THE LONE WOLF'S LADY Part 9
The trip back to Ambrose's headquarters in New Eire continued to be uneventful—so far. None of them thought it would remain that way, so it hadn't been a relaxing drive. Rand had insisted on driving since he had more experience driving defensively thanks to the security work he did. Ian had claimed the front passenger seat, his eyes constantly scanning their surroundings, a loaded high-powered gun in his hands at all times.
Tamara had drawn the line when they'd suggested she ride crouched down in the floor of the backseat the entire time. A woman had to maintain some dignity, especially one with years of law enforcement experience of her own. She'd had to remind the two stubborn wolves they weren't the only sharpshooters in the vehicle. If they did come under fire, Rand would be too busy driving to help Ian keep the enemy at bay.
Once they reached the outskirts of the city, he met her gaze in the rearview mirror. "Okay, kiddies, keep your head in the game. I'd like to think that only Ambrose knows when we're due to reach his office, but we can't count on that. But even if someone had leaked the information that you'd left town, no one knows for sure where you went to ground. I do think it's doubtful that whoever is behind these attacks won't have enough boots on the ground to watch every road coming into the city twenty-four/seven. Still—"
Tamara finished the sentence for him. "They do know the most likely places I'll be headed will be my apartment, my office, and Ambrose's headquarters."
Ian joined the conversation. "Pretty much. The good news is that they also don't know what kind of vehicle you'll be in. They should be watching for your car, not this one. And this isn't just any vehicle."
He glanced back at her briefly before returning his attention to the road ahead. "It might look like an ordinary family transport, but this baby has impact resistant window glass, the body is high-end military-grade steel, and the floor is reinforced to be blast resistant."
Rand laughed. "My brother likes all the bells and whistles when it comes to armored vehicles for his company. Speaking as one of his employees, I'm glad he goes the extra mile to give both the people who work for him and the ones they protect the best chance of survival. So is his mate—Jaina benefited from his paranoia about such things herself awhile back."
"Good to know." She'd suspected as much as soon as they tucked her into the backseat of the vehicle. It must also have one heck of an engine to handle all that extra weight and still be so nimble. "I really appreciate everything you've done to keep me safe."
That didn't keep her from feeling guilty for dragging the two brothers away from the safety of the vampire estate where their pack made their home, especially Ian. His wife had to be worried, not to mention their father. Besides, Rand should be home learning his responsibilities as the pack's new beta. She could guess what their reaction would be, but she had a suggestion to make.
"You can drop me off in front of headquarters and then head back to the estate. Once we have everything handled, I'm sure Ambrose will arrange to have someone drive me back out there to pick up my car."
The ensuing silence was telling. She mentally counted down from ten as she waited for the explosion to come. Ten, nine, eight, seven…
No surprise that it was Rand who blew up. "Are you crazy, woman? I'm not dropping you off anywhere unless it's back at my cabin. You have to know that I'd rather have you under lock and key and as far away as possible from whatever mess Ambrose is dealing with. Don't you dare ask me to hide at home while someone's trying to kill you! I don't know what kind of men you've dated in the past, but wolves don't leave their mates undefended. Especially this wolf."
Whoa, she hadn't expected him to throw that last part out there, especially in front of his brother. She thought they'd agreed to wait until this was all over before putting any kind of label on their relationship, especially one that indicated a lifelong commitment like "mate" did for wolves. What was she supposed to say to that? She glanced at Ian to see how he was reacting to his brother's little bombshell. There was a hint of a smile in his expression, but he remained silent.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and put her own heart on the line. "I'm the kind of mate that is used to fighting her own battles, Rand. I met no insult to my mate or his brother. You're right-if our roles were reversed, I'd want to be right there fighting at your side. Forgive me?"
Once again he stared at her reflection in the rearview mirror. After a second, his expression softened. "There's nothing to forgive. We're both new at this."
That's when Ian laughed. "You think relationships get easier with experience? All you can do is take it one day at a time and do your best to make your mate happy. I'd like to think I'm getting better at that."
"Heads up, everybody. There's a traffic jam ahead." Rand slowed and pulled over to the curb. "What do you think, Ian? Should we try to maneuver our way through it or take a different route than we'd planned?"
Ian looked pretty grim. "Everything you said earlier about no one knowing which direction we entered the city still holds true. However, if they've somehow managed to track us, the problem ahead might have been staged to slow us down. It would also be easier for them to corner us on a narrow side street."
He pulled out his phone and called his office. "Greg, check the traffic reports in the area around Chancellor Ambrose's headquarters, determine the safest route to our destination, and call me back."
Tamara didn't have any idea how long it would take the man to accomplish all of that, but she hoped he hurried. The traffic ahead was coasting to a complete stop, and they'd soon be out of options, not to mention easy targets if the enemy had set this all up.
Ian's phone buzzed seconds later. "Thanks, Greg. I'm going to put you on speaker so Rand can hear this, too."
Greg was no doubt aware that she was listening but knew not to broadcast her name over the air. Ian's company kept up with the newest technology, but nothing was invulnerable when it came to cyber warfare.
Meanwhile, Greg launched into his findings. "There's a four vehicle pileup about six blocks ahead of your current position that's causing the traffic jam. Officers just arrived on scene to investigate. Right now, they're focusing on transporting the most seriously injured to the hospital. Their next priority will be moving the damaged vehicles out of the road, but they expect it to be an hour or more before traffic is back to normal."
He paused for a few seconds. "Boss, I've just been told our drones are now in the area scanning for any sign of a possible ambush. So far, you appear to be in the clear, but we'll continue to monitor the situation. Our suggestion is for you to turn right and then go three blocks east before turning back north. Other drivers clearly have the same idea. If I were you, I'd haul ass before all the side streets turn into gridlock, too."
Rand spoke up. "Hey, Greg. This seems like a good time to take some of our vehicles out for a little exercise. I know some folks like getting paid for sitting around on their backsides, but some fresh air and a chance to polish up their driving skills will be good for them."
There was laughter in the background followed by the sound of chairs moving and footsteps fading away. Greg came back on the line. "Stay safe out there, guys. I'll send updates to your console."
Tamara hated that all of this was necessary and prayed that Rand and Ian, along with their men, were merely erring on the side of caution. She feared they weren't wrong about the danger. This wasn't the first time Rand had laid his life on the line to protect her, and she wasn't sure she could live with the guilt if this ended up with him or Ian bleeding because of her. Leaning forward, she rested her hand on Rand's shoulder, needing that small contact with him.
The tentative touch of Tamara's palm on his shoulder spoke volumes. She had to be freaking out about now. He covered her hand with his and gave it a squeeze. "You doing okay back there?"
Her laugh sounded a little forced. "Yeah, you sure know how to show a girl a good time, Rand."
"We should reach headquarters in about fifteen minutes if all goes well."
Which they both knew was a big "if" right now. So far, it had been smooth sailing through the city, but that could change at any second. Even with decoy vehicles out circling the area, the enemy knew eventually Tamara would turn up at headquarters. All they had to do was set their trap and wait to spring it.
"Any updates I should know about?"
Ian checked the screen. "Our guys are in the area. No sign of anyone trying to block side streets or lurking in alleys. The drones are doing another sweep in closer to headquarters, but all they can do is check rooftops and roads. If someone is already in position inside a nearby building or parking garage, we might not spot them until too late."
Rand released his hold on Tamara's hand. If everything went to hell, he'd need both on the steering wheel when it came time to do some creative driving. "Babe, if we come under fire, get down and stay there."
She immediately protested, "But I can shoot."
"I know, but the idea is to avoid a firefight, not to go in with guns blazing."
Before she could argue anymore, Ian's phone lit up and sounded like a fire alarm going off. He punched the button. "Update now."
"Boss, two of our vehicles have drawn fire. No injuries so far, and the drones have zeroed in on the source of the attacks. Our men are moving in to neutralize the threats. The enemy is mobile, both groups on motorcycles."
"Keep me posted."
Rand watched the sidewalks and alleys, the most likely places for more of the enemy to be waiting. There was movement a short distance down the road. Someone stuck their head out of a window to look up and down the street before pulling back out of sight.
"Ian, keep an eye on the third window down on the second floor of that building on the right. Could be nothing, but a guy just took a look-see and immediately ducked back in after he looked this way."
Ian leaned forward, watching for any sign that the man's brief appearance was a precursor to an attack. They made it past the building with no problem, but that didn't mean they were in the clear. The closer they came to the headquarters building, now less than four blocks away, the more likely they'd were heading into a possible kill zone.
As soon as that thought crossed his mind, Tamara jerked her hand off his shoulder. "Brace yourselves, Rand. Half a dozen motorcycles just drove out of the lobby of that building we just passed. They're headed straight for us."
Ian was back on the phone. "Greg, things are about to get interesting here. Six bikes coming up behind us and at least that many headed right at us from in front. Get us some back up here ASAP. Then notify Ambrose we're coming in hot."
He dropped the phone down in his lap and then checked his gun. Rand could hear Tamara doing the same with the rifle she'd commandeered back at the cabin. So much for her following his orders to get down and stay down. He didn't bother trying to get her to comply, knowing he would have insisted on being part of the fight, too.
The first barrage of shots pinged off his side of the vehicle. Both the metal and the glass did their jobs, preventing the bastards from taking him out. With headquarters now in sight, there was at least a chance they'd make it to safety.
Then Tamara screamed, "Brace yourselves. They're firing a rocket launcher."
Three seconds later, their vehicle went airborne.