Garrett was cranky and he knew the others were avoiding him because of it. He’d stalked the house, ran the woods until his legs ached, cleaned out one of the larger bedrooms and transferred his things into it, and spent endless hours staring out the window at nothing. He was getting twitchy, restless, and down right pissed. Why hadn’t Rayna called him yet? He was sure she would have once she’d settled in to where it was she was headed, but she hadn’t. Not even a simple call to say, “Hey. I’m all right.” What did he get instead? Nothing.
Spending a restless night alone caused the wolf to drive him near mad. It prowled just beneath the surface and demanded they go after his mate. He was almost tempted to do it if it weren’t for the fact he didn’t have a clue where to begin looking. He thought Rayna may have gone back to Bluff’s Point but she’d put her apartment up for sale when they went back to grab their belongings the month before. There was nothing in Bluff’s Point for her now. Nothing but friends, he thought. She could be staying with one of them. If so, why hadn’t she called!
He slapped the windowsill and turned, walking back across the living room. Jacob hadn’t come back and he would have enjoyed the distraction. He could only imagine what Carmen was up to by now. He didn’t trust the woman and he was sure she knew Rayna was gone. Surely she had someone watching the house.
Thinking of Carmen, he wished the woman would show up. He had more than a few things to say to her. A few things he was sure would piss her off. He could hardly wait for the confrontation. It would distract him enough to stop thinking about Rayna every three seconds.
The sound of the front door slamming, followed by the rapid beat of someone running, drew his attention. Gavin ran through the doorway and Garrett knew by the look on his face, whatever he was about to say, wasn’t good. “What is it?”
Gavin took several deep breaths, his chest heaving. “Up on the high ridge,” he gasped. “Saw tire tracks.” He leaned over, put his hands on his knees and held up one hand, motioning for him to give him a second.
Garrett’s wolf grew restless then. Gavin must have run like the devil himself was after him to be that winded. He waited impatiently and crossed the room when the man just stood there panting. “What the hell is it, Gavin?”
He stood, took another deep breath, and exhaled. “I was up on the high ridge. There were a few small saplings broken near the road and I saw tire tracks in the mud so I followed them.” He looked away and ran his hand through his hair before meeting his gaze again. “The tracks disappeared over the side of the cliff. When I looked… I saw Mitch’s car about half way down.”
Garrett’s blood ran cold moments before his wolf slammed against his bones. He was walking to the door before he realized Gavin was still talking.
“It’s wedged between some trees. I couldn’t get down to the car by myself.” Gavin grabbed his arm when he reached the door and Garrett growled before turning to him. He stared at Gavin’s hand before looking up.
“You’re going to need help getting down that cliff, Garrett. Just hang on a second, let me round up a few of the others and we’ll go back up there.”
Gavin didn’t wait for an answer. Garrett watched him race through the house, yelling for Bryce and Ethan before he opened the door and walked out, heading across the yard. Ten steps away from the house and he was running.
He didn’t stop until he’d reached the ridge, walking along the road searching for the tire tracks. When he found them, he thought his heart would break from his chest. He tore through the trees lining the road and skidded to a stop at the cliff edge. A glance over the side and his stomach rolled over itself.
The front of the car was wedged between two trees, the nose pointing toward the ravine below. It was several feet down and just as Gavin had said, there was no way over the side of the cliff. Unless you wanted to break your neck and he didn’t.
“Rayna!” He waited, listening for any sign of movement and heard nothing. “Rayna!”
He yelled her name until his throat was raw. Paced the edge of the cliff looking for a way down and decided to just risk the broken neck and head down when he heard voices.
Bryce, Gavin and Ethan ran through the trees, panting for breath. Several lengths of rope were thrown to the ground and Gavin was tying one to a nearby tree when Bryce walked to the edge and looked over. “Have you heard anything?”
“Nothing. I’ve been yelling her name but no response.”
Garrett’s gut reaction told him she was fine but a niggling thread of doubt kept creeping in. She wasn’t answering him and he didn’t want to speculate why. The doors were still closed on the car but he couldn’t see the front windshield to see if it were still intact. The thought of her flying through it, and falling down the side of the mountain, made his stomach revolt again.
He walked to Gavin and grabbed the end of the rope.
Gavin didn’t let go. “Let me do it, Garrett. We can afford to lose me if something bad happens. I’ll let you know what I see the moment I get down there.”
He shook his head, no, and walked to the edge of the cliff, looking over the side. “Hold the rope incase it comes loose from the tree.” He wrapped the other end around his waist and hoped like hell it would hold. Climbing equipment would be nice about now. He’d have to see that they invested in some for the future. One never knew when it would be needed.
The other three men each grabbed the rope and he gave them a nod of his head before sitting on the edge of the cliff and sliding over the side. His arms ached as he held on, trying to find a foothold, and he glanced up once he found one. “If anything happens to me, Bryce, you’re in charge of the pack. Watch your back with Carmen. She’ll be trouble once she knows I’m not here.”
“I don’t have to worry about Carmen because nothing’s going to happen,” Bryce said. “Now get down there and get Rayna. We’ll pull you up when you have her.”
Garrett looked over his shoulder at the car. He hoped like hell Rayna was in there and just unable to answer him because the alternative wasn’t acceptable. He’d join her if she were at the bottom of the ravine.
* * * *
Sabriel’s whitewashed world was a stark contrast to Victor Carroll’s house. Where Sabriel’s home had been bright and open, Victor’s was dark and rather foreboding.
The three-story house was covered in dark brick and was surrounded by a dense forest of pine trees. It reminded her a lot of the house in Wolf’s Creek. Well, except for the interior of the house. Victor’s home was dark. Too dark. The paneling on the walls, the hardwood floors, even the drapes over the windows were dark. It looked like a tomb.
And Victor Carroll looked like he belonged in one.
The man was old. His appearance alone told Rayna that much. If she had to guess, she’d place his age at ninety or better. He was a werewolf, and since the aging process slowed down once infected, it was hard to tell how old this particular wolf was.
His face was tanned and wrinkled; white bushy eyebrows slanted down toward his eyes and made him appear to be scowling. His lips were thin and cracked and he moved as if every step was painful, his back hunched as he used a cane to help him walk.
When he sat down and looked at her, Rayna wanted to take a step back. His eyes were dark, near black in color. There was nothing gentle about this man. She could tell by the way he looked at everyone in the room. He was a Breed leader and apparently had been for some time. He was probably used to getting his way and she knew she was doomed. If this man wanted her to show the world they existed, she’d do it. He’d see to it.
“So this is the girl?”
“Yes, Mr. Carroll.” Thaddeus grabbed Rayna’s arm and pulled her closer. “Rayna Ford, this is Victor Carroll. Breed leader for the wolves. Your Breed leader.”
Victor stared at her for long minutes, his gaze sweeping over her from head to toe. She stared at him and refused to be intimidated. She’d had enough of that with Malcolm. She certainly wouldn’t let some old codger make her feel that way, too.
When Victor had looked his fill, he turned his head toward Sabriel. The smile he threw him was mocking and Rayna raised an eyebrow at the expression on Sabriel’s face. The man was still as death and his gaze was hard, those bright green eyes filled with a deadly glint.
“Sabriel, its nice of you to join us,” Victor said, his voice crackling. Sabriel didn’t reply. “You’ll be my guest, along with the girl. Catherine has already set a room aside for you.” He turned back to look at Rayna then. “The others will join us tomorrow, Ms. Ford. We’ll go over the plan with you then.”
“I can’t shift,” she blurted out. “There will be no plan for tomorrow.”
Victor looked at her with disinterest. “Ah, yes,” he said, waving a hand to dismiss her comment before standing. “No worries. I can call the wolf.”
“Call the wolf?” A bad feeling settled in her stomach. “What do you mean?”
He turned to look at her and smiled. “I’m two hundred and four years old, Ms. Ford. I’m the most powerful wolf in the country. I can call that wolf of yours and she will come. Don’t worry about that.”
“You can make her come out?”
“Yes. It won’t be pleasant for you but we’ll achieve our goal. The world will watch you shift tomorrow. Now, do get some rest. Catherine will show you to your room.”
Rayna turned when Thaddeus motioned her out into the hallway. A young girl stood there waiting. She was smiling, a fall of blonde curls dangling over her shoulders. She looked out of place in Victor’s tomblike home. Her dress was white, with small blue ribbons threaded through the collar. She looked young with large blue eyes that held a mischievous glint. Her features were fair and dainty. She looked like a fairy from a children’s book and raised more questions in Rayna than she knew she’d get answers for.
“This way.” Rayna followed, trying to remember which halls they passed through as she went. The entire house was somber. They reached the foyer and Rayna looked toward the front door. A man stood there, his beefy arms crossed over his chest. The look in his eye told her leaving wasn’t an option. She sighed and started for the stairs after Catherine.
The staircase twisted into a half circle, leading up to the darkened second story of the house. Photographs lined the wall as she climbed and Rayna stared at them as she passed, wondering if those were the faces of werewolves staring back at her.
At the top of the stairs, Rayna jumped, startled, when she came face to face with a wolf. He was standing against the wall, frozen. It took her a moment to realize it wasn’t real. “Nice décor you have here,” she said, looking at what she assumed was a replica of a werewolf.
Catherine laughed. The sound reminded Rayna of tinkling bells. It was childlike in nature and she wondered again at the girl’s true age. “That’s Artemis. He was a great warrior.”
Rayna’s eyes widened. “That’s a real wolf?”
“Was. He died nearly sixty years ago.” Catherine stopped and looked up at Artemis and smiled before sighing lightly. “He was a great Breed leader. More powerful than Victor even.”
Something in Catherine’s voice, and the look on her face as she looked at the wolf, led Rayna to believe the girl may have known him while he lived. “He was Breed leader of this region?”
Catherine shook her head, a look of sadness now stealing over her features. “No. He ruled those in the south. He and Victor hated each other. They both wanted control of the entire east coast but neither would relent.” She smiled sadly, a far off look in her eyes. “They fought many times but were never able to best the other. When Artemis died, Victor had his body sent to be ‘prepared.’” She ran a hand over Artemis’ arm and grinned. “The taxidermist did a good job. He looks alive still, don’t you think?”
Rayna stared at those amber wolf eyes, the lips curled back to reveal teeth that still gleamed white. The arms were raised, claws extended. A shiver raced up her spine. “Yeah. He does look alive.”
She wondered why he’d remained in wolf form after death. That wasn’t how it happened in the movies. Werewolves shifted back to human at death. She’d have to ask Garrett. Assuming she ever saw him again.
They moved on, down a series of halls until they reached the room she would be staying in. Catherine opened the door for her.
The interior was dark and tomblike, just like the rest of the house. “I wouldn’t suggest exploring. The mansion is very large and can be confusing. Getting lost would be unfortunate.” Catherine smiled and looked around Rayna’s new prison. “Is there anything I can get for you?”
“A phone would be nice,” Rayna mumbled as she walked through the doorway.
That tinkling laughter was heard again. “The only phone in the house is in Victor’s study but I wouldn’t suggest going in there. He rarely leaves his sanctuary.”
Rayna turned to look at her. “And where is the study?”
Catherine grinned. “On the main floor, down the hall from the main staircase. Third door on the left.” They exchanged a look before Catherine said, “I also wouldn’t suggest trying to leave the house. Victor has the grounds securely monitored. The things that stalk the forest aren’t creatures you’d want to find yourself face to face with. They eat first and wonder who you were later.” She gave Rayna a pointed look and backed out of the room, pulling the door shut behind her.
“Great,” Rayna said. “I can’t stay but I’ll get eaten if I try to leave.” Walking to the window, she looked toward the forest wondering exactly what Victor had patrolling his property. She couldn’t imagine it was rogue wolves. They were hard to control. It’s why they were considered rogue to begin with. It wasn’t dark enough for vampires to be out so that left something she didn’t want to contemplate.
Things Judith had mentioned briefly before turning ghastly white and leaving the room. Demons. A shiver raced up Rayna’s spine and she dropped the curtain. She’d never seen a demon but from Judith’s account of them, she didn’t want to. Ever.
Turning, she gave the room a critical look. It was dark. Just like the rest of the house. Dark walls, dark furnishings. Depressing. If Victor wanted her to go stir crazy, locking her up in this room would do it.
The thought sent her across the room to the door. It opened without resistance. Why hadn’t Catherine locked her in? Did Victor trust her to stay put or had Catherine done it on purpose?
Thinking of the girl, Rayna knew by her behavior she’d purposely left the door unlocked. Something about Catherine seemed very vindictive where Victor was concerned. She may have looked like a soft-spoken fairy but Rayna could tell she wasn’t.
She’d told her where a phone was and how to get there. For whatever reason Catherine had to give her that bit of information, Rayna wouldn’t ignore it. There was a phone in the house, a means to contact Garrett, and she’d be damned if she let the opportunity pass her by.
The question was, how did she make it to the study without someone noticing her and where did she tell Garrett she was?
* * * *
Garrett slipped twice on the way down the mountain and if it hadn’t been for the rope, he’d be nothing but a smear at the bottom of the ravine by now. His chest was rubbed raw from rope burns but when his foot hit the back of the car, he wanted to cry in relief.
He tested the cars hold on the trees before putting his entire weight on it. It never moved and after long minutes of waiting to see if it would hold him, he climbed onto the back of it and crawled to the window. He didn’t see Rayna but that didn’t mean she wasn’t in there.
Sliding around to the back door, he opened it and carefully maneuvered himself inside. The car shifted then and he sucked in a breath as it slid a few inches. When it settled again, he breathed a sigh of relief.
As his heart pounded, he noticed Rayna’s suitcase in the back floorboard before he leaned over the front seat.
She wasn’t there.
The keys were still in the ignition, her purse lying on the floorboard, and next to her bag was an item he knew didn’t belong to her. A hat. A brown “cowboy” hat, to be exact. He stared at it for long moments before climbing over the seat and grabbing it. His pulse leaped when he picked up a scent on it. A scent he couldn’t distinguish.
Giving the interior of the car one last look, he grabbed Rayna’s purse and turned, making his way back out of the car and started up the ravine. The hat got in his way and placing it on his head, had the others start pulling him up.
When he was on the edge, his chest and arms aching from rope burns, he pulled the hat from his head and lifted it. “Do any of you recognize the scent of the person who wore this?”
Ethan was the only one who did. “It smells a whole lot like, Stan, to me. Looks like his, too.”
“Stan?” Garrett said.
“Yeah. He always wore a hat, even in the summer.”
Garrett stared at the hat and didn’t dare get his hopes up. But what if Stan had been the one to drive over the edge of the cliff? He looked back down at the car. Rayna wasn’t there and none of the windows were broken. She hadn’t fallen out, so where was she?
“What was Rayna doing way up here anyway?” Gavin asked.
Bryce took the hat from Ethan. “What do you mean?”
“Well, town is in the other direction. If she was leaving, why would she drive up the mountain?”
Garrett’s gaze was still fixed on the car. “She wouldn’t.” Relief swept through him to the point he wanted to cry but worry settled in soon after. If Rayna didn’t leave in Mitch’s car, then where was she?
He untied the rope before standing. “Rayna’s still here. She’s not in the car, which means someone wanted to make us think she’d left. If she’s on this mountain there’s only one person I can think of that would have her.”
The others said, “Carmen,” at the same time.
Garrett nodded before scooping up the ropes and Rayna’s purse. “Let’s get back to the house and round up the others. I want this mountain searched from one end to the other before nightfall.”
* * * *
Rayna paced the floor of the bedroom she’d been sequestered in trying to think of a way to let Garrett know where she was. The phone in Victor’s study was too tempting to pass up but what did she tell Garrett when she called? She didn’t know where she was. Somewhere in New York but that bit of information would be useless.
Getting inside the study was another problem. If Victor rarely left his private sanctuary, how would she get in to even use the phone?
She was running out of time. The other Breed leaders would be there soon to discuss their plan with her. The plan brought the sickening dread back again. Victor was going to force the wolf, whatever that meant, and the thought alone caused her to break out into a cold sweat.
Someone knocked on the door and she hesitated before opening it, blowing out a breath when she saw Sabriel. “Please tell me you’re here on a rescue mission.”
He smiled and walked into the room. “If circumstances were different,” he said. “But, since nothing has changed, the answer is no.”
“So you’re here to taunt me instead?” Rayna shut the door and crossed her arms under her breasts.
“No. I thought maybe you’d enjoy a bit of company.”
He wasn’t entirely wrong. A friendly chat hadn’t been on Rayna’s list of things she wanted at the moment but staring at the same four walls for the last several hours was beginning to make her feel claustrophobic.
She sighed and leaned back against the door. “I normally don’t make it a habit of making nice with the enemy.”
“I’m not your enemy.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “Really? Because I remember you putting me in a car, driving several hundred miles from my home, and then doing some fancy mind-meld thing so I wouldn’t leave once you crawled into your coffin.”
Sabriel laughed. His features softened, his eyes sparkling with a pale light she was sure had to be another of his little vampire magic tricks. He was almost too beautiful to look at when he smiled. She wondered if that was a vampire trick too or if he was just naturally that good looking.
Whatever it was, enemy or not, Sabriel made her want to forget he was one of the bad guys.
He tilted his head to one side as he looked at her and Rayna’s pulse did that funny little dance it was known to do around him. Her skin heated, her heart raced and things low in her belly began to ache.
She looked away, confused. She didn’t understand her attraction to him. Well, that wasn’t true. The man was gorgeous. Mysterious and sexy in that bad-boy way all girls found intoxicating but she was in love with Garrett. How could the sight of Sabriel make her pulse leap when she looked at him if she loved Garrett? She’d seen many nice looking men in her life but they didn’t cause her body to respond the way it did with Garrett or Sabriel. She had no feelings for Sabriel other than friendship and that was shaky at best. She still didn’t trust him but at the moment, he was the only thing she had.
So why did he affect her the way he did?
She saw him move out of the corner of her eye and looked up. They stared at one another until Rayna felt tingles race up her spine and her breath caught in her throat. He crossed the room, stopping when he reached her and raised his hand to her cheek. He stroked it with the back of his fingers. His skin was cool but not cold like she’d thought it would be. Her heart started hammering in her chest. He was too close. “What are you doing?”
He leaned in, his gaze falling to her lips. “Just testing a theory I have.”
Read Chapter Ten
A Night Breeds Novel
© 2011 Lily Graison