“Dammit, I could have used a heads-up here!” Sarah said, her shoulders bumping into Jordan’s. She lifted her gun, aimed, and got ready to fire. “When you smell them, Jordan, you’re supposed to let me know!”
“I don’t smell them.”
Her gaze flashed to his for just a second, but her gun didn’t waver. Those coyotes kept closing in. “What?”
“They’re right in front of me, and I don’t fucking smell them. I can’t smell anything—just that fire. Only the fire.”
Oh, hell. Not good.
Two more coyotes jumped from the darkness. Saliva dripped from their sharp teeth.
Sarah braced her legs. “I think now might be a good time for you to think about shifting.”
“No.” But from the corner of her eye, she saw his claws burst from his fingertips. “If I try a full shift, I’ll be dead before the wolf comes out.”
Right. Because the coyotes liked to attack when prey was weak. “Then I guess it’s my turn.” Sarah took a deep breath.
The coyotes attacked.
Blood dripped from Josette Dusean’s throat. A long, steady line of blood that trickled down her neck.
Lucas froze when he saw her. She shouldn’t have been there. She should have been with Maya. The vamp and her dragon were supposed to be protecting Josette.
Piers snarled behind him and leapt forward, racing right toward the woman who was tied to a chair and slowly dying in front of them.
Bait? A trap?
Lucas’s gaze scanned the room. He couldn’t smell anything but the fire. Couldn’t even catch the scent of Josette’s blood.
She shouldn’t be there.
Fuck. A growl built in his throat. Piers, no! He snapped out the order in his mind. Get away from her!
Piers stopped, his claws digging into the hardwood. Look at her. She fucking needs help!
Appearances could be deceiving.
Dane edged around the room. Sniffing. Or rather, trying to sniff.
Lucas advanced on Josette. He could feel the heat from the fire burning in the next room. Josette’s eyes were open, glistening with tears, staring right at him.
Go search in the other room. The room that smelled of smoke and hell. Go, Piers! Go!
But Piers didn’t move.
Go! He shoved the command at him once more, but Piers had his entire focus on Josette.
She needs me. Piers advanced toward her. I won’t leave her to die.
Fuck. He’d suspected this, feared it. Damn well not the time. Dane—get in the other room!
Dane raced forward and drove his body into the door. The wood smashed and smoke seeped through that hole.
A faint, weak smile curved Josette’s lips and her hands were pulling at the ropes. Only those ropes didn’t look that tight.
“Help me,” she whispered. “I came . . . I came to kill him . . . to avenge my grandmother, but he caught me—”
Fuck the lying bitch.
Lucas lunged forward, his front legs kicking the other wolf out of the way. She screamed, a high, desperate scream that was Piers’s name.
Smart. Damn smart.
No, Lucas! The desperate roar in his mind came from Piers. Don’t hurt her! I think she’s my mate!
The tip of a knife scraped Lucas’s side. He stopped wasting time. Lucas attacked. His teeth went for her throat even as a gunshot echoed in his ears.
Then claws sank into his back. Get away from her! Piers bit him, digging his teeth into Lucas’s flesh.
Snarling, Lucas twisted and shoved back against the other wolf. What the fuck?
Josette wasn’t screaming anymore. Piers blocked her body with his, and the white wolf’s eyes blazed with fury. Mine.
It really was one hell of a time for Piers to think he’d found a mate. The rich flavor of blood lingered on Lucas’s tongue. He stared at the other wolf, sides heaving.
Mine. Piers snarled again.
No, she’s not.
Because that wasn’t Josette Dusean. The smells might be off thanks to magic or drugs or who-the-hell-knew-what, but Lucas was certain of one thing.
Demon blood always tasted the same. Bitter to the last drop. Stay away from her!
More gunshots blasted.
Then “Josette” lunged out of the chair, the knife he’d felt before still gripped in her hand—
Piers! He screamed the psychic warning.
—and she sank it hilt-deep in Piers’s back.
Fire crackled, greedily eating its way up the walls of the interior room. The red and gold flames twisted and heaved, and in the middle of the hell, Dane saw a woman lying on the ground.
A woman with long black hair. Perfect coffee skin.
He jumped over the fire, feeling the heat lance his fur. He went in carefully, ready for an attack.
But the woman didn’t move.
He tried to catch her scent but the smoke seemed to burn the inside of his nose. Can’t smell a thing.
His muzzle pressed against her back. She coughed then, her body heaving, and he saw her face.
The same face that had stared at him in the other room.
Demons could really piss him off. Dane growled.
She didn’t move.
But the fire seemed to tighten around him. Those flames were definitely higher now. Higher, fiercer, stronger. Like a net of fire that was closing in. Fucking magic.
Sonofabitch. He was an idiot. They’d raced right into the bastard’s trap. But then, Rafe had used very, very good bait.
Piers howled in agony and twisted, but he didn’t hit his attacker with his claws.
Of course not. Piers thought the woman was his mate. Lucas’s muscles bunched as he prepared to leap.
She laughed, yanked the knife out and plunged it in again.
Lucas flew at her. But instead of catching her flesh, he barreled into Piers. Piers lifted his head and met Lucas’s stare. The white wolf’s eyes were filled with pain and fury and fear.
Back away. Lucas didn’t want to hurt him. That’s not Josette.
Piers just snarled at him.
And then the bastard came out of hiding. Rafe sauntered into the room as if he didn’t have a fucking care in the world.
“I think he’s past caring, or maybe even hearing what you say.” Rafe smirked at Lucas. “And your boy Dane . . . well . . . the fur’s about to burn right off his body. You won’t be getting help from him.”
Lucas lunged for the asshole.
But Piers caught him, held him tight with claws and teeth.
“Everybody always said Piers was close to the edge,” Rafe’s smirk turned into a cruel grin. “Good thing they were right, or otherwise, you both might be at my throat right now.”
I will get your throat.
Rafe lifted his hand and pointed at the woman. “This time, use the knife on Simone.”
The bitch came at him, bloody and strong.
But she didn’t stab him. Lucas didn’t give her the chance. One swipe of his claws and he ripped open her throat.
The roar of fury that filled his mind told him that Piers had gone over the edge.
And wasn’t coming back.
“Bad move, Simone. Very, very bad . . .” Yet Rafe sounded so pleased. “Of course, I was hoping to kill you myself, but getting killed by your own packmate—ah, fitting, isn’t it?”
Lucas twisted and barely managed to keep Piers’s teeth from biting into his throat. Piers didn’t even seem to notice that Josette’s image had changed in death. Her skin had lightened, her hair shortened, her face—not Josette anymore.
A demon’s glamour spell ended in death, and the illusion was totally gone now.
If only Piers would fucking look!
“Haven’t you learned anything since I’ve been in town?” Rafe’s mocking drawl was really pissing him off. “You can’t trust your pack. You thought they had your back, didn’t you? Now, well, they’re after you. First Caleb. Now Piers.”
I don’t want to hurt you, Piers. Listen to me, dammit. That wasn’t your mate. Look at her!
But Piers was only looking at him and the rage in the other wolf’s eyes seared his skin.
Josette. He should have connected the dots sooner. Shit, Piers had even told him that he’d been watching her. How long had the guy known she was his? And why the hell hadn’t he tried to claim her? Piers had danced near the edge too long, he should have gone after Josette with everything he had.
Like Lucas would have gone after Sarah.
Piers swiped at him, but Lucas slammed his head into the wolf’s side. I don’t want to hurt you. He blasted out the thought again. His teeth snapped together. But I will. He couldn’t get past the red wall of rage in the other wolf’s mind.
“Caleb turned on you.” Rafe’s voice droned on. “Sure, it took some poison and the promise of an excruciating death, but I got him to lie and lead you right into my trap.”
A trap that hadn’t fucking worked.
“He should have killed you.” Now Rafe didn’t seem quite so pleased. “Caleb had the chance to attack, but . . .”
But he’d pulled back.
Piers tore into Lucas’s shoulder.
“This one won’t pull back.” Ah, now Rafe was happy again.
Sorry, Piers. Lucas leapt up and shoved his claws into the knife wounds on Piers’s back. When the wolf howled in agony, Lucas lunged off his body and dove right for Rafe.
Rafe didn’t back up. He didn’t try to shift. He just stood there and Lucas crashed into him. They slammed into the floor, and he went for Rafe’s throat.
“Something you should know . . .” Rafe murmured. He wasn’t even fighting. “Sarah’s dead.”
His teeth dug into Rafe’s skin.
“Or else, she will be, if you don’t get the fuck off me.” Lucas froze, the taste of the bastard’s blood on his tongue, then Rafe said, “My men have her surrounded outside. Her gun—the one you probably heard firing a moment ago—is out of bullets, and as for your little brother . . . well, let’s just say he’s not quite the scrapper that you are.”
Shit, shit, shit . . . Sarah!
She should have been back at the hotel. Safe. Rafe could be lying, but . . .
“Get off, wolf . . . or you can rip my throat out, like you did to Marley, and then you can go and mourn over your dead lover.”
Lucas lifted his head.
“Thought so,” Rafe said as Lucas raced back to that broken window. He hurtled past the jagged glass and his paws slammed into the ground. He ran, fast, fast—desperate to get to her side.
He heard the clicks just as he burst onto the sidewalk. The clicks from Sarah’s empty gun. Six dead coyotes littered the ground. Sarah and Jordan were standing, back to back. Sarah had her gun up and when she saw him, her eyes widened. “Lucas!”
He realized too late that her shout was a warning. He tried to turn and glance back, but the bullet drove into him, and even as he fell, the form of the wolf began to melt away.
The fur melted from Dane’s body and the heat singed his flesh. He didn’t have a choice. He had to shift. The wolf could escape the fire, but if he did, the woman would die.
Maybe, just maybe, the man could save them both. Besides, what was a little pain?
This what you meant, Marie? Do I have to get ready for the fucking pain again?
He hefted Josette into his arms. Her head lolled against his shoulder. “Baby, this is the part where you’re supposed to be holding on,” he muttered. He took a breath. No clothes. No cover. The fire would burn right against his flesh.
Her eyelashes began to flutter.
“No.” He exhaled. “You don’t want to see this.”
Then leapt, dove through the fire, but the flames touched her skin and she screamed.
He didn’t stop running. The fire ate at him, and he hunched his shoulders, trying to protect her as much as he could. The smoke filled his lungs, choking him, but he kept going and then he was before the door he’d broken. Dane shoved his way past the splintered wood and into the other room.
He fell to the floor, rolling, twisting as he tried to put out the flames.
Josette wasn’t screaming anymore. Her eyes were open, wide, and blank with shock.
He caught her chin. His hands were covered with blisters and rough, red flesh. “You’re going to be okay.” The pain rolled through his body. Pain—that teasing bitch. He knew her so well. He took the pain, pulled it in deep, and let it make him stronger.
A ragged groan reached his ears. He turned his head and saw Piers staring at him. The white wolf’s pelt was matted with blood. Piers growled at him, advancing slowly.
Behind him, Dane saw what was left of Marley. Looked like Lucas had kept his word and taken her out.
So where was Rafe?
“Ease up, Piers. She’ll be all right.” He glanced back at Josette.
Piers growled again, and the low, menacing sound had Dane tensing.
Piers leapt toward him, but froze when thunder filled the night. No, not thunder. Gunfire.
The white wolf’s head snapped toward the busted window. Seconds later, Piers raced into the night.
The fire slipped into the room then, and the crackles almost sounded like an old woman’s laughter. Not again. Dane grabbed Josette, didn’t even feel the tear of his skin as the burned flesh ripped, and followed that bloody wolf.
“Lucas!” Sarah lunged forward, but Jordan grabbed her, hauling her right back to him.
Lucas was on the ground, his body contorting, and the wolf vanishing as his body automatically shifted in a bid to heal and live.
Her heart raced in her chest and then . . . then her knees gave way. If Jordan hadn’t held her, Sarah would have fallen face-first onto the ground.