I wanted to take the time to stop Ritch, to reassure him none of this was his fault, but I didn’t want that fucker alone in the car thinking he could try something. We had the most room, so he was tied up prone in the backseat, and that meant personal conversations were out.
“We’ll talk later.” I went around to the passenger door. Pain stabbed through my wrists when I opened the door, but I hissed when I tried to buckle my seatbelt. Ritch took it from me. It clicked, and he settled the strap across my chest.
“Good?” he asked.
“Thanks.” I managed to flip down my visor and open the mirror so I could keep an eye on the backseat.
“What are we going to do with him?”
“Deke said to tie him up and gag him, then leave him somewhere his alpha can find him. I didn’t want to risk humans finding him at the hotel, so we’re going to drop him off in a real comfy area.” A faint snarl underscored my voice, and it was hard not to want to crush the life out of him.
But I’d obey Deke. “This will give Deke more leverage with the other alphas over Trien. Once we’ve tracked down these scientists and shut down their plans to annihilate the clans, things are going to change.” I’d be beside Deke every step of the way. I’d strip the skin, slowly, from any werekin who thought they could put that look of inferiority and terror on Ritch’s face ever again.
Damn. I thunked my head against the headrest. I was so far gone it wasn’t even funny, but, as far as I could tell, Ritch didn’t know I felt this way about him. He certainly didn’t show any feelings towards me, but it was hard to tell. It was rare for him to smile, and I could only remember hearing him laugh once.
How was I going to tell him how I felt without scaring him away? I knew a hunt wasn’t the time or the place, but deep in my soul, my tiger wanted him. The trick would be to convince him that I wanted a blooded bond with him, to entwine my spirt with his, and not just the cheap thrill of claiming his body.
Thoughts of claiming, of giving him my wrist as I took his neck in a mating bite, created a whole new problem. I groaned and shifted, my cock tight behind my zipper as it swelled.
“Are you okay? Are you hurting? We could stop for some painkillers. I know you’d probably have to take half the bottle, but it might help.”
“No, it’s fine. There”—I pointed at the receding taillights—“take that exit. I think Christian found us a place.”
“Bog Creek Preserve,” Ritch said as we drove past the closed entrance and down along a side road. “Sounds inviting.”
“No shit.” We pulled up and stopped behind Christian’s SUV. Ritch unbuckled himself and then my belt, then opened his door. “Oh, get a whiff of that.” I had to fight the urge to gag.
“Nice place you found, Christian.” Ritch made a face. “This place reeks, even for me.”
“Exactly. Should make it interesting for them to find him, and he certainly won’t enjoy his time waiting for Trien’s men either.” Christian looked satisfied with himself.
“All right. You guys drag him out. We’ll dump him somewhere moist and unpleasant and get going.”
“Won’t be too hard,” the bear grumbled. The gator stumped along beside him as they dragged the wriggling tiger out of the car. They let him drop to the ground. I stopped them before they could haul him away from the road.
“If Trien tries to send you after Ritch again, I’d suggest you find another alpha to follow. You think this beating was bad?” I bared my fangs. “I’ll teach you a lesson you won’t soon forget.”
I had no qualms about leaving him behind. The location was remote enough, and the weather cold and rainy. Humans wouldn’t be wandering this area of the stinky park, and the conditions weren’t enough to really harm a werekin, so the bastard would be fine until Deke passed along the GPS coordinates I sent him.
“Why this way?” Ritch asked. “Do we have any strategy.”
“Apparently the wolf was restless earlier. He got a whiff on the outskirts of town on the south side. Whoever has the transformed werekin stopped at a gas station. We’ll head that direction and hope we get more information from Deke on the way. There’s a limited area they can go. There are too many cities around here.” That meant too many cameras. “Small towns will notice strangers, even if the bonded werekin don’t get out of the cars.”
“Christian is good at his job. He’s a tracker, and he knows how to utilize the human’s. If we can get a vehicle description, the eagle will be able hack the DMV, find the driver. That gives us a name, an address, history to check out.”
“So, this really is part guesswork, part tracking, and part investigation.” Ritch flexed his hands on the wheel. “I wish I could do more.”
“I told you, you do plenty. Look at me.” I held up my arms encased in white bandages, fingers curled to avoid using them. “I really can’t do anything.”
“You mean, more than saving me from being taken back to the alpha? While handcuffed, no less? And why, exactly, were you handcuffed in the first place? That’s right, you were making sure I was able to sleep, despite my fears, despite the fact that you have never given me a reason to fear you."