A WOLF ON A MISSION Part 2
Declan's primary focus was firmly on the woman he'd come to find, but he knew better than to ignore the deadly predator who had immediately shoved her back out of Declan's reach. By all reports, Vivian Channing was plenty dangerous in her own right, but the vampire was far more lethal and clearly feeling protective of her. His fangs were on full display and his gaze fierce. It wouldn't take much for the situation to turn deadly.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Declan let his wolf ride close to the surface, ready to rip into the vampire's throat if he made one wrong move. Several seconds ticked by before any of them spoke again. It was the woman herself who broke the impasse. She shifted her stance to peek at him over her defender's shoulder. "I don't know you."
He kept his attention locked on the vampire, the clearer threat, and flashed the I.D. badge he carried by way of introducing himself. "I'm Declan Lyell, and I've been sent to bring Vivian Channing back."
The vampire growled "Back where?"
Before Declan could respond, Vivian retreated a step and shook her head. "No way, wolf. I'm not about to go anywhere with you. Now, leave before we call the police."
Seriously? Did she really think he'd run scared from whatever passed for law enforcement in this pitiful excuse for a town?
"Go ahead and call them if you're that damn dumb. There's an outstanding warrant for you, and they'll have no choice but to honor it. Go with me willingly and there's an outside chance that your cooperation will convince the court to show mercy. Opting to be dragged back in chains won't help your case."
When she didn't immediately respond, the vampire glanced back at her. "Viv, I'll buy you enough time to get away. Take my keys and grab some cash from the register on your way out the front door."
Well, hell, this was going to get ugly. Declan had never fought a vampire for real, but he'd sparred with a bunch over the years. His pack lived on an estate belonging to a vampire clan, and provided security for them as well has his own kind. They were fast, strong, and vicious. But so were alpha wolves, something this guy had either forgotten or just didn't know. He'd find out soon enough.
Declan flexed his shoulders, loosening up to defend himself at the first sign the vampire was going on the attack. "Run if you want to, Ms. Channing. I found you once. I'll find you again. But it won't be my fault that your friend here will bleed. That's one hundred percent on you. He'll also stand a good chance of ending up in the cell next to yours. The Coalition takes a dim view of people helping criminals avoid justice, and I have the head Chancellor on speed dial."
That wasn't exactly true, but both of his brothers and his newest sister-in-law were all good friends with Ambrose O'Brien. He was pretty sure the man would take his call.
Meanwhile, the vampire offered Declan a smile that had nothing to do with good humor. "Don't listen to him, Viv. He won't be the first wolf I've had to teach some manners. However, he will be the first one who ends up as a wolf-skin rug in front of my fireplace."
Ignoring the threat, Declan directed his next words directly to Vivian. "Even if your fanged friend here succeeds, that won't make you safe. My employer has your scent now and will keep hunting because he doesn't give up—not ever."
Then he offered the vampire a feral grin, flashing his own set of fangs. "For the record, Ian also happens to be my brother. Take me out, and he will rain all kinds of destruction down on you and yours."
Neither the vampire nor the woman seemed impressed, but that was stupidity on their part. Neither of them would live long enough to face Coalition justice if they managed to kill Declan. The entire Lyell wolf pack would join forces with Ian's security forces to bring the pair to their own brand of bloody justice. Knowing his family, Vivian and her fanged friend would be lucky to live long enough to face execution at the hands of Chancellor O'Brien.
For now, he was tired of exchanging threats. Once again, he ignored the vampire to speak directly to his real target. "If you're innocent, prove it in court. You'll never have any kind of life if you stay on the run, and you'll bring down trouble on anyone who tries to hide you. Is that what you really want?"
He hated the sheen that made her caramel brown eyes glisten even though he didn't make the mistake of thinking the tears were a sign of weakness on her part. There was too much stubborn determination in the set of her jaw and the way she continued to meet his gaze head on. Other than his father and two brothers, he'd only encountered very few humans or wolves who could maintain eye contact with him for more than a second or two.
Under other circumstances, he and his wolf would have been drawn to her strength and beauty. Now wasn't the time for that. She still hadn't answered his question, but there was a flash of guilt in her eyes that made him hopeful that her conscience wouldn't let her friends suffer because of her past mistakes.
But that hope was short-lived, dying the second he realized that she was actually focused on something behind him. Before he could respond to the new threat, his world exploded in pain as something bashed in the back of his head. He and his wolf tried to fight back, but it was too little and too late. He cursed himself for a fool as darkness and pain swallowed him whole.
"Why don't you go get some rest, Viv. I promise he'll be fine."
Logan had been telling her that since he and his bouncer accomplice had muscled the wolf into the cell and slammed the door shut. That had been two hours ago. She stared at the unconscious man through the thick steel bars and prayed that Logan was right about that. Declan Lyell hadn't made a single sound or moved at all since he'd landed hard on that concrete floor.
They'd also instead on stripping him down to the skin for no apparent reason. Couldn't they have at least covered him with a blanket? That floor had to be cold, and while she didn't think much of how the man made his living, everyone deserved to be treated with a little dignity.
She pled her case one more time. "Are you sure we shouldn't ask Doc to check him out? That was a pretty huge lump on the back of his skull. At the very least, he probably has a concussion."
"Doc is a people doctor, Viv." Logan moved up to stand beside her. "The nearest vet is forty miles away, and he specializes in cows and horses, not shapeshifters. Hell, you of all people should know most folks don't even know the twin-souled even exist. The few packs I've ever encountered do their best to keep their existence a secret. But for what it's worth, if he doesn't show any sign of improvement soon, I'll make some calls."
"What kind of signs?"
Before he could answer, the human body in the cell suddenly morphed into a giant wolf with no warning. Some of the tension in Logan's stance drained away. "That one. He'll heal faster as a wolf than as his human half. Not sure why that's true, but it's what I've always heard."
"I hope you're right." Then she gave him a curious look. "Is that why you stripped off his clothes?"
Logan nodded. "If we hadn't, the wolf would've had to fight his way free of them when he comes to. Pretty sure that wouldn't help his temper, and I have no wish to enter that cell with a pissed off alpha wolf."
She didn't blame him. That was one huge wolf. Declan was a big man, all sleek muscles and strength, and the same could be said of his wolf. Something about him called to her. Even now, hours later, she could still feel the power of his gaze as he'd stared at her with his ice-blue eyes.
The same ones that were now looking at her. The deep growl that filled the air had both her and Logan stepping back despite the sturdy cage that would prevent Declan from reaching them.
The wolf didn't dignify her comment with any kind of reaction. He was too intent on dragging himself up to his feet. It took him two attempts to succeed. At least he had the good sense to stand still until he caught his balance.
She pointed toward a bowl sitting on the floor just inside the front corner of the cell. "You must be thirsty."
After grabbing an unopened bottle of water from the nearby refrigerator, she started to kneel in front of the cell. Logan stopped her before she got settled. "Stay back, Viv. You could lose a hand if you're not careful."
Declan snarled at Logan, but he made no hostile move in Vivian's direction. "I'm guessing he won't hurt me, Logan. Not deliberately, anyway."
Besides, knowing the jerk who had sicced this wolf on her trail, he'd want her taken alive. How long she'd stay that way after he got his hands on her was an open question. Now wasn't the time for that discussion. She held out the bottle and twisted the lid, making sure Declan could hear that she had just broken the seal. Figuring that wouldn't be enough to convince him the water was safe to drink, she took a large gulp from the bottle before dumping the rest into the bowl.
He stepped within reach of the water and gave it a thorough sniff before finally lapping it up. She understood his caution, but that didn't keep her from feeling a little insulted by his lack of trust. After all, if they'd really meant him harm, they could have killed him and buried his body in the woods without anyone being the wiser.
When he'd had enough, he backed away, still keeping his eyes on her. "Are you hungry?"
His head jerked in a quick nod.
"I've got some fresh meat for you, but you'll have to trust me that it's safe to eat. I have to draw the line somewhere, and there's no way I'm going to eat raw beef just to satisfy your curiosity."
Logan choked back a laugh and even the wolf managed to looked amused. Taking that as a good sign, she retrieved the bowl of steak she'd gotten from the short order cook who worked upstairs in the bar's kitchen and scooted it through the bars next to the water bowl. Then she topped off the water again.
Declan must have trusted her on some level, because he tore into the meat without hesitation. When he'd finished off the last of it, he nudged the bowl back to her side of the bars. Taking the hint, she gave him a second serving.
It didn't take him long to finish that off, too. Afterward he curled up against the back wall of the cell and drifted off to sleep. At that point, Logan tugged Vivian back out of earshot. "Looks like he's back down for the count again, but he should be back to full strength when he wakes up again. Before that happens, you need to decide what you're going to do about him."
A chill danced up her spine at the prospect of facing off with Declan again. "And my choices are?"
For the first time, Logan's anger about the whole situation was aimed in her direction. "Don't act coy, Viv. You got yourself into this mess, but you will need help to get out of it. My help. The offer of cash and buying you time to get a head start on him still stands. I'd offer to end the threat he presents to you permanently, but I already know that's not going to happen. If you wanted him dead, you wouldn't have fed and watered him like some stray you picked up."
The vampire pointed across the basement to where the wolf still slept. "He wasn't lying earlier when he said he had your scent and won't stop hunting you. He was also right that spending every day looking back over your shoulder and afraid to trust anyone is no way to live."
"I trust you, Logan."
He crossed his arms over his chest and glared down at her. "Apparently not enough to tell me what the hell is going on here. Who is holding the other end of that wolf's leash?"
Her very bones ached with the exhaustion from running and hiding for so long. She had to trust someone sometime. Maybe it was time to take a stand.
"Rolf Jantzen." She crossed her arms across her chest, fighting the chill that his very name sent through her. "He thinks I'm his mate."
Logan stepped closer, "And what do you think?"
The vampire deserved to learn the truth. Her truth. "I think I'd rather die than ever let him touch me again."
A deep growl rang out from across the room. Declan lurched to his feet, his gaze mesmerizing and hard. A smarter woman might have been frightened, but she stood her ground and waited to see what happened next.