Grey let out a squeal and very nearly fell off what had mere seconds before been a small squirrel and was now a much larger male, but she recovered from her surprise as quickly as possible and slammed him harder into the ground to daze him long enough for her to get a better grip on him.
She straddled him, bearing down with all the supernatural strength she held in her otherwise petite body. “Don’t even think about trying to move!” she shouted.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” the figure groaned. “It’s not often I get straddled by a pretty girl like you.”
Grey’s cheeks burned and she reached out for Teddy’s mind. It was harder to control betas in human form, but not impossible—especially when the beta in question was someone that had a strong relationship with the alpha in the first place—and he padded forward at her beckoning, his massive canines bared in a look that didn’t need translating: Say something like that again and she will let me eat you.
The stranger turned a rather pale shade of green. “I get it, I get it!”
“What are you doing in our territory?” she demanded.
It wasn’t often that someone stumbled upon a shapeshifter that could turn into anything other than a wolf. It was a rare form of witchcraft practiced almost solely by the druids. There had been a time when Savannah’s surrounding wildlands were controlled almost exclusively by druidic and native peoples, but that time had long since ended with the increased population of other supernaturals in the area and the subsequent industrialization of the city.
It was dark now, but Grey’s eyes could see just as well in the dark as in the light and she examined her prey more closely. He was burly and pale, with black hair and eyes so brown they looked nearly black even to her improved vision. He had a well-trimmed beard, nothing like the wild lumberjack look sported by Teddy’s packmate Ulfric though it seemed like that was what he was aiming for judging by the flannel jacket he wore (she was so thankful that druidic magic could transform clothing as well—the last thing she wanted was to end up on top of a stranger who was just as undressed as her).
His smell had changed from his squirrel form, too. This close, she could smell the coffee that seemed to be all but dripping from his pores. She wrinkled her nose. “You smell like a Starbucks in Hipster Heaven,” she said though she hadn’t actually intended for it to come out.
“Rude,” the figure protested. “Can you get off me now? Wouldn’t want to offend the lady’s sense of smell—I promise, I’m not going to run; that sounds like too much cardio for one day.”
Grey hesitated, not sure if she believed him or not. But with Teddy right there and the other wolves patrolling nearby, it seemed harmless enough. Even if he did make a run for it, he wouldn’t get far. Besides, she was suddenly very aware of how naked she was.
“If I move, I die, I get it.”
Grey pushed him into the ground one last time to show that she meant business and then she stood, stepping back and crossing her arms across her chest. The chance for dignity was long past, but there wasn’t any reason not to at least try. “Answer my question.”
The other stood up from the ground with all the grace and speed of a drunk sloth, picking leaves and twigs off his coat and dusting dirt off the bottom of his black jeans. Grey tapped her foot impatiently and Teddy gave her a half-growl, half-whine, as if he were asking if she was really going to stop him from eating this guy.
To comfort him (or maybe because a wolf made for a better cover than her arms), Grey crouched down and Teddy loped toward her, briefly licking her face before placing himself between Grey and the stranger, his cold gaze fixed on the intruder.
Once he was dusted off and their patience sufficiently tested, he cleared his throat. “Now then, some introductions are in order,” he said. “I’m Kol.”
Kol gave them a mocking bow and Grey resisted the urge to growl at him the way she might as a wolf.
At their silence, Kol continued. “This is the part where you introduce yourselves…” he prompted, then he sighed when it became clear that they weren’t interested. “Fine. I’ll just call you both Susan.”
“I asked you a question,” Grey said, steel in her voice.
“Did you? Because, honestly, I’ve quite forgotten it. It’s been a traumatic night for me, let me tell you.”
This time, Teddy did the growling for her, taking a threatening step towards Kol.
The druid held up his hands. “Okay, down Susan. I’ll answer your question. I’m here because…well…I didn’t know any better?”
Grey was going to kill him. The sentiment seemed quite clear, though, so Kol quickly backtracked. “I’m looking into something, all right? There’s been some…incidences. Missing people, that sort of thing.”
The Lycan didn’t like where this was going.
“I wasn’t kidding, though, I really didn’t know this was your lands or whatever. I was just following a lead.”
Grey scoffed. “How would you not know? These lands have belonged to the weres since the 1920s, it’s not a new thing.”
“Maybe, but I am. I just got here earlier this month. Not that my coven leader cared—probably just wanted to haze the new guy by sending him on a suicide mission to apparent werewolf lands. Such a bitch—and I mean that with utmost respect to bitches everywhere.”
It took a minute for Grey to realize that he was saying that because she was, in essence, a literal bitch. Before she could get sidetracked with the semi-insult, however, she heard another howl rent the air, along with a message: Urgent. Danger.
Apparently, the others had found something. “I have your scent. I can find you, anywhere you run. Do you understand me?”
“No, I mean, yeah, I understand but that howl—is it one of yours? What’s going on?”
Grey didn’t waste any time. She shifted back into wolf form and tore off into the woods at top speed, Teddy right beside her. They ran as fast as they could towards where the other wolves wore, following the sound as well as their scents.
Another scent joined a moment later, one she wasn’t happy to be smelling under any circumstances: death.
She wondered who it was and some other, more selfish, part of her hoped that maybe it was Shepherd. It would solve so many of their current problems; she wouldn’t have to marry him, and Teddy and his pack could be free of their obligation to the other wolves…they could have normal lives every day that wasn’t a full moon.
But there was one little problem: if he had been murdered, especially if he had been murdered by another supernatural, it could mean war. And then nobody would be safe.
They came out in a new clearing and the full moon’s light fell squarely on a patch of wild flowers. No, not wild flowers—it was a body.
“One of the fey,” Kol said and Grey turned towards the voice. He apparently had followed them and transformed back into a human without her realizing it.
Grey transformed into her own human form. “What are you doing?”
“You said you’d find me wherever I ran,” he said, “So I figured I’d save you the trouble. Besides, I’m here to investigate a disappearance, remember? That’s a body—a fairy right?”
Grey didn’t answer; she didn’t need to. They both knew that when a member of the fey died, it was reclaimed almost immediately by nature. Even so, the patch would be cursed. Anyone who stepped upon it would start to go insane, hearing whispers of the deceased in their every waking moment demanding vengeance. As if that wasn’t bad enough, only the scent of death would be exuded from the corpse until justice was done. Fairies were big on justice.
“Why would a witch be looking into the disappearance of a fairy?” Grey asked.
Kol shook his head. “I’m not. But we were pretty sure that this particular fairy—at least, I’m assuming it was this one—had something to do with another disappearance. One of our own.”
This didn’t bode well. “One of ours is missing too,” Grey thought aloud. “But I never dreamed…”
“A werewolf’s missing too?” Kol asked, his voice curious.
Grey nodded. “Not just any werewolf, either. A member of the Lycan Council.”
Kol whistled. “Sounds serious. Do you think they’re connected?”
Grey didn’t want to—Christ, she didn’t want to—but it did make sense. “Why would two different species go missing at the same time, only for a third presumably missing fey to turn up dead in werewolf lands?”
“Planets aligning?” Kol tried hopefully. “Really rotten luck? An interspecies orgy to last a millennium?”
Grey shook her head, though a corner of her lip did quirk up at that last one. “No. Someone wants to start a war. The question is who, and how can we stop it from happening?”