Winter Rain, part 56

“What are you doing?” I growl as Brennan turns south onto the main road.

“Getting us the fuck outta here,” he growls back.

“No!” I snarl. “We can’t just go! Even if we fucking want to—we need someone to take us to Torrin’s.”

“Yeah, fuck that! Dugan’s a write-off! Even money he set this whole thing up. We can just go straight to Carrigan’s from here—nobody’ll be the wiser.”

“Yeah, great plan, Brennan,” I sneer. “Let’s make even more enemies than we’ve already got.

“Turn the fuck around!”


“Brennan, this is my mission. Turn the fucking car around now!” I resist the urge to grab the wheel from him—that would just turn this into a contest of strength, and he’d win. Instead, I glare at him and wait. It’s my best option. If he takes over, Faolan comes down on him if we fail. He’s already made it clear he isn’t willing to take that risk. He turns to glare back, but I know it’s hollow. He wants me to give in, and I won’t. If he wants it, he has to take it.

“Fine,” he spits at last, and slams on the brakes. He wheels the car around and we speed back the way we came. “You know you’re killing us, right?”

“No, actually, I don’t know that.”

I don’t. But I have to admit, it’s within the realm of possibility. But nothing about Dugan struck me as false. Hell, nothing about Keely did, either. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Besides, he’s wrong. We do need them.

We zip past the side-road, and there’s no sign Declan-and-friends have found their keys yet. Fuckers.

“Slow down—we don’t want to miss the turn off.”

He ignores me, and doesn’t slow down until we are right on top of it. He grinds it around the corner and floors it again.

Whatever. Better he gets his frustration out now.

“Stay in the car,” I say as we roll to a halt in front of their gate. He looks over, a snarl on his lips. “Honk three times if someone comes up behind,” I say, and climb out. “Follow me in only if you have to.”

I slam the car door before he has a chance to reply.

I don’t bother to change. I know the way, this time, and I’d rather not be caught without clothes if Declan and friends come in behind us. Besides, if the danger comes at us from both directions, we’re screwed no matter what form we’re in.

I follow the trail around the rise and down into the gully—it’s harder going on two legs than it was on four, but I manage—and vault up into their yard. The whole family seems present, and, again, I seem to be expected.

“Tiergan!” Dugan says, walking forward to meet me. “What are you doing back here? You should be halfway to Torrin’s by now.” He seems calm and open, and legitimately puzzled. Not disappointed. Not annoyed. Nothing to indicate he’s involved.

“Sir, I came to warn you—we ran into some trouble with some of the local—”

“Where’s Keely?” he interrupts, looking behind me. There’s a hint of worry—and of threat—in his voice. Several of the others—some human, some wolf—rise and start to close in around.

“She ran off, Sir,” I answer. I recognize the poor choice of words as I say them.

“Ran off?”

“I think she’s headed here, Sir,” I add hastily. “She was trying to draw them off of us—gave us a fighting chance.”

“You fought with them? Who?”

“Four locals, Sir. Ah, Declan—apparently the son of the woman who owes the petrol station? And three other large men.”

“And she ran off?” he repeats, frowning.

“There were demanding we turn her over, Sir. I told her to stay in the car, but when it looked like they were about to attack us, well, I guess she thought she could lead them off. She ran. I’m sure she’s heading here, Sir.”

“And the men?”

“Brennan and I, we dealt with them, Sir.”

“You killed them?”

“No, Sir,” I protest, shaking my head. His worry worries me, but it could be he just knows the shitstorm he’d face if they turned up dead. “We left them unconscious, Sir, and we parked one of their cars across the road and lost the keys. They’ll probably have to walk back.”

He cracks a smile—still worried, but less so. “You and Brennan.”

“We couldn’t have done it if Keely hadn’t distracted them, Sir.”

He chuckles softly, for a moment, before growing serious again.

“You said she was coming here?”

“We were on that little side road, a bit south of here—the one that goes east? We got boxed in. She ran back this way. I would imagine she’s coming here.”

He turns to two of the nearest wolves and jerks his head to the south—they sprint away immediately. He returns back to me.

“Brennan’s okay?” he asks, with just the right amount of concern.

I nod. Behind him, the two wolves skitter to a halt at the top of the rise. “Yes, Sir. I told him to stay with the car—to warn us if . . . .” The two wolves turn, as a third joins them from the south. There’s some quick and genuine-seeming relief—sniffing and wagging of tails—before the newcomer sees me and stops dead. Her tail drops and her siblings stop their greeting at her change in attitude. It’s me she’s reacting to, not her father. His back is to her.

But that could go either way.

Dugan turns to follow my gaze, and exhales loudly when he sees her. His shoulders visibly drop. Exactly what a worried father would do.

“Keely!” he yells with a mixture of anger and relief. Her tail and head drop even lower. Her siblings grow very serious, and take up positions on either flank, and escort her back toward us.

“Sir, I—” I start to say, but he cuts me off with a sharp wave of his hand. Finally, as they arrive, he breaks the silence.

“I regret that you got caught up in this mess, Tiergan,” he says, loudly enough that they can hear it. Keely pulls her tail even more tightly beneath her as she crosses the last few paces. He turns to me again. “I would never have sent Keely if I thought that any of this would happen.”

And I decide: if she’s acting, she’s the best damned actor I’ve ever met. Hell, they all are.

I nod, and mean it. ”I know, Sir.”

The three stop next to him. Keely’s head is so far down, she looks as if she wants to crawl under a rock and die. “This is my son, Ardal,” he says, pointing to the outer wolf. “I will send him with you, instead,” he says, shaking his head slowly at Keely, “and we’ll deal with Declan. You won’t have any more trouble.”

He turns and nods to Ardal—who runs off to the house—then sets his gaze on Keely. She watches the ground, not daring even to meet my eyes.

And fuck . . . I must be a real sucker . . . or a glutton for punishment, at least. Because I can’t let him do it. It’s not like it’s her fault . . . . Well, I guess it is—as much as it is anybody’s. But everybody screws up. And I can’t leave her like this, not with this much weight on her. ‘Cause I know how it is.

Brennan’ll fucking kill me, if he finds out.

Yeah, well, if this is a trap, Keely will be easier to handle than Ardal. That’s what I’ll tell him.

I chuckle, almost mirthlessly, and kneel down to her. I catch her jaw and raise her head. She meets my eyes with sadness and shame, and tries to pull away. I hold her steady. “If it’s all the same to you, Sir,” I say, with just a flicker of a smile to her, “I’m pretty sure Keely knows the way.”