Gaby kneeled next to Kane and felt his pulse. Strong. “Kane.” Out cold. The assholes used high frequency sound. Voices came closer. She remembered the elk crossing road signs and closed her eyes. If a herd was close enough, they’d help cause a distraction.
A powerful searchlight blinded her.
One of the men radioed the pilot. “Both targets secured.”
“Leave him. I’m the one Avery wants.”
He took out his gun. “You’re right. After the mess you caused, the new boss only wants you.”
Avery? Project Sabertooth had to be cleaned up by now. They blew up the facility. “Didn’t he destroy the mess?”
The soldier chuckled. “The other mess.”
Gaby frowned. “Huh?”
“Director Tomlin wants you back in one piece.”
She wrongly assumed he’d been killed by the animals or died in the blast. Now he’s in charge. “The project still exists?”
“Re-located. Now move!”
Gaby threw her body over him. “No.”
The commander barked at his men. “Get her off him.”
“Tomlin mentioned studying him,” she lied.
Gaby clung onto Kane as two soldiers pulled her off and held her. Unable to move, she focused on her charm. A rustle in the brush confirmed her influence. The beasts responded.
The commander drew his gun and approached Kane’s prone body. “Bye-bye bad wolf.”
Before he pulled the trigger, a herd of elk stampeded through.
The commander twisted. “What the fuck!” He leapt out of the way.
Two soldiers screamed, impaled and thrown.
Her captors dropped her arms and pulled out their weapons. Shots fired randomly. Men gored.
Gaby crouched next to Kane, guiding her army of elk.
The commander, who almost executed Kane, fired several rounds at the herd. An elk crashed to the ground, while others dashed around the fallen beast.
Kane woke and went partial werewolf. He grunted, rolled behind the commander and bit his hamstring. The commander hollered and fell. Kane approached the fallen man and with powerful claws decapitated him. He turned to face more men.
The three remaining soldiers slowly backed away and fired a barrage of bullets at the sprinting werewolf.
Gaby asked the elk to leave and they bolted, no doubt spooked by the gunfire and the fierce monster in their territory.
A second helicopter appeared and lowered four men by rope.
The men looked up and took off. Gunfire ensued.
Now, who were they fighting?
Kane in bipedal Hollywood horror movie form edged out of the brush. He flared his nostrils and growled. He grimaced in what must be a werewolf grin and approached her.
Her heart hammered, but she didn’t run from him. He hoisted her, cradled her in his monstrous furred arms and dashed through the forest. He moved as fast as a horse. The soldiers would never catch them. A howl pierced the night. Then another. Werewolves had joined the fray.
Kane stopped, put her down and shifted to human form.
“Are those wolf howls?”
“Yes. Run! I’ll draw them away.”
He roared at her. “Do it.”
Gaby flinched and did as bid.
He shifted and headed toward the forest.
She ran toward the road. The snarling pack chased after Kane. Her heart broke. I can’t just leave him to die. Never had she felt so helpless. If they caught her and found out about her charm, they’d kill her. In tears, she scrambled toward the road. If he had a mate, Gaby hoped she would protect Kane, Prince Steele.
Gaby twisted to look back then slammed into a woman. Relief on seeing a person soon turned into dread. A wolf aura hung about her. “You…you…are...”
“Shh. Time for you to take a nice nap.”
“What?” The petite woman stuck a needle in her neck. Gaby gasped and stumbled into her arms. Then blackness.
Kane twisted as he heard Gaby speak by the road. They got her. He ran with the pack of four wolves in hot pursuit. A big black wolf with glowing blue eyes leapt over him. They rolled and the black wolf quickly gripped Kane’s throat with dagger-like fangs. One squeeze would puncture his carotid. Kane growled and spoke in wolf. “What the fuck are you waiting for?”
The big black wolf with a Russian accent, commanded him, “Shift Commander Steele.”
Did he just call him commander? He shifted to human form. The Russian werewolf did as well. The big man stared down at him and grinned. “Don’t be ashamed, no other werewolf has ever bested me in wrestling.” He reached for Kane’s arm and lifted him.
Kane scowled. “Who or rather what the fuck are you?”
“I’m Lev Volkov.” He chuckled. “Chernobyl Werewolf.”
“Can’t say we’ve met.”
“We are comrades. Team Greywolf.”
He didn’t give a shit. “You have me so order your men to let the woman go.”
A petite brunette appeared. “Don’t worry, she’s not hurt.”
He glared at the woman. “Let her go.”
“It’s me, Cricket.”
He met her eyes to compel her.
She nodded. “Yes, sir.”
An alpha white wolf snarled at him. Blood lust in his eyes.
Lev gently shook her. “Snap out of it, Cricket.”
The white wolf shifted. If not for the big Russian werewolf, blocking him, he would have struck. “Compel my mate again, and I’ll kick your ass.”
Cricket shook her head as if dazed and turned to the alpha. “Slade, calm down.”
Lev, a giant of a man, smirked. “How could you have forgotten Cricket? I must also remind you of pack rules. No one is allowed to alpha mind control lower ranks with a few exceptions.”
She smelled familiar. He tapped his head. “My amnesia has robbed me of knowing the rules.” Are they responsible for my mind wipe? He locked eyes with the one called Slade.
Cricket smirked. “Let’s board and dress. I am overwhelmed by the sausage fest.”
“Take me to Gaby,” he demanded.
She nodded. “Come on. Oh, and by the way, Prince Steele, you can thank us later for saving your asses from the bad guys, sir.”
He straightened. “Thanks, I think.”
Lev shrugged. “Come, Commander.”
He favored the military title over the royal one. They boarded the helicopter and Lev handed him a black robe.
He donned it and dashed toward the back where his wife lay. He sniffed. Not harmed, only knocked out. For how long? He cradled her in his arms. “Gaby, wake up.”
Cricket sat next to Slade. How could they be mates? His wolf sensed a mating between an alpha and a low omega taboo. Maybe such rules no longer existed. Having a human mate may not be forbidden after all.
Cricket smiled. “She’ll wake up in a couple hours.”
He held Gaby tight. “You didn’t need to tranquilize her.”
“Best if she doesn’t know our location.”
Now wasn’t a good time to tell them, she was his mate. Eventually, she’d need to at least meet his immediate family. Interesting they had not mentioned his brother, the king. As the helicopter lifted, a second one landed. “More of your friends,” scoffed Kane.
“Cleanup crew,” said Lev.
Cricket turned. “Nice wedding bands by the way, Prince Steele.”
Lev, Slade and two other soldiers stiffened as if they just heard their best friend had died.
Shit. He’d forgotten about the wedding rings. He smiled at Cricket. “You can call my wife, Princess Gabriela.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Slade shook his head. “Of all the team members, you had the hardest time accepting my mating bond to Cricket.”
Cricket snarked. “In fact, you said our bond was no worse than if Slade had taken an inferior weak human.” She chuckled. “And here you are with a human wife.” She had found their wedding photograph and waved it at him. “Karma bites.”
He grabbed the picture from her and tucked it away. “Sounds like I was a real dick.”
Slade laughed. “Don’t worry, you finally accepted us.”
“Good. I expect you to treat us with the same due respect.” At least they couldn’t tell she was a wolf charmer. If they did, would they have killed her on the spot? He tightened his grip around her.
Cricket opened her mouth to say something, but Slade put his finger over her lips. “Let’s not say anymore, darling.”
Lev snorted. “Don’t worry, comrade, I have skills in memory retrieval.”
Kane shrugged and looked out the window. As long as Gaby is by my side.
Gaby woke in what looked like a small hospital room. She threw the blanket off and sat. Who put me in a hospital gown? The room had a nice bed with a comforter and decorated pillows and if weren’t for the heart rate monitor and other medical equipment stashed against the wall, it appeared like an ordinary bedroom. She wasn’t hooked up to anything, but a bandage covered her left elbow. A surveillance camera faced her bed, flashing from green to red. Had Kane gotten away?
A woman wearing a white doctor’s coat entered. “Hi, Gaby. Did you sleep well?”
“Where am I?”
“My clinic at our headquarters. I’m Dr. Rachel Becker, but you can call me Rachel. Lycans prefer first names. They don’t use titles since our rank is determined by pack status.”
Gaby understood the game. She was back in some other secret base. She sensed the wolf aura in the blonde woman, but not as strong as the others. Best not to mention her charm. “You are not human.”
“Was human until…” She waved a dismissive hand. “It’s a long story. Let me check your vitals.”
Gaby didn’t like the “was human” part. Were humans turned into werewolves? Not that she was opposed to being married to a werewolf, but she had no desire to become one. She kept silent as Rachel took her blood pressure.
“You have a deep scrape on your elbow, probably from falling, but no stitches needed. I gave you a tetanus booster and an antibiotic.” She checked Gaby’s eyes. “Anyway, you are good to go.”
Gaby looked out the door with longing. “I’m free to leave?”
“I meant from under my care.”
“Steele is resting.”
“Prince Steele, I know.” She sighed. “I want to see him.”
Rachel handed her a bag. “Here are your clothes. I’ll call Cricket and tell her you are ready.”
Why not my husband? Was he really resting or being tortured? She wanted answers, not to be toyed with. She remained calm. “Who?”
“Cricket was part of the team that rescued you and Steele.” She smiled. “Small for a she-wolf, but one of our best operatives.”
Gaby frowned. “The bitch who stuck a hypodermic needle in my neck?”
“A harmless human tranquilizer. Trust me. The less you know the better. Those are the rules until you choose to sign the non-disclosure contract.”
Being part of Project Sabertooth, she knew what would happen if she revealed their operation, but still why not ask? “And if I don’t?”
Rachel sighed. “A decision will be made.”
“If you can be compelled to forget or if not, execution.”
Gaby swallowed. “If I’m compelled, will I forget knowing Ka...Steele?”
“Yes.” She shrugged. “To be honest, there is the risk a good hypnotherapist could make you remember. My father also believes a strong serum can awaken your memories as well. Not that people will believe you, but you never know.”
“I’ll sign it.” She cocked her head. “I thought compelling someone not to remember was permanent.”
“Actually, most humans we compel never remember, with the exception of those that developed a strong emotional attachment to a werewolf.”
“Yes.” She smiled. “I might as well tell you, I was in the same boat you were in not too long ago.”
Horror struck every fiber of her core. They meant to turn her as part of the contract. “You mean human and in love?”
Gaby flinched. “I won’t become one of you.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t turn werewolf.”
“But you chose to?”
“My situation was unique and somewhat accidental.”
“Oh?” Falling down steps or spilling milk was accidental, not becoming a werewolf.
“Lev, who led your rescue, is my mate. He’s not your usual werewolf. He is a mutant and unbeknownst to us, when he bit me to heal me, he changed my DNA.”
Bit to heal her? Kane had bitten her during hot sex. “So a normal werewolf’s bite doesn’t do that?”
“No. You will remain human.” Rachel chuckled. “I bet that’s a relief.”
“Yeah, I am happy to stay human.”
“Unfortunately, neither King Conan nor the council will approve your marriage.”
“We are more than married, we are mates.”
“Hey, I’m in your camp, but lycan society is profoundly different than ours.”
“Meaning no interspecies weddings?”
“There are exceptions, but you are not one of them.”
Probably because she couldn’t be turned. Gaby sighed. “Thanks for sharing.”
“Believe it or not, I’m still learning about their—our society.”
“How long have you been a werewolf?”
“Almost six months.” She snorted. “I’m a total newbie. Before that, I thought werewolves were only found in myths and Hollywood movies.”
“That must have been shocking, especially you being a doctor and all.”
“No kidding.” She glanced at her watch. “Anyway, I probably blabbed too much.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t share.”
“I trust you, even if I know next to nothing about you.”
“Will I ever get to see my husband?” She still wore the wedding band and, hopefully, so did he. Yet, would it soon be a meaningless trinket?
“Steele is an alpha and as such, he’s allowed to keep a human, but only as a pet.”
“You mean a mistress?” Or did she literally mean a pet?
“In a manner of speaking. If you were a Stallo woman, there might have been a chance, but even so, he’s a prince and duty bound to mate a royal alpha.”
“What do you mean a Stallo woman?”
“The werewolves’ ancestor was a wizard named Stallo. His daughter carried the DNA that allowed mating between a lycan and human. Mia, married to the pack enforcer, and I, are the only known Stallo women.”
“You tested a sample of my DNA?”
“We will, but not really necessary. Your blood type is AB negative, which is rare, but not the type Stallo women have.”
“O-negative. But of those blood types only a rare number have the genetic Stallo marker.” Rachel took her phone out of her pocket and spoke, “She’s ready.” She put it away. “Cricket is on her way. I’ll leave you to dress.”
Rachel walked out and locked the door behind her.
Gaby looked up at the ceiling. Great! The friendly clinic now another prison. She dressed and waited. Where would Cricket take her? Hopefully, to see Kane, if only to say goodbye.
The door unlocked and the petite woman from yesterday entered. She sniffed, and then smiled. “Good morning, Gaby, I’ll take you to join our alpha, Rylee, for breakfast.”
“Will my…Kane be there?”
“Sorry, no. Commander Steele suffers from some sort of morphogenesis or more likely a rare brain wipe mess up.”
“A werewolf lobotomy.”
“You know the term?”
“Steele believes his pack gave him the brain wipe.”
“What? Why? And how can they tell?”
“Not important. Hurry, Rylee hates tardiness.”
“I’m anxious to get answers from him so let’s go.”
“Rylee is a woman.”
“Oh, sorry.” She had only known men in authority and assumed their top commander would be a big alpha male.
Gaby followed Cricket down the hall and into an elevator. The young petite woman dressed casual in blue jeans, a red hoodie and running shoes. She looked more like a college coed than a dangerous soldier. Little Red Riding Hood instead of a big bad she-wolf, she remembered how strong Cricket was when she captured her.
Cricket turned to her. “You bow and no matter what, never make eye contact with a werewolf, especially an alpha.”
Gaby lowered her gaze. “You didn’t seem to mind.”
“I’m used to being around humans and not a fan of pecking orders.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve trained canines and understand pack behavior.”
Cricket snorted. “It’s far more complicated.”
They stepped out into a long cavern-like hallway. Cricket stopped before a double door, guarded by two black-uniformed soldiers. They stared at Gaby and then gave Cricket a nod as they opened the door.
Cricket bowed her head and elbowed Gaby, who copied her.
Cricket raised her head. “Ma’am. Gaby, umm…”
“Gaby Wildwood.” Her marriage name.
An elegant woman, blonde with streaks of grey hair, stood from behind a massive desk. “Gaby, what a pleasure to meet you. I’m Rylee, alpha of the pack.” She pointed to a door to the right of her office. “Please, join me for breakfast.”
“Shall I stay, ma’am?” Cricket asked.
“No. Gaby will stay in my guest room until further notice.”
Cricket’s eyes widened as if this was out of the ordinary. “Yes, ma’am.” She bowed and left.
“Come.” She entered a posh dining room. The table had been set for breakfast. A server stood nearby. Rylee gestured. “Have a seat, Gaby.”
“I had the cook make you a human breakfast. Omelet, toast, bacon and hash browns. Or do you prefer something else?”
“No. That’s perfect, thank you.” Rylee seemed nice, almost human, yet, her plate consisted of meat. Beef or deer maybe…and raw. “Coffee or tea?”
The server brought a mug of fresh brew.
“I had my first breakfast already; this is my mid-morning meal of fresh venison.”
Not knowing what to say, Gaby said, “It’s an honor to meet Steele’s pack leader.”
“I’m happy you know his real name. Although, of all the people for him to escape with and even marry, I never in my wildest dreams expected you.”
“Because I’m human.”
“Yes, but even more importantly, because you are a wolf-segen, an unusual human we thought long dead.”
Gaby’s pulse quickened. No point in lying since werewolves could read the truth. “How do you know?”
“We have a man, a human, who works for the CIA. Our ears and eyes. He found out and told us about Project Sabertooth. A secret black ops group using animals to assassinate enemies. Your files were hard to access, but our techie, Manny, is a genius hacker.”
Maybe she had met her inside man. Only, she might know he was a double agent. “Does Avery Kraig work for you?”
Rylee’s mouth tightened as if she smelled a foul odor. “No, he is our number one enemy. His father Alistair Kraig is the leader of The Keep. Unfortunately, he found out about you as well.”
“That I’m a wolf charmer?”
“Yes, and so did Lunara, our wolf shaman.”
Gaby’s appetite disappeared, replaced by a gnawing feeling her days or possibly hours were over. “You plan to kill me.”
Rylee sighed and stared at an ancient-looking text encased in glass. “So dictates our laws.”