Name: Melissa Cowan
Occupation: waitress, Gordon’s Diner, Peoria, Illinois
Marital Status: single, but involved
Preternatural Status: pack werewolf (rogue)
Bounty: $50,000 for the pack (five wolves)
* * *
Placing her index-card dossier on the table, I watched as she went back and forth in the diner, serving one customer after another. When not carrying a large tray or more than one drink in her hands, a spare hand guarded her impregnated belly as she skirted around the tables.
What maniac would have his mate work like this? Between the dark circles under her eyes, dark brown stragglers of hair sticking out from her limp ponytail, and her pale complexion, it was obvious that nobody gave a damn about her. A real wolf would have kept his wife like an expensive China doll, stashed away so that she could give birth to her cubs in comfort and secrecy.
Given that the humans knew nothing of our existence; that would be best for all. If she accidentally dropped her load on the floor or went into premature labor, our lives would be complicated on an unimaginable scale; think witch hunts and mobs with pitchforks.
That was why my leader, Wesley Dane, gave me the job of watching her while the rest of my group went after her pack. If she alerted her pack, she’d die faster than planned.
Two weeks ago our anonymous employer had put a bounty on her pack because they had turned one too many motorists to snacks. People would come to the diner for a meal and then go back to the pack’s motel to rest up before getting back on the I-90 thruway. Things like that don’t go unnoticed when one of the victims happens to be a councilman’s sister.
An anonymous pack put out a bounty on Melissa and her rogue — rabid was better word — pack. The Hunting Club, as we called ourselves, answered the call.
I finished the last of my tea. If I had to stay here one more hour and suck down another cup of tea, I’d turn into a tea tree. Though Dane wouldn’t say it, I think he gave me the crappy job because I was… different. So to speak.
Had the rogues lived in the woods like most of their psychotic kind, I would have been out there with my companions holding down my sniper position. Sorry to say, these rogues didn’t play by the book. They hid out in a half-star motel — the half star because they kept the passageways swept — while Melissa sent anyone looking for a place to stay into the jaws of her pack. Pregnant or not, she was a monster just like the rest of them.
So if I believed that, then why was I finding it so damn hard to finish her off once her shift ended? Those were Dane’s orders. “When she gets to the parking lot, take her out. We can’t afford for even one of those bastards to survive.” Dammit, he knew this woman was pregnant. Why didn’t he do this himself? Why give this burden to me?
A crash narrowed my focus on Melissa. Between the shouting from the kitchen and a table of rowdy kids clapping at her distress, it was no wonder that her nerves hadn’t cracked, turning her into a werewolf on the spot. As she bent over to pick up the broken dishes, a set of hands from one table rubbed her belly while a pair of fingers pinched her ass.
Anger licked through me. How dare those bastards touch her? They had no right. Where the hell was her mate? Had he cared enough to keep an eye on her, he probably would have shifted and torn everyone apart in the restaurant. Had it been Matt, my husband, who wouldn’t even have me working in a dump like this in first place, he would have torn off arms and tossed them into a meat grinder without flinching.
“Quit it!” she shouted, slapping at the feasting hands. “You son of a bitch, keep your filthy hands to yourself.”
Okay, maybe I could understand why she handed some of these cretins over to her pack. Still, that didn’t make it right. But I have to honestly say, had I been in her place, I might have done the same.
“Cowan!” A spatula waved out of the rectangular cut-out that gave a glimpse into the kitchen. Your typical cook with the greasy tee and large belly leaned on the cut-out and shouted at Melissa. “That shit’s coming out of your pay! Either keep your breeding ground stomach in line or take your swollen ankles out the door!”
Forget the customers. I would have given his bloated ass to my rogue pack.
“Go to hell, Gordon!” She threw the pieces of plate onto her tray and stomped behind the counter. “If you left your perverts at the door, one of them wouldn’t have left their limp-ass leg for me to trip over.”
Sniggers broke out among the patrons.
“Watch your mouth!” he shouted back. “Then again, if you could do that, then your ass wouldn’t be waddling from one table to the other.”
“Fuck you. I’m taking my break.” She chucked the broken shards into the trash and tossed the tray on the counter.
A quick jerk of her head and her eyes met mine. It was though her tense hazel eyes could see right down to the tripping of my heart. Well, knowing what I knew about werewolves, I couldn’t let her intimidate me. Besides, she knew who and what I was the moment I walked through the door more than an hour ago. All werewolves identified me by my scent alone.
Continuing on her path, she lifted her attention to the door on my right. Sweeping a finger across my table, she whispered, “Follow me.”
Here we go.
I tossed more than enough money on the table to take care of my tea and ham sandwich before following her out the door. When I got outside, my heart skipped to my throat because she had disappeared.
Calm down, Alexa. Use your nose, girl. That’s how you find them.
And it worked like a charm. I lifted my nose to the air for a quick sniff, and located her trail just around to the side of the building. Unfortunately, that side of the building didn’t have any windows for the patrons to see us talking — I hoped it wouldn’t come to slicing. Nonetheless, I couldn’t let her just walk away.
I reached under my black vest — tailor-made to carry things like arrows, knives, and anything else that could protect my butt — and pulled out a bowing knife about a foot long. If silver bullets worked on werewolves, I would have bought stock in a silver company by now. However, these werewolves weren’t like the ones you read about or see in the big screen. They could die just like anyone else, silver not necessary. On that same note, a full moon is nothing more than a full moon. I’ll admit that some werewolves get a little antsy, but two cups of coffee could do the same thing.
Easing around the edge of the building, I gripped the leather hilt of my knife. I would have preferred a crossbow, my weapon of choice, but it would look a little awkward to have one slung over my shoulder while I was ordering up a ham sandwich. Keeping the knife in front of me, I peeked around the corner.
Melissa stood with her back against the brick wall and her stomach looking about as large as a walrus belly. Seeing her with swelled ankles and a run-down look on her face pinched a hint of sorrow inside me. Unfortunately, my feelings toward her didn’t mean jack if she kept sending unsuspecting travelers to her pack’s motel.
“You have to get out of here,” she said, keeping her head turned up to the stars. “If my pack comes, they’ll take you.”
Did I hear her right? Was that a warning? I came here to do away with her because she was in league with a rogue pack and here it was she gave me forewarning about leaving town. What were the bad guys coming to?
“So you know who I am,” I said, making it a statement.
She lowered her gaze and met mine again. “I don’t know anything. You smell like wolf, but… something’s not quite right.”
At least that’s what the werewolf population calls my kind. Half werewolf and half human. With only a handful of us estimated to live throughout the world, we are a rare breed. Most werewolves wrinkle their noses at someone like me because I was an infestation in their gene pool. Even worse, we aren’t equipped to live in the werewolf world because we can’t change. Heightened senses, increased agility, and the ability to lift about 400 pounds are all we get. I’ve learned to live with my “lesser” self. Besides, a bowing knife and crossbow more than made up for my shortcomings.
She blinked, several times. Melissa peeled her back off the wall and took two steps toward me before she stopped. Her gaze went to the blade in my hand, then back to me.
“You came here looking for me,” she said, leaning against the wall with her hand smoothing across her rounded belly. “Why?”
“I think we both know why.”
A nod, before she lowered her head. “You should go while you’ve still got a chance. You’re no match for them. I should know. I wasn’t.”
“Excuse me?” That came out faster than I intended. Why in the world was I taking such an interest in her soon-to-be-shortened life?
She exhaled a huge sigh. “Kevin was my boyfriend. I didn’t know what he was until I became pregnant. I loved him because of his bad-boy edge. Hell, I thought I’d help him and his friends out by sending some business their way. Then when I told him that I was pregnant, he bit me.” Her eyes pleaded with mine, begging with unspoken words that pulled at my heart. “I didn’t know how on earth I’d survived, but I did. And so did the babies.”
“Babies? You mean there’s…?”
She nodded. “Twins. But that doesn’t matter. What I need to do is get you out of here before he or one of his gang comes back. If they find you… Well… I think we both know what they’ll do.”
Rape me, then eat me. I’ve heard that tune more than once in my bounty hunting career.
But the fact that she wanted to save me more than she did her babies floored me. She was mixed up woman with so much on her mind that she couldn’t see straight. I didn’t live in her world and I didn’t have time to probe her with any more questions. Her pack wouldn’t be coming back. The Hunting Club would. And knowing Dane and the others, they wouldn’t have an ounce of mercy for her. If they had, then I wouldn’t have been sent to keep an eye on her at the diner.
Gravel cracked under my black hiking boots as I made my approach. I placed my knife against her stomach and deadpanned into her eyes. “Your pack won’t be coming back, Melissa. My friends are making sure of that as we speak. But you’ve got a choice. Either you walk away with your babies or I do a C-section right here in the parking lot.”
Unspoken questions creased her eyebrow. “What are you saying? Is Kevin –”
“Kevin is dead.” Though I didn’t know this for sure, I could make a pretty good guess. “If you stay here, you’ll join him. I don’t give a damn where you go, but those babies are going to need a strong wolf to guide them. I’m hoping that wolf is you. If not, then I’ll finish this right here.”
Melissa kept her eyes on me. With my incredible eyesight, I could see the fear that dilated her pupils and the pulse drumming in her neck. She was scared and had every reason to be.
But that didn’t stop her from backing away. “Can I get my purse?”
“You’ve got two minutes. After that, you had better make your peace with God. The clock’s ticking.”
Holding her stomach, she scampered around the corner and back inside the building. I followed her to the front of the building where I could peek in to make sure she wasn’t making any last minute calls. Reaching under the counter, she grabbed her purse, tossed her apron on the counter, and hurried out the door with her boss screaming at her back, spatula shaking in his hand. When she came back out, she hopped into a beat up Monte Carlo and squealed out of the parking lot.
Twelve people died that night, seven of ours and all five of hers. Had I known that little fact before letting her go, I would have evened the score with her and her babies.
Reviews for Half Breed
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