—yeah, it was possessive, barbaric, but . . .
In the wolf world, it was also the equivalent of a marriage ceremony.
“You want justice . . .” His dark voice sent a shiver down her spine. “Dane, Piers, Jordan, and any other wolf lurking in the shadows . . . you want your justice, then you come at me for your pound of flesh.”
For an instant, just one tense moment, his gaze locked on her. She saw the wolf looking back at her from the man’s eyes. “You come at me,” he said again. “Because from now on, I’m standing between her and everyone else.”
That was . . . Sarah swallowed. Sweet. Okay, not really sweet, a little brutal and stark but—
“So come on.” He pushed her behind him, shielding Sarah with his body. “Let’s see which of you gets to bleed first tonight.”
Right. Sarah peered around his side. Now he was just talking big. Because the wolves wouldn’t actually attack their alpha. They wouldn’t—
Piers came at him first. His claws were out, his canines lengthening, and he lunged right for Lucas.
Sarah didn’t even have time to scream. Because about two seconds later, Piers was on the ground.
She stood on her toes now and glanced over his shoulder. Dane just smiled. “Alpha, I don’t have a problem with your mate.”
Wait. Mate. Crap, that’s exactly what Lucas had done, though, he’d claimed her in front of his pack.
“She was willing to trade her life for mine.” Dane sauntered around Lucas. Came to stand beside Sarah. “I stand where I always stand. With you and now, with her.”
That lump in her throat was getting pretty big. So one guy had still wanted her hide. One stood by her side, and her lover—
He was ready to take ’em all down for her.
It looked like her taste in men was definitely improving.
“Jordan?” Lucas still had his claws out.
Piers had risen from the ground. He could charge again, but Lucas didn’t seem too worried about that.
What would Jordan do? She’d almost killed him. He would be the one with the most cause for an attack.
“Jordan, I never meant—” She began.
Dane grabbed her arm. “Not right now. Really, not right now.”
Lucas’s head whipped toward her.
Then she saw Piers and Jordan both spring forward. Both were attacking.
Jordan was coming after his own brother. She’d done this, she’d messed things up, and he was—
Lucas’s leg kicked, slamming into Piers’s stomach, and just that fast, Piers crashed back to the ground. The alpha’s hand flew out, and he caught Jordan right around the throat.
Jordan stared back at him. An almost mirror-image. But . . . less fury on the younger man’s face.
“She almost killed me,” Jordan said.
Lucas dropped his hand. “Challenge me, but you’re not getting to her.”
Jordan’s gaze turned to her. Gold, deep. “I remember what you said.”
She shook her head. She couldn’t speak, because right then, she didn’t know what to say.
“I was lying in a pool of blood, my bones bursting through my skin, and those coyotes were coming to rip me apart.”
Lucas’s shoulders stiffened.
But Jordan smiled. “That wasn’t the first time Death tried to come for me, but I was sure wondering how the hell I’d get away from him then.”
“You nearly didn’t.” The words slipped out. But she knew just how close he’d come. She could still see those coyotes closing in for the kill.
“I’m the one you want,” he said. Voice so quiet she had to strain to hear him.
Lucas stepped forward, his hand rising once again.
“That’s what you said.” Jordan’s lips curved in a crooked grin. “Even as I was bleeding out, I heard you. ‘Up here. I’m the one you want.’ And those bastards turned away from me, and they went after you.”
Now all eyes were on her. She shoved her hair back. “They were after me.” He was trying to make it sound like she’d saved him. She’d been the one to make him do the header through the window.
“One human, at least three coyotes.” Jordan whistled. “Them aren’t very good odds, lady.”
“No,” Lucas growled. “They’re not.”
She forced one shoulder to lift and hoped the shrug looked careless. “I like to gamble.”
She hated gambling.
“And I was FBI. It’s not like I was some kind of defenseless human.” She’d had training. Hand-to-hand, weapons—
“When you’re a human fighting a shifter, you are defenseless.” This came from Dane.
But obviously, the guy didn’t realize just how devious humans could be. He’d have to watch that weakness.
“You challenged the coyotes and you saved my ass,” Jordan drawled. “Not quite even, not yet, but I have a feeling we will be. One day.” That grin stretched a bit. “Especially since it looks like you’ll be staying with us. Permanently.”
Um, now about that—
“Piers.” Lucas’s voice snapped out. “You gonna keep dicking around or are you gonna attack like you mean it?”
Piers was up again. His green eyes gleamed. “What’s the point? We both know you can kick my ass even when you’re loaded with silver.” His teeth snapped together. Such sharp teeth. “I just wanted to get in a few swings.” Then his gaze turned to Sarah and his head inclined. “If she stays out of my head, and I mean out, then we have no problem.”
“If you shift around me, I’m in.” Sarah spoke quickly, because she didn’t want any more lies or half-truths with the pack. Not when they were offering her . . . everything.
Home. Safety. Pack.
Pack was forever.
“I get a loud broadcast unless you’re shielding, and Caleb’s the only wolf who’s ever shielded with me.” Probably not the best guy to bring up right then.
Piers’s eyes narrowed.
“If you shift, I’ll be in your head.” She glanced around at the men. “This goes for all of you. It will be just like—”
“You’re one of us,” Lucas finished. “It will be just damn like you’re a wolf. So think of her that way because she is one of us now.” His gaze didn’t leave her. “But you don’t control us. You don’t push your compulsions on my men or me.”
Now this she could do. Try to do. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Piers repeated. “Hell, man, I was hoping for more of an I-swear-on-my-life—”
“I won’t push, I won’t try to—” Sarah stopped talking because, quite suddenly, the wolves weren’t focused on her anymore. They’d turned as one toward the main house, faces intent, noses—twitching?
“Vampire,” Jordan breathed and there was hate in the word. Yeah, with his particular history, who could blame the guy?
But wait, vampire. Sarah’s mouth got very dry, very fast. Vamps were her least favorite of all the supernaturals. They liked to play with their food way too much for her taste.
“Sulfur,” Piers muttered. “It’s in the air . . . shit. It’s them.”
“Camellia?” Jordan asked, and he lunged forward, racing toward the house.
Wait, Camellia . . . that name was familiar. It clicked in her mind. When Jordan had been taken by the vamps, he hadn’t been their only prisoner, they’d also taken a girl. A shifter. Of course, Sarah had thought some of the rumors about the girl were bullshit because those stories had said the girl wasn’t your run-of-the-mill two-spirit shifter.
The stories claimed she was a dragon.
Lucas ran after Jordan, roaring his name. The other wolves followed, quickly closing rank, and Sarah, well, she wasn’t about to be left behind.
After all, pack stayed together.
She rushed after them, wishing she had a weapon. It was daytime, and any vamp would be a fool to attack now. All vamps were at their weakest during the day, even those born to the blood.
Lucas tackled Jordan. “She’s not with them. Her scent’s on him, but she’s not here.”
Sarah saw the woman then. A small, dark-haired woman vaulted over the outer wall and began to stalk toward them. A man was at her side, tall, his blond hair gleaming. His body stayed close to the woman’s as their steps shadowed each other.
“Thanks for that open invitation, wolf,” the woman called out, her voice carrying easily. “It was nice not to have to fight my way past that new security of yours.”
Security Sarah knew he’d put out to protect them from Rafe.
The woman didn’t really look like a vamp. Other than the paleness. She looked . . . pretty. Actually, the chick was freaking beautiful. High cheeks. Heart-shaped face. Not a blemish, wrinkle, or scar anywhere on her.
Then Sarah caught sight of her fangs.
“Maya.” Lucas rose slowly and she noticed that he kept his body in front of Jordan’s. And she also noticed the way he said the woman’s name. With affection.
So those tales were true, too. Lucas did have a soft spot for the vamp who’d hauled his brother out of hell one night. Sarah knew that hard kick in her gut was jealousy.
Maya lifted her right hand. Her fingers were curled in a fist.
“Easy,” the man next to Maya said, his shoulder brushing hers.
“Wanna tell me . . .” Maya bit out. “Why your scent was all over Marie Dusean?”
Lucas just shrugged.
The vamp lunged forward.
But her man was faster. He grabbed her arms, yanking her back. Maya’s hand opened, though, and she threw something at Lucas. Something small and hard, something that hit him in the chest and fell to the ground.
“You shouldn’t be out when you’re weak, Maya,” Lucas said mildly.
She growled at him. Pretty good growl for a vamp.
Sarah’s eyes narrowed as she stared at the ground near his feet. What was—
Not just any ring.
She hurried forward.
“Sarah!” Lucas caught her arm. But it was too late. She was in front of him, scooping up the familiar ring. Marie’s ring.
Now it was time for her fingers to curl around the precious ruby. “Why do you have this?” she asked, meeting the vampire’s stare. Right then, they were a perfect fighting match. Almost human-to-human. She didn’t need to be scared of Maya Black.
No matter what the whispers on the streets said.
One tough bitch to stake.
“You know that ring?” Maya’s attention sharpened on her.
Sarah nodded. “Did she send you?” And her palm was sweating around the ring. “Is it time for me to—”
The laughter stopped her. The hard, rolling laughter. Laughter edged with a fine coat of rage. “Marie didn’t send me,” Maya said. “Marie can’t do anything right now.”
The blond beside her dropped his hold.
Maya stepped forward. “The mambo’s dead. I found her less than thirty minutes ago.” Her gaze drifted past Sarah. “Her throat had been slashed. That ring—she wore it on her neck, always. But the bastard who killed her, his claws were so strong he cut through the gold chain, through the flesh, and he took her life away.”
Another step forward. The man came with her, and the same rage was reflected on his face.
“She sent for me, but I got to her too late,” Maya said, and there was pain in her voice. “All these years, and I got there too late.”
The ring seemed heavy in Sarah’s hand.
“I found her dead, lying in a pool of blood, and the stench of wolf was all around her.” Maya shook her head. “We all know there’s only one alpha in LA. One alpha, a bastard that I know saw Marie last night. And now she’s gone, killed by a wolf’s claws.”
Sarah braced her body in front of Lucas. “It wasn’t him.” Maya smiled at her with a flash of vampire fangs. “Of course. Let me guess, he was screwing you last night, right, human? Screwing you . . . so he couldn’t have been killing her.”
Half-right. The sex hadn’t started until morning, and it hadn’t been screwing. “Marie helped us last night. I owe her.” She opened her hand and glanced down at the ring. “Lucas wasn’t in any condition to deal a killing blow when we were at her place.”
More laughter, only this time, it came from the big blond and the scent in the air—yeah, it did kinda smell like sulfur—deepened. “Lady, trust me,” he said, “Lucas Simone is always up for a killing blow.”
Maybe. “He didn’t kill her,” she said, her own voice fierce.
Maya’s gaze darted to the men who’d gathered. When she looked at Jordan, her stare seemed to warm a bit. Only semi-arctic. “Then which of these wolves,” she wanted to know, “is the one who’s gonna bleed for attacking my mambo?”
“You’re looking at the wrong wolves,” Sarah said.
Maya’s gaze turned measuring. “Sorry if I don’t believe you, but his scent . . .” Her index finger pointed at Lucas. “Is all over you. So I’m guessing that makes you not exactly unbiased when it comes to the pack.”
Sarah’s back teeth clenched. “They aren’t the only wolves in town.”
“Oh?” One black brow rose. “Got a Lone on the loose? Then how come I haven’t heard about him?” Her legs braced apart, and, quick as a flash, she drew out a gun, one that was aimed right at Sarah. “Silver bullets kill humans and wolf shifters real easy.”