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She flipped her hair over her shoulder in a haughty way. “I’m sick of their rules. I just want to have a good time.”

He laughed under his breath before taking a swig of his beer. For the next hour they flirted not so subtly until Fletcher stood and made an excuse about using the restroom. The second he slid off his stool, the cop did the same.

Pretending to be oblivious, she did as Jayce had taught her and focused solely on Fletcher’s voice. If she could focus, she’d be able to decipher his voice from the rest of the noise surrounding her.

It sounded as if they were speaking from a tunnel or were surrounded by water, but she could still hear Fletcher’s conversation through the fuzziness.

“What the hell are you doing, flirting with that shifter? We’re supposed to be picking out the targets,” the cop hissed.

“I’m doing it because of who she is. Everyone knows she was Jayce Kazan’s female for a while.”

“Tell me something I don’t know. Saw them at the station together earlier.” There was a touch of fear in the cop’s voice.

“His scent is on her, so they’re sleeping together but they’re not mated.”

“Then what the hell are you doing? We can’t draw any attention from someone like him. Not yet.”

“I know you fuckers want to bring a media shit storm to Fontana and I want my mate back. I can help you do that a hell of a lot faster than you’d planned but only if you promise to bring my mate to me and let us go. Tonight.”

Unfortunately Ryan hadn’t been able to figure out where Fletcher’s mate was being held, though he’d tried using the cop’s phone records. Kat took a sip of her beer and glanced around the bar while still listening intently.

The cop laughed, the sound harsh. “How do you plan on doing that?”

“Shifters like the enforcer are territorial, especially since he’s sleeping with that woman. She’s been newly turned so she’s not at full strength. She won’t be hard to subdue. Do you have silver handcuffs?”

A snort. “Of course.”

“All you have to do is snap those on her and kidnap her and contact the enforcer. He’ll come running. You want the town enraged because of the crimes I’m committing, but what if you get the enforcer to commit a crime and catch him on video? I’m small potatoes, but the enforcer . . .”

A long beat of silence followed. Then, “Get the woman to leave the bar with you. You do that, we’ll talk about releasing your mate.”

“No more talking. You’ll do it,” Fletcher demanded.

“Fine, fine, you’ll see her tonight. Go back to the bar and lure the woman out back.” The cop’s voice was clipped.

“What are you going to do?”

“I need to make a phone call first.”

“Fine,” Fletcher said, and then she heard the sound of a door opening and closing.

Seconds later, Fletcher emerged alone and sat next to her. “You get all that?”

“Yep. I want to hear what he has to say and then we’ll leave together,” she said, a grin plastered on her face as she pretended to be engrossed in the beta sitting next to her. If anyone was watching, which she doubted, they needed to see her playing her part.

Kat listened as the cop called someone and told them there had been a change of plans. Since he was still in the restroom, she could just barely hear him. He told whomever he was talking to that they needed to knock out or injure some of their members—APL members, she guessed—and lock them up because he had a surprise for tonight. Then he made another call and told someone to get to the warehouse. Well, that was interesting.

Kat hadn’t expected that. Looked like there might be a slight change in the original plan. As it was, they wanted a confession from the dirty cop on what he’d been making the beta do, but this could be even better than they’d planned.

“There might be a change in plans. Just go with it,” she murmured low enough that only Fletcher and those on the other side of her listening device could hear as she pretended to stumble outside with Fletcher.

Kat had thought that she wanted to bring down the APL more than anything, but the longer she’d talked with Fletcher, the more she realized how depressed the beta was. The scent clung to him like a second skin and all she wanted to do was reunite him with his mate. What he’d done was incredibly wrong, but she couldn’t lie and say she didn’t understand. If someone took Jayce, there wasn’t a lot she wouldn’t do to get him back.

As she and Fletcher walked, she said a silent prayer that Jayce didn’t lose his temper and do something that could ruin this entire operation.

Chapter 18

Fletcher’s body was pressed against the length of Kat’s as he nuzzled her neck. She tried to keep her body pliant, to pretend she was enjoying it, but it was hard.

Judging from how tense the beta was, he wasn’t having a good time either. “Your mate is so going to kill me,” Fletcher murmured.

The statement made her laugh, which slightly eased her body. They were near an SUV behind the bowling alley, just waiting for the cop to arrive.

At the same time she heard footsteps around the side of the building, she scented the cop. “Punch me,” she whispered.

Fletcher pulled back, his entire body taut. “Do you want the enforcer to kill me?”

She pressed her forehead to his. “Do it and make sure the cop sees you do it.” Her words were barely above a whisper, too low for human ears. Anyone watching would have thought they were just two lovers embracing one another.

The footsteps were getting closer.

Her heart rate increased. They had only a few precious moments to pull this off.

Smiling seductively at Fletcher, she said, “So when can we get out of here and go back to your place?”

His fist came from the left, slamming into her jaw, but she knew it wasn’t as hard as he could have hit her. With a cry of alarm, she let her arms flail as she fell against the vehicle and then collapsed onto the concrete.

Dirt and wet pavement met her face. Gross.

“I wasn’t sure this would work,” the cop murmured as he came up on them. “You sure she’s out?”

“How can you not know new shifters are so weak?” Fletcher said with an incredulity that even Kat believed. Guy was a damn fine actor. “Slap your cuffs on her.”

Kat resisted the urge to wince as the cop yanked her arms behind her back and put on the handcuffs. For one terrifying moment she was back in that barn, being strung up, helpless, with no escape. The world began to spin as their muted voices hummed around her. She couldn’t think straight—but then she remembered that Jayce was out there, listening, waiting to help. Keeping her eyes closed, she remained a limp deadweight while the cop patted her down, likely searching for weapons. He was quick and professional before hefting her up and dumping her in the back of the SUV.

“Bitch is a lot heavier than she looks,” he said before slamming the door shut.

Kat wanted to growl, but refrained. Hurting this guy would be no problem.

She felt a little bad for Fletcher. He hadn’t wanted to punch her. She’d seen the indecision and agony in his eyes, but thankfully he’d done it. As a shifter she’d learned to channel her pain in a way that she would never have been able to do as a human. It wasn’t as if she’d enjoyed the punch, but after the past couple of months, there wasn’t much that could faze her anymore. Now, she felt only a dull throb as a remnant of the blow Fletcher had inflicted.

Thankfully these bigoted APL members were in the dark about certain shifter practices. That was how she’d come up with this plan in the cop’s basement. She’d figured that the general public knew even less than she herself did about shifters. Hell, even now that she was a shifter she was still learning things. Granted, that was mostly her fault for not embracing her pack—and pack life—more, but the fact remained that the world at large didn’t know much about shifters, and they were going to capitalize on that ignorance tonight.

This cop thought that because she was newly turned she was weak and the perfect bait for Jayce. As they hit a bump in the road, she rolled and her head hit the back of the middle seat. She barely refrained from crying out. Not from pain, but shock. She bit the inside of her lip. She needed to watch her natural reactions.

Talk, talk! she screamed to Fletcher in her mind. They needed to get the cop on tape for the authorities. Sure, she’d heard them talking in the bathroom, but that was thanks to her shifter senses. There was no way the recorder had picked up their conversation.

“When do I get to see my mate?” Fletcher asked, breaking the silence.

“Soon.” The cop.

“Not soon. Now that you have Kat Saburova you don’t need me anymore. The enforcer will do anything you want.”

“That’s the plan,” the cop muttered.

Kat quietly rolled her body so that she was more on her back than her side. She wanted to make sure the recorder picked up the entire conversation. The handcuffs digging into her wrists were an annoyance. Even though she could easily break them, she’d had a moment of panic simply at the feeling of being restrained—until she reminded herself that she wasn’t the same woman she’d been a month ago. Never again would anyone restrain or torture her. She’d been training and could defend herself. And if that failed, she knew the cavalry was out there listening to every word. Jayce would never allow her to get hurt. Or he would die trying to stop her pain. Of that she had no doubt. She was actually surprised that he’d allowed her to become bait tonight—though she had an idea why he’d agreed to the plan.

He wanted her to be in control of her life and instrumental in bringing down the APL. He hadn’t said the words, but she’d sensed that he understood her need for vengeance.

“What exactly are you going to do with her?” Fletcher asked.

“When did you get so fucking chatty?”

She heard the sound of materials rubbing together. Fletcher probably shrugged against the seat. “If you’re going to abuse her, I’m not letting you take her.”