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Wolves of Haven: Lone

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Wolves of Haven

Book One: Lone

Danae Ayusso

Copyright © 2014 Danae Ayusso All Rights Reserved

Published by Geeks on Ink

This story is copyrighted and property rights of Danae Ayusso. This is for personal entertainment use only, any reselling, redistribution or online publishing is strictly prohibited by law. This story may not be reproduced, distributed, modified or reposted to other websites.

[****~~~****]

Stand License Statement
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

***~~~***

All characters and situations are fictional. Any similarities to an actual person or persons and situations are purely coincidental and rather impressive.

Due to the wide variety of genres that I write, and my broad fan base, I categorize each book/series/collection with a rating to prevent my younger audience from accidentally purchasing a book that isn’t appropriate for their age group.

BOOK RATING:

SUPERNATURAL MYSTERY/SUSPENSE

***Adult situations and language, mature and sexual content***

For more information about the series and the author please check out

www.danaeayusso.com

[email protected]

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDanaeAyusso

Cover Art By:

Geeks on Ink

 

The banquet hall was filled with local government officials and Boston’s finest. Most would say that the gala was well overdue, but to the ‘man of the hour’ it was an annoying dog and pony show. Sergeant Detective de Wolfe had never been a fan of banquets and office parties, and she would have been a no-show that night if it wouldn’t have been for Police Superintendent Manning and Captain Damian Nikas informing her that attendance wasn’t optional. A rarely seen defiant side of Sergeant Detective Akia de Wolfe reared its head, so the Sergeant Detective opted for a slinky cocktail dress and high heels, makeup, and left her hair down; the complete opposite of how anyone on the force had ever seen her in all the years she had called the Boston PD home.

“As I live and breathe,” Sergeant Darren Snider mused, joining Akia at the bar in the corner where she was trying to hide. His dark eyes attempted to discretely eye her body from under his bushy gray eyebrows, but the smirk twitching under his mustache made it more than obvious that he liked what he saw.

Akia gave him a look, trying to keep from gagging in repulsion, then popped a pill in her mouth and swallowed it dry.

“Damn, I didn’t know you had such a hot-bod under those jeans and shirts you normally wear,” he said before bringing his tenth watered down whiskey of the evening to his lips. “Have you given much thought into moving to Narcotics?” he asked. “The guys would love some eye candy in the unit.”

She shook her head in resignation; Snider never gave her a second glance or so much as said her name in the past five years that she’s been in C-11, and yet now he was undressing her with his eyes and fighting the urge to lean into her and ask if she wanted to go back to his place tonight.

Men were disgusting pigs, in her opinion.

“Homicide, Snider,” Akia reminded him. “Narcotics doesn’t do anything for me. Why don’t you take it easy, sober up some,” she said, taking his drink from him, “and I’ll have Captain call you a cab.”

He pulled his drink away from her, causing the amber colored contents to fly across the bar and all over the man standing at the other end.

“Oh shit,” Snider grumbled under his breath. “Sorry, Captain,” he said, breaking eye contact with the narrowed, sapphire eyes glaring at him.

Captain Damian Nikas fought to keep from growling under his breath in irritation. “As much as I hate to admit it,” he sneered, “de Wolfe is correct; call it a night.” He pulled a handkerchief from his inside jacket pocket and used it to wipe the whiskey from his chin and the front of his pristine black dress shirt.

Akia fought to keep from rolling her eyes. Captain Nikas’ attitude and smug superiority was something she had been on the receiving end of since the moment she walked through the doors at his precinct fresh off of patrol. The Captain was short with everyone, his reputation was golden because of his no nonsense way of doing things, and in his opinion, rules and the law were not to be broken. As much as Akia hated to admit it, she admired that about him, but she’d never tell him that.

Snider nodded. “Yes, Sir,” he said then headed towards the exit, not-so-discreetly brushing against Akia as he passed.

Once the drunken, stumbling Sergeant was out of sight, Akia slid his car keys down the bar towards Captain Nikas. His hand slammed down on them, stopping their progression so they didn’t hit the floor.

“Pick pocketing is against the law,” he reminded her under his breath before pocketing the keys.

“So is drinking and driving, but only one is a felony,” she retorted with a smirk. “Could you imagine the newspapers tomorrow if one of Captain Nikas’ Narcotics goons was caught in a DUI?”

“Indeed,” Captain Nikas sneered.

Akia tried to keep from laughing at the irritable Captain’s expense. “If there is nothing else, Sir,” she said then started to walk away.

“Expect my dry cleaning bill,” he informed her.

She stopped in mid-step and her head dropped; that she should have foreseen. “Of course,” she grumbled under her breath. “Heaven forbid your designer duds get a bit of whiskey on them.”

“And that is why you should expect the bill,” he retorted, walking past her. “If it wasn’t for that handkerchief you’re wearing, I wouldn’t smell of cheap alcohol.”

Akia bit her tongue; she didn’t want to earn an award and a black mark in her file for insubordination all on the same night. She watched Captain Nikas walk away, her eyes flickering to his backside once as he went.

“It’s a shame the hot ones are always gay or gigantic assholes,” Detective Marcia Jones commented, joining Akia. “Seriously,” she said, her head tilting to the side as she admired the muscular backside that was expertly presented in designer slacks, across the banquet hall, “such a bitter sonuvabitch with an ass like that has to be against the law.”

Akia shook her head, trying to keep from laughing. “Jonesy, men like that are selfish lovers, and the unable to love them but quick to leave them types. Not something your needy, romantic ass could handle at the moment.”

Marcia sighed. “True, but damn; that is a fine piece of ass. Too bad his personality sucks.”

Akia eyed the fine piece of ass in question from across the room; his back was to them, but his presence stood out amongst the crowd: six-two, broad shoulders, head full of short black curls that were always restrained by hair product in an attempt to keep them hidden, olive complexion true to his Greek heritage, thick black lashes encased sapphire blue eyes that were cold, and wide lips that never parted to reveal his white smile. He was the youngest Captain in Boston PD history, worked his way up from beat cop to Detective, Sergeant in the SAU, and a stint in I.A. secured him next in line for Captain, his family were cops from around the country, his old man retiring from the Boston PD five years ago just as his progeny escalated to rank of Captain. “You don’t play where you work, Jonesy, you know that,” she reminded her. “Besides, a man with his short hairs in a twist, as that man obviously has, isn’t worth wasting your time admiring. You and the rest of them heading out for drinks after this?” she asked, changing the subject.

Marcia made a face. “Yes, you should join us, but I know you won’t,” she said, rolling her eyes. “But just this once can’t you make an attempt to be one of the guys with us? This is the last time we’ll be partners,” she whined then pouted her bottom lip out.

Everyone knew that Sergeant Detective Akia de Wolfe didn’t drink, didn’t go out with coworkers, and…honestly, they weren’t entirely sure what she did. The woman was complicated, but at the same time she appeared so simplistic that it was insulting. She was never late to work, her paperwork and reports were impeccable, she had a sixth sense when it came to lying, and had a perfect arrest record. The only other person on the force that could boast such was Captain Nikas, and that, what the others assumed, was his problem with the self-contained Sergeant Detective.

“I’ll think about it, but I make no promises,” Akia said. That was what she always said, and instead of telling her partner yes or no to drinks, she’ll just disappear for the night. “Are you excited to start with the HTU?” she asked, changing the subject.

Marcia knew what Akia was doing, but she didn’t expect anything less from her soon to be former partner. “I guess. Took me long enough to get there, and my mom is overly excited about it. My old man still thinks I should be answering phones, but whatever. Have they told you who’ll replace me yet? Ooh, how about that sexy blond that transferred from I.A.? He’s hot, and recently divorced from what I heard.”

“Baggage I don’t do,” Akia reminded her. “And I don’t do cops. I don’t do co-workers. And I don’t do blondes. Next?” she mused with a chuckle.

Before the annoying Detective that apparently moonlighted as a matchmaker from Hell could say anything, Police Superintendent Manning and Captain Nikas took the stage and asked for the audience’s attention.

Manning smiled, his aged face was animated and warm, and it was one of the things that Akia liked most about the perpetually optimistic man. “I’m glad to see such a wonderful turnout tonight,” he said, fidgeting with his note cards at the podium. “In my opinion this overlooking of one of Boston’s finest is inexcusable.”

Captain Nikas’ top lip quivered as he fought keep from snarling, the only sign of any type of loss of composure the man had; his back was ramrod straight, shoulders back, head held high with a sense of pride, face hard and as unreadable as stone, and eyes focused on the Superintendent.

Manning chuckled, shaking his head. “It wasn’t as if the honoree of the hour was overly excited about the idea either,” he added and everyone shouted their agreement.

Akia groaned, wishing that she could crawl into a dark hole somewhere and hide: she hated attention.

“Sergeant Detective de Wolfe, join us,” he said, waving her up there.

“I’d rather not, Sir,” Akia called out, getting many chuckles from her coworkers in return.

Captain Nikas leaned into the microphone. “Sergeant Detective, get up here,” he said, his tone left no room for argument.

“Oooh,” the crowd mocked; they were well aware that the Captain wasn’t overly fond of the attention shy woman.

Akia huffed then weaved her way through the crowd and up on the stage, purposely standing as far away from the podium and spotlight as possible.

Manning looked to Captain Nikas. “Is she always this difficult?” he asked with a chuckle; already well aware of the answer.

“Yes,” was Captain Nikas’ curt response.

“Very well,” Manning said with a chuckle then opened up the velvet medal box in front of him. “Seven years ago I met the shy woman trying to hide in the shadows. A flip of the coin, a gamble of chance, call it Fate if you will, set into motion nearly a year of pie ala mode that started an impressive career. The instructors at the Academy had nothing but glowing things to say about Akia…and a few melee instructors would have if their jaws weren’t wired shut, I’m sure.”

The audience laughed; Akia was one of the best at hand to hand combat at the precinct.

She groaned and blushed; only Superintendent Manning called her Akia on the force, everyone else called her de Wolfe or Detective.

“As a beat cop, Akia singlehandedly got more drugs off of the street and had more felony arrests than any other traffic cop on record… Even broke your record, Damian,” he mused, giving the Captain a look. “Quickly Akia advanced to the Special Operations Unit, was the lead on SWAT for two years, and did a stint in the Family Justice Division before moving to Homicide. The awards and citations that decorate Akia are very impressive and should have accelerated her through the ranks, and yet she refused and felt most useful in Homicide. As much as I wish I could have argued with her-”

“That didn’t stop you,” she amusingly added, and the audience laughed.

Manning smiled. “Yes, I know, I said it daily, but your most recent case only iterated that you were correct and Homicide needed you.” He turned back to the audience. “Akia was able to, as if it was a sixth sense, connect seven cold cases with a recent homicide, securing a guilty verdict without a plea deal off for the serial killer we didn’t even know was prowling our streets. With a perfect arrest record, Akia has gone one for one against the previous record holder, and at this rate she’ll have her own precinct in record time.”

No thanks, Akia silently grumbled.

“It gives me great pleasure to present one of Boston’s highest honors it can bestow upon an Officer of the law, the Medal of Valor, to Lieutenant Akia de Wolfe,” he said with a smile, and the audience applauded.

Stunned, which didn’t happen often, Akia shook the Superintendent’s hand then took the box containing the medal.

“Congratulations,” Captain Nikas grumbled under his breath, and she absently nodded.

“Speech! Speech! Speech!” the audience chanted, well aware that Akia wanted to turn and run from the stage.

Manning pulled her up to the microphone.

She cleared her throat a few times, her attention on the medal in a bed of velvet in her hands.

The room quieted down and her colleagues eagerly waited to hear what she had to say, especially since she was a woman of very few words unless in an interrogation or court room.

Akia leaned into the microphone more. “Thank you,” was all she said before leaning back then headed off stage.

After many handshakes and congratulations, and those that forced her to come being noticeably absent at the moment, Akia excused herself to use the restroom then ducked out an emergency exit so she could go home before someone tried pulling her out onto the dance floor; she didn’t dance.

Boston had been home to Akia for the past eight years. After waiting tables for a few months in order to make ends meet, the diner she worked at was held up by a crackhead that was looking to get cash for his next fix. Not so lucky for him, the coroner was the one that came to collect the body once the police were done questioning her. One of those supervisors that came to the scene was the then Captain Manning. He told her that the police academy might be a good fit for her and that he had some pull and could get the tuition waved for her. He even offered to get her the needed equipment for the twenty-week program.

Suspicious, she turned his offer down. No one in their right mind would just give a complete stranger, a paranoid mess like her, three-grand for tuition then another grand for equipment, not to mention room and board. It didn’t make sense to her in the least. But Captain Manning was relentless, and every night after work for over a year he’d stop by the diner for coffee and pie, and each time he’d tell her about the cases his Detectives were stuck on, and some of the amusing arrests. He talked, and she listened as she wiped down tables and refilled his coffee. Then, one night, she sat down and asked him pointblank why he was doing this to her.

Captain Manning simply smiled and said it was Fate.

Fate wasn’t something Akia was interested in. Fate had done nothing but bring her heartache and pain, so doing something because it was Fate was the very last thing she ever intended to do. But, at the same time, she was curious about each case and arrests that Captain Manning told her about. There was something about a mystery that always piqued her interest—Sherlock Holmes’ books were her favorite when younger—so she offered him a compromise. Since he said it was Fate, she would let Fate decide.

They flipped a coin.

Heads she’d take his offer, tails he’d never bother her again.

It was the best flip of the coin Akia had ever made.

There was something about law enforcement that she loved, and it gave her life a sense of purpose when she honestly didn’t have one. Boston was only supposed to be a stopping point on her journey to nowhere, but she found herself calling it home before she realized it. Captain Manning leased her a rent controlled apartment in a building designated for senior citizens—it belonged to his mother who passed away, and he inherited it—and she paid him back, to his dismay for everything, but Akia wouldn’t hear of being indebted to anyone, especially a superior. Keeping business and personal life separate was something that she put nearly as much effort into as she did her job. Where most say that it’s a very fine line between business and pleasure, Akia made it a habit to have a canyon between the two in order to prevent complications and misunderstandings. She had worked much too hard, overcoming more than anyone could possibly imagine, to risk it by crossing that line.

And that was exactly how she liked it.

Akia slid the front door key into the lock, and it easily disengaged before she pushed the door open. Her attention was on the medal in her hand; the promotion was a complete surprise, and the look on Captain Nikas’ face hadn’t hinted of a promotion being in her future in the least; the stubborn man was very frustrating. Absently she kicked the door shut behind her before locking it, and when she did, the smell of lilacs and cotton became much more potent, and it caused her eyes to snap up.

The hallway leading from the entryway was adorned with candles that swayed as she walked down the rose petal littered hallway. When Joni Mitchell started singing, she smiled—he knew it was her favorite—and walked into the open loft space. The metal and wood dining room table was set; tall, lit, tapered candles marked the center of the table setting, more rose petals were sprinkled around the surface of the table, a silver bucket of ice housed a bottle of champagne waiting to be opened with two crystal flutes, a bowl of fresh strawberries sat next to a chilled bowl of whipped cream and a plate of peach slices, and laying across the expertly folded napkin marking her seat was a long stem rose with a small jewelry box and folded white cardstock.

Despite her irritation, a smile filled her face and tears flooded her eyes; only he could turn her from a strong, confident Officer to a smiling, tearful young woman without a care in the world. She set the velvet box housing her medal down on the table then picked up the rose and inhaled its soft, floral scent, the velvety texture caressed her nose, and it caused a moan to build in her chest.

Akia opened the card and smiled; it simply read Proud of you. She hastily wiped away the tear that had rolled down her cheek.

“I am.”

She nodded and inhaled the rose’s velvety petals again, not turning to regard him as he watched her from the base of the suspended staircase on the side wall behind her.

“It was suggested,” he started, taking his time to join her, his eyes moving over her figure from behind appreciatively; toned legs, gentle swell of the hips and slightly rounded backside, long back, arms and feminine neck, and slightly curly hair rolling midway down her back like a silken curtain of brown-ribboned-hazelnut. Never had she looked more feminine and beautiful than she did that night, and it had taken self-control that he didn’t know he was capable of to keep from handcuffing her to the bed instead of allowing her out of the house looking so breathtaking.

“Yes?” Akia purred, prompting him to continue.

He stepped up behind her then wrapped his strong arms around her waist and pulled the woman he loved into him, and held her tight. “That those with an amazing ass and look this good are either all gay or assholes,” he mused.

Akia smiled. “You forgot that they apparently have their short hairs in a twist,” she amusingly added.

He rolled his eyes. “For being the walking embodiment of femininity at the moment, you truly sound like one of the guys,” he complained.

“And yet your impressive cock is fully hard and apparently trying to check to see if I wore panties this evening,” she purred, tilting her head to the side some, making eye contact with him. “In case you forgot: I didn’t.”

Softly he growled under his breath. “Yes, I am well aware you didn’t. And that fact wasn’t missed by any of those disgusting, vile pieces of shit that were undressing you with their eyes,” he venomously reminded her.

Akia hated that he was ridiculously jealous, but at the same time he constantly reminded her that she was just as jealous when it came to women checking him out or hinting that they might ask him out after work. She turned in his arms and rested her hands over his bare chest. His muscular physique and velvety skin effortlessly aroused her, but when she looked up at him, the four inch height difference between them giving her the opportunity to look up through her lashes to gaze upon his sapphire eyes, and when locked in their depths, she turned to putty in his skilled hands. “You know that I wore this purely for your benefit,” she seductively reminded him before moistening her lips with her tongue.

He gave her a look, well aware that she was trying to play.

“And I think it was the perfect punishment for not telling me about my promotion, Captain,” she said, cocking an eyebrow.

Damian smirked. “It was supposed to be a surprise, Lieutenant,” he smugly informed her, so she smacked him with the rose. “Hey! I’m trying to be romantic here, since apparently you don’t think I have a romantic bone in my body.”

Akia trailed her hand down his chest and along his rippling abdominal muscles, her eyes fluttering when he flexed them and they hardened under her touch, before the backs of her fingers caressed the sizeable bulge in the front of his slacks and she fought to keep from moaning. “Oh you have a romantic bone,” she mused, teasingly rubbing his straining erection. “A rather sizable one that I wouldn’t mind playing with,” she said in a singsong tone, one that was unimaginably arousing.

The brilliant white smile, that only she got to see behind closed doors, filled his face before he captured her mouth with his. One of his large hands grabbed Akia’s backside, and he effortlessly pulled her up off of her feet then turned them towards the stairs; champagne and fruit could wait till breakfast.

Damian and Akia didn’t slow their passionate battle of wills as he carried her to the bedroom before setting her down at the foot of the bed. His hands caressed up her toned thighs and slid under her short dress, and when the heat emanating from between her legs washed over his bare stomach, an animalistic growl rolled from the base of his throat, and he pushed her dress up before dropping to his knees on the floor.

“You think so, do you?” Akia said with a moan, anticipation causing her breathing to labor slightly and pupils to dilate, tingles raced across her skin, and it felt as if her blood was starting to boil.

He smirked but didn’t say anything, then split her knees before burying his face between her legs.

 

 

Content, Akia leaned back in the water and made herself comfortable against the strong, muscular body behind her, and closed her eyes. After hours of making passionate love before collapsing in a sweaty, semiconscious tangle of flesh, Damian decided that the bathtub was the perfect place to watch the sunrise. The oversized claw foot tub sat towards the middle of the second story master bath with a large window that overlooked Old Harbor and offered amazing views of the sunrise.

Absently Damian caressed along the sides of Akia’s thighs under the water, his head resting against hers, as he enjoyed the serenity of the moment with the woman he loved in his arms.

For the past five years Damian Nikas had risked everything—career, family, birthright, and life—for the woman that entered his life when he couldn’t afford for her to. After a heated argument with his father, the young, just announced, Police Captain was trying to drown his problems in bourbon, something he hadn’t done since he was a teenager, before finding himself in the arms of a woman he didn’t know. Damian had never had a one night stand before, and he was honestly ashamed of himself for it, but the sex was beyond words, by far the best he’d ever had, and that helped to push the guilt far from his mind as the night of raw, aggressive and almost primal sex continued for hours until he could no longer remember his name or feel his body before collapsing in exhaustion.

When he woke in a strange apartment in a retirement complex, with a young woman that looked barely eighteen years old, sprawled out naked across his chest, he panicked. Once he slid out from under the sleeping woman and got dressed, he tiptoed towards the door, trying to make his great escape, but when he reached for the handle he was flooded with guilt. A war within him raged, something he had never experienced before, and he wasn’t sure what to do. Since he hadn’t woken up in a stranger’s bed before, he wasn’t entirely sure of the protocol for such lewd actions, so he figured he’d be a gentleman and leave a thank you note. That, he hoped, would curb the guilt flooding him and sate the suddenly flaring possessive, animalistic side that wanted to crawl back into bed and wake the stranger with his thickening cock.

A thank you note for sex with a stranger?! he silently questioned.

The idea was completely ludicrous, so instead of a note he folded up the piece of paper he found by the phone into an origami praying mantis with a penciled in smiley face and left it on the pillow he had used before slipping out of the door, making sure it was locked behind him.

In a daze he returned home, not entirely sure how he got there or if he remembered to get his change from the cabbie, and questioned last night, struggling to fill in the chunks of time that were apparently missing from his memory that coincided with each head spinning orgasm. For hours, the primal side of him had been kicking himself in the ass over not sticking around, for leaving a mate eating praying mantis of all things behind as a thank you for the night of amazing sex, for not offering to get coffee with the stranger… Hell, he would have even settled for her name!

But he hadn’t.

The rational side was furious for letting his guard slip, for being so weak, for allowing a stranger to seduce him as effortlessly as she apparently had. The taste of her mouth, the feeling of her tight, heated body around his cock, even her scent, regardless of scrubbing his skin and brushing his teeth for over an hour, haunted him, and he couldn’t shake the haunting images of their night of carnal intimacy that flooded his mind. The moment he tasted her, it was as if he was obeying an instinct he hadn’t known he possessed, and that instinct was to own the woman controlling him in ways he had never been controlled before.

But that was no longer an option. He ran from her, like a coward, and all that remained were a handful of images, and the scent and taste he couldn’t shake.

I didn’t even get her name, he had reminded himself more than once.

When he arrived to the precinct thirty minutes late for his first day as Captain, he decided that he didn’t want to think of her or have anything to do with the drunken whore because she was obviously nothing but trouble. Causing him to be late was proof of that, and never had he lost control of the animalistic side within him before, and the fact that the drunken whore effortlessly brought that side out in him left the usually levelheaded and put together man annoyed and disquieted.

She would be nothing but trouble, he tried to convince himself as he eyed his wristwatch and the mother of pearl display and moon dial that was seemingly mocking him, reminding him that he was late for work for the first time in his life.

Nothing but trouble.

And he was right.

When the newly named Superintendent brought three transfers from traffic enforcement to the precinct, the stone face exterior of the young Captain nearly betrayed him. His sapphire eyes snapped to the ocean blue eyes glaring at him.

Superintendent Manning smiled. “Captain, I’m glad that you could join us,” he teased. “May I introduce you to three of the finest from District A-1; Officer Jason Grimes, Officer Sammy Henderson, and Special Operations Officer Akia de Wolfe.”

“Sir,” they said in unison and saluted.

Captain Nikas nodded and gave a half-ass salute in return; it wasn’t a practice he was overly found of.

The three officers stood at attention as he continued to eye them, but his attention always returned to the woman he was more than confident was the sexually insatiable drunken whore that he spent the night with.

“Is there a problem?” Manning asked.

“No, Sir,” he responded.

“Good!” the older man beamed. “I’ll let you get acquainted. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with them, especially de Wolfe. She is a very impressive Officer.”

That was putting it mildly.

“Your uncanny ability to read people has always been admirable,” Captain Nikas said, getting a chuckle from Manning in return. “Welcome to District C-11. Grimes, may I speak with you?” he said, waving the first Officer into his office.

The other two waited their turn.

Captain Nikas asked the nervous Officer generalized questions, trying to read him, to find the reason why Manning had specifically picked Grimes to be part of C-11. After ten minutes, the office door opened and Captain Nikas shook his hand and motioned down a side hall. “CACU is the last door on the right. Sanderson will be your superior and show you around, and get you acclimated to the system.”

Grimes saluted with a face-consuming smile before hurrying down the hallway. He joined the force solely to be able to help children, so the Crimes Against Children Unit was a perfect fit for him.

Captain Nikas repeated the procedure with Henderson, but his eyes kept flickering to the stone faced woman standing at attention outside his office, her face as hard and unreadable as stone, ocean blue eyes narrowed in irritation, and the hard set of her jaw slightly amused him because he looked the same when he was betrayed.

After ten minutes, Captain Nikas nodded and stood then motioned towards the door. “Smith in the FAS won’t be expecting you, but he’ll get over it. Firearms Analysis Section needs help, especially with the backlog of cases we have. If he gives you grief, tell him to come see me.”

Henderson saluted. “Thank you, Sir,” he barked out, in typical military fashion, which was to be expected since he was an honorably discharged Marine that served three tours in Iraq, then hurried off towards the basement.

“Officer de Wolfe,” Captain Nikas said, motioning towards his office.

Akia stood tall and with her shoulders back and head held high and walked past him and stood at attention, ignoring his offer when he motioned for her to take a seat.

Stubborn and proud, two things I can respect and find sexy as hell… Damn it, he silently berated himself.

“I don’t want to talk about myself,” Akia said when he opened his mouth. “I heard the small talk you had with the other two, and I have no interest in bothering with the inconsequential.”

Captain Nikas nodded. “Fair enough,” he said. “Will this be a problem?”

“Whatever are you inferring to?” she scathingly sneered. “Since I’m nothing more than a mate head devouring praying mantis, you’ll have to be a bit more specific.”

And that was exactly what he wanted to hear.

“Will this,” Captain Nikas said, looking up at her from his desk, “be a problem? Because if it is, I’ll request a reassignment,” he said before he could stop the words from leaving his lips.

Akia’s small nostrils flared, and her ocean blue eyes darkened considerably. “I worked my ass off to get this beat,” she hissed, struggling to keep her composure. “And if you think I’m going to simply give it up, to go to some smaller populous beat simply because you can’t stomach looking at the woman you got shit faced and fucked, then snuck out of her bed like a coward, you have another thing coming. You mean nothing to me, and what we did means nothing to me, so no, it won’t be a problem-”

“For me,” he explained. “Not a transfer for you, but for me.”

The anger visibly left her and her head tilted to the side as if confused. “Huh?” she asked, dumbfounded. It was common knowledge that the most sought after command was District C-11. It was the most populated district, had the largest force, those in command rose in the ranks rapidly from that precinct, and they interviewed many for the coveted Captain’s spot. And yet the stranger she literally stumbled across, bought drinks for, then took back to her place for the most amazing, passionate sex she’d ever had, was offering to abandon his post, simply because of a drunken hook up?

That didn’t make sense to Akia in the least.

Captain Nikas folded his hands together on his desk and continued to maintain eye contact with her in an attempt to keep the memories that were suddenly no longer fuzzy from last night and the raw, primal mating, and to ignore the longing within him that was apparently clouding his better judgment, from his mind. He licked his lips before he spoke, and Akia’s eyes snapped to his mouth then she struggled to swallow the lump that suddenly formed in her throat from watching the involuntary action. Never had a mouth spent so much time worshipping her body, and she didn’t nearly get enough of it. “I will,” he said, speaking in a low voice that caused Akia’s pupils to dilate, “request reassignment to another precinct in order to continue what was started last night, without alcohol this time, and without the inadvertent comparison to a chewing the head off of a mate praying mantis.”

Akia’s eyes widened and mouth fell open with a soft popping sound. She had to be hung over still, that was the only thing she could think of, because there was no way he just said, just offered that, to her.

“The comparison,” he said with a small chuckle, “was unintentional. I was trying to make a crane or Bird of Paradise, but the only thing I could remember how to make at that moment was the praying mantis. My apologies,” he said with a sheepish smile; the ridges of his high cheekbones were flushed in rose, a small dimple recessed deeply on one cheek, and his features had somehow softened.

Absently Akia shook her head before she could stop herself. She wanted to rip his designer suit off and throw him on the desk at that very moment, be damned who else saw, and pick up where they left off earlier that morning.

A smile filled his face before it quickly dropped. “Very well,” he said, leaning back in his chair, resuming the role of Captain. “Which department did you want? I asked the others questions in order to find out which they wanted since, in my experience, when you ask they simply blurt out wherever I feel would be best for them or where there is need-”

“Homicide,” Akia interrupted.

He cocked an eyebrow and smirked. “Promise of our first date or is that where you want to set roots in C-11?”

Akia cocked an eyebrow and smirked in return. “Both,” she purred.

Later that night Damian knocked on her front door with a flower in hand, and when she opened the door she didn’t give him a chance to say anything and pulled him inside then ripped his dress shirt open, ruining it in the process, and hours later they eventually made it to the bed.

And that was how the first year of their relationship was.

Either he knocked on her door or she knocked on his, and they eventually made it to the bed. After the first few months they talked between marathon sex sessions, and somehow, before they realized it had happened, they were in a committed relationship. They kept up appearances at work—Akia kept to herself and said very little of her personal life, and Damian had a framed picture of a woman on his desk; no one knew it was his dead roommate from college that died of ovarian cancer their junior year—and fearing that Internal Affairs might find out about their relationship, they went to extreme measures to keep the force and everyone else out of it. Each still had their apartment in the city for appearance sake, but they lived together in an industrial warehouse turned loft space in the shipping district that the two had renovated together. They filed taxes separately, the loft space was owned by a shell trust located in the Caymans, their phones were encrypted and a redirected number was stored for when they called or texted the other, that way no one would question why there were so many calls between the Captain and someone under his command. They didn’t arrive to work at the same time, didn’t lunch at the same time, and didn’t leave at the same time. Some days Akia worked all night at the precinct, and other times Damian had out of town family matters that he had to address, sometimes taking him an entire weekend to resolve. He didn’t ask questions of her, and she didn’t ask them of him; they unconditionally trusted the other, something that neither had with another before.

“What are you thinking about?” Akia whispered, effectively pulling Damian from the past and back into the present.

He kissed her shoulder. “You, but you already knew that.”

Akia smiled. “Anything specific?” she pressed.

“I love you.”

“I know,” she sighed. “You shouldn’t.”

“You say that often,” Damian pointed out, not offended in the least that she doesn’t say it back. He doesn’t need to hear the words to know that she feels the same way. Everyone has a past, and he knew that Akia was no different, and what caused her to run from her home was bad, so he never pressed it. He hoped that one day she would trust him enough to tell him everything, but that wasn’t any day soon he knew. “But it doesn’t change how I feel.”

Akia groaned and snuggled against him more, trying to silently tell him to shut up and that she didn’t want to hear it at the moment.

“Demanding ass woman,” he grumbled then kissed up the side of her neck.

The ringing of a cell phone pulled their attention towards the opening leading to their bedroom.

“Damn it, I’m too comfortable to get up,” she pouted. “Isn’t it my day off?”

“It is. They’ll leave a message or call back if it’s important. Did you have plans for the weekend? If needed I can call your Captain and strong arm him into strong arming you into taking a well overdue vacation, Lieutenant de Wolfe.”

Akia chuckled. “You are stubborn, more so than I am. What are you scheming?”

A smile filled his face. She must have been exhausted because she very rarely conceded to his requests without asking a dozen clarifying questions.

“My family owns a small cabin around Montpelier, Vermont. It’s off the grid, private, romantic,” he mused the latter, and she chuckled, “and the perfect place to spend the next four days in bed.”

Her lips twisted into a contemplative pout. “Sounds tempting. Taking me into the woods where no one can hear you scream,” she said.

Damian chuckled. “Yes, exactly that. I’ll even let you bring the handcuffs and riding crops.”

“Even more tempting,” she commented.

The cell phone in the other room beeped, signaling it had a message, before it started ringing again.

“Damn it,” he grumbled, sliding Akia forward some, so he could get out of the bath.

“But I was comfortable,” she pouted, leaning back in the water once he was out of the tub then watched him walk across the bathroom naked, and admired his firm, muscular backside as he moved. His smooth, muscular, olive toned body was perfect, and she knew it better than her own, but every time she sees it in all of God’s bare glory, it’s like seeing it for the first time, and it causes an intense arousal that sets her body ablaze with desire and clouds her mind with lustful thoughts.

Neither had she minded in the least.

When Damian walked back into the bathroom with her cell phone in hand, his complexion was extremely pale and his eyes wide.

Akia sat up. “What’s wrong?” she demanded. Never had she seen him like that before.

He opened his mouth more than once, his eyes going from the caller id to her and back again, but he wasn’t sure what to say.

She got out of the tub and hurried over to him. “Damian, what’s wrong?” she asked again.

He held the phone out to her.

When she read the caller id her eyes widened. She reached for the phone with a trembling hand then put it to her ear.

The voice on the other end was like a fist to the gut, and it nearly dropped her.

“Father needs you. Come home,” was all he said before hanging up.

 

 

For hours and over the course of hundreds of miles, Akia was assaulted with memories of home. It wasn’t a place she wanted to go back to, it was a place she had purposely left a decade ago without giving it a second thought, but with only a few words she was on her way back, alone, and flooded with guilt. It wasn’t guilt for leaving, no, it was guilt over not being there for Father when he obviously needed her.

The last time HOME showed up on her caller id, it was Father telling her that Conway was dead. It hurt to lose a cousin, but in all fairness she’d only met Conway twice in the fifteen years she had called Verulfr Manor home, and he was an idiot and glutton for punishment, so she hadn’t gone back for his final rites. Father was disappointed in her, but he didn’t press it; he never did when Akia was involved.

Damian asked her once, and only once, why she left. It only took one look from her for him to know the answer, and it wasn’t one that he would press.

She really did love that about him.

Without having to say anything, she packed her bag, and Damian quickly got dressed. By the time she was dressed and ready to go, he had her passport ready, cash in both currencies, medications, keys to the Jeep, and had arranged for her leave of absence from work for a family emergency. She opened her mouth more than once, but nothing came out. She wanted him to come with her; his protection she didn’t need though her heart did, but she couldn’t bring herself to ask him to risk it so she popped one of her pills since it was time.

“If you need me, call and I’ll be there. I promise,” Damian said before caressing her lips with his.

That promise, his reassurance, gave her the strength to hit the road without question and to face her demons. Perhaps it was exactly what she needed, this was the inadvertent push that would finally bury her demons and dysfunctions, and that would allow the three words biting at her tongue to finally leave her lips.

“This is what I need to do,” Akia whispered aloud. “In order to move forward, I have to let go of the past.” She picked up the pendant hanging from around her neck and her fingers traced over the delicate art deco filigree scrolling encompassing the two inch long rectangular pendant.

Damian had given it to her as a gift for her promotion; she hadn’t gotten a chance to open it last night because they went straight to the bedroom the moment she got home. Before she climbed in the Jeep, he handed the velvet box to her; a token to remember him by, he had called it. The platinum snake y-chain nearly went to her sternum, and the pendant hung between her breasts, as close to her heart as possible. It was beautiful, from the art deco era of design, which Damian knew was her favorite period, and it was exactly what she didn’t know she needed at that moment. The body of the pendant shimmered from the tiny diamonds covering its surface, and in the center was a framed blue diamond the same shade of her eyes. It was beautiful, more than she could accept, but Damian wouldn’t hear of taking it back.

“It cost me nothing,” he assured her, sensing her argument before it could leave her lips. “It was my mother’s, and she gave it to me to give to my heart… Hint, hint,” he had teased, and she gave him a look. “Shut up and accept that it now belongs to you. At the moment you need to go to your family, thus we’ll argue about the pendant later when you’re home where it’s safe.”

“Home?” Akia whispered, coming to a stop on the one lane road and looked at the aged sign that simply read Welcome to Haven: Population 451. “Home is eleven hours and nearly seven hundred miles behind me,” she reminded herself. “Home is Boston, not Haven. Never again will it be Haven.”

****

The repeated thud of the heavy axe connecting with a log round was followed by the split crack made when the blade sheered through the round, splitting it in two. With effortless ease, corded muscles pulled the axe high in the air before slamming it into the next round, narrowly missing the young man switching out the split logs for the next round.

“Damn it, that one nearly took my finger off!” Ulrik complained.

The hulking giant of a man with the axe simply made a deep, scoffing sound that was neither apologetic nor remorseful, and pulled the axe back, readying for the next round.

“Dude, seriously,” Ulrik said, getting to his feet, “if you’re trying to cut my hands off, I’m going to be pissed.”

An amused chuckle came from behind them, and the young man turned to regard his brother. “And pray tell, Kid, what is it that you are going to do about it if he is?” Rafe asked, tucking the loosely falling dark blond hair back behind his ears that was freed from a gust of wind.

Ulrik made a face. “I’m pretty sure you used that wrong, or at least it sounded wrong,” he pointed out. “And I don’t know what I’d do, but I’d do something. Just because he’s as big as a house and has the personality of drying paint, doesn’t mean that I won’t one day be able to take him when my inner badass finally lets his balls drop, as Connie calls it.” The spindly young man started wind milling his arms in the air and kicking, poorly reenacting every kung fu move from the Karate Kid he could.

The other two looked at him curiously before Varg shook his head then embedded the axe deep into the splitting log; apparently this remedial task to pass the time was done thanks to the A.D.H.D. ridden kid.

Rafe chuckled. “Apparently we need to up your meds,” he said.

Ulrik made a face. “You suck, and I don’t want to take those stupid pills. I know Connie is only making me take them so he can keep my beast back. He’s scared of it. Admit it. You are too!”

Varg made that disgruntled grunting sound under his breath as he loaded his heavily corded arms with cut wood before turning towards the manor.

“Trust me, Kid,” Rafe said, waving him to follow him, “your inner puppy will never be able to take Adam. Sorry, Kid, but it’ll never happen.”

“Whatever,” he grumbled under his breath, pouting.

When the back door swung shut, he looked around to make sure they were alone.

“Is it true?” he whispered.

Rafe cocked an eyebrow. “Is what true?”

“That Dad’s favorite is coming home,” he said excitably, well aware that Rafe knew exactly what he was talking about.

“Oh, that,” Rafe said, rolling his icy blue eyes. “The chosen one was called. If they’ll come, I don’t know.” He looked out across the sprawling estate to the thick forest surrounding the manor. “It will be interesting either way,” he admitted.

“Can you tell me about the chosen one?” the excited youth whispered. “I’ve heard the rumors, but are they true?”

Rafe rolled his eyes. “Why are you asking me? Did Varg threaten to rip your head off for asking?”

He snorted. “I’m not stupid enough to ask Varg anything. He’s a gigantic tool that needs to have that stick up his ass surgically removed.”

Rafe chuckled. “Truer words have never been spoken, Kid. Are your chores done?”

Ulrik made a face. “Maybe…no, they’re not. Why am I the only one that has to do everything around here?” he whined. “Are you taking advantage of me? Like those on the street of the Ukraine tried to do to this innocent, strapping young man?” he asked, batting his lashes.

Rafe shook his head, giving him a look. “There is nothing innocent about you, Kid.”

“Do not be mean to the boy,” Louvel scolded, joining them from the garden with a bouquet of fresh cut flowers in hand. “And you do not do all of the chores. You hardly do the chores you have been commissioned with,” he reminded him with a chuckle. “Rafe, go see if Fae needs help in the kitchen. That Irishman is baking up a storm as if he is French,” he said with the heaviest French accent they had ever heard.

Rafe shook his head, taking the flowers from Louvel. “Lou, I’m only agreeing to this because I’m tired of that blue haired kid and his million questions.”

Louvel chuckled. “Do not darken the innocence of an inquisitive mind,” he scolded, watching Rafe head into the house. “Never mind him. He is simply terrified of your inner puppy.”

Ulrik smiled wide causing the older man to chuckle.

“You have questions?” he asked, motioning the young man towards the garden since he was supposed to weed it days ago.

“Will you actually answer them or are you just going to tiptoe around them while I do the grunt labor?” Ulrik asked, hurrying after him.

“Both, though I am much too old to tiptoe around anything anymore, and everyone will agree that I am much too cultured to lie,” Louvel said with a chuckle then sat on one of the stone benches in the center of the garden.

Ulrik took the work gloves from his back pocket then started pulling the weeds from the closest flowerbed. “Dad’s chosen one, is it true?” he asked.

Louvel shrugged as he loaded his half bent Dublin pipe with sweet tobacco before striking a match against the stone bench then took a few, long draws from the pipe. “Varg called Akia, that is true,” he eventually said. “Beowulf will not be pleased. He didn’t want Akia pulled into this, but we are running out of options. The proud man is nearly as stubborn as Akia, and that’s why they love each other as much as they do.”

“Why did Akia leave?” Ulrik asked.

He chuckled. “Honestly? We do not know. Akia is a very complex creature, with demons that shadow her past much like the ones that shadow yours.”

Ulrik started to nod then stopped and looked at Louvel with wide eyes. “Akia is a female?” he choked.

“Oui,” Louvel said, amusingly. “Akia is one of the many dark little secrets of our family. Beowulf came across her naked and covered in blood in Svay Pak. Somehow the young girl was sold into the trade of the Vietnamese village located in the Russey Keo District of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She was caged and put on display.”

The young man gasped, his hands covering his mouth to stifle the sound.

“Beowulf lost his seldom seen temper, and went to take care of the vile beasts… Aux grands maux les grands moyens,” he said as if it explained it all. “When he returned to the villa with the tiny creature, and I discovered she was female, Seff nearly lost it. Returning to Verulfr Manor was not easy. The little girl terrified all of them, and they questioned it many times. Beowulf was known for bringing home Strays, so gender did not matter in his eyes, and his word was law. Yourself is included in that,” he reminded him with a chuckle. “Always an advocate for children that could not defend themselves,” he said softly, his attention and mind drifting to the past.

Ulrik groaned in frustration; his uncle was getting easily distracted as of late, and he knew it was from the stress of the situation, but he wanted to hear more about the lone female of their family. “Lou, Earth to Lou,” he said, snapping his fingers in his face, “come in, Lou.”

Louvel swatted his hand away with a chuckle. “À goupil endormi rien ne tombe en la gueule,” he reminded the impatient young man. “It is wise not to speak when it is not necessary,” he translated when his nephew groaned. “It is not my story to tell, Boy. Though, I will warn you now, do not ask. Varg would take it as a personal attack against his other half.”

Again, the young man groaned. “Fine, but tell me one thing, then I’ll drop it…for now.”

“This ought to be good,” Louvel said, reloading his pipe, motioning for him to ask.

“What was Beowulf’s count when he got her?” he whispered, looking around to make sure no one was lingering.

“Ahh, that question,” Louvel mused then beckoned the young man closer, which he eagerly obliged. “The body count was impressive, yes. However, no blood blemished Beowulf’s soul.”

Ulrik looked at him confused. “I don’t understand. You said Dad lost his temper, and she was covered in blood.”

“Oui and oui,” Louvel agreed. “Nearly twenty, most likely it was more once they succumbed to their wounds. They were grave indeed, but they were not caused by Beowulf, they were caused by the little creature he brought home. Heed my warning, Boy,” he said, patting the stunned young man’s cheek, “do not mention it for Varg’s wrath is a warm embrace in comparison to Akia’s.”

****

“How are you feeling?” Damian asked, leaning back in his chair, pushing his hand through his hair in frustration.

The sigh that echoed through the receiver caused his heart to clench in his chest.

“You got there in one piece?” he teased, trying to be lighthearted in order to keep the woman he loved on the other end of the line from losing it, especially since he wasn’t there to keep her together if needed.

“Sadly,” Akia said; she sounded mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, neither of which was good. “I’ve been sitting outside the gate for the past hour, trying to find the nerve to drive up to house. This was a bad idea. I don’t even know what in the hell is going on, and of course Father doesn’t have a damn cell phone. That man is stuck in the stone ages, I swear.”

He chuckled as he absently doodled on the coversheet of the report he was supposed to be signing off on, and yet hadn’t bothered to look at still; work was the very last thing he wanted to do at the moment.

“Damian, I don’t even know what’s going on,” she said, mimicking his position in the driver’s seat more than a thousand kilometers away. “If this was just some ploy to get me back here, I’ll be so…” her words trailed off, and she shook her head. “Tell me a story.”

Damian rubbed his temples; the only time Akia asked for a story was when she was about to lose it and go over the edge, not something that he was willing to risk. “Did I ever tell you about homecoming?” he asked.

She moaned. “No, tell me.”

“I warn you now, it is not a pretty tale,” he said.

“I have no doubt,” Akia said with a smile.

Damian chuckled and propped his head up on his hand, and visualized that he was home in front of the fireplace and Akia was sitting across from him, hugging a pillow and wearing one of his undershirts that hung off of her toned body like an ill-fitting dress. Her hair would be pulled back in a sloppy pony tail, the shorter strands framing her face making her look younger and softer somehow, and the warm glow from the fireplace painted her in golden light making her appear angelic.

“I was seventeen, captain of the football team, of course,” he dryly added the latter for her amusement, and she chuckled, “was dating the head cheerleader who was prom queen runner up. The deejay was playing the worst compilation of music in recorded history, the crape paper decorations were a fire hazard, I’m sure-”

Akia snorted. “Oh my god.”

“I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet!” he assured her. “Miss Prom Queen runner up decided to throw a complete temper tantrum because I had to dance with the Prom Queen, who coincidentally was my step-sister-”

That was it, she laughed.

“It gets better,” Damian assured her. “While we were doing the robot and running man, instead of slow dancing, since we were family, my date went and popped a handful of pills, snorted a few lines of coke, and drank a fifth of vodka. By the time I found her, she was covered in vomit and making out with the fat girl from the chess team.”

Akia was laughing so hard that she had snorted more than once.

Damian smiled; he knew that her ocean blue eyes were sparkling like the diamonds she now wears around her neck, and her skin was flushed with amusement. “Are you better now?”

Content, she sighed. “Surprisingly, yes.”

“Good. Get your firm, round ass out of the Jeep, see what’s going on with your father, so you can get home where you belong. Okay?”

“Home?” Akia whispered. “That sounds like an agreeable plan. I’ll call you once I find out what’s going on… Thank you.”

His smile fell. “There’s nothing to thank me for, you know that,” he reminded her. “If you would let me, I’d be there for you now, regardless of what family drama is going on for you. It’s okay to ask for help and to allow others to help you, Latria Mou,” he whispered, his rarely heard outside of the bedroom Greek accent flaring. “S’Agapo.”

Akia sighed. “I know you do. I’ll call you later,” she whispered before hanging up.

Damian fought the urge to throw the phone across his office and growled in frustration. “Stubborn woman,” he snarled before pulling his hand over his face in resignation.

Self-sufficient and hardheaded were admirable traits in a partner, but at the moment it was infuriating because the stubborn woman never asked for help, ever, and it drove Damian crazy. He knew that Akia could take care of herself; he’s seen her take down perps three times heavier and hopped up on PCP before and not break a sweat. But this was different, this was an emotional battle that she was facing, alone, and it killed him inside to just sit there while she was facing the demons of her past by herself.

Damian didn’t know of her family, but he suspected that it was much like his: good came with the bad. For the first year of their relationship Akia would wake up screaming or crying, and when he tried to console her she’d scrambled away from him or pulled a weapon on him. There were a few times that his life literally flashed before his eyes as he struggled to stay completely still as a blade bit into his throat, drawing lines of blood. Eventually the episodes became less and less, and instead of attacking him or trying to run, she’d curl up in his arms and allowed him to console her. He had asked a couple of times, but she’d get closed off and argumentative, and he really didn’t like sleeping alone, so he quickly learned that asking would only cause her to get closed off and turn her from him thus he stopped asking.

“The good with the bad,” he mumbled under his breath and unlocked his cell phone then flipped through the encrypted files until he found what he wanted.

Giggling made him smile as the video played.

“I’m serious, Damian. Stop,” Akia said between bouts of laughter.

“Not until I hear you say it,” he taunted; he was straddling her on the bed, torturing the stubborn woman by the worst means possible: tickling.

She glared at him and defiantly jutted her chin out. “Never,” she hissed.

“Wrong answer,” he tauntingly sang.

Another bout of hysterical laughter caused the woman under him to thrash and kick, but she couldn’t buck him off.

“Damn it! I hate you!” she yelled.

“Say it,” he said.

Akia rolled her eyes. “You suck, but you were right. You talkin’ to me was an improvised line by De Niro. There, you happy?” she sneered, making a face.

Damian chuckled. “Honestly, it wasn’t nearly as gratifying as I thought it’d be.”

The corners of her lips twitched before she laughed, smiling wide.

“Beautiful,” both Damian’s murmured before the video ended. Before he could lock his phone, a pop up reminder flashed. When he opened the notification his eyes widened. “Shit,” he hissed, silently berating himself for nearly forgetting, then started hurrying to finish his paperwork and signing off on the stack of reports before he addressed his schedule for the coming week.

 

 

“Just put it in drive and… Damn it,” Akia grumbled, smacking the steering wheel again before struggling with the lid on her prescription bottle so she could take a pill. “It shouldn’t be this hard!”

“It usually is.”

She looked over to the passenger side and smiled. “Hey, Connie,” she whispered then patted the seat, inviting him to join her, which he obliged, closing the door behind him. “You’re the only person I know that can sneak up on me like that.”

Connell smiled wide. “It’s a talent, Sis. How are you? You look like hell!”

Akia rolled her eyes. “It honestly amazes me that you’ve practiced medicine as long as you have because you have no bedside manner in the least.” She made a mocking face before popping a small pill in her mouth, swallowing it dry.

He chuckled and pushed his falling black bangs back from his eyes. “You take offense to, as what you’ve called more than once, pussy footing around the subject so it’s safer to be direct.”

She nodded her agreement.

“Trying to find the nerve to drive up to the house?” he surmised.

“What’s going on?” she asked, instead of admitting she was terrified to drive the three hundred yards to Verulfr Manor. “Varg called and simply said Father needed me and to come home. I get that the asshole isn’t one for words, but really?”

Connell chuckled. “According to Kid he has the personality of burnt toast.”

“Adopting again?” Akia asked since Kid wasn’t a known name to her.

“Lou and Father tracked him across the Ukraine,” he explained, his green eyes moving over her appraisingly. “For being young, he is surprisingly resilient and shows impressive control. He’s been here for five years. I offered to visit every six months to check up on him, make sure that he hasn’t relapsed…the people that had him got Kid strung out on garbage heroine in order to control him. He’s been clean since he came home, but you know how Lou worries about relapsing since he was once afflicted with chasing the green dragon. Sadly, when I came for a follow up I got stuck here again.”

They were quiet for a moment, neither knowing where to go after that statement; no one spoke of the personal demons that each family member had faced or still dealt with. It was their way of not causing the inflicted to have to vanquish their demons over and over by reminding those harboring it of them.

“How are you?” Connell asked at length, eying the pill bottle she tossed in her purse. “Your follow up isn’t for another couple of months, but I’m curious how it’s working since you’ve been quiet.”

She shrugged and looked out the window. “Apparently it’s regulated, almost like clockwork now, so that’s good. The combination you came up with is working for now. I have more control over her, but at the same time I have none. If it wasn’t for the pills and…my outlet, I don’t know what I’d do.”

“Your outlet, that’s a person right, and not an impressive collection of sex toys?” he mused, cocking an eyebrow.

Akia’s mouth fell open before she softly smacked him, so he smacked her back. “That’s disturbing, and I’m not even going to address it with a response.”

He roared with laughter, and she chuckled. “I missed this, Sis. I know you had your reasons for going, and I understand part of the reason why you stayed, but you should have vacationed on the Island every so often instead of meeting up with me in seedy hotel rooms.”

She nodded. “Only a couple times was it a seedy hotel room, Smart Ass, but we can discuss resolving that later. At the moment tell me what’s going on.”

Connell buckled the seatbelt and motioned for her to get back on the road; she complied without question. “Nearly two cycles ago, a body was found on the beach,” he explained as Akia drove back towards town. “Drowning with an animal attack finisher was listed as the official cause of death by the medical examiner.”

“By you,” she clarified.

“I moonlight as many things, Sis, you know that,” he amusingly reminded her. “The wounds were consistent with a large animal, bear according to the official report.”

She snorted.

“Yes, I know,” he dramatically sighed for show, and she rolled her eyes over his antics, “I used to be much more creative. But don’t worry, with the second body the cause of death was listed as death by a Wendigo!”

Akia gave him a look. “Second body… Wendigo?! You’re an idiot,” she groaned, and he roared with laughter. “I honestly don’t know why they’ve permitted you to keep an adult job. You are a child in the body of sixty-five year old-”

“That doesn’t look a day over thirty,” Connell amusingly interjected.

“Yet another discussion that I will not contribute to,” she said. “Two bodies-”

“A few,” he corrected. “All washed up on shore…presumably washed up. In my non-professional opinion, they were staged, but what does the medical examiner know?”

“Not much if you’ve never been trained to process crime scenes or collect evidence…that’s why I’m here, isn’t it?” she asked. “To help Father figure out what is going on in order to keep attention off of the family?”

Connell hissed out a breath. “Yeah, not exactly. Father is in custody on suspicion of murder,” he mumbled the latter quickly under his breath.

Akia slammed on the breaks and turned to look at him; her nostrils flared, eyes narrowed and darkened, and a menacing growl rolled from the base of her throat.

“Calm down, Sis,” he lovingly scolded. “Control your temper otherwise Eve will have her fun. Is that what you want?”

He was right, and she knew it, and if Eve did make an unwanted appearance, it would be bad for everyone.

Akia took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself.

“Better?” he asked.

“Marginally,” she hissed. “Why is Father being detained for this?”

Again, he hissed out a breath; he didn’t want to be the one to tell her, but he drew the short straw. “Father is the one that found each body, as if they were left purposely for him to find.”

Again, Akia growled and her hands tightened on the steering wheel.

“Calm down, Sis. One of us needs to keep a level head, and since the locals don’t know you, don’t know that you’re part of the family, I think Varg was hoping that you’d be able to sway the local authorities into releasing Father on house arrest or something until we can figure out what or who is doing this and why.”

“Any suspects not noted in the police files?” she asked, pulling back onto the road, and went into police mode.

“None. Can’t pick anything up, at least I couldn’t,” he admitted. “The first was reported right away, for obvious reasons, so the others didn’t get a chance to see the body. The second, third and fourth bodies were absent of anything useful. There was something there, but most likely the tide washed away anything that might have been traceable or I was imagining things.”

Akia nodded, processing what he said. “Water submersion is a means to remove trace evidence, so I can’t fault you for finding it odd that multiple victims, all apparently attacked by a wild animal, would randomly wash up on shore. But there are no bears in the area, or Wendigos, Smart Ass.”

He smiled wide.

“On the flipside of that forensic countermeasure,” she continued, “the water shouldn’t have been able to scrub the body, in a sense, of traces that would only be detectable to the family. Seff has a suspect list drafted?”

Again, a hissed breath came from between Connell’s teeth. “None. We didn’t pick up anything on any of the bodies or the dumpsites, or even the woods around the manor, at least not anything that was familiar. Once you smell it you never forget it, you know that, but none of us recognized what wasn’t there.”

“I hate it when you speak in riddles.”

“I know,” he said with a chuckle.

“Was it the same with each victim?” Akia asked, going down the checklist in her head.

Connell shrugged. “Honestly, it was hard to tell. There was something masking it, an agent that I couldn’t identify. It was natural, not a chemical, but the results back from the crime lab were useless. The mass spectrometer…it was a report longer than your arm, but it didn’t make any damn sense to anyone, myself included. I have Lou looking into it, but he’s getting more and more distracted lately. I fear it might be early onset Alzheimer’s.”

She made a face. “Lou just needs to get laid. The last time he got laid was in the eighties before his last wife died. Did you neglect to notice that the anniversary of her death is coming up? Get him drunk and find him an older lady that understands French and likes animalistic, slightly romantic in a deranged way, sex, and he’ll be fine.”

Connell looked at her with wide eyes before he roared with laughter.

“Once again, you are a child in a man’s body,” she said. “The victimology?”

“They are all dead, does that count as a common denominator?” he said, wiping away the tears of amusement from the corners of his eyes.

She smacked him upside the head. “Grow up.”

He playfully smacked her back. “Where would the fun be in that?!” he beamed with a face-consuming smile.

“Father being detained is not amusing in the least,” she snapped at him, and his smile fell. “You should have called me sooner. You should have called, not left it for Varg to do when no one was looking.”

He shrugged. “Father didn’t want to bother you. He figured it’d blow over, the next time a body washed up while he was locked up would prove his innocence-”

“But one hasn’t,” Akia interrupted, getting a nod in return. “Have there been any Strays in the area as of late? Anyone that might perceive the family as a threat?” she pressed.

Again, he shrugged. “Last Stray in the area was right after Kid joined the family, and Lou took care of it because he’s really protective of the blue-haired brat.”

“Blue hair?”

“Yeah, Kid is really young. He claims that he’s twenty, but I think he’s only sixteen at the most…bone development doesn’t lie, but I’ve kept my mouth shut about it since it doesn’t matter either way.”

Her fingers drummed on the steering wheel as they waited at one of six traffic lights in Haven. “Could Kid be the source?” she asked.

Connell laughed. “No. Believe it or not, he has complete control. Is he mischievous? Yes. Has balls of steel…he even pulled a few tricks on Varg, and yet he lives to tell the tale. For being found on the streets in Eastern Europe, he’s extremely smart…genius level smart when it comes to computers and everything they entail. He’s been bugging Dad about digitizing the library, but Dad is old fashioned and likes the feel of parchment.”

She nodded her understanding; as much as she detested the stale smelling library where the archives were housed, she missed spending hours at Father’s side creating a sense of organization to the extensive collection that the family had acquired over the years. While working side by side with the man that saved her, that she eventually called Father, she felt special and loved, two things she had never known before, and the months spent in silence simply compiling and rearranging the library Father was so very proud of, allowed her to find her voice for the first time.

“You got your badge on you?” Connell asked when they parked outside the small police station.

Akia nodded. “Always. Debating on being armed or not,” she admitted.

He shook his head. “Don’t go and get yourself arrested as well. We need at least one member of law enforcement on our side for this little incident.”

She pulled her sidearm from the glove box, chambered a round then secured the holster to the back of her jeans before getting out of the Jeep.

Connell rolled his eyes. “I don’t know why I bother, I honestly don’t,” he complained, joining her.

“Because you’re a glutton for punishment,” Akia reminded him, sliding into a distressed leather jacket that was slightly fitted but would hide her sidearm without hindering her from pulling it if needed. “Make the introductions, but keep the family relation out of it.”

He nodded his understanding. “Of course. What do I tell them?”

“You’re creative so you’ll figure it out,” she reminded him, motioning for him to lead the way.

When they entered the small office, the officers hanging around the bullpen, appearing bored, looked at them curiously. Akia quickly took inventory and assigned a value to each person, none of which looked as if they could write a parking ticket let alone solve a multiple homicide.

“Hey Doc,” Officer Leclair greeted, eying the two curiously. “Did Staff Inspector Pierre call you in for something?”

Connell smiled. “No. I brought in a specialist from the Boston PD.”

Officer Paquette looked between the two. “That wasn’t approved,” the man argued, his eyes moving over the tall woman standing with the annoying M.E.. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, you are going to have to wait until the Inspector returns, so he can sign off on it,” he said.

“Lieutenant de Wolfe, not ma’am,” Akia said, and his eyes widened. “I’ll need copies of each file, report, witness statements, location photos and the medical examiner’s reports.”

The four looked at each other confused.

“This,” Connell said, trying to keep from laughing because his baby sister was anything but subtle and accommodating, “is the woman that singlehandedly solved the Silent Ripper case in Boston. She connected and then closed seven cold cases as well as the most recent homicides, putting an end to an unknown serial killer’s reign of terror. And just last night she was awarded the departments Medal of Valor.”

Akia fought to keep from growling under her breath; Connell could never reel it in.

“I’ll call Inspector Pierre,” Paquette said, motioning Akia towards the row of chairs along the wall across from the reception desk.

“Have fun, but we’ll be in my office,” Connell said with a smile then pushed Akia towards the back of the small station before the Officers could protest.

Once the metal door slammed shut behind them, she smacked him.

“I’m surprised you didn’t bust out with the slide show of my accomplishments…how did you know about the award?” she asked. “I only got it last night.”

He shrugged, hurrying down the stairs to his office in the basement. “Dad told us. Besides, it was on the news. This is Canada, not the Congo. I will be expecting a footnote and honorable mention in your book to movie adaptation of the Silent Ripper case since I was your second set of not sanctioned eyes on the M.E. reports.”

She shook her head. “I’m not writing a damn book on that shit. That’s all the victims families don’t need: an Oscar worthy reenactment to haunt them.”

He snorted. “You are a party pooper. Congrats on the promotion by the way. Wish we would have been invited to see you up on stage. I’m sure you were a motor mouth in your acceptance speech and they had to cut you off with the orchestra like they do at the Academy Awards.” He looked over his shoulder at her and smirked before clearing his throat. “Um, thanks,” he said, in the worst impression of her to date, and she rolled her eyes. “I have the latest bodies still in the morgue. They haven’t been identified yet, so I’m holding onto them…and I was waiting for you.”

Akia nodded and absently flipped through the file he handed her before he headed over to the wall of metal doors then pulled one open and slid out the metal tray with a sheet covered body on it.

“Doesn’t it compromise the body to leave the sheet on them?” Akia absently asked, reading the rookie report on the first body dump.

“They think that it’s more respectful than pulling out a naked woman or man,” Connell said, pulling out the next body. “It doesn’t matter to me. You’ve seen one mutilated body you’ve seen them all. The first one was a clean and efficient kill, as you can see from the photos: carotid artery severed with one swipe. It was clean, very clean, the prey bled out in seconds, a minute at most. The second, it appeared more…I’m not sure, almost as if it was done by an entirely different person-”

“But it wasn’t,” she said, looking over the report. “Swipes are nearly identical, only the depths varying, and they were more…skeptical.”

“How so?” he asked.

“The first was clean; one swipe and a body dump. That was it. With the second victim the first swipe wasn’t a kill shot. It was as if they were being tentative, almost nervous.”

“Remorse?” Connell offered.

“None,” she said, looking through the pictures in the file of each victim. “The third and fourth he started playing, torturing without the intent of doing such, which is why the next two bodies looked as if they were put through a paper shredder. The first victim popped their homicide cherry, I have no doubt about that, and the second victim they were apprehensive about because the first was so effortless. Think of the first as an uncontrollable impulsive response to something, an external stimuli… You know what I’m getting at,” she said, giving him a look and Connell nodded his understanding; she didn’t need to say it aloud. “The next was the confirmation stage; killing was exceptionally easy, and that got him a taste for it. With the taste came questions, the one that stands out in my mind: how much abuse can the toy take before it breaks? The third was the discovery phase, and that was why there were varying depths to each wound on the third victim. Each swipe went deeper and deeper until an organ or artery was reached. The second bled out, not as quickly as the first, but still much too quick for his liking. The third lasted longer, but still succumbed to their injuries faster than he’d like. The fourth,” she said, eying the body of the victim in front of her. “This was where he truly got his need met.”

Connell nodded. “Support your argument,” he said. He knew she was right on all accounts, but it was the first time he had gotten to work on a case with his baby sister other than on over the phone, and he was eager to see just how damn good she was in person.

Akia shook her head, sensing the intent behind his doubtful tone, but she would humor him; she always did. “The first might have been an accident, I’m not saying that it was, but it could have been, and he dumped the body where it would be found in order to cover it up. The second was a test, to make sure that it was really that easy and if the high he felt for the kill was real or not. Sadly it was. The third was experimental; he learned just how much he can inflict and where before the toy breaks. The fourth was where he started to play now that his taste for it had fully developed. The victim was tortured-”

“For hours, days even,” Connell confirmed. “System showed traces of synthetic adrenaline, heavy amounts of it, enough that it would have killed them eventually. There were a dozen injection sites.”

Akia nodded; that type of progression wasn’t common and was very concerning. “When the victim was rendered unconscious from the abuse, blood loss, or pain, he revived them so he could continue to play. Sexual assaults?”

“None,” a voice said from behind them. “Dr. Dreary, an outside consultant was not approved or invited into this investigation.”

Connell simply shrugged. “You couldn’t get the funding for a specialist, so I got one donated from the Boston PD,” he retorted, giving Inspector Pierre a look. “Has she been wrong about anything?”

Inspector Pierre joined them with the eager tattletale Officer Paquette behind him, and eyed Akia suspiciously. “Why would one of Boston’s brightest want to help out in a case over the border and on a small Canadian island?”

“I’m on vacation,” Akia said, never turning to regard the interlopers and continued to read through the slightly more detailed reports on the latest victims. “What better way to relax than to preoccupy myself with animalistic homicides?”

Pierre wasn’t amused, not in the least. “Tell me something, Detective-”

“Lieutenant,” she instantly corrected, turning her attention to the body.

“How is it,” he continued, “that animal attacks of this nature can have a psychological profile such as the one you so graciously provided after only being briefed for a few minutes on the case?”

“You will answer the Inspector,” Paquette sneered when she didn’t say anything.

Akia smirked then looked up from the body to the irritable men glaring at her. “If you truly believed that these are merely animal attacks that are getting progressively more savage, Inspector, then why is it that you have a man in custody under suspicion of murder?” she retorted.

The Inspector huffed more than once, reminding her of a pissed off rooster getting ready to crow. “Get out of my office,” he snarled, pointing towards the door.

Connell chuckled. “This is my office.”

“My building!” Pierre shouted. “And you, too!”

Connell smiled. “I’m an elected official, one that no one will replace, especially in this town, so no. You needed help, you got it. The puppies that follow you around, sniffing your ass while trying to elevate their careers by agreeing with everything you say,” he said, pointedly looking at Paquette, “can’t tell their ass from a hole in the ground.” He turned from the huffing Officer to the skeptical Inspector. “de Wolfe is the best in Boston, has consulted on cases for the FBI even, and has a perfect arrest record and conviction rate. Hell, the Silent Ripper wasn’t even offered a plea deal and was convicted in record time, with all of his victims being accounted for; that is unheard of for serial killers in this day and age. Tell me, would you rather have the RCMP here and pushing you out or would you rather have one of Boston’s finest that can’t stand attention or being in front of the media, leaving you to smile pretty for the cameras? One more body and you know the RCMP will be storming in and taking over the case, and the only one at this precinct that’ll still be on the case is me because I’m just that good. Now, why don’t you shut up, welcome the free help, and put your cocks away because I guarantee she can piss farther than both of you.”

Pierre wasn’t amused, not in the least, and as much as he hated to admit it, the medical examiner was right: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had already inquired as to the status of the case and warned that they would send someone to oversee the Inspector’s progress if none was made. The last time the RCMP put their noses in Pierre’s one and only high profile case, it got him a one way ticket to the Island in a small town called Haven.

The overly proud man knew he had to swallow his pride otherwise his career would be over.

“Lieutenant, your expertise in the matter would be appreciated,” he spit through clenched teeth.

“Yes, I know,” Akia agreed. “The weight of the badge forces those carrying it to help whenever a case is in front of them, even if they are on vacation,” she said, offering a concession in order to hide the truth of her visit. “The fourth victim was different,” she said when he didn’t say anything. She took it as his white flag of surrender, and returned to the case. “He is starting to show finesse, but he’s still refining his skill.”

Pierre scoffed. “You call this finesse? Look at her!”

She gave him a look. “I am looking at her, closely if you must know. He took his time with her… To have that type of patience when torturing someone, reviving them just so you can do it all over again, that takes great patience to develop, thus resulting in finesse.”

Connell nodded; he was thinking the same, and entertaining the idea was even more terrifying than the thought of a killer running loose on the Island.

“To see it pre-autopsy would have been most helpful,” Akia commented under her breath, irritated that the first report was so poorly documented, and the second wasn’t much better. Back in Boston, the M.E. knew that Akia liked to be present for the autopsies; hearing that perspective of the case from the experienced and knowledgeable lips of the M.E. always helped her with the case in front of her. Seeing the result of shoddy police work, which she would have to try to translate and put together with limited resources, would prove to be irritating and the risk of Eve making an appearance wasn’t something she was willing to risk, especially in Haven.

“Funny you should mention that,” Connell said, as if he could read her mind, and pushed the third victim back into the locker then repeated with the fourth, getting a dirty look from Pierre. “If the fourth was special, the fifth was the prom queen,” he said, pulling out another drawer, and Akia’s eyes widened; there was no report on a fifth victim. He unzipped the body bag, and Pierre covered his nose with his sleeve.

Inside was a darker skinned young woman that was covered in blood; hair was matted to her head, gashes and tears littered every inch of her body, and it looked as if she had already been gruesomely autopsied with a steak knife on the beach by a blind Wendigo with the shakes.

Father will have to wait in holding a little longer, Akia silently huffed. She slipped out of her jacket and hung it on the back of Connell’s desk chair then grabbed a disposable gown from the table in the corner. “Permission to observe the autopsy, Sir,” she said, looking over at Pierre.

He was taken aback because she called him sir and was asking permission. “Of course,” he said, motioning towards the body.

Officer Paquette scoffed. “You cannot be serious. You’re just going to let someone that walked in off the streets in on an active investigation?!” he asked in disbelief. “For all we know she’s one of them, one of those cult members from Verulfr Manor and is only here to get their leader out! We have a suspect in custody, Sir, and that is where we should be focusing our efforts, not on the bodies since one of their cult,” he sneered eying Connell, and he smiled wide, “is most likely withholding evidence already.”

Pierre gave the vociferous Officer a warning look. “de Wolfe, I want the full report on my desk by the end of the week.”

“Expect it tomorrow,” Akia said, pulling on a pair of latex gloves once her hair was pulled back and her gown was secured. “Doctor, let’s begin,” she said, turning to Connell.

 

 

Seff shook his head as he read over the charges they were holding his oldest friend on. “They’ll never stand, we both know that,” he commented under his breath, much too low for the irritable Inspector watching from the bullpen to hear.

Beowulf chuckled. “I am well aware of that, my old friend. They are simply reaching, though I have to admit it was rather ingenious to leave the bodies just outside our property where they knew I would be walking. Have I become a creature of habit?” he mused.

Seff wasn’t amused in the least. “This is bullshit, and we both know it. A Stray has broken the cardinal rules and is now trying to pin these heinous crimes on the family. I will not simply sit here and permit him to do it.”

“Tell me, my old friend, what is it that you would have us do?” Beowulf countered with a warm smile. “Without evidentiary proof, as you lawyers say, they cannot pin this on me-”

“And the Covenant?” he interrupted. “What will the leaders say when the media starts stirring up trouble in Haven of all places?”

Beowulf simply shrugged as if it wasn’t a concern in the least. The man had seen witch hunts by the media and church, those with overly active imaginations create nothing but trouble with their teen-based books and movies, the advancement of social media and electronics making what was once an easy existence anything but. “The world is ever changing, and if the Covenant cannot look past what some asshole wearing a badge thinks and believes to be true, simply to persecute the stunningly handsome target of this unseen threat, then I am afraid that there is nothing that either of us can do, my old friend.”

Seff wasn’t amused with Beowulf’s jovial attitude, but bit his tongue and continued to flip through the finding-less report that was so graciously provided by Inspector Pierre. “She came,” he said under his breath.

Beowulf smiled. “I know, and she isn’t happy with me.”

“I wouldn’t be either if I hadn’t been home in a decade then come home to find my father in jail, and that it was a Stray that put him there.”

He sighed. “Yes, I suppose you have point. Varg called her, didn’t he?”

“To my knowledge,” Seff admitted. “Though, I didn’t commission him with the task. Connell drew the short straw, and of course the first place she went was here instead of home.”

“Trying to prevent the inevitable,” he said.

“Or trying to secure your freedom,” Seff countered. “She truly is dedicated to you, and I have to respect her for that, as well as being dedicated to her chosen career.”

A smile filled Beowulf’s tan face and his chocolate brown eyes sparkled with unshed tears. “I am beyond proud of her,” he admitted. “From the scared creature she was to the fearless, analytical minded woman that she is today floods me with pride. I thought for sure that she might have been lost to me forever, but she has succeeded where so many others have failed.”

Seff nodded his agreement but didn’t say anything.

When they returned from the Far East with a skittish, tiny girl, Seff thought his oldest friend was insane. The way Beowulf doted on the girl, the patience that he showed her, and the love that was so clearly visible in his gaze when he looked upon the tiny creature, irritated Seff. As Akia got older, he didn’t particularly care for her because she didn’t stand on her own two feet, in essence. Varg was her strength and sense of protection; Connell her voice when she had none; Faelan the smile that she was too timid to share; Rafe was her sense of camaraderie; Louvel was the acceptance of her outlook even though she had never expressed it aloud; and Beowulf saw her as the embodiment of perfection.

Being the overly protective of the family and the paranoid one, Seff couldn’t grasp how so many strong creatures could undermine themselves in order to accommodate the single creature that would bring ruin to the family. Akia wasn’t much; she was small and rail thin, weak and had no sense of confidence or self-worth, and didn’t even make eye contact with people. Very rarely did she speak, and she buried her nose in books, in the past, in order to not deal with the present or future. When Akia ran away a decade ago, Seff thought it was a blessing, but it quickly became apparent that when she left, a part of those that loved her left with her and those he called brother, friend, nephew and cousin were only a mere reflection of the men they once were, and he hated Akia for it.

Over the years, her absence was still felt by those that called her sister, niece and daughter, but as reports of Akia’s accomplishments in her new life in Boston made their way back to Haven, the loss of her absence wasn’t as severe. They still felt abandoned by her, especially after everything they had done for weak creature, but they eventually found acceptance in her absence. As much as Seff wanted to dislike her, the woman she had grown and matured into was one that he could respect, and that was more than he ever thought she could be.

“How long before I can go home?” Beowulf asked with a chuckle; he wanted to see Akia before she headed back to Boston.

“With the latest body found less than a kilometer from the estate,” Seff said, rubbing a hand over his polished bald head, “it’s hard to say. They’ll want to search the manor, but there isn’t enough evidence to warrant that yet. Voluntarily permitting them to search might give us some ground with the Inspector, however there is the obvious problem with that. The boys have done the needful, and Kid has been kept offline since that brat goes out of his way to find trouble… His hacking skills are as criminal as they are impressive.”

He chuckled. “As strange as that blue hair child is, he truly is impressive and coming along well. Lou has done a wonderful job with him.”

“You two and your Strays,” Seff grumbled under his breath.

“My old friend, you were once a Stray,” Beowulf reminded him with a smile and reassuring pat of the hand. “Haven is just that, a haven for Strays that deserve one, and that is why we must address this problem proactively and aggressively. Discretion might not be an option any longer, but we must try.”

Seff nodded his understanding; discretion meant hiding a body and securing proof of death for the Covenant.

There was a knock at the door of the interrogation room Beowulf and Seff were sitting in before Connell popped his head inside. “Has the defense rested?” he mused.

“Is the M.E. done with the report on the latest body?” Seff asked, not amused in the least.

“Yes, and the ball breaking Lieutenant that crawled up my ass for the entire autopsy is brokering the terms of the suspect’s release as we speak. It might be house arrest with a babysitter from Boston, but it’s better than the cinderblock and metal cot the Inspector was ready to offer,” he explained.

Seff softly growled under his breath. “Findings?”

Connell cocked a black eyebrow. “Later,” he said, and they nodded their understanding.

Pierre and Akia joined them. “Pending the most recent findings,” Pierre started, glaring at Beowulf, “and our limited resources, you will be released with conditions.”

“And those are?” Seff asked, acting as legal representation.

“House arrest,” Akia said, giving him a look. “Your client will be required to check in three times a day at set times from a landline phone, if a check in is missed it will revoke the terms of the release agreement. Also, due to the medical conditions of your client a home monitoring device will not be an option, thus your client will be required to have onsite supervision. I have no allegiance or ties to your client or the Haven Police Department, thus I will be an impartial receiver, of sorts, and Dr. Dreary has assured me that the amenities would be accommodating for an officer of the law, regardless of my badge being State issued. Does your client agree to the conditions of the release?” she asked in a cold, detached tone.

To maintain appearances, Seff argued the terms of Beowulf’s release, stating they were an insult to his client.

Beowulf simply sat there with a small smile on his face as he watched his daughter in action. Akia wasn’t vociferous or argumentative, Pierre and Seff were, and the woman said very little as the two men argued, but when she did speak, it effortlessly silenced the other two and caused Beowulf to be flooded with pride that his little girl, his precious and once broken daughter, was a strong woman that now demanded respect with simply her presence. She spoke with conviction and finality, and as if she could sense the argument before it could leave their lips, she countered it with eloquently spoken words that instantly silenced them.

Never had he seen anything so beautiful, and he was so very proud to call her daughter.

The comparison to Akia when she left home to the woman in front of him now was as different as night and day. When she left, she was weak and almost fragile—mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically—and she was flooded with shame, so much in fact that she couldn’t even say goodbye. Her eyes were always on the floor, and she’d cower when someone raised their voice, and flinched at every perceived physical threat. The last year she was home she had started to come out of the reserved shell she had always been in; Connell speculated it was due to hormones leveling out and reaching adult levels. Beowulf hoped that it was because Akia was finally starting to trust those she called family, and that she would continue to grow and mature.

Akia left before he could see it firsthand.

Of course it’s a pleasant surprise to see her now and in police mode. It amused him on some level because when she was younger she had commented more than once that she didn’t like law enforcement or guns. Now she was carrying a sidearm and proudly wearing a badge, and it suited her, Beowulf thought.

“That is enough,” Beowulf said, interrupting Seff. He was tired, hungry and wanted to go home and spend some time with his daughter. “The terms are better than the alternative,” he said, giving his oldest friend a look, “and I must rest. All of this excitement has taken a toll on my old body,” he said with a chuckle.

Pierre glared at him. “Fifty is hardly old,” he scoffed. “de Wolfe, I will be expecting a call once you are settled.”

Akia nodded. “Of course, Sir. I’ll meet you back here tomorrow morning to go over the latest findings, and I’ll put together a profile for you and your Officers. Shall we?” she asked, turning to the others.

Seff and Connell sat in the backseat of Akia’s Jeep, and Beowulf sat in the front, next to his daughter, his sole attention on her as she drove. He knew she was irritated. She had yet to stop drumming her fingers on the steering wheel, and as much as he wanted to pull her into him and hug her tight, they had to maintain appearances since a cruiser was following them home.

When they approached the tall, iron gate marking the driveway to Verulfr Manor, Akia slowed. “Take care of it,” she said, and Connell nodded then hopped out of the Jeep in order to close the gate behind them, blocking the cruiser’s entry.

Without another word, she drove down the long, tree skirted driveway leading to the one place she swore she would never return to. When she put the Jeep in park in front of the three story stone and brick home, the urge to double over flooded her, and beads of sweat dotted her hairline.

Beowulf noted her physical change and the trepidation flooding her. “We will join you inside. Let Fae know that dinner will be served shortly,” he said, motioning for Seff to take Connell inside to give them privacy.

Once the front door closed behind them, Akia started, “Why in the hell didn’t you call me right away?! After the first body?” she demanded without turning to regard him.

Beowulf chuckled. “Because you were busy with your life,” he said with a smile.

She glared at him from the corner of her eye. “That isn’t funny, Father. You should have called me, to let me know what was going on. I would have rearranged some things in order to come back and help with the problem.”

He sighed contently.

“What?” she asked, finally turning to regard him.

“It’s nothing,” he assured her with a smile.

Akia gave him a look. “Father, I am not in the mood. I am starving, just found out that my father was arrested on suspicion of murder, there’s a Stray running around the Island, one that is purposely targeting my family and father, and I had to assist with an autopsy with a Medical Examiner that sings at the top of his lungs while working… I cannot believe he hasn’t been committed yet.”

Beowulf chuckled. “Give it time. Connie is a special kind of creature, one that doesn’t allow the darkness of the world to shadow him. He sings because it keeps him from succumbing to the darkness of humanity that he must face on a daily basis. You should respect him for being able to separate himself from his work as he does.”

“I respect him as a very talented doctor and M.E.,” Akia admitted. “But I cannot respect the way he approaches his work. The childish antics were disrespectful to each victim and their families. Death should be respected-”

“And life should be enjoyed,” he countered warmly, with a smile. “We each deal with death in our own way. You, sadly, have always embraced the darkness and shadow which is death. Connie has always tried to illuminate those shadows and darkness with humor and light. You cannot fault him for that. Come, dinner will be ready soon and then we’ll catch up,” he said and got out of the Jeep.

Akia softly growled under her breath, well aware that he was trying to change the subject.

Beowulf opened the driver side door then offered her his hand.

She shook her head in resignation and took his hand, and he pulled her out of the Jeep and into his arms and hugged her tight.

“Welcome home, Daughter,” he whispered.

Akia returned the embrace and hugged him tight. “Thanks, Dad.”

****

“Huh,” Ulrik huffed, looking out a second story window. “I was expecting more,” he commented, watching the couple in the driveway hug.

Louvel shook his head, drawing the curtains the inquisitive young man was looking out. “Leave them be. Go see if Fae needs help setting the table.”

Ulrik groaned. “But I don’t want to help Ginger Bear,” he whined. “He keeps threatening to tie me to a chair so he can give me a makeover.”

The amused Frenchman chuckled. “What would it hurt to humor your big brother? Fae only wants to help you pick a color and stick with it… What do you call that mop on your head? Blueberry, teal, turquoise?” he asked with another chuckle, eying the questionable locks of hair standing up every which direction on the young man’s head.

“I call it Smurf in a blender, but the bottle called it Atlantic Blue,” Ulrik said, making a face, as he walked with his uncle to join the others in the dining room. “Can I get a tattoo?”

“No,” Louvel said. “Those adorned with tattoos are questionable at best.”

Connell snorted, following them down the stairs now that he had taken a quick shower. “I resent that, Uncle,” he said, pulling a shirt over his head, concealing the tattoos covering his chest, back, and arms to the elbows. “If the kid wants tattoos, when he’s older you should support him. They hurt like hell and might help put hair on his balls.”

“Hey!” Ulrik whined, spinning around, punching him in the arm before he hurried the rest of the way down the stairs, out of Connell’s reach. “Not cool. I have hair on my balls. Unlike you, I don’t wax so I look like a Ken doll.”

Louvel shook his head; why he bothered he didn’t know.

Connell pulled open the front of his sweat pants and looked down. “Don’t mind him, Boys. Kid is just jealous that his balls haven’t fully descended yet.”

“And now it officially feels like I’m home,” Akia said from the foyer with Beowulf’s arm around her waist. “My brother is talking to his balls as if that’s an everyday thing and no one is remotely surprised or put off by this. Seriously, if he starts licking his balls in front of company, I’m leaving.”

Connell looked up from his crotch to his sister and smirked. “Aw, it’s just like the holidays!” he beamed with a smile.

“Oh yes, because having to bust Father out of jail is what kicks off every holiday get together in this family,” she retorted.

“It should be,” he said before sliding down the banister to the foyer, joining them. “Sis, you look tired. Did you want to freshen up first?”

Akia gave him a look. “So you can eat all the damn soda bread?” she scoffed. “No. I’ll take my chances with stinking everyone out of the house before I let you eat all of my bread, and yes, it is my bread. Fae likes me better than you, so I know he’s been baking up a storm.”

Connell whimpered. “I hate how well you know me. Hurry up!” he barked out with a smirk before hurrying to the dining room.

Akia growled under her breath; she’d be lucky to get two loaves.

“Fae won’t let him eat it all,” Louvel assured her.

She nodded and gave him a half hug since Beowulf wouldn’t relinquish her. “Uncle Lou, you look well. How are you? Adopting again, I hear.”

Louvel smiled. “Yes. When a precious gift crosses your path you mustn’t allow it to slip through your fingers.”

Akia nodded, getting the underlying meaning of his comment. “We’ll catch up later. At the moment I have brothers plotting against me and silently trying to get me to play with them, and I’m starving, tired, have to make a couple of phone calls, and finish up a report for the irritable Inspector. Father, you have to call in soon,” she reminded him.

Beowulf huffed, and it made her chuckle; for being hundreds of years old, he still acted like a child when he didn’t get his way.

“Go before I put you in time out,” she warned, motioning towards the study on the other side of the foyer.

He kissed the side of her head before turning her over to Louvel.

“Some things never change,” she grumbled under her breath, watching her father sulk across the foyer like a scolded puppy.

“You changed,” Louvel said, escorting her to the dining room. “Now I can clearly see your beautiful ocean blue eyes, before they were always downcast towards the floor.”

Akia groaned under her breath; she didn’t take compliments very well. “I grew up, Uncle Lou. I just needed to spread my wings some, I guess… Don’t you dare!” she yelled when just before they entered the dining room movement from behind the two caused her to spin around, but it was too late. She pushed Louvel out of the way just in time to take the full force of the three men trying to ambush her, knocking all of them to the floor.

“Ow,” Akia complained from the bottom of the pile, and they laughed. “When I can reach my gun, I will start shooting indiscriminately,” she warned.

“Sis, don’t be like that!” Faelan complained from directly on top of her, most of his weight and that of his brothers being supported by his thick arms to keep from crushing her. “We missed you!”

She gave him a look. “I talked to you a few days ago, Smart Ass.”

The other two gasped. “You did?” they asked in unison.

Faelan gave her a look. “Gee, thanks. Now I’m never going to hear the end of it from these bitches,” he flamboyantly complained before reaching back and wrapped his thick arm around Rafe’s head then pulled the punching man over him and into a headlock, effectively rolling off of Akia in the process.

“Ow!” Rafe yelled, punching Faelan in the sides, but the hulking ginger was impossible to shake.

“Call me daddy, Little Man,” Faelan taunted, giving him a noogie.

Connell stretched out on the floor alongside his sister as they watched the other two go at it. “It greatly amuses me that the one on bottom doesn’t remotely correlate his bucking and attempt at giving Fae a wedgie as being beyond homoerotic, which is even more amusing since Fae is as queer as they come, and the apparent bottom in that relationship is adamant that it says exit only.”

Akia chuckled. “Yet another reminder that I’m home.”

“Blue hair off the top rope!” Ulrik yelled before pile driving on top of the two on the floor and was easily rolled up into a ball by Faelan. “Okay, I should have thought that through better,” he admitted before yelping. “Ow, dickhead! That hurt.”

“Let me guess, Kid?” she asked.

Connell nodded. “You have to give him credit; he’s fearless. Balls as hairless as a new born baby, but they’re bald balls of steel.”

Ulrik glared from between his legs since Rafe and Faelan had them locked behind his head at the ankles. “They’re not bald. Get these assholes off of me, and I’ll show you… I’m Ulrik,” he greeted with a smile before swinging at his big brothers again.

Akia gave a small wave. “I figured as much. Fae, Rafe, stop dicking around and let him up so we can eat. I’ve been up for hours and am ready to crash.”

“Aw, do we have to?” they complained in unison before letting the young man up.

The family gathered around the large dining room table and waited for Varg and Beowulf to join them. Akia sat between Connell and Faelan, just as she had done when she lived there, and eyed the platters filling the center of the table; stack of rare steaks, barbecued ribs, glazed pork chops, grilled vegetables, and baskets of fresh rolls and slices of bread with mounds of sweet cream butter and jars of honey ready to be spread on them.

When Akia’s stomach growled, Faelan chuckled and grabbed one of the baskets of rolls and handed it to her. “Eat, your growling is going to scare the kid.”

“Shut up,” she complained before shoving an entire roll in her mouth.

Faelan sighed. “If only I could find a man that can do that with something meatier than soda bread,” he said.

Akia gave him a look. “Really?” she mumbled with her mouth full.

He simply smiled wide.

Beowulf joined them, taking a moment to kiss Akia on the top of the head in passing, before taking his seat at the head of the table. “Where is Varg?” he asked.

“Patrolling the perimeter,” Rafe said. “He’ll eat later, alone.”

Thank god, Akia silently huffed; dealing with Varg was the very last thing she wanted to do that evening.

Beowulf nodded. “Very well, let’s eat.”

Like starving animals, most of those seated around the table stood and hastily started loading their plates, piling them high with food.

Louvel chuckled, leaning back with a glass of wine in hand, watching his nephews and niece silently fight over the food. “It has been much too long since we have had dinner theater,” he commented.

Seff shook his head, not amused in the least, and flipped the newspaper in his hands over and continued reading the world news section.

“Believe it or not, I missed this,” Beowulf said then applauded when Akia stabbed Connell in the hand with a fork when he tried to steal her pork chop. “Connie, you will never learn. What is that, three hundred times you’ve been stabbed by your baby sister?”

Connell continued to growl as he rubbed his hand, glaring at his sister.

Akia smiled as she ripped a big bite off of the pork chop in her hand then chewed with her mouth open just to spite him.

Louvel roared with laughter. “Just like the first time we had dinner as a family. Only this time she is holding her own and is heavily armed.”

Seff growled under his breath. “Don’t encourage them. It will not end well with the Inspector when he discovers that they pulled one over on him.”

“What do you mean?” Ulrik asked before shoving an overly large bite of steak in his mouth. “What did they do?” he asked with his mouth full.

Faelan threw a roll at him and it bounced off of the young man’s forehead. “Manners!” he scolded, talking with his mouth full before smiling.

Beowulf shook his head. “Tonight there will be no talk of the Stray. This is the first time that we have been a family in over a decade, thus we will enjoy it. Daughter, this is your new little brother, Ulrik. Louvel has taken him under his wing and pulled him back from the darkness and shadows of his past, creating the,” he paused and cocked an eyebrow when he saw that the blue haired young man had barbeque sauce dripping down his chin and a rib in each hand, “picture of class and refinement that you see in front of you today.”

The young man smiled wide as he continued to chew.

Akia nodded. “Pleasure, I’m sure. Shop talk can wait, Father, but I’m honestly on the verge of crashing. I worked a fifteen hour shift then rushed home to change for the awards banquet, which I was forced into going to…didn’t get any sleep, and just as I was ready to pass out in the bath, Varg called, and I dropped everything; nearly forty hours without sleep. Do you really want to risk an unannounced visit from Eve?”

That stole everyone’s attention.

“Father,” she whispered, silently pleading with him.

Beowulf nodded. “Understood. Tomorrow we’ll catch up,” he assured her and she nodded her thanks. “Your room is just how you left it, even left the bed unmade just as you left it,” he teased.

Suddenly her appetite was gone, and it felt as if the food she just ate was about to come back up. It was a struggle to breathe, her palms were sweaty, and the room started to feel overly hot and as if the walls were caving in on her.

“Not happening,” Faelan said, throwing his thick arm over Akia’s shoulders and pulled her into him. “I haven’t gotten to have girl time in a long, long time, and now that little sister is home, she’s going to tell me all about Boston and the hot men on the force before she passes out. Slumber party!” he beamed.

Akia nodded. “Slumber party is exactly what I need,” she managed to say with a forced smile. “I’m going to take a shower and make a couple of phone calls while you clean up. Bring up some of those desserts I know you spent hours making today?”

He kissed the side of her head. “Anything for you, Sis.”

 

 

“Hey,” Damian said, turning the water to the shower off with one hand while holding his cell phone to his ear with the other. “Is everything okay, Latria Mou?” he asked; he had been waiting for her call.

Akia sighed. “No, not really,” she eventually said after a long stretch of silence before popping a pill in her mouth.

He wrapped a towel around his waist then headed into the bedroom. “What’s going on? Is your father okay?” he asked, greatly concerned.

“You’ll most likely get a call from an annoying and inept Inspector from the Haven Police Department,” she mumbled.

Damian groaned; that was never the start of a good conversation. “What’d you do?”

“Stumbled into the middle of a serial killer investigation,” she said as if it was obvious, and he laughed, thinking she was kidding. “The perp is trying to disguise each kill as if they’re animal attacks, taking one out of the Kodiak Killer’s book.”

That stole the mirth from him. “You’re serious?”

“Sadly, yes. The bodies are being dumped on the beach just outside of my family’s estate,” Akia explained as she made herself comfortable in Faelan’s oversized bed. “Possibly it was a counter forensics measure initially, or simply a body dump of convenience since the first was accidental, that was more than obvious, but now I fear that it’s personal. Father or the family is being targeted.”

Damian pushed his hand through his wet hair in frustration; if they were targeting her family that meant they were targeting her, and that he wouldn’t permit. “How many?”

“Five that have turned up,” she said. “The most recent was discovered less than forty-eight hours ago, that was when Varg called.”

Softly he snarled under his breath.

“The perp has a taste for the kill now,” she continued as she absently twirled a damp lock of her own hair around her fingers.

Damian shook his head; he knew where this was going. “Progression?” he asked.

“Escalating quickly,” she said, sounding exhausted. “From point of first kill to most recent, is countable in weeks. Time between kills is getting shorter with each victim. I fear that if he continues at this pace, he’ll have a victim or more a week, and that’s only because he’s learned to keep them alive for fun before he breaks his toy. The fourth was captive for approximately five days before breaking… Something doesn’t feel right about it,” she admitted, finally speaking her concerns aloud to the one person she trusted and respected more than any other in the world of criminal justice.

He sighed, kicking himself in the ass for not going with her to Haven since she needed him in more than just the physical sense; she needed his expertise as well. “I’m listening,” he said.

“The first three were sloppy,” Akia said, struggling to explain what she saw in front of her when it pertained to the case, but no one else apparently saw it. “The fourth, the jump from savagely attacking without a sense of purpose to the refinement that the fourth presented, was much too quickly of an escalation for the perp. He went from toddler with a loaded gun, in a sense, to a kid with a knife, then a teenager with a hatchet, to a master with patience, knowledge, and skill. That rapid escalation doesn’t make any sense, and it shouldn’t be possible…unless he got guidance.”

Damian’s eyes widened. “The most recent?” he asked, taking notes in his head and fighting the nausea that nearly had him doubling over.

“Gruesome even for my experience,” she admitted. “I’ll text you a picture of the three Does, but it won’t be helpful for the fifth; he took his frustration out on the body. If guidance was suddenly given, the teacher was apparently absent for the temper tantrum that ensued.”

“Understood,” he said.

“Can you run the info through missing persons for me?” she sheepishly asked.

“Why not have the locals do it?” Damian asked, suspicious.

“One; I don’t trust the Inspector,” Akia admitted. “He was much too easily swayed to allow me on the case, on my vacation mind you, and to supervise the suspect.”

“And who is the suspect?”

She groaned. “The less you know the better, at this point.”

His free hand clenched into a fist, and he fought to keep from growling at her because she apparently didn’t trust him with the information.

“The fifth, he didn’t get to have his fun with her, so he’ll strike again, and soon.”

“What happened? Was he interrupted?” he asked, his inner-detective rearing its head, trying to push the thought of her not trusting him from his mind.

“Heart gave out from an underlining medical condition that the perp apparently didn’t know about, which is amusing on a sick and twisted level since she reeked of medication… Heart condition; cause of death was cardiac arrest,” she explained, catching herself much too late. “When he tried to use the synthetic adrenaline to revive her, as he was taught, it didn’t work. There was fracturing of the ribs, what I’m assuming to be from chest compressions. None of the other victims had them. I had the M.E. swab around the mouth for DNA… I think he gave her mouth to mouth.”

That wasn’t normal, they both knew it, and a killer trying to revive a victim that prematurely died at their hands was very troubling.

“This is only the beginning,” she said what he was thinking.

“Sexual assault?” he asked.

“Negative.”

That was unusual for such aggressive crimes.

“Victimology?” Damian pressed.

“Throw a dart at a board of choices, and you’ll hit it,” Akia dryly said. “First victim was a white male in his fifties; second a dirty female in her forties; third Hispanic male in his sixties; fourth and fifth females, one Asian and the other black, early thirties and barely twenty. The third, fourth and fifth haven’t been identified; the second was a local hermit that no one ever saw, the first was a truck driver from Alberta; no next of kin for either. The first two each had a prior, so they were in the system. The three Does are clean, not even immigration records.”

Damian sighed in resignation and grabbed a pen and pad from the nightstand. “Profile on the latest victim?” he said, readying himself for a long night.

“African female between seventeen and twenty-two; five-five, one-ten; brown eyes, natural black hair that had been professionally relaxed,” she said, going down the checklist in her head. “Hands were long and slender for her size, and soft, but the tips were callused-”

“You’re thinking a musician,” he said.

“It crossed my mind,” she admitted through a yawn. “Cello, violin, harp, guitar, banjo-”

“Nice,” he said with a smile; Akia got ridiculously endearing when exhausted. “Anything else that stood out that will help me narrow down the search fields?”

Again, she yawned. “There was an exotic combination of…musk, sandalwood, tuberose, tiara flower, and neroli,” she said. “It was faint, but I picked it up, nearly missed it though due to her medications giving a different, yet discernible, scent to her blood.”

“Excuse me?”

It was a statement that would get many questions and accusatory looks if asked aloud, and since she was exhausted she was saying aloud what should have been kept in her head.

“The victim had the faint scent of Shalini on her still;” Akia said before blowing out her breath, causing it to make a sound that made Damian shake his head with a smile. He could picture her in his head stretched out in bed, fresh out of the shower with her hair in damp curls sprawled across the pillow, the scent of her skin mixing with soft rose from her body lotion, lips glistening in the light from the bedside lamp from licking her lips while she struggled to connect dots of the case in her mind, and case files covering the bed. “She wasn’t in the water long enough to wash it completely away,” she said, pulling him back to the present. “At over four-hundred dollars American an ounce, you’re not looking for a call girl or runaway. Her manicure and pedicure were top of the line, the type that you have tried to get me to do for years, and I laugh at because you’re delusional in every sense of the meaning if you think I’ll allow you to drop three hundred bucks on my nails.”

Again, he shook his head and tried to keep from laughing; she was ridiculously stubborn and low maintenance.

“The fifth victim comes from money, and that will indubitably cause a problem.”

Damian knew she didn’t mean to say the latter aloud; when exhausted all filters were gone and her defenses were lowered. “Where are you staying?” he asked.

Akia groaned. “I miss you.”

He smiled; her filters being absent did have its advantages though. “You haven’t even been gone a day. I must have really left a lasting impression the last time we met.”

She softly moaned. “Stop trying for compliments, it’s unbecoming.”

“Yes, Ma’am. Is there anything else I need to look up for you?” he asked.

Her only response was a shuddered breath that was followed by a soft purr of a snore.

Damian shook his head in resignation. “Sleep well, Latria Mou,” he whispered before hanging up. “What kind of trouble are you getting yourself into?” he asked before heading to the closet to get dressed; sleep would have to come later.

****

From the doorway he stood, looking into his brother’s room to the bed where the broad-chested redhead was stretched out with a woman curled up alongside him, softly purring in her sleep. A pang of jealousy stabbed at him, but it was unfounded. Faelan was very gay and a brother in Akia’s eyes. But, in Varg’s mind, it should have been he that she was curling up against and contently purring in her sleep with, not their brother.

Looking at her now, the softness that washes across her features when she slept, when her guard was completely down, caused his heart to tighten in his chest. Her hair was much longer than it was the last time he saw her, and splayed across the white bedding and Faelan’s chest in loose curls in varying shades of brown, a soft dusting of freckles were barely visible with her light tawny complexion, even though her eyes were closed in slumber her knew that she still had the most beautiful ocean blue eyes he’d ever seen, and when gazing upon them he felt as if he was drowning in their depths. Her lips were the softest shade of rose he’d ever seen on a person, and they felt like velvet against his skin; the taste of her skin haunted him, remembering the way her breath washed across his lips always caused his cock to twitch, and the warmth of her body on his taunted him in his dreams.

Akia would forever be his greatest regret and biggest weakness.

“Is something wrong?” Beowulf whispered, joining his son.

Varg shook his head.

He looked from the hulking Viking in the doorway to the bed, and he smiled. “It is good to have her home,” he said.

“It isn’t her home,” was Varg’s curt reply as he turned and headed down the hall towards his room.

Beowulf followed. “Boston is her home for the moment, but she knows that restrictions and time restraints make it nothing more than a temporary stop in her life. This will always be her home, just as it is yours and the others home. The others are back now—Rafe because he’s broke from his inability to manage money, Faelan’s nursing a broken heart, Lou is overseeing Ulrik’s rearing, Seff is too damn stubborn to ever leave, Connell felt the need to return for mental solace, and you never left—as is Akia, even if it is only a vacation in her eyes. She has a career and a life in Boston, you cannot tell me that you wish for her to abandon all of that to come home and be as miserable as you are.”

Varg pulled his shirt off then tossed it in the corner. “She should be home!” he argued, losing his patience. “She should have never left.”

“Do you know why she left?” Beowulf pressed; that was the million dollar question, and yet apparently only Akia knew the answer.

He looked to Beowulf, the man that was like father, brother, mentor and friend to him; the man that rescued him from himself more than once, and that had showed him more patience than he deserved. There was warmth and compassion in his dark brown eyes, the fine lines at the corners of his eyes weren’t from age or stress, they were from smiling so much—Beowulf was one of the most optimistic creatures Varg had ever met—and his shoulder length, light brown- gray streaked hair was the only thing that hinted that Beowulf was older than fifty. Youthful innocence he seemingly radiated with, but he was fiercely protective of his children and those of the family, however the one he was most protective of was Akia, his one and only daughter, and because of that Varg never mentioned to him, or anyone, what transpired the night before Akia disappeared.

“You look as if the weight of the world rests on your shoulders, Son,” Beowulf commented.

Varg nodded. “The weight of her world always does,” he said before he could stop himself.

Beowulf nodded his understanding. “Akia is well. She is happy and healthy, and has grown. No longer does she watch her feet, she looks one in the eye, and she speaks with conviction and passion; her whispered words are no longer lost on the wind. She’s an amazing cop, one of the best in Boston, and that should make you unbelievably proud of her as it does me.”

Varg nodded, but didn’t say anything so Beowulf left him to his thoughts for the evening. The Viking of few words was very proud of Akia, confused by the person that she now was apparently, but was proud of what she had accomplished.

Ten years ago the world he knew was suddenly shattered when he woke in her bed, alone, and Akia was nowhere to be found. He searched for her for months, they all did, but the trail disappeared. A letter came from the States, solely addressed to Beowulf, and whatever it said officially ended the search. Varg felt betrayed by the woman he loved, the woman that consumed him mind, body, and soul, and that he gave his everything to; she took it then left. A part of him resented her for it, but his conscience wouldn’t permit him to hate her for leaving him.

Varg still loved her.

Now that she was home, he wanted to demand answers, to know why she felt the need to hurt him, to break his heart, to abandon the family as she had…

But the words eluded him.

The moment the smell of her skin, the sweetness of her breath, washed over him from across the room as he watched her sleep, the questions he had asked himself over and over in his head were gone and replaced by the memories of her…

“You are completely insane?!” Seff had yelled, his voice carrying throughout the eerily quiet estate. “I warned you that you could not simply bring a Stray, a female at that, home!”

Beowulf shook his head. “She is a child, one that needs protection. You cannot honestly believe that I would leave her in a cage for those monsters to abuse, do you?”

“That isn’t the point,” Seff argued.

“You do not have a point, my old friend.”

The three elders of the family had only returned a few hours ago with the tiny Stray, and for hours the heads of household had been arguing, their voices carrying surprisingly well. The young girl without a name simply sat on the floor, huddled in the corner, with her arms over her head, waiting for the yelling to stop, waiting for someone to take her, to hurt her, to bring something out in her that was evil and dark, something that she had no control over and was terrified of.

She wasn’t alone in the library. The others that called Verulfr Manor home were watching her. They never thought it was possible, according to history it wasn’t, and yet the impossible was cowering in fear not more than ten feet from them.

“Should we say something?” Connell whispered.

Louvel simply shrugged; he was too sober to figure out what to say that would assure his nephews that the tiny girl wasn’t going to be a problem, so he sat back and kept an eye on her with the others.

“I’ll get her something to eat,” Faelan said then hurried to the kitchen to whip up something that the terrified girl might enjoy; he was on the verge of losing it himself.

Rafe looked from the terrified girl to everyone else and back again. “This… I thought it… Huh, this is going to suck.”

Varg shook his head, truly disappointed in the others, then headed over towards the shaking girl.

When his large form eclipsed the light, she whimpered then started clawing at the wall behind her, trying to get away from him.

“It’s all right,” Varg whispered. “No one will hurt you ever again,” he promised her.

She continued to claw at the wall like a cornered animal, trying to find a means of escape. There were too many of them, and they were bigger and much older, all were men, and it terrified her even more than the metal dragon that brought her to their home on the Island.

When Varg reached out to try to console her, the moment he touched her arm she completely lost it and spun around and attacked him.

The tiny, thin girl threw herself at him and punched and clawed, snapped her teeth, trying to get to his throat. Varg outweighed her by over two-hundred pounds and had more than three-feet of height on the small girl. With simply the flick of his wrist he could snap her neck, could throw her away from him and into the wall, could easily subdue her with only one hand.

But he didn’t.

Varg allowed her to attack him, to scratch up his face and arms, to bite his neck as she tried to kill him. He simply sat there with his hands in his lap waiting for it to register with her that he wouldn’t hurt her, none of them watching in horror would. She would be safe with them.

After nearly an hour, her swinging slowed and her growling turned into soft sobs, and she collapsed against the strong form she was trying to destroy. He wrapped her in his strong arms and held her protectively to his broad chest as she sobbed. Tenderly he caressed her head and ignored the searing in his neck and face from her vicious assault.

“Shh,” he whispered, trying to be reassuring for the first time in his young life. “You are safe, I promise you. As long as I breathe, never will I permit another to hurt you.”

The tiny girl started sobbing even harder; never had she heard words so softly spoken, but the truth behind them pushed her over the edge of reason, and she succumbed to emotional exhaustion in his arms…

Varg rubbed his hands over his face in frustration and struggled to keep the haunting images from his mind, but it was a losing battle. Every time he looked in the mirror he was reminded of Akia; his face and neck was littered with thin, white scars from her tiny nails and teeth. He’d grown a beard out in order to hide the visible reminder of her, but his scars ran soul deep.

Irritated at himself for allowing the one person he swore he’d never let under his skin again get to him, he headed to the kitchen to grab something to eat before making another patrol around the estate.

****

Faelan groaned as he stretched out and instantly stopped when a soft moan came from the side of him before nuzzling against the side of his neck. He looked down at the face rubbing against him and smiled. “It’s the not type I usually long to wake up next to, but you’ll do,” he whispered before kissing the top of her head.

Last night when he returned from the kitchen with some dessert after Akia was out of the shower, he found her curled up in a ball with cell phone in hand and fast asleep. Not wanting to disturb his baby sister, he crawled into bed and tucked them in for the night. Akia was the only woman that got the honor of sharing his bed.

Something vibrating pulled his attention to the nightstand. Without thinking about the repercussions, he answered Akia’s cell phone.

“Good morning,” Faelan cheerfully greeted, keeping his voice down.

“Um…who in the hell is this?” Damian asked.

Faelan purred. “Ooh, are you the one that smells so damn good?” he asked. “You know, I expected my baby sister to have a hot piece of ass on the side, she deserves it,” he continued, “but never did I imagine that she’d have a hot piece of ass that smells so damn good or dresses so damn well. Valentino, really?”

Damian wasn’t sure what to say. “I’m guessing this is Fae.”

He purred in delight. “You’ve heard of me, I’m touched…if you want, you can touch as well.”

Damian groaned. “Is your sister available?”

“Passed out still,” Faelan admitted. “She had a rough night, two days without sleep, sudden loss of appetite, showered then passed out with a cell phone in hand. I’m curious,” he said, “she hasn’t mentioned you. Are you a mysterious lover?”

“Excuse me?” Damian said, not about to say anything more than that. He knew of Faelan only because Akia and he crossed paths at a hotel when she was investigating a double homicide two years ago. Faelan was there for a baking competition, and she was there for the bodies. She spent a few nights with her brother at her place in the retirement community playing catch up, and when he went back to Seattle, Akia opened up and told Damian of her precious Ginger Bear, as she called that particular brother. “Will you have her call in when she wakes up?”

“I’m still curious,” Faelan said, as if he didn’t grasp that Damian was trying to get off the phone with him, “the shirt my baby sister is wearing has to be yours; custom tailored Valentino is rather pricey.”

He tried not to, but Damian smiled. Akia took one of his dress shirts to sleep in, so she could be surrounded by his scent, since he wasn’t there to sleep with.

“And Gucci, grrr,” Faelan continued. “I love a man that smells good enough to eat. Are you sure you aren’t batting for my team? Because I would love to play catcher for a hottie with excellent taste in designers and cologne,” he teasingly sang. “Ooh, let me guess; tall, blond, dark eyes, Scandinavian descent, never smiles or jokes around. Am I right?”

Damian shook his head; he was none of the above, and it made him curious as to why Faelan would automatically assume that he was, unless… “Is that what your baby sister likes?” he asked the obvious, fighting to sound as nonchalant and indifferent as possible, but the possessiveness biting at him nearly caused him to growl.

Faelan sounded contemplative. “I’m not sure, I thought so since… Never mind. I’m a redheaded bear hailing from Ireland yet can bake as if I’m French. Interested in a Ginger Bear that doesn’t mind being a bottom, or a top if you want to switch?”

“No,” Damian said in a clipped tone. “Let Lieutenant de Wolfe know that Captain Nikas called and has a possible identification of her Doe,” he said then hung up.

Faelan looked from the phone to his sleeping sister many times before he groaned. “Someone has some major explaining to do,” he said in disbelief.

“What are you bitching about now?” Akia asked, groggily as she stretched out and rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

He smiled, waving the cell phone at her. “I might have gotten you fired. Oops, my bad,” he said in a teasing, singsong tone.

She didn’t appear surprised or concerned, and that only confirmed what he was already thinking. “I’ll deal with it later. Was there anything in particular that he wanted?”

Faelan huffed; that wasn’t the response he was hoping for. “Give him a call. I’m assuming he’s the hot piece of ass that you stole the fabulous shirt from.”

Again, she was completely level and indifferent.

“It’s a nice thread count and feels great against my tits, what can I say?” Akia said with a shrug, snatching the phone from him. “Huh, he called a few minutes ago. Why didn’t you wake me up?”

“I was too busy flirting with him,” Faelan said, and she laughed. “What can I say? I haven’t even seen him, but his taste in clothing and cologne makes my big bone tingle,” he said in a deep voice with a heavy gay lisp.

Akia shook her head in resignation. “Trust me, you aren’t his type.”

“But he’s yours,” he sang.

She smirked but didn’t deny it.

Faelan’s eyes widened and mouth fell open with a popping sound. “O-M-G you have to tell me everything! Every last kinky, sticky, sweaty, sexy detail…mainly those about the hot bod he has to have in order to fill out the measurements of that shirt, and the impressive cock he has to match.”

Akia shook her head then leaned up and kissed him softly on the lips. “I don’t kiss and tell, unlike some horny dogs I know,” she whispered with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. “And you won’t be burying your bone anywhere near what is mine,” she tauntingly sang before tackling him back to the bed.

 

 

Akia looked at the gathered officers and government officials that were filling the bullpen of the small police station. She hated being front and center. She hated attention in general, but when she was the lead on a case there was no way around it. The identity of the fifth body proved to be a nightmare in the making. There was a reason why Damian was able to find the identity without a picture, DNA, or dental records. The information on age, size, race, and the calluses on her fingers lead him to the front page of the Boston Globe and the headline: Progeny and Heiress Missing.

Inspector Pierre joined her, standing in front of the group with an air of superiority about him. “Thank you for waiting-” he started.

“Shut it!” Commissioner de Rue of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police interrupted. “If you open your mouth one more time, you’ll be in a holding cell next,” he warned.

Once the identity of the fifth victim was confirmed, officials from both sides of the border got involved. Out of respect for the families of each victim, no official media release has been issued, and each of those involved in the case are being tightlipped in fear of repercussions and the deep pockets of the fifth victim’s family.

The family of Arianna Winterfeld, the only child of Boston real estate mogul William Winterfeld the Third, demanded that the United States government get involved in the case when he came to claim the body. That demand, in turn, caused the RCMP to get involved. When Mr. Winterfeld was informed by Superintendent Manning of the Boston Police Department that his best was already on the case, and after dropping the long list of cases Akia had closed in her career, the mogul demanded that Lieutenant de Wolfe stay on the case as the American liaison and lead detective.

Pierre said no way in hell, but when Commissioner de Rue walked through the door with official documents in hand, the look on the older man’s face made it more than obvious that he was pissed off and would take it out on the first to cross him. Pierre knew he was on the way out of the investigation, so he was shutting up, for the most part, in order to stay in the know since it was, without question, the biggest case of his career.

“Lieutenant,” Commissioner de Rue said in a clipped tone, motioning for Akia to start the briefing.

Akia nodded. “Thank you, Sir. I’ll skip the formalities and get right to it. What we are dealing with is a serial killer that is trying to cover his crimes by making them appear as if they are animal attacks.”

One of the officers raised their hand. “There were hairs consistent with a wolf on two of the bodies,” Officer Paquette argued without being called on.

Akia nodded. “Yes, there were,” she agreed.

“And that doesn’t seem odd to you?” he pressed. “Nowhere in your report and profile has a wolf or animal been mentioned. Does he own a wolf? Does he do something that requires him to be around wolves? Maybe he’s one of those handlers from up in Montreal?” he argued.

“The wolves at the Montreal habitat are not the same species of wolf, thus they were not a match,” she explained.

“You can’t know that already,” Paquette said, his voice raising.

“The foremost expert in canine pathology and psychology has confirmed that the hairs found on the bodies are from a breed that is not common in these parts, or on this continent even,” Akia assured all of them. “The division of the Jeffersonian that Dr. Michele Arberdeen works for is a benefactor of the Winterfeld Natural Resources and Sciences grant, which supports the work of more than a dozen departments at the Jeffersonian in Washington D.C., and because of that generosity, Dr. Arderdeen was more than happy to drop everything and assist with the case. It is in the opinion of Dr. Arderdeen, and that of the Jeffersonian, which I am in complete agreement with, a wolf, or wolves, were not responsible for these deaths.”

“You can’t be serious,” he scoffed. “What are you? Some animal lover that can’t handle the thought of a precious four-legged beast of God killing people?!” he sneered.

Officer Leclair absently smacked him. “Relax,” he said, “not everyone has a hug a tree mentality for God’s critters like the animal rights groups that we have to arrest every summer for chaining themselves to trees. I’m sure the Lead has a reason why the wolf element is being excluded from the profile.”

Akia nodded; she liked Leclair because he said very little, paid attention, when something didn’t make sense he asked questions instead of simply assuming, and when he did speak without being prompted by a question, it was always asked with a sense of levelheadedness and was well thought out. “You are correct, Leclair. It is in my professional opinion that they were staged to look like animal attacks. Four years ago there was a case in the Great White North where the perp was guising his murders by mutilating the victims postmortem with gloves that were fashioned from the paws and claws of bears. It wasn’t until the fourth victim that the M.E. was able to deduce that they weren’t animal attacks. The perp had lost the tip of the knife used to kill his last victim in the ribcage and then tried to retrieve it, without success. That led to a new profile and the apprehension of the Kodiak Killer.”

They nodded their understanding. They would never admit it, but the small police department’s staff was in awe over the level of knowledge the young woman had in serial killers and her professionalism, something they never saw from the Inspector.

“At this time I am confident in stating that the perp is a white male between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five; he is impulsive but learning patience with each kill; educated but secondary education he most likely either dropped out of due to inability to focus, perhaps finding it much too tiring to concentrate on academia, or forfeited it all together; most likely he is single, however we cannot rule out that he is married and in what would be considered a relationship that doesn’t hold his interest; he has knowledge of the area and survival tactics; and he has knowledge of counter forensic measures, which means he might have law enforcement experience, or some type of correlation or relationship with law enforcement.”

That got many murmurs.

“These are not crimes of passion or sexually motivated,” Akia continued. “The perp is crossing gender and race barriers, as well as mixing it up, in a matter of speaking, by varying the age of the victims, thus causing us to not have a clear and precise victimology.”

“That isn’t normal?” Leclair asked, taking extensive notes.

She shook her head; typically she wouldn’t humor someone that just blurted out questions instead of waiting to be called on, but she admired his eager to solve the case mentality: she could relate. “No. Sadly, when sociopaths are involved nothing is normal. However, statistically speaking, vary rarely do serial killers cross the lines of gender, race, age, and so forth. From anyone looking from the outside, if this was a bigger area like Toronto, Montreal, or even Boston for that matter, these crimes wouldn’t have been linked, even with the animal attack aspect. Victim two,” she pointed to the picture of the victim on the board, “was a local that was known of but not known in the least, on this very island and town. The second victim suffered from near debilitating anthropophobia and haphephobia: fear of society or people, and the fear of being touched. That caused her to be a shut in that rarely left her home, so that means the perp is either local,” she said and whispers of disbelief filled the crowded bullpen, “or the perp happened to have come across a shut in that never left her house. If that’s the case, we have to ask ourselves where would the perp and victim have crossed paths?”

They nodded their understanding and started taking even more notes; that wasn’t something they had considered.

“We know nothing, not even the identities of the third and fourth victims, so I’ll skip them for now since the psychology of the kills will tie into them later. The fifth victim was the game changer, as they would say in the states. She was taken on the mainland, hence why only a missing person’s report was on the wire in Haven, and that means we have to look beyond just the island since his hunting grounds go much farther than initially thought. In the case of the fifth, the perp erred greatly. He was, for all intents and purposes, hunting for his next victim, and came across the very last person he could afford to find. Miss Winterfeld wasn’t local, was a tourist from high society that went for a walk, according to her personal security detail, while they got gas prior to returning to their hotel in the city. In the span of only five to seven minutes, the victim was subdued and taken, with military trained security not more than fifty yards away. That tells us a few things; one: he getting much more confident; two: he has the ability to slip undetected, even when trained soldiers are within reaching distance; and three: we should expect another victim, and soon.”

Pierre huffed under his breath, stealing Akia’s attention.

“Did you have something to add?” she asked.

He shook his head, biting his tongue.

Paquette ran interference for him with the American as usual. “Because a rich American was killed it’s suddenly worthy of American cops, and favors being called in which could cause the evidence to be inadmissible in court due to family ties to the facility and specialists that are altering the existing profile in a means that fit you. Is this nothing but a means for you, another Silent Ripper case to whore yourself and career in front of the cameras for?” he sneered.

Akia gave him a look. “Your dedication to your Inspector is admirable, though I feel as if I should warn you that it will only lead towards career suicide.” She turned to those gathered and ignored the seething Officer. “I do not work for the Haven Police Department. I do not work for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I do not work for the FBI, nor am I on loan from them. At this moment I do not even work for the Boston PD. I do not work for the Winterfelds, their attorneys, their money, or their reputations and status in society. I solely work for the victims, and I will not stop until they have found their closure by us apprehending the person doing this. They are who I work for,” she said, motioning towards the board with pictures of the five victims, “and I strongly advise that you don’t forget it.”

Those gathered looked at her in stunned silence; never had they heard anyone speak with such conviction before. The outsider to the force wasn’t simply there for another closed case in her impressive resume, or to add another captured serial killer to the ever growing list that she apparently had. Her sole reason for being in Haven was for the victims. As much as they wanted to be irritated at the Boston Officer for being made the Lead in the case, for pushing their Inspector out, for the most part, for completely rewriting the profile that they were working with—which wasn’t much—and the apparent means she was able to go through and utilize in order to stop the killing and give a voice and closure to the victims, they couldn’t. She was doing what none of them had ever been shown how to do, and weren’t expected to do.

Leclair raised his hand, and she motioned for him to speak. “Shouldn’t we give a statement to the papers?” he asked. “That would bring awareness to the public, something to help keep them protected, no?”

Akia shook her head; this was the part of the profile and plan that she knew she would get the most pushback from. “I will be the first to admit that this case is worthy of media attention, especially after the first body, however thankfully the Inspector didn’t notify the media, and the only release given to the local paper was of a drowning victim that washed up on shore, which then fed the local wolf population,” she reminded everyone. “That was smart thinking by your Inspector,” she said.

“It was?” Pierre asked, dumbfounded.

She nodded. “Yes. When dealing with a serial killer, especially one that is as remorseless as the one using Haven as a dumping ground, the media attention, more often than not, only fuels their killing spree instead of helping to apprehend him. The more attention, the shorter the high, but it’s temporarily replaced by the high of attention, of being noted in the history books of law enforcement with a media derived pet name that will follow him as if it’s a legacy. That’s why we will only refer to him as the perp and not the Wolf Beach Killer as you originally were.”

Instead of groans, the Officers that had coined the term sulked down in their chairs.

“There are reasons why we have purposely kept the killings from getting national attention,” she continued, “and I agree with the Inspector about keeping this tightlipped, however that is no longer an option. Thankfully the Winterfeld family has agreed to not speak with the media, because they don’t want it to encourage the monster that took their daughter from them, but that will only last so long before the story breaks and your small town is flooded with every media outlet in the world.”

“If anyone speaks of the case to anyone not on the case, or even with a family member, you will be fired,” de Rue said, giving the group a warning look.

“Thank you, Sir. Since we have a lot to do, I’ll quickly go over the psychology of the crimes. What we know is this,” Akia said, fingering the pendant from Damian—it made her feel as if he was there with her giving the briefing—and turned her attention to the board of pictures, “the perp is evolving. The first was most likely accidental. One cut, clean and efficient, body dumped in seawater, which was an effective counter forensic measure. The length of time between the first body and the second was nearly a month. Think of that as a cooling down period; the high of the kill finally dissipated and the guilt was replaced by curiosity.”

de Rue raised his hand this time. “What do you mean?” he asked, truly in awe and impressed, and that didn’t happen often to the seasoned officer of the law with more than thirty years of experience on the force.

Akia licked her lips, trying to find the easiest way to explain it that wouldn’t be lost in translation. “It’s an endorphin rush. The endorphins are produced during exercise, excitement, pain, sexual activity, just to name a few, and they resemble, and in this case can be comparable to, opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a high. The first kill reflected guilt; that’s why the body was hastily dumped and fully clothed. When days, weeks even, had passed and there was no one knocking on his door wearing a badge, the realization that he apparently got away with murder caused an endorphin high. But then as quick as it came, it was gone again.

“The second was the confirmation phase, to see if killing truly was that easy, and if the high he felt the first time would return. It did. But that high didn’t last as long, that’s why the time between the second and third victim was only weeks apart. The third was the discovery phase: how long could he torture the victim before they bled out or succumbed to their injuries? It was all in an attempt at keeping the high longer. He learned a lot and refined his art form. Once he knew exactly how much the body could take, he used a non-homicidal skill set and surprising knowledge that the first three victims didn’t hint that the perp possessed, to prolong the fun, and that was when he introduced synthetic adrenaline into his arsenal for the fourth victim.”

de Rue opened his mouth to ask.

“Adrenaline was used to revive his toy when they lost consciousness,” she explained, answering what he was about to ask. “In one aspect it gave the perp a God complex; no longer was he merely Death, now he could give life by reviving them. The introduction of adrenaline changes the profile some.”

“Support your argument,” Connell said, absently flipping through the file his sister put together when Pierre opened his mouth.

Akia fought the urge to growl at him, but she understood he was running interference for her. “Initially it appeared as if the perp was inept, possibly impotent due to the lack of sexual assaults and the savagery of the crimes. The second victim, seeking confirmation, only reiterated that the perp was inept and lacked conviction, guidance even. With the third he let his balls drop, in a matter of speaking, and took control of the situation and need for his next fix. He was still infantile in nature, and his skill lacked any resemblance of finesse. The fourth he apparently matured greatly in his newly honed craft, and patience was learned.”

Connell looked up at her. “Is there more than one?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “No physical evidence, or lack of evidence, points towards there being two, but we can’t rule that out either. The evidence we do have suggests that the fourth victim was held captive for days since there were signs of healing and varying degrees of bruising, which gives us a timeline of approximately five to six days of captivity before they succumbed to their injuries.”

Leclair raised his hand. “The fifth was reported missing only hours before the body was discovered. What changed?” he asked.

Akia sighed; this one she wished would have never been discovered. “The fifth had a heart condition; before the perp could play with his new toy, the stress of the situation caused cardiac arrest, and that was what killed her. Remorse caused him to panic; he tried using the adrenaline to revive her, even tried to resuscitate her, fracturing her ribs in the process. Hopefully, there will be DNA left from the mouth to mouth resuscitation I believe he gave her. We’ll know more when the samples are back from the lab. The fifth victim has provided evidence,” she said, choosing her words carefully, “that the others did not, and that was solely due to the fact that the toy died before he could play with it. The mutilation to the body was done postmortem. It was violent, reckless…almost animalistic. He lost control, for just a moment, but in that moment he left pieces of himself behind, and now we have to put those pieces together.

“It is time that we get on the defensive. The Inspector will issue a statement to the local media outlets asking for the community to keep an eye out, or report, someone exhibiting strange behavior or lurking, anything that might have stood out as unusual, even from those they know. Remember, the perp is most likely part of this very community. Also, we need to ask the locals not to shoot at any wolves or any other carnivores that roam the woods. The Island is protected land; anyone found hunting for anything not in season will be prosecuted. The last thing we need is a witch hunt.”

Again, those gathered grumbled their disagreement.

“When the public tries to take things in their own hands,” Akia reminded them, choosing her words so they couldn’t read into them more than she’d like, and to redirect their attention as Beowulf taught her, “innocent people get hurt, and that will solely be the responsibly of the police force. Sadly, because his hunting grounds, since you all are so very fond of using the wolf simile that the perp has wanted you to correlate to him and his crimes, I will humor you as unprofessional as it may be, are very broad and encompass more than can be searched by ground, or air due to the dense vegetation, we will need to focus our search efforts towards the people of the Island. Door to door interviews, I will prepare some qualifying questions, and if you need it, I will be available to answer any questions or give a beginners course in identifying a homicidal killer. Instead of focusing on victims three, four and five, we need to start at the beginning: victim one and two. Leclair will follow the paper trail for the truck driver, so we can establish a timeline for that victim. Knowing where he had been and where he was going will help us know at what point in-between he crossed the perp. Paquette will go through the second victim’s residence again looking for anything we might have missed.”

His eyes widened before they narrowed.

“He will also work with animal control and the wildlife conservationists; get a listing of all licensed pets big enough to inflict some type of damage on a human, follow up on all reports of large animal sightings, dogs on the loose, and so forth. If that proves useless, track dog food and large butcher purchases; if there is a wolf or two that have been trained to kill, they will need to be fed. And since you are confident that the wolf and animal aspect shouldn’t be ignored, you have the honor of following up on that line of thinking, and if I’m wrong, and it was wolves, and you can prove it, I’ll buy you beer. If there is nothing else,” she said, leaving it hanging.

de Rue nodded then took command of the room. “We’ll work with the neighboring districts and process the Island in grid format. I’ll reach out to Chief Superintendent Bolton on the mainland and coordinate with his Officers to follow suit. If there is nothing else,” he said, cocking a warning eyebrow.

“No, Sir,” the gathered Officers said then hurried to busy themselves.

“de Wolfe, a moment,” he said, motioning towards the Inspector’s office in the back.

Akia joined him and smirked when he slammed the door in Pierre’s face. “Sir?” she asked.

“The person of interest that Inspector Dumbass keeps bringing up, are they legitimate or is he grasping?” he asked pointblank.

“In my professional opinion,” she said, “he’s grasping. The perp might have purposely dumped the body outside of Verulfr Manor simply because the master of the estate has wolf in his name.”

de Rue nodded; that was what he was thinking as well. “Any idea what his fascination with wolves is?” he asked.

“I’m not psychologist, Sir,” Akia reminded him. “In my non-professional opinion, I’d say that it’s a means to compensate. Taking on the persona of a wolf, an alpha creature of the forest in essence, is a way to masculinize himself. Most likely he’s in an emasculated state, and this is his way of compensating. Again, that is just one woman’s opinion. If you like, I can reach out to a contact at the Boston PD that has done in-depth research into the psychology of serial killers and is the foremost forensic psychologist in my precinct. He taught me nearly everything I know.”

He smirked. “I thought I was working with Boston’s best,” he said.

Akia simply shrugged; compliments she never bothered to justify. “When he’s out of his glass-walled office, he’s unstoppable,” she said. “What I do know is that this killer is what they call hedonistic, which is one of the hardest, in my experience, to find. Thrill killers derive pleasure from the kill. They see people, all people not just those they kill, as expendable means to get that pleasure. Forensic psychologists have identified three subtypes of the hedonistic killer: lust, thrill and comfort. Sadly, this one is the embodiment of all three, and that makes him extremely dangerous.”

de Rue nodded. “He didn’t get his fix, did he?”

“No, he didn’t. Because he has no set type, we can’t warn the public. And if he is local, he’ll blend in effortlessly.”

“So we need all the help we can get,” he whispered, and Akia simply nodded her agreement.

 

 

“Did you want me to carry her to bed?” Varg asked. He hadn’t gotten the chance to talk to Akia in the week she’s been home, and it was starting to piss him off. He wasn’t sure if she was purposely staying at the precinct late in order to not have to see him at home, and that she showed up back to the estate when he was on patrol or following up on something for Beowulf was purely coincidental, but he had a feeling that it wasn’t.

Beowulf shook his head, his attention on the sleeping woman using her plate as a pillow. “Akia is mentally and physically exhausted. She needs to run, but she won’t.”

He snorted under his breath. “It’s far too dangerous for anyone to run. The woods are filled with assholes with guns salivating to kill anything that moves. Kid needs to be put on house arrest before he gets himself killed.”

Louvel sighed, shaking his head. “I will talk to him again. He is young, and he longs to follow the lunar calendar. You cannot blame him for hearing her call,” he said longingly, looking out the window towards the sliver of a moon that hung low in the sky; one more night before the black moon, and his skin already tingled with anticipation.

Gunshots in the distance echoed through the night air, stealing their attention.

Beowulf sighed. “Son, check on the others, do a head count, then check the perimeter. Stay within the fence and take a lantern with you so there are no misunderstandings.”

Varg softly growled under his breath, his attention staying on Akia, hoping that the gunshot would have woken her up so he could finally talk to her, but she continued to snore in her plate. “Yes, Sir,” he said then left the room.

“Lou, tomorrow can you and the boys make sure that the amenities in the cellar are ready?” he asked, his attention on his daughter as her eyes darted back and forth behind her closed eyelids.

Louvel nodded. “Of course. Does she still require such drastic means?” he asked, surprised.

Beowulf shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t know. But she’s stubborn, so that leads me to believe that she still fights with her. I pray that I live to see the day that she can embrace Eve instead of fight her.”

Connell chuckled, joining them from the kitchen with an apple in hand. “Don’t count on it. Those two are like two pissed off tomcats in a bag,” he said before pressing the back of his hand against Akia’s cheek. “She’s warmer than she should be; this is kicking her ass in every way, shape and form. Last night she pulled an all-nighter at the office. I was there to keep an eye on her, took a nap in the hole next to the third victim in the meat locker before she caught me, hence the lovely bruising on the side of my face from her right hook. Akia’s been going non-stop for a week. I don’t know if she’s trying to stay away from the annoying Viking or if this is how she works a case, either way it’s kicking her ass.”

They nodded their understanding.

“I’m going to take her up to bed,” he said. “We’ll sleep in my room tonight.”

“Son,” Beowulf said, motioning for him to sit, “what is going on with her? She keeps popping pills. Why?”

Connell licked his lips, fighting with what he knows to be the right thing to do in the family and what his oath says he has to do. “It’s not my place to say, Dad,” he said. “Akia is fine and is more balanced than she has been in years. She’s finally learned how to balance the two, Dad. I can’t tell you the specifics because the oath I took prevents me from doing so, and before you ask, yes I’ve seen her over the years.”

Louvel’s eyes widened, but Beowulf was already well aware of that.

“Akia doesn’t trust people, so having a doctor in the family, as awkward as it was at times for the both of us, helped to get her to where she is now. Every three to six months, depending on how she’s feeling, or if she’s had any unexpected visits from you know who, we meet up, and I do the needful as a doctor and adjust her medications and make sure that her hormone levels are where they should be. She’s a woman, Dad, and that’s completely uncharted territory. Okay?”

Beowulf nodded his understanding, so Connell pulled Akia into his arms and carried her from the dining room and up the stairs to his room.

“Trying to get pregnant or keep her from getting pregnant?” Louvel whispered.

“I do not know, Old Friend. I’m scared to ask,” he admitted with a chuckle. “Knowing Akia, it is merely a means to keep Eve as far away from her as possible. I cannot fault her for that; she is still young thus control she lacks in that sense.”

Louvel nodded his understanding. “If she did not fight her, there would not be a problem.”

“In theory,” he said. “Not all can boast such control as your young son can.”

“Control in one aspect translates to no control in nearly everything else. Have you seen his room? I cannot see the floor!” Louvel said with a chuckle.

Beowulf shook his head then pushed his hand through his falling hair. “My old friend, when did we become old men?”

Louvel refilled their glasses of wine. “The moment we took our first breaths we started to die,” he pointed out.

“Poetic yet depressing,” Beowulf said with a chuckle.

“Quand on n’a pas ce que l’on aime, Il faut aimer ce que l’on a,” he reminded him; if we have not the thing we love, then must we love the thing we have. “I fear we must prepare for the black moon…the calling will be much too strong for the children to ignore. I, myself, feel her call already, and it is still a night away.”

Beowulf nodded; he felt the call as well. “We will run in shifts with chaperones, and stay within the fencing. Hopefully Akia can steer away those that have been shooting up the woods. I will go to the station and make sure that I am seen in order to prevent the Stray from trying to tie the next victim to me.”

Louvel sighed, shaking his head. “Will you be able to withstand the call at that time?”

He shrugged. “I’ll run tonight once Varg is back. I’ll have him accompany me. That should satisfy him.”

“Ulrik would immensely enjoy running with you,” Louvel mentioned indifferently as he swirled the wine in his glass.

Beowulf chuckled. “Discreet you are anything but, my old friend. He may run with me,” he said.

“Woohoo!” echoed from up the stairs before the eavesdropping young man stumbled down the stairs, shedding clothing as he went.

The two men shook their heads in resignation, chuckling.

****

“And done,” Damian said, signing off on the last report.

There was a soft knock at his office door before Police Superintendent Manning stepped inside. “Working late, Captain?” he asked.

“Finishing up a few things before taking a long weekend,” he reminded him since Manning signed off on the request. “You sure you don’t have a problem with this?”

He shook his head, taking a seat in the glass walled office. “This used to be my home, so I have no problem with taking the reins again. With that said, I must request a change in your plans.”

Damian gave him a look. “I’m sorry, Sir, but my plans are very important and can’t be changed-”

Manning put his hand up to stop him. “I need you to head to Haven and assist de Wolfe,” he said.

“With what?” he reluctantly asked since that was exactly where he was headed.

“The case out there,” Manning said with a chuckle. “The FBI is pleased with the profile that she has put together, as is the RCMP, but I fear that her lack of a degree might cause a backlash once the case goes public. I would like to cover the Boston PD’s ass, as well as that of the FBI since they have allowed us to take the lead on this, and with your impressive resume and arrest record, as well as your degree in Criminal Justice with emphasis on forensic psychology, that makes you the one to call. I know that you had plans, plans that cannot be changed, but I am asking this as a favor.”

Damian leaned back in his chair and studied the man intently; if he didn’t know any better he’d swear that Manning knew he was headed to Haven already to see Akia, not to help in the case. “You are asking a lot of me, Sir.”

Manning merely shrugged. “Keeping those in positions detrimental to our own position happy, having the opportunity to be owed a favor to one, is not something that comes along often, so when it does you should be inclined to take it.”

“Is that a threat?” he asked.

Again, he merely shrugged then tossed a file packet on the desk. “Inside is everything you’ll need. The Winterfeld family has so graciously offered you the use of their private jet, which should get you there in only an hour, two at most.” He pulled a key off of his keychain then slid it across the desk to Damian. “If you would be so kind as to stop by de Wolfe’s place and grab her some additional clothing, and you need to pack for a month.”

Damian cocked an eyebrow. “A month?”

“You can never be sure,” Manning said innocently. “With your taste for designer, something you will not be able to get in Haven, you will need to pack accordingly in order to properly represent the Boston PD. de Wolfe shouldn’t have a problem with you stopping by her place; with her work ethic it’s as if she doesn’t live there at all. Your jet departs as soon as you’re ready thus you’ll have time to pack. If there is nothing else,” he said, getting to his feet.

“Apparently not,” Damian said and watched Manning head down the hall towards the elevators.

Instead of going to Akia’s apartment, since the only clothes there hadn’t been worn in years, he went to their loft. Damian couldn’t shake the feeling that Manning knew something, possibly about their relationship, and that he has an ulterior motive. True, nothing the man said had hinted at such, and yet could have been construed in that way, but he couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. Damian wasn’t planning on heading to Haven for a couple more days; he had an arrangement with his family he shouldn’t postpone, but now he was going to have to adjust things, including discussing some things with Akia that he wasn’t entirely sure how to bring up but wouldn’t have a choice in the matter now.

He tried calling Akia to give her the heads up, but it went straight to voicemail, so he simply said call in and left it at that. Once he was done organizing the piles of clothing on the bed, enough for both of them for the next month—not that he expected them to be there that long—he arranged his suits in a garment bag then zipped it up. The other clothing wouldn’t fit in his Louis Vuitton bag, so he headed towards the storage room in the basement of the building to find one that would.

Damian never used the basement. He hated the smell, dampness, and the dungeon feel of it, so he made it a habit to never venture to the belly of the building, as Akia called it. She flipped him much grief about it, but promised she’d kill any spiders that ever crossed his path for him since he was a sissy boy. Akia used the basement as storage; bikes, camping gear that he had never seen her actually use, and the old boiler that was replaced by a new main floor boiler that fit in the closet instead of requiring a large portion of the basement.

Once down the narrow staircase leading into the darkened bowels of the building, Damian rolled the large, steel door open then gagged when the stale, musky scent slammed into him. He covered his nose with a handkerchief then hit the light switch on the wall. Slowly, one by one, hanging workshop lights flickered on, illuminating the hallway leading under the building. Each wood-lined bay was labeled and housed various items that were neatly organized. He hated to admit it, but Akia had apparently started to renovate the basement without him knowing it. The last bay had a few oversized bags that would fit their clothing for his trip to Haven, and he started to reach for one when the sound of dripping water pulled his attention to the back, stone wall at the end of the hallway.

“I don’t remember this being here,” Damian mumbled under his breath. He touched the wall, but it felt different and warm, so he pushed against it slightly, and it moved. “What in the…” his words trailed off as he pushed the wall completely inward, and it rolled away with a groan of protest. His hand searched the inside wall, trying to locate a switch, and when he did, the room illuminated by a single overhead light, and his eyes widened.

Along three of the four walls were large, iron cells that bolted into the stone beams running the length and width of the room overhead and the rough cut granite slab floor below. Stone lined the back wall of each cell, and the sides were made up of bars that separated each cell from the next. Riveted into the granite floor were industrial sized, d-ring latches, one on each side of the cell, and threaded through each were heavy iron chains that attached to thick leather and iron collars that were waiting for a neck to fasten around.

With a shaking hand, Damian touched the bars of the closest cage, pulling back fingers dusted with dried blood. Four out of the dozen cells had barred doors barely hanging on, their hinges had taken more abuse and strain than they were ever intended to, and those cells’ bars were bowed and bent from the force of a body being violently thrown into them repeatedly, compromising their integrity, so those cells had been abandoned. He stepped into the cell that’s door was leaning against the bars, the hinges bent to the point of not being able to move anymore. His fingers caressed along the deep gashes in the stone wall; they were caked with dried blood and hair.

“Oh, Latria Mou, what have you done?” Damian whispered as a tear rolled down his cheek.

****

Gray light filtered in through the sheer curtains over the windows and illuminated the white washed room in soft light. The dreary, overcast morning veiled the grounds in a dense fog that snaked through the open window and rolled across the floor, circling the bed. The flames of the candles on the nightstands flickered and danced, filling the air with the soft scents of vanilla and jasmine. The chandelier marking the center of the room painted the bedding and walls in rainbows from the light passing through each dangling crystal.

Softly Akia moaned as she stretched, working the knots from her body before slumping back down on the mound of feather pillows behind her. The high thread count bedding felt amazing against her nearly bare skin, only the thin, cotton camisole set hanging on her toned body guised her femininity. A soft growl rolled from the base of her throat before her eyes snapped to the doorway.

“Beautiful,” Varg murmured under his breath. He stood leaning against the doorway with his thick arms crossed over his bare chest; the thin coat of golden hair covering the expanse of creamy flesh did very little to guise the strength and corded muscles underneath; his broad shoulders caused his body to form a perfect triangle of strength that pulled her attention to the patch of curly, dark blond hair peeking out from the waistband of his cotton pajama pants that hung dangerously low on his hips.

Akia gathered the blankets up around her, pulling them up under her neck. “Get out,” she hissed.

He smirked; his wide lips pulling up on one side before he started across the room.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.

“I remember the last time we were in this bed together,” he said, his voice even deeper than it usually was, and heavily laced with desire.

She glared at him.

Varg crawled up on the bed alongside her, his brown eyes moving over her face many times. “Do you have any idea how difficult it was to get the taste of you from my tongue? Your scent,” he said with a snarl before pulling his rugged nose up the length of her neck, inhaling deeply as he went, “haunts me like a demon in night, and yet during the day there was no reprieve.” His large hand pulled the covers down, caressing over one of her breasts, pulling down the delicate, thin material as he went, then growled when the small, dark pink nipples instantly pebbled. “No other woman has spoken to him as she did, possessed the both of us as you had,” he huskily whispered in her ear, his large, calloused-roughened hand sliding in the front of her shorts, and his cock twitched when his fingers caressed down the strip of silken curls.

Akia gasped; her eyes fluttered and back arched into him.

His calloused-roughened fingers teased her clit, and as it hardened under his touch, Akia’s hips slowly started rocking to match his torturous rhythm.

“We will not allow you to run away from us again,” Varg snarled in her ear before sliding his thick fingers into the moistened heat of her.

Akia growled under her breath as his fingers slid in and out of her tight depths, her hips rocking to meet each intrusion, causing him to go deeper until she was riding his knuckles.

“You are mine,” he hissed then smashed his mouth into hers and aggressively kissed her. Her eyes fluttered before they snapped open and locked on his; liquid amber burning between gold and black.

Akia’s eyes snapped open, and she struggled to catch her breath; she was overly hot, in a strange room, and wasn’t alone.

A thick arm wrapped around Akia’s waist then pulled her back into him. She inhaled deeply through the nose then sighed and relaxed into his embrace: Faelan. Looking back at him, she saw Rafe’s arm wrapped around his waist as he spooned Faelan from behind. “That is a sight I could have lived without ever seeing,” she mumbled under her breath. The blankets in front of her moved, so she pulled them back and found the disheveled black hair of Connell who was fast asleep. Soft whimpering pulled her attention to the foot of the bed where a blue tinted ball of fur slept, using Connell’s legs as a pillow, his paws treading bedding as if he was running in his sleep.

A chuckle from the doorway pulled Akia’s attention, and she shook her head. “Don’t ask,” she said.

Beowulf smiled. “But I am most certain the tale is nearly as amusing as the visual,” he teased.

She sighed. “I suppose. How did I get here?”

“You fell asleep on your dinner plate, and Connie carried you to bed,” he explained. “Fae refused to share, thus he crashed the party, so to speak. I am not entirely sure how Rafe got involved, but when I returned from my run he was cuddling with Fae, then Kid crawled up to join the party, feeling left out.”

Akia pushed her hair back from her face. “Huh, I don’t remember that. I must be more exhausted than I thought.”

His smile fell. “Can we talk for a moment?”

After the nightmare she just had, she needed to talk to someone or else she was going to completely lose it.

Carefully she crawled out of bed, covering her brothers back up before following Beowulf from the room and down the hall.

“What’s on your mind, Father, other than the obvious?” she asked with a chuckle.

“Much,” Beowulf admitted. “I am concerned about the pills you are taking,” he said, and her face dropped. “Please tell me what is going on,” he pleaded, pulling her to a stop when they reached the foyer.

Akia fingered the pendant around her neck as she struggled to find the words that would explain her actions without telling him everything, but without lying. “Father, for years I’ve been working with Connie to come up with a medication cocktail that will regulate my estrous cycle. We’ve got it pushed to every thirty weeks, which is a god sent. We also started working on something that would, hopefully, keep Eve restrained beyond the restriction of lunar phase. Due to hyperthyroidism, a standard pill a day wouldn’t work, and it wasn’t until trial and error for nearly six years that we found a combination that apparently worked: high dosage estrogen plus progestin twice a day at scheduled times. And for Eve, a high dosage of Risperdal twice a day…it’s an antipsychotic that’s used to treat people with Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder. With the help of Connie and…an outlet that shall not be named, I wouldn’t be here. I honestly wouldn’t be. If it wasn’t for them I would be a big hot mess, as Fae would say.”

Beowulf’s eyes were wide and complexion extremely pale.

“I have to…subdue myself monthly to coincide with the calendar,” she continued in an ashamed whisper. “The risk is too great, so I medicate with flunitrazepam…Rohypnol in order to attempt to subdue her, and if she gets out, it’s a means to retain no memory of it.”

Beowulf pulled her into him and hugged her tight. “I had no idea,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Akia said. “I finally have control. It took a while, but I have it now, and that’s all that matters. I’ll need the cellar for the black moon. It’s already calling out to her, and I’m not strong enough right now to do this without help, and Connie will have to medically intervene since I ran out of the house without my anti-Eve kit.” She swiped her hand across her eyes to wipe away the tears that she very rarely shed then stepped back from him. “Father, I need to ask you to do something for me without asking why. Can you do that?”

Beowulf nodded. “Always, you know that.”

She struggled to swallow the lump in her throat before speaking. “I need you to send Varg away, far, far away…only for a little bit. I cannot be around him with my approaching cycle. It is far too dangerous for me since I don’t have my outlet available. Eve is already rearing her head in my subconscious, and we don’t see eye to eye when it comes to what we need and want.”

Tenderly he patted her cheek. “If what I’m sensing is true, that will not be necessary,” he said then headed towards the dining room for breakfast.

Akia watched his retreating form; that was not the response she expected from him. She was ashamed by the means in which she goes through to fight what anyone else would embrace, but she was different than the others thus they wouldn’t understand. As much as her family was ridiculously open about everything, regardless of one or two members not saying much most of the time, and when they did you wished they hadn’t, Akia was extremely private. It took over a year before she started opening up to Damian, and even that was simply the present and not talk of the past. Strangely enough, Damian was the same way when it came to his family and past, and that level of commonality was refreshing to her.

When she left Haven, it was to get away from the past, from mistakes, and from him. Finding Damian was unexpected, but he was exactly what she needed. Now that she didn’t have him, with Eve flooding her unconscious mind with what she wants, and with her object of release being under the same roof regardless of Akia being able to stay out of the same room as him over the past week, only iterated how much she needed Damian…

But she needed him for more than simply a release.

“Damn it,” Akia grumbled and hurried after Beowulf. “Father, please don’t think badly of me,” she pleaded, entering the dining room then stumbled to a stop.

“Good morning.”

Her eyes were wide and mouth had fallen open. “Am I still dreaming?” she whispered. “A dream within a dream…that would be extremely awkward.”

Damian chuckled, shaking his head before taking a drink of his coffee. “Manning requested that I assist you with the case in Haven in order to properly reflect Boston’s finest to the media when the case is closed.”

Absently she nodded, still in shocked disbelief that he was truly there, sitting at the dining room table having coffee and muffins with Seff, Louvel and Beowulf. He looked like a waking wet dream in his gray Hugo Boss suit, white dress shirt, purple and blue silk tie, and polished Italian shoes. His hair was styled and looked like polished obsidian in the overhead lights, skin smooth and face clean shaven, slight gray circles rested under his eyes, but she knew that was from lack of sleep and nothing more, but he was still the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

“Daughter, join us,” Beowulf said, motioning towards the seat across from Damian.

Again, she absently nodded then sat.

“Eat something, please,” Damian said, pushing his plate towards her.

She took one of the muffins then shoved it in her mouth, her eyes never leaving him.

He gave her a look. “Are you okay?”

Akia started to nod then stopped and shook her head.

His face dropped. “I know, we need to talk, but it can wait. Your family has been very hospitable and offered me a room in their lovely home. Is that okay?” he asked, keeping up appearances, but it was near impossible to keep the smile threatening to fill his face from doing so and from dragging her across the table before capturing her mouth with his. “They pointed out that there are limited accommodations in town, and that they would most likely not be to my liking. And since you spend nearly all of your time at the station, I would be as well… Will you say something?” he demanded, irritated since she was apparently dumbstruck; her fingers caressed over the pendant hanging around her neck, her eyes moved over him many times as her teeth gnawed on her bottom lip.

“Hey,” she finally offered getting an eye roll and smile from Damian and chuckles from the other three in the dining room.

Faelan joined them, rubbing his fist against his eyes to rub the sleep from them, and stretching with the other as he walked. “How in the hell did you sneak out of bed?” he grumbled. “I swear you’re part ninja…” his words trailed off, and he sniffed, his head snapping in Damian’s direction. “Holy shit, he smells even better in person and helluva hotter than I initially gave him credit for.”

Damian cocked an eyebrow then smiled when Akia giggled.

“Please, oh please,” Faelan pleaded, sliding into the seat next to his baby sister, “tell me he has a bi-curious nature, or at the very least, an equally hot and well hung brother.” He batted his thick, auburn lashes and pouted his bottom lip out, trying to look adorable despite his bed head.

“A few brothers,” Damian said, “regrettably none of them will publically announce their sexual orientation if it differs from what Father deems acceptable.”

Akia’s head tilted to the side; that was the first she had heard something so open about his family, especially in the company of strangers.

“I am assuming you’re Fae,” he continued, and Faelan nodded with a pout.

Connell, Rafe and a completely naked Ulrik joined them in the dining room.

Akia’s eyes widened before she groaned and buried her face in her hands.

“Told you I had hair on my balls,” Ulrik taunted as he grabbed a muffin then flopped down in his chair. “Like what you see?” he asked, looking to Damian then wagged his brows at him.

“Someone kill me, please,” she grumbled under her breath.

Connell sat down on the other side of her then threw his arm over her shoulders. “Where would the fun be in that?!” he beamed. “What’s worse than the naked child strutting his limited attributes like a bald balled peacock in heat was waking up to Rafe and Ginger Bear spooning. That was a traumatic experience that no amount of medication can scrub from my memory.”

Rafe rolled his eyes and flopped down on the other side of the table. “It was unintentional spooning, you know that. You’ve done it before.”

He smirked. “True, but my finger wasn’t in his ass when we cuddled.”

“It was not!” Rafe shot back then sniffed his fingers. “They were not!” he repeated causing his brothers to roar with laughter.

Again, Akia groaned and reddened with embarrassment.

Beowulf chuckled at her expense.

“Will you please make them stop,” she pleaded, embarrassed that her family was acting like children in front of Damian of all people. It didn’t matter if he was her boss or not, they should have some sort of self-control when it comes to reverting to children in front of company. Damian’s family, she knew, didn’t act like that, and it made the embarrassment that much more severe. His family was high class and regarded highly in society. Comparatively speaking to how her family was acting at the moment, they were more like trailer trash that lived in a nearly three-hundred year old manor.

Louvel clapped his hands, trying to get the attention from the two that ended up wrestling on the floor while the other two took bets on who would win; Rafe or Connell. “My apologies, Niece, but they will not listen to me,” he said with a chuckle.

She glared at him. “Yes, because that was so terrifying,” she retorted and grabbed the pitcher of water from the table then dumped it on them.

They yelped and scrambled away from each other.

“Not nice,” Connell scolded, pushing his wet hair back from his face.

“And making me look as if my family is full of special needs children in front of my boss isn’t?!” Akia shrieked, throwing the silver pitcher at him. “Ugh! Grow up,” she snarled before storming out of the dining room.

They all looked at Damian, and he simply shook his head. “By all means, don’t let my presence keep you from beating on each other,” he said then stood. “Continue,” he dismissively said, tossing some money on the table. “My money is on the M.E., not the one with stinky fingers,” he said with a chuckle then headed out of the room, following the path Akia had taken.

 

 

It wasn’t hard to find Akia; she was sitting in the garden, spinning a flower between her fingers while she looked out over the sprawling estate to the thick forest beyond the protective stone and rod iron fencing.

Damian took his time joining her. She looked beautiful sitting there in just a pair of panties and one of his dress shirts, her hair slightly disheveled and sticking up from a restless night’s sleep, knees pulled up under her as if she were a child, and only the gray circles under her eyes blemished the picture perfect image of her. To him she was perfect, had some major explaining to do, but was perfect nonetheless. His brothers all had, what their father considered, acceptable trophy wives. They didn’t work, were educated but knew that their place was at home raising their children; they were commercially beautiful with personalities that were fake and grated on his nerves. Damian wanted no part of that type of trophy wife mentality especially since it didn’t work out well for his father and any of his wives.

Being the youngest child, Damian had bought his time when it came to prolonging the evitable, but then he accidentally fell into bed with Akia and his world changed. He had purposely made sure that his family didn’t know about their relationship, and didn’t know about her at all, but the anonymity couldn’t last forever.

“I’m so sorry,” Akia mumbled, plucking each petal off of the flower in her hand.

Damian chuckled and joined her, kicking his legs out in front of him. “For what?”

She rolled her eyes and made a mocking face. “My family, what do you think?”

“I think they’re hilarious, and now so much about you makes sense,” he said and she looked at him with wide eyes. “I like your family,” he continued, his attention across the rolling estate towards the thick trees beyond the fencing. “There is something about them, even the naked kid with blue hair and balls of bald steel,” he said, trying to keep from laughing, but couldn’t help it. “They are different than my family and I like that.”

Akia continued to look at him in disbelief. “You never talk about your family, not like that. What’s going on?”

He smiled and looked over at her from the corner of his eye, and she whimpered when their eyes met. “I don’t talk about my family because they aren’t worthy of accolades that don’t pertain to law enforcement since that’s the only redeeming quality any of them apparently have. Now, if I had a family like yours, I would have been much more open about them because I think they’re hilarious. Now so much of your personality makes sense.”

She sighed, shaking her head. “So I’m infantile like the two that are most likely still trying to give each other atomic wedgies, that’s just great.”

Damian chuckled. “That, that right there is solely because of your family. You have a great sense of humor, and usually I’m the only one that gets to see it, but being at your home, even if just for a few minutes so far, you let that guard down around others, and I clearly get to see you. But,” he said, turning serious, “I’ll admit that I’m conflicted on that. If you were more open and like this back in Boston, you would have grown tired of me by now and moved on.”

Akia pushed him over, shaking her head with a smile. “You’re ridiculous. I’m surprised you haven’t moved on by now.”

He smiled and sat up. “But you were just starting to warm up to me. Why would I bail now?” he teased. “Grab a quick shower, take your pills, we’ll grab breakfast on the way to the station, and you can make introductions. We’ll call it an early night and talk more.”

She cocked an eyebrow. “That sounds ominous.”

“It should,” he said in a deep tone, one that was heavily laced with sarcasm. “Go, you stink like sweaty brothers,” he teased.

Akia chuckled. “I suppose I do. I don’t think I’ve slept with all of them in one bed before…it’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds,” she assured him when he shook his head.

They headed back towards the manor, each struggling to keep their hands to themselves, but it was a losing battle.

“When I was younger,” she said, trying to distract herself from his scent and the warmth radiating from the man walking next to her, “I used to sneak into one of their rooms at night and curl up into a ball and sleep at the end of their bed. I’d wake up covered and with a pillow, but they never mentioned it and always acted as if they didn’t know what I was talking about when I apologized for sneaking into their rooms uninvited. They really are great brothers, and I care for them very much.”

Damian nodded. “I know you do. You shouldn’t stay away from them anymore,” he said, surprising her. “They are a very important part of your life, and they should be allowed to be part of your current life. I know that you had a falling out with them. I’m completely at a loss as to what happened though since they are not what I was expecting in the least and love you very much…it isn’t my place to say, but after all these years, I’m going to voice my opinion on it; you need them as much as they need you. It’s time to heal the wounds, okay?”

Akia shook her head, throwing the back door open. “Some wounds can’t be healed, and that’s all I’m going to say on the topic. I’ll meet you in fifteen,” she said then hurried up the back stairwell.

Softly he growled under his breath. “Stubborn as always,” he grumbled, taking his time to follow, but stopped halfway up the stairs then turned around. Since he was being forced to show his hand, he was going to force her to show hers as well.

When he ducked into the dining room, those gathered turned to regard him.

“I’m sleeping with your daughter,” Damian said pointblank, speaking to Beowulf. “I have been since before she was transferred to my precinct. Yes, I’m her direct superior, but we’ve kept our professional and private lives separated. We live together, I love her, and even if the stubborn woman doesn’t say it in return, I know she feels it as well. There is much that I have been keeping from her, and now I know that she has been keeping even more from me, but that is of very little consequence because I love her. I don’t want her to continue to keep herself segregated from her family. I don’t know why she has been, but she needs to figure some shit out and get over it or past it.”

Everyone turned to look at Beowulf with wide eyes. That wasn’t what they thought he was going to say, and the fact that their sister and niece had been in a long term relationship with her boss, someone that she had apparently kept much from, and he’s now telling them, which was most likely against the rules of their arrangement, meant that he actually loved Akia.

“I’ve never done this before,” Damian admitted. “For being as old as I am, and from the family I am, expressing the sentiment in which I have towards a member of your family will most likely get me an ass kicking and time out. I might be sleeping on the couch once we get home for a month, but I’m willing to risk her wrath in order to have your blessing in regards to our relationship. Akia needs to have you all in her life, and I’m starting to think that I might have been part of the reason why she stayed away so long…please forgive me for that. It wasn’t my intention, I swear it. I know that the risk is great, especially from my family, but I’m willing to risk it, all of it, for her… Akia is worth risking everything for, so I’d like your blessing on continuing our relationship out of the shadows when in the presence of her family.”

The others looked at each other before turning back to the leader of the family. They all knew that the risk was much too great, and that if Eve made an appearance and Damian was caught in the battle of wills, Akia would never forgive herself. And they also knew that cardinal rules were not something to be broken, and being with someone who those rules were created in order to protect wouldn’t work. Akia held the law above everything else, and that included the additional laws that rested on her soul simply because of who she is.

None of them needed to say it aloud to know the others were thinking the same: it needed to end, and now. The black moon quickly approached, as did the peak of Akia’s cycle, one that they had already started to sense—a first for them—and it was calling out to the beasts within them. The risk to her was great, but it was a million times greater to Damian.

Beowulf pushed his hand through his falling hair. “I am glad to hear that you love her, not pleased to know that you are sleeping with her, but what father would be?” he rhetorically asked, trying to find a way to put an end to this before things got overly complicated and possibly deadly. “Akia is very special,” he tried to explain. “And there are things about her that…” his words trailed off, not entirely sure how to say it without breaking the rules himself.

Damian raised his hand to stop him. “I am well aware of the risk,” he explained, and the others gasped; Akia broke the rules? He pulled a ring from his inside pocket, a ring that he refused to wear because of the ties associated with it, and tossed it to Beowulf, whose hand snapped out to catch it. “She doesn’t know that… My apologies, Sir, but I’m a member and heir of the Lykos of the Northeast, so I know the risk,” he said with a nod of submission before turning then hurried from the room to find Akia.

The others looked at each other then back to Beowulf.

The older man shook his head, eying the crest on the ring, a crest that he and every other in their world knew, one that solved one problem, but just created a hundred more. “Two problems remedied,” he eventually said; the black moon and approaching peak of her cycle would be difficult, but only for Akia now. “Boys, finish eating then get everything cleaned and readied since we’ll be having company.”

****

After easily finding the guest room Damian was staying in, Akia decided to use his shower since she still refused to go into her room and her brothers were in desperate need of showering themselves. She hastily scrubbed her hair, mumbling under her breath about annoying men and how they didn’t know anything. Damian was a very stubborn, proud man, she knew that and loved that about him, but he wouldn’t understand why she can’t simply forget and get past it. Where he grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, she was traded like a slave from vile piece of shit to vile piece of shit before being rescued by Beowulf. Then, just when she was starting to learn to live and experience freedom and safety, they had to ruin it. She expected that from Eve, but not him. Never did she expect it from him. And yet he did….

Akia can’t simply forgive and get over it. She had tried for the past ten years with little luck, but she was trying. It wasn’t until Damian whispered S’Agapo in her ear as she came down from a mind blowing orgasm that she realized that the past was just that, and that he was her present, and if lucky immediate future. Yes, Akia wanted to smack him for speaking Greek gibberish during sex, but the sincerity in his tone and the tenderness of his touch, it kept the words biting at her tongue back. Later, after she Googled it while Damian was showering, he came out of the bathroom to find her curled up in the closet crying. No one other than her family had ever said they loved her before. It’d been years since she hid in the closet—there was a sense of familiarity with the cramped, dark space that put her at ease when mentally not in a good place—but he didn’t ask. He simply pulled a shirt and boxers on then joined her until it was out of her system; his patience pulled her back from the edge of losing it.

It wasn’t easy, not that either of them expected it to be, but they both made an effort; a first for each of them. Trusting Damian Nikas unconditionally was a surprise, especially after everything she had gone through. Never once had he pushed her, pressed for explanations, questioned when she had mini, and a few mega, breakdowns, or thought of her any differently over the years. She needed to give him the benefit of the doubt, and trust that he wouldn’t hurt her, but it was so much easier said than done. And now that he was there, in her family’s home and had met her questionable brothers, and with the black moon approaching, and her cycle nearing its pinnacle, Damian would indubitably get hurt. She wouldn’t be able to control it or protect him from her, and if that happened she’d never forgive herself.

The tear that rolled down her cheek felt as if it was searing into her soul; she knew what she had to do.

Akia had to tell him goodbye, and that it was over, but most importantly, that he should have never come to Haven.

The shuddered breath that broke past her trembling lips was accompanied by more tears.

She rested her head against the glass tiled shower wall and fought to keep it together, but it was impossible. The thought of pushing him away was nearly as bad as the thought of telling him the truth, neither of which would solve anything. For years Akia thought she had figured it out, discovered a way to keep the balance between the darkness inside of her and the truth and her relationship with Damian. But how could it continue? The primal longing was getting hard to ignore, and there was only so long that she could guise the truth…but time ran out quicker than she thought it would.

Her hand clenched into a fist around the delicate pendant resting between her breasts, and she fought to keep from ripping it off and throwing it; it was only one part of him that she needed to rid herself of, needed to throw away, needed to leave behind. Goodbye; she had to tell him goodbye and to go back to Boston. She’d send Faelan and Connell for her things, send her letter of resignation certified mail. Manning would understand.

Before the reassurance of her sudden resolve could leave Akia’s lips, her back stiffened and her eyes snapped open, but they quickly fluttered shut when strong arms wrapped around her from behind and pulled her back into him.

“Fifteen minutes has come and passed,” Damian whispered in her ear before softly kissing down the length of her neck. “I got worried, so I came looking for you,” he continued, the unmistakable sound of a smile in his voice. “Imagine my surprise to find you naked and sudsy, waiting for me to wash your back. All you had to do was ask, you didn’t have to make a stand,” he scolded with a chuckle.

Akia shuddered again before awkwardly reaching back and wrapped her arms around his neck and forced him into her even more.

When she didn’t say anything, he pulled the tip of his nose up the length of her neck, inhaling deeply and his eyes fluttered and rolled back.

Again, her body shook slightly as a shuddered breath broke past her lips.

“Are you okay?” Damian whispered when he noted the tears staining her cheeks through the castoff of the shower spray.

She shook her head.

“Did you want to talk about it?” he pressed.

Again, she shook her head.

“Would you like some privacy?” he asked, unsure.

Again, Akia shook her head then turned around to face him. She delicately caressed her fingers down his face and over each feature; long, narrow nose, rounded cheek bones, chin and jaw that begged to be kissed and nibbled, and full lips that whispered the words of the angels into the heart of a demon and left her longing for more. She trailed the backs of her fingers down the front of his throat, taking a moment to admire the way his Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed, before continuing her exploration.

It didn’t matter how many times Akia had seen Damian naked, each time was like the first time all over again, and it caused her blood to boil, pulse to echo in her ears with deafening force, and caused an embarrassing heat to pool between her legs. Each muscle group was perfectly defined and hardened under her touch; his skin was like warm velvet; scent caused an animalistic and possessiveness to flare within her; the taste of his mouth was like a drugging nectar that she couldn’t get enough of; and the strength he possessed made her feel delicate and yet strong and his equal. His body was built and honed to be desired and worshiped, and even though she fought with him about returning the physical sentiment that his hands, tongue and cock lavishes her body with, she knew that he loved the attention she gave him. More than once she had spent over an hour trailing her tongue up and down his abs, softly kissing each grouping and teasingly blowing along the cut channels between them. She loved digging her nails into his thick thighs just to hear him hiss before splitting his knees, positing herself between them so she could maintain eye contact with him as she took him from base to tip, again and again, until he couldn’t take it anymore and somehow managed to free himself from the handcuffs she had secured him with.

Damian softly moaned under his breath. “You’re thinking naughty things, aren’t you?” he whispered.

Akia shrugged her shoulders ever so slightly before brushing her lips against his, pulling back when he tried to deepen the kiss. She shook her head, tisking at him disappointedly before teasingly nipping at his chin with her teeth, and he groaned.

His cock twitched, brushing against her thigh, longing to bury himself deep within her tight, moistened sheath, but she denied his silent pleas.

She pulled the tip of her tongue down the front of his throat, taking a moment to kiss the jugular notch before kissing down the center of his chest as she lowered herself down to her knees.

“What are you doing?” Damian asked, slightly amused but greatly turned on.

Akia looked up at him, meeting his sapphire eyes before enveloping the head of his cock with her lips then swirled her tongue around the ridge under the head.

A deep, throaty growl rolled from the base of his throat and one hand knotted in the back of her hair, the other bracing against the shower wall.

Liking the power she had over him, especially since it would be the last time she’d have it before she said goodbye, she growled in return, and his cock bucked in her mouth. Her hand worked up and down the length of his distended flesh, her grip firm just as he liked it, while the other cupped his balls so they wouldn’t smack her chin when he started thrusting his hips, which always happened when she sucked his cock. Akia relaxed her jaw and took him deeper, pulling back some to allow her throat to accommodate his impressive girth and length, before taking him even deeper. As if they were two pieces to a puzzle and fit effortlessly together, she found her rhythm and took him from tip to base and back again, over and over, until he couldn’t take it anymore and started to thrust this hips forwards slightly to meet each of her bobbing motions.

Damian’s eyes fluttered when she sucked even harder, holding his cock deep in her throat tight like a virgin on her wedding night, and it caused his body to shake with longing for release.

Akia pulled back, freeing him from her warm, talented mouth. “Look at me,” she snarled. “I said look at me!”

His eyes snapped to hers, and they narrowed before his head tilted to the side and his cock softened. “Latria Mou, come back to me,” he whispered, picking her up then pulled her into his arms and protectively held her to his chest. “Come back me.”

She shook her head, top lip snarling.

“Akia, stop!” he snapped, his authoritarian tone causing her to jump, startled. “Latria Mou?” he whispered, batting his lashes, his eyes studying hers intently.

She continued to shake, her body felt as if it was on fire, but mind numbingly cold at the same time. She wanted to be in the dark confines of a closet alone, and yet she wanted to hold onto the man holding her close, trying to keep her from completely losing it.

Damian nodded his understanding and carried her to the bedroom, grabbing two towels off of the vanity in passing. “Very well,” he said, cool and collected. “Let’s get ready for work. I’m sure that Inspector Asshole is just dying to meet the man behind the bossy, ball breaking Lieutenant from Boston. If he thinks you’re impossible to please, he hasn’t seen anything yet.”

Absently she nodded; eyes clenched shut, struggling to get the heat coursing through her body to extinguish, to slow her racing heart, and keep Her in the darkened recesses of her mind.

“Oh, I think you should know,” he continued once he sat her down on the edge of the bed then proceeded to dry off and get dressed, “that I told your family that we are sleeping together, that I love you, and that I want your father’s blessing to continue our relationship.”

And that was more than enough to snap Akia back to reality.

Her eyes shot open, and they instantly found his. “You did what?!” she shrieked.

A smile filled his face.

Mission accomplished.

“Never have the fires darkening your beautiful ocean blue eyes been such a welcoming sight to see,” Damian teased, slipping into his dress shirt.

Softly Akia growled under her breath as she hastily dried off. “You are not funny, not in the least!” she hissed.

“Oh I beg to differ,” he retorted. “I think I am hilarious. Hurry up. I’d like to see the dumpsites before lunch, and tonight we’ll talk more before I get a bite to eat.”

She flipped him off then buttoned her jeans.

Damian smirked and stepped into Akia, pulling her into him by the belt loops. “What I plan on eating is you, in case you missed the underlying innuendo, so let’s not go to the office angry just as we never go to bed angry. Agreed?”

She tried to play mad, but she couldn’t. He seemingly pulled her back before the darkness saw light, and that she appreciated and needed more than he’d ever know. “Fine, but if I find out you actually told my entire family that we’re having sex, I’m kicking your ass,” she warned.

He kissed her on the tip of the nose, and she groaned; that was his way of saying that yes, he did just that, and she’ll just have to live with it.

“I really dislike you right now,” Akia groaned, pushing out of his hold.

Damian continued to smirk. “You’ll really dislike me after I do this,” he said then grabbed her arm and bit.

 

 

“Impressive work, Officer,” Damian said, reading over the report Leclair put together cataloguing the first victim’s activities prior to his death. “These stops along the freeway, are you familiar with them?”

“Highway, Sir,” Leclair corrected. “In Canada we call them Highways, and yes. If you like I can follow up with the ferry routes along the Trans-Canada as well and see if he utilized those means for his load since his log book had been penciled in along the way and not completely accurate; in the States he was out of hours a few times, and yet he wasn’t fined.”

Damian nodded. “What was he hauling? The report isn’t entirely clear.”

“Last trailer dropped was to a mill on the mainland,” he said, reading through his notes. “A dry resin component used for the manufacturing process at that mill; they make kayaks and canoes. High end, handmade items,” he explained when Damian snorted. “I can run background checks if you like. There are only ten employees, and they are all related, so it wouldn’t be hard.”

“That isn’t necessary,” Damian assured him, trying to keep from making a face. The Officer was very thorough, but too thorough and with way too many details that are redundant. Akia used to be the same way, but after blacking out most of her reports, only leaving the pertinent information in them when he handed them back for her to redo, she quickly grasped what he was trying to teach her. With that said, Officer Leclair wasn’t one of his Officers, and this was only a stopping ground, thus he wouldn’t bother with breaking out the black Sharpie and having him redo the report. “Let me know what you find out from the harbor masters or whatever it is you call them here.”

Leclair nodded. “Yes, Sir,” he said then hurried to grab his jacket before hitting the road.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear he has a crush on you,” Akia mumbled under her breath as she looked through the report Damian blindingly handed back to her; he knew she was there and waiting for it.

“Most likely,” he agreed. “I hear that I am a hot piece of ass.”

She rolled her eyes then headed towards the stairs to pay Connell a visit since Damian was annoying her with his apparent enjoyment of the giggling, flirtatious women at the station. It was dangerous for her to run around unchecked at the moment, and she was hoping that her brother had something to give her that would keep her focused on the task at hand and to keep the fantasies of ripping the throat out of each woman that touched what was hers from becoming a reality.

“Are you mad at me?” Damian asked, following her down the stairs.

“Yes, you bit me,” she reminded him, holding her hand above her head and flipped him off.

He chuckled, shaking his head; she was ridiculously observant when she needed to be, but a complete airhead when it came to what was right in front of her of the non-case variety. “Yes, I suppose I did. Maybe I was leaving you a little something to remember that it’ll be my guest room you will be sleeping in tonight if all goes according to plan.”

Akia shook her head; Damian was being mentally exhaustive and ridiculously annoying for some reason. “Are you trying to annoy me to death?” she asked before pushing through the door at the end of the hallway.

Again, he chuckled. “No, not in the least,” he assured her. “Just trying to remind you that I’m here for you no matter what,” he said, resting his hand on the small of her back now that they were out of view of the others. “There is a method to my means,” he whispered, leaning into her as they walked. “You know me so my methodology shouldn’t surprise you.”

That was an understatement. Akia knew Damian better than he wished, but the one thing he wished she knew about him she apparently had blinders on for.

“I suppose,” she huffed, waving her rarely seen white flag of surrender. “It’s getting late. Did you want to head back? I’m starving, need to shower, and you wanted to re-walk the dumpsites before evening tide.”

“Sounds agreeable,” Damian said, reaching around her and pulled open the door to the M.E.’s office. “Did you want to eat in or go out? The intake operator was raving about a small steakhouse not far from here.”

Akia shook her head. “She was asking you out, and you were well aware of it, but if you want to get dinner with her, by all means knock yourself out. I’ll sleep in one of my brothers’ rooms.”

Damian softly growled under his breath and closed the office door behind them. When he noted that Connell wasn’t in there, he spun Akia around to face him. “Why do you sleep in their rooms and not your own?” he whispered, his eyes moving over her face many times.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said, pulling away from him. “You know there are certain things I don’t elaborate on, and family is one of them. It’s bad enough that you’ve met them, have been hit on by one of them more than once, another walked around completely naked in front of you, two others got into a wedgie war at breakfast, and you informed my father, and entire family, that we’re sleeping together. Yes, that is just lovely. Thank you for that. I thought we agreed to discuss these things, Damian. Wouldn’t you be pissed if I walked up to your father and informed him I was sleeping with his son, who coincidentally I was the boss of, and that we were living together, hiding it from everyone, and that what we have will most likely, that I will most likely, kill you?!”

Damian gave her a look, trying to keep from smiling. “I wouldn’t suggest it, but I see your point,” he said. “Let me ask you something,” he started, caressing a loose curl from her cheek, tucking it behind her ear for her. “Why do you think that what we have will most likely kill me? That you will kill me?” he asked with a smirk. “I’m armed.”

“Not always,” she said making a face. “It’s complicated, Damian. And now of all times, I mean… This isn’t the time or place to discuss it.”

“Will you discuss it with me or are you just trying to distract me in hopes that I’ll forget?”

Again, she made a mocking face. “Not anymore,” she grumbled causing him to laugh.

Damian pulled her into him and hugged her tight. “What am I going to do with you?” he rhetorically asked.

“Get out while you still can?” Akia offered, returning the embrace.

“Yes, exactly that,” he dryly agreed, softly smacking her backside. “We need to get going. Hopefully we’ll be able to pick up something now that the wind has died down at the dumpsites. And then, if you’re good, or exceptionally naughty, I’ll give you a foot rub,” he said in a deep, overly suggestive tone.

She smiled despite herself; she loved foot rubs, and they were always the start to an orgasmic night.

“Do you think your brothers, uncles and father will mind if we asked for privacy for a few hours tonight?” he asked as innocently as possible.

Akia moaned. “A quickie is beneath you, Captain Nikas, it truly is,” she purred before slapping his backside as hard as she could, and he growled in return. “I highly doubt they’d have a problem… That will be a problem,” she groaned, just then realizing that Varg would not look too kindly on her having sex with Damian in the house, and there would be bloodshed as a result.

One of the doors on the wall of refrigeration lockers swung open, seemingly on its own, before a rolling aluminum tray slid out some.

Connell pulled his black satin sleeping mask up and looked over at them. “Don’t worry about the pissed off at the world Viking. We’ll take him for a run. You two ready to grab a late lunch before checking out the dumpsites in low tide?” he beamed with a smile before pulling the tray the rest of the way out then rolled off of it. “So, what’s this I hear about a foot rub?” he teased with a face-consuming smile before pulling his shirt back on.

Damian looked from Connell to the locker and back again. “Do you do that often?”

He shrugged. “I get overly hot, and since I haven’t gotten to run thanks to all the assholes with guns in the woods around the manor, I have to find a way to expend the building heat. Not all us of can have mind blowing sex to get it out of our systems and pull us back to reality, like some people I know,” he said, giving his baby sister a mocking face.

Akia looked at her smirking brother with wide eyes; there was no way she heard him correctly, especially in front of Damian of all people!

“What?” Connell asked, cocking an eyebrow, seemingly reading his sister’s mind.

Softly she growled under her breath, and he laughed, mocking her by sounding like a cartoon villain as he wagged his brows then his tongue at her.

Damian chuckled at the antics of the two. He honestly had never seen siblings, especially those of different bloodlines and generations, act in such a way. It was refreshing yet a pang of jealousy stabbed at him because he’d never experienced anything like that with his brothers. But that jealousy was shadowed by happiness because Akia was home, finally, and a side of her that he hadn’t seen outside of just the two of them was finally being shared with others.

“Don’t encourage him,” Akia hissed.

“This pup needs no encouragement,” Connell informed her before growling then snapped his teeth at her.

“I will muzzle you,” she warned.

“I’d like to see you try,” he sang, darting across the room, out of her reach.

The look she gave him conveyed that she would shoot him if he kept it up.

Damian threw his arm over Akia’s shoulder then pulled her into him. “Let’s get you fed. Everyone knows how moody you get when hungry.”

Of course she growled at him under her breath; everyone knew she got moody when hungry, but that wasn’t what she was pissed off about, and all three of them knew it. Yes, she was tired, hungry, horny and internally fighting the evil darkness within her, but it was her brother who was apparently trying to antagonize her by speaking of the unmentionable in mixed company, as if he didn’t care of the repercussions that it would have, especially for her relationship. She was already struggling to keep from pushing Damian away and telling him to go home and that she’d send her brothers to pack up her things, but every time she started to push, he was there pulling her back.

Akia hated how well he seemingly knew her when she didn’t want him to.

Damian chuckled before kissing the side of her head. “Latria Mou, we all have our little quirks,” he said, before looking at Connell. “Did you want a ride back to the house?”

Connell made a face. “Only if you promise to keep my baby sister from ripping my throat out,” he said then wagged his brows when Akia’s mouth fell open.

“I make no promises,” Damian regrettably informed him, motioning for him to lead the way. “But I will attempt to keep you from becoming a chew toy.”

On the ride back to the manor Akia sat in the backseat since the two in the front were getting on her last nerve, and read through the reports compiled by Officer Leclair. He was ridiculously thorough, even more so than she was, and it left much to be questioned, in her opinion; when there’s nothing left to the imagination and all holes are plugged, it made one suspicious. Her reports, when new to C-11, were always meticulous because she was trying to make Manning proud of her and not regret his decision in moving her to the most sought after precincts, and impress her Captain, and trying not to make it obvious that they were sleeping together by leaving him nothing to reprimand her on. After a year of black ink covered reports with a note to rewrite the submission again, she was ready to shove that Sharpie so far up her Captain’s ass that he’d bleed black, but she soon learned that he was only trying to make her a better Detective and Officer, and she couldn’t fault him for that… And he couldn’t fault her for handcuffing him to the bed and drawing a mustache and sideburns on him with a Sharpie as retribution either. It did surprise her that he simply laughed, even after the ink wouldn’t come off of his skin completely, and simply said he deserved it, just as she deserved the black mustache he drew on her when she was sleeping a few days later.

Akia softly sighed, shaking her head as the memories mockingly replayed over and over in her head. She really did enjoy their relationship, especially Damian and his carefree and patient nature, something she was apparently the only one that got to see it. She quietly watched as Connell and Damian discussed the area, not so much the case, rather Damian was asking questions about how long the family had been there, the history behind the manor, why a talented doctor would allow himself to sacrifice their career by coming home to a small town to work as a Medical Examiner. It would have warmed her heart that the man she shared a bed and life with was seemingly getting along really well with her brother, but every word that left her brother’s lips wasn’t mentally edited and simply blurted out without regard for the consequences of his extremely questionable statements, especially considering every other thing out of his mouth was laced with canine innuendo just to piss her off.

“Haven isn’t so bad,” Connell said, waiting for the light to change. “It’s small. They think we’re vampires or warlocks or in a gay cult or some shit because we keep to ourselves at Verulfr Manor. You’ve got to love the media and how it’s warped the minds of the next generation,” he said with a chuckle, and Damian laughed, nodding his agreement.

That wasn’t normal, not in the least, in Akia’s opinion. Damian was an Ivy League college graduate with a master’s degree. He was an unbelievably good cop, and taught her nearly everything she knew. And yet he wasn’t put off or questioning any of the strange, off the wall, or questionably colorful comments and innuendos her annoying brother was spewing.

Apparently I don’t need to tell him it’s over because he’ll run the first chance he gets since my family is completely insane! she mentally huffed.

“It was about time I came home anyway, I suppose,” he continued. “When you look this good, it’s bound to leave a lasting impression. Doesn’t your family have an island or some shit where they ship all those that have outstayed their time in the light?”

Wait, what?

Damian rolled his eyes. “Oh, is that what everyone calls it? Trust me, it isn’t an island paradise. It’s much more comparable to San Quinton only less hospitable.”

Akia looked between the two curiously. If she didn’t know any better she’d swear that her brother knew more about her boyfriend than she apparently did, and the scary thing was, Damian appeared to be well aware that Connell knew something she didn’t.

“Ooh, where do I sign up?” Connell beamed, and the two laughed. “You’re rather quiet back there, Sis,” he said, looking at her in the review mirror.

Absently she nodded.

“Cat’s got your tongue?” he teased.

“No, not in the least,” she said. “I feel like the third wheel between my brother and boyfriend, that’s all.”

Again, they laughed.

“It isn’t funny,” she said. “If you don’t shut up, I’m going to tell Father on you… No, better yet, Seff.”

Connell made a mocking face and rolled his eyes. “You’re the one that’s leaving me to entertain your boyfriend. I’m not Fae, so Mr. Greek Police Officer Extraordinaire is doing nothing for what I am so very proud of in my pants. What’s with you? And don’t you dare use the copout that you’re just thinking about the case because you’re not.”

Akia flipped him off, but didn’t say anything. She hated how well her pesky brother knew her, and right now he was consciously pushing her buttons, but she couldn’t figure out why he was tempting fate at the moment.

“Don’t mind her,” Damian said. “She’s just trying to figure out how she’s going to break up with me.”

“What?” the two asked in unison.

He smiled and looked at her from over his shoulder. “Whenever you try to distance yourself, and get quiet and reflective, it’s because you’re trying to figure out how to get out of something. And at the moment, I’m assuming, that something is me and our relationship. You said so yourself that you and what we have will most likely kill me-”

“Yeah, that was just romantic as all hell, Sis,” Connell interrupted, getting a hard smack on the back of his head from his sister. “Ow!” he whined. “You already bruised the hell out of my face, and now you’re trying to give me a concussion. Not cool. Usually you’re less moody and more fun when in heat.”

Akia’s eyes widened and mouth fell open with a popping sound.

Damian shook his head. “That was very inappropriate,” he scolded, not at all curious of the very loaded statement.

“She started it,” Connell argued. “The side of my face is killing me still from her meaty fist, and you can’t say I deserved it because I didn’t. I took a damn nap, big deal. If I could simply screw the hell out of some hot piece of ass like she can, I wouldn’t need to run two times a week. Instead I have to find ways to let my wolf run without letting him run.”

“Connell!” Akia snapped at him. “Shut up!”

“You shut up!” he shot back, finally running out of patience with her. “Look at the damn arm you keep rubbing then pull your head out of your ass!” He put the car in park, turned it off then got out, slamming the door behind him.

Akia looked from her brother’s retreating form as he pulled his shirt off and kicked out of his shoes, making absolutely no attempt to hide the fact that he was about to run, to Damian. The look on his face was one of amusement. “I…” she stammered, trying to find the words.

“Yes?” he said, prompting her to continue, turning around in his seat to look at her.

She looked away from him, trying to look at anything but him, when something registered with her. She pulled the sleeve of her shirt up and her eyes widened; where he had bit was bruised and sore. It should have already been healed. Connell’s face was still bruised and slow healing because damaged inflicted by another of their kind slowly healed…

Akia looked up at him with wide eyes. “You know…” she stammered, trying to find the words.

“That you’re a werewolf?” Damian said with a chuckle, as if it was obvious, and she absently nodded. “You’re the lone werewolf, the sole female in existence,” he continued, and she looked away from him. “Don’t turn from me,” he pleaded, coaxing her by the chin so she was looking at him. “I’ve known for a long time, and what I found in the basement only confirmed it.”

Her eyes widened before she smacked him. “Why in the hell did you go in the basement?” she demanded. “You hate the basement.”

He chuckled. “I needed a bag big enough for our clothes… Latria Mou, why do you shackle your wolf?”

Akia opened her mouth more than once, but nothing came out.

For years she had waited for that day to come, the day when she’d have to tell Damian what she truly was. No man, especially a talented police officer, wouldn’t wonder why their girlfriend never aged, was never sick, healed in only minutes from gunshots, cuts and contusions as if they were nothing, ate more than seven-thousand calories a day but struggled to keep weight on, or why they chained themselves up in the basement on new and full moons or whenever their inner wolf started to surface because the beast couldn’t be trusted. No man would want to be with someone like her, and yet she seemingly found one, one that was looking at her with so much tenderness that it made her want to punch him in the face.

“Will you please say something?” Damian whispered, caressing the backs of his fingers along her cheek.

Instead of facing the problem, and it was ever more of a problem than it was before because Damian knew exactly what she was, she was going to run from it just as she had done ten years prior.

Akia got out the car, slamming the door behind her then ran. She didn’t know where she was going, or how she’d get there, but she had to be anywhere but there at the moment.

Her existence wasn’t supposed to be possible; male werewolves were the result of a mutated gene carrying father—a werewolf—and it was only passed down to a small percentage of male heirs. There was no way to make a werewolf through any other means. They weren’t venomous, a werewolf’s bite simply hurt like any bite would…

Absently she rubbed the bruise on her arm from where Damian bit her earlier that morning. He didn’t break the skin, but he left a bruise. Werewolves healed rapidly, in wolf or human form it didn’t matter, unless the damage was inflicted by another werewolf. Those took longer to heal, the same rate as it would take a human to heal, she supposed. For nearly five years she religiously studied the history and lore of werewolves with Beowulf and Louvel in the archives at Verulfr Manor, all in hopes of trying to discover the truth of her origin, of how it was possible for her to exist at all.

They found no answers.

Beowulf and the others always stressed the need for discretion, and that other wolves couldn’t know of her existence. If the Elders knew that Beowulf had hid from them the existence of a lone female, it wouldn’t end well for the family and pack. They would be eradicated, and she would find herself, once again, in a cage and on display. She would be nothing but a means to try to secure, to produce, a full-blooded werewolf.

Never again would she be in a cage or forced…

“Never again,” she whispered before she was slammed into from behind, knocking the wind from her; she rolled across the grass, coming to a rest on her back.

When the flashes of light cleared from her vision she focused on the pure black wolf standing over her, head tilted to the side to regard her, what was left of a Dolce & Gabbana tie dangled from his neck, and sapphire eyes moved over her many times.

Akia blinked rapidly, trying to clear her vision since she had to be seeing things. When werewolves were in wolf form their eyes were amber or gold, not the color of those when in human form, and yet there was no mistaking that the large eyes looking at her intently were the same eyes that she had gazed upon nearly every day for the past five years. With a shaking hand she reached up and caressed his head, and his eyes closed before a soft hum of contentment rolled from his chest. His fur was nearly as soft as the heavenly curls she absently played with in her sleep. Propping herself up on her elbows, she buried her face in his furry neck and inhaled deeply and suddenly, as if it were a mythical connection, his human scent and wolf scent connected in her mind, which would forever be with her now, and it made a complete creature.

When she giggled under her breath, as the realization that the one thing she had been desperately trying to hide from Damian was the exact same thing he was trying to hide from her registered, he pulled back to look at her curiously.

“I’ve smelled you before,” Akia whispered, looking over his wolf; tall, broad shoulders, thick, muscular thighs, wide paws, long maw with a solid black nose, and long tail that swept from side to side, waiting for her to finish her appraisal. “I thought I was going mad,” she said with a smile. “I couldn’t make the link in my head without seeing it firsthand.”

Over the past year, Akia had picked up the scent of a wolf around their home, in their home, but she could never pinpoint the origin of it. It made her paranoid for months, but Damian assured her that it was nothing, possibly she was imagining things.

She wasn’t.

Damian nodded his understanding; the connection between wolves was only there if they allowed it to be there. When in human form, werewolves smelled like everyone else, but once in wolf form, a connection is made in the animalistic side that links the human scent to the wolf scent, and that solidifies the two in the mind. Now, Akia could track Damian for miles if needed, just as she could for each member of her pack.

Damian wanted her to figure it out, he needed her to, but her more than apparent apprehension of their species confused him as much as it intrigued him. It wasn’t until two years into their relationship that he discovered what she was. At first he was terrified; a lone female was beyond disbelief. He started working later and later, sometimes staying on the couch in his office, and even spent a week at his pack’s compound in upstate New York going through the extensive library there, looking for answers.

He didn’t find any.

In a rare show of backbone, his mother, frail and aged beyond her years, not knowing what he was looking for, but could see that the weight of the world was on his shoulders, told him the answers were in his heart, and only his heart knew what he needed to do. His heart belonged to Akia de Wolfe, regardless of her returning the sentiment, and he promised his mother that he would do right by his heart.

And he did, as much as Akia would allow him.

Now there was nothing between them, other than her clothing and apparent amusement, and Damian was strangely okay with that.

“You’re a very handsome wolf,” Akia teased, and he rolled his eyes before softly nuzzling against the side of her neck. “Yes, I know,” she huffed, “stating the obvious. Why didn’t you tell me?”

He cocked an eyebrow.

“I asked first,” she argued with a sheepish smile that quickly fell, and she tried to push Damian off of her, but it was too late.

A large, sandy blond wolf slammed into Damian’s side, and they rolled across the grass in a tangle of snapping maws and fur.

“Goddamn it, Adam!” Akia yelled, scrambling to her feet. “Get off of him!”

The two wolves circled each other, growling and snarling, trying to size the other up. The sandy colored wolf was taller, broader, and thicker, but the black wolf wasn’t scared of him in the least.

“This is almost entirely your fault,” she hissed looking down at the dark brown and black wolf sitting next to her.

Connell shook his head.

“Yes, it is,” she hissed, smacking him upside the head, and he growled at her then got to his feet and ran after the smaller, blue haired wolf racing towards the other two. “Goddamn it,” she groaned.

Connell caught Ulrik and tackled him to the ground before he got stuck in the middle of the dog fight, and Rafe took his time joining them, the golden blond and white wolf plopping down on top of the thrashing blue wolf, pinning him to the grass.

“I hate men,” Akia grumbled under her breath before pulling her side arm and shot into the air, effectively stealing the attention of everyone at the estate. “Adam, crawl back into that dark hole Varg calls a head or else the next shot won’t be in the air,” she warned, leveling her gun at him.

Damian barked in amusement and slowly backed towards her, purposely acting as a block between the snarling sandy-colored wolf and Akia.

Adam wasn’t amused and followed.

Akia cocked the hammer back. “Not another step, Adam,” she warned.

The sandy wolf snarled, his dark amber eyes narrowing as they focused on his target.

“Wrong answer,” she said when he jumped, and pulled the trigger.

The bullet grazed Adam’s shoulder and his front legs buckled when he landed on the ground, shy of his target.

“I strongly suggest you stay down,” she venomously warned.

“Well that escalated quickly,” Faelan said, joining them. “Ooh, is the pure black one your man?” he mused, eying the unfamiliar wolf protectively standing between Akia and the bleeding, snarling wolf.

“If you touch my mate again,” Akia hissed, glaring at the bleeding wolf, “the next one won’t be a flesh wound. He is mine!” she snarled the latter with a menacing growl that stole the attention of all those at the estate.

Faelan chuckled, but it was forced. “So you know he’s one of us now? Good to know. Put the gun away before Seff has a bitch-fit. Dad isn’t going to be happy that you shot Varg, even if he did deserve it.”

“He’ll live,” she said in a cold, detached tone.

Faelan sniffed wildly then groaned. “Oh no,” he gasped.

Akia looked from the gun in her hand to Adam and smirked when their eyes met. “Hmm,” she purred. “It’s been a long time, Adam. We should play before the black moon,” she sinuously suggested. “Go for a run and bathe in blood.”

Damian’s head tilted to the side confused before he growled at her.

“Forgive me,” Faelan said before his fist slammed into the side of Akia’s head. He caught her body before it hit the ground then pulled her into his arms.

Damian snarled, his hackle rising as he stalked towards them.

Faelan sighed. “Trust me, this is for the best,” he tried to explain. “Varg and his annoying wolf, Adam, tend to bring Eve out in Akia. Sis would never forgive herself if Eve got out, ran around unchecked, or hurt you. This is for the best.”

The snarling, black wolf’s shoulders popped and cracked before his hips did the same and the black hair fell away, leaving smooth, muscular olive toned flesh behind. Paws narrowed and lengthened, the claws retracting to short, rounded tip fingernails. Maw cracked and popped as it retracted, the saliva glistening fangs shortened and returned to their square shape and size. Once the transformation was complete, Damian choked, struggling to shake the lingering sensations of his wolf and the heat that accompanied his presence before he erected himself.

Faelan eyed him then smirked. “Very nice,” he said. “Who would have thought my baby sister had such good taste in men. I mean… Very nice,” he repeated, his attention remaining on Damian’s virile masculinity. “Damn, it truly must be magnificent to behold when love’s sweet arrow is fully hard and standing at attention, ready to thrust into…a hot lad rocking a kilt with nothing on under it but a bow and an auburn coat that glistens like threads of metallic cashmere in the sun. Care to help me test my theory?” he purred before curling his tongue at him.

Damian gave him a look. “Stop checking me out,” he snapped at him. “In case you didn’t hear, I am hers,” he said, standing directly in front of them. “Why did you do that?” he demanded, caressing the hair back from Akia’s face, assessing her for damage. When he pulled her eyelid back, to check to see if her pupils were responsive or sluggish, he jumped back, a deep growl rolling from the base of his throat.

Faelan sighed. “They’re amber, not ocean-blue, huh?” he surmised.

Absently, Damian shook his head; never had he seen anything like it before, and it honestly terrified him more than the thought of his father finding out that his youngest son had been hiding the lone female werewolf in existence.

“Walk with me,” Faelan said, “clothing optional of course.”

Damian nodded then walked with him, his attention on Akia’s face.

Connell, Rafe, and Ulrik followed, in wolf form, just in case Adam attacked since he was currently preoccupied with healing himself so he could return to his human state.

They headed back towards the manor where Louvel, Seff and Beowulf were waiting, watching from the distance and trying to hide their concerns. In silence they went through the manor, down two sets of stairs, and into the cellar where three large, iron cells were. It was freezing, smelled heavily of stale, moist air, the granite floors were like ice under Damian’s bare feet, and he could see his breath every time he exhaled. They weren’t the first dungeon-like conditions he’d been in, or the least inviting, but at that moment he felt as if he had voluntarily ventured into the depths of Hell, but it was only going to get worse.

Faelan ducked into the center cell with Akia, laying her down on the blanket that was on the floor. Tenderly he kissed her head, brushing her hair back from her face. “I only did this because I love you, and he loves you, so he deserves to know. One day you’ll forgive me,” he whispered before kissing her forehead again then exited the cell.

Once the heavy iron door was secured, Faelan nodded then walked out of the cellar, taking the stairs two at a time, leaving Beowulf and Damian with the unconscious woman.

 

“You have questions,” Beowulf said, offering Damian a blanket.

“That would be putting it mildly,” he retorted, taking the blanket. “She…changed, that is the only way I can describe it. Her smell even changed as she stood there. She was no longer the woman I love, but…”

“Evil,” Beowulf offered, taking a seat on the floor.

Damian gave him a look. “I wouldn’t call it evil… How is she possible? How is any of this possible?”

Beowulf shrugged. “Sex, I would imagine,” he said with a chuckle. “How long have you known what she is?”

“Years,” Damian admitted, his attention on the face of the unconscious woman on the other side of the bars separating them. “Her cycle is something I actually look forward to,” he admitted with a small smile. “The sex is amazing, animalistic of course, but there’s this moment when she’s right at the peak of release that our souls entwine, and I can feel, hear, and sense everything within her that she is much too reserved to share with me. One night, she nearly went over the edge, and it was a struggle to bring her back. I didn’t know what edge she was nearly going over or what would happen, but I clearly sensed that she was conflicted about it because she was suddenly flooded with fear. I stopped, made her stop, and tried to console her. She tried to open up to me, but as quickly as the words were there, she was swallowing them again, and they were replaced by tears.”

Beowulf shook his head; he was unaware of any of that since she left home right after her first cycle.

“One time when Akia was upset,” Damian continued, “and really emotional, she lashed out and accidentally scratched me. Once she apologized, and cried some more, we were once again in a passionate embrace. When I showered, the water stung at my back and chest where she had scratched me. They weren’t healing. And that was the moment I knew that something was very wrong.

“Slightly scared… Okay, I will admit that I was terrified, so I ran from her, tried to keep myself from her by working late and spending time with my family. But it was of no use. Everything reminded me of her; my dreams were plagued by the memories of our time together; her scent haunted me; and her taste I couldn’t wash from my tongue. My mother told me that the answers lay in my heart, and that I needed to listen to my heart for once. So I did.”

Beowulf nodded. “Do you regret it?”

“Not at all. Never have I regretted anything when it pertains to your daughter. I love her,” Damian assured him. “I would die for her, and when my father finds out, I just might.”

That, oddly enough, gave Beowulf comfort and might have prevented a war between packs for the moment.

“We don’t know where she stems from,” Beowulf said in a soft tone. “Son, stop eavesdropping,” he called out.

A blue-tinted wolf lopped the rest of the way down the stairs then sulked into the cellar and flopped down next to Beowulf.

Tenderly he rubbed his furry blue head. “You can stay until Eve comes,” he offered.

The young wolf nodded.

“Eve?” Damian asked.

“That’s what my daughter calls her wolf,” he explained. “She has no control over her, none, and that terrifies Akia. When I found her, it was purely by accident, and she was terrified and confused, backed into a corner and nearly killed me, but I took a chance and gambled on her.”

Damian swallowed the lump in his throat. “Where did you find her?”

“While dealing with an issue one of my lovely sons had found himself neck deep in while in Cambodia, I heard whispers of a travelling show that was unlike any other, and for the right price a man could play with the talent.”

Ulrik whimpered.

Beowulf caressed his head. “I know, Child. I went solely with the objective of killing them all… My patience has only been achieved over the years because of righting my moral compass, and burning a child sex trade sideshow to the ground would have been compass righting to say the least. However, when I got there, I was too late.”

Damian nodded; his sole attention on the face of the woman he loved as she shivered and convulsed on the floor. “What did they do to her?” he managed to ask.

“Honestly? I don’t know,” Beowulf admitted. “By the time I got there all I found were corpses; men, women, children, and werewolves strung across the darkened club. It looked as if a savage pack of rabid wolves had attacked, ripping each person limb from limb, entrails were wrapped around throats that no longer bled, eyes were gouged out, hearts were all missing… Never in my centuries of life had I seen anything so gruesome. Since there were no children or wolf survivors, I turned to leave, and that’s when I caught a strange scent.

“In a darkened corner was a tiny creature, one that was so covered in filth and blood that it was nearly unrecognizable. I couldn’t tell if the creature was a female, but there was no mistaking the burning amber eyes locked on mine and the menacing growl rolling from their throat. Clutched in tiny, clawed hands was a heart, one of many devoured that evening, I suppose, and the little creature was ripping and tearing at it with tiny fanged teeth, feeding as if they hadn’t ever eaten before. ‘I will not hurt you,’ I whispered, and they growled at me even more and scampered away from me, the partially eaten heart clenched between their teeth, moving in a defensive crouch as if sizing me up for their next meal. ‘I can take you away from here where no one will ever touch you again,’ I promised.

“Sadly, there was no way of reasoning with the creature, and when I accidentally backed it into a corner, I made the mistake of reaching for them, and they attacked.” Beowulf pulled down the collar of his shirt, and Damian’s eyes followed the motion before widening; blemishing his light tan skin were soft pink scars from fangs and claws, the smallest fangs and claws that he’d ever seen, but the intent was very clear: she was trying to kill him. “Much like Fae had, I resorted to violent means to subdue the amber-eyed creature. Once back to the villa, Seff tended to my wounds while Louvel tended to the tiny wolf I brought with me. When Louvel joined us, all the color had drained from his complexion, and he looked as if he was faint. At first I thought the tiny demon had done something to him, his hands to the elbows were covered in blood, but it was not his… He had bathed the child while they were unconscious and that was when he made the discovery that the tiny wolf was a female.

“Seff demanded that we kill her, that it was a bad omen. Louvel got drunk, his way of dealing with problems. And as much as I wanted to agree with both of them, I couldn’t. There was something about her, something beyond her gender, that made me curious. Her eyes were those of a wolf while in human form, that I had never seen outside of in the throes of transformation. When I went to check on her, the room was apparently empty. She was nowhere to be found-”

“The closet,” Damian interrupted.

Beowulf chuckled. “Yes. She was huddled in the closet, the fear radiating from her nearly dropped me to my knees, and when she looked up at me, her beautiful ocean-blue eyes caused tears to flood mine. With only a look, she bewitched me—mind, body, soul, and wolf—and I knew that I had to risk everything in order to protect her at all costs. It was a fight, Seff was adamantly against it, but I am the Alpha, and he was still the Beta. After nearly a month, she was able to stop gorging herself with so much food that she’d throw up before trying to eat what she vomited in fear of starving again. We watched and waited on the new and full moons, but she merely slept as if she was in a coma. Finally, I was able to convince her to board an airplane and it would take her home.

“The boys were terrified of her, with good reason, I suppose. Connell poked and prodded her, ran tests and did a genetic workup. The tests confirmed she was like any other werewolf. Over the first few years she grew and put on weight, the effects from the malnourishment she was subjected to corrected itself as expected in a werewolf, and she took that form,” he said, motioning towards the unconscious woman. “Even though she was in the body of a woman now, she was still a terrified little girl. The first year she didn’t speak, not once. For five years she never made eye contact with people and would flinch away from someone if they moved too quickly or in a means that could be construed as violent. Her system started to align with the lunar cycle, it took years, and when it did we got the grave misfortune of meeting Eve’s acquaintance.

“At first I wasn’t sure what to think of it,” Beowulf admitted, sounding reluctant to speak of it. “The boys were excited to get to run with their baby sister, but that excitement quickly turned to terror when she did unmentionables… There was no cardinal rule that Eve did not long to break. When we pressed the matter, Akia had no idea of what we were talking about. To her, she merely sleeps when the wolf takes over.”

Damian gasped; that was completely insane and unheard of! Never did he think that it was even possible. “They are one in the same,” he argued.

He chuckled. “To one that boasts from the strong bloodline that you do, you wouldn’t be aware of the struggle that some have with their inner wolves. Varg’s wolf is Adam, the first of his bloodline; born from a recessive gene father. This little guy,” he mused and tousled Ulrik’s furry head, “has unprecedented control over his wolf like you do, and enjoys changing at whim, doesn’t feel the siren like call of the moon, and his wolf only longs to play, not hunt. He has made Louvel very proud of him.”

Ulrik rolled to his back and shook his legs.

Damian shook his head; this was all very strange to him. His pack was completely different than Akia’s, and he wasn’t entirely sure how to handle that.

“Connie, Fae, and Rafe, they have control over their wolves, but the call of the moon still speaks to them. Connie struggles with keeping his wolf contained. He has to run a few times a week in order to keep from overheating and losing control. When he does lose his hold on the wolf, it isn’t bloody. Usually he’s horny and you’ll find him peeking in windows or getting laid…don’t ask. Even though control comes with age, and they are relatively young, some struggle with it their entire lives, hence our lovely cellar…” his words trailed off when groaning came from the cell. “We’ll leave you two alone for now. You’ll know when Eve presents, you’ll be able to smell her. I can have Fae and Rafe take shifts watching her tonight so you can run.”

Damian shook his head and crawled over to the cell then reached inside, his finger just barely able to caress her hair. “I have no need to run,” he said. “I will watch after her. She is mine…if she’ll have me.”

Beowulf nodded then stood. “Come on, Kid. Let’s give them some privacy, and I’ll make sure that Louvel is around if they need anything.” He turned to Damian. “I’m going to the station with Seff. Tonight the Stray will strike again. There is no way he’ll be able to withstand the call, even I am struggling with it, so that should, in theory, give me an alibi. If you need anything, either of you, just yell. Louvel will be here if you need anything.”

“Thank you,” he whispered, and they left the two alone, closing the cellar door behind them.

****

Softly Akia groaned, rubbing the side of her head that apparently stopped Faelan’s fist. There’s only one thing that would have caused her brother to punch her, and that was what she was terrified of: Eve.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

“For what?” Damian asked, caressing her head.

Akia rolled over, closing the distance between them more and struggled to focus on his face. “You know very well why I’m apologizing,” she grumbled, closing her eyes. “I didn’t want you ever meeting that bitch, and yet you did… Fuck, did I shoot Varg?” she groaned. “That is so not going to end well for me.”

“He’ll get over it,” Damian assured her. “He’s been fighting with his brothers since we came down here. He wants to come down, but your father told him he wasn’t invited and his services wouldn’t be required.”

Again she groaned; that was one fight she wished she could crawl away from in the concealment of night.

In all fairness, a flesh wound was the least painful of the long list of pains she wanted to inflict on him. But hearing my mate from her lips terrified her since it was automatic, and yet it felt right. The look in Adam’s eyes, they were Varg’s eyes looking at her in pain and shock, but he couldn’t honestly have believed that she would come home to stay and be with him again. If Varg did, then he was delusional in every sense of the meaning.

“Damian, can you leave?” Akia asked, looking away from him.

“Why? Because you’re ashamed of Eve?” he asked.

“I’m ashamed of many things,” she admitted, pulling his hand from her head then brought it to her mouth and kissed it. “She’s a darkness that I cannot control, and I know that she’ll hurt you simply because I-”

“Someone once told me,” he said, interrupting her; he didn’t want her first I love you, if that was what she was going to say, to be because of guilt, “that normal people have no idea how beautiful the darkness is. And your darkness is just as beautiful as your light, you just need to find the bridge between the two. If you want help finding that bridge, I’ll do whatever I can to assist you with it, so you can take pride in the other mask you are forced to wear.”

Akia hated it when Damian got overly poetic when being reassuring. It made it near impossible to tell him no. It was ironic that he spoke of it as a mask one wears because he, himself, wore a half-dozen masks, all of which she had seen firsthand but only three she enjoyed: Captain Nikas mask, werewolf mask, and home with her mask. Somehow he brought out the sides of her that she never knew existed, and it pissed her off, but at the same time it felt as if the wolf side was starting to lose the power she once had over Akia.

“Did you want to talk about the case to pass the time?” he pressed when she didn’t say anything.

The choked burst of amusement that broke past her lips made him smile.

“The case is the last thing I want to talk about,” she admitted, “but now I can openly talk about it with you, and you won’t think I’m completely insane.”

“Because of your heightened sense of smell?” he teased.

“And ability to sense a lie,” she said, and he nodded his understanding.

“Involuntary response and reactions aren’t the easiest things to pick up, even for werewolves, so you should take pride in the fact that you can read people as well as you do.”

She looked up at him and met his eyes, the blush creeping up her neck felt like fire under her skin, but she knew the heat wasn’t from her wolf side trying to run free. “I learned it from you,” she whispered then kissed his hand again. “You are an exceptional teacher, even when you don’t mean to be. The Oliver case,” she said with a chuckle, “I was trying so hard not to bust into the interrogation room when you were grilling that bastard, and throwing you on the table before I did naughty, naughty things to you in front of him and the cameras.”

Damian smirked. “I know,” he said, rather smugly. “I could hear you from the other side of the glass, and smell you and how turned on you were, that’s why I was grilling him as hard as I was, as you put it. I only needed ten minutes with him, but what I was doing to you was so much better than putting a murderer behind bars.”

Softly she moaned; perhaps there were four masks of Damian that she enjoyed: the cocky, sexy, overly confident mask was most agreeable in the bedroom.

“Did I ever tell you when I knew I was in love with you?” he asked after a stretch of silence.

“I’m scared to ask,” Akia admitted; she hated talking about those types of things because it made her feel guilty that she couldn’t say it back, even though she knew in her heart that she loved him, she was just too terrified to say it aloud then have him not feel the same in a few months, weeks, days, or hours even.

“You should be simply terrified,” Damian agreed. “I had spent four days with my pack, my family in essence, and Father was giving me a hard time because I hadn’t taken a wife in order to have an heir.”

Her eyes widened, and scrambled away from him to the far side of the cell.

“Stop,” he said, realizing that his choice in wording triggered her flight or fight instincts. “Latria Mou, that is not what I meant. I was fighting with my father because he thinks I should be married and have heirs by now. I told him that I was content with my life, career, lack of position in the pack, and living in the city. When I left, heated and on the verge of losing it and going for a run, I walked into the loft and found you curled up on the couch with a book in hand and fast asleep. You had stayed up waiting for me, not even sure if I was coming home or not, but you waited. There was something so beautiful about you at that moment; hair pulled back in a lopsided, messy ponytail, the little drool dribbling from your parted lips as you softly snored.”

She glared at him.

“But ultimately, it was the way you looked at me when I crawled up on the couch with you and pulled you into me. You opened your eyes and smiled the softest, most reassuring smile I had ever seen, and that moment all I could think about was how much I loved you and couldn’t imagine coming home and not seeing that smile. You held me all night on that ungodly small couch, and I listened to your heartbeat, committing it to memory… I swear I could pick it out from a crowd of thousands since I know it so well. It greets me nearly every morning, and lulls me to sleep nearly every night.”

Akia relaxed some and tried to remind herself that not everyone wanted to capture her, wanted something from her, but it was hard to convince herself since she was currently in a cell, in heat, a black moon approached, and the object of her carnal desire was sitting on the other side of the bars completely naked.

“I hate when you’re romantic, especially when I’m in a cell, in my father’s basement, and the man I want is sitting naked not more than eight feet from me,” she said, making a face.

“I’ll attempt not to make it a habit,” he assured her with a wink.

“I’ll remind you that…” her words trailed off and were replaced by a scream of agony.

“Akia!” Damian shouted, getting to his feet.

Frantic, she ripped and tore at her clothes, trying to free herself before she completely changed. As if an invisible force was in the cell with her, Akia flew through the air then slammed into the back wall of the cell before collapsing to the floor. Her body violently shook and she clawed at the ground, collapsing each time she tried to get to her knees. She gasped and choked, her body heaving as if trying to expel the demon within her; spine lifted upward, pulling and stretching her skin as it did, before snapping downward with a sickening pop that nearly caused Damian to vomit. Blood trickled from Akia’s nose and saliva dripped from her chin before the cracking of bones echoed throughout the cellar; her maw elongated, teeth sharpened and tore through delicate gum tissue, razor sharp claws busted out the ends of her fingers and toes before her hands and feet widened then tapered into paws. She cried out in pain, but it quickly turned into a howl of agony as fine hairs exploded from her smooth skin, covering the light tawny canvas in a coat of white and light brown fur.

When the transformation was complete, she collapsed on the ground in a puddle of her own blood and saliva, and struggled to catch her breath.

Damian stood there wide-eyed; never had he seen a transformation that was so painful before. It should have been effortless, especially because she was older, but it was as if he was watching her first transformation. The pain and fear radiating from her emanated from each of her pores and coated Damian’s skin and tongue; and each labored breath she took, whimper and cry of pain, caused his heart to break.

Young wolves felt the transformation more because their bodies weren’t accustomed to the change, and more often than not they fought it. The older a werewolf got, the more they understood their body and that of the wolf constantly inside of them. Some viewed it as a partnership, but it wasn’t, not in Damian’s opinion. The wolf was an ever constant part of you, when you fought it, separated yourself from it, permitted it to have its own identity, then you were nothing more than a vessel and slave to the wolf.

Never would he be a slave to a master again.

“Akia?” he whispered, reaching in the cell, trying to touch her head.

Her eyes shot open, the amber and gold appeared to be glowing, and she snapped at his hand, luckily he was faster and pulled back before he lost a finger.

The amber-eyed wolf slammed into the bars, maw ferociously snapping at the man on the outside of the iron enclosure.

“Akia, stop,” Damian scolded with a smile, making sure he was out of reach of her snapping maw and swiping claws. “You can beat her, you can control her. I know you can. Please, fight her.”

Eve snarled at him then started pacing the length of the cell and back again, her narrowed eyes on the man trying to take away her control.

“This isn’t you,” he continued.

She barked at him, a short, sharp bark of warning.

“No, I won’t shut up. She is mine, just as I am hers, and our relationship has no place for you in it,” he warned with a growl.

Eve slammed her body against the bars again and again, trying to find a weak spot, but found none.

“The cell will hold you,” Damian said, trying to keep from yelling at her for the damage she was indubitably doing to Akia’s body.

She snarled at him.

“I didn’t know you were a wilk,” he continued, taking a seat on the floor then wrapped up with a blanket. “It has been decades since I’ve seen a Polish wolf. They are rare…maybe that is why you are female?” he speculated aloud, anything to keep the snarling, growling, blood thirsty werewolf across from him from doing anything else that would hurt the woman he loved. “I doubt it though. The Polish wilks that I had the pleasure of meeting were very wise and patient. This one, Adalbert Wolkwitz, he was a very amusing creature, endearing and patient, and his comedic timing was even more awe-inspiring than his knowledge in Western European packs and lineage. For five years my father subjected me to Adalbert’s tutelage. I only word it as subjected because I acted as if I didn’t want to go, that I hated it and wanted to go home, all in order to hide the truth from Father: I loved it. Adalbert’s pack was much like yours, only much larger. Children freely ran around, no one hid their wolf, and they were affectionate. Adalbert had seven wives, which I thought was six too many, but they loved him and each other very much and enjoyed the smaller pack residing within their home… A pack within a pack, one of his wives called it,” he said with a chuckle.

Eve glared at him, her top lip snarling up over her fangs.

For hours Damian sat there talking, rambling at times, all in an attempt to pull Akia to the forefront of her wolf’s mind, but Eve was stubborn and strong. A part of him speculated, which caused a sense of understanding, why Akia and Eve were two very different creatures, apparently; Eve was without conscience and protected them, and Akia was the level-headed and sane one between the two. He didn’t want to, but he honestly pitied her because of the apparent severe confliction within her, which would create the two very different personalities. He had questioned for years why she took such high dosage of Risperdal when she wasn’t crazy in the least, but he was starting to realize that Eve might be.

Damian looked at the pacing, snarling wolf, his heart heavy with sadness. “I will teach Akia how to control you, Eve,” he warned, questioning his sanity for a brief moment because he was talking to her as if it wasn’t the woman he loved.

Eve growled before slamming against the bars, her maw wildly snapping and claws sweeping as she tried to get at him.

“Akia is stronger than she knows,” he informed her. “I know she is. She will beat you and take control of her wolf, or I will,” he warned.

 

Varg softly snarled under his breath as he paced the length of the living room and back again. Connell was called to the latest body just outside of Haven. Louvel was drinking wine, watching the smaller, blue haired wolf hop around and spin in circles, expending what was left of his lunar energy. Rafe was listening to the police scanner, trying to pick up any chatter that might help point them in a direction since the two in the cellar hadn’t emerged even though the sun had been up for over an hour.

“Uncle, I am going to punt that blue-haired mutt to America if he doesn’t sit down,” Varg warned.

Ulrik growled at him then started jumping up and down even more, spinning in circles on his hind legs as if he were a trained bear at the circus simply to antagonize the sulking Viking.

Louvel chuckled. “He is merely trying to get you to play with him. You have been in an absolutely bitter mood since catching our guest’s scent.”

Varg growled under his breath. “If I would have known that silly girl was entertaining an heir of the Lykos, I would have ripped his throat out the moment I had the displeasure of catching his scent!” he said, his voice carrying rather well throughout the stone-walled manor. “You know the risk,” he continued, his pacing resuming. “If the Alpha of the Lykos, if his father, discovers Akia and Eve, they will take her and try to use the lone female as a bitch for breeding. I’m sure he already knows!” he yelled the latter. “They are just waiting for her to let her guard down. How could she be so foolish as to sleep with the enemy?”

Ulrik looked to Louvel; he was confused.

“Nephew,” Louvel said with a heavy sigh, “the Lykos are not the enemy. They are merely a very large pack with very deep and extensive roots, and are much respected in the werewolf community. They know of the wolves of Haven, and yet they do not press our presence being so close to their territory-”

“We were here first!” Varg interrupted, and Ulrik growled, his hackle rising. “Zip it, Pup.”

Louvel patted the wolf’s head, trying to calm him down. “We were first on the Island and in this remote territory, that is true, and the Lykos spread from the Central and Southern regions until they had ultimate control over the Northeast, but they could have easily taken our territory if they longed to do so.”

“Arno Manikas of the Lykos is a patient wolf, one that doesn’t fear anyone or anything, especially a small pack like ours,” Varg argued. “And now an heir is under our roof, and we’re to simply entertain the bastard as if we are beneath him?”

Rafe chuckled, joining them, and tossed the notes he’d taken from the police scanner to Louvel to look at. “The only one under him is little sister,” he pointed out. “That’s what your major malfunction is, Brother. He seems nice, dotes on her and…there is something in the way he looks at her that tells me he isn’t a threat.”

“Sizing her up for auction, you mean,” Varg snarled.

“Oh yes, because everyone wants a psycho bitch and a police officer that knows thirty ways to kill a man without a weapon,” he retorted, rolling his eyes. “Speaking of, how’s the arm? You’re lucky it was only a flesh wound.”

Again, Varg snarled; he was still in disbelief that Akia shot him. He had pictured, in his head, them reuniting in a different means, one that had less clothing involved and passion to the likes of nothing he has experienced with any other female before. The taste of her, the warmth of her body, and the scent of her skin still haunted his dreams, leaving him painfully aroused in the morning without an offer of release. The few women he had entertained for a passing moment, mainly in an attempt to sate his sexual urges to prevent his wolf from doing it, could never satisfy that primal need.

Only Akia could, and he wanted that back.

Seff and Beowulf hurried through the front door and into the living room.

“Where is Eve?” Seff demanded.

Louvel sat up taller. “The cellar; she and Damian have not emerged yet. What is wrong?” he demanded.

“Did she leave the manor at all?” he pressed, rubbing his bald head.

Ulrik shook as if trying to shake out his fur before it fell away all over the area rug then stood, erecting himself. “No. I sat in the stairwell all night. Her man spent hours reassuring her that he would help her overcome Eve, and that Akia is strong enough to control her… Eve is her wolf, right? Like the Viking asshole named his Adam, hers is Eve?”

Beowulf nodded then he and Seff went around and closed the interior shutters on all of the windows on the main level, assuring them as much privacy as possible.

“Eve is her wolf; the name means first,” Rafe explained, watching the other two move around as if ready for war. “Akia means first as well… Father is amusing like that when it comes to the simplicities in life. She didn’t leave,” he said, turning to the Alpha. “Her scent isn’t present, obviously.”

“Not by the backdoor, sunroom, or any of the windows,” Seff confirmed.

“They haven’t left that icebox in the basement,” Ulrik said, looking between them confused. “Last I heard he was unlocking the cell once snoring came from within. After that I started running around the house to piss off the grumpy one. What’s going on?”

Beowulf looked around. “Where’s Fae?” he asked, noticing that one of his sons were absent.

Rafe smirked. “In the carriage house,” he said. “After his run he got into the whiskey, danced his naked ass to the carriage house then passed out in the backseat of the forty-six Ford.”

Seff growled; he’d have to detail his precious car once the drunk, naked Ginger Bear got up.

“When did he turn in?” Beowulf pressed.

“Two hours ago,” Louvel said. “Boy, go check on your brother again.” Once the young man was gone, he looked to Beowulf. “My old friend, what is going on?”

Connell entered through the back door, locking it behind him, then pulled his shirt over his head as he headed towards the laundry room. “They found another body,” he called out; the stench of the Stray was all over his clothing from moving the latest victim, and it was starting to bring out his wolf in a territorial means. “We knew it was going to happen, the black moon was too much to withstand, but he struck outside of Haven, beyond our borders.” He stripped out of the rest of his clothing, throwing them in a sealed bag, double bagging the clothing to keep the scent from spreading around the manor then started scrubbing his hands and arms in the utility sink with soap. “It was a young man, fifteen years old; blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.” He stuck his head under the tap to scrub his hair, neck, chest and shoulders.

Varg growled, loudly, irritated that his annoying brother was more concerned with the stench of the Stray then telling them what had transpired.

When Connell finished cleaning up, he joined the others, drying his hair with a towel with one hand and spraying some air neutralizer with the other. Once the house smelled of imitation cotton and spring rain, he motioned with his chin for Rafe to light some candles just in case; the risk of Eve visiting unannounced if she caught the scent wasn’t something he had time for. “The Stray didn’t play with the latest victim, and didn’t even attempt to hide it,” he said, mentally exhausted. “A scent was all over the body, as if he rubbed up on him, every inch of him and his clothing… He isn’t hiding anymore, and apparently he’s bored now.”

Varg glared at him. “Why the concern of Eve’s location?” he demanded.

“Well,” Connell started, pushing his hair back from his eyes, trying to push the thought of Akia doing this from his mind, “cause of death points towards our little sister’s questionable wolf-side: the heart was removed.”

****

Softly Akia moaned and sluggishly blinked, trying to clear the haze from her mind. It was freezing in the basement. It usually was, but she was overly hot from the body stretched out the length of hers from behind. One of Damian’s arms was wrapped around her waist, pulling her into him, holding her protectively to him, while she used his other arm as a pillow. It had been a long time since she’d woken up from a lunar cycle feeling rested instead of drained, and only her shoulders and hips were sore; most likely it was her body that bent the bars outward so that was to be expected.

What wasn’t expected was Damian.

For the first time in her life, when Eve was present, Akia was able to catch glimpses of what was happening. It shouldn’t have been possible, but considering Damian was involved it made sense. There was no mistaking that Eve didn’t like him in the least, and when he refused to play her game and kept a level head, soft tone and showed saint-like patience, it caused Eve’s hold to wavier, and Akia caught a glimpse through her eyes. Each softly spoken, reassuring word that left his sexy mouth caused more of Akia to surface, and for the first time in her life, she believed that she might indeed be stronger than the wolf.

Contently she sighed and snuggled back into his strong form even more and smiled when his instantaneous arousal stabbed into her backside. The black moon, the extra new moon in the month, fell on the peak of her estrous cycle, which she thought was a bad omen, one that Damian rolled his eyes about when she pouted about the approaching lunar event. It was as if he knew what her qualm was, as usual, and was trying to reassure her that everything would be okay.

Damian Nikas was the extremely annoyingly reassuring type.

The primal urge to consummate in a raw, sexually charged mating every cycle, every seven months like clockwork thanks to the medication cocktail that Connell had perfected, nearly made it impossible for Akia to think of anything else when it peaked. It was an inconvenience in Akia’s life, but one that Damian made tolerable with his ability to seemingly sense when her cycle was at its pinnacle and selflessly offered her an outlet for a sexual release. As much as she hated that, she needed someone, especially for something so extremely private and primal that she had no control over. She loved that it was Damian who seemingly answered her body’s silent call, and she could never thank him enough for it…

Now she just needed the words to leave her lips.

After Akia’s first cycle, she never thought she’d be able to handle that type of compromising situation again, but Damian made it a mind blowing, physical mating between two strong, independent creatures. The first night they met, she was trying to drink away the urge to have aggressive, animalistic sex with the first man that caught her eye—it had worked before in the past—but when Damian walked into the bar, a scowl on his face and hair matted to his head from walking in the rain while trying to clear his head, the primal side took control, and she wanted him more than she had ever wanted anyone before. When another female whispered to her drunken friends that he would be coming home with her tonight, he just didn’t know it yet, possessiveness flared in Akia, nearly bringing Eve to the surface. She followed the skanky blonde to the bathroom when she went to freshen up before pouncing on her unknowing target. Akia slammed her head into the tile wall then hid her unconscious body in the electrical closet.

Nervous, scared, and not entirely sure what to do, and terrified that he wouldn’t stop if he agreed to be that outlet, Akia lost the battle of fear over need and joined him at the bar. Without a word, she motioned for another round for him and one of whatever he was drinking for her, then to leave the bottle. They sat in silence, well after last call, neither saying anything or looking at the other, but her wolf was hyperaware of the man next to her. On a subconscious level she had to have known that Damian was a werewolf and had an insatiable wolf inside just as she did, but her rational minded side refused to entertain the childish hope and dangerous notion. When the bottle was empty, she tossed some money on the bar then stood. ‘You’re coming home with me tonight, so get your jacket,’ Akia heard herself saying before she realized it, and to her surprise, he nodded and joined her, and the rest was history.

A deep moan of satisfaction vibrated Akia’s throat, and an intense heat of arousal pooled between her legs.

Damian softly growled under his breath before nuzzling against the side of her neck. “Are you actually awake or are you simply torturing me in your sleep again?” he grumbled, sleepily.

“If I say yes will I get a spanking?” she whispered with a giggle.

“No need to lie for a spanking,” he reminded her before kissing behind her ear. “How are you feeling? Does your wolf still speak to you or is she contained?”

She made a face, even though he couldn’t see it. “She’s caged, more so than the one we’re in. I know there was another body.”

He nodded. “Most likely, and you are well aware that there was nothing we could have done to prevent it. The territory is too vast and his scent has been too scarce on the bodies for even our noses to pick up.”

“I’m well aware of that, but it doesn’t make it easier to accept… Thank you for staying with me last night,” she said. “I wish you wouldn’t have. I never wanted you to see that side of me, regardless of you being a werewolf as well, but I appreciate it.”

Damian rolled Akia over to her back then slid up on top of her, splitting her knees then positioned himself between them. Tenderly he caressed her head, his eyes moving over her face many times. “You are a very complicated creature, Latria Mou,” he eventually said. “The things you are hell bent on struggling with alone is infuriating as your, I believe you called it, mate.”

Akia groaned. “Shut up. That was a slip of the tongue.”

“But it was a slip because you feel that way,” he said, hoping it was true.

She sighed. “Yes, I suppose it was,” she admitted, and he smiled wide. “Don’t go getting a big head over it.”

He leaned down and caressed her lips with his. “It isn’t a revelation,” he whispered, pulling back when she tried to deepen the kiss. “I’ve always known how you feel. Those beautiful lips of yours don’t need to speak the words in order for me to hear them. I always hear you, Latria Mou, even when you don’t make a sound.”

Akia nodded, trying to keep the tears flooding her eyes from falling; that admittance meant much more to her than he would ever know, and caused what was left of her stubborn will to crumble. She rolled them over, pinning his arms above his head then aggressively attacked his mouth with hers. She slid down his strong, muscular body until his cock brushed against the dampness between her legs.

“Look at me,” Damian demanded.

When their eyes met she smirked; he liked to look at her when they made love.

“May I have the honor and privilege?” he asked.

Instead of answering, she slammed her hips down and he entered her fully, his hips rising to meet her with a driving thrust. A shiver raced across her skin as her moist sheath tightened around his cock, causing him to hiss. A content moan rolled from the base of her throat when Damian continued to lift his hips to meet her, sinking himself into her, again and again, setting a tempo that might break him, but he couldn’t imagine a better way to go.

****

Those gathered in the living room turned to regard the sound coming from the barred cellar door tucked away behind the staircase.

Varg snarled before storming out of the room, the back screen door smashing against the house so hard that it splintered and broke free from the hinges in the process.

“Are they doing what I think they’re doing?” Ulrik asked, vacuuming up the blue and black hair he had gotten all over the Oriental rug.

Connell nodded and returned his attention to the preliminary report on the sixth victim in his hands. “She’s in heat. I’m surprised you didn’t notice.”

He gave him a look, turning the vacuum off. “Ew, that’s nasty. Why would I want to know if she’s on the rag or not?”

Louvel shook his head. “Not menstruating…I do not think. Doctor?”

Connell rolled his eyes. “I have to agree with Kid; I don’t want to think about my baby sister’s cycle. It’s bad enough that I’m her damn doctor, and we’ve had some extremely awkward talks and exams, but I’m guessing that Kid is too young to pick up on it, as of yet. It’s nothing that noticeable unless you’re older, and even then it isn’t something that screams out to fuck your sister. It’s just a subtle change in her scent. Nothing major,” he said, trying to explain it in a means that wouldn’t get lost in translation or compromise his sister’s trust in him. “Internally though, for her, it’s another story. From what she said, there is an uncontrollable urge within her. Think of it as needing to run, only instead of running she needs to get laid. They’ll be completely useless to us for the next eight hours… At least that was how long she said they were going at it with her last three cycles.”

Ulrik scratched his head. “Eight hours of what?” he asked the obvious since there was no way his brother was saying what the young man thought he was hinting at.

Connell looked up from the file and smirked. “Eight hours of going at it like hot and horny dogs in heat, imagine that. I might have to give Damian a Vitamin-B shot or two. I prescribed it to Akia for her outlet since that’s a marathon fuck session even for a werewolf. Fae will need to whip up some carb heavy food and bring it down in a couple of hours with a case of bottled water.”

The young man looked back to the cellar door, his eyes wide. “Dude, that can’t be normal. I mean, those commercials on the television say to seek medical attention if an erection last more than four hours. There has to be a reason for that type of warning, right?”

“Not a conversation I am in the mood to have with you right now, Kid,” Connell said, returning to his report. “Why don’t you go wake Ginger Bear and let him know that he’ll be needed in the kitchen.”

Ulrik groaned then sulked towards the door.

“Boy, put some pants on,” Louvel scolded.

“Why is everyone so concerned with me swinging in the breeze?!” Ulrik complained, throwing his hands in the air in frustration, not so discretely pelvic thrusting so he’d swing even more.

Louvel shook his head with a chuckle; the blue haired young man truly was amusing in ways that should be criminal.

“Just because we have company, another werewolf here, doesn’t mean that I should have to put pants on,” Ulrik whined. “Connie isn’t wearing clothes, and in my non-professional opinion, the risk of paper cuts to his mangina is great,” he sneered before sulking up the stairs to his room.

Beowulf shook his head, joining them from the library.

“I am scared to ask,” Louvel said, “but what is a mangina?”

“Man-vagina,” Connell said, kicking his legs out and rested his feet on an ottoman.

Louvel shook his head; he knew better than to ask.

“Kid has a point,” Beowulf said, taking a seat on the opposite end of the couch. “It is one thing to run around naked in nature or the yard, but sitting naked while writing a report on a leather couch that company uses, and your brothers on occasion when they pass out from drinking too much, is a bit disturbing.”

Connell smirked but didn’t say anything; the latter was the reason he was sitting comfortably nude with company in the house.

“That is disgusting,” Beowulf scolded with a chuckle. “The scent you reeked of is unknown to us,” he continued once Ulrik was outside, complaining loudly as he went, and Seff closed the door behind him. “When the two preoccupied in the basement have concluded their… Can you please put something on?” he groaned.

Louvel chuckled and went over to the record player and hit the switch.

When Maria Callas singing Giacomo Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro started playing, Beowulf nodded his thanks; listening to his daughter have sex was the last thing he wanted to listen to.

“What changed?” Louvel asked. “This latest victim, it is greatly different from the others, yes?”

Connell made a face. “The others didn’t have their hearts ripped out,” he stated the obvious. “Other than the obvious, it doesn’t feel right. There is something… I really wish the two in the basement weren’t humping like dogs in heat, I really do. It’s as if we’re dealing with an entirely different perp now.”

Seff joined them with a pile of books in hand. “I’m in agreement with you,” he said. “The latest, it is as if the Stray was pissed and just killed to kill because the Lead in the case said that he would.”

That was exactly how it appeared to Connell as well.

The latest victim wasn’t dumped in water; he was left in a parking lot next to a truck. The only damage was to the ribcage from the removal of the heart. The precision suggests that it was done by a clawed hand, something that he wasn’t aware was even possible.

“I think we’re dealing with an Apprentice and Master,” Connell eventually said. “Perhaps the first kill was accidental like Sis thinks, and the second was his confirmation phase, the third was discovery, but the fourth was refined with the skill that only a Master would have. If I didn’t know any better…” his words trailed off when the front door opened.

Beowulf nodded his understanding.

Ulrik came running in the house, taking the stairs three at a time without slowing, slamming his bedroom door behind him.

Faelan chuckled, strolling into the house, closing the door. “Good morning,” he greeted with a lazy smile, his eyes half-mast, and the smell of whiskey rolling from him. “I don’t know why he doesn’t like to hug it out when in the buff. It’s stimulating for all heads involved,” he said with a chuckle.

When the others didn’t laugh, he looked at them curiously.

“What happened?” he asked.

“Another body,” Connell said.

Faelan scratched his head with one hand and his hairy chest with the other. “I thought that was to be expected?” he asked, confused.

“Heart ripped from the chest,” Seff said.

“Eve?” he asked the obvious.

“Never left the cell,” Louvel said.

“If it wasn’t Eve, and we knew there would be another body on the black moon, why the somber looks?” Faelan asked, unsure as to why the tension in the manor was so thick that you could cut it with a spoon. “What am I apparently too hung over to grasp?”

Beowulf shook his head, not entirely sure how to address the situation. “The Stray turned into an Apprentice when a Master apparently sought him out,” he said.

Faelan cocked an eyebrow. “In Haven?” he scoffed. “How in the hell would a Master have come across a Stray in Haven of all places without us knowing it?”

“Not all have crossed our paths,” Seff reminded him. “We don’t travel the country or world, not even our territory, simply to track down Strays. Our pack is not big enough, nor do we care enough, in order to do that. Remember, Fae, it isn’t our job to protect humans from our kind. It’s our job to protect the pack from them. Protect the pack at all costs.”

Connell made a mocking face; he’d heard Seff’s fuck everyone but the pack speech for decades and had never been one to completely agree with it or that attitude.

“That is enough,” Beowulf scolded. “Fae, can you please shower, get dressed, stop harassing Kid, and make something high in carbohydrates for the two in the basement? From what her doctor has suggested, they will be indisposed for the next,” he looked at his watch, “seven hours-twenty-three minutes.”

Faelan gave them a look. “What are they doing down there?”

“Having animalistic sex,” Connell said, as if it were obvious. “I think we need Damian’s nose on this one. His pack is much, much bigger and more connected than ours, so he might be able to identify the new scent. Dad, Lou and Little Black Hitler, please go through the records for any similar Modus Operandi; similar progression of kills and rapid refinement of them, body counts might vary so look beyond that. Also, if they were caught, contained, or neutralized doesn’t matter… Holy shit, I sound like my baby sister,” he groaned the latter, just then realizing it. “I am totally kicking her ass for this one. I’m a half-ass doctor, a bored medical examiner, not a damn cop.”

Faelan shook his head, heading for the stairs. “Connie, wasn’t it you who introduced little sister to Sherlock Holmes?” he teased.

Connell flipped him off.

“Never mind him, Son,” Beowulf said with a small smile, trying to hide the pride flooding him because his son was finally stepping up and taking control of the situation like a mature adult. “Sherlock Holmes was my favorite as well. Louvel, Seff, join me in the library,” he said, and got to his feet. “Son, put some pants on and join us. We have a little over seven hours before the two experts join us, so that gives us time to compile what we can in order to make their job easier.”

They nodded their understanding.

 

“How’s your ass?” Akia asked as she pulled a shirt over her head, watching Damian dry off with a towel after a long, stimulating shower, before fastening her necklace around her neck, tucking it under the collar of her shirt so the pendant rested between her breasts.

He rolled his eyes. “I’ll live. Those needles get bigger and bigger every time. I swear you’re trying to kill me.”

She smiled wide; almost nine-hours of passionate love making was nearly enough to sate her animalistic urges. “The bruise is nearly gone,” she assured him, admiring his firm, muscular backside and thighs as he pulled his briefs up.

“Stop admiring me as if I’m nothing more than a piece of meat with an impressive cock,” he grumbled under his breath before shaking his backside, causing her to roar with laughter.

There was another body, they were sure of it since the others were held up in the library and Faelan said nothing when he opened the door to the cellar, slid a basket of food and jugs of water inside then closed the door behind it. Another victim should have concerned them, but they knew it was going to happen, and there honestly was nothing they could have done to stop it. Even if Akia wasn’t fighting against Eve and the allure of the lunar cycle, and wasn’t at the peak of her cycle and in need of a sexual release, the Stray’s hunting grounds were too great to effectively patrol. Also, the risk of one of them coming across the Stray on their own, possibly resulting in them losing their life, was much too great to risk in both of their opinions. It was a sad reality, and extremely hard to accept since the two of them swore an oath to uphold the law and protect the innocent, but protecting the pack took precedence. It wasn’t their jobs to protect humans from their kind, it wasn’t their job to protect werewolves from humans, but it was their job to protect the pack at all cost. Even though the two were from different packs, Damian gave his allegiance to Beowulf and his pack when he presented the Alpha with his birthright in the form of his pack crest ring; he would protect Akia’s pack and family with his life if it meant protecting her from heartache and loss.

“I’m hungry,” Akia complained as she watched Damian get dressed; her jeans, shirt and boots took minutes compared to his three piece suits and bathroom pampering ritual that took an hour in itself.

“Yes, I know,” he said, buttoning his dress shirt. “You haven’t had nearly enough calories to replenish what you burned. If you like you can head down to the dining room; it smells as if your brother is nearly ready for an early dinner service.”

She gave him a look. “Are you preparing yourself for having to go in front of those at the office?” she asked.

He chuckled. “Yes. Usually I get a couple of days to recoup from my favorite time of the year,” he teased with a wink, “but this time I have to face the world while only running on two cylinders, as my grandfather used to say.”

Akia’s face dropped. “I’m sorry. Did you want to take a nap?”

Damian snorted. “Latria Mou, usually we sleep for twenty-four to thirty-six hours after such passionate love making. This time we don’t have that option because there’s a Stray that is trying to start a war with your pack. Why? I don’t know, but I have a feeling that if we don’t take care of it, and quickly, the Covenant will not turn a blind eye for much longer,” he regrettably informed her, tying his necktie in the mirror. “I’m surprised they haven’t sent a representative… Huh,” he said, stopping in mid-tie.

“What?” she asked, joining him then taking over tying his tie.

“They sent me,” he said, watching her. “It’s nice to know that someone of control in our shadowy world has enough faith in me that they’d actually take the time to tell me I’m doing their job for them.”

She didn’t miss his sarcasm or tone.

“I’m sure father of the year had something to do with that…” his words trailed off, and he shook his head. “My apologies.”

“Your filters elude you with exhaustion as mine do,” she reminded him, smoothing the lines of his suit jacket down for him. “It’s okay. If needed, I can run interference for you at the precinct. You can stand back and be the sexy eye candy that you were born to be,” she offered then growled.

Damian chuckled and hugged her tight. “I’ll make sure I keep that option in the forefront of my mind. Let’s eat then your brother can drive us to the station.”

“Understood Captain,” she said, getting a smack on the backside in return.

****

Faelan had the dining room table filled with more food than a small army could eat, but Akia was going to try her damnedest to consume it all. Her family sat and watched her gorge herself on rare steaks, blood sausage, black pudding, and crubeens. Damian was upstairs making a couple of phone calls and promised to join her momentarily. Once the smell of the food hit her, she completely forgot everything else but her need to eat.

“Huh,” Ulrik finally said and loaded his plate up with whatever wasn’t in Akia’s reach, “I think I know why there are no chick werewolves: famine would have killed us all if there were.”

Connell laughed. “True. She burned over twenty-thousand calories in that little hump-fest in the cellar. I’m surprised she can walk, in all honesty.”

“A bit saddle sore,” Akia agreed, talking with her mouth full. “Nipples are sore as well, but nothing a cotton bra can’t help soothe, in case you were wondering.” She smiled as she chewed.

Connell shook his head. “Oh yes, because your tiny titties are one of my biggest concerns,” he sneered, making a face.

“They aren’t tiny,” Varg mumbled under his breath as he joined them from the kitchen. “Like the rest of her, they are perfectly sized. Are you okay?” he asked, looking at Akia as he took a seat across from her. “I was concerned because your boyfriend is notably absent, and in case you didn’t catch the tone, I was using that term very loosely.”

Akia rolled her eyes and continued eating. “He’ll be down when he’s done making some calls.”

A deep, menacing growl rolled from the throat of the hulking man across from her. “Touching base with his pack you mean,” Varg sneered. “You do know what his Alpha, his father, will do to you once the opportunity presents, don’t you?”

She gave him a look. “Give me two enthusiastic thumbs up for giving his little boy the best sex of his life?” she sneered.

His brown eyes widened before they narrowed and his nostrils flared. “No, he will fuck you mercilessly until you produce a full blooded heir for him!” he yelled.

Akia’s eyes widened before they narrowed.

“That is enough!” Beowulf said with a loud, primal growl of authority that instantly caused their mouths to snap shut. “You will mind your tongue and show Akia and Damian the respect that they, and their relationship, deserves.”

Varg growled and got to his feet.

“Sit!” Beowulf snapped at him, so he did. “I do not know what the animosity between the two of you is,” he said, looking between Akia and Varg, “but this is where it ends. Until this Stray is dealt with accordingly, and with discretion and proof of death for the Covenant, you will put your differences aside and work together in order to achieve the dire task in front of us. Varg, you will stop antagonizing Akia and Damian, you will show each of them the respect they deserve, and you will not meddle in their relationship. Young Master Nikas has pledged his allegiance to our pack, something that his Alpha will not look favorably upon, so you will leave him be. And Akia,” he said, turning to her, “stop shooting Varg, regardless of him deserving it or not. We are a pack and family, and before your absence the two of you were very close.” He raised his hand to stop her when she opened her mouth. “I do not need to know why that is no longer the case, but you need to put your differences aside in order to tackle the case which is in front of us. Once the Stray is taken care of, you may return to Boston with our blessing.”

Akia looked at him with wide eyes; she was expecting a fight before she left again. Having her father’s blessing would make it easier to go, and left the invitation of coming back open for when she needed to take it. “I’ll attempt to keep my sidearm holstered, but I make no promises that it won’t accidentally discharge in his direction.”

Beowulf nodded. “Terms accepted. We will continue to go through the records that we have regarding your brother’s hypothesis on this latest victim… Where is Damian?” he asked.

She looked towards the stairs, concern clearly washing across her face. “I’ll check on him. Connie can drive us to the station.”

Ulrik smiled. “Can I come?” he asked.

“Why?” she guardedly asked.

He shrugged. “I’m bored. They won’t let me run, said I have to wear clothes since we have company… I have a really good nose,” he offered.

Akia groaned and pushed back from the table. “Sure, why not? Let’s make a family outing of it?!”

“Sarcasm totally noted, Sis,” Rafe said, and Faelan nodded his agreement.

Ulrik pouted.

“Go put something on that’ll make you look older, and I’ll pretend you’re a specialist or something,” she said, motioning for him to get moving.

“Yes!” he hissed then ran past her as she started up the stairs, and hurried to his room to change.

Akia simply shook her head; obviously she was much more exhausted than she realized if she hadn’t shot Varg for his comment at the dinner table and allowed the blue-haired young man to join her in the middle of an investigation without much coercion on his part. “Hey Captain, I was talked into having a rookie along for the ride,” she said, pushing open the bedroom door. “Now isn’t that inconvenient,” she mumbled from the doorway.

Damian was sitting on the edge of the bed, elbows on his knees, chin resting in his hand, and was fast asleep.

“Fae?” she softly called out.

When her brother joined her, she motioned with her chin.

“That is adorable,” Faelan cooed. “That suit is hot. Damn, Sis, help me find a man that dresses that well and smells that damn good.”

Softly she smacked him in the back of the head. “He’s mine,” she reminded him. “Help me get him comfortable. When he wakes up… If he wakes up, let him know I’ll be back shortly, and that I just went down to the precinct with Connie and Kid to check out the latest body and run interference for us.”

He nodded. “What’s wrong with him?”

Akia smirked. “Nine hours of nonstop, mind blowing sex, and ten back to back orgasms—he got me to seventy before I lost count—tends to do that to a person,” she mused.

Faelan looked at her with wide eyes. “Oy, I’m a bit chubbed up at the thought of being able to cum that many times in a night. He can kick me back doors in any day,” he said with the thickest Irish accent she’d heard in a long time.

“Why do I bother?” she groaned.

****

Pierre slammed his office phone down then got to his feet, his chair rolling out from under him with such force that it nearly embedded itself in the wall behind him. “Paquette, Leclair!” he yelled, storming out of his office. “Leclair!”

“Sir?” Leclair asked, hurrying to meet him.

“Have you heard from Boston’s finest?” Pierre sneered; they were notably absent and that made him suspicious.

Paquette made a face from his desk, smacking his computer screen, trying to get it to turn on. “What’s wrong, Inspector? Finally realizing that I was right when I said that they were hiding something and most likely had something to do with these murders?”

Pierre glared at him. “Leclair, find them.”

Just then, the door opened and Connell, Akia and a blue haired young man wearing a suit walked in.

“Where in the hell have you been?” Pierre demanded. “There was another murder, another body dumped, and you and Captain Nikas are suddenly missing. That’s a bit suspicious if you ask me,” he said, and no one missed his accusatory tone.

Akia gave him a look. “Sir, I was briefed on the latest victim. Captain Nikas and I were out all night with some local volunteers staking out the existing dumpsites in case the perp revisited them for nostalgic reasons. After sunrise, we went with a couple of local survival guides into the thick of the woods, following up on possible leads that have been trickling down the pipeline from the door to door interviews your officers were doing. Captain Nikas is following up on some leads and will be out of cell range for the rest of the evening. I, myself, did not realize that we were out of cell range, otherwise I would have touched basis with you prior to heading out. My apologies, Sir. It won’t happen again.”

Pierre looked at her skeptically, but he couldn’t tell if she was lying or not. He hadn’t thought to stake out the previous dumpsites. “Did you find anything?” he asked. “And who in the hell is that?”

Ulrik smiled.

“A specialist that will be able to help with my ignorance of the area,” Akia said. “I need the findings from your Officers for the first four victims, a map, and colored push pins.”

Still skeptical, but without options, Pierre nodded with his chin, and Leclair hurried to get the items she requested.

While Ulrik color coordinated the pins to each victim on the map of the region, Akia read over the reports. It was a struggle to stay awake. She wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed with Damian and sleep for the next week, but she knew that Pierre would be knocking on the door to Verulfr Manor looking for her if she didn’t show up to work on the latest body. Hopefully Damian would be conscious by tomorrow and could take the reins while she got some sleep.

“It’s a circle,” Ulrik mumbled under his breath, stealing her attention from the partial report in her hand.

“What’s that one?” Akia asked, pointing to the out of place pin far from the others.

“I used black because I don’t know which victim it goes with,” he said under his breath, much too low for the humans to hear. “There was a penciled in note on a Post-it, but I don’t think anyone followed up on it. Most likely it has to do with the first victim, at least I think it does because that’s the weight station.”

Akia nodded. “Inspector,” she said, turning to regard the irritable man, “am I to believe that the statements from the bodyguards of the fifth victim are only a page long?”

Leclair looked at her curiously. “No, they were ten pages each,” he said.

She handed him the folder.

“This isn’t right,” he argued, looking through the report. “Each statement was very detailed with timelines that were verified accurate down to the minute. It must be misplaced. I’ll print you out another, Lieutenant,” he said then hurried to his desk and woke up his computer.

“Did you want to look at the body?” Pierre asked.

“In due time,” Akia said, flipping through the report on the first victim again now that Leclair drafted a timeline of events for the truck driver.

Curious, Pierre joined her. “Is something wrong?” he whispered.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Something feels off.”

“Sir,” Leclair said in a panic, “my reports are missing. All of them. Someone deleted everything regarding the case that was on my computer!”

Akia looked to Connell, and he nodded then hurried to his office to check his computer as well.

“You did this, didn’t you?” he accused, looking at Paquette.

“I can-” Ulrik started to offer, but Akia shook her head.

The two stood back and watched the anything but composed Officers and Inspector run around trying to figure out what happened and who was responsible. Akia hadn’t entertained the notion that the man they were looking for might have ties to the police department; it was a jump and a half since nothing pointed in that direction. She was confident that the breech wasn’t professionally executed, and that the data Ulrik would be able to recover once she let him loose on the system, thus standing back and watching gave her an idea of who the culprit might indeed be.

Paquette stood back with an amused look on his face as he drank his coffee, shaking his head. There was something about the Officer that didn’t feel right to Akia, something that she needed to investigate.

Connell joined her. “Accounted for,” he said under his breath. “Kid heavily protected my system here with some blue-haired electronics hoodoo voodoo so everything is there and unaffected by this breech.”

Akia nodded, her attention on Paquette still.

“What are you thinking?” he pressed.

“Either a leak or someone is trying to make the others look bad,” she commented, just as quiet. “I’ve seen that type of petty bullshit before, but never on a case of this magnitude. I hate to say it, but we’ll need Captain Nikas for this one. Do you think you can give him something to get him up and motivated?”

He nodded. “I could.”

“His cheek is already bruised from the B-12, so refrain from that injection site,” she said.

“Where’s the fun in that?” he mused then headed for the door.

“The last person that used my computer was Paquette,” Leclair said, loudly, causing everyone to turn to regard the amused Officer by the coffee machine.

Paquette gave him a look. “The Inspector told me to use your computer because mine broke,” he reminded him, waving towards the blackened screen on his desk. “And all I did was type up my report that the American requested on meat purchases, which was a gigantic waste of time. You can’t blame me for corrupting your system with porn or whatever it is you look at when no one is watching, Officer Gold Star.”

Leclair gave him a look. “Gold Star? Oh, I apologize for wanting to do a good job and to help catch the person that is killing people. But you are the only one on the force that apparently doesn’t give a darn if we catch him or not. Why is that? You’ve done nothing but be defiant and negative since the first body turned up. You even laughed because of the second victim.”

“Did you smell her?” Paquette said, shaking his head. “It was a mercy killing, I hate to say, but it was.”

Ulrik reached down and jiggled the power cord on the back of Paquette’s computer and it booted up. “Fixed it; it was unplugged,” he said with a small smile, trying to keep from laughing.

Pierre shook his head. “My office, now,” he said, motioning for Paquette to lead.

“This is bullshit,” the irritated Officer complained. “I have done nothing but what those ball breaking, bossy Americans have made me do, and yet Leclair is the victim as usual. That’s just lovely. This is why I want to transfer to another district.”

When the office door closed, Akia looked to Leclair.

“I apologize for that,” he said, blushing. “He’s not the easiest to work with, and he really liked the previous Inspector that retired before me and Inspector Pierre came here.”

She nodded. “You came together?”

“No, Ma’am. I transferred a few days after the Inspector was reassigned. It wasn’t… Sorry, Ma’am, I’m gossiping when I shouldn’t. I’m going to check out the sixth dumpsite again because I think we missed something.”

“Want company?” Akia asked; she needed to see the sixth dumpsite anyway.

Leclair blushed and looked away from her. “I don’t want to impose,” he said. “I’m sure you have lots to do, as well as go over the report from the sixth body.”

“I’m the one that’d be imposing on you,” she assured him. “If it isn’t too much to ask, can we grab some coffee? There’s an espresso stand not far from here, right?”

He nodded with a face-consuming smile. “Melody at Bean Me Up Espresso makes the best lattes. You’ll have to try a Wake me up Maple Bacon scone with a toasted almond latte. It’s the perfect way to start the day.”

“A quad I could use,” she said. “I’ll meet you in the car. I just have to touch base with my specialist first.” Once the office door closed behind Leclair, she turned to Ulrik. “I want to know what was deleted from the system. I’m assuming you can do that.”

Ulrik chuckled. “Yeah, not a problem. Are you going to be okay with him? I mean, I know you’re a bad ass and all, but Connie thinks that there might be a second person involved, a master and student type thing.”

Akia cocked an eyebrow. “When did you hear that?”

He blushed. “I was eavesdropping again when I shouldn’t have been. The sixth victim, from what the others said, lacked any type of correlation to the others. The heart was removed by something Beowulf called Iron Claw.”

Her eyes widened.

“I’ve never heard of it before, but the gasps from the others hinted that it might be really bad.”

“It is,” she agreed. “It is forbidden, but I didn’t know any Masters existed that could execute, let alone teach, the move.”

Ulrik snorted. “Sounds like a shitty kung fu movie.”

Tenderly she patted his cheek. “Fist,” she said, holding her clenched hand up in front of him, “is nearly the same size as a paw. Correct?”

He nodded.

“Iron claw,” she whispered, opening her hand, “is wolf claw in human hand form.”

His eyes widened.

“Very few can do it, according to the history books, and usually it takes decades or more of practice, of having absolute control over their wolf, otherwise it can leave them disfigured or handicapped, losing the ability to change or lose the use of their hand all together. The Covenant have forbidden it because it is a violation of nature and God; you are either wolf or you are man, but you are not both at once.”

Ulrik nodded his understanding. “So there really is a Master and Apprentice,” he surmised, and her eyes flickered to the closed office door where the two men were loudly arguing inside. “I’ll keep an eye on the moody two while recovering the data. Connie should be back within an hour… Are you going to be okay?” he asked again.

“I need something stronger than black coffee,” Akia said. “I’ll be back, most likely before the other two. I’ll check in with you in twenty minutes to see how it’s going. If Pierre flips you shit, bust out with the techno mumbo jumbo that’s biting at your tongue.”

He smiled wide.

“I’ll be back. If anything of the wolf nature shows up, don’t announce it. Captain Nikas will be able to twist it into something that points towards human in nature. Okay?”

“Understood, Sir,” he said, saluting, getting an eye roll in return.

Once the door closed behind her, Ulrik slipped out of his jacket and took a seat at Leclair’s computer then went to work.

 

“Help me get his pants off,” Connell said, struggling to free the unconscious man’s snake skin belt that most likely cost more than he made in a month.

Varg gave him a look from the doorway where he stood watching. “Did you mistake me for Ginger Bear?” he asked.

“Shut up and help me,” he groaned. “Akia said that she needs his ass back at the precinct, and I have to agree that this has taken a seriously bad turn for the worse with files disappearing and an apparent leak in the department that’s trying to cover their tracks. Apparently Leclair might have come across something that the Stray wants covered up. I wouldn’t be surprised if Leclair was the next victim; the man doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and is so optimistic and keep the peace minded that it’s sickening.”

Varg growled. “And you left Akia and Kid there alone?!” he shouted, storming into the room to throttle his little brother.

“She’s armed and a cop,” Connell reminded him. “She wouldn’t do something stupid like run off with the Stray in order to take care of it on her own… Shit, she isn’t going to do that, is she?” he asked.

A loud whistle pulled their attention to the doorway where Faelan stood with a smile. “You know, this would be so much hotter if I was invited and three of the four weren’t straight,” he said.

Connell shook his head, filling a syringe with Vitamin B-12 mixed with adrenaline. He hoped that Damian wouldn’t attack them after being rudely woken up, but the man was completely useless at the moment, and Akia needed him.

“I think his pants need to come off even more,” Faelan said before biting his little finger.

Varg growled at him.

“Fine, but that is an impressive cock that I wouldn’t mind impaling myself on,” he teasingly sang before heading down the hall.

Connell ignored his singing at the top of his lungs brother in the bathroom down the hall. “I mean, Leclair isn’t a bad guy, and a decent cop. She’s thinking the same, I could tell, about him being the next on the victim list in order to tie up all loose ends.”

When he finally got Damian’s pants down far enough that he could inject the wakeup cocktail into his thigh, he paused and looked at the man’s muscular thigh curiously.

“What are you waiting for?” Varg complained. “Do I need to get Fae because you’ve decided to help him rape your sister’s boyfriend?”

“Shut up,” Connell absently said as he caressed over the white scars littering Damian’s thigh. “Little Sister has really done a number on him over the years,” he whispered, in shock and awe that Damian would put up with such physical abuse, and yet he did without complaint. “Huh, he really does love her,” he said with a soft chuckle. He hadn’t questioned it, but the others had, a few times.

Varg scoffed. “She gets physical when in the sack. It isn’t worthy of idol worship of a man simply because he can take it. Hurry it up and get your ass back to the precinct so you can keep an eye on her.”

“You really need to get over this jealousy thing,” Connell scolded, jamming the syringe into Damian’s thigh and massaged the site with his free hand as he pushed on the plunger with his thumb, not rushing the process in order to get proper delivery. “Never did you look at Akia as a sister, which I guess is a good thing since you have this phantom hard on for her, and Adam has for Eve, but she just isn’t that into you. You need to accept it. Sis didn’t abandon us. She simply left for a little while. She has a job, life, career, and a healthy relationship with a werewolf. That is more than any of us have ever been able to boast, so cut her and him some slack.”

Again, Varg growled but bit his tongue.

“Time for a second one,” Connell said but a hand snapped out and grabbed his wrist before the needle could pierce his skin for a second time.

“Ow,” Damian said, his eyes rolling around. “What happened…why are my pants off? Oh man, did Fae try to cuddle?” he groaned then sniffed to determine who was in the room with him and his eyes snapped open and a deep, menacing growl rolled from his chest.

“It’s just B-12,” Connell assured him, confused by his reaction.

“Where is he?” Damian demanded, getting off of the bed, fastening his pants as he went, following the smell down the hall and stairs to the laundry room.

Connell and Varg followed, not sure what he was talking about.

“What are you doing?” Connell asked when Damian started rummaging through the hamper, sniffing wildly, following a scent to the washing machine. He pulled wet articles of clothing out, one by one, sniffing each before dropping it to the floor before finding the shirt that Connell had worn when called to the sixth body.

“Whose shirt is this?” Damian demanded, holding it up.

“Mine,” Connell said. “I wore it when I collected the latest body, but the stench of the Stray was too much for me to handle, so I cleaned up in here. Apparently Fae started the laundry. Why, what’s wrong?”

“This isn’t the Stray!” Damian snarled. “Where is Akia?”

“At the precinct,” he guardedly admitted. “Whose stench is that?”

Damian pushed past them and hurried for the door. The other two followed and were barely able to get in his rental car before he took off, racing down the driveway. Never did he think he’d smell it again, the embodiment of pure evil and all that was wrong with werewolf kind, but his scent was unmistakable. Damian was kicking himself in the ass for not picking it up last night, but he was consumed with Akia and her infliction and wolf. He punched the steering wheel in frustration, fighting the urge to yell.

Why was He in Haven of all places? Was he trying to acquire again? Better yet, how did he survive the last time they met?

“What’s going on?” Varg demanded, tired of the silence.

Damian pushed his hand through his hair, struggling to keep from lashing out. “There is a werewolf, one that is evil on levels that you have never seen before, that you never knew existed, and that has been blackening the history of our kind for centuries. According to historians, he had no origins, no pack, no blood ties to our species, and yet he infiltrated packs with bloodlines hundreds of generations strong and single handedly decimated them. He has no face, no prints, no voice, and yet his scent carries with it a signature you cannot deny exists.”

Connell pulled his hands over his face. “Who is he?” he asked. “Is he the Master, and the Stray is simply his Apprentice?”

Damian shook his head; Akia was right, the fourth was different. It was when He took the Stray under his guidance that the killings were refined and progressed so drastically. “He has no Apprentices; there is no one that can match his level of darkness. He only has toys, puppets if you will, that he manipulates, plays with, and then when they no longer serve his purpose they are disposed of. Everything is expendable to him, everything. He has been referred to by many names throughout history. To most he is simply called the Puppet Master, but to those that survived and severed the strings, he is Moriarty.”

“And you know this how?” Connell whispered, struggling to swallow the lump in his throat.

“Because I was one of the few that survived,” Damian said in a tone so level that it caused chills to creep across Varg and Connell’s skin.

****

Pierre paced in front of the desk the blue-haired young man was working at, his long, pale fingers moving over the keyboard faster than the Inspector had ever seen someone’s fingers move before. Ulrik was able to easily retrieve the files, and while he read through the reports that were compromised, trying to figure out why they were worth deleting, he dove deeper into the system and tried to connect the dots that Akia had the faith that he’d connect for her. As it was, at the moment, he had more data then he knew what to make sense of, but he was confident that Damian and Akia would be able to figure it out, so he kept pulling and compiling it.

When the door opened, everyone but Ulrik turned to regard the three that hurried in.

“What do you have?” Damian demanded, shrugging out of his suit jacket.

“Printer,” Ulrik said; the printed reports from the bodyguards of the fourth were waiting for him.

“Where’s de Wolfe and Paquette?” he demanded, quickly reading over the report.

“He’s in a holding cell under suspicion of evidence tampering and possibly these murders, and your shadow went to get coffee with Leclair,” Pierre said. He asked that same question once Paquette was in a holding cell. “It’s nice of you to-”

“Shut up,” Damian snapped at him. “According to both of Winterfeld’s guards, the Cadillac Escalade hybrid they were driving was filled with gas on the mainland before heading to the Island for sightseeing at the victim’s request. Twenty-five gallon capacity at twenty-three miles per gallon, they traveled only a hundred miles on their adventure, using approximately six gallons of the twenty-five, and yet they had to fill up again on the Island and that is when Miss Winterfeld was taken.”

“And that means what?” Varg asked.

“Someone made sure that they would have to stop for gas,” Damian said. “The gas was siphoned somewhere along their trip when the vehicle was unattended. That forced them to stop to refuel. One of the guards called it in to their security detail back at the hotel, requesting that they schedule the Escalade for maintenance because of a possible faulty fuel sensor. Both guards confirmed that they were not the ones that fueled the vehicle prior to the trip, that was an assistant in their motor pool, but the receipt in their records would have confirmed that it was filled… The receipt book was unaccounted for when the responding Officers did a sweep of the vehicle.”

Why her? Damian wondered. Arianna Winterfeld was weak. She couldn’t have fought him off; Moriarty would have known that from the smell of her. The medications were very noticeable. Was that why the Stray, his child of the moment, took his frustration out on the young woman’s body, or was that just adding to the severity of the situation and crime? Going after someone that was known in the human world like that was extremely risky, but it was suicidal to go after the sole heir of a werewolf and mogul like William Winterfeld the Third. Arianna was the very last person any werewolf would go after. That alone would…

“Oh fuck,” he choked, understanding washing over him.

“What is it?” Connell asked.

“Ha!” Ulrik shouted, throwing his arms in the air in triumph. “You thought you could hide from me, but I’m better.”

“What’d you find, Kid?” Varg asked, very concerned about Damian’s response to whatever he just figured out and Akia’s absence.

Ulrik hit print then hurried over to the map. “That black push pin I couldn’t figure out. It was the weight station, but I couldn’t connect the dots. According to the reports on the server, the ridiculously detailed report, the truck driver had no connection to the Island. But that isn’t true. Four months ago that driver crossed paths with an officer from the mainland.”

“What does that have to do with the Island?” Connell asked the obvious.

Ulrik pulled the pile of papers off of the printer. “Weight stations record the load and hours logged for a driver, but they also log how many passengers. That truck driver had multiple passengers over the course of his career; men, women, it didn’t matter. I don’t think he was trafficking, I think he was simply picking up hitchhikers!” he said excitably, feeling like a detective all of a sudden.

“So it was one of those hitchhikers that killed him?” Pierre asked, skeptically.

“Maybe,” he said with a shrug. “But that isn’t what I’m getting at. That truck driver was pulled over and given a warning ticket for a plate that was unreadable due to grime from the road. The Officer documented that the truck had a male passenger with identification. That I.D. was for a Simone Matisse of British Columbia.”

“Matisse is our guy?” Pierre surmised, not entirely sure where the young man’s train of thought was going.

“No, not unless he’s a pissed off ghost,” Ulrik said with a chuckle. “Matisse’s body was found three months ago in Lac La Plonge, Saskatchewan. According to the M.E. he had been dead for six months or more. There was no way that Matisse was the guy in the truck with the first victim.” He hurried over to the white board that was covered with the pictures of the victims and stuck the photo of Simone Matisse from the system on the board.

They looked at the picture curiously; the man looked familiar but they couldn’t say why.

“What connects the two?” Varg asked.

“That is what I’m getting to!” Ulrik beamed and flipped through the papers he had printed out. “The Officer that wrote the first victim the warning for the plate was none other than RCMP: East Prince Detachment, Officer… Oh fuck,” he gasped, looking up from the photo and report to Damian.

****

Akia looked at her nearly empty coffee. “Are you sure this isn’t decaf?” she asked through a yawn, her eyes getting ridiculously heavy. Obviously she was more exhausted than she realized because she simply sat in the vehicle at the sixth’s dumpsite and sucked down two quad lattes while Leclair walked the area. Now she was on her third latte, but it wasn’t helping to wake her up in the least. “I don’t remember Canadian espresso being so weak,” she mumbled, shaking her head to clear it.

Leclair chuckled, flexing his fingers on his right hand, trying to work the stiffness out of them. “It isn’t decaf, but you’re most likely feeling the effects of the Rohypnol by now,” he said with a smile.

She went for her sidearm but he was quicker and his fist slammed into Akia’s face, smashing her head into the side windows, shattering the glass, and she slumped over unconscious.

“That took longer than I thought it would,” he said in a singsong tone, searching her pockets for her phone and gun. He tossed both out the window as he sped down the highway. “This will be fun! Master will be very pleased that I have found a replacement, one that will give a superior species and gender, that she feels she’s above, the respect and praise they deserve. She’ll be begging for me to kill her before I’m done with her,” he said, pulling off of the highway and onto an overgrown trail that was barely visible from the road.

****

“What we are dealing with,” Damian said, trying to keep his head on straight, but he was on the verge of losing it, “is what is called a Changeling. This type of killer takes the identities of those that look similar to him, typically have no families or relationships thus no one will miss them, someone that’s absence would be easily undetected and not questioned. Officer Leclair,” he said, pointing to the picture that Ulrik was able to retrieve from the compromised personnel files of a smiling man at the police academy, “was the same build, height, race, and had the same hair and eye color as the Changeling. Leclair had no family that he was in touch with, no kids, no personal life, and had requested to go to the Island for personal reasons.

“It is speculation, but I believe that the Changeling crossed paths with the real Officer Leclair at that traffic stop of the first victim months prior to the first kill. His co-workers and superiors said that he was a personable Officer, one that was charismatic and empathetic, wrote more warnings then citations, and possibly the unfounded complaints filed against him was what caused his request of a change in scenery. The Changeling is very skilled at getting people to talk, to open up, and most importantly, to tell him all about themselves. He is very charismatic and that causes people to let their guard down around him. Once he decided that he had his next identity, he and the truck driver parted ways, and he became Officer Clarence Leclair of the Haven Police Department.”

Pierre raised his hand; he was stunned and honestly at a loss for words. He was pissed, they all were because they were played, in essence, by the killer who was right in front of them the entire time. But at the same time he was terrified for the well-being of the innocent woman, another badge carrying member of the team, so he was trying to revert back to his Detective mindset that he hadn’t had for years. “Why did he allow the truck driver to leave? Why didn’t he kill him then?” he asked.

“There was no reason to,” Damian explained. “With these types of killers, they rely heavily on the relationships they make along the way. That is what allows them to maintain appearances and seamlessly blend into their surroundings. The truck driver crossed paths with him months later at a truck stop, according to the driver log, and most likely when he saw that Simone Matisse was wearing a badge and nametag stating he was Clarence Leclair, that threatened his new identity and life, resulting in the first kill on the Island. From there, it snowballed. The true identity of the Changeling is unknown, most likely he doesn’t even know what it is anymore because he’s taken so many lives at this point; his body count could be in the hundreds.

“What we do know is his face, his current identity, so that is what we will be working with at the moment. All roads leading from the Island have been blocked, vehicle by vehicle searches are being done to all those attempting to leave. The harbor is on lock down. Trained tracking dogs are assisting and have Lieutenant de Wolfe’s scent. They will also be searching the woods and along the highway. Those that worked with him know this persona of the Changeling. You know him better than he knows himself at this point since he’s in flight mode. Where would he go? Does he have a hunting retreat he goes to? Favorite fishing spot? A boat that he goes out on from time to time? A place he goes to clear his head?”

Damian waited, fighting the urge to crack his knuckles or yell, but he had to keep a level head because Akia’s life depended on it. The Stray he wasn’t concerned with, he knew that she could take him without question, but she was no match for Moriarty. The demonic Puppet Master has the ability to pull out the wolf in a werewolf, and since Akia has no control over her wolf, it wouldn’t end well. He would see her as a prize possession to mold into his evil counterpart, or as a threat that needed removed from the equation before she tried to rip his throat out.

Neither option would end well for Akia.

Paquette cleared his throat, raising his hand. “A few weeks ago,” he said, sounding unsure, “when I was driving down the highway heading north I saw Leclair…or whoever he is, coming out of the woods not far from those old road markers that they stopped using twenty years ago.”

“What’s in that area?” Damian asked.

“There’s an old saw mill,” Connell said, familiar with the area. “The area surrounding it is heavily barb wired,” he said, explaining that the pack simply couldn’t just run in there. “There were some injuries from booby traps over the years; the old guy that bought it from the town thirty years ago was a real whack job that has a thing about teenagers trying to steal his precious rotten lumber.”

Pierre gave him a look. “Isn’t that before your time?” he asked.

“I went through all of the previous cases that I could get a hold of before taking the job,” Connell said as if it were obvious. “We’ll have to wait for the ETF since they are the closest with bomb experience.”

Damian nodded, fighting the urge to growl. He would be breeching the mill before the ETF reached the Island. “You have your orders, Inspector Pierre will be your point of contact. That is all,” he said, heading for the door with Ulrik, Varg and Connell behind him.

Once speeding down the road, Ulrik started stripping his clothing off.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Connell demanded, following his lead.

“I’m from the Ukraine,” Ulrik reminded him. “I know better than you could imagine the smells of explosives and other materials used by crazy bastards trying to get a body count. This little wolf has seen more square bombings than you could imagine,” he informed him before shaking violently and fine black and blue hairs exploded from his skin as he effortlessly transformed into a wolf.

Connell shook his head. “One day, Kid, you’ll have to tell me how in the hell you do that so seamlessly.”

The wolf sitting in the backseat next to Varg simply smiled. There was much his pack didn’t know about him and where he came from, but he wasn’t willing to risk losing the only family and security he’s ever known by telling them anytime soon.

“Six miles ahead,” Varg said, pulling his shirt off. “Fifty yards past the ground marker is the overgrown trail leading to the mill. It snakes around, encircling the parcel before doubling back. Drive past it three miles then stay right when the highway splits. It’ll turn to gravel after a hundred yards. Take the service road until you can’t go any further. Along the river might be our best way in. You can’t see it from three sides and with night approaching. It’ll be the only way we can get in undetected, utilizing the river to guise our approach.”

Damian nodded. “Let the others know. Give Kid that bagged shirt. If you smell that scent, run. Don’t worry about us or Akia and just get the hell out. Do you understand?”

Ulrik didn’t need to sniff the shirt, from the moment the Ziploc bag was opened, the scent was like a punch in the gut, and a deep growl rolled from his chest. That scent he was no stranger to, and when he once again was faced with the embodiment of evil, he’d run and not stop until there once again was an ocean between them.

 

Akia struggled to open her eyes, but when she did everything was blurry. The area smelled different; rust, rotted wood, fresh water, steel, blood, almonds, and the faint traces of something she could only describe as evil. She was propped up against a hard, cold steel beam, her hands secured behind her around the beam with handcuffs. Her sidearm and cell phone were both missing. It felt as if she was hit with a sledgehammer in the head, and the blood staining half of her was the result of said sledgehammer.

“Master, I have brought you a gift,” Leclair beamed from across the mill, his voice carrying and echoing throughout the open area.

There was a humming in the background, which broke up, and if Akia didn’t know any better she’d swear that it was coming from a phone.

“She is the one that has ended our fun here,” he continued. “Yes, she is rather plain looking, and I’m not entirely sure what they see in her, but the wolves of Haven have taken her in as one of their own.”

He knows about my pack, but not that I’m a werewolf; that might help in this situation.

“Yes, Master. I know that you told me specifically to have patience and that they would come,” he stammered, “but the other you did not get the pleasure of killing. I thought this would make you happy, a replacement since that young bitch died-”

That doesn’t make me feel special in the least. I’m a replacement for Miss Winterfeld. I’m not entirely sure if I should feel as rejected about that as I do.

“But, Master,” he argued, pacing back and forth, “sacrificing one that is revered by a pack of reputation, regardless of them being tiny in the eyes of others, would make a statement!”

Politics, I fucking hate politics.

Akia struggled to focus on the ground in front of her. If she could focus on that much, she might be able to get the rest of the place to come into focus in a timely manner.

There was no denying that Leclair was agitated; he was pacing and tugging on his hair as the hum of reprimanding echoed from the phone in his hand. She couldn’t clearly make out what the other line was saying, but the few words she did hear were regret, disappointment, and pretentious. It made her curious as to how she was played as she apparently had been, especially by someone that was taking orders and doing things that he wasn’t ordered to do. She’ll admit, Leclair knew exactly what to say, when to say it, when not to open his mouth, and played the role exceptionally well. He never lied to her, he simply didn’t answer yes or no and redirected when possible. Gut instinct told her that Leclair had done this before, in the killing sense, but the crimes being werewolf apparent was new. He was skilled at killing, just not skilled at being a werewolf, that was obvious.

“Master, please,” Leclair shouted, “hear me out!”

A wolf without a pack is not a wolf, but a lost soul in the sea of man, Beowulf once explained to Akia when she was younger and asked why it was so important to sacrifice so much for the pack. Without understanding the meaning of family, a werewolf will never understand what it means to be a wolf. Wolves are not lone creatures, and you are no different. Your gender doesn’t make you a singularity. It makes you special, and that is why the pack, your family, will sacrifice everything for you.

Akia knew that the others would come looking for her, and most likely Damian had already figured out who was behind the murders; he was an exceptional detective. And since Leclair was one of the worst wolves she’s ever had the displeasure of meeting, it shouldn’t have been that difficult to slip the cuffs and snap his neck.

The sound of a cell phone smashing against the far wall pulled her attention, and it was followed by the blurry figure stalking towards her.

“This is your fault,” Leclair snarled, pouncing on her, getting in Akia’s face. “And you will pay for it,” he hissed.

“Like the others?” she asked, her voice coming out drowsily and heavily slurred.

He knotted a hand in the back of Akia’s hair and jerked her head back when it fell forward. “You have disgraced me in my master’s eyes,” he snarled in her face. “Now the only way to get in his graces again, to earn his respect once more, is to kill you: slowly, painfully, and properly. You will be my prize kill,” he purred, his eyes moving over her face many times.

Akia started crying, playing the role she hated playing, but it was necessary at that moment as she worked on the handcuffs cutting into her wrists. “Please don’t,” she whimpered with a choked sob.

Leclair growled in perverse pleasure, apparently buying her routine. “You will be my masterpiece, and since I’m feeling overly generous, I’ll leave bits and pieces of you strung across the beach so your precious family can find you. Once the Rohypnol is completely out of your system, the fun will begin because I want you fully awake when I have my fun. Who knows, I might even escalate to sexual sadist before cutting you open.”

Again, she whimpered; he was playing with fire, and if he wasn’t careful Eve was going to answer his call.

“Would you like that, Bitch?” he asked before pulling his tongue up her face. “Yes, I think you would. I’ve never had a problem with getting laid, but there is something slightly appealing about the idea of fucking a bossy little bitch that thinks she’s someone that a man, this wolf, should be respecting and taking orders from. You’re a creature of inferiority,” he snarled, his lips so close to hers that she could almost feel them with each word that left them. “By the time I’m done with you, you’ll know that I’m the Alpha.”

The clicking that echoed throughout the open space was accompanied by her eyes snapping up to meet his, the burning gold and amber causing his to widen, and she smirked.

“You really should have used zip-ties,” Eve said before slamming her forehead into his face, shattering his nose.

Leclair howled in pain and fell backward off of her, and she was suddenly on top of him slamming her fist repeatedly into his face, holding the ratchet end of the opened handcuff between her fingers, the crude weapon tearing chunks of skin and muscle tissue with each pull.

“An inferior creature?” she sneered with a perverse smirk filling her face. “I strongly suggest you reevaluate that statement and your position. In case you neglected to notice,” she stabbed the pointed ratchet into his eye, and he howled in pain, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the lone wolf. It’s you who’ll be bowing before me,” she snarled and twisted before pulling the metal free, pulling his eye from the socket in the process.

He thrashed and punched, trying to free himself from under her, but the woman was as relentless as she was vicious.

“And for my next trick,” Eve purred, “I’ll show you what your Master didn’t.” She pulled her hand back and her nails elongated, tearing through the soft issue, thickening into razor sharp claws. She looked from her hand to the beam stretching the length of the area above them and smirked at the security camera mounted to the beam. “You’re next,” she said before slamming her clawed hand through the side of Leclair’s ribcage, easily slicing through the bone, muscle and tissue.

Leclair howled in pain, his punches slowing as he quickly started to bleed out, the concrete under him turning to a rapidly spreading pool of blood.

Eve curled her claws around the ribs then ripped them upward, snapping them off, freeing them and a lung from his body, exposing his heart. “Your Master,” she said, looking from the camera to the man under her, “showed you the forbidden arts, and yet he neglected to instruct you on how to use them.”

He tried to change, to embrace his wolf, but misuse of the Iron Claw had hindered him, and the blood loss was too much.

“Funny, he didn’t warn you of what might happen if you use the forbidden arts incorrectly,” she mused. “You know what’s amusing? My Master taught me well, very, very well. In fact, I used them on him when I ripped his heart from his chest, just as I’m going to do to you.” She held her hand up and the claws retracted and the soft tissue mended as her fingernails smoothed out and rounded to match each fingertip. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked, but he was in too much pain to answer. “I wish we could have played longer, since you were so very eager to make this bitch beg, but our time is up. You’ll bleed out soon, healing from wounds inflicted by another wolf take so very long, much, much longer than you have, and I truly want you to be alive for my next trick. Goodbye, Stray,” she said with a smile, the canine teeth in her white smile elongating as she wrapped her hand around his sluggishly beating heart then ripped it free from his chest.

Eve continued to sit on him as she devoured his heart, taking her time to savor the flavor of stupidity and false superiority that his blood was seasoned with. Eve was enjoying the control she had at the moment, and as she tried to figure out how she could retain that control she speculated as to who was on the other end of the cameras littered throughout the space. Yes, it was dangerous to make her presence known, but she was tired of living in the shadows of wolf kind, and it was about damn time that she had her time in the sun.

Once the last of the heart was gone, she sucked on her fingers, licking the remaining blood from them as she headed across the open space of what she realized was the old mill on the outskirts of Haven. She slid the rolling door open on the backside of the building and turned to the camera above the exit. “Next time introductions will be in order, but until we meet again,” she said before smooching her lips in a single sided kiss then headed outside.

Eve smirked, freedom was only a few yards away, the rushing river along the back of the mill would hide her scent so she could make her escape, when a clicking sound accompanied her next step. She looked down at her feet and the strategically placed piece of plywood that she had unwittingly stepped on. “Fuck,” she huffed then jumped, trying to clear the explosion that followed.

The force of the explosion hit her body, sending her flying through the air, the flames and debris washing over her back before she landed in the river. Her head smashed into a rock, rendering her unconscious, and her body floated face down along the rushing river. The mill exploded, the single detonation causing a chain reaction that showered the area with burning wood, metal and debris; the night illuminated as bright as day when a ball of fire shot high into the sky.

The strong current smashed Akia into rocks and trees, pulling her body under the surface more than once before it eventually resurfaced. She looked like a pale, bleeding, lifeless doll. The burning mill was soon far behind her, only the angry orange glow illuminating the darkness in the distance marked the start of her journey, and the end would conclude with violent rapids and sharp drops that even the best rafters failed to navigate in the daylight.

Flanking the river on both sides, darkened figures ran along the banks, shadowing the lifeless doll being thrown and smashed into everything as the swells started to pick up causing their target to slip farther away from them.

When an earthen bridge appeared in the distance, one of the wolves shadowing ran even faster, trying to make it to the bridge before the swells pulled Akia under again, and he was halfway across before pivoting then jumped. She disappeared under the water when the large, black wolf landed on top of her, and as quickly as his thick hind legs wrapped around her, they were replaced by smooth olive toned thighs and strong arms that pulled her into him and protectively held her tight, struggling to keep her head above water.

The rushing of water filled his ears, the first set of grade five rapids quickly approached, and Damian fought to grab onto something, anything they passed, but he couldn’t get a handhold. “Forgive me,” he whispered before the whitewater consumed them, smashing and pulling at the couple, throwing the two into large rocks as they went.

Damian struggled to catch his breath each time his head broke the surface, but every time he opened his mouth it was flooded with icy water. The feeling in his body went from unimaginable pain accompanied by burning from the strain on his muscles as he struggled to hold onto the woman in his arms, to numb from the icy river that was sure to be their watery grave. He hadn’t completely recovered from last night, and his wolf was barely able to keep up with Adam and the others, but he had to try, even if it killed him.

The next boulder they were thrown against, his back cushioned the blow, and it was accompanied by a large, strong hand grabbing his arm when they started to roll past it. Damian looked up, struggling to wrap his hand around the thick arm trying to pull them from the water, but he couldn’t see past the darkness he was shadowed in.

“Take her,” Damian stammered, his teeth chattering uncontrollably from the cold.

“Shut up,” Varg growled, struggling to pull them up.

“Take her!” he repeated, hoisting Akia’s lifeless body up within Varg’s grasp.

As much as Varg wanted to, he couldn’t live with Akia hating him for allowing her annoying boyfriend of the moment to die.

But then again, it would get rid of the competition…

Varg growled and released Damian, grabbed Akia by the arm and pulled her up on the boulder, and Damian lost his hold on her and disappeared under the water but quickly resurfaced when he was pulled up by the hair. The large hand knotted in his water logged curls and nearly ripped them out—which Varg would have enjoyed immensely—before Connell and Ulrik finally joined them and pulled Damian from the water and up onto the boulder.

Connell started cardiopulmonary resuscitation on his baby sister.

Damian coughed and gasped, struggling to expel the water in his lungs. Absently he slapped at the rock until he found the ice cold hand of the woman he loved and squeezed it. “Come on, Latria Mou, wake up. Please wake up,” he whispered as Connell continued to do chest compressions and breathe for his sister. “Please wake up, Latria Mou,” he pleaded over and over.

The soft sob that was followed by a choked gasp was the sweetest sound he had ever heard, and it echoed in his ears as the darkness of unconsciousness consumed him.

 

“And everything is taken care of and contained?” Arno Manikas asked, checking his reflection in the tinted window of his private car.

“It was,” Superintendant Manning said, his voice echoing throughout the interior of the car through the blue-tooth handset. “The body of the real Officer Clarence Leclair was located in the chest freezer in the garage at his home.”

“I do not give a damn about some human that was stupid enough to get himself killed by a talentless Stray,” he interrupted.

Manning wasn’t amused. “The body of the Changeling, as your son coined him, wasn’t recovered, but it was completely incinerated in the blast that effectively covered all proof of the crimes. The survivor of his last abduction attempt confirmed that he was victim to his own means of defense and was killed by them prior to escaping.”

Arno rolled his eyes; his son was still on his shit list for the lack of containment. Damian was supposed to supply proof of death, that was, after all, why he was sent to Haven. Instead all Damian did was nearly get himself killed and is now indebted to the wolves of Haven, a pack of inferiority, yet are vastly connected in the old world. “You know that what I am asking is if the problem has been effectively dealt with, contained, and that the humans are none the wiser?”

Manning growled under his breath; he did not appreciate his tone or the fact that Arno made him do his beckoning from the shadows, moving pieces around a chess board that went beyond their pack’s borders and authority, and now he was undermining him and his position on the force and in their pack. “It was contained and nearly cost two of my best their lives.”

“You were the one that allowed that woman to put her nose in a case that she should have never been permitted to participate in,” Arno retorted.

“de Wolfe would have been suspicious if I had pulled her from the case she stumbled across while on vacation, and yet forced her superior to assist in that very case,” Manning said with a bit of amusement. “The FBI and RCMP were more than happy with the work the two did, and it will look favorably on your son’s resume for future advancement in his career.”

“My pain in the ass son will be lucky to see retirement,” Arno scoffed. “His term in the light will approach its end much faster than he is prepared for it to, but that is for me, as the Alpha, to address with my heir. If there is nothing else,” he said, disconnecting the call.

“We’re here,” the driver said, coming to a stop outside of a mansion in Beacon Hill.

Arno nodded and stepped out of the car when the doorman opened the door for him. He smoothed his suit jacket down as he headed through the front door, and waited in the grand foyer for the butler to return from announcing him.

William Winterfeld the Third joined him. “Arno, please tell me you come bearing proof,” he said, shaking the retired Police Superintendant’s hand, then motioned him towards the study where they could have privacy. He closed the doors behind him as his guest made himself comfortable in one of two leather chairs across from the oversized desk centered in front of the back wall.

Arno sighed, shaking his head. “I am so very sorry for your loss, my old friend,” he said, his tone soft and flooded with concern. “How are you and your lovely wife handling Arianna’s death? Do you need anything, anything at all? The pack is here for you both, as am I.”

William sat, pushing his hand through his thick, gray hair. “My wife isn’t handling it well. We knew Arianna would not out live us, her heart was progressively getting weaker and weaker, but this… You have proof of death?” he asked, changing the subject, so he didn’t appear weak in front of the Alpha.

“The Stray that killed your precious Arianna, he was contained,” Arno confirmed. “My own blood took care of it, ripped his heart from his chest while the vile low life watched. I can confirm that life visibly extinguished from his eyes, my heir witnessed it.”

It wouldn’t bring his daughter back, but William found a sliver of comfort knowing that the bastard who killed his precious little girl was killed by someone of his pack, someone that made sure he suffered as his daughter had.

“The heart?” he asked, holding his hand out. He would devour the heart of the beast that took his heart from him.

Arno shook his head. “There were complications with containment,” he explained. “The Stray had rigged the building to blow, and I nearly lost my son as a result.”

William softly growled; that wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but the favor he asked from the Alpha was a personal one, a favor that nearly cost the Alpha his heir, which would have resulted in a forfeit of his own life if the Stray had claimed just one more soul. “I am sorry to hear,” he eventually said, trying to maintain a strong front; his reputation was that of a business savvy, take no prisoners man that was fearless. The only weakness he had was his daughter, his little girl, the first child he had ever had. She was his world and made him believe that he wasn’t as big of a bastard as everyone had said he was; in her eyes he was perfect and could do no wrong, just as she was perfect in his eyes.

But now he didn’t have his precious daughter to reassure him that he wasn’t the big, bad wolf of real estate as the media had coined him…

Now he was simply the big, bad wolf.

Arno reassuringly patted William’s hand. “I am sorry we weren’t quicker,” he said. “If only we would have had more guards with her, those that were soldiers in both worlds, this might have been avoided. Those that failed you?” he asked.

“They have been dealt with accordingly,” William said in a cold, detached tone. They were now two wolves down in the pack. He got to his feet, signaling that their business was done and Arno’s invitation, regardless of being the Alpha, was revoked for the evening.

Arno nodded then headed for the door. “Again, my friend, if there is anything that I can do, anything at all, please let me know.”

William simply shook his head, his attention across the room to behind his desk where framed pictures of his daughter covered the built-in bookcases behind it. “You have already been more than generous with me. It is I who should be asking what it is that I can do for you since you dropped everything to help bring justice to my precious Arianna, and in the process nearly lost your own child.”

Again, Arno nodded. “We are a pack, and the pack sticks together. I will be in touch to check on you and your wife. Please, if you need anything at all, let me know.”

William closed the office doors behind his guest then returned to his desk and looked over each picture of his daughter, and the strong front he had struggled to maintain crumbled, and he screamed, swiping his arm across his desk, sending the items once covering its surface flying across the room before flipping the granite and oak desk up in the air. His howl of anger and rage quickly turned into sobbing that dropped him to his knees.

Arno heard the agonizing howl of anguish as he climbed into his car, and it took all of his conscious effort to keep from smiling.

When his driver turned back onto the freeway, heading away from Beacon Hill, he raised the privacy screen separating the backseat from the front.

Arno pulled his cell phone from his inside jacket pocket with a smile and thumbed through the files until the molten amber and gold eyes looking up at him with a demonic smirk pulling at the corner of her bloody mouth filled the display. “Yes, I do believe that introductions will be made, and soon,” he said with a smirk.

 

 

Coming Soon

Wolves of Haven: Bitten


Wolves of Haven: Lone

Akia de Wolfe was quickly becoming known as one of Boston's finest. After closing the Silent Ripper case, a promotion soon followed. For the first time since running away from home a decade ago, her life was perfect, until a ghost from her past, a mistake that she had fought to forget, calls. Coming home to Haven wasn't something she ever wanted to do again, but her father needed her. A serial killer was loose on the small island her family called home, and trying to pin the gruesome murders on him. Facing her demons won't be easy, but in order to clear her father's name and catch a killer she must.

  • Author: Danae Ayusso
  • Published: 2016-07-03 20:06:33
  • Words: 64542
Wolves of Haven: Lone Wolves of Haven: Lone