"Help me! Oh, God, somebody please help me!"
He covered his ears at the grating, alien intrusion. Wild boars mating held nothing on that sound. Have to find it. Have to stop it. He stepped off the high limb of the tree where he'd taken his rest for the night, falling straight down to land, crouched, at its base.
He ran toward the noise, the mountainside forest a blur as he raced to the source of the unwanted intrusion. His nostrils flared. Woman. Human. She was doused with a repellent, an oily citrus that made him want to gag. Another odor, this one more familiar, covered that stink with its own. A dark smile lifted his lips, and he increased his speed.
Again? They'd left him alone for decades, why were they bothering him now? A hot poker of pain in his temples made him swear, freezing only moments before he reached the clearing where the screams had originated. Never mind. He didn't care why. He could never have too much of a good thing. There was nothing better to break up the monotony than playing with paranoid dogs.
"Silence her, she did her job. His scent is close. Now I will succeed and make the others look like fools." The voice was nervous, merely pretending confidence. Not an Alpha then. Pity. Anything less than an Alpha tasted sour.
"I still don't understand why we have to kill it. Gyvain was very specific that it was to be left alone. Why are we listening to that a--"
"Gyvain is dead. And he was never my Alpha, nor yours. It is an affront to the memory of our fallen fathers to leave that abomination alive. They say he looks exactly like the Storm Bringer. Unfortunately Gyvain's son and his followers let the family have that body to burn. I think I'll take this one's head as a trophy, so that every one who sees it knows what I have done."
The names were like shards of glass rammed into his ears, and the throbbing in his head increased. Luckily, a feminine whimper distracted them from their conversation. The second Shadow murmured soothingly to the frightened girl. "Why should I care about things that happened before my time when I have such a gorgeous creature in my arms? Isn't she a pretty thing? I didn't know this side of the world had such pretty things. If we get him can I still have her? Keep her as you said after we slay the animal?"
Cocky youth. Calling him an animal? The insult more than the threat to the terrorized woman sent fog rolling in around the two Shadow Wolves and their captive.
He knew they could smell him, that the fog was only a momentary confusion, meant to terrorize and distract more than protect him. But that was what he wanted. So few things gave him pleasure, but it gave him pleasure to scare them. And they were scared. They had come onto his territory, had come for him, and again and again they underestimated his abilities. Abilities that only seemed to grow stronger with time.
One leaping stride had him directly behind the nervous one, who was too busy growling to notice he had a visitor. He sank his fangs deep, one hand over the villain's mouth to keep him quiet as he drank the dark blood. Just as he'd thought. Sour. The images the blood brought did nothing to ease his pain. But it gave him the sustenance he needed. Satisfied him in a way the local wildlife never could. He lifted his mouth, smiling as the slender neck twisted easily in his hands, breaking with a satisfying crunch.
The cocky Were called out to his now silent companion, but it was too late. The woman had fallen free to the hard ground, and he was flailing in the air, his claws desperate to pry the large, strong hand from his throat.
The lovely dark skinned girl looked at her savior, squinting through the mist. "Thank you. Thank you, you saved my--"
He wanted to drink her dry, to drain her blood. He knew instinctively that it would be sweet, would erase the bitter taste of Shadow on his tongue. Where were her instincts? Humans lacked all sense of self-preservation.
She backed away at his growl, tripping over her shredded backpack. Her richly scented blood poured down her knees, tempting him as she scrambled into the woods. She didn't look back. So. Not that stupid after all.
"You may as well kill me." The gasping Were in his grip continued to struggle. "I won't tell you where the others are. Won't tell you who you--"
Silence. Blessed silence. He turned and slowly walked back the way he had come. He could have told the bastard he didn't want to know, that he didn't care. But it would have been a lie. Still, after all these years, he knew better.
Curiosity may not kill the cat, but it sure as hell gave him one hell of a headache.