Bad Moon Rising (Page 4)

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Bad Moon Rising (Dark-Hunter #18)(4)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Her mother’s eyes darkened. "No one threatens my cubs. Are you truly all right, cherie?"

"I’m fine, Maman. Thanks to the wolves."

Maman patted her lightly on the arm before she headed back to her office.

Aimee went over to where a rare steak was already up on the order shelf. Handing her orders over to their cooks, she took the plate and grabbed a beer for Fang as she passed by the bar. "I’ll be back in a few."

Her older brother Zar, who looked a lot like Dev with short hair, only taller and broader, stopped her. "Are you all right?"

At this point, that question was getting old. She wasn’t a fragile doll that would break at the slightest wrong twist. She was a bear with all the strength and abilities inherent in their species. Her family, however, tended to forget that fact. "A little shaken and a lot of pissed off. I don’t like anyone getting the drop on me the way the jackals did. But I’m fine now."

A muscle ticked in his jaw, showing her the anger he kept hidden underneath his calm exterior. "I’m sorry we didn’t get to you faster."

Those words were haunting as they stirred memories inside her she didn’t want to remember. "Really, it’s okay, Zar. I’d much rather be the one threatened than to see you hurt." Again. She left that one word unspoken as she saw her own painful memories mirrored in the horror of his gaze.

It was a past they never talked about, but one that scarred them all.

"I love you, Zar."

He offered her a hollow smile before he moved away so that he could continue tending the bar.

Aimee headed out the back door to the alley and then across the street to where Fang was sitting on the sidewalk, waiting for the others. His features troubled, he reminded her of a lost child. Something completely incongruous with his tougher-than-steel aura. Not to mention his prowess at taking down her attacker without even scratching her. His speed and strength were unrivaled and frightening.

Even though he must have used his powers to remove the blood from his clothes, she remembered well the way he’d trounced the jackal.

But what surprised her most was the fact that she wasn’t repulsed by his violence. Normally such overkill would have had her showing him the door.

Then again, she’d been the one with the knife at her throat. Personally, she’d like to kick the jackal around a bit herself. Yeah, that had to be it. She was too grateful to him to be angered over his actions.

Fang shot to his feet as soon as he saw her.

For some reason she couldn’t name, she was suddenly nervous and self-conscious as she approached him. Hesitant even.

How unlike her. She was always icy cold around men, especially when they were from another species. But with Fang . . .

There was just something different.

Fang swallowed as he saw Aimee pause across the street. She was even more beautiful in the daylight than she’d been inside the dark club. The sunlight sparkled in her hair, turning it into spun gold and making his palm itch to touch its softness. She had to be freezing. All she had on was a thin Sanctuary T-shirt.

He shrugged his jacket off as she finally neared him.

"I wanted to say thank-you again," she said, her voice low and sweet. She scowled as he draped his jacket around her thin shoulders.

Fang lowered his head sheepishly as he realized why it bothered her. "I know I smell like a wolf, but it’s too cold to be out here bare-armed."

She frowned even more as she looked at his arms. "You’re wearing a T-shirt too."

"Yeah, but I’m used to being outside." He took the food from her. "So I take it I didn’t get us banned after all."

She smiled, showing him that beckoning dimple that he would kill to kiss. "Far from it. Anyone who fights for us is always welcome here."

His features relieved, he nodded. "Good. I was afraid I’d have to listen to Vane’s shi-stuff for the next few centuries."

Aimee stifled a laugh at the way he caught himself before he cussed in front of her. It was very sweet and charming and also unexpected. "You’re not like other wolves, are you?"

He swallowed a drink of beer straight out of the bottle. "How do you mean?"

"I’ve never been around wolves who were so . . ."

He arched a brow as if daring her to insult him.

"Mannered."

Fang laughed, a warm, rich sound that lacked any hint of mockery. The expression softened his features, making him even more gorgeous and intriguing. And for some reason, she couldn’t quite take her gaze off his well-sculpted arms as they flexed with every move he made. He had the best biceps she’d ever seen.

"Our sister’s doing," he said after he swallowed a bite. "She has codes we have to follow and Vane enforces them to please her."

"But you don’t like them?" There’d been a note in his voice as he spoke.

He didn’t answer as he cut the steak with his fork.

Aimee gestured back toward the bar. "You want to eat that inside with the rest?"

"Nah. I don’t like being indoors and I can’t stand most of them anyway." He jerked his chin toward the saloon-styled door where Dev was standing guard again. "You should probably go back though. I’m sure your brother doesn’t want you out here consorting with dogs."

"You’re not a dog," she said emphatically, surprised that she actually meant it. An hour ago, she’d have been the one to hurl that insult at him and the rest of his pack.

Now . . .

He truly wasn’t like the others and she really wanted to stay out here with him.

Go, Aimee.

She took a step away before she remembered that she wore his jacket. Pulling it off, she held it out to him. "Thanks again."

Fang couldn’t speak as he watched her cross the street and head back into the bar. As he held his jacket against his chest, her scent hit him full force with a wave so strong he wanted to howl from it. Instead, he buried his face against the collar where her scent was the strongest. Inhaling deep, he felt his body harden to a level it had only done for one other female. . . .

He winced as old memories tore through him.

Even though they hadn’t been mates, Stephanie had been his entire world.

And she’d died in his arms from a brutal attack.

That memory shattered the heat in his blood and brought him back to reality with a fierce reminder of how dangerous their existence was. It was why that jackal was lucky to be alive. The one thing Fang couldn’t stomach was to see a woman threatened, never mind harmed.

Any creature cowardly enough to prey on a woman deserved the most brutal death imaginable. And if it was delivered to him by Fang’s hand, then all the better.

Shrugging his jacket on, he picked up his plate and returned to eating.

Once he was finished, he took the dishes to Dev who thanked him again for saving Aimee.

"You know for a wolf, you don’t really stink."

Fang snorted. "And for a bear you don’t chafe my ass."

Dev laughed good-naturedly. "You going back inside?"

"No. I’d rather stay out and freeze my ass off."

"I hear ya. I like it better outside myself. Too human in there for me."

Fang inclined his head, surprised that the bear understood. Anya had made him human enough, he didn’t want any more housebreaking than that. Tucking his hands in his pockets, he headed back to the bikes to wait.

 

Aimee went outside at Dev’s insistent grumblings that kept coming in through the earpiece she wore-all the staff wore them so that the Were-Hunters could appear more human whenever they used their powers to communicate with each other.

"What?" she snapped in the doorway.

He held out an empty plate and beer bottle.

"Oh." She stepped forward to take them from his grasp. Unbidden her gaze went to Fang who was again sitting on the ground with his legs bent and his arms draped over them while he leaned against an old hitching post.

There was something very feral and masculine about that pose. Something about it that made her heart quicken.

He’s not the same species, girl. . . .

Yet it didn’t matter to her hormones. Gorgeous was gorgeous, regardless of breed or type.

Yeah, that was what she was reacting to. It was nothing more than the fact he was an exceptional specimen of male physiology.

"Something wrong?"

She blinked and looked at Dev who was watching her. "No, why?"

"I dunno. You have this dopey kind of expression that I’ve never seen from you before."

She made a sound of abrupt disgust. "I don’t look dopey."

He snorted. "Yes, you do. Get to a mirror and check it. It’s really scary. I definitely wouldn’t let Maman see that."

She rolled her eyes at him. "This from a bear who got his ass kicked by a jackal?"

His eyes flared. "I was preoccupied by the knife at your throat."

She gave an exaggerated laugh. "You were on the ground and pinned before I was held."

He started to argue, then stopped. He looked around as if afraid someone might have overheard her. "You think anyone else remembers that part?"

"Depends." She gave him a calculating stare. "How much you gonna pay me to back your version?"

His look turned charming and sweet. "I pay you in love, precious little sister. Always."

She scoffed at his offer. "Love don’t pay the rent, baby. Only cold hard cash."

He gaped, his expression one of total offense as he held his hand over his heart as if she’d wounded him. "You really turning mercenary on your favorite older brother?"

"No. I would never do that to Alain."

"Ouch!" Dev shook his hand as if he’d burned it. "Bearswan got ‘tude."

Laughing, she stepped out to give him a quick hug. "Don’t worry, big bro, your secret’s safe with me so long as you don’t annoy me too much."

He tightened his arms around her and held her close. "You know I love you, sis."

"I love you too." And she did. In spite of their disagreements and quarrels, her family meant everything to her. Stepping away, she turned to glance one last time at Fang. Most likely she’d never see him again. A common occurrence really for their clientele and yet for some reason this time that thought hurt deep inside her.

I have lost what three brain cells I have. . . . Bear, get your butt back to work and forget about him.

 

Fang stood up as he saw the pack leaving the bar. Vane was the first to reach him.

"Here." Vane tossed him his backpack, then handed him a bag of something sweet and rich. "The bearswan wanted to make sure you got that for Anya. She said there was something in there for you too."

That shocked him completely. No one ever gave him gifts. "For me?"

Vane shrugged. "I don’t understand bear thought processes. Most days I barely understand ours."

Fang had to give him that-he didn’t understand it either. He tucked the sack into his backpack as the rest of the wolves took up their bikes and headed out. They were silent the entire way back to the bayou where they’d made camp for their females to deliver their pups in peace and protection.

As soon as they’d returned, their father met them in his wolf form. Markus shifted into a human just to sneer at them.

"What took you women so long to return?"

As Fang opened his mouth to smart off, Vane shot him a warning glare. "I toured the clinic and have the contact information should any of our females require help."

Markus curled his lip. Even though he’d sent them there, he had to be an ass**le. "In my day we let the wolfswans incapable of birthing our young die."

Fang snorted. "Then it’s a good thing we’re in the twenty-first century and not the Dark Ages, isn’t it?"

Vane shook his head while their father growled at him as if about to attack.

This time Fang refused to back down. "Try it, old man," he said, using a term he knew infuriated his father since Katagaria despised their human natures. "And I’ll rip out your throat and usher in a new age of leadership to this pack."

He could see the desire in Markus’s eyes to press the issue, but his sire wolf knew what he did. In a fight, Fang would win.

His father wasn’t the same wolf who’d killed his own brother to be Regis of their pack. He was weak with age and knew that he didn’t have many more years left before either Fang or Vane took over.

One way or another.

Fang preferred it to be over the old man’s dead body. But other arrangements would work for him too.

It was another reason their sire hated them. He knew his prime was past and they were only coming into their own.

Markus narrowed his gaze threateningly. "One day, whelp, you’re going to cross me and your brother won’t be here to stop me from killing you. When that day comes, you better pray for salvation."

Fang’s look turned evil. "I don’t need salvation. There’s not a wolf here I couldn’t wipe my ass on. You know it. I know it and most important, they all know it."

Vane arched a brow at his comment as if taunting him to prove those words.

Fang gave him a lopsided grin. "You don’t count, brother. I think more of you than to even try."

Markus raked them with a repugnant twist to his lips. "You both sicken me."

Fang snorted. "It’s what I live for . . . Father." He couldn’t resist using the title he knew made the old fart seethe. "Your eternal disgust succors me like mother’s milk."