She was scared. She’d done a fair job of hiding her fear back at the police station and then at the park, at first anyway. But as the darkness had fallen, he’d seen the fear. Smelled it.
Sarah had known she was being hunted.
He pushed a button on his remote. The wrought-iron gates before him opened and revealed the curving drive that led to his second LA home. In the hills, it gave him a great view of the city below, and that view let him know when company was coming, long before any unexpected guests arrived.
When the gate shut behind him, he saw Sarah sag slightly, settling back into her seat. The scent of her fear finally eased.
Like most of his kind, he usually enjoyed the smell of fear. But he didn’t . . . like the scent on her.
He much preferred the softer scent, like vanilla cream, that he could all but taste as it clung to her skin. Perhaps he would get a taste, later.
With a flick of his wrist, he killed the ignition. The house was right in front of them. Two stories. Long, tall windows.
And, hopefully, no more dead bodies waited on the steps here.
He eased out of the car, stretching slowly. Then he walked around and opened the door for Sarah. As any man would, Lucas admired the pale flash of thigh when her skirt crept up. And he wondered just what secrets the lovely lady was keeping from him.
“We’re going in to talk.” An order. He wanted to know everything, starting with why the dead human had been at his place.
She gave a quick nod. “Okay, I—”
A wolf bounded out of the house. A flash of black fur. Golden eyes. Teeth.
Shit. It wasn’t safe for the kid. Not until he found out what was going on—
The wolf ran to him. Tossed back his head and howled. Sarah laughed softly.
His stare shot to her just in time to catch the smile on her lips. His hand lifted, and almost helplessly, he traced that smile with his fingertips.
Her breath caught.
Lucas ignored the tightening in his gut. “Shouldn’t you be afraid?” After the coyotes, he’d expected her to flinch away from any other shifters. And Jordan was one big wolf, with claws and teeth that could easily rip a woman like Sarah apart.
She looked back at the wolf who watched them. “He’s so young, little more than a kid. One who is glad you’re—”
Understanding dawned, fast and brutal in his mind. I’m more than human. She’d told him that, he just hadn’t understood exactly what she was. Until now.
His hands locked around her arms and Lucas pulled her up against him. Nose to nose, close enough so that he could see the dark gold glimmering in the depths of her green eyes. “Jordan, get the hell out of here.” He gave the order to his brother without ever looking away from her.
The wolf growled.
The young wolf pushed against his leg—letting me know he’s pissed, ’cause Jordan hates when I boss his ass—and then the wolf backed away.
“Now for you, sweetheart.” His fingers tightened. “Why don’t we just go back to that part about you not being human?”
Her lips parted. She had nice lips—sexy and plump. He shouldn’t be noticing them, not then, but he couldn’t help himself. He noticed everything about her. The gold hoops in her dainty ears. The streaks of gold buried deep in her dark hair. The lotion she’d rubbed on her body—that vanilla scent was driving him wild.
He was turned on, achingly hard, for a woman he barely knew. Not normally a big deal. He had a more than healthy sex drive. Most shifters did. The animal inside liked to play.
But Sarah . . . he didn’t trust her, not for a minute, and he didn’t usually have sex with women he didn’t trust. A man could be vulnerable to attack when he was fucking.
“You know what I am, Lucas,” she said and shrugged, the move both careless and fake because he knew that she cared, too much.
“Tell me.” Her mouth was so close. He could still taste her. That kiss earlier had just been a tease. Want more.
“I’m a charmer,” she whispered.
A charmer. The weakest of the paranormals, and, in his mind, the damn sneakiest. Charmers blended the best with the humans. They got to live in the bright, fake world of date nights and football games. They passed as humans all the time, had all the perks of human life, but charmers had magic inside, weak, but still there.
Charmers were able to communicate telepathically with animals. To “talk” with them. Each charmer had one type of animal that she or he could talk with—some spoke to bears, tigers, hell, he’d even known one lady down in the South who could talk snake to a Burmese python.
“Who do you talk to?” Because his suspicion couldn’t be right. No way. It was impossible.
She bit her lower lip. That sexy, red lip—
He kissed her. Lucas crushed his mouth against hers and let the hunger take over—the hunger that had been building the whole time he’d been trapped beside her in that SUV, trapped with her soft flesh so close and her sexy scent surrounding him.
He’d had a piss-poor day. Time to stop playing nice and get back to doing things his way.
Hard and dirty.
Her mouth opened, lips quivering. Perfect. His tongue swept inside, driving deep. Her kiss wouldn’t be as good as before. Couldn’t be. He’d imagined that lick of fire, that wild arousal, that—
His cock jerked. Dammit.
Her breasts pushed against him, nipples tight and pebbled. The scent of her arousal teased his nostrils, and Lucas realized he was in serious trouble.
Just as bad as before. No, just as good, and that equaled one big-ass problem.
Growling, he pulled back. “Who . . .” He swallowed, and tried to sound more like a man than a beast as he demanded, “Who do you talk with?” Who, what—same thing in his world.
Her lips were red, swollen, and her eyes were so wide. “Wolves.” Her voice was husky, tinged with the same need that had him aching.
A new worry shot through him. “My kind . . . can you—” He wanted her mouth again. Soon. “Can you read us when we’re in human form?”
A slow shake of her head. “No. Only when you’re the wolf.”
He wasn’t sure he believed her.
But he still freed her and stepped back. Because if he didn’t, Lucas knew he would have taken those lips again, and he wouldn’t have stopped with such a simple taste.
“Go inside. There’s a room on the second floor, to the right of the stairs—you can use it, for now.” Until he figured out exactly what was happening and how to get the price off her head.
Why do I care?
Because she had saved him at the jail. While he’d denied it to her, he did follow pack law. Up to a point.
Lucas turned away from her. He’d need to send Jordan someplace safe. Until this shit was smoothed over, he wasn’t going to risk his brother.
He’d almost lost him before. No way was he going to put his brother in harm’s way again.
“Is having sex with you the price of protection?”
Her voice froze him. Then anger ripped through his gut. He glanced back at her, frowning. “If it is?”
The wind tossed her hair. The moonlight glittered in her eyes. “I didn’t realize you were that hard up, wolf.”
He almost smiled. Nice bite. He loved women who knew how to fight. “You’re not gonna have sex with me because you want a safe place to hide.” And hiding, yeah, he knew that was what his little charmer was doing. Hiding with the big, bad wolf.
“Good to know, I—”
“You’re gonna have sex with me because you want me, just as badly as I want you.” Immediate attraction. Animal lust—that’s what his kind called it. Sometimes, the beast inside just recognized a perfect sensual partner.
In bed, he bet they’d be great. He couldn’t wait to have her, naked and hungry, in a big, soft bed. Or maybe out in the open, beneath his glowing moon. Either way, he would have her.
He paused, waited for her denial.
Sarah headed for the house. “Keep hoping, wolf.”
Her arousal, the rich scent of woman, teased his nose. He smiled. “I will, babe, I will.”
Waking up to find yourself in a wolf’s den wasn’t the best experience, but, hey, it was better than being dead.
The next day, Sarah crept down the stairs, all too aware of the silence in the house. After he’d dropped his little sexual bombshell, she hadn’t spoken to Lucas again last night. She’d kept silent because, mostly, because he was right.
She did want him. Arrogant bastard.
She’d been thinking about him for months. Ever since she’d first seen his picture and heard the tales of the LA alpha.
His father had been slaughtered when Lucas was ten. Killed by the leader of a rival pack who’d wanted to claim the LA territory.
If the tales were true, and, after meeting the man, Sarah figured they had to be, Lucas had gone after his father’s killer. He’d attacked a full-grown wolf shifter, in human form—and the form of a ten-year-old boy really wasn’t that tough. Lucas had somehow survived that fight. He’d escaped death and disappeared from LA for six years.
At sixteen, he’d come back, and the shifter who’d murdered his father had been dead within an hour of his return. In the seventeen years since, he’d been the wolf running these streets.
So, okay, she had more than a little crush on the guy. A crush that had caused her to risk her ass when she found out he was in danger. She still couldn’t believe she’d driven all the way from Arizona to try and save him.
Well, his life—and her own skin.
Sarah reached the bottom of the stairs. “Hello! Lucas?” He’d better not have gone hunting without her.
“You’re pretty in the morning.” His voice came from the right. He stepped from the kitchen, crossed his arms, and studied her. “But I think I liked the other outfit better.”
She’d tossed on the jeans and t-shirt she’d stuffed into her travel bag. Since her goal today wasn’t seduction—not her main goal, anyway—she’d been glad to get back into her casual clothes.
Her hands dug into her back pockets. “I—um, thought you had already left.”
His lips curled. “I’ll be hunting soon enough.”
Sarah didn’t doubt it.
“Confession time, huh, sweet Sarah?”
She nodded. They needed to talk today, to plan and to attack. Because, once night fell, she knew more coyotes would be coming after her.
So where should she start?
“Tell me about the dead man.” He leaned back against the doorframe.
All right. That was one place to start. She cleared her throat. Took a nice slow breath. He’ll know when I lie. Well, he’d know, unless she was very, very careful. “John Turner was . . . like me.”
“A wolf charmer?”
“He was a charmer, yes, but the coyote was his linked animal. He worked with them.” Because every charmer she’d met had a primary link. Some could pick up thoughts from a few other beasts, but one animal was always primary, with a link so strong it took no effort to form the connection.
“Worked with?” Lucas repeated carefully.
Ah, now she had to be very careful because “worked with” was actually a nice euphemism for John’s spy work. When the coyotes got together for their hunts with other factions, John had always been there. Pretending to be a guard, but secretly picking up the thoughts of all the coyote shifters there and reporting back to his coyote leader.
Charmer spies were valuable commodities in the shifter world. Because when the beasts roamed free, it was so easy to discover what lies the men had been keeping.
“The dead guy was spying on coyote packs?”
Lucas obviously knew the score. She nodded.
“While he was . . . working, John got word of a planned attack in LA.” No sense sugar-coating. If she hadn’t been so tired lasted night, she would have gotten all this crap out into the open then. But she’d been running on fumes and the minute she’d found the bed, one that held John’s wild scent, she’d crashed.
It had been the first time she’d slept in the last thirty-six hours.
“John picked up the thoughts of a coyote named Hayden. The guy wanted more power.” Hayden. She’d met the jerk a few times. Squinty eyes. Handsome face. Evil grin. “He thought if he pulled off a coup here, he could start his own faction.” And then the coyotes could take back the power they’d lost to the wolves in LA.
“I’ve got a pact with the coyotes. They stay out of my space and I stay out of theirs.” Hard. Angry. He wasn’t slumping against the wooden frame any longer. His body stood at full attention, his broad shoulders filling the doorway.
“I hate to tell you,” she murmured, “but that truce is pretty much worthless.” To Hayden, anyway. “Hayden found out that John was onto his plans and he put a price on his head.”
“Like the price that’s on yours?”
Unfortunately, yes. That was the way the coyotes liked to play. A price would be put on prey. Then the hunt would begin.
She took a quick breath. “John thought his best chance of survival was coming here, telling you what was happening . . .”
“And getting my pack to watch his ass.”
The way she hoped they’d watch hers. “Yes.”
He strode toward her. “And where do you fit into all this? Why are they after you?”
“Because I know the attack isn’t just coming from the coyotes.” Bad enough, but . . . “Hayden is working with wolves—they are coming for you, too.” Wolves she knew. Wolves she’d trusted, once.