Not good, he chided himself. Bad fucking idea, letting himself get personally involved where his business was concerned.

Hadn't he learned that lesson the hard way back in Detroit?

Getting personally invested in any mission was the fast lane to failure.

Minutes must have passed as he contemplated the years that stood between that dark chapter of his life and the place he stood now. He was dimly aware of Tess operating in attentive silence, Renata standing by with the needed instruments and supplies as they were requested. It wasn't until the final suture was in place and Tess had walked to the sink to scrub up that Brock realized he was still touching Jenna, still caressing the line of her carotid with the pad of his thumb.

He cleared his throat and pulled his hand away. When he spoke, his voice was a raw scrape of sound. "Are we finished here yet, Doc?"

Tess paused at the sink, turning to look over her shoulder at him.

"What about your injury?"

"I'm good," he said. He had no intention of sticking around any longer than necessary, and besides, his Breed genetics would heal him in no time.

Tess gave him a faint shrug. "Then, we're finished."

On the table beside him, Jenna's gaze found his and held, steady and strong. Her lips, still pale and bluish from shock and cold, parted on an expelled little puff of air. Her throat worked as she swallowed and tried again. "Brock ... thank--"

"I'm out of here," he snarled, knowingly harsh. He took a step back from the table, then, with a self-directed curse, he pivoted on his heel and stalked out of the infirmary.

Chapter Seven

Brock swung the black Rover out of the Order's estate and headed into the night alone. Normally the warriors ran their patrols in teams, but, frankly, he was feeling like piss-poor company--even for himself.

His veins were throbbing with aggression, and the hunger that had sunk its claws into him in the infirmary with Jenna wasn't doing anything for his attitude, either. He needed to feel the pavement under his boots and a weapon in his hand. Hell, at the rate his night had been going thus far, he'd even welcome the nut-freezing chill of the early December wind that he normally despised.

Anything to distract him from the need that was raking him raw.

To help on that score, he pulled his cell phone from the pocket of his fatigues and speed-dialed Kade.

"Sunshine Cleaning," the warrior answered wryly. "How are things back at the ranch?"

Brock could only growl.

Kade chuckled. "That good, huh? When's the last time someone brought a bleeding human into the compound? Or any human, for that matter."

"Things were a bit tense for a while," Brock admitted. "Fortunately, Tess stepped in and patched Jenna up. She's going to be okay."

"Glad to hear that. Alex would never forgive us if we let anything happen to her best friend."

Brock really didn't want to discuss Jenna, or the responsibility of keeping her safe. He scowled as he headed deeper into the city, his gaze scanning the streets and alleyways, on the lookout for thugs or assholes--any excuse to pull over and engage in a little hand-to-hand. Human or Breed, he could give a shit, so long as they put up a decent fight.

"What's the status of the location in Southie?" he asked Kade.

"Like it never happened, my man. Niko and I got rid of the bodies, the broken glass, and all the blood. The meat chiller where they held Jenna looked like it had been used for a fucking slaughterhouse."

Brock's jaw went tight as he relived the moment he'd found her in a flash of vivid recollection. His temper flared even hotter when he thought about the two bastards who'd harmed her.

"What about the witnesses?" In the long half second of silence that answered him, Brock ground out a curse. "The two guys who picked Jenna up outside the compound and brought her out there--I left one of them semiconscious in an office outside the meat chiller, the other hightailed it after he shot me and caught a glimpse of my fangs."

"Ah, fuck," Kade said. "There was no one in the building except the corpses we disappeared. We didn't know about witnesses, man."

Yeah, right. Because in the heat of the moment, with Jenna bleeding and shivering in his arms, Brock neglected to mention that fact.

"God damn it," he ground out, slamming his fist against the dashboard of the Rover. "It's my fault. I fucked up. I should have told you there were live ones that needed to be contained."

"Don't sweat it," Kade said. "We're not that far away. I'll tell Niko to head back. We can have another look around the place, chase down your two runners, and scrub their memories of the whole thing."

"Not necessary. I'm already on it." Brock hung a sharp left at the nearest intersection and gunned it for Boston's South End. "I'll report in once I have the situation contained."

"You sure?" Kade asked. "If you want some backup--"

"I'll call in when it's handled."

Before his brother-in-arms could comment about the lethal tone of Brock's voice, he clapped the phone closed and shoved it back into his pocket as the Rover barreled into the underbelly of the city.

By the time he reached the neighborhood of the meatpacking plant, his pulse was hammering with the need for violence. He parked the vehicle on a side alley and trekked through the snowy lots so that he came up behind the building. Lights burned inside, and through the brick and mortar of the place, he could hear the muffled rumble of raised male voices, both of them heavily accented and one of them verging on hysteria.

Brock leapt silently onto the roof of the old building and made his way over to a snow-crusted skylight that looked down into the plant below.

The two assholes he wanted to see were roaming back and forth among the hanging sides of beef, sharing a fifth of cheap vodka and smoking cigarettes held in shaking fingers.

"I'm telling you, Gresa," shouted the one with the broken nose. "We need to call the cops!"

The shooter--Gresa, evidently--took a long swig from the bottle, then gave a stern shake of his head. "Tell them what, Nassi? Look around you!

Do you see any evidence of what we think we saw in here tonight? I say, nothing happened. No cops."

"I know what I saw," Nassi insisted, his voice still climbing. "We need to tell someone!"

Gresa strode over and shoved the vodka at him. While Nassi drank, his friend gestured to the quiet plant. "There is no blood, no sign of trouble.

No sign of Koli or Majko, either."

"They're dead!" Nassi wailed. He lapsed into a few words in his native tongue before continuing again in broken English. "I saw their bodies, so did you! They were here when we ran out of the building. I know you saw them, Gresa! What if that man--that ... whatever he was--took them away? What if he comes back for us now, too?"

Jenna's shooter reached around to the small of his back and pulled out his pistol. He wagged it in front of him like a prize. "If he comes back, I have this. I shot him once, I can shoot him again. Next time, I will kill him."

Nassi put the bottle to his mouth once more and gulped down what was left. He dropped the empty to the floor at his feet. "You are a fool, Gresa. Soon, I think you will be a dead fool. But not me. I'm leaving. I quit this stinking job, and I am going home."

He stormed out of Brock's line of vision, his companion hard on his heels.

By the time the two men stepped out of the building to the dark street outside, Brock was waiting. He dropped down off the roof and now stood there in front of the door, blocking their path.

"Going somewhere?" he asked them pleasantly, giving them a good flash of fang. "Maybe you need a lift."

They both screamed--bone-scraping cries of pure human terror that were music to Brock's ears.

He leapt on the man in front, the one with the broken nose. Ripping into the vulnerable throat, Brock didn't drink, but killed instead. He cast the limp body to the snow, then cocked his head toward the one who'd put the bullet in Jenna's thigh.

Gresa screamed again, the gun in his hand trembling violently. Had Brock been human, or had he been distracted as he had been earlier in the plant, when his fury at Nassi had made him miss the fact that a pistol was trained on him from across the room, Gresa might have been able to shoot him again now.

He fired a shot, but it was clumsy and ill-aimed.

And Brock moved as fast as lightning, lunging into a pe that knocked Gresa off his feet and sent his errant bullet veering off into the dark.

With a twist of his arm, he snapped the shooter's wrist and straddled him on the ground. "Your death will be slower," he snarled, curling his lips off his teeth and fangs and pinning Jenna's assailant with a blast of amber light from his transformed eyes.

Gresa whimpered and sobbed, then howled in terror as Brock bent down and sank his jaws around the artery pounding wildly in the human's neck. He dragged the alcohol-tinged blood into his mouth, feeding in a frenzy of rage and thirst.

He drank, and drank some more.

The blood nourished him, but it was the fury--the vengeance for what these men had done to an innocent female, to Jenna--that truly satisfied him.

Brock drew back and roared his triumph up to the night sky, blood trickling down his chin in a hot trail. He fed some more, and then he grasped the human's skull between his hands and gave a savage jerk, breaking the neck.

When it was over, when the last of his rage and thirst had begun to ebb, and all that remained was the expedient disposal of the dead, Brock cast a clearer eye on the carnage he'd wrought. It was total and savage.

A complete annihilation.

"Jesus Christ," he hissed, dropping down onto his haunches and raking his hand over the top of his head.

So much for keeping things business when it came to Jenna Darrow.

If this had been a test, he figured he'd just failed it with flying colors.

Chapter Eight

I hope everyone's hungry," Alex said, emerging from the swinging door of the estate's mansion kitchen, a large bowl of fresh-cut fruit in one hand, a basket of steaming, aromatic herbed biscuits in the other.

She placed both on the dining room table in front of Jenna and Tess, who'd been instructed by Alex and the other women of the compound to sit back and allow themselves to be served breakfast.

"How are you doing, Jen?" Alex asked. "Do you need anything? If you need to prop up your leg, I can bring in an ottoman from the other room."

Jenna shook her head. "I'm fine." Her leg was feeling much better since her surgery last night, and she wasn't in any great deal of pain. It was only at Tess's insistence that she was using a cane to get around. "There's really no need to fuss over me."

"That's my best friend the bush cop for you," Alex said, directing a wry eye-roll toward Tess and giving a dismissive wave of her hand. "Just a little gunshot wound, no need for concern."

Jenna scoffed lightly. "Compared to the week I've had already, a bullet hole in my thigh is probably the least of my worries."

She wasn't looking for sympathy, just stating a fact.

Tess's hand came down gently on her wrist, startling Jenna with its warmth and the genuine caring that shone in the young woman's eyes. "None of us can even pretend to know what you've been through, Jenna, but I hope you understand that we are here for you now. You're among friends--all of us."

Jenna resisted the pull of comfort that Tess's words had on her. She didn't want to feel relaxed in this place, among Alex and these seemingly kind strangers.

Nor with Brock.

Least of all with him.

Her mind was still reeling from his unexpected rescue of her in the city. It had been a mistake to take off as she had, ill-prepared and emotionally unhinged. She hadn't been so long resigned from police work that she didn't remember the surest way to get one's ass caught in a sling was to run off half cocked into unfamiliar territory. All she'd known in that split second before she'd bolted from the compound was a desperation to escape her dark new reality.

She'd made a classic rookie error in judgment, fueled by pure emotion, and ended up needing backup to drag her ass to safety. That her backup had come in the form of a formidable, scary-as-hell vampire was something she wasn't sure she'd ever be able to wrap her brain around.

Deep down, she knew Brock had saved her life last night. Part of her wished he hadn't done it. She didn't want to owe him anything. She didn't like being indebted to anyone, and most certainly not to a man who couldn't even be classified as human.

God, what a messed-up turn her life had taken.

Her thoughts growing progressively darker, Jenna drew her hand away from Tess's light grasp and settled back into her chair.

Tess didn't push her to talk, simply leaned over the table and breathed in some of the drifting steam from the biscuits.

"Mmm," she moaned, her slender arm cradling the swell of her large baby bump. "Is this Dylan's basil and cheddar recipe?"

"By popular request," Alex replied brightly. "There's more where this came from, including Savannah's incredible creme brulee French toast.

Speaking of which, I'd better go fetch some more of the feast."

As Alex pivoted around and disappeared back into the kitchen, Tess cast Jenna a sly look. "You haven't lived until you've had Dylan's biscuits and Savannah's French toast. Trust me, absolute heaven."

Jenna offered a polite smile. "Sounds good. I was never much of a cook. My biggest claim to fame in the kitchen was a smoked moose-meat omelet with Swiss cheese, spinach, and redskin potatoes."

"Moose meat?" Tess laughed. "Well, I can guarantee you none of us have ever had anything like that. Maybe you can make it for us sometime."


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