Dire (Page 36)

“The powers that be?” There was that word again. Dire.

He nodded. “The Society. The King. But none of that matters. I’ll keep you safe.”

“What makes a Dire Wolf different?”

“We’re bigger and much stronger. Like I said, we’re more dangerous to the King.”

“None of this explains why I can’t leave. I promise not to tell.”

He sighed. “The witches know you’re here. They’re angry… and you’d never get far.”

“What? How do they know that?”

“Do you remember how your accident came to be?”

“Something jumped in front of the car. Gage hit the brakes, and we spun out.”

“It wasn’t an accident.”

“Who jumped in front?”

Hunter turned away.

“Who jumped in front?”

“Chet.”

“What?”

“We were only trying to protect the humans around here. They started taking innocent people. Chet figured that any guy who’d drive these roads in a winter storm deserved the witches’ plans for him.”

My stomach turned. “Gage didn’t deserve to be a slave.”

“No, but who does? We had to choose someone. Chet didn’t realize Gage wasn’t alone. That’s why he didn’t take him. When we went to check it out we saw you.”

“So it was all in the plans? Why not just take us to them? Why let us walk?”

“Because I saw your face.”

“My face?”

“And your hair.” He picked up a few strands.

“You look just like her, Mary Anne. And you’re so beautiful.” He gently caressed my cheek. “And once I met you, I learned more. You’re so full of life, so good, so deserving of love and protection. I couldn’t let you fall into the hands of such evil. I couldn’t let that happen again.”

“Who do I look like? Was she a girlfriend? What happened to her?”

“Can’t we continue this another night?”

“No. We’re going to continue this right now.”

“It’s late. We should go to bed.”

“No. Please,” I pleaded.

“We’ll talk tomorrow night.” He started to put out the fire.

“Why? Why are you stopping?”

“Because I don’t want to keep you up all night.”

“The story is that long?” I wrapped my arms around myself. I was suddenly freezing.

“No. The story is that frightening.”

Chapter Nineteen

Gage

“We’re going hunting.” Hunter said the words stoically, like he was making an announcement of epic proportions.

“Oh, yeah?” I was learning where to draw the line with the guy. If I pushed it too far he let me know it, but I couldn’t just stick to yes or no answers either. When I did that he always got suspicious.

“Yes. There’s another storm coming through, and we can’t wait any longer.”

“I’m guessing I’m being dragged on this little outing?”

“Absolutely not. You’d slow us down. We hunt in our animal form and bring home the meat.”

“Oh. So are we staying home alone?” I risked a wink at Mary Anne. “I promise we won’t steal the car or stay out past curfew.”

“That’s a good one.” Hunter didn’t smile. “Falcon will be staying back.”

“What? I don’t get to go on the hunt?” Falcon whined like a little kid.

“We all have to contribute to this pack. Your contribution this time is to watch them.” Hunter gestured to me but looked at Mary Anne. No surprise there. “We’ll bring home plenty of meat.”

“Does that mean we get to sleep in the same room?” Mary Anne showed way too much excitement. I silently cursed. Was she trying to keep Hunter around?

“Of course not.” He shifted his weight from foot to foot. “You will remain in my room while Gage returns to the guest room. Falcon will watch you both from the hall.

Falcon scowled. “This had better be my only time on babysitting detail.”

“You will do what I tell you if you want to remain part of this pack.” Hunter wasn’t a leader I’d screw with if I were in his pack. He was tough on me, but equally tough on the others. I knew from experience what it was like to be on his bad side, and I wouldn’t have wanted to bring that on myself voluntarily.

“Will you be gone long?” Mary Anne thankfully made it sound like she was asking out of curiosity and not because she didn’t want him around.

“A few days. If you need anything, Falcon will be able to find us.”

“I’m sure we’ll be fine.” She bit her lip, and I knew she was trying hard not to smile.

“Maybe you can use these few days to reconsider your feelings on sharing a bed with me. Not that I mind the floor.”

I still couldn’t quite believe that the guy was doing that. Not that I didn’t understand the effect Mary Anne could have on a man. I’d been playing our time in the truck together on repeat night after night. It was what was getting me through the hell of living with the wolves.

“Maybe.” She glanced down at the floor.

She was learning. At first Mary Anne seemed to be playing along with everything, then she fought him tooth and nail, and now she seemed to have found a balance. She held him at bay physically, but I sensed she tried to keep things personable otherwise. I didn’t like her near the guy, but there was nothing I could do. At least there wasn’t before. With everyone but Falcon leaving, we might finally have our chance to escape.

“When do you leave?” I tried to sound disinterested, but I was already formulating a plan. I needed to know exactly how much time I had to execute it.

“Tomorrow at dusk. We’ll spend tomorrow preparing, so don’t think you’re going to get out of work.”

“I wasn’t planning on it.”

“Good. Falcon will also be making sure you continue to do your jobs when we’re gone. The next few days are not a vacation or a chance to play patty cake with Mary Anne.”

“Patty cake? Is that what you think I’m going to do with my—” I stopped myself just in time before I could say girlfriend. I nearly ruined my charade of moving on. “My friend?” I knew he didn’t buy a word of it, but he still wanted to hear it.

“I’m sure you had lots of friendly activities planned.” He glared at me. “But remember my rules.”