Needles, screams—they’d followed her out of the hospital just like the howls of the wolves had followed her from the zoo.
She pulled away from him. Faced Lucas with her chin up. “After that, I didn’t mention wolves to my mother again.”
“The world can be too damn hard on those who are different.”
He would know.
“I pretended to be normal for years.” But she’d never really fit in. “When I was seventeen, my mom died in a car accident. A head-on collision.” So fast, so brutal. The other driver had been drinking. He’d slammed into her mother’s car when she was driving home from work at the diner.
The normal life she’d wanted so badly had killed her—and Sarah had been left alone.
“Is that when you stopped pretending to be normal?” She gave a brief nod. “A few years after that . . .” After bouncing around, living on the streets, struggling to survive, “I was arrested for shoplifting.” The luckiest break she’d ever caught. “But it turns out the cop who caught me wasn’t normal either.” That had been the beginning. “He got me straight. Gave me direction, told me that I could make a difference in the world.”
And then he’d introduced her to Anthony Miller, the FBI’s go-to guy for the paranormal.
She licked her lips. Slipping into the past just sucked. Too much pain waited there. “When I worked with Rafe . . .” Hell, this had been why she dragged up her past, to make him understand about the other wolf, so there was no stopping now. “He made me feel like I belonged. For the first time, I wasn’t an outsider.” She’d been weak. Ready to fall. “You know what happened after that.”
“When did it end?” he asked, eyes narrowed. “When did you find out—”
“That Rafe was a lying killer?” she finished. “More dead bodies turned up. Only they weren’t found near Fallen. They were discovered one state over. And Rafe made a mistake.” A deadly one. “He shifted in front of me.”
Just once. Rafe learned from his mistakes.
“He shifted and when I touched his mind, I saw the blood.” The man she’d been sleeping with—he was the killer she’d sought. “He ordered Sean and the others to attack humans. It was all his idea. His plan. His big game.”
That’s all it had been. Just a game. A hunting game.
“I think he planned to kill me. I know he did.” Those brown eyes had locked on her and a growl broke from his lips. “He charged at me, but—” She stopped, body tensing.
Lucas caught her chin and tipped her head back. “This where you make your other big confession? Where you tell me that you can’t just read the minds of wolves, but you can control us, too?”
“No need to confess, is there?” He’d had first-hand experience. “Not when you already know.”
“I sure as fuck do.” His jaw clenched. “If it hadn’t been for your little command in my head, Caleb would be dead.”
Because he’d gone right for the other wolf’s throat. “We needed to find out why.” Was Caleb even still alive? “He was so close to you, we needed—”
“You controlled me.” He cut across her words. “Controlled Piers.”
His hand fell away. “And what about my brother? He told me he didn’t remember launching at Hayden, just flying through the fucking window.”
She forced her stare to hold his. “I wanted him to take the coyote out.” Her fault. She hadn’t thought past the fear. “I didn’t mean . . . Hayden was coming at me, and I just wanted Jordan to help me.”
“To help you,” he repeated, the words a dark rumble of sound. “You traded my brother’s life for yours?”
“No, I—” Hell, hadn’t she? “I’m still not used to it,” she whispered. “I didn’t even know I could control wolves, not until I stopped Rafe from sinking his teeth into me.” Stop! Get the hell away! Her wild psychic shout. Rafe had frozen, his eyes wide and startled. Then he’d flown back across the room, like a puppet on a string, snarling and growling the whole time. But he hadn’t been able to attack her.
That had been the first time she’d used her power, but not the last. Once she’d realized what she could do, she’d started to practice. To try and control her newfound strength by working on the wolf shifters who crossed her path.
I didn’t practice hard enough.
“I never meant to hurt Jordan.” Her shoulders sagged. “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”
“I wish I could believe you.” His drawl was mocking.
“But, babe, you’ve been lying to me since day one.”
Half-truths. White lies. Lies of omission. When had she become so good at deceit? Before or after she joined the FBI? Before. I lied for years, pretending to be normal. Lying was all I knew. “I’m a charmer. Rafe wants me dead. He wants you dead. All of that is true. I left the FBI shortly after Sean was killed. I’m not an agent anymore.”
“Then why are they covering your ass?”
She knew he was talking about the detective’s death. Damn Rafe. Sarah exhaled. “I suspect they’re covering because they want me back. My ex-boss made contact with me right before I got into town.” That was why she’d been late. Miller had held her up when he’d caught her at that gas station. Of course, he’d known exactly where to find her. He’d probably tracked the GPS on her phone.
But Miller hadn’t offered protection. Oh, no, because there wasn’t a human safe house strong enough to protect her, not from a whole wolf pack. But the FBI had wanted something . . .
“What does he want?” Lucas turned away.
“He wants the killings to stop. Rafe has plans—he’s attracting attention, a national manhunt is going to be launched soon if we don’t stop him. Everyone will know about The Werewolf. The kills will come faster, the coyotes he has in his pocket will help him. The dead will fill every airwave, every newspaper—”
He glanced back over his shoulder.
“He has plans,” she said again softly. “And it doesn’t matter what the FBI’s motives are, we have to stop him. If we don’t, he’ll just keep killing. He’ll come after me, after you, and he’ll keep killing.”
The floorboards creaked behind Marie. Those soft creaks were the only sounds that the wolf shifter made. Marie didn’t jump. She was far too old and experienced for that. Her fingers smoothed over her necklace. The delicate ruby ring hung on the thick chain, always resting close to her heart. “You came faster than I thought,” she softly said.
She wouldn’t look at him. Her eyes were going hazy again, the sun blurring and she liked that. But if she looked at him—she’d see the evil too clearly. And that would not be the last sight she had.
“You saved the fucking bastard,” he snarled.
“Yes, Rafael, I did.” She’d helped him once. Her mistake. But he’d been young, grieving, his father lost to fangs and claws. Her mistake.
But he’d crossed her line then. Meant no harm.
It wasn’t until after she’d helped him, after she’d given the wolf within strength, that she’d seen the glimmer of darkness. Darkness could hide easily inside a child. She hadn’t possessed the will to kill him, not when he was so young.
What if she’d been wrong? Her vision had failed twice in her life.
Once with her daughter, Carline.
She began to rock slowly, back and forth. The cold whispered over her skin. “I know why you killed Maxime and Helene.” The poor souls that had come to her. Lost, forced back from the grave. Only dark magic could pull the souls back.
Should have been left at peace. Some people had a hard time letting go.
Carline. Hadn’t she been tempted to raise her baby? But her strength lay in another area.
Whereas her belle fille . . . Her grand-daughter Josette had surprised her. Saddened her.
“Good fucking deal for you.” More creaks filled the air as he stalked closer. “You couldn’t keep me out this time, could you? Guess I’m stronger than your red dust now.”
No, not stronger. She’d left the line open. He wouldn’t come away from this deed unscathed. Fool.
“You should have let the wolf die, mambo.”
That wouldn’t have served her purposes. If Simone had died, then the charmer wouldn’t owe her.
His fingers rose, and his claws curled over her shoulder. I won’t see him. But she could feel the press of darkness, those same whispers that had been in the boy, only they were screams now. Screams from all the dead he’d taken.
“Tell me how you brought Simone back. You don’t touch the Dark. He should have been a rotting corpse. Tell me.”
“I used something you can’t understand.” Something he’d never grasp. “Sacrifice.”
“What? Did you kill a fucking chicken?” His rough laughter grated in her ears.
He dared to mock her? Her faith? Her power?
No one mocked Marie Dusean.
She turned in his grasp. The fog parted for her, and she saw the monster staring down at her. “Death’s comin’ for you, boy.” Her voice rolled with the promise. “You can beg, you can plead, but in the end . . . he’ll have you.”
His claws sliced across her throat. Marie didn’t feel the pain. She was already gone. Gone into the fog that waited. Welcomed.
He’ll have you.
Her necklace fell to the floor, severed by a wolf’s claws. The ruby ring slipped off the chain, then became lost in the blood.
“Will you still help me?” Sarah whispered. “Now that you know I’m—”
“Bait from the Feds?” Lucas finished, voice biting, and he saw her flinch. Dammit, he didn’t want to attack her. He wanted to yank her back into his arms, hold her tight but—
Pack law. She’d deceived not just him, but his whole pack. Controlled them. Wolves didn’t like being controlled by others.
Might as well be a fucking mental cage to them.
“I told you,” Sarah said, voice tight. “I don’t work for them anymore.”
But he didn’t believe her. Sarah’s ex-boss had contacted her right before she came to LA, and he was supposed to buy that the guy hadn’t brought her back into the fold?
Lucas knew he was on the FBI’s extermination list—and he didn’t trust those Bureau bastards not to set him up . . . and not to use their perfect bait to do it.
Shit. From the beginning, he’d known she’d held back. He’d known better than to trust her, but damn if he hadn’t started to let his guard down for her.
Now that he knew about her past, it made him want her all the more. She’d been so strong, keeping her talents hidden from the world, then struggling through life on her own.
But the pack . . .
Sarah came closer to him. Her hands pressed to his chest. “We want the same thing. To stop Rafe. Once he’s dead . . .”
What? She’d slip away? Get out of his life? No.
One delicate shoulder lifted. “Then you can tell me to hit the road, okay?”
But what if he couldn’t let her go? The woman didn’t realize just how thin his control was with her. “You’re a dangerous weapon, Sarah King.”
Her eyes widened a bit. Such green eyes.
“Tell me . . .” He breathed in her scent. “Are you still lying?”
“If you wanted, could you control me right now? Get me to do anything you wanted?”
She licked her lips, a quick flash of pink tongue that made his idiotic cock twitch. Always want her. “N-no . . . I told you before. I can’t read your thoughts when you’re in human form—”
“That’s not really the same thing, is it?” He broke through her words. His heart thundered too fast and he knew she felt the wild beat. But when he was close to her, he was wild. Need more. “Not talking about reading thoughts. I’m talking about control.” He waited a beat. “Can you control me now?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“You sure about that, babe? Wouldn’t be the first time you were . . . ah . . . a bit unclear with me.”
Her hands dropped. “I tried to control Rafe when he was in human form. It didn’t work.” Anger fueled her own words. “And it’s not working now with you, or else you’d be on your knees in front of me, telling me how sorry you are for being a jerk.”
One brow lifted. “A jerk?” He’d been called much worse. But the word still drove into his gut. “I’m not the one who’s been lying.” Odd, that. He usually lied one hell of a lot, but . . . not to her.
While she spent all her time lying to him.
“I stayed with you.” She spun around, giving him her back. “I made the deal with Marie. I was willing to trade everything—”
His body tensed at that. “Tell me you didn’t.” He remembered the fire in his gut. The burn that lashed through his organs. “Tell me you didn’t.” He could still feel it—the whisper of cold, of death, sinking into his body.
She threw a glance back over her shoulder. “I agreed to her trade.” A rough laugh. “Hell, I don’t even know what was happening. You were dying. She was chanting, asking me about binding with you.”
No, hell, no. “Sarah, did you—”
Her body swung toward him. “Did I what? Fight for your ungrateful self? Yes, I did. I’m not all bad, you know, Lucas. I don’t want you dead. I don’t want Jordan dead. I just want—”