Lucas’s hands hit the ground. His fingers curved. His back arched as the bones snapped. Fur burst over his skin.
“No, Lucas! That’s when you’re—”
His head rose and he saw Sarah. The coyotes had surrounded her and Piers. Piers was trying to hold them off, trying to protect her, and Sarah was swiping out with a knife. But she’d turned away from the coyotes, turned to shout to him—
And a coyote caught her, locking his teeth around her arm and the knife clattered to the ground as she stumbled.
A soft snick reached his ears. His head whipped back around. Rafe smiled at him. The asshole stood less than two feet away, and his right hand curled around a gun—a gun that was aimed straight at Lucas.
“I think what Sarah was trying to say . . .” Rafe began.
Lucas’s body bucked, his hands vanished, paws appeared.
“. . . is that you’re helpless when you change.”
“Lucas!” Sarah’s scream of pain and fury.
“The bullet’s made of silver, Simone.” Rafe pointed the gun at Lucas’s head. “And there’s no way I’m missing when I’m this close.”
Lucas tried to leap forward, but his legs were useless, the bones reshaping, too weak now to—
“When you get to hell, tell my old man I said hello.” Rafe pulled the trigger.
Sarah barreled into Rafe just as he fired. Lucas lurched to the side. The bullet missed his head but plowed into his exposed stomach, burning through muscle and lodging deep in his gut. The silver was molten, frying him from the inside out, and Lucas opened his mouth to yell—
And the wolf’s cry of pain rang into the night.
“The hero’s going to die.”
Lucas lifted his head and narrowed his eyes. Sarah and Rafe were in a tangle of limbs, fighting for the gun. Sarah was no match for the bastard.
He pushed back the fire, bunched his legs and—
Two coyotes sprang at him. Lucas swiped at them, catching one on the back and breaking another’s leg. They kept fighting him, snapping, clawing.
Get out of here, Lucas! Sarah’s cry but . . . only in his mind.
He could feel her then, the warmth of her touch, her scent. Inside, though, not out.
What the hell is happening? Lucas pushed the question through their link. Why did Caleb attack me?
She cried out then and his head snapped toward her. Sarah was on the ground, not moving. Rafe rose beside her, the gun still in his hand. He pointed the gun at her.
No! Piers stop him!
Piers bolted past Lucas.
Don’t let him kill her!
Lucas sank his teeth into the nearest coyote. The asshole screamed, a high, keening cry.
Piers slammed into Rafe. Rafe staggered, fell, but before Piers could close in for the kill, the coyotes attacked, immediately surrounding him.
They swarmed. Slashing. Biting. Piers’s white coat turned red as he went down.
Piers! For a moment, Lucas’s vision went gray as fury churned his blood.
They’re all gonna die.
Lucas swung his head to the left. Caleb stalked toward him, his white coat gleaming. They’re all gonna die and the blood will be on your hands, Alpha. Caleb’s taunt.
The psychic link between him and Caleb was sharp, perfectly focused. The way it was supposed to be between pack-mates.
Why the hell are you doing this? Lucas wanted his blood. Why are you turning on me?
He hadn’t seen this coming. He’d fought side-by-side with Caleb for so long, and he’d never seen—
Caleb’s teeth snapped closed as the two wolves circled each other. What makes you think I was ever with you?
Lucas attacked. Caleb’s wolf was just as big as his, but not nearly as strong—and not nearly as fucking pissed.
Lucas raked his claws down Caleb’s side. Caleb snarled but backed away.
The guy didn’t try to fight at all—just backed away. Lucas slammed his front paws onto Caleb. The other wolf fell. Lucas locked his teeth around Caleb’s throat.
The bastard still wasn’t fighting back. Why aren’t you fighting? You want to take me out? Then fight!
But Caleb wasn’t fighting or answering. Caleb wasn’t—
Watch out! Sarah’s voice in his mind. Weaker than before.
Lucas jumped back instinctively, but the bullet still hit him; this time, it lodged in his back. Fuck. Fire burned near his spine. Lucas’s claws dug into the earth. The coyotes were coming back, closing in, but screw them.
He took the pain that blazed through his body. Took it, used it, and Lucas launched into the air. His paws crashed into Rafe, and the asshole fell. The gun flew from his fingers and hit the ground. Rafe fought him, catching his claws, holding tight with both hands. Lucas’s blood dripped on the bastard.
A coyote locked his teeth around Lucas’s right hind leg. Another dog caught the left. They dragged him off as he howled his rage.
Rafe laughed. “Guess the mighty have fucking fallen, huh?” The other coyotes attacked.
The last thing Lucas saw was Sarah’s face. She’d staggered to her feet. Blood dripped down her cheek and terror filled her eyes.
Lucas. Her desperate fear filled his mind.
Don’t worry, babe. I got this.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Then he couldn’t see anything but teeth and claws.
“Stay here,” Dane ordered as the van squealed to a stop.
“You try to break free, you so much as make a single sound . . .”
The woman with the golden eyes blinked at him. She lifted her bound hands and pointed to her gag.
“You try to escape, I’ll have to knock you out again.” Right, he was bullshitting there. He wouldn’t be around to knock her out. Because the blood was flowing close by and the fight called. He grabbed her arms and jerked her up toward him. “Stay here.”
She blinked and then gave a slow nod.
He sprang from the van, ran, and knew that she’d be long gone when he came back.
If he came back.
He rushed down the dark road. He hadn’t parked too close, that would have been dangerous. But he could hear the fight, the snarls and the growls, and when he rounded the corner, he knew he’d see—
Caleb jumped at him and took his ass down to the pavement.
“You bitch,” Rafe snarled, whirling on Sarah. “I was going to let you live, I was going to—”
Bullshit. He’d already sent his attack dogs after her. Hayden had been ready to slice her open.
Piers had finally shaken free of the coyotes who’d attacked him. The big white wolf stalked toward the group attacking Lucas. His movements were slow, and blood soaked his right side.
“For old times’ sake,” Rafe told her with the grin that had once made her heart race faster, “I’ll make it quick.”
She kept her gaze on him, but she let her thoughts shoot out, let her mind connect with the wolf. Piers.
His rage hit her first. The wild fury of the wolf. Destroy. Attack. Protect Alpha.
“Our old times are over,” Sarah said, lifting her chin. She could feel the wetness of blood on her cheek. “And they were never that good.”
Rafe’s eyes narrowed with a flare of rage.
Piers, come to me.
The white wolf froze. She swallowed and kept her gaze on Rafe. He could strike at any moment. She didn’t have time for . . .
“You’re right,” Rafe said. “They weren’t that good.” His gaze dismissed her. “So maybe I will make this hurt.”
Great. She should have kept her mouth shut.
Piers, here. Attack!
The white wolf’s body shuddered and he began running toward her. Fast, faster . . . “There’s something you should know,” Sarah told Rafe quietly.
One brow rose.
“I definitely plan to make your death hurt.” Attack him Piers! The white wolf hit Rafe, and they both barreled to the ground.
She muttered, “Guess you didn’t see him coming,” and her shoulders sagged.
Go for the throat, Piers. Go for—
Rafe shoved off the white wolf as he screamed in agony. Piers had bitten him. Not a death bite, not deep enough but—
Rafe tossed the white wolf into the side of the warehouse. Piers was so weak he wasn’t fighting back.
Rafe spun back to her. “You—”
Get back, Sarah. Lucas’s order, drifting in her mind. Run.
She stumbled, nearly fell in the blood on the ground, but then she turned and ran as fast as she could.
“Come back, damn you!” Rafe’s scream. He’d be running after her. He’d be—
She risked a glance over her shoulder. Lucas had him. They were fighting, man versus wolf. Rafe wouldn’t be able to defeat Lucas, not while Lucas was in wolf form. But . . .
But Lucas was hurt. He’d taken two silver hits. His pain beat at her, steady, burning, a fire that churned from the inside of his body. In the blood.
Rafe lifted something, metal glinted. No, not just metal. Silver. Her knife. Sarah tripped and hit the cement. Her hand went to her ankle sheath. Gone. Hell, no, she’d lost her knife.
She whipped her head back to the fight. The coyotes were down or limping away, Piers wasn’t moving, but Rafe was still up, and slashing out with that knife.
She couldn’t run and leave Lucas. If Rafe killed him . . .
Snarls reached her ears. Angry, fierce. Sarah barely had time to stagger to her feet when two more wolves burst onto the scene.
A white wolf with a pelt already stained red. A black wolf with teeth dripping blood. Caleb and Dane.
She tried to reach their minds, but found only a tangle of fury and desperation.
Sarah sucked in a deep breath. She could do this. Rafe had been right about one thing. She had her secrets. Not weak. At least, not now she couldn’t be weak. Her heart pounded so hard her chest shook but she advanced on Caleb and Dane.
Dane, break away. Go help Lucas.
Dane’s big body shuddered. He glanced up at her. Caleb swiped his claws down Dane’s right side. Sarah winced, feeling the pain herself. Dane, go.
He wouldn’t be able to resist her order. In wolf form, he’d be helpless.
Because Sarah couldn’t just talk to the wolves. Rafe had actually spoken the truth. She could control the wolves.
A rare charmer—and a dangerous one. As Rafe had come to learn.
Dane bounded away from Caleb. The white wolf shook his head, frowning. She caught Caleb’s thoughts, heard the—
Come back and fight, bastard—
“No.” She stepped forward. Caleb growled at her as his head lowered toward the ground. He arched, bending low, getting ready to attack. Stand down, Caleb.
A tremor shook his body.
“I don’t know what the hell is happening here, but you need to stand down.”
Caleb’s smoky eyes were locked on her. She pressed deeper into his mind. There was a shield there, one she hadn’t noticed before during her little “test,” because she hadn’t probed deep enough. If she could just—
Don’t remember inviting you inside.
Her knees locked. If a wolf could smile, well, Caleb would be grinning right then.
Think you can control me?
“Stand down.” Her whisper held a tremble of fear. Think again.
He leapt at her. Sarah didn’t even have time to scream before he had her on the ground. His weight suffocated her, taking all her breath away.
All wolves aren’t the same. His snarl.
Caleb, no! She pressed her power at him, shoving with all she was worth. Go, run away! You don’t want to kill me!
The scent of blood and wolf filled her nostrils. Yes, I do.
His head lowered. His teeth hovered over her throat. Call them. His taunt echoed in her mind. Tell them to come and save you.
Lucas and Dane.
His teeth scraped her throat. Call them, he ordered.
Sarah swallowed. Lucas! Dane!
Caleb nuzzled her throat. Good girl.
The earth shook around her. The wolves were racing to her rescue. And Rafe? What was he—
A motor gunned to life.
Dane growled. Get the fuck away from her.
Lucas didn’t bother with an order. He just plowed right into Caleb. They rolled off her, twisting and turning, banging into the concrete.
Sarah scrambled off the ground and ran a hand over her throat. Caleb could have killed her in an instant, but he hadn’t.
Now Caleb lay on the ground, Lucas at his throat, and the white wolf wasn’t fighting. Wasn’t moving at all. Just waiting for death.
And death was coming. Lucas snarled and went in for the kill.
“Stop!” She jumped to her feet. Dane raced in front of her. She wasn’t sure if Dane was trying to protect her or tying to keep her from stopping Lucas. Either way, she didn’t have time to touch his mind and find out. “Stop, Lucas!”
Lucas’s teeth snapped together. He swung his head toward her.
“He’s not fighting anymore,” she whispered. “Don’t kill him.” Not until we can figure out what’s happening. Why he betrayed you.
The black wolf’s head jerked, but then Lucas surged forward and caught Caleb’s neck between his teeth.
No, I told you not to kill him!
With his jaws closed around Caleb’s neck, Lucas lifted the white wolf, then slammed Caleb’s head down into the concrete. Caleb’s eyes fell closed, but his chest kept rising and falling. Still alive.
Her breath rushed out. Lucas loped back toward her, his sides heaving, his gait slower now. How much silver was inside him? Eating at him?
“Lucas?” She held her hands out to him. His head butted against her palm. His eyes closed.
Then he fell at her feet.