As he sped away, his cell phone buzzed in his pocket. Keeping an eye on the road, he fished it out. A text from Erin. Kat stopped by ranch, but headed home. Think she’s going out tonight. Thought you’d want 2 know.
Pressing down on the accelerator, Jayce gunned it back to Fontana. Wherever Kat was going tonight, he planned to be there too.
* * *
You are a giant asshole, Kat thought to herself hours later. She was still suffering under the oppressive weight of guilt. She couldn’t believe she’d found that list of names and addresses. It hadn’t been in Liam’s office; it had been in December and Liam’s bedroom—not exactly hidden, but not in plain sight either. And she knew why. Because Liam would never expect anyone on the ranch to steal from him. Shifters all left their doors unlocked. It was just the pack way. Which made Kat feel even scummier for invading their privacy. She hadn’t been able to take it or even make a copy, but she’d taken pictures of the five pages with her cell phone. She wondered why he didn’t have it with him today, but December had said he was out with Brianna, so if the female fae had a copy too, it made sense that he didn’t need his. Whatever the reason, Kat was just grateful she’d gotten access to it. Well, grateful but filled with guilt.
She’d been too nervous to stay in their room more than a minute for fear her friend would catch her. How awful was that? Her face burned with shame. The only thing that managed to keep her from calling December and confessing was the knowledge that she might be able to find some APL bastards soon.
Even though she was now a shifter, she still had her seer abilities and that extended to humans now as well. Being able to see a person’s true face was a gift she’d never balked at and now she was more thankful for it than ever.
One of the addresses she’d found was the name of a bar about an hour from Fontana. She was glad it wasn’t closer to town; right now she just wanted to see what some of these people looked like. Get some names and faces and possibly follow someone back to where he or she lived. She didn’t think she could actually kill someone if she wasn’t provoked, but given her past, she wasn’t even sure about that anymore. The rage inside her was growing every day. It came from a dark place—her inner animal, Aiden had told her—and it wanted out. It wanted blood and that scared the crap out of her human side. But the more she got used to the wolf living inside her, the less and less she wanted to listen to reason.
Like a homing beacon, she felt herself being drawn to this location. According to Liam’s list, APL members congregated at Billy’s, a fairly wild biker bar that she’d heard of but had never known to be a haven for monsters. Since it was Saturday night Kat hoped she’d be able to blend in easily. If it was teeming with people, she figured it wouldn’t be that hard.
As she steered into the parking lot, relief slid through her when she saw it was packed even though it was only nine o’clock. After some searching she found a parking spot. The place wasn’t exactly in the middle of nowhere, but it was about ten minutes from the last gas station she’d passed right off the highway. From the outside it looked like a typical place to party and get rowdy. Country music blasted loud enough to be audible out in the parking lot. A giant neon sign hung outside the two-story building announcing this as BILLY’S PLACE, though the E of the sign flickered on and off.
Looking down at herself, Kat hoped she’d picked the right outfit. Dark jeans and a skintight black leather corset that laced up the back—and gave her a decent amount of cleavage. Over it she wore a fitted leather jacket. With all the leather she figured she’d fit in.
Not bothering with a purse, she’d tucked her cell phone into her jacket pocket and put her money and ID into her back pocket. With a glance in the rearview mirror, she knew she was as ready as she’d ever be.
A surge of adrenaline raced through her as she stepped onto the pavement of the parking lot. Which was stupid. She’d been to bars before—though not by herself and never with the intention of acting like a private investigator.
Shaking off her insecurities, she wove between the cars, the heels of her boots making rhythmic clicks against the pavement. As she neared the front of the bar where a line of motorcycles sat, she froze.
Then gritted her teeth. Jayce leaned against his bike, his muscular arms crossed over his chest as he stared at her. His face was an unreadable mask but she could scent the annoyance from him. Even with all the other smells, the sharp spike in the air hit her nostrils . . . and so did something else.
Something undeniable. It was that dark chocolate smell. Damn it. Lust. Normally she liked her new extrasensory abilities but this was getting to be annoying. She shoved her hands in her jacket pockets as she came to stand in front of him. “You know, you smell.”
He arched an eyebrow and she felt her face flame. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant . . . Never mind. What are you doing here?”
He shrugged and stood. Even though she was five feet eight and was wearing heels, he seemed to tower over her. “Grabbing a beer.”
“Why not find a bar closer to the ranch?”
“I could ask you the same question,” he murmured and took a step closer, bringing him within inches of her.
Crap. This was definitely dangerous territory. Instead of calling him out on following her—because it would only invite questions she didn’t want to answer—she swiveled toward the doors. “Why don’t you grab one with me, then?” Without waiting for a response, she started walking.
Before she’d taken two steps Jayce fell in next to her and put his hand at the small of her back in a proprietary manner. Her first instinct was to shrug it off, but the second they stepped inside, she thought better of it. From the looks of this place, it was more than just “fairly wild.” Using her gift of sight, she could tell there were some hard-core criminals on the left side of the bar by the pool tables. Whether or not they’d actually done jail time she had no clue, but they were bad men. Murderers, thieves, a couple of rapists. She still didn’t understand how she knew what she did about them, but it was as clear in her mind as if they had their crimes tattooed across their foreheads. She sucked in a deep breath as she stared at the dark auras surrounding the four men wearing black jackets, all with matching insignias.
“What is it?” Jayce murmured, his mouth close to her ear.
She hadn’t felt him move until he was right up on her, and even though he knew about her gift, she wasn’t about to tell him what she saw. “Nothing.” Continuing her visual scan, she realized the rest of the place was a bit tamer than she had originally thought. There was a dance floor and what looked like a lot of college-aged kids dancing, drinking, and having a good time. The majority of their auras were very faint oranges and purples. Lusty people with a lot of energy and vitality. Yeah, that made sense. A lot of them probably came from the Beech, Fontana, or Sugar Mountain ski resorts. She was still getting used to the fact that she could read humans now instead of just seeing the “faces” of supernatural beings.
Rather than heading toward the main bar by the dance floor, she made a beeline for the smaller bar next to the pool tables. Behind her she heard Jayce curse, but he didn’t miss a beat before falling in line with her. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“This bar is less crowded and I’m thirsty,” she said sweetly as she took a seat at one of the swivel stools.
Instead of sitting, Jayce leaned against the bar next to her so he faced the pool tables. “What made you want to come here anyway?” he asked without looking at her.
“I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun.”
“You know I can smell when you’re lying.” His voice was whisper quiet, but she had no problem hearing him above the din of the packed bar.
“And I can smell when you’re turned on,” she shot back.
His mouth actually quirked up as he turned back to face her. “That seems to be a permanent problem around you.”
She nearly jerked back at the honesty of his statement. Well, damn. For a moment she was speechless until a female bartender wearing tight black leather pants and a shirt that pretty much looked like a bra sauntered up to them. She eyed Jayce with blatant interest, and in addition to scenting the woman’s lust, Kat could actually see the faint purple aura—which made Kat want to growl and let her claws loose—so she turned away and checked out the area by the pool tables again while Jayce ordered them drinks. That was when she realized the insignia on the backs of the four humans’ jackets was lettering. An A was in the middle and it almost looked like an anarchy symbol, but then she realized the slashes were a P and an L. For APL. Her eyes narrowed for an instant before she caught herself. This was definitely the place she’d been looking for.
“Something you find interesting over there?” Once again Jayce’s mouth was so close to her ear he could practically lick it.
And that thought made her want to squirm in her seat. Instead of answering, she crossed her legs and swiveled so that she faced the bar. Just in time for the bartender to set their beers in front of them. Kat paused, digesting the fact that Jayce remembered what she liked. Not that she was really surprised. Nothing got by him.
“Tell me why you’re really here,” Jayce finally said.
“I told you—”
He cut her off by grabbing her seat and swiveling her to face him. His face was inches from hers, his eyes a mercurial storm. Now he wasn’t trying to hide anything from her.
And she realized she didn’t have to hide anything from him. He couldn’t stop her from doing what she wanted. “I heard APL members hung out here,” she said quietly, though the chance of humans’ overhearing them was practically zero.
His gaze hardened. “And just what were you planning on doing to them?”
She shrugged and leaned back in an effort to put some distance between them. “I don’t see how that’s any of your concern.”
A rumbling sound came from deep within his chest. Almost a territorial growl. “Everything you do is my concern.” The look he gave her confused and angered her. He had no right to look at her as if she mattered to him. As if he cared about her. Not when it was obvious he wanted her only as a bed partner, nothing more.