How did he get himself into these situations?
As the only shifter cop on the Detroit police force, Detective Ryan Kennedy knew there were some things he had to investigate without backup from his fellow officers. But he shouldn’t be here in the sewer, about to face a paranormal threat, without his fellow shifters by his side.
Except he was because the alpha of the Detroit grizzly bear clan was an asshole. Or rather, he had been. Nanook was dead, Simon was the new leader, and Ryan was getting really tired of being betrayed by everyone in his life.
So he hadn’t trusted the new alpha and now here he was, alone in the sewer, and considering his meager options.
He was soaking wet and stank as he followed a pair of werewolves through the Detroit sewer system. He had a hunch that the asshole wolves who were poisoning the city water were down here somewhere. All the cops who weren’t at home puking were scouring the water supply for where the crap was being poured in. Ryan was the only idiot looking at sewage because he guessed the damned dogs were using this system to get around.
He was right.
Two werewolves trudged ahead of him. They were men dressed in hip waders and tees, their scruffy jaws worked as they groused about carrying boxes of something through the sewer system. Ryan would bet his grizzly hump that the boxes contained jugs of the poison. More than half the city was at home sick, many hallucinating. A bunch more were outside rioting thanks to the aggression the poison caused, but that was nothing compared to what it did to shifters.
Regular shifters became like the Hulk, with aggression and strength to match. Then there were the unlucky few who became hybrids, neither animal nor man but some hideous combination of both. Most went insane within a couple days. And these two bastards were the perpetrators who had brought Detroit to the edge of destruction.
He had to stop them. The only problem was that he was alone down here, his phone couldn’t get a signal through all the concrete, and the passageway narrowed ahead. No way could he follow the werewolves without being spotted.
It was only luck and good hearing that he’d found them in the first place, and now regulations said he should head back to safety and a cell signal to report what he’d found. He’d rather arrest them and get them to confess everything. Problem was that he was alone because he didn’t trust his fellow shifters and he’d taken sick days because he couldn’t tell his captain about shifters. Worse, there was no guarantee he’d win against the wolves. It was two to one and being able to shift into a grizzly bear wasn’t helpful in the narrow spaces of the sewer system.
How did he get himself in these situations? Answer: He didn’t trust anyone but himself, and that meant he had to take these guys down by himself.
He pulled out his gun and tried to judge angles. A miss in these tunnels could mean death by a ricocheting bullet, but he’d have to risk it. Or maybe the wolves would be smart and just surrender.
“Police. You’re under arrest. Stop right there!”
His voice boomed over the sound of the water and echoed impressively. The wolves didn’t care. One took off, box in hand. The other pulled out a gun.
Shit. Ryan ducked back. Wolves didn’t tend to carry guns. They preferred to use their animal bodies to attack, but it was just his luck that this guy would be the exception.
But instead of shooting at him, the werewolf shot through the cardboard box. Pale green liquid gushed from the hole in the box. The poison. And the guy held up the box to guzzle some of it.
Oh hell. Ryan had never seen what the undiluted stuff did to shifters. The werewolf had no sooner swallowed twice than suddenly he was busting out of his waders in full animal mode. The thing let out a roar and launched into an attack. Ryan got off a few shots—only way to handle a hopped-up werewolf—but then he was out of time.
His human skin couldn’t take the attack, so he shifted straight into bear. He was in grizzly form by the time the werewolf hit him square in the chest. Or what would have been his chest if he’d remained human.
The werewolf had enough size and speed that Ryan slammed against the curved tunnel wall. His head was forced down, right onto the bastard’s neck and he bit with all his grizzly strength.
The wolf howled and scrabbled with his feet against Ryan’s belly, claws raking through the fur. Pain sliced across his thoughts and he threw the wolf off him rather than get disemboweled. He tried to slam it as hard as he could against the wall. If Ryan was lucky, the creature’s neck would break.
He wasn’t lucky, but Ryan was free. The wolf spun around, teeth bared as blood dripped from his neck. Ryan’s belly burned, but he wasn’t ripped open, so he faced off as best he could in the narrow space. He tried to think of a better way to do this. He was excruciatingly aware that the first wolf was long gone, and the dropped jug of poison was pouring into the water. But his biggest problem was the super-crazed wolf who wasted no time in attacking again.
The creature was strong for a wolf, thanks to the poison, and Ryan struggled to grapple with him. The thing had launched straight at his face, mouth open, claws extended. Ryan kept himself steady, never breaking eye contact. He needed to see if the wolf was rational. The snarls suggested no, but the relentless attack said yes. He could handle a rational werewolf, fight and not kill it so he could question the guy later. But if the creature was all animal, then there would be no end except in death.
On and on, the wolf kept coming while Ryan grew tired slamming the thing aside and hoping for a lucky blow. The creature was expending ten times more energy than Ryan, and yet still seemed as ferocious as at the beginning.
Ryan was gasping for breath as he kept batting the wolf aside. Eventually, the creature would be too beaten up to rise again. But so far, the wolf wasn’t slowing down. And it was lightning fast. Ryan’s arms ached from the steady impact. His bear claws had scored a half-dozen hits, there was blood splatter all over the walls, but the werewolf would not stop.
Damn it, why wouldn’t the thing tire?
Ryan caught the wolf hard under the jaw, slamming him to the side. The impact reverberated in the space as the creature slid to the floor, legs twitching. Was he down? The creature’s eyes opened slightly, and Ryan saw madness there. Damn it, there was no man left inside. Only an insane determination to keep fighting. That meant—
Two shots exploded nearby, the echo deafening. Ryan flinched when the wolf’s head exploded in a gory mess.
Ryan’s arms dropped to his sides while his lungs worked like bellows. The fight had taken a lot out of him, and he needed a moment to recover. Eventually, his breath eased enough for him to face his rescuer. He turned and saw a man aiming his gun straight at Ryan.
He started to shift back to human. He needed to show that he was sane and not a shifter hopped up on the poison, but he didn’t get the chance.
Two impacts like sledgehammers, straight to the torso, and he collapsed against the tunnel wall.
He had to get up and move or he was dead for sure. He knew that, and yet every part of him was swamped in agony. Blackness surged forward, offering him the escape of unconsciousness. He couldn’t. So he fought it, using every ounce of discipline he had to stay conscious.
The greatest mastery is a mind that lets go.
The mantra filtered through his thoughts. He’d barely started the meditation regimen that his pack mate Hank had given him, and yet it came to him now when his mind was pounded by waves of misery.
He fought the words. He needed to hold on, to stay awake, to…
A wave of agony rolled through his mind, obliterating everything. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t fight something that huge, so he gave up. His grip on consciousness floundered, his thinking mind went silent, and pain became everything.
Or nearly everything.
Agony battered him, but a part remained separate, no longer fighting. It was as if he stood on a cliff above the surging pain and watched what was happening without participating in it. And it was that part of him that heard the woman.