By: Laurann Dohner

“Seventeen,” he growled.

She studied him and it was clear he didn’t enjoy being reminded of the breach that had taken place after Homeland first opened. “I saw a way to get the driver’s door open and took it. I shot out the lock on the door and took out the driver. Disabling the driver wasn’t going to stop them. The passenger could have just scooted over to drive and I saw movement in the back. That meant there was at least one more assailant. It would have been a bloodbath. Have you ever seen what bad guys with guns and full assault gear can do? I have. I told you I watch a lot of movies. I looked down and saw grenades strapped to the driver. I tossed them inside and closed the door.”

“How did you know what they were?”

Kat was starting to get irritated. “Because I’m not a moron. That is what they looked like, to me. I wasn’t exactly sure what they’d do but they were obviously meant to be used against the NSO. I used them instead.”

One of his eyebrows arched. “You weren’t sure what they’d do?”

“They looked like homemade explosives with switches, is what I meant. I didn’t see any cylinders, which would indicate a chemical bomb, so I assumed they just went boom! I was right. I didn’t exactly have much time to mull it over since I was dodging bullets from the passenger, who was intent on killing me.”

Darkness unfurled his fists and crossed his arms over his chest. “Four humans inside that van are dead and the fifth one won’t live long.”

They were bad guys but it still hit her hard. She’d never killed anyone before. The training she’d had didn’t cover the reality of learning that news.

“You killed humans. Do you understand that?”

She nodded sharply, not trusting her voice. The assholes might have deserved it but the reality was rough. They probably had families and friends who would suffer their loss. Even evil shitheads have mothers.

“Answer me,” he demanded in a harsh tone.

“Yes.” She grew defensive because it helped her deal with the stress. “Do you understand that they didn’t batter down your gates in an armored vehicle, wearing full military assault gear, to bring you cupcakes and a we-love-you message? I was trying to protect New Species.”

Darkness moved fast enough to make her flinch when he closed the distance between them, bent and gripped the sides of her chair. He pushed his face almost nose to nose with her. His eyes were shadowed with his head tipped forward but they appeared very menacing. She tried to lean back but there was nowhere to go in the metal chair pressed tightly against her spine.

He growled deep in his throat, proving he was not completely human. “Do you expect me to believe you are a crime lab technician when you just single-handedly took out five humans?”

She forced a smile and ignored her rapidly beating heart. “I’m really good at my job. I see a lot of bad stuff and don’t forget my love of action films.”

He hissed, fanning her with the scent of chocolate and mint. She hoped her breath smelled as good since their lips were mere inches apart. The urge to glance at his mouth was too strong to pass up but she regretted it as soon as she did. Her eyes widened in surprise and fear at the sight of two long, terrifying fangs.

“Holy shit.” She hadn’t meant to say it aloud.

His upper lip lifted a little to give her a better view of them. It had to be on purpose. His next words killed any doubt.

“I’m nothing like you.” His tone deepened. “I’ll show you mercy if you start giving me honest answers. Were those men sent here to die to fool us into trusting you?”

That jerked her out of the stupor caused by his scary fangs. She stared into his eyes. “What?”

“You heard me. Was that some type of show played out to gain our trust?”

“Are you on drugs?” She’d been excited to visit Homeland but it had turned into a nightmare. Her cover was pretty much blown unless she could talk her way out of the situation. To be accused of being in cahoots with the assholes intent on killing New Species flipped her bitch switch.

“I don’t know if you rushed out of that guard house or if you were already outside but that prick on the passenger side tried really hard to turn me into Swiss cheese. Those explosive devices could have gone off in my hands before I threw them into that van. I could have been blown to bits right along with those pricks. How dare you?” She glared at him. “You think you’re the only one having a bad day? I just wanted to come to Homeland to have some fun, meet New Species and teach some classes. That was my only agenda. Now I’m locked in a room with a paranoid idiot.”

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