“I’m Erik Foster. Malcolm invited me.” He smiled and shrugged one shoulder. “I was late getting here.”
Garrett stared at their visitor and took a step toward him, placing himself in front of Rayna. “Well, like I said, Malcolm is dead.”
“I see.” He looked at Rayna, studying her for longer than Garrett liked. “Who is in charge of the pack now?”
Garrett crossed his arms over his chest. “Me.”
“And you are?”
Rayna had been right about one thing. This guy smelled funny. Garrett inhaled again and filled his lungs. Erik was a wolf, his scent was enough to tell him that, but something was off about him. He smelled familiar but… not. “Garrett Kincaid,” he finally answered. “I’m the new pack leader and if you’re one of Malcolm’s friends, you’re not welcome.”
Erik raised an eyebrow. “I never said I was a friend of Malcolm’s.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Like I said, he invited me.”
“For the meeting of The Collective.”
Garrett saw Rayna move out of the corner of his eye and turned to look at her. “Can you go see how Bryce is doing with our other guest?”
She frowned at him and the look in her eyes let him know she didn’t like being dismissed. She glanced at Erik before turning and walking out into the hall. He watched her until she started up the steps before turning back around. “What is the Collective?”
Erik moved across the room and sat down in one of the chairs near the fireplace. He lounged back into the cushion, stretched his legs out in front of him and clasped his hands together on his stomach. “The Collective,” he said, “Is the order Malcolm wanted to be a part of. Every powerful leader of the Breeds was a member.”
“And what does this, Collective, do exactly?”
“Nothing,” Erik said. “Well, not yet, that is.”
“And what is it they will do?”
Erik shrugged a shoulder. “Anything they want, I suppose. They’re the most powerful creatures on the planet. There isn’t much they can’t do.”
The guy was purposely evading the truth. Garrett bit back a smile before crossing the room and sitting in the chair opposite Erik. He stared at his unwanted guest, took in his posture, the look on his face and read him like a book. Being a cop for the last ten years had its uses. He could smell a liar a mile away and this guy was up to something. “So,” he said. “This Collective. You’re a member?”
“No. I’m not a breed leader.”
“Then why did Malcolm invite you?”
Something flashed in Erik’s eyes before he diverted his gaze, looking down and fumbling with the buttons on his jacket. “I was asked, like I said. My purpose had not been discussed.”
“So you came without knowing why? And two months late at that?” Garrett leaned back and smiled. “Sorry, Erik, but I don’t buy your story.”
Erik shrugged again. “It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other if you believe me. I was told to come by my pack leader so I did.”
“And who is your pack leader?”
The smile was back. Garrett saw the arrogance in Erik’s eyes before the man stood up. “I’m afraid my business is done here.” He straightened his jacket before looking Garrett in the eye. “I was told Malcolm would give me instructions to what I was to do and since he isn’t here, I’ll be on my way.”
Garrett followed him to the door, watching as Erik stepped outside and turned his face up at the sky.
“I do love this mountain air,” Erik said. “Makes a man just want to find a good woman and forget about the rest of the world.” He turned, tipped his head and walked down the driveway to the main road and started back toward town. Garrett watched him until he was out of sight before shutting the door.
“Who was that?”
Garrett turned when Bryce spoke. “Erik Foster,” he said. “He’s not pack and he’s up to something.” He walked toward the stairs. “Is Dillon still upstairs?”
“Yeah. I have him sitting with Judith and the vamp.”
They climbed the stairs and looked into the bedroom on the third floor when they reached it, Garrett motioning Dillon outside to the hall. He kept the door open to keep his eye on the vampire. He didn’t trust her with Rayna and Judith alone in the room with her.
“Who is Erik Foster?” Bryce asked.
“A wolf. Not of this pack but he smells familiar for some reason,” Garrett said, keeping his voice down. “He said he was asked to come by Malcolm. He was needed for something to do with the Collective. Did you ever hear Malcolm or Carmen mention that before? The Collective?”
“No,” Bryce said, looking toward Dillon. “You?” he asked. When Dillon shook his head no, he shrugged. “What is it?”
“The Breed leaders, apparently.”
“They’ve formed a group?”
“That’s what this Foster guy said.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” Dillon said, speaking for the first time. “If the Breed leaders have banded together they had to have had big plans.”
“They did. They intended on sacrificing Rayna for their cause.” Garrett looked through the bedroom door at her. She was standing at the foot of the bed, talking to the vampire. She’d adapted well to her new life, he thought. As well as he expected her to. She was still scared and regardless of what he did to reassure her, he knew he’d failed. Her hysterical fit in the woods after she almost shifted told him that. The hurtful words she’d slung at him told him he’d failed her. He’d die to protect her but none of that mattered if he lost her love in the process. That he couldn’t live without and knowing she blamed him for the way her life turned out, the fact she was now one of the monsters, ate at his conscience.
More so now. With Erick Foster showing up, he knew whatever this, Collective, had planned, wasn’t going to go away just because Malcolm was dead. The Breeds had banded together, just as Dillon said. That could only spell trouble. He’d thought Rayna was safe but that had been an illusion.
Turning his back to the bedroom, he said, “I want everyone to watch the house and the road.” Looking at Bryce, he gave him a pointed look. “Pick whoever you think is best and secure the town. I want to know who comes and goes through that main road. We should have had someone watching it before now.”
“I can have someone there within the hour.”
“Do it,” he said. “Send someone to try and catch up with Foster, too. I don’t trust him. He’s up to something.”
Bryce nodded before handing the cup in his hand to Dillon and turning, hurrying down the hall. When Dillon mumbled under his breath, Garrett looked over at him.
“Blood for the vamp,” Dillon said, holding the cup up.
“Better take it to her. Don’t get too close, though,” he said, smiling. “She bites.” He caught Rayna’s eye and she crossed the room before stepping out into the hall.
“So, what did the wolf want?”
“Nothing good, I’m sure,” he said, leaning back against the wall. “I didn’t get much out of him.”
“Where is he now?”
“Gone. I sent Bryce to have him followed.”
She stared at him for long moments before sighing. “You’re not going to tell me what you talked about, are you?”
Garrett smiled. “If it were anything worth repeating I would.”
“I thought the time for secrets was in the past.”
He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her snug against him, before kissing her on the forehead. “I don’t have any secrets,” he said. “If there was anything to tell, I would.”
“And why don’t I believe you?”
“Because you’re paranoid.”
She sighed, her shoulders relaxing. “Is that due to the wolf or is that just me?”
He chuckled. “Knowing you the way I do, I’d say it was just you. Comes from all the skulking around in the dark you did and crossing my police lines when I specifically told you not to.”
Rayna pinched him on the arm and looked up at him smiling. “If you would have just told me what I wanted to know I wouldn’t have had to sneak past your weak barriers.”
“And if you would have been a good citizen like the rest of Bluff’s Point,” he said, kissing her on the lips. “I wouldn’t have caught your scent. The wolf wouldn’t have been intrigued enough to follow you over half the city before finding you in that dingy little bar. Me wanting you is all your fault.”
She smiled. “You stalked me?”
“Something like that.” He kissed her again, his tongue delving into her mouth. A moan worked its way up her throat as her arms tightened around him and the sound of someone clearing their throat caused him to pull back.
“The vamp is agitated,” Dillon said. “She’s gone all spooky.”
“Spooky?” Garrett stepped around Rayna and walked into the bedroom.
“Yeah. She’s all white-faced with creepy veins on her face.”
Rayna saw what he meant when she was near enough to see the girl. Dillon was right. She did look a bit on the creepy side. Her eyes were a crystalline blue, the irises so pale they looked white. Her face was deathly pale and small blue veins could be seen near her temples and snaking down over her cheeks. “What’s wrong with her?” she asked.
“No clue. She was watching the door then went all…. vein-y.”
“Watching the door?” Rayna turned to look at it herself before looking back at the girl. The sight of her made her think of, Sabriel, the vampire who had attended Malcolm’s little dinner party the night they tried to infect her. He’d been quite handsome. Too handsome, actually. Just thinking about him left her feeling guilty for admiring him. He made her think things she shouldn’t have. Like what it would feel like to have those fangs in her skin. To see if the myth of vampires being cold to the touch was real. Did the effect his voice had on her happen to everyone or was it just her?
Looking at the vampire on the bed, Rayna had to wonder if Sabriel had the ability to go all spooky, too. She was sure if he could, her attraction to him would be lessened. There wasn’t anything attractive about the creature currently staring at her.
The girl opened her mouth before shutting it. She looked toward Garrett and pointed to her neck.
“We’re going to get the wire out.” He stared at her for long moments before mumbling, “Just as soon as I figure out how.”
The girl shook her head, the tumble of curls on her head shaking violently. She pointed to the door, then to Garrett. Like magic the color of her eyes changed, the veins disappeared and her skin, although still pale, didn’t have that washed out ashy look. She looked normal again.
Rayna saw her glance around the room before her face scrunched in apparent frustration. She stared at the bed before her head tilted back up. Her eyes were wide and she motioned to the bed before laying her hand on it and making a series of motions with her index finger.
“What is she doing?” Judith asked, stepping closer to the bed.
“I don’t know.” They all moved closer, watching as she did it again. Rayna watched the girl’s finger and smiled when she made out the letters she was spelling out. “She’s writing! Judith, go grab a pen and paper.”
They waited as Judith rushed from the room and came back a few moments later, pen and paper in hand. She handed it to the girl. A few quick strokes of the pen and she held up the tablet to show what she’d written.
Erik Foster brought me to the mine.
Bryce walked back into the house to see Garrett pacing the foyer. When the pack leader saw him, he knew he’d missed something. Garrett’s eyes were amber in color and his features were shimmering. The wolf was too close to the surface. “What happened?” he asked, shutting the door.
“Erik Foster is the one who brought Lydia to the mine.”
“Okay,” Bryce said. “Who is Lydia and how do you know?”
“Lydia is the vampire we found.”
The vampire’s name was Lydia? Bryce hoped his face was as neutral as he wanted it to be. Ever since that girl had taken a chunk out of him, he hadn’t been able to think of much else. Old wounds resurfaced and clouded his mind with pictures from his past. A past he hadn’t wanted to think about.
He loathed vampires with a fiery passion. The world would be a better place if those blood-sucking leaches were wiped off the face of the planet. Just the sight of one made his skin crawl. Having to carry that girl out of the mine took every ounce of willpower he had. How many times on the way down the mountain had he contemplated pulling the tarp they’d wrapped her in off and just watching her burn? Watching her burn in agony just like…
“Bryce.” Garrett said his name and dragged him from his musing before he motioned to the living room. His pack leader didn’t wait for him to follow. When he stepped into the room, he watched Garrett continue to pace. “Did you have any luck tracking Foster?”
Bryce cleared his throat and said, “No. The guy’s scent disappeared at the edge of town.”
“Too many scents to track. There were a lot of wolves there not long ago. Not pack but familiar.”
“The same as Foster.”
Bryce nodded his head. “Whoever this guy is, he wasn’t alone.” Garrett stopped pacing. He stood in the middle of the room, hands on his hips and stared out the window. “What are you thinking?”
Garrett turned his head to look at him. “Lydia said he was in the mine.”
“You think he’s one of Caleb’s wolves?”
“That would explain his scent. Those wolves were made by Caleb but didn’t associate with the rest of the pack. That may be why his scent is familiar yet not. We smell a trace of Caleb on him.”
“Okay, say he is one of Caleb’s,” Bryce said. “What was he doing here?”
“I think he was trying to grab some information.”
Garrett looked to the door and Bryce turned his head as Rayna walked into the room. He knew then what Garrett suspected and he hoped he was wrong.
“The wire is out,” she said.
Bryce raised an eyebrow. “What wire?”
She looked up at him when he spoke. “In Lydia’s neck.”
“Can she say anything?” Garrett asked.
“No,” Rayna said. “Not yet. Judith said we’d probably have to wait for her throat to heal. Maybe then she’d be able to.” She stared at them before frowning. “What were you two talking about?”
Garrett smiled at her before shaking his head. “She’s turning into a bloodhound instead of a wolf,” he said.
“Very funny.” She rolled her eyes at him. “And your face gives you away, Garrett. You get these funny little lines between your eyebrows when you’re worried about something.”
“I do not,” Garrett said, raising his hand and rubbing the skin between his eyes.
She turned to him and the look in her eyes told him not to lie. “What were you talking about, Bryce?”
Bryce smiled and glanced at Garrett. “You might as well tell her,” he said. “She’s going to find out eventually. And if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, she needs to know.”
Garrett ran his hand through his hair and sighed. “Eric Foster, as Lydia told us, was in the mine. He smelled funny to you because the scent was familiar, as in Caleb’s scent.”
Her eyes widened. “Caleb’s wolves.”
“So what was he doing here?”
“It’s just a guess,” Garrett said, “But I think he was trying to see if you were here.”
“He told me Malcolm had sent for him but didn’t know why. That his pack leader had told him to come yet, he didn’t know Malcolm was dead. Malcolm has been gone for over two months. I’m sure everyone involved in Malcolm’s plan knows what went down. Why would someone send Erik here two months after the fact.”
“They wouldn’t,” Rayna said.
“Not unless someone was trying to get information,” Bryce said. “What if this Collective Erik talked about actually sent him?”
Garrett shook his head. “I don’t think it was them. If the Collective was still interested they wouldn’t send just anyone to come here. They’d send someone powerful. Erik didn’t come across as weak to me but he isn’t powerful either. If the Collective still wanted Rayna, they’d be more cautious about who they sent to retrieve her.”
“Then who sent him?”
Bryce remembered what Garrett had said before they entered the mine and had a sick feeling in his stomach. The thought running through his head must have been the same one Garrett was having. Rayna was right, he did get lines of worry between his eyebrows. “You think it’s her, don’t you?”
“Her who?” Rayna asked, her head turning quickly to look at each of them in turn.
Garrett gave her a pointed look. “Don’t go into the forest alone, Rayna.”
Bryce turned and crossed the room. “I’ll send out more patrols. If she’s on the mountain, we’ll find her.”
Rayna growled. “Find who!”
He stopped, looking at Garrett over his shoulder and at his nod said, “Carmen.”
Rayna didn’t turn away from the windows when she heard the bedroom door shut. She knew it was Garrett without even looking. He stepped in behind her moments later, his arms circling her waist. “Do you think she’s out there now?”
He kissed the side of her neck, his breath hot against her skin. “Probably.”
She chewed on her bottom lip, staring at the darkened forest. The moon was only a day past full and should have still lit the world but clouds drifted across the sky, the moon barely shining through them. Shadows crept across the lawn, the shapes they created looked like specters inching closer to the house. Coming for her. “What do you think she wants?” she asked.
“Hard to tell with Carmen but don’t worry. Bryce has the grounds well guarded. If she gets anywhere near the house, we’ll know about it.”
By then it would be too late, wouldn’t it? She’d thought since Malcolm was now dead that the interest in her would have died with him. Knowing there was a group of Breed leaders hell bent on seeing their species brought to the attention of the world left her feeling uneasy. What if they weren’t finished with her. She was infected now. That’s what they had been waiting on. Was that why Carmen was back or was it for something else?
The only other thing Carmen had wanted was control of the pack. Well, that and Garrett. Rayna felt an urge to lash out at something just thinking about it. She still remembered the punch Carmen had landed to the side of her face, the threats and hysterical screaming the woman had done when she’d been dragged from the room the day Carmen had attacked her. Had all that been the reaction of a jilted lover?
Turning in Garrett’s arms, she looked up at him. He was handsome enough to get a girl worked up. He was fiercely protective, just as jealous as she was, and loved with his whole heart. He cared about others and would put his own life on the line to see that they were safe. He’d done it for years in Bluff’s Point. He was still doing it now, standing up for their small wolf pack. She could see why Carmen would want him. Any woman would.
“What are you thinking?” he asked, smiling down at her.
“I’m thinking about how much I love you.”
His smile widened, his hands sliding up her ribs to rest under her breasts. “Want to show me how much?”
“I thought I did that this morning out by the creek?”
He leaned down, nibbling on her lips as his hands toyed with her breasts through her shirt. “You did but that was hours ago. I need a reminder.”
Garrett lifted her shirt, pulling it over her head before divesting her of her bra. Wet kisses were peppered across her face and down the side of her neck before he found the soft flesh around her nipples. His tongue lapped at her, his hands tugging at the snap on her jeans.
A sudden knock on the door caused them both to growl. Garrett turned and yelled, “What?”
Bryce answered saying he had news. Garrett gave her breasts one last look before he bent and picked her shirt up off the floor, handing it to her and walking across the room. He waited until she was covered, then opened the door.
“There’s trouble out front,” Bryce said, breathlessly.
“What kind of trouble?”
“Carmen’s here and she’s not alone.”
Read Chapter Four
A Night Breeds Novel
© 2011 Lily Graison