A WOLF ON A MISSION Part 10
Vivian envied Logan and Declan for their ability to set aside any concerns about what the night might bring while they concentrated on consuming copious amounts of protein at the barbecue joint the motel manager had recommended. After finishing off huge steaks, they'd split a slab of ribs along with an order of brisket burnt ends thrown in for good measure. With her nerves stretched to the breaking point, she'd settled for a bowl of soup and some cornbread. By the time Logan started scanning the dessert menu, she was ready to scream.
It was Declan who finally noticed something was wrong. He jerked the menu out of Logan's grasp and tossed it down on the table. "We're done."
"But they have strawberry—" Logan started to protest but stopped mid-complaint as soon as he looked at her. "Sorry, Viv. I'm guessing you'd like us to get the show on the road."
She blinked to clear the tears that had welled up in her eyes and did her best to smile, although she suspected it was pretty wobbly. "Actually, what I really want is to go anywhere else but where we're headed. However, I'm not running again. It's time to take a stand. I just don't want either of you to get hurt because of me."
Logan immediately reached out to lay his hand over hers even as Declan slid his arm around her shoulders and dragged her closer to the solid strength of his big body. She let herself soak in all the soothing comfort they offered her. Even when she regained control, she maintained physical contact with both of them.
"Okay, what do we do next?"
It didn't surprise her that it was Declan who answered. "If we hadn't run into your old packmate, I would've suggested we use the element of surprise and simply show up. Even though there's a chance that train has left the station, it's still the best plan. Even if Brenda has warned Rolf, he still doesn't know what's actually going on. There's no reason for him to think you've suddenly decided to come crawling back, so he shouldn't be expecting us to show up on his doorstep anytime soon. I don't suppose there's anyone still in the pack that you trust enough to tell you the truth about the situation we'll be facing."
She shook her head. "Even if there was, we'd just be putting another person at risk. Rolf wouldn't take that kind of betrayal at all well if he found out."
Logan joined the discussion. "There has to be someplace near the pack's headquarters where we can park the SUV so I can do some reconnaissance. I can skirt the compound to see if it looks like they're locked, loaded, and looking for trouble."
Vivian waited to see what Declan had to say on the matter. He studied Logan for several seconds before slowly nodding. "I usually prefer to do my own recon, but any guards Rolf has posted are more likely to react to the scent of a strange wolf than that of a passing vampire."
While the two males continued talking, she reached for a paper napkin and a pen and began sketching the layout of the central compound where the majority of the pack lived. "I should have done this earlier. I've been gone for some time now, so I can't swear that this drawing of the pack's territory will be completely accurate. The main buildings should still be the same. You know Rolf wouldn't have been happy that I managed to escape without setting off any alarms. No doubt he'll have upgraded the security system, especially in crucial areas like the headquarters building, the perimeter, and the front gate. There's only one road that leads into the compound, but there are also several game trails that offer access to it. They're rough and fairly narrow. Mostly they're used when the pack goes for a run, but I've known people to use ATVs on them as well. Not sure how well they'll be patrolled."
After adding a few more details, she pushed the napkin to the center of the table. Pointing to one of the trails, she said, "This one leads all the way into the nearest town. It ends in the woods behind a tavern where some of the pack likes to hang out on weekends. The place used to be closed on Sunday and Monday. If that's still true, there's a good chance you won't run into anyone on that particular trail."
Logan studied the makeshift map before handing it to Declan. "This will really help, Viv. I'll make my approach from the bar, but I'll take this map with me in case I need to take a different route on my way back."
Declan pointed to where she'd drawn a small rectangle representing the tavern. "We'll find a place to park the SUV near this place and wait for you. If we don't hear from you within an hour, we'll figure something went wrong and ride into the rescue."
The mere idea that Logan might run afoul of Rolf and his henchmen made Vivian regret even the small amount of soup she'd managed to choke down. She really, really didn't want these two men putting their lives on the line for her, but they were determined to do it with or without her approval. Drawing a shaky breath, she nodded. "What he said—we'll come for you."
At her agreement, Logan beat a drumroll on the table with his hands. "Okay, guys, let's do this."
Declan gave her a quick hug before he grabbed the bill and headed for the register at the front of the restaurant. While they waited for him to return, Logan once again took Vivian's hand in his, his expression intense. "I will admit that I'd always wondered if our relationship might turn into something more than friendship at some point. For whatever reason, that never happened. Who knows, maybe it's for the best."
His confession didn't come as a surprise. She'd always suspected that if she'd given him any encouragement at all, Logan would have pursued a relationship with her. It was tempting to admit that at least early on the attraction had been mutual, but they both knew it was too late now. "I haven't had many good friends in my life, Logan, but you're one of them."
He winced just a bit as he gave her hand a soft squeeze. "Anyway, as much as I hate to admit it, Declan's a good man. one I'd have at my back anytime. You could do far worse for a mate than him."
She closed her eyes rather than stare into the stark truth in Logan's gaze. "I know. But he's a strong Alpha, the kind who would be a high ranking member of his pack. He's never said why he isn't back with his family instead of bounty hunting. If he ever does want to go home and claim his rightful place, having a mate who can't shift isn't going to help his chances. Look how my own pack treated me. Why would his be any different?"
Logan's snarl would have done an Alpha wolf proud. "That's crap, Vivian, and you know it. Has he treated you as anything less than the amazing woman you are? Do you really think he'd allow anyone else to dictate his choice of mates? He'd make damn sure they accepted you or they'd answer to him."
Pride and frustration roiled through her mind in equal measures. "And what if I don't want him to ever be forced to make that choice? Controlling a pack of unruly wolves is hard at the best of times. Having the Alpha female not able to run with the pack certainly wouldn't help."
She finally looked him straight in the eyes. "Maybe he really is serious about choosing me, but we both know there's no walking away from it once we both accept the claim. I have enough regrets in my life without making Declan have to stick with a woman who is only half what she should be."
Logan slammed his hand down on the table hard enough rattled their empty coffee cups. "Damn it, Vivian, that's your old pack talking. Has Declan even once acted like you weren't up to his standards? Because I'm telling you, that man has it bad for you. If you doubt that, watch his reaction every time I get near you. Neither Declan the man nor Declan the wolf like it one damn bit. That claim is already very real to both of them. He's also strong enough and smart enough to know his own mind."
Then he offered her a wry smile. "I'd hate to see you make the same mistake other people have. Don't turn your back on the chance to share a life together out of fear of what other people might think or say. Be smarter than that."
Something in his voice hinted that he was speaking from experience. She couldn't imagine Logan being afraid of anything, but there had to be a reason he was running a small bar in a wide-spot-in-the-road town rather than living with a clan. Just like Declan, Logan was strong enough to earn a spot at the top of the hierarchy in the world of vampires. She'd always wondered about his past, but she'd never asked. If she hadn't been willing to share the truth of her own story, it hadn't felt right to poke and prod to learn his.
"You two ready to hit the road? Or should I go wait in the car while you finish your conversation? I don't know what you were talking about, but it looked pretty darn serious." Then he gave her a hard look. "Is there a reason my ears were burning while I paid the bill?"
She looked up at Declan, who stood staring down at them. His grim expression made her wonder just how much of their conversation he'd overheard before they'd noticed his return.
Logan deflected answering the question by sliding out of the booth. When he started to offer her his hand to help her out, Declan's eyes flashed gold as he pushed Logan aside and held out his own instead. She ignored Logan's I told you so smirk as she laid her hand in Declan's.
Considering how right it felt to walk out into the evening air with Declan's arm wrapped around her shoulders, maybe there was something to what Logan had told her. But before any of them could think about what the future might hold, they had to survive the night. And only a fool thought that was going to be an easy feat. Ignoring the chill that washed through her, they climbed into Logan's SUV and headed for the only place she'd ever called home.
Declan leaned against the fender of the SUV and checked the time again. Sadly, only five minutes had passed since the last time he'd looked at his watch. Vivian had opted to remain in the vehicle, but that didn't mean she was any less worried about Logan's continuing absence. The urge to charge off into the darkness to look for him was riding both of them hard. However, the vampire had made them both promised they'd give him the full hour he'd asked for before they came after him.
When the backseat window rolled down, he glanced at his watch again. "Nine minutes and counting."
"Should we start down the trail?"
"Not until time has run out."
He cut her off with an update on the time. "Eight minutes." While he didn't blame her for protesting, but he'd given his word. That didn't keep him from checking his weapons again.
Vivian started to open the car door just as he heard something. "Quiet!"
At least she did as he asked without arguing. Listening hard, he stared into the shadows beneath the trees. A muted footstep was followed by another. Pointing off to the left, he leaned down next to the window and whispered, "Someone's coming. Watch to the left off that big oak tree."
A few seconds later, he could just make out the outline of a male figure. His gut said it was Logan, but he drew his weapon and held it down to his side until he knew for sure. As soon as Logan stepped out of the shadows, he waved and changed directions to head straight toward them. That's all it took to have Vivian out of the SUV and running straight into Logan's waiting arms.
Ordinarily, Declan's wolf would have been hot on her heels to teach the vampire what happened to males who touched an Alpha wolf's mate without permission. He let it slide this time, mainly because she wasn't the only one relieved to have Logan back where he belonged. By the time Declan joined them, Logan had put a little physical distance between himself and Vivian. That didn't stop him from offering Declan a sly smile as he tapped a finger next to his own eye. No doubt that was the jerk's way of pointing out that Declan's wolf was riding pretty close to the surface right now.
Ignoring that, Declan asked, "What did you learn?"
"They have people patrolling the perimeter. They're alert but relaxed. Smelled that way, too, when I got close enough to a couple to get a good sniff. My guess is that Rolf keeps guards posted all the time. If he's gotten word of Vivian being in the area, he's not worried about it."
That was good news if any was to be had under the circumstances. Logan reached into the back of the SUV to snag a blood bag. After draining it, he reached for another one. "Do you still think knocking at the front gate is the best way to approach?"
Declan didn't hesitate. "Yeah, it's really the only way to do this. When it comes to fighting for dominance, wolves don't much care for anyone sneaking around from behind. They only respect a leader who leads from the front. It's imperative to follow the rules if we want to cut back on the chances of his lieutenants joining the fight."
Logan's smiled, flashing his bloody fangs. "I almost hope they do. I haven't been in a good dust-up in far too long."
While Declan understood where he was coming from, someone had to protect Vivian if everything went to hell. "Promise you'll get Vivian out of there if Rolf happens to get lucky."
The vampire's own gaze took on a bright glow. "I promise, but know that I'll be coming back for the bastard. When I do, he won't die easy and he won't die fast. I don't have all that many friends in this world, but I count the two of you among them."
When he offered his hand, Declan used it to pull Logan into a quick embrace. When he held out his other arm to Vivian, she allowed him to pull her into their group hug. Pressing a kiss to her temple, he offered her a quick grin. "What do you say we go ruin Rolf's night for him?"