(Terribly sorry for the delay!)
A lot had happened in the short amount of time since I’d left Devin’s. I probably shouldn’t have taken that pancake break with Dory. I’d appeared in his driveway as two cars pulled up. I recognized a few of the people as they climbed out, but others were new faces. I could only assume they were all wolves. The pack had grown a lot since I’d left town.
I spotted a wolf named Grace among them and waved. She’d come to the pack when I was still leader. She’d been on the run from her abusive human father. She was petite, black, and had a mass of curly brown hair that wafted on the chilly breeze like sea foam. She smiled when she noticed me, and headed my way, her arms clutched around her puffy red winter coat.
“Pack meeting?” I asked as she reached me.
She nodded. “Abel called us. Things have elevated with the vamps, and we’re finally going to take action.”
I stifled my anger. Wasn’t I supposed to be handling this? “I leave for thirty minutes and the wolf poop hits the fan.”
Grace wrinkled her brow.
I shook my head. “Never mind. Let’s go inside.” I nodded toward the rest of the wolves already entering the house.
We were the last ones in. I shut the door behind me, then searched through the new arrivals filtering through the house for Chase, but Devin found me first. His normally styled blond hair was mussed, his shirt unbuttoned at the top.
I pursed my lips. “Well I was going to give you a hard time for calling in the wolves while I was away, but it looks like it wouldn’t make much difference.”
He rubbed his face in a tired gesture. “Please tell me the demons know what the vampires are planning.”
I walked with him toward the kitchen, leaving the excited werewolves to chatter amongst themselves. Once we were alone I asked, “What happened?”
He turned and leaned against the countertop. “Abel called. The major covens on the East Coast are leading a wolf-hunt. They’re accusing werewolves of killing people.”
“And are they?”
He rolled his eyes before narrowing them into a glare.
I raised my hands in surrender. “Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been attacked by werewolves.”
Devin shook his head. “Mallory, the leader of the Eastern Coalition, runs a tight ship. Occasionally a rogue slips through, infects someone, and that new wolf kills a human, but it never happens this large scale.”
I glanced at the coffee pot. Empty. Damn. “So this is really big, huh?”
“It’s all over the news, Xoe. This has to be part of whatever the vampires are planning. Witches are human. They could just as easily be accusing the vampires, but they’re not.”
We both turned as Chase and Jason entered the kitchen. Judging by the direction they came from, they’d been in the backyard.
I nodded in greeting to each of them, then turned back to Devin. “Okay, so the vampires convinced the witches to make humans afraid of werewolves. Do they have any proof of these murders?”
Devin nodded. “Torn up bodies. Fifteen so far.”
A shiver went down my spine. They were actually killing people just to make them look like wolf attacks. “What do we do?”
“We start locally,” Devin explained. “All of the packs have been alerted to find the vampires in their areas, and kill them.”
I glanced at Jason worriedly.
“Not him,” Devin sighed. “Nor any of our allies, though very few are vampires.”
I still felt unsure. “We’re just going to kill them all?”
Devin sighed. “Can’t you see where this is leading, Xoe? The witches cause panic with these deaths, then the vampires come in and save humanity from the wolves. It’s kill or be killed.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat, thinking of all my friends being hunted by vampires. “Well this escalated quickly.”
Chase put a hand on my shoulder. “What happened with the Council?”
I gnawed my lip. How much truth to tell? I knew Chase wouldn’t like me getting more involved with the council than I already was, but if the vampires were making their move, I probably didn’t have much choice. “We have demon backup when we need it,” I explained, “and they’ll try to get info on the vamps.” I turned to Devin. “Though I imagine we don’t have time to wait for said info?”
“No,” he answered as two more people entered the kitchen.
Lucy shucked her tan coat, revealing the white fluffy lining and red sweater underneath. She’d arrived with Allison, our long-time best friend, and weak, easy to kill human. Her honey blonde hair had been cut just below her chin in a stylish bob. A purple cashmere sweater and thick black jeans encased her ample curves, topped off by winter boots and a black puffer coat.
While I was happy to see her, I had a sneaking suspicion I wasn’t going to like whatever plan was being set into motion. “What are you doing here?” I asked suspiciously.
She grinned. “Gee Xoe, we haven’t seen each other in ages and that’s all you have to say to me?”
Chase and Jason had both backed away. I really wasn’t going to like the plan. I tried to think of a reason for calling in our only human ally.
I rubbed my brow, then shook my head. “You’re going to be the bait, aren’t you?”
Allison’s grin widened. “What better way to lure out a vampire than to provide a scrumptious snack?”
I shook my head. Only Allison would actually enjoy being vampire bait. “And just how do you know any of the vamps will bite?”
She gestured to her body. "How could they not?"
Devin cleared his throat. "We also have a good idea of where they tend to hunt. No bodies have been found, but a few people reported missing."
"Great," I sighed. "So they're killing people here too?" All vampires had to drink blood to survive, but there were plenty of different ways to go about it.
"We think so," Jason explained. "It's standard protocol for the factions of the Coalition to keep an eye on hospitals and butcher shops. No one has been buying or stealing blood in Shelby, and they have to be surviving somehow. The humans may or may not be willing donors."
I shivered. I'd never quite gotten over the idea of drinking blood, even after dating a vampire during my formative years. "Okay, so we take our tasty little snack," I gestured to Allison, "to a deserted alley, and wait for someone to munch on her? Won't the presence of wolves keep any hunting vampires away?"
"That's where I come in," a female voice said from the hallway, seconds before Audrey walked up behind Allison. "I can use my magic to disguise your scents. The vampires will be none the wiser."
I raised a brow at her. “Back so soon?”
She scowled. “I told you I would help. Devin called. I answered.”
I couldn’t quite hide my smile. Devin had a knack for placing people at his beck and call. “I’m surprised you're willing to get these deeply involved."
Her cool green gaze could have frozen a weaker soul right where they stood. "The vampires running amok is bad for all of us. If the wolves want to kill them, I will gladly assist in any way I can."
I found her willingness suspicious, but I wasn’t about to turn away the help. ”It's settled then," I decided. "We're going on a vampire stakeout. The only question now, is do we bring demon backup?"
Audrey's face instantly shut down.
"No," Devin interjected. "We'll keep this ambush just to the wolves. Once we find out the main hiding place, then we can bring in the demons."
His words were a relief. The thought of bringing Ethan around my friends gave me hives. It was better to find the vamp hideout, then I could go in with demon backup and leave most of the wolves, and Allison, out of it.
Devin gestured toward the hall in the direction of the front door, and the waiting wolves. "Let's get this over with. I've already chosen a location. The other wolves know where to go." He looked to Audrey. "If you cast the glamours here, will they last the duration of the ambush?"
Audrey quirked the corner of her lip. "If they were cast by a weaker Fae, perhaps not, but cast by me? They would last weeks if I so willed it."
I nodded. "I can see why the demons would want you."
There was that icy glare again. "Yes, and from what I'm told, they want you too."
I shrugged. "The burden of popularity, I guess."
She stared at me for a second longer. "Something like that. Let's go." She turned and walked back down the hall.
I looked to Devin, then to Lucy and Allison. I could sense the boys like silent statues behind me. It seemed we finally had a semblance of a plan. We could only hope that in confronting the vamps, we could find out what really happened with Sam. Heck, maybe we'd even find Nix.
With the time until Chase’s trial running out, we were banking on it.