Chapter 14: On the Run

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I wriggled my hips, trying to hoist myself a little higher on Ian's back. "Sorry, I keep slipping," I muttered.

"At least you stopped telling me to mush," Ian shot back.

"Only because I believed you when you said you'd drop me."

Ian just snorted and tightened his grip around my thighs. It had taken all of half an hour of fighting our way through thorny bushes and tall weeds and mud, and more mud, before he'd rolled his eyes, stopped, and leaned over so I could climb on — and another thirty seconds before I pissed him off. But hey, in my defense? I honestly wasn't trying to be a jackass. I just thought maybe what we needed in this situation was a little humor, so sue me.

Note to self: alphas had no sense of humor about dog jokes. To be fair, I probably should have been able to work that one out on my own.

"You still not getting any signal?" he asked.

I pressed the button on the side of my phone, where I had it awkwardly poised in my left hand. My right arm was wrapped around his chest. The screen lit up, but there weren't any bars. "Nope."

"Huh." He ducked under a branch, but not quite far enough, and it whapped me on the top of my head.

"Hey!"

"Don't know any sled team commands for ducking under branches, Nate?"

I bit down on my tongue and held the button to restart my phone. Maybe it just needed to refresh its connection, or...something. What I didn't know about cellular communication could fill a whole phone manual, and probably did, except that I didn't have one.

Both my phone and Ian's had lost service somewhere between the store and the creek we'd ended up following for a while. Unless we'd both suddenly and coincidentally gotten cut off for non-payment of our bills — which, okay, on any other day would be likely enough — someone had cut us off on purpose, either with magic or with more mundane fuckery at the phone company. We couldn't call Matthew. We couldn't use GPS, although Ian didn't seem to need it, luckily. And we couldn't check the news or social media or anything to see what the fuck was going on, which was a bigger problem. It was kind of amazing how pathetic we were without our technology, even though I had magic and Ian was magic. There was probably a Milennial joke in there somewhere, if I'd been feeling ironic enough to make it at my own expense.

We were heading for the Armitage territory, although it was going to take us a while to get there at this rate. And while Ian was determined to get home — some werewolfy instinct telling him to get to his pack at all costs — I wasn't so sure.

I'd been trying to work through it in my head while I jounced along on Ian's back. Just about everyone in the store, with the exception of a couple of kids and a stoner staring red-eyed at a shelf of crispy pig-skin snacks, had seemed to recognize us. And want to get the hell away from us.

Then the cops came, probably called by an employee the minute we walked in. So whatever was up, it wasn't just a supernatural thing. As far as I knew, neither of us had committed any normal human crimes recently, so — at least one of us was suspected of something we hadn't done. Something fucking awful, to merit that level of response. And something that made us dangerous to everyone around us, since all the normals had clearly been told to keep their distance. And the supernaturals, too; the gnome had panicked when he saw us. Oh, this was bad.

So where'd the local authorities, normal and not, gotten that idea? Occam's razor suggested the Kimballs, or whatever faction of the Kimballs had kidnapped me, but I wasn't sure what they stood to gain. I could easily turn around and tell the police about the kidnapping, after all. Did they think they could get me out of police custody and into their own, if they used the town's PD to do the dirty work of catching me in the first place?

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