Lori would have to be the bitch to open the door. She never got over me leaving the pack and choosing Dria over her. Some things aren’t worth explaining—you either get it, or you don’t.
“Not now, Lori. We need to talk to the pack.”
I push past her slight form into the cabin, giving her the choice of stepping back or having me knock her over. She retreats from my path, wisely I might add. I’m not in the mood for her shit.
Following me in, Dria doesn’t spare the pretty wolf a glance. Without Vivian and I exchanging a word, I know she’ll let me take the lead. She’s damn smart—and we’ve danced this dance with wolves in the past.
The scent of barely cooked steak vies for dominance over the muskiness filling the cramped space. Six members from my old pack, half of which I don’t know, loiter in the main room of the cabin. Vivian stays by the door, her presence cocooning me with a calm surety. Romeo, Elsa and two younger males I met in the van, Eric and Pat, sit at the small table finishing up their meal. Spike, the one who keeps watching me but didn’t speak much on the ride up from the airport, leans against the kitchen counter.
“What’s up, Jon?” Romeo asks.
“There’s been a murder next door.” The level of excitement in the room skyrockets at my announcement.
“What?” Elsa cries. “Already? They caught Emiko in the cabin next door?”
“Of all the shit luck,” says Pat, earning himself a swat from Elsa.
“No,” I correct. “It was the non-pack wolf. And he was drained by a vampire hunter.”
Everyone takes a moment to digest the information and Lori slinks closer to my side. Her arousal coats the air around me, even through her tight leather pants. She always was like a dog in heat, ready to go anytime I looked her way. Can’t seem to decide if she wants me or hates me. Typical, crazy werewolf-bitch.
Eric, seated next to Pat, chimes in, “How can you be so sure it was a hunter and not the rogue vamp?”
Good question. Surprised he voiced it before Romeo did.
“There’s no trace of Emiko in the cabin or outside of it. I recognize one of the hunters’ trail from a scent in the lobby.”
Female sex pheromones push out into the room, flooding my senses. A light touch skims down my jacketed back. I step forward, closer to the table and out of Lori’s reach.
“That’s enough, Lori,” Elsa’s tone sounds firm, allowing no room for debate. “We need to focus on this new development, not on ripping our clothes off.”
“I can’t stand the thought of that vampire controlling him!” Lori screeches from behind me.
Oh shit. She would have to drag Dria into this.
One glance at the vamp in question has me easing my shoulders, releasing a tension I didn’t know I was holding. Dria leans against the wall next to the door, examining her nails and ignoring the outburst. My heart swells with pride at the stronger woman’s show of support. She knows I can handle this, and handle it I will.
I hold up a hand to my old pack leaders, Romeo rising from his seat at Lori’s insult to their hostess. Turning to face the dark-haired beauty, I let my true dislike shine through my eyes.
“You are nothing compared to her.” A small gasp comes from young woman and her hand flies to her mouth. “And if you keep up this show of immaturity, you will be nothing for the rest of your long life.” Without realizing it, my blood pressure has risen and I’m feeling the first strains of anger. There is no way I will let the anger out in this group, so I lock it down tight. “Vivian never took my will—a fact you continually delude yourself from accepting.”
I turn to face the other five, giving her my back in a show of what I really think of her—that she is beneath me in the eyes of the pack. Spike, dressed in black, watches the exchange with interest. He gives me a nod. That is one strange dude. Smells a little funny, too. Elsa crowds near Romeo, slipping an arm around his waist. The two, who look to be in their earlier twenties, remain seated at the table.
“I choose to be with the vampire. Does anyone else have a problem with that?” My anger vibrates off me in waves, despite my earlier control, crackling in the air.
Romeo comes forward, hands in a placating gesture. “We never should have honored Lori’s request to join us, Jon. I’m sorry for my lapse.”
With one look, he sends the young woman bursting into tears. The desire to please the alpha is strongly ingrained; lower members of the pack will often grovel and debase themselves after angering their leader. She runs to the connecting bedroom. Eric looks to his buddy seated next to him and partially rises in his seat.
“Let her go, man,” his pack mate says. “She’ll cool down on her own.”
“Pat’s right,” says the stinky guy in the kitchen, his voice oddly lyrical. “You go in now and you’ll just be reinforcing the bad behavior.”
The young man nods before lowering back to his chair, a haunted look in his eyes.
Ugh, the drama of it all reminds me of why I left in the first place. I can’t take this shit on a daily basis. Another glance at Dria and the anger leaves me. The desire to hold her in my arms feels almost painful. If she can rise above this pettiness then so can I. I’d rather be by her side, unable to touch her for the rest of my life, than back involved in a pack.
A smile splits my face as I reach my hand out to Romeo. “No worries.” He clasps my hand in his own, pumping it up and down. “You’re a strong leader. Someday Lori will find a man to be her match. It will just never be me.”
The wolves in the room are all controlling their pheromones now and the sexual tension dissolves. Romeo and I break off our handshake and the shorter man moves to stand by his mate. “I’m glad you’re happy here, Jon. I know the pack was never good for you.”
Romeo found me on the first full moon after I was attacked by a crazed Were in college. The days ran together after my change—they still remain dark and confusing when I try to remember them. He prevented me from doing anything rash by bringing me into his pack. When the transformation comes on you, scared and alone, it would be easy to bite someone by mistake.
“Not true. Just not right for me.” I glance around at the remaining wolves. “You seem to have taken on quiet a few strays since I left.” I say the last with a smile, trying to diffuse the situation even more.
Romeo puffs with pride at the mention of the newcomers. “Eric and Pat are fitting in nicely. They’re our newest pack members.” I’m surprised he’s brought them here, but I’m sure he has a reason, one which I can’t question him on in front of the others or it would appear like I was challenging his good sense. “And Spike might be quiet most of the time, but he can hold his own in a fight pretty damn good.”
Whatever. All I know is Spike is watching me a little too closely for my comfort. If I didn’t know better, I might say he had an interest in me. Then again, I don’t know anything about the man. Awkwardness blooms inside me and Vivian turns a small laugh into a cough.
“Well? Let’s get it started now.” I say the last in my best Black Eyed Peas impersonation. My humor has the desired effect. The others look to Romeo, who nods and the excitement level rises again, but this time for a different reason.
Elsa heads in after Lori, presumably to tell her to grow up and come join in on the fun.
Not waiting for the others, I toss my coat on the couch near the door and pull off my shirt. The rustle of clothing behind me indicates the others are following my lead. I catch Spike eyeing me once more, and I push the thought out of my head before Vivain loses her aplomb and starts laughing out loud. Once my pants and shoes land on the floor the first tingle of transformation seeps into my mind and races across my skin.
The magic rushes forward and the force hunches me to the floor. Pain washes through my veins as my limbs elongate and sprout fur. In less than five seconds I’m in my wolf form: cloaked in a thick coat of hair and muscle.
It takes the others a little longer, all except for Romeo and Elsa who can change as fast as I do. I turn my golden eyes up to my master, to see the vampire staring at me.
“God, you’re gorgeous.” By the twinkle in her eye, I’m betting she means when I’m naked, and not as a wolf.
“Nope, both ways.”
Damn, is she in my head again and I don’t know it?
“How about I get the door and you all get started on the hunt?”
The cold smells clean, with only the barest hint of blood on the air. My muscles tremble in their eagerness to run. With a playful yip, I bound out the door and the six wolves barrel through to follow.