Authors: Karilyn Bentley
Locked and loaded.
The door took longer to open than it should have, but then it fell open with a squeak and a thud and Tom bolted through it. His head pounding, bile choking his throat, he jumped off the porch and took off at a dead sprint after the car.
Was that a wolf chasing the car? Tom blinked, shaking his head. What the hell? He must have taken a harder hit than he thought.
Legs pumping, he ran faster than he thought himself capable of. He had to catch them, had to get Elizabeth back. And what was that weight in his hands?
Oh, yeah. The rifle. Shit for brains, he could fire on the motherfuckers. Except if he did that, the car could flip and Elizabeth could die. But he had to stop them and chasing after the car on foot wasn’t working. How to stop them?
He had a truck. Yeah, the truck. Four wheels chased faster than two feet.
His lungs burned with the exertion, but he couldn’t rest, couldn’t rest until Elizabeth was back in his arms.
Tom took off, sprinting back to the truck. Halfway there, he heard footsteps behind him. His heart picked up the pace, triple-timing it as he realized the wolf followed him.
Shit, he didn’t have time to be eaten by a wolf. He needed to save his daughter.
If he got to the truck, he could leave before the wolf caught him.
Keys, he needed his keys. Neither of his pockets contained them. He remembered his rifle, but left his keys who knows where? How could he chase after Elizabeth without his truck? Fly? Stupid idiot. And the wolf was still behind him keeping pace, stalking him.
Tom darted behind the truck, aimed his rifle at the wolf and tried to get his breathing under control.
Circling around, Vonda followed Tom back as he sprinted toward the house. She saw Sam push himself to his feet, his body undulating, his collar jingling with the motion.
Thank God he didn’t seem hurt. She reached out with her mind, rummaged around in his thoughts, learning he was sore, but not badly injured.
Since Sam was okay, her attention turned back to Tom, only to see him on the other side of his truck, his rifle pointed at her. Oh, shit.
Tom, it’s me Vonda. Put the rifle down!
Like her thoughts would help. Most humans couldn’t understand her telepathically. But she had to try. Being shot was not high on her to-do list.
Tom felt a buzz like insects in his head and heard words.
Tom, it’s me Vonda. Put the rifle down!
Oh, yeah. He definitely got hit harder than he thought.
But what if that really was Vonda? Okay, he didn’t get hit that hard, like a woman could turn into a wolf. He tightened the grip on the rifle, his chest pumping like a bellows.
Tom, please! You don’t believe it, but it’s true. It’s Vonda, please don’t kill me. Please. Shit, he doesn’t hear me.
What if it was Vonda? The blood that wasn’t pounding in his head rushed to his dick at the thought of her. Great, just great. Kidnappers just drove off with his daughter, he sees a wolf, hears voices in his head, and gets a hard-on. What kind of a fucking freak was he?
Why not humor the voices? How much worse could it get?
“Fine. If you’re really Vonda take two steps to the right, sit and wait right there.”
The wolf walked two steps to the right, eyes on him and sat. Damn.
He had no time for this shit. Each minute he spent aiming the rifle at the wolf, his brain obviously tripping on a hemorrhage, was one more minute those fuckers had his daughter.
To hell with that. The wolf was either Vonda or it wasn’t. Some things you just had to trust to fate no matter how unbelievable.
“Get your ass in the truck while I get the keys.”
Not waiting to see what the wolf would do, Tom lowered the rifle and darted up the steps into the house. Layla poked her head out from behind the couch. Ignoring her, he grabbed his cell phone and keys off the table by the door. Spinning around, he almost tripped over Sam as the dog came into the house.
Cursing, he side-stepped Sam and yanked the door shut. The wolf sat by the passenger door of the truck, looking over her shoulder at him.
“Are you really Vonda?” he whispered.
In the flesh.
He paused, trying to stop breathing like a race horse. If that wasn’t Vonda, his ass was pretty much screwed. One foot after another, his breath caught in his throat, he walked toward the wolf.
Dear God, let her be Vonda.
One thing finally went well on this hellacious evening—the wolf didn’t bite him and jumped straight into the truck when he opened the door.
Okay, that went well. The only thing left for him was to get in the truck and drive hell-bent after the fuckers who had his daughter. Provided the wolf in his truck didn’t eat him first.
What the hell had he been thinking?
Tom slammed a fist on the hood of the truck as he walked around to the driver’s side. Yanking open the door he was greeted by a lolling tongue and a lot of overgrown pearly whites. Was that blood on her muzzle? His heart skipped a beat.
Oh, get in already. We went through this earlier.
Tom took a deep breath and placed the rifle on the gun rack before sliding behind the wheel. He fumbled with the keys, two tries later he had the key in the ignition and the engine turned. Adrenaline raced through his veins. The bastards who took his daughter would pay for it. He’d make sure of that.
Shifting into reverse, he backed out of the driveway, gunning the engine when he dropped it into drive.
“Which way?” he growled and then blinked at the sound.
What was up with those strange noises coming out of his mouth? He sounded almost animalistic. Well, hell, he felt animalistic and would go medieval on their asses once he found the kidnappers. What did they want with Elizabeth? He shuddered, thinking about what his daughter must be going through as he white-knuckled the steering wheel.
He’d always protected her; what would she think of him now? How would she be able to look up to him when he let her be taken?
You didn’t let her be taken. They took her. There’s a difference.
Tom whipped his head to the right, staring at Vonda.
“How the hell did you know what I was thinking?”
You weren’t thinking it, you said it. I heard you.
“Nope. It was in my head.” Was he actually arguing with a wolf? Even if said wolf was the sexiest woman he’d seen. His groin throbbed thinking about Vonda’s hair, her beautiful amber eyes, her hot body. How the hell could he be thinking of sex at a time like this?
You think I’m sexy?
“You need to work on that telepathy thing.”
Sorry. I usually talk to wolves, not humans. You’re the only human I’ve been able to talk to like this. They can’t understand me. I’m surprised you can.
“Yeah, I can understand you just fine. The problem is that you’re reading my mind.”
Well, I wouldn’t be reading it if you weren’t broadcasting it all over the place. Seems to me like you’re talking. Hey, stop! I need to get out and smell for tracks at the corner.
Tom slammed the brakes; thankful he had just turned the corner and wasn’t going fast. Vonda waited, staring at Tom. Tom stared back. If she needed to scent the tracks, she better get out.
Do you see any hands over here?
One paw dangled in the air.
Tom reached across the seat and pushed the door open. Vonda leapt out and put her nose on the ground. She sniffed all four corners of the road, then stuck her nose in the air and walked around the corners. Her nostrils quivered as she breathed.
As he watched Vonda make her rounds, Tom wished she’d hurry. This whole sniff-out-the-bad-guys routine took too long. He tapped his fingers against the steering wheel, feeling his blood pressure rise the longer Vonda sniffed the ground. Enough already. He could have driven to the Canadian border and back in the time it took her to sniff around the road.
After what the dashboard clock claimed was only two minutes—he obviously needed to take it in for service since it wasn’t working right—she trotted back to the truck. The seat dipped as Vonda landed next to him, a wolfish grin on her face. She glanced at the door, then him, one paw waving back and forth.
He grunted, reached around her and shut the door, holding in the chills that inched their way to his low back as his arm brushed her muzzle.
Head to the right, their scent is the strongest in that direction. Stop if you come to cross streets.
Tom shifted into drive and stomped on the gas. On this stretch of road, heading in this direction there were no cross streets for miles, which made it easier to track he supposed. Thinking about tracking Elizabeth gave him fresh chills as to what those men, particularly the giant one, wanted with his daughter.
“Why would they take Elizabeth? Why would they come into the house and take her? It’s not like she was on a street alone or something. What kind of freaks break into a house and take a little girl? I don’t even know them!” He slammed his hand on the steering wheel.
They’re werewolves. Like me.
Tom’s lip curled, exposing his teeth. “You know them?”
What? You think I hang with kidnappers?
“Until tonight I didn’t even realize werewolves existed.”
It was a surprise for me too.
“What do you mean?”
Vonda sighed. She might as well tell him. He was stuck with her until they caught up to Elizabeth. And judging by the whine of the engine, that shouldn’t be too much longer.
I grew up in a foster home and didn’t know werewolves existed until I turned into one when I was thirteen.
Tom faced her, mouth agape. “That must’ve been hard.”
You have no idea. My foster parents thought I was doing drugs or something since I snuck out of the house every full moon. Figured it was easier for them to think I was snorting coke than to have them see me turn into a wolf.
“Yeah, I can imagine. That would be weird. Can you change at will?”
Vonda shook her head.
Nope. Only on the day of the full moon, the day before and the day after. I turn when the sun sets on those days.
Vonda licked her lips. What would Tom do if she ran her tongue over his ear? Maybe he’d reciprocate in kind. Yeah, she could deal with that. After the ear, he’d move on down...
Tom turned to her, eyes raking her. She smelled the scent of arousal swimming through the truck’s cab, thick and heady. Hot damn, he actually found the wolf attractive. Not like she cared at the moment with the mating heat coursing through her body. She’d take him any way she could, but maybe this relationship wouldn’t end like the other one.
Tom faced forward, hands tightening on the wheel.
“Look up there. Are those taillights?” One finger pointed straight ahead.
Vonda looked down the road, squinting. Yep, definitely taillights. Her lips peeled back from her teeth.
I think we’ve caught the bastards.
Tom flipped the lights off as he rolled to a stop. He jumped out and tried the gate the kidnappers had driven through.
The red of the taillights disappeared in the woods, swallowed in the shadows, leaving Tom alone with his failure.
He kicked the gate a couple of times before yanking on it.
Keep that up and the whole world will know we’re here.
Vonda trotted to where he stood fighting the gate.
“Well, what do you suggest? I can’t just Superman over the damn thing.” The gate stood at least seven feet tall, a wrought iron monstrosity, attaching to an equally impressive fence. No footholds to be seen. Whoever lived here didn’t raise cattle.
And Elizabeth was behind those formidable walls.
We can go under it. See, it doesn’t go too far into the ground. Look at that rabbit tunnel underneath.
Tom looked to where Vonda gestured with her nose. The light seemed brighter than normal, and he saw the small hole a rabbit had dug under the fence.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Dig!”
Vonda shook her head and trotted over to the rabbit tunnel. Dirt flew as the hole deepened. What a woman, um, wolf. Tom ran back to the truck and grabbed his rifle. By the time he returned, Vonda stood on the other side of the fence.
Hope you fit through. I tried to dig it large enough for you.
Tom poked the rifle through the space between the bars before lowering himself into the hole. His head poked out the other side of the fence easily, but the rest of him didn’t want to pass through.
A scream died in his throat, the only sound an escaped grunt.
Back up and I’ll dig some from this side.
Tom pulled back and let Vonda work. This time he was able to pull himself through. Picking up the rifle, he followed Vonda as she led him through the woods.
The road wound between trees for what seemed like miles. Time crept forward, slower than Layla in the winter. Probably because they took the scenic route through the woods instead of trotting on the dirt-packed road. Less chance of being seen. Hopefully.
At least it gave Tom plenty of time to think, to plan new ways of killing the bastards who took his daughter. Shooting was too clean. So was snapping their necks. He should have brought the axe.
They’re in the clearing.
Shh! Just think it. Do you really want them to hear you?
Tom glared at her. She stared back, amber eyes unblinking. Brave women were sexy.
Canines gleamed in the darkness as Vonda stood a little straighter.
Damn. He’d projected thoughts he hadn’t meant to. Again. Well, he was new at this telepathy thing. He planned on getting better at it once he had Elizabeth back. Then he could concentrate on Vonda. Until then visions of long legs wrapped around his waist and amber eyes glowing in the moonlight were relegated to the back of his mind.
Dropping to the ground, Tom crawled toward the clearing, Vonda following.
Wonder if they can smell me.
...Tom started, remembered why and shut his mental trap.
Can’t you mask your scent?
Her head tilted to the side as she stared at him.
See any dead animals around?