Home>>read Prey (Shifters #4) free online

Prey (Shifters #4)(8)

By:Rachel Vincent

Still, he didn’t have anywhere near the experience Marc had, so while we weren’t technically shorthanded, neither were we truly running at max capacity. I’d been temporarily paired with Vic, my father’s right-hand man now that Marc was gone, and we were always working. Always. Patrolling the territorial boundaries, chasing down trespassers, teaching my fellow enforcers the partial Shift—after Marc mastered it, Jace and Vic picked it up quickly—and working with Kaci during every spare moment.
But this particular moment was mine. Ours.
“I’m here now.” I laid my palm flat on Marc’s chest, so I could feel as well as hear his heart beat in sync with my own.
“So you are…” He rose to kiss me, and I lay back on the pillow, sighing when his delicious weight pressed me into the mattress. I arched my neck and let my hands wander his torso as his mouth trailed over my chin and down my throat. Every hard plane on his body was as familiar to me as my own face. I knew how he’d gotten each scar, and at one time or another I’d tasted them all.
“Maybe we could take an extra day,” I murmured into his ear, rubbing his thigh with my knee as I wrapped my good leg around him. “Surely full-scale attack and a slashed radiator hose warrant a bit of a delay….” 
“Somehow I doubt the council will see it that way.” His right hand slid up the back of my thigh, then cupped my rear, shifting me gently into position.
“Screw the council—” I whispered, not surprised to hear my voice go hoarse with all-new need. One romp wasn’t enough to alleviate the ache of a two-month absence. That would take many, many…
Three brisk knocks on the door drenched the moment like a dunk in an ice-cold pond.
Marc sighed, and collapsed on top of me for a moment before rolling off to search for his pants. “Hang on!” he growled, as the knocking started again.
“Don’t let me interrupt…” my brother called through the door. “I’ll just stand out here and freeze my balls off while you two get reacquainted. No hurry.”
“Damn it, Ethan!” I stepped into my underwear, one hand on the pressboard bedside table for balance as I favored my injured leg. Then I pulled my tank top over my head and tugged it into place, already hopping toward the entrance as Marc zipped his pants. He settled onto the end of the bed with a sigh, and motioned for me to go ahead.
I slid the chain free and twisted the dead bolt, then jerked open the door to find my youngest brother grinning at me, hands stuffed into the pockets of a jacket much too thin to ward off the biting January cold. “I swear, you two have no self-control. You’re like animals.”
“Asshole.” But I couldn’t summon real malice, knowing he wouldn’t have interrupted us without a good reason. I tried to step aside and let him in, but I wasn’t fast enough. Ethan brushed past me into the warmth of the bedroom, and I stumbled back. My weight hit my injured leg and I hissed, then fell on my ass with all the poise of a hippo en pointe.
Ethan just kicked the door shut and hauled me up by one arm, even as I heard Marc rise from the bed behind me. “Way to go, Grace.” Then my brother frowned as his gaze settled on the three parallel rows of stitches on my thigh, and the bandages still circling my ankle. “Why haven’t you Shifted? You should be half-healed by now.”
“I’m fine.” I hopped along as he led me toward a chair. “And I will Shift. I just…haven’t had a chance yet.” I snuck a glance at Marc and smiled. Shifting into cat form can accelerate healing by as much as several days, as the body tears itself apart, then puts itself back together in another form. But Shifting while injured is far from comfortable, and it wasn’t at the top of my to-do list, especially considering all the other, more pleasurable ways to amuse myself in Marc’s company.
“Uh-huh.” Ethan rolled his eyes—like he was one to criticize—and turned from me to Marc, who watched us solemnly, waiting for whatever news the messenger bore. “Jace and Brian just loaded eight dead cats into the back of the van, and left seven more still unconscious.”
They would drive the corpses back to the ranch to be destroyed in the industrial incinerator—the type most farmers used to dispose of dead livestock.
We used it to get rid of evidence. Though we’d never had quite so much to dispose of at once before.
Marc arched both brows. “Only seven unconscious? Several must have wandered off on their own.” And two more had died since we’d left them.
“Sounds about right. Damn, that was some brawl.”
“It was a fucking ambush.” Marc dropped into the chair opposite mine and pulled the bottle of Absolut forward. “In the ten years I worked for your dad, I never once saw that many strays in league. This gang was several times the size of Radley’s, and they meant business.”
Ethan flipped open the pizza box and picked up the largest remaining slice. “So you think they were after Manx?”Marc glanced at me before nodding, and his eyes lingered on mine in concern as he twisted the top from the bottle. “And probably Faythe, too. Did you see her ankle? One of them tried to drag her off in the middle of the fight.”
A growl started in the back of my throat, and my hands clenched into fists in my lap. It was always the same old song and dance with most strays, and frankly, I was getting pretty damn tired of the whole snatch-and-grab routine.
Marc gulped from the bottle, not bothering with a chaser. “I mean, how often do two tabbies travel through the free territory together? We may as well have painted a target on the back of the Suburban.”
“It’s not like we had another option.” I chose a slice of cold pizza at random. “Manx can’t fly, and avoiding the free zone would have added several days to the trip.” And I would never have even gotten a glimpse of Marc that way.
“I know.” Marc sighed. “Where’re Jace and Brian?”
Ethan swallowed his bite and twisted the lid from a half-empty two-liter of Coke. “Covering the cargo in the back of the van of a thousand corpses.”
Which meant Jace wasn’t up for seeing me and Marc half-naked together. He could accept how I felt about Marc—grudgingly—but drew the line at seeing it in person. Which we all understood.
Ethan closed the soda and met my eyes, his own oddly solemn. “Mom can’t get Kaci to cooperate with you gone, so I’m going to drive the van back with Jace, and Brian will go on with you guys.” Which was no doubt why they’d risked driving the corpses back into the free zone. “Okay?”
“Sure.” Other than me, Kaci was most comfortable with Jace and Ethan. For some reason, the wonder twins could always make her smile, even when I would have sworn she didn’t have the strength. “Tell Kaci I’ll call her tomorrow. And please be careful. What would happen if you two got pulled over with eight bodies in the back of the van?”
Ethan grinned, green eyes sparkling. “We hope the cop’s a cat lover.” He took another bite, then gestured with the crust of his pizza. “But we won’t get pulled over. It’s not like we’ve never driven home with a body in the back before.”
Two short, sharp knocks sounded on the door, and we all turned as Ethan yelled, “Come on in, Jace. They’re not doin’ it. Yet.”
That was my brother. Mr. Sensitivity.
Jace opened the door and stepped inside, then quickly shoved the door closed and leaned against it, pushing brown waves out of his bright blue eyes. “Hey, how’s life on the outside?” he said, greeting Marc first out of respect, even though he no longer had any rank within the Pride. Most other toms wouldn’t have done that, especially considering that I’d chosen Marc over Jace. But Jace was a good guy. My father didn’t hire any other kind. 
“Can’t complain.” Marc stood to shake Jace’s hand with just a hint of formality. “How’s everything at the ranch?”
“Not the same without you, man,” Jace said, and I smiled as Marc exhaled deeply, and nodded in acknowledgment.
I knew better than anyone else how much that sentiment meant to Marc, and I could have kissed Jace for it—if that wouldn’t have made everything infinitely worse.
Finally, Jace’s eyes found me, and concern washed over his face as he stepped forward. “Your dad didn’t say you were hurt.”
“I don’t think anyone’s told him yet.” I clutched the arm of my chair to keep from self-consciously touching my wounds. “I’m fine, though. One Shift should take care of the limp.”
“Well, do it soon,” Jace said, then turned to Ethan, his jaw tight with whatever he was not saying. “You ready?”
“Yeah.” Ethan took one last gulp of Coke and snatched a slice of pizza for the road. “You guys be careful.” He pulled me up and into a bear hug. “Mom will never forgive any of us if her only daughter comes home disfigured.”
I twisted out of his grip when the hug got too tight. “After tonight, she ought to be grateful I’m coming home at all.”
“Can I be there when you tell her that?” Ethan asked, still grinning as he headed for the door.
“Yeah, I’m considering a rephrase.” I followed him, hobbling along with my arm intertwined with Marc’s. “Seriously, though, will you tell Kaci I’m fine? We’re all fine. And we’ll be home in a couple of days, good as new.”