“You got it in one,” he said coolly, eyes like steel. A muscle in his jaw ticced. “And I’d do it again. So now we deal with the mess, and if you don’t like it, tough. After the cleanup, she’s my responsibility. I’ll field the heat from Nick and take care of her.”
“Damned right you will.”
“Knock it off, you two.” The blond tossed a pile of clothes at Law. “Get dressed so we can ghost out of here. I’ll go get the SUV.”
The dark-haired guy palmed a set of keys and tossed them to the blond.
Law let her go and pulled on a pair of jeans, followed by his black T-shirt. As he tugged on a pair of heavy lace-up boots, Kira found her voice. “Hang on a second,” she said, edging away from them. “Take care of me? Like you took care of them? No, thanks. I’ll be fine on my own.”
“No longer an option.” Law straightened, shot her a feral grin. “Welcome to Alpha Pack, sweetheart.”
“Wh-what’s Alpha Pack?”
The woman was about two seconds from short-circuiting. She was tired and frightened as hell, and Aric’s sorry attitude wasn’t helping. Friend or not, if the red wolf snarled at her again, Jaxon would plant his fist in the moron’s face.
Even if she was a criminal on the run.
“I’ll explain that later.” He gestured to the beat-up car. “You got anything important to bring along?”
She nodded. “My purse.”
“Is that where you stashed whatever it is you stole?”
Her shoulders slumped. “Yeah. How did you know?”
“Get the purse. That’s part of the talk for later.”
Avoiding the bodies, she stepped up to the driver’s door, opened it, and leaned in. In seconds she emerged, clutching the bag to her stomach. “Ready.”
“What’s your name?”
“Kira,” she said hesitantly. “Kira Locke.”
Kira. He liked it. The name fit her. “I’m Jaxon Law.”
“What should we do with these guys?” Zander asked, interrupting the introductions.
Jaxon thought a moment. “We’ll take their wallets so we can run their names later, do a background check. See who they worked for. Then we’ll put them in the car, one behind the wheel, the other in the passenger’s seat, and light a bonfire.”
Aric grinned, his mood improved by the prospect. “My pleasure.”
“Before you do, let me see if I can get a reading or two.” Crossing to the nearest man, the one who’d shot him, he squatted and wrapped his fingers around the wrist, making sure to get part of the coat sleeve.
Objects and clothing often carried better signals than people. The impressions he could pick up from a dead person faded quickly, and the living sometimes shielded their thoughts whether they realized it or not.
In the background, the woman, Kira, whispered, “What’s he doing?”
As always, he braced himself for the buzz in his brain, like a thousand angry bees. His vision grayed out, the ground beneath him disappeared, and he was falling, falling. And then caught, snared in a web of someone else’s making. Sticky threads brushed at his cheek, snagged his hair and tugged at his clothes, but he no longer tried to brush them away in panic as he’d done when he was thirteen and his Psy ability had first manifested.
The strings weren’t really there in the physical sense. Rather, he’d come to think of them as the tattered moorings of memories to their owners, ripped free and waiting for someone with his ability to grab hold and use them as a guide to the images he sought.
They were anything but consistent, and he likened latching on to one to catching a soap bubble without causing it to pop. The process was tedious, exhausting, and the quicker he grabbed a thread and made the reading, the better.
The first two slipped away, but he took firm hold of the third, following it to the end. Some memories were mere snapshots, but this one was a snippet of film, and Jaxon found himself looking through the eyes of the initial speaker—the dead man in his grasp. The man’s residual anger, his trepidation, enveloped Jaxon.
“I’m telling you, this is not my problem. I don’t give two shits what Chappell says, I’m not getting paid enough to deal with his freaky God complex!”
The middle-aged, average-looking man in the white lab coat twisted his lips into a condescending smile. “You’re being paid plenty, and you’ll do your job. Unless you’d rather volunteer to be his next subject.” He reached for the phone on the counter. “I can call him right now and make him aware of your issues—”
“Try it, you nasty little fuckwad, and I’ll break your neck. I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it, just that I’m not getting paid enough to take these kinds of risks. I’ll talk with him myself, and you mind your own damned business. Got it?”
Without waiting for an answer, he spun and slammed out of the lab.
“Slimy creep, he’s gonna call anyway. Shit, what am I gonna do about . . .”
“. . . and sooner or later the cops will notice . . .”
“Jax! Jesus, wake up!”
The thread snapped and he came back to himself gradually. Sounds of the city at night filtered in, along with the oppressive heat. And the fact that he was no longer kneeling, but slumped backward against a big body. Zander’s voice was quiet and anxious next to his ear.
“Scares the hell out of me every time you do that.”
“Sorry,” he slurred.
“Yeah, but I’m not sure what.”
He’d have to think about it. Later. God, he was so tired. Always was after he went that deep into a memory. It was much different from the simple flash he’d gotten from the woman a few minutes ago. He wanted nothing more than to sleep until noon tomorrow. Like that would be an option once Nick got wind of their guest.
“Can you get up?”
No. His leg was screaming. “Yes.”
“All right. Hang on to me.”
Zander stood, hauling him to his feet, steadying him as he blinked away the rest of the fuzziness. Got his bearings. As their surroundings came into focus again, he saw his friends and their new acquaintance staring at him, obviously worried.
Zander patted his cheek. “Hey, you need a turbo boost from the Z-Man?”
Shaking his head, he gave his best friend a lopsided grin. “Naw, I’m good. I’ll sleep it off on the way back to the compound.”
“How’s your leg?”
“Bitching, but I’ll be fine.”
“If you’re sure.” He looked doubtful.
The act of using his healing ability hit Zan every bit as hard as when Jaxon tapped into his RetroCog mojo. No way would Jaxon let his friend expend his energy over something that would easily pass with some rest.
Ryon pulled up in the SUV just as Aric and Zander got the two dead men situated in the girl’s car and shut them inside. Jaxon walked over to their newest addition, a little unsteady on his feet, and took her arm, began to steer her toward their vehicle. Zander followed, but Aric hung back a safe distance from her car, facing it. Preparing to do his thing.
“Don’t watch,” Jaxon said as she resisted, twisting to look over her shoulder.
“What’s he planning to use to start the fire?” she asked, frowning. “There’s nothing in his hands. And what the heck happened to you back there?”
“Later.” She snorted. “Right. Got it.”
“You ask more questions than anyone I’ve ever met.”
“Maybe because so many people you meet end up like them?” she tossed out, waving a hand to indicate her unfortunate attackers. “Just an educated guess.”
She had a point. He sighed, thinking this was going to be a long night. And not nearly as much fun as he’d originally planned.
Any retort he might’ve made was waylaid by a loud whoosh and a blast of heat. Automatically he turned, glancing over his shoulder at the orange and yellow flames that engulfed the car and its occupants. The conflagration shot into the air and spread out to lick at the pavement, erasing all signs of the blood Jaxon had spilled.
Aric was standing with his feet spread and arms outstretched, palms out. The inferno intensified in response to his unspoken command. After another few moments, he lowered his arms to his sides and strode toward the rest of the group.
“Oh, my God! Did he just . . . No, he didn’t. That man did not just start a fire with his bare hands!” Kira was staring at Aric, a mixture of disbelief and astonishment etched on her pretty face.
“Well, that’ll attract attention,” Aric muttered as he reached them. “Let’s hit the road.”
“Come on.” Jaxon pulled his reluctant new charge along, forcing her to abandon goggling at the fire and get moving.
Ryon remained behind the wheel and Zander got in front with him. Aric climbed in back without a word, taking up position to watch their tail, Jaxon knew, and eliminate any pursuers if necessary. A fact he didn’t mention to Kira as they took the middle seats, Jaxon behind the driver.
Ryon floored it, getting them away from the scene as fast as he dared without gaining unwanted attention from the Las Vegas PD. By the time faint sirens could be heard in the distance, they were well on their way.
Beside him, Kira cleared her throat. “Where are we going?”
If not for the subtle tremble in her voice, he might’ve snapped at her. But for some weird reason, it made him want to soothe her worries. Protect her from harm as he’d done earlier. Fuck. “To our plane. We have a private jet and landing strip in a hangar not far outside the city.”
“And from there?”
“Wyoming.” Silence. He looked over to see her holding the purse on her lap in a death grip, eyes wide. Hoping to ease her fears, he elaborated a bit. “Shoshone National Forest. We’ll land at our compound, and you’ll stay there with us for the time being.”
“I don’t get a say?”
“No.” The thought of letting her leave burrowed under his skin like a stinging nettle, though he had no clue why. What the hell was wrong with him?
Her voice rose on a note of hysteria. “So I’m going to be held captive at an unknown facility by a group of weird, mind-reading, fire-starting, vicious werewolves?”
“Hey, we’re not weird,” Ryon protested from the front.
Jaxon ignored him. “You’re our guest, not a captive. Besides, would you rather be dead right now at the hands of those guys back there for stealing whatever’s in that bag? You want us to put you out and leave you at the mercy of whoever sent them?”
She looked away, swallowing hard. “Of course not.”
“Then we’re your only option at the moment, so sit back and enjoy the trip. You’re in safe hands. Nobody in Alpha Pack will hurt you, including me.”
This brought her head around, and she scrutinized his face as though she could read the truth of his words there. “You want me to believe you’re the good guys?”
He gave a soft, humorless laugh. “I’m not so sure about that. But we’re not the guys you have to worry about. Let’s put it that way.”
She bit her lip for a moment, then sighed. “So are you going to introduce me to your friends?”
She seemed genuinely interested, and he hoped that boded well for how the next few days would shape up. He didn’t want her to be afraid. “Sure. The guy driving is Ryon Hunter, and next to him is Zander Cole.” The pair said their hellos, and flashed her charming smiles over their shoulders. “The warm and cuddly pup in the back is Aric Savage.”
“Fuck you, man,” the redhead responded, but with less rancor than before.
Kira smiled nervously at Jaxon. “Nice.”
Jaxon stared at her, struck speechless for a few seconds. He could see in the dark just fine, and the shadows did little to hide how her smile lit the inside of the SUV, which tightened his groin into a painful knot. She wasn’t just pretty—she was incredible.
“I suppose I can look forward to more intros when we arrive?”
“Um, yeah. You’ll meet our boss and another teammate, as well as a bunch of doctors and scientists who live and work there.”
Her brow furrowed. “All of you live on-site?”
“Hmm. Your compound is located in Shoshone National Forest,” she said slowly. “That’s government property.”
“And if your facility is there, and everyone resides there as well . . . You all work for the government, then. Top Secret stuff. Special Ops?”
“Something along those lines.” He grinned at her. “You’re quick, Miss Locke.”
“Kira, please.” She caught his gaze, held it.
The air thickened, the moment stretching taut. To his surprise, he was the first to look away. Even his wolf was overwhelmed, in addition to being aroused to the point of madness. He cleared his throat. “Call me Jaxon, or Jax,” he said. “And before you ask, yes, the ‘Top Secret stuff’ you mentioned includes the abilities you’ve witnessed in us so far.”
“Something tells me what I’ve seen barely scrapes the surface.”
“You’re batting a thousand.”
At that, she went silent and stared pensively out the window at nothing, because there was literally nothing to see other than the blanket of stars crowning the desert sky.
Jaxon had just begun to be lulled to sleep by the darkness and the motion of the vehicle when they arrived at the landing strip. Ryon hit the opener for the wide door, pulled the SUV straight into the hangar, and the overhead lights came on, activated by motion sensors.
Jaxon straightened as a sudden thought hit him. “Our bags are at the hotel.”
“No, they’re back here,” Aric said. “Z-Man must’ve worked his charm on the concierge to get ’em so fast.”
Zan snickered. “She owed me a favor. I collected.”
Ryon parked and Aric handed their bags forward. Jaxon took his and shouldered it as he got out of the SUV, and then headed toward the jet. A cheery blip sounded from behind him as Ryon locked the vehicle, and the clomping of boots on concrete filled the cavernous space.
As they walked, Jaxon noted that Kira stayed close to him. Which pleased him to no end, and confounded him as his every reaction to her had so far. It didn’t make sense, this need to protect, to place himself not only between her and danger, but between her and the men he loved like brothers. He barely restrained himself from snarling at Zan, who took her hand and politely helped her step into the plane before Jaxon thought to offer.
And her scent is still driving me freaking insane. I’m losing it.
Kira’s voice broke into his musings. “Where’s the pilot?”
Aric climbed in and grinned at her. “That would be me, sugar britches. Still feel safe?”
She leveled him with a frosty glare. “I have a name. It’s Kira. And I never said I felt safe—he said I should feel safe.” The look was pointed as she glanced at Jaxon.
Aric laughed and headed for the pilot’s chair. “Yep, you’ve got a live one, pal. Have a blast with your new babysitting gig.”
“If anyone needs a babysitter it’s you,” she shot back. “Or a spanking, more like.”
Jaxon winced. She’d walked right into that one.
His friend pounced on the opening. “Don’t threaten me with a good time unless you plan to follow through. Whenever, wherever you want me to drop trou, say the word, sugar britches—oops, Kira.” He winked, completely ignoring the lip she curled at him in disgust, then turned in his seat and fired up the engine.