Authors: Kailin Gow
Wicked Woods #6
Published by THE EDGE
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Copyright © 2012 Kailin Gow
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To my parents who were amazing enough to get a vacation property in a wooded mountain resort when I was a child where Wicked is based. Childhood memories and campfire tales are the stuff dreams are made of.
evin had never thought he would be back at the werewolf king’s mansion, not after all the games Josh had tried to play with him and Briony. Certainly not when he’d spent so much time stuck in Palisor. Yet here he was, not just in the Wickhams’ house, but actually in Josh’s office, his feet up on the antique desk while he read through another of the books Josh’s sister Carol had brought out from Josh’s hiding place.
Kevin brushed a strand of his long dark hair away from his face. There was no question about why Carol had done that, of course. Even now, sitting there in the large, old fashioned armchair that Josh used, Kevin could practically feel her eyes on him, mentally removing the plaid shirt and jeans he wore from the equation so that her imagination could focus on the muscles underneath.
He forced himself to concentrate on the book, because no matter how interested Carol was, he wasn’t about to return that interest. Yes, she was beautiful, with an athletic body, deliciously perfect features, dark wavy hair, and probably the most direct gaze he’d ever seen in a girl, like a challenge every time she looked at someone. She was wearing a cut off t-shirt like the one she sported now, showing a lot of bare, toned stomach above the waistband of her jeans. She had heavy work boots on her feet that were like her, tough and practical. Aside from her trips to get more books, those didn’t move. She was too busy standing there, just watching him.
Kevin didn’t care. Briony was the one who mattered. Briony was the reason he was here, reading through Wickham family records dating back to the eighteenth century and beyond, to the time when they’d first arrived in Wicked. Which meant that even with Carol there, he could easily concentrate on the diary in front of him, looking for any mention of Palisor and its connection to the werewolves of Wicked.
Specifically, he found himself hoping that there would be something that would tell him why Josh was suddenly the only werewolf allowed into Palisor. With that information, maybe there would also be something that would tell him how to change that situation. If Briony was in Palisor, then he needed to be there too.
“You know,” Carol said, “once Josh realizes how much power there is to be had in Palisor, he’ll probably stay until he gets it.”
She’d moved, seating herself on a big leather chair in the corner, her legs crossed delicately at the ankles. She looked almost sweet and demure like that, but neither word was one that really applied to a girl who would quite happily spend her day transforming into a wolf so that she could tear apart vampires. As for the way she generally reacted around Briony…
“You know that my brother’s pretty relentless when it comes to getting what he wants, right?” she said.
Kevin looked over at her. “I guess that must run in the family.”
Carol smiled. “Have I made a move on you since
left? No, because I know that you’re so besotted with those pheromones she gives off that it won’t make any difference yet.”
“It isn’t just pheromones, Carol,” Kevin said, standing to put the book away. “I love her.”
“I bet that’s what Josh is saying too.” Carol’s smile turned a little more pointed. “What? It was pretty obvious when they left that he had a thing for her, and like I said, my big brother is pretty relentless when it comes to things he really wants.”
Kevin snorted at that like he didn’t think Josh had a chance, but the truth was that it wasn’t easy to stay unruffled about that. Briony was off in another world with both the king of the werewolves and Kevin’s vampire brother, Fallon. He was pretty sure that he was okay when it came to Fallon. Briony had made her choice when it came to them, and he didn’t think that Fallon would stoop to manipulation or tricks to get her back.
Josh, though… Kevin had seen some of the manipulations he’d tried since Briony arrived in Wicked. What he would try on the other side of the gate was anyone’s guess. The werewolf king wasn’t evil, exactly, but he certainly had very few qualms when it came to getting what he wanted. So if he had his sights set on Briony, or even on Palisor... that was enough to make Kevin shudder.
Worse, the books he’d read so far weren’t helping. “Carol,” he asked, “do
know of any way I can get into Palisor? There has to be some way around this restriction of only one werewolf being allowed inside.”
Carol shrugged. “Beats me. I never paid attention. There were always too many details.”
“And you aren’t just saying that to keep me here?” Kevin asked.
Carol shook her head, a flash of irritation flickering across her face. “I wouldn’t do that to you. I know that if I did, I wouldn’t have
chance. I just don’t know. Josh is the one interested in family history, not me.”
Great. Which meant that they were stuck with whatever was in the books, and whatever the other werewolves around Wicked knew. Which probably wasn’t much, given how good Josh was at keeping secrets. Kevin bent his attention back to the books, hoping that even so, there would be something.
There was a knock at the door.
“Come in,” Kevin said, and Carol stood up to let whoever it was in. Even though she was relentless when it came to pursuing him, even though she clearly didn’t like Briony and had nearly gotten them all killed on at least one occasion, she’d been the one who’d been prepared to help him with this.
The door opened to reveal the short, young looking figure of Briony’s brother Jake. The young half breed vampire/werewolf would have looked out of breath, if vampires could look that way. He looked ruffled and edgy, moving about in place like he couldn’t quite stand still. Obviously, whatever he’d come for had him agitated.
“What is it, Jake?” Kevin asked.
“It’s Pietre,” Jake said.
“Already?” Kevin guessed he should have expected it, now that Briony and Sophie, her aunt, were gone, but he hadn’t thought it would be this soon. Pietre had only just escaped the battle that had left vampire leader Marcus dead and so many of his vampires destroyed, so Kevin had thought that they might have at least a little breathing space before he tried anything new in his efforts to control Wicked.
Jake nodded. “I just came from George’s diner. Pietre’s vampires are showing up in ones and twos through town, trying to scare people, but it looks like more of them are moving in fast. There’s just you, me and the Preservation Society left to stop them.”
Kevin understood. The Wicked Woods Preservation Society sounded like it ought to be concerned with stopping the demolition of historic buildings. Instead, it was as tough a collection of monster hunters as Kevin had heard about, but it was almost completely human. Against Pietre’s vampires, that was a
He thought for a moment or two and then stood up. “Josh left me in charge here, so it’s time to be in charge. Carol?”
Carol looked up at him, not standing, but obviously paying attention. “What are you going to do, Kevin?”
going to do,” Kevin said. “Go outside and find as many of the local wolves as you can. I want them ready to protect the town. My guess is that Pietre is trying for some kind of revenge on Wicked since he can’t get what he wants. We aren’t going to allow that.”
“Are you sure about this?” Carol asked. “I mean, Josh would never have cared about just a bunch of
“Well, I’m not Josh,” Kevin shot back, “but I am in charge here.”
Carol looked at him for a couple of seconds, and Kevin got the feeling that even that hadn’t dented the way she felt. If anything, she looked like she wanted to rush over and kiss him right there and then.
“Yes,” she said. “Yes, you are. I’ll do that right away.”
Jake went with her, leaving Kevin to clear away some of the mess of papers. After a few minutes, he went downstairs through the werewolves’ ancient house, out onto the neatly maintained lawn. There had obviously been a lot of werewolves around, because something like a couple of dozen of them were standing on the lawn. Some, even most, were in human form, dressed in the kind of loose, tough clothing that was either easy to remove when they changed or which would stand up to the rigors of the transformation. A few were in their wolf forms, moving through the crowd with yips and barks.
All of them were watching him. All of them. A few of the younger women looked at him the way Carol had, while all the rest looked at him with something close to admiration. He knew that was because he was the strongest of them and their inner wolves respected that the way they would any other truly alpha male, but even so, it was disconcerting to have so many people looking to him for instructions. What would they see there? Would they see the dark haired, muscular guy a few inches taller than them, or would they just see their leader, and leave the real him out of it?
Was that what it was like for Josh when he was here? Standing there, knowing that whatever he said, the others would do it? No. Kevin shook his head. He wasn’t the same as Josh. He would do
than Josh. He looked around, spreading his hands.
“Look, you all know me,” he said. “You know who I am, and you know that Josh has left me in charge. Well, there’s a problem in town. Vampires.”
“Vampires.” The word came as a collective murmur from the crowd. Werewolves hated vampires instinctively, but these ones had months of violence to draw on as well. Pietre and his vampires had tried their best to wipe them out.
“It’s Pietre,” Kevin said. “He and his vampires are in town, causing trouble. Now, I say he needs to be stopped.”
A lot of the werewolves nodded.
“But I’m not going to make you do it,” Kevin insisted. “I know how many of you have been hurt fighting the vampires. I know how many of us have lost family.” He couldn’t help looking over to Carol then. Her brother Brian and her twin brother Channing were both dead thanks to the vampires. “If anyone wants to stay here, they can.”
“Why would we stay here?” one of the men at the front asked. “You’re our leader. We go where you go.”
“No, that isn’t…” Seeing his expression, Kevin gave up. When it came to werewolves, there wasn’t much point in trying to persuade them to make their own minds up about things. Instead, he pointed in the direction of Wicked. “Then let’s go stop them!”
Around him, werewolves roared their support. A few of the transformed ones howled. And two dozen angry werewolves set off in the direction of Wicked, looking for a fight, simply because he’d told them to.
riony woke up slowly, staring at the ceiling above her as she did so. It was hard
to stare, because that ceiling was decorated with a mural of tall, elegant figures dancing and kissing, dressed in silken finery that covered the whole rainbow and celebrating in the middle of woodland. The fangs in their smiles made it clear what they were. Hugtandalfer, like her aunt, like her father. Like her.