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The only guarantee I had that the boss was inside came from the bear Casey had dated, Fin. Vera insisted we could trust him, and from our brief meeting in the cave earlier, he seemed willing, although reluctant, to help. More than his promise, I had faith in Vera. I trusted her more than I should have trusted a girl I’d just met. I also couldn’t get the image of her naked body out of my head. I shook myself. I was not allowed to have those kinds of thoughts about a bear, especially not when I had work to do.

I remembered the basic layout of the cave and headed back around to the area where Fin planned to meet me. His job was to take care of any bears that came back early, but I hoped I wouldn’t need him. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I met with the boss, but I’d find a way to take him down. No one was stronger than a Pteron.

“Hello, Jared.”

My head snapped up when I heard the sweet female voice. There was something familiar about it, but I couldn’t quite place it. I didn’t answer. I just kept moving in the right direction.

“I’m over here.”

The voice was coming from behind me. I turned in the tight space and tried to stand. The ceiling was so low that I had to keep my head bent over.

“I’m so glad you’re here. I was scared you wouldn’t come back for me.”

It wasn’t Vera or Casey. Who was it? Before I could wonder for long, my eyes were blinded by a bright light.

“Tiffany?” I stepped back in shock when I took in the sight of Allie’s friend. She was wearing all black leather. Her blonde hair was perfectly done in curls cascading down her back.

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“What are you doing here?” Alarm bells went off. Something was wrong. Tiffany shouldn’t be here in a cave. She should still be in Hawaii or back in New Orleans.

“I’m here to see you.” She stepped toward me. “Isn’t that why you’re here? You’re looking for me?”

“For you… wait are you?” I’d assumed the leader was male, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe the boss had been right in front of me the whole time.

“The boss? That’s right.” Her lips quirked into a smile.

“How? You’re just a human.” I searched around me for an exit but there was none. The room was so cramped there was no way I could transform.

She stepped even closer. “Really? Do you really think I’m just a human?”

“What are you?” My eyes went to her chest. Her low cut top left her breasts nearly tumbling out. She was dressed as unTiffany-like as you could get.

“Oh, Jared. Can’t you figure it out?” Her voice was teasing and sexy, and all wrong. Everything about her screamed magic.

“A witch. You’re a witch. The bears are working for you?”

“That’s right, big boy.” She ran a finger down my chest. “I’m the boss.”

“What? How? Why?”

She laughed. “Cat caught your tongue?”

I lifted my head up and smacked it into the ceiling. The physical pain was nothing compared to the panic setting in. “But you’re nineteen.”

“Oh, isn’t that sweet?” She stepped even closer, pushing me against the cave wall. I couldn’t move. My body felt like lead. “Tell me something, Jared. Have you ever been with an older woman?”

“How old are we talking?” Things were getting weirder by the second.

“Older.” She leaned in. “But now what are we going to do? You’ve seen me.”

My heart raced. What the hell?

“Funny how easy it was to get you here.”

“Get me here?” Then things started to fall into place. “You wanted me to come looking for Casey.”

“It wasn’t planned from the beginning, but it’s nice to get you out of the way.”

My chest clenched. “Out of the way? What do you mean?”

“The Laurents have publicly claimed Casey now. You know what that means?” She didn’t wait for me to answer. “I’ll tell you.” She touched my chest again. “It means that if something were to happen to Levi before he has an heir, Casey would take the throne.”

“So? Casey’s a good person. She wouldn’t get mixed up with you.”

She laughed. It was a frightening laugh that didn’t fit her at all. “You’re forgetting something, Jared honey. Casey isn’t pure Pteron. Her head is like an open book to me.”

“What? You can mess with Casey’s mind?” Was that why we weren’t supposed to mate with shifters? Maybe the combination of genes somehow created Pterons whose minds weren’t immune to all magic. And if that was the case, did the same thing apply to Pterons mating with Pterons? I didn’t have time to think about it for long.

She grinned. “But of course. Whether she knows it or not, she’s no longer in control of her decisions.”

“But Allie and Levi are fine.”

“Are they?” Her lips brushed against my ear. “I like Allie so I decided to let her have her honeymoon. They won’t be coming home from it though.”

My heart sunk. I wanted to vomit. Levi and Allie were in trouble, Casey had a witch controlling her, and no one else knew. I had to get out of the damn cave. I had to get to Allie and Levi.

“I bet we can find some good uses for you.” She grabbed my crotch. “I’ve always wondered what the famous Jared Florence was like. I’ve already experienced your brother.” She blew out her candle, and my heart about stopped. I hoped with everything I had that both of the Bates sisters were safe. I knew I couldn’t hope the same thing for myself.