Last Wolf Watching(4)

By: Rhyannon Byrd

Wyatt had driven her up to Bloodrunner Alley, a picturesque glade that sat several miles south of Shadow Peak on the mountain. The Alley held cabins where the Runners lived, and she’d spent the rest of the night with Torrance and Mason.

The wait for nightfall during the long, torturous day had been a living hell—but the call warning them that the ceremony would soon begin had finally come. They’d immediately set off for the clearing, which sat equidistant between Shadow Peak and the Alley.

And now it was time.

The muscles in her throat quivered, and Michaela wondered if she was about to lose the tea Torrance had forced into her before they’d left. The fear threatened to overtake her, too huge and monstrous to evade, swallowing her like Jonah in his story of the whale. The kind of fear that covered your skin after a nightmare, sticky and cold and wet. She knew they could scent it. From the shadowed edges of the clearing, the Lycans’ glowing eyes burned like embers as they watched her through the moonlit darkness.

They’re waiting for you to show your weakness, but right now you have to be strong for Max’s sake.

At the thought of her brother, a devastating sense of helplessness pierced through her, making her flinch—and it was at that moment that Michaela felt his gaze. Her breath caught, and without realizing it, she found herself searching the nightmarish scene for the man, the Bloodrunner, who sparked an uncomfortable awareness in her every time she saw him.

Brody. Her mouth formed the words, though she didn’t make a sound.

He watched her from the corner of his eye, as if he didn’t want her to know. But there was no way she could have missed him. All he had to do was enter a room, and her senses kicked into high alert, her equilibrium taking a spin that left her reeling, same as it had last night. He had the scarred body of a warrior, but in Michaela’s opinion, he was one of the most magnificent men she’d ever known. Not pretty, but so utterly hard and masculine that he all but bled testosterone. Everything about the rugged Bloodrunner screamed dark, intense intrigue, and despite her efforts, she’d been unable to stop thinking about him. The effect was even worse when he was near, like being struck by lightning, her nerves left revving and raw. A total and complete meltdown. Not even Ross Holland had affected her like that—and she’d thought she loved her ex-boyfriend…until the day he’d ripped her heart out.

Hah! Shows how much you know. When it comes to love, you’re as blind as a hawk beneath its hood.

Sad, but true.

Now Ross was nothing more than a first-class pain—and one she couldn’t get rid of. No matter how many different ways she explained it, he could not get it through his head that she never wanted to see him again.

It was strange, but with Brody near, she could barely recall what Ross even looked like. The Runner stood to her left, no more than a yard away from Mason, and her stare snagged on his powerful form, unable to look away. Though his muscular frame had been wrapped in a stylish tuxedo the first time she’d met him at Torrance and Mason’s wedding, tonight he wore his standard dark jeans, black boots and black T-shirt. The soft cotton of the shirt molded itself to the broad width of his shoulders and that beautifully carved chest, his thighs rigid beneath the worn denim of his jeans. His auburn hair burned a deep, dark red before the flames of the fire, lying soft and thick on his shoulders. Against the darkness of his skin, his scars shone like silvery pale rivers of pain, echoing the mysteries of his past as they slashed across his face in three thin diagonal lines.

After the “I can’t get out of here fast enough” way that he’d acted the night before, when he’d brought her and Wyatt the news of what had happened to Max, she hadn’t thought he’d even show for the ceremony. But here he was. His normally brooding expression burned with a cold, calculating fury—a charged energy buzzing around him that suggested the rigid control he always held over himself could crack at any moment. Though the calmest, quietest of the Runners, he struggled to master, even hide, an underlying violence. But it was always there, lying in wait of its escape, and she experienced a flutter of relief in her belly that he was on their side.

Brody Carter was not a man you wanted for an enemy.

She ran her tongue over her bottom lip, aware that it quivered, and found herself fighting a physical urge to move closer to him, wanting to soothe that angry burn of pain he carried inside—when suddenly the restless movements of the pack ceased. Mason lifted his face, sniffing at the cool, brisk air. “The Elders are almost here,” he announced in a quiet rasp.

Across the clearing, the eerie, demonic glow of torches could be seen drawing nearer, and Michaela stared unblinkingly at the shadow-thick edge of the forest.

The light grew brighter, burning against her eyes as she watched a dark-haired Lycan with distinctive golden eyes walk forward, bearing one of the torches, his lip curled in a belligerent sneer. Then the first Elder stepped from the shadows, into the clearing, his stature one of blunt, stocky strength; light brown hair shot with silver at his temples; deep-set eyes sharp beneath bushy silver brows.