Copyright © 2013 Lauren Dane
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
She double-checked the address before heading inside the building in downtown Portland. Allie had been missing for twenty-four hours now. Each minute that passed, the chances of finding her alive were lower and lower.
The contact at Clan Owen had sent out a call for help. They were feverishly working on several fronts on these disappearances and something else the witch she’d spoken to had only hinted at, but sounded pretty bad. He’d been sorry not to have been able to rush down and assist on the case, but he’d done what he could, which was to hook her up with Others who could help.
Which had worked out because she’d followed a few leads of her own—a blue SUV that had been sighted at the apartment complex with Washington plates had also been seen at two rest stops on I-5 heading north, and when Michelle had gone to them she’d found that same mage energy signature she’d caught at Allie’s apartment.
Michelle was on the right track, but the track itself was pretty narrow and faint and she was terrified of f**king up and missing something.
So there she was going through the revolving doors of the Pacific Werewolf Pack headquarters to seek their help with tracking. They had some sort of relationship with the clans now and heaven knew they had better noses than she did and there was the added plus that they knew the area.
She walked through one set of doors where two very large men stopped her. One raised a brow at her. “You’re armed.” His voice was a rumble she felt over the surface of her skin.
“I’m Michelle Slattery. Roseburg PD. Gage Garrity from Clan Owen sent me here to request some assistance in an investigation. My credentials are in my pocket if you’ll allow me to retrieve them?”
Eyebrow appeared to relax a little. “First things first. The weapon needs to be put in the bin. We don’t allow anyone in the building armed.”
She reached, slowly and totally within view, to remove her weapon from her under-arm holster. She popped the magazine out and made sure the chamber was empty before placing it all in the bin they’d indicated.
“Thank you. Credentials?”
Slowly, so he knew exactly what she was about, she pulled out her badge, handing it to him. He looked it over and turned his gaze and attention back to her, apparently satisfied with her documentation. “I haven’t been told about anyone coming in, but I only just started my shift a few minutes ago. What’s your business here?”
“I’m investigating the disappearance of a young woman.” She looked around and lowered her voice. Wolves were out to the humans, but witches were still debating the whys, whens and hows of revealing their existence. “A witch. I believe she was taken by the mages.”
He stood up straighter.
“I’m here to appeal for some help in tracking them. Gage said you had some sort of cooperative agreement thing with them.”
“You smell like magick.” Eyebrow gave her a once-over, clearly interested in more than the way she smelled. It was more admiring than leering. Novel and, well, nice. She wasn’t used to being found attractive in connection with being a witch.
She smiled, blushing. She didn’t know a whole lot about shifters, but she did know they had an affinity with witches. It wasn’t a blow to her ego, or her libido, to be standing in a lobby bursting with all that earthy magick wolves carried. They were sexy and that they found her sexy? Well that was sexy too.
And interesting. “What does my magick smell like?”
“Always a little vanilla. Like from yellow cake.” He paused and then nodded. “Yes, you smell like yellow cake.”
“I really like yellow cake.”
“Who doesn’t?” He grinned. “If you want to hang on a sec, I can call up to see who is available to meet with you.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that very much.”
She moved to the mini-reception area he’d indicated and checked her messages while he did whatever it was he needed to do.
“Do we have a problem here?”
She froze before turning slowly to face none other than Josh Neelan.
Josh tried not to gape at the witch whose ass he’d just been admiring. But it wasn’t her ass that stunned him into long silence as he took her in from the tips of her sensible work boots, up shapely legs, the nip at her waist, the swell of her tits—he remembered those quite well—and into her face.
She blinked and he scented her blush. His wolf pushed at the human in charge. He’d wanted her back then. More than he should have. Apparently his wolf agreed about wanting her now.
Well now. A hundred years’ worth of memories fell down all around him at the sound of his name on her lips.
He sucked in a breath and it was filled with her. And with her magick. F**k. She was a witch?
“I take it you two know each other?” Shaun, one of his wolves who had the door shift that afternoon, spoke, his brow rising.
“Yes. Michelle and I are both from Roseburg. She used to be a cheerleader.” He smiled at that memory. Her in tight sweaters and short skirts. Christ.
Shaun looked her over. “Yeah, I can see that.”
Josh did not like it one bit that Shaun looked at his Michelle that way. He gave the other wolf a look, but Shaun wasn’t cowed.
But the amusement he’d expected to see in her features wasn’t there. Just hurt and devastation and most likely he’d put it there.
“You’re here because you need our help?” He took her upper arm and moved her toward the elevators, keying in his code.
She nodded and disentangled herself from his hold.
“Let’s go up to my office to talk.” He led her into the elevator and punched his floor number and his code before turning back to her. “Damn, it’s really good to see you.”
He pulled her into a hug, burying his face in her neck. His entire system went wild at her scent as he dragged it in. Her body felt good against his. He’d thought he’d forgotten her, what it was to have her in his arms. But he’d been so, so wrong.
He pulled back as they arrived on his floor, his wolf displeased that she hadn’t relaxed into the embrace.
“This way.” He led her through the halls, finding himself having to stop from touching her. His wolf was agitated, pressing against his human skin, fighting for supremacy because it wanted contact with her.
He was better than this. He shoved the wolf back as he indicated a couch near the windows. “Sit. Do you want something to drink? Are you hungry?”
“Gage Garrity from Clan Owen sent me to ask for your assistance. My best friend was taken from her apartment by mages yesterday. There were signs of a struggle. I followed what little bit of a trail I could find up here. You guys are great trackers. I need your help.”
Mages. Great. He poked his head out of his office, speaking to his assistant. “Can you get us some coffee and sandwiches?”
“I don’t need to eat. I need to find Allie.”
He sat next to her on the couch she perched upon, and she edged away a little, pressing against the arm to keep her distance.
“This is dangerous. More dangerous than you probably know. Of course I’ll help. I need the facts first so we can figure out what’s happening. You’re a witch. You never told me?”
“You weren’t around to tell. And I know it’s dangerous. That’s why I’m so worried.”
“I need to explain. About leaving Roseburg, and you.”
“Don’t bother. That’s long past. Very ancient history and all that jazz. You moved on. Looks like to a far better life. I’m not here for that anyway.”
He didn’t want her to think it was about her. He hated that part. He’d left for his sanity, for the safety and security of those around him. He’d left to step into a new life and he didn’t regret that part. Still, it agitated him that she was upset in any way. And she was. She could say all the right words, but he could feel it in the tension of her body, hear it in the tone of her voice. Could scent the acrid burn of her emotions.