Raised by Wolves(6)

By: Jennifer Lynn Barnes


And now, Callum had placed me in his charge.

“I hate this,” I said.

“I’m sure you do, Bronwyn Alessia St. Vincent Clare, but I’d not have you endangering yourself on my watch.”

It took me a second to realize that Devon was channeling Callum. The impression was a hilariously good one, and it reminded me that even when he obeyed orders, Devon was not just another member of the pack.

“Your stubbornness is also your folly,” Devon continued. He even had Callum’s facial expressions—or lack thereof—down pat.

“Fine. You win. I’m laughing. Happy now?”

Devon grinned, Callum’s quirks instantaneously melting off his heart-shaped face. “I’m ecstatic.”

“The point is—” I tried to bite back my giggles, but that stubbornness/folly line was so spot-on that I was having trouble recovering. “The point, Devon I-wish-you-had-a-middle-name Macalister, is that if Callum’s got an entire team watching me—including your fine wolfy self—then there’s something going on. I want to know what it is.”

“Leave it alone, Bryn.” Devon’s voice was soft and uncharacteristically serious. He knew something, he knew that I knew that he knew something, and he still wasn’t telling. Ten-to-one odds, that meant that (a) Callum had forbidden him from telling me, and (b) Devon agreed that it was in my best interest not to know.

“Devon!”

“Bronwyn.”

I really needed to come up with a better retort than “you suck.”

The two of us walked in silence for a bit, until the trail veered off to the right. Ark Valley was about 90 percent woods, and the forest was protected by the town by-laws—not surprising given that the town was one of a dozen or so in a five-state area founded by Callum’s pack, way back when. Every couple of decades, the pack moved, rotating through our territory just when the older wolves’ agelessness began pushing the line from “incredible genetics” to “unnatural.” We’d been in Ark Valley for as long as I could remember, and the townspeople hadn’t gotten suspicious yet—at least about the aging thing.

“Your castle awaits,” Devon said, gesturing to Ali’s house.

“Not going to walk me to the door?” I asked, pretending to be shocked at his lack of gallantry.

“Of course I am. Many would think that a bonny lass such as yerself wouldst be able to stay out of trouble for a distance of fifteen feet, but I know better.”

“Did you just use the words yerself and wouldst in the same sentence? You can’t be a pirate and a courtier at the same time, Dev. It just isn’t done.”

In a gesture below the dignity of the average werewolf, he stuck his tongue out at me. Still, he walked me all the way to the front door, depositing me on the porch and waiting for me to open the door and walk across the threshold. I dug out my keys, unlocked the steel door, and stepped inside, just as dusk fell.

“Good boy, Devon,” I taunted. “You got me home before dark. If you can sit, shake, and roll over, too, I’m sure Callum will give you a doggie treat.”

“Forget Callum and his so-called panties,” Devon said, finally taking his tongue back into his mouth so that he could speak. “It’s a miracle that I let you live past childhood.”

I snorted. On any other girl, it would have been a perfectly normal, if indelicate, sound to make. On me, it sounded more animalistic. More wolfish, even though I wasn’t a Were. Hazard of being raised by a pack. For the most part, with a little effort and a lot of resolve, I could keep them out of my head, but they still snuck their way into my mannerisms. I’d never be one of them the way Devon was one of them. I’d never Shift to another form, and I’d never have a wolf sharing my body and stalking through the corners of my mind. But I’d never be like other girls, either.

I shook my head to clear it of thoughts—another gesture that wasn’t as human as I was—and I realized when I zoned back in that Devon had already taken his leave. He’d made it to the trail and a good ways down it in a matter of seconds, not bothering to mask his inhuman speed. Nobody but Weres came as far into the forest as Ali’s house. Nobody but Ali and me.

“Close the door and hang up your jacket,” Ali called the orders to me from the kitchen. She had an uncanny sense for knowing what was happening in her house even if she couldn’t see it. Before she’d bellowed, I’d been microseconds away from dumping my coat on the floor.

I followed her orders to a T and then walked into the kitchen, following the sound of Ali’s voice and the scent of cooking food. I had a good nose—a matter of necessity in the pack, human or not—but I couldn’t quite parse what I was smelling into its component parts. “Marinara sauce,” I mused out loud. “Peanut butter. Onions. And …”