Howl for Me - Cecilia Lane
Torben Wilkes streaked through the trees. The panted breaths of two wolves stayed on his tail, but he twisted around trunks and sailed over underbrush that threatened to get in his way.
He wouldn’t be caught. Not by them. Not by the hunters that followed.
The hollow sound of pellets firing reached his ears a fraction of a second before color splattered over the fur of another sentry. Tor twisted around as the second scrambled in confusion. More wolves shot out of their hiding places, some growling and charging their attackers, some rushing to put bushes and trees between themselves and the firing squad.
Tor lifted his lip in a silent snarl, then dashed away. They were already lost. Sticking around would guarantee he went down with them.
He worked away from the fight, carefully avoiding the hunters that tried to track him and the remaining Blackwood sentries. Some traveled alone, others roamed in groups of two or three. To make matters worse, not all were armed. Fuckers had roped women and children into their plans. Dirty tricks, in his view. Innocents weren’t to be touched. Humans weren’t supposed to know werewolves existed. Now both groups were used as shields to hide the hunters. How could he attack when he didn’t know if he sank fangs into the enemy?
He raced ahead, nose to the ground, trying to find his way out of the whole mess. The scents he tracked carried him deeper into pack lands, but the threats didn’t disappear.
Pellets rained down around him, cratering the dirt. Tor jumped back, but the shots were determined to find their target. Another twist and dodge backed him against a tree, and he hugged the trunk close while skirting around the other side.
Fuck, he needed to get away.
Footsteps echoed through the forest. Runners, summoned by the sound of action. Fucking vultures. Voices called out to one another until he wasn’t quite sure which way was clear.
He peeked around the trunk and found two men dropping down from their spot in the branches. Both inhaled sharply, then scanned the forest around them. Tor held utterly still until one raised the gun to his shoulder and fired off another round. A quick step to the side was the only thing that saved him.
He bolted out from behind the tree. More shots followed as he threw himself forward, ever forward. No use holding back or looking over his shoulder.
Tor skidded around a clump of trees, then dashed for another. He zigged and zagged, going for confusion as much as distance. Leaving them chasing their tails might be the difference between getting away or taking a shot to the side.
He slowed as the crash of feet through the undergrowth dimmed almost to nothing. Tor padded back to where they’d nearly caught him, and waited.
Ahead, men on two legs cut across the path. “He went this way!” one hissed loudly.
Tongue lolling from his mouth, Tor spun and ran in the opposite direction. He didn’t slow until he neared the river running along the border of the territory.
The crack of a stick had him melting back into the shadows.
“This way, Charlie!” Eric yelled over his shoulder as they raced around a bend in the path. “I can hear the water! We’re close!”
"Not so far, boys!" Rachel called after them. She adjusted the picnic basket dangling from her arm and trudged along, a wide smile on her face.
A pang flashed through Tor, fisting his heart and stealing his breath. Pups, that’s all they were. Rowdy, growing, growling pups. They looped back around to the enforcer’s mate, circled her legs, then shot forward once again, giggling the entire time.
Tor loped after them, keeping out of sight, then cursed when they reached the bank of the river. He needed to cross, but he’d find somewhere else. No need to disturb their fun.
He pressed his nose to the ground and retraced his steps. Four scents clumped together, split apart, then merged again. Mason, Kade, Lucy, and Ally had strolled past not long ago.
He was being hunted, but he also did the hunting.
Somewhere deep in Blackwood territory, the Ruling Circle had hidden a cooler full of drinks. His mission, should he choose to accept—and there was little choice when the pack's enforcer joked the sentries couldn't find their own asses in six hours, much less a cooler in their own back yard—his mission was to find the damn thing. Before the other sentries. While avoiding pack members firing off paintball guns or out for a stroll.