Taken by Storm: A Raised by Wolves Novel (9 page)

BOOK: Taken by Storm: A Raised by Wolves Novel
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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 

 

“S
IT DOWN.”

Checking on Jed wasn’t exactly going as planned. He was already up when I got there, already packed, and waiting for me when I showed up at the cabin he and Caroline shared. The Deadliest Little Psychic was nowhere to be seen, and Jed seemed to be under the impression that now was as good a time as any for lesson two.

“Jed, I don’t think—”

He didn’t let me finish that sentence. “Once upon a time, that might have been true, but I’d say that these days you’re doing plenty of thinking. Not thinking doesn’t keep a person up at night.”

Jed’s observation was mild, but it made me wonder just how tired I looked.

“Are you actually accusing me of thinking too much?” I raised one eyebrow in an imitation of an expression I’d seen on Devon’s face one too many times. “Have you met me?”

I’d been guilty of a lot of things in my life, but an
overabundance of caution or logic had never been one of them. You didn’t end up accidentally founding your own werewolf pack by thinking things through or making pro and con lists.

“I’m not going to pretend to know what it’s like in your shoes, Bryn. You’ve got a lot on your mind, probably always will.” Jed eased himself down on the ground next to me. “But
if you want to control what you are and what you can do,
you’re going to have to learn when to think and when to give in and
feel
.”

I couldn’t help thinking that this would have been infinitely easier a year ago, or two, or three, back when I’d been nothing but feelings. Look Before You Leap Bryn could have mastered her Resilience in a heartbeat.

But I wasn’t that girl anymore.

“Close your eyes. Breathe. And remember.”

This time, Jed didn’t have to tell me what to remember. I
knew what he wanted me to do. Ultimately, the thing that
prodded me into doing it wasn’t that Callum had implied he wouldn’t Change me until I’d learned. It was the realization that Maddy had survival instincts every bit as honed as I did.

She was Resilient, too.

If the worst turned out to be true and we couldn’t get
through to her, if she was caught up in a red haze of her own, too shattered on the inside to do anything but hurt, I’d need every advantage I could get just to keep the two of us alive.

So I forced myself to think of the look on Maddy’s face—
broken, but regal and holding it together by a string—the day she’d left.

I’m going to go away, and I’m going to get better, because if I don’t, the next time someone challenges you, it’s going to be me.

Those were words Maddy had actually said to me. For once,
I didn’t fight the memories. I didn’t fight back the darkness, the
horror, the fear that she’d been closer to the edge than I’d realized.

You did this to me. You.

Now my mind was putting words in her mouth, things she’d
never said.

You killed him. You left me to deal with it alone.

I heard the words in Maddy’s voice. I allowed my imagination to conjure up the nightmares I hadn’t let myself dream the night before. I saw Maddy, covered in blood. I saw her Shifting to wolf form.

I saw Lucas—hopeless, hungry, and full of fury—leaping
for my throat.

Blood, blood, everywhere there was blood.

Just like that, I was back under the sink at my parents’
house, hiding from the Big Bad Wolf. Except this time, when I peeked out and saw the Rabid tearing through my father’s skin and shredding it like a manic child opening a present, the Rabid wasn’t the one from my memories, the one who’d haunted my dreams.

It was Maddy.

You did this to me.

The fear was overwhelming and absolute. I didn’t want it to be true. I didn’t want to be feeling it. I didn’t want the world to be closing in around me as I watched blood splatter up against off-white walls.

All of a sudden, I was standing, yards away from where I’d been before. My back was to the wall of Jed’s cabin, and I could feel my pulse throbbing in my stomach.

“Feel it?” Jed asked, over the sound of my breathing, the deafening beating of my heart.

I could feel the surge of energy, that whisper deep inside of me, the kind of power that let a panicked mother lift a car.

“Hold on to it.”

My body was quickly realizing that there was no present
danger. I could feel the power beginning to leak out of my
limbs, but I pulled it back.

The smell of wet cardboard and rotting flesh. The heavy sound of breathing in the silence.

I lived and breathed the fear, and my senses heightened. I felt something—an odd kind of silence, not quite a noise—behind me. Hopped up on power, I whirled, and a second later, I slammed Caroline back against the exterior wall of the cabin, my hand around her neck.

I hadn’t heard her coming, but I’d known she was there. After a moment, I let go of my Resilience, allowed it to slip away. I pried my hand away from Caroline’s throat.

Unfathomably, she smiled. “I take it the lesson went well?”

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

 

T
WO PSYCHICS, TWO WEREWOLVES, AND A PSYCHIC
human alpha walk up to a crime scene….

It was like the beginning of a very bad joke, and I found myself
wishing that Devon were there to share it with. Instead, our
merry little band—Lake, Chase, Jed, Caroline, and me—stood in absolute silence, the wind cutting through the trees with a high-
pitched whistle and carrying new scents to the Weres’ noses.

“There’s no one around for miles,” Lake told us. “That it?”

She jerked her head toward a house in the distance, and I nodded, even though there was nothing about the way the
house looked—from the outside, in the dark—that would have
tipped off the average observer to the fact that days earlier, someone had been murdered there.

Unconsciously, I began running through everything we knew about the circumstances in which the death had been discovered.

The front door was closed when the police responded to a 911 call placed from the vicinity. They found the body—what was left of it—inside. The walls were dripping blood.

I forced myself to focus on the sights and sounds of the here and now. We were close enough to the mountains that even in the dead of summer, it smelled like snow, and the moon overhead was a shade fuller than it had been the night before.

To my eyes, the world was shadowy and dark, quiet, still. I could barely make out the outlines of the people standing right next to me, but to the Weres, the scant moonlight would have been as good as a spotlight, illuminating the leaves on the trees, each blade of grass, and the house in the distance.

Beside me, Chase breathed in deeply through his nose. Through the bond, I could feel him sorting his way through layers and textures, scent upon scent upon scent.

“Anything?” I asked him, my voice quiet, but echoing
through the silence nonetheless.

He closed his eyes and breathed in again. Even though I couldn’t quite make out his features, I could picture the
expression on his face almost exactly: long eyelashes lying still against pale skin, nostrils flared, and concentration playing around the edges of his lips.

“There was definitely a werewolf here,” he said finally.
“Female. Young.”

He glanced at Lake, and she nodded, kneeling to the ground and bringing a handful of dirt up to her nose.

Was it Maddy?
I asked her, not wanting to give life to the question by saying it out loud.

For the longest time, Lake didn’t reply, but even through the darkness, I could see her lowering her head toward the ground. Her blonde ponytail picked up the light of the moon, making her look like an angel caught midprayer, knees in the dirt, head bowed.

Chase joined her on the ground, crouching down with
liquid grace, the whites of his eyes catching the moonlight the way Lake’s hair had.

I translated their actions—and the things they weren’t saying—for our human companions.

“Maddy was here.” I paused, suddenly aware of how very much I’d hoped that Callum was wrong, just this once. “Was she in human form, or wolf?”

“In this exact spot?” Lake asked, sniffing again. “She was human, but there’s no shortage of woods around here. If she’d
decided to Shift, smart money says she would’ve gone farther in.”

Chase stood, the motion fluid even in the darkness. “It’ll be easier to track the scent if I Shift.”

Lake said nothing, but when I nodded in response to
Chase’s unspoken query, she began stripping off her shirt.

Clearly, Chase wasn’t the only one planning to Shift.

Turning my attention back to our human companions, I laid out a plan of attack. “Chase and Lake are going to check out the woods. We can get started inside.”

If Lake said there wasn’t anyone out here except us, I
believed her, but that didn’t mean it would stay that way for long. If we wanted to check out the inside of the house—the actual crime scene—sneaking in under the cover of darkness seemed like a good way to go.

“Police might have someone set up, watching the place,” Jed said, “to see if the killer comes back.”

Killer,
my mind echoed.
Maddy.

I didn’t push the thought away, but didn’t dwell on it, either. “There’s no one here now. Chase and Lake would have smelled it if there were.”

I spared a glance for Caroline, who was standing so silent and still that I couldn’t be 100 percent sure I was glancing in the right spot. “You’ll let us know if you hear a car coming?”

I didn’t know the full extent of Caroline’s knack, but I did know that she was a deadly hunter: impossible to track and good at tracking others. She also had perfect aim, no matter how impossible the shot. While her senses probably weren’t as good as a Were’s, I was going to go out on a limb and bet they were probably pretty darn close.

“No,” she replied. “If I hear the police drive up, I’ll keep that little gem to myself to spite you all.”

Jed snorted, and I realized that Caroline was being sarcastic.

“If we’re going to go,” she said, impatience peppering her tone, “let’s go.”

Behind me, the sound of snapping bones and guttural,
inhuman cries told me Chase and Lake had begun to Shift. A second later, a wave of power hit me, tantalizing and torture, all at once.

I wanted my pack. I wanted to run. I wanted to stay here with Chase and Lake, I wanted to Shift—

But I couldn’t. Couldn’t Shift. Couldn’t stay here. Instead, I fought the call of the wild and took a step toward civilization.

The house.

We closed the distance between the woods and the front porch with quiet efficiency. Caroline circled the entire house, keen eyes looking for weaknesses and points of entry. She came to a stop beside us, unnaturally still and utterly sure of herself, and addressed her next words to Jed.

“Killer came through here.”

I wasn’t sure how she could be so certain, or so calm, but it was hard not to take Caroline’s words at face value. When it came to games played between predator and prey, I had no doubt that she was as much of an expert as any Were.

All business, Jed took something out of his pocket and managed to jimmy open the front door.

“If you want to touch anything,” he told me, glancing back over his shoulder, “you’re going to need to put on gloves.”

I hadn’t brought any. In the course of my time as alpha, I hadn’t had nearly as much practice breaking and entering as I had with breaking and reinstating psychic bonds. Clearly, I had not come prepared.

“Here.” Caroline made no move to invade my personal space, but as Jed flipped on a hallway light, she held out a
single white glove.

My eyes were drawn immediately to the skin she’d bared. Thick, sinewy scars—some white, some sickeningly pink, even after all these years—marred her flesh from the elbow down. Looking at it
hurt
and reminded me that Shay was the one who had given Caroline those scars—one more reason that we couldn’t afford to let him be the one who found Maddy.

I took the proffered glove. Cold and detached, Caroline strode past me into the house. I followed, and in the dim light Jed had turned on, I could see dark blotches on the tan stone floor.

Drops of blood.

Someone had made an attempt at cleaning up since the
crime scene photos were taken, but the aftereffects of slaughter
were still visible, tangible proof that what had happened here couldn’t be exorcised with cleaner and bleach.

Drawn like a moth to the flame, I followed the trail of blood
and watched as the dark spots got bigger and thicker the farther
into the labyrinthine hallway we got.

“It started with a puncture wound.” Caroline walked the path of blood, as light on her feet as a dancer, her head tilted slightly to one side. “A small one. A warning.”

Caroline met Jed’s eyes, but not mine. “Killer gave his target time to run.”

The hallway dead-ended into a large, open living room. The
stone fireplace on the far end was discolored, and Caroline
stopped in front of it.

“Second and third puncture wounds. Then a long, deep cut.”
She gestured to the dark spots on the floor. Her words could
have just as easily been describing a knife attack, but somehow,
I doubted a rabid werewolf would have bothered with a blade.

No, our killer would have Shifted—in full or in part—and gouged the victim. Once. Twice. Three times.

“The target scrambled backward,” Caroline said—and I realized for the first time exactly how different our mental vocabulary was. My
victim
was her
target
.

“Target was already bleeding. Here”—she touched her still-gloved hand to the ghostly remains of what had once been a pool of red on the ground—“he slipped and hit his head.”

Caroline dragged her fingertips over the discolored area on the fireplace. Her face darkened. “And then it happened all at once.”

I took those words to mean that her discomfiting expertise started and ended with the aspects of this kill that seemed almost human. What had happened after the victim had fallen on the fireplace wasn’t human at all.

“The attacker Shifted,” I said, carefully avoiding all use of the pronoun
she
—or anything else that might bring Maddy’s
face to my mind. “After a minute, maybe two, the smell of
blood would have been too much for the wolf.”

Based on the way the corpse had been positioned in the photos I’d seen, our Rabid must have dragged the victim—or possibly the
body
by that point—across the room. I followed the path, overcome with images that felt like memories, as my mind took what I knew and filled in the horrifying gaps.

Memorize the way it feels,
I told myself.
Keep it under lock
and key.

In wolf form, a rabid werewolf would have been unable to keep from going for the throat, and that was probably responsible for most of the splatter on the baseboards and
the walls.

I could smell it. I could hear the sound it made, that awful, ungodly sound of shredding flesh, interspersed with raindrops on a windshield.

“There should be footprints,” Caroline said. Still caught up in a trance of my own making, I slipped on my borrowed glove and ran my right hand over the surface of the wall.

“With this much blood, the target shouldn’t have been the
only one slipping. If the killer didn’t clean up afterward—
and if this is what it looks like a week later, I doubt they
did—then he or she should have left footprints. Paw prints.
Whatever.”

I thought back to the crime scene photos. There’d been evidence that someone had dipped human hands into the blood and smeared it along the walls, but Caroline was right—there’d only been one set of footprints.

The victim’s.

There hadn’t been any paw prints at all. How was that
possible?

One of these days,
I thought,
I’m going to excise that word from my vocabulary.

Werewolves and psychics weren’t exactly the height of
possibility
, either.

Beside me, Caroline snapped to attention, pulling her body back into the shadows, her eyes narrowed and her pupils wide. The sound of creaking wood on the front porch alerted me to the reason for her behavior. I reached out to keep her from flying into action.

“It’s Chase,” I told her. “Not the police.”

Hearing his name, Chase ducked into the room, quiet and unobtrusive. “There’s no evidence that Maddy ever Shifted in the woods,” he said, by way of greeting. “If she was living there, she was living there as a human.”

He paused and took in the sights and smells in this room. To his nose, the astringent smell of bleach would have washed away some of the blood scent, but not all of it.

Fresh off his own Shift, Chase was able to press down
against his inner wolf, but I could feel the animal response bubbling beneath the surface of his mind. “Do you think she Shifted in here?” he asked, his voice throaty and low.

I turned the question right back around at him. “Do you think she did?”

Chase was silent, and for several seconds, none of us said a word. He breathed in and out. I watched the way his chest rose and fell, waiting for my answer.

The answer I didn’t want to hear.

“Maddy was here,” he said finally. “She Shifted—and I
don’t think she was alone.”

Not alone?

“Was she with another werewolf?” I asked, my mind racing with the implications. If Maddy was with another Were, she might not have been the one to do the actual killing. Maybe she just stood there and watched.

BOOK: Taken by Storm: A Raised by Wolves Novel
13.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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