“Easy,” he said in a level tone as he balled his hand into a fist to protect his fingers. If there was nothing inside the lion but animal, it would respond to any hostile or fear pheromones it smelled. He held his hand out slowly so the lion could catch his scent and intent.
The lion swatted at him but didn’t hurt him. Good. Fury put his hand on the lion’s back. Leaning closer, he felt the muscles shifting, but they weren’t bunching to attack. He breathed in and smelled the scent of Carson, Margery, the female lion, and others. But it was the lightest smell that sent him reeling…
Fury looked at the lioness. “Have you been around any other Lykos?”
Anita indicated the wolf by Carson. “Sasha.”
“No,” Fury said slowly. “Female.”
Anita scoffed. “We don’t mix with other breeds. We are purists.”
Maybe… but there were other scents he picked up on, too. Jackal, panther, and wolf. “When were you around a jackal?”
“Never!” she spat, indignant at the mere suggestion. The jackals weren’t exactly anyone’s favorite breed. In the land of outcasts, they were the omega animals. The ones everyone avoided and picked on.
Sasha moved closer. “I smell it, too.”
Carson exchanged a worried look with Margery. “Anita, tell us everything you can remember about the ones who attacked your mate.”
“I didn’t see them. Jake was out with his brother, in natural form, just running to run. They were harming no one. His brother said that a tessera of Arcadians flashed in and came at them. They fought, and the Arcadians shot Jake with something, and he went down hard. Peter ran for help.”
“Where’s Peter now?” Fury asked.
A tear slid from the corner of her eye. “Dead. Whatever they shot hit him in the head. He only lived long enough to tell us what happened.”
Carson handed her off to Margery before he led Sasha and Fury out of the room. “I’ve dug through Peter’s head and couldn’t find anything. There’s no entry wound, no exit wound, no blood. Nothing. I don’t know what killed him.”
That didn’t bode well. “Magick?” Fury asked.
Carson shook his head. “But what would be that powerful?”
Sasha shifted his weight. “The gods.”
Fury disagreed with that. “I didn’t smell a god. I smelled us.”
Sasha let out a long sigh. “You know how many Lykos patrias exist?”
“Since I’m the Regis for the Katagaria, yeah, I do. There are thousands of us and that’s just in this time period.” What he didn’t tell them was that the scent was one he was more than familiar with. One from a past he’d done his damnedest to forget. “I’m going to do some digging around and see what I can come up with.”
“Thank you,” Carson said.
Fury disregarded his gratitude. “No offense, I’m not doing this for you. I’m worried about my people. We need to know what’s causing him to hold onto his form.”
“And if it’s reversible,” Sasha added.
Fury nodded. “I’ll be in touch.”
He turned to Sasha who hit his chest three times with his fist, then swept his hand down. A silent gesture to let him know Sasha wouldn’t forget to give the letter to Aimee. He inclined his head respectfully before he left the room and headed downstairs.
But with every step he took, his long-buried memories burned through him. He went back in time to a woman who had once been his entire world. Not his lover or relative, she’d been his best friend.
And in one heartbeat, when his brother had told his clan what he really was, she’d not only betrayed her sacred promise to him, she’d tried to kill him. He could still feel the bite of her knife as she drove it in to the hilt – the scar was still jagged on his chest just inches from his heart. The truth was, she hadn’t really missed that organ. Her words to him had done more damage than any weapon ever could.
If she was behind this, he’d make sure it was the last mistake that bitch ever made.
Angelia hesitated inside the infamous Sanctuary bar. They’d popped into the third level of the limani – the area that had been designated for those teleporting in so that no one would see them – and were now trying to get the lay of the foreign landscape. Dimly lit, the club’s ceiling was painted black, and the walls were made of dark red brick. Black railings and trim added to the cave-like feeling of the place.
She’d spent most of her life in medieval England, preferring the open countryside and untainted air to the chaos of twenty-first-century life. Now she knew why. Buildings like this were claustrophobic. She was used to thirty-foot arched ceilings. The flat one above her head couldn’t be more than ten feet, if that.
Skittish, she eyed the electric lights around her. As a Were-Hunter, she was susceptible to electrical currents. One tiny jolt and she could lose control of not only her magick, but her human appearance as well.
How did her people live in these horribly crowded and overly electrified places? She’d never understand the appeal. Not to mention the clothes…
She wore a pair of blue coarse pants and a white top that, while it was soft, was very strange.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” she whispered to her companion Dare.
He stood a full head and shoulders above her. At first glance his hair looked dark brown, but in reality it was made up of all colors: ash, auburn, brown, black, mahogany, even some blond. Long and wavy, that hair was more beautiful than any male’s should be. She, herself, would kill for it. Yet he thought nothing about it or the fact he was unbelievably sexy and hot. Not that she’d ever sleep with him. He was practically Katagaria with the way he went through women, and as an Arcadian female, she found that animalistic behavior repugnant.
Still, he was one of the fiercest wolfswains in her patria, and the women of her clan had been fighting over him for centuries.
Tonight he was out for blood.
Luckily it wasn’t hers.
He turned those smug hazel-green eyes on her. “If you’re scared, little girl, go home.”
She barely stamped down the urge to shove him in anger. His arrogance had always rubbed her the wrong way. “I fear nothing.”
“Then follow and remain silent.”
She made an obscene gesture behind his back as he headed for the stairs. That was the one drawback to living in the past. Male egos. Here she was, an Aristos, one of the most powerful of their breed, and he still treated her like she was his inferior waste.
Gods, how she wanted to beat him down.
But he was the grandson of their former leader and the head of her tessera, so she was honor-bound to follow him. Even if she wanted to kill him.
Remember your duty, she reminded herself. She and Dare were born of the Arcadian branch of Were-Hunters. Humans who had the ability to shift into animals. Their job was to police the Katagaria. The Were-Hunters who were animals able to shift into humans. Just because the Katagaria sometimes wore the skin of mankind didn’t make the beasts one of them. They had no understanding of human rationale, complex emotions, or decorum. At the end of the day, the Katagaria were still animals. Primal. Brutal. Unpredictable. Dangerous.
They preyed on people and each other like the animals they were. None could be trusted. Ever.
Yet how ironic that it was a group of Katagaria who owned this bar and who maintained its laws of peace. In theory no one here could harm anyone else.
Yeah, right. She didn’t believe that for a minute. They were probably just better at hiding the bodies.
Or eating them.
Harsh and judgmental, perhaps, but there was a sixth sense inside her that said they should leave before they finished their mission.
That feeling worsened as they descended past the second level where a bear bared his teeth at them in warning as he looked up from the card game he was playing against a group of humans. Frowning, she waited for Dare to react, but he merely continued on his way to the bottom floor. She assumed he must have missed the bear’s reaction, though that wasn’t like the man who normally caught every nuance of hostility around him.
Suddenly a loud electrical shriek pierced the air, making her flinch as it assaulted her wolf’s hearing. She covered one ear with her hand as she prayed it wasn’t bleeding. “What is that?”
Dare pointed to the stage where a group of Weres were tuning instruments. A loud guitar wailed before they started a song and the crowd cheered them.
She grimaced at the sight and sounds. “What terrible music,” she groused, wishing they were back home and not in the midst of this dive.
Once they were on the ground floor, Dare was only able to take two steps before he was surrounded by five of the meanest-looking werebears she’d ever seen. The eldest of them, who looked to be their father since he bore an uncanny resemblance to the younger ones, stood over seven feet tall. He looked down at Dare as if he were about to tear him into pieces.
“What the f**k are you doing here, Wolf?”
Dare’s nostrils flared, but he knew the same thing she did. They were outnumbered and in hostile territory, surrounded by animals.
Angelia cleared her throat before she spoke to the eldest bear. “Isn’t this Sanctuary?”
One of the younger blond bears shoved at Dare. “Not for him, it’s not. It’s more like cemetery.”
Dare caught himself and held the look of hell wrath on his face. Luckily, he held his temper and didn’t fight back.
A tall blond woman, who resembled the men closely enough to be another relative, stopped beside them. She gave Dare an insulting once-over before she raked the werebears with a scathing glare.
The bearswan laughed at them. “He’s not Fang, guys. Congratulations, you’re about to skin an innocent wolf.” Tucking her tray under her arm, she stepped away only to have the eldest bear stop her.
“He looks and smells like Fang.”
She snorted. “Trust me, Papa, he’s nothing like Fang. I know my wolf when I see him and that boy there is seriously lacking.”
The youngest bear in the group snatched at Dare’s hair. “He has the mark of a Kattalakis.”
The waitress rolled her eyes. “Fine, Serre. Kill the bastard. Not like I care one way or another.” She walked off without looking back.
Serre let go of Dare’s hair and made a sound of disgust. “Who the hell are you?”
Angelia froze at the deep, resonant voice that went over her like ice. It was a voice she hadn’t heard in centuries, and it was one that belonged to someone she’d assumed was long dead.
Her heart pounding, she watched as the bears parted to let him approach. Tall and lean, Fury held the kind of toned body that most men had to work out for. But not him. Even in his younger years, he’d possessed defined muscles that had made the other males in their patria green with jealousy and the women swoon with heat.
If anything, these past centuries had honed him even more. Gone was the insecurity of his youth. The wolf before her was sharp and lethal. One who knew exactly what he was capable of.
The last time she’d seen him, his blond hair had been long. It was much shorter now, falling just to his collar. But his eyes were still that unique color that was one shade darker than turquoise.
And the hatred in them sent a chill over her.
His black leather Aerostitch-styled jacket had red and yellow flames on the sleeves, and on the back was a white skull and crossbones that peeked out threateningly from behind the flames. Unzipped in the front, it showed off a plain black t-shirt underneath. The Kevlar padding on the jacket added to the width of his already wide shoulders. Black Aerostitch pants were tucked into a pair of black biker boots that held silver buckles up the sides.
She swallowed at the incredibly sexy sight he made as he stood there, ready to take them all on. And against her will, her heartbeat sped up. Whereas Dare was hot, Fury was incredible.
And that werewolf had a butt so tight and fine, it had to be illegal even in this day and age. It was all she could do not to stare at it. Or more to the point, stare at him.
Ignoring her obvious ogling, Fury glared at Dare. “Long time no see, brother.”
“Not long enough,” Dare said between his clenched teeth.
“You know him?” the father bear asked.
Fury shrugged. “I used to. But if you guys want to chop him up and make hamburgers out of him, I wouldn’t mind in the least. Hell, I’ll even go get the grinder.”
Dare moved toward him.
Serre grabbed him and held him back. “Hitting him here would be a very big mistake on your part. Even if we don’t like him.”
Fury winked sarcastically at the bear. “Love you, too, Serre. You guys always make me feel so welcome here. Appreciate it.”
“Our pleasure.” Serre let go of Dare.
The father bear sighed. “Since it appears we’ve made a mistake, let’s leave the wolves to their business.” He cast a warning look to Dare. “Remember. No spill blood.”