Secret Society, The
They were an elite team of shape-shifters, formed to rescue those who couldn’t help themselves and had nowhere to turn. But was it safer to trust a man capable of shifting into a wolf than the man stalking her?
Word Count: 28,864
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Available formats: : PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by Jenny Dixon, January 2013
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
Doc led them down a short hallway into the kitchen. Jack peered into the dark living room they passed and noticed boxes in there, as well as books strewn about the room. In the hall, he couldn’t help but notice the framed water color on the wall. Striking and perfect, a sailboat sailed within the confines of the frame.
The kitchen was bright. There were more boxes on the counter. There were also dishes broken on the floor and in the sink.
One wall of the room was stenciled with a picket fence, brightly painted birdhouses, grass, flowers, and several birds flying about. It was a lot of work, and it added warmth and invitation to the room.
Jack didn’t dwell on it for long. His attention was drawn to the woman who sat on a chair not too far away.
“I stopped by to check on her,” Doc continued. “And I found her like that.”
“Has she spoken to you?” Jack asked.
“Yes. She probably needs medical attention, but she refuses.”
Across the room, the kitchen table, a heavy-looking oak piece, lay on its side, the legs pointing at him like four huge fingers. The young woman touched nothing, merely sat on the stiff, wooden chair. She was so still, she could have been nothing more than a mannequin in a store window. Her arms rested on her lap, her head was down. She stared at her hands.
She was perhaps twenty-six or twenty-seven. She was pretty, Jack thought, or she could have been, with hair that fell below her shoulders, caught the light and revealed a multitude of colors—red, gold, brown, and any shade in between. She was thin, too thin. Jack saw her collar bones beneath the scooped neck of the shirt she wore. Her skin was flawless, her nose slightly turned up, reminding him a bit of Nicole Kidman. He wondered at the color of her eyes, but she didn’t look up as they entered the kitchen. She didn’t move.
Jack had seen this stance, this look many times. Mostly it was in women, but a few times, he’d seen it in men, too. And still, it sent his heart into skids. Then it filled him with anger, anger that boiled him enough to cause his fists to clench before he managed to roll it under the blankets of his insides where he could keep it under control. He forced in a heavy breath and stared at her, doing his best to ignore the shiny black eye that marred her beauty.
Jack liked the way her name rolled off his tongue. He’d heard a few Hollywood people with that name, but he’d never actually met anyone before—and Jack Holston knew a lot of people.
She didn’t respond to his voice. When he moved to draw closer, Doc stopped him with a touch on his arm. Jack met Doc’s hard gaze. “If we’re going to help her, you have to let me do this my way.” He left his bag near the counter.
Doc nodded and released his arm.
Jack drew closer and knelt before her, putting himself into her line of vision. “Stella, look at me.”
She shifted her gaze slightly, seeming to look beyond him, not at him.
Her eyes, he saw, were a soft blue, almost violet. The left one, the one with the shiner, was bloodshot. For a moment, Jack hoped to meet the guy who did this to her. He’d give the guy two. Then he forced that thought aside. He’s goal—his job—was to make the victims safe, and keep them that way. His heart again raced in his chest. And his breath caught.
He wanted nothing more than to pull her into his arms. Hold her, protect her from the monster who had blackened her eye. Hell, he wanted to protect her from the world. His mouth was suddenly dry with the need to gently kiss her lips and show her there should be no pain in that. Something warm pulsed through his entire body, and he blinked at the vision of holding her body against the length of him. Without thinking, he reached out to gently place his hand over her. Instinctively, she shied away from him. He let her, but he didn’t move away from her. He had to clear his throat before he could speak. “Stella, my name is Jack Holston. I’m here to help you.”
She looked away as if she didn’t believe him. “You can’t help me.” Her words were hardly more than a whisper.
“Stella, don’t look away from me.” He understood the importance of saying her name when he spoke to her. It was part of the long road to making her feel like a person of importance. The guy who did this to her had easily taken that away from her with his abuse. He also knew getting her to talk was hard. Getting her to talk about what happened to her so he knew every detail was going to be even harder.
She looked at him again.
“I’m going to touch you,” Jack said.
This time she didn’t try to move away.
“Why do you think I can’t help you?” he asked. He never took her gaze from his. He had to show her that her attention was important to him.
“No one can help me.”
“That’s not true, Stella. I can help you.”
She let out a huff of disbelief. “Yeah, right.”
Jack was well aware of Gray, who left the room, probably to let in more members of the team, but he never looked away from Stella. He gently placed his hand over hers. Her hand was cold, but she let him touch her. “I can.”
“The first thing we’re going to do is take you some place safe.”
She shook her head. “He’ll know. He’ll find out. Then you’ll be in danger, too.”
“He won’t know.”
“He has connections everywhere.”
“So do I,” Jack said. “Is he your husband?” Experience had shown him most abused wives didn’t want to leave their homes. The unknown was more frightening to them than staying with the abusive husband they did know.
“I’m not married.”
“A boyfriend?” Jack hated asking these questions. She was a victim once, and his questions, made her remember that. But he had to have answers. He had to know what he was up against. He had to know if she trusted him enough to tell him. Most of them didn’t. And if they did learn to trust him, they were still too embarrassed and ashamed. Stella didn’t look ashamed or embarrassed. She looked tired and defeated, mixed in with a great deal of disbelief.
“No,” she replied finally. “He lives next door.”