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A slight shuffle by the door had him swiveling and ready to throw the blood-soaked blade, but he stopped at the sight of Connor. Jayce knew the Alpha was powerful but the fact that he’d masked his scent said a lot.

Connor’s eyes narrowed at the struggling, practically crying man Jayce held up by the front of his shirt, before glaring at the few vials of blood that hadn’t been shattered in the struggle. “I’ll collect these while you question that garbage.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Jayce watched while Connor packed the remaining vials of blood into a small case. Then he shut down the computer and put it into a duffel bag—loaded with money—that he’d pulled out from under the cot.

“We’re taking everything you’ve got here today, Donny.”

The man’s blue eyes widened in fear.

“Are you really surprised I know your name?”

Swallowing hard, he shook his head. “What do you want, man?” he rasped.

“Names and information. If you give it to me, I won’t kill you.”

The stench of fear rolling off him was putrid and pathetic. “How do I know you won’t anyway?”

“You don’t. But if you make me torture you to get what I want”—Jayce trailed his blade along the guy’s throat and settled on his pulse point—“I guarantee you’ll wish you were dead.” He kept his voice light because it was a simple fact, and if he went into detail about exactly what he’d do, the guy would be too scared to talk. When he didn’t respond, Jayce pressed the blade against his throat a fraction harder. “Any of your guys taking vamp blood?”

Those blue eyes flicked to the right, where one of the guys had fallen, then back to Jayce. He shook his head and the stench of his lie pushed through the other smells.

Without warning Jayce dropped him and strode to the blond-haired man Donny had looked at. In a quick move, he slammed his blade into the guy’s chest, puncturing his heart. Seconds later, the guy disintegrated, leaving behind clothes, shoes, a wallet, and nothing more.

Jayce scented the acrid stench of urine. Donny would definitely talk now.

And he did. After ten minutes Jayce and Connor had everything they needed. Not much and definitely not what Jayce had been hoping for. Just the name of a dealer in Winston-Salem where Donny bought his supply and the names of a few other dealers that guy also sold to. Donny’s competition. When it got to that part, Donny had no problem giving up information.

While Jayce had been questioning Donny, Connor had cleaned out the entire room—with the exception of the cocaine and weed stash—restrained the other men with ties, and done a sweep of the rest of the warehouse. Having backup wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

“So, what happens now?” Donny asked as he pressed his hand to his other arm, trying to stop the bleeding.

“You call the cops and turn yourself in for dealing drugs. And if you bring up that you saw either of us here today, you’re dead.”

“No fucking way! I’m not—”

“Do it or I burn this warehouse down with you and your buddies still in it. If you somehow manage to escape I’ll be waiting outside to finish you off. Do your time like a fucking man or die. You choose.”

Nodding, Donny sniffled and pulled a cell from his pocket. Once he’d made the call, Jayce and Connor headed out, but Jayce paused at the door. “You try to run out before the cops get here . . .” He bared his canines and took pleasure when the other man paled. He might not have known what Jayce was before then, but he had an idea now.

Once they were in the truck Connor finally spoke. “I’ll have Ryan check tonight to make sure they’ve all been arrested. Though I wonder how they’re going to explain the dead guy in the entryway.”

Jayce shrugged. “Who cares as long as they leave us out of it? What are you going to do with that money?”

Connor’s answer was immediate. “Give it to the literacy center Kat and December volunteer at.”

“Good.” Jayce nodded as his thoughts centered on everything Donny had just told them. He wouldn’t head to Winston-Salem tonight or probably even this week, but now he had a place to start. Once he gained enough intel on whom he was hunting, he’d go after them hard and fast. He might even involve his friend Niko. Just depended on who the main provider was.

As they pulled onto the highway Connor shot him a sharp look. “Ana just contacted me—telepathically. We’ve got company at the ranch.”

His whole body tensed as thoughts of Kat being unprotected assaulted his mind. He’d left her in capable hands, but maybe he shouldn’t have left her at all. “Who?”

“Erin and Kat ran into a teenage girl in town. A lupine shifter who wants to be an enforcer.”

Jayce’s eyebrows rose at that. “What?”

Connor just tapped his head. “That’s all I know. Guess we’ll find out more when we get back.”

Jayce allowed a small measure of relief to slide through him. As long as Kat wasn’t hurt, he could allow himself to relax for the rest of the ride.

Chapter 10

Kat sat on the edge of the love seat in Connor and Ana’s living room. Well, Noel, Erin, and Vivian lived in the house too, but she still thought of it as the Alpha couple’s place. It amazed her that the Alpha of this pack—her pack, she reminded herself—lived with so many females. For some reason it struck her as funny.

Next to her Leila had her legs crossed, her arms folded over her chest, and a scowl on her face. But the subtle trace of nervousness trickled off her every so often.

Kat might have had a father with an awful profession but at least she hadn’t been alone. To be sixteen—or Kat guessed that’s how young Leila was—and alone was a scary prospect.

Erin sat on the longer couch across from them, next to Ana. Both were silent. Ana had tried asking Leila a few questions but the girl had clammed up. Kat had a feeling it was because of all the shifters in the room. She was probably more scared than she was letting on. It wasn’t exactly a tense atmosphere, just incredibly awkward. Since Kat hadn’t spent much time at the ranch and barely knew anyone herself, she totally felt Leila’s pain.

At the sound of the door slamming, Kat cringed and turned toward the entryway. Vivian and Lucas and their teacher, Esperanze, walked in.

Vivian’s eyes widened as she looked at Leila. “Cool hair! Ana, can I do my hair like that?” Her little head swiveled in Ana’s direction, but before Ana could answer Vivian bounded up to the young girl, oblivious to the defensive vibes Leila was putting out. “Is that dye? How’d you get the purple to stay so bright?”

“They’re clip-in pieces,” Leila murmured, the tight grip she had around herself loosening.

“Well, I really like them.” Vivian beamed in that absolutely adorable way she always did and it was apparent she’d put the girl at ease.

“I have more, so . . . if you want to try these out, you can.” She unfastened a couple of the pieces and handed them to Vivian.

“Thank you!” The she-cat snapped them up, but then looked at Ana questioningly.

With pursed lips Ana nodded. “Why don’t you go upstairs and try them out?”

After thanking Leila again, Vivian ran out and Lucas trailed after her, both of them stomping up the stairs. But Esperanze still stood there, looking slightly uncomfortable. Ana motioned for her cousin to sit, but the petite woman shook her head. So Ana stood and covered the distance between them.

Esperanze’s voice was soft as they walked out of the room together. The conversation drifted off and silence once again reigned in the small room. As Kat tried to think of another question that might put Leila at ease, the door opened and Jayce’s distinctive scent teased her. Instantly her lower abdomen tightened with unwanted need.

Next to her Leila straightened and scooted a couple inches closer as Jayce and Connor entered the room.

Connor walked in ahead of Jayce and headed directly to them. “I take it you’re Leila?”

The young girl nodded and stood, smoothing her skirt nervously. “I know I should have contacted you before entering your territory and I’m sorry I didn’t.”

“Why didn’t you?” He motioned for her to sit back down as he took a seat next to Erin.

Kat noticed that Jayce didn’t move from the doorway; he just stood there, staring right at her and making every nerve ending she had flare to life. When Leila spoke again, she managed to tune out his presence. Sort of.

The girl shrugged. “I was scared you wouldn’t let me enter and when I found out the enforcer”—she shot a nervous glance at Jayce—“was here, I just drove.”

“What happened to your parents?” Connor’s voice was so soft, so soothing that Kat was surprised it had come from the big shifter.

Leila scooted another inch closer to Kat, who had to refrain from putting an arm around her. She didn’t want to scare the girl more.

“Killed by vampires,” Leila answered, her voice a broken whisper.

Connor sucked in a breath and his gaze darkened. “You’re sure?”

A jerky nod from Leila.

“Did you tell the Council?”

Another nod.

Connor looked sharply at Jayce, who held up his hands. “I never heard anything about this.”

Leila jumped in. “They said to contact the local police, but they’d already closed the investigation, saying it was a home robbery gone wrong.”

“Why would they do that?” Connor asked.

“My family was packless, so we had no one to turn to when a couple vamps tried to extort money from my parents. They called it protection money but my parents refused to pay. They owned a deli and I worked there with them after school and—”

Leila’s voice cracked and a tear slipped down her cheek. Screw it, Kat thought. She wrapped an arm around Leila’s shoulders and was surprised when the girl turned her head into Kat’s neck and quietly sobbed. Her thin shoulders shook violently until she finally dragged in a ragged breath and turned back to face the room, just about the time Ana walked back in. The Alpha’s mate took a seat next to Connor as Leila continued.