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His life was radically different than he’d ever imagined growing up in that shithole house with his craptastic parents. It hadn’t been hard to walk away from that, not really. What he faced if he’d have stayed there was most likely a dead end where high school would have been the high point of his life.
Like it had been for his own father.
Because of a stupid freak-of-nature moment, Josh had risen in the ranks of Pacific. Now he was a leader. He had nice things. An excellent job. People looked to him for advice. He was strong and fast and feared as well as respected. He’d fought hard for the life he had, and he did not regret leaving Roseburg, and the limited options it had presented him behind.
He didn’t even regret that it meant leaving her behind. He couldn’t be the man he was now if he hadn’t cut all ties. But he did regret hurting her. It had been careless and irresponsible. That he’d been nineteen really wasn’t the point.
He could make it up to her. His wolf certainly wanted to. Which was interesting and most likely connected to his former relationship with her.
She was on edge. Frayed. Exhaustion ringed her eyes and he ached to fix it. Ached that most likely Allie was dead, or on her way to dead, and there was probably nothing they could do to save her.
With a sigh he went back out, and she stood at his windows still, her phone in her hand.
“I’m just checking messages. Looks like we have a sighting on the SUV here in the Portland area. So I want to go there first.” She rattled off an address.
“That’s northwest of downtown. There are some parks and wilderness areas out that way. We run out there sometimes. We’ll go there and then back to the rest stops. I want to compare the scents.”
She nodded absently. “Yes, good idea. Do you need to be in wolf form? Is that the right term? Form?”
He poured hot water into two travel mugs over the teabags. Just a small amount of black tea with some other things that would probably help.
“Form is fine. I think on it like my skin. Right now I’m wearing my human skin. When I change, my wolf is in charge and I’m wearing my wolf skin. I can get a scent without changing, but if I can shift, my senses are even better. Not always possible in public though. At least not during daylight hours. We’ll head over and see what it looks like. GiGi is really good at tracking. She and Damon both. He’s mated to a witch, by the way. I think it’s good to have him involved.”
“I feel like it’s my first day of school.” She took the travel cup, wrapping her fingers around it. “I don’t know anything really, about this world of werewolves and witches and cat shifters.”
He brushed a loose tendril of her hair back from her face. “It’s all right. I do. We’ll figure it out together, okay?”
Her gaze flicked up from where it had been at her feet, locking with his and everything stilled, even his wolf who’d been pacing, urging him to protect her. She swallowed hard and licked her lips.
“I’m so afraid I’m going to fail her.”
He sighed, slowly taking her free hand and squeezing. “I will help you in any way I can.” She might fail. Not because of anything she did, but this enemy…
His phone buzzed, and he knew Damon and GiGi were waiting downstairs. He wanted to kiss her so badly it was all he could do to step back and grab his keys. “Ready?”
“Drink your tea and I’ll be way happier. Think of it as keeping the wolf happy.”
“The wolf? Why would it, he, whatever, why would the wolf care?”
He guided her out and then into the elevator. “What I do, who I am now is all about protection. An Enforcer is more than just a cop. It’s my job to be sure everyone I’m responsible for is safe and in line.”
“I’m not a werewolf. I’m responsible for my own self.”
The set of her mouth screamed out for him to kiss it softer, to ease the stress lines there. She could think whatever she wanted, but his wolf believed otherwise. And frankly, so did he.
He lifted a hand to Damon, who ambled over and filled him and GiGi in on the newest developments. “We’ll go to the address, looks like a gas station, to get a scent.”
“I’ll do a quick canvass while you guys do that.” Michelle slid sunglasses on, and he watched as she pulled her cop around herself like a coat.
They headed over, but it was already three and traffic made it slow going. She sipped her tea and stared out the window.
“When did you become a cop?”
“Seven years now. I was twenty and I’d gotten my BA but I didn’t want to live in Eugene and I couldn’t see myself in marketing, which is what I got my degree in.” She chuckled.
“Twenty and you got your BA?”
“I graduated early from high school and headed off to college. I just ended up taking a really heavy load to stay busy, summer courses too, and I finished early there as well. I was rushing off to do something but once I finished I just didn’t know what.” She leaned her head back against the seat, and the sun, pale though it was, hit her just right and she seemed to glow.
“I was working as an admin person at city hall, and I started hanging out with a cop.” The smile on her face told him hanging out might have been of the naked, horizontal nature. “He was satisfied with his life. He liked his job. He and I had started working out, and I ended up taking the exam because Allie dared me. I did really well and so I got the job, and thank God Mark, my friend, had been working out with me because the physical part was hard. I guess it was meant to be because they had an opening.”