She tiptoed through the door that led to the studio. But when she walked through the door, she wasn’t in the studio—no, the door had led her right back into the display room. She saw a hatch door above her head. She opened it, pulled down the staircase, and climbed the steps. And she found herself back in the display room.
Trick was there. He was staring at The Face. It wasn’t twisted in pain, not while it was asleep. Trick looked at her. “I don’t like it when you hurt yourself. You have to stop.”
She closed her eyes and took a breath. When she opened them, Trick was gone. Iris was there, looking as hale and hearty as she did in her photos, and there were puzzle pieces all over the floor.
“Don’t pick them up,” Iris told her. “Leave them where they are. Let it lie, Frankie.”
The pieces suddenly rose off the floor and began to orbit around Frankie. They moved too fast for her to really see any of them. She looked back at Iris, but she wasn’t there anymore. “Where are—?”
The pieces froze in the air. Fell to the ground. She could smell gun oil and gunpowder and blood. Beneath those was his scent—rain, brine, and burned wood.
She noticed then that The Face had woken, and his eyes bore into hers—eyes that were now human and familiar, yet not. “You’re supposed to be in bed, Frankie.”
Her eyes snapped open, and she drew in a shuddering breath, clenching her hand around the coverlet. The arm that was curled around her from behind twisted her to face Trick, and she let him pull her flush against him.
He kissed the top of her head. “Another nightmare?”
She just nodded, keeping her face buried in his chest.
“Talk to me, Frankie. Your heart is pounding like crazy, and my wolf is raring to get out and hunt down whatever scared you. Tell me about the nightmare.”
She swallowed. “I think someone other than my parents was there the night my mother was killed.”
The hand stroking her back stilled. “Who?”
“He smelled like rain, brine, and burned wood. I smell that scent every time I’m around Clara’s sons, but since they’re triplets they all smell the same.”
Trick resumed stroking her back, petting the anxiety out of her. He hated the tremor in her voice. His wolf rubbed up against her, trying to comfort her. “What makes you think he was there that night?” he asked softly.
“I smell that scent as well as the gunpowder. And then a voice tells me that I’m supposed to be in bed.”
Sliding his fingers into her hair, Trick tugged her head back and said gently, “That doesn’t mean that anyone else was there that night. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m saying this could be your brain trying to put all the pieces together and mixing them into one dream.”
She couldn’t even argue with that. The human eyes on The Face hadn’t been eyes that belonged to any of Clara’s sons. The picture forming from the pieces she had didn’t make sense. And she had to consider that just maybe she wanted to believe someone else had been there because she didn’t want her father to be guilty. Since her wolf reacted so badly to the triplets’ scent, they were convenient scapegoats, weren’t they? Still . . . “I feel like my subconscious is trying to tell me something. I don’t think I’m remembering what happened. Just that my subconscious has picked up on something that I’ve overlooked. Something important.”
Trick rubbed his nose against hers. “I don’t know what that could be,” he whispered.
Neither did she.
As Frankie walked through the arched door of the underground nightclub a week later, her brows lifted in surprise. It was nothing like a usual club. The lighting was dim, and the dance floor was full, but there was no thumping overloud music, no stale hot air, and no flashing strobe lights. The club had both style and class. With the redbrick walls and the arched ceiling, she felt like she was in a large train tunnel or something.
The place belonged to the Mercury Pack and was allegedly run by its only margay wildcat, Harley. Apparently the females of the pack were anxious to meet Frankie, so Taryn had suggested that the females of both packs all meet up at the club for a girls’ night. So they were having a girls’ night. Only with Trick and Marcus. The males were there for “protection,” they said—like the females weren’t badass enough to protect themselves.
A few weeks back, Frankie might have been relieved to have Trick there. Now, though, she felt more settled in the pack. She wouldn’t go as far as to say she’d bonded with her pack mates; Frankie didn’t bond easily with anyone. But she’d grown to enjoy their company and feel more relaxed around them, especially Jaime and Makenna.
Trick put his mouth to her ear. “What do you think?”
“It’s a nice place.” Not everyone was dolled up in dresses. Like Frankie, some wore jeans, pretty shirts, and high heels.
Overhearing that, Jaime smiled. “It is, isn’t it? Harley didn’t make many changes when she took it over. She liked the look and feel of the place.”
Trick stayed at Frankie’s side as they all shouldered their way through the crowd, heading for the bar.
Taryn walked right up to the olive-skinned brunette tending the bar. “Hey, Ally, everything okay?”
The bartender grinned. “Great. Just give me a sec.” She slid a tray of neon-colored drinks to a waitress and then turned back to them. “What about you guys? Please tell me you’ve brought Frankie. I’ve been dying to—” Ally spotted her and then smiled. “Well, hey. Aren’t you just the cutest thing? I’m Ally, the Mercury Pack’s Beta female.”
Frankie knew her smile was a little on the shy side. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“You too. I have to say, I was fascinated to hear how you two figured out you were mates without any drama or near-death experiences to open your minds. You recognized her on sight, right?” she asked Trick.
“That’s right,” he confirmed, sliding his arm around her waist.
Frankie bit her lip, admitting, “It took me a couple of weeks to figure it out.”
Ally sighed. “Yeah, it took me and Derren a little while, even though the signs were all there.” She crossed her eyes as if annoyed with herself. She pointed to a group of people in the corner. “That’s my mate over there. Derren’s the dark-haired one. The guy he’s standing next to is Zander, an enforcer, who’s mated to the blonde human in the little shorts—she’s Gwen. The redhead standing next to her is Shaya, our Alpha female . . . oh, and she’s just spotted us.” As Shaya took Gwen’s hand and started pulling her through the throng of people, Ally asked, “So what are you all having?”
Taryn had just finished placing orders when Shaya sidled up to them. She threw her arms around Taryn, and it was clear just how close they were. According to Trick, they’d been friends since childhood.
After the females quickly exchanged greetings, Taryn turned to the newcomers. “Girls, this is Frankie. Frankie, this is Shaya and Gwen.”
Shaya beamed at Frankie. “We’ve really wanted to go to Phoenix territory to meet you, but Taryn didn’t want you feeling any more overwhelmed than you already do. Damn, you’re so cute. Isn’t she just adorable, Ally?”
“Utterly,” said Ally, still preparing their drinks. “Even cuter than Jazz, and that’s saying something.”