Got to be broken to see it.
He’d seen it. When the vampires had taken Jordan, he’d changed. Lost the light he’d held for years and finally become as dark and dangerous as the rest of his pack.
And as for Camellia, or . . . Cammie as Jordan called her—Dane knew all about her, too. She’d been taken by the vamps just as Jordan had, and during their captivity, Jordan had become the girl’s protector. In the years that had passed, Jordan still snuck away to see her, when he didn’t think anyone was watching. But Dane was always watching. He knew all about Jordan’s little obsession. Still young, but Cammie was growing up fast. Was Jordan counting down the days?
Jordan’s eyelids flickered and rage burned bright in his stare. “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. If you’re not going to find the demon, I will.”
Then he spun away and headed for the woods.
Jordan had a good sense of smell, no doubt, but picking up the demon wasn’t gonna be easy.
Then Jordan started running. Maybe it was that easy. Where was Karen’s body? No body meant she could still be alive.
And why does it matter? The woman had trapped him, taunted him . . . and—
And I fucking want her alive.
He chased after Jordan. He couldn’t leave the other wolf alone. If he did, Lucas would skin him alive.
A burst of speed sent him through the bushes. Branches clawed at him, but he shoved them out of the way. It didn’t take him long to catch the scent Jordan was following.
No way to miss the scent of the dead.
He jumped over a fallen tree, snaked to the right and burst into a clearing.
“Didn’t have a damn chance,” Jordan shook his head and stared at the body.
Not Karen. There wasn’t a whole lot that you could tell about those burned remains, but the scent was wrong. Whoever had died right there—it hadn’t been his redhead.
“Marley’s work.” Obviously. Dane’s gaze lifted and scanned the scene. His nostrils twitched. Marley had made a mistake. Most demons were hard to track, but a demon who’d been playing with fire . . .
. . . a demon who’d been playing with fire might as well have left a trail of ash to follow.
He and Jordan turned as one and rushed to the left. The demon wouldn’t get away from them, and she’d soon find out that wolves weren’t afraid of a demon’s fire.
“It’s been sixteen years,” Lucas’s voice rumbled beneath “her ear and Sarah slowly lifted her head. “But sometimes I feel like I can still smell my father’s blood.”
A chill skated over her skin.
“Hell, I didn’t even know a rival alpha was in town, not until I came home,” he said quietly “and found my father struggling to shift. Kaber had cut his throat open, nearly taken his head, and no matter how hard he tried, my father couldn’t shift to heal. Then . . . Kaber came over and finished the job. To make sure my father was good and dead, he took his head.”
A sure-fire way to kill just about any paranormal out there. Sarah swallowed and pushed up onto her arms, bracing on his chest as she stared into his eyes. In the darkness, she couldn’t see much. But that blue stare seemed to shine. And really, he was all she needed to see.
“The bastard was in my house before my father’s body was even cold.”
She didn’t speak because Sarah wanted to hear this.
“The scent of his blood clogged my nostrils. And that bastard Kaber laughed when he saw me.”
Her hands began to stroke his chest. She knew this moment was important. Lucas trusted her enough to tell her about his past. You can trust me. I won’t betray you.
“Something broke in me. Everything was red, just like my father’s blood. So much red. So much rage. I . . . attacked.”
She wouldn’t cry. Ten. He’d been just ten.
“Kaber shifted and came after me as a wolf. Hell, I knew I didn’t have a chance, but my father’s body was there. Right there, and I wasn’t just gonna let that asshole take over. The wolves from my father’s pack—they weren’t doing a damn thing. Just standing back, watching Kaber, watching him take everything away.”
“No one tried to help you?” Damn them.
“Dane.” He exhaled. “After Kaber bit half my ear off, Dane attacked him from behind. Dane was only eight then, but he came out, flying on Kaber’s back. He gave me the chance I needed.”
His fingers smoothed down her arms. “My claws broke free. They shouldn’t . . . it was too early for a full shift but I guess the adrenaline pushed me over the edge. My claws came out, and I slashed the bastard, I dug my claws as deep into his side as they could go.” A rough laugh. “That didn’t stop him. It barely slowed him down. He tossed Dane aside and came back after me.”
Silence. She hated silence. Her hand pressed over his heart. The beat was slow, steady. “How did you get away?”
“I had to fucking run. He would have killed me. I would have died right next to my father, lost my head . . . for a pack that wouldn’t stand up for me.”
Except for Dane.
“I didn’t leave the city right away.”
Now this was part of the story that she’d never heard. “Some demons in the area owed my father, and they paid his debt to me. They gave me shelter and helped to hide my scent.” His fingers curled over her shoulder. “And when they got wind of what was happening to Dane, they told me.”
She didn’t want to know, but she asked anyway. “What did Kaber do to him?” Those scars . . .
“He started clawing the flesh off Dane’s body.”
Her gut clenched. “But he was eight, he couldn’t—”
“Kaber knew Dane couldn’t heal, that’s why he did it. Kaber was sending a message to the pack. Either you were with him or you were one of the assholes he’d torture.”
Sarah sat up in bed, dragging the sheet with her, but she kept her hand on Lucas. She needed to keep touching him. “Guess there’s no doubt Kaber was crazy.”
“Just another psychotic wolf,” Lucas murmured.
Okay, now she wished she could see more in the darkness because she would’ve loved to catch his expression. “What did you do?”
“I went back for him.” Spoken as if there had been no other option. “Two demons took me up there. They wouldn’t go in, but I didn’t need them to. I knew every inch of that place. Still do.”
Because the wolf compound was his father’s old home. She’d known that, but hadn’t realized just how much that truly meant . . .
“I found Dane and I carried him out. I got him the hell out of there and we didn’t look back.”
But, no, wait, he had gone back. He’d grown up and then he’d gone after Kaber and—
“I wouldn’t have ever gone back, Sarah. Those assholes in the pack turned their backs on me. Together, we could have fought Kaber but . . .” Now he rose, pulling from the bed, leaving her cold and alone with only the too-thin sheet. “Then when I was sixteen, I met a demon named Trace in a shit-forsaken bar in Mexico.”
She wasn’t even surprised to find out that he’d been in a bar at sixteen. Not like the normal rules of society had ever applied to him.
“Seems this demon had been in LA. He’d seen Kaber’s pack, and he’d noticed a kid there—a black-haired, golden-eyed kid who looked, according to Trace, one hell of a lot like me.”
Jordan. “You didn’t . . . you didn’t know about him when you left.” Well, hell, wasn’t that obvious?
“My mother gave birth to me and then she left the pack.” No emotion there. “At least, I thought she’d left, but it turns out she came back a few times over the years. I just didn’t know about her little visits.”
She’d come back and she’d gotten pregnant again.
“She dumped Jordan just like she dumped me, only my dad wasn’t around to keep him safe. She left the kid with Kaber. Kaber.” His fist slammed into the wall and she realized just how fake his calm actually was.
Sarah licked her lips. “You went back for him, too.”
“I went back for everything that was mine. My brother, my house, my pack.” She saw the big shadow of his body stalk to the window. He peered out between the blinds. “I went back for it all, and I made sure Kaber suffered for everything he’d done to me.”
Yes, this part she knew. He’d gone back and given a hard, painful death to Kaber. Everyone at the FBI had known how the story ended, too. That’s why he’d been put on the extermination list. A brutal kill at sixteen—they’d just expected more blood and death to keep coming from him. “And what about the wolves?” she asked. “The shifters who’d been part of your father’s pack?”
“Only a few were left alive by then.” A rough laugh.
“Imagine that. Packs are supposed to keep you safe, but with Kaber, just a few were left, and they hauled ass fast enough when I came back on the scene.”
Because they probably had expected Lucas to kill them. “So you started a new pack.”
The blinds fell back into place. “I started my pack. With Jordan and Dane, and when we found others, we brought them in.”
Always protecting. Always strong.
“What happened to your mother?” She voiced the question that nagged at her mind.
“I heard she died a few years back.”
Sarah slid from the bed. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I never knew her. She ditched me as fast as she could because she didn’t want to be tied down—”
She hurried around the bed. Hit her shin twice. Managed to find him and grab his hands and she held tight. “I’m sorry, Lucas.”
That shut him up.
“I’m sorry that you went through hell.” Because that’s exactly what it had been. While he’d been walking in his father’s blood, she’d been rebelling at her normal life. Ah, damn. She must have seemed like such a fool to him. “I wish things had been different for you.”
“Wishing doesn’t change the past.”
No, nothing could change the past. “But your future can be different,” she whispered. “Your life doesn’t have to just be blood and death. It can be more.”
His glittering gaze seemed to bore into her. “And what about you, Sarah? What do you want your life to be? You came looking for the death and the action and the monsters. Is that what you want your life to be like? Is it the thrill of the dark that gets to you?”
The words were a dig at her, a swipe that hurt, but she didn’t let him go. “It’s not the dark I want. It was never that.” Just to fit in.
“You wanted to belong, sweet Sarah, with the wolves.”
“No.” Not just with the wolves. There were other packs. Other wolf shifters. Rafe hadn’t been the first she’d come across in her time at the Bureau. He’d just the first wolf she’d taken as a lover.
And if that hadn’t been enough to scare a girl off shifters . . .
But no, she’d gone right back in. Fallen hard for her legend.
“I wanted to belong with you.” The words came out quietly, and she knew there’d be no more hiding. “I knew you’d keep me safe.” The profile had been dead on. He protected those weaker, always looked out for them if they were his. Did he consider her part of his family? He’d said she was in the pack, but . . . “I think I was a little bit in love with you before I even met you.”
He blinked at her. “Sarah . . . ?”
“The big, bad LA wolf. The alpha who took on a den of vampires to get his brother back—took them on and took them out.”
“Well, I did have a little help with that,” he said, voice dark and rumbling.
The wolfpack rumors didn’t care about his help. “You’ve never killed humans. There’s never even been so much as a whisper about you hurting them.”
He stared down at her, not saying a word, and she tensed. “I’m not as desperate as you seem to think, Lucas. It’s not pack or nothing for me. Hell, it’s not even pack. It’s just . . .” You.
“Be careful,” he warned her. “Be very, very careful.” And his hands bit into her flesh.
“Why?” She’d turned her back on the careful life years ago.
“Because if you push me too far, I won’t ever let you go.”
What if that was what she wanted? “Lucas . . .”
His lips brushed over hers. A quick, hard press that had her wanting him back in the bed with her. His body against hers, in her.
But he lifted his head too quickly. “Dane’s here.”
“You should dress.”
She’d rather keep talking to him. Dammit, she’d just said she was in love with the guy. She’d never said words like that to a man before. “We’re not done, wolf,” she promised him.
“No.” Soft. “We’re not.”
A knock shook the door. Sarah wrapped the sheet around her body, tighter this time. She didn’t want it to slip and fall.
Lucas yanked on his pair of jeans and headed for the door. She caught his arm. “I’m going to keep pushing you.” She could give warnings, too. She stood on her tiptoes and let her lips tease his savaged ear, then Sarah whispered, “I’ll push and push until I get just what I want.”
His head turned. His eyes caught hers. “And what is it that you really want?”
Couldn’t he see? “You. Just you, Lucas.”