Sean made it a few miles outside Fresno before stopping for gas. With his tank filled, he found a cheap motel in town. The room was unkempt but clean enough for his purposes.
A quick look at himself in the mirror told him the Pride would find him, even if his texts to Jennifer were too cryptic for them. Her blood sprayed his clothes, boots, skin. It wasn’t enough for the average human to notice, it could have been specks of dirt from riding his bike through a muddy patch of road. But it would be more than enough to give him away to a paranormal.
Sean paced within the few feet the bathroom offered while tearing at his hair again. What the hell do I do? He didn’t want to hurt her, not when he sent her the texts to meet with him, not when he reached the desert. His gun was always on him, always ready, but he didn’t think he’d use it tonight.
The other hunters wouldn’t be on his side, not this time. He’d broken the treaty, and soon they would discover he betrayed their ways years ago. Shadow Cove wouldn’t be safe for him, not without some powerful support.
Sean pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket. He’d grown up in that town. There had to be somebody who hated shifters enough to offer him some kind of sanctuary. Only one came to mind. Of course, she wasn’t a huge fan of hunters either. His choices were limited. He scrolled through the list of contacts until he found her.
A deep, booming voice answered after the second ring. “Helen’s phone, Gazini speaking.”
“Uh, yeah. I need to talk to her.”
“And who the hell are you?”
“A client, Sean Mitchell.”
“I have no clue who you are. She’s eating right now, so I’ll just let her know you rang. Bye.”
“Wait, wait. I want to talk about adding a shifter to her collection.”
“How ‘bout a lion?”
Sean sat on the bed in his room while he waited. Background noise was all he heard for several minutes before the sound of a door closing.
A high pitched squeal answered the phone next. “Ooo, do tell. Is this little lion a fiesty one?”
Sean cleared his throat. “Actually Helen, you can have your pick from a whole Pride.”
Helen laughed. “Who is this?”
“It’s Sean Mitchell.” He rolled his eyes, placing his forehead in his hand.
“Oh. Well, I doubt you managed to capture an entire Pride, so what is this really about? Keep in mind that I was in the middle of a wonderful meal, which you interrupted.”
“I didn’t exactly capture them. It’s more like they’re after me. But I know how much you love your shifters, and I don’t think you have a lion yet?”
There was a lengthy pause before Helen spoke again. “I do not.”
“I was thinking I could lead the Pride to you, and you could be waiting for them, and…”
“No, you’re thinking I can save you from whatever mess you’ve gotten yourself into, and do all the work getting a lion myself. That doesn’t sound very fair, Sean.”
“It’s not entirely like that. Yes, I need help, but I’m more than willing to help get you the lion of your choosing.”
Helen paused again. “I am quite curious regarding whatever you’ve been up to that’s gotten the attention of an entire Pride. Hm… Tell you what. I’ll bail you out tonight and listen to your no doubt fascinating tale. But if I’m not impressed, or if I don’t like the agreement we might be able to come to, you won’t have anything at all to fear from those fluffy little lions. Am I clear, Sean?”
Sean knew he was making a deal with the devil, so to speak. He also knew Malcolm and the others would never forgive him. They would tear him limb from limb if they found him. “You’re clear,” Sean replied.
“Great.” Helen giggled. “I’ll send Gazini to pick you up, tell him where to find you dear.”
Sean gave Gazini the directions when he returned to the phone, praying the Pride would be slower than his bail out. He turned the faucet on in the tub while his thoughts raced. I’m gonna need something to take the edge off.
As the tub filled, Sean took a small vial of blood out of his coat pocket and placed it on the edge of the porcelain. He undressed before sinking into the warm water and downing the contents of the vial. A metallic taste accompanied the thick texture as it slid down his throat.
His head rested against the back of the tub while his mind drifted. Steam swirled over the exposed areas of Sean’s body as every muscle relaxed. A warm dizziness overtook his senses.
A sharp tapping echoed through the room. Sean rolled his head toward the sound, struggling to open his eyes. A large crow perched on the outside windowsill stared at him through the glass as it peered into the bathroom.
Sean’s brain took a moment to reconnect with his body. He slipped on the porcelain as he reached for a towel to wrap around his waist. He signaled to the bird before stumbling toward the window to let him in. Gazini looks annoyed. I hope Helen’s in a better mood when we get there.
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