Elton and Wat were five steps away from the door as Aoife burst through it. She ran right into the doctor’s chest and he caught her, held her fast.
“Let go,” Aoife said, half breathless, half whimpering. “There’s something outside.”
Wat’s mouth snapped shut and he glanced from her to Gray, Terézia, and Kes. “Is that what all the screaming was about?”
“Something just changed from a man into a wolf,” Kes said. “It was trying to look through the window at us and when we saw it, it ran away.”
“A wolf was trying to watch you through the window?” Elton said.
“No, it was a man,” Kes said. “He turned into a wolf when he ran away.”
Wat looked at Kes, then at Terézia, then back at Kes. “You know, I’d expect that from Teca, but you?”
“No lie, Wat,” Gray said. “We all saw it.”
“Great, the crazy is catching.”
“Fuck this shit,” Aoife said. She stomped on Elton’s foot hard enough that the doctor yelped and let go of her. She darted for the lodge’s doors. “Gray, did you ever get to do more than sprinkle herbs around the place?”
Gray glanced at Terézia quickly. She shook her head. “No, nothing else,” he said.
Aoife cursed and threw the doors open, stepping out into the night.
“Damn it all,” Gray swore, pushing past Elton and Wat, going after her.
Terézia darted after him. “Wat, grab some shotguns.”
“And load them with what? Silver fucking bullets?”
Kes squeezed his arm. “We’ll just have to hope that they’re not here to hurt us—or that they’ll die when you shoot them just like anything else.” She glanced at Elton. “You better make sure the kids stay where you put them.”
The doctor gave her a long, hard look and shook his head. “You guys be careful.”
“We will be.” Kes squeezed Wat’s arm again before she turned to follow the others.
• • •
Her heart thudded wildly against her chest as she scanned the pathway up to the lodge, the trees that lined it—anything and everything, searching for any sign of what they’d seen through the window. She breathed through her mouth, trying not to gag on her fear.
It doesn’t have to be those. It could be another type of shifter. It could be. There’s no reason to assume it’s one of those.
Except for the fact that her brother had been involved in some kind of altercation in Michigan, and it wouldn’t have surprised her in the slightest if their long-ago enemies had show up once again to trouble them.
Our allies were always too few and far between.
Someone’s hand closed on her shoulder and she went tense, poised to strike until she heard Gray’s voice.
“I’ve got your back.”
Those words were more comforting than they had any right to be. She swallowed hard and nodded.
Something growled ahead of them, to the left. She broke out in a sweat, fighting to hold her shaking in check. I’m not strong enough for this.
The brush rustled. Something leapt, a thing with sable fur and bright amber eyes that glowed from the inside out.
A shriek echoed from above them and a shadow dropped from the sky, red-eyed and screaming, like a giant bat. Aoife cried out, backing into Gray. His arms wrapped around her and he spun her away, shielding her with his body.
There was a wet crunching sound and a howl. Both things tumbled off into the brush. Gray shoved Aoife back toward the open lodge doors.
“Get back inside!”
Terézia caught her as she stumbled toward the doors. Gray came on her heels, shoving both women back inside and slamming the doors behind them. He leaned against them, breathing hard.
“Wat, Kes—grab that bench and bring it over here. We need to bar the doors.”
“What the hell was that flying thing?” Terézia asked, still holding onto Aoife.
She couldn’t stop shaking, her heart hammering a thousand miles a minute. “I’m not sure,” Aoife said, gulping in air, gobbling it greedily, as if it would help her steady herself. “But I think we’re suddenly in the middle of some kind of twisted turf war. It didn’t feel right—neither of them did.”
Wood scraped on wood as Kes and Wat hauled the bench toward the main doors. Gray helped them wrestle it into place and sank down on it, still breathing hard. His gaze fell on Aoife.
“But you know what those wolf-things are, don’t you?”
“Hamrammr,” Aoife said, meeting his gaze. The shakes wouldn’t stop. Gods and monsters, pull yourself together! “Scandinavian werewolves. I think that’s what they are, anyway.”
“Wait, what?” Wat stared at her, then at his friends, then back to Aoife again. “That’s awfully specific.”
“It’s an awfully specific breed. I hope that I don’t know who sent them.”
Kes frowned. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“It does when you know who’s used them in the past,” Aoife said grimly. “And if they’ve been sent by the ones who’ve used them in the past, my brother has opened old wounds and sucked us into a war that I don’t think we can win.”
“That’s terribly comforting,” Gray muttered.
“I know,” Aoife said, finally stepping away from Terézia as she brought the shakes under control. All she wanted was for Gray to put his arms around her and tell her everything was going to be all right—for anyone to do it, but for him most of all. “That’s why I hope I’m wrong.”
“And if you’re not?”
She exhaled. “Then we hope that they’re only hunting for Phelan and that they’ll lose interest when they figure out that I’m not him. We have to hope.” She squeezed her eyes shut. Gods and monsters. Please. Please. Please let me be wrong about this. Please let me be wrong.
Something slammed against the doors, rattling them. Terézia gave a startled little cry and Aoife flinched, sinking to her knees.
“Gods and monsters,” she whispered. “Please.”