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Authors: Kerrelyn Sparks

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BOOK: Wild About You
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Phil winced. “The werewolves know which islands your people are living on?”

“Yes. Rhett has over five hundred followers, so we can’t afford to draw him into battle.” Howard gritted his teeth. “I just want to play with him, make him wish he was dead.”

“What did he do to you?” Dougal asked.

Howard stabbed at the ground with his staff. No way was he going to discuss lost love with two guys. “He deserves far worse than what I have planned. Are you in the game?”

Dougal gave him an apologetic look. “I may no’ be much help to you. I’m lucky if I’m able to stay awake for more than a few hours at night. The blasted sun here is always up.”

Howard smiled. “You could use that as an excuse for not reporting in. Then maybe Angus would send more men.”

Dougal tilted his head, his eyes narrowed. “Is that why ye stopped returning his calls? So he would be forced to send us?”

Phil scoffed. “You jerk, you had us worried about you. Why didn’t you just ask for help?”

“If I asked, Angus could refuse.” Howard leaned on his staff. “Any chance of getting more guys here?”

Dougal gave him an irritated look. “Angus will have smoke coming out his ears.”

“Then he should come and help,” Howard suggested.

“He’s busy coordinating three other missions right now,” Phil grumbled. “A lot has happened since you left for vacation.”

Howard frowned. After the skirmish with Rhett in Montana, everything had seemed to calm down. “What’s going on?”

“We’re still trying to find Russell,” Phil began. “J.L. and Rajiv went to China to hunt for him.”

“That’s good.” Howard had often wondered how Russell was doing. The former Marine and newly turned vampire had gone AWOL in China after their last mission there. As Russell’s sire, Angus probably felt some responsibility for him. Everyone assumed Russell was hunting for Master Han, the evil vampire who had left him in a vampire coma for forty years.

“There was an outbreak of murderous Malcontents in Albania,” Phil continued. “Angus sent some guys there to help Zoltan track them down.”

“I see.” Howard knew that as Coven Master of Eastern Europe, Zoltan was charged with the task of protecting mortals in his jurisdiction. It wasn’t a job he could always do alone, so he often requested help from Angus.

“And then we got an urgent request from President Tucker,” Phil muttered. “And when the government asks for our help, we have to comply.”

Howard nodded. Now that the president knew about vampires and shifters, he and the CIA were likely to make many such requests in the future. “What is it this time?”

“Seven American tourists taken hostage by a drug cartel in Mexico,” Phil explained. “The president asked us to locate them and teleport them out. The only safe way to do it is to have a vampire for each hostage. So that’s seven more Vamps. Carlos went with them as their day guard and translator.”

“Now ye ken why Angus wasna pleased with yer antics,” Dougal said. “He’s short on manpower. He had to call me away from my station in Texas.”

“I understand.” Howard had hoped for a bigger team, but he could manage with only two more. “If you both join us, then we’ll have a team of six. The three of us. A journalist and good friend, Harry Yutu, in Anchorage. And two young were-bears from the island, my twin cousins, Jimmy and Jesse.”

“What’s the plan?” Phil asked.

“We call it Operation Three Little Pigs,” Howard replied. “We’re attacking three of Rhett’s houses. Our first target was one of his fishing cabins. We removed everything from inside, stashed it in our trucks, then huffed and puffed and knocked the walls down. It wasn’t too hard, since it was just a shack.”

“That was yer house of straw?” Dougal asked.

Howard nodded. “Some hungry cubs on The Paw are enjoying the food, and an old woman got a new wood-burning stove she was needing. My grandfather is very happy with his new rod and reel.”

Phil crossed his arms. “You probably left your scent behind. Rhett will know it was you.”

“My cousins left behind some deer and squirrel carcasses. The place will be a magnet for hungry animals. There’ll be a lot of scents there by the time Rhett discovers it.” Howard took a deep breath, then continued, “Last week, we tackled the house of sticks, Rhett’s vacation home on the coast of the Kenai Peninsula. We emptied it so we could give all the stuff to some needy were-bears, then took a few axes to the stilts and watched the house slide down the bluff and break apart on the rocks. Most of it floated out to sea.”

“I like it.” Phil grinned. “And the house of bricks?”

“It’s log and stone, actually. One of Rhett’s main residences.” Howard glanced up at the sky. “We’ll hit tomorrow night when the moon is full, and Rhett and his minions are away from the house on their monthly hunt.”

“He’ll leave behind a few guards,” Phil warned.

“That’s why I wanted more men. If they discover us invading his home, there could be trouble. I was hoping to get a few Vamps on our team so we could use your mind control or at least teleport away if we need to. We could really use your help.” Howard extended a hand, palm down. “What do you say? Are you in?”

Phil gave them a wolfish grin. “Yeah, I’m in.” He slapped a hand on top of Howard’s.

Dougal snorted, then rested his mechanical hand on top of theirs. “Aye, I’m in as well.”

Chapter Three

he following night, Howard drove a black SUV toward Rhett’s house. After turning off the headlights, he eased down the narrow road for the last few miles. When he spotted the sharp curve ahead, he pulled over and stopped. A quick glance in the rearview mirror assured him they hadn’t been followed. In the backseat, his seventeen-year-old cousins, Jimmy and Jesse, snored away. Phil was dozing, too, in the passenger seat.

It had been a long trip from Paw Island. They’d left early in the morning, with Dougal safely doing his death-sleep in the dark basement of his grandfather’s house. After a short ferry trip from the island to Port Mishenka, they’d caught the bigger ferry to Anchorage. At a local diner, they met his old high school buddy, Harry Yutu, who worked as a reporter for the popular local tabloid,
Northern Lights Sound Bites
. His cousins and Phil wolfed down a dozen hamburgers while Howard and Harry discussed the finer points of the game they called Payback. They couldn’t afford to let Rhett know who was playing with him, so Harry had arranged for them to secretly borrow an SUV through a rental agency that owed him a favor.

After dropping Harry off at the newspaper office, Howard had driven north toward Fairbanks. It was just after 11:00 p.m. now. The full moon had risen, but the sun still lingered on the horizon. He turned off the engine.

Phil woke with a jerk and quickly looked around. “Are we there?”

Howard pointed at the two-lane road that curved to the right then disappeared from view. “Rhett’s estate is a mile down there. I reconnoitered it about a week ago. He had one guard at the gatehouse and four more watching the exterior of the house. All mortals, so they’re probably working tonight while the werewolves are forced to shift.”

Phil nodded. “They’ll be off in the woods, hunting. Unless they’re Alpha like me, but I doubt Rhett allows any of his minions to gain that much power.”

“I’m hoping they stay in the woods. We’ll be in deep shit if they discover us.” That was the main reason Howard had wanted more Vamps on his team. If they were attacked, the Vamps could have teleported them away. Without that emergency exit strategy, they had to count on the plan working without a hitch.

Phil gave him a curious look. “You and your cousins don’t need to shift tonight?”

“Different species, different rules.” Howard dropped the car keys in his jacket pocket. “To stay healthy, we need to shift at least once a month, but it doesn’t depend on the moon. We can shift at will.”

“Oh.” Phil was quiet for a moment as he scanned the woods. “I knew you could shift whenever you wanted, but I figured you were an Alpha.”

“No such thing in our culture. Or I suppose you could say we’re all Alphas.” Howard slanted an amused look at the werewolf. “I guess that makes us superior—”

“Ha. We’re not the ones on the verge of extinct—” Phil stopped himself. “Sorry.” Frowning, he turned to Howard. “If Rhett does like my father, he’ll have a bunch of pack members here for the monthly hunt. If they catch the scent of were-bear, they’ll come after you and your cousins.”

“Worried about the three little bears? How kind of you.”

“Will you be serious? There could be a hundred werewolves out there.”

“I know. We came prepared.” Howard checked his watch. It was a quarter after eleven. “After the sun sets, we can call Dougal and get down to business. We’ve got about a ten-minute wait.”

“Okay.” Phil settled back in the passenger seat. “So how does your friend Harry fit into the plan? He’s a were-bear, right?”

“Yeah. Harry Yutu. His last name is Eskimo for ‘The Claw.’ ” Howard smiled, remembering how they’d been best friends all through school. “He was always reminding me that he’s bigger. He shifts into a polar bear.”

Phil’s eyebrows lifted. “Are you kidding me?”

“Didn’t know about them, huh?” Howard’s smile widened. “His dad and my dad were best friends. They owned a lumber company together up north off the Yukon River.”

“Past tense?”

Howard nodded, his smile fading. “They died in a fire when I was four. I think Harry was three.”

“I’m sorry.”

Howard waved a dismissive hand. “It’s okay. Our mothers took us to the Bear Claw Islands, and we grew up there. My grandfather was always more like a father to me.”

“He kept you in line?”

“Bearly.” Howard smiled when Phil groaned at his pun, then reached back to shove at his cousins. “Wake up, guys.”

Jimmy jerked awake and looked out the window. “Are we there yet? Is it time to play secret agent man?”

Jesse stretched. “This is going to be so cool!”

“I know, right?” Jimmy agreed.

Jesse smiled at Howard. “We’re so glad you came home. The summer was totally boring till you showed up.”

“The summer?” Jimmy scoffed. “How about our entire lives?” He glanced at Phil. “We were born after Howard was banished.”

“Yeah. We didn’t even know him till a month ago,” Jesse explained. “But we grew up hearing about him. He’s a legend, you know. He tossed Rhett and two other werewolves off a cliff.”

Phil glanced at Howard. “That’s why you were banished? You killed werewolves?”

Jesse winced. “No offense, wolfman. I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

“That’s right.” Howard scowled at his cousin.

“Was it the same cliff where we met last night?” Phil asked. “Is that why you thought you’d killed Rhett?”

Howard shrugged. “He looked at me funny.”

“Really?” Jesse scratched his head. “I thought he killed your girl—”

“Enough,” Howard interrupted. “Listen, you two. You’ve got to be careful tonight. Your mom will have my hide if anything happens to you.”

“Your hide.” Jimmy snickered.

“Get your disguises on,” Howard continued. “And your gloves. Don’t leave any fingerprints.”

Jesse saluted. “Aye, aye, Captain!”

Jimmy elbowed him. “Come on, bro. Let’s get stinky.”

They turned toward the back of the SUV, kneeling on the backseat while they pried the top off a plastic bin they’d stashed in the trunk.

“Stinky?” Phil twisted around to watch.

“Our new coats,” Howard explained. “We’ve got them triple-wrapped in plastic and stuffed in that container to keep the aroma fresh.”

“I was wondering why you guys were hauling around that bin—” Phil stiffened when Jimmy ripped the Saran Wrap off the first coat and a strong odor escaped. “Wolves?” His jaw clenched. “Dead wolves?”

“Sorry about that, wolfman.” Jimmy shook out a huge coat covered with wolf skins. “We gotta blend in, you know.” He handed the coat to Howard. “This one is yours.”

Phil glowered at him. “You killed wolves?”

Howard shrugged. “We have to cover our scent. It was either this or have you piss all over us.”

“That could be arranged,” Phil muttered.

Jesse snorted. “Yeah, like we’d go for that.” He took the plastic wrap off a second coat. “Don’t worry, wolfman. No werewolves were harmed or killed during the production of this movie.”

“You killed wolves,” Phil growled.

“Just a few.” Jimmy unwrapped the last coat and put it on. “Isn’t that like doing you guys a favor? I mean, don’t you have to compete with real wolves when you’re hunting?”

Phil groaned. “Some werewolves might agree with that, but I’ve always considered them noble creatures.”

“Well, now they’re being noble enough to protect us from your werewolf buddies.” Jimmy pulled on a pair of leather gloves.

Phil glanced toward the woods. “Those aren’t my buddies.”

“Wow, you’re like some kind of movie hero.” Jesse raised a gloved hand as he imagined. “The Lone Wolf.”

Phil snorted.

“Are you really married to a vampire?” Jimmy asked. “I heard she was hot.”

Phil shot Howard an annoyed look.

“They wanted to know why you smelled like girly shampoo.” With a grin, Howard ignored Phil’s glare and climbed out of the SUV.

As he slipped on the smelly wolf-skin coat, his thoughts returned to Elsa. The image of her beautiful face had crossed his mind often on the long drive. Her wild blond hair, her sparkling green eyes, her bright smile that always made his heart pound. He’d studied her photos, so he knew how she looked, but he was becoming increasingly curious about her scent. As a were-bear, scent was important, and it bothered him that he was clueless about such an essential part of her. And even though he teased Phil, he had to admit to an unfortunate amount of envy. He’d jump at the chance to use the same shampoo as Elsa.

He shook his head. What an impossible dream. He pushed away all thoughts of Elsa and called Dougal on his satellite phone.

A few seconds later, Dougal materialized beside him, dressed entirely in black with pants, turtleneck sweater, and trench coat. His claymore was strapped on his back in a black leather scabbard.

BOOK: Wild About You
7.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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