Hunter’s Moon – By Lisa Kessler (Excerpt)
I rounded the corner of the building, scanning the shadowed parking lot for my prey. The stench of the dirtbag’s fear stung my nostrils, making the corner of my mouth twitch. I could admit I was eager to take this asshole down, but knowing he was scared shitless sweetened the deal considerably.
The wolf inside of me growled, aching to fight. I forced a slow breath into my lungs. Patience. I could wait this guy out. My bum ankle left me little choice anyway. All my senses were on full alert, adrenaline pumping through my veins.
Finally he made his move. I heard his footsteps racing toward the alley. Toward me. Perfect.
I stepped into his path, blocking his only exit. He tried to pivot and change course, but it was too late. The Nero informant rammed into me, falling backwards. Before he could roll over and scramble away, I grabbed his shirt and yanked him up off the ground.
“You’re not going anywhere.” My eyes narrowed and his widened as I pulled him even closer. “Tell me about Nero.”
“I don’t know nothin’.”
He wriggled like a fish, his feet struggling to touch the ground. I was at least six inches taller, and I had no intention of letting him get away. Instead, I head-butted him. Blood erupted from his nose, the scent immediately bringing the wolf inside of me to full attention.
“Goddammit,” he shouted, kicking me in the shins while he yanked at my wrists. “Let go of me, you crazy son of a bitch.”
“I asked you a question.”
“And I told you, I don’t know nothin’.”
I slammed him against the brick wall of the alley. “You’re lying.”
He coughed, spewing putrid breath into my face. He reeked of week old cigarettes and cheap vodka. “Please,” he stammered. “I don’t know nothin’ about any Nero.”
“Why have you been trailing the red-haired woman?” He started to shake his head, so I freed one hand and landed a solid punch to his stomach to joggle his memory. “Answer me.”
One of his hands released my wrist, and he stopped kicking his feet. His stare met mine and gradually the fear in his eyes faded away. My patience was wearing thin, but before I could rattle his cage for a reply, he started to smile and whispered, “They know she didn’t die in that fight.”
Pain burst through my gut setting my entire side on fire. Fuck.
The asshole stabbed me.
I pressed him against the wall, forcing myself not to loosen my grip. Fear crept back into his eyes when I didn’t let him go. I held him up with one arm and yanked his knife out with the other.
“What the hell are you?”
Using both hands I threw him across the alley, satisfied to hear his skull crunch against the bricks. He hit the ground like a rag doll while I clutched the new hole in my side.
“I’m a wolf, asshole.”
By the time I pulled into the urgent care center, I knew the stab wound wasn’t too serious. If he’d hit an artery or a major organ, I would have bled out by now. Simple. But I couldn’t ignore a gaping wound in my side either. Werewolves may heal a little faster than humans, but a nasty staph infection could take us down just as well as the next guy.
Usually Jason, our Pack doctor, patched up our wounds, but that wasn’t an option for me this time. My Alpha would want to know what happened.
And for the first time in my life, I had no intention of telling him.
I’d have to risk the hospital.
The knife was wrapped and carefully hidden under the floor of the trunk with my spare tire. Maybe I’d be able to pull fingerprints from it later.
My ankle was fucking killing me. Perfect.
I clenched my teeth and wiped the sweat off my forehead as I limped into the brightly lit room. Being covered in blood apparently trumped the other emergencies. The triage nurse jumped up and rushed me to an exam room.
I hated the smell of hospitals. My acute wolf senses caught the cacophony of blood, urine and disinfectant, morphing it into a disgusting scent of decay that turned my stomach. The paper crunched as I sat on the end of the exam table. The nurse laid a clipboard on the counter and scribbled something quickly before turning to face me.
“So what happened?” She snapped on a pair of latex gloves, and reached for the hem of my shirt to inspect the wound.
“I’m all right. It’s just a little scratch.”
Her eyes widened when she found the source of my bleeding. “This isn’t a scratch. You’ve been stabbed.”
I caught her wrist and forced a smile. “All I need is a couple of stitches.”
She shook her head and stepped back. “You can smile all you want, but you’ll still need to speak with the police about your injury. It’s hospital policy with stabbings and shootings.”
“It was an accident. I fell with a steak knife.” This was exactly the reason none of the Pack went to hospitals. Too many questions. “Come on, I feel stupid enough as it is.”
She raised a brow and left the room.
Great. I raked a hand back through my hair and groaned. I was screwed.
I couldn’t talk to the police anymore than I could face the Pack and tell my brother, our Alpha, why I was in Las Vegas killing Nero informants.
I had to come up with something better than falling on a steak knife.
My gaze flicked to the closed door. Physically I was only a wolf one night a month, but I still had heightened senses while I was a man. My hearing and sense of smell were far stronger than a human’s. And right now I could hear a woman’s voice talking to the staff, followed by the click of determined footsteps.
I recognized that voice.
When the door opened the wolf inside of me howled.
“This is Detective Marsh.” The nurse snatched my chart from the counter. “The doctor will be in shortly to check your wound.”
Once she was gone, I stared at the most incredible woman I’d ever seen. Sasha. Her full lips were pressed together as her dark eyes met mine. I struggled to remind myself that this was also the same woman who tasered me, and then shattered my ankle with a single gunshot. She threatened to kill my twin brother, Adam, and his mate, Lana. She worked for the Nero Organization that bred jaguar shape-shifters and trained them to be silent assassins for the highest bidder.
She was the enemy.
I had every reason to hate her. I should hate her. Yet here she was, standing five feet from me and not only was I not attacking her, I was drinking in her scent. She didn’t smell like most of the women I worked with, flowers and lace. Her scent was spicy like leather and musk.
And I was more certain with every breath that I’d never be able to deny my instincts. I needed her. Shit.
When my brother told me he’d found his mate, I didn’t understand how he knew. How could he be so certain?
Wolves mated for life, but when Adam claimed a jaguar for his mate, I thought he’d gone insane. I wasn’t sure I believed the old stories about finding that one mate to spend a lifetime with anyway. The bottom line was simple.
We don’t fall in love with enemies of our Pack.
But here she was glaring at me in the urgent care room, and instead of killing her; I caught myself wondering how her mouth might taste. I shoved aside the lust and dug deep for cold indifference.
“It’s Detective Marsh now? I thought you sold your badge to Nero.”
She dodged my barb without even acknowledging it. “Look Wolf, I’m doing you a favor by coming in here flashing a badge. The only reason I’m here is to tell you I can fight my own battles. Did you really think I didn’t know about you and that scumbag tailing me? I’m handling this so just back off.”
I laughed and sat up. It took all I had not to wince at the pain that burned through my abdomen. “You think I’m trying to help you? Is that what you think?”
Her chin lifted as she crossed her arms over her chest. I did my best not to stare at her breasts. “What I think isn’t important. What I know is that you’ve been following me and this is the second Nero informant you’ve killed. Did you think I wouldn’t notice?” Her hands dropped to her sides again. “You don’t know who you’re dealing with, Wolf. Nero has eyes and ears everywhere. Stay out of this.”
She spun on her heel and left, slamming the door behind her. I could hear her telling the nurse she’d sign off on my medical treatment. She confirmed it was a household accident. No investigation would follow.
I smirked. So Sasha, the jaguar assassin who tried to kill me twice, helped me after all. Go figure.
I cranked up the stereo in the beemer as I pulled out of the parking lot. It was a nice ride. I didn’t lose sleep keeping the Nero Organization’s car. I knew they couldn’t report it stolen. The last thing they would want is the police nosing around their door.
Besides after stealing my career and my life, they owed me.
Or so I told my conscience. What was left of it.
It’d been over six months since I’d heard the Wolf’s voice. I wish that statistic didn’t come to me so quickly. It wasn’t like I missed hearing his voice.
It didn’t help that when I walked in the emergency room he’d been half-naked. And completely gorgeous. I did my best to shove the memory from my mind and focus on the road.
He’d been following me off and on for months now. At first I thought he was hunting me, maybe looking for revenge. I wasn’t really concerned; I’m never more than an arm’s length from a weapon, and when I fire, I don’t miss. But as time passed and he didn’t attack, I realized I wasn’t the prey. Odd.
I kept my attention split between the darkened streets in front of me and the rearview mirror. Since I’d been bitten and converted into a jaguar shape-shifter, my night vision became superhuman. The headlights on my car were only on to keep other drivers from hitting me. I could see just as well without them.
And so far, I didn’t see anyone tailing me.
The wolf killed the last one, but it wouldn’t be long before Nero sent someone else. Ever since the fight at Lake Tahoe, I’d been on the run from them. The bastards were never going to give me a cure anyway. I knew that now. I was stuck. A monster.
But I wasn’t going to be their puppet. Not anymore.
That’s why I had to keep moving. Once they knew I survived the showdown at Lake Tahoe, I’d be marked for death. I’d lived inside of Nero’s walls. I knew about their jaguar assassins they hired out to the highest bidder.
But that was just the tip of the shape-shifting iceberg. There were also top secret government contracts and experimental DNA enhancement. I didn’t have proof yet, but if I could find some before they killed me, I’d have the leverage I needed to bargain for my life.
What was left of it.
I checked my rearview mirror, trying to clear my mind of the memories from the Nero compound. Other women were still inside, bitten, converted and being used for Nero’s breeding program.
And I was never going back.
I pressed the accelerator. I’d been in Las Vegas too long. It was time to disappear again. Maybe this time I could dodge Nero and the wolf. He couldn’t keep jumping in to fight my battles for me. The last thing I needed was more blood on my hands. I didn’t want to know he was hurt on my behalf.
I hurt him enough on my own.
I merged onto the highway and slid my bluetooth over my ear. One voicemail.
Hi Sash. I hope your case is going all right. Maybe we could get together over the weekend? I miss you, Sis. See you soon…
I sighed and glared at the dark sky. It was a goddamned new moon this weekend. Around midnight, I’d sprout fur, teeth and claws until I was fully shifted into a black jaguar. I couldn’t see my sister like that. For all I knew I’d eat her.
I lost everything after Sebastian bit me. I couldn’t lose her too.
I’d just have to make an excuse. Talia would understand. She always did.
But lying to her sucked. I jammed the gas pedal to the floor. My sleek black BMW purred as I maneuvered around the other cars. Speed made me focus. Speed cleared my head. Speed kept me ahead of Nero.
It was almost sunrise when I crossed the Los Angeles city limits. I made record time across the Mojave Desert. I couldn’t help but smile. If the police academy hadn’t worked out, race car driver was going to be my fallback career. Ever since my dad used to put me on the back of his motorcycle, I’d been addicted to speed.
I checked my make-up in the mirror on the back of the visor. I still wasn’t used to my new auburn hair. My hair had always been jet-black. Not anymore. I was no longer Sasha Kincade either.
I closed the visor and punched the number five on my cell phone.
“You made the reservation?”
“Hello, Beautiful One,” he purred. “I trust your trip to Los Angeles was a smooth one.”
I ground my teeth to hold back my frustration. If police work had taught me anything it was don’t bite the hand that feeds you. “I don’t have time for small talk. Do I have a reservation or not?”
He sighed. I checked my new California driver’s license and grabbed my purse.
“Your reservation is under Sasha Smith. You are also registered for the Anime Expo.”
I almost dropped the phone.
“For the what?”
“The Anime Expo is like a police convention, but instead of officers discussing how to subdue assailants; the attendees discuss the latest in-”
I cut him off. “Cartoons. I get it. Why?”
“It’s being hosted by your hotel. I thought you might blend in better there.”
“Bullshit. You thought it’d be funny to see me surrounded by girls dressed up like Sailor Moon and that chick from Inuyasha.”
He paused. A sure sign I was right. Goddamn him. Hadn’t he screwed with my life enough yet?
I closed my cell phone and went inside to check in. If there was any other way for me to stay ahead of Nero I’d take it, but for now Sebastian was my inside man. It was highly possible that he was the one tipping off Nero to my locations, but I doubted it. If Mr. Severino, Nero’s founder and CEO, knew where I was, there would be more than small time thugs tailing me.
They were sending out feelers for now, not sure yet if I survived the showdown at Lake Tahoe. Once they had confirmation that I was still alive, the game might change drastically.
For now, I’d keep running. Eventually I’d find what I was looking for. And when I did, Nero would have to let me go.
At least that’s how I hoped it would end. Outcomes were tricky to predict.
After checking in, I rode the elevator up with Dragon Ball Z and some elf-looking thing that I didn’t recognize, silently cursing Sebastian the whole way. I hauled my duffel down the hallway to my new room and fell onto the bed. It was going to feel so good to sleep.
But I needed to call my sister.
After doing the time-difference math in my head, I figured she was probably up by now. I sat up on the bed, flinched a little when I saw the redhead staring back at me in the mirror over the desk, then hit the speed dial for Talia.
“Hey Sash! Where have you been?”
“You know I can’t tell you that.” I kicked off my shoes and stretched out on the bed.
“Or you’d have to kill me. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that one before. Are you coming home soon? Think we can get together over the weekend? I haven’t seen you in ages.”
I closed my eyes, picturing her face. We looked a lot alike, but Talia’s eyes were emerald green instead of dark like mine. She was also a half-inch taller than me which she used to love pointing out when she was in middle school.
God it was good to hear her voice again. “I wish I could,” I said. “But I’m knee-deep in a big case right now. I promise as soon as I have the evidence I need, I’ll be back home dragging you out to Leggios for deep dish pizza. How’s school?”
“It’s going well. I have finals soon.”
“I will.” She paused. “Sash?”
“Be careful, all right? You’re all I have left.”
“I know.” I blinked hard, shoving my emotions aside. “You do the same, okay?”
Talia laughed. “I’m at Williams College, not much danger around here.”
“Just watch yourself. You still have the pepper spray I gave you, right?”
“Yes, Mom.” I could hear the smile in her voice.
“I love you, Talia.”
“I love you, too. Come see me soon, all right?”
“Will do. As soon as I can.”
I closed my phone and placed it on the night stand with a sigh. At least she was safe. That was all that mattered. Thankfully I’d taken my mother’s name, Kincade, when I went into the police department. After our parents were murdered, I raised my younger sister on my own. The last thing I wanted was a vengeful criminal to hurt Talia just to get to me.
The sun was rising as I pulled the blackout drapes closed. Sleep. The pillows looked fluffy and inviting. I tossed my trench coat on the chair and unfastened my shoulder holster. I freed my compact Ruger LCP from the calf holster and slipped it under my pillow.
The Ruger was quickly becoming my favorite weapon. I carried my Glock in the shoulder holster, but the Ruger was lighter and easier to hide, and it didn’t trade size for accuracy. Accuracy was the one thing in my life that I could count on. A kill shot at thirty feet was standard for me.
With the gun stowed for quick access, I swapped my pants for baggy sweats and collapsed on the bed. My entire body ached. I was definitely going to sleep most of the day away.
As I closed my eyes, my cell phone started vibrating. My pistol was in my hand and pointed at the nightstand before I realized where the noise was coming from. I picked up the
phone and felt the hair on my arms stand on end as I stared at the text.
“Here Kitty Kitty.”
Excerpt 2 – This scene happens after Nero’s Bounty Hunter threatens Sasha’s younger sister. The only people she believes can protect her sister from Nero are Aren’s Pack. He has agreed to arrange for the Pack to guard Talia, but in return Sasha has to agree to let Aren guard her.
I caught his scent the moment he walked through the door. In spite of sitting in the dark movie room, I could see without any problem. Not everything about being a jaguar sucked.
He moved with confidence even though it was nearly pitch black. I watched his broad shoulders weave between the costume wings, weapons, and god-only-knew what else and my blood ran hot. The moment he reached my row of chairs and his green eyes met mine; it was all I could do to stay in my seat.
What was it about this guy?
I forced myself to look back toward the movie screen. I needed to get past this attraction. There was too much at stake right now. Besides, if hitting him with a taser hadn’t been enough to make him hate me, putting bullet a in his ankle pretty much guaranteed it.
I couldn’t blame him.
Apparently when he told me he was coming to Los Angeles, part of me was hoping for something more.
He sat down beside me, but I kept my attention on the movie. “Is someone picking up my sister?”
Out of the corner of my eye I could see him nod. He leaned in closer to me and muttered, “We need to talk.”
I tried not to notice how amazing he smelled. Clean, but wild, very masculine. Distracting. I cleared my throat and stood to make my way to the end of the row. I could hear the Wolf shadowing me, and a tiny place inside of me wanted to stop walking just to feel his body brush against mine when he bumped into me.
I rolled my eyes at myself and kept moving.
Outside of the movie room, more costumed characters wandered the hallways. Finding a quiet place to talk was going to be a challenge. I stopped as a blond guy with a big metal arm passed by with a large robot mumbling about the world’s one and only truth.
“What’s up with this hotel?” He asked.
I turned back to find the Wolf very close to me and for a moment I couldn’t process his question. “Oh.” I shook my head, breaking my temporary stupor. “Something called Anime Expo. People come from all over the country to watch these anime cartoons and dress up as their favorite characters. Some of them even act out the parts.”
He nodded for a second, glancing at a team of Teen Titans posing for a photo. His eyes had a playful sparkle in them that I’d never seen before.
Probably because most of the time I’d spent with him he was bound and gagged.
“So this is like a speakeasy for geeks?”
I raised a brow and felt myself start to smile. “I think you hit the nail on the head.”
Right on cue a couple of Sailor Moons passed by in their tiny micro-mini pleated skirts with tall knee socks. They both eyed the Wolf, giving him a long look before they flipped their long blond pigtails and walked past us.
We watched them go and I shook my head. “If I weren’t here, you might’ve had some company, Wolf.”
He raised a brow and shook his head. “Not the company I was hoping for.”
My heart flipped a little in my chest before my head jumped in to remind me that my company was probably not what he was hoping for either.
“I don’t know where to suggest we go to talk. This place is a zoo.” I paused for a second, contemplating all of my options. “I do have a room here.”
I caught a moment of surprise on the Wolf’s face, but he masked it quickly. “We don’t exactly have a trusting relationship. I didn’t come to this meeting armed.”
I deserved that. But it didn’t make it sting any less. “And I told you not to come, but here you are anyway.”
“So give me your gun.”
“What?” I took a step back. “No way.”
He shrugged. “Then we talk right here in the hall with all the cartoon characters.”
“Fine.” I wished I didn’t have to look up to glare at him, but he was about eight inches taller than me, so I offered up my best all-business detective stare. “You wanted to talk, Wolf. Talk.”
“First off, my name is Aren.”
I already knew that, but it was easier to keep an emotional distance if he didn’t have a name. “Got it.”
“I guess I need to know that we’re on the same team right now. I can’t help you if you’re shooting at me.”
Another zinger that I definitely deserved. Still hurt though, more than I wanted to admit. Why couldn’t I just hate this guy?
“Do you want me to apologize? Is that what you want?” I raised my chin and shot him a cold glare. “It wasn’t personal. I had job to do.”
“A job to do?” He crossed his arms over his sizeable chest. “To send an innocent woman to the same organization that screwed you over? How noble.”
“Don’t judge me, Wolf. I didn’t ask for any of this to happen to me, all right? I was a good cop and a great detective, but it was all stolen from me by a slick good-looking man. So forgive me for not swooning at your offer to help me. My only hope for an antidote was to deliver Lana alive. They wanted to study her, so I knew they wouldn’t kill her.”
Acid burned in my stomach. I sounded like the criminals I’d questioned over the years, rationalizing away their poor judgment. It was always someone else’s fault.
“You’ll be happy to know there is no antidote,” I said. “I was duped. I’ll never get my human life back.”
He took my hand and sparks of electricity ignited up my arm. “Why are you so busy looking forward to yesterday?”
I frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I know becoming…” He lowered his voice. “Becoming a jaguar wasn’t your choice, and Nero forcing you to leave your job and work for them left you without a lot of options. But you escaped. You’re out now, and not only that, you’ve got heightened senses that would make you an even better cop. You could probably see me just fine in the dark movie room, right?”
I nodded slowly.
“So I’m saying maybe this isn’t the future you would have chosen, but it might not be all bad.” Another group of characters gathered beside us and he gave my hand a tug. “Let’s talk somewhere more private.”
I raised a brow. “I’m not giving you my gun.”
“I’m not asking for it.”
“Why the change of heart?”
He grinned with a shrug, and I caught my stupid heart fluttering again. I’d never seen him smile before. No one should be allowed to be that good looking.
“I’m trying to trust. One of us has to. But hopefully if you shoot me again you won’t miss. The Pack would never let me live it down if you wounded me again.”
“I didn’t miss,” I whispered to myself.
Instead of answering him, I tightened my grip on his hand and pulled him toward the elevator. The night I shot him, he thought I was aiming for his head. I think I was going to, but when our eyes met, he pulled me out of the dark path Nero put in front of me. Something in the way he looked at me reminded me of who I really was. I wasn’t an assassin.
And I would never kill an unarmed man.
So I made sure he couldn’t chase me, and shot his ankle instead.
And I’d never felt worse.
We got inside the elevator with a couple of Thunder Cats, and enjoyed a few floors of awkward silence until we could step out. I took him to my room and didn’t speak until we were safely inside.
“Thank you for helping my sister. You had every reason to tell me no.” I swallowed what little bravado I had left and gave honesty a shot. “I can’t let her get involved in this. She’s all I have left.”
I stared into his eyes, my stomach tying in knots. The last man I trusted bit me.
“We’ll keep her safe,” he whispered as he wrapped his arms around me.
Although my mind screamed for me to pull away and keep my distance, my arms moved around him. For the first time in months I wasn’t alone. “Why are you helping me after all I’ve done?”
He drew back just a little and tilted my chin up. I drank in his crooked smile as he whispered, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
I stared into his eyes, watching his smile gradually fade away. His fingers slid along my chin and back into my hair. My lips parted and my breath caught in my throat seeing him look at me like I was the only thing in the world that mattered to him.
Time stood still, and without a word, he kissed me.
Her lips were soft, but not fragile. She was cautious, but not resistant. And finally, I could feel her body start to mold to mine. She returned my kiss, her lips parting, allowing me to taste her. The wolf inside of me growled, recognizing her as my mate and wanting more. I held her tighter, closer, God I couldn’t get close enough to this woman. Our tongues tangled together with an unspoken hunger, passion, need.
I’d never needed anyone so much.
She spread her fingers wide against my chest, sliding her hand up until her fingertips brushed the skin along the base of my neck. Her touch sent lightning through my veins, my blood pumping until I was sure she could feel how much I wanted her.
And I didn’t care. She was my mate. Mine.
I claimed her lips over and over again, savoring the warmth of her mouth. She moaned into the kiss and my gut tightened. I’d never wanted anyone like this before. Passion burned hot through my entire body as I crushed her against my chest, wishing we didn’t have clothes between us. My hand slid up her back, brushing over the bulge of her gun.
In an instant, reality slammed into me, and without any warning, Sasha broke the kiss and stepped back.
I raked my fingers back through my hair, watching her, waiting. If she expected me to apologize she was going to be sorely disappointed. I’d never be sorry for kissing her. She sat down on the edge of the bed and shook her head while she stared down at her shoes. Finally she flipped her silky hair back and looked up at me, her lips still swollen from the hungry kiss we’d shared. Looking at her mouth drove me crazy. I wanted to kiss her all over again.
I wanted to do more than kiss her.
“So if you’re here, then who is picking up my sister in Reno?”
Her radical change in subject made my head spin for a second. “Jason.” I pressed my lips together and struggled to rein in the raging lust burning a hole inside of me. I shifted myself inside of my jeans as nonchalantly as I could. I felt like I was in high school again. I could pound nails I was so hard. “He’s a doctor. Adam told him she’s a nanny who’s going to help Lana with the babies for a while.”
“Would the Pack hurt her if they knew she was my sister?”
I wanted to deny it, but I also didn’t want to lie. “I don’t think so. Adam figured she won’t be with them long, and the fewer people that know who she really is; the easier it’ll be to hide her.”
“Good.” She nodded, lacing her fingers together. “That’s a good cover.”
I watched her wondering if I was the only one who felt the incredible chemistry in that kiss. Then I reminded myself this was the same woman who shot me, and she was still armed. I was probably lucky to get away uninjured. That thought sobered me up.
But it didn’t stop me from thinking about the way her body felt pressed against mine.
I cleared my throat, wishing I could clear my head. “Are you ready to get back there and meet your sister?”
“To Reno?” Sasha squeezed her hands together. “No. I can’t risk it. This guy is good. He’d tail us and I’d lead him right to her. He knows she’s my weak spot.”
“So we need to get this guy first. Flush him out into the open.” I mulled that over and sat down at the desk. Grabbing the hotel notepad and a pen, I glanced back over my shoulder. “I’m better if I have a list. What do you know about this guy so far?”
She walked over and stood behind me, intoxicating me with her scent. I fought the urge to swivel the chair around and pull her into my lap.
“I know from his scent he’s a werewolf. He knows I’m a jaguar. He took my underwear so I also know he’s got other plans aside from whatever Nero hired him to do.”
I busted the pen. Rage shot through me before I could rein it in. Usually I was a master at controlling my emotions, but the thought of some other wolf lusting after Sasha kicked my territorial animal instincts up a few notches.
My voice was low, guttural. “He did what?”
Sasha walked toward the window with a shrug. “While I shifted last night, he went through my things. He lifted my underwear from my bag. He either wanted to scare me, or he gets off on imagining what he’ll do when he gets me. Either way, all it tells us at this point is he’s not all business.”
Oh I wanted to give him some business he’d never forget. I got up, managing to control myself just enough to keep from shoving the chair across the room. “That last informant I took out in Vegas—”
“The one who stabbed you?”
I nodded. “Yeah. He told me Nero knew you didn’t die at the Lake. I think he got that information to them before I…”
I didn’t finish. She already knew what I’d done.
“So this new guy could be a bounty hunter.”
“Or an assassin.” I took a step closer to her, but I didn’t make any move to touch her.
Her brow furrowed. “Why wouldn’t they send one of their own? If they were going to kill me, they have the best assassins money can buy. Why hire a werewolf?”
“Maybe Nero figured you would recognize their people?”
“Maybe.” She didn’t look convinced.
“You have another idea?”
Her eyes met mine. “Sebastian was helping me from the inside. Mr. Severino heads up Nero for a reason. He’s a paranoid control-freak. If he even suspected I was getting help from someone inside the organization, he wouldn’t hesitate to hire a werewolf. That way even his own people wouldn’t know what he was planning.”
“Or Sebastian set you up.” Just saying his name put a bad taste in my mouth. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but his top priority is himself. Maybe Nero made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”
“If that were true the werewolf would know where I’m staying. He’d have already made the grab.”
“You’re telling me that asshole, Sebastian, knows you’re here?” I clenched my jaw, biting back a few other choice names for the jaguar.
Her eyes narrowed. “He made my reservation. And before you get all high and mighty you should keep in mind, that I’ve done just fine up until this point without your help. I’m not a damsel in distress, so you can come down off Neanderthal mountain there.”
My eyebrows rose at her verbal slam. “Neanderthal mountain?”
Her lips started to curl at the corners in a sexy smile that left me temporarily defenseless. I could only hope she never discovered the power she wielded. Damn I was in trouble.
“Yes. Neanderthal mountain is where all the men go to slap their fists against their chests and fight each other for their women.”
I chuckled. I couldn’t help it. “All right, you win. I’m off the mountain.” I caught her staring at me, but she quickly turned away. “Maybe we can flush this guy out. Let him think he found us, but we’ll be ready for him.” I glanced over at her bag. “We can go find a mall or something. I’m going to need some extra clothes if we’re staying here for a few more days anyway.”
“We should get a room for you too.”
“I think we should stick together until we catch this guy.”
“I can take care of myself.” Sasha shook her head. “Having you here would just be a distraction.”
I clenched my jaw. How much longer could we ignore the huge elephant standing in the center of the room?
“Is this about the kiss?”
“No.” She shifted her weight to one foot, pushing her hip out slightly. “But I don’t think we should do that again.”
I raised a brow. “No?”
“We’ve got to get this guy, Wolf.”
Apparently she still wasn’t going to call me Aren. But she wasn’t shooting me with a taser either.
“We have to stay focused.” Her gaze met mine. “It was one thing when he was just after me, but he knows about my sister now. I need to end this.”
“We need to end this. We’re on the same team, remember?”
She gave me a single nod and flipped her hair back over her shoulder. “If we’re going to get you a room and some clothes, we’d better get going. Maybe we’ll get lucky and pick up his trail.”
I watched her move, grabbing her room key and her phone, every move fluid and silent. Her soft cashmere sweater hugged her curves as she pulled her lightweight trench coat on. Even with the coat and her slacks, I caught the outline of her guns when she moved. She was sexy and deadly all wrapped up in one curvy combination.
In a strange way, I felt a burst of pride that she was my mate. I ground my teeth together in silent censure. When did I turn into such a naïve idiot? Sasha was many things, but “mine” wasn’t one of them.
Now that I’d tasted her lips, I was most definitely hers. Whether she wanted me or not.
Yeah, this sucked.