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“Did you?”

“No.” She gritted her teeth.

“We know you were turned into a shifter not long ago.”

Her brow furrowed. She hadn’t publicly announced it, but it wasn’t a secret. If this guy actually thought she was capable of what those photos showed, she decided to prove she hadn’t done it. She could hear her father’s voice in her head telling her to get a lawyer, but she squashed it. She’d done nothing wrong. Well, two nights ago she hadn’t. “You want my DNA to prove I didn’t do that?”

The detective leaned back slightly, gauging her. “You’re not required to do that.”

“I know, but if it’ll help eliminate me as a suspect to find whoever did”—she motioned to the now closed envelope—“that, I’m willing to cooperate.” The second the words were out of her mouth, the door opened and Parker walked in.

“Come on, Kat.” Parker motioned with his hand.

Detective Kinsey shook his head and stood. “I can take her—”

“I’ve got her.” Parker’s voice didn’t leave room for argument.

As soon as she was out in the hall with Parker, his face softened. Luckily that muddy blue aura had completely disappeared so maybe he wasn’t worried about her anymore. “I’m sorry I wasn’t in there. Since you’re friends with December, there couldn’t be any appearance of impropriety. As soon as we get your DNA, you can leave. I’m sorry we dragged you down here, but you were on the video surveillance with him at the bar and your prints were in his truck.”

Kat swallowed at the words “video surveillance.” If she was on it, that meant Jayce was likely on it too. Something heavy settled in her stomach. She hoped Jayce hadn’t been behind that awful attack, but if he had been she really hoped the cops didn’t link him to it. Even though she knew he should be punished if he killed that guy, she hated the thought of him being caged. Or worse. She knew a man like Jayce wouldn’t go to jail and the humans wouldn’t let a crime like this go unpunished. And since when had she stopped thinking of herself as human? Her animal side was taking over faster than she’d expected and it scared the crap out of her. Giving herself a mental shake, she smiled politely at Parker as he held a door open for her. “I understand, Parker. You should have just told me what you wanted instead of wasting all this time, though.”

She needed to keep it together while she was here. As soon as they let her go, she had to find Jayce.

* * *

Kat pulled her sunglasses down over her eyes as she exited the police station. She’d called December to ask her for a ride since Parker had driven her to the station. She would have asked him to take her home, but he’d been called away and she wasn’t going to get into a vehicle with that detective even though he’d offered. Not that he put off a bad vibe; she just didn’t like him after that long, tedious interrogation.

As she looked around the parking lot, her stomach clenched when she spotted two very pissed-off-looking shifters headed her way. Connor and Jayce were practically stalking toward her, their boots thumping on the pavement. What was their problem? It wasn’t as if she’d said anything to the cops.

She opened her mouth to ask what was going on, but Connor grasped her elbow firmly. “Come on,” he growled.

Jayce caged her in on the other side as they directed her back to Connor’s truck. She swallowed hard at her Alpha’s tone. Ever since she’d joined his pack he’d been nothing but nice. And he’d saved her life back when she’d been human and two lunatics had kidnapped her with devious purposes. Of course that was before she’d been taken the second time. She owed Connor and she trusted him. Now there was a deadly edge to him that reminded her of Jayce.

“Why are you guys here?” Why did her voice have to shake? She’d done nothing wrong.

Neither responded until they were in the vehicle. She sat in the front seat, Connor in the driver’s seat, and Jayce in the back.

Connor let out a low, annoyed breath. “Why the hell didn’t you call me when you got brought in for questioning?”

She frowned and looked back at Jayce, then Connor. “Why would I have done that?”

“Because I’m your Alpha.” There he went with that growl again.

Oh, crap. Maybe she’d broken a pack law or something. “I didn’t know I was supposed to.”

“It’s not her fault,” Jayce said quietly. “She hasn’t had much education about our ways.”

“And that’s my fault.” Connor’s gaze narrowed on her once again. “You’re moving back to the ranch tonight. I can’t have something like this happening again. You are mine to protect. I know you don’t understand everything about pack laws, but there’s a hierarchy and you’re going to learn it, starting now.”

Fear spiked inside her, sharp and jagged. Its cloying scent nearly suffocated her, but she couldn’t smother it or hide it from them. Her throat closed up impossibly tight as she fought to breathe. She’d had her freedom taken from her a month ago. Living on the ranch wouldn’t exactly be a hardship, but she couldn’t be forced into anything. Especially not when she was still suffering from nightmares. With everyone’s extrasensory abilities, there was no telling who would hear her if she cried at night. There was no way that was happening. It was one thing to wake up crying and sweating and terrified from memories that wouldn’t leave her alone and it was another for others to be aware of her weakness. No, thank you.

Before she could respond, Jayce cut in. “I’ll stay at December’s house with her. I’ll be her shadow and teach her about pack laws. She won’t ever be out of my sight.”

“Like this morning?” Connor diverted his attention to Jayce.

“You know why I was gone this morning,” Jayce snapped.

The testosterone in the air was worse than it had been during her earlier spike of fear. The scent helped her to get herself under control. She cleared her throat. “I don’t need anyone watching over me.”

Connor stared at her hard. “I don’t care what you want or what you think you need. You have two choices. Live at the ranch or have Jayce live with you temporarily. Then once he’s gone, you’ll move to the ranch permanently unless you wish to find another pack.”

Gone? For some reason Kat hadn’t even thought about Jayce leaving. He wasn’t part of Connor’s pack. Kat knew that, but it just hadn’t registered with her that he would be leaving again—probably once they’d gotten rid of the APL faction here. Or at least that was her guess. She still wasn’t completely sure why he was back in Fontana. He was so private about what he did for the Council. And she knew that she wasn’t the sole reason. Or even the reason at all. So why did she feel like he’d be betraying her—abandoning her—when he left? She shouldn’t even care about him after the way he’d lied to her, but deep down she liked his presence in her life. She also hated it. It was a weird dichotomy. Despite their history and Jayce’s tendency to put her on edge while simultaneously pissing her off, she knew he had her back. The thought of him leaving tore a hole inside her gut. “I’m not—”

“Choose.” There was so much raw power in that one word—an order—she understood why Connor was Alpha.

Something bone-deep inside her wanted to hide as she felt his strength ripple over her. “Jayce can stay with me.” The words were out of her mouth before she could stop herself.

Sleeping under the same roof as Jayce would be torturous, but it was better than being cooped up on the ranch and feeling like a prisoner. At least with Jayce she would have some semblance of control over herself and her comings and goings. On the ranch everyone would know her business. That thought made her shudder. With the exception of December, Liam, and Aiden, she hardly knew anyone else. But the pack knew how she’d been found and that she’d been turned because she’d been at death’s door. She didn’t want to be the subject of gossip. What happened to her hadn’t been her fault. She knew that on an intellectual level. But that didn’t make the nightmares any easier and she refused to be around a bunch of strangers who would pity her or look at her differently.

“Fine. What did the cops want with you?” Connor switched topics so smoothly, his demeanor toning down, it surprised her.

She shot Jayce a quick glance before looking at Connor. “They wanted to know my whereabouts two nights ago. I left a bar with this guy, a human, but I never went inside his house.” Feeling almost guilty at the thought of betraying his presence there, she didn’t mention Jayce.

Her Alpha nodded. “I know. Jayce told me.”

Okay, so she had no reason to feel guilty. “Oh. Well, the guy is dead. Ripped apart, actually.” Even remembering what those pictures looked like made her stomach heave. “After hours of going around in circles with their questioning I finally told them I was leaving if they didn’t tell me what they wanted. They thought I was involved with Scott’s—that was his name—murder. So I offered to give them my DNA.”

Both men swore at the same time. Surprised, she looked back and forth between them. “What’s wrong with that? I didn’t do anything to that guy.”

“We don’t ever give our DNA to cops unless they have a court order.” There was no room for argument in Connor’s voice.

“But why not if I’m innocent?”

“Pack law and Council law.” Connor’s jaw clenched tightly. “If you’re ever questioned by the police again, call me or him. He’s the lawyer for the entire pack.” He handed her a white business card with simple black lettering listing a pricey attorney’s name that she recognized. Even her father couldn’t get this guy on retainer.

She didn’t understand Connor’s reasoning, but she didn’t press him further.

“What else did they want to know?” Jayce asked.