A Taste of Shifter Geekdom (Vanguard Elite Book 2)

By: Annie Nicholas

Chapter One

Moonlight streamed between the bare branches. Feet pounding into the hard packed dirt and heavy breathing accompanied the pack of misfit wolves as they ran through the forest.

Their vampire trainer, Pallas, was nowhere to be seen, but the raised hair on the back of Julia’s neck said he lurked in the dark forest, watching their progress. If anyone strayed, the pack would find them tarred and feathered at the manor by morning. Poor Gregor had to shave his whole body to rid himself of the stuff. Now he ran with vigor. No more straying for him, or anyone else in the pack.

Julia bumped elbows with Belinda, her roommate at the boot camp. The leggy shifter grinned and pushed their pace faster so they joined the alpha couple’s small group leading the run.

Clare and Ian were recently voted into their leadership role. They had authority on anything relating to the pack. Anything concerning the boot camp, training, or discipline fell under the vampire’s jurisdiction. It was a precarious balance at best, but they were all here to learn from him.

Well…she wanted to learn. But mostly, she wanted to hide.

The rifle on her back bounced and grew heavier with every mile. She grimaced. Shoulder muscles ached and her back spasmed. There would be target practice tonight and more gunfire recoils and more pain. She examined the callouses on her once-smooth palm. These were the hands of a stranger, someone who worked and trained hard. Small price to pay for freedom. She would endure whatever Pallas doled out if it meant never returning home.

“Are you trying to read your fortune?” A male voice, out of breath, asked.

She fisted her hand and glared at the male, sharp retort at the ready. Clear blue eyes met hers and she swallowed her razor-blade words. She loved to flirt and she loved men in general, but Pallas had strict rules about fraternizing. Nobody was worth risking punishment like tar and feathers.

Except him.

Darrell’s dirty blond hair tumbled around his chiseled features in messy waves. Sweat beaded on his forehead, giving her a glimpse of what he’d look like after a rough night in her bed.

She bit her bottom lip as she imagined licking that succulent mouth. He’d popped on her radar a last week when they’d been on the same scavenger hunt team, but he hadn’t said more than pass the salt to her since their team miraculously managed to avoid being sent home. Darrell had an honest desire to protect others. He’d helped and guarded other members of their team as they moved through booby traps, taking time to console the omega when she’d been afraid, and even catching Julia before she’d fallen in a water-filled trap.

“I can guess your future.” Sweat trickled along his jaw and dripped on his t-shirt despite the cold fall night. The thin material clung to his chest and abs outlining his well-defined muscles.

Butterflies took wing in her stomach. “What do you think the future has in store for me?” She hoped it included him and her in a dark secluded corner, lip to lip, bodies entwined—damn the vampire and his rules. Darrell was an oddity at the camp. Most of the males were out of shape or troublemakers. So far Darrell proved to be neither, which made her question his reason for being here. Packs had sent the worst of their worst to this boot camp.

“More rifle practice.”

Her smile dropped. “That’s nice.” Not ever. She tried to sound chipper, but failed. The words came out deadpanned. She hated the target range. She’d rather bury Pallas’ sports car again.

Darrell’s eyebrows rose. “Come on, it’s fun.”

“Our ideas of fun are obviously different.” She refocused on the trail. Damn it, they had fallen behind. Not that they’d be reprimanded but she noticed Pallas favored those who moved their asses. She narrowed her gaze, trying to make out a figure blocking the path ahead.

It was the vampire. Pallas directed them to the right, away from the shooting range.

Perfect, no shooting tonight. “Don’t quit your day job, handsome. Your fortune telling sucks.” She pinched his ass and lengthened her stride to catch up to Belinda.

He jerked and tripped over his own feet.

She tossed a look over her shoulder. Let that give him something to think about in the cold hours ahead. Her laughter bubbled up as her apprehension melted. No target practice meant no embarrassment or frustrated snapping comments from Pallas. She didn’t need a reminder of how inadequate she was as a warrior. She knew her level of incompetence before joining the boot camp. What she hadn’t known was how Pallas would send students home before the course was finished. She had hoped to stay hidden here for weeks and let her trail get cold before moving on.

Darrell caught up to her easily. Every time she shot him a look, his gaze would turn sultry. He stayed at her side even though he could have left her behind. If he continued, she’d cash in on those heated, silent promises.

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