Fury Kattalakis was about to walk straight into the dragon’s lair. Well, not exactly. There was a dragon in the attic of the building he was headed toward, but that dragon wasn’t nearly as dangerous to Fury as the bear guarding the door.
That nasty sonofabitch hated his guts.
Not that he cared. Most people and animals hated his guts which was fine by him. He didn’t have much use for the world anyway.
“The things you do for family,” Fury said under his breath. Though to be honest, this whole family concept was still new to him, too. He was more used to being screwed over by everyone around him. It wasn’t until his brother Vane had taken him in during the summer of Ëœ04 that he’d realized not everyone in the universe was out to kill him.
The bear, however, still was…
Dev Peltier tensed as soon as he saw Fury step out of the shadows near the door of Sanctuary- a rough biker bar and dance club that stood at 688 Ursulines Avenue. Like that address hadn’t been chosen intentionally by the bear clan who owned it. They were nothing if not ironic.
Dressed in a black Sanctuary staff t-shirt and jeans, the bear looked human at present, complete with long curly blond hair, black biker boots and a pair of sharp eyes that missed no detail or weakness, not that Fury had a weakness. But for all of Dev’s human appearance, to those lycanthropes such as Fury, Dev’s alternate form was like a thrumming beacon that warned all otherworldly types Dev was ferocious.
Than again, so was Fury. What he lacked in magick abilities, he more than made up for in sheer strength…
And FU attitude and anger.
No one got the better of him. Ever.
“What are you doing here?” Dev growled.
Fury shrugged nonchalantly and decided that a fight wouldn’t get him inside”â€œ which was what he’d promised to do. Him… keeping a promise to someone other than himself… yeah. Right. Hell was freezing over. He still wasn’t really sure how he’d allowed his brother Fang to talk him into this act of blatant suicide.
The bastard owed him.
“Peace, brother.” Fury held his hands up in mock surrender. “I’m just here to see Sasha.”
Dev bared his teeth threateningly as he raked a glare over Fury’s body that normally would have caused Fury to slug him for the insult. Damn, his brother Vane was wearing off on him. “The Kattalakis patria isn’t welcomed here and you know it.”
Fury arched a brow as he looked up at the sign over Dev’s head. Flat black with electric blue and brown, it held a motorcycle on a hill that was silhouetted by a full moon. It also proclaimed Sanctuary to be the home of the Howlers, the house band. To the unobservant it looked like any other club sign. But to those born cursed, like them, the shadows in the moon formed the outline of a dragon rising”â€œ a hidden symbol to the preternatural beings the world over.
This club wasn’t just named Sanctuary, it was one. And all paranormal entities were allowed inside where no one could harm them. At least so long as they obeyed the first rule of a limani: No spill blood.
Fury tsked at Dev. “You know the laws of our people. You can’t pick and choose who enters. All are welcomed equally.”
“Fuck you,” Dev snarled.
Fury shook his head as he bit back his natural caustic retort. Instead, he decided to handle it with biting sarcasm. “Thank you so much for the offer, but while you do have a certain feminine quality in your demeanor and a remarkable head of hair that any woman would envy, you’re far too hairy for my tastes. No offense.”
Dev curled his lip. “Since when does a dog care about what it humps?”
Fury sucked his breath in sharply. “I could so go low with that that even the gutter would envy us, but… I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to provoke a fight with me so that you can legally turn me away.”
He clenched his fists and he made a show of struggling with what he wanted to do and what he’d promised to do. “I really, really want to give you that fight too, but I have to see Sasha and it can’t wait. Sorry. We’ll have to hump and fight later.”
Dev growled threateningly, a pure grizzly sound. “You’re on thin ice, Wolf.”
Fury sobered and narrowed his gaze to that of his wolf form. When he spoke, his voice was low and feral and filled with the promise of whup-ass that was waiting if Dev wanted to continue this game. “Shut-up, sod off and let me in.”
Dev took a step toward him.
Faster than Fury could even tense in expectation of the hit Dev was about to deliver, Colt was there. A head taller than both of them, Colt had short jet black hair and lethal eyes. He put one large paw of a tattooed hand on Dev’s chest and held him back.
“Don’t do it, Dev,” Colt said in a low, even tone. “He’s not worth it.”
Fury should probably be insulted, but the truth had never bothered him. “He’s right. I’m a worthless bastard fathered by a bastard even more worthless than I am. You definitely don’t want to have your sanctuary license pulled over the likes of me.”
Dev shrugged Colt’s touch away which caused the sleeve of his shirt to pull up and expose his double bow and arrow tattoo on his arm. “Whatever. But we’re watching you, Wolf.”
Fury gave him a one fingered salute. “Then I’ll try not to piss on the floor or hump the furniture…” He glanced down at Dev’s black silver studded boot. “Your leg though might be another matter.”
Dev growled again while Colt laughed and tightened his hold.
Colt indicated the door with a jerk of his chin. “Get your ass inside, Fury, before I decide to feed you to him.”
“I’m seriously not worth the indigestion.” With an antagonistic wink at Dev, Fury sauntered past them to enter the bar where the music was loud and pumping, something that made the wolf in him want to whine in protest as it assaulted his heightened hearing.
Since Colt was one of the Howlers, they weren’t on stage yet. But there was already a good sized crowd gathered. Tourists and regulars were dancing or milling about on the first level of the three story bar. No doubt it was just as crowded on the second floor too. The third floor, however, was reserved for their kind only.
Fury tucked his hands into his back pockets as he moved through the people. It was easy to spot the bikers from the others since many of them were old school and covered in leather. The younger, hipper crowd wore nylon or Aerostitch suits like his while the tourists and college kids wore everything from short skirts to khaki pants to jeans.
As Fury passed the tables where customers could sit down and eat, he caught the gaze of the beautiful blond waitress who just happened to be the sister of the asshole outside.
Like her brother Dev, her long hair was blond and she was tall and thin. Lithe. All in all very attractive except for the fact that when she went to bed at night she turned into a bear. He shuddered at the thought. His brother’s taste in women left a lot to be desired.
Aimee froze the moment she saw him.
He subtlety indicated the bar with his eyes to let her know he had a message for her. She was the real reason he was here, but if any of her numerous brothers found that out, they’d both be dead.
So he continued on his way to the bar where three bar tenders were making drinks. Since Dev was one of a set of identical quads, Fury felt like he was seeing double as another Bear came over to him. The only reason he could pick out Dev from his other three identical brothers was from the tattoo on his arm. With the other three, well, he really didn’t give a rat’s ass about who it was.
The quad narrowed his eyes threateningly. “What you want, Wolf?”
Nonchalant, Fury sat down. “Tell Sasha I need to see him.”
“Why you need to see him?”
Fury gave him a droll stare. “Wolf business and the last time I sniffed, which I’m trying real hard not to do cause the stench of you assholes is rough on my heightened senses, you’re a bear. Grab his hide and send it over.”
“Do you have to piss off everyone you meet?” That soft voice went down his spine like a caress.
He turned to find Margarite Neely standing beside him. Tiny and human, Margery had one of the finest posteriors he’d ever seen on a woman. But therein was the problem. She was human and he had a hard time relating to that breed or any breed for that matter. Social skills were so not his forte. Like Margery had pointed out, he tended to piss off anyone dumb enough to come near him. Even when he didn’t mean to.
“It’s a congenital habit that serves me well most days.”
Laughing, she held a bottle of beer out toward him.
Fury shook his head, declining the offer. That stuff on his tastebuds… nasty. He frowned at her. “I’m surprised to see you down here.” She was the nurse for the Peltiers and he normally only saw her when he was injured and in need of care. As a rule, she avoided the bar area and stayed in the hidden hospital that was attached to it.
She took a swig of beer. “Yeah, but there’s some bad mojo going down. I had to have a drink to steady my nerves.”
Since he’d never known her to drink, that intrigued him. “What kind of bad mojo?”
Sasha joined them and answered for her. “There’s a Litarian in Carson’s office.”
Fury scowled at Sasha whose face was pale. If he didn’t know better he’d think the wolf was shaken. “Yeah, so? There’s a lot of shit in his office most days.” Carson was the resident doctor and veterinarian that all the Were-Hunters in New Orleans went to when they were in need of medical service. The fact that he had a lion in his hospital shouldn’t even cause an eyebrow to raise.
Margery shook her head at him. “Not like this, Fury. He can’t turn human or use his magick.”
Now that was shocking. “What did you say?”
“The Arcadians hit him with something,” she said in a low tone as if afraid of being overheard. “We don’t know what. But it drained his powers instantly. He can’t even project his thoughts to his mate.”
Fury couldn’t breathe at the thought of that happening. Even though his base and primary form was that of a wolf and he lacked a lot of magick control, he still couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live entirely as an animal. “And you’re sure he’s not a regular lion?” It was a stupid question, but one that had to be stated.
They both gave him a duh stare.
Fury held his hands up in surrender. “Just checking. You guys could have had an aneurysm or something.”
Margery took a deep draught of her beer. “It’s been a bad day.”
“Yeah,” Sasha agreed, taking the bottle from her and duplicating the gesture. “We’re all rattled by it. Imagine minding your own business and having a tessera come out of nowhere, pop your ass with something we can’t identify and then losing yourself forever.”
Fury let out a long breath. “I saw that movie once. It sucked.”
Sasha bowed his head sheepishly as he remembered Fury’s past. “Sorry, Wolf. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
No one ever did. Yet it stung regardless of intent.
“You needed to see me?” Sasha asked, changing the subject.
Fury checked his peripheral vision to make sure none of the bear clan were nearby. Then he gave a pointed look at Margery. “We have a bit of Wolf business, if you don’t mind.”
“It’s all right. I need to get back upstairs anyway. The Litarian’s mate had to be tranqed earlier and she should be coming out of it any moment.” She stepped past him to slap the bar to get the Bear’s attention. “Remi, give me one more bottle and I’m back to work.”
Fury choked at her words. “Glad I’m not the patient today.”
Margery gave him a chiding glare. “It’s for Carson.”
He snorted. “And I repeat what I said. Just what I need, a bunch of drunk fucks working on me.” He met Sasha’s amused expression. “Remind me not to do anything stupid tonight. Oh wait, I’m here. Too late for that warning, huh?”
Sasha ignored that question as he crossed his arms over his chest and shifted his weight to one leg. “What do you need, Fury? We’re not exactly friendly.”
Fury led him a few feet away from where Remi was handing off another bottle of beer to Margery. “I know, but you’re the only wolf the Peltiers aren’t suspicious of and the only one I could trust to get this to Aimee.” He palmed the small note into Sasha’s hand. “Make sure you wipe your ass with it or something to get the stench of Fang off it. I did what I could, but he’s pretty fragrant.”
Sasha looked less than pleased by the request. “You know the last time I involved myself in subterfuge, I was mortally wounded and branded, and saw my entire clan put down over it. Take my advice and don’t let your brother drag you down with him.”
“Yeah, but I’m not stepping in between two gods.” Which was what had almost gotten Sasha killed. “I’m just doing a favor for my brother.”
“That’s what I told myself too. But the problem with family, they get you into shit and then abandon you to it. Or worse, get themselves killed off.”
It was true and he knew it. But he owed Vane and Fang for welcoming him in when no one else ever had.
For his brothers alone, he was willing to die.
“So will you give her the note?”
Sasha ground his teeth. “I’ll do it. But you owe me.”
Actually Fang owed him, but… they were brothers and for the first time in his life, he understood what that meant. “I know and I really appreciate it.”
Sasha slid the paper into his back pocket. “You know what really kills me over this is that I’ve never seen two animals act more human. What kind of Romeo Juliet bullshit are they playing anyway?”
Fury shrugged. “Hell if I know. He says she’s the only one who understands him. Given the girly way he’s been acting lately, I actually agree with that cause I definitely don’t get any of it. If he starts wearing lipstick and pink, I vote we take him out and shoot him. Put his whiny ass out of my misery.”
The corner of Sasha’s lips curled up as if he was trying not to smile.
“What are you doing here?”
Fury tensed at the sound of Nicolette “Mama” Peltier’s deep French accent. Since his brother was making time with Mama’s only daughter, Aimee, he more than understood her hostility toward their entire clan, but it didn’t mean that he appreciated the tone.
He started to tell her what she could do with it, but before he could draw breath to answer, Sasha spoke up. “I asked him to come. I wanted to warn him about what happened to the Litarian.”
Mama relaxed a degree, but her expression was still deeply troubled. “That’s bad business there.” She cast her gaze around the room as if looking for someone suspicious. “May the gods take mercy on us all if we don’t stop the ones behind this. I shudder at the thought of what else they might be capable of.”
So did Fury. “Are the bears doing anything to find out who’s responsible?”
She shook her head. “Non, the laws of sanctuary prohibit it.”
“Then I’ll do some digging.”
Sasha snorted. “You just can’t help this kamikaze streak you have, can you?”
Fury grinned. “Not really. I find it easiest if I just go with it rather than fight it. Besides if someone is screwing with us, I want to know who and how. Most of all, I want their throat for it.”
Respect glowed in Nicolette’s eyes. She looked at Sasha. “Take him upstairs before too many scents contaminate the lion so that he can track the ones who did this.”
Sasha inclined his head to Nicolette before he motioned for Fury to follow after him.
Fury didn’t speak as they left the bar and headed through the kitchen and into Peltier House. Once they were out of sight of any humans, Sasha used his powers to vanish and pop into the doctor’s office on the second floor. Fury was a little more cautious.
Because no one had mentored him on how to use his magick when he hit puberty, his control of it was less than desirable. More to the point, he refused to let anyone know just how little control he had. No one knew his weaknesses and lived to tell them.
So he walked up the stairs to the rooms that were set aside for medical aid.
As soon as he entered the small office area, he saw Margery, Carson and Sasha waiting on him.
“Why didn’t you follow me?” Sasha snapped.
Fury interrupted him. “I’m not leaving a power trail for one of you assholes to use against me. Walking works for me. So where’s this lion?”
Carson stepped to the back of the office where another door led into the hospital area. “I have him in here.”
Fury followed him. As soon as he entered the sterile room, he froze. There was a woman leaning over the lion on the Gurney, weeping. She had one hand buried deep in his mane while the other was lying palm up on the table. In the center of her palm was the elaborate design that marked her as someone’s mate. The affection she showed toward the lion made it a safe bet that he was hers.
“Anita?” Carson said gently. “This is Fang Kattalakis. He’s here to help find the ones who did this.”
Sniffing, she lifted her head to give him a look that said she wasn’t impressed with his offer. “My pride is after the ones who caused it.”
“Yeah,” Carson said gently, “but the more trackers we have, the more chances to find them and hopefully get a cure.”
“We are lions-”
” And I’m a wolf,” Fury said, cutting her off. “If I need raw brutality and force, I’ll call you. But if you’re looking for someone who did you wrong, nothing tracks better than one of us.”
Carson put his hand on the woman’s arm. “He’s right, Anita. Let him see if he can help us find the culprits before they prey on someone else.”
She tightened her hand in the lion’s mane before she got up and stepped away.
Fury approached the table slowly. “Is he fully animal or does he retain any human rationale?”
Carson sighed. “We’re not sure.”
Those words wrung a deep sob from the woman.
Fury ignored her and approached the table. The lion growled low as Fury neared him. It was an animal warning. The wolf inside Fury rose to the forefront, but he stamped it down. While the wolf might want to fight, the man knew a lion would tear him up. Sometimes it was good to have human abilities even if those sometimes went to war with his wolf’s heart.
“Easy,” he said in a level tone as he balled his hand into a fist to protect his fingers. If there was nothing inside the lion but animal, it would respond to any hostile or fear pheromones it smelled. He held his hand out slowly so the lion could catch his scent and intent.
The lion swatted at him, but didn’t hurt him. Good. Fury put his hand on the lion’s back. Leaning closer, he felt the muscles shifting, but they weren’t bunching to attack. He breathed in and smelled the scent of Carson, Margery, the female lion and others. But it was the lightest smell that sent him reeling…
Fury looked at the lioness. “Have you been around any other Lykos?”
Anita indicated the wolf by Carson. “Sasha.”
“No,” Fury said slowly. “Female.”
Anita scoffed. “We don’t mix with other breeds. We are purists.”
Maybe… but there were other scents he picked up on too. Jackal, panther and wolf. “When were you around a jackal?”
“Never!” she spat, indignant at the mere suggestion. The jackals weren’t exactly anyone’s favorite breed. In the land of outcasts, they were the omega animals. The ones everyone avoided and picked on.
Sasha moved closer. “I smell it too.”
Carson exchanged a worried look with Margery. “Anita, tell us everything you can remember about the ones who attacked your mate.”
“I didn’t see them. Jake was out with his brother, in natural form, just running to run. They were harming no one. His brother said that a tessera of Arcadians flashed in and came at them. They fought and the Arcadians shot Jake with something and he went down hard. Peter ran for help.”
“Where’s Peter now?” Fury asked.
A tear slid from the corner of her eye. “Dead. Whatever they shot, hit him in the head. He only lived long enough to tell us what had happened.”
Carson handed her off to Margery before he led Sasha and Fury out of the room. “I’ve dug through Peter’s head and couldn’t find anything. There’s no entry wound, no exit wound, no blood, nothing. I don’t know what killed him.”
That didn’t bode well. “Magick?” Fury asked.
Carson shook his head. “But what would be that powerful?”
Sasha shifted his weight. “The gods.”
Fury disagreed with that. “I didn’t smell a god. I smelled us.”
Sasha let out a long sigh. “You know how many Lykos patrias exist?”
“Since I’m the Regis for the Katagaria, yeah, I do. There are thousands of us and that’s just in this time period.” What he didn’t tell them was that the scent though, was one he was more than familiar with. One from a past he’d done his damnedest to forget. “I’m going to do some digging around and see what I can come up with.”
“Thank you,” Carson said.
Fury disregarded his gratitude. “No offense, I’m not doing this for you. I’m worried about my people. We need to know what’s causing him to hold onto his form.”
“And if it’s reversible,” Sasha added.
Fury nodded. “I’ll be in touch.”
He turned to Sasha who hit his chest three times with his fist, then swept his hand down. A silent gesture to let him know Sasha wouldn’t forget to give the letter to Aimee. He inclined his head respectfully before he left the room and headed downstairs.
But with every step he took, his long buried memories burned through him. He went back in time to a woman who had once been his entire world. Not his lover or relative, she’d been his best friend.
And in one heartbeat when his brother had told his clan what he really was, she’d not only betrayed her sacred promise to him, she’d tried to kill him. He could still feel the bite of her knife as she drove it in to the hilt”â€œ the scar was still jagged on his chest just inches from his heart. The truth was, she hadn’t really missed that organ. Her words to him had done more damage than any weapon ever could.
If she was behind this, he’d make sure it was the last mistake that bitch ever made.