I led the group towards Ignus and the others. We had to cross over a highway and into territory that was just barely outside of the border. I scrunched up my nose as the smell intensified – a human carcass never really appeals to anyone and it definitely doesn’t appeal to anyone when it’s not even recognizably human. I heard Katherine almost retch.
“Shit,” Katherine cursed as she covered her mouth. Lucien grimaced and Desmond shook his head.
“Do you think they meant for us to find this?” Lucien asked, looking to Ignus, who looked to be buried deep within his thoughts.
“Probably,” he replied before looking to me. “Smell anything different?” I shook my head.
“Would you mind if I tried something?” He asked, looking to me before looking to Lucien as well. The two of us glanced at one another before we nodded.
I watched as Ignus walked over to me and produced a small glass bottle, barely the size of his pinky, from his pocket. He opened it before handing it over.
“Take a whiff of that,” he said and I stared at him for a moment before I proceeded to do as he asked of me.
The smell was heavy, despite being such a small bottle, I grimaced. It was a sickeningly musky kind of smell that reeked of cedar – deep and heavy – and definitely not my favorite smell.
“What is that?” I asked.
“An old acquaintance loved it,” Ignus said with a shrug before he took the vial from me and closed it up. “Smell it anywhere else now?” I looked around and sniffed the air, feeling a little bit like an idiot as everyone watched me.
“No,” I replied and Hera nodded.
“Good,” Hera said, “That rules out one of our suspects.”
“Not exactly, it rules out the possibility of him being here,” Ignus said and Desmond cleared his throat.
“Who are we talking about?” He asked.
“Someone we’re not quite… fond of.”
“Well that’s vague,” Katherine said and Ignus shrugged.
“Can’t exactly let us spill our guts to you just yet, we’re not exactly best friends,” Ignus said in his usual tone. “Anyways, we’re gonna have to clean this mess up for now, we’re not gonna find whoever killed him.”
“How useful of you,” Katherine commented and Ignus smiled at her.
“If Auden can’t sniff it out – neither can we.”
“And why’s that?” Lucien asked and Ignus simply grinned.
“How about we tell you later?” He replied earning a sigh from Hera.
“He means we’ll tell you when we’re not around the body – it’s not exactly appropriate or necessary – and we’ve been out here too long,” Hera explained.
I stared at the body and sighed. Guy was innocent.
Probably. Ignus replied but when I looked at him, he was already talking to Lucien about something. Hera on the other hand had taken Dalton’s hands and was talking to him. Desmond and Katherine walked over to me.
“Yeah, I’m not exactly easily grossed out,” I said and Desmond nodded.
“Yeah, well I am,” Katherine said, grimacing.
It took a while before Ignus completed ‘documenting’ the body and getting some samples of the body’s scent- which involved the rather grotesque process of Ignus taking a small plastic container and collecting blood samples and bits of flesh. Eventually, we had to return to the pack house, this time, Ignus, Hera, and Dalton followed behind us. Lucien then sent out an order to have someone from the pack get rid of the body.
“So if you had no result from that little encounter, what was the point of bringing us there?” Katherine asked as we entered Lucien’s office once again.
“The point, was to show you that the attacker isn’t scared of going after humans – and tearing people to shreds, it was also to show Auden the kind of things our kind are capable of doing when… we’re not in tune with ourselves,” Ignus explained.
“Bloodhounds don’t have packs – but we have families – and those form clans of a very similar hierarchy. We lose control over our ‘selves’ in two main scenarios – from extreme hunger or from a command,” he said and I folded my arms over my chest.
“And who gives out the command?” I asked.
“The main bloodline – they’re our Alphas but a little… more condescending,” Ignus said and I heard Hera scoffed.
“So who exactly was behind the attack?” I asked, trying to keep Katherine and Lucien’s faces somewhat amicable. Ignus could be a little overbearing.
“Well, we still think it’s the guy we’re thinking of, but he wasn’t there – so it had to be a remote order – which means he’s looking real hard for you,” Ignus said with a sigh.
“Me? Why?” I asked and Lucien placed his hand on mine.
“Might wanna ask your dad about that one, it’s not exactly my story to tell,” Ignus said with a wink. “Anyways, about the tracking thing… We make sure that we get the right person by handing off a scent that belongs to the ‘pack’ – since the man didn’t smell anything like that – it means the attacker wasn’t a very highly ranked person – so he’ll be manageable.”
“Manageable? He hurt one of Umbra’s guys,” I said, glancing at Xander who kept a straight face.
“I never said he was manageable for werewolves. Unless you’re trained to kill our kind – it’ll be hard to murder predators like us,” Ignus said with a shrug. “Especially when it’s someone low-ranked and made for this kind of shit.”
“You’re gonna make all of our heads explode with this information,” Katherine commented.
“Yes, but you were gonna come across it either way – and we’re really the only ones that can help you out of this situation,” Ignus said with a smile. “If you want to keep Auden here, of course.” I raised an eyebrow.
“Of course,” Lucien said, pressing his lips into a thin line. I squeezed his hand and sighed.
“I can’t possibly be the only reason that whoever-it-is is hitting Umbra,” I said and Ignus smirked.
“You’d be surprised how petty we bloodhounds can be.”
“And now you’re just freaking me out,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Does this mean we can stay here?” Dalton asked, looking around.
“What do you think?” Lucien asked, looking to Katherine who had her arms folded over her chest.
“Well, considering our little Auden here’s involved, I’d say my decision’s already made,” she said, smiling in my direction. “And I can grow to enjoy sarcasm,” she added, looking straight at Ignus who simply smiled in her direction. Hera and Dalton looked at each other and sighed in relief.
“Same here, but my trust is based on Auden’s,” Desmond said, looking to me and bowing his head briefly, I did the same. Lucien ran his fingers along the top of my knuckles.
“I admit, I’m not sure how exactly things will go. But I’m willing to take them in if it helps us out,” Lucien commented, “We have rooms upstairs, someone will show you around the house later on.” Ignus and Hera looked at each other before they walked over to Lucien. Dalton followed behind them before they pulled out something from their pockets.
“Since bloodhounds aren’t bonded by packs – we usually offer something in exchange for ‘trust’, if you will,” Ignus explained. Lucien held out his hand and Ignus smiled before he placed a ring in his hand. It looked like an engagement ring, silver with small intricate vines that all joined to hold the large diamond that sat comfortably in the vines.
Looks special. I said and Ignus smirked.
It still is. Hera countered. Hera then walked over and placed a small glass stone with a flower settled inside of it. The flower was a beautiful sapphire color with dark edges around its petals. The stone itself was the size of a pebble and Hera ran her thumb over it before placing it on Lucien’s hand as well.
“It’s not as fancy as Ignus’, but I’d fight for that to stay where I can count on it,” she said, looking Lucien straight in the eyes. “I’ll trust that we can count on your pack.” Lucien nodded before Hera stepped back and Dalton walked over to us. He shifted a bit before he sighed. Dalton bit his lip before bringing out a thin silver brooch shaped in a butterfly form and inlaid with diamonds, sapphires, and rubies.
“They’re all from someone we cared about,” Dalton said before looking at Lucien and then at me.
“One person?” I asked but Dalton didn’t answer and Ignus simply cleared his throat.
“We’ll talk tomorrow – the three of us have spent all day tracking,” he said with a smile and I nodded.
“Aren’t you guys supposed to be trackers?” Katherine asked and Ignus grinned.
“Did any of you smell that body before you got there?” He asked in turn. Not getting a response other than a solemn stare, Ignus excused himself and their group walked away – but not before Dalton turned and gave me a soft smile.
“What was that about?” Desmond asked.
“I don’t know, but I’ve a feeling I should know,” I said before turning to Lucien. He showed me the objects before he turned to the rest.
“We should all rest for the day. Try not to get too hostile, you two,” Lucien said. Desmond and Katherine shrugged.
“We can be civil,” Katherine said with a wink. “I’m just a little too overloaded with info.”
“Ignus tends to stuff it into people’s heads like that,” I said with a sigh.
“They seem like reasonable people – I’m only concerned with what exactly they eat,” Desmond said and I bit my bottom lip.
“Well, it doesn’t seem like they’re total monsters, so let’s give them a chance,” Lucien said.
“Will do. Desmond and I have some other errands to run – time to give everyone a break about researching bloodhounds. Do you want us to do anything?”
“Run a warning through the pack – I’d like it to come from you in person if possible. We need everyone to be a little more cautious than usual.” Katherine nodded.
“Will do Alpha. See you guys later.”
As Katherine and Desmond exited the room, Lucien turned to me and used his free hand to run a hand through my hair.
“Yeah, I guess,” I answered just as Lucien pressed a kiss to my forehead.
“I really think I should set up a meeting with your dad.”
“I think so as well,” I said, pressing my lips into a thin line. “Where do you think you’ll keep their things?”
“In a vault. It doesn’t take much to understand that these things are worth more than money – they’re sentimental,” he said and I nodded. “Come, I’ll show you where we’ll put them.”
We eventually made our way into our bedroom and it was only then that I realized how much time had passed – and having realized, I actually yawned in reaction to the fact that the sun was already sinking behind the mountains. We made our way into the closet and Lucien smiled as he opened one of the closets. He moved the hangers aside and pressed his hands lightly against the back wall. I watched as it popped up and Lucien gently slid it to the right to reveal a small vault. He then placed in a series of numbers and opened it up to reveal a black cardboard box sitting on the top level of the vault.
“What’s that?” I asked as Lucien set the three sentimental objects on the bottom half of the vault.
“A few files, some memories…” he said with a smirk before he picked it up and handed it to me.
“Whoa, you sure you want me to-“
“We can look at them together at some point. Get to know each other, you know?”
“I’m not even sure I know myself anymore,” I said as I tucked the box back into the vault.
“Then we’ll get to know you together,” Lucien said as he pressed his hand against mine, closing the vault. I sighed and as Lucien finished closing the vault, he turned to me and pressed a kiss to my lips.
I felt relief course through me and I relaxed as he deepened the kiss. He placed his hands on the small of my back and pulled me into my arms.
“A little better?” He asked. “I can feel your uneasiness – and it’s not a good feeling.”
“Sorry,” I muttered before looking up into his hazel eyes. I kissed the corners of his lips before pressing my forehead against his. “Man did I get lucky on the mate roulette.” Lucien chuckled and I sighed before I pressed another kiss on his lips. The hunger in my stomach was growing and it wasn’t for food. Lucien probably felt it too, his hands began to roam around my body as he pulled me closer. He growled into my mouth, tracing his teeth along my lips, before parting from me.
“I thought you were sore,” he said hoarsely and I smirked.
“I’m a little better now,” I said, batting my eyelashes and earning a hearty chuckle from Lucien before he lifted me up and I wrapped my legs around his waist. “I don’t really wanna think anymore today.”
“Understood,” he said as he carried me to bed.
I could smell something again. The same scent as before… I got up…
I walked over to the window and tapped the glass, tracing a path… eventually circling around a spot. There… Right there… I tapped against the spot on the window.
I felt a cold shiver run down my spine and my legs felt weak in fear.
That’s right. Right. There. Find me. A sharp whisper said and I immediately opened my eyes, gasping for air. Lucien immediately got up.
“Nightmare… Bad… bad nightmare…”
I looked to the window – and felt my heart slow as I saw the clear line drawn against the fogged up glass until it created a circle that marked a particular area. Lucien’s eyes followed my gaze and he took me in his arms, cradling me.
“We’re gonna need Ignus to speed things up.”