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The only trouble with getting away from it all was actually getting away from it all.
Six weeks of lazing around on secluded and luxurious Monitor Island, with nothing to do except eat, drink, and lust after the occasional hot-bod sounded like heaven itself. And it was.
For the first three weeks.
But now, with the fifth week done and dusted, the wolf within hungered for the company of my own kind. Werewolves are not, by nature, solitary souls. We tend to live in packs just as much as our animal counterparts.
My pack might now only consist of my twin brother Rhoan, his lover Liander, and my lover Kellen, but I was missing them all something fierce.
Especially Kellen. He'd been here for the first three weeks, and the result had been a deepening and strengthening of our relationship. I might be totally capable of looking after myself, but it was an absolutely delicious sensation to have such a big strong wolf wanting to take care of me. In some ways, he reminded me of an ex. Talon might have been as crazy as a March hare, but he'd also been a wolf who knew what he wanted, and who went to great lengths to get it. Kellen was built in that mode, but he was far more caring than Talon ever could have been. Add to that the fact he was a great lover, and you had an overall package that was nigh on irresistible. At least to this wolf.
Even so, I hadn't really expected to miss him this much. Not after only a couple of months of being together—and especially considering we'd probably spent more time apart than together in those months. Of course, I knew now that a lot of that separation was due to Quinn, the enigmatic vampire who swore his feelings for me ran deep—even as he used me to achieve his aims of killing the people who had destroyed his lifelong friend and creator. Even now, despite the feelings I had for Kellen, part of me still hungered to be with Quinn. Would probably always hunger to be with him.
Because I had a connection with Quinn that I'd never found with any other man. Not even Kellen.
But Quinn was out of my life for the moment—maybe even permanently—and I couldn't really regret that. I'd never condoned force in any relationship, and that's basically what Quinn had done when he'd used his vampire wiles to curb my nature. His methods might have been psychic rather than physical, but in the end, it was the same thing. Anything that forced someone down a path they would not otherwise have taken was abuse, no matter how prettily the situation was wrapped.
What I needed to do was forget him. Just get on with my life, and stop remembering he was ever part of it. Even if the very thought made my soul weep.
But the last two weeks alone had left me with nothing to do except think about the people in my life and the events of the last ten months. In fact, all that I was supposedly here to forget.
I rubbed a hand across tired eyes, then leaned my forearms on the balustrade of the small patio lining the front of my pretty little villa unit.
The breeze coming off the sea was cool, teasing my short hair and sending goose bumps fleeing across my bare flesh. I briefly thought about going inside to grab a shirt, but in the end, I couldn't be bothered.
I let my gaze roam across the waves, watching the foam hiss over the white sand. It was a peaceful sound, as peaceful as the night itself, which made me wonder what the hell had woken me in the first place.
Certainly there was little noise coming from any of the other villas that lined this half-moon section of beach. Not even the newlyweds were stirring, and they'd been at it nonstop since their arrival five days ago.
And they thought werewolves had stamina.
I smiled and plucked a leaf from the nearby eucalyptus branch that draped over the railing, then flicked the leaf skyward from the stem, watching it twirl all the way to the ground.
What I wanted was to go home. To get on with my life and my job. To spend more time with Kellen. But I had just under a week of vacation left, and while I might be going slowly insane with boredom, I couldn't just pack up and leave. Rhoan and Liander had given me this holiday as a gift to help me rest and recuperate, and I couldn't—wouldn't—hurt their feelings by returning before my time was up.
My name whispered across the wind—a demand rather than a mere attempt to get my attention.
I straightened quickly, my gaze searching the moonlit night for some sign of the caller. Some hint of where the voice had come from.
A difficult task when it seemed to come from everywhere and yet nowhere at once.
Again the voice rode the night, stronger than before, and clearly male in its resonance.
It wasn't a voice that belonged to any of the men who inhabited the five other villas in this small cove. Nor did it belong to any of the staff members who looked after the villas or who worked in the main resort complex one beach over.
But there were three other accommodations scattered across the island, and I hadn't really had much to do with their guests or employees. But even if it had been one of them, why would they know my name? And why would they be calling me in the dead of the night?
It was odd—and the mere thought of something odd occurring had excitement racing through my veins.
Which was a rather sad statement about just how bored I was. Or perhaps how addicted I'd become to the adrenaline rush of being a guardian. Hell, I'd give away the killing any day, but not the thrill of the chase. The hunt was everything to a wolf, and no matter how long I might have denied it, I was a hunter—every bit as much as my brother.
I studied the night for a moment longer. The wind whispered through the trees, void of any voice but its own. I could sense nothing and no one near, and yet something was. The electric charge of awareness raced across my skin, making the small hairs on my arms stand on end.
I spun on my heel and walked back into my room. I didn't mind walking around sans clothes, but most of the guests currently on the island were human, and humans tended to get a little antsy about the whole naked thing.
Though up here in Queensland, that attitude was a whole lot less noticeable than down in Victoria. Of course, the weather in my home state often precluded the desire to strip down, simply because the weather was about as predictable as a tiger snake during mating season.
I pulled on a low-cut T-shirt and a baggy pair of shorts, then returned to the patio.
The voice swirled around me, rich and arrogant. A man who used—and probably abused—power. And my wolf soul reacted to the command in that voice, but not in the way I expected. Not fiercely, with anger, but meekly. As if she wanted to do nothing more than tuck her tail between her legs and cower.
And there could be only one reason for that.
The voice belonged to a pack member. And not just any pack member, but the alpha. The wolf who ruled the pack as a whole.
Only the voice didn't belong to my alpha, the man who had ruled the pack for as long as anyone could remember. I would have recognized the voice of my own grandfather.
So what the hell was going on?
Frowning, I walked down the steps then strode through the trees and out onto the moonlit sand. The wind was sharper out from under the cover of the eucalyptus, and filled with the scent of the sea.
And nothing else. No musky male scent, no hint of wolf. Nothing to suggest there was another soul awake and aware out here on the beach.
A shiver ran down my spine. Maybe I was imagining it. Maybe this was nothing more than a dream, and any minute now I'd wake up and laugh at my own stupidity.
After all, our pack had threatened to kill us both if we ever contacted—let alone went near—any pack members. And not even our mother had dared to contradict that particular order.
Not that I thought she'd tried. Though I had no doubt she loved us, she'd always seemed as relieved as the rest of the pack to see the back of us.
Again the order ran across the night, stronger than before. I closed my eyes, concentrating on the sound, and tried to define just where the voice was coming from.
After a moment, I turned around and padded up the beach. The villas gave way to thicker strands of eucalyptus and acacia trees, the strong scents filling the night.
It didn't matter. I wasn't relying on my olfactory senses to track this particular trail, but rather my "other" senses. The senses that were new and somewhat unreliable.
The part of me that could see souls rise.
Of course, seeing—and hearing—the souls of dead people wasn't a gift I particularly wanted. Hell, I had enough trouble dealing with the living dead without having to worry about the actual dead popping along anytime they pleased.
But as was often the case in my life of late, it seemed I had little choice in the matter. The experimental fertility drug I'd been forcibly given by Talon had not only kick-started some latent psychic abilities, but had given them a little twist, just for the fun of it. Clairvoyance had been one of those latent skills—until recently, anyway. Seeing dead people walk through the shadows was the not-so-tempting twist.
And I was hoping like hell it was the only twist the drug caused. I didn't want to be like the other half-breeds who'd taken the drug. I didn't want to gain the ability to shift into any animal or bird form I chose, simply because while such an ability might be a buzz, it came at a price. Every one of the others had lost their ability to retake human form. I might love being a wolf, but I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in that shape. Or any other shape, for that matter.
Seeing dead people wasn't that bad by comparison. And until tonight, the dead hadn't contacted me long range. I'd only seen them close to their bodies. Well, mostly, I thought, shivering as I remembered the lingering, insubstantial wisps in Starr's bloody arena.
Not that I was entirely sure I was hearing the dead now, but it just seemed odd I couldn't see or smell anyone else. My senses were wolf-sharp. If someone had been close, I would have known.
I padded along the white sand until I reached the peninsula rocks. The wind here was sharper, the sea rougher, slapping across those rocks and sending white foam flicking skyward. The tide was up, so I'd be getting wet if the voice wanted me to clamber around to the next cove.
I stopped and scanned the horizon. This section of the main island was closest to Lighthouse Island, the larger of the two small islands that sat within swimming distance of Monitor. It housed the Monitor Island Research Center, a joint government and private concern that was investigating the sea life and the reefs. I'd done the tour last week, and had been bored to tears. Sure, reefs were pretty. So were the myriad of fish that lived amongst them. And we surely had to know why they were all disappearing. But hey, I just couldn't get all worked up about the science. Wolves are hunters by nature, not conservationists. We usually haven't the patience for occupations that involve long hours of inactivity.
Awareness tingled across my skin, as sharp as needle stings. Whoever the voice belonged to, he was close.
"Riley, turn around."
For the first time, memories stirred. I'd known that voice in the past. I turned and studied the trees.
A man stood amongst them. Though at first glance he appeared solid, a more careful study revealed an almost gossamer look to his hands and feet. As if, by the time he got to his extremities, he didn't have the strength to maintain the illusion of substance.
He was a tall man, rangy in build, with strong arms and blunt features. Not attractive, not ugly, but somewhere in between. But even if he'd been the ugliest spud on the planet, it wouldn't have mattered, because the sense of authority and power that shone from his gray eyes was all that would ever matter to a wolf.
And this wolf wanted to hunker down before it.
But I wasn't just wolf, and the other half of my soul bared its teeth and got ready for a fight. I locked my knees and skimmed my gaze up to his hair. Thick and red. Definitely red pack. Definitely my red pack. But who?
As I dropped my gaze to his, recognition stirred again. I knew those eyes, knew the cold superiority behind them. But I'd be damned if I could dredge up a name.
"Why are you calling me?"
Though the question was soft, my voice seemed to echo across the silent night. A tremor ran down my spine, and I wasn't sure whether it was due to the chill wind hitting my bare arms and legs or the sudden sense of trepidation creeping through my soul.
Amusement sparked briefly in the translucent gray depths. "You do not remember me?"
"Should I have any reason to remember you?"
This time, the amusement reached his thin lips. "I would think you'd remember the wolf who threw you off a mountainside."
Shock rolled through me. Oh my God . . .
My grandfather's second-in-command, and the wolf who would have killed both Rhoan and me if he could. The wolf who almost had when he'd thrown me off that cliff. Ostensibly to teach Rhoan a lesson about never back-talking the pack second.
Hate followed the shock, swirling thick and sharp. I clenched my fists, and found myself fighting the sudden urge to punch the cold amusement from his lips. But he wasn't here, he wasn't real, and I'd only look like a fool. So I simply said, voice low and venomous, "What right have you got to call me?"
"My right is pack-given."
"The Jenson pack ceded its rights over me and Rhoan when they kicked us out."
"Pack rights are never surrendered, no matter what the situation. Once a pack member, always a pack member."
"You threatened to kill us if you ever saw us again."
"A statement that still stands."
From the Paperback edition.