Dark InstinctsBy: Suzanne Wright
Opening your eyes to find that you’re upside down can’t be good, can it?
Through the cobwebs clouding her mind, Roni Axton realized that it wasn’t just she who was upside down. The car had toppled over.
Well, that sucked. Clearly the fuck-up fairy had made an appearance.
Strangely, Roni felt no rush of panic, no fear. And despite that she was pretty sure her head was bleeding, there was no pain. There was only a feeling of weightlessness. Even the fact that her wolf was frantic didn’t disturb Roni in this dreamlike moment.
Her brain distantly registered that the car kept leaning sideways, as if something was repeatedly pulling at it. But it was the various sounds that penetrated her mental fog: low moans, a phone ringing, a child crying, and strange voices arguing.
Sensing that the ringtone and the moans were coming from her left, Roni turned her head to find a male wolf shifter in the driver’s seat, eyes closed. Tao. Huh. Odd that the Phoenix Pack’s Head Enforcer was with her. She rarely hung out with anyone outside her pack. In truth, Roni counted very few people as friends.
Sadly, she was very like her brother, Alpha of their recently formed Mercury Pack, in that she found social situations uncomfortable. In Nick’s case, it was because he didn’t like most people. In Roni’s case, it was because most people didn’t like her. Even when she was a kid, she’d found making friends difficult, especially at school. It was kind of hard to fit in when you were a tomboy with a higher IQ than that of your teachers.
It probably made things worse that she didn’t “get” her own gender. But she just didn’t see the appeal behind constantly gossiping, shopping endlessly, asking deep personal questions, or having different lotions for different body parts.
Roni was more comfortable around guys, particularly her two brothers and her Beta male, Derren. Men didn’t care that she wasn’t a people pleaser, or that she didn’t know how to satisfy social niceties, or that she preferred chocolate to living beings of any species. The only female she thought of as a friend was her Alpha female, Shaya, who—
A succession of memories suddenly hit Roni hard: Shaya singing to a toddler in the backseat, Tao playfully grumbling about the noise, the sound of tires screeching, an unexpected impact to the side of the vehicle, a blow to her head that made everything go black.
Grasping onto those threads of memory, Roni remembered how she had escorted Shaya—who was two months pregnant—on a daytrip to the zoo with Shaya’s godson, Kye, and his bodyguard, Tao. The Alpha female had wanted a break from Nick and his extreme overprotectiveness. It was during the drive back to Phoenix Pack territory when a car had slammed into theirs.
And then she’d gone and passed out like a girl. How embarrassing.
Blinking rapidly, she swiveled her head as much as she could. She might have winced at the sharp pain that lanced through her neck if she hadn’t been distracted by the fact that Shaya wasn’t in the backseat beside a still crying Kye. That was when Roni noticed the female body sprawled like a ragdoll on the grass a few feet away from the vehicle. Fuck.
The dreamy quality of the moment disappeared as reality crashed into Roni, and her wolf howled in fear and rage. One word dominated Roni’s thoughts: out. She had to get out.
Forcing a reassuring smile for Kye, who was squirming in his safety seat and reaching for her, she crooned, “It’s okay, little man. Give me a second and I’ll—”
The car wobbled sideways again. “This crowbar is a piece of shit!” griped an unfamiliar voice.
“Hurry up!” ordered an equally unfamiliar voice. “We don’t have much time before someone shows up. Coleman and Axton will sense through their pack links that something’s wrong with their wolves.”
The stranger was right about that: she could sense Nick’s rage and anxiety. She could also sense Shaya through the pack link; she was alive, but unconscious.
“I can’t open the door, it’s jammed.”
A growl. “Move. I’ll do it.” The car swayed again. That was when Roni understood what was happening. Someone was yanking at one of the rear door handles, trying desperately to get inside . . . trying to get to . . . Kye. Oh, the fuck no.