December grabbed his arm. “What are you going to do?”
“Track her using her scent.”
For a moment she looked as if she might say more, but she snapped her mouth shut and stepped back. “Please find her,” she whispered.
Even if she’d never looked more sad and lost, now wasn’t the time to comfort her. Every second counted. Liam and Connor took off across the parking lot. As soon as they were out of sight, they’d shift to their animal form. They could track better that way and they were a hell of a lot faster than most humans realized. Especially his brother. As an Alpha, Connor was stronger and faster than regular alpha or even warrior shifters.
They were both silent until they reached the edge of the parking lot. Kat’s scent was strong near the exit, but they both knew the farther the men got with her, the more her scent would fade. Using a couple cars for cover, they shifted to their animal form. They’d just have to leave their shredded clothes and shoes.
Lose me if you have to, Liam projected to him, unwilling to let his own speed slow his brother down.
As they exited onto the two-lane highway they kept to the side of the road in the shadows as best they could. Luckily there weren’t many cars on the road and it was dark anyway. His paws pounded against the icy ground, but he barely felt it. The lack of cars and people would help with their tracking.
He homed in on the subtle scent of roses. Kat’s scent. Finding her was the most important thing for all of them. Jayce would rip this town apart trying to find her. Not that Liam would blame him.
He’d do the same for December.
Five miles out of town the scent petered out, but it was still faint once they reached a four-way intersection. Then it disappeared.
You got anything? he projected to Connor.
Damn it, no. His brother looked east, then west, as if trying to pick a direction.
West there’s just a lot of land and a few farmhouses, Liam said.
And east there was a bunch of subdivisions and the ski lodge. They’d be bound to pick up on her scent at the ski lodge eventually, considering she worked and lived there.
We split up. I’ll go east, you go west, Connor said.
Unfortunately that still left everything to the north, but there were only two of them and they couldn’t communicate telepathically with the entire pack. I’ll meet you back at the ranch if I don’t find her.
Check in with me periodically anyway.
Will do. Liam began running down the narrower road and sent up a prayer that one of them found her before it was too late.
December felt as if she could crawl out of her skin. She’d just seen her closest friend kidnapped, her brother was in the hospital, and there wasn’t a thing she could do about either. She wanted to scream. Or help in some way.
Instead, she’d been questioned by the police for the last hour answering the same questions a dozen different ways. They’d finally left and if she hadn’t been the sheriff’s sister, she had no doubt they’d have taken her down to the station for further questioning. Instead they’d let her stay at the hospital to wait for her brother to come out of surgery.
When Parker’s doctor strode into the waiting room, she jumped out of her seat and Ana did the same. The shifter who’d been there earlier had long since left, to help look for Kat, December guessed. The older doctor had a half smile on his face as he approached. That had to be a good sign. Her heart leapt but she refused to get excited.
“How is he?” she asked.
“He’s going to be fine. Right now he’s resting but—”
“When can I see him?”
The gray-haired man’s smile faltered. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea right now.”
“Why? I thought you said he was going to be okay.”
“He doesn’t want to see anyone.”
“But I’m his sister.”
He nervously cleared his throat. “I don’t know what’s going on between you two, but he was specific in that he didn’t want to see you. I’m so sorry, December. I—”
She turned away and strode out of the room. She didn’t need to hear pity or sympathy from a virtual stranger. Maybe she should have expected it. But she’d thought they could work past anything. Especially since he’d just been injured. What was an argument in the face of something like this?
As she strode down the hallway Ana easily caught up with her. “He’ll come around,” she murmured.
“Yeah, sure.” But she didn’t believe it. Probably not any more than Ana did. The woman was very nice and a surprisingly calming influence, but she didn’t know her family or anything about her history. She shook her head in an effort to shove those thoughts free. “Have you heard from Connor?” She knew Ana and her mate communicated telepathically. Liam had explained it had something to do with being bondmates.
Ana nodded. “They’re still looking.”
“Just the two of them?”
“No, while you were talking to the police, I called the house. Noah, the man who was here earlier, is out with everyone too. I couldn’t get hold of Jayce, though.” For the first time since she’d met her, Ana looked nervous.
While December might not understand Kat and Jayce’s relationship, even she knew he wasn’t going to handle what had happened well. Suppressing a shudder, she pulled her mittens out of her pocket and slid them on as they stepped outside.
Two uniformed officers were talking to one of the EMTs but hurried over when they spotted them. “Are you leaving?” one of them asked. At one time she’d known all the officers’ names, but Parker had hired a few new guys in the past year.
She glanced at Ana, then nodded. “Yes.”
“We’ll be escorting you home,” the same one said.
December wasn’t sure if they knew she was staying at the Armstrong ranch, but she didn’t say anything. They’d figure it out once they started following them.
The drive back was quiet, leaving her wrapped up and suffocating in her own thoughts. She’d never thought of herself as a morbid person, but visions of Kat helpless and hurt somewhere assaulted her mind. December clearly remembered what it had felt like to have that monster pin her to the floor of her bedroom and use a Taser on her. Then weeks later another stranger had punched her in the face, knocking her out in her own living room. She might not be sure exactly who had taken Kat, but she knew they were part of the same group as the men who’d come after her. A shudder rolled through her and she sent up a silent prayer for her friend.
Once they reached the turnoff from the two-lane highway onto the long, winding road that led to the ranch, the police car fell back and turned around.
After Ana pulled through the gate, she turned to her. “Why don’t you head to the main house while I park? We can wait for news together.”
Grateful, she nodded. She hadn’t wanted to go to the guesthouse by herself and simply wait for Liam to return. She might not know Ana well, but it would help to be in the other female’s presence. Grabbing her purse, she got out of the vehicle and hurried toward the house. As she made her way across the icy ground, the sound of a man clearing his throat made her jump.
She swiveled to find Jayce walking across the yard. It appeared as if the hulking shifter had appeared out of nowhere. He blended into the darkness as if he were part of it.
“I didn’t want to scare you,” he said softly, and kept a few feet between them. “Where’s Liam?”
It hit her with startling intensity. He didn’t know what had happened. For a moment, she racked her brain trying to think of a way to tell him. Nothing sounded right, so she plunged ahead. “He’s out looking for Kat. God, I’m so sorry. She was…kidnapped at the hospital. Two men in a van pulled up and took her. I tried to run after them—”
“How long ago?” His expression darkened, his eyes taking on a supernatural glow, and the deadly edge to his question sent a shiver snaking through her. If he found who’d done this, she had no doubt he’d rip them to shreds.
“A couple hours. The police have the license plate, and Connor and Liam went after her scent. I think Ana tried to call you.”
His jaw twitched once and his gray eyes turned to an inky black. She knew it wasn’t the light playing tricks on her either. “Did you notice anything else about the men who took her?” His voice was ragged and it appeared as if he was visibly trying to control himself.
She shook her head. “They wore masks and the van was white. They used a Taser to stun her.”
Rage seemed to flow off him in waves. “Do you know what direction they went?”
“No, I’m sorry.” And she was. Even thinking about what could be happening to Kat right now made her sick. The bastard who’d tried to take December from her own house had no problems punching a woman. She only prayed Kat was okay.
Wordlessly, he turned and ran in the other direction. Through the darkness she heard the sound of bones breaking and knew he’d shifted. There was a loud, animalistic roar that reverberated off the trees, almost making them shake. The air seemed to crackle with electricity for a moment.
Then a dead silence descended in the air.
Kat tried to open her eyes, but it was difficult. Blinking a few times, she shook her head until her vision cleared somewhat. When she tried to move, she realized her hands were bound above her head.
What the hell?
An icy fist clasped around her chest as she took in her surroundings. It was apparent she was in some sort of barn or shed. A removable wooden ladder leaned against a loft directly across from her. A few old saddles and some other riding gear lay in the corner of the small building. Hay and straw littered underneath her feet—she realized someone had taken her boots—and it was cold. Damn cold. The structure wasn’t big and it definitely wasn’t insulated. Wind whistled through trees outside and she could see the moon peeking through a hole in the ceiling.
She desperately tried to remember what had happened or where she was. She’d been at the hospital. She remembered December screaming, alerting her; then a man shot her with something—maybe a Taser; then blackness. Looking up, she realized her hands were bound with some kind of plastic ties and linked to a hook. Raw fear snaked through her straight to her toes, but she knew if she let her panic take over, she wouldn’t do herself any good. This wasn’t the first time some asshole had taken her. She had to keep a level head if she wanted to survive. As she started to struggle against the bindings, the sound of something rolling stopped her.