“Me too,” he murmured.

The door shut behind them with a loud bang. The stench of cigarette smoke, sex, marijuana, booze, and body odor was stale and overpowering. A few men sat at the bar sipping beers, a man and woman were naked and passed out on a pool table, a few men wearing leather jackets and pants were playing pool, and a bored-looking woman with tattoos covering her arms and neck stood behind the bar. After a quick glance around, he noted ten possible threats. Nothing they couldn’t handle.

With his shaved head and scarred face, Jayce knew he’d normally fit into a place like this. He also knew if this bar was owned by a local biker gang, they wouldn’t like outsiders. And Erin might be strong but she looked innocent and out of place. Something they could use to their advantage.

He strode to the bar with Erin next to him. Instead of pulling up a seat, he leaned against the bar. Erin sat on a stool and swiveled it around so she faced everyone.

“Never seen you two before,” the dark-haired bartender said, her voice mistrustful.

Normally Jayce would try to infiltrate a place to get information, but he didn’t have that luxury at the moment. The Armstrong pack and the Council wanted answers about the APL. Busting heads was the only way to get it fast.

Steeling himself for what he knew was about to happen, he leaned forward and spoke loudly. “Looking for anyone who knew those two shitheads Felix and Bennett who got killed a few weeks ago.”

Watching the giant mirror behind the bar, he waited to see who reacted first. Whoever did, he was going to have words with.

The older men in the worn jackets sitting at the bar didn’t move. Just kept drinking. The bartender glared at him. “No idea what you’re talking about, but I think you’re in the wrong place, buddy.”

The two beefed-up guys playing pool immediately set their sticks down and started to reach inside their jackets—likely for a weapon.

“Bingo. Jackass one and jackass two have stepped up,” Erin murmured.

Ignoring the bartender and the men at the bar, Jayce turned. Before he took a step, Erin unzipped her jacket. Moving faster than most trained warriors, she withdrew her blades and flew at the two men.

The expression of surprise on their faces was almost comical. Using the butt of one of her blades, she slammed it across one man’s face and kicked the other in the groin. As soon as she did, they groaned and crumpled.

Almost immediately the rest of the bar jumped into action. Even the naked guy on the other pool table managed to get up. Turning away from Erin because it was obvious she could handle herself, Jayce squared off against three men. Two middle-aged bikers who looked like they’d done steroids at one time and a small wiry guy who knew how to handle a blade. Definitely the most skilled of the three.

Jayce went for the smaller guy first but didn’t bother to take out his weapons. For a human, the man was fast. He ducked low and tried to knife Jayce in the stomach while the other two came at him from both sides.

Kicking out, he slammed his boot into the guy’s sternum. At the same time he struck out with his elbow at the man on his left. The crunching sound when he connected with the man’s nose was like music to his ears.

The third guy wrapped his arms around him like a moron. Slamming his head back, Jayce connected with this guy’s nose too. The crunching sound was quickly followed by a curse. His adrenaline spiked at the scent of everyone’s fear. Some of these bastards had known the men who’d taken Kat. They would suffer for that alone.

Minutes later almost everyone in the bar was subdued. The bartender still stood behind the bar and from what he could tell, she hadn’t made an attempt to call the police. Made sense. They probably dealt in more than one illegal enterprise.

When Jayce spotted Erin, she had two men facedown on the ground with her knees digging into their backs and her blades digging into the sides of their throats. Everyone else around her was either knocked out or cowering in fear.

He noticed one of the first men who’d tried to stand up to them had pissed his pants. Perfect. That was who they were taking for a ride. Jayce pointed to the one on Erin’s right. “That guy.”

She nodded and grabbed him by the collar before yanking him to his feet. Wordlessly, they left the bar. Jayce didn’t bother with his weapons. This guy was so scared it was pathetic. “We’re just going for a short ride and if you tell me what I want to know, I’ll let you go. Got it?”

The tall, dark-haired man nodded. “Yeah,” he whispered, barely audible enough for them to hear.

Jayce didn’t like playing games or torturing people to get information, but he would if he had to. Technically he was here for a job, but this was about so much more. He owed Kat this. The stench of fear rolling off this guy was so potent, Jayce knew that very soon he was going to have all the information he needed.

Chapter 13

December watched as Liam readied her horse. She knew how to saddle her own horse, but she didn’t tell him that because she didn’t want to get too close to him. She felt really off-kilter today. All he had to do was lightly touch her and her entire body lit on fire.

A low burning in her belly had started and the ache between her legs was acute. The cold shower had helped a little but not much. And Liam definitely wasn’t helping. As he’d introduced her to what seemed like dozens of shifters, he’d kept his big, strong hand at the small of her back the entire time.

Barely touching her.

Yet purposely reminding her of what her body craved. Him.

All over her. Inside her. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine what it would be like to have his big, muscular body moving over hers as pushed deep inside her. Could just imagine what he’d feel like.

Liam held out the reins for her and stared at her questioningly. “You sure you’re all right?”

“Ask me that again and I’ll scream,” she said only half jokingly. Maybe he had been on to something with that whole “in heat” thing. Not technically of course, but she couldn’t deny that she felt weird today.

Liam’s eyebrows rose but he didn’t respond. While he got his horse, she slid onto the saddle of the palomino Liam’s sister-in-law was letting her ride. It had been months since she’d been riding, but once they left the barn, she was able to clear her head for the first time in weeks. The feel of the cold wind rushing over her was somehow soothing. Liam was surprisingly quiet as he led them to a well-traveled trail. It was big enough for only one horse at a time, so she stayed behind him and enjoyed the view.

She’d bundled up in a heavy down coat, a knit cap, and thick leather gloves. In contrast, Liam wore no jacket, a fairly thin long-sleeved T-shirt, worn jeans, and boots. The thin shirt gave her a nice view of all those rippling muscles. As she watched his back muscles flex, she shifted against her saddle. The rubbing action soothed her aching a little, but she was immediately embarrassed by what she was doing.

As if he could read her mind, Liam turned around. The positively wicked smile he shot her annoyed and turned her on at the same time. “We’re almost there,” he said.

She started to ask where when he turned back around. She didn’t have to wait long, though. Moments later he directed his horse to the left down another very short trail that opened into a clearing.

A small pond was frozen over and most of the oak trees had lost the majority of their leaves, but it was a quiet little oasis. Liam slid off his horse and before she could do the same, he held on to her waist and was helping her down.

For a moment he stood there, gripping her and just staring like he wanted to take her right there on the ground. And she was afraid she might let him. God help her, this man was quicksand. Only days before, she’d been keeping him at arm’s length. Now she wanted him to wrap those big arms around her and never let go. What was wrong with her?

Liam suddenly cleared his throat and dropped his hands as if she’d burned him. He tilted his head toward a large, fallen tree. “Will you tether the horses to that log?”

Mouth full of cotton, she nodded and swallowed while he grabbed a backpack off his horse. After securing the two animals, she found Liam by the frozen pond laying out a purple and white quilt that looked handmade.

Fallen leaves and dried grass crunched beneath her boots as she neared him, but he didn’t look up as he pulled a thermos and two mugs out of the backpack.

“You can sit if you want,” Liam mumbled, barely loud enough for her to hear.

Crossing her legs, she sat on the edge of the quilt as Liam zipped his pack up. She frowned when he wouldn’t look at her until she realized he was nervous.

He wiped his hands on his jeans and finally met her gaze. “I hope this is okay.”

Smiling, she scooted closer so that their knees touched. “This is really sweet, Liam.” And totally unexpected.

He blew out a long sigh. “Ana said you’d like this…. Not that I didn’t want to do it,” he rushed on.

She bit back a smile as he fumbled around with opening the thermos. The scent of hot chocolate teased her nose and made her stomach rumble. He poured her a cupful and practically shoved the mug into her hands.

“Why are you being so weird?” December asked before blowing on the hot liquid.

He nervously rubbed a hand over his head, ruffling his dark hair. “I…I’ve never done this before.”

“Done what?”

“Tried to…” Liam shook his head. “I’ve never really tried to impress a woman.”

She jerked back at his bold admission. The stark honesty touched her. “Like ever?”

He was silent for a moment before he shook his head. “I’ve never been with a human and when she-wolves are attracted to males, they don’t need, uh…never mind.”

She had an idea where he was headed and she didn’t want to talk about that any more than he seemed to want to. Time for a subject change. “Okay, then, you’re one hundred and…”

“Eight,” he supplied, looking relieved she’d turned topics.

“One hundred and eight, and you’ve never been on a date. I don’t know how I feel about being your guinea pig.” She gave him a playful smile before taking a sip of her hot chocolate.


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