Taken from Chapter 2. Read the rest October 21st!
He and Rook went inside and straight down the long hallway to the kitchen. Mrs. Troost, their housekeeper since before Bishop was born, had laid out a platter of sandwiches and a note that cold broccoli salad was in the fridge. Bishop and Rook helped themselves to food, then took their plates outside to the back patio.
Brynn and Shay were seated on opposite sides of the long picnic table, beneath the shade of an umbrella. They looked up at their arrival, Brynn’s face breaking into a wide grin. Shay simply watched them approach, her face blank, her eyes empty. Always empty. The girl’s spirit had been broken, and Bishop’s beast snarled with the unfairness of it all.
“Mind if we join you?” Rook asked.
Brynn deferred to Shay, who nodded slowly. Rook sat next to Brynn, such an odd contrast, the pair of them. Rook was a head taller than Brynn, his muscled arms decked out with tattoos and scars, with a ragged ear that made him look downright dangerous. Or like the alternative rock band star he’d tried to be. Brynn was small and pale-skinned with stick-straight black hair and big blue eyes. A true odd-couple in terms of physical appearance. Very much matched in every other way.
Bishop sat on the same side as Shay, keeping a solid arm’s reach of distance from the spooked girl. The only people she seemed to allow close proximity to her were Knight and Dr. Mike, the town’s physician. She was underweight, average height, with long, strawberry-blond hair and pale, gray eyes that had no life in them. She was also quite pretty. He imagined the girl had a heart-stopping smile, and he hoped one day to see it.
“Your ears must have been burning,” Brynn said to Rook. “Shay and I were just talking about you.”
“Oh?” Rook said. “Good things, I hope.”
“She asked about your ear. I was telling her about that night.”
Bishop paused before taking a big bite of his roast beef sandwich and studied Shay’s profile. She was staring at her half-eaten sandwich, hands clasped in her lap. Shay had been informed about the events that followed the attack on her town in bits and pieces over the last two weeks, mostly by Brynn and Knight. She’d been badly wounded and catatonic for a while, until Knight coaxed her back into the world. No one wanted to overwhelm her or frighten her with the reality that Cornerstone was still under attack by an unknown, unstable enemy. That she was showing curiosity about the people she lived with had to mean she was making progress in her recovery.
“I’m surprised Knight hasn’t told you about that yet,” Bishop said softly.
Her gaze flickered toward him. “I don’t ask.” Her voice was soft, melodic, and almost impossible to hear. “It hurts him to talk about it.”
It hurt all of them to talk about it. Bishop didn’t test her statement, though. He could be blunt to a fault, but he knew when to hold his tongue around grieving women—except when it came to Jillian.
He’d have deserved it if she had hit him for throwing her late husband in her face last month.
“Did Brynn tell you how she faced off against a Black Wolf with only a shovel?” Rook asked, levity in his voice.
Brynn had been down and on the ground when Bishop, Jillian , and Father arrived at the barn, but the mental image the description conjured up made Bishop smile. Brynn was small, but she was fierce when it came to Rook.
Shay glanced up at Rook. “She mentioned defending you until help arrived.”
“I was scared out of my wits,” Brynn said. She leaned against Rook’s arm and rested her chin on his shoulder. The picture was obnoxiously cute. Bishop attacked his sandwich so he didn’t have to see it.
“Where’s Knight, anyway?” Rook asked.
“I don’t know. He said he had to do something at the auction house, but that was over an hour ago.”
Bishop frowned at his food. Father had temporarily shut down the auction house until the triplets had been dealt with. Their weekly auctions were what kept outside cash flowing into Cornerstone without tempting humans to stay too long, or get any ideas about moving to town. They hadn’t had an auction these last two weeks, and they weren’t likely to have another one for the foreseeable future. They couldn’t risk the triplets attacking with so many clueless humans in the way, and the fewer outsiders around the better.
Father’s office was at the auction house, and he used it for both auction and run business, so it was possible Knight went to see him. Bishop sent a text to Knight’s phone anyway, asking for a location. Knight was the triplets’ primary target, and even though he was relatively safe within the confines of town, Father insisted he not wander around alone. No one wanted to risk losing him again.
“Paranoid much?” Knight said, his voice a welcome sound from the patio doors.
Four heads turned. He stepped outside with a glass of iced tea in hand, sunglasses on even though he’d just been inside.
“Who’s paranoid?” Rook asked.
Rook snickered, then shoved broccoli salad into his mouth without asking for clarification.
“I don’t like you walking around alone,” Bishop said. He didn’t give a damn if that made him paranoid. He preferred to think of it as smothering and overprotective.
“I went to the auction house and back,” Knight said. “I didn’t even stub my toe.” A month ago, his tone might have been light and teasing. Today it was bordering on hostile. Knight didn’t like being handled, but damn it, he’d been kidnapped twice in his life already. Bishop wasn’t going to allow that to happen a third time.
Instead of joining them at the table, Knight flopped into one of the patio’s lounge chairs, angled away. He seemed intent on ignoring them—something else he wouldn’t have done a month ago. Rook had twisted around to stare, and as he turned again to finish his meal, Bishop caught a stray emotion on his face that stirred up his gut.
Fear of what, he didn’t know and couldn’t ask, but fear all the same.
His phone buzzed. Rook jumped at the same moment. They retrieved their phones, to an identical message from Father: 911 Office.
Bishop got up without a word, barely listening to Rook explain their abrupt departure to the women. Knight wasn’t following them, which surprised him briefly until he realized Knight’s exclusion could mean they had a lead on the triplets.
The auction house was a five-minute walk, and a ninety-second run. Despite the late summer heat, Bishop jogged down their road to Main Street, made a sharp right, and pounded pavement to the end of the official town limits where McQueen Auction House had been built three generations ago. Rook stayed on his heels. Devlin and his cousin Winston met up with them at the front door, and they all followed Bishop inside.
Father was behind his desk, standing with his arms folded, agitation all over his face. “We’re waiting on two more,” he said in lieu of a greeting.
They fell into line around the room, waiting for their Alpha to begin the meeting. Bishop studied his father’s face, but found no hint as to their agenda in his set jaw or narrowed eyes. Moments later, two pairs of footsteps pounded up the stairs to the office. Jillian Reynolds came in first, Jonas right behind her. Bishop’s beast stirred at her appearance.
“This information stays in this room for now,” Father said. He picked up a folded sheet of paper with four sets of numbers printed in black marker. “I received this in today’s mail. No return address, no distinguishing scents attached. Postmarked from Welton, our nearest neighboring town.”
Bishop accepted the paper when handed to him. The numbers seemed familiar in some way. “Coordinates?”
“Correct. The coordinates are for a location just off Route 12, about six miles from here.”
“No indication of what we’re expected to find there?”
“None. That was the only thing in the envelope.”
“Feels like an ambush invitation.”
“My thought as well. I want you six to go there and see what we’re meant to find, if anything. Go in as pairs, one beast and one skin, from different directions so you can see from all sides. Keep in constant contact with each other.”
“With respect, Alpha, is six of us enough?” Jillian asked.
Father’s eyes flashed with annoyance. “Six is all I will risk sending. This could be an ambush, or it could be a tactic to draw my enforcers out of town and make us more vulnerable to an outside attack. Once you’ve left, I’ll inform the other patrols of what’s going on so everyone is on their toes.”
The plan was a good one. They didn’t know what they were going to find out there in the woods, and putting all of their strongest fighters in one place was a bad move.
“Understood,” Bishop said. “We’ll leave right away.”
“Good. Be careful, all of you.”
Verbal affirmatives rose up, and then the group filed out of the office and downstairs.
Bishop hung back. “Was Knight over here within the last hour?”
“No, I’ve been alone all morning,” Father said, concern furrowing his brow. “Why?”
“He told Brynn this was where he was heading.”
“Knight probably needed a few minutes to himself. I don’t like it, either, son, but he does need personal space in order to control his empathy. If your mother was around others for too long, too consistently, she became agitated. Especially when something was already bothering her.”
“Right.” Their mother had been a White Wolf, too, so Father had a unique perspective on the responsibilities and side effects of the burden. Balancing the emotional control of seven hundred-plus loup garou was a monumental task. “I’ll let you know when we’re close to our location.”
“Be careful, son.”