Home > Burn Bright (Alpha & Omega #5)(11)

Burn Bright (Alpha & Omega #5)(11)
Author: Patricia Briggs

Instead, he relied only on himself and Brother Wolf and reevaluated the clearing. As he and Anna had seen earlier, there were three four-wheelers. Assuming one of them had been carrying the heavy cage that now contained Hester, each of the vehicles had only one person on it.

That meant that the two men in biking leathers—standing as far from the cage as they could get—were the only ones between Hester and safety. Brother Wolf slunk lower toward the ground and carefully began moving around the clearing with the intention of closing in and taking them by surprise. Still flinching under Hester’s reproof, Brother Wolf was utterly silent.

“You should call again,” said the bigger of the two men.

They spoke in hushed whispers, as if they thought someone might be listening. Charles thought of the trees growing through their four-wheelers, and Brother Wolf smiled. That would give a person pause, wouldn’t it? To be stuck in the middle of a wilderness with someone who could do that would be pretty terrifying. If he were one of them, he’d be wondering what else a person like that could do.

“Helicopter is coming,” responded the other man in a soothing voice. “But this clearing isn’t big enough now, and our second-choice landing zone is too far for us to carry the wolf all the way. Extraction team is coming to help.”

“I heard all that, too,” said the big man—he sounded thoroughly spooked. “But Boss will be crazy mad that we only have the one and not both. Wanted both. This one and her fairy mate. Maybe Boss’ll just leave us up here for the Marrok to take.”

“Edison, just be cool, man,” said the other man, his voice calm and authoritative. “We got the female that’s wanted. Not our fault that the male was more powerful than we were told. Information wasn’t our task. Someone else’s head will roll for that.”

And the wind shifted directions just enough to slide past them, bringing their scent right to Charles. Brother Wolf pricked his ears in rage. These were werewolves.

Werewolves attacking Bran’s people in Bran’s territory.

In the distance, Charles heard the distinctive thrum-thrum of a helicopter. He was out of time.

If they had been humans, he would have handled them differently. But there was only one answer for werewolf intruders.

Even so, it was hard.

He and Brother Wolf were built to make the submissive wolves safe, that was their purpose in this life, and the big man was clearly a submissive wolf.

Under any other circumstances, he would have killed the dominant and given a submissive wolf the benefit of the doubt. A submissive wolf might feel he had no choice but to follow the orders he was given. But this one had become involved in a raid in the Marrok’s territory. For that there could be no forgiveness.

Tactically, he should have taken the other, more dominant and thus more dangerous, wolf first. But Brother Wolf would have none of it. They could not save the submissive wolf, but they could kill him as quickly and cleanly as possible—would see to it that he never had a chance to be afraid.

Silently he stalked them, using pack magic and his mother’s magic and his own skill. When he launched himself out of the trees and landed on the big man, that one’s muscles didn’t have a chance to tighten before Charles’s fangs tore through tendon and into bone that cracked beneath the pressure of his jaws.

While he was killing the first man, the second raised his weapon—a gun that looked wrong somehow—with wolf-quick reactions. Charles had considered the second werewolf in his plans but had calculated that the surprise of his attack would buy him the few seconds he needed to take care of the first wolf.

Someone had trained the surprise out of this soldier. Charles hadn’t counted on that, and that was going to get him killed.

Brother Wolf tried jumping aside but let Charles know what he already knew, there wasn’t a werewolf on the planet fast enough to dodge a bullet. They could only hope that it wasn’t a silver bullet or something big enough to kill him anyway.

But these men had come into this land hunting werewolves, hunting Hester. It seemed likely that whatever they carried would be able to take care of werewolves.

There was an instant of blazing pain so big it had a sound that vibrated his bones, followed by silence.

CHAPTER 3

Charles woke to the sound of stone banging on metal and the human snarl of his mate. Assuming, from the words that she was using, she hadn’t joined him in Heaven, he decided he wasn’t dead, though he couldn’t figure out how he’d survived.

He raised his head—and didn’t that feel all sorts of lovely. But there was no blood, so, wincing against the thought-scattering pain, he rolled upright and saw Anna hitting the door of Hester’s prison with a rock. He also saw that the man who had shot him was very dead.

He couldn’t have been out long because he could hear the helicopter, much nearer now but not yet on top of them, over Anna’s chant, “Break. Break. Break. Damn it.” She wasn’t beating on the kennel itself but the sleek, tough-looking padlock on the door.

A human wouldn’t have stood a chance at opening that lock with a rock, but Anna was a werewolf. He rose to his feet, all four of them, as the lock on the kennel door broke.

Ignoring the wobbliness that threatened to pull him back to the ground, he trotted unsteadily to Anna’s side and put himself between Hester and Anna as Anna pulled the padlock arm free of the hasp, releasing Hester.

He got a bite in his shoulder for his trouble. It wasn’t a nasty bite, but Hester’s fangs dug in, driven by anger at needing a rescue. Hester was not the kind of wolf who dropped to the ground and rolled on her belly in gratitude.

“Stop that,” Anna said, smacking Hester on the nose with enough force that the old wolf released Charles and snarled at his mate.

Anna jerked her hand back from Hester with a hiss, then shook her hand out. The silver in the padlock and the cage had left blisters on her hands. Hitting Hester had hurt her further. Seeing them, Brother Wolf growled at Hester and drove her away from his Anna with a lunge that the other wolf reacted to without meaning to.

Hester growled at him this time, her eyes narrowing with rage, compounded by her involuntary reaction to his dominance.

“Charles,” Anna said. “Please. Hester—we’re trying to help you. Jonesy called us in. Let’s get under the trees, where they can’t just shoot us from the helicopter before you try to kill each other, okay?” She glanced up at the sky as the helicopter flew directly over them, low over the trees but fast. “Why are they just buzzing us instead of landing already?”

She’d missed the notice that the clearing wasn’t big enough for their chopper to land in—probably because the chunk that now held the trapped four-wheelers was filled with big trees instead of a clearing.

But she had a point. Charles had flown enough helicopters to have a pretty good idea of what kind of sitting ducks the three of them were here in the open.

But the helicopter hadn’t even paused as it flew overhead.

Hester eyed Anna. Charles saw her weighing the benefits of teaching Anna better than to slap her on the nose while her mate was distracted watching the helicopter.

Charles regained his human form before Hester could do something stupid. She yipped and jumped back. He didn’t know if it was the suddenness of his change or the fact that he was fully clothed that had startled her. Neither was something any other wolf could do because no one else was a werewolf born instead of made—and born of two people who both carried magic in their veins. Anna had once pointed out that with his heritage, he was lucky he hadn’t been born purple or with a unicorn horn; instead, he got to change in the blink of an eye and emerge clothed all the way down to his footwear.

He decided to ignore both the blood trickling from his shoulder and the fact that Hester had even thought about biting his mate. The pain in his head had subsided, the change speeding the healing with a thoroughness that told him Brother Wolf had decided to draw upon the pack.

He frowned at the clearing thoughtfully. He thought about how the helicopter had acted, searching for something or someone but flying over them as if they were not interested in their people or the werewolves. Or as if they hadn’t seen them.

“Did Jonesy put a glamour over this place?” he asked Hester. “And could Jonesy hide your cabin from them without hiding it from Anna and me this morning? Maybe make it difficult to locate from the air?”

   
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