At the sight of the news trucks in the hospital parking lot, Jen slipped her ID card into her front pocket. If the reporters caught sight of it, she'd be swarmed, on the off chance that she had information. The vague rumor of a survivor would be "confirmed by an unnamed source" as a child, though Jen wouldn't have spoken a word. Though there were any number of other cases Jen might be at the hospital to attend to, the mob mentality of the rabid press would link her to this one.
A guilty pang assaulted her, and Jen did her best to shake it off. She had been away from Keif longer than she'd intended to be, but a hot bath had been too enticing to pass up. For three days, she'd had nothing but rushed showers in Keif's bathroom. A soak with Epsom salts had been long overdue.
Besides, if there was any problem with Keif, they would have called me.
Jen slipped past the line of reporters, feigning interest in her cell phone to obscure her face. A few might recognize her on sight. To her relief, she remained unnoticed and headed for the elevators.
What drew her attention to the man lounging against the wall was an uncertain thing. It wasn't his body, though he possessed a delicious form, topped with shaggy, light brown hair. It wasn't the worn jeans hugging his thighs, black leather boots and jacket, or the skin-tight T-shirt that outlined his sculpted abs.
Jen slowed, staring at him as she passed by.
He's staring at me. No doubt that had caught her attention first.
His unwavering gaze disconcerted her, though she couldn't see his eyes through the dark sunglasses perched on his face. Still, she knew he was focused on her.
His head turned to follow her as she ducked around his position, giving him a wide berth. Hers did likewise, tracking him as he was tracking her.
He flowed leisurely away from the wall and followed her. Jen's heart skipped a beat at the confirmation that he was watching her. For a split-second, she considered going back to the desk and calling Cal from there.
No. If he's following me, he's going to run right into Cal's men...if I let him do it. If I go back, I may be letting a killer escape.
Jen reached for the call button, but his hand was there first.
"Let me." His voice was a low rumble that stirred butterflies in her stomach.
Jen didn't reply to him.
They entered the elevator in silence. Again, Jen considered misleading him. The vet ward is on six. They're a handy bunch in a pinch. I won't lead him to Keif that way.
Better to lead him to the police. I can't put more civilians at risk, no matter how much some of them might enjoy the action. She pressed three.
Jen forced herself to look at him. "Which floor?" That sounded almost normal.
One side of his lips quirked up. "I'm good."
But it was too late. The doors slid shut, closing them in together.
He didn't waste time. "Are you NPD?"
The elevator hasn't even started moving yet. "No. Why would you think that?"
The lurch beneath her feet announced they were in motion. The clock was ticking.
"Child Services then," he guessed.
Her heart stuttered. In a hospital full of nurses and doctors, patients and visitors, he assumed she was official. How could he know that? "Should I ask who you are?" It came out forceful, though her knees were shaking.
He cracked a smile. "Tell me about the boy."
"What boy?" she bluffed.
"I know about the boy. Your jacket reeks of him."
Oh God! He's a psycho, and I'm trapped in an elevator with him. Jen shifted her gaze to the display. Still a floor to go. Damn hospital elevators for being so slow.
"You don't have to be afraid of me," he offered in a voice that passed for courteous.
I'll choose who to be afraid of, thanks.
"Believe it or not, we have the same goal."
"I doubt that." The challenge was out before she could rein her tongue. Too much of Dad in me.
He leaned toward her, planting one hand on the wall beside her head, invading Jen's space.
"You have spent considerable time with the young one," he stated confidently. "Since he wouldn't be comfortable snuggling with you, you must have spent hours or even days in his company to pick up so much of his scent."
The bell clanged, the floor shifted, and the doors started to open. Jen slid through them before they were wide enough for him to fit through, the bag of fresh clothes held to her ribs so it wouldn't catch.
She hurried toward the guard at the door to the security ward, blessing Cal for assigning one outside the ward once the story broke. A glance back showed her pursuer was in no hurry. He strolled after her, looking amused despite the officer's presence.
The officer in question stepped away from the wall and placed a hand on the butt of his weapon.
Taking the peace bond off.
"Is there a problem here?" he asked.
Jen managed a shaky nod, then took her place behind him. She watched her stalker, waiting for the eruption of violence from him.
This was the safest route. The officer was armed; Jen wasn't. At the same time, Jen had a pass card and the ability to set off the alarms; her protector could only set off alarms. It was a good system. No one could overpower him to get through the door.
But it really wasn't designed for both of us to be in the same place when attack came. I should have led him astray instead of coming this way.
"What is your business here, sir?"
The man in question stopped a little more than an arm's length away. "I need to speak with the officer in charge."
"And who should I say is asking to speak with him?" It was clear he thought whatever the answer was wouldn't warrant calling Cal in.
"Tell him Tragen's Enforcer is here. I've come to see the boy."
Tragen's Enforcer? What is that?
The officer took an involuntary step back, colliding with Jen. "If you'd care to wait, I'll call him, sir."
Her stalker smiled, revealing sharpened canines.
Jen's blood ran cold. She'd heard stories about the local pack, but she'd never seen one of their kind before.
That I know of. Who knew a werewolf could look so human?