Silence Of The Wolf Page 46

No sign of bodies or A fresh depression in the snowbank caught his attention. He loped to the spot and peered into the indent in the snow. A gun.

The notion that the flight was way off course, carrying the crew and pleasure-seeking passengers to their deaths, became something else.

Who would have carried a gun aboard a flight? Even a private flight?

If they were government agents, the place would be crawling with rescue teams in short order.

Tom circled the area, listening. Sniffing the air, he didn\ smell any blood or humans as the wind swept through the trees. The piles of snow were stacked so high on branches that they blew over and landed with a plop. A brown hare bolted out of a pocket of snow, startling him. Then Tom spied a section of plane: the tail ripped from the body, probably by force of impact with the trees. It was tilted on its side and stuck between two partially shattered trees, grounded in the forest floor forever.

No bodies anywhere, though. No luggage, no personal effects, nothing. He twitched his ears back and forth, listening for the soft moans of human passengers who might have survived the crash, but he heard nothing new.

He continued to search, finding a seat cushion. Several hundred feet from that, he discovered a man\s mangled body, jeans ripped to shreds. He had a bearded face, shaggy blond hair, and the stare of death in his fathomless black eyes.

Tom discovered another body still belted to his seat, neck broken. Another man, maybe the navigator or copilot, was facedown in the snow. Tom nudged his nose under the man\s body and flipped him faceup. This one was packing a knife in his belt, a gun in its holster and his appearance was as scruffy as the other two.

Drug runners maybe? Unless the guy had been undercover, although he didn\ look like a government agent or cop type. But he looked... familiar. One of the men hassling Silva at the tavern?

Tom searched for a while longer but didn\ find anyone else. He didn\ know which situation he had feared more: finding no survivors or finding someone terribly injured.

The wind-driven snow covered everything in its path, giving the plane and its crew and passengers a cold, white burial. Deciding there was nothing else he could do, Tom bounded back the way he\d come, through the snowdrifts and past the tail of the plane embedded in the ground, intent on reaching his cabin... when he smelled blood. Coyote blood.

***

Elizabeth was sure she\d died and gone to hell.

Except it was far too cold for that. Pain shrieked through her head, her shoulders, back, legs. She touched her forehead and found her fingers red with blood. She didn\ think she\d broken anything, just had cuts and bruises. And just when she\d been feeling a hundred percent, too.

Beyond frustrated, she brushed her hair out of her eyes and surveyed the landscape. She couldn\ see the plane from her vantage point in a snowdrift at what looked like the bottom of a hill. The last thing she remembered was the sound of metal ripping away from the plane, but she didn\ remember the crash. She decided she must have been thrown from the tail before impact.

Her head pounded as if a jackhammer drilled into her skull, and she was freezing fast. Heat could kill a body deader than a stiff board, but cold... She knew she needed to move, but since she was walking in blizzard conditions with no visibility and no way to determine depth, she\d tumbled down a slope.

Cold, cold, cold!

As a wolf, she could protect herself from the bitter conditions. But as a human in handcuffs and dressed, she couldn\ shift.

Her jeans were in ribbons, snow clinging to every inch, her sweater not much better. The wound on her forehead wasn\ bleeding as fast now. Her freezing skin helped to slow the bleeding, but she would be a Popsicle before long.

She forced herself up, stumbled, fell, and planted her bloody forehead against the snow. ’’Ah,’’ she groaned, the ice-cold snow burning her skin. She pressed her cheek against a chilly mound of accumulated flakes. Breathed the wintry air into her lungs, burning them in the process. She wasn\ a quitter. She remembered the steaks she\d bought on sale at the butcher shop. The bloody steaks! And she wanted them!

She had to be hallucinating or out of her mind or something. She wasn\ even hungry. Willing herself to get to her feet, she trudged through the ever-deepening snow, filling her boots with the cold, wet stuff.

Freezing, she groaned. Then she heard metal slapping in the wind. And propelled herself toward the sound.

***

Heart racing, Tom stopped, sniffed the air, searched his surroundings, and listened.

The wind wreaked havoc with his attempt to locate the scent of blood. He backtracked. Smelled it again. Faint. Circled. Nothing. He circled again, in a wider path this time.

There. Just a whiff of blood on the wind.

The scent of a female red wolf... blended with a female coyote. Elizabeth\s scent. It couldn\ be. His heart pounding, he lifted his nose again, sampling the turbulence. South. Toward the cabin. Smoke from his chimney mixed with the slight bloody scent. The scents swirled in the wind and shifted again. He stared in the direction of his cabin.

Nothing in the white blanket of snow revealed itself.

He raced in circles, widening his search to locate her, to rescue her.

He couldn\ find tracks. If she had any sense, she would turn into her wolf self. She would most likely head toward the smell of the smoke from his cabin. If she smelled it.

He smelled blood again. He dug at the snow and found the blood already buried under a fresh layer of snowflakes. She\d been here. Recently. He began his search again. She\d headed away from the cabin, not toward it.


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