CLIFTON’S WOLF SLIPPED THROUGH the shadows, its pelt, like the men he followed, designed to allow him to move through the forest unseen. Careful not to walk where his paws might leave tracks, he drew close enough to the intruders that he was able to distinguish their individual scents before moving upwind.
Choosing a trail canopied by enough tree fall and bracken to keep the ground from being covered in snow, his wolf trotted north, keeping the lake on his left until he reached a crag high enough above the lake’s shoreline that he could observe and listen to his prey without being seen.
He didn’t need to confer with either Dakota or Kile to know that the men he followed were part of a mercenary team of assassins Innis’ son used whenever he needed to make his enemies disappear. Clifton also knew Morgan would have never sent them into pack territory without a damn good reason. He would liked to think it was because the Marshall was worried about his mother’s welfare, but knew better. A man like Morgan didn’t send killers into pack territory without first seeking the alpha’s permission, unless he didn’t want anyone knowing his business.
No, there was only one reason Morgan would have sent his pet assassins into pack territory without permission. To make sure Innis McCray was never seen or heard from again. That Morgan had done so, had sealed his fate as far as Clifton was concerned. No one, not even Cain, was going to lay a hand on what belonged to him. But knowing why they were there, didn’t answer the question of how they even knew where to look.
The Pacific Northwest pack claimed over fifty thousand square miles of land, half of which consisted of mountains and forest. It would have easier to find a needle in a hay stack, than their cabin. Unless someone had told them. But even if Morgan had somehow managed to bribe a pack member into revealing the location, no one, not even Cain, knew about Innis becoming infected with the virus. Only those Clifton and those he’d trusted enough to bring along to help with her training and protection. And none of them, not even Mikka and Kile who she’d tried to kill during her escape, would betray her or Clifton.
So if not his people, then who? Who else knew about Innis becoming infected with the lycanthrope virus?
Rage reverberated deep in his wolf’s throat.
Kim Luo. Captain Jyun’s master gunner.
Because he’d been so goddamn focused on keeping Innis alive, Clifton hadn’t really had time to think of much else. But now that he did, he remembered two things about that night. First, that Luo, being a shapeshifter, had recognized Innis attack on her for what it was – an emerging female werewolf out to kill anyone she thought a threat to her mate. Second, that she’d been sent to tell Innis that the pirate king had whatever it was Innis had hired him to find.
Clifton knew he should have followed Varloc protocol, and killed the Morphkind bitch. But he’d had more pressing matters to deal with, and let her go instead. Dell had warned him more than once that his tendency to show mercy, would eventually come to bite him in the ass. And now it had.
So now he had the why and the who. That left the little matter of why Luo had been sent to the governor’s mansion in the first place. As Innis personal assistant and her lover, there was very little that happened in her life, both professionally and personally, that Clifton didn’t know about. Learning that she’d gone to Jyun without his knowledge, made him nervous.
The only reason Innis would have kept her meeting something like that from him was if she believed Clifton would try to stop her from doing whatever it was she was planning.
The wolf raised its head. Below, six heavily armed men combed the beach, looking he now knew, for his mate. Further up the lake, hidden where only another wolf could sense them, were Dakota and Mervin. Originally he’d told Kile to help the other two wolves deal with the intruders and send their dead bodies back to Morgan as a warning. But now that he’d had time to think about it, Clifton decided to have them brought to Wallace Falls instead.
Teaching young werewolves how to manage their beast wasn’t the only thing the pack used this area for. Before the Great War, many of the Varlocs built underground facilities where they could keep their families safe while training their soldiers, undetected by General Thorton and the governments biological anti-terrorist division, BATMD.
Though few of these underground bunkers were still in use, there a few, like the one at Wallace Falls, that were still in operation. Clifton decided it was time he and his people paid the training facility a visit.
Head back his wolf howled. Seconds later the forest echoed with the voices of others.
Careful to keep the Morgan’s men within sight, Clifton jumped to the forest floor and felt his mind explode with pain. His entire body shuddered as psychic waves of agony ripped through the neural pathways in his brain.
Lionel was dead.
Like the shock waves after an earthquake, the senior werewolf’s last moments spread through the collective mind of the pack, drawing each member into the drama of what he experienced as he died.
Limbs braced, Clifton’s own wolf trembled under the shared pain of its pack mates passing. He may have despised Lionel the man, but he was still pack. Still Cain’s second in command. Not only would his death leave a power void in the alpha’s life, but the packs as well.
As soon as the initial reverberation passed, Clifton shook out his coat and took off at a ground covering lope.
Cain couldn’t afford to leave the position his second-in-command vacant and he’d be demanding Clifton’s council on who that replacement should be.
Suddenly the time he’d planned to spend preparing Innis for her introduction into the pack, just got shorter. (read the rest here)