Lucas leaned his elbows back on the bar and pulled in a full
draught of the human pheromones and perfumes swirling in the air. Musky
fragrances mixed with sweet sweat, underscored by a tangy taste of arousal. And
that was just the women. The males were overly scented as well, at least the
human ones, as if they didn’t understand the power of their own natural scent.
The blue-neon sign outside the nightclub called it The Deviation. Inside, lithe
human bodies pulsed to a techno rock beat coming from the live band on the
stage. It was a ripe hunting ground for shifters and humans alike. Prey, his
inner dark wolf panted, but Lucas backhanded that thought into the recesses of
his mind. He may be hunting for a pleasurable companion for the evening, a
temporary relief from the ghosts that haunted him, but he wasn’t that kind of
Not that there weren’t plenty of those in the room.
This was neutral territory. He was rogue now, but even if he
had a pack, he wouldn’t make trouble in a closed environment filled with humans
like The Deviation. The throng pushed right up to the bar where he stood,
leaving not much distinction between those dancing and those watching. Cutout
panels behind the band let in beams of purplish light that stabbed through the
tight crowd and washed everyone in a deep otherworldly glow. The shifters were indistinguishable
from the humans, everyone dressed in the same tailored silk shirts and curve-hugging
black dresses that comprised the nighttime uniform of web entrepreneurs and their
Indistinguishable for most. But Lucas recognized a few.
Three shifters from the SocialHacks pack were in the thick
of the dancing, hands running free over their female companions. His father’s
pack allied with the SocialHacks early on, their social media startup pairing
well with his father’s internet business development firm. Nearby was a trio
from Red Wolf, another company that cultivated the dot-com businesses of
Seattle and helped match them with investors. They were his father’s bitter
rivals—not only did they skate close to that invisible line shifters didn’t
cross, the one that kept the normal human citizenry of Seattle unaware of the
wolves in their midst, but they were as ruthless in pack matters as they were
in business. Lucas had seen more than one omega from the Red pack end up in a
dingy alley missing a few vital organs. Tonight, the Red pack was hanging at
the fringes of the crowd, watching. Like Lucas.
But that was all they had in common.
“How are you doing here, sir?” The soft voice behind him
belonged to the female bartender. He could tell by her scent before he turned
around: slightly musky with the dampness of the nightclub, but with a light
woodsy taste. It wasn’t a perfume, which Lucas had an instant appreciation for.
He turned and gave her a smile. “I’d like another, please. Vodka,
neat.” She wasn’t one of the celebrity bartenders who drew patrons to The
Deviation, but he wasn’t the type to drink the latest fad cocktail, either. In
fact, he rarely was in a club long enough to finish a drink before a companion
for the night found him. And having full command of his faculties, especially
with a human, was key to leaving her satisfied, not sliced to ribbons.
The bartender gave him a fleeting smile, then dropped her brilliant
blue-eyed gaze, brushed her long black hair out of her way, and reached under
the bar for a bottle. He hadn’t been to The Deviation in a while, but he
guessed she was new—to the club, maybe to bartending as well. Her all-black
uniform—slim dress pants and collared shirt—had turned purple with the hazy
light from the stage, but it fit her feminine curves in an understated way. He
appreciated that, too, but bartenders weren’t good prospects, not least because
they might remember him the next time he came hunting.
She poured his drink, and he noticed her hand quiver. The
liquid sloshed but not enough to escape the shot glass. He frowned and looked
up, but she was already moving on, down the bar, to another customer. She gave that
guy the same fleeting smile, but Lucas could see something wrong in it now.
Something off. Her lips were slightly parted, her breaths shallow. She was
panting, and not in a good way. The girl rushed through a bourbon-and-seven for
her customer, then shuffled to the end of the bar, where her fellow bartender,
a male, stood flirting with one of the female patrons. The girl had a quick,
whispered exchange that Lucas couldn’t hear over the pounding music, and then she
slipped around the end of the counter and into the crowd.
Lucas straightened, looking for her over the sea of bobbing
heads and waving hands. She was a tiny black-haired rabbit weaving through the
weeds, tall enough to poke above them when she wasn’t ducking under drinks held
high or flailing arms. He wasn’t sure why, but he couldn’t stop tracking her.
He left his drink, untouched, and slid along the bar,
keeping her in his sights. She broke free of the crowd near the back wall,
where blue neon signs bulged with the letters of the club and the outlines of
spilt electric drinks.
It was the same wall where the three Red pack members
The girl threw open a door which had been invisible a moment
before, probably because it fit seamlessly into the black matte of the wall.
Then she was gone, the door slowly easing closed behind her.
The Reds had watched her all the way out.
Lucas froze at the edge of the crowd, his unblinking stare
trained on their bent heads and moving lips. Not my territory, he told his
snarling inner wolf. Not my pack.