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Dark Moon (Chapter Four)

The force of the explosion sent us both to the ground. Through some acrobatic maneuver, Nic managed to cover my body with his.

Debris rained everywhere. My ears rang. I thought I'd gone deaf until I realized the wolves were howling right next to my head.

Nic eased off me. "What was that?"

I sat up, staring at the flaming compound. "My guess is a really big bomb."

"Bomb?" He leaped to his feet. "What makes you think a bomb?"

"You're the hotshot FBI agent. What does that look like to you?"

"Gas explosion?"

"If we had any gas out here. Electricity fired this place. And last time I checked, electricity doesn't cause fiery, explosive death."

He peered at his suddenly dirty shoes for several ticks of the clock, then offered me a hand. "You're right."

Since touching him was a stupid idea and kissing him had been an even worse one, I got up on my own.

When I touched people, bad things happened.

I contemplated the heat and the flames. Really bad things.

The building was little more than a flaming crater. The guard was dead. I wasn't sure about the werewolves in the basement.

Burning the bodies after they'd been shot with silver left ashes, but would a firebomb kill a werewolf? I didn't have a clue.

A chill came over me that had nothing to do with the wind. What if Billy were alive?

I swayed and almost fell. What if he were alive and free?

Nic, who'd been creeping closer to the blaze, hurried to my side and clutched my elbow. "Are you dizzy?"

I closed my eyes on another cheery thought. Not only did I have to worry about Billy, but my notes, my serum, the antidote were gone.

"Elise, you'd better sit down again."

I shook Nic off, took a deep breath, let it out slowly, then took another.

"My work," I managed. "Everything was inside."

He blinked, glanced at the compound, then at me. "You must have it backed up off-site."

True. However, I didn't know where that somewhere was. Only Edward did, and he was in Wisconsin.

"You don't?" Nic's voice was incredulous.

"Yes, of course. But there were things in there I'm going to need."

I glanced at the sky, contemplating the lopsided, three-quarter moon.

Soon.

Nic patted his pocket, and a bewildered expression crossed his face, followed almost immediately by a dawning understanding. "Left my cell in the car."

Dazed, I followed him around the crackling building to the front parking lot. He stopped walking, and I ran into his back.

"Uh-oh," he muttered.

Leaning to the side, I saw the problem. The cars were on fire, too.

"I guess that makes sense," Nic said, almost to himself. "This kind of damage, usually a car bomb."

I guess he should know.

"How many vehicles were supposed to be in this lot?" he asked.

I glanced at the piles of fiery metal and counted. "One less than we've got."

His lips tightened. "Doesn't really tell us all that much, but I can get someone here who can. Got a phone?"

"In my office."

"Great."

He scrubbed his fingers through his hair, leaving a few strands standing on end. If he hadn't been six-three and about two-twenty, he would have looked like a little boy with cowlicks. As it was, I found myself charmed far beyond what was good for me.

"This makes no sense," he continued. "Why would anyone want to blow up a medical research facility?"

Since we were a lot more than that, there were quite a few people, and nonpeople, too, who would love to blow J-S headquarters to hell and gone. Not just the building, either, but me, Edward, and any other agents they could take out in the process.

We didn't need the FBI here. Lord knows what else they might uncover when they started sifting through the rubble. If I could get to a phone ahead of Nic, Edward would take care of the cover-up.

A cool wind sifted through the trees, bringing with it the scent of winter. We'd been lucky so far; it was November and we'd only had a dusting of snow. I glanced to the west where dark clouds billowed on the horizon. That was about to change.

Something cracked and fell inside the smouldering crater, the sound echoing through the forest. A wolf yipped, beyond the fence, not one of mine, and I started to get nervous about being in the open without a gun.

"Where's the nearest town?" Nic asked.

"Sixty miles, give or take."

His stare was blank. He couldn't get his mind around the concept. "Where do you live?"

I pointed to the flames.

"You live and work here?"

"There isn't anywhere else."

Besides, I worked all the time. Why bother to rent elsewhere, even if it was safe to do so?

Sure, sometimes I left the compound, even the state, on special orders from Edward. But once those orders were completed, I hurried back and disappeared once more behind the locked doors.

"What about groceries, clothes… ?" He spread his big hands wide. "Stuff and junk?"

"Supplies arrive twice a month."

He opened his mouth, then shut it again, and his eyes narrowed. "There's more to this place than medical research, isn't there?"

I didn't answer. In the end, I didn't have to.

A shadow scooted behind a tree at the edge of the parking lot. I turned that way, wishing like hell I'd brought my gun. Nic had one, but without silver bullets it wouldn't do much good against most of the things that were after me. Still…

I reached for Nic's arm, planning to ask for his weapon, or at least tell him to pull it out, and the shadow shimmered, almost taking form, before blending into the half-darkness once again. Curious, I let my hand drop and took a step toward the trees.

A sound came from the woods, one I'd heard only a few times before. However, when dealing with gunshots, once is more than enough. I yanked Nic with me to the ground.

The bullet whistled through the air where our heads had been, then thunked into something solid on the other side of the parking lot.

I glanced at Nic. He had a Glock in his hand, and I hadn't even seen him move. Impressive.

"Where did that come from?" he asked.

"There."

I pointed to the tree where I could have sworn I saw the shape of a human being – except in my world, they might not be human anymore.

If Billy was alive, he wouldn't bother with a gun. He had so many better weapons in his arsenal. Besides, Billy was the kind of guy who liked to get his hands, as well as his fangs, dirty.

Nic made a move to get up, and I pulled him down. "I don't think so."

"I'm not going to be a sitting duck. I've got a gun, too."

Which wouldn't do him a bit of good when shooting at a werewolf.

The conundrum made me hesitate long enough for Nic to slip out of my reach. Instead of running into the woods, he stared at me with narrowed eyes. "Who did you piss off, Elise?"

"Me? Who says they weren't trying to kill you?"

His eyes widened. Guess he hadn't thought of that.

Nic lifted the leg of his slacks and handed me a .38 from the ankle holster. "I'll be right back."

He headed into the forest. When no shots were fired, I concluded that whoever had been there was gone.

I inched across the parking lot, avoiding the burning piles of metal that had once been cars. Gauging the trajectory from the tree where I'd seen the shadowy figure, to the area where we'd been standing, then beyond, I was able to find the bullet embedded in a smoldering signpost.

The spent ammo looked like any other. However, my fingers burned the instant I brought them close to the bullet. The reaction could have been from the continuing heat of the fire, except it wasn't.

The bullet was silver.

"Huh," I murmured as I drew back my hand. "Guess they were after me."

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