Hunter's Moon (Chapter 31)
My cell phone rang – the sound shrill in the sudden silence. Both of us jumped. I got up to answer.
Damien was so close, I shoved him back as I went by, and he let me.
If he was a big, bad werewolf wouldn't he have killed me by now? Why wait? Avoid the rush.
I was grasping at straws and I knew it.
I gripped the phone more tightly, calmed by Edward's voice. My eyes met Damien's and I hesitated. I knew what Edward would want me to do, and I couldn't. Not yet.
"I received your message," he continued. "Any more information for me?"
"Wasn't that enough?" I asked.
"I would say no. The native woman – "
Edward, ever politically incorrect – what can you expect from an eighty-year-old-and-then-some former spy?
"Her information was interesting, but we still do not know what the power eater plans for the night of the hunter's moon. You do not know where their lair is."
"Any clues on that?"
"Search for a gathering place. Isolated. Protected."
"Been there, done that. Found nothing."
"I cannot help you, Leigh. I am here; you are there. Do the job."
"Why don't you come and help me?" I blurted, then wished I hadn't.
Edward might look like anyone's great-granddad, but he wasn't. He'd blow Damien's brains out without a second thought. Step on the remains, grind them into dust, and never flinch. Once I'd been that way, too. Suddenly I wasn't, and it left me floundering and alone.
"I can't," he answered.
I frowned. Edward had been saying that since I'd gotten to Crow Valley. It wasn't like him to avoid the action. "Why?"
"You've been trained for this job. You do not need me."
His voice was clipped, angry. Something was going on, but I knew Edward well enough to know he wasn't going to tell me what it was.
"Have you done any further investigation of the odd dwelling with the human remains? I have never heard of anything like it."
Which couldn't be good.
"I haven't been back. What should I look for?"
"I have no idea."
This from the man who knew everything.
I continued to study Damien as I spoke to Edward. He leaned against the wall and stared right back. His odd, changeable, unblinking eyes should have made me leery. Instead they made me hot. I was crazier than even I thought I was.
Why hadn't I recognized Damien's eyes in those of the brown wolf? I'd taken one glance at Hector in wolf form and known him for what he was. Damien… not so much.
His eyes were strange – changing hue depending on the light and what he was wearing. Still, I should have known. Unless, maybe, I hadn't wanted to see.
Edward mumbled something on the other end of the line.
"What was that?"
"I have to go, Leigh."
And he did. Just like that.
"Now what?" Damien asked.
Exactly. Now what?
Was there a way to check his story? Maybe.
"Do you have a Social Security number?"
"I did." At my frown he continued, "I died in Germany, remember?"
"So you say."
Damn. How was I going to check out his story without tipping off every Jager-Sucher in the country that I was investigating someone who was already dead? I had no idea.
The question disturbed me so much, I let my guard drop. The next instant Damien stood right next to me.
I tried to bring up the rifle, but he snatched it away and tossed it on the bed.
The heel of my hand shot toward his nose. Old habits are hard to break.
He blocked the blow with a lightning-fast movement that nevertheless appeared lazy. How did they do that?
He yanked me against his body, and he wouldn't let me go. My heart thundered in my ears, warring with the harsh, panting sound that at first I thought was him but in-stead turned out to be me. I was panicked, frightened, and so turned on my skin seemed to be dancing around on top of my bones.
Was he going to kill me? Or worse?
I struggled, but that only seemed to excite him more. His erection pressed against my stomach, pulsing and shifting, as if it had a life of its own.
He pressed his face to my neck, inhaled as if memorizing my scent. Hell, maybe he was. My hands were trapped against my body; my feet dangled above the floor. I could do nothing to stop him, and in truth, I didn't want to.
His tongue blazed a hot, wet trail from my collarbone to my ear. His teeth grazed the throbbing vein at the curve. I shuddered as he nibbled and laved.
My hands were free. Instead of socking him in the eye, I pulled him closer, my fingers tangling in the dark, curling strands of his hair.
When had my legs wrapped around his waist? When had his palms cupped my ass?
He nuzzled the tops of my breasts. I yanked my shirt down and his mouth closed over a nipple, his tongue pressing me against the roof of his mouth, once, twice, again. I tightened my legs. I was going to come. He lifted his head and whispered, "I love you, Leigh."
My body went ice-cold. I didn't have to struggle; this time when I pulled away he let me go. My breasts were still exposed, wet from his mouth, aching with arousal and frustration. I covered myself and fought the urge to take a shower.
Hurt flickered in his eyes; his face hardened. "It's OK to have sex with you but not to love you?"
I lifted my chin. "That's right. I seem to recall a deal that involved taking what you could get."
"I've been taking most of my life. I've finally found someone I want to give something to."
"I'm not buying."
"I'm not selling. I'm giving. I love you."
"Stop saying that!" I shouted.
Jimmy had loved me. It had gotten him killed.
Damien could take care of himself, like Hector. Who had also loved me. Sick son of a bitch.
Which man did Damien most favor? Sweet Jimmy who'd wanted nothing more than for me to be happy?
Or demonic Hector who'd only wanted me to be like him?
"Leigh," Damien whispered, his fingers caressing my arm, his breath in my hair. "What can I do to make you believe me?"
I was swaying toward him before I realized it. Since I'd lost my family, my future, and my mind, I'd prided myself on my self-reliance. I needed no one. In that way I could never be destroyed again when someone I loved died.
How many days had I known Damien? Already my body accepted his nearness, trusted him above my head and my heart. Stupid body.
I wanted to lean on him, believe in him, but I couldn't.
I inched away, stood on my own again, even though my hand lingered on his arm, slid through his palm, fingers clinging for just an instant to his.
"I have no idea," I answered, which was true.
How could I prove he wasn't an evil werewolf when, as far as I knew, there'd never been a nonevil one before? Asking Edward would raise too many questions. Same thing with Jessie and Will.
The door burst open and Damien shoved me behind him. Impressive. But was the move real or had he heard Jessie pounding up the stairs with his superwolf powers? More than likely.
"Knock much?" I asked.
She ignored me. Her face was eager; she was practically dancing on the tips of her toes. "I have to talk to you," she blurted. "Alone."
Damien shrugged and headed for the door. I reached for him and caught just the tail of his shirt. The silk slid through my fingers and was gone.
I didn't want him out of my sight. What if I never saw him again?
"Damien?" He turned. "Don't – uh – go anywhere, OK?"
He lifted a brow. "Where would I go?"
Was he trying to be a smart-ass? I couldn't be sure.
"Jeez, Leigh, you can hop back into the sack with him later."
I winced. Thankfully she didn't notice, but Damien did. His eyes went sad and he slipped out the door.
Why did I feel as though I'd kicked a puppy?
The analogy almost made me laugh until Jessie spoke. "We've got two more half-eaten wolves."
"Elwood found them near his house about forty-five minutes ago. He lives a good thirty miles on the other side of town."
Thirty miles from Crow Valley. Ten miles from the tavern to town, which made forty miles away.
"Had they been dead long?"
"That's the best part. Elwood saw the wolf eating them."
Our eyes met. I didn't even have to ask.
"White," she said. "Just like we thought."
"That doesn't mean much with super-duper shape-shifter powers."
"Doesn't hurt, either."
I thought about what she'd said. The white wolf had been seen forty miles from here at the same time I'd been saved by a brown wolf, which I knew to be Damien.
It didn't mean Damien couldn't have killed those wolves; he could even have had a nibble or two. But he couldn't be the white wolf. This was good news and made me feel a little bit better about not telling Jessie the truth.
"You ran all the way out here and burst in like a kid on Christmas morning to tell me this?" I asked. "You couldn't use the phone?"
"You shut it off, dip wad."
I frowned, crossed the room, glanced at my cell. I had. Chalk it up to having my life come apart at the seams again.
"I was talking to Edward," I said.
Jessie nodded as if she'd expected as much. "Cora called."
" She found something interesting."
"In her Textbook of Witches and Werewolves. How the hell should I know? Cadotte was practically prancing when he got off the phone. Couldn't wait to tell you all about it."
"Where is he?"
Jessie opened her mouth, then shut it again, shrugged.
"I pointed out that this information might be easier coming from a girl."
"Spill it, Jessie."
"Why don't we sit?"
"That bad, huh?"
"You aren't going to like it. That much I know. But Will's on the job. He's searching every Internet corner and every book that he has to find a way to stop this before it happens."
Jessie sat on the couch. I perched on the edge of a chair. She sighed and spilled it.
"Remember what Sister Spooky said about the night of the hunter's moon?"
"Sacrifice. Blood, death, tears. Yada yada."
Jessie smiled. "There's a little more to it than that."
"Isn't there always?"
"Yep. Did you know that only the alpha pair in a wolf pack can mate?"
"I seem to recall something about it in Wolf Behavior 333."
Jessie lifted a brow.
"Hell. Supreme alpha. The ritual involves sex?"
"So I hear."
My back started to burn as if someone had doused it with kerosene and struck a match.