Bad Moon Rising (Page 2)

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Bad Moon Rising (Dark-Hunter #18)(2)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

 

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There’s a pack of wolves who just came in."

Her stomach sliding into her stomach, Aimee Peltier glanced up from the ledger where she was going over new orders. Their mother, Nicolette Peltier, froze at Dev’s dry declaration.

She met Aimee’s quizzical look as she pushed herself back from the large brown desk. "How many?"

"Looks to be eight Slayers and two pups in training."

Maman arched one blond brow. Though she was approaching eight hundred years old, she appeared to be no older than a forty-year-old human. Dressed in a fitted blue business suit and with her blond hair pulled back in a tight chignon, she looked prim and proper-unlike Aimee, who was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans and wore her long hair down. "Slayers or Strati?"

Strati were Katagaria warriors who were the fiercest of the bunch and usually quick to anger. The pups, due to hormonal shifts that were even worse on Were-kind than humans, were even more so. But they usually lacked the power and strength to back their egos. Slayers, on the other hand, were indiscriminate killers who slew any and everything that got in their way. Arcadians applied the latter to any Katagari soldier as a justification for why they needed killing.

If this group of wolves really were Slayers, their presence in the bar was like a keg of dy***ite resting on an open hearth with a raging fire.

Dev scratched at the back of his neck. "They’re technically Strati, but these are hard-core cases. Wouldn’t take much to make them Slayers."

Aimee stood up. "I’ll go wait on them."

Dev blocked her exit. "Cherise already got their orders."

She was aghast at his recklessness. "You trusted a human to wait on them?" Was he out of his mind?

Dev seemed unperturbed by his own stupidity. "Cherise is too even-tempered and sweet. I doubt even a true Slayer could be mean to her. Besides, I know how you feel about wolves and thought I’d spare you having to deal with them. We don’t need any more drama here for a while."

It was true. Her encounters with wolves had never gone well. She couldn’t explain it, but she shared her mother’s distaste of their kind. Wolves were violent and filthy. Arrogant to the extreme.

Most of all, they stank to her "bear" sensitivity.

Nicolette stood up. "Aimee, go and keep an eye on them. Make sure they don’t cause any trouble while they’re here. I don’t want another spectacle. If they so much as sniff in the wrong direction, throw them out."

She inclined her head to her mother.

Dev shifted to one side to let her pass. "If you need a hand, I’ll be there with backup faster than you can say ‘wolf stain.’"

Aimee had to stop herself from sighing in aggravation at her overprotective brother. He meant well. But there were times when she felt completely stifled by her family.

Even so, she loved them . . . warts and all.

Patting him on the arm, she walked down the hallway to the kitchen where humans unknowingly mixed with a Were-Hunter staff. They thought this was a normal bar and restaurant. If only they knew the truth. . . .

She grabbed her apron and tied it at the waist before she reached for her tray.

"Where have you been?"

She paused at her brother Remi’s bark. Identical in looks to Dev, no surprise since they were two of the identical quads Maman had birthed, he’d inherited all the surly anger of his other three brothers combined.

Plus he barely tolerated her.

"With Maman, ordering food and alcohol. Not that it’s any of your business."

Remi skirted a stainless-steel industrial table to encroach on her personal space in a way that made her want to knee him hard in his "man" pride. "Yeah, well, there’s a bunch of wolves-"

"Dev already told me."

"Then get your butt out there and watch them."

She raked him with a sneer. "Nice attitude, Rem. Really, you should see about suing whatever ass**le sold it to you."

He lunged at her.

Aimee caught him with her tray and shoved him back. "Don’t, brother. I’m not in the mood."

He shoved her back.

"Remi!"

He froze as their father came into the kitchen. Over seven feet tall and well muscled, Papa Bear was a frightening sight, even to the children who knew he would never harm them. His long blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail that matched Remi’s. In fact, he looked as much like Remi as Dev did and unless someone knew better, Papa could pass as an older brother.

"Leave your sister alone. Now go wash dishes until you cool down."

Remi glared at him. "She provoked me."

Papa sighed. "Everyone provokes you, mon fils. Now go and do as I say."

Aimee offered her father a reconciliatory smile. "It’s just a mild disagreement, Papa. Remi has this whole need to breathe in and out, which annoys me. If he would just stop breathing, I’d be fine."

Her father gave her a chiding stare. "Never say such to me, chere. I’ve already buried enough sons and you brothers. Now apologize to Remi."

Completely contrite, Aimee went over to her brother. Her father was right, she didn’t want anything to happen to anyone else in her family. Even as surly as Remi was, she still loved him more than anything and would protect him with her life. "I’m sorry."

"You ought to be."

Aimee growled at his hostile personality. Why did he have to pick a fight with everyone?

She glared at her father. "You know, it’s a shame Katagaria bears don’t eat their young, especially the annoying ones."

Wanting to put distance between them, she headed out the door, into the bar area where the human waitress, Cherise Gautier, was filling drinks. Petite and blond, Cherise had the kindest disposition of any being Aimee had met in her three hundred years of living. Creatures like her were rare and Aimee wished she could be more like her.

Unfortunately, she had too much of Remi in her for that-another reason she couldn’t stand her brother most days. They were two peas in a pod that together made an unsightly mush.

"Hey, Aimee," Cherise said with a bright smile that cheered her instantly. "You okay, baby? You’re looking a little flushed."

"I’m fine."

Cherise gave her a gimlet stare as she covered her hand and gave a supportive squeeze. "You fight with your brother again, boo?"

There were times when she could swear that human had preternatural powers. "Don’t we always?"

Unperturbed, Cherise returned to setting glasses on her tray. "Well, that’s what family’s for. But you know what I do. Anyone threaten you, Remi would have their posterior for dinner and you would do the same for him. That boy love you more than his life. Never forget that." Cherise started to pick up the tray.

"I got it." Aimee cut in front of her.

Cherise frowned. "You sure?"

"Absolutely. Besides, it’s time for your break."

Her expression skeptical, Cherise stepped back. "All right then. I’ll be just a shout away if we get busy suddenly. Those are for table thirty."

Aimee hefted the tray up and cursed at how heavy eight beers with iced mugs and two Cokes could be. It was a good thing she’d taken it from the human. As tiny and frail as Cherise was, she’d have had a hard time carrying it. But true to form, the human would never utter a single word of complaint. Cherise had never once bitched about anything or anyone.

Aimee carefully made her way from the bar area to the tables in front where the dogs had taken refuge. As she came around the corner, she let out an aggravated breath.

Sure enough, they looked like the dregs of the animal kingdom. Scruffy, leather-wearing brutes. She just hoped the younger two didn’t try to hump the furniture or some human’s leg.

Though as she drew closer, she couldn’t help noticing that the one with the longer hair was extremely good-looking. His dark hair was made up of a myriad of colors. Red, mahogany, brown, black, even some blond. It was as striking as his dark eyes.

The only other one of them really noteworthy was the one wearing a black biker jacket, who leaned back in his chair with his incredibly long legs stretched out in front of him. His black T-shirt was pulled tight over a stomach that was rock-hard and flat. With short dark hair and an evident nasty attitude, he was hard to miss. His rugged features were covered with several days’ growth of beard and his eyes were completely concealed behind a pair of opaque sunglasses.

There was something about him that screamed power. Something lethal. Deadly. Raw. The animal in her could appreciate how impressive it was to give off that vibe while completely at ease. It also set off her instincts and made her extremely wary of the whole group.

Yeah, that one wolf gave the word Slayer a whole new meaning. She glanced around the room to locate her allies. Her brothers Zar and Quinn were at the bar. Colt, another bear who lived with them, was having a drink in front of them. Their busboy, Wren, who was a tigard, stood in the far corner cleaning tables while his pet monkey, Marvin, was poking his head out of Wren’s apron pocket.

She was adequately covered if she needed it.

Putting off her own "screw you" aura, she closed the distance between them.

As soon as they saw her approaching, the wolves stood up . . . except for the one who looked the baddest of all. He continued to lean back with his arms folded over his chest.

"Fang!" the one with long dark hair snapped, kicking at his legs.

Fang came to his feet with a curse so foul, it actually made her blush. He had the one who’d barked his name in his hands before he seemed to realize what he’d done. "Vane?"

"Yeah, dick, let me go."

The long-haired white-blond wolf closest to Fang lowered his head threateningly. "Were you sleeping?"

Fang released Vane and passed the one who’d spoken a sneer that said he not only hated the other wolf, but that he thought he was an idiot. "Was I wolf or human?"

"Human."

"Then I wasn’t asleep, was I, Scooby?"

She arched her brow at the insult. Wolves didn’t like to be compared to dogs and to refer to them as a cartoon dog known for his lack-witted antics usually resulted in a fight.

The fact the blond wolf didn’t attack over it corroborated Fang’s ferocity in a way nothing else did.

Fang shifted his weight and pulled his sunglasses off as if trying to be respectful of Aimee’s presence-something that seemed incongruous to her and yet . . . these wolves were nothing like what she expected.

And his eyes . . .

They were a gorgeous brown with a hint of rust in them. Yet it was the pain and intelligence inside them that reached out to her. A pain that seemed boundless.

Yawning, Fang scratched at the thick whiskers on his face. "Though it wasn’t for lack of trying."

The youngest wolf-pup came up to her. "Let me help you with that."

"I’ve got it," she said gently, surprised by how well mannered these wolves were. The ones she’d run into in the past had been from the lowest rung of the evolutionary scale.

As soon as the tray was down, they all took their drinks without waiting for her to hand them out.

Vane took her towel and wiped the tray dry before he held it out to her.

Aimee smiled at him. "Thank you." It was actually disconcerting to see wolves who appeared this rough having manners. She wasn’t sure how to deal with them.

As she started away, the one named Fang stopped her with a gentle touch. "You dropped this." He bent down to pick up her pad that must have fallen out of her apron pocket.

As he stood up, she became aware of exactly how large a man he was. Not beefy like the bears she was used to, he was lean.

And he was ripped. Solid like taut steel.

"Thanks."

Fang couldn’t speak as he looked into the clearest pale blue eyes he’d ever seen. They were set into the face of a blond angel. One who had just the smallest hint of a dimple in her right cheek when she spoke.

Her skin looked softer than velvet, and for some reason he couldn’t name, he wanted to lay the backs of his fingers against her cheek to see if it was as soft as it appeared.

And her smell . . . it was lavender and lilac. Normally the scent of another species was repugnant to his wolf’s heightened senses. But not hers. She smelled warm and sweet. So sweet that it was all he could do not to rub his face in the crook of her neck to experience more of it.

When her hand brushed his, his body erupted with heat.

Without a word, she put the pad in her pocket and turned away.

Fang had to catch himself to keep from following after her.

Vane handed him his beer, interrupting his attention. When he looked back, the female bear was gone.

"You okay?"

Fang nodded at Vane’s question. "Just tired."

The moment he started to sit down, the bearswan was back. They all shot to their feet-something that was ingrained in them. Wolves protected their women stronger than any other Were-Hunter kind. Loyal and deadly, they were trained from birth to show respect to females, regardless of species. The fact that this bear was related to the ones who owned the bar made her even more honored.

The bearswan pulled her pad back out. "My name’s Aimee. I forgot to take your orders."

Aimee . . . it was a beautiful, soft name and perfect for her. Even though he didn’t repeat it out loud, he knew it would roll off his tongue like fine whisky.