Authors: T. S. Joyce
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Fantasy, #Werewolves & Shifters
he was absolutely helpless.
“Call him again,” Riker said, panic clogging his throat.
Cameron picked up the second time and Blaine handed the phone through the bars.
“Cam? I need you to go to my house and check on Hannah.”
“What time is it?” his second asked in a hoarse voice.
“All right. Hang on.” The shuffling of fabric sounded through the phone line and then a trio of clicks and Cameron said, “Any specific reason I’m traipsing through the valley at the ass crack of the night?”
“Something doesn’t feel right.”
“She’s fine, you know. We had a meeting earlier and she was fine. She’s tough, Riker. You’re going to have to learn to trust her more.”
Riker gritted his teeth and barely resisted the urge to throw the phone against the police station wall. He did trust her. He just didn’t trust the people she’d pissed off in her past.
“I can see the house and the lights are all on,” Cameron said blandly, like Riker was just overreacting to being away from his mate. “Wait. The front door is open. Hang on. Jenny?” Cameron’s voice became muffled and the sound of fabric rubbing against the speaker sounded again. “Jenny?” Panic laced Cameron’s words.
“What’s happened?” Riker asked.
His second must’ve put his phone in his pocket or something because he didn’t answer right away. He just kept repeating Jenny’s name over and over, then finally said, “Riker. Is Blaine with you?”
“Yeah, he’s right here. What’s wrong?” Fire burned through his veins and he clenched his eyes closed. His bear was going to shred him.
“Hannah?” Cameron called. “Riker, I have to call you back.”
you fucking hang up on me,” Riker snarled.
“I have to call Daria. It’s Jenny.” The line went dead.
If Jenny needed the healer, she was hurt badly. “Let me out.”
“What is it?” Blaine’s face had gone white as a sheet. “
Tell me fast.”
“Jenny’s hurt and Hannah’s gone. Let me out!”
Blaine tossed him the keys from his belt and snatched his uniform jacket from the back of his chair. By the time Riker had freed himself from the cage, his brother-in-law had already started the police cruiser out front.
Sirens blaring, he peeled out of the lot
before Riker even got his door closed. The gate to Bear Valley was wide open and there was no sign of the guards who should’ve been walking the fence line. The car balked and bounced against the washed out dirt road but Blaine didn’t take his foot off the gas until they hit the clearing.
Daria was hovered over Jenny’s unmoving body, working feverishly to staunch a gash on her head and Cameron paced the yard behind them with his cell phone up next to his ear.
Blaine threw the car into park and bolted for Jenny, and Cameron ran toward Riker. “I’ve been trying to call you. She’s not here.” His voice went up an octave. “She’s not anywhere. I’ve searched here, searched the woods. Her scent trail ends there, where the tire tracks are.
Riker pulled the palm of his hand over his mouth and muttered, “Murphy’s got her. He didn’t mean to take
me to trial. Only to separate us so he could take her.”
He rushed to Jenny’s side, relieved that her eyes were open. Whatever she saw on his face dilated her pupils until her eyes weren’t the chocolate brown of their father
’s, but pitch black.
“Hannah?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Was it Murphy?”
She blinked hard and Blaine propped her head in his lap while Daria pressed a fresh bandage to the oozing gash at her temple. “We tried to run out the back but he caught me, said he’d kill me if she didn’t get in the trunk. Dark gray Maxima, rental plates,
ABF 737. She did what he wanted. She saved me.”
“Riker!” Brody called, running toward them from one of the woodland trails.
“You did good,” he said, squeezing Jenny’s hand. “I’ll be right back.”
The council member
was out of breath and shoved a phone into Riker’s hand. “She’s calling from Dillon’s cell. She has a phone. Static,” he wheezed. “I can’t understand the voicemails. Just words here and there, but she’s sending pictures, all out of order.”
, Riker thought, scanning the pictures and trying to make sense of the times she sent them. Some of the road signs were familiar, some weren’t, and some were impossible to read, blurred like they were moving too fast for her to get a good shot. “Cameron, Blaine and Brody, you’re with me. Let’s go.”
Blaine kissed Jenny hard and
rushed to the driver’s side of his cruiser. Hand braced against the dash, Riker hit play on her first voicemail as Blaine pulled back onto Bear Valley’s main road.
coming for her. Hannah just needed to stay alive until he found her.
The brakes screeched as Murphy pulled the car to a stop, and Hannah’s breath quickened until her lungs burned. If she didn’t control it, she’d pass out, and right now she needed her wits if she was going to get out of this alive.
No one was coming for her.
She had to save herself.
The driver’s side door sla
mmed and she gripped the tire iron in her clammy grip. The phone was deep in her pocket, and if she could get away, she’d find a ridge and try to call out again. Yes. It felt better, safer, to have a plan.
“What the fuck?” Murphy growled as his shadow passed over the open tail light.
The key twisted against metal and the trunk opened. Even with the cloud cover, her eyes burned in the gray early morning light. With a battle cry in her throat, she lunged and hit him as hard as she could across the face with the crowbar. He folded in half, hands hitting the leaf littered forest floor and she pulled his pistol from the holster at his hip.
Before she could lift it
for a body shot, he kicked her legs out from under her and the gun went flying. She hit the ground hard. Murphy held his bleeding head with one hand, and rivers of red flowed between his fingers. On hands and knees, she crawled frantically for the gun, but it remained hidden in the thick layers of leaves, and he was so close. No time. Lurching upward, she ran as he raked his fingers across the forest floor in search of the weapon.
He was a cop, trained on his gun and if he found it too soon, it wouldn’t matter how fast she ran. He’d cut her down from a distance.
Trees whipped passed her as she pumped her legs against the uneven forest floor. When she came to a hill, she slid down it, scraping her thighs against the rough terrain, but there wasn’t anything to be done about that. She needed to put distance between her and Murphy.
“Bitch!” he bellowed somewhere behind her, and a whimper of fear clawed its way out of her throat.
Fog sat in the shallow valley and she waved her arms in front of her like it would make a path. It didn’t. Blindly, she ran, stumbling again and again until her knees were scraped and throbbing. She was going to live, dammit! For Marian and Jeremy. For her parents and Jenny. But mostly, she was going to live because she wanted more time with Riker. He’d given her a glimpse of what her life could be and she craved more of it like she’d never wanted anything before. He was freedom. Her freedom, and if she survived Murphy, she’d see her Bear Valley again. She’d lay in Riker’s arms and talk late into the night again. She’d have a home again, and love.
Damn Murphy for trying to take the life she was building away from her, and double damn him for hurting Jenny.
Her lungs burned as she gasped for each breath. Rocks and crags, roots, vines, peat moss, low lying limbs, trees so thick she could barely squeeze through their trunks and brush blocking every path out of the thicket but one. Following a deer trail out of the fog, she ran as fast as she dared to preserve her ankles.
A messy blur of greens, browns, oranges and
golds whipped past her, and she dug her nails into the palms of her hands to ground herself. If she looked back, he’d be there. She could almost feel him breathing against the back of her neck. Exhausted and terrified, she slid behind the trunk of a great ponderosa pine. Her cotton shirt was thin and the rough bark scraped at her back, but she couldn’t go any farther without rest. The sunrise splashed the sky in pink and red, and the brighter it became, the more at risk she felt. She could use the shadows of night about now.
A twig snapped behind her and she sucked her lips in, bit t
hem hard, and held her breath. The pounding of her heartbeat against her sternum echoed loudly in her ears.
Leaves rustled and his breathing was labored as he made
his way down the deer trail. Slowly, quietly, she slid around the trunk as he drew closer. Minutes dragged as he made his way past. The sound of his movement stopped, then picked up again as he made his way through the woods.
Shaking, her entire b
ody felt like it was going numb one muscle at a time, as if the fear was just too much. She didn’t know how long she stood still like that, on the north side of the tree where spongy green moss cushioned her spine. It could’ve been hours. But when she was sure he was far enough away that she could make her escape, she made a mad dash for higher ground. The phone bumped against her thigh, safe in her pocket but gently reminding her she had a plan and best stick to it.
It took a long time to make it up the steep embankment and a rocky incline almost proved too much, but she clutched the roots of a tree, tilted from a landslide, and hoisted herself to the top. She flipped open the phone and it had one bar
, but the battery light flashed red. She pressed the speed dial one last time.
This is Brody, leave a message at the tone. Beep.
Her heart sank to the soles of her muddy sneakers. That was it. There wasn’t enough juice in the battery to trust with another call.
“Brody, Murphy has me. I don’t know where I am.” Her voice cracked but she steadied it. This wo
uld be the last time Riker would hear her voice and it should be strong so he could cherish her goodbye, not be tortured by it. “Tell Riker I fought to live so I could see him again. Tell him I love him.”
The line went dead and a dial tone sounded for a moment before the screen went dark.
“There you are.” Murphy’s voice made her jump and she dropped the phone into the dirt beneath her feet.
“Naughty, naughty,” he murmured, eying the useless contraption. “Won’t save you though. Not after the hell I’ve been through trying to track you down.”
She had to stall and find a way around him. “Why are you working for Stone? He’s in prison. He’s not coming back.”
His face reddened and rage slashed through his eyes. “That’s exactly why. You and you
r meddling do-good morals put the only family I have left behind bars.”
“Stone is your family?”
“Amos Stone is my half-brother, you prying cunt. I didn’t work for him. We were partners even before I became a cop. The badge gave us a certain amount of protection. He paid my way through police academy, gave me a place to live when I had nothing, and you…you ruined everything. We ran a good thing. We gave New York clean drugs, clean guns, untraceable shit that was top quality and we were filthy fucking rich. Kings.” Spittle flew from his mouth as he ranted and took two dangerous steps closer.
Behind him was a
straightaway. She could run for miles if she could get around him, but he jerked to the side, a cruel smile twisting his lips, when she repositioned herself for escape. Behind her was the valley she’d just scaled. She looked back, and bit back a whimper as a rock loosed and rocketed downward against the shallow cliff. It had been climbable, but falling down it would break her neck.
predator bellows called out, echoing through the forest. Another longer roar answered and she dragged her gaze slowly back up to Murphy’s. Her bears had come for her after all.
“You might kill me here,
but I know something you don’t,” she said.
“Yeah? What’s that?” He looked uneasy. Big snarling animals in the woods did that to people.
“I know the hell that is coming for you.”
“I’m not afraid of a little hell.”
Riker appeared over Murphy’s shoulder in the misty gray light, his eyes feral and his hands clenched. He walked with purpose, but didn’t rush. Pulling his shirt over his head, his torso rippled with battle hardened muscles.
A smile tugged her lips and Murphy frowned at her, then turned and followed her line of sight. Hannah used his distraction and moved
away from him.
“No,” Murphy breathed.
Two huge bears flanked him and Blaine walked behind Riker, his pistol angled down, but ready. Riker’s eyes shone icy blue, glowing with rage. He yelled, his throat flexed with the furious sound that cracked off the mountains and it turned to a roar as a twelve foot, dark furred grizzly bear gashed out of him just as he reached Murphy.
The man screamed and lurched backward, lost his footing and fell over the edge. His yell of terror followed him down until his body hit the rocks below with a sickening thud. Hannah
fell to her hands and knees as her sneaker slid off the edge, dislodging gravel and rocks. Gasping, she pulled herself upward and rushed to Riker, buried her face in his fur and clutched the skin around his heaving ribs in her shaking fists. She’d thought her life was over, that Stone had finally caught up with her. It could’ve so easily been her laying down in that canyon with her body contorted in all directions, her eyes staring vacantly at the woods she would haunt. Riker lowered down to all fours and she threw her arms around his neck. If she didn’t look in his blood lusting gaze, she wasn’t afraid, so she squeezed her eyes tightly shut and held on.