One hundred and fifty years lateraging one year for every thirty that passed once a lupus garou reached pubertyBella was the equivalent of a human twenty-one-year-old. She longed more than ever to have Devlyn for her mate, wishing she hadnt had to hide from the pack all these years. The burning desire for him flooded her veins whenever she came into the wolfs heat. Her body craved his touch, but her mind had given up hoping to ever have him for her own. If she could find a strong, agreeable human mate, she could change him into a lupus garou, and he would keep her safe from Volan.
She shook her head, trying to rid herself of the image of the brutish fiend, and continued to pack her overnight bag. Any man would be better than hea good mate who would help her establish her own pack.
She turned to look at Devlyns photo sitting on the bedside table, the most recent one that Argos, the old, retired pack leader, had sent her. Taking a deep breath, she threw another pair of jeans into her bag, determined to get her mind off Devlyn.
Knowing she couldnt put off mating much longer, she realized that ones second choice far outweighed living alone; even the sound of a dogs howl on the nights breeze triggered the gnawing craving to be with a pack.
She stalked into her office and left an email message for Argos, a routine shed adopted because he insisted she keep him posted whenever she went into the woods. As a loner, shed have no backup. Off to the cabin for the weekend again, Argos. Give the pack my love, in secret. Yours always, love, Bella
She didnt have to tell him to keep her correspondence a secret; he knew what would happen if Volan learned where she was. . . .
Turning off her computer, she picked up her phone and called her next-door neighbora woman who had partially eased Bellas loneliness after losing her twin sister in a fire so many years ago. Chrissie, Im going to my cabin for the weekend again. Can you keep an eye on my place?
Sure thing, Bella. Pick up your mail on Saturday, too, if youd like. And Ill water your greenhouse plants. Hey, I dont want to hold you up, but did you hear about the latest killing?
Yeah, the police have got to catch the bastard soon.
That was one of the reasons she was going to her cabin, to get away, to consider the facts of the murders, to search for clues in the woods. He had to be from Portland or the surrounding area, since it was there hed killed all the women. And he had to take a jaunt in a forest from time to time. The call of the wild was too strong in them. She hadnt expected to smell red lupus garou in the place where she ran, as far away as it was from the city. For three years she hadnt smelled a hint of them. Not until last weekend. Was one of them the killer? She had to know.
Bella tossed a pink sweatshirt into the bag.
You be careful, honey. The victims are all redheads in their twenties. And the last was killed not far from here.
Dont worry, Chrissie. Ive got a gun for protection. Well, two: one at her cabin, and one at home, but who was counting? Silver bullets, too; Bella had them made for Volan. It wasnt the lupus garou way, but she had no other way to fight him. She would never be his.
A . . . a gun? Do you know how to shoot it?
Yep, shed learned how to shoot a gun a good century and a half ago, ever since the early days when she had lived in the wilderness, trying to survive in the lands west of Colorado.
Yeah, dont worry. Give your kids hugs for me, will you? Tell Mary I want to see the painting she did for art class, and tell Jimmy that I want to see his science project when I return.
Chrissie sighed. Ill tell them. You be careful up there all by yourself. That is, if youre going all by yourself.
Always checking. Chrissie was looking for husband number two, and she assumed Bella rendezvoused with some mountain man every time she returned to her cabin.
See you Monday.
Be careful, Bella. You never know where that maniac will end up.
Ill be cautious. Got to go.
Bella hung up the phone and zipped her suitcase. Before it turned dark she had every intention of searching the woods for further clues concerning the red lupus garounot a wild dog, a mixed wolf-dog breed, or as some thought, a pit bull that some bastard had trained to kill his victimsthat might be killing the women.
Why had she caught the scent of red lupus garou in the area near her cabin now, when the woods had been free of their kind for the last three years? She envisioned a lone female wouldnt stand a chance at remaining that way. Her stomach curdled with the idea that shed have to give up her cabin and find a new place to run. Just one more concern to add to her growing list of worries.