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Wolves of Paris (Shifter Hunters Ltd. Book 2) by Tori Knightwood (1)

ONE

Sitting at a sidewalk café in Paris—with a French hottie—might be the most cliché thing Ryenne had ever done.

And she loved it.

Everything on this visit had been perfect. The sunny weather. The view of the Eiffel Tower from this café. The welcome from Lucien’s family. The stolen moments with Lucien.

In fact, maybe too perfect.

Her feelings for Lucien had grown stronger since their adventure in Kenya, and he was still the hottest shifter she’d ever met. But... she wasn’t used to having to think about anyone but her mother and her best friend. It had just been the three of them for so long. As much as she cared for Lucien, she wasn’t sure she was ready to share her life with someone else.

Lost in her thoughts—something she did often while surrounded by a language she didn’t understand—she hadn’t noticed the pale man until he stood between their table and a table closer to the street. He was slim and wiry with bright blond hair and gray eyes. Maybe it was his paleness in the bright sun that made him stand out. Her inner danger sense pinged and she covered Lucien’s hand with her own. When he glanced at her, she flicked her gaze to the man and away.

“Things are about to get interesting,” he whispered, smiling into her face as if he was only focused on her. But she saw one of his hands pat his hip as if to reassure himself about the presence of his newest toy. Ryenne had brought him one of her mom’s latest weapons as a present, a telescoping electric prod the size of a large cell phone that shot out to its full length of eighteen inches with the flip of a switch.

She smiled back at him and shook her right arm—the arm farthest away from the suspicious man—to dislodge her small stun gun and send it sliding into her hand. “Things are about to get fun.” She waggled her eyebrows at him and again flicked her gaze to their suspect.

The man stared at something inside the café. Ryenne shot a glance over Lucien’s shoulder but couldn’t see past the glare on the café’s glass window.

The blond man pulled a gun from his waistband. “Listen up,” he shouted in accented English. “Take out your wallets and phones and put them in this bag.” He gestured with his free hand toward another man who began weaving between the tables and shoveling things off them into what looked like a pillowcase.

Ryenne had noticed him, too, sitting at the farthest table along the sidewalk. She had mistakenly pegged him as not dangerous. She wouldn’t make that mistake again.

“I think there’s a third man inside,” Ryenne whispered to Lucien.

He nodded and pretended to search his pockets for something. “I’ll use my speed to get inside.”

“And I’ll get the gun.”

As one, they rose from the table. Ryenne shouted as she lunged for the gun, hoping to draw attention to herself and away from Lucien. She had to disarm the man before he shot at Lucien.

Thanks to her shout, the man saw her coming. His eyes flashed yellow and his pupils became vertical slits. He hissed, his front teeth elongating and curving inward like a snake’s.

Shit. He was a shifter. With a gun and fangs.

People had stayed remarkably calm and quiet until the man showed his true nature. Now screams rent the air.

The man raised the gun and Ryenne punched him in the stomach. His gun arm lowered and she kicked the weapon out of his hand. Avoiding his fangs, which could inject venom for all she knew, and could turn her into a shifter, she twisted his arms behind him and pushed her foot into the small of his back to force him to the ground.

Then she looked around for the guy who’d been collecting people’s belongings. If the one on the ground was a shifter, the other guy could be, too.

The café crowd had gone silent and she soon learned the reason. The second would-be robber was indeed a shifter. His fingers had erupted into claws and he held one against a woman’s throat a few tables away from Ryenne.

Ryenne handcuffed the man on the ground and stood, her hands held out. “Let her go.”

“Let him go.” He gestured with his chin toward the shifter she’d cuffed.

“I can’t do that.”

“Then her death will be on your head,” he said. His voice was high-pitched and whiny, his build small and wiry. No matter his animal, all shifters had heightened strength and senses compared to humans.

No one moved. Ryenne hardly dared breathe. He could kill this woman in less time than it would take Ryenne to reach them.

Before she could decide on a course of action, a massive crash broke the silence. Lucien fell through the café’s front window, scattering the people who’d been sitting at tables in front. He rolled a couple of times through the broken glass, tiny cuts appearing on his exposed skin, and stood, his feet crunching on the shards.

All eyes went to Lucien and the growling bear that faced him from inside the café.

While everyone’s attention was elsewhere, Ryenne drew a dart from a pouch at her hip and aimed it at the shifter holding the woman hostage. It hit the shifter between the eyes and he fell sideways, releasing the woman who scuttled away and back into the arms of an older woman, both with cheeks streaked with mascara.

The bear roared and stepped toward the destroyed window.

“Go!” Lucien yelled to the crowd. “Everyone, run.”

The sound of chairs scraping and crashing on the sidewalk accompanied the jostling rush of café patrons. Within seconds, Lucien and Ryenne faced the bear alone. Ryenne pulled zip ties from her pocket and crunched through the glass toward the weaselly shifter she’d hit with the dart. She didn’t want him to get away during the fight about to begin.

Still inside, the bear growled and puffed out his chest.

A siren, so different than what she was used to back home, shrieked nearby and the bear turned his head toward the sound.

“Got anything to throw at him while he’s distracted?” Lucien asked.

She patted her pockets. “A few things. Think I can hit him before he lunges at one of us?”

“There’s only one way to find out.” He smirked at her and approached the bear.

Ryenne chose another dart from its protective leather pouch as the bear growled again. If Lucien wasn’t going to shift, he couldn’t fight the bear alone. Even in his wolf form, he might not be a match for such a large bear. He’d need her. He’d need her sedative-tipped darts.

Using Lucien as cover, she scurried as close to the bear as she dared and tossed a dart at his thigh. Then, before he could pull it out, she threw another, aiming at his neck. The second one glanced off him but she hoped the first dart would be enough. Waiting for the sedative to take effect, she ran in to fight alongside Lucien.

Lucien had allowed his fingernails to grow into claws and was swiping at the bear’s sensitive midsection, forcing the bear to move backwards, away from the broken window and into the center of the restaurant.

It was a good plan because the bear wouldn’t be able to escape as easily from the interior, and they’d have a better chance of capturing him and holding him for the police. She hadn’t had any dealings yet with the local police force, but she knew Lucien’s family had cultivated a strong relationship with the locals over the years.

She and Lucien stepped over the jagged window frame and into the restaurant.

The bear plucked the dart out of his leg and tossed it away as his movements became jerky and clumsy. He roared and made a grab for Ryenne.

She jumped out of his way then ran full-tilt to execute a flying leap at his unprotected flank. She slammed into the bear feet first. He stumbled sideways and she pressed her advantage. She climbed up his body and sat behind his shoulders, while Lucien kept him busy by slashing at the bear’s limbs.

Once atop the bear, Ryenne was hesitant to use the dagger in a sheath at her back. If she killed the bear or hurt him too badly, there would be questions—from the cops and the press. She was in a foreign country without whatever papers might be necessary to practice her shifter hunting craft.

In between swiping his paws at Lucien, the bear grabbed Ryenne’s leg and she felt his claws digging into her skin. She gasped. Lucien slashed the bear’s arm and the bear let go of Ryenne. She slid her legs off the bear’s shoulders and, instead, wrapped her arms around his neck and squeezed. Causing him to faint would be preferable to wounding him.

The bear thrashed. Growling and tossing his head every which way, he tried to dislodge Ryenne. But she hung on, her legs swinging. She squeezed harder, digging her fingernails into her own arms.

With a final jerk, the bear went down. Lucien leaped out of the way, slipping a little on the blood smeared on the floor, and Ryenne jumped clear of the unconscious rogue.

Once on the floor, she put her hands on her knees and took deep breaths. “Damn.”

Lucien nodded, retracting his claws. “Nice work.” He pulled her in for a hug.

“Where the hell is your new telescoping prod? It would have helped in this situation.”

He shrugged. Men and their toys.

When she stepped out of Lucien’s embrace, she looked around for the other two rogues. The weaselly man was still unconscious but the snake shifter had disappeared. Damn. Why was a group of rogues targeting a random café? Hopefully, they could get answers from the two rogues she and Lucien had captured.

Otherwise, her first vacation in Paris had just taken a nasty turn.

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