The drive to Stephanie Harvey’s house was done in silence, mostly because his Guide was on his laptop and hadn’t let up on the thing since they’d left the Records department. The clerk had set Blair up with access to the system without batting an eyelash, or well she’d tittered and smiled a lot through the whole process but not so much that it had pissed Jim off; it had just left him amused. Intellectually, he knew that Guides attracted both mundanes and Sentinels to them like moths to a flame. They were a source of goodwill, happiness, and sexuality—even the least powerful of them seemed to radiate it. It was something he had no choice but to accept and get used to.
Grace Harvey was opening the door before they even got onto the porch. “Detective Ellison.” She held out both hands. “Do you have news?”
“No, Grace, I’m sorry.” Jim accepted the light embrace and ignored the tremor that ran through the woman’s body. “Is Tom home as well?”
“Yes,” Grace urged them inside. “He’s at home… working is difficult.”
“We’ve hired people to handle the business—neither one of us can really.” She sighed. “So, tell me what’s going on?”
“This is my partner and Guide, Dr. Blair Sandburg.” Jim touched Blair on the forearm and prodded him close. “We’re going to be doing some new interviews.”
She smiled then, soft and amazed. “A Guide?” She held out her hand. “Oh, Jim, you came online?”
“Yes.” Jim flushed in the face of her obvious pleasure on his behalf.
“What a gift.” She wrapped both her hands around Blair’s. “I’ve never met a bonded pair before. It’s an honor.”
“Thank you for having us in your home.” Blair led her to a chair. “Tell me about Stephanie, Grace.”
Jim stood where he was in the doorway of the spacious kitchen and notched to the side just enough that Tom Harvey could stand with him when he felt the man approach.
“She was a bright child—she was reading at three years old.” Grace smiled a little brighter when Blair settled his second hand over hers. “She laughed only the way a child can—you know? Never embarrassed or shy about how amused she was. She always had a smile for anyone she met. She trusted so easily and without reserve.” The woman took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “I tried so often tell her to beware of strangers but she said that people were good and that she would know when she met a bad one. She would just know.”
Jim swallowed hard and then jerked when he caught sight of his partner’s face. Blair was pale and his eyes were wet with unshed tears. “Blair?”
He cleared his throat. “Grace, was Stephanie a Guide? Had she been tested?”
“Tested? I mean the Guide gene is latent in my husband’s family but there hasn’t been a Guide come online in the family in over one hundred years. Her doctor said that the Center preferred to see children when they entered puberty that it provided better results for the rating system.” Grace’s fingers clenched on his. “Is that why I feel so much better with you here? It’s like part of her has been returned to me.”
Blair cleared his throat. “Was it difficult to be angry with her? Difficult to punish her when she did something against the rules?”
“Yes,” Tom murmured from the doorway. “She didn’t act out often—she said she hated for us to be upset with her.” He weaved a little and Jim reached out and caught him.
Jim guided the man to a chair and sat him down. “Did she ever attract the attention of a Sentinel? Was there a child at school she was especially close with?”
“She wasn’t in school.” Grace rubbed her fingers over Blair’s with a soft sigh. “She went one semester and asked to be home schooled. She said the other children were just too much and she couldn’t concentrate.” She bit down on her lip. “I should have her tested then. I should have known.”
“No.” Blair tightened his grips on her. “You didn’t do anything wrong. Guides are resilient and adept at protecting themselves even as small children. They aren’t like Sentinels. Even if you’d known about her latent status—nothing would have changed in your daily lives until she went online as an adult. She would have had the support of the Center and you would have learned about her gifts but that’s all.”
“Is there a way you can know for sure?” Tom asked.
“DNA tests would show her latent gene.” Jim squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. “Knowing this… it changes things a great deal.”
“I don’t understand.”
Jim grimaced. “I had to stop devoting so many hours to Stephanie’s case because there were no leads. This is new information, a new lead. And more than that—if she was a Guide it will give me and my partner a chance to work her case as active again. The murder of a Guide, even a latent one, can be categorized as a hate crime.”
“Even if no one knew she was a Guide?” Tom asked softly.
“You aren’t the only ones she gave emotional support to,” Blair murmured. “It’s entirely likely that many people who crossed her path knew instinctually what she was.”
- – - – -
“Her DNA was never tested, not even at birth.” Blair sat back in his chair. “It should have been. If the Guide gene runs in her family, she should have been tested at birth for the Guide gene.”
“I thank God we kept samples on file. I would hate to exhume her body for that. But, it’ll be weeks before we get a positive back on her DNA results.”
Blair shook his head. “No, we can get it rushed. If we put in a call to the Center—they’ll find a private lab to do it as soon as possible. A murdered Guide, Jim, you know what that is.”
“Is that why I was so…” Jim sighed. “From the beginning, her case was special to me. The moment I walked onto the scene, I wanted to pick her up and take her away from it. Clean her up; make her safe from what had happened to her.”
“Yes, she was only hours dead when you found her. Guides smell different to Sentinels, even in your latent state—you had to recognize what she was. Now that you’re online, you’ll recognize Guides by scent and be conscious of it. Even as a small child she would have put off Guide pheromones, they would have been muted and indistinct, but there nonetheless.” Blair glanced back at Simon’s office. “We need to update him on the status of this before it breaks to the public. Information like this won’t be kept quiet for very long.”
“Agreed.” Jim sighed. “We should let him make coffee; he really isn’t going to like this at all.”
Blair nodded and then frowned. “Huh, you know I have this search running for the state right? Well, I had a friend at the FBI running one for me as well.”
“She has ten hits in the Pacific Northwest of children age five to eight.” Blair picked up his phone. “I’m going to call her and get details. Copies of those case files would be very nice.”
“Our case would be the newest.”
- – - – -
“We have five dead children with latent Guide genes,” Blair murmured. “The other children didn’t have latent genes, so we can’t be sure if they were the work of the same killer. The Director of the Center is livid that no one caught onto this when it started five years ago. The FBI wants to send an agent from the Seattle office but things are still a little strained between the Bureau and the Center.”
“Yeah.” Simon’s gaze flicked to the murder board Blair had spent the afternoon setting up. Four little girls and a boy. All four of them five or a bit older. “Anyone give you grief about case files?”
“No. The Center has already contacted all the departments and demanded they give me all the access I need. The families are being brought to Cascade and we’ll have access to them.” Blair paused and cleared his throat. “Jim and I will have access to them. The Center is closing ranks, Captain, and it’s probably going to get very bad very quickly. A child murderer is a heinous thing but a child murderer who kidnaps, rapes, and kills latent Guides?”
“Yeah.” Simon swallowed hard. “What do you think about his motivations?”
“Let’s wait for the rest of the team to get in here,” Blair suggested. “I really don’t want to say this more than once.”
- – - – -
Jim finished pouring his own coffee then he screwed the lid of Blair’s travel mug into place. “I don’t know, Henri, we’re doing our best to keep this out of the press but the Center is not going to last long on that. One of the best tools the Sentinel-Guide Center has is their outright manipulation of the media. They are masters of making newspapers and television news programs parrot their agenda.” He put the lid on his mug and grabbed the bag of sandwiches he’d brought with him. “I’ve asked the two other Sentinels in the building to attend this meeting with their Guides. It’s my preference to only have you and Brian from Major Crimes join the case. But the final decision will be Simon’s.”
“Yeah. I just want to help. I remember that scene, Jim. I don’t think I’ll ever get that little girl out of my head. I had nightmares about her for weeks.” Henri shuddered. “And who ever did that needs to be caught before he does it again.”
Jim grimaced. “Blair thinks he already has. We’re searching for a more recent case.”
He prodded Henri out of the break room and they entered the conference room just behind Carolyn and her partner, Captain Joel Taggert.
The two other registered Sentinels in the precinct were already there with their Guides. Detective Daniel Jamieson and his Guide Chad Moore, a computer analyst, worked Cyber Crimes and high profile financial crimes. Detective Markus Jergens and his Guide Thomas Howard worked in Homicide. They had impressive solve rates but not near as high as Jim’s when he’d worked alone. Both Chad and Thomas were over by the murder board with Blair and they were talking softly. Most of the mundanes in the room didn’t notice the tension between the three of them but Jim recognized it immediately and sought confirmation from the other two Sentinels in the room. Both Daniel and Markus were focused intently on their Guides, obviously worried.
Blair turned and offered his Sentinel a strained smile. “We’ve reached a consensus but the conclusion is… a little horrific.”
“Okay.” Jim sat down next to Simon and glanced briefly at Carolyn before he pushed Blair’s coffee across the table. “Talk to me, Chief.”
Blair took a deep breath. “I need you to promise me that you’ll hear me out. All three of you.”
There was no question as to which three he was referring to.
Jim snorted. “Only I get to interrupt you when you speak, Chief and I’ll keep my own council until you’re done.”
“I want to talk about the victims first. We know there has been at least one child killed every year for the past five years.” Blair walked to the first picture. “This is Stacy Wallace from Seattle. She was taken while she played in her front yard. There were no reports of any strangers in the neighborhood, no one reported a screaming child during the time period the abduction took place. The lead detective in the case said it was like she vanished into thin air. She was taken June 3rd and her body was recovered August 15th whereupon the coroner estimated she’d been dead less than four hours. Her father, Justin, is a latent Guide and her mother, Carla, is a latent Sentinel. Both of her parents are registered and despite their latent status were paired through genetic testing as teenagers. They have a loving, devoted marriage and Stacy was their only child.”
“She was raped and murdered like our victim?” Henri asked.
“Yes. Her COD was strangulation but she was mutilated before and after death occurred. The ME also indicated that she’d been the victim of sexual abuse over an extended period of time. She had rectal and vaginal scarring and tears at the time of her death. The UNSUB also cut and dyed her hair—but we’ll discuss his motivations for doing that later.”
Blair moved to the next picture. “This is Tiffany Hanson. The Guide gene does run in her father’s family but it skipped him and all of his siblings. The last latent or online Guide was an aunt and an uncle, respectively. Her parents are Joe and Deena, they were separated at the time of Tiffany’s disappearance and as a result the case was slowed down by their accusations against each other. Eventually, the detectives in Everette cleared them both of wrongdoing in the abduction and eventual murder of their child. She was taken on June 1st and her body was recovered August 21st, the medical examiner estimated she’d been dead around six days. Again, she was raped, strangled, and mutilated.”
Blair drank from his bottle of water and took a minute to settle himself before he continued. “The third victim was a male, which from an outside perspective looks like a break in the killer’s pattern. His name was Christopher Harrison and he lived in Tacoma. His parents are David and Jared Harrison. Christopher was the product of a surrogate with Jared Harrison being the sperm donor. The Guide gene is present in his family and one of the reasons they chose him to be the biological father of their first child. Christopher has three other siblings—all with same surrogate mother. When Christopher first disappeared the police immediately investigated the surrogate mother but it was quickly decided that she was innocent of wrong doing. He was taken on June 1st and found August 15th; he’d been dead around six hours when he was discovered.”
“Is Jared Harrison a latent Guide?” Jim asked quietly.
“No, but his father was. He never came online and died ten years ago.” Blair put down the water bottle and drifted back to the white board he’d set up with all the victim’s details and pictures. “The fourth victim is Taylor Miller. Her parents are Amber and Frank Miller. They lived in Silverdale at the time of Taylor’s disappearance. She was taken June 12th and found dead August 16th, the ME for the case believed her to have been dead for less than a day when she was discovered. Frank Miller is a latent Guide but he’s never registered with the Center. The fifth victim was Stephanie Harvey and we are all familiar with her case file since she is the first victim to be recovered in Cascade. For reference she was taken June 1st of last year and found dead August 15th.”
“And the killer himself?”
“The UNSUB is a white male in his mid to late thirties. He is educated, probably holds down a job with little problem, suffered in an abusive home as a very young child, isn’t married, and has probably never maintained a healthy relationship with an adult woman.” He took a deep breath. “He is very familiar with Sentinels and Guides. It is extremely likely that his father is a Sentinel and came online sometime after his birth. There was a Guide in the home early on—and the mother of the child would’ve had a difficult time maintaining her position in the home at that point. The child would have preferred him or her to everyone else because he is a dormant Sentinel himself. Due to his mental defect, he will never come online. We’ve learned along the way that any mental or physical damage will prevent the Sentinel gene from activating under any circumstances.”
“His mother?” Simon asked.
“It’s a good guess. She would have a lot of reason to resent Guides. He was definitely raised by the mother and has no contact with his father as an adult. During the time period that he was raised—his father would have been demonized for accepting a Guide at all. It was the general consensus that a married man should value his family over everything else and should refuse to bond no matter how damaging or deadly it could be. The mother would have been able to completely cut off the father from any contact with the child after she waited a suitable time. She would have been viewed poorly if she hadn’t tried to make her marriage work.”
“What is the difference between a dormant and latent Sentinel?” Henri Brown asked.
“A dormant Sentinel is a person born with the Sentinel gene that will never activate. They are dormant because of some kind of damage—physical or mental. A latent Sentinel is someone who has an active gene but they haven’t come online, yet. Some latent Sentinels never come online but the general theory is that they aren’t needed. From an anthropological standpoint, Sentinels emerge in times of need—the larger the city population the more Sentinels will emerge or arrive. For instance, every major city in the US has at least one Alpha Sentinel once the city’s Sentinel population reaches a certain point.”
“Who is Cascade’s Alpha Sentinel?” Carolyn asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Ellison.” Daniel and Markus answered at the same time.
“He’s actually the Alpha Sentinel Prime for the entire Pacific Northwest.” Blair chuckled when Jim rolled his eyes. “Ask.”
Jim cleared his throat. “How much of this academic and how much of this empathy?”
“My impressions of him currently are based solely on his victim pathology and the violence of his crimes. The fact that he is locating off-line, unregistered Guides tells us that he’s reacting to them on some instinctual level. That means he’s a dormant Sentinel or a dormant Guide. I don’t believe he is a dormant Guide because even in a dormant state, a Guide has a certain level of empathy that can’t be turned off. He wouldn’t be able to torture these children if he were a Guide himself. A dormant Sentinel would have instinctual knowledge of Guides but he’ll never come online because he’s mentally ill.” Blair paused and took a deep breath. “He’s very angry and has a profound hatred for Guides. His victim pool represents the time in his life when everything changed for him. The Sentinel gene is passed from the male genome to off-spring. This means that his father was the Sentinel and came online around the time our UNSUB was four years of age. During that time period, the Sentinel would have had no legal rights regarding the custody of his child.”
“So his mother took the destruction of her marriage out on her child and created a psychopath in the process?” Henri asked.
“Sociopath,” Blair murmured. “This man isn’t legally insane, he isn’t being driven by feral Sentinel instincts, and he is fully in control of his actions. A fresh crime scene would give me more to work with. None of the previous scenes were documented by a Sentinel-Guide pair and that makes a difference in cases like this.” Blair looked at Stephanie’s picture. “If I’d been here—I could have got a lot from her scene. The coroner said she’d only been dead a few hours when the scene was processed.”
Chad shuddered. “Sandburg, you can’t be serious? You know how dangerous connecting with the dead is.”
“I’m an anointed shaman, Chad and I’ve walked the full path. Speaking to the dead is the least of my abilities.” His eyes darkened when Chad’s mouth dropped open briefly. “I’m a wolf Guide. You knew that, right?”
“It’s certainly not in your published bio,” Thomas muttered. “Is that how you called Ellison? That’s the rumor, you know—that you woke your Sentinel. That you brought him online because you were upset. That you pulled him across the country without a bond in place.”
Blair flushed and his gaze darted around the room at the mundanes in the room. “We can discuss that later, if you wish. Right now, we have an investigation to focus on.” He looked toward Banks. “Captain?”
Simon cleared his throat. “Let’s discuss options.”
Daniel Jamieson leaned forward. “Chad and I can do the Sentinel search for the father. Once we get a list of candidates, we can whittle it down until we find viable suspects. There couldn’t have been more than fifty or so registered Sentinels in Washington state thirty years ago. He would have had to register to get a Guide. Though back then—pairings were more hit and miss than anything else because we didn’t have DNA testing. The Center will give us all the access we need.”
Simon nodded. “I’ll let your Captain know that we’ll be borrowing the two of you for the forseeble future.”
“Thank you, sir.” Daniel sat back a little in his chair and he casually wrapped his fingers around Chad’s left wrist. As grounding rituals went, Blair thought, it was a nice unobtrusive one.
“We have four sets of parents to re-interview. They are currently being brought into the city by the Center.” Jim fiddled with a pen as he spoke. “Markus, Thomas, Blair, and I will have to handle those interviews—the Center is going to be very protective of them.”
“Why?” Carolyn asked snidely. “They are mundanes after all.”
“The Center honors and respects the parents of Sentinels and Guides—that these people lost their children will make them more protective,” Blair answered. “They will all receive the best care and support possible as a result of their loss.” He inclined his head as he spoke. “The Guide gene is also passed through the male genome. At least one of the fathers is a latent Guide himself. They will be treated with the utmost care during the remainder of this situation. The last thing we’d need is him to come online and have an emotional blow-out.”
She frowned. “If Guides are such a precious commodity why is this dormant Sentinel killing them?”
“We’re not a commodity, Detective Plummer,” Thomas ground out through clenched teeth. His Sentinel reached out and covered his hand with his own. “If you are going to continue to work with our Alpha and his Guide, I would suggest you educate yourself to the fullest measure. Otherwise you run the risk of offending the pride.”
“Cascade doesn’t have a Sentinel pride,” Carolyn snapped.
“Our pride was founded the moment our Alpha registered with the Sentinel-Guide Center.” Daniel Jamieson stood and offered his Guide his hand. “Captain, we’ll get started on those record searches.”
“Report to Ellison.” Simon stood. “Rafe, Brown—you’ll be working the case with Sandburg and Ellison. The rest of us will take the remaining cases in Major Crimes. Let’s move people.”
“I’m senior to both Rafe and Brown,” Carolyn protested. “Captain, this is a big case…”
“I won’t work with you, Detective Plummer,” Blair murmured from his place by the whiteboard. He’d started making notes next to each child’s picture. “Not today, and not in the future.”
“You don’t get to decide that,” Carolyn ground out through clenched teeth.
“Actually,” Blair said as he turned and stared at her. “I do. The Cascade police department signed a contract with the Sentinel-Guide Center that states plainly that a Guide cannot be forced or ordered to work with an individual they find intolerable. I find you intolerable.” Chad and Thomas exchanged wide-eyed glances. For a mundane to be labeled intolerable by a Guide of Blair’s standing was akin to banishment from the tribe. Blair studied them both briefly and then went back to his board. “Jim, I need a period of meditation.”
“Do you want to go home or would the gym downstairs do?” Jim asked, his gaze focused on the rigid line of his Guide’s back.
“Neither will do, I need an isolation room and we haven’t set that up at home yet.” Blair put down the dry erase marker. “We can’t see the parents until two—there should be a room at the Center I can use before we do that.”
- – - – -
“Guide Sandburg is very upset.”
Jim flinched at the implication and turned to stare at the Sentinel who had made the statement. “My Guide is none of your business, Wilson.”
“He has been in meditation for well over an hour and he’s obviously still…” Wilson trailed off as Jim’s eyes hardened in fury. “It’s obvious to anyone.”
“Your interest in my Guide is inappropriate,” Jim snapped out.
Wilson held up both hands in mock surrender. “I mean no offense. It is my job within the Center to see to the care of all Guides who come for meditation.”
“Unbonded Guides.” A woman corrected from the doorway of the ante room that Jim was in. “You overstep yourself, Sentinel Wilson, and have insulted the Alpha. Leave this room immediately.”
“If he can’t protect his Guide…”
“Go no further, you idiot.” Her eyes darkened in anger. “Have you no sense of self-preservation?” She jerked him by the arm and pulled him towards the door. “Our apologies, Sentinel Ellison. Please let me know if you wish to file a formal complaint.”
Jim took a deep breath and tried to settle himself. He knew that Blair could feel his anger and that wasn’t good for his Guide not when he was already in such a vulnerable position. The door to the isolation chamber opened and Blair held out a hand. Jim took in willingly and allowed himself to be pulled into the room.
Blair chuckled. “Do you know how many Sentinels offered themselves to me before you came along?”
“No.” But he hated every single one of the sons of bitches.
“I’d gone so long without a match many assumed my true-match was dead or was never going to come online. I’m powerful enough that I could have bonded with almost any Sentinel that crossed my path—I could have forced a connection between our minds and forged a bond but I didn’t. I waited for you.” Blair ran his hand down the center of Jim’s chest. “You’re my everything and you needn’t ever worry that another Sentinel would tempt me. I’ve been exposed to some of the most attractive and powerful Sentinels on the planet and none of them made an impression.”
“Yeah.” Blair took a deep breath. “She has to go, Jim. I can’t be in the same room with her every damn day. She’s jealous and twisted up with so much anger that I don’t know how she functions. I don’t want her around you, either.”
“I think Simon will see the matter resolved very quickly. He looked concerned when we left and she was still trying to argue with him about the case.”
- – - – -
Jim leaned against the window frame and stared out into the bullpen of Major Crimes. Carolyn’s desk was relatively empty—but it had been obviously cleaned and set up for someone new. “Are we getting a new detective?”
“Something like that,” Simon admitted. “I got Plummer transferred to the 1-4, into Priority Homicide. In exchange, I had to take their guest. It appears they have an exchange cop from Australia. An Inspector Megan Connor. She’ll be joining us this afternoon.”
“Good or bad?”
“Really good, apparently she’s a great investigator if a bit head strong and something of a blunt object. I told the Chief she would fit right in around here.”
Jim laughed. “Great.”
“Where is Blair?”
Jim tilted his head and his gaze darkened as he sought out his Guide with his senses. “Third floor filling out insurance forms and stuff. They cornered him this morning when we were coming in the building.”
“He spent two hours in meditation.” Jim looked at Simon then. “As much as I buffer him from everyone else—I can’t buffer him from me. I was so irritated with Carolyn that all of it just poured onto him and he had no outlet for it. I don’t know why she can’t be a decent human being. She wasn’t this bad when we were married.”
“She took a lot of flak from around here about the cheating and the divorce. She complained more than once that everyone took your side in the divorce.”
Jim snorted. “If I’d had my way—the entire thing would have been settled out of court. She’s the one that wouldn’t leave it alone and dragged our personal lives through the court system.”
“Well it’s even worse now that you’re registered as a Sentinel. She feels like she’s missed out on the opportunity to be the wife of an important man.”
Jim frowned and looked at Simon in shock. “She can’t possible think that I would have stayed with her rather than take a Guide.”
Simon laughed at the horrified tone of Jim’s voice. “This from the man who fought bonding with a Guide for ten months.”
Jim flushed. “Still, I would have… well hell… Simon. The Guide comes first and once I bonded with a Guide I would have had no choice but to divorce her. My Sentinel instincts are too strong for a platonic relationship with my Guide.”
“Got that settled, did you?” Simon asked with a grin.
“Yeah, something like that.” Jim frowned and straightened up from the window. “Excuse me, Simon.”
- – - – -
Blair took a deep breath and tried to find his center. “Detective Marshall, I made my lack of interest clear to you some time ago.”
“Look, I asked around. I know what a big macho bastard Ellison is. I know you aren’t getting what you need at home.” Phillip Marshall ran one finger tip along Blair’s jaw line. “I can help you out—you have needs Blair. I understand and your empathic abilities just make those needs stronger and harder to ignore.” He moved closer and ignored Blair’s intake of breath. “Trust me, you won’t regret it.”
“Stop touching me. Don’t you understand he’ll smell you on me?” Blair demanded in a hissed whisper. “I’m not interested, Marshall, so back the fuck off.”
“Don’t make things difficult, little man. We can have some fun or we can have a problem. Do you really want to have a problem with me? The guys in Vice talk—it won’t take long for me to make things difficult for you and your Sentinel if you can’t get with the program.”
Blair’s eyes darkened with temper. “Threatening a Sentinel is a dangerous thing to do, Detective.”
“Are you going to do something about it, little man?” Marshall asked in a whisper against his ear.
“Yes,” Blair whispered back and then he struck, but not the way Marshall anticipated—but then mundanes really never did see it coming.
He slithered into the other man’s mind without a single pause and Marshall stumbled away from him with a shout of horror. Blair stood where he was as the detective fell to his knees and clutched at his chest as if he’d been shot. He clawed at his clothes trying to find the wound, to try to hold the pain.
“Fuck! Stop it. Just stop it! Please!”
Blair released his mental hold on the other man as the door to the stairs slammed open and his Sentinel burst through them with Simon Banks and Henri Brown at his back. Blair shook his head and Jim came to an abrupt stop just short of grabbing the sobbing detective off the floor.
“Are we clear, Detective Marshall?”
Marshall jerked his head so he couldn’t see Blair.
“Detective Marshall, do you understand?” Blair demanded in the power filled voice of a Guide.
The man jerked as if he’d been struck physically and reluctantly lifted his head. “Yes. I understand.”
“This is my city and all of the Guides in this city are mine. If you attempt with any one of them what you just attempted with me—I will find you and burn you out. You’ll spend the rest of your life the way you just spent the last minute. Is that understood?”
Blair moved away from the wall and walked to stand in front of the man. He squatted down and looked him right in the eye. “And if you ever threaten my Sentinel again I’ll put a bullet in your head.” He tapped the other man’s forehead. “But don’t worry—I’ll make sure you see it coming.”
Marshall shuddered. “I understand.”
“Good. Get up, wash your face, and go home. Tell your Captain you don’t feel well, because you’re not physically capable of finishing your day.”
“You’ll be okay in the morning, Detective. This pain won’t feel so vivid but you won’t ever forget it. Do you understand that?”
“Yes.” Marshall took a deep breath. “Yes.” He stumbled to his feet and all but ran to the stairwell.
Jim took a deep breath in an obvious effort to calm himself. “You don’t look it, Chief.”
“He tried to coerce me into having sex with him,” Blair responded bluntly and Simon started cursing under his breath. “And then when I refused he threatened you because he thought he could blackmail me into fucking him.” Blair’s eyes darkened. “He won’t make that mistake again.”
“No. I don’t think he will,” Henri Brown whispered, his voice not completely normal. “Can I ask what you did to him?”
“Physically? Nothing.” Blair picked his back pack up from the floor where he’d dropped it. “Mentally—I made him think I was tearing his heart out of his chest.”
Jim rubbed his own chest for a few seconds before he caught himself and dropped his hand. “Okay.”
Blair patted him. “But thanks for running to the rescue, Jim. I appreciate the thought.” He urged Jim towards the stairs. “What tipped you off?”
“Your heart beat elevated,” Jim shared a glance with Simon and Henri. Both men looked equal parts horrified and proud. He totally understood. “And you’ve got a fine layer of ‘pissed off’ over your entire scent pile.”
Blair paused. “Do you need me to shower and change my clothes?”
“No, I can smell him on you—but it isn’t going to push me over the edge. He was putting off more dominance pheromones than he was sex.”
“You’re handling this better than I thought.”
Jim paused. “Oh, Chief, I could chew lead and spit out perfectly formed nails. I should get a medal for the amount of self-restraint I’m currently using. A medal, a commendation, a key to the city.”
“An Oscar and maybe a Grammy?” Blair asked with a cheeky smile.
Jim laughed reluctantly. “Yeah, those too.”
“Relax, Jim, if he’d been a serious threat I would have literally ripped his heart out.” Blair walked out of the stairwell and towards Major Crimes leaving the three of them to follow him.
“Chief, you can’t do that, can you?”
“Oh, yeah, I practiced on a few animals when I was trained by the Chopec. Nothing senseless, mind you, they were for dinner anyway. It was one the skills I had to master when I walked the shaman’s path with Incacha.” Blair grimaced as he dropped his backpack into his chair. “Sort of gross, actually, but he wouldn’t let me out of it. The role of a shaman in a tribal situation isn’t like… well it’s not the same.” He waved a hand in dismissal. “Never did it with a man—came close about three years ago.”
Henri dropped into his chair. “You must tell me how.”
“How to do it?” Blair asked with a frown.
“No, man, how you came close to ripping a man’s heart from his chest.”
“Well, my gun was empty,” Blair responded with a straight face and then grinned when Henri started to laugh. “Okay, for real, do you remember the hostage crisis in Dormaker Towers?”
“Yeah, ten terrorists – took over the building and tried to ransom this rich guy but everything went to shit because there was an FBI agent…” Henri’s mouth dropped open. “Holy shit that was you?”
“Yeah.” Blair dropped into his chair. “My partner and I were interviewing a woman in an unrelated matter on the fifth floor when it all went to hell. We split up and between the two of us we pretty much got them all but the leader. He escaped but he fixated on me as responsible—very bad television movie kind of fixation. He broke into my apartment and I woke up with him on top of me.”
“Shit,” Jim muttered. “Shit.”
“And you did the heart thing on him—the mental version?”
“Yeah, but he was high as a kite on meth and it wasn’t enough. I had to resort to physical violence and I hate to do that if I can avoid it.”
“So you killed him?”
“No, but he’ll never walk again. He’s in prison serving a life sentence.” Blair took a deep breath. “I broke his back. It isn’t something I would have ever done in any other circumstance but I couldn’t leave him able to get up and come after me—I would have had to kill him then.”
“I’d rather be dead,” Simon murmured.
“So would he.” Blair shot his Captain a glance. “But, that wouldn’t have been justice—certainly not for the twenty people he killed that day so he could hold one rich man hostage for a couple of million dollars.”
“Agreed,” Jim responded.
“For the tribe, man.” Blair looked his Sentinel over. “Do you need to ground yourself?”
Jim started to shake his head no but then changed his mind. “Yeah, Chief.”
“Is it rude if we ask if we can watch?” Henri asked. “I read about grounding rituals and bonding…”
Blair chuckled. “You’re never watching a bonding ritual, Henri. I can’t be that naked in front of you.”
“Oh come on, doc, you’re very pretty.”
“Yes, I know,” Blair sniped back. He shrugged out of his jacket and raised an eyebrow at Jim. “Where?”
“Break room has a door that locks.” Jim shot Henri a mock glare and Brown just laughed.
Blair followed and shook a finger at Henri when he acted like he was going to come along. “Due to the nature of our work, Detective Brown, I’m sure you’ll see one eventually.”
Jim snorted as he bodily pulled Blair into the break room and shut the door with a sharp snap. The moment they were alone, Jim took a deep breath. “I could kill that son of a bitch for touching you.”
“I know but you can’t go around butchering mundanes, it would be bad for other Sentinels in the area if people believed that their Alpha was so incapable of controlling himself.” Blair unbuttoned his shirt and tugged it off. “I have another set of clothes in my locker downstairs. Are you sure you don’t want me to change clothes?”
Jim watched him toss the shirt aside and shook his head as he pulled his Guide close and slid his hands up under the t-shirt the smaller man still wore. “No. I can deal with it. I don’t know what I would have done if he’d still been touching you when I got there.”
“I felt you coming,” Blair admitted. “I held off on responding; hoping that I could talk him away from me before things got ugly.”
Jim tucked his face against his neck. “Talk to me, Guide.”
Blair took a deep breath as he was pressed against the wall.
“I pray thee cease thy counsel,
Which falls into mine ears as profitless
As water in a sieve. Give not me counsel,
Nor let no comforter delight mine ear
But such a one whose wrongs do suit with mine.
Bring me a father that so loved his child,
Whose joy of her is overwhelmed like mine,
And bid him speak of patience.
Measure his woe the length and breadth of mine,
And let it answer every strain for strain,
As thus for thus, and such a grief for such,
In every lineament, branch, shape, and form.
If such a one will smile and stroke his beard,
Bid sorrow wag, cry ‘hem’ when he should groan,
Patch grief with proverbs, make misfortune drunk
With candle-wasters — bring him yet to me,
And I of him will gather patience.
But there is no such man; for, brother, men
Can counsel and speak comfort to that grief
Which they themselves not feel; but, tasting it,
Their counsel turns to passion, which before
Would give preceptial medicine to rage,
Fetter strong madness in a silken thread,
Charm ache with air and agony with words.
No, no! ‘Tis all men’s office to speak patience
To those that wring under the load of sorrow,
But no man’s virtue nor sufficiency
To be so moral when he shall endure
The like himself. Therefore give me no counsel.
My griefs cry louder than advertisement.”
Blair rubbed a circle between Jim’s shoulder blades as the Sentinel slowly lifted his head and brushed his mouth over his.
Jim let his forehead rest against Blair’s with a little sigh. “Shakespeare?”
“Yes. Much Ado About Nothing.” Blair took a deep breath. “I’m not her, Jim.”
“I know. I know.”
“I’m also not stupid enough to think I’d be able to hide a sexual affair from a Sentinel.”
Jim laughed reluctantly. “No, I can’t imagine you being that stupid.”
“You’re all I want. All I need.” He leaned in and kissed Jim’s mouth carefully as if they were both infinitely fragile. “Never doubt it.”
“I trust you.”
“I just don’t trust other people around you. I don’t trust them to respect you. I don’t trust them with anything,” Jim admitted. “I don’t know that I could leave you alone with Simon for an extended period of time and he’s one of my closest friends.”
“It’s instinctual, Jim. It has nothing to do with your friendship and everything to do with the primitive Sentinel you carry inside you.” He tilted his head back so he could meet his gaze. “I know. You don’t have to worry or apologize for being what you are. I knew exactly what you were the day I accepted you—the very moment I set eyes on you I understood, even better than you do, exactly who and what you were.”
“I worry that it’ll be too much… that I’ll do something you can’t handle and you’ll…”
“No.” Blair put his fingers over Jim’s lips. “Never, Jim. I won’t ever leave you. I doubt I could survive it and I know you wouldn’t. Our bond, it’s the most important thing – the only thing that matters. It matters more than I can possible say.”
“Yeah.” Blair smiled. “Now, we should go back out there before they think we’ve moved from a grounding period and straight into bonding. Henri will be at the door listening any second.”
Jim laughed aloud and shook his head. “You know I’d rather they never see any of it. I don’t like…”
“Being that vulnerable in front of people you work with everyday?” Blair finished. “I know but you have nothing to be ashamed of and you have to realize there may be situations in the future where privacy for such things will be impossible.”
“I know, Chief.”
“We did this at the Center during training with others present.”
“They were our kind, Blair.” Jim took a deep breath. “They understood what it means and how important it is. Mundanes really have a corrupt and perverse view of Sentinel-Guide relationships.”
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