Silence Of The Wolf Page 79

Tom moved off into the trees, but Elizabeth didn\ follow him. He quickly came back for her. ’’Aren\ you coming?’’

’’They deserve a second chance, Tom. Maybe some intervention sessions with Lelandi. I never had a pack to grow up with. I only had my mother and father to learn from. I can only guess what it would be like for them to play and fight and be part of a pack growing up and then lose their father, you and your brothers, and the rest of the pack all at once. Let them return to the pack. Show them what you\ve all shown me tolerance, acceptance, and unconditional love.’’

Tom looked around at the ground, searching for more footprints. ’’It\s up to Darien to make a decision like that.’’

His expression tight, Tom stalked across the snow, shouldering his rifle. He took Elizabeth into his arms and hugged her tight. He whispered into her ear, ’’They\ e here, aren\ they? Listening.’’

She nodded, tears misting her eyes. She never cried if she could help it, and she\d been more misty-eyed around Tom and his pack than she wanted to admit. ’’You wanted to protect them, Tom. They knew if anyone would listen to them, it would be you. What they did was stupid. It all needs to end now.’’

Tom gazed into her eyes. He shook his head. ’’You\ e beautiful, you know? Inside and out. Despite all you\ve been through.’’

’’CJ turned himself in.’’

’’That was only because he stepped into the trap and couldn\ run any farther.’’

’’I think my charging after him, growling and snapping, spooked him. I think he came to see you when you were gathering kindling like he said, trying to find a way to get your attention and show you he didn\ mean you any harm. Only... I sort of ruined it by suddenly coming on the scene.’’

Tom heaved a deep breath but didn\ say anything. He wasn\ convinced yet.

’’Let them come in on their own and square things with Darien and Lelandi. Get back to being a pack. I like CJ. I want to have the biggest family I can have.’’

Tom smiled at her, holding her still, looking down at her with wonder and admiration. ’’It won\ be easy. For any of us.’’

’’Time will heal.’’

’’But not in your uncle\s case,’’ Tom said vehemently. ’’That bastard will pay for attempting to kill you.’’

’’I also want to know if he murdered my parents. I want the proof, and Hrothgar can deal with him. As harshly as he sees fit.’’ Quinton didn\ deserve anything better.

Movement by one of the trees made Tom raise his rifle as Elizabeth turned to see who it was.

’’Brett,’’ Tom said, sounding surprised, despite having assumed that one of his cousins was nearby.

Brett was wearing a white parka and ski pants that made him blend in with the snow, with only a hint of dark bangs showing beneath the hood of his coat and dark brown eyes. He studied Tom, waiting to see his response. He had Tom\s stern jaw, and she wondered if when he smiled, his expression would be similar to Tom\s.

Bjornolf and Anna came behind Brett, weapons pointed at the ground.

’’We were watching him,’’ Bjornolf said, ’’while he listened to the two of you talk. I didn\ know what was going on until I realized you knew he was there.’’

’’Thanks, Bjornolf, Anna,’’ Tom said, then turned his attention on his cousin. ’’Where are your brothers?’’

’’They\ e not here. We spread out so that we won\ get caught in a cluster. We knew you were searching for us, so we split up. We\ve been trying to find the damned wolves scaring the livestock. It wasn\ us. But we knew you\d suspect us first. We\ve tried damned hard to find the bastards and turn them over to Darien.’’

’’Why did you keep CJ out of this?’’ Tom asked, sounding suspicious.

’’Hell, Tom. You know him. The minute he left the pack, he regretted it. He had his own ideas about how to get back in with the pack. Took us a lot longer to come to terms with everything. We know Darien had no other choice, but still...’’ Brett took a settling breath. ’’You\ e still family, our pack. We knew the farmers would hunt any wolf, and one of our people could be killed. We had to hunt the rogue wolves down ourselves. Prove that we weren\ anything like our dad.’’

Elizabeth felt all misty-eyed again.

’’All right, say I take your word for it. But CJ said he overheard Eric talking to the guy who kidnapped Elizabeth. Did you know about that?’’

Brett creased his forehead. ’’No, Eric never told us what they talked about. But I suspected that guy was up to no good.’’

’’Do you have any clues?’’

Brett snorted. ’’They\ e red wolves. They use hunter\s spray. We saw the three of them clustered in the distance, spooking some calves. They\ e big wolves, but they\ e definitely reds. We took chase, but they disappeared into the mountains. Easy to do when we couldn\ scent them.’’

’’You wore hunter\s scent camouflage, too,’’ Tom accused.

’’Hell, yeah. If we hadn\ , you would have only smelled our scents at the farms. That would have assured you we were the culprits.’’

’’What now?’’ Tom asked.

’’I\ll go into town. Settle the score with Darien. Where\s CJ?’’

’’Injured, leg trap. Doc\s taking care of him.’’

Elizabeth saw the concern wash over Brett\s face.

Tom turned to Bjornolf and Anna. ’’Take him into town, will you?’’

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