Wolves of Hunter’s Rock
Lukas put his hand on the door to keep Chris from opening it. “Calm down.”
“Really? I’ll calm down when you’re on the other side of that door.”
“Chris,” Lukas said, his voice deep and steady. “Calm. Down.”
Chris took a deep breath and appeared to calm a little, but he stubbornly kept trying to open the door. “Did I just let a serial killer into my house? My whole family—”
“I’m not a serial killer.” But I may be here to stop one.
Lukas might have laughed another time, but Chris’ nearness made it difficult to find humor in this. Chris was growing genuinely alarmed. Lukas clenched his jaw at the icy pit that fear caused in his stomach.
“I don’t know who you are!” Chris threw his hands into the air. “Or how—how do you know my name? I don’t even know that much!”
“Yet you let me into your house. Deep down, you know you’re safe. Trust your instincts.”
“I’d trust them better on the porch.”
Lukas sighed. “Where’s your bedroom?”
“What?” Chris took a step back. Lukas had to admit it wasn’t the best thing he could have said. It made Lukas think about pressing him against a mattress this time instead of the siding, take his time inhaling, tasting. They didn’t have time for that. Not yet.
“Or the living room, a den, I don’t care! We need to talk privately.”
“This is private,” Chris said, exasperated.
“Fine,” Lukas growled. “How do you know Brent Hollister?”
“Brent Hollister, your age, lived in Wilmington, Pennsylvania. Recently visited his uncle in Lorton, Arkansas.”
“I have no idea who that is.” Chris had backed up to the wall, between the coat rack and a table that held a small stack of mail.
“What about Jennifer Bray? Paleyville, Missouri. Your age.”
“Don’t know her either. Can I pick some names to ask you about, or do you get to have all the fun?”
Lukas grabbed Chris’ shoulders. “Vance. Emery. Merrick. Any of those names in your family tree, ancestors on your mother’s side?” he asked through closed teeth.
“N-no. Wait a minute. Vance? Isn’t that the name you gave my dad, Lukas Vance? What, you think we’re related or something?”
“You’re sure none of these names ring a bell?”
“No,” Chris said slowly, as if he spoke to someone with comprehension problems. “And now that I’ve answered your questions, I get to ask one. Do you think we’re related? And why do you care? What—”
“That’s more than one question,” he ground out.
“Do you think we’re related?” Chris blurted, his cheeks pinking up, probably something that happened all the time when he got agitated enough. Lukas liked it.
“But then why—”
“Something like that. Not exactly. Just don’t worry about it.” He let go of Chris and took a step back. He had to take a step back to get a solid breath of air that didn’t smell so good it could make him forget why he’d come there in the first place.
“Don’t worry about it?” Chris pushed off the wall and advanced as he spoke, moving Lukas back without touching him, getting into his personal space. “You were watching me at the ice cream shop, then you show up on my porch, lie your way into my house, start asking questions about people I don’t know, shove me around, and then say don’t worry about it?”
As irritated as Lukas was at the whole situation, part of him wanted to smile. He’d been backed up almost to the front door. He had to hand it to Chris for standing up to him, even though it would make things easier if he didn’t.
“Are you crazy?” Chris asked, taking another step. This time, Lukas didn’t back up. Chris hadn’t expected that, obviously, because he bumped into Lukas, who didn’t so much as sway. He grabbed Chris’ arms and held him there, their faces temptingly close.
“I don’t know. Am I?” he growled, then he breathed deeply, satisfied that there was only the slightest tinge of fear left on Chris.
Headlights shone through the window and tracked across the wall of the next room where no lights were on. Chris froze, then relaxed when the car kept going down the road. Probably relieved it wasn’t his mother.
“I’m no threat to you.”
“We just went through this. You sure act like a threat.”
“If I were a threat, you’d already be dead.” The words were out before Lukas thought about what he was saying. It was a fact. And completely the wrong thing to say.
“Let go!” Chris struggled, but it wouldn’t have mattered. If Lukas had wanted to hold him there, he couldn’t have gotten away. He looked like he might be about to shout.
Lukas spun him by the shoulders, pulled Chris’ back tight against his chest, and clamped a hand over his mouth. His other armed pinned Chris to him at his waist.
Big mistake, Lukas. What were you thinking, what are you doing?
The heat radiating off Chris’ neck carried the scent straight up to Lukas’ nose. He flared his nostrils to inhale more. The skin below Chris’ ear was pale, rich and fragrant, and he wanted to press his tongue there for a taste.
Chris shouted something against his hand. Lukas straightened and tried to think.
“Chris, listen to me. That came out wrong. I’m not here to hurt any of you, and you know that, deep down, or you’d be more afraid for yourself.”
Chris stomped his foot down onto Lukas’ instep, an impotent move thanks to thick boots. A ballsy move, though. Another thing to like about him.
“Listen, damnit! I’ll go, right now. But I want you to promise me you’ll ask your mother about those names. It’s important.” When Chris’ head turned a little and Lukas felt his jaw move under his hand, he said, “And no, I’m not going to explain why, not right now.”
He was so tempted to ask what? so he could hold Chris there longer and see him a little more worked up. He tried hard not to focus on Chris’ body against his, but he couldn’t block it out completely, not even in a situation this serious. He let go, and Chris spun away from him, wiping his mouth and glaring.
“You said you’d go, so go.”
“Get a piece of paper.”
“I really don’t want you here when my mom gets home. You said you’d go.” He pointed at the door.
“Write the names down, Chris. It’s import—”
“Brent Hollister, Jennifer Bray, Vance, Emery, Merrick. I have an excellent memory. I’ll ask her. How will I tell you what she says?”
“I’ll be in touch. Just ask her, as soon as you can.”
Chris had every reason to call the police, to think Lukas might be a psycho. But the way his honey eyes were more curious than afraid, Lukas trusted Chris to listen to him.
Lukas had no reason to stay there now, not once he said he’d go. As he turned, a light breeze blew through the house. He didn’t know which window was open or how far, but the scent on the air was unmistakable.
“Lock this door behind me,” he growled.
“Oh, you can count on that.”
“Close the windows. Lock them.” He didn’t want to frighten Chris, but he couldn’t leave him vulnerable. Not that a locked window would mean much against a determined were, but anything that could slow one down could be helpful.
“Just do it. I’ll explain later.”
Lukas stepped out the door. Chris closed it behind him, the locks snapping into place. He ran around the house, noting any open windows. One stood open, only a screen in place, in the room where Chris’ father sat at his desk, working. Damn.
He hurried to the next open window. “Chris,” he said, not loud enough to alert his father, he hoped, but enough for Chris to hear. He was supposed to be closing and locking windows, so he should get there soon enough. “Chris!”
“Oh my god, you’re yelling in the windows now!” Chris jogged into the room. “What?”
“There’s an open window in your dad’s office.”
“Just closed it and locked it. Told him the news predicted rain.”
“Good. There’s this one, and don’t forget about the one upstairs.”
Chris snorted. “You’re joking. You want me to close and lock my window on the second floor? Someone coming with a ladder, you think?”
Lukas resisted the urge to snap at him. It did sound crazy if you didn’t know what could be coming. He could sense Chris’ uneasiness, even though he was making jokes. That was Lukas’ fault for not handling the whole thing better.
Maybe he could have if he could think clearly that close to Chris. But damn if he couldn’t.
“All of them, even upstairs.”
“You’re going to explain this later.”
He gave a quick nod. “Ask your mother.”
Chris slammed the window down, harder than necessary. Lukas waited until the upstairs window, Chris’ bedroom he’d said, was shut and presumably locked, before looping around the house, sniffing the air.
The scent was gone. He couldn’t risk going in search of it. He circled the house again, straining to get a hint, but nothing. Headlights appeared at the end of the street, so he ran to the backyard and scaled the house. He sat outside Chris’ window far enough to the left that Chris couldn’t see him. No one from the street or the driveway should be able to, either.
Other houses, he wasn’t sure about, but the dormer put him in shadow from any light coming from the street. There should be enough tree cover to hide him from the houses around, as well.
A truck pulled into the driveway. If Chris’ mother knew any of those names, he’d have a chance at figuring all this out. He took in great gulps of air as she walked to the house, and caught her scent.
Nothing. No hint of wolf or anything supernatural. Most importantly, no hint of his pack.
How was Chris even possible if neither parent had the scent? The only options were if one or both of them weren’t his parents, but he looked like his father. Lukas wondered if he’d been adopted from a family member, or he was simply wrong about the resemblance. That had to be it.
He couldn’t smell like pack when neither parent did. He couldn’t.
Lukas tried to pick up on any conversation inside the house, but a television had been turned on, making it all but impossible to hear past the mumble of voices. He listened for Chris to come into his bedroom, so he could knock on his window and find out what his mother said.
A scent came to him. Wolf again. But this time, pack. Maybe it had been before, but he was too drawn to Chris’ scent to distinguish properly. Maybe he was losing his mind.
The breeze blew a little quicker, and he recognized the scent it carried. Oh, god damnit. Lukas hung his head and took a deep, calming breath.
“If I were a threat, you’d be dead by now?” The soft, laughing voice came from the trees. “You haven’t changed, Lukas. Still smoooooth.”
“Griffin. What are you doing here?”
“Can’t I see my baby brother when I want to?” Griffin leapt silently onto the roof and crouched next to Lukas. He wore a similar leather jacket, but in brown, and his dark blond hair could use a trim. “I missed ya. Ain’t that reason enough?”
Griffin dropped down onto his ass, making more noise than he had while jumping over there. His grin made it clear he’d meant to.
Lukas wouldn’t be baited. “What do you know?”
“Damn it, Griffin.”
“‘Bout a bunch of towns, some dead bodies? This damn thing stuck on my car last week?” Griffin pulled out a piece of paper and held it up for Lukas. It took only a second for him to make out the names in the dark.
The same list he’d been given. Same handwriting, as far as he could tell. He grabbed the note and sniffed it. It only smelled like Griffin.
“Already tried to get a scent off it, genius. Got zip.” Griffin snatched the paper back.
“Got any theories?”
“I’ve got a theory that whoever’s doing this is an asshole. Beyond that, no. I’ve been a step behind you, but now that you’ve found one who hasn’t been turned into chop suey yet, I thought we’d work together.”
Of course he did. He probably wouldn’t have followed up on the list at all, otherwise, and he only knew that Lukas had because he was a nosy son of a bitch.
Griffin sniffed Lukas, his eyes glowing yellow. Lukas put his hand over his brother’s face and pushed. “Spread out.”
“You smell like him. Your clothes . . .” Griffin closed his eyes and licked his lips. “How can he smell like that? Like us, but not us? Some kind of a trick?”
“I don’t know.”
“He was here, earlier. You smelled him, didn’t you?”
“He?” Lukas’ back straightened.
“Another wolf. Not long before you came out, I caught his scent and followed, but lost it about eight blocks over. I think it knows he’s in there. No way he can’t smell that . . . it’s so strange. Wolf, but not. I’ve never—”
“I know.” At least Griffin only seemed enticed by the strangeness of it, and wasn’t affected like Lukas. It was hard enough dealing with his own wants than to have to rein in Griffin’s, too. He had hoped that the earlier scent had been Griffin, and he’d simply not recognized it because his senses were overloaded. Not so.
Lukas had to assume the other wolf was after Chris.
“Okay, okay,” Griffin said, holding his hands up. “Look, you’re here, and I assume you plan to stay. I’m going to go try to find him. He’s gotta be staying downwind, or he has a great hiding place. I still don’t know how he got so far ahead of me. I’ll stay fairly close, though, in case he shows up and you need help.”
Lukas hoped he didn’t need help. “Be careful.”
“Always am.” He slapped Lukas’ shoulder as he stood. “Good to see you, bro.”
“Is it?” Lukas didn’t look up.
“Yes, dumbass, it is.” Griffin didn’t move, so Lukas finally met his gaze. He really had missed his brother’s face, even if this wasn’t the best time for Griffin to show up. If he could be helpful, it would be great. But somehow he usually ended up making things more difficult.
“Okay. Good to see you, too.”
Griffin put his hand on his chest. “I know.” He leapt from the roof and was gone.
Lukas let his head rest against the dormer and tried not to think about his brother being there. Griffin could take care of himself, and until they’d figured all this out, at least there wouldn’t be much time for them to talk about other things. Right now, he had to focus on Chris.
Griffin was right, though. Chris’ scent was all over him. He alternated between feeling on edge from it and wanting to relax into it. Roll in it and howl. He lifted the hand he’d had over Chris’ mouth and placed it over his own, flaring his nostrils as he inhaled deeply. He let his tongue slip out and slide along his palm where Chris’ lips had pressed against his skin.
His whole body shuddered, the instinct to protect, to protect what was his, making every inch of him feel alive in a way he never had before.
What the hell am I going to do?