Chapter One

 

SEBASTIAN GLANCED behind him, the prickle on the back of his neck never something he ignored. Screw the spider sense; he had wolf senses. Someone was following him, and it was a predator. Going to Denver for meetings always left him a little vulnerable.

Now if he could just get the bastards to attack him.

He let his steps slow, faking an expression of cluelessness, of innocence.

The footsteps finally became audible behind him. Yeah, come on. Come get the puppy.

He began to whistle, joyous as a lark. Silly pup, la la la.

The footsteps rushed, the attacker running now. Sebastian turned a corner, then whirled about, waiting. Ready.

A knife flew out of nowhere, and he slapped it out of the air with a growl. “Try harder.”

The acrid scent of fear filled the air, and the guy backed off. “They didn’t say you could fight.”

“No?” He stepped forward. “What did they say?”

The guy held his hands up, his big, beaky nose telling him bird shifter. “Nothin’. I don’t know nothin’.”

“Seriously? A flutterby-baby to get an apex predator?” He growled deep in his chest and let himself bare his teeth.

The guy turned tail and ran, flat out, in the other direction. Well, shit, how was he supposed to get any information now?

No fair.

No fun.

“Look what I caught!” His packmate and oldest friend popped into the alley, Mr. Birdbrain in hand. “A bird in the hand, and all that.”

“Oh, Alan. You do know how to make a man happy.”

“I do. Too bad you were never willing to take my more pervy offerings. This one might sing for us, though.”

“Mmm. Promise?” He growled again, letting his teeth show.

“Totally.” Alan shook the guy. Hard. “Who sent you?”

“Fuck you,” the guy squawked. “This is a job.”

“Who hired you?”

“I got the job off a message board.”

Alan squeezed the bird-guy’s throat a little, making him screech.

“I swear! Payment through one of those anonymous services.”

“Anonymity is boring,” Alan snarled. “I wonder if you will be so anonymous once I tear your face off.”

“Oh, honey. Too much too soon. You have to start slower.” He was going to kick Alan’s butt.

“What?” Alan gave him wide eyes. “I was doing De Niro.”

“No, you were doing De Nutso. Let him go, man.”

“Listen to the psycho-puppy. Let me go.”

Alan bared his teeth. “You ever come around again, I’ll bite.”

The bird squalled, beginning to shake, like an emu losing his feathers.

When Alan let go, he ran, leaving behind the distinct odor of pee.

Sebastian chuckled. “Never send a bird to take down a wolf. You hungry?”

“Starving. Steak?”

“Hell, yes.” With a baked potato. He loved the skins.

“Come on.” Alan hooked their arms together. “That was fun. We can do it again tomorrow, right?”

“We totally can. Until I find out who tried to kill Uncle Ron? We’re hunting and being hunted.”

“This is the most fun ever.”

He shot Alan a glare, and he got a blush, the bright blue eyes glowing.

“Well, not Uncle Ron, buddy. That sucks.”

“Yeah.” Uncle Ron was still recovering from an attack that had left him teetering, one foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel. Sebastian wanted none of that shit. Uncle Ron was… mentor, Alpha, family, boss. Everything.

Sebastian owed it to him to ferret out who had attacked him.

Ferret. He knew a few guys who would crack up at that.

Maybe more than a few.

Alan winked at him, sharing the joke. Why the hell couldn’t they have hooked up?

He shook it off. They would always be buds. That was worth far more than any booty call.

Time for steak.

 

 

“JAXON. GOOD to see you.” The big boss, Richard, stood, then reached out to shake his hand.

Jax shook, wondering what he’d done wrong. He’d just finished up a job bodyguarding a really rich werebuffalo investment banker’s kid while he was on a vacation in Cancun.

He was rocking the best tan.

Still, he’d met Richard, CEO of Nose to Tail Inc. exactly once. At last year’s Christmas party in Steamboat. So why was he here?

Richard gestured to the chair across from his desk. “I imagine you wonder why I called you in personally.”

“I am. Makes me nervous, boss.”

“Well, don’t be. An old friend of mine has sent out feelers about retaining some protection for his nephew. He wants someone discreet. Someone who doesn’t look like a bodyguard. I want you to sit in on my call with him.”

“I can do that.” Oh man. How discreet was discreet, exactly? Did Richard want the guy to know he was here?

“I’ve told him via email that you’ll be joining us. Ron says the situation is rather delicate.”

“Yeah? Cool.” That was right up his alley. Delicate, that was him. Del. I. Cate. Sensitive too.

He grinned. Foxes were all about that stealthy shit.

Richard touched a button on his phone. “Can I get Ron Zeller on the line, please?”

“Ron Zeller, like the textile magnate Ron Zeller?”

“That’s the one.” Richard gave him a severe look. “Behave.”

“Yes, boss.” Like that was even remotely possible.

“Patching you through, boss,” said the disembodied voice of… oh, what was his name? Richard’s assistants changed often enough it was hard to remember.

Richard was a little growly. A touch.

“Thanks. Hello, Ron? This is Richard, and I have Jaxon here.”

“Thanks for returning my call, buddy. I need a babysitter for my asshole nephew with a death wish.”

Richard grinned, looking as if he was biting back a laugh. “This would be Sebastian?”

“It would. He’s trolling for my would-be assassins, Rich. Seriously. Like he’s ten feet tall and bulletproof.”

Rich. Who called the boss Rich? That was a brave man.

“Oh, dear. Well, I have all faith in Jaxon here. Say hello, Jaxon.”

“Hello, Mr. Zeller. Pleased to meet you.”

“You have a nice voice. You are a predator, yes? Seb won’t respond well to prey.”

“Well, I’m a fox. I know wolves can think of us as prey, but I hold my own.”

“I know a lot of foxes in the security biz. They’re well suited.”

“We are. Tell me about your nephew,” he demanded.

“Seb might as well be my son. I took him in when he was twelve years old and just wet behind the ears. He’s a brilliant guy—one hell of a designer, believe it or not. He gets that from his mother—but it scared him when I got attacked, and he’s lost his fucking mind. He’s out there with his packmate baiting assassins and showing his ass.”

“His packmate? Who is that?” Jaxon needed to know all the variables.

“Alan White. He’s a baby wolf and he thinks Seb hung the moon, and together they’re adrenaline junkies. I’m about to call Alan home on some project, but that won’t stop Seb.”

“Are they a couple?” That would make things more difficult.

“No. Not for lack of trying on Alan’s part, but no. They’re just best buddies, and they egg each other on.”

“Ah.” That was easier. Cull the one out of the picture, and he would just focus on the nephew. “So, what’s my way in?”

“He needs a personal assistant. He needs to do his job. Stop worrying about me. You can help him stay alive and get organized.”

“I can actually do that.” Whew. He’d trained at butler school. He could be a butler, a valet, a personal assistant, a personal trainer, and a ninja-fox bodyguard.

“I’m going to survive, and I’ll be damned if he has to spend his prime years defending me. He’s a good man, but he has to stop being foolish.”

“Indeed,” Richard said. “Youth can make a man feel invincible.”

“So can stupidity,” Ron muttered.

“Yeah, and it can make him extinct.” Jaxon nodded. “Where and when do I need to be?”

“He’s based in Estes and he’ll winter there, but he’s in Dallas right now, aggravating people.”

“Dallas.” Jaxon sighed. Hot and humid.

“For another three weeks. Then he has to go home.”

“Got it. I’ll get packed.” Jaxon glanced at Richard. “Is there a file?”

“There will be by the time you fly.”

“You’ll keep him safe?” Zeller asked.

“I will, sir. I have a very good success rate.”

“Good. He’s my heartson, and he’ll take everything one day. I need him to thrive.”

“Jaxon is the best I have, Ron.” From Richard that was high praise.

Jaxon rose, intent on getting his shit together and heading to Dallas.

“I’ll have the ticket sent to your phone,” Richard murmured.

“Thanks.”

Richard waved him off with a half smile, then went back to his phone call.

Jaxon started a mental list for packing. Khakis and button-downs… Was a bow tie too much?

He needed to seem innocuous, nerdy, harmless enough to ignore. A personal assistant extraordinaire. Glasses. Nondescript.

He chuckled softly. Okay, this could be fun. Seriously.

Jaxon figured he could use a dose of fun.