Now that he was shifted, that euphoric sensation from earlier was completely gone. His wolf was ready to fight. Liam glanced at Jayce, who’d stripped off his jacket and unleashed his blades. He held one in each hand. They gleamed in the sunlight.

For a moment Liam wondered why he hadn’t shifted, but then he remembered that enforcers preferred to fight in their human form. They were faster and deadlier that way.

Jayce nodded at him and they headed deeper into the woods. The Fianna weren’t hard to track now that he was in his wolf form. There were two of them if he scented correctly. The distinctive fresh-rain scent of the fae was unique to their kind.

“Go for their throats. They have the same weaknesses as us,” Jayce murmured as they continued stalking over snow and dried, dead underbrush.

Yeah, Liam already knew that. Regular fae had killed his pack a hundred years ago in a battle for land. Killing them would be no sweat. Liam’s paws barely felt the cold underneath him. His entire body was primed to attack. The blood running through him was hot and fiery. As the trees grew thicker, he spotted two very tall men. They were dressed in all black, were lean, and each wielded a short sword. One had long blond hair, the other red, but other than that, they looked like brothers.

Liam silently advanced on the blond. Whatever the two warriors had done to him earlier, it had worn off and now he was just pissed.

He reined in the impulse to spring. Losing control was something he rarely did. Except around December of course.

“We just want to talk,” the redhead said while gripping his sword tightly.

He spoke the same time the blond wielded his sword in Liam’s direction. Talk? I don’t fucking think so. Liam lunged for the blond’s legs, careful to avoid the sword slicing through the air toward his neck. He rammed into his shin but didn’t take the warrior down.

He wanted to knock this guy off balance. Liam rolled onto the ground and jumped back to his feet. In his peripheral vision he watched Jayce fighting the redhead. The sounds of their blades clashing against each other rang out through the air like a violent song.

Liam bared his teeth but was careful to keep his neck protected as he began to circle the tall warrior. The man handled his blade with ease, but Liam noticed he favored his left hand.

He started to circle the man faster, hoping to wear him down and maybe trip him up. The faster he went, the more the man’s annoyance grew. And the tighter Liam enclosed his circle. When he saw an opening, he lunged at him. Using all the strength of his hind legs, he hurtled himself through the air, full force, and slammed against the fae warrior’s chest.

The blond cried out but didn’t let go of his sword. Liam felt the blade dig into his side. Not deep, but enough to piss him off and make his vision blur for an instant. The ache was excruciating as it ripped through skin and muscle. Instead of moving away, Liam grabbed on to the sword-wielding arm with his teeth and ripped through the man’s tendons and muscles.

The warrior cried out again, though it was more of a guttural growl, and he dropped the sword.

“Son of a bitch,” he shouted.

Bleeding and snarling, Liam backed off but only because the warrior had dropped his weapon. Taking the life of another supernatural being could have dire consequences. If he could avoid the bloodshed, he would. Not that he’d sacrifice himself for this asshole. Especially not since he was fae.

Keeping half his attention on the blond, he glanced at Jayce.

Jayce had his two blades crisscrossed against the redhead’s neck, ready to lop his head off in a second. Unfortunately for him, the redhead had his own sword stuck directly against Jayce’s chest, right over his heart. Neither man moved.

“I’ll drop mine if you drop yours,” the redhead said.

Jayce looked at Liam and nodded slightly. He slowly withdrew one of his blades as the other man did the same. Once the Fianna warrior had completely removed his weapon, Jayce sheathed both his.

The blond dusted himself off and stood. He glared at Liam. “Stupid mutt.”

Liam took a menacing step toward him.

“Enough!” The redhead sliced a hard look at the blond. Clearing his throat, he looked back and forth between Jayce and Liam. He placed a hand on his chest. “I’m Rory. This is my brother Eoghan. We’re—”

“Fianna warriors.” Jayce’s voice was dry.

Rory nodded. “We just want to talk.”

Jayce’s eyes narrowed. “You have a hell of a way of showing it.”

“I apologize for our tactics. We needed to talk to you privately.” The redhead kept his attention on Jayce.

“About what?”

“One of our…warriors is missing.”

Jayce frowned. “And that’s our problem why?”

“We were able to infiltrate the local APL group in Fontana but lost contact recently. This group—no matter how insignificant—is everyone’s problem. They have been making plans to expand to our shores of Ireland.”

Jayce nodded and Liam growled his agreement. Even though the APL were humans and their ability to hurt them one-on-one was small, if they were allowed to keep gaining followers and spread their hate, it could be a problem for every supernatural being.

“So why not contact us like a normal…person?” Jayce asked.

“You never know who’s watching and we don’t want our presence in Fontana known.”

Jayce shrugged, seemingly content with the answer. Then he rattled off a phone number. “That’s my cell. Think you can remember it?”

Rory’s dark eyes slightly narrowed, but he nodded.

“Good. Next time call me if you need something.”

“So you haven’t heard anything about a Fianna warrior going missing around these parts?”

Jayce shook his head. “No, but there’s been a decent amount of movement from the APL around here lately. Attacks against humans.”

“Why would they bother with their own kind?”

“They’re targeting humans known to have affiliation with shifters.”

“You associate with humans?” This time the blond, Eoghan, spoke. His voice dripped with disdain.

Liam bared his teeth as a low growl started in his throat. He really didn’t like this guy and he better not see him in town near December.

The blond’s gaze quickly snapped back toward him. He held up a hand in defense. “I meant no offense by it.”

“We’ll keep an ear to the ground.” Jayce looked at Liam and nodded back toward the way they’d entered the woods.

Without turning his back to the two warriors, Liam slowly crept backward. His blood trail thinned the farther he walked. His body was already healing, but he still ached. Once they were out of sight and near the truck, he shifted form. The change was quicker this time as his bones quickly realigned and slid back into place. He was also a hell of a lot colder.

The icy wind bit into him bone deep without his fur or clothes as protection. He might have a naturally higher body temperature than humans, but the winter had turned chilling in the past week. And he’d lost blood. Not a lot, but his wound was still gaping and crimson spilled down his side, pooling onto the snow and dirt. At least he’d been stabbed below his ribs. He groaned as they reached the truck.

Jayce waited while he grabbed his duffel bag from the extended cab. As a shifter, Liam always carried an extra set of clothes.

“You need help bandaging that?” Jayce asked.

Liam snorted. He’d done this more times than he could count and he was sure Jayce had too. “No thanks.”

Jayce was silent as Liam cleaned off his wound and quickly covered it with a bandage. Then he managed to wrap gauze around his waist a couple times to secure it. By dinner he’d be healed, but since he’d been cut with a fae’s blade, it would take longer than normal. Once he was finished, he put on a fresh set of clothes. “You think the APL figured out who their spy is?” Liam asked as he slid on his boots.

Jayce shrugged, his expression devoid of emotion. “I doubt it. The Fianna are trained well and master chameleons when they want to be. I think they might have been trying to see how much we knew.”

“Hell of a way to ask.” Liam’s shoulders were tense as he pulled back onto the highway. His truck was magically working again. Not that he cared much about his vehicle. All he wanted to do was see December again. The need to claim her was growing stronger. Almost overwhelming. He wasn’t sure if it was because she was actively resisting him or because he’d finally tasted her last night. Now he knew what he’d been missing and he wanted more of it.

Parker slipped on a pair of latex gloves as he entered the morgue. It was one of the last places he wanted to be, but after the morning he’d had, it was unfortunately necessary.

Bonnie lifted her gaze from the dead body on the metal table. “Hey, Sheriff. I was just going to call you.”

Under the harsh lights the body looked somehow worse than it had when they’d found it at the gas station. He knew the victim was male, but there hadn’t been any identification on him, so he’d run his prints through AFIS. He’d struck gold with a name.

Tony Mayfield.

The guy had a short rap sheet but he was a violent criminal. Assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated sexual assault, as well as a few petty crimes. This guy was a Grade A loser, but Parker still had to investigate his death. “You know the time of death?”

She shrugged. “About twelve hours ago. Give or take.”

“Find anything interesting?”

The petite blond medical examiner nodded. “I know what you were worried about earlier, but this wasn’t a shifter attack.”

He let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding on to. He might not trust most shifters, but he didn’t want to deal with the fallout from having a shifter attack a human. Humans had been living in harmony with the Cordona pack for decades, and after the Cordonas had assimilated into the Armstrong-Cordona pack about a month ago, he knew a lot of people in town were worried about newcomers. Especially male newcomers. “So what happened to him?”