“S-Sarah . . .” Karen grabbed her hand. “D-don’t let me . . . die out here . . .”
Sarah glanced down at Karen. They’d been friends once. Hadn’t they? She’d worked with Karen on three cases. They’d laughed. Traded stories.
But never met outside of work.
Never talked about anything personal.
Hell, she didn’t even know if Karen was the woman’s real name.
“D-Don’t want to d-die . . . out here . . .” Karen’s fingers squeezed hers.
The fire closed in.
“Sarah! Fuck, Sarah, jump over the flames! There’s time!” Lucas’s roar. Her head whipped up. He’d taken out the other coyote.
She shook her head. “I can’t—I can’t leave her.” Because, dammit, she had a weakness, too. They’d probably profiled her at the FBI, just like they had Lucas. If she was really a suspect like Karen had said, the profile would have been one of their first investigative tactics, and Marley would’ve had access to that profile.
Using my weakness against me.
Sarah stood, trying to drag Karen to her feet.
The other woman groaned, pain heavy in the sound. Sarah started to lift her. She could try a fireman’s carry, she could—
Lucas leapt through the flames. The scent of burned flesh rose, clogging her nostrils. No, Lucas!
“Get in the damn van.”
She jumped inside, pulling Karen with her.
“Stop the fucking fire, Marley!” he shouted.
But Marley didn’t stop the fire. The flames just flared higher and they closed in tighter.
Lucas ran to the front of the van. Jumped inside. “The bastard took the keys!”
Shit. Now they were trapped. Sarah covered her mouth and yanked the back doors closed. So much smoke.
“Don’t worry, babe. I got this.” Her head whipped around. He’d bent under the dash.
One moment. Two . . . The motor revved to life. He slammed on the gas and the van lurched forward. Sarah saw a wall of flames waiting on them. Bigger, so big now . . .
They went right through the fire.
Sarah didn’t even have time to scream. The van blasted through the flames. The windshield cracked, rubber burned, and they were free.
Lucas jerked the wheel and the van streaked to the left. “How much longer does she have?”
Karen’s eyes were closed. Her blood soaked Sarah’s clothing. Sarah touched the wound and Karen didn’t wince. Sarah wasn’t even sure Karen had felt her touch. Too far gone. “She needs a hospital and she needs one now.”
No, what she really needed was a miracle.
Lucas’s gaze met hers in the rearview mirror.
“I’m trying to stop the blood.” Her hands were so red and the blood flow wouldn’t stop. “We have to get her to a doctor. She’s not going to make it if—”
If he stopped. If he went back for Marley and whoever else waited in the woods. Sarah couldn’t get Karen to a hospital on her own. She needed him to drive so she could keep the pressure on the wound.
She needed him.
He needed vengeance.
“Please, Lucas. She’ll die.”
Did he even care? What would a human’s death matter to him? Just a human. A dead stranger.
Wasn’t that what she could have been?
The van’s engine roared. “We’ll be at Saints Hospital in ten minutes.” His gaze met hers. “Can you keep her alive that long?”
“D-don’t let . . .” Karen whispered and a tear streaked from her eye.
Sarah swallowed down the fear that had risen in her throat. “You’re going to make it.” Not a lie. Not really.
“Sarah?” Lucas’s voice growled.
“I can keep her alive.” I hope. “But, dammit, drive fast.” Because she didn’t think she had ten minutes. From the look of things, Karen barely had any time at all.
Don’t die on me.
But Karen’s eyes were already closed.
Lucas braked right next to the hospital’s emergency-room doors. He jumped out of the van and raced around to the back, shouting for the guard on duty to get help.
Shit, couldn’t he tell when there was a damn emergency? Humans.
He yanked open the back door and hoisted Karen into his arms. Her head sagged back against him and her blood . . . so much blood.
Sarah’s gaze met his. “Her heart’s barely beating.”
Fuck. He spun on his heel and ran for the sliding glass doors. The guard was just coming out of the doors, a gurney beside him, two guys with stethoscopes hauling ass with him.
“She’s been stabbed!” He yelled but thought that should be obvious. The stab wound had been perfectly placed for maximum damage.
Lucas put her on the gurney. The agent’s eyes never opened. The docs swarmed her.
“Sir, you’ve got to come inside.” The guard grabbed his arm. “We’ll have to call the cops, file a report—”
Lucas didn’t move. “No.”
The doctors had Karen inside now. They’d do what they could for her. If she lived . . . if she died . . .
He turned away, breaking the guard’s hold.
“You can’t leave!” The guard didn’t make the mistake of touching him again. “You can’t—”
Sarah had climbed from the van. Blood covered her.
“Oh, shit! Ma’am, hold on!” The guard streaked past Lucas and caught Sarah’s hands. “You should’ve said there were two victims!”
Sarah shook her head. “I’m not hurt.” She stared down at her hands. At all the blood.
Not hurt. This time. But next time, she could be.
The wolf inside howled. Not fucking next time. No one would hurt her. No one.
“Come inside, ma’am,” the guard said, trying to tug her closer. “Come inside, you need to—”
“The woman they took inside is a federal agent.” Lucas pulled Sarah away from the man, deliberately keeping his hold gentle with her. Even though she wasn’t an average human, she was as weak physically as the agent, he knew that. So why the hell couldn’t he be easier with her?
Because I need her. Too much.
The wolf within craved her as much as the man did. “Call Anthony Miller at the Bureau . . . tell him the victim’s Karen Phillips.” Sarah’s voice was whisper-soft.
Lucas steered Sarah toward the front of the van. She moved quickly, jumping into the passenger seat.
The guard scrambled back. Lucas cast one last glance toward the brightly-lit hospital. That agent had been so far gone. No mambo was around to save her. Would the doctors be able to do enough?
He climbed into the van.
“He’s going to report the license plate number,” Sarah said. “The cops will be after us in no time. Especially if they think we’re the ones who stabbed Karen.”
“Doesn’t matter.” He gunned the engine and raced past an ambulance. “We’ll ditch the van.”
“I can’t . . . I . . .” The rasp of her breath filled the vehicle’s interior. “I need to get the blood off, Lucas.” A pleading note had entered her voice. “Please . . . I need to get the blood off my hands.”
Some blood wouldn’t wash clean.
But he drove faster, snaking through the lanes. Heading deeper into the heart of the city.
The rundown hotel waited just off the highway. A place where no one asked questions, because the folks damn well knew better than to make that mistake. The owner was a shifter who’d spent years lying to human cops.
“Stay here,” he told her, and ran into what counted as the main office of the place. His fist slammed down onto the bell. Shit. He had blood on his hands, too. The scent had been so strong on Sarah, he hadn’t even realized . . .
A key was shoved across the scarred desktop. “Twenty for an hour.”
He tossed the money onto the countertop and swiped the key. The fox shifter had to see and smell the blood. But in that place, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Or the last.
Lucas tossed out an extra hundred. “I’ve got a van that needs to disappear.”
The fox’s palm covered the money. “Consider it gone, Alpha.”
He spun away and hurried back outside. Room seven. The room the fox always gave him when the pack needed to clean up.
How much blood have I washed away?
But, damn it, he hadn’t killed innocents. He’d taken out the bastards who’d come after him. He’d protected his pack. And if he had to . . . hell, yeah, he’d do it again.
Sarah shoved open the door when she saw him. Beautiful Sarah. She could have stayed out of this life. Could have passed for normal.
He glanced toward the side of the building. The fox was already heading for the van. “Come on.”
She’d clenched her hands, probably trying to hide the blood. Didn’t do much good though, not when her clothes were covered in dark red.
He pushed the key into the lock and the door swung open seconds later. The place was a dump, no getting around it, but it had a shower and soap and he could make certain Sarah got what she wanted.
I need to get the blood off my hands.
Oh, yeah. He understood. Been there, babe. Done that.
She brushed by him, stopping only long enough to put her gun on the nightstand before she walked toward the bathroom. Sarah yanked her clothes off as she went, dropping the bloody shirt, kicking out of her shoes and socks, and ditching her jeans.
She disappeared into the small bathroom and the roar of the shower filled the motel room. Lucas’s gaze tracked around the area. Sagging bed. Scarred nightstand. Not much else. No TV because the folks who came to this place weren’t real big on staying and relaxing.
He glanced at his hands. Would the human agent live? Marley sure wouldn’t. Not when he got his hands on her.
He stalked to the phone and dialed quickly. Dane answered on the second ring. “Where the hell are you?” the other shifter asked at once.
His gaze tracked to the peeling ceiling. Hell was a pretty good description. “Langdon’s.” The name of that cagey fox. Dane would know the place. He’d cleaned up there often enough. No telling how much blood this room had seen. He exhaled. “We need a team on Prentmore.”
A low whistle. “That’s close to where Jess and his coyotes made their base.”
“And it’s where you’ll find two more dead coyotes. But they’re not the priority.” His gaze locked on Sarah’s gun. “They can fucking rot. I need a nose to search the scene.”
“Whose scent are we after?”
“What? What the hell was she—”
“She’s FBI.” Who wasn’t? “And she’s also been the one working with Rafe.” The agent who’d flipped. Not Sarah. Not Karen. The demon who’d been right under his nose. “Find her, follow her scent, and let me know which hole she crawls into.”
Because he’d drag her out, and when he did, he’d find Rafe.
Lucas exhaled, feeling the aches in his muscles. “Has Caleb talked yet?”
“No, not yet . . . he’s still out.”
There is no cure. “Get out to Prentmore.” He could count on Dane. He’d track the demon. “But don’t take Marley out, got me? No matter what she says or does, she’s mine.”
Because she’d lead him to Rafe.
He ended the call, his hands yanking at his shirt. The water was still running and he wasn’t going to leave Sarah in there alone.
He was naked by the time he crossed the threshold into the bathroom. Steam curled in the air, and he could see the outline of Sarah’s body behind the thin shower curtain.
For a moment, he just watched her. She had bent her head beneath the spray and her shoulders seemed to shake a little. Fuck. Was she crying?
He yanked the curtain back. She didn’t whirl around in surprise. Didn’t even look up. Lucas climbed in behind her. When the water hit him, the clear liquid changed to red as the blood washed from his body.
He didn’t touch her. Not yet. Lucas didn’t want to touch her with the blood still on his hands. He grabbed the soap. Lathered and scrubbed until his flesh was clean.
Sarah moved forward, letting more of the spray hit him. The water stung a bit. She had it on full-blast and it was hot and it was just what he needed.
The red water slowly drained away. His hands looked clean again. What a lie.
But he reached for her anyway now. Lucas wrapped his arms around Sarah and pulled her close.
“Sometimes, it seems like I don’t know who to trust anymore.” Her whisper.
“You can trust me.”
“I have to trust you for this to work.” She turned in his arms, facing him. Her head tilted back. Her black lashes were wet, spiky. From the shower or tears? Probably from both. “You told me that before.”
It was still true now.
“But do you trust me?” She asked him, then shook her head. Her hands curled around his shoulders. “After everything, how could you?”
Her lips trembled. He bent close and brought his mouth over hers. “Trust me,” the words probably shouldn’t have come out as an order, but they did. His mouth took hers, and his tongue thrust deep.
She moaned in her throat and her nails bit into him. Trust me.
He yanked tight onto his control. This time, he’d show her that he could be more than just the beast the world thought he was.
He forced his head to lift. Her eyes were big and deep. Eyes that a man could probably lose his soul in—if he had a soul.