THE LONE WOLF'S LADY Part 14
Rand knew he was alive because dead couldn't possibly hurt that bad. He tried to lift his head, but even the roots of his hair ached right now. Groaning, he struggled to move his arms and legs, but it took a whole lot of effort to break them free of the debris. It didn't help that his hearing was shot all to hell, too. He was pretty sure someone was trying to tell him something, but the voice sounded as if it was coming from the bottom of a very deep well.
He managed a one word response. "What?"
When the ground below him shifted slightly, he realized that he was sprawled on top of Tamara. Between his own considerable weight and the pile of rubble scattered all over him, she had to be having a tough time even drawing a breath, much less finding the strength to talk. Bracing himself for another wave of agony, he rolled to the side. He couldn't quite smother a yelp of pain, but at least he managed to turn over.
Seconds later, Tamara sat up, her own breathing ragged. He pried his eyes open long enough to make sure she wasn't badly hurt. Other than a couple of small cuts, she appeared to be pretty much intact. That was some good news, anyway.
Her dark eyes were filled with worry for him. "Rand, are you okay?"
His ears were finally clearing, because he heard every word this time. "Getting there. Nothing broken that I can tell."
"Ian is up and moving. He looks okay."
That had been going to be Rand's next question. "Everyone else?"
She looked past their own little corner of hell. "To varying degrees. Your brother and two of the other guys are taking care of the wounded."
"Did the bastards get away?"
Tamara looked pretty grim. "Not all of them, but enough. I'm going to see if I can't find a working phone to check in with Ambrose."
He didn't want let her out of his sight, but he was in no shape yet to do anyone any good right now. "Don't go far. Stay near Ian."
"I will." She wasted a few precious seconds to give him a quick kiss before pushing herself up to her feet. "Your brother is headed this way. I'll be right back."
She moved away to be replaced almost immediately by Ian. Judging by the expression on his brother's face, Rand must look worse than he felt. To prove to both of them that he wasn't more than half dead, he tried to sit up. Big mistake.
Ian knew it, too, because he shoved him right back down. "Give yourself a minute. You took the brunt of the last blast. Did a good job of protecting your woman, though. She appears to be a bit shaken but otherwise okay."
His reassurance that Tamara was all right went a long way toward calming both Rand and his wolf. "Need to sit up soon."
It was clear that Ian wanted to argue, but he recognized Rand's need to be up and moving before the enemy decided to take another swing at them. "Fine, you stubborn jerk, but let me do the heavy lifting for now."
Ian worked his arm under Rand's shoulders. "On a count of three. Ready?"
Rand whispered, "One, two, three."
The effort left him breathing hard, but at least he was able to remain upright when Ian eased back on the amount of support he was giving him. "Does it feel like you've damaged anything inside? You're looking pretty pale right now."
"Bruised for sure. Don't think anything is bleeding, though."
Not that it mattered right now. One way or another, he needed to be up and moving soon. Ian knew that, too, so Rand didn't waste his breath or energy to tell him. Instead, he slowly turned his head to locate Tamara and was relieved to see she was on her way back to them. She had one of the satellite phones to her ear, speaking only occasionally to whoever was on the other end of the conversation.
As they waited for her, Ian leaned in closer. "You might be better off going wolf. The change will help with the healing."
Rand had been thinking the same thing. At this point, mobility was more important than keeping his wolf hidden from Ambrose's people. "Give me some cover."
Ian picked up his weapon and moved to put himself between Rand and the rest of Ambrose's people. Most were too occupied with their own injuries to pay him any heed. Tamara seemed to recognize what Ian was doing, because she positioned herself at his side as she continued her phone conversation. Both of them scanned the surrounding area for any sign of the enemy.
By the time Rand stripped and shifted, she had disconnected the call. When he woofed softly, she turned and knelt at his side. "Are you all right?"
He nodded his head and gave her cheek a quick slurp with his tongue. It was a relief to see her smile in response. Ian maintained watch while she filled them in on Ambrose's report.
"He said all groups had injuries, some serious but at least no fatalities. Evidently some of the explosions were mistimed because they took out more of the bad guys than they did us. We're not sure how many got away, but we do know the tire spikes played merry hell with their tires. Thanks to Ian's drones, more of Ambrose's people have been able to track them to their hidey holes. We'll have plenty of prisoners to interrogate when we get back to headquarters."
She paused to catch her breath and then picked up where she'd left off. "Some of our vehicles are still drivable, and the first priority is to get our injured to the closest hospital. The city government is marshalling the first responders to start searching for any civilians caught in the blast zone. That's not to say that anyone is going to be assumed to be innocent of any involvement in this mess. They'll be taking a long, hard look at everyone before letting them back out on the streets."
Rand looked up at Ian. Ask her if there was any sign of Riley Niall.
To his surprise, Tamara answered before Ian had a chance to relay the message. "No sign of Riley, but that doesn't mean anything. We'll have to assume he escaped and keep looking."
He took a cautious step toward her, still getting a feel for how much he could depend on his legs to support him. The second step gave him a little more confidence that his injuries weren't incapacitating. Trying to offer Tamara a bit of comfort, he leaned against her. She immediately wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his fur.
Ian rejoined the conversation. "Let's go see what kind of shape our vehicle is in. If it's drivable, we need to let Ambrose's people use it to take care of his people. I've already called our people for a pickup."
After shoving off some big chunks of concrete and metal, Ian was able to get into their vehicle. Mentally crossing his fingers, Rand waited to see if the vehicle stood up to the manufacturer's claims. It took two tries, but the motor finally started. Leaving it running, Ian and Tamara went to help load the remaining walking wounded inside. Handing off the keys to one of Ambrose's men, Ian helped guide the driver through the obstacle course left by the debris from the damaged buildings. Tamara continued to help the injured into the other two vehicles.
While they did that, Rand slipped back to where he'd removed his clothing and shifted back to his human form. After a few slow stretches, he confirmed his previous diagnosis of bumps and bruises, but no bleeding or broken bones. Feeling a little better about the situation, he looked around to see what else needed to be done.
It was what he didn't see that had him cursing under his breath. While he understood the necessity to get the wounded to someplace safe and out of the line of fire, that didn't excuse the fact that no one was standing guard. Even Ian wasn't paying as much attention as he should. Rand unburied his rifle and Tamara's, too, while he was at it.
The scope on hers had taken heavy damage, but the rifle itself was still functional. His had weathered the storm in far better condition. He peered through the scope, doing a slow scan of the entire street from the ground up and then repeated the process. There was no movement and no sign of anyone lurking on the rooftops or behind windows. Still keeping a wary eye on their surroundings, he made his way to where Ian and Tamara were just lifting the last of Ambrose's people into the sole remaining usable vehicle.
When they had injured the woman situated in the backseat, Tamara closed the door while Ian gave the driver one last set of instructions. Then they stepped back as the vehicle started down the street and followed the same route the others had taken.
Rand was glad the injured were gone, but that left just the three of them standing on the street with no backup.
If he'd still been in wolf form, his ruff would have been standing on end. Because someone was out there. The angry gaze was palpable even though Rand couldn't see any sign of who was watching them.
"We're not alone." He pitched his warning to Ian and Tamara low, aiming for a calm he wasn't feeling. Considering how both of them immediately retrieved their own weapons, they'd picked up on his increasing tension.
"How far out are our guys?"
Ian held his open hand down at his side and then made a quick fist before showing two additional fingers. Seven minutes and counting. "We should take cover, but the problem is I can't tell where the bastard is hiding."
It showed how much both Ian and Tamara trusted him that neither of them questioned his assessment of the situation. He and Ian moved to bookend Tamara, silently offering her the limited protection of their bodies.
She knew exactly what they were doing, but at least she didn't fight them on it. Maybe she'd already figured out that their inner wolf natures wouldn't let them do anything else. Rather than argue, she began slowly backing toward the nearest building. It would protect their backs while a handy pile of rubble would offer at least some cover as they continued to watch and wait for the attack they were all expecting to commence.
They didn't have to wait long.