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Adrenaline coursed through Summer. The relationship with her pack was rocky, confusing, and a definite source of stress in her life, but there was no way she could or would let them be at the mercy of a feral pack.
“What?” she asked again. There had been a strange buzzing in her ears after Chuck had spoken and she needed to be sure she’d heard him correctly.
“I’m hunting a pack of feral werewolves and I’m here because my sources say they’re targeting the local area.” He looked at her with a mixture of curiosity and empathy. “I know this is an odd place for a werewolf to live, so I’m assuming your pack lives within fifty miles and you’re on the very outskirts of their territory.”
“I–” she halted, swallowing hard. Taking a deep breath, she continued, “You’re correct, my pack lives near Baker. And yes, your source,” she frowned, “intelligence? I dunno what you’d call it. They’re correct, I grew up there.”
“Then, I need your help. I’m guessing that you live out here for a reason, and I won’t pry, but if you care for them, and want to keep them from having their territory taken over, I’ll need your help.”
Summer dropped her head and breathed out hard. She took a slowed, measured breath and started to speak. Before the words left her mouth, she halted them. Years of hiding her family life from the world and avoiding her family had installed significant mental roadblocks.
“Come out back,” she told him quickly and turned to stride towards a set of sliding glass doors at the rear of the townhouse without waiting to see if he’d follow. She stepped through the door and inhaled like a drowning woman breaking the water’s surface. The tang of salt on the evening breeze filled her nose as she gulped in fresh air. Eyes closed, she took in slow, measured breathes as Chuck quietly closed the sliding door behind himself.
“Do you have a family?” she asked, eyes still closed.
There was a pause before he answered. “Yes. I mean, everyone comes from somewhere.”
Summer’s eyes opened and she turned to him. “From that evasive answer, I’ll surmise that your family situation is at least as complicated as mine.” She gave him a smirk. “After all, how normal can a demon’s family be?”
She had the pleasure of seeing him start before composing himself again.
“Indeed,” he said dryly.
She quirked an eyebrow in question, but after silence stretched between them, she pressed on. “My family life is complicated. I was raised in an insular community. Contact with the outside world was limited, especially when I was younger and had less control over my shifting.” Summer’s lips twisted into a wry smile over a private joke. “When I started to be exposed to human culture and started learning about the other side of my family, I was enamored.”
Chuck opened his mouth but shut it before speaking. He nodded.
“My Aunties were having none of it, though. So, as I told you, I rebelled.”
“And now you’re here. Short of a large metropolitan area, I can’t think of anywhere less likely for a werewolf.”
Summer let her head drop back and gave a throaty laugh. “What? You can’t see me out on a paddleboard?”
Chuck gave her a half smile. “No, I imagine the salt water is murder on your fur.”
Summer gave him a smile that crinkled the corners of her eyes. When he looked down to meet her smile, she was hit by the sudden memory of looking up at him from a silvered cage. The levity flooded out of her. No matter how appealing he looked or charming he was, this being was not a friend.
“What are you, Chuck?” she asked in a flat voice.
He regarded her coolly, his charming smile gone. “What do you think I am?”
“Not fae. Not normal fae, anyway.” Her eyes narrowed as she looked him up and down. “But you deal like one of them. Charming. Pale skin that marbled in the moonlight.” Her eyes widened.
Chuck’s mouth compressed into a thin line and he nodded.
“You can’t be. They’re all dead!”
He shook his head slowly. “Not all. The very strongest survived. The Inquisition. The burning years. The Twentieth Century. The so-called ‘Sexual Revolution’.” He laughed ruefully. “Still here.”
Summer stared out at the sun, just now dipping below the horizon, and igniting the sky. She couldn’t believe she’d let him in her house. It explained why she’d found him so attractive, even when he had her in a cage. “So, Chuck, tell me, what in the world is an incubus doing hunting feral werewolves in the ass crack of Florida?”
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