Jane didn’t know what the hell had just happened. An EMT had checked out the cut above her eye—he’d put some stinging antiseptic on it and slapped a quick bandage over the wound. He’d tried to get her to go to the hospital so she could get thoroughly checked out, but she’d declined. Yeah, okay, so she’d passed out a minute or two—she wasn’t about to be sidelined. If she went to the hospital, she’d lose—
“Locke!” Jane yelled because she saw him trying to slip away. Right. Like she was going to let that happen. “Aidan Locke!” She shoved past the EMT and hurried toward Aidan. Aidan was the one wearing a blood-stained shirt, but no one was trying to push him into the back of an ambulance. Maybe because he looked too…scary. Dangerous?
He turned back at her call and he frowned down at her. “Go to the hospital.”
She’d never liked being told what to do. Her eyes turned to slits. “Just where do you think you’re going?” Over his shoulder, she saw the redheaded guy—Garrison. He had a car waiting at the curb and he was pacing nervously beside it.
“I’m going to find the bastard who tried to take you.” Aidan spun away from her.
She grabbed his arm and spun him right back. “Not without me you aren’t.”
He growled. The animalistic sound should have scared her. This whole nightmare she was living should be freaking her the hell out but, actually, Jane felt oddly calm. Is this shock? And his growl…
She found it oddly sexy. Which probably meant she had some serious freaking issues she should work out with a shrink somewhere¸ sometime.
Only that time wouldn’t be right then. Because right then—“How are you even going to track him?”
He flashed her that wide smile, the one that showed his sharp, white teeth. Then Aidan tapped his nose. “Once I’ve got a scent, I can follow my prey anyplace.”
Those words actually sounded like a warning. She filed that warning away for later.
“He touched you. He was sweating and scared and his scent got on you. Now I’ve got him.”
“You can do that?” Tracking a man by his scent seemed as crazy and impossible as…having claws sprout from a guy’s fingertips.
“Sweetheart, I can do plenty.”
She swallowed and glanced to the right. Garrison was staring at her with wide eyes. “I’m coming with you,” Jane announced.
“I wasn’t asking.” She marched around him and toward the car. “I’m the cop here. The one with the badge. I’m also the one that freak tried to grab. So if I say I’m coming…” She climbed into the passenger seat. “I’m damn well coming.”
She heard Aidan swear, but then he stalked around the car and got in the driver’s seat. Garrison jumped in the back.
Aidan turned on the ignition and Garrison leaned forward. Shit, had he just sniffed her, too? She whirled, glaring at him.
“S-sorry about last night,” he muttered.
“You shot at me.”
“Sorry doesn’t cut it when you take a shot at me.”
Aidan was driving through the city. His window was down and it seriously looked as if he were following some kind of scent in the air. She probably should have checked with some of the cops on scene before she hauled ass, but Jane hadn’t wanted to risk Aidan leaving her, and she knew he would have.
She needed to stay with him because she was afraid if he found her would-be abductor first…
Aidan might kill the guy.
And that wasn’t happening. Jane wanted to question the perp. She wanted to find out just why he’d come for her.
If Aidan hadn’t been there, what would’ve happened?
“I’ll make it up to you,” Garrison rushed to say.
She glared at him before facing the windshield again. “I need to toss your ass in jail.”
“Jail isn’t for werewolves,” Garrison mumbled.
Werewolves. He’d just confirmed her fear. She needed a drink. Maybe three.
“Can’t lock us up with the humans,” he continued, voice almost sulky. “It doesn’t work that way.”
So she was figuring out. “Then how does it work? Who punishes you jerks?”
From the corner of her eye, she saw Aidan’s tanned, powerful hands clench around the steering wheel. “I do.”
The car jerked forward and she threw up a hand to grab the dashboard, balancing herself. “What? So you’re some kind of paranormal law?”
“He is the law,” Garrison rushed to say.
“Garrison,” Aidan snapped the name. “Shut the hell up or I’ll dump your ass right here.”
She was all for dumping the guy but before Jane could goad Garrison into saying more, Aidan had floored the car. For a moment, the crash flashed back through her mind. Screaming metal. Broken glass. The hard, jerking impact—
Aidan’s hand flew from the steering wheel and grabbed hers. His fingers linked with hers, holding her securely. “It’s all right.”
No, it was actually hard to breathe. Her heart was racing too fast. Her whole chest ached.
“You’re scared,” Garrison supplied from the backseat. “Your scent changed and—”
Aidan slammed on the brakes. “Get the hell out.” He kept his strong hold on Jane.
Garrison scrambled from the car. “But I thought I was supposed to be protecting—”
“I’ve got her. Get your ass back to Hell’s Gate.” Then he rushed away with a squeal of his tires.
Breathing got easier for Jane. Why, she wasn’t sure. But Aidan kept holding her hand and he didn’t mention anything about her scent. Her heartbeat slowed even as the car raced through the streets.
“I’m not going to let anyone hurt you.”
Her brows lifted. She should probably pull away from him. It wasn’t as if she needed someone to hold her hand. Never had.
“I don’t understand just what’s happening with you,” Aidan continued. “What you are, but I figure you’ll trust me soon enough, once you realize I’m not all bad.”
She swallowed. Licked her lips. Then said, “Not all bad? So what…you’re half bad?”
She saw the curve of his smile. “At least three-fourths.”
Jane got the feeling he was telling the truth. Hell, she knew he was. This wasn’t some safe, easy guy. No good guy. He was dangerous. Not human. And he was still holding her hand. “Why?” Jane forced herself to ask as they headed toward the warehouse district. “Why do I matter to you at all? Why care if someone grabs me or not? I’m surprised you didn’t just let him haul me away.” This part was the absolute truth, and something that she just didn’t understand. “It would’ve been easier for you. After all, I was dragging your ass to jail.”
His head turned toward her. That bright stare met hers, just for an instant. “I’m not letting anyone take you from me.”
He didn’t have her. They were strangers. Sure, she might have felt some weird attraction to him, but, honestly, she’d always had a weakness for bad boys. Those dark guys who pushed her. Who made her feel the tiniest bit…
Unsafe. Out of control. On the edge.
Yes, right, another issue to deal with when she finally got around to getting some counseling. If she hadn’t been so scarred by her previous encounter with a shrink—so very long ago—maybe she would have tried the therapy route.
“Fuck,” Aidan suddenly snarled and he spun the car hard to the right. Her gaze shot around the area and she saw the body—and the blood.
She barely waited for the car to brake before she was lunging out and running toward the body. One look, and she knew it was the man who’d tried to take her. He was sprawled on the ground, eyes closed, chest bloody.
Her hand flew to his throat. No pulse.
“Two shots,” Aidan snapped. “They wanted to make sure he was dead.”
“The driver of the van. Whoever the hell shot me.”
She patted down the dead man’s body, but he didn’t have any ID that she could feel, and she didn’t want to touch him too much—if there was DNA or other evidence on him, she didn’t want to destroy it.
“Can you find them?” Her gaze flickered over the dead man’s face. An average face. Not handsome. Just…bland. Round chin. Thin lips. Heavy brows. “The ones who were with him, can you get their scent, too?”
He put his hands on his hips. Turned to the left. To the right. He didn’t answer her.
“If they killed him, their scent has to be here, right? You can track them.” He didn’t even need to try jerking her around.
His eyes gleamed. “I can track anyone.”
Good. She glanced back at the dead man. A shiver slid over her. What is happening in this town?
Ditching a werewolf wasn’t easy, Virginia knew it. So when they dumped their van and stripped their clothes at the edge of the mighty Mississippi, she knew they were going for a swim.
The water was breath-stealingly cold when she jumped in. And swimming—it was harder than she remembered. This job sucked.
The stinky water sloshed toward her mouth as she followed Johnny. They’d get back to land soon. Get clothes that would be waiting for them—they had planned for situations like this one, after all.
Get clothes. Get dry. Get in a new ride.
And get that bitch detective.
The water hit her in the face. Werewolves were such pains in the ass.
Night had fallen once again. Aidan stood on the second story balcony of Hell’s Gate and looked out at the city. This city—people loved the night here. They loved their drinks. They loved their music. They loved raising some hell.
Only until that hell takes your soul.
He hadn’t been able to find the others who’d been involved in the attempt on Jane’s life. He’d tracked them to the river’s edge. Found their dumped van—and their clothes. Clothes for a woman and a man. They’d jumped—ass naked, from the looks of things—into the river.
Obviously, it hadn’t been their first time to flee from a werewolf.
Music pumped below him. He watched the bodies on the street. Men and woman. Young and old. So many careless humans.
He’d been aware of her, of course. Her scent had gotten beneath his skin. In him, and he didn’t know why.
Jane Hart stood in the middle of the street. Her head was tilted back. That dark, thick hair of hers slid loosely over her shoulders. She wore her battered jacket and the jeans that fit her round hips and long legs like a second skin. Her eyes were locked right on him.
She hadn’t tried to tell her captain about the big, bad werewolf. She was keeping his secret. For the moment, anyway.
He leaned forward, wrapping his hands around the wrought-iron railing of the balcony as he stared down at her. She made for quite the enticing picture, did she realize that? Such incredibly tempting prey.
A man rushed up behind her, and he put his hand out, reaching for her shoulder.
Every muscle in Aidan’s body tensed and he pushed forward onto the balls of his feet, ready to jump over that balcony and rip the guy away from her.
“Not interested,” he heard Jane snap as she pushed the guy away. The guy stumbled back into the crowd, and she looked up at Aidan once again.
Just what…he wondered…would it take to interest a woman like her? His hand tightened around the balcony’s railing.
She gave a grim nod and then started walking toward Hell’s Gate. Anticipation flooded through him. He’d puzzled over her that day. He’d reassured some fucking panicked werewolves that she wasn’t a threat. That he was handling her. That she was his problem. His.
He’d figure out why she was different. He’d take care of her.
Aidan headed down the stairs, and when he reached the landing on the bar’s first floor, he saw that she was only steps away from him. She looked small and fragile, human, but he was willing to bet his sexy little detective had a gun tucked under her jacket.
Had she heeded his advice, though? Had she gotten herself some very much needed silver bullets? In this town, if she was truly going to step into his world, she’d need to better arm herself.
Knowing that eyes were on him—they always were—he stalked up to her and put his hands on her shoulders.
“All right, Locke,” Jane began, her voice sharp. “We need to—”
He kissed her. Mostly because he’d been curious about the way she would taste. He’d wondered how her lips would feel beneath his. He’d wondered…would the connection he felt for her wane with a taste? Or would it grow?
It fucking grew.
Because her lips were parted. His tongue could slip right inside, and it did. He pulled her closer, and her head tipped back. Her hands flew up and grabbed onto his arms, but she didn’t push him away, a good thing considering the eyes on them in that club.
Her small nails sank into his arms. And her sweet tongue—it tasted him, too.
The kiss wasn’t soft. Wasn’t a kind little public peck. He kissed her with a ferocious hunger, as if she were already naked in a bed under him. And she kissed him back with the same wild need.
He hadn’t expected it.
Hadn’t expected to feel the beast within him practically howling in pleasure because he’d found someone he wanted. Craved.
Someone he would have.
His cock shoved against the front of his jeans and since he was holding her so tightly, there was no way Jane missed his hard-on. A few more seconds, and he wouldn’t care about their audience. Hell, right then, he didn’t care. He wanted her clothes gone. He wanted to taste every single inch of her, and his beast sure wanted to take.
She shoved him back.
He went back, but only because he needed to get his splintering control in place. His heart was racing too fast. His breath heaved out, and his claws—he’d barely stopped them from springing out in that crowded bar.
“What in the hell are you doing?” She touched her lips. Lips that were swollen and red from his mouth.
He caught her hand. Laced his fingers through hers. “Missed you, too, sweetheart,” he murmured.
Her eyes widened. “What—”
Aidan pulled her through the crowd, heading for his office. People wisely got the fuck out of his way as he passed by them, pulling Jane in his wake. She was muttering behind him, and he even found her mutters cute, which meant he had a huge problem on his hands.
But where Jane was concerned, what else was new?
He let her hand go and shoved open the door to his office. Not really surprising him, Jane froze, not crossing that threshold. Her dark gaze cut suspiciously toward him.
He gave her a smile. A bit hard, considering the way his dick still shoved against his jeans, but he managed a wry, “Come into my lair,” for her.
Her eyes slid toward his office. Then back to him.
“Promise,” Aidan added. “I won’t bite.” Unless you ask. Then I’ll be happy to oblige.