A trickle of unease curled through him like scorching, slow-moving lava at the odd sight. It was said that the goddess Morrigan took the shape of a raven when she visited her warriors. In that form she supposedly revealed that death was close. Neither he nor his brother believed in or followed her, but his parents had. They’d been devout worshipers of the goddess they’d believed had created them.

He cursed his sudden unease. He wasn’t some impressionable cub. Worrying about the bird’s appearance was stupid and he wasn’t sure why it bothered him. Death had surrounded him his entire life. Something he’d never thought about until he met December. Now that he had someone to protect, things had changed. So had his priorities.

Shoving the ludicrous thoughts aside, he tightened his grip on her and closed his eyes. He’d rather focus on December’s soft curves and delectable body than some bullshit mythological sign.

Chapter 12

Edward’s hand tightened around his coffee cup as he heard the front door open, then shut. Brianna glanced over her shoulder from where she stood at the stove but quickly looked away. He’d been in a dark mood all morning and had been very close to taking it out on her.

Something he had no doubt she knew, because she’d been unusually quiet and stayed out of his way.

“Hello?” Joseph called from the front of the house.

Edward didn’t shout out for him. If Joseph wanted to find them, he could damn well look, like a normal human being.

Wearing a thick down coat and the same jeans and boots from yesterday, Joseph walked into the kitchen. He paused in the entrance and froze, probably because of the glare Edward gave him. “What’s going on?”

“Where were you all night?” he asked calmly.

He shrugged and stepped into the room. As he did, he pulled off his gloves. “I did what you said. I followed Katarina Saburova and tried to stake out her place, but I got a bad feeling, so I left.”

“Bad feeling?”

“Yeah, man. Like her place was already being watched by someone else or something. You said the enforcer wants her, so I didn’t want to hang around too late and get killed if that dude was there.”

“So where have you been all night?” The story sounded like bullshit, but lately everything out of Joseph’s mouth did.

He shrugged again in that maddening disrespectful manner and headed for the stove. “Something smells good.” When he tried to take a piece of the bacon, Brianna whacked his hand with a wooden spoon.

Edward inwardly smiled, but something about Joseph’s attitude was off. “So where were you, then?” He hated repeating himself, but he wanted an answer.

“I met a chick and stayed the night at her place. You’re not my fucking father. I tried to do the job and couldn’t, so I got laid. It’s none of your damn business what I do in my off time.”

He hated his attitude, but that sounded more like the Joseph he knew. Sighing, he pushed his mug away from him. He was just being paranoid. Joseph sure as hell wasn’t a mole in the APL and he had no reason to lie. The guy was too fucking stupid, so it didn’t surprise him he’d been thinking with his dick last night. He could reprimand him, but it likely wouldn’t do any good and he didn’t have the energy this morning. “There’s a fresh pot of coffee on if you want some.”

Visibly relaxing, the young man shrugged off his coat and laid it on the back of one of the chairs. “I’ll grab some in a minute. I need to shower and wash that bitch’s stank off me.”

After he disappeared from the room, Brianna shook her head. “He’s so disgusting. I don’t know why you put up with him.”

He depended on these recruits and she knew it, even if she wouldn’t admit it out loud. Thanks to his scarred face, he was likely to be remembered everywhere he went. Before his accident he’d been a normal-looking guy. Good-looking enough to get laid on a regular basis anyway. It had been so easy for him to fly under the radar everywhere he’d gone. He’d had the kind of face people forgot.

Not anymore. Now he couldn’t get close enough to either of the women his boss wanted him to take. Pretty women steered clear of him. Some wouldn’t even step into an elevator with him. Well, except Brianna, but she was different.

To take either of the women associated with those animals, they had to do it without causing a stir. They needed to get in and out fast. Unfortunately finding good help was damn near impossible. Most of his recruits had no training or had washed out of various military branches during boot camp.

“I don’t know if I can use him anymore.” He stood and helped Brianna bring the plate of bacon and scrambled eggs to the table.

She brought their plates over and sat. “It’s only a minor setback. He might be disgusting, but he probably made the right choice last night. If the woman was being watched, he’d have been killed and our plan exposed.”

Edward still wasn’t sure he believed Joseph’s story. Something about his tone had been off. Nervous. But maybe he’d just been nervous of him. “He’s an idiot.”

Her blond eyebrows rose curiously, but she didn’t deny his words. “So what should we do?”

“I want you to befriend Katarina.”

Her eyes widened for a fraction of a second. “What?”

“Befriend her, gain her trust, then we’ll take her.”

Brianna shook her head. The movement was slight but firm. “I don’t know. I don’t even know how I’d meet her.”

“She’s a ski instructor.”

“So? I already know how to ski.” She stabbed a cluster of the fluffy eggs with her fork and avoided his gaze.

“She doesn’t know that.”

Brianna thoughtfully chewed for a moment before setting her fork down. “I don’t know. It’s risky.”

“If we get her, the boss will visit and I guarantee there will be a bonus in it for both of us.” If the APL knew how to do one thing right, they knew what people liked. Cold, hard cash. There was room to move up in the organization, and for a job well-done they received more than a pathetic pat on the back.

She bit her bottom lip but finally nodded. “Okay. I’ll do it.”

Liam nudged open the bedroom door with his foot. Even though he’d heard the steady sound of her breathing from outside the door, he needed to see with his eyes that December was still asleep. He’d gotten up early to call Kat and ask her to watch December’s store during the morning before her afternoon ski classes. She was pissed he’d woken her up until he’d explained what happened to December. And he trusted Kat not to say anything to the sheriff about December’s attack. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that the police had no business involved in what had happened to her. If they found the guy, they’d want to prosecute him, and jail was the last place Liam wanted him.

After calling Kat, he’d woken Erin up and asked her to work with Kat today, then watch the store once Kat headed to the ski lodge. The she-wolf had given him a lot of grief for having to spend time in town and he probably owed her a favor, but it was worth it. He figured she’d also be pissed once she saw Noah hanging around the store, but Connor had ordered him to shadow Kat for the next few days as a precaution, so Erin would just have to deal with his presence for a few hours. Liam didn’t care how much he owed the she-wolf after this.

December needed a day off, especially after what happened yesterday, and he planned to make sure she enjoyed herself.

He hated sleeping in his clothes, but last night he’d made an exception. It went against every instinct he possessed, especially when the sexy redhead in his bed was wearing nothing. Since his gunshot and knife wounds were healed, there was nothing holding him back from taking her the way he wanted. Quietly, he pulled back the cover and slipped in behind December. As soon as he did, she turned toward him and wrapped her arm around his waist.

Groaning, he did the same and smoothed his hand down her bare back until he cupped her butt.

When he did, her eyes fluttered open. For a moment she looked slightly disoriented; then she blushed. “Morning.”

Okay, she didn’t seem freaked-out by the fact that she’d woken up naked in the same bed as him. Just nervous. That he could live with. “Morning, yourself.”

Though he tried to keep his gaze on her face, he strayed. Those perfect pink nipples were hard and rosy this morning. He didn’t bother to bite back a groan. Smiling, she reached between them and cupped his hardness. The bold action shocked the hell out of him.

“You wake up like this every morning?” she murmured silkily.

He’d gone to bed hard and woken up hard, but he didn’t tell her that. “Only when pretty redheads are with me.”

Her smile widened as she continued rubbing over his covered erection. He wanted to tell her to stop, but what she was doing felt too good. But when she went to undo his button, he moved so that he was on top of her. He grabbed her wrists and held them above her head.

Settling in between her thighs, he had to force himself to breathe normally, to control his primal urges. “December—”

Arching her back, she rubbed her breasts against him like an animal in heat. Even though he had a shirt on, it didn’t matter. His cock surged at the intimate contact. That’s when he realized her eyes were slightly dilated. He stared at her for a long moment. She nipped at his mouth and playfully tugged his bottom lip between her teeth.

He managed to pull back. “How do you feel this morning?” he asked quietly.

She smiled seductively and rolled her hips against his. “Not as good as you could make me feel.”

His throat seized as he realized what was going on. The scent that rolled off her was subtle yet distinctive. She was ovulating or something equivalent to what shifter females went through when they went into heat. Shifters went through their cycles only twice a year, but December was human. From what he could tell, she wasn’t going through the mating frenzy lupine shifters went through, but she was incredibly turned on. More so than usual. It was the only thing that could explain her sudden change of heart. Last night he hadn’t scented anything, but this morning, it teased his nostrils, taunting him. Telling him to mark and claim her. Even if there wasn’t a full moon out, he could still mark her. They wouldn’t be bonded, but it would let other shifters know she was his.


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