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Hunter's Moon

Moon 2

Lisa Kessler

For Ken and Panda –

Thanks for all your love and support for this book,

even though I didn’t put in the extremity shot…

Chapter One

Aren

The dry Las Vegas wind stung my eyes as I rounded the building, scanning the shadowed parking lot for my prey. Even the dark of night couldn’t cool the desert heat wafting up from the pavement. The stench of the spy’s fear teased my nostrils, making the corner of my mouth twitch. I could admit I was eager to take this guy down, but knowing he was scared shitless sweetened the deal considerably.

For the past several months, this secret had festered inside me like an open wound. I’d been traveling too often. Instead of protecting my Pack back in Reno, I had found myself sneaking around, unable to stop tracking her, protecting our enemy.

Sasha.

The wolf inside of me growled, aching to fight for this woman I barely even knew, who’d tried to kill me. Twice. I forced a slow breath into my lungs. Patience. I could wait this guy out. My bum ankle left me little choice anyway.

My senses were on full alert, adrenaline pumping through my veins. The Nero Organization was still searching for her, and this scumbag was the latest in a string of informants looking for easy money. With a bounty on her head, they were eager to provide proof that she was still on the loose.

Finally he made his move. Footsteps raced toward the alley. Toward me. Perfect. I stepped into his path, blocking his only exit. He tried to pivot and change course, but it was too late. The weasel rammed into me, falling backward. Before he could roll over and scramble away, I grabbed his shirt and yanked him off the ground.

“You’re not going anywhere.” My eyes narrowed as I pulled him even closer, his scent filling my nostrils. He was human. Apparently Nero wasn’t ready to risk another jaguar assassin to search for her. Maybe they were starting to believe she really had died at the fight in Lake Tahoe. “Tell me about Nero.”

“I don’t know nothin’.”

He wriggled like a fish, his feet struggling to touch the pavement. I was at least six inches taller than him, and I had no intention of letting him get away. I head-butted him. Blood erupted from his nose, the thick coppery scent immediately bringing the wolf inside me to full attention.

“Goddammit,” he shouted, kicking me in the shins while he yanked at my wrists. “Let go of me, you crazy son of a bitch.”

I kept my grip tight on his shirt. “I asked you a question.”

“And I told you, I don’t know nothin’.”

“You’re lying,” I said before slamming him against the brick wall of the alley.

He coughed, spewing putrid breath into my face. He reeked of week-old cigarettes and cheap vodka. “Please,” he stammered. “I never heard of any Nero.”

“Why have you been trailing the red-haired woman?” He started to shake his head, so I freed one hand from his shirt and landed a solid punch to his stomach to joggle his memory. “Answer me.”

He stopped kicking his feet, and his stare met mine. Gradually the fear in his eyes faded. My patience was wearing thin, but before I could rattle his cage for a reply, he started to smile. “They know she didn’t die in that fight,” he whispered.

Pain burst through my gut, setting my entire side on fire. Dammit! The slimy little bastard had stabbed me.

I pressed him against the wall, forcing myself not to loosen my grip. Fear crept back into his eyes when I didn’t let him go. I held him up with one arm and pulled his knife out of my side with the other.

His eyes opened wide. “What the hell are you?”

Using both hands I threw him across the alley, his skull crunching against the bricks. He hit the ground like a rag doll while I clutched the new hole in my side.

“I’m a wolf, asshole.”

Usually Jason, our Pack doctor, patched up our wounds, but that wasn’t an option for me right now. My twin, Adam—our Alpha—would demand to know what happened.

And for the first time in my life, I had no intention of telling him. What could I say? I let the Pack believe I’d killed Sasha during the fight with Nero six months ago instead of admitting I’d pulled her to safety. And now I watched out for her, protecting her from a distance. Even Adam wouldn’t—couldn’t—let that one alone.

Never in a million years would I have ever believed myself capable of betraying my Pack, my family. But I also hadn’t understood the depth of my wolf instincts. Now they demanded I walk both sides of the line, leaving my loyalty torn in shreds.

I couldn’t return to the Pack with this wound. I had to sort it out without them. Besides I was at least an eight-hour drive from Reno. I’d have to risk a few stitches here in Vegas and be sure I didn’t allow any blood to be drawn. I could do that.

By the time I pulled into the urgent care center, I knew the stab wound wasn’t too serious. If he’d hit an artery or a major organ, I would have bled out by now. But ignoring a gaping wound in my side wasn’t an option either. Werewolves may heal a little faster than humans, but a nasty staph infection could take a wolf down just as well as the next person.

Stepping out of the car, I winced as pain radiated up my leg. I sucked in a deep breath through clenched teeth. My ankle was fucking killing me. Perfect. At least I had the guy’s knife wrapped and hidden under the floor of the trunk with my spare tire. Maybe I’d be able to pull fingerprints from it later and get something out of this other than a stab wound.

Wiping the sweat off my forehead, I limped into the brightly lit ER. The triage nurse jumped up and rushed me to an exam room. Being covered in blood apparently trumped the other emergencies.

I hated the smell of hospitals. My acute wolf senses caught a mixture of blood, urine, and disinfectant, morphing it into a disgusting scent of decay that turned my stomach. I got up on the exam table, slightly wobbly from the blood loss. The nurse laid a clipboard on the counter and scribbled something quickly before turning to face me.

“So what happened?” She snapped on a pair of latex gloves and reached for the hem of my shirt to inspect the wound.

“I’m all right. It’s just a little scratch.”

Her eyes widened when she found the source of my bleeding. “This isn’t a scratch. You’ve been stabbed.”

I forced what I hoped was a convincing smile. “All I need is a couple of stitches, and I’ll be on my way.”

She shook her head and stepped back. “You can try to charm me all you want, but you’ll still need to speak with the police about your injury. It’s hospital policy with stabbings and shootings.”

“It was an accident. I fell while holding a steak knife.” This was exactly the reason no one in the Pack went to hospitals—too many questions. “Come on, I feel stupid enough as it is.”

She raised a brow and left the room.

I raked a hand back through my hair and groaned. I was screwed.

I couldn’t talk to the police any more than I could face the Pack and tell them why I was in Las Vegas killing

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