Full Moon Rising Chapter Sixteen


I plopped down on the dewy grass and drew together the edges of my borrowed coat. The sun had risen just over an hour ago, but the flags of dawn still colored the sky with clouds of orange and gold

At the foot of the hill on which I sat there was a hive of activity. Trucks lined the rough dirt track that led to the entrance of the underground lab, and people were bustling back and forth, some carrying equipment, others leading prisoners

To my right, thick black smoke trailed skyward, and the smell of burning flesh rent the air. The clones had been killed and the cleanup had begun

I rubbed my forehead wearily. I just wanted to go home, take a long bath, and forget this whole episode. Everything except Quinn, that was

But Jack had ordered me to remain until he had a chance to talk to me, so I remained, watching and waiting and wondering how I was going to sidestep the rest of the mess

Because it wasn't over yet

I closed my eyes and lay back, enjoying the caress of the breeze and partially drifting off to sleep. After a while, footsteps approached, and I cracked open an eye

Jack, not Rhoan

He sat down on the grass a few feet away, staring up at the sun, his face drawn and tired-looking

’’So why were you late?’’ I said, when he didn't immediately say anything

He snorted softly. ’’Would you believe traffic?’’

’’No.’’

’’Ah. Well. I guess I'll have to admit we lost the signal.’’

’’Bugger.’’

’’Could have been.’’ He glanced at me. ’’It was Rhoan who found you. He just started walking, and before we knew it, there you were.’’

Thank God for the connection of twins. ’’I'll have to tell him to walk a little faster next time.’’

A smile touched his lips, but his eyes were all seriousness. ’’You know what I'm here to say, don't you?’’

I took a deep breath and released it slowly. ’’The job is only half-done.’’

We'd found the source of the clones, but while Talon had been flirting with crossbreeding, his labs were not the main source of the crossbreeds. And definitely not the source of that weird-looking blue thing that had attacked me in the parking garage

Jack nodded. ’’Everything I've found in that lab suggests Talon was not working alone.’’

’’He said he'd worked with Misha in the past.’’ Talon had been so sure of his success that he'd blabbed far more than he should have. ’’He also said that he wasn't responsible for those two men kidnapping me and that the person behind it all was someone I apparently know quite well.’’

’’Yes. He's been quite talkative in the past hour or so, as well.’’

Not willingly, I'd bet. ’’So what has he said?’’

He hesitated. ’’His idea to get you pregnant was all his own.’’

’’No surprise there.’’

Jack nodded. ’’No, but apparently, it's been happening for well over a year. ARC1-23 was not the first fertility drug he'd tried, though all the others were legal.’’

Meaning lack of success had forced him to try other drugs. Meaning I might be as infertile as the doctors had feared. I closed my eyes, not really sure how I felt about that despite the lump that rose in my throat

’’So why wasn't this picked up in my six-month checks?’’

He grimaced. ’’I checked, and it was. But fertility drugs are not on the reportable list, so it never made the overall summary.’’

’’I'm gathering it will in the future?’’

My voice was dry, and he grimaced. ’’Anything out of the ordinary will be reported from now on.’’

Even though it might be a case of shutting the barn door after the stock had bolted

’’Of course,’’ Jack continued lightly, ’’Talon's desire to create the ultimate werewolf is quite amusing considering he himself is not entirely wolf.’’

I stared at him. ’’What?’’

’’He's a dhampire, just like you.’’

’’He said he was a werewolf.’’

’’And still insists he is. Our tests reveal otherwise.’’

So much for Talon thinking he was the pinnacle of wolf breeding. ’’So if Talon is an example of what was achievable, how come everything is going balls up now?’’

’’Because his father was a very powerful, very wealthy maverick working on his own, and much of his research was lost in a fire that destroyed his lab and took his life.’’

’’That suggests that maybe Talon's not the only successful creation.’’

’’Exactly.’’

’’And maybe one or more of those creations are running the other lab.’’ Which might or might not be called Libraska

Jack gave me another of his pleased smiles, but I was too tired to get annoyed by it

’’Did all this come from reading his mind?’’ I asked

’’And the files in his office. Many of them are his father's.’’

’’So you know who Talon's working for?’’

He grimaced. ’’No. That section of his memories has been burned away. Someone with very powerful psychic gifts has been at him in the last forty-eight hours. He's only reciting what they've told him to recite.’’

’’So why has he been so chatty?’’

’’Their erasing was not as good as it could have been.’’

’’It also means they were willing to sacrifice Talon and this section of their work.’’

’’Quinn was getting close, as were we. This project was probably becoming too hot to hold on to.’’

That made sense. ’’What about Misha? Where does he fit in, do you think?’’

’’I think he's definitely involved, but the force behind it? I don't think so, especially given his apparent willingness to let us investigate him.’’ He looked at me. ’’If Talon is right, and the person is someone who knows you, then they may also know what you are.’’

’’No one else knows what we are.’’

’’I knew. Quinn knew. Liander knows.’’

’’You want me as a guardian, Liander loves Rhoan and wouldn't harm a hair on my head because of it, and Quinn wouldn't have used the man he's known forever to be the source of those clones.’’

A smile tugged Jack's lips. ’’All true. But if Talon was telling the truth, and the person behind all this is someone you know well, then guessing the truth might not be as hard as you think.’’

I frowned. ’’But that doesn't make sense. I mean, if they've known all along what I was, why wait until the last week to send a shooter to test me or two things to kidnap me? And why suspect what I am, and yet apparently not Rhoan?’’

He shrugged. ’’I really don't know.’’

’’And here I was thinking the Directorate knew it all.’’

’’We will. Eventually.’’

Great. In the meantime, I was stuck in the middle of it all, with no option but to remain involved no matter how much I might wish otherwise. I closed my eyes again, and asked the one question I didn't really want an answer to. ’’So where do we go from here?’’

’’Misha is the only lead we currently have.’’

’’You can't say that until you've had time to go through all the files in the lab.’’

’’True.’’

’’I don't want anything more to do with Misha.’’

’’I know.’’

’’Then don't ask.’’

’’I won't. But you have to ask yourself how are you ever going to know which mate you can trust and which mate might be another plant.’’

I knew all that. Knew I was really doing nothing more than blowing smoke, because truth was, I was going to see this through. I just didn't want Jack to think I was going to let it go further. Didn't want him to think he was getting me easily. ’’I will not become a guardian.’’

But it might already be too late, and both he and I knew it

’’Riley, if I had any other choice, I would not be asking this of you.’’

I snorted softly. ’’Don't try conning me, Jack. Not this time.’’

He gave me a lopsided smile. ’’This time, it's the truth. Whoever's behind this has obviously infiltrated the Directorate. I have no idea who else there might be besides Alan Brown and Gautier. All the people on that list you found in Brown's office are dead, and while we are following up everything they worked on, it's going to take time. Which means that Misha is currently our only viable source of information. If we try to put anyone else on his trail or in his bed right now, they'll know we're on to him.’’

’’Misha knows we're on to him. Raiding his office gave that away.’’

’’But I suspect Misha is playing both sides of the fence, and that could certainly work to our advantage.’’

’’Meaning I should just do my duty and spread my legs like the good little doggy that I am?’’

Annoyance flickered in his eyes. ’’We found Kelly's remains in that place, Riley. She'd been beaten to a pulp in that goddamn arena.’’

Tears squeezed past my closed eyelids. I'd hoped against hope that her fate would be different from that of the other missing guardians. Had hoped that she was still undercover and merely overdue. But fate seemed set on turning my world upside down just then, and I really should have known that hope wasn't on the agenda

’’That's playing dirty, Jack.’’

’’They're playing dirty. I have no choice but to do the same.’’

I didn't say anything. Just grieved for the loss of a rare friend

’’It's not over, and deep down you know it.’’

I swiped the tears from my cheeks and gave him what he wanted. ’’You're wasting breath on the already converted.’’

He chuckled softly and patted my arm. ’’You are going to be one of my best.’’

’’No, I'm not. Nor will I approach Misha. I think it best if we just sit back and let him make the first move.’’

’’With that, I can agree.’’ He rose, and stretched, his bones cracking lightly. ’’Why don't you go find your brother and both of you go home?’’

I looked at him. ’’I think we both deserve a week off for R and R.’’

His gaze narrowed slightly, but the glimmer was back in his eyes. ’’Two days.’’

’’Five.’’

’’Three.’’

’’Let's split the difference, then.’’

He grinned. ’’Done deal. But if Misha approaches you in that time, I expect to be told.’’

’’Okay.’’ But he wouldn't. I was sure of that, if nothing else

Jack walked down the hill and disappeared inside the building. I lay in the sunshine a bit longer, then decided I'd better move before the weeds started to claim me

I pushed upright and headed back down to Genoveve. Rhoan appeared out of the main doors as I neared the road, looking as weary and disheveled as I felt

He didn't say anything, just pulled me into the hug I'd been wanting all night. The dam broke, and the tears started falling - grief for Kelly, grief for myself, and grief for a relationship that had never been given a chance

’’Don't let him pressure you into anything you don't want to do,’’ Rhoan said, after a while

I pulled back, hiccuping and wiping borrowed sleeves across my face. ’’I won't.’’

’’And don't give up on Quinn.’’

My gaze searched his. ’’You're the one who told me not to expect anything from him.’’

He grimaced. ’’That was before I read his note.’’

My heart leapt. ’’He left a note?’’

’’Yeah, in the cryogenic chamber they must have been keeping Henri in. Here.’’

He dug a white piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to me. My fingers shook as I unfolded it

Thank you for helping me find my friend. Sorry I cannot offer what you are searching for. If we had but met centuries ago... Take care. Quinn.

My heart sunk, and I met my brother's gaze. ’’It's hardly a declaration of intent.’’

He grinned. ’’To have written that much means the man at least feels something more than a se*ual attraction, especially since he added 'if we had met sooner'.’’

I glanced down at the note again. ’’If I do what Jack wants me to do, I can take this’’ - I raised the note, scrunched it into a ball, and tossed it away - ’’and do that.’’

’’Give him time, Riley. You haven't known each other very long, and he's had a rough time with wolves.’’

’’I know.’’ I forced a smile. ’’But I am a wolf, and he's a vampire with some very human hangups. I don't think there's a whole lot of common ground between us.’’

’’But a wolf never gives up once the scent of a chase is on.’’

I gave him a wry smile. ’’Especially when the scent leads to great se*.’’

’’Precisely. Great se* is something one can never give up on.’’

’’Is that why you're still with Davern?’’

’’Hell, yeah.’’ He gave me a cheeky grin, then twined his fingers through mine and squeezed them lightly. ’’Why don't we go home, get cleaned up, then go out and get blindly, stinkingly, drunk?’’

I smiled. ’’That's seems like the perfect ending to a perfectly wretched week.’’

And it was.

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