Piers lunged toward her.
Lucas stepped in front of Sarah. “You don’t touch her.” Guttural. Suddenly, the tension was so thick he could feel the beast stretching beneath his skin.
Piers glared at him, his light green eyes a mix of fury . . . and fear. The guy wasn’t afraid of Lucas. No, Piers was afraid of what he might become.
“If you didn’t want me looking,” Sarah’s voice came from behind him, quavering just a little, but still with a fuck-you air that he liked, “then you shouldn’t have been one of the guinea pigs who tested me.”
Lucas didn’t glance back at her, not yet. He kept his gaze on Piers. “You back in control?”
A grim nod.
“Good. Stay that way.” Then he turned to Sarah. “I want the wolf’s name.”
Her lips parted, but she shook her head.
“His name. If the bastard is gunning for me, I’m taking him out.”
“I need assurance first.” She rocked back on her heels. “I need to know that you won’t throw me to the—”
“Wolves?” He finished, and let his mouth curl. “Can’t promise you that, babe.” The wolves already had her.
“Promise me . . . promise me that you’ll keep me safe. You’ll keep the coyotes and the wolves off my back.”
“Can’t imagine why they want to tear into you,” Dane muttered, and from the corner of his eye, Lucas saw the guy wince. Yeah, a sore cock could make any guy wince.
“The name,” Lucas said again, not about to be distracted.
But Sarah actually shook her head, at him. “Your promise first. I want you to vow right in front of your pack.”
Oh, she was pushing him. He leaned in close, towering over her. He let the tips of his claws burst through his fingertips, then those claws scraped lightly over the flesh of her arms. Not cutting the skin, but the threat was there. “I could always make you tell me.”
“No,” she said quietly, “you can’t. You’re not the first wolf who’s thought he could break me.”
Now what the fuck was that about? “The name.” He wanted to know the bastard who’d hurt her, who’d—
“I’ll tell you the wolf after you—”
Was it the same asshole who’d hurt her? Her lover? Talk about piss-poor taste in men.
“—once you make the vow.”
He dropped his hands, not even leaving a scratch on her. “I give my word that you have my protection.”
He was aware of Piers and Dane both tensing at that. Sarah studied him silently for a moment, then said, “Not that I don’t think you’re the big, bad asshole who can claw his way through just about anything and anyone, but . . . I want your whole pack’s protection, not just yours.”
Pushing . . .
“Because if you happen to eat a silver bullet, I want to know that my ass is still covered.”
“Fine,” he bit out. “Give me the name, and you have the pack’s protection.”
“For how long?” she asked, nibbling a bit at her lower lip. “This could go on for—”
“Shit,” Piers muttered. “No, he damn well didn’t just say—”
But Sarah was smiling now. A real, wide flash of her lips that made the corners of her eyes crinkle and for an instant, she went from pretty to full-on gorgeous. “Then we’ve got a deal.” She offered her hand to him.
What? Now she wanted a fucking handshake?
He grabbed her hand. Curled his fingers around her delicate bones. Stared at her mouth as she breathed the words, “Rafael Santiago. Rafe.”
He knew the wolf. His fingers tightened around Sarah’s and he pulled her in even closer. “Time to seal our deal.” Then he put his mouth on hers. Sarah’s lips were open, parted just right, and his tongue plunged inside. Her mouth was as soft as before, as lush, and her taste—
Still just as fucking sweet.
With every lick, every stroke of his tongue, he wanted more. The woman was meeting him head-on for the kiss. No shy backing away. Need and lust. Just what he wanted.
His cock shoved against the front of his jeans. If they hadn’t been surrounded by an avid audience, he would have pushed the kiss farther and taken so much more. But . . . they did have an audience, and he’d never been the sharing kind. Just a little longer and he’d—
She tore her mouth from his. Her breath panted in ragged puffs and her eyes met his.
He almost smiled at her. “Now, we have a deal.” One he would have preferred to seal while they were naked in bed, but they’d get around to that part. He just had to stir Sarah’s need enough, then she’d come to him.
Her gaze darted to the other wolves. “What do we—what happens now?”
“Now I get ready to hunt.” He inclined his head toward Michael. “Take her back inside.”
Michael nodded and stepped forward.
Sarah’s gaze searched his. “They’ll be coming for me soon.” Sooner than she realized. “Then they’ll have to get through me if they want you.”
Those eyes of hers were so deep. The greenest he’d ever seen.
She nodded. “Thank you.”
Don’t thank me yet. She didn’t realize how she fit into his plan. She would. Soon enough.
Sarah turned away and followed Michael back down the worn path. He watched them for a while, no, watched her, until she was out of sight.
Piers opened his mouth to speak—and Lucas raised his hand, quieting him.
Sarah’s hearing wouldn’t be as good as a wolf’s, but he wasn’t taking chances.
He waited a minute. Two. Then he nodded for Piers to speak.
“What the hell are you thinking?” Piers demanded. “We can’t trust her, not for a damn minute.”
Lucas stared at him. “Watch the tone, Piers.”
Piers inhaled and his hands unclenched. “What do you know about her? We can’t—”
“We know she’s a charmer who can read the minds of shifted wolves,” Dane interrupted. “And that’s a real rare talent.”
“A talent that could be very useful to us,” Caleb added, the drawl of his native Texas sliding in and out of his voice.
“Or very dangerous.” Piers yanked a hand through his hair. “Any time we’re in wolf form, she’ll be able to get in our heads, to find our secrets.”
“There are no secrets in a pack,” Lucas told him quietly watching his first closely. “Or are you worried she’ll discover something I don’t know?”
A muscle jumped in Piers’s jaw.
“Every time we meet with the other wolves, she’ll be able to tell us what they think.” Caleb smiled, showing off his still-sharp teeth. “Hell, yeah, we’ll watch her back forever, because we can keep her forever—”
“You really think the woman is gonna be ‘kept’?” Dane interrupted, then whistled. “My aching cock says, uh, hell, no, that lady ain’t doin’ nothin’ she don’t want to do.”
No, she wouldn’t. Too much fire to be controlled. But then, he’d never cared about controlling his lovers. Not his style. He just went for the passion and the pleasure.
“I want a full check done on Rafe Santiago,” he said, bringing the pack back to the issue that mattered most. “I want to know where the asshole is,” real doubtful the guy was out of state, like he should be, “and I want to know who the hell is supporting him.”
Piers and Dane nodded.
Lucas stabbed a finger at Caleb. “You still got a source at the ME’s office?”
“Um, if you mean am I still sleeping with the night clerk? Then no, Kelly and I broke up.”
Lucas kept staring at him.
“But she has hooked up with Michael,” Caleb said quickly. “And I’m sure he can use the . . . uh . . . connection to get us in.”
“Good. Because I want to see that human’s body. I want to know if wolves got him or if the coyotes tore him up and left him on my doorstep.” Either way, there’d be payback. The painful kind that left a trail of blood for miles.
“She thinks the coyotes are gonna be coming after her.” Caleb scratched his chin. “But they won’t be dumb enough to come right on your turf—”
Lucas’s nostrils flared as he turned his head and looked out over the city. “Oh, yeah, those assholes will be dumb enough to come.” Because they wanted the woman too much to let her go. He glanced at the dark shifter near his side. “Dane, one more thing . . .”
His brows lifted.
“Find out just how much of a bounty is really on her head.” Had to be high, high enough for the coyotes to risk death. He exhaled, “And make sure word gets spread that anyone coming after her will find the LA wolf pack standing in the way.”
Because he’d made a deal with sexy Sarah, and he’d hold up that deal . . . for now.
But not forever.
Because he knew a lie when he scented one, and Sarah had smelled of deception.
Sarah whirled around at the snarl and found Lucas in the doorway. His claws were out and the sharp edges of his teeth peeked behind his lips. Uh, oh. Not a good sign. “What’s happening?”
His nostrils flared. “Coyotes.”
The glass slipped from her hand and crashed on the kitchen floor. It shattered at her feet. “Al-already?” She shot a glance to the window. Oh, damn, the sky was turning red. Bloody, with the setting sun.
Lucas crossed the room with a long, gliding stride. He caught her arms and lifted her up, holding her close against his chest.
“The glass . . .”
She glanced down. The glass hadn’t hit her feet. Like the wound would have bothered her. What was a little scratch compared to the hell she’d been through?
No. Can’t tell him that. Can’t let him see . . .
She wrapped her arms around his neck and kept her lashes low, the better to shield her gaze. “Thank you.” She breathed the word against his neck and felt the hard stiffening of his body against hers.
He carried her over the glass. Held her lightly, moved easily. And she was no lightweight. But then, the guy did have shifter strength.
He put her down just outside the kitchen. “Go upstairs.” Her body brushed against his. His pupils flared, but he said, “Whatever you hear, whatever you see . . . just stay inside, understand?”
She wasn’t an idiot. If coyotes were outside, um, yeah, she’d be staying inside. But she didn’t rush up the stairs, not yet. “Be careful.”
He laughed at that. “I’m not the one you need to worry about.”
Right. Big, tough badass. “They’ll . . . lie to you. They’ll tell you stories about me, about the things I’ve done.” Some of those stories would be true, but Lucas wouldn’t know that. No way could he know that.
But he just shook his head and eased away from her. “Babe, they’re coyotes. That means they were born to lie.”
Most Other said that about all the shifters. The shifters were the ones born with two faces, some even thought two souls. Born to deceive.
“You won’t turn me over to them?” The question slipped out.
His eyes burned a bit, the blue heating with the fire of the beast. “Don’t worry, I’ve got plans for you.”
Not the giant reassurance she was hoping for. “You think you can use me, too, don’t you?” Now why did that bother her?
“You mean like you’re using me?”
Hit. Damn the wolf.
“I think we can use each other.”
The words should have been cold, hard, and they should not have sent a shiver of sexual awareness over her. But they did.
“Sure you can’t read my mind?” he murmured and that bright stare slipped down her body.
Didn’t have to be a mindreader to know what he was thinking. “Not in human form.” She’d never been able to read a wolf shifter while he was human. If she had, she wouldn’t have been in this current mess.
A howl echoed outside. His lips firmed. “Go upstairs.”
“Can’t I get a weapon? I mean, you’ve got guns somewhere in this place, right?” Even he would know that sometimes claws and teeth weren’t enough.
“I’m not giving you a weapon.” He turned away and strode quickly toward the foyer.
“Why the hell not?” she called after him.
He fired a quick glance over his shoulder. “Because I don’t trust you. You might use it to shoot me in the back.”
Pretty good reason.
He reached for the doorknob. She ran for the stairs.
The leader of the Mexico coyote pack was a tall, wiry bastard named Jess Ortez. They’d tangled a few times in the past, managed to reach a truce, a rocky one, but usually they stayed out of each other’s way.
Since Jess was on his doorstep, the coyote was doing a real piss-poor job of staying out of Lucas’s way then. Of course, Lucas had known that the coyote would be coming—he’d even left orders for the coyote and his men to be allowed past the gate.
Jess raised his hands when Lucas walked down the main steps. “Amigo!”
“Save the bullshit.” Dane and Piers appeared at Lucas’s sides. Other wolves were in the shadows, waiting. “Just tell me why your ass isn’t below the border like it should be.”
Jess’s wide smiled dimmed a bit. He glanced back at the two pickup trucks behind him and straightened his shoulders. Always had to put on a big front when pack was watching. “I came to pay you my respects.”