Anne stood to the left of the hotel door with her Glock at a low ready. Jason was opposite of her with his own Glock drawn. Behind Anne were Veronica and Samantha with their pistols. Kurt was standing behind Jason with a short-barreled shotgun. Jason also held the keycard to the room. The manager of the hotel refused when Anne showed the woman her detective’s shield, but buckled when Jason flashed his Homeland Security credentials. Damn Feds got all the breaks.

I’m not sensing any thoughts in the room, Samantha reported over the group’s telepathic link.

That’s not as helpful as normal, Jason observed sourly, At least they don’t have any regular humans in there.

Do a knock and announce? Anne asked. Jason shook his head.

Vampires are kill-on-sight monsters. We go in hard, Jason said. Veronica, put up the sound and sight barriers to keep out the curious. The sorceress nodded. Her hands glowed as she made the intricate motions to twist and then sling the spell. Satisfied, Jason held up four fingers as the count. The team tensed as Jason counted down. At zero, he ran the keycard and tapped the door open. Kurt slid by Jason and kicked the door in. The door swung open with Kurt charging in close behind with his shotgun up. Just as they’d practiced, Kurt slid to the side and cleared the left side of the room. Anne was the next in, sweeping the right side. Jason followed with the two remaining Avalonians trailing.

Veronica had barely stepped into the room when one of the vampires was suddenly in their midst. He looked like a dark-haired male of average height and build in a tight shirt and jeans with wraparound sunglasses. That was all Anne saw before the vampire’s arm blurred and backhanded Kurt. The tall German was thrown across the hotel room before slamming into the couch. None of them had time to react as the vampire moved and punched Jason. The detective/special agent gasped in pain and crumpled to the carpeted floor. Anne spun and opened fire with her pistol, but the vampire wasn’t there. Samantha and Veronica were hurled back out the door. Then the vampire was standing inches in front of Anne. He flicked off the wraparound sunglasses. Glowing red eyes bored into Anne’s blue. Terror rushed through Anne as her muscles locked in place. She barely remembered to breathe.

“Yes, you are the one we were told to watch,” the vampire said in a low tone. A low, sexy tone. The terror vanished, and Anne was instantly filled with desire. Anne focused hard on the image of the woman this vampire killed earlier that night, and her rage insulated her from the vampire’s attempted seduction.

Halten Sie weg von ihr, Vampir!” Kurt screamed, as he touched off his shotgun. Somehow, he’d managed to move just enough to get Anne out of the line of fire. The thundering blast drowned out the vampire’s scream of pain as thirty silver pellets slammed into its side. At that range, the pellets made a hole the size of a baseball. Black guts spilled out as the vampire’s stomach was ripped out.

The vampire moved faster than Anne could track. It was in front of Kurt and snatched the shotgun out of the German’s hands with a contemptible ease. The vampire placed the muzzle of the shotgun on Kurt’s chest and squeezed the trigger. Anne didn’t hear her scream over the shotgun’s blast. Kurt fell to the ground. Grief and rage coursed through Anne.

The streams of magic around her were instantly visible. Anne dropped her pistol and grabbed one of the streams. Her hand closed on empty air, but the stream responded like Anne was actually holding it.

Anne, what are you doing? Veronica almost screamed through the telepathic link. Anne’s answer was less words than raw emotion of vengeance.

You can’t use raw wild magic like that! Veronica said, “You have to twist it into a spell before slinging it.” Veronica sent a series of images over the link, showing Anne what she needed to do. The vampire spun as Anne’s hands flicked to twist the stream of wild magic into the spell.

IKALA!” Anne screamed as she slung the spell at the vampire. A brilliant red ball erupted from Anne’s hands. Unbelievable burning pain blossomed across her hands. The ball lanced out at the vampire, who was too stunned to move. As the ball touched the vampire, it screamed and was reduced to ash. Anne crumpled to the ground, screaming in pain. Her hands were a brilliant scarlet.

“Here, let me help,” Veronica said. The small woman clamped her hands down on Anne’s. The pain intensified. “Anne look at me. I need you to look at me.” Anne forced herself to look into Veronica’s brown eyes. The pain noticeably dropped. Anne could feel the wild magic swirling around Veronica and herself. The pain lessened even more. Anne could see Veronica twisting the streams of wild magic into knots before running those knots over Anne’s hands. Anne’s eyes went wild as she realized Veronica was only using her mind and voice to manipulate the wild magic.

“My God, Vanessa, how are you doing that?” Anne breathed. Veronica gave Anne a half-smile.

“I’m sorry, this is going to be bad,” Veronica said, ignoring the question. The pain vanished, and Anne wondered what Veronica was talking about. Then an intense itching erupted across her hands and forearms. Anne instinctively tried to scratch, but Veronica held her tight.

“It will only be a minute, but it’s going to be one of the longest minutes of your life,” Veronica said, her brown eyes filled with compassion. “Look over at Kurt.”

“He’s—” Anne couldn’t complete the sentence. She was terrified to look over and see Kurt’s body.

“Magic vests, you silly girl,” Veronica said, with that same half-smile. “He’s hurt, but he’s alive. Look.” Anne turned her head. Kurt was sitting up with Samantha’s help. As soon as their eyes locked, Anne forgot the itching. Relief pounded through her. Kurt gave her a confidant smile, and Anne pulled out of Veronica’s grasp.

“I thought you were dead,” Anne cried into Kurt’s shoulder as she gripped him tight. Warm arms surrounded her.

“Anne, I’m alive, but that hurts. A lot,” Kurt said. Anne quickly let go of Kurt, who just continued to smile.

“We need to talk after this is done,” Anne said.

“Yes, we do.”