“Anita!”AdrenalinefueledRory as he scooped her off the path and slid behind a tree.
A second shot echoed around them, the bark of sound, followed by silence, had the hair rising at his nape.
Edwina popped from behind a leafy bush. “Is someone shooting at us?”
“Stay down.” Rory turned Anita in his arms, his hands trembling as he fumbled to check for injuries. The tang of blood propelled him to greater haste.
Suzie poked her head from behind a tree, and a third shot broke the forest silence.
“Stay behind the tree,” Rory snapped.
“Is she all right?” Edwina asked. “She’s bleeding.”
“Anita!” Rory feared his heart might beat out of his chest. Blood bloomed on her right shoulder, turning her blouse red. He pulled the fabric aside and lifted her slightly to check her back. “It looks like the bullet traveled straight through. Let’s get her back to the castle medics.” He ripped Anita’s blouse and used the cloth as a pad to staunch the blood flow.
“Rory?” Anita’s eyes fluttered. She shifted a fraction and groaned. “What happened?”
“Someone shot you,” Rory said. “They’re still firing.” He peeked from where he and Anita sheltered. Seconds later, another report echoed around them. A bullet struck the tree trunk inches above Rory’s head, and a piece of bark flew, hitting his cheek.
“They have us pinned down,” Suzie said. “What are we going to do? We need to get Anita checked out.”
Voices sounded in the distance—the loud chatter of a group. The gunman would either shoot at them or retreat. When nothing happened and the conversation grew closer, Rory risked another glance from behind the tree. He caught a flash of dark green moving through the undergrowth above them but couldn’t hear anything. The voices increased in number, and Rory stood. He was in clear sight now, should the gunman care to shoot him.
Rory’s legs shook, but he stood strong and scooped Anita into his arms. “Let’s go.”
“Anita, how are you doing?” Suzie asked.
The approaching groups of shifters stood aside, no doubt smelling the blood.
“Do you require help?” a skinny man asked.
“Someone shot at us,” Edwina said. “We think they’re gone, but take care.”
“Gunfire?” a woman asked.
“Our friend has the hole in her to prove it.” Edwina snapped and hurried after Rory. “Imbeciles. Did they not hear the shots? Some people are born stupid.”
“What if the shooter has gone ahead?” Suzie asked.
Rory set a rapid pace, and the open ground between the castle and the forest lay before them. “We’ll have to risk it. I’ll up my pace, and if the shooter fires, we’ll dodge and weave and pray for the best.”
“I’ll run ahead and get help. The presence of other shifters halted the shooter,” Suzie said.
“Be careful,” Anita said in a strained voice. “I’d hate for anyone to get hurt because of me.”
Suzie darted past and sprinted into the open. Rory took several hasty steps and burst out of the forest.
Despite their fears, nothing happened.
When they ran up the front steps, Suzie had already spoken with the steward, and he’d summoned aid. A medic arrived, a large, no-nonsense woman with her two assistants. Rory started after them, not wanting to let Anita out of his sight. Despite Rory’s protests and his wolf’s growls, they carted Anita away.
Angus, the steward, stepped in front of them. “Come this way. It will be quieter in my office.” Despite Rory’s dissenting snarl, Angus ushered them down a passage and into an office. Everything inside sat in precise neatness, much like the steward’s appearance. “Take a chair.”
Rory let Edwina and Suzie shuffle past him and sit before he sank into the remaining chair. The steward stepped behind his desk.