I round the corner and Elish is just ahead, on the far side of the street, still heading south. I can’t see Brennan anywhere, but he must be close: his scent is still strong in the air. As I hoped, the area around the new high school is dark and quiet.
I bark a warning again—stop, danger—and race across the street toward her. She stops and turns her head toward me.
I pull up short, a few paces away from her, and say again—stop, danger. But there’s no word for trap. It’s not like it would get much use . . . . Wind change is the best I can come up with.
She continues to growl, but seems to understand—her hackles drop a little, and she withdraws some of her teeth. I knew she’d give me a chance. And I need her. Because the others won’t listen to me.
More, she demands.
But there’s not much more I can give. Wind change, stop, danger, I say again and glance around to see if I’m clear to change.
I’m out of luck. There’s no one around, but there are security cameras on the school building, and across the street in the parking lot.
I look back to her and whine, Mercy. It’s the closest I can get to please.
A low, dark movement in my peripheral vision startles me and I spin to the right to face it, just in time to see Brennan launch himself at me from a full run. I yelp and try to jump out of the way, but it’s way too late. His teeth are on my neck and his momentum yanks me off my feet. He releases me as I thud into the ground and he spins as he lands. He’s on me again before I can recover.
Stop, danger, I try to say, but his claws sink into my chest and shoulder before I can finish.
Home he snarls. Now!
I whine Mercy, but, this time, I can’t tell if I’m begging him for his help, or for him not to hurt me. And he won’t be able to tell, either. The few words I can use have just lost their meaning, and we’re all fucked.
His jaws are open, his teeth in my face, dripping saliva. His growl resonates down his legs directly into my chest.
And I don’t really have a choice left. It’s a long shot, but with him on top of me . . . maybe I can get away with changing, maybe the cameras won’t see. I need a full language, and I need it now.
I reach down into myself, to find all the threads I need to pull together.
And Elish stops us both with a loud, plaintive howl into the night air. A warning to the pack.
Brennan yelps and looks up, still growling, but his attention now on her.
Danger. Wind change, she barks at him. To him, and too me. Warn. Now.
His claws dig a little more deeply into my chest, and his growl rattles up my spine and into my head.
But Elish is decided. Now! she barks again.
Brennan raises his head to the wind, and they howl the warning together. I wait. My voice in the call won’t help its credibility. So I just listen.
Then, a bit to the south and west, I hear Sheridan take up the call. Relief floods over me. And Brennan’s claws loosen on my shoulder.
It’s a strange thing about the warning howl. Something instinctive about it. Once you commit to it, the reasons for it become irrelevant. You want it to work. You need it to work. And you can’t stop until it does.
Findlay joins next. Then Saraid. Cormac.
And, at the very last, Faolan.
They’ve stopped! We’ve done it!
Sure, Faolan’s going to kill me when I can’t explain why I called them back, but I’m okay with that. Everyone’s safe! And I know it was a trap, even if I can’t prove it.
Maybe the fact that she works for Rian will be enough to convince Faolan.
Brennan steps off me and orders us, Home.
And it sounds like a great idea to me! I roll over and climb to my feet.
The shock of the gunshot is so loud, it almost knocks me down again.