Hunting Grounds (City Shifters the Pack #2) - Layla Nash Page 0,1

he’d track me down with my magic.

What a dick.

I clenched my hands into fists, just as tense as my jaw, and started hoofing it. I’d deal with a broken ankle if it happened. I didn’t want to kill an innocent animal just because Rocko didn’t value life at all.

It wasn’t long, though, until I heard paws on the concrete all around me, the click of nails and the huffing of breath from the shadows. My heart jumped to my throat and I felt even more trapped and surrounded, even with an open street ahead of me. I didn’t dare look back.

I searched for calm and centered myself even as I kept up a fast walk. Magic waited just out of reach, there if I wanted it. It was always an option, even if it meant drawing Rocko’s attention. The dogs wouldn’t kill me unless I decided to just give up and die, which I wouldn’t. Keeping my breathing deep and even took an effort of will I hadn’t experienced in years. But I managed. It helped that the sounds faded away a bit before returning stronger and closer than before.

I hardened my heart. I’d kill the animals if I had to, but place their lives on Rocko’s karmic altar. It was his fault for forcing me to defend myself.

It wasn’t even really a surprise when what looked like a mangy coyote appeared in front of me. I’d forced myself to mentally prepare for it so much that it was something like a letdown. A giant timber wolf would have at least justified the terror that made my hands shake no matter how much I tried to talk myself into bravery.

But a coyote, long-legged and skinny and narrow-faced? It wasn’t that scary.

It blocked my path on the dark street; a streetlight a full block ahead provided a little light but not enough to see what else crept out of the shadows. I stumbled to a halt and put all my effort into sounding confident and unafraid. “I don’t want to hurt you, but I will. Leave me alone. Go back to where you came from.”

The animal’s head tilted as it studied me, then it barked something close to canine laughter and lowered its head to growl at me. My heart jumped to my throat and I relaxed my death-grip on the sleeves of my jacket. Okay then. Clearly it wasn’t the kind of coyote that took directions well.

Something scuffled on the concrete behind me but I didn’t turn, never taking my eyes off the threat in front of me. Its teeth reflected what little light there was back at me, and its eyes gleamed. Maybe it was rabid. Maybe that was why it wanted to attack. Normally coyotes didn’t end up in cities, chasing down innocent passersby.

If I were really innocent of anything, which was debatable. Rocko certainly would have argued that fact, and he might have even been right.

Magic responded sluggishly as I planted my feet and exhaled all that worry and tension out to the universe. What would come, would come. I had a weapon to use to defend myself and I wouldn’t feel bad about using it. I summoned power until it buoyed me up and took away the rest of the fear that held me back. I felt strong again. Finally, confidence rose up to eliminate the rest of my doubts.

I was a witch, and a damn strong one. Nothing else mattered.

Except for the dozen other animals that sauntered out of the darkness.

Chapter 2

Henry

Henry ignored the text message from his sister and kept up his lonely vigil in the shadier part of the city, outside the new pack house. Ever since the alpha of SilverLine pack, Miles Evershaw, found his mate, the pack split time between her enormous old house and the former warehouse where most of the pack lived and worked. Henry preferred the witch’s house, though he couldn’t have said why. It felt more like a home than the industrial-chic warehouse ever had.

That didn’t mean he wanted to stick around when Evershaw and Deirdre were getting along too well, because then the house was too much like home and just reminded him of what he’d never have. The fact that his sister, Nola, had started reaching out was not a good sign, and it wasn’t something he was mentally prepared for. He’d left the old pack for a reason and it wasn’t a happy one.

He pushed away the thought and paced on down the block.

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