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Lieutenant Matthew Parker wanted to ram his fist into a wall when he thought about how demons, aided by Fae, had killed his best friend, Adam "Wildcat" Barstow. Instead, he rubbed the heel of his hand against the subway's plastic seat.
Never had he felt so alone, trapped in this conveyance filled with humans who would never know about Wildcat. Never pay respect to Adam for serving his country with devotion.
There'd be no military parade, no funeral with a flag-draped coffin. No newscasters with solemn faces talking of Adam's courage and skill. There wasn't even a body to bring home. Adam had been burned to ashes, his remains scattered. Matt wanted to scream at the passengers, shouting Adam's name until his throat went hoarse. No one would mourn Wildcat other than his grieving family, who thought he had died in a car crash. All memories of Adam's existence had been purged from any human or paranormal who knew him.
Matt felt his neck muscles grow tight as a blizzard of smells and sounds assaulted his senses. He tried shutting them out as he'd been taught in training, but he was drained, his defenses lowered. The creaking of the subway car as it sped on the metal tracks toward Times Square, away from Brooklyn and Adam's weeping mate, grated on his ears like spikes. Desperate for a connection, he looked around for someone to pay attention to him. Just one paranorm like himself, who would acknowledge his existence.
He rode a subway filled with human robots. No one looked up, even gave him a curious glance. He was invisible.
Someone, just look at me. I feel so alone. Doesn't anyone care?
And then a sweet fragrance caught his attention. A scent of meadows and mountains, cool, crisp air and forest. It refreshed his weary spirit. Matt's nostrils flared. A very female fragrance. Draicon werewolf, just like him.
His pulse pounded with awareness and a sudden sharp bolt of desire. Then he caught a tendril of fear threaded through her scent. Protective instincts sharpened with knifelike awareness.
She was scared. Who was she? He scanned the crowded train.
Two seats away on the opposite side, a woman sat with her head bent. Long, straight brown hair, parted down the middle, spilled past her shoulders and curtained her face. She wore the uniform of corporate Americablack woolen pencil skirt with matching jacket, white, starched blouse and sleek, expensive black high heels and leather briefcase.
She slipped off the heel of one shoe and absently let it rock back and forth against her heel. She was scared, but hiding it well.
He admired the curve of her calf, the arch of her foot. Matt unclenched his fists.
Look at me.
A subtle but strong command. Matt pushed a little more, using his powers of mind control. Look at me. Please.
The woman glanced up. Sexual awareness shot through him like a bullet. Her nose was small, her mouth wide but soft and sweet-looking. In her eyes he saw a reflection of his own haunting misery, so deep it shattered him. Tears filled her mossy green eyes.
Who had hurt her?
Nothing pushed his buttons faster than seeing a vulnerable Draicon female, alone, without pack to protect her. He wanted to comfort her, and beat the living crap out of whoever made her cry. His teammates teased him about his shining-knight complex. "Because it always gets you laid," Wildcat had insisted.
Once after a mission overseas where Matt had rescued a pretty kidnapping victim, Wildcat brought a white horse onto the base, along with an empty suit of armor. "Your new uniform," he'd teased.
Thinking about Adam, his throat tightened again. I miss you, buddy.
Matt concentrated on the woman. With her creamy skin, delicate features, combined with a strong, stubborn chin, she looked slightly exotic and fey. He could nearly taste the sweetness of her mouth, with its full and lush lower lip. He felt another stir of sharp chemistry, a pure male response to a lovely female.
But striking as she was, it was the grief that called to him.
He longed to wipe away her tears with the edge of a thumb, coax a smile to that down-turned mouth. Matt focused all his efforts.
Please, he thought desperately. Look at me.
Sienna McClare was Fae, accustomed to open air and field. Not this boxy subway car.
The oily smell of fear clogged her nostrils, leached from her pores. The train with its human cargo felt like a coffin. The scent of humans mingled with something darker and more sinister. She was trapped. No way out of this speeding deathtrap. Panic surged, bright and sharp.
Breathe. Just breathe.
She inhaled deeply and thought of deep green forests and quiet glades. Tall pines waving in the wind, the chatter of birds and scolding of squirrels, a deer cropping grass. A wolf watching a deer, waiting. Prey. Images of fangs flashing, tearing, wet sounds
She fought the panic freezing her blood. Draicon werewolves were vicious killers. Merciless as her fatherthe man who'd raped her Fae mother and then killed her when his pack attacked her mother's Fae colony after his pack returned for Sienna.
Air blew through the vents, but it wasn't enough to banish the smell of humans. They belonged to someone. She did not. Not in this city with its neon lights and busy streets.
Sienna hated glamouring herself as a Draicon werewolf, but it was necessary if she were to find the Orb of Light. Someone had stolen the Orb from her colony, the Los Lobos Fae. A Draicon who'd been seen in the area previously was suspected. Sienna had eagerly seized the chance to help when Chloe, leader of the Fae colony, had approached her and promised that once she found the Orb and returned it to them, she'd receive a hero's welcome back into her colony. No longer would she be an Outcast. The Fae would not pretend she was invisible. They'd cast her out when she was older and able to survive on her own, because she was a hybrid. The bastard child of a sweet-faced Fae and a Draicon killer. Her mother's people had raised her with love and affection, making her feel accepted, and then, eight months ago when she turned twenty-one and was considered an adult, they'd kicked her out.
If she found the Orb, Sienna could return to the only home she'd known. Ijust want things to go back to the way they were.
In two hours, she'd meet with a U.S. Navy SEAL assigned to help her find the Orb. Chloe had been vague about details. Sienna didn't care if it meant working with the devil himself. She'd do it.
Sensing someone staring, she glanced up and focused on a man across the aisle. He was heavily muscled, wore a black leather jacket, black jeans and boots. Dark, wavy hair wreathed a solemn, handsome face with brutal cheekbones, a square chin. Eyes as blue as the ocean studied her.
Power and confidence radiated from him. He had a hard edge, as if he could cut with knifelike precision through every bad element that ever rode a N.Y. subway. Yet he had the face of a gentle warrior. Sienna's breath caught. She felt a stir of sexual chemistry.
He was as lonely and grief-stricken as she was. Her heart twisted. Who had hurt this man? She wanted to go to him, comfort him and ease his sorrow. Sienna smiled.
A crooked, charming smile touched his full mouth. Twin dimples appeared on those taut cheeks, making him appear younger and boyish. She felt all her own pain slowly evaporate. Gods, he was handsome.
An odd connection flared between them. Sienna locked her gaze to his, desperately needing someone who understood.
Then her nostrils flared as she caught his scent. Hatred boiled to the surface. Not a man. Draicon.
Matt willed the woman across the aisle to connect with him. He assumed a nonthreatening posture, his arms open, palms spread.
Come on, sweetheart. Smile at me. You're not alone. We're the only Draicon in this steel cage.
Hope surged as a small but vital connection flared between them. He leaned forward, his heart beating fast. Their gazes caught and met. The woman pushed at her mink-brown hair, and gave a small, shy smile.
He let his own smile widen, let her see the pull of sexual awareness between them. Interest flared in her gaze, and she tilted her head.
Then suddenly her smile wobbled. She made a moue of disgust. Slipping her shoe back on, she shook her head.
The word was a low mutter, but his sensitive hearing caught it as if it were shouted. Stunned, he sank back into his seat. She called him one of the most filthy insults among their kind.
Ice slid over his heart, made his spine rigid. Matt felt his smile crack like brittle glass.
Then he gave her a long, cool look and turned away. Ignoring her, as she'd ignored him.
Reeling in his control, he resisted the urge to punch the wall again. Matt folded his arms, stretching the shoulders of his battered leather jacket. He dragged in a deep, calming breath.
And smelled something dark and foul.
His gaze landed on a man in a suit. Italian, expensive. But the wearer had cold, dead eyes. He stared at the Draicon female as if she were steak. Matt inhaled again, catching the scent of shaved metal and putrid sickness. He briefly touched the man's mind and reeled back from the dark images there.
The subway stopped at the Canal Street station. The Drai-con female gave one last disgusted look at Matt and slipped out of the car.
The human suit followed, his expression hungry.
Matt leaped up as the doors began to close. Werewolf strength easily held them open and he bounded onto the platform.
The woman was in danger. And he couldn't ignore a threatened female, no matter how badly she'd treated him.
Both had vanished into a tunnel leading to another platform, but he caught their scents. Matt tracked them, increasing his pace. Worry stabbed him. The tunnel was well lit, but he'd seen that man's expression, smelled his lust.
The business suit intended to rape her.
Not on my watch.
Wolf snarled to the surface. Down, boy. He resisted shifting into his animal side. A wolf stalking through the subways would attract attention. He could handle this as a human. The Sig Sauer holstered at his side was an old friend, but his hands were weapons, as well. He could kick that guy's ass for daring to even think about hurting a woman.
Heels click-clacked ahead of him, the sharp tap of the woman's shoes and the brisk sounds of the suit. Matt hugged the wall, every sense screaming awareness.
Before a short set of stairs, the suit had pinned the woman against the wall. No one else was around. Black briefcase lying on the cement, opened, papers spilled out. The suit flashed a dark smile, his fingers splayed along the female's throat. Light glinted off the polished metal of the knife he held against her throat. A thin trickle of blood dripped onto her pristine white collar.
Matt suppressed a low growl and remained still, gauging the best move. He didn't want one more drop of blood spilled. Except from that bastard.
Even as he started forward, his footsteps silent, the woman glanced at him. She rolled her eyes. At the very same time, the attacker turned his head.
Matt sprang forward, but the woman punched her would-be molester in his soft stomach, sending him reeling. Cursing, he raced forward.
The suit recovered, his face tomato-red. He came at her, the wicked blade raised.
She snarled and flung out her hands, raising her shoe. Her pointed shoe. The tip landed straight in the man's groin.
Wincing, Matt watched as the suit let out a high-pitched, unholy scream. He cupped his groin, the knife tumbling to the floor with a clatter.
The woman kicked him again. This time the man yowled like a cat. The Draicon female studied him with a look of satisfaction.
Matt squatted down besides the attacker, squeezed a nerve on his shoulder. The suit fell unconscious as the Draicon female retrieved a cell phone from her briefcase. She thumbed in 911 and spat out instructions, then hung up.
Blood dripped from the small wound, staining the white collar of her shirt.
"You can leave now," she told Matt in a rigid voice.
The dismissal was curt and brisk. Matt stared in disbelief.
"I know you're not deaf, because I saw your reaction when I called you a dog. So, are you going to leave? I've got this."
He gritted his teeth. "I was trying to help."
She rolled those lovely eyes again. "Thanks for the help, hero."
"He cut you." His tone was curt, hiding the concern. She wiped the droplets off her neck. "It's just a flesh wound."
At his hard stare, she shook her head and bent over, showing the delectable curve of her bottom as she gathered papers into her briefcase. "Not a Monty Python fan. 'Course not. Draicon hotshots like you prefer Lassie. Although I doubt you have half the strength of Lassie."
Glancing up, her eyes widened at his sharp tone. He clenched his fists as she snapped the briefcase shut.
"You can defend yourself. I get it. You don't want help. I don't need an instruction manual. But the Lassie dig" Matt struggled with his rising temper "has to go. I don't know who knocked the brick off your pretty little shoulder, sweetheart, but it wasn't me. So ditch the dog references, got it?"
He heaved in a controlling breath. "I'm not your enemy."
Eyes wide and green as soft moss held his gaze for a moment. The previous misery had returned, making her look vulnerable and young.
"That's what you think," she said softly.
With a sharp turn of her polished heels, she slipped up the stairs and vanished from sight.
Matt rubbed his aching neck. This had been the ultimate bitch of a morning.
Couldn't wait to see what the afternoon would bring. Lieutenant Commander Dale "Curt" Curtis, commanding officer of SEAL Team 21, had scheduled a top-secret briefing about the pyrokinetic demons who'd targeted Matt and Adam. His C.O. had told Matt to prepare for a new assignment.
With a new partner.
Even though he dreaded the idea of a new partner, Matt welcomed the chance to kick demon ass. If a new partner meant finding the leak, so be it.
As for the lovely, contemptuous Draicon An ominous foreboding filled him.
He had a bad feeling he would see her again. Very soon.