Accidentally Wolf – Preview
“Hold your positions until Thomas gives the go,” Frank said into our ear pieces. “We need her to give us a visual of Bernard before we move in.”
There were two local SWAT teams joining our FBI one for this raid. I had been working this case for over nine months to get us to this point. Infiltrating potentially one of the last mob families had left me completely on my own. The risk of being exposed had been too great. Every meeting, every buy, had been without backup or a safety net. It felt strange to have one again.
I took a deep breath, smoothed out the glossy leather material of my tight black skirt and headed inside the abandoned warehouse. Normally I wouldn’t have been caught dead in such an outfit. One that left so little to the imagination. For Pete’s sake, the slit almost went all the way up to my hip, but I had to play the part. No matter how hard it was at times.
This case had left me more frazzled than any other of my career. Not because I was having trouble fitting into Chicago’s underworld, but because it seemed to come very easily to me. Since I was one of the good guys, I found how well I fit into character disturbing.
Walking into the warehouse, my senses were on high alert. My ears detected the faintest crunch as my stiletto boots came in contact with the thin film of dirt covering the concrete floor. I inhaled the scent of rotting wood, dust, and a hint of perspiration. Then I observed the group of men standing in the building’s center, their beefy bodies slightly obscuring the large crates behind them.
“So nice of you to join us, Ms. Penar,” Bernard said loudly, running his ring-covered hand through his slicked-back, thick red hair, as I walked closer to the group. “I was beginning to get annoyed at your tardiness.”
Bernard Dorcus was a bad guy with a capital B. We weren’t sure yet if he had any mob ties because so far everything we had said he was an independent contractor. But the families weren’t known for letting other criminals on their turf. Unless maybe he supplied them. That’s what we were trying to find out as well as where he got his product.
Right now, we did know that he was a facilitator. Anything someone needed off the black market, Bernard could get it. And that didn’t fly with the FBI or myself considering he was doing it in the city I loved.
“A woman’s prerogative, of course,” I replied, flawlessly slipping into my Eastern European accent, giving a bored flick of my long blonde hair. “You know I do not show myself until my boys make sure the meeting is clean and free of any men in blue. I am the brains of the operation. It keeps my lovely ass out of prison. Besides, I find all the testosterone needed while men show their dominance a bore.”
“Yes, as you have stated before,” Bernard replied, complete with an eye roll this time. He was clearly annoyed. “Can we get on with it already?”
“Ah, so American.” I chuckled and clucked my tongue. “Skip the foreplay and go right for the sweet spot. As you wish.” I turned slightly and beckoned one of the men behind me with a gesture of my hand. “Milo, show the man the money.”
Milo wasn’t FBI. None of the guys in my entourage were. They were muscle for hire, contacts I’d made years before on another undercover operation. This wasn’t the first time I’d used this alias, and the Bureau had gone through a lot of trouble to make sure I would pass any background check.
They were filled in at the last minute today. After being assured that they would receive immunity, they agreed to help with the plan. They weren’t squeaky clean, but they weren’t the bad guys either. Milo and his team might skirt the law, or intentionally look the other direction while something happened. We could have found something to charge them with, of that I was sure, but we needed their help to sell my cover.
Bernard wouldn’t have just checked me out. Any gun runner with his salt would have run background checks on my entire crew. Milo and the rest of the hired muscle had the resumes I needed to make my story believable. They were too good to ever get caught doing anything illegal. The lot of them were ex-military that turned mercenary as well as local enforcers.
I’d checked them out as well. While they worked for nefarious guys on occasion, they didn’t have any criminal records. Milo and the others just weren’t regular bodyguards that Hollywood would hire, though really they fell under that job description. They simply didn’t ask questions normal bodyguards would like… Why are so many people after you? What’s in that case handcuffed to your wrist?
That’s why they worked in this situation and why we weren’t trying to arrest them as well. They weren’t the monsters in the room by any means of the word.
I watched the exchange, Milo showing everyone the two cases full of three million dollars before Bernard revealed the weapons we were there to purchase. The Bureau had wanted to get a sample of Bernard’s inventory, and, since gun runners don’t just show you the stock without putting in an order… We had to set up a buy so we could figure out the extent of his organization later to shut it down.
After I confirmed Bernard was at the buy and the weapons were here, my job was to get Bernard’s men away from the weapons before giving the signal to the men outside.
“My, my,” I cooed walking over to the crates. “What lovely merchandise you have, Bernard.”
“I’m glad you like Ms. Penar.” He glanced impatiently at his gold and very expensive-looking watch. Right, because I’m sure he had some hot date waiting for him at home. Well, maybe if he bought her for the evening. He wasn’t a bad looking guy with his tall stature, broad shoulders, and strong jaw, but he was slimy in a way that had nothing to do with his appearance. And his eyes were the coldest, most soulless things I’d ever seen.
“Boys, a lady doesn’t like to be crowded,” I admonished Bernard’s men, who had closed in on me. I waited until they backed off before walking the rest of the distance to the weapons. Oh yeah, we had hit the mother lode.
It was scary the amount of weaponry he had. Normally gun smuggling of this magnitude would have fallen to ATF or maybe even Homeland Security depending on whether the guns originated from another country or not. But, since Bernard might be organized crime, it fell under our purview. Besides, we had no clue to the extent of his inventory when we’d started the investigation.
There was everything from rocket launchers to armor piercing rounds to fully automatic weapons. Scary shit.
I collected myself for the fight ahead before giving the signal. “Yes, this is everything I wanted.”
Even before the last words crossed my lips, the two entrances were busted down and SWAT poured in. In a flash, I pulled out my hidden Berretta PX4 Storm and was on Bernard before he could even realize what was happening.
“You bitch,” he spat at me as I disarmed him. “You fucking bitch.”
“Sticks and stones, Bernard.” I rolled my eyes. Criminals weren’t known for their inventive insults. After I secured him, I started over to Frank to start giving orders. Less than five feet away, I saw Bernard break the cuffs. His hands had shifted into claws. We had no intelligence that any of them were lycanthropes. I screamed, “Shifters.”
Frank turned to look at me as Bernard reached to tear out his throat. I leapt to knock Frank down, feeling razor sharp claws tearing into my shoulder and back. Before we even hit the ground, I was unloading my clip into the man’s chest. When I saw that he wasn’t going down after three bullets, I switched to head shots and it took the other fourteen rounds. I hadn’t wanted to kill Bernard, but protecting my team came first.
I was obviously in shock because, after landing on Frank, I tried to get back up but couldn’t. I was stunned as to why my body didn’t seem to work. Frank gently slid out from underneath me before yelling for the paramedics.
“God, Sera,” Frank cried out. “Don’t you die on me, Sera. What the fuck were you thinking?”
“I couldn’t let him tear out your throat,” I answered, trying to shrug him off me. “I’m fine, let me up.”
“You are not fine!” Frank bellowed, his dark eyes wide. “Your entire back is shredded. Just stay still goddammit! Help’s coming, just hold on.”
“Frank, you’re being a drama queen again,” I started to reply, but then the pain hit me. Sometimes adrenaline wore off at the wrong time and shock didn’t cover it. “Okay, I take that back, maybe you’re not.”
“No, I’m not, Sera,” he whispered before shouting more orders to the men around us. I tried to pay attention, just to make sure they were the orders I wanted. After a few moments, I didn’t seem to care anymore. Darkness started to swarm me, cutting out the dim lighting of the warehouse, even as I felt myself being lifted and laid down on something soft. The last thing I heard was Frank shouting my name.
* * * *
The sun must have come up because suddenly the room was too bright for sleep. I groaned and tried to roll over, but the sharp pain radiating through my back made me hiss and freeze. That got me wide-awake. Opening my eyes, I looked around the room. It took a few moments for it to sink in where I was. A hospital. I found the call button by my right hand without having to move much.
While I waited, I maneuvered enough to be able to face the door. It was painful, both sharp and dull at the same time in different areas. A few deep breaths and I was able to roll over anyways.
Then I started looking more closely at my surroundings. Why were there iron bars on the windows and door? The walls of the room were white as was the tile, and it was also incredibly barren for a normal hospital room. There wasn’t even a tray for food or a chair for guests. Not that I had any, but most rooms had one.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. This wasn’t a normal hospital. I was in a paranormal hospital. Oh hell no.
When paranormals had come out to the general public, even if it hadn’t been by choice, the government scrambled to set up designated places for non-humans. Paranormal hospitals, some schools, and any place humans would be nervous interacting with supernatural beings were a few of the most prevalent examples. It was somewhat shady to me at times, separating them as if there was an agenda, but it seemed to help most people accept there was more out there than they had ever known if they still felt safe in the places they needed to.
I started panicking then, my chest tightening with anxiety. I had worked in law enforcement all my adult life and I knew with crystal clear certainty, after the shifter hospital came safe houses.
That’s where they threw newly turned vampires and shape shifters of all kinds until they learned to control themselves. They could be quite dangerous when they first learned to shift or control the need for blood. It wasn’t that it was ever intentional, but, when a person experiences mind numbing pain, the natural tendency is to lash out. And, when those limbs suddenly had claws, it led to massive injuries for anyone around.
There was no fucking way I was going to one of those places! It took me a while, but I was finally able to sit up and unhook myself from the IV they had in my forearm. Just as I was trying to get out of the bed, the door opened. I glanced over, feeling somewhat guilty that I’d been caught trying to escape. Somewhat… not really though.
“Thomas, get your ass back in bed,” Brian Havers, my boss, barked at me as he came closer. “You’re in no condition to go anywhere.” He was using his best in deep shit look and his full six-six height to try an intimidate me. Havers was forgetting one thing… Nothing scared me worse than the possibility of getting thrown in a shifter safe house.
“Fine, take me to a human hospital and I’ll rest,” I snapped, getting pissed. I was in the hospital bed with no one around when I woke up. I shouldn’t be in trouble for anything. “Why am I at a paranormal hospital?”
“Thomas, what do you remember?” He winced and looked at me, his light green eyes shedding their normal intensity and becoming soft and sympathetic. That only brought back the anxiety instead of the comfort I’m sure he had been going for.
“We were at the Bernard bust.” The events came rushing back to me. “They ended up being shifters. One went to tear out Agent Frank’s throat and I pushed him out of the way.”
“Yeah, you probably saved his life,” Brian sighed as he sat on the edge of my bed. “And got your back clawed up in the process. Claws from a lycanthrope that had shifted.”
“What are you saying, Brian? Just spit it out. You know I find foreplay tedious,” I snapped. But just like that it hit me. “You think I’ve been infected, don’t you?”
“Sera, what day is it?”
“How the fuck should I know?” What did that have to do with anything? For god’s sake! He was talking about my life maybe being ruined and he wanted me to check the date?
“It’s only the next day,” Brian said softly. Didn’t that just cool off my annoyance? “You were transported to a human hospital but when they saw how fast you were healing… Well, they transferred you here.”
“That’s ridiculous. I’ve always healed fast,” I responded distantly, my tone losing its edge. Even I didn’t believe that defense, but people called me stubborn all the time for a reason. “It’s really only the next day?”
“Yeah, Sera, it is.” Brian reached out to hug me. As per usual when someone tried to comfort me, I moved out of the way, and groaned at the pain. “You healed so fast. By the time they got you here, the doctors didn’t even need to stitch you up. Your temperature is higher, like a shifter.”
“No, don’t say it, Brian,” I started begging. I realized why my boss had been waiting outside for when I woke up. They wouldn’t let a shifter on a regular FBI team. “Don’t do this to me. Please.”
“I’m sorry, Sera,” he replied sympathetically, shaking his head. “I fought for you, I swear I did. There’s nothing I can do, you know the rules.”
“Did we at least get Bernard?” Right, time to focus on something solid, like the case I’d been working on for months instead of my impending nervous breakdown.
“In a manner. He’s dead. Turns out he and his whole crew were shifters.”
“How did I not know that?” I asked, ashamed with myself for the danger I put my team and SWAT in. I rubbed my forehead, feeling the dull throb of a headache. “Was anyone else hurt?”
“No. When you yelled out the warning, everyone else was able to react in time. It’s over now,” Brian assured me, returning to his normal, official voice. “You’ve been given two weeks leave. At the rate you’re healing, that should be more than enough time. If your transition takes longer, I’ll sign off on as much time as you need. When you’re ready to come back, you’ll report to the Mystical and Non-Human Specially Trained Regional Squad of the FBI.”
“You’re seriously transferring me to the monster squad?” I asked desperately. “I get hurt in the line of duty and you’re punishing me?”
“It’s not a punishment, Sera.” Brian exhaled, starting to stand. “I am sorry, but that’s Bureau rules.”
“Fine, call it whatever you want,” I snapped as I threw my hands into the air. This couldn’t be happening! And, when panic sets in, I go with my gut reaction… anger. “It still feels like a damn punishment!”
“I know it does, but yelling at me won’t change anything,” he threw back, moving toward the door to leave. “It is what it is now.”
“What if I don’t change? What if I’m really not a shifter and you’re all wrong?” I asked as a last ditch effort.
“I don’t know, but if that’s the case, I’ll do everything in my power to get you back on our team, Sera.” He shook his head, and I wondered if he even knew he was doing it. It seemed like a subconscious answer to my Hail Mary play. Great. Just fucking great.
“I’m not going to a safe house. You better not even try to put me in one of those.”
“No, you’re not going there,” Brian agreed, quickly turning the handle and opening the door. I couldn’t blame him for wanting to leave as soon as he could. “It looks like you’ll be discharged today. But promise me, Sera. If you’re having a hard time, or it looks like you’re going to change, call the number they are going to give you. You don’t have to go through this alone.”
“Yeah, right,” I snickered, completely pissed off and, I felt, rightfully so. “After the level of support I’ve gotten from my own team, I’m going to rely on strangers.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, but we did fight for you,” he whispered as he walked out the door and closed it quietly behind him.
I let him go, what else was there really to say? I knew it wasn’t his fault, and I respected him for having the balls to face me himself. That didn’t change my situation or get me my team back.
Or squash the hurt I was feeling from none of them being here when I woke up. If Brian was right and it had only been a day, it’s not like it would have been crazy to expect some support or concern.
Well, if rest was all that I had to do to recover, I could do that from home. I got up and grabbed the light green scrubs that lay in a neatly-folded pile on the foot of the bed. Thinking about all the changes to my life in the past twenty-four hours, I got dressed. What kind of shifter was I going to be? That would be something I’d need to find out before I left. I had just finished pulling the clothes gingerly over my injured body when the door opened again.
“Ms. Thomas, your test results are back,” the doctor said as he walked calmly into my room, as if he had heard what I was thinking. “I’m sorry, but you did test positive for lycanthropy. Wolf, to be exact.” His voice was quiet and soothing as he delivered the life-shattering news. He could have been telling me I had a mild cold.
“Wolf.” I uttered it so quietly that my ears barely even registered I had spoken as I felt my body sinking down onto the bed. Hearing the proof was so much worse than the maybes or speculations. There was no mistake or going back to my old life now. “I’m going to be a werewolf.”
“Yes, Ms. Thomas, you are,” the doc answered, looking very sorry for me. He had a good bedside manner at least. The empathetic gaze in my direction was better than I’d ever seen on a doctor when giving bad news. And I’d seen my share when either team members or victims were told their injuries. “Is there anyone we can call for you? Family, or friends to come and get you?”
“No, there’s no one,” I answered dully, standing back up. “If you could just call me a cab and get me any personal effects I have here, I’d appreciate it.”
“Of course.” He realized I was nicely dismissing him. Smart man. There’s nothing worse than people hovering after they drop the bomb. I wanted out of here. “One of the other officers dropped off some personal effects from the scene. I’ll have one of the nurses bring them in along with your discharge papers and different lycanthrope programs you can get information from.”
“Thanks, Doc,” I replied, turning to face the window, focusing on the smooth metal of the bars. “Anything else I need to know?”
“You’re healing quite quickly. I should think you’ll be almost completely healed by tomorrow. If you have any issues, I’ll leave a contact number with your paperwork.”
“Okay, thanks again.”
“I am sorry, Ms. Thomas.” I heard the door open and close and knew I had gotten what I wanted. To be alone.
“Yeah, me, too,” I whispered to the empty room.
A few minutes later, the nurse came in with everything I needed. I nodded along with what she said, not hearing a single word. After everything was signed and I was free to go, I went outside and climbed in the waiting cab. It was a short trip home to my apartment. Once finally inside, I turned off my phone, crawled under the crisp, cold sheets of my bed and did something I very rarely did… Cried.