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A sudden rumble filled the air, followed by the heavy scent of exhaust. The wolf whirled, narrowed his eyes. His opponent, back in his human form, was inside a truck. The engine revved. Something beeped. And then the truck charged him.

The wolf ran with the truck hot on his heels. He made a sharp turn. Tires screeched as the truck tried to follow. “Morelli” made the turn, but it slowed him down.

The wolf repeated the pattern. Ran. Sharply turned. Evaded and slowed the truck. On the third run, the truck didn’t turn fast enough. It clipped a crane. The large piece of equipment shook. Wobbled. Then toppled on top of the truck.

Trick leaped to the surface, wincing as every injury on his body blazed with agony. He hobbled to the truck, dragged a dazed Morelli out of the driver’s seat, and tossed him on the ground. The other shifters gathered around Morelli, some still in their wolf forms. All were breathing hard and covered in bites, rake marks, and blood. And all were glaring at the bastard with hatred and lethal intent in their eyes.

“I wanted to be the one to kill you,” Trick told him. He’d dreamed of it, fantasized about it, planned just how much pain he’d exact on Morelli. But right then, vengeance didn’t seem so important. Not when the pull to be with Frankie was so much more powerful.

“Is that so?” Morelli didn’t try to rise. He shot nervous glances at the growling wolves, eyes hard, chest heaving.

“Yeah. I wanted to take my time with you, make you suffer long and hard. But I don’t have the time for that, and there’s no fucking way I’ll give you a swift execution. Tonight, three of my pack mates and several of my allies could have died. Our mates would probably have died along with us. You would have killed other members of my pack—including the pups—and then stolen our territory. So I’d say all these wolves here have the right to make you bleed.” As one, the wolves leaped at him.

Trick turned his back as Morelli screamed and gargled while the wolves growled and snarled. He had something much more important on his mind. “I gotta get out of here,” he told Trey, who was currently being healed by Ally. “Frankie’s been shot.”

“Shot?” echoed Trey.

Not giving a shit that he’d be leaving them an SUV short, Trick hiked up the rough, sloped walls. Each step he took hurt like a bitch, pulling on his rake wounds and sending pain blazing up and down his fractured leg.

“Wait!” Ally called out. He didn’t stop, but—uninjured—she easily caught up to him and put a hand on his arm, sending healing energy trickling through him as she spoke. “Taryn should be with her by now, Trick.”

“Taryn?”

“Yes. She called us after she got Ryan’s alert—our territory was closer to your location, so she asked us to go to you. She wanted to get to Frankie. Apparently Cam called Taryn to tell her that Cruz was keeping Frankie and Lydia trapped in the basement of her old cabin. If she’s been shot, Taryn will heal her.”

Reaching the top of the incline, Trick made a beeline for the nearest vehicle. “She’s hurt and she’s scared. Taryn hasn’t healed her, which means Cruz still has her at what I’m assuming is fucking gunpoint, considering she’s been shot.” Trick spit on the ground, grimacing at the tastes of sand and blood. At least his pain had lessened. “I need a phone so I can call Taryn.”

Just as Ally handed him her phone, the others joined them.

“If Frankie’s been shot, we’re all going,” declared Trey, chucking Trick’s clothes at him—it was only then that Trick realized he was naked.

Quickly, he dragged on his shirt and jeans, and then everyone packed themselves into the two SUVs. The badly injured went in one SUV with Ally to be healed; the rest of them hopped into the other.

Riding shotgun while Zander drove like a madman, Trick used Ally’s cell to phone Taryn. He put the phone to his ear and waited. And waited. He frowned. “She’s not answering.”

“Try Cam,” Trey advised.

He dialed the wolf’s number and then waited, fists clenched. When Cam answered, Trick immediately asked, “Cam, what’s going on? Where’s Frankie?”

“She’s still trapped in the basement with Lydia,” Cam said, distress in every word. “We can’t get inside. Cruz rigged the front and back porches; both collapsed and blocked the doors. The explosions weakened the cabin, and I don’t think it’ll stay standing for much longer. Marcus tried to get inside, but Cruz lost his shit and threatened to shoot Lydia and Frankie if we try. Then . . . I don’t know what happened. We heard a gunshot.”

“He shot Frankie in the stomach,” Trick managed to grit out. Her pain pulsed down their bond, and his wolf raged inside him.

“Oh Jesus. Trick, we can’t get in there.” There was muttering in the background, and then another voice came on the phone.

“Trick, it’s Marcus. Man, I’m so fucking sorry. Cruz paid some juveniles to distract us; they didn’t know why he did it, they thought he just wanted to yank our chains, but—” He swore. “God, Trick, I really am so fucking sorry.”

He didn’t blame Marcus, he didn’t, but he also didn’t have any words of reassurance to give him while panic and anger were clawing at him. “I’m on my way. I’ll be there soon. Do whatever you have to do, Marcus, but get in there and get her out.”

Crouched on the floor beside Frankie, Lydia pressed her hands on the wound on Frankie’s stomach and let out a sob. “Oh God, Frankie, I don’t know what to do.”

“There’s nothing you can do,” said Cruz. “That was the whole point of me shooting the bitch.” He smiled down at Frankie. “I’ve heard that a gut shot hurts like holy hell.”

It did. The pain was unlike anything Frankie had ever felt in her life—it was as if something molten had exploded in her stomach. She didn’t know whether Lydia’s efforts were paying off or not, but warm blood had soaked her shirt and dripped onto the concrete below.

The wound throbbed with every breath until it was like one giant, aching pulse. Tears filled her eyes, and her lips trembled. Deep inside her, her wolf panicked.

Above them wood creaked and moaned. It sounded like frames were scraping against each other. The walls were becoming weaker and weaker. She heard a hissing sound. A broken pipe? She wasn’t sure.

Morbid glee dancing in his eyes, Cruz taunted, “That bullet tore through your stomach, which means all the acid and bile is loose.”

Bastard. She winced as Lydia’s hands pressed harder on her wound, and he seemed to absolutely relish the sound of Frankie’s pain. Her wolf sneered, wanting out, wanting the taste of his blood in her mouth.

“Cruz?” a voice called out. “Cruz?”

It was Clara. The glee cleared from his eyes, and for a single moment he looked lost and sad. But then his cheeks flushed and he shook his head. “You’re not here!” he bellowed.

“Son, please come out here,” Clara begged, sounding heartbroken. “Come on, everything will be fine.”

The hand holding the gun twitched. “No, it won’t! Nothing’s been fine for a long time!”

“Cruz, we can fix whatever is wrong. We can. Just come out. Please.”

He shook his head again. “It can’t be fixed! You can’t bring Christopher back! No one can!”

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