Dirty Blood
abruptly, the wolf turned and bolted
into the trees. When it was gone, Wes put the car into drive again
and we eased forward.
    “What was that?” I demanded. My heart thudded heavily
in my chest, and I had to concentrate on taking a couple of deep
breaths to calm the flow of adrenaline shooting through my
veins.
    Wes glanced over at me with a look of concern. It
made me wonder how much showed on my face. “Sorry if I startled
you. Nothing to worry about. He was a friend.”
    I gaped at him. “That was your friend?” I asked, in
disbelief.
    “Yes.”
    “Why didn’t he move out of the way? We could’ve hit
him.”
    Wes rolled his eyes. “Tara, we stopped in plenty of
time.”
    “Okay, but you guys didn’t even speak. Why did he run
off?”
    “I’ll be sure to ask him when we get there. Here we
are,” he added, before I could respond.

 
     
     
    ~ 5 ~
     
     
     
    We turned onto a gravel road, surrounded by thick fir
trees on either side. Up ahead, the road curved and I watched as a
weathered house came gradually into view. It was two-story,
probably painted blue at one time, though now it had faded to gray
and was peeling. One of the shutters hung crooked, and looked like
all it needed was a strong wind to finish it off. Wes pulled the
car to a stop directly in front, where the grass edged down to meet
the gravel. Leading the way to the door was a path of flat stepping
stones, all of them cracked. The grass was yellowed and dead from
the season, though I wondered if it would make the house look worse
or better, to have a lush green lawn.
    Wes shut off the engine and came around to get my
door. I let him open it for me and then fell into step behind him,
not wanting to be the first one up the path. Everything was so
quiet here, giving the whole place an eeriness to it, even in the
cheery sunlight.
    There was no doorbell, only a tarnished brass
knocker. Wes used it to rap twice and then we stood in silence,
shoulder to shoulder. I listened for movement on the other side of
the door, but heard nothing. A minute passed.
    Maybe nobody’s home.
    “They’re home. Give it a minute,” said Wes, startling
me. Had I said that out loud?
    Before I could ask, or wonder further about his
strange response, there was the sound of a lock being turned from
within and the door was thrown wide open. I balled my hands into
fists to resist the urge to reach back and grab a piece of the
plunger from my back pocket. At the same time, a strange tingling
sensation sent a shiver down my back and over my arms.
    A man stood in the doorway, though he was bigger than
any human I’d ever seen. He reminded me of a bear, with his broad
chest and huge shoulders. A bushy beard gone gray covered most of
his face and the same brown-gray color covered his head in bushy
tufts. He took in the two of us and startled me by breaking into a
wide smile.
    “Wes, my boy! How the hell are ya?” He grabbed Wes
into a hug and patted his back hard enough to rival the
Heimlich.
    Wes was smiling as he pulled away. “Could be worse, I
guess. And you?”
    “Just relieved it’s you, and not some nosy local.
Would’ve hated to have to kill somebody this early in the day.” He
smiled again and then his eyes flicked to me. “And who’s this?”
    Wes stepped back so he was standing next to me again.
“This is Tara Godfrey. Tara, this is Jack.”
    Jack stuck his hand out and I took it, automatically,
still reeling a little from Jack’s comment about killing someone. I
was pretty sure he’d been joking but who knew?
    “Pleased to meet you, Tara. Any friend of Wes’ is a
friend of mine, even if she is a Hunter,” he added with a wink.
“Come on in.” He stepped back to let us enter.
    “Thanks,” I mumbled, unsure how to respond. There was
that word again, but how did he know? Especially when Wes seemed so
confused by it? I glanced at Wes but he wore a hard expression and
didn’t meet my eyes. From his profile, I could see his jaw muscle
flex back and

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