Kane undressed. Gaby turned away and stared at the tablet. He shimmered and in seconds, he took up one third of the living room. Aware his nakedness disturbed her, or rather turned her on, he whined to let her know he wore fur.
Gaby slowly turned and parted her lips. Frozen.
The pulse in her throat pumped like prey caught in the predator’s gaze. It’s not like this was the first time she’d witnessed him shift. He sat and cocked his head. I’m ready.
She shook her head. “I still can’t believe what my senses tell me is true.”
I’m no illusion. I feel at home in wolf form. I can’t be the result of an experiment.
Gaby bit her lip and approached. She held out her hand. He sniffed her hand; he inhaled her rich aroma, reminding him of vanilla, and honeysuckle. “Good wolf.”
To ease her nerves, he played the role of a domestic dog. He grinned, fangs out and waved his tail.
She put down the tablet. “Raise your right paw up if you understand me.”
Oh, brother. No trust. Then again, why would she? If he wanted to harm her, the guards wouldn’t be quick enough to stop him. He had to admire her bravery. He lifted his paw in the friendly dog shake.
“You understand what I’m saying.”
Duh. He waved his paw to confirm.
She took a long breath and released it. “Okay. Put your paw down.”
Another test? He obeyed.
He stood. She needed to stop with the obedience commands.
“Pin your ears back.” Again, he obeyed. His wolf groaned. Please, don’t ask me to beg. I have a limit on what I’ll do for a subordinate human.
“Now I’ll use my mind the way I command animals.” She closed her eyes and then slowly opened them.
He waited. Nothing. He never got her message. Only a sense of calmness.
Gaby sat on the couch and rubbed her forehead. “You obviously didn’t get my command.”
He cocked his head. Nope. Just standing here, watching your pretty lips pucker. Kissable. Kiss her. A command, he was happy to obey. He moved closer and licked her face.
Gaby laughed. “Stop that.”
He pulled away. Didn’t she command me to kiss her?
She sighed. “Let me try again.” Furrowing her brow, she stared. Not for long. Her gaze lowered. “Even at such a short distance, I still can’t influence you.”
He sat and raised his right paw.
She snorted. “Actually, if you had been influenced, the guards would have broken the door down.”
Enough. He shifted back to human form. “I didn’t feel anything, except I wanted to kiss you.”
Gaby looked down. “That’s not what I commanded.” She wrote something on the tablet. “Dress, while I make some coffee.” She stood and dashed into the kitchen.
What did she ask me to do? “I like mine black.”
“Got it,” she called.
He donned his clothes. “How the fuck do I know I like my coffee black?”
She came in with two mugs and handed him one. “Somewhere in your subconscious mind, you remember drink and food preferences. Knowing you like black coffee, love hamburgers and, apparently, beer is a start.”
He sipped the coffee. The aroma filled his palate. Strong. Just the way he liked it. “It’s only a matter of time before the fog clears.”
“True. In fact, if you write down what foods and things you enjoy, I bet that’ll trigger your memory.”
Kane gazed at her over the rim of his mug. “Besides rich coffee, I also like green-eyed women with silky brown hair.”
“When your memories return, you’ll remember more women.”
He smirked. “Perhaps, but none as pleasing as you.” His inner wolf spoke. She is lovely, but not our kind. What things did the wolf know that the man did not?
Gaby blushed. “Anyway. It looks like my influence didn’t work on your wolf.”
He chose to ignore the wolf’s sudden revelation and asked, “What did you compel me to do?”
“I asked you to howl.”
“Hmm. Never got that message.”
“At first, I thought you didn’t want to draw the attention of the entire compound so then I asked you to lie on your back.”
He chuckled. “A nice belly rub would have felt good.”
“But you didn’t do it.”
“I don’t know what the dogs read when you command them, but nah, didn’t feel a thing.” Except, feeling relaxed in your presence. Because of his attraction to her or, did her wolf charm calm rather than mind control his kind?
“Must be because your mind is completely human.”
Doubt it. His wolf was in command at all times. And of late, acting like his conscious. “I bet because I’m dominant.”
She frowned. “I’ve worked with alpha dogs and even they are influenced by my charm.”
“Must be an alpha wolf thing.” Although, he understood he could command any human to his will, he wasn’t ready to tell her now. Or should he? Gaby appeared to be the exception. In the beginning, she followed his commands, but recently she held her own against his influence. Do not tolerate a human who does not bow down to our dominance, snapped his wolf.
“Giles will think I’m no longer necessary in working with you.”
“You think so?” The director had sensed his attraction to her. Why else would they want her to seduce him?
“When he finds out I can’t influence your behavior, I’ll go back to working with our other killer beasts.”
“Not if he doesn’t know.” Before he left, he wanted to assess the situation. Meaning, remembering his true identity. And most important, help Gaby escape. She’d been brought here as a child and forced to their bidding. Her enslavement to Project Sabertooth encouraged his need to protect. His wolf didn’t protest. At last, they agreed on that.
“What do you mean?”
“Tell him your power works on me.”
She smiled. “Hmm. You have made it well known you like having me around.”
He threw her a wolfish grin. “Hell, yeah.” His wolf whined. I agree, but we can’t take a human seriously as a mate. How did his wolf know that?
“However, your attraction must be influenced by my wolf-segen charm.”
Could be truth in what she said. His hypocritical wolf agreed. She made him feel grounded. Warm all over. A wolf charmer might share a different type of bond with werewolves. The fact he could not entirely control Gaby and her ability to know psychically he was a werewolf piqued his interest in keeping her. Yet, the word wolf-segen bothered him for some reason. Odd. “Trust me, I find you quite charming.” He gazed into her green eyes, wanting her more than anything, besides his memory. Maybe he didn’t want to remember. But why did his inner wolf warn him? Perhaps, he had a mate. The element of the forbidden clouded his mind. Human or not, he wanted her. His wolf retreated into the shadows in reluctant acquiescence.
“Precisely, all canines do.”
“Gaby, when was the last time you looked in the mirror? You are breathtakingly gorgeous.”
Instead of blushing like a shy schoolgirl, she put her mug down and took his. She put it on the coffee table and gazed at him. “You are the charming one, in a big bad wolf sort of way.”
Now, he turned shy wolf on her. She kissed him gently on the chin and his duplicitous wolf howled in deep satisfaction. Before he could reciprocate with wolfish appreciation, she stepped back as if surprised by her boldness.
Gaby snapped out of her enthrallment of Kane. Why had she kissed him? It wasn’t her nature to be forward with a hot guy. Or any guy. One she only knew for a few days, and a werewolf at that. “Sorry, I don’t know why I just did that.”
“I’m not complaining.” He smiled.
“I’m taking advantage of your vulnerability.”
“I’m twice your size and a foot taller. I believe you are the vulnerable one.”
“Seriously, I’m not the one with amnesia.” Who knew what other mental baggage his subconscious hid? Then again, he didn’t mention her emotional vulnerability. “Or lycanthropy.”
“You honestly think I suffer from lycanthropy?”
“You know the term?” She raised her brow. “Interesting. You are right. You don’t suffer from the psychological condition, but a real physiological one.”
Kane grinned. “I think kissing you is good therapy.”
No wonder she shared her past with him. She wagged a finger at him. “You did this.”
He grabbed her finger and his smile slipped. “Never point a finger at an alpha.”
Gaby pulled her finger back and though he could have kept it in his hard grip, he let go. “You used your alpha mind control to make me kiss you.”
“Honey, if that were true, you would have continued kissing me until…well…until dinner.”
Gaby crossed her arms. “How do I know you aren’t compelling me like you did Tomlin and the guards?”
“In the beginning, you submitted, but over time it appears your wolf-segen charm prevents my alpha aura from working on you.” He narrowed his eyes. “If I was in control, you would not have wagged your finger at me.”
No excuses, I wanted to kiss him. Actually, I want more. Gaby wrinkled her brow. “I suppose so.” Nonetheless, looking him in the eye proved difficult, although, she normally knew better than to stare at the animals she worked with. And being shy around him didn’t help with eye contact.
“I’m not sure why, but the term wolf-segen is vaguely familiar.”
“I wonder—assuming werewolves have always existed—if your kind and mine had some bond?”
He nodded as if coming to the same realization. “Indeed, especially since you can see my wolf aura.”
“Do you know if there are others like you?”
“Giles is always looking, but, apparently, I am the only one.” She shrugged. “I often wonder if my mother had this ability, but Giles said, no.”
Kane tapped his chin. “Wolf-segen?”
“I did a web search long ago and found a few references. Wolf charmers used to guide wolves, rats and other creatures from villages. There is also mention of them during the werewolf trials and paranoia that swept Europe. Wolf charmers were rare, mostly elderly men and women who traded their charm for food and lodging. Legend has it, a wolf-segen could ward away werewolves, but I assumed they interacted with normal wolves.”
“You do make me feel calm, so I imagine, you could sweet talk a werewolf to stay away. Not to mention rat out a werewolf to the authorities.”
Her heart constricted. If werewolves existed, she imagined wolf charmers were hired to identify them. Still, the documented werewolf cases were attributed to serial killers, innocent hermits, or wolves with rabies. “Being a wolf charmer in the open lasted until the 1600s when they were persecuted and burned at the stake as witches. After that, according to Giles, I am the only known wolf charmer in existence. I scored in genetic roulette for having this rare trait.”
“So what do you say? Are you okay with pretending I obey your wolf-segen commands?”
“Convincing and then compelling Giles will make it easier to help you escape…but…”
“I have no clue where you can go.”
“Where are we now?”
“In Forest County, Wisconsin. We are on one hundred isolated acres, but have our own small airport for missions. Even the president and most members of the NSA and CIA don’t know we exist.”
“At least Wisconsin is not exactly the end of the earth.”
She scoffed. “Try getting in or out. You might as well try trespassing into Area 51.”
“After I learn as much as I can from Giles, we’ll leave.”
“If I get caught, I’m screwed.”
“Not if you have a partner.”
After escaping as a teenager, she endured torture and months in isolation. Fear kept her a prisoner despite her freedom to leave her home for trips to the local area. Even without security, they somehow knew her every move. The werewolf was not only powerful, but with his ability to mind control humans, he was her best chance to leave Project Sabertooth for good.
“How many people work here?”
“Twenty fulltime security and fifteen others including myself, handlers and operatives. On occasion, there is an army of Special Forces soldiers, but they don’t live here.”
“Ultra clandestine. We sign a non-disclosure contract. Anyone who talks is executed.”
“Yet, you are sent to carry out animal led assassinations.”
In defense, she blurted, “And the rescue of animals and people.”
“Don’t act so guilty. You are forced. I’m sure they’d love to send me on such missions.”
“Director Giles must think you are the greatest asset, but trust me, if there are more than one of you, he’ll use you to flush them out.”
He scowled. “A disturbing thought, but to be honest, I’d do anything to find out who I am.”
“I bet you were a soldier who nearly died, only to be turned into a werewolf.” She’d seen plenty of movies about wounded soldiers turned into robots or beasts.
“Except, I have a feeling I am part of a pack.”
“Who knows maybe the chimera secret lab facility created many werewolf soldiers. An army of shifters.”
“My gut or rather inner wolf feels I’m natural rather than created.”
She gave him an incredulous look. How could werewolves be natural? If they weren’t created in a lab, then the only other alternative was magic or dropped on earth by aliens. Or had the myth of their existence always been a well-kept secret? “I still can’t believe I’m talking to a real werewolf.” She snorted. “And really contemplating escape.” My last chance of leaving. Crippling fear strangled her. Where would they go? Giles would never stop hunting them. Once captured, they’d be tortured or executed. Kane must realize she’d be a burden. As a wolf, he could easily escape into the woods. Better he go alone. “I’m staying.”
He scowled. “The hell you are.”
Relief warmed her heart, but fear tempered her thoughts. “Think of the risk of bringing me along. As a wolf, you can blend in with a pack and literally vanish from their radar.”
“Besides never pointing a finger at an alpha, never question an alpha’s decision.” His gaze seared her soul. “You are coming with me, whether you like it or not.”
All her life she resented Giles and others for making decisions for her, but this time, it felt different. A hero had come along to rescue her. “First, let’s see if Giles finds out who you really are.” She winked. “Then you can boss him around with your mind control.”
“I should tell you about my nightmare.”
“Did you write it down?”
“Yes. I remember fragments.”
“Yes. I was in wolf form. There was a castle. A fierce alpha female approached and ordered her pack to kill me.”
“I wonder if seeing a castle was the result of viewing all those pictures of werewolves in the Middle Ages?”
He frowned. “You could be right.”
“Although, the female and her pack might be significant.”
“Meaning there are others?”
“Precisely.” She sensed something rang true, but she was no psychologist.
“The wolf in me appears to know more about what I am than I do while human.”
“Did you sleep in human form?”
“Perhaps, if you sleep in wolf form you’ll get more clues.”
“I’ll try that tonight.”
She gazed at her watch. “Let’s call it a day. I need to check on my other charges.”
“Can I tag along?”
Gaby lifted a brow. “Since you can, apparently, compel Tomlin’s permission, why not?”
Kane smirked. “I only wish I could compel you.”
Her wolf-segen charm prevented him from influencing her, yet her belly knotted. “How do I know you are not?”
“Trust me, it’s not like I haven’t tried.”
“If you come with, you can’t talk while I’m working with any animal.”
“I’ll be silent.”
“Good wolf,” Gaby smirked. He followed her into an elevator to the underground section of the new asset containment area. A security guard sat in front of the entrance. “I’m going to check on Sahira our new Bengal tiger.”
The guard stood. “Only you are cleared to enter.”
Gaby turned to Kane and gave him a sardonic smile. “Go on. Tell him you want to come in.”
Kane met his eyes. “I have clearance to enter.”
The guard nodded. “Yes.”
They went through another door that read, Wild Predators. Only Handlers Beyond This Point.
The intense smell of tiger and lion urine accosted Kane’s sensitive nose as they entered. There were five huge enclosures, complete with dens and trees. “Underground zoo.”
“We call it man-eater zoo.”
“We have six big cats; two lions, one Siberian tiger, a mountain lion, and two Bengal tigers including our newest asset, Sahira.”
“You mean assassin-in-training kitties?”
“All our wild beasts were brought in because they have killed and, in some cases, eaten people. Stand back. I’ll show you my charm at work.”
Kane stood away. The lions charged him and roared, most likely not pleased about his presence. His wolf growled back. The large male snarled and struck at the glass barrier.
Gaby turned toward the enclosure and closed her eyes. The lions silenced. They backed away and returned to their dens.
Kane’s fangs receded. “What did you tell them?”
“I told them you are my companion and to go back to napping.”
“I like that.” I bet they thought she meant mate.
She approached the tiger’s enclosure. “Sahira.”
The tigress slowly stepped out of her den and approached Gaby. She rubbed her head against the glass and chuffed, a sound he recognized as a friendly greeting. Odd, he remembered. “Seems friendly enough. How many people has she killed?”
“She’s eaten nine people that we know of.”
“So it will come natural to her when you ask her to kill.”
“Actually, I can ask any animal to attack, but our policy is to use dangerous ones experienced in killing.” She slumped. “I hope to get out of here before Giles or his second in command Tomlin makes me use them again.”
“Don’t worry. No one will ever ask you again to use animals as weapons.” Unless, she counts me.
Gaby glanced at a food slit. “At least she ate all her beef.” She entered information into her tablet.
“How often are the big cats used to assassinate?”
“Only on rare occasions. Sometimes, we use them as gifts for drug lords, or to get rid of a person in the animal’s native country, so their death looks like a legitimate accident. The hard part is getting the animal back before he or she is hunted down. We lose most that way.”
“Because you don’t hang about?”
“Right. Most of the time, I stay in the shadows unless I have a cover story. I’m not much of an actress. I’ve had several close calls after being discovered.”
He stiffened. Though he’d known her for a short period, the thought he could have lost her before meeting her disturbed him. Could she be my destined mate? He kept his tone neutral. “What roles have you played?”
“Everything from news reporter to relief worker to…call girl.”
“Really?” He feigned amusement. “I’m shocked.”
Gaby rolled her eyes. “I was schooled by a professional madam on the art of seduction.”
His sense of humor died and fierce anger took over. His wolf’s hackles rose as he longed to taste their blood. “You were used…that way?”
“No. It’s never gone that far. Yet. The team gets me out before it comes to that, but I’ve had more than enough close calls.”
Relief soothed his nerves. However, his need to protect overtook his need to find out his identity. All that mattered was getting her out. “I understand why I never liked Giles.”
“Are you sure you want to meet with him?”
“Yes, only because he might know who I am.” He smiled. “Don’t worry, he’ll tell me everything he knows.”
“I would take you on the grand tour of our facility, but we better get back before Director Giles returns.”
He looked at the sign to another area, Bears. He sniffed and recognized the stench of grizzly and polar bears. His wolf spoke. We have fought a polar bear. Another snippet, but how or when drew a blank.