Disclaimer: I still do not own any of the characters from Hellboy.

Summary: Sequel to Alone Time. A string of mysterious deaths in Louisiana requires investigation by the BPRD. During the investigation, Hellboy learns about Agent Myers's past and the real reason Professor Broom chose her to be his liaison.

CHAPTER 1–Message in a Bullet

Agent Joanna Myers, recently of the FBI, now attached to the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, was of the considered opinion that things were weird around here. Weirder than usual, she meant, and that was saying something. She didn't really have time to think about it while she suited up for the raid on Mike Tsai's home, but it definitely remained in her mind.

Manning had loaned her out to the FBI for the raid on the Asian crime lord at the request of Special Agent Seth Garrett. He'd been one of her trainers at Quantico and she still kept in touch with him. Of course, since her job at the BPRD was classified she couldn't talk to him about it in any depth and she couldn't mention Hellboy at all, but he knew how frustrated she was with her work there. That was why she had jumped at the chance to participate in the Tsai raid. She would actually be doing what she had been trained to do, not being an appendage to someone who did not need her at all. No matter that Professor Broom had picked her out of the seventy-six graduates of the Academy that year, she still felt essentially useless around the BPRD. Hellboy did not need any partner, and even if he did that wasn't what she was. Hell, she probably spent more of her time bringing him his meals than going on missions with him, and when she did he insisted on keeping her at a distance from the action. Oh, sure, she still managed to ignore his wishes and back him up, but he never expressed any gratitude for it, just anger that she didn't do what he said. Joanna risked her life every time she went into the field with him, but he had no appreciation for it. Maybe that was one reason she felt so much satisfaction as she zipped up the black jacket with FBI in huge white letters on front and back.

Garrett knocked on the door to the back room. "Jo? You decent?"

"Yeah, Seth. Come on in."

He was in his late forties with salt-and-pepper hair worn in a buzz cut. His features were heavy and his nose had been broken more than once, but he projected a sense of solidity and safety that reminded her of Hellboy. "You ready? We'll be ready to go in a few minutes."

"I'm ready. I wanted to tell you thanks for this. It's been so long since I've been along on a–an operation." Damn! She'd almost slipped and said 'a normal operation.' One that involved human criminals, not some slimy demons from Dimension X. Why were they always, always slimy?

He sighed. "You know I begged the higher-ups to let me have you at Behavioral Science, but apparently whoever requested you had a lot more pull than I did."

"Looks like." Joanna took her Browning 9-mm out and began checking the weapon. "But it's not your fault. We all have to take the jobs that are assigned to us."

"It just kills me to see you stuck at the Spook Squad." When she looked up, surprised, he laughed. "The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. Come on, do you really think nobody in the government knows about it? If you've been around long enough, you know it's not just some crackpot urban legend. Agents pull duty there all the time. Nobody ever talks about it, but it's a dog assignment and you'll never get back to Behavioral Science if they really like you there."

She grinned and turned her face away a little. "I cannot confirm or deny that, Special Agent Garrett, based on the National Security Act."

"You always did have a little too much reverence for the rules. Maybe when your year's up they'll reassign you. Getting the Spook Squad's roughly equivalent to pulling the Anchorage office. Why haven't you put in for a transfer yet?"

"Not that I'm saying anything about where I'm assigned, but it wouldn't look good if I couldn't even last a year on my first duty. I'm holding onto the hope that they'll reassign me when my year is up." Behavioral Science had been the only assignment she'd wanted, but the Fates had seen fit to laugh in her face. Still, the thought of leaving the BPRD gave her a pang of discomfort. If she did, she'd never see Hellboy again, except in the grainy, out-of-focus photos the Weekly World News printed every time he managed to escape or some shaky amateur video. He could be a huge pain in the ass when he wanted to be, but somehow he had endeared himself to her. Plus, there was the pesky fact that he had been the star of some of the hottest sexual fantasies she'd ever had in her life, which was probably the strangest thing she'd encountered since her transfer. Every man she'd been with before this, and there weren't many, had been GQ cover-boy handsome, but Hellboy–well, she wasn't prepared to consider that right now. She had to concentrate on the raid.

Joanna and Garrett went out to the truck where the other agents waited. She spent the drive to Long Island thinking about Hellboy and how mad he was going to be when he found out about this entire business. Manning had not seen fit to tell him that Joanna was going on an FBI raid, probably because no matter what the Head of Special Operations said, Hellboy scared him half to death and he knew what a dim view the demon would take of this. She didn't think for a second that he would actually hurt Manning, but his temper was a sight to see when he lost it. And she knew he would when he found out.

Tsai's house was in a gated community on Long Island. He lived there with his wife and four children, a few assorted uncles and aunts, and his parents. All his neighbors apparently thought he was some electronics genius who worked for a computer company, but his real business was drugs, with dollops of loan sharking and prostitution thrown in. He'd ordered the torture-murder of an FBI agent who'd infiltrated his organization several years ago, and one of the men who'd carried it out had turned state's evidence. The raid had been timed for lunch, when they knew his children would be at school. All the streets approaching Tsai's mansion had been blocked off by police cars and FBI agents. Garrett ordered the agents out of the transport van and briefed them on who did what before they moved into position. The house looked quiet, like any other suburban home, no patrolling guards with Uzis. For that they were lucky.

Joanna heard the front door splinter as the battering ram took it down. Simultaneously agents hit every door and swarmed the house. Garrett might have asked for her to come on the raid, but like Hellboy he wanted her protected as much as possible, which was why she was in the back of the first group through the front door. Through the shouts of "FBI! Don't move," she heard a gunshot. Her grip tightened on her Browning as her team swept the foyer. Suddenly automatic weapons fire chattered from the second floor, chipping the marble of the floor around them. Two agents went down with screams as the rest of them ran for cover. Other agents in more protected positions returned fire. She felt bullets on her heels as she dove into a room just off the entranceway that they had already checked and bounced off the back wall. She guessed from the furnishings this was a small parlor,. Carefully, her Browning at the ready, she got to the door and looked out just in time to see the upstairs sniper fall over the railing, squeezing off one last burst of bullets from his Uzi before he smashed into the marble floor and began a spastic jerking than gradually stopped. "Regroup!" called out the team leader and she emerged from the parlor.

Garrett and three other agents emerged from what she thought was the dining room, with Mike Tsai handcuffed and bellowing . She lowered her gun arm to her side and sighed a breath of relief. It was all over, the job was done, and now she could get back to the BPRD and try to calm Hellboy down.

But then, like a swamp mist, she heard a voice that, while it emerged from another man's larynx and she knew it was not really him, paralyzed her with shock. The past closed over her head as the man's voice said, with the Cajun accent that she had not known until this moment she remembered so well, "A warning, Ti-Anna."

The bullet hit her in the chest and actually took her off her feet. Shooter must be using a .45, she thought crazily. A second shot followed the first; that one passed through her upper left arm as she was falling. The other agents turned in the shooter's direction and emptied their guns. From where she lay on the floor, she had a good view of him when he fell. One of Tsai's uncles, if her memory served. Odd; he had not been a criminal before this. For a second she must have blacked out, because when she opened her eyes Garrett was leaning over her and a medic was cutting away the arm of her jacket. He put the scissors down and asked, "Agent Myers, answer me. How do you feel?"

She couldn't speak, only gasp for air. The medic turned to Garrett. "That was a dead-on heart hit. The body armor saved her. Bullet knocked the wind out of her, though. The arm's just a flesh wound. She'll heal up in no time."

"Wonder what the hell caused it," Garrett asked. "The uncle was clean. He wouldn't have spent a second in jail. Why did he grab Adler's gun and start shooting? Did you know him, Jo?"

"No," she managed to say while the medic bandaged her arm. No point in telling him about the words she was certain no one had heard except for her. Seth Garrett was a good friend, but she didn't trust him with this. One thing the BPRD had taught her was that most people believed whatever was comfortable for them, and what she had just witnessed was too weird for anyone's comfort, including her own, but she had no choice except to believe.

The voice she had heard belonged to her father.

Late that night Joanna got out ofa yellow taxi in front of the BPRD building, which was disguised as a waste-management firm. The cabbie looked around dubiously, then asked, "You sure you want to be let off here?"

She handed him the fare plus five bucks and nodded. "My brother works here. I'm meeting him for dinner."

After the taxi pulled away, she walked over to the intercom and pressed 103. "What is it?" the voice barked.

Deja vu. The last time she'd heard that had been the first time she'd arrived here, her suitcases strapped to the back of her Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle, her life abruptly derailed from the track she had imagined when she'd joined the FBI. She had not shown it, but she had been royally pissed off. That had been the day she met Hellboy. The voice asked again and she replied, "Agent Joanna Myers."

The retinal scanner snapped out from behind the intercom and flashed in her eye. The photo on her ID suddenly appeared on the video screen and the gates swung open. Today she had no choice but to walk, because with her arm in a sling she couldn't use her motorcycle, so it still sat in the lot in New York. Garrett had promised to drive it down to Newark this weekend, but that still left her with no wheels. That was the least of her problems at the moment, though. The most sizable problem in her future was the big red one waiting for her downstairs at the BPRD. How was she going to get him calmed down?

When she walked into the lobby, the guard standing on the other side of the elevator gave her a wintry smile. "Agent Myers." It sounded like the voice of doom. "I wouldn't be you right now for anything on earth." The painkillers the hospital had heaped on her provided a healthy dose of tranquility, which she started thinking she'd really need when she got downstairs. As she stepped onto the platform and it began to descend, she wondered how Manning had tried to explain things to Hellboy. Unsuccessfully, she gathered from the guard's attitude.

Clay was waiting for her at the bottom. Before the clamps locked the platform in position, she slipped the sling over her head and handed it to her fellow agent. "Does he know I got shot?"

Neither of them questioned who 'he' might be. "Oh yeah," said Clay. "Not that you could have hidden it anyway, with all the lifting you have to do."

Getting better and better all the time. "How did he take it?"

"Manning took off out of here like Big Red was breathing fire and his ass was made of gasoline. Somehow I don't think the Director will let you go on any more raids, no matter who asks. Liz is with him right now, keeping him company until you show up. I didn't know you were friends with Seth Garrett."

"He trained me at Quantico. So, does he just know about the arm or does he know..."

"He knows you'd have died right there on Mike Tsai's foyer floor if you hadn't been wearing a vest. I have never seen him this angry, and I have seen him angry, Myers." Clay took her uninjured right arm as they approached the vault door that shut off Hellboy's room from the rest of the Bureau. "Do you want me to come in with you? Liz and I might be able to cool him off."

"I'll be fine." The drugs had wrapped her in a protective cocoon and she didn't worry about what he would do. He wouldn't hurt her, she knew, even if Clay and Liz were temporarily unsure of that.

"I'll come in anyway. What possessed you to go on that raid? Don't you get enough action chasing demons and monsters here?"

"Doesn't it ever bother you, Clay? The demons and monsters? Just for once, I wanted to feel normal, like a normal FBI agent who arrests normal criminals. I didn't join the FBI to become Agent Mulder or Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Before he could ask her the obvious question–why had she joined the FBI?–she pushed the key into the lock. Clay had to spin the wheel and pull the door open for her. "And hide that sling before he sees it," she hissed at him. He spread his hands helplessly, then concealed it under his jacket.

Liz rose from her seat on Hellboy's couch. "Joanna! Are you okay? Manning told us you'd gotten shot. But you must be okay...or you'd be in the hospital, right? They wouldn't let you leave if you weren't okay."

"I just took one in the arm. It's nothing. I'm all right." She moved to hug the younger woman, keeping her injured left arm away from contact. The sling would have helped, but she didn't want Hellboy confronted immediately with evidence of her injury. Later, after he was reasonable again, she'd put it back on.

"Don't you ever say you're all right when you're not." Hellboy stood up from the couch, staring hard at her. Clay had said Manning took off like he was breathing fire, and the smoke billowing around his head from the cigar he was puffing on added to the dragon-like effect. He took the cigar out of his mouth just long enough to put it in the ashtray and then he was off. "I want to know why you took off like that on some damn raid and nearly got yourself killed. I want you to explain that to me, because I just don't get that."

"Red," Liz protested, "don't you think you should hold off on that for a little while?"

"Yeah," Clay added. "Myers should probably be resting right now."

"She can rest all she wants. Later." He was a fearsome figure in the black leather pants and the black T-shirt, his tail cutting through the air in vicious swipes, but Joanna thought he was the most comforting sight she'd seen in a long time. The others didn't seem to understand that she would be fine with him, regardless of how angry he was. "You two can leave now."

"Red, I don't think–"

"Yeah, maybe we should–"

Joanna suddenly felt far too tired to endure any more of this. A spell of dizziness made her sway a bit; as unobtrusively as possible, she took hold of the edge of the table for support. But he noticed it, of course. Nothing got past him. "Please promise them you won't yell at me too much tonight or they won't leave. And I really need to sit down, so if you could speed up the process I'd appreciate it."

"Fine. I won't yell. Now can you guys get out? You both know I'm not gonna hurt her, anyway." Finally, reluctantly, both of them started to depart. "Clay!" The other agent turned around. "Give her back her sling. The arm's gonna need it." With a shrug he pulled it out and pushed several cats out of the way to place it on the table in front of her. Joanna closed her eyes and hoped they'd leave soon. She needed to sit down but didn't want to show weakness. They'd insist on staying if she did. When she opened her eyes again, the big steel door had closed. Now she was alone with Hellboy, who was angry with her. He looked at her with those beautiful eyes and smiled. "Manning never would have had the balls to do that."

"Do what?"

"Let them lock the door behind him when I'm in a mood like this."

"Well, I'm not Manning." She took a step toward the couch and the vertigo returned. In an instant he was at her side, his tail wrapped around her waist to give her support, his left hand holding her uninjured arm. "Can we sit down?"

"Yeah, you bet." He helped her over to the couch and they both sat. A different Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie was playing on each of his TV sets.

Joanna watched Follow the Fleet for a few seconds before she thought to ask, "How did you know I like Astaire and Rogers?"

"Asked Liz. She's a fountain of information, if you listen to her."

They sat there quietly for another few minutes. Joanna had the sense of ever-deepening weirdness again. In the past month, since that night she'd gone out with her old surfer boyfriend, her relationship with Hellboy had undergone some changes. Seeing Hansel had borne in upon her that she had a new life and couldn't go back to the way things were. Listening to him talk about the surfing circuit, which had held some interest for her once, she realized that what she had loved about him was his surface. Hansel was frivolous. That had been all she'd been ready for at that time in her life. Now, however, frivolous didn't do it for her. She needed a man with more–well, gravity was the word that came to mind.

The date with Hansel might have been the catalyst for the changes between her and Hellboy, but she put the blame squarely where it belonged: on herself. She'd had wine at dinner and then she'd accepted his offer of a beer, no, two beers when she came to his room afterward. And, no matter how much she tried to convince herself it had been the alcohol, nothing else, Joanna knew it had only given her the courage to do what she'd wanted to do from the moment she first saw Hellboy, shirtless and pumping iron. Regardless of the fact that she was his keeper and that they had to make sure things stayed impersonal for both their sakes, she had told him she thought he was attractive, reached out for him and caressed the scroll-like designs that decorated his body. The only thing that had saved her from even more inappropriate behavior was Hellboy's obvious shock at what she had done. Hot embarrassment had raked her from head to toe and she had turned and fled to her room. God, he must have thought she was such a slut. Good thing he didn't know that after she got through scolding herself, she had still been so aroused by him that she'd had to get herself off, and the orgasm she'd had while thinking about him fucking her had hit her like ten freight trains. Since then, it seemed that the focus of her sexual fantasies had shifted exclusively to him.

The next day, she had brought him his breakfast. He seemed a little odd, as if he wanted to look anywhere except at her but couldn't pull his eyes away. "Hellboy, I need to apologize for what happened last night. I don't have any excuse for my behavior, but I know that it was totally inappropriate and it will never happen again. If you want to ask Manning for another liaison, I'll understand perfectly."

He shook his head. "Don't worry about it, Girl Scout. We all do inappropriate things from time to time."

"So you wouldn't be happier with Clay as your liaison again, or somebody else?"

"No. I'm happy with you."

So things had continued from there, but she had felt some seismic shift between them. Now he seemed to watch her a lot more when he thought she wasn't looking, and she sensed some kind of tentativeness when he spoke to her. Well, he had not had much–if any–experience with women, so he probably just didn't know how to deal with a woman who'd come on to him while at least semi-sloshed. She tried to seem as professional as possible while still being friendly, and he seemed satisfied with that. Maybe he had needed to see her be less than Agent Myers to be comfortable with her.

"Hurt much?" His voice startled her out of her thoughts.

She looked up into those beautiful golden eyes. Despite the heat of the room, she began feeling cold, the bite of some imaginary frost reaching into her bones. "The wound? No. They shot me up with the good stuff before I left the emergency room. I've got some codeine pills for later." Fine little shivers chased themselves over her skin.

He saw them. "What's wrong, Myers?"

In the seconds since she noticed, the trembling had increased tenfold. "Maybe delayed reaction. Shock. Now that I'm safe..." She couldn't finish the thought. "I think I need a blanket or something."

"I'll do better than that." Hellboy got a blanket off his bed and sat back down next to her, wrapping it around them both. He was careful to remain on her uninjured side, his left arm wrapped loosely around her shoulders.

Funny she had never noticed how warm he was before. It made sense, she supposed; he was a demon, so he must have brought some of hell's fire with him. She pressed herself closer to him, desperate to soak up some of his heat. Her cheek pressed against the rough cotton of his T-shirt and she could hear his heartbeat. The painkillers made her head swim. "I'm sorry I went off and got shot," she murmured.

"You're always sorry. Just don't do it again. Don't you know how scared I was for you?"

"Somehow I never think of you as being scared."

"That was before I met you, Girl Scout. You introduced me to the concept."

That made her giggle. The cold inside her began receding and she felt her eyes closing. "Think I'm going to sleep..."

"Go ahead. You need to rest."

Much later Joanna opened her eyes. Since the Bureau was underground, she had no way to tell if it was morning or night, but she sensed it was either very late or very early. She was still on Hellboy's couch, covered in a blanket, but what surprised her was that she was lying next to him. Somehow he had shifted their positions without waking her so that he lay on the outside of the couch and she was pressed between the back of the couch and his body. Her head rested on his shoulder and her injured arm lay across his chest. His left hand was on her waist and his right hand, the huge stone hand, covered her hip. She knew that she should get up and go back to her own room, but it was too tempting to remain here with him. Yet again she had an excuse: the wound, the painkillers. And this time they were both fully dressed. No way was she going to move away from him. She'd have to apologize again in the morning, but that wouldn't be for hours.

"You awake, Myers?"

She smiled against his shoulder. "If you didn't know I was, you wouldn't have asked."

"Feeling any better?"

"Yeah. I'm still pretty out of it, though. Nothing seems quite real."

He used his tail to reach over to the ashtray on the table and replace his cigar. "Don't knock it. You and I have our best conversations when you feel out of it."

Joanna didn't know what to say to that, so she settled for remaining quiet. It felt right, lying here in his arms. More right than anything had in a long time, and that was the absolute most wrong thing that she could feel. She was his keeper and she had to act like it, not like some hormonal teenager. How was she supposed to do her job if she kept behaving so unprofessionally? "I should go back to my room. What time is it?"

He raised up slightly to look over the back of the couch at the clock. "About 5:30 in the morning. But I don't think you should go back to your room. You could have another dizzy spell, fall and hurt yourself. It'd be best if you just slept here." She opened her mouth to protest, but he silenced her with, "I'd feel better if you stayed here."

How could she argue with that? Besides, he did have a point. When the painkillers had worn off, she could go back to her room. "Okay."

They lay there in comfortable silence for a while. "You know I'm still mad, right?" he asked her. "You're not off the hook. I'm going to yell about this later."

"I know." Her lips curved into a sleepy smile. "So what did you say to Manning when he told you about the Tsai raid? Clay said he took off pretty fast."

"Told him what I was going to do to him if he ever let you go on a mission without me again. I don't think he liked the sound it of. Probably has a weak stomach."

"What did he tell you about the raid itself?"

The fingers of his left hand toyed with the braid that fell over her shoulder. She had been in such a hurry to get back to the BPRD that she had not done anything but change out of her bloodstained clothes before taking the taxi back. "The FBI was arresting this drug dealer and there was a lot of shooting. One of his bodyguards killed three other agents before they arrested the bad guy. Then one of his uncles went crazy and shot you. You were wearing Kevlar so the bullet that hit you in the chest didn't kill you, but you did get shot in the arm."

"Leave it to Manning not to know what to leave out. There was no point in upsetting you. I never would have told you about the chest hit, just the arm. And I wouldn't have told you about that if I could hide it."

"I don't like you hiding things from me."

"Well, I don't like you not letting me do my job. I am your backup. You shouldn't try to keep me safe all the time. That's going to make your fieldwork suffer. Besides, I didn't join the FBI because I wanted to be safe. If I had, I would have stayed in psychiatry."

"Why did you join the FBI?"

There was the question she dreaded. "I don't really feel like talking about it."

"You brought it up. Come on, what's the harm in telling me? Tell you what. If you answer my question, you can ask me any question you want and I'll answer it. What do you say?"

It was crazy. But she did feel safe with him; he was her friend, at the very least. Maybe even her partner. Perhaps she could tell him just enough to satisfy his curiosity without having to go any deeper. There was no way she could do that tonight, not after hearing her father speaking through another man's mouth seconds before she should have died. "I became a FBI agent because I wanted to do something good, protect people who couldn't protect themselves. I know that sounds really sappy, but it's what I need to do. That's why I don't like your trying to protect me. It's my job to protect you."

Hellboy nodded, seeming lost in thought. "Fair enough. Now what's your question?"

"You weren't serious about that, were you?" Joanna raised her head to look him in the eye.

"Yeah, I was. So ask away."

"I can't think of anything!" Just then something came to mind, but it was so outrageous she dismissed the thought instantly. But it would have been nice to know for sure...

"You just thought of a question." She opened her mouth to deny it, but he shook his head. "You're a terrible liar, so don't even bother. Just spit it out."

"No, I can't. It's too personal."

"I can't wait to hear this. It better be good after all this build-up."

Joanna smiled and leaned her forehead against his shoulder. "I really shouldn't."

"I insist."

She took a deep breath. "Okay, then. Well, there was something I wondered about for a while now. Your right hand is made of stone, so..." Her voice trailed off.

"So?"

"Remember, you asked for this. Is that the only body part you have that's made of stone?"

For a second he didn't get it, then he did. Where her cheek rested against him, she felt laughter rumbling in his chest. In the eight months that she had worked there, she had never heard him laugh. "Why, Agent Myers. Who would have thought you got ideas like that?"

"Are you laughing at me?"

"No. Well, not really."

"Besides, you haven't answered the question."

"Uh–it's not stone. As far as I know, it's just the usual. I mean, you know, like human guys."

"Somehow I doubt that."

"You can check for yourself if you want." He got a glint in his eye when he said that.

Joanna remembered all her good intentions, all the compelling reasons why she had to keep her distance from him. Thanks to the painkillers, things might not seem real, but she knew that the temporary windowpane separating her from reality would dissolve soon, and she would be stuck with the consequences of her actions, good or bad. "I'm not sure it's a good idea."

"I think it's the best idea I ever had."

"Things would change. Maybe not for the better." She tried to ignore how much she wanted to touch him, how much even thinking about it excited her.

"For once, Myers, you need to stop worrying and go with the moment. You think too much." He unfastened the button at his waistband and slid the zipper on his leather pants down. Joanna shivered as a river of pure arousal warmed her body. Who knew that just a sound could be so sexual? He took her left hand, as gently as if it were made of porcelain, and slid it into the front of his pants.

Her breath left her in a rush as her fingers made contact with him. If she had thought he was warm before, he was fire now. And he was right–it didn't have the feel of stone to it, although it was getting harder every moment. Moving carefully to avoid jostling her arm, Joanna put aside her doubts and explored him. He made a deep growling noise in his throat, which she thought meant that it felt good. No deviations from the human norm that she could find, except maybe the size, which was what she'd expect given his build, and probably the color, although due to where she lay and the low lighting in the room she couldn't see it. The only sense she could use to know him was touch. Her palm caressed him up and down his length, enjoying the feel of him. The skin of his cock felt like velvet, which surprised her because the rest of his skin seemed somewhat leathery, tough, but then again she had never touched him at length other than that night a month ago. Then she had been too out of it to really concentrate on the sensation of touch, but now her world seemed to have shrunk to her hand and the flesh underneath it. He arched his hips upward, pressing himself harder against her hand, and a wave of heat swept through her. She fought a powerful urge to lean down and take him into her mouth, but the image lingered in her mind. Her skin seemed to have turned into a major sensory organ as she could almost feel the blood rushing into his cock, making it harden. "God, that feels good, Myers," he groaned.

"Joanna. I think that if I have your cock in my hand, we should be on a first-name basis."

He laughed, the sound almost breathless. "I like it when you talk dirty."

"I'll remember that." Her voice died away as her hand wrapped itself around his hardness and stroked up and down experimentally. His body jerked in reaction. The rational part of her mind had been locked down, but stray thoughts kept reaching her. Was this the first time a woman had ever touched him? How would the BPRD have handled any sexual needs he expressed? Probably a well-chosen hooker. Would he even have expressed any needs, though? Professor Broom was like his father–how do you tell your father you need to get fucked? And he certainly couldn't tell Manning anything like that. Was this why Professor Broom had chosen her to be Hellboy's liaison, hoping that she would become attracted to his adopted son? If so, he had succeeded brilliantly, but she knew nothing could ever come out of this. A little sexual exploration was one

thing, but if they got more deeply involved it would affect his fieldwork. He tried to protect her too much now, so how much more intense would that become if they had sex? And what if he decided he was in love with her because she was the first woman he ever fucked? No, she was the one with experience here and she couldn't see any favorable outcome to this, but the clarity of her vision didn't halt the motion of her hand on him, because the fire in him was kindling in her as well and suddenly, savagely, she wanted to make him come, give him pleasure that no one else ever had. He was a picture of abandon, his head thrown back, body completely open to her. Joanna moved one of her legs across his and began to shift her position so she could use both hands.

The metallic rasp of the key sinking into the lock outside froze them both. Hellboy's head whipped around to stare at the door. "Breakfast. Great timing, Clay. Remind me to kick your ass."

She stared at him, arousal giving way to mortification. He pulled her back down to his side and pulled the blanket up over them. "Whatever you do, don't apologize. And just pretend you're asleep. I need an excuse not to get up right now. I sure can't zip my pants with the hard-on you gave me." She tried to ignore the tingling between her legs at his words and closed her eyes, replacing her head on his shoulder.

It was good to pretend oblivion; for now she didn't have to deal with the aftermath of what she'd done. She listened to the sound of Clay moving around, unloading the meal cart and the cats flowing around him like a river, meowing. She listened to the sound of Hellboy's heart beating. The place over her own heart where Tsai's uncle's bullet had struck her throbbed with its own pulse. Her father's warning. She knew he had the power to carry out this action, easily, but why come after her after all this time? Why not when she was younger, when she lived with her uncle David, when she had been untrained and defenseless? What had changed?

Clay said quietly to Hellboy, "When she wakes up, tell her she needs to get cleaned up. Manning wants to have a meeting with the both of you ASAP."

"What about?"

"Abe's back from Louisiana and it looks like we'll all be going back with him."

Her situation with Hellboy slid into the background, unnoticed. Joanna didn't need to hear where she would be going. She already knew she was going home.