A security infiltration. A terrible truth. Choices to make.
Lenore is confronted with the truth as Nick reveals what he is, and what she’s become. Her normal life is shattered, never to return. She confronts her anger and fear as Nick tells her his beginnings, and what the future holds. Matters are complicated when her brother visits her and takes matters into his own hands. Now she has two wild men to handle, and she only hopes both will survive the confrontation.
Lenore found herself contemplating her dream as she drove to work twenty minutes later. She wore her spare work clothes and wondered at the disappearance of her usual set. In her dream the pieces had been torn apart, but they hadn't completely disappeared. She also didn't remember the part of the dream where she returned to her home. Then again, what did the dream matter? It was only a dream. A strange, deliciously sensual dream with a hairy hunk.
Lenore bit her lip as heat pooled between her thighs. She had Nick to thank for all these thoughts and dreams of georgeous men, even wolf men. If he wasn't so handsome she wouldn't be thinking of making out with anything that had two legs or, in the case of the dream, four paws.
Lenore arrived at the store and parked at her usual place at the bottom of the parking lot. She meandered her way through the unsteady stream of shoppers and into the building. Madge greeted her near the doors with pressed lips.
Come with me," she instructed Lenore. Lenore followed Madge to the back room where the managers of the departments waited near the office door. Madge left Lenore at the back and wound her way to the doorway where she turned to the small crowd. "I was just informed this morning that the security company who handles our cameras was compromised." Whisperings sprang up in the crowd.
"Compromised how?" one of the managers spoke up.
"As some of you know their cameras have been offline for a few days. That is because an outside individual hacked into their system and routed control of the cameras to an unknown destination," Madge replied.
"So someone saw what the cameras saw?" another manager guessed.
Madge nodded her head. "Exactly. We also weren't the only ones using the security company. Many of the banks and other stores also use them, and they, too, have been compromised," she told them.
"What's this mean for us?" someone wondered.
"Has it been fixed?" another asked her.
Madge held up her hands and the uneasy crowd quieted. "We're not sure yet, but there is some good news. The security company has regained control over their network and the camera information is no longer being transmitted to an unauthorized destination."
"Yeah, but what about while they had control? Maybe they got all the credit card info they wanted," somebody suggested.
"I'm afraid only time will tell if that's true, but the company is announcing the compromise today. I want you to reassure our customers that nothing is wrong and everything is back under our control. Now let's all stay calm and return to work," Madge ordered them.
The managers broke up into groups of twos and threes to discuss, speculate, and mildly panic about the hacking. Madge strode up to Lenore and sighed. "I wish that had gone better," Madge commented.
"At least there wasn't a panic," Lenore pointed out.
"No, but our customers may not be as forgiving, and we can hardly blame them," Madge argued. She glanced at Lenore. "But enough of things we can't control. I received complaints about the store closing early last night. What was wrong?"
"Mrs. Brown came in for some mayo, didn't she?" Lenore guessed.
Madge smiled. "She is a very habitual person, but yes, Mrs. Brown came to the store at nine-thirty last night and found it closed. She promptly called my personal number and complained. I tried to call your number, but no one answered, so I called Becky. She informed me you had taken ill and ordered her to shut the store early. What happened?"
Lenore sighed and shook her head. "I don't really know. I felt feverish and went into the office to rest a bit. That didn't help, so I told Becky to close up and I went home. I didn't answer your call because I fell asleep on my bed. I didn't wake up until a few minutes before you called."
Madge looked at Lenore's puffy eyes. "How are you feeling today?"
Lenore shrugged. "Fine, I guess. Still a little warm, but I think my fever broke last night."
Madge pursed her lips. "I want you to take a few nights off."
Lenore shook her head. "I'm not really-"
"This isn't a suggestion," Madge interrupted. "I'm writing you off the schedule for the next two nights and I expect you to stay away until those two nights are over. Do you understand?"
Lenore drooped, but gave a nod. "Yeah, I understand."
"Good." Madge patted Lenore on the shoulder. "Now get some rest, and I'll see you in two days."
"Sure thing." Lenore left the backroom and went to the front doors. She didn't step out, but instead grabbed a cart. If she was banished from the store for a few days she'd need to stock up on supplies.
Lenore wheeled her cart through the aisles and picked up the essentials for survival, namely chocolate and ice cream. She wandered to the rear of the store and slowly stopped in front of the long, open cooler that held the meat. Her mouth salivated at all that juicy raw food begging at her to consume it. She picked up a package of hamburger in her shaking hand and bit into it. Her teeth dug into the package and failed to rip through the plastic covering to the delicious treat inside.
Lenore's eyes widened and she spat out the meat. It dropped to the ground, and the other shoppers and her coworkers turned and stared at her. She shakily smiled back, picked up the package, tossed it into her cart and wheeled away. Her mind reeled at what she'd done and her focus was now to escape all the staring eyes. She hurried through the check stand, tossed the food into her car and drove home.
Lenore wasn't thrilled to see Stan's truck parked outside her house. She lugged the food inside and found her brother seated at her dining table, which was unusual. When he let himself in with his spare key she usually found him on the couch with a bag of chips eating away her food supply in front of the television.
His eyes were on her the moment she stepped through the door. "We have to talk," he told her.
"Nice to see you, too," she quipped. She walked into the open kitchen that abutted the dining room and plopped the bags on the counter.
He stood and walked over to stand by her side. "This isn't funny. I got the results back from the lab," he explained.
Lenore paused and turned her head toward him. Her heart thumped in her chest. "And?"
Lenore wrinkled her nose. "Blood? Like vampire-drinking blood?" she guessed.
"Yeah, but it's not human. It's wolf blood," he added.
Her heart stopped. Memories of the dream rushed back to her, and she leaned against the counter for support. Her voice came out as a hoarse whisper. "Wolf blood?" she repeated.
Stan noticed the color drain from her face. "Is something bothering you?"
Lenore shook her head. "I-it's nothing, just didn't sleep well last night, but wolf's blood? Not dog or alpaca blood?" she asked him.
"Definitely wolf," he confirmed.
"So do you still think he's out to get me? Maybe he's just trying to add a little hair on my chest," she teased.
"Or giving you a chance to be in the circus as the bearded lady," he quipped. He glanced at his watch while Lenore stuck her tongue out at him. "But whatever he's doing, I have to go back to his house," he commented.
Lenore raised her head and glared at him. "I told you yesterday not to go snooping around in there," she reminded him.
He snorted. "Did you already forget who volunteered me to fix up his house?" he countered.
"Oh, right. The repairs." Her scattered thoughts had forgotten about that detail, but it didn't miss the unlikely coincidence between her dream and the vial being full of wolf blood.
"Are you sure you're all right? You look like the time I tricked you into eating that worm thinking it was candy," Stan commented.
"I'm fine, just got sick last night and had a bad dream, that's all," she replied.
"Maybe you should go see a doctor. There might be some damage from the fall," he persisted.
Lenore growled. The noise surprised both Stan and her. She tilted her head down and massaged her temple. "I'm fine, really. I have the next few days off and the only plan I have is to vegetate on the couch or in my bed."
Stan sighed, but nodded. "All right, but if you need anything feel free to give me a call." He glanced at her groceries and frowned when his eyes fell on the meat package. He took it out and examined the faint bite marks in the hamburger. "Did you know somebody took a bite out of your hamburger?" he asked her.
She snorted. "Yeah, but I don't mind some bite in my food."
He turned the container over and set it down. "Well, the plastic isn't torn, so it should be all right. It looks better than you, at least."
Lenore scowled at him. "Thanks. You make a sister feel loved."
"Just doing my solemn duty as an older brother," he replied.
"I'll remember to call you any time I need to talk to a pain in the ass," she commented.
Stan grinned. "Always here to help, but I guess I should be going to help Nick. He tried helping me tear down some boards yesterday and ended up cutting himself pretty bad on some old nails. For a guy who works with blood he doesn't like it much. He hauled me away from the area so he could clean up the mess. Wouldn't even let me help wipe it up," Stan told her.
Lenore shrugged. "Maybe he thinks you'll put a curse on him if you get some of his blood. You know, some sort of a concerned-brother curse," she guessed.
Stan furrowed his brow and shrugged. "Maybe, but I'll stop by after work and see how you're doing."
"I'll be here," she promised.