Full Blooded

Page 4

“The whole Pack heard my shift?” The thought of having a pack of werewolves inside my brain sent a rush of panic racing through me. “Can they hear me right now?” I tried to contain the waver in my voice, but it shot around the edges anyway.

“No, they can’t hear you now,” my father assured me. “The Pack connection is always established by me first, and by me alone. Wolves cannot talk internally on their own. You and Tyler are a rare exception, which is undoubtedly because of your close blood-bond, and not because of Pack. I am the conduit of communication only because I’m Alpha. The alert you sounded was only heard by the Pack for a few brief moments. Once I realized it was you, I shut it down completely. As of right now, they aren’t positive it was you and that runs in our favor.” He ran his hand through his hair again. “I can reasonably deny my knowledge of your change without triggering an untruth, because I never saw you. Nobody actually saw you in your wolf form, therefore no one knows for sure if you’ve changed. If we’re lucky, they’ll think it was a beacon coming from a new wolf in the Southern Territories, which is a possibility. We’ve heard one once before. The distance is a factor, but because it’s happened we can use it.” The U.S. Southern Territories controlled everything south of the Mason-Dixon Line down into Mexico, my father, everything north into Canada.

My brother nodded in agreement.

Making sure my father didn’t have to lie to his Pack was important. Wolves could sense a lie, because the body betrayed itself every time. The heart raced, pupils dilated, and you perspired. My father, being a strong Alpha, could mask a lie, but if his wolves questioned him too deeply, his emotions could betray him.

“It’s a relief they can’t hear me, but they have to be curious why I’m home in the first place? I’m assuming they know I’m here.” Keeping me a secret on the Compound would be too hard. I wasn’t supposed to be here, I was supposed to be in Europe. When I’d finally departed for good several years ago, I’d started a new life under the alias Molly Hannon. The Pack was informed Jessica McClain had headed to Europe for good. I’d actually spent a short time overseas recuperating from injuries I’d sustained fighting just before I’d left the Compound, so it wasn’t untrue, and it’d worked like a charm. I’d come back stateside as Molly, and my new life was two hours south of here, in the Twin Cities, and it had been blissfully uneventful. Nobody knew who I was, and I desperately wanted to keep it that way.

“I told them you were in town for a few nights for a rare visit with your brother, and you’d been staying down in the cities with Danny. You arrived on Compound late last night, which was purely a coincidence.” Danny Walker, my brother’s best friend and another of my few allies. He worked policing the cities’ boundaries for errant wolves, and he was damn good at it.

“And they bought it?”

“You haven’t been back in seven years. It was time.”

“When, and if, the news of my shift gets out, it’s going to be hard to convince them I’m not their enemy after all the years of the Cain Myth infecting their minds. They’re finally going to have the hard evidence they’ve been waiting for to accuse me of bringing down the Pack.”

“Your presence here right after the beacon went out is not ideal.” My father walked across the room. “Any extra time we obtain will allow me to ready the Pack to better handle the news. Some of the wolves have cooled their position on you over the last few years, but finding out your new status as a full-blooded wolf is going to shake their beliefs once again.” He turned at the stairway. “I’m heading back out to talk to them now. After your breakfast, and Doc has finished his testing, we meet in the main lodge to discuss the next step.”

Tyler patted his hand on my knee as he stood. “Don’t worry, Jess. We’ll figure this out. And for the record, I don’t think you’re a freak at all.”

Um, thanks?


After scarfing down the most food I’d ever eaten in one sitting, I went through a battery of tests involving every spare tissue sample I could part with. “I told you, I’m fine. I don’t need these.” I was perched on the edge of the bed, wiggling a needless pair of crutches in my hands. “My leg feels great.”

Dr. Jace stood next to me, scrutinizing my every move.

“Watch.” I bent my leg and extended it. “See, it works just fine. No pain.” I’d changed into an old pair of pajama pants and an ancient Radiohead T-shirt of mine someone had scrounged from my old bedroom at the main lodge. As my pajama leg eased up, I caught a glimpse of the thick dark hair coating my once cleanly shaven leg and stifled a gag. “And, um, other than all this gross hair, I’m totally good.” No amount of money could make me look under my arms. My eyes had remained firmly closed. Apparently after a full change, your hair came back. All of it.

“You will use these for now.” Doc nodded toward the crutches. “If you prove to be better later, well then, we will reevaluate at that time.”

A head of lettuce would’ve been easier to convince, so I took the damn things and stuffed them under my arms as I stood.

The walk from the infirmary to the house I’d grown up in was a short distance across a nicely manicured lawn. No one else was out, likely on my father’s orders. This spring had been unusually rainy and the grass was a bright, startling green.

The Lodge, as it was affectionately known, had been built in the late ’30s and had served as the Northern Territories home base ever since. The worn red cedar plank floors were a welcome sight as I entered. Doc stepped in ahead of me. “Jessica, would you care for another cup of coffee or perhaps some tea?”

“Coffee would be great. Thank you.” He veered toward the kitchen and I continued into the enormous two-story living area. The fireplace, set with stones quarried directly from the lake, covered the entire eastern wall.

It was beautiful, but it wasn’t as good as what was awaiting me.

“Nick!” I dropped the crutches without a thought and jumped immediately into his arms. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Easy there, Jess.” Nick enveloped me in a big hug, and then stepped back to give me a careful perusal. “Hmm, you do look pretty good. No lingering fur or fluffy ears to speak of, but how’s the leg?”

“All healed.” To prove my point, I slid down the side of my pajama waistband to reveal the top of my hip. The only thing still visible was a slight red discoloration. “See? Pretty cool, huh?”

“That is impressive.”

I pulled him down on the couch beside me. Along with being my best friend, Nick was a werefox, not a wolf. In the world of shifters, your strength and size matched your animal, so he wasn’t a huge guy, topping out at around six feet. His father had been First Nation Canadian, his mother white. He had light copper skin and shaggy dark hair. He was a welcome sight after all the craziness.

“I’m really glad to see you,” I told him. Nick calmed me in a way no one else could, and he had since we were children. “This whole thing has been slightly insane. I’m having trouble believing it actually happened.”

“Well, I’m just happy you made it through the transition in one piece.” Nick’s eyes were an amazing dark golden color naturally and they lit for a moment with a hint of emotion, making them appear even more brilliant. “You could’ve been killed.”

Before I could respond, my father and James Graham, his second-in-command, strode in. James wore his standard-issue black T-shirt and camouflage cargos, the same uniform I’d seen him in my entire life. The ensemble matched his short dark hair and olive skin perfectly, adding a unified blend of menace and strength to his tall frame. James was an impressively large wolf, with a pair of huge shoulders, and would’ve stood out in any outfit, but I was glad to see he hadn’t changed at all.

My father acknowledged Nick with a quick nod. “Nicolas.”

“Hello, sir,” Nick answered, scrambling to stand.

“How’s your leg, Jessica?” my father asked as I rose.

“All healed.”

He looked me over for a few seconds, then gave me a quick nod.

James approached me. “It’s good to see you, Jessica,” he said as he encircled my waist in a warm embrace. His rough Irish brogue was still infectious after all this time. “Glad to see you are well.”

I gave him a hug. “It’s been too long, James.” I smiled as I stepped back. “Far too long.” He’d been instrumental in my final departure from the Compound seven years ago and I was happy to see him. Without his support I might never have left, and it had cemented a bond of friendship between us that hadn’t existed before.

“Let’s head into my office.” My father strode into an adjacent opening off the living room and disappeared inside.

The rest of us followed. As we came in, my father set two chairs in a semicircle in front of the leather couch facing the windows. His office had originally been the old library, and rows of beautifully crafted bookshelves lined the walls. It also had a superb, unobstructed view of the lake.

“Jessica, please take a seat on the couch. Nicolas, you sit beside her.”

We sat immediately.

Without needing to be asked, James took the chair next to my father, leaning over and bracing his forearms on his thighs, ready to start the discussion.

My father sat straight and imposing. Physically he was a few inches shorter than James, but his body held more mass. His strong arms spilled out of his rolled-up dress shirt. My father was always dressed for the occasion. I’d never seen him run a serious meeting in a T-shirt and jeans. My father was a leader. There was no mistaking it.

“Nicolas,” he began. “After this briefing I want you to find out everything you can about the rumors circulating in the supernatural community concerning Jessica or a recent shift. See if any news has spread outside of this Compound. If you find anything out of the ordinary I want to hear about it immediately.” My father continued, “That will be your top priority. But for now, let’s start with a replay of what happened early Saturday morning when you first arrived at Jessica’s apartment. I know you’ve already relayed it to me, but I want to hear it again from start to finish.” He nodded my way. “And I’m sure Jessica would like to hear what’s happened in her absence.”

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