Authors: Tammy Blackwell
The Timber Wolves Trilogy:
Timber Wolves Companions:
At First Sight
All We See and Seem
Shifters & Seers:
the United States
All rights held by the author. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder. For permission, please contact
Content editor: Gwen Hayes of Fresh Eyes Critique
Copy editor: Leslie Mitchell of G2 Freelance Editing
Cover Designer: Victoria Faye Alday of Whit & Ware Designs
Digital formatting: Kathryn Sills
Whispered Visions/ Tammy Blackwell - Kindle edition
Summary: After years of waging a silent war against the Shifters and Seers of the World the Society of Human Preservation has kidnapped Lizzie Anders and Layne Hagan, two of the Alpha Pack’s youngest members.
[1. Werewolves - Fiction. 2 Kidnapping - Fiction.
I love you.
This was wrong. Wortham was a Duke and a rogue. Catherine wasn’t certain how she knew he was a rogue, it wasn’t as though the
would ever sink so low as to share their gossip with her, but still she knew. It was something about the gleam in his eye, the one that said he’d seen a hundred naked women and left them all breathless.
A reasonable woman would have known better than to fall in love with a man like Wortham, but no one ever accused Catherine of being reasonable.
“God, Cat,” he said, his eyes ablaze with passion as he tore away her corset. “You are so beautiful.”
And then his mouth was on her breast, his tongue causing the fine material of her chemise to turn translucent and cling to her over-heated flesh. When he touched her like this, she truly felt beautiful. And alive. Her heart pounded in her chest, and her breath raced in and out of her lungs. Each beat, each gasp, a proclamation that Catherine Dunthrop, the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Carhill, lived.
She wound her hands into the thick curl of his mahogany hair as a moan escaped her throat.
“Cat,” he said, his breath coming in pants as he looked at her with eyes the color of the sky. His hands bunched in the material of her chemise. “I need you to—“
“Get. Off. My. Ass.”
Lizzie Anders, the youngest official member of the Alpha Pack, looked up from the book she was reading and pushed a lock of her orange-red hair behind her ear. “Problem?” she asked, letting her irritation over leaving Catherine and Wortham mid-seduction seep into her voice.
“This freakin’ mom-mobile has been trying to give our car a colonoscopy for the last five miles,” Layne Hagan said, adjusting the rearview mirror. “I swear, I’m about to throw on my breaks just to see her insurance rates go up.”
Lizzie turned in her seat. Sure enough, an older model minivan was getting up close and personal with the back of the Pack Escalade. There were approximately one hundred reasons why Lizzie dreaded the annual trip to Camp Sk’elep every year, and ninety-nine of those reasons were attached to the person in the driver’s seat. His road rage occupied just one of the spots.
“Just slow down and let her pass,” she said, already pulling the book app back up on her phone.
Layne’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. “I tried that already. And before you suggest it, I also sped up. She stayed on my tail, even when I hit ninety.”
Something clenched in her gut, but whether it was a Seer’s instinct or the result of heightened security within the Alpha Pack over the last few weeks, she had no idea.
“Should I call the Den?” she asked, referring to their home that doubled as headquarters for the Alpha Pack.
“For a soccer mom with personal space issues? No, thanks. I’m pretty sure I can handle it.” Lizzie’s finger still hovered over the emergency icon on her screen. “Fine,” he said, “I’ll take the next exit. If she follows, then you can call in reinforcements.”
Since that made more sense than bothering a senior pack member with something that was more than likely nothing, Lizzie nodded her acceptance. She tried to go back to Catherine and Wortham’s bedroom antics, but she couldn’t focus. The third time she read the same description of Wortham’s taut stomach she gave up.
Unfortunately, they were on a stretch of interstate where exits were few and far between. Without her book, all Lizzie had to do was imagine all the different dangers the van could pose.
When Lizzie was asked to join the Alpha Pack at the age of thirteen, she thought her days of worry were behind her. After all, the Alpha Pack was comprised of the strongest Shifters in the world. How much safer could you be than having the strongest of the strong supernaturals to protect you?
Turns out joining the ruling party of all the Shifters and Seers in the world comes with its own set of problems. Over the past four years Lizzie had spied on people who would have killed her without thought if they found out, been targeted by two murderous college students, and had more threats hurled her way than a NCAA referee. She liked to think of herself as a practical person, not given to hysterics, but at some point even the most level-headed girl tended to get a little paranoid when faced with a constant onslaught of terror.
The minivan driver’s sloppy bun and wire-rimmed glasses pointed towards an over-worked mom running errands, but Lizzie had learned not to be fooled by appearances a long time ago. Women were no less strong or capable of horrible things than men, and evil didn’t just infect the young, old, very beautiful, or terribly ugly. Anyone with a heart was capable of having it corrupted. So it wasn’t surprise or even fear Lizzie felt when the minivan followed them up the exit a mile later, but resignation. This was happening, and she would have to deal.
At least she didn’t have to do it alone.
“You have my permission to punch him for whatever it is he did,” Layne’s cousin Jase said, answering the phone on the first ring.
“We’re being followed,” Lizzie said, no time to disabuse the Stratego that she was calling for some misdeed perpetrated by Layne. She wanted to do something to reassure Layne, whose Shifter hearing meant he’d heard every word and was now methodically clenching and unclenching his jaw, but they were so far past comforting each other it wasn’t even funny. “We just took Exit 159 in Illinois, and she followed us off.”
“So did a white SUV,” Layne said, his thumbs tapping a rhythm on the steering wheel.
Lizzie took a deep breath to keep her voice from trembling. “What do we do?”
“Keep driving,” Jase said. Lizzie could hear someone pounding on a keyboard. “We’re going to figure out the location of the closest pack and have them ready for you.” Someone mumbled something in the background. “Okay, we’ve got it. Plug this address into your GPS—”
Gunfire drowned out Jase’s instructions. The phone flew out of Lizzie’s hand as the vehicle snaked back and forth across the double yellow line like a drunk amusement park ride. In the side mirror, a man leaned out of the van’s passenger’s side window, his gun in hand.
“Layne!” she cried out, but it was too late. The gunman took out a second tire, and this time Layne couldn’t hold it on the road any longer. Lizzie saw the world tilt outside her window as an arm slammed across her waist, pinning her to the seat. A flash of terror similar to her own but unfamiliar in its intensity tore through her. Somewhere, flesh was touching flesh. Layne’s fears fed Lizzie’s own. There was yelling, screams so horrifying her skin crawled, but she couldn’t tell if they were coming from her throat or just her mind.
Once the vehicle stopped moving, she was vaguely aware of a tree shockingly close to her face and a breeze she shouldn’t have been able to feel. Then came the pain, white-hot in its intensity.
The world tilted again, temporarily fading to black. When she came to, an unfamiliar face floated above her. Fear clogged her throat, preventing her from calling out for help.
“It’s okay, love,” Floating Face said. “Don’t you worry none. We’re going to take real good care of you now.”
There was a pinch in her arm, like a needle biting through flesh. The last thing she heard before everything went to black was Floating Face’s less than reassuring laughter.
Layne became aware of his surroundings slowly. First, it was the hardness of the floor beneath him. He shifted and attempted to roll over to find a more comfortable position, which was how he noticed his hands were tied beneath his back. When he tried to figure out how that happened, he realized his head, along with the rest of his body, felt like he’d been hit with one of those over-sized mallets cartoon characters always seemed to pull out of their nonexistent back pockets. The sneeze that threatened to shatter his brain into a million pieces brought not only the musty smell of the room to his attention, but the taste of the cloth shoved into his mouth as well.
Everything else quickly came into focus.
The way the cloth had dried out his mouth and was testing the strength of his gag reflex. The bruises along his ribs and stomach aching with every breath. The queasy, disembodied feeling he always got when he took medicine.
And then came the memories.
Being followed on the interstate. Someone shooting out his tires, causing the SUV they were in to wreck. Lizzie’s panicked screams. Fighting three grown men in an attempt to get to her. A big guy with a crooked nose smiling as he shot Layne with a dart gun. Coming to on occasion, only to be beaten into submission and drugged back to sleep.
Shaking off the last of the drugs, he opened his eyes. He’d been in transit before. The memories hung on the edge of his brain beneath a dense fog of medication, but he thought he’d been on a plane at one point, and he was fairly certain there had been a truck involved somewhere along the way. The room he was in now was new. Well, new to him. The faded wallpaper and frayed rug spoke to decades of neglect.
He couldn’t see much from where he lay on the cold wooden floor, but he could see her. Lizzie sat across from him, her back against a battered green corduroy chair that highlighted her vivid red hair and freckles. A bruise swallowed the right side of her face. She also had a gag stuffed in her mouth, but at least they’d tied her hands in front of her. One of her gloves was missing, and the other was badly torn. The paleness of her skin and haunted look in her eyes told him everything he needed to know about whether she’d had flesh-to-flesh contact with their captors.
Layne jerked against the zip tie clasped around his wrists, ignoring the blood trickling down his fingers. He needed his hands if they were going to have any chance of getting free. He knew he was young - he’d just turned seventeen the previous week - and coyote Shifters weren’t quite as strong as their wolf cousins, but he was still a Shifter, and even a young coyote Shifter could take on a bunch of humans. If there was one thing he was certain of, it was that their captors were human. If his nose hadn’t been able to figure it out, the cowardly way they’d used tranqs and drugs to subdue him would have.
He wasn’t aware of how intently he was focusing on Lizzie’s face until her eyes went wide, focusing on something just beyond his shoulder. He had a bare moment to brace himself before a foot came sailing into his kidney, ripping the breath from his lungs.
“Awake again, are ya?” Layne recognized the voice. Crooked Nose. He was responsible for at least half of Layne’s current injuries. The rest were from the car crash. Layne wondered which of the two was the cause of Lizzie’s swollen face. “I heard you wolf boys were supposed to be tough. Haven’t seen any evidence of it myself yet.”
Layne tugged again at his bonds. Just a little more give and he would show this gutter trash exactly how tough he was.
The door clicked shut, and Layne paused his efforts. Despite the smell of expensive cologne threatening to make his eyes water, Layne expected the newcomer to be a heavy-browed thug cast from the same mold as Crooked Nose. Instead, when he stepped around Layne’s prone body, the new guy looked like a preppy private school kid whose dream in life was to join a boy band. He was taller than Layne by at least four or five inches, but he probably weighed a good twenty pounds less. He looked like Jack Skeleton with a thin layer of tanned skin, a mass of blond hair, and an even more pretentious suit.
Layne wanted to kill him on sight.
“What is the meaning of this?” Backstreet Direction on the Block asked, his accent more Victoria Beckham than Russell Brand. “Mack, why are our guests tied up and tossed on the floor like rubbish?”
Crooked Nose, who apparently went by the more conventional Mack, looked as though his hatred of the newest member of their merry little party rivaled Layne’s own. “Because that one is as likely to take off your bloody head with his bare hands as to look at you,” he said motioning to Layne, “and the girl bites.”
For the first time, Layne noticed how swollen and bruised Mack’s hand was. From the looks of it, Lizzie had tried to tear off a large chunk of flesh.
That’s my girl,
Layne thought, pride making him stupid enough to think of Lizzie as anything other than the bane of his existence. It was a problem he sometimes had. Most of the time he did okay with hating her, but then she would do something like smile or laugh or breathe and he would forget.
Kind of like how he forgot he was trying to break the ties binding his wrists together.
“Perhaps,” Boy Band said as Layne renewed his efforts, “if you’d taken my advice on how to properly invite them instead of going off like Godzilla slogging through Tokyo, they wouldn’t have felt the need to resort to such drastic measures.” He knelt down in front of Lizzie. Even though all Layne could see was the nearly nonexistent ass now mere inches from his nose, he could imagine the smarmy, condescending smile he was giving her. “I’m horribly sorry for the way my associates have treated you thus far. I promise, from this point on, I will ensure you’re better cared for.”
Lizzie’s eyes sought out Layne’s, and he gave the barest shake of his head. He trusted Mack more than this jackass. At least Mack’s kicks and punches were upfront and honest.
“Knife!” Boy Band barked out, raising one hand in the air as if he expected the order to be obeyed immediately and without question. And for some reason, despite the fact Mack was at least twenty years older and clearly able to break every bone in his thin body, it was.
Once the blade was in his hand, Boy Band began sawing at the zip tie around Lizzie’s ankles. As soon as her feet were free, he went to work on her hands. The moment the plastic snapped, Lizzie pushed out with both hands. Since Boy Band was balancing on the balls of his feet, he went over without any resistance. He landed in a heap on top of Layne, one of his dagger-like elbows jabbing Layne’s ribs, but he didn’t stay there long. With one final burst of strength, Layne snapped the band around his wrists. Boy Band was as light and unsubstantial as he looked. Layne sent him flying across the room and into a wall that cracked from the impact.
Grabbing the knife Boy Band dropped, Layne quickly sliced through the ties around his ankles. A mere five seconds had lapsed between Lizzie getting free and Layne standing up, but he’d already lost sight of her. A squeak of fear had him turning to the door where Lizzie was frozen with her hand on the knob. Mack stood behind her, his hand roughly gripping the back of her neck.
“Don’t touch her,” Layne growled, letting the coyote seep into his voice. Mack turned slightly, just enough so he was looking directly at Layne, and then smiled as he grabbed onto Lizzie’s bare arm with his other hand. Instinct took over as Layne barreled across the room, not even slowing down as his fists began to fly. He was vaguely aware of Lizzie screaming, but all of his focus was on the thudding of his punches as they sank into the other man’s flesh. He might have kept going forever if some part of him intent on survival hadn’t picked up on the click of a gun’s safety being turned off.
“Mr. Hagan, if you could move away from my associate, I would be ever so thankful.”
Layne hesitated for only a second before raising his hands above his head and taking a step back.
“Let’s start over again, shall we?” Boy Band leaned casually against the wall, his gun seemingly haphazardly pointed towards Layne. “My name is Alistair Halifax, and you are guests in my home. As such, I will see to your everyday needs. Food. Clothes. All the modern day comforts. However, should you ever attempt to cause harm to any of my associates or attempt to leave without my permission, I will be forced to exert my authority as lord of the house. Do I make myself clear?”
If it hadn’t been for the gun or his concern for Lizzie’s safety, Layne would have burst out laughing. Lord of the house? Someone had illusions of grandeur. Feudal grandeur at that. What Lord Alistair needed was a wedgie.
“We understand,” Lizzie said, cutting Layne a look that said he would
do anything stupid and Layne-like or else he would answer to her.
“I truly am sorry for how things have progressed so far,” Alistair said, his face a mask of forced regret and concern. “I give you my sincerest promise that none of this was ever my intention. I truly want you to be happy here.”
Layne couldn’t help but notice all of his regret and promises for a brighter and happier tomorrow were directed toward Lizzie. He had the distinct impression Lord Alistair would happily shove him under an oncoming bus.
Unable to let Lizzie have all the attention, Layne stuffed his hands into his pockets. He had been studying power plays between members of the Alpha Pack for years and knew by looking like he didn’t give a shit about Lord Alistair or his gun he was establishing himself as the more dominant male. By the tightening of Alistair’s lips, he knew it too.
“Where is here exactly?” he asked knowing they had to be hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from where they were abducted in Illinois.
“This,” Alistair said, sliding the gun back inside his jacket, “is Brownlow Manor, home to the Viscount of Langford since the eighteenth century. Specifically, this set of rooms is on the eastern wall of the second floor. I’m told the sunrise can be quite spectacular from these windows.”
Layne was still trying to figure out what a viscount was when Lizzie said, “We’re in England?” The scratchy roughness of her voice had Layne’s hands curling into fists. He took a deep breath and counted backwards from ten, the entire time vowing to kill Mack for every scream he’d ripped from her throat.
“You are indeed,” Alistair said with a smile, as if he was proud Lizzie figured it out. “However, I’m afraid that for your safety, that is as specific as we can get at this time.”
Layne considered sharing his thoughts on the matter of where exactly Alistair’s concerns lay, but instead asked, “What do you want with us? Why are we here?”
“Well, that is a bit more complicated. Perhaps we should…” He motioned toward the mismatched chairs gathered in a semi-circle in front of an elegantly carved fireplace. Lizzie nodded and started to move that way, but before she’d taken two steps, Alistair was next to her, placing his hand on her back as if to guide her to the sitting area.
Thanks to the gloves she constantly wore, most people assumed Lizzie’s Sight only worked when she was touching flesh. Layne was one of the very few to know that wasn’t true. Yes, she avoided as much flesh-to-flesh contact as possible, but it was only because with flesh-to-flesh contact she had no ability to block or filter. If she was to brush the tips of her fingers across another person’s arm, she would be treated to everything going on in their head with no way to push it out. But Lizzie didn’t need bare skin to get into someone’s head. All she needed was to touch them. A layer of cotton couldn’t stop her power from working, but after years of practice and training, it could help her muffle it. She’d once compared it to putting in earplugs. She knew the thoughts were there, but they’d been dulled down to the point she could ignore them.
At least, she could most of the time. But like any wall of defense a person puts up to protect themselves, under the strain of stress, fear, and exhaustion, it would crumble. Layne knew Lizzie’s walls were dust the moment he’d first opened his eyes.
It only took a second for Layne to have Alistair’s wrist in his hand. He knew Mack was approaching from behind, but he didn’t take his eyes off the viscount’s face. “Don’t touch her. Ever,” he said, putting the power of a Dominant into each word. Even when Mack grabbed the back of his neck and pressed a needle reeking of drugs against his skin he maintained eye contact.
The seconds stretched on. It took every ounce of Layne’s control not to attack, but he knew the moment he did, the needle would plunge into his flesh and Lizzie would be left alone. So he stood perfectly still, waiting for Alistair to make his move.
It wasn’t even a whisper, but everyone’s attention shifted to the girl who had gone so pale even the freckles covering her body seemed to be washed out. Her eyes were dilated and unfocused, and she was visibly shaking.
“Jesus,” Alistair said, grabbing onto Lizzie’s arm with his other hand. “What’s wrong? Is this a reaction to the sedatives?”
Layne ground his teeth together so hard he was pretty sure he heard one crack. “It’s a reaction to you touching her, you idiotic douche bag. Get your damn hands off of her.”
The second it took for Layne to figure out what was going to happen was one second too long. The moment Alistair jerked his hands away from Lizzie, Layne lunged. His fingertips skimmed her falling body, wildly clutching at empty space as her head smacked against the floor.