REACH FOR THE SKY EXCERPT
Wyatt Turner crouched by the edge of a rock enclosure, the lip of his leather boots digging into his shins. If he cocked his head just right, he could see a small female discarded at the bottom of the gorge, torn to shreds. Pale blonde hair caught the light of the burning sun and a haloed glow encircled her ruined body.
With a sigh, he pushed his sunglasses up into his hair and stared down the distance. The rank stench of death slapped him in the face, as did the crisp scent of autumn and a dried creek bed. From his limited view, he’d wager the enclosure had kept her body protected from the elements, but the scavengers would find her if the local police didn’t reach her soon.
“Heartbreaking, ain’t it?”
Wyatt tensed before he replaced his sunglasses and lifted his narrowed gaze. Of course, James Griffon had made an appearance. The man was infamous for chasing any story he deemed sensational, all with the hope of making a name for himself.
Jaw tight, Wyatt attempted to smooth the anger from his face. “Don’t you have anything better to do than visit dead women?”
James lifted his camera and hid behind the viewfinder. Seconds later, a flash refracted off Wyatt’s tinted lenses. “Perfect. What a great shot of the local alpha investigating the latest killing. She was done in by a werewolf, eh? That’s why you’re here? Don’t growl at me, the public has a right to know what monsters they live among.”
With a curled lip, Wyatt pushed to his feet and glared at the pathetic excuse of a man. “Why don’t you take your little camera and skedaddle? You’re in over your head, Mr. Griffon.”
“Little camera?” James huffed a bitter laugh. “This little camera is worth more than most people’s salaries.”
“Then it would be a shame to see it smashed against the rock.” Wyatt gave a half-shrug. “Accidents have been known to happen, you know.”
The camera lowered a fraction, and Wyatt met the reporter’s stare. “Is that a threat, Alpha?”
Wyatt tugged his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose and offered a toothy grin. Pushy humans—always searching for something, always causing trouble. “You should know better than that, James. I don’t threaten. But it is awfully rocky around here. I’d hate for you to trip and break your toy. Or worse…your neck. So, why don’t you head on out before those officers over there turn away and I grow tired of your antics? I’m sure they’ll release the information to the public as soon as they can.”
Abrasive laughter exploded from James’ lips. “I’m here for the truth, Alpha. Not to pander whatever story the sheriff’s office comes up with.”
“Are you suggesting they’d lie?”
“All I’m saying is I want the truth.”
“If you don’t get that camera out of my face in the next second, you’re going to be walking funny for the next year.”
James snorted, though fear shadowed his face. “The public has a right to know. Haven’t you noticed the similarities? This is the third murder in less than six months. All blonde and blue-eyed, all the same height and build.”
The third? That was news to him. “I appreciate the lesson, Mr. Griffon. But this has nothing to do with my pack. There are a great deal of monsters in the world without pointing a finger at werewolves.”
“Maybe not, but serial killers don’t normally possess superhuman strength or senses. I think the public is going to appreciate being warned about this sicko.”
Wyatt’s neck coiled. The human didn’t realize how close to death he was. As the alpha of the Colorado River Basin Pack, his most important duty was to protect his people. He’d given the snivelling reporter a chance once before, only for him to breach the pack’s trust and run a story about their personal lives. Wyatt would not be so forgiving again. “You print that and next time we meet, it won’t be in front of the local police.”
James tossed up his hands. “What do you want from me, Wyatt?”
He ignored the blatant insult. “To let us do our jobs.”
“Right.” James stepped closer, unaware of Wyatt’s stiffening shoulders. “It’s my job to expose the truth. Yours is to wrangle in those hellions you call your pack and ensure they leave us poor humans be. Theirs,” he jabbed a finger toward the police, “is to ensure the safety of the public. I’m the only one doing my job.”
Wyatt ran a rough hand down his warm face. He loathed humans, and James Griffon was at the top of his list. “Let them do their job—”
Another burst of laughter. The sound was beginning to grate against his nerves. “You need to give me something, Alpha. Or I’m running the story with the headline Werewolf Serial Killer.”
Wyatt simmered with rage. The gall of this dickhead, to boldly blackmail him, as though he was nothing more than a pup who could be intimidated. He pushed into James’ space and glared down on the pitiful human. “Leave. Or I’ll show you what a real werewolf looks like.”
James paled and shrank backward. “I’m only saying—”
“Oh, I heard you loud and clear. You’ve crossed a line, Griffon.”
James fell silent the moment Wyatt’s fingers curled around the camera. He gave the slightest flex, and the plastic body caved in his palm.
The reporter’s mouth gaped as he stared at the mess that was once his camera. “You son-of-a—”
Wyatt’s lip curled. He drew his sunglasses down and unleashed his glare upon the man. “Care to finish that?”
His mouth snapped shut with a click.
“This woman deserves the full attention of the police,” Wyatt growled. “Not some gossip-hungry peddler circling her like a starving vulture. Make a name for yourself somewhere else, Mr. Griffon.”
Wyatt held his gaze, his amusement rising at the sight of James’ discomfort. Finally, he stomped away, all the while muttering under his breath about bullies and dickhead werewolves who’d get their comeuppance.
Once Wyatt had his wolf reigned in, he turned to face Sheriff Shane Carlton, whose gaze tracked James as he stormed away. Clearly, Wyatt wasn’t the only one concerned about the reporter’s presence here. The last thing they needed was an article hitting the Web about a werewolf serial killer unleashed upon the public.
“I need to get closer to the body. At this point, the only scent I’m picking up is death.”
Shane grimaced. “You can smell that?”
Wyatt hummed an affirmation.
“I’m afraid I can’t accommodate that.” Disapproval turned down Shane’s mouth. “As much as I would love to, the medical examiner gets first poke at the body.”
The body. How quickly the young woman had turned into something else. “Mr. Griffon mentioned this is the third woman. That true?”
Shane grunted. “Friggin’ reporters and their big mouths. We’re trying to keep that quiet.”
“You’re trying to keep quiet that there’s a new serial killer on the loose? Does that seem wise?”
The sheriff dragged a hand down his face. His discomfort was as plain as the day was bright. “Listen, before we run around town screaming wolf—” He winced. “No offense.”
“—we need more information.”
A sharp scent hit Wyatt’s nose. Pushing his sunglasses into his hair, he turned and scratched the ridge of his nose. “You know, there’s something you should know about werewolves, Sheriff.”
“And what’s that?”
“We can smell when someone isn’t being truthful.”
Shane sucked in a breath. “Are you accusing me of lying?”
“You betcha.” He tapped his nose. “It’s never steered me wrong.”
Before his eyes, the sheriff wilted. He dug a handkerchief from his back pocket and mopped the sweat from his brow.
“When I offered my services to the local law enforcement, it was with the understanding that they would be honest with me. How can you expect me to trust you if—”
“All right,” Shane hissed. “Yes, this is the third body. There, are you happy?”
“Not particularly. Why wasn’t I called in for the other two?”
The sheriff speared Wyatt with a glare. “I appreciate your offer to assist with any werewolf-related cases, I really do.”
Shane shrugged. “You’re not a cop.”
There was more to the story, and though Wyatt was prepared to demand the information, the sheriff wasn’t one to be bullied, nor would he try. The relations between the werewolves and humans had been strained since they’d announced their presence to the world more than a decade ago. As a means of tackling the divide, Wyatt had offered himself to the local police, should the need ever arise. They’d never had a reason to take him up on his offer, until now.
“Well, standing up here isn’t doing us any good. I need to get down there. Your perp may have left something I can use to ID him.”
Shane chuckled. “Perp. Already learning the lingo, I see. Next you’ll be applying to be a deputy.”
Wyatt grunted. Fat chance of that ever happening. He might have offered his services to the local police, but that hardly meant he liked them.
“Our medical examiner is pulling in. If she clears you to go down with her, I’ll allow it.”
Wyatt nodded, then rocked back on his heels and let his gaze roam the rich landscape as his thoughts meandered. Without another word, the sheriff loped off to greet a well-dressed woman, whom he could only assume was the medical examiner. He eyed her lush curves beneath her pleated suit, his mouth tugging at the corner.
“Wyatt Turner, this is Dr. Elizabeth Morrison. Elizabeth, this is Wyatt, our resident alpha.”
Dark brown eyes assessed him, her mouth a grim line. “Shane informs you that you would like to come down with me.”
“If you want to know who did this or not, then I need to go down.”
Shane and Elizabeth shared a glance. “Sheriff?”
He shrugged. “If it’s the same unsub as the last one, the DNA tests will prove it.”
“I’m sorry, unsub?” Wyatt questioned.
“Unidentified subject,” Dr. Morrison confirmed without glancing at him.
“But if Wyatt can pick up a scent and track it—”
Wyatt’s mouth twisted. “I’m not a fucking bloodhound.” Nor would he hand one of his own over to the local police. Werewolves had their own laws to abide by.
Elizabeth swung back around, her nose scrunching as her gaze raked his length. “All right. I’ll take you down with me. But know this, I don’t care if you’re an alpha. You do as I say, got it?”
Wyatt unleashed the brunt of his stare on the overbearing woman before him. He loosened his hold on his wolf and allowed the beast to peek out of his eyes, long enough for the color to blanch from the medical examiner’s face. “Whatever you say, princess.”
Rage colored her neck. “I don’t think you understand—”
“Nor do I care,” he informed her. “Alpha means I don’t play the role of lackey. I’ll take you down with me, and you’ll do as I say.”
Fury flashed through her eyes. “Excuse me?”
“Uh, guys?” Shane muttered as he stepped between them.
Without warning, Wyatt strode toward the edge of the gorge and dropped over the side without a rope.
The medical examiner’s face was the first to pop over the edge. Chuckling to himself, Wyatt shrugged. “Any moment now, Doc.”
From above came the sound of urgent curses as she slid into her required safety gear. Wyatt took the opportunity to investigate the body before anyone else rappelled down. At first glance, he knew the woman hadn’t been killed here. A brutal attack such as hers tended to leave evidence, of which there was little. The bitter stench of death attacked his nose, but missing from it was the coppery tang of blood. Their victim had been moved after death.
From above, he’d seen the garish marks that marred her torso. Down here, there was no doubt in his mind what creature could have made such a gash. Werewolf claws were thicker and longer than a bear’s. These gouges were bone deep, and most certainly not from a bear. Fortunately for his pack, the scent wasn’t one he knew.
Wyatt studied the poor woman, his attention coming to rest on her face.
He’d seen some disturbing things in his life, but the two gaping holes staring back at him rendered him silent. The fucker had cut out her eyes. Wyatt cursed and whipped a hand through his hair as he thought about the repercussions.
It seemed James had been correct, after all, and as the only alpha in the state, the responsibility would fall on Wyatt to find this psycho.