A WOLF ON A MISSION Part 8
Still lost in the adrenaline rush aftereffects from being recognized, it took Vivian a minute to realize that Logan wasn't tearing out of the parking lot and heading for the highway to escape any possible pursuit. Instead, he abruptly turned off the road into a dark parking lot just shy of the on-ramp.
She leaned forward to ask, "Why are we stopping here?"
Logan didn't respond as he drove all the way to the back of the lot. Then, after parking and turning off the engine, he unfastened his seatbelt and opened his door. "I'll be back."
At least Declan seemed to understand what was going on. "He's checking to see if the woman who called out your name stayed at the diner or if she and whoever might be with her decided to track where we were headed. Even if Logan did break her phone, that doesn't mean a companion might not have one or that she couldn't borrow one at the diner. Heck, she could even have called the authorities to report Logan for damaging her phone in the first place."
He craned his neck to watch as Logan wove his way through the other vehicles parked in the lot. "He's probably hoping that she decided to try to follow us. She has a fifty-fifty chance of choosing the right direction to go on the highway. She won't find us if she goes the wrong way. Even if she picks the right one, that will put her ahead of us, which is a good thing. With luck, we will reach the exit to our motel without anyone learning where we've gone to ground."
She supposed that was reason to be optimistic or at least to not go into a major meltdown right now. Declan settled back in the seat, still holding her close to his side. "I figure you don't consider her a close friend since you bolted for the exit rather than speak to her. So who is she?"
"Brenda was a friend at one time. We grew up together and went to the same schools. She was a year ahead of me, though, so we never had many classes together. We usually hung out together after school, and her parents and mine traded off giving us rides to and from school and extra-curricular events."
"What happened to change that?"
Staring out the window at nothing in particular, she dredged up another miserable memory from her time in the pack. "The usual high school stuff. The guy that she was hoping would take her to the big dance asked me instead. I had no idea she was interested in him, but she never believed that. I heard later that the jerk only asked me because he thought taking the Alpha's only daughter would increase his status in the pack. Looking back, it seems really stupid to have such a friendship end over something dumb like that, but at the time it seemed pretty major. It was the biggest social event of the year, and Brenda ended up not going at all. She never got over losing out to someone who couldn't even shift."
Waiting to see what Declan would say, she slumped down lower in the seat, feeling both depressed and exhausted.
Declan wasn't surprised that the night's events were taking a heavy toll on Vivian. He hated to keep dwelling on the subject, but he needed to understand what kind of threat the woman in the diner might present. "Do you think it's likely that she'll go running straight to Rolf?"
"Probably. Knowing her, she'll seize every opportunity to curry favor with him. They dated a few times right after he joined the pack. If it got out that he tried to force me into becoming his mate, she won't have taken that well." She shuddered and added, "She's welcome to have him. The gods know I'm not interested."
A noise drew Declan's attention before he could respond. They'd have to continue the discussion later. Meanwhile, he sat up straighter and stared out into the darkness. A second later he spotted the vampire, who didn't look at all happy. "Logan is on his way back, and he's hauling ass to get here."
Seconds later, Logan jerked open the driver's door and dove inside. "Get down and stay down. I don't know if someone saw us come this way or if they are prowling the area for some other reason. Regardless, there are two cars driving up and down the aisles in this parking lot as if looking for something…or someone. Don't make any unnecessary noise or movements. We don't want to draw their attention if they pass by here."
As he spoke, he stretched his legs out over the center console and did his best to keep his big body down below the level of the windows. Declan did the same, keeping himself between Vivian and whatever potential threat was headed their way. At the same time he drew his weapon, ready to return fire if it became necessary.
Gripping the gun also served as a reminder to his wolf that this wasn't time to shift. For the moment, his human form was better equipped to protect their mate. Not that he thought the woman in question would appreciate being referred to in those terms.
Their breathing was the only sound inside the SUV. Both he and Logan were able to keep theirs low and steady, but Vivian's was quick and shallow. It seemed loud within the confines of the vehicle, but it shouldn't be detectible by anyone driving by. The bigger threat would be if the people searching the parking lot were part of Rolf's pack and shifted to their wolf form. They'd be able to track Logan by scent straight to where SUV was parked.
The first car slowly rolled down the aisle. When it had passed by without stopping, Vivian started to sit up. Declan immediately pulled her back down. "Not yet. There's another one coming."
Sure enough, a few seconds later the second vehicle turned down their aisle. This one had someone shining a flashlight into the parked cars as they slowly drove by. After another few excruciatingly long minutes dragged by before Logan whispered, "Hang tight while I take another look around."
He opened the door slowly and slipped out into the night. Meanwhile, Declan gently stroked Vivian's arm, trying to soothe her with his touch as they waited for Logan to return. "He'll be careful. Besides, no matter who is out there, they don't present much of a threat with the two of us protecting you. That said, it's better not to engage. Things will go better if Rolf doesn't get any advance warning that we're headed his way. Even if Brenda tells him that she saw you, right now she has no way of knowing for sure if you were returning to the pack's territory or just passing through on your way to somewhere else."
This time it didn't take Logan nearly as long to return. "They're finally gone, sadly heading up the highway in the same direction that we need to go. With luck, they'll keep going for a long while before they realize they've missed us and turn back."
He twisted around to look at them. "They won't be looking for two men traveling together. Declan, what do you think about riding up front with me so Vivian can lie down on the seat where she can't be seen?"
Damn, he wanted to stay right where he was, but Logan was right. "It's worth a try."
Reaching into the back into the cargo area, he grabbed a blanket and handed it to Vivian before he got out. "Try to get some sleep. We should be fine for the time being."
There was no mistaking the doubt in her expression, but she didn't argue. By the time he got himself situated up front, she was already stretched out with the blanket pulled up to her chin. It wasn't long before her breathing settled into a slow rhythm as sleep finally overtook her.
She looked so damned vulnerable, not that he doubted her real strength. A weaker woman would never escaped Rolf's clutches in the first place. It was more likely the constant fear she'd lived with since that time that was wearing her down. She deserved better. Thinking about the bastards who'd done this to her had him checking his weapon again. Satisfied it was ready to go, he set it back down within easy reach. Logan glanced at the gun. "Planning on shooting him?"
Declan shook his head. "Men like him don't deserve an easy out. I want him to see his death in my eyes right before I rip out his throat."
Logan's answering laugh was dark and dangerous. "I knew I liked you. As much as I would prefer to drain him dry myself, I'll have to be satisfied with taking out anyone who backs his play."
There wasn't anything else that needed to be said, so they drove on in the night.
Vivian fought her way back to consciousness when the SUV finally came to a full stop and stayed that way. She was dimly aware of Logan saying something to Declan. The brief discussion was followed by the sound of the front passenger door opening and closing. She pushed herself upright and blinked several times trying to get a clearer picture of what was going on.
"Where are we?"
Logan smiled at her in the rearview mirror. "Welcome back, sleepyhead. We just pulled into the motel. Declan's gone inside to check us in. Are you doing okay?"
"Groggy, but fine." She looked around the area. "Any sign that we're still being followed or anything?"
He shook his head. "Not so far. Once Declan gets back, he'll take you and the luggage inside while I move the SUV to a less conspicuous spot. We should be safe enough here. We picked this place because it's about ten miles off the highway. We drove past several others we could have easily chosen. If someone from the diner is still hunting us, it's doubtful they'll look this far off the highway for us."
She had to wonder if they were being a bit optimistic about that, but it didn't matter. Both Declan and Logan had to be exhausted. She was, too, despite her short nap in the back seat. A shower would feel great as would sliding in between some clean sheets. Which brought another question to mind--how many rooms had they booked? She wasn't excited about staying by herself, but neither was she anxious to share a room with just Declan. Somehow she doubted he'd let her bunk in with Logan, not with his mate claim on her.
There would be time to figure all of that out when Declan got back. Meanwhile, the least she could do was unload the luggage from the cargo area. "Is the back end unlocked?"
The tailgate lifted as soon as Logan pressed a button on the dash. He joined her behind the SUV and the two of them carried their duffels and packs over to the sidewalk. He added a small cooler, no doubt containing his blood packs. In addition, he handed her a paper bag to carry. "I wasn't sure if either of you would be hungry after the meal at the diner, but I bought some bottled drinks to go with the pie Declan ordered. Figured it couldn't hurt."
It was just another reminder of how many other little things he did for her. Unable to find the right words to express her gratitude, she set the bag down on the sidewalk and slipped her arms around his waist, pulling him close for a hug. He returned the embrace, resting his head atop hers. "We'll get you through this."
His words carried the strength of a solemn vow, not just an empty promise meant to placate her. Sighing, she rested her cheek against his chest, taking comfort from the steady beat of his heart. His hold on her remained gentle, soothing. But even as he cradled her, she knew these weren't the arms she craved. She might not be able to shift, but she still had the heart and soul of a wolf, one that wanted a mate and cubs and a home to call her own.
And that possible mate had just returned. Judging by the deep growl coming from a human throat, he wasn't at all happy to find her hugging another man.
Logan tensed but held onto Vivian for another few seconds before stepping away. Declan would never hurt her, but there was nothing to stop him from tearing into Logan. Right now, his hold on his own temper was worn pretty damn thin, and a down-and-dirty fight with the wolf might just be the ticket to improve his mood.
He put a little more space between himself and Vivian before offering Declan the kind of smile that was bound to piss him off. "Bring it on, wolf boy, if you want to end up bruised and bleeding. That might compromise your chances to defeat Rolf, but with luck you'll kill each other. Personally, I think that might a win-win situation for both me and Vivian."
Declan's eyes flashed gold, his growl louder and more aggressive this time. But before the two of them could tear into each other, Vivian punched Logan on the arm as hard as she could and then planted herself right between them. "Stop it, both of you!"
He tried to sidestep her, but she kept pace with him, blocking his way. When Declan tried to insert himself between her and Logan, she wasn't having it. Didn't the stubborn woman know better than to get between two pissed off apex predators intent on proving which of them was the biggest badass in town?
She jerked free of Declan's grasp and put her hands on her hips. She glared at each of them in equal measure and snarled, "This posturing is ridiculous and needs to stop right now. I don't have the energy or the patience to put up with testosterone-infused stupidity. Declan, you can start by giving him a room key so he can go move the SUV."
While she waited for them to comply, she picked up where she'd left off. "I'm willing to write the nonsense off to the two of you being too tired to think straight. Logan, for the record, Declan is not the enemy. That title belongs solely to Rolf. Save your energy for dealing with him and his buddies."
Declan had the audacity to grin at her ripping into Logan, but his smile immediately faded when she turned her temper on him. "And you, mister, have no right to growl just because I was hugging a friend for everything he's done to make this trip bearable. Don't do it again."
Picking up her duffel and the paper bag of drinks and pastries. "Now give me my key. I'm ready for some alone time."
Declan shook his head even as he held out a plastic card. "You shouldn't be alone, and we only booked two rooms. Logan's and the other for the two of us."
Logan reentered the discussion to correct Declan's erroneous assumption. "Actually, I booked the single room for you, wolf. The second room is a suite with two bedrooms for me and Vivian to share."
Instead of taking the key Declan had held out, Vivian snatched the one he'd given Logan right out of his hand. "Fine. I'll take the single. That way we each have a bedroom to ourselves. See you at sundown. And don't keep me awake prowling the hall outside my door, because you'll get an unpleasant reminder why the call she-wolves bitches, even those who can't shift."
Then she stalked off, leaving the two of them staring at her back. Logan huffed a small laugh. "Not saying that it's a done deal, but if you do convince her to accept the mate bond for real, you're going to have your hands full with her. She's a helluva woman."
Declan actually looked pleased by the prospect, and Logan didn't blame him. He was also jealous as hell. "Let's get a move on. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to call it a night."
His eyes once again flashing gold, Declan picked up the remaining luggage. "I'll take first watch."
"Fine, but she'll kick your ass if she catches you. Mine, too, for that matter."
By that point, they were both grinning. Declan started back toward the door of the hotel, pausing to call back over his shoulder, "Like you said, a helluva woman."