Jim Woods looked totally confused. They’d completely forgotten he was there in the chaos caused by Salazar’s scent. “What the hell is going on?”
“Um.” The girls exchanged a quick, uneasy glance. They’d have to educate the man on shifters, thanks to Tabby’s little scene with Alex. “You see—”
Glory was shoved violently to the side as someone raced past her from the break room. A dark-haired man Glory had never seen before snarled, reaching for Hope as Hope screamed in terror.
Jim put himself between Salazar and Hope, holding his arms out and crouching for all the world like he’d fight the Wolf if Salazar took one more step. “Who the fuck are you?”
Salazar grinned, his mouth full of his sharp Wolf teeth. “You’re about to find out, human.”
Tito Salazar grabbed hold of Dr. Jim Woods so quickly none of them could stop him, and bit him right through his shirt.
Ryan raced after Barney, Salazar’s scent barely detectable on the afternoon breeze. The guy had some balls coming so close to the shop during the day. The lure of Hope must have been too strong for the rogue Hunter to resist.
Barney silently pointed, and Gabe broke off, heading down an alley between the Chinese restaurant and the small curio shop Glory loved to splurge in. Ryan stayed close to Barney, aware the other Hunter wouldn’t allow him out of his sight. Until he was fully trained and Barney gave his stamp of approval, Ryan would not be allowed to hunt on his own.
Something was off. Wrong. Ryan sniffed, growling when he realized what was bugging him.
Salazar’s scent seemed to be fading rather than increasing, and Ryan cursed under his breath. Unless Gabe had the scent, they were going to lose the son of a bitch.
Barney stopped, panting and cursing under his breath. He punched the brick wall of the storefront he was standing next to. “It’s a red herring. Gotta be.” Barney sniffed the wall, making a disgusted face as he pulled back. “He fooled me.”
Shit. He knew about scent marking. Wolves weren’t the only animals who felt the need to mark their territory. Brown Bears would rub their backs up and down trees, marking their territory and warning away other Bears. Ryan, Alex and several of his other relatives had done the same when they changed shape, marking the woods they shared with the Pumas, who thankfully found the whole thing amusing.
If the Bunsun-Williams clan hadn’t been accepted by the Puma Alpha, it might have been a different story. Pumas were just as territorial as brown Bears, and the shifters had the advantage of working in a group, unlike their wild counterparts.
For Salazar’s scent to start off so strong and then slowly fade away, he had to have been marking things for a day or two, only marking the final spot just before Barney scented him. He also had to have been heading toward the shop, not away. “He’s going after the girls.”
Ryan didn’t wait for Barney’s response. He took off back toward Cynful at a dead run, praying he wouldn’t be too late. Rounding the corner he caught sight of Alex sniffing the wall and snarling.
Terror filled him, the metallic taste of adrenaline jolting him. “Who’s watching the girls?”
“Tabby. She insisted I come after you, that they were all safe.” Bunny’s voices barely human, his Bear close to the surface.
Nothing more need be said. Both of them started racing back toward the shop, well aware the pregnant Wolf would be no match for a Hunter, even an ex one. And while Glory had gone through her change, she wasn’t a fighter on her best day. He didn’t call Glory Super Grover for nothing. As for Hope, Ryan prayed Hope would run rather than be captured again. It would destroy Glory if anything more happened to her sister.
With a bit of luck, Ryan, Bunny and Barney would arrive in time to stop Salazar before he hurt anyone.
Ryan didn’t want to think about the worst they might find. When this was over, he was going to have a little chat with Bunny. His cousin should have stayed behind despite Tabby’s orders and protected their mates, not chased after Ryan. This wasn’t the first time Bunny had been worried about family, though. It was the memory of what had happened to Heather that had sent Bunny after Ryan. Bunny should know better. Ryan was more than capable of taking care of himself. But there was no way the girls plus one unaware human were going to hold off Salazar.
They slammed through the door of Cynful together, snarling and claws unleashed. What he saw made him want to howl like a Wolf.
Tabby lay on her side unconscious, her arms curled protectively across her middle. Jim Woods was right next to her, bleeding from a gaping wound in his neck.
The bell jingled and Ryan turned with a snarl, claws and fangs extended.
“His scent… Shit.” Gabe held up his hands. “Tell me he didn’t take the girls.”
Bunny was kneeling at Tabby’s side, running his hand through her hair over and over and cursing himself. Ryan could sense his cousin calling on his healing powers, and knew Tabby would be all right.
He wasn’t so certain about Jim. The man was bleeding profusely, and his skin had taken on a grayish pallor. Without Julian, Ryan wasn’t certain they could save the vet, but he had to try.
“We need to see if we can heal him enough to wake him up. We need to know if he saw anything that can help us track the girls.” Barney knelt by Jim and took a deep breath. “C’mon, Ryan. Show me what you’ve got.”
Ryan put his hand near the wound and closed his eyes. He wasn’t as good at healing as Julian, or even Bunny, but he’d do what he could to save his sister’s mate.
Ryan followed the spiral of the healing path, dancing down into Jim’s body, marking the worst of the damage. He began the slow process of knitting together flesh and blood vessels, muscle and bone. The bite had gone far enough, deep enough, to break the man’s clavicle.
Ryan saw it just as Barney cursed. “Son of a bitch.” It looked like Dr. Jim was going to learn about shifters a lot sooner than they’d anticipated, and in a way Ryan wouldn’t have wished on anyone. The bite the Wolf had given him was a changing bite, the same kind he’d given Glory and Hope. Because it wasn’t linked to a mating bite, it would have been horribly painful and traumatic for the veterinarian.