Faint rustling in the underbrush resolved to reveal an entire pack of wolves watching from behind Rowan. Oh, stars above, was this how she would die? A scream built deep inside her. She couldn’t run, or fight.
Rowan put one finger to his lips, smiling at her. The pack melted away as if they had some psychic link with him. “We’re all done with killing for the night. Why don’t you try breathing before you pass out?” He strode forward to get his clothes from by her side, dressing quickly.
“The hunters. Did you kill them?” This was not the right question to ask of him, not when she depended on his care, but Morgan had to know.
He zippered up his pants and shrugged on his jacket. “My fangs are somewhat bigger than those of my friends in fur. As much as I would’ve liked to destroy those sent to kill you, I merely directed the attack. So yes, I did kill them after a fashion.”
His nicety of definition shocked her. He could have been discussing the merits of whether to buy a bag of potatoes or sack of onions. She focused on his statement that he had done killing for the night. The painful death she had been anticipating was apparently on hold. Morgan gasped when he scooped her up in his arms, crutch and all.
Rowan marched into the den, depositing her on the bed of furs. “Hungry?”
The thought of what he had just killed turned her stomach. She shook her head, not trusting herself to speak.
“Look, let’s get this quite clear from the get go.” He hunkered down to take out a tin of wieners from the back pack. A can opener followed. “Human tastes a good part like pig. I am not over-fond of that particular flavor. Wieners come as close to acceptable as I will ever get with pig. Now, would you like a roasted wiener?”
She was hungry now that she knew what she was getting. It made for an awkward moment, but this was the man she depended on to feed her and he wasn’t human. How was this possible? Did she dream, or had she gone completely mad? Whatever, the needs of the body must be addressed. While roasting wieners on green wood wasn’t hygienic, she could think of a lot worse offerings. She nodded.
Sitting in a damp cave with an honest to goodness real werewolf, eating wieners, wasn’t something Morgan had ever imagined doing in her wildest nightmares. Her life as a programmer seemed a million years away from where she was now. Her nice, modern apartment with central vac, air conditioning and an underground parking garage for her car as opposed to a cave in the woods with untreated water, not amenities and the companionship of a mythical beast.
Rowan passed over the last wiener to her. “We need to talk.”
Well, wasn’t that the understatement of the century? “I’m listening.”
“I must relocate. Even though I didn’t personally kill those men, there are those who will be looking for them. While cops and feds would ignore the local folklore, these guys may not. The locals know when old Rowan’s been hunting.”
Ice crept up in her veins. Did he intend to leave her or worse? Was this her last supper? “What does this mean for me?”
“Hard choices. You have no papers. Do you want to go back into the witness protection program?” He looked up, amber sparks swirling in the black of his irises. “No one will believe you if you talk about what you have seen, so I am quite happy to take you to a pick up point. Even if you did talk, they would stash you in the nearest mental facility.”
Morgan’s mind reeled. He would let her go? She knew what he was. At the same time, Rowan said he was leaving the area. He could vanish without a trace while she would be left with another attempt at making another life for herself. Another set of bodyguards as targets for those taking up the contract on her. More killing. However those guys found her before hadn’t changed, or how else could they have tracked her car? Someone must have told them for them to plant a bug in it just in case she escaped again. How else had they found the gravel road she travelled before the accident?
“Can you teach me to live off the land? If I could find a cabin in the woods I think I could survive if I had the skills.” A lonely life, not dependent on others to protect her, was better than constant running.
He banked their fire. “Interesting choice. I’m headed up into Canada on my way to Alaska. From there, I intend to buy a boat to cross the Bering Straits. The guys sent to kill you were paid in cash. This is most convenient.” Rowan grinned, wolfishly.
“You stole from them?” Morgan’s sense of justice hiccupped.
“I’ll have to go retrieve the cash and I won’t take every bill, but yes, I will steal. They invaded my territory. There is a cost involved.”
She tried to digest the concept of theft from corpses. Under normal circumstances, it was horrendous. But Rowan couldn’t have any papers, either, not being what he was she supposed. Moving to another continent would require hard cash, which he couldn’t earn without an identity. From his point of view, his theft made perfect sense.
At that moment, a big male wolf ambled into their cave. His tail wagged and he lowered his head. Morgan froze.
Rowan stared at the wolf intently. It shook its head, and then headed off into the night.
“He wanted to know what to do about the cell phones on our victims. They are all ringing. I told him to leave them alone.” He sighed. “It means we must head out at first light, before the back-up team arrives.”
Reality crashed into existence. This was her life. It would never change; never stop, until she was dead.
“Let the bad thoughts go.” Rowan moved over to join her on the furs. “In packs, we huddle together for warmth against the cold when we sleep. There is no sexual threat to you. I will not touch an unwilling partner, but I would like to share heat. Is this acceptable?”
This was the guy that could have left her to burn to death. He’d had many opportunities to force his attentions on her. He stated his intentions clearly to be non-sexual. Despite what he was, she felt safe with him. “Acceptable.”
A very small part of her was disappointed when he tucked them up together in the furs and went straight to sleep. It was not as if she wanted him, not the way he was, but if he had been human…
After five days into the run Morgan had learned to cook on an open fire. Rowan’s pack shadowed them at every pace, since he wouldn’t leave them to suffer retribution. Killing humans meant a hunt would be organized to ‘deal’ with the culprits. Their presence had an advantage as he always brought a small portion of the kill when he went hunting with them at night, leaving her shivering until his return.
On the sixth day Rowan broke into an empty vacation cottage by a lakeshore to Morgan’s relief. Once they got the hot water tank turned on she spent some considerable time in the shower getting clean, but what really began to get to her was Rowan never stank from lack of washing, unlike her. Now she could be as clean as she wished for a short while. Even better, someone had left a pc in the place. She toweled down, raided the closets for fresh clothes, choosing sweatshirt and jogging pants, and then investigated her find. It had internet! Not accessible at the moment, but a swift search revealed a note with letters and numbers needed for a server, which she tried. Access granted.
Rowan emerged from the shower he hadn’t seemed to need, a towel wrapped around his hips, shaking his head to displace the water. “That really isn’t a good idea.”
“This was my job. I know what I am doing and I won’t leave a calling card.” She reached the url she wanted and hacked deep into the database. Information came online. Her fingers froze on the keyboard.
He leaned over her shoulder, just looking at the screen. “Is this guy part of your protection?”
Was he ever! After hacking into his personal email she’d just caught him talking to a mafia boss allied with the one she informed against. No, these guys hadn’t given up on her. They had found the cave and the new dogs had picked up on her scent. They knew she was alive. They guessed she would cross the border into Canada. Now there was an A.P.B out for her as a suspect for murder as the corpses had been shot after death. The border patrols were looking for her.
Rowan’s arms came around her, offering comfort. “You have a mole. Given the temperature during the night, it will be impossible for a coroner to determine the order of their injuries. The deaths will be down to shooting and the animal attacks occurred because of the blood spilt. This lets my friends in fur off the hook but for us it is a no-win scenario. We play by my rules from here on out.”
Cat spam. Yep. I love my cat.