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"Get her out of there, Matthias. I can control the security monitors for five minutes, tops. Use the stairs, proceed to the ground floor. Lawe will be waiting with the van at the exit." Matthias was moving, even as Jonas barked the orders into the receiver at his ear. He was across the room before the slender, doe-like figure of Dubbree's assistant manager, Grace Anderson, could run. Her lips were opening, her lungs filling. Before the scream could leave her throat, his hand was over her lips and nose, his other arm jerking her against his chest, compressing her lungs and causing instant unconsciousness.
He slung her over his shoulder and strode quickly from the suite, pausing a precious second to make
certain her prints didn't show anywhere on the doors, and securing the locks before moving down the hall.
He picked up the sounds of the bodyguards in the next room, the television they were watching, someone was showering. He strode by the door, slipped down the stairwell, and began taking the steps at a quick run.
Grace's weight was slight, her scent wrapping around him like silken regret. She shouldn't have been here. He had watched her get into her car and move into the traffic that congested Manhattan that afternoon. She was supposed to be on her way out of town, on vacation, leaving the city for the peace and relaxation of the mountains.
She wasn't supposed to be here. And she wasn't supposed to be anywhere near Albrecht. The assistant manager of the exclusive hotel had earned herself a well-deserved break from the city. She had laughed with him about it and invited him to join her when his business in town was completed. Sun and fun, clear streams and lots of trees, she had teased. And he had promised her, first thing in the morning, he would follow her.
Dammit to hell, why had she come back?
"Lawe's in position, you have three minutes," Jonas spoke in his ear. "You have to clear that exit and be in the van before the cameras go to normal operation again."
The scheduling of the security upgrades were top secret, even the floor security personnel had no idea when it happened. Jonas, miracle worker that he was, had managed to find out not only when it would happen, but how to ensure how long it would take.
"I'll have ten seconds to spare," he muttered, racing down the stairs, his steps silent, his movements sure despite his burden. "Have the doors open."
"Open and ready," Law reported. "Get a move on big boy, this area won't stay secure the full time." Get a move on. He grunted at the order. As though he wasn't going fast enough.
"Break the girl's damned neck and dump her." Another voice came across the line. "She's a liability." A growl rumbled from Matthias's throat, though his pace never faltered.
"Shut up, Simon," Jonas ordered. "Two minutes, Matthias." He would make it in plenty of time if Sleeping Beauty didn't decide to wake up and pitch a fit. And she could pitch a fit. He'd met her during the mugging Jonas had staged for Matthias to save her from. If he hadn't moved in when he had, Simon might have been charging the Breeds extra for hazardous-duty pay. Thankfully, she stayed quiet. He hit the exit, ducked, and disappeared into the interior of the van, with two seconds to spare. The door slammed shut, barely missing Grace's head. The van was accelerating away from the exit less than a second later.
"Security system active. All monitors showing normal operational status. The Monarch Suite is locked and secured. Good going Matthias," Jonas congratulated him.
Matthias placed his hand protectively against Grace's head, shifted her from his shoulder, and laid her on the tarp-covered floor of the van.
Simon watched him, smirking. The blond haired mercenary with the smooth southern drawl was a pain in the ass under normal circumstances. A blue-eyed ladies man and self-professed rogue, the mercenary was also a tactical genius.
Beside him, Jonas, the director of the Bureau of Breed Affairs, sat in the secured chair in front of a bank of monitors and finessed a keyboard like it was a lover. The military cut of his black hair revealed an imposing profile, though his eerie silver eyes were damned odd for a Lion Breed. Breed Enforcement agent, Lawe Justice, drove, and Rule Breaker (hell of a set of names for cats) watched him expectantly from the front passenger seat.
"He didn't kill her," Simon stared down at Grace almost mournfully, as he tipped his cowboy hat back and flicked a glance at Matthias. "What the f**k are you going to do with her, wolf?"
"My problem." Matthias moved to peer over Jonas's shoulder at the monitors that recorded the hotel's security, tracked personnel, and alarms.
"No alarms." Jonas moved between the monitors using keyboard commands. "Your entrance or exit wasn't recorded or seen. We're in the clear."
Jonas turned in his chair, and Matthias retreated to rest his back against the wall of the van, as Jonas stared down at Grace's unconscious form.
"Why didn't you kill her?" Jonas repeated Simon's question dispassionately. "If she was in Albrecht's suite this late, then she was a part of him."
Matthias stared back at him coldly. "I won't reward her help by snapping her neck."
"Then I will," Jonas decided, moving as though to do just that. Matthias lifted his lip in a growl, causing Jonas to pause.
"Matthias, she's a risk. She can identify you and place the weapon in your hand. What other choice do you have?" Slashing quicksilver eyes clashed with Matthias's gaze.
"I'll take care of the situation."
"And when she's reported missing? I managed to have her vehicle picked up by one of my enforcers, but she only had a weeks vacation. What then?"
Matthias shifted his gaze from Jonas's to Grace's face. Her features were relaxed, her dove gray eyes closed. Rosebud lips were softened, and her creamy flesh was pale.
He had terrified her, but there hadn't been time for gentleness.
"I'll take responsibility for her," he stated firmly.
"And when she reports what she saw?" Jonas asked, his voice hard. "When she reports that a Breed, a known associate of the Bureau of Breed Affairs killed Dr. Albrecht. What then, Matthias? You're risking the whole community, not just yourself."
"Touch her, and I'll kill you next," Mathias growled, a hard rumble of violence that had the tension in the van spiking to heated levels. "Think about harming her, and I'll kill you."