his people’s hopes. But more than that—at the thought of all that youth and beauty extinguished, a fierce unexpected pain stabbed him deep inside.

He forced himself to relax. No one else knew of her existence yet, and even if the Conclave did find her, they wouldn’t kill her. Well, not straightaway. He still had time to get her back. “Tell me what else.”

Cole sighed. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but I trust you. We sent a unit to her apartment. They never called in so we sent another. They found the first unit dead, in an alley beside the house. Shot through the head, execution style. There’s no sign of any unconscious guy in her apartment either.” He sat back in his chair. “One of the neighbors saw some sort of fight outside the building and gave a description of a vehicle. We’re trying to trace it. So now, we wait. And perhaps you’ll tell me what’s going on.”

Mal remained silent, and Cole sighed again. “I’ll give you a few minutes to think it over. I’m getting a beer. Want one?”

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