Brianna’s face tilted slightly to the side. “Angelo, he is . . . the pretty shifter?”
Jayce couldn’t help the laughter that escaped. Connor shot him a look that told him he was biting back the same response.
The Alpha cleared his throat. “Uh, pretty?”
She nodded. “The one you are referring to is of Spanish descent, I believe. He has dark skin, dark hair, and bright, exotic green eyes. He reminds me of a pretty feline.”
Jayce forced himself not to laugh again. She was so blunt when she spoke, it was as if she hadn’t spent much time around humans, despite the fact that she’d infiltrated the APL before. “Whatever you do, do not let him hear you compare him to a fucking cat.”
“Or call him pretty,” Connor said before continuing. “Exactly what has the woman you befriended told you?”
“She’s lonely, in need of a friend, and I didn’t have to use much influence to get her to open up except when it came to her husband. He is part of the APL, something she doesn’t agree with. When I used my gift of persuasion, she admitted she heard a phone conversation he had with someone mentioning an attack, but she didn’t hear more than that. Like I said, nothing of importance yet, but I have faith she will be very useful.”
“How are you feeling, physically?” Connor asked.
“I’m fine. Adler,” she said, referring to the radical APL member who had kidnapped Kat and was now dead by Brianna’s own hand, “was a constant drain on my emotional energy. He was a true psychopath in every sense of the word. An anomaly. Keeping a tight rein on his mind was not something I have ever experienced before and is highly unlikely to happen again, if that’s what you are worried about.”
Connor nodded silently.
She continued. “If you’re worried about my ability to protect myself, then please don’t be. My powers are at full capacity and without that steady depletion of my power reserves I will not go into a comalike state again if I have to defend myself. I do not need someone to watch over me.”
Jayce knew the fae warrior could harness energy when she needed to. It came out in the form of an electrical current, like vivid blue lightning, from what he’d heard secondhand. He also knew Connor didn’t give a shit about any of that.
He was proved right by the Alpha’s next words. “Humor me, then. Angelo will be here within the hour. He’s on patrol right now.” Without waiting for a response, he slid his cell phone from the front pocket of his jeans and called Angelo.
Brianna looked at Jayce, as if for support. “This is a waste of resources.”
Jayce shrugged. “Not my territory.”
“But you work for the Council. Can’t you make him—”
He cut her off before she could finish. “I’m here on official business, but this isn’t my land and I have no authority over his decisions.” Technically he could push the subject if Connor was in any way putting shifter and human relations in harm’s way. But he wasn’t. He was simply protecting what he viewed as someone under his purview.
And Jayce respected the hell out of him for it.
Brianna’s lips pulled into a thin line as she stared at him. Her attention diverted to Connor the moment he ended his call. It appeared as if she might say something, but the Alpha cut her off. “You’re free to wait here until Angelo arrives. He’ll be following you, but won’t be interacting with you in public.” Then he turned to Jayce. “I’m ready if you are.”
Jayce nodded. Just because he didn’t need the backup didn’t mean he couldn’t appreciate the company. He’d been living and working by himself for so long it was oddly . . . nice to have someone go with him on a hunt. Someone who didn’t wreak havoc with his hormones every second he spent with her.
There was no doubt in his mind that this was a hunt. Some asshole was providing vamp blood to dealers, APL radicals, and God only knew who else. That shit wasn’t going to last long in this area. Not if he had anything to do about it.
* * *
Fletcher glanced over at the human who was forcing him to do these things. Forcing him to kill for his psychotic cause. The APL was a bunch of bigoted fools who thought shifters and vampires were intent on taking over the world. As if they hadn’t been around long before humans even knew about them.
Why couldn’t they understand that his kind just wanted to live in peace? Just wanted to be left alone. Hell, as a rule shifters and vamps didn’t even care about politics. At least not in the human world. They had their own problems.
But these monsters had found his weakness. Every mated shifter had one, whether they were alpha, beta, or Alpha leader. One simple word explained Fletcher’s weakness.
But there was nothing simple about his need to protect, to defend his sweet, pregnant mate. It didn’t matter that he was one of the weakest of the pack, physically speaking. In his wolf form he was still stronger than most humans. And most humans couldn’t defend themselves against him when he was in his animal form. Right now he had rage burning through him, a need to kill for his mate and their unborn young.
Shifters would give up anything for their mates, even defy their Alpha. As he’d had to do. His leader didn’t know he was currently in Connor Armstrong’s territory, being forced to carry out deeds that made him ill every second of every day.
And he hated it. As a beta his actions went against everything inside him. But he had no choice. These APL monsters held his mate captive somewhere and he had no way of tracking her. Didn’t even know where to start. If he escaped—which wouldn’t be hard—they would kill her instantly and he would never even find her body. Of that he had no doubt.
The blond-haired man next to him—the one wearing a badge and gun against his hip—was restless today. More than that, his captor seemed almost edgy as he slid another cigarette out of his half-empty pack.
The man’s wariness was rubbing off on Fletcher. “What are we doing here?” His captor had told him nothing. He’d just dragged him from his prison in the middle of the day and told him he had work to do. Like this was some fucking job.
Now they sat in his captor’s personal car on the side of a dirt road that led to five ramshackle trailers. The man had pulled into some weeds at least six feet tall, giving them decent enough cover from whatever it was they were hiding from.
“Waiting.” Typical clipped answer.
“For what?” He should probably keep his mouth shut, but it was the middle of the day and he was more than a little curious. Something big had to be going on, though he couldn’t imagine what in this nearly deserted place. The trailers all looked like throwaways. Not to mention the abandoned cars, washing machines, and other crap littering the giant field next to them.
No answer from his captor. He just took a drag on his cigarette and blew out the smoke, filling the interior of the vehicle.
Gritting his teeth, Fletcher rolled down his window. He didn’t like to show this guy any sort of weakness, but the smoke was disgusting.
“What are you doing?” the man snapped.
The man’s jaw clenched, but he didn’t make a move to roll the window back up.
After a few more minutes had crept by, Fletcher was starting to get antsy. He swiveled when he heard a vehicle behind them. He turned and saw nothing, but he could hear it in the distance. Dust rose in the air, leaving a trail as the vehicle drew closer.
The man next to him tensed, causing Fletcher to do the same. Just who were they waiting for?
Another minute later a rusted blue truck drove by, though the driver didn’t even glance in their direction on the west side of the road. The driver moved slowly enough that Fletcher got a decent look at him. Flannel shirt, dirty ball cap, and dirty blond hair that reached his shoulders.
“You’re going to kill him,” the man next to Fletcher said quietly, the edginess rolling off him in pungent waves.
The way his captor was acting today was different than he had acted with the last kill. The last one he’d been calm, sure of himself, and Fletcher knew he’d gotten orders from someone else to do it.
“Why?” He would do it, a fact they both knew, but Fletcher wanted to know why.
“We’ll kill your mate if you don’t,” he said absently as he put his vehicle in gear and pulled back onto the road.
Grinding his teeth at the reminder, Fletcher kept his gaze straight ahead as they steered down the trail where the truck had gone. The dust had settled as his captor pulled up next to the rusted truck. When the man made a move to get out, Fletcher couldn’t hide his surprise. The last time he’d gone into his victim’s house alone, but he didn’t bother with questioning the guy now. Instead he followed suit and slid from the vehicle.
His captor spoke in low tones as they headed for the front door. “This man’s a pedophile. Fucker’s out on parole and he’s just going to keep hurting kids until someone stops him.”
Fletcher let out a growl before he realized it, earning himself a sharp look from the man next to him, as if he was surprised by his reaction. Yes, he hated what he was being forced to do, but he also hated anyone who could hurt a child. His inner beast clawed at the surface as thoughts of protecting his mate and unborn young assaulted him.
When they reached the door, Fletcher was surprised when his captor slammed his booted heel against the door, smashing it open. He withdrew his gun but didn’t make a move to go inside.
There was a shout of alarm from somewhere in the trailer.
“Do it,” the other man ordered, his voice a mixture of anger and possibly relief.
Relief that this guy was going to die? Probably. Fletcher didn’t have the luxury of questioning the other man’s emotions or reasoning behind anything. His inner wolf took over in seconds, the rage flowing through him as he shifted.
When he bounded inside on all fours, his shredded clothes trailing behind him, he was bombarded with a variety of scents, but the pungent stench of fear rose above the mold and days-old food.