“Can I see where he found the camp?” Cali asked.
“I’m going with you,” Jacob stated. “I’m fine now.”
Morris glanced at him. “Open wounds out in a swampy area, not a good combo, Jacob.”
Jacob started to argue but a glance from Cali stopped him.
“If Jacob wants to come with me, he can. I’ll make sure he’s taken care of.” Cali slipped an arm around Jacob’s waist. “How did Jenks manage to find the—well, all of it?”
“He’s very skilled, as are all my employees.” The skin around the outer edges of Morris’s eyes tightened and Jacob wondered what he might be hiding. “And that’s what’s important. Anyone else coming along, or is it just going to be you two?”
Divert, divert, divert. Pretty sure that’s what he just did. Jacob studied him closely. Morris’s shoulders were tense, and a tic was going at it near the back of his right jaw.
“Just us. Anya.” Cali turned to her. “Keep an eye on things?”
“Of course. Be careful.” Anya tipped her chin at them.
“Thanks, we will be,” Cali replied.
“If you have hiking boots and thick pants, long sleeves—which Jacob has on, you must be heat-proof—I’d suggest you dress in such. The mosquitos are vicious and there are other things out there, like snakes, that you’ll want protection from.” Morris’s eyebrows almost met in the middle of his forehead as he frowned. “Well, I’m sure you know that already. I’m used to giving orders.”
“We’ll be ready in five minutes.”
Jacob walked with Cali back to their room. When the door was closed, Jacob tucked himself close to Cali and whispered, “What’s going on? With Morris, I mean. You seem suspicious.”
Cali glanced at the door and pulled Jacob further away from it—all the way into the large walk-in closet. “I’m just wondering how Jenks, as a human, could find a tiny piece of material in hundreds of acres of wilderness. You know the scents they use to disguise themselves so they blend into the area also hides their true scents from us, so…I guess I am suspicious, but I’m not sure of what, exactly. They have nothing but praise from former customers.” He snorted. “I guess that could all be bullshit. I found out about them online. Who knows if what I read was true? It’s not that I don’t trust Morris. I do, as much as I can trust someone I haven’t known long. There’s just something…”
Jacob recalled the little tics and tells he’d picked up. “For what it’s worth, when you were discussing how Jenks found the place we’re going to see, Morris developed a tic in his jaw and tension in his body. I couldn’t get a scent off him, so I don’t know what that meant except he was trying to curtail a strong reaction to something.”
Cali frowned and hesitated reaching for a pair of hiking boots. “Should I fire him and his team? Do you think they’re dangerous?”
“To us?” Jacob considered the question for a moment. “I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. It seems they’ve helped us so far. Why do that then hurt us?”
“Because people are screwed up,” Cali muttered. He picked up the boots and handed them to Jacob. “Here. They’ll be a little big on you but they’ll do for now.”
Jacob noticed there wasn’t another pair of hiking boots in the closet. “No, here. Take them. I’ll wear something else.”
Cali shook his head. “Nope. You wear those, I’ve got some high-top sneakers that’ll do for me. And if we don’t hurry up, we’ll be late meeting up with him.”
“I see how you curtailed any arguing there,” Jacob said as he carried the shoes over to the bed.
Cali grinned. “It worked.”
“For now,” Jacob conceded.
“We’ll order you some clothes and shoes, and anything else you want, tonight. Unless you’d rather go to town?”
Jacob repressed a shudder. “No. I don’t want to do that.”
Cali waggled his eyebrows at Jacob. “Then I’ll have to measure all your parts to get an accurate fit for you.”
“All my parts?” Jacob teased, sliding one foot into a shoe. “I think I should get to measure yours in return.” The moment felt surreal. He was joking and flirting with a man, his lover, his equal.
“You can measure all of me you want to,” Cali replied, stripping out of his shorts. “Preferably with your tongue. I bet you’d get a more accurate measurement that way. Of one part of me, at least.”
Jacob laughed, delighted with Cali and even though there were scary things happening around them, he was happy. “Yeah? That works both ways, right?”
“Of course. What’d you think I was going to measure you with? I plan on licking every inch of your body tonight.” Cali hissed as he pulled his jeans up over his erection. “Damn. Not the best time for that.”
Jacob put the second boot on. “Hm. Too bad we’re down to about a minute left. Otherwise, I’d suck you off.”
Cali groaned and palmed the bulge covered by his jeans. “It wouldn’t take long, but we’d better go.” He pulled on a long-sleeved shirt and buttoned it up without tucking it in. “Let’s go, honey.”
Jacob was ready. “Okay.”
They met Morris and Jenks on the back deck. Jenks nodded at Jacob. “All better now?”
Jacob almost stumbled over his feet. “Er, I feel better.”
“We’re going to head out on foot. It’s a couple of miles, so if anyone needs a break, don’t hesitate to speak up.” Morris patted a backpack he wore. “I’ve got water here. Jenks has some, too.”
“And if we’re ready?” Jenks asked.
Cali looked at Jacob.
“We’re good,” Jacob said.
Jenks led the way, with Cali and Jacob behind him, then Morris bringing up the rear. Halfway there, Jacob asked for a break though he didn’t feel that he needed one at all; he feared it would have been suspicious had he not spoken up.
The heat and humidity werehellish, but a breeze blew almost steadily and helped ease the misery caused by the temperature.
Jacob could have run the whole two miles and possibly been just a tad winded. Feeling as good as he did now served to emphasize to him how terrible he’d felt before the trackers had come out. Silver. Silver and shifters, what is it about the two? He’d heard talk about it before. Deadly. Silver’s a poison for us. For wolves, at least. What was it the alpha said once? There’s something deadly for every species, including humans.
Jacob thought humans were the biggest risk to their own kind, and to shifters.
He mused over that as they finished the trip to the small area Jenks had declared a camp. Jacob sniffed and smelled nothing, not even, as Morris had stated, the swamp nearby. He didn’t see the scuff until Jenks pointed it out. “Wow. That’s tiny. How’d you see it?”
Jenks traced the mark. “My dad was a stickler when it came to tracking. He’d dump me and my brother and sister off in the woods miles from home and tell us to find him. We either found him or we were going to be left there. After a few times of being stranded in the woods for days, we all learned to track and listen to what he told us.”
Wow. His dad sounds like a jerk. Jacob’s mother had been affectionate. His father…
“Your dad just dumped you and your siblings off and didn’t stay near?” Cali asked.
Jenks pursed his lips. “Nope. He’d make a trail before he ditched us. Then he’d blindfold us and make us wait until so many minutes had passed before we took those off. Didn’t matter if he split, we didn’t remove the blindfolds even a minute early. He’d have known, somehow.”
Jacob was horrified on Jenks’s behalf. Cali looked equally upset.
“So that’s how I learned to track as well as I do. From here, the people camping out went south. I don’t think they’re going away from the refuge permanently, not after that video we saw of them. Those fuckers are loaded for bear. They want blood.” Jenks slapped at a mosquito. “I tracked them a few miles south, but there was nothing. Makes me suspect they lit out on a swamp boat or were air-lifted outta here.”
“We’ve got someone checking all flight records. Since 9/11, it’s a lot more difficult for people to hop in a plane or helicopter and split without a flight plan.” Morris glanced up. “You said y’all heard some kind of aircraft the night they showed up. We’re checking that, too, but so far everyone in the vicinity then checks out as non-suspicious. Any other flights nearby will register on the sensors we installed, and we’ll be able to track that plane or copter in seconds.”
Jacob sniffed and again caught no scent at all other than his own and Cali’s.
All four of them were dripping with sweat. Why don’t I smell Jenks’s and Morris’s sweat? What do they use to hide that? They not only blend with their surroundings, they have no odor when they sweat.
He’d bring it up to Cali. Something was off about Morris and his team, but Jacob wasn’t sure if it was a cause for concern or not.