He glanced back at her. At the tilt of his head, Michael closed in on her. Sarah followed him.
Marley’s gaze jumped to Sarah. “They understand how to get beneath your skin. Know what makes you weak. Before you even realize it, you’ll—”
Sarah lunged forward and drove her fist right into the demon’s face. Marley went down, and she didn’t get up.
“Dammit!” Sarah shook her hand, and flexed her fingers. “That hurt!”
Probably hurt Marley more.
“I was scared she’d start another fire,” Sarah told him, turning her eyes to his. “We’ve got enough trouble without—”
More howls. So close. Those dogs would be on them soon.
“Not the worst odds we’ve ever faced,” Michael said, even as his bones began to snap and pop. He dropped to the floor, bracing his hands as his body stretched and his clothes ripped along his body.
“No.” Lucas watched him and let the fire burst through his skin. The shift was always red-hot, burning him from the inside out as the beast broke free.
He spared one last glance for Sarah. Her eyes were so wide as she stared at him. Normally, this would be the part where he told her not to be scared. No point in that, though. The woman knew wolves, and as for being scared . . .
Claws hit the outside of the door. Hmmm . . . Good thing Marley had used her power to slam it closed and seal the place. The locked door would buy them a little more time.
“Hide,” he managed to snarl the word to Sarah as he fell to the floor. His claws scraped over the wood.
“Lucas . . . ”
“Guess . . . you’re getting . . .” His spine arched. Fur broke through his skin. “In . . . my . . . mind . . .” Then a howl burst from his mouth as the beast took over.
“Guess I am,” her soft whisper seemed too loud in his ears, and when the wolf stared at her, there wasn’t just fear in her eyes. There was sadness.
Then she turned and ran, jumping over Marley’s body. And he met the dogs at the door.
No, no, no. This wasn’t the way things should have happened. Sarah froze at the sound of Lucas’s growl. No way could he and Michael take down that coyote pack out there. He wasn’t strong enough for that. Two against ten? Even he wasn’t that good.
She glanced over at the demon. Marley was still dead to the world, and the demon’s body was about to be slam in the middle of carnage central. Sarah raced forward and grabbed Marley’s wrist, then she hauled the demon back, not really caring too much when the chick’s head bumped over the floor. She was helping, right?
Growls and howls echoed through the cabin. She could hear the scrape of claws. Those bastards were planning to claw their way inside. Then what? They’d rip Michael and Lucas apart?
She pulled Marley’s body behind the couch and let the demon’s arm fall.
Stay down. Sarah stiffened at that hard demand. A demand that hadn’t been voiced. Lucas. She could finally touch his thoughts now. She closed her eyes a moment and felt that light trail that led back to his mind. Every beast she charmed had a special psychic trail. A trail that she could follow.
Lucas’s trail wasn’t as bright as others. No, his was dark and twisting. Maybe because the man inside the beast was dark. Twisted? Perhaps. But maybe not.
I’ve got the bastards that come in through the door. Lucas again. But the words were directed at Michael this time. Shifters could communicate telepathically when they were in animal form. A nice little bonus from Mother Nature that made hunting in packs so much easier, and so much more deadly.
Sarah crouched behind the couch and shook the demon. She hadn’t punched that hard. Well, maybe she had. Though she’d faked the hand pain after the punch. She knew how to hit hard without bringing pain.
Stay with Sarah. Lucas’s order to Michael. If anyone comes at her, you rip the bastard’s throat open.
Her breath caught at that order. Then a big, black wolf was there. Standing right beside her. Protecting her. But who was protecting Lucas? Hell, no, Michael. Just haul your ass right back over there. If he falls, I’m dead anyway.
The black wolf glanced back at her.
He stays. Lucas’s snapped command.
Dammit! She poked her head over the couch and got her first clear look at Lucas in wolf form. Unfortunately, that was the same instant that the coyotes burst through the door.
Lucas—a muscled, snarling, teeth snapping mass of black fur—leapt into the air. He caught the neck of the first coyote with his teeth, and, using that hold, he threw the coyote through the air. He swiped the second beast with his claws, cutting him open and the blood sprayed Lucas’s fur.
Not her thought.
Glass shattered as more coyotes flew through the windows. Two more coyotes attacked Lucas. Snarling, biting.
Kill. Lucas’s only thought. No, wait, he was also—
She dug her fingers into Michael’s fur. His giant body was trembling with the effort of holding back. He wanted into that fray, but he wasn’t about to disobey his alpha.
A coyote’s body hit the floor. Blood matted his fur. Another coyote launched onto Lucas’s back, sinking his teeth into muscle and bone. Lucas rolled over, slamming the coyote into the floor.
A howl echoed in the distance, but this howl was deeper than the others. Harder. Darker. Familiar.
The swarm of smaller coyote bodies had almost hidden Lucas now. The coyotes weren’t even trying to come for her, they just wanted to take Lucas out. That had been the plan, right?
Her fingers were still in Michael’s fur. She crouched back behind the couch. Your alpha needs you. They don’t want me, they’re going to kill him. While she hid and watched.
You don’t know my alpha. Michael’s voice floated in her mind. He’s stronger, he’s—
More snarls and growls. More freaking coyotes. Help him. She lunged to her feet even as Michael leapt forward.
“Hey, bastards! How does it feel to be nothing more than freaking pit bulls for—”
Blood. Teeth. Fury. Not from the coyotes. Their bodies littered the floor. From Lucas. The wolf stood poised inside the doorway, blood dripping from his teeth, those blue eyes so bright they hurt to look at.
Oh, damn. He’d taken them all out.
Here’s your chance. Run. Get to the car and drive back to base.
Because another attack would be coming.
“They’re after you tonight, not me,” Sarah said. Michael was sniffing around the coyotes, making sure they didn’t rise. “I’m not leaving you.”
They’ll rip you apart.
Great. Nice visual. Sadly, a true visual. Not like she could fight the coyotes. “Let’s all get the hell out of here.” Before they all died. She knew the wolf waiting out there, he wouldn’t be alone. He never was, he—
The wail of sirens echoed in the night. Sirens? Oh, crap, yes, the cops had been watching the house. The coyotes would still be in human form when they first arrived. Dozens of men, swarming on a closed crime scene—of course any cop in the area would have called for backup.
Those sirens were getting close now. So close.
And she didn’t hear anymore howls. No more snarls.
Some of the coyotes, the dead, had already shifted back to human form. The others were hauling ass out of that cabin.
Run, Lucas. Get out. The cops can’t find you here.
His head tilted. She knew he heard the raised voices of the cops. She knew because she was in his head and could pick up his every thought.
His gaze bored into her. “I’ll be fine,” she promised. Such a lie.
And he knew it.
But what choice was there? Was he really going to face the LAPD in full-on wolf form? Especially when that detective was already gunning for him? A blood-soaked wolf. Right. The cops would shoot instantly when they saw him.
She could already hear the thunder of gunfire. Were the cops firing at the coyotes?
“You’ve got to run, Lucas. I’ll need someone to bail my ass out of jail.” Because that’s where she was heading.
His blue eyes burned. Tell them nothing.
“You can count on that.” Like they’d believe her anyway. “Go.”
He whirled away, a dangerous shadow, and he dove through the remains of the broken door. Michael followed on his heels, a slightly smaller, but just as dangerous beast.
Her hands balled into fists even as her gaze darted to the dead men. Men, now, not beasts, and they were men who’d died in a manner that looked too similar to John’s death. Ripped throats. Torn bodies. And, of course, there she stood, right in the middle of the bloodbath.
“Freeze!” A man’s snarl this time, not a wolf’s, but she hadn’t been moving anyway. Sarah let her stare dart to the doorway. To the two scared-looking cops. Their eyes weren’t on her. They were staring at the bodies. Four bodies. And a hell of a lot of blood.
Lucas was stronger than she’d realized and so much more dangerous. Was she really up for this game?
“Holy fucking shit . . .” One of the uniforms swallowed quickly and it looked like he might be sick.
Now what was she supposed to say? The older cop, the one who’d gone two shades paler, had his gun pointed right at her. “I didn’t do this,” she finally managed. Yes, that sounded good. “There’s no blood on me, I don’t have a weapon—I didn’t do this.”
“Then who the hell did?” The older cop barked.
“You wouldn’t believe me.”
“Who did this?”
Her mouth snapped closed. She wouldn’t trade Lucas’s secrets for her life.
A groan had her attention shifting to that blood-soaked floor. Marley blinked up at her. “Wh—”
“Is someone else there?” The cop yelled, and the guy’s partner finally seemed to get control of himself. Now two guns were pointed right at her.
“Cops?” Marley’s whisper. “No.” She sprang to her feet, and then the fire erupted. A line of flames snaked across the cabin, burning the dead shifters as the fire crackled and spread—and those flames, they headed right for the cops.
Bullets blasted. Pain burned across Sarah’s arm. From the fire? From the bullets? The flames raged higher. The demon vanished in the growing smoke, and Sarah was left to face the fire alone.
The echo of gunfire reverberated in Lucas’s ears even as the scent of smoke burned his nose. He froze in the woods, his head tilting back. His body still had the form of a wolf, but the man inside was all too aware of the dangers around him. Bullets and smoke. His head turned . . .
The old cabin.
He lunged forward, but Michael plowed into his side, knocking him back.
Have to get away. Michael’s desperate thought, one that was reflected in the eyes of the wolf. We left too many dead back there. Can’t let the cops get us.
Like he fucking cared about the cops. Sarah. She couldn’t handle fire and if one of those idiots so much as scratched her—
You can’t help her as a wolf. Michael’s fierce reminder.
No, the wolf couldn’t help her.
The cops will take her in, Michael continued, panting from the run they’d made. We’ll get her out. We’ll do whatever we have to do, but we’ll get her out.
He spun away, a howl ripping from his throat as he let the hot pain of the shift sweep through his body.
He’d promised to protect Sarah, and he damn well planned to keep his part of the deal.
Dane slowly opened his eyes, aware that something wet was dripping down his face. His nostrils flared—shit, that something wet was blood. That scent was undeniable, and so was the scent of . . . coyote.
Fuck. He was sitting down, his body slumped in a chair, and his arms were behind his back. He tried lifting his hands, but metal bit into his wrists. Hard, burning metal.
“It’s silver,” a soft voice told him.
His gaze flew to the left. There she was. The pretty little thing who’d screwed his concentration in the woods. A weakness for women—when the hell would he learn?
“Sorry about that,” she said, not sounding sorry. “But I didn’t have a lot of choice.”
His lips stretched in a mirthless grin. “I’m sure you didn’t.” He made sure she saw his lengthening fangs.
“We needed you.” One shoulder lifted in a shrug that had her red hair sliding back over her shirt. “At least you’re still alive.”
Why was he still alive? Coyotes didn’t usually let their prey survive.
Her gaze tracked to the blood sliding down his face. “Shouldn’t you have healed from that?”
And shouldn’t she know that not all shifters healed at the same rate? “Silver’s slowing me down,” he muttered.
A fast blink from her. “Right.”
Bullshit. “What’s the plan? You gonna let the dogs in so they can take turns swiping at me?” Or was she going to save all the torturing fun for herself?
Now her eyes darted to the window on the left. The only window in the room. He jerked against the cuffs once more. No damn give at all. But . . . he let his claws break through the skin.
“They’re not here right now,” she whispered.
His brows snapped up, and he felt the faint pull from the torn skin on his forehead. He vaguely remembered slamming into the rocks when the asshole behind him attacked. “Where are they?”
“You don’t really want to know.”
The claw on his left index finger slipped inside the lock. “Where?” His voice was loud, the better to cover the scratch of his claws as he worked on the cuffs. The silver burned, but he was used to pain. Pain had been his intimate friend since before he could even shift, and he had the criss-cross of scars on his body to prove it.