I peeked back around the corner of the alley I’d darted into, to make sure the police had their full attention on the store, and let out a gusty sigh. When I shrank back around the edge of the red brick my back thunked against the wall and I slid down, legs finally calling it quits after two close calls. With my forehead resting on my knees and heart rate winding down, I tried to think through my next move.
“You!” a voice growled, and I started. Before I tried to identify what was after me I attempted to dive out to the street, and to those wonderful law-enforcement officers I’d been trying to avoid, but whoever they were, they were quicker. A rough hand scraped down my neck in a flash and grabbed the back of my collar. With a yelp they yanked me up and around to look into seething pus-yellow, bloodshot eyes, with a hint of satisfaction of catching their prey–me.
“You have some questions to answer, meat, and how you answer is going to determine if I snap your neck before we eat you, or if you’re still alive,” he growled low, and in my face. The stench of rotted meat on his breath caused me gag.
“How about I tell you what I know and you let me live?” I coughed out, eyes watering. His eyes narrowed and he gave me a good shake, properly scrambling my senses, all to a chorus of approving growls behind him. Lovely: an audience.
“Mouthy meat.” His voice had grown deeper, and when I looked at his face again, his jaw had lengthened. Hair was slowly sprouting upward and outward from his scruffy black mutton chops, growing between one blink and the next.
“She’s always had a mouth on her, I can tell ya that for nothin’.” The voice came from behind me, smooth like gravy with a southern accent thick as pudding, and worse for your heart than both.
The man’s eyes shifted over my shoulder and I did the dirtiest, but sometimes most warranted, thing a girl can do to a guy–I kicked him in the nads. It doesn’t matter what manner of supernatural creature a male was, if it had testicles it hurt to have them kicked.
He choked and grunted, his grip only loosened slightly, so I bunched a leg toward my chest and kicked against his. I fell down to the ground with a painful ‘umph’ of air, and scrambled backward like a crab toward someone I was only a hair happier to see than the dog shifters in front of me. It wasn’t a dignified movement, but it got the job done.
Shifters had more controlled changes than Weres. Once a Were started a change they did it all in one go, whereas shifters could do the slower, more gradual change. It also meant I couldn’t get sick if they’d injured me and on the off chance I got some of their DNA in me. Shifters are hereditary, whereas Weres are made through biting or DNA-on-DNA contact. I couldn’t actually change into a Were, because while I’m not technically a full-blown supernatural I’m not Grade-A 100% human, either. It just made me sick–it’s happened once.
Another hand grabbed the back of my collar and hoisted me up to my feet. This was getting old. I turned and spared a brief glare for the devilish smile, warm amber eyes, and curling brown hair that always teased that line of needing a trim.
“Leave the girl to us, Omnie, and walk away with your life,” another dog shifter growled, as they all progressed further to a full change.
“I don’t reckon I’m gonna do that, boys,” he drawled, and shifted his body just in front of mine. “It’s my job to protect everyone–even the mids like Bad Luck Bell here.” He jerked a thumb at me and I did my utmost to resist punching the guy who just saved me.
“Not helpful, Officer Oliver,” I ground out when the dog shifters’ eyes sharpened at the mention of me being a mid. “Also, it’s not Bell, it’s Sophie, you jackass,” I muttered the last under my breath.
The dog shifters took a step forward, and at the same time Oliver slid his Null Stick down into the grip of his right hand. With a flick of his wrist it collapsed open, much like an asp, and they hesitated. Maybe they’d back off in the face of the Null Stick; if only I was so lucky.
The leader, as evidenced by his larger size and take-charge attitude where my demise was concerned, stumbled to his feet and leveled a murderous snarl my way. A sharp sound came from the street, and like the bell at a race track the dog shifters charged.