Forged Decisions

Chapter Twenty

Navi’s senses pricked to alert the moment she and Finn began their approach to the warehouse. Like the night before, those lights remained on, but this time, they wouldn’t be sneaking around to avoid detection. This would be a confrontation of claw and fang since the easier solution of compelling them to back down wasn’t in the cards. Blood would be spilled.

She turned to them when they reached the edge of the tall grasses and caught the murmur of voices from inside. “We’ve got to block off all the entrances—make sure none of them go running. Sierra and I will take the front to draw the crowd. Jeremiah and Finn, you head around the back to the meth lab. Don’t let Rossi escape and if you happen to find any manifests or details on Mackey Kendricks and his goal with the Landsliders, he’s the real target in all of this.”

Navi worked her jaw, ready to turn on her heel and head out when Finn grabbed her wrist.

“Stay safe,” he said, the tenderness in his umber eyes something she wasn’t used to.

“If you let Rossi kill you, I’ll drag you from the grave to kill you myself,” she responded, her tone gruffer than normal as she wrapped her other hand over his. She wanted this moment to stretch out for as long as possible, to stay connected to him. On a normal mission she leapt in with little abandon, only worrying about staying alive. However, her heart squeezed tight at the seriousness in his eyes and the knowledge that she was sending him to fight a man who helped destroy his childhood. This change in her status quo left her feeling stripped and raw in its wake.

He leaned in to brush his lips against hers and, as fast, he slunk through the tall grasses toward the back of the warehouse where the horrible gusts from the meth lab wafted out. Jer slipped behind him quick and silent, the two of them living up to their wolfish stealth.

Navi turned to Sierra as she shook off the residual feelings sweeping through her. It was game time—just another day on the job.

“Let’s go tear up some meth-dealing assholes,” Navi said, flashing a grin to the Red Rock alpha. Sierra bared her fangs with a lethal smile and together they strode toward the front door. Unlike the other night, they could throw stealth to the breeze, because they were playing the distraction tonight. She might not have compulsion on her side, but on top of her panther’s lethality, she had Tribe magic at her disposal, the water that flowed at her command. These Landsliders wouldn’t know what hit them.

Sierra walked with a similar confidence, the alpha well trained from years of sparring and comfortable with the prospect of fighting for her territory. Out of the many alphas they’d dealt with, Navi could see why Jess liked the lady and Finn had followed her for so long. From their brief interactions, she felt a kindred spirit with the tough chick who would dive headfirst into trouble if it meant protecting her pack.

As Navi got closer to the door, those voices grew louder and she tried to tune in to figure out how many men clustered behind the front door.

“Latch the door once we get inside,” Navi murmured while she stepped to the entrance. Once she rattled the doorknob, the voices quieted.

They couldn’t operate on the element of surprise, but, as Tribe, she’d always have one trick in her back pocket. Her panther lashed back and forth in her chest, demanding to emerge, to tear these assholes to pieces. Navi flung the door open and strode inside. The focus of every guy in the room, all six of them, turned to her and Sierra.

Growls ripped the air from the men, and she caught more than a couple of glowing eyes out of the bunch.

“I’m Navi Tremere of the East Coast Tribe,” she called out, her voice booming to the rafters of this warehouse. “You’ve been found guilty of smuggling and meth dealing, but if you give me information on Mackey Kendricks here and now, we can talk about easing your sentence.”

The growling hadn’t ceased and, with the hunched-shoulder way they regarded her, helpfulness didn’t seem to be their top priority. Their loss.

One of the guys called back, “Kendricks is a helluva lot scarier than you. I think we’ll just head out and we can call this tussle a draw, yeah?”

Sierra grinned as she stepped beside Navi. “Door’s locked as requested.” She scanned over the crowd with her arms crossed. “Only six guys? It’s like they’re asking to get taken down.”

Navi snorted. “You had your warning,” she called. “Now we’ll be using lethal force.”

She didn’t wait for their response. Time for the panther to emerge. The shift took her over while the claws extended from her nails and the fur began to prick through her skin. The clothes she’d been wearing shredded to the floor. Her bones transitioned until she was on four paws instead of two feet and her panther blazed with readiness. Her fangs itched to sink into these bastards. A silver wolf with black streaks padded beside her—Sierra’s form. They shared a single glance, but they didn’t need communication to know what came next.

As the six men began to shift, Navi and Sierra attacked.

She lunged forward, towering over the first mangy wolf to come rushing her way. He tried to ram into her, but Navi already tilted her head down to use her thick skull like a battering ram. She met his attack with gusto, the force of her push-back sending him flying.

The shift in the air alerted her before a mountain lion leapt from the right, fangs bared.

Navi whipped toward him.

Before he could land, she swiped with one paw, claws out. The tips sank in past his fur, into flesh, and she raked down. The lion roared with pain as blood sprayed from the open wound, the tinny scent bright in the air. He pushed through the attack. A second later he slammed into her in the side, headfirst. Navi moved with the blow, soaking the abrupt disruption.

Sierra let out a low growl as a black bear and another wolf advanced on her.

Navi let out a low huff—she wasn’t the only one fighting here. She needed to keep Sierra safe through this.

She gathered her powers, drawing upon the connection she shared with her panther and the gifts of the shaman bestowed upon her. The water prickled inside and she channeled her abilities to summon it from the ground, from any source around them. Quickly, the drops condensed into a stream.

The other black bear came lumbering for her.

Navi swerved out of the way like the liquid she wielded, the slow-moving creature not standing a chance. She swiped out with her claws again, catching him in the muzzle. The bear let out a quaking roar that shook the ground beneath them—far more intimidating than his bite. He whipped around and thundered toward her again. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught the glint of fangs from the other direction.

So, the assholes had started working together.

With the stream of water in her grasp, she slipped out of the black bear’s path and slammed her paw to the ground. The water sprayed in all directions, a strong enough blast to disorient the bear, the wolf and the lion all skulking toward her. The other mountain lion paced back and forth as if he was waiting for the right opportunity to dive in. She wouldn’t give him one.

The bear who had snarled at Sierra let out a howl in pain that echoed to the rafters of this place. The Red Rock alpha sank her teeth into his neck and wasn’t letting go even as he thrashed. The other wolf rammed into her, but Sierra was an unstoppable force.

Navi didn’t wait for the shifters to get their bearings.

She was a big enough panther to tower over them and she knew how lethal her strength could be.

Launching off on her front paws, she flew into the fray.

She rammed forward, the flat of her head slamming into the mountain lion’s side. He swiped with his claws, but Navi turned around, heading for the next attack. The points of his claws nicked her tail, but she paid him no mind. The wolf found his bearings faster than the others and lunged for her, gray fangs bared. Once the tips of those fangs descended, Navi slammed her paws on the ground again with force. A stream of water rushed out to blast into him. He spluttered, crashing to the ground in a sloppy landing.

By the time the bear charged in her direction, she’d bared her fangs at the ready. He lumbered closer, closer.

Before she could sink her teeth into him, a blur caught her attention at the last moment. The other mountain lion rammed her in the side. Her side stung and she stumbled. The bear wasn’t stopping. He rushed for her, his teeth glinting under the fluorescent light while he prepared to strike.

Navi rolled out of the way, back onto her paws before he crashed straight into her. She whipped around, but instead of taking a breath to recover, she claimed the offensive. Navi bounded off her front paws to vault towards the bear. She sank her claws in past his fur, digging her teeth deeper into his skin. Crimson flecks sprayed against the concrete floor as he roared.

She detached, landing on her feet as she circled around, the copper taste of blood on her tongue. A roar quaked from the basement of the warehouse, the sound jolting her with ice. Finn was fighting down there and she had no way of knowing how many he faced and if he’d survive. Every fiber of her being begged her to bolt in his direction and help. That was the bond speaking and she refused to indulge. He was a competent, trained fighter who she trusted.

Instead, she slammed her paws down, sending the pool of water beneath her spraying out toward her enemies. Under the fluorescent lights, the water glinted, blindingly so. She didn’t wait for the droplets to descend—Navi rushed forward, ramming full force into the nearest mountain lion. Her head hit his side with a solid thunk and he went tumbling back.

Before he could recover, she whipped around, bounding for the wolf. Anxiousness burned within her, spurring her forward, faster.

Slash.

She raked her claws into the wolf’s muzzle right when his jaws snapped open. A strangled sound somewhere between a howl and a whimper came from the bastard’s throat. Navi didn’t stop, pushing forward with another slice that coated her claws in hot blood, this one scoring his front haunches. The wolf whipped his head away, more scarlet flecks imprinting on the slate floors.

A loud howl came from where Sierra still fought against the wolf and the bear. She’d accumulated several scratches and a cut bled but, out of the three, the Red Rock alpha remained on top. The one wolf was missing an ear and the bear limped while it attempted to charge.

Teeth glinted under the overhead lights, drawing her attention. The mountain lion who’d been circling on the defensive struck.

Navi ducked, muscles tensed as he soared toward her, ready to descend. One problem with his straightforward attack, though. He wasn’t fast enough.

She sprang forward, his neck on clear display as he tried to crash down upon her. As Tribe, she would always be faster. Navi sank her teeth into the meat of his throat and she jerked her head to the side, the wet tear of flesh resounding through the cavernous warehouse. The mountain lion tumbled to the ground, trying to loop around her for the door. Not like he could escape—Sierra had latched the door shut while in human form.

The three other attackers switched to defensive, their fur sticky with blood and tufts marring the ground along with the bloodstains. Navi paced in front of them, waiting for the next charge while her heartbeat pounded louder and louder in her ears. On the opposite side of the warehouse lay a desk against the far wall with stacks of paper on top. She’d be taking those with her when they made their escape.

Sierra lunged forward, snapping her jaws down on the other wolf’s front leg with a crunch. Even as the fangs descended from the opponent, she ducked and used the weight of her movement and the tensile strength of her jaw to her advantage. The snap of the limb echoed to the rafters. The wolf howled with agony and blood dripped from Sierra’s muzzle when she stepped away.

Navi marched back and forth before the shifters. The mountain lion near the door had sunk to the ground, losing blood faster than he could afford, while the other one prowled forward, and based on the twitch of his paw, he was ready to spring. The bear crouched low, those wounds keeping him from moving forward fast, and the wolf hid his damaged muzzle from view. Navi tensed, waiting for the attack of the other mountain lion.

Until she caught the acrid scent in the air, and turned her head to see the smoke pouring from the basement at an alarming rate.