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An unyielding grip on my shoulder shook the nightmare away. “Jesus Jessica, you scared the hell out of me!” Amber’s nails burrowed into my skin. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” My eyes wondered around our surroundings in a daze, my mind stuck in a loop replaying the vision. Seth, dagger, Nash. Blinking was my only response. Agitated by my mute answer, Amber rotated us in the opposite direction. “Let’s go back. Master is still asleep and if Nash comes back and finds out you’re gone.” She shuddered in speculation.

“Wait, Nash is gone? Where is he?” We hopped onto the sidewalk. A few cars drove past, some paying us no mind while others slowed down to ogle. I didn’t recognize them or the houses we walked by. “Where are we?” Trepidation edged down my spine.

“Keep your head down, I saw a police cruiser a block over.” Amber whispered as we passed a woman walking her miniature dog. The distance and my irritation grew with each step. We had crossed a city block before she answered. “You didn’t get too far, just enough to scare the crap out of me.” We quickly glace around to the empty cars parked and cleared sidewalks before continuing our conversation. “Nash got a call and left shortly after you fell asleep.”

“A call? From who?” My thoughts jumped to my mother, until I realized she’d left her phone at home. Amber shrugged. “Did my mom come back?” Her heels clicked harder on the cement with our brisk pace.

“No.” Remorse pierced my heart. For three weeks I had hardly thought of her, even before then at college if I was being honest with myself. Even a moment ago my thoughts were on Nash before my own mother. I was the world’s worst daughter. Amber nudged my shoulder with hers. “Hey, it’ll turn out alright. Werewolves have a good sense of smell, he’ll sniff her out. Besides she probably has a secret boyfriend you don’t know about and that’s who picked her up in the cab.”

Her words were hollow, but came from a good place. From my peripheral I looked Amber over with a new critical eye. Contrary to my first impression of her, she wasn’t as pristine as her appearance had been back in Nebraska. A small raised scar lined her jaw and left eyebrow, her appearance was plain with straight brown hair and equally dark eyes behind thick rimmed glasses. She carried herself with dignity and dressed in designer pantsuits as if she had been born in nine inch heels. The more Amber the ice queen awkwardly attempted to settle my nerves, the more she seemed to thaw in my mind. Her acrylic nails wrapped firmly around my wrist and pulled. We stumbled up the sidewalk of a house, our backs to the street.

“Don’t look behind you.” Amber threatened under her breath. I followed her lead, my skin pricked with awareness. We took one stair at a time, the porch was tastefully decorated. Why were we at a strangers house? We needed to get back to my house in case my mom came back. Amber’s fist stopped short of knocking soundly on the door. I side-eyed her wearily, what was she doing? She continued to make the knocking motion without making contact three more times before resting it to her side once more. We stood motionless as a car drove by gradually. It was probably another nosy neighbor wondering why we contrasted each other spectacularly. That was my thought until red and blue caught my attention from a distance. My head snapped to the side as the cruiser rolled lazily down the street and made a turn. Alarm twisted Amber’s features. Belatedly I realized the police could help find my mom. I twisted from Amber’s grasp and leapt over the short flight of stairs. Amber scrambled after me hissing for me to stop. The cop was on another street but with his speed I could catch up if I ran through a few backyards. “Jessica stop!”

I’m not sure if I yelled ‘why’ out loud or if the word just echoed in my head. Her hands clawed at my skirt until she had a fist full to hold my position.

“Naive girl,” She searched my lost gaze with a sigh. “Haven’t you been listening? Seth’s pack is bribing humans to be their watch dogs, mainly some local police.”

“Oh please, I’ve seen how the pack lives they don’t even have indoor plumbing. You’re really expecting me to believe they have money?”

“Not money. Think Jessica, what does Seth want most?”

“Nash?” At the mention of his name my feet followed the pavement, nearly two blocks to go. Amber let go of my skirt and matched my pace.

“Yes but what else? He wants a pack to lead. Master says the pack is small and dying.” Thia came to mind, her dream of becoming a mother just out of reach. “Seth is getting desperate if he’s so bold to provide sanctuary to any human under any supernatural line.” One block to go, the drive was empty. Nash must’ve taken the Mercedes, but where did he go?

“So Brandon and that girl kidnapped me because I helped Nash, all as some payment to get into the super-secret werewolf club? Why would anyone in their right mind do that?” I investigated the house for any clues to my mother’s return.

“Master threatened to kick Brandon back out on the streets if he didn’t pay his blood due. I’m not sure why Mia went with him, maybe she was tired of serving a vampire too.”

We walked side by side, blocking the sidewalk as we neared the house. “So they were willing to give up their humanity but not their blood.” Amber shrugged in response. Brandon’s insanity seemed to be consistent at least.

“Werewolves keep to themselves, not much is known about them.” My memory skipped to Nash transforming in the club for research purposes, timed and watched like a circus act. “Maybe Brandon and Mia thought they were going to a better place, one off the streets with no blood dues. Whatever the case Seth was willing to break the law and turn them. Which means he’s willing to threaten or bribe some dirty cops into doing his bidding. If he’s not careful someone will find out and tell the council. Master has fulfilled his deal with Nash and kept quiet, but it’s only a matter of time.” Amber’s phone buzzed in her pocket. Her immediate reaction to pick it up only heightened my hope. “Hello this is Amber.” My hand rested on the knob, and ears strained to hear the other side of the conversation. Her eyes locked with mine, tension furrowed her brows. “Ok see you soon.” Amber ended the call but gripped the phone in her hand. I turned the knob and opened the unlocked door. Its familiar groan settled my nerves slightly. “Nash is on his way back.” We stepped through the door, the heater a welcome amenity from the slight chill outside. “Seth doesn’t have your mother. Someone from the pack traded the confirmation for protection; he’s bringing them back now. They’ll be here in a few hours.”

I could only think of one werewolf still loyal to Nash. One under the pretense of my vision that Nash was her mate and able to give her the family she desperately wanted. Thia wouldn’t lie, especially if she knew it was my mother who was missing. “If Seth didn’t take my mother, then who did?” Amber closed the front door. The curtains were drawn and lights off. Amber was being careful to keep Michael concealed from the sun in case he woke up early. My mother’s room was a perfect spot for him with her black out curtains.

Eyeshine reflected from the corner. My smile widened as I mistook the two golden eyes for Nash. I flicked the light next to the front door on. In the yellow glow of the lights sat an unkempt man with facial hair covering the majority of his face. His hair was wild, sticking in every direction. His voice was guttural, similar to Nash’s just after a change. “Hello Jessica.”

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