Somehow Liam had ruined her for anyone else and they’d never even kissed. She wanted to curse his name for that. December stood, using it as an excuse to take her hand back. “I spoiled our date. At least let me pay for the drinks.”
Mike hadn’t attempted to pull out his wallet, so she figured he didn’t actually mind her paying. The walk to the parking lot was quiet. Politely, he held open the passenger door of his BMW.
As they steered out of the parking lot, the need to apologize again overwhelmed her. She’d never been so rude to a date before. “I know I said it already, but I really am sorry for messing up your evening.”
Without looking at her, he pulled onto the two-lane highway that led back to the small downtown area. His shoulders hitched slightly in a casual shrug. “It’s no problem. That guy obviously upset you.”
She started to relax against the leather seat when he continued.
“I don’t know why you’d expect anything less when you’re associating with animals.” The last word dripped with disdain and there was an unexpected rise in the pitch of his voice.
It took a moment for the significance of his words to register. She’d never said anything about Liam being a shifter. And it wasn’t as if people could tell what they were by simply looking at them. But the way Mike said “animals,” it was obvious he knew what Liam was without a doubt. She frowned at the knowledge. “Excuse me—”
She jerked back toward the door when he suddenly brought his right hand up. She saw the flash of the syringe and reacted. Barely had time to think.
Adrenaline swelled through her as he swung the needle at her shoulder. She used her arm to deflect the blow, her wrist jolting as their forearms collided with a solid thud. He still held the small weapon in his strong grip, but he hadn’t managed to pierce her.
A bolt of terror splintered through her veins as she stared at the needle. She wasn’t sure if it was poison or some sort of sedative, but whatever he planned to do, it wasn’t good. If he knocked her out, he could do whatever he wanted. Take her anywhere. The knowledge sent another jolt of fear spiraling through her. Despite the confines of the car, she turned, pressing her back against the door. Then she lifted her leg and kicked out at him. Her winter boots were thick and sturdy and had a two-inch heel that could do some damage. They were still barreling down the highway and he had to keep his eyes on the road, putting him at a huge disadvantage.
“Bitch,” he snarled, and tried to stab her leg while keeping the wheel steady.
He missed, so she kicked again. This time she twisted completely and raised both legs. The roads were icy and it was obvious he wasn’t used to the snow. If he were, he’d have already gotten chains on his tires. His inexperience was probably why he’d attempted to stab her while driving. Idiot.
The vehicle swerved across the road and the syringe flew out of his hand. While he grappled with the wheel, she kicked out at him again, all fury and anger. This time her booted heel slammed against the side of his face and her other foot shoved the wheel wildly to the left. He grunted and expelled a string of nasty curses as the car bucked sideways, but she didn’t care.
All the air rushed from her lungs as they fishtailed out of control. Everything slowed. She heard the sound of a horn blaring in the distance, tires screeching, and braced herself for the impact. For the pain.
On instinct she held on tight and crouched low in her seat. Her stomach shot into her throat as they flew off the road onto a snowy, icy embankment. She felt like she was on a roller-coaster ride except she knew the ending was going to be worse. The car spun wildly out of control for what seemed like forever until it skidded to a smooth stop on a bunch of fluffy snow.
Like a miracle, they didn’t flip or ram into anything. Mike shook his head and looked around, a dazed expression on his face.
He might be in a state of shock, but December knew it wouldn’t last long. She had to get out now, no matter how shaky she felt. She was twisted at an odd angle and sitting low, so she slowly reached behind her with one hand and felt for the handle. As she did, she unsnapped her seat belt with the other.
The door swung open and Mike finally realized what she was doing. She fell back into the snow and he lunged at her. But his seat belt snapped him back into the seat.
Rolling over, she scrambled to her feet and started running. Or tried to. Her boots pressed into the white thickness as she struggled to make it up the steep embankment to the road, away from the forest they’d almost plowed into.
She heard him shouting behind her, but she kept going. It was dark, but if she could flag down a car before Mike caught her, she knew she’d be okay. She tripped and fell but clawed at the icy ground and pushed herself back up. Her heart hammered against her ribs and her skin crawled as she fought to get away.
Even though she wanted to look behind her, she didn’t dare. It would only slow her down. When her boots touched the asphalt, a new burst of energy detonated through her. As fast as she could, she ran along the icy edge of the road. Her coat and jeans were dark, so she prayed any drivers had their lights on.
She’d gone only a few feet when two bright headlights shone in the distance. Waving her arms around like a madwoman, she continued running. She slipped again and tumbled backward. The ground was icy and hard, but she barely felt the impact on her hip.
Her survival instinct told her to haul ass if she didn’t want to be killed. Or worse. As she started to push up, strong hands gripped her arms and pulled her to her feet.
A scream tore from her throat. Twisting around, she tried to break free until she suddenly recognized Liam towering over her in the darkness. She stared at him in confusion. Why is he here? “What are you—”
“What happened? Are you all right?”
Her heart thumped a staccato beat against her chest as she stared into Liam’s dark eyes. “Where did you come from?” She started to involuntarily shake and his grip tightened. He was warm and safe.
“I saw you running down the side of the road. What the hell happened, December?”
She frantically glanced behind her, expecting to see Mike running at them, but no one was there. Turning to Liam, she opened her mouth but no words came out. Instead, the shaking intensified. She didn’t know what had happened exactly. It had all been so fast. Suddenly she needed more air. It was as if her lungs had shrunk. She sucked in a deep breath, trying to steady herself.
Liam took one of her wrists, concern in his expression. “Your pulse is erratic,” he murmured.
Of course it was. Her date had just tried to kill her. Or maybe he hadn’t wanted her dead. He might have wanted to…“My date,” she gasped out. “I told him I wanted to leave the restaurant. He had a syringe. He tried to stab me while he was driving and I kicked him and the wheel. I didn’t even think about it. We flew off the road and I escaped….” She shook her head and turned around again. It was too dark to see how far she’d run. “I don’t think it was far from here. I just started running.”
Still holding on to her wrist, he looked past her into the darkness. “I want you to stay here with Ryan, okay?”
No! She grabbed his arm. “Who’s Ryan?” She felt disoriented and a little confused. And she couldn’t stop the chills skittering over her skin.
“I won’t let her out of my sight.” The male voice from behind her made her jump, but when she turned to face the other shifter, all she saw was compassion in his dark eyes.
Liam hated leaving December, but he hurried down the embankment to find the piece of shit that had attacked her. Other than the fresh smells of the forest, he scented slightly burned rubber and December’s date. His canines throbbed just from thinking about her out with someone else, but knowing she’d been attacked made his inner wolf almost blind with rage. He’d tried to warn her that members of the Antiparanormal League might target her because of her association with him. Not that he had the kind of “association” he wanted with her. He’d recently discovered that the APL somehow knew he cared for her, so they wanted to use that against him or his pack. Or both. It didn’t matter that they weren’t physically involved—or involved at all really. Which was why he’d been watching her. Even thinking about what might have happened if he hadn’t been nearby tonight…his inner wolf rattled dangerously, so he shut down those thoughts.
As he neared the car, he saw the passenger’s and driver’s doors open. December’s footprints led back the way he’d just come, but there was another set leading away into the woods. He stared toward the tree line, fighting back the primal growl trying to claw its way out of his throat. The key was still in the ignition, the car still running. Leaning over and careful to take it by the edges, he slipped the key out and dropped it into his jacket pocket. The contents of her purse had been dumped onto her seat. A small makeup bag, a book, and a planner. No wallet. His frown deepened.
His most primal side wanted to hunt this guy down and tear him apart limb from limb. Slowly. But he couldn’t leave December. Liam still wasn’t sure what had happened, but she’d been close to going into shock. If she hadn’t already.
Pushing down the need to hunt and protect what was his, he gathered her stuff and shoved it in her purse. After checking the glove compartment to see if he could find some paperwork with an address on it, he came up empty, so he headed back to the road.
Ryan had already taken her back to the truck. From their silhouettes he could see December sitting in the middle of the bench seat and Ryan in the driver’s seat. Normally Liam preferred to drive, but right now all he wanted to do was comfort her.
She kept pushing him away, but he didn’t think she would now. She might try to deny she wanted him, but every time she fixed those baby blues on him, he could see lust and confusion battling inside her. He didn’t care that she was human and he was a lupine shifter. Differences like that didn’t matter. At least not to him. Obviously some people cared enough to want to hurt her.
At the moment she was vulnerable and he knew she might actually let him comfort her. Maybe he should feel guilty about taking advantage of her emotional state, but he didn’t. He’d touch and hold her any way he could get her.