“Don’t mind him,” Ryon advised her as he and Zan took seats behind her and Jaxon. “He’s so immature he still hikes his leg on the sofa.”
That cracked up everyone. Except Aric, who shot the finger to the passengers in general as he taxied the plane from the hangar.
“Is he always so cranky?” Kira asked in a low voice.
Jaxon shrugged. “Nah, Aric’s a good guy. Don’t know what’s up, except maybe he’s not too happy about our aborted weekend off.”
“Oh.” She grimaced. “Sorry about that.”
“Not a problem.”
As Aric guided the craft into position at the end of the runway and hit the juice, Jaxon was surprised by how sincerely he’d meant what he said. It wasn’t a problem—for him, anyway. He should be at least a little annoyed to be on his way back to their isolated outpost rather than enjoying a two-day romp in Sin City. On the contrary, he just didn’t care.
And that was what really bothered him.
He was hardly aware of the plane lifting off. Instead, he conjured a memory of the last time he’d spent a weekend with Alexa in his bed. The bottle blonde on her hands and knees as he thrust into her heat. How hard he’d been, unable to get enough. The delicious throb as he held off coming, wanting it to last.
But here and now. . . The memory shriveled his dick and filled him with a sense of repugnance. As did thoughts of tonight, when she’d rubbed against him like a cat in heat, and he’d responded. Had allowed the call girl to lead him to a dark corner and suck his cock, with the intention of doing so much more.
Suddenly he needed to take a long, hot shower to rid himself of any trace of Alexa’s scent. If only he could scour his brain as well.
I must be coming down with something.
But he didn’t buy it. Kira’s going to bring me more trouble than I’ve ever known. I don’t need to be a PreCog like Nicky to know that. These uneasy thoughts chased around in his mind until he finally gave in to the exhaustion that had plagued him since he’d looked through the eyes of the dead man he’d read.
Settling in for the flight, he fell into an uneasy sleep.
Kira would have to stand in line, because trouble came first in the form of their boss.
The flight was uneventful and Jaxon awoke just as Aric brought the jet in for a perfect landing. The small, lighted runway was a strip carved into the forest and could be seen only from the air. The compound hunkered nearby, silent and dark, shielded by the thick cover of trees. Jaxon had always thought of this place as magical, mysterious, and more than a little dangerous. A line from a movie frequently popped into his head whenever he came home: The Alpha Pack headquarters could be found only by those who already knew where it was.
And his team made up the warriors enslaved to serve it for eternity.
Putting aside fanciful ideas about doomed pirates and bespelled ships, he grabbed his bag. The second Aric pulled the plane to a stop inside the hangar, Jaxon jumped out, careful to put his weight on his good leg, and offered Kira a hand before anyone else had the chance. As she placed her smaller hand in his, he caught a knowing smirk from Zander and chose to ignore it.
“Now what?” Kira asked, glancing around the vast space. Unlike their hangar outside Las Vegas, this one housed not only the jet, but a big military-style helicopter and a variety of vehicles—all armed to the teeth.
“Now we get you settled into a room, and we’re all going to get some sleep. Everything will be better in the morning after some rest, lots of coffee, and breakfast.”
She shot him a dubious look. “Sure. Nothing like a plate of scrambled eggs to make me forget that I’m homeless, jobless, and on Dr. Jekyll’s hit list. Not to mention that I’m feeling a lot like Red Riding Hood realizing that grandma’s nose is just a bit bigger and hairier than it should be.”
The young woman shrugged and crossed her arms. He couldn’t help but notice the nice things the action did to the pert breasts pushing against her blouse. “If the muzzle fits. You can hardly blame me for being . . . hell, I don’t even know the right word.”
“Scared? Out of sorts?”
“To put it mildly.” She sighed. “I doubt I’ll sleep much, but I suppose I should try.”
Jaxon could think of one foolproof way to make certain both of them slept like babies. His cock twitched in agreement and he shook himself out of his dirty thoughts. The last thing either of them needed was a messy complication. Even if she was willing. Which she wouldn’t be, if she knew what was good for her.
“Come on, I’ll show you where our quarters are located.”
If she noticed his now-pronounced limp, she didn’t mention it as she fell into step beside him. The others had gone ahead and disappeared one by one through the door at the back that connected the hangar to the corridor leading to the main building of the compound. When they reached the entrance, Jaxon held the door open and ushered her inside.
“Wow, this is nicer than I imagined,” she said, gesturing to the decor. The hallway was done in dark green carpet, the textured walls painted a warm beige. Tasteful sconces were placed at intervals, the bulbs just bright enough to allow them to see, but not so bright as to glare.
“You were expecting sterile hospital white walls and ugly industrial tile?”
“You called it a compound, not the Hilton.”
“True. But we have to live here, so there’s no reason for the place to look stark and gloomy. Besides, there are several women on staff who enjoy sprucing up the common areas whenever Nick allots them more money. They wouldn’t let us guys get away with plain and ugly even if we wanted to.”
“Our boss,” he reminded her.
“Oh, right. When will I get to meet him?”
Raised voices ahead—one in particular a deep rumble above the rest—answered the question sooner than he would’ve preferred. “Shit.”
“Guess that answers my question.”
The trepidation on Kira’s pale face made him want to growl at whoever came too close, including Nick. As they reached the end of the corridor and entered the recreation room, Jaxon saw that the head Alpha wolf had met their group and was grilling them intently. He did not appear to be thrilled by what he was hearing as Zander tried to explain why they’d returned mere hours after they’d left.
“We had no choice, Nick. These two assholes were attacking the woman, and Jax had to step in.”
The older man’s mouth pressed into a thin line. “Fine. And you all had to bring her here, why?”
Wasn’t this going to be fun? Jaxon stepped up, angling his body so he was mostly between her and the semicircle of men. “The men had guns, and I had to shift in order to take them down. She saw the whole thing.”
Nick’s stormy blue gaze stabbed him like twin daggers. “Let me get this straight. You let your wolf out in fucking downtown Las Vegas, killed two men, and brought home their intended victim who witnessed the entire fucking episode. That about it?”
“Yes. I wouldn’t do anything different, and I don’t believe you would have, either. They were going to murder her, and I had about two seconds to decide.” He stood unflinching in the face of the man’s formidable anger. His actions had been the right course and he wouldn’t apologize, nor would Nick respect him for doing so.
They stood regarding each other for several long moments. His three friends moved slightly toward Jaxon in unspoken support of what he’d done, even Aric. It was a gesture not to be taken lightly. Jaxon had broken a hardand-fast rule by bringing a civilian into their world, a world precious few could comprehend—or could be trusted to keep quiet about once they knew.
Nick’s stance relaxed, just a little. “No other witnesses?”
“No. We would’ve scented them.”
Their leader studied each of them at length before his expression finally softened, replaced by weary resignation. “All right. Jax, I want to speak with you and our guest in my office. Now.”
After he turned and strode off, Ryon muttered, “Well, at least he’s not going to rip your throat out.”
Jaxon managed a small smile. “Yet.”
“Good luck, bro,” Zan said, wincing in sympathy. The others chimed an agreement, and they took turns butting knuckles with Jaxon before wandering to their own quarters.
Beside him, Kira watched them go, unconsciously biting her lower lip. In his opinion, she’d held up pretty well in spite of everything, resorting to humor-tinged sarcasm when she was afraid or feeling unsure instead of going off the deep end like many would have. Even so, she was quickly reaching the end of her rope for tonight.
“Come on,” he said, placing a palm on her lower back to gently guide her forward. “It won’t take him long to grill us and lay down the law. Then we can hit the sack.”
She was silent for a few moments as they walked. When she spoke, her voice was tired. “I don’t have anything to wear. All my stuff is at my apartment in Vegas.”
“I’ll loan you a T-shirt to sleep in tonight. In the morning, I’ll borrow some clothes from one of the ladies until we’re able to replace your things.”
“Thank you.” She paused. “I gather that sending someone to pack my belongings is out of the question.”
Looking down at her, he nodded. “Too dangerous, at least right now, and the risk of leading more of your pursuers here is too great. You don’t have any pets, do you?”
“Unfortunately, no. I like dogs and cats, but I’m not home enough to have one. It wouldn’t be fair to leave it alone so much.”
Admirable, and advantageous. He would’ve gone after her beloved pet, but was glad they had one less worry. Another thought occurred to him. “Is there any evidence you might’ve left behind that could clue in whoever’s after you as to how much you know?”
“No. To tell you the truth I don’t know anything, but I never put my suspicions in writing. My laptop is at home, but I never dared to use it to research gene splicing. Instead I accessed different ones in the common areas at work, where it would be hard to prove who was online.”
“Whoa, hold up.” Halting outside Nick’s office, he frowned at her. “Gene splicing? NewLife does medical research, right?”
“Then what’s so unusual about genetic testing, or whatever?”
“It wouldn’t be remarkable, except—”
Nick interrupted. “Why don’t you both come in and we’ll get the answers we need?” He turned, expecting them to follow.
Jaxon steered her inside, shutting the door behind them. They seated themselves in a couple of chairs in front of Nick’s desk, while the man himself parked his rear on the edge of the desk and folded his arms. Gripping the armrests, Kira spoke first, eyeing his boss nervously.
“There aren’t many answers I can give you, beyond how I met your men and was lucky enough to be rescued by Jaxon.”
If Nick was surprised by her use of Jax’s first name, he gave no indication. His manner was as direct as always, though his tone was kind and patient as he began the interview. Nick might be one tough son of a bitch, but Jaxon had never seen him treat a woman with anything but courtesy. Unless she deserved to be treated otherwise.
“You’re Kira Locke,” he stated, startling her.
“Y-yes . . . But how did you know my name?”
“Quite simply? I’m a PreCog. I sometimes ‘know’ things or ‘see’ events before they happen. Earlier, I had a vision that my men would return early and bring you with them. But I couldn’t see the reason, which is what I was asking the others about when you and Jax walked up.”
Poor thing was stunned. She stared at Nick, mouth hanging open. Jaxon and everyone at the Institute who was involved with the Alpha Project had years to come to grips with the often terrible reality that not everything that went bump in the night was the wind. Kira’s learning curve was going to have to be a lot quicker.
Jaxon laid a hand over hers, rubbing the soft skin on the back with his thumb, trying to comfort the anxiety he could scent coming from her in waves. She glanced at him in surprise but didn’t pull away. Heat seared his hand, spread through his fingers, his limbs. Shot to his groin. He had to let go or embarrass himself in front of her and his boss. Withdrawing, he forced himself to concentrate on putting her at ease.
“We all have special abilities, which you know. You’ve seen some of them, and it’s going to take some adjustment for you to fully accept. But right now, what’s important is telling Nick what led you to us.”
“Okay. This is going to sound nuts.” Realizing the irony, she laughed. Then she licked her lips and took a breath, obviously trying to regroup. “Until tonight, I was a lab assistant at NewLife Technology. They’re worldrenowned in the medical field for making strides in treating cancer, AIDS, and just about any illness or disease you can think of.”
“I’ve heard of NewLife, and they’ve made some excellent strides,” Nick said. “Go on.”
“A few months ago, I began to notice some unusual happenings. The doctor I work under, Gene Bowman, started staying late and sending everyone else home, including me. That was remarkable enough because the man’s a dictator when it comes to all of us putting in extra hours. Not necessarily due to his dedication to finding a cure for whatever we’re researching, but because he doesn’t believe in doing the grunt work for himself when he’s got the rest of us being paid to do it.”
“So you became suspicious of his project?”
“More like curious, at first. Then I found out from some of the other techs that Dr. Bowman wasn’t working alone. Another doc was working with him, behind securely closed doors, and his assistants were being sent home, too.”
“Who’s the second doctor?” Nick asked.
“Ivan Rhodes. He’s a few years younger than Bowman, but they’re both brilliant. They’re also very subtle about reminding the peons just how great they think they are.” Her nose wrinkled as though she’d bitten into a lemon.
Jaxon began to form a profile. “Passive-aggressive types?”
“Exactly. The kind who’ll say something with a smile, and you nod, thinking, Did he just insult me? They’re pros at twisting their words, or yours, especially if it will take you down a peg or two.” She shrugged. “I could’ve found another job in the field a long time ago, but the odds of finding a doctor to work for who doesn’t have an ego? Good luck with that.”
Nick stood and went around his desk, taking a seat in his chair. “That’s interesting, but a couple of stuffed-shirt doctors working late, especially when searching for a cure for any number of diseases, isn’t exactly alarming. What changed?”
“You’re right, and I probably would’ve dismissed it altogether if the two of them hadn’t started acting strange. To me, anyway. I mean, these guys weren’t really buddies, but all of a sudden they were whispering in corners, acting excited about something. A couple of times they seemed to have a difference of opinion that got kind of heated. I heard Orson Chappell’s name once, and Bowman said something about a meeting with him and the board members.”