Last Wolf Watching

By: Rhyannon Byrd

T he Bloodrunner stood on the sidewalk, staring through narrowed eyes at the silent house nestled among a bevy of trees at the end of the picturesque neighborhood street. His mood was dark, edged with impatience, muscles coiled with tension that wound tighter…and tighter with each passing second.

“Just get in, tell her and get the hell out,” he muttered in a husky rasp, the nearly silent words lost in the gusting Maryland breeze, the heavy chill of autumn wrapping its arms around his shoulders like a coldhearted lover.

It was a simple enough plan—and yet, Brody Carter knew there would be nothing simple about it. With any other woman, yes. But not with this one.

Letting out a slow, measured breath, he stepped beneath the ivy-laden trellis sheltering the front porch. The golden glow of an old-fashioned streetlamp softly illuminated the deep shadows of the night, heavy storm clouds smothering the silvery rays of the moon, until only a few, pale streams of ethereal light filtered through. He concentrated on forcing the aggressive blend of rage and hunger that coursed steadily through his blood beneath a cool, untouched surface of indifference, and finally lifted his hand. With a sharp movement, he rapped his knuckles against the front door, his tanned skin dark against the antique white finish of the wood.

With the rational part of his mind, Brody accepted the fact that he’d rather be anywhere in the world than standing there, on Michaela Doucet’s doorstep.

Unfortunately, the dangerous, animal side of his nature had other ideas, relishing the thought of being near the provocative Cajun once again. He’d had his first look at the mysterious human nearly two weeks ago, at the wedding of a fellow Bloodrunner, Mason Dillinger. And though Brody could appreciate physical beauty as much as the next guy, it seemed this woman was almost too beautiful, with that lush body, long black hair that fell in soft curls to the middle of her back, perfect features and dark blue eyes so big a man could get lost in them.

Still, a pretty face he could have forgotten—but it was her scent that wouldn’t leave him in peace.

The autumn winds surged with a vicious fury, bitterly cold in the dead of night—and his nostrils flared as he caught a trace of that warm, peaches-and-cream fragrance that no store-bought product could duplicate. Suddenly, the cool air of indifference he’d struggled to maintain bled away like the last flecks of snow down the sides of a mountain, replaced by a blistering wave of heat. He imagined his features must look twisted with the madness of his emotions, his expression one of equal parts hunger and disgust for his weakness—and knew he’d be lucky if she didn’t run screaming in the other direction the second she set eyes on him.

“Not that I’d blame her,” he grunted under his breath. While his partner Cian was most often described as the pretty boy of their group, Brody figured he was the equivalent of the intimidating guard dog. Big, mean and scary-as-hell were the adjectives most suited to his appearance, and he’d learned to live with them. He’d never wished to be anything different than what he was—he only wished he’d never set eyes on the sexy Cajun with a siren’s smile, who was perfect enough to have any man that she wanted.

Look, there’s no need to make it complicated. Just get in, deliver the news and get the hell away from her before that scent has time to screw with your head.

He rubbed uneasily at the back of his neck, and a scowl twisted the scarred corner of his mouth, while he wondered what was taking her so long to answer the door. A dog barked down the street, and his gaze slid across the row of neighboring houses, his frown deepening with unease. This pristine world of white picket fences and quaint, family homes was as alien to him as any make-believe landscape, making him feel like the horrifying monster trespassing within a storybook fantasyland. The uncomfortable feeling had Brody struggling for calm, and he locked his jaw, just wanting to get back to the peaceful quiet of the forest.

Being in the city always set him on edge. The man in him hated the constant grind of the noise and crowds and irritating stares, preferring the isolation of the mountains where he and the other Bloodrunners lived. The wolf in him found the endless sensory overload a constant source of frustration. It felt constrained, tethered, when all it wanted to do was throw off his human mantle and howl beneath the comforting, seductive pull of the moon. The continual fight against his primal, instinctual urges whenever a hunt took him into civilization made him restless, wearing him thin.

And now he had to deal with Michaela. Not good. Not good at all.

“You’re tempting fate, just like your old man,” he quietly grunted to himself. “The last thing in the world you need is to be close to her.”