"Who the bloody hell are you?"
Piper looked up from her computer screen to study the irate
male glaring at her from the open doorway. Her stomach did a
little rock and roll number. Without a doubt, this was the
guy they'd warned her about-Greyhill Danby. He'd been in
England since before she'd been hired. She knew for a fact
that no one had expected him back quite so soon.
"I suppose I could ask you the same question, but I'd like
to think I would've done so with a little more courtesy."
Her smile wasn't meant to be nice. Rude was always the best
response to rude.
His eyes, an incredible shade of bright blue, narrowed as he
stepped across the threshold into the already crowded room.
That fierce gaze wouldn't miss much. She was willing to bet
that he could recite every detail from memory, from who'd
painted the pictures on the wall to how many buttons there
were on her black blouse. Certainly he wouldn't have missed
the pink and purple highlights in her dark hair, much less
the small tat on her right arm. And clearly he didn't
approve of any of it. Was he always this much of a jerk?
When he didn't immediately respond, she continued. "Well,
since you've obviously forgotten how to speak, I'll answer
for both of us. I'm Piper Ryan, this is my office, and you
must be Greyhill Danby."
It took some effort to tear her eyes away from all that
masculine intensity glowering at her, but she managed.
Barely. "Now since the pleasantries are over, you'll have to
excuse me, Mr. Danby. One of us has important work to do."
Her fingers flew across her keyboard to make it clear which
one of them that was. She'd delete the total gibberish she
was typing after he left. If he left, which right now seemed
doubtful. He'd widened his stance and crossed his arms over
his chest, clearly intending to take root right where he was.
She hit the save button and then looked up again, sighing
loudly as she did so. "Was there something else I could help
you with, Mr. Danby? I really am very busy."
Uh, oh. She'd definitely pushed too far.
"I can see that you're busy, ah . . . Miss Ryan, was it?"
His eyebrows snapped down over those bright blue eyes as he
stared at her. "And I'm sure whatever it is that you're
doing is important to someone, somewhere. However, the last
time I checked this is actually my office, you'll understand
why you need to go do your little job somewhere else."
Okay, so no one had told him that they'd be sharing for a
while, at least until the workmen finished remodeling the
rooms upstairs into offices for her and Kerry Thorsen.
Thanks a lot, Sandor Kearn. You could have warned me.
Once again she saved her document and turned to face Danby
directly. "I'm guessing that you haven't talked to Sandor
since your return."
He nodded sharply. "You'd guess right, although I'm not sure
what he has to do with you usurping my office."
Piper couldn't help it. She laughed, which only fueled the
flames of Danby's bad mood. Holding her hand up in apology,
she finally managed to sputter, "Sorry, Mr. Danby, but with
that nifty British accent, you make it sound like this is
1776 all over again, and I'm one of those pesky American
rebels. But I assure you, sir, I didn't dump your precious
tea in Puget Sound. It's over there on the cabinet right
next to my coffee."
He scrutinized the clutter on the counter with a slight
sneer before turning back to her. "My advice to you, Miss
Ryan, is don't get too comfortable in here."
"I wasn't planning on it, but-" she started to explain, but
found herself talking to the back of his head.
He stalked out without a backward glance, taking most of the
oxygen in the room with him. At least that was the only
reason she could come up with why it was suddenly so
difficult to breathe. Yes, that had to be it. Slowly the
pressure in her chest eased, leaving her to ponder on how
she was going to manage sharing such a confined space with
an uptight jerk on a regular basis. He was sexy, to be sure,
but a jerk nonetheless.
Turning back to her computer, she deleted the last few
lines, reminding herself that she'd manage somehow. She
"All right, that went well."
Grey pinched the bridge of his nose and wished he could back
time up a few steps and try that whole mess again. He walked
a few feet farther down the hallway and stopped. Maybe he
should take a lap around the rose garden-or maybe half a
dozen-before seeking out either Sandor Kearn or, failing
that, then the Dame herself.
Granted, neither one of them were particularly happy to have
Grey moving in. But to stick a spy--especially that flit of
brunette-in his private office was beyond the pale. How was
he supposed to work with a woman like her in there? She'd
already turned his neat and tidy office into complete chaos.
What else had changed in the short time he'd been out of the
country? Although Dame Kerry had told him to take as long as
he needed to make the move here to Seattle, he hadn't wanted
to give her time to recant her decision to appoint him as
her Chief Talion and enforcer. He'd worked around the clock
to close up his flat in London and make arrangements to have
the necessities of life shipped to his new home. All in
It didn't help his mood that his departure out of London had
been delayed for over six hours because of weather, which
was then followed by a flight full of screaming infants and
rough turbulence. Right now he was seriously jet-lagged and
short-tempered. He'd intended to stop by the Dame's home
only long enough to let her know that he was back and to
drop off a few things in his office.
Which, as it turned out, was evidently no longer just his.
Exactly who was this Piper Ryan? More importantly, how had
she managed to worm her way into the Thorsen household in
such a short time? The last he'd heard, he was supposed to
be in charge of security, which included vetting potential
new employees. Obviously someone else had also usurped his
job while he was gone.
The most likely culprit was Sandor Kearn, Grey's predecessor
as Chief Talion. Even though Sandor had happily relinquished
the role, he'd probably felt obligated to continue his
former duties until Grey returned. That was all well and
good, but why hadn't he kept Grey in the loop? After all,
how hard would it have been for Sandor to shoot him an email
advising Grey of any new hires?
The answer was obvious. Sandor had guessed how Grey would
react to finding someone else ensconced in his office. And
not just someone, but Piper Ryan. Her image filled his head,
another reason to curse his gift of almost perfect recall.
Her dark hair appeared to have been cut with grass clippers
with no particular style in mind. Well, except to draw
attention to streaks of purple and bright pink that clashed
sharply with her bright red lipstick and nail polish.
Her dark eyes had a faint tilt to them, hinting at an
interesting ancestry. And those full lips with that small
mole at the corner of her mouth made him wonder . . . he cut
that thought off immediately. Better to not go there. He
must be tired for his mind to go wandering into such
He stepped out into the garden, breathing deeply to draw in
the damp mist that was often part of a Seattle morning. It
was one thing that his new home had in common with his old
one. What London didn't have were the towering peaks of the
Cascades and the Olympics that framed the Puget Sound area.
Then there was the rather impressive presence of Mt.
Rainier, the snow covered volcanic peak that served as a
backdrop to the city itself.
He could come to like it here, provided the Dame and her
Consort would trust him enough to do his job. If they
couldn't, he'd soon be banished to serve the Dame at a
distance, most likely London or perhaps in Scandinavia. His
skin crawled, remembering the sharp bite of Nordic winters.
He had no love for the cold and snow of the far northern
reaches of Europe.
Speaking of Europe, he'd better check in. Not that he wanted
to as tired as he was, but it was more politic of him to do
so. Pulling out his cell phone, he punched in a familiar
number. After ringing a handful of times, the call clicked
over to voice mail. Considering his current mood, that was
for the best.
"Listen, you wanted to know when I got back to Seattle. Now
you know. So far, no new developments. E-mail me if you have
any questions. I might even answer them if the mood strikes me."
He disconnected the call without wasting his breath on any
more social niceties especially since most of the time the
two of them could barely tolerate each other. A common
interest forced them to be civil right now, but that
wouldn't last past the resolution of the current situation.
That was just fine with Grey. Besides, he heartily agreed
with that old saying about keeping your friends closer and
your enemies even closer.
"Greyhill, I hadn't heard you were back!"
His shoulders automatically snapped back at attention as he
turned to face the new Grand Dame of the Kyth, Kerry
Thorsen. His training demanded he bow to honor his ruler,
but he managed to hold himself back. Kerry had already made
it clear that she preferred a more casual relationship with
her Talions than had her predecessor. Besides, courtly
behavior seemed out of place when the Dame was wearing a
faded T-shirt with a sports logo splashed across the front
coupled with faded jeans that had more than one hole in them.
The radical change in the royal court was only one of many
things Grey struggled to come to terms with since the death
of their previous ruler. Although Dame Judith had chosen to
live out her last years in the Pacific Northwest, she'd held
on to many of the customs that had held her in good stead
for the thousand plus years of her reign. Their entire world
had been rocked by the combined shock of her death and her
unexpected choice of successors. It was that last one that
had brought Grey to Seattle in the first place.
The puzzled note in Kerry's voice made him realize that he'd
been staring at her for several seconds without responding.
He shook his head to clear it.
"I'm sorry, Dame Kerry. After a long, hectic flight, I'm
afraid I'm not back up to full speed yet. Please let me take
those flowers for you." Then he looked around, searching the
garden for some sign of her guards. "Where is everybody? Are
you alone out here?"
"For once." Kerry smiled as she surrendered the basket of
roses so she could strip off her gardening gloves. She
dropped them along with her pruning shears on the table
beside the door. "I believe Ranulf is out hunting down some
parts for his pet Packard. Sandor took the three kids
shopping this morning before they head to the airport to
meet Lena's flight. I don't expect to any see any of them
much before dinner tonight."
Grey studied the garden behind her. "May I ask where did you
leave your guard?" Discreet was one thing. Invisible was
She shrugged, obviously not concerned. "Sandor mentioned
something about assigning someone to follow me around. I
told him not to bother."
Bloody hell. Sandor shouldn't have allowed her the option of
refusing. Grey studied her, trying to figure out the best
way to convince her to change her mind. It was the duty of
the Talions to protect the Dame. If Kerry wouldn't let them
stay nearby, how were they supposed to keep her safe?
"I will ensure any guards assigned to you will be as
unobtrusive as possible."
"But I've never needed one before." Kerry wrinkled her nose
and frowned. "Well, unless you count when Ranulf and Sandor
get it in their heads to hover."
"We're all concerned for your safety, my lady. Nothing
more." He might has well have been speaking to the wall for
all the attention she paid to his advice.
"I'll think about it," she said, although her tone said
otherwise. That was all right. He could be stubborn, too. It
would be interesting to see which of them won, especially if
he could enlist her husband's support.
Kerry started back toward the house. "You must be tired from
your trip. Why don't you come in and have a seat while I get
those flowers in water?"
As they stepped inside, she added, "I don't know about you,
but I'm definitely ready for a break. Care to join me for an
Since it gave him the perfect excuse to stand guard over
her, Grey didn't hesitate. "Gladly. Why don't I let Hughes
"Thanks. I'll wash up and grab a vase."
Kerry disappeared down the hall toward her private quarters
while he cursed under his breath. Damn it all anyway! What
was Sandor thinking? No matter what Kerry thought, the
Talions should stand guard twenty-four/seven to protect the
Grand Dame of the Kyth. Like it or not, Kerry was the ruler
of their people, one of the few to possess the rare
combination of powers that qualified her for the job.
That alone dictated that she should be carefully watched
over. Then there was the fact that not everyone was thrilled
that she'd ascended to the throne. Most of the American Kyth
seemed more curious about her than anything, but some of
their Old World kindred were furious. They'd had their own
plans for the succession, and Kerry wasn't exactly what
they'd had in mind.
A small, but vocal faction claimed that Judith had meant to
give Kerry her memories only as a temporary measure out of
desperation to keep them from being lost forever. If Kerry
didn't succumb to the growing pressure and step down, they
might very well attempt to take matters in their own hands.
Well, he'd be having words with Sandor. Granted, Kerry was
married to Ranulf Thorsen, a powerful Talion in his own
right. The Viking was eminently capable of protecting her
all by himself, but only if he was actually with her. When
Ranulf couldn't be by her side, another Talion should be.
After all, Dame Judith had also slacked off on security and
see where that had gotten her: dead and buried after being
murdered by one of their own, a Talion warrior who'd gone
Both Ranulf and Sandor Kearn had obviously let Kerry have
her way a little too often. Granted, she was their ruler,
but she was new to the role and to their world. Someone
needed to keep her safe. As Chief Talion, it was both Grey's
honor and his duty.
Now if she'd just trust him enough to let him to do his job.
For the time being, he'd use the chance to share a meal as
an excuse to remain close by until Ranulf could take over.
With that in mind, Grey sought out the butler to request a
pot of Earl Grey tea and something to eat for the two of
them. When he returned to the dining room, Kerry was already
busy arranging the flowers she'd cut.
"Hughes will be in shortly."
"Good. I'm famished." She shoved the last rose into the vase
and stood back to admire her handiwork. "Perfect."
To Grey, the arrangement looked a bit haphazard, but his
Dame looked pleased with her efforts. She buried her face in
the blossoms and drew a deep breath, smiling as she did so.
She carefully set the vase on the sideboard before sitting
down in her usual chair at the table.
"So how was your trip, Grey? I had expected you would be
gone longer. I hope you didn't rush things on my account. We
could have muddled through a bit longer on our own."
Was she disappointed that he'd returned so quickly or only
surprised? It was hard to know for certain, but he suspected
that she'd have been just as happy to have him stay gone
"London was London, so it rained much of the time I was
there. There wasn't much to do other than shut off the
utilities and close up my flat. I've arranged to have my
things shipped to Seattle, which means I'll have to start
looking for a permanent place to live. Until then, I've
extended my reservation at the hotel."
"The hotel?" Kerry frowned. "Are you sure you wouldn't be
more comfortable staying here at the house? We've plenty of
room, although I can't guarantee that you'd get much peace
and quiet around here."
Even though Kerry's offer seemed sincere, he couldn't
imagine that she'd want another guest imposing on her
hospitality. She and Ranulf had recently taken in three Kyth
teenagers who'd been practically living on the streets. Last
he'd heard, Sandor was trying to trace down their family
backgrounds, but with no intentions of giving the kids back.
"I appreciate the offer, but you already have enough extra
mouths to feed." He hesitated and then asked, "How is that
going, by the way?"
"It's definitely been an adjustment for all of us, but
especially them. Sean and Tara have been out on their own
for years, so they're not used to having to take orders from
anyone. God knows, they've had little enough reason to trust
the adults in their lives."
Kerry's smile looked a bit rueful. "Kenny is definitely a
handful. He wasn't at all happy when we told him he had to
go back to school, especially because he'll need tutoring to
get caught up to his grade level. We're looking into online
programs for the older two so they can earn their high
school diplomas. After that, we'll see what they'd like to
Hughes chose that moment to appear in the doorway with a
heavily laden tray. "Ma'am, shall I serve?"
Kerry, being Kerry, smiled and shook her head. "No, just
leave the tray. We'll take it from there."
The butler looked a bit disappointed, but did as Kerry
asked. Evidently Grey wasn't the only one who would
appreciate a little more formality around the place. He
wondered how the man felt about the newest additions to the
household. The teenagers must present a variety of
challenges for Hughes, and then there was Piper Ryan added
to the mix.
Did those three kids have any idea how lucky they were?
Under the laws of their people, Kerry would've been within
her rights to have ordered them executed for the way they'd
been stripping life energy from ordinary humans. Instead,
Sandor had convinced the new Dame to ensure that mercy
should also be part of Kyth law.
Grey didn't necessarily disagree with that, but he'd give
anything to know if Kerry's decision had been driven by
compassion or cowardice. Only time would tell. For now, he
could only wait and watch.
Piper froze. She'd been on her way to get the Dame's
signature on a stack of papers only to realize that Kerry
was talking to someone. It didn't take a genius to figure
out Greyhill Danby was still lurking around. Well, she was
in no mood to deal with him again. Their earlier encounter
had been more than enough.
Especially if he were to start asking a bunch of questions
she couldn't afford to answer. She certainly didn't want him
to start poking around in her past. Her references and
paperwork had stood up well enough to Sandor Kearn's
inquiries, but she suspected he hadn't looked all that hard.
Between the three kids he'd rescued and Lena's whirlwind
trip to the East Coast, he'd been distracted.
She checked her watch. Another fifteen minutes and she'd be
off the clock for the day. If the bus gods were smiling upon
her, she'd have time to grab a lunch somewhere before
heading to class. This was one of her long days thanks to
the hours she put in here working for Kerry followed by the
three classes she was taking to finish up her degree.
That thought brightened her mood considerably. It was hard
to believe that she was finally only a few credits short of
graduating. It had been a long haul, but at last the end was
Deciding the signatures could wait until tomorrow, she
hurried back to the office and shoved the papers back into
the bright red folder labeled with Kerry's name. If
something came up after Piper left, Kerry would know where
to look for the documents amidst the other clutter on
That her grinning. She bet Greyhill was an "everything in
its place" kind of guy and her clutter would drive him
crazy. Poor man, it's not like he had any choice in whether
or not he wanted to share his office. For a instant, she
considered straightening up a bit before leaving, but
rejected the idea. She'd been raised by a neat freak and had
vigorously resisted any and all of her mother's efforts to
force Piper to conform to her high standards. If she hadn't
changed her ways for her mom, she wasn't about to for a man
she'd only met once. If Greyhill Danby didn't like the mess
on her desk, he could just get over it.
Yikes! Time was slipping away much too quickly. If she
didn't get a move on, it would be hours before she had a
chance to eat anything, and she needed time to review the
last chapter she'd read before her history class. She logged
off the computer and snagged her backpack off the floor.
After flipping off the lights, she charged out into the
hall, heading for the front door only to bounce off a
obstacle that hadn't been there only a few minutes before.
She stumbled backward but was rescued at the last second
when Grey Danby latched onto her arms and jerked her back
upright. Despite his obvious impatience with her, his hands
were remarkably gentle. She knew she should be saying
something, at the very least apologizing for almost knocking
the man down. Unfortunately, her brain and her mouth were
seriously out of sync when she spoke.
"Are your eyes really that amazing shade of blue or do you
Her face flushed hot and then cold as his eyebrows shot up
He surprised her by actually answering. "Thank you for
noticing and, yes, they're actually that blue. But tell me,
Ms. Ryan, do you always say the first thing that pops into
"I try not to." Which was nothing short of the truth.
"Look, I'm sorry I ran into you. You see, I've got class."
Okay, that came out wrong. She tried again, hoping to make
more sense this time, but with the warm pressure of his
hands against had her brain firing on only half its cylinders.
"What I meant to say is that I'm running late for my classes
at the university. That's no excuse for running down an
Those blue eyes suddenly warmed up about a hundred degrees,
and those stern lips softened as they slowly curved up in a
smile. At that moment innocent was hardly the right word to
describe Greyhill Danby. Good golly, the man compelling
enough when he was angry, but she didn't know what she was
going to do if he turned out to be charming.
Finally, his hands dropped away from her arms, leaving her
missing his touch as he stepped back out of her way.
"You mentioned something about leaving."
Piper blinked twice trying to make sense of that. "What? Oh,
yeah, I was. Excuse me, Mr. Danby."
She sidled past him and walked down the hallway, feeling the
weight of those eyes following her each step of the way. It
was hard not to keep looking back to see if she could guess
what he was thinking. Just as she was about to turn the
corner, a phone rang. She looked back to see Greyhill
flipping his cell open to see who was calling him.
His eyes flickered in her direction and just that quickly
very vestige of warmth disappeared from his expression. He
muttered something into the phone and then stared at her
until she gave up and walked away. What was that all about?
It wasn't as if she had a burning desire to eavesdrop on his
all important phone call.
She stalked out into the bright sunshine and stopped to soak
up a bit of its heat. She was under enough stress working as
Kerry assistant without having to add in a man who ran hot
and cold with no predictable pattern. She didn't understand
him and wasn't sure she wanted to. Right now she had more
important things to do than to waste her time thinking about