Ellison approached the two-story bungalow that housed Broderick, his mother, aunt, and three brothers. Youngest brother was on the porch shoveling food from a plate into his mouth but was on his feet by the time Ellison reached the front steps.
“Stay right there, wolf,” the brother, Mason, said.
“Get Broderick out here so I can rip his head off.”
Mason set down his plate of eggs and Texas toast and stood up squarely. He was the youngest brother, but he was bigger than any of the others in Broderick’s house, probably why they had him stand guard.
“Brod!” Mason yelled over his shoulder. “That dumb-ass Lupine is here.”
“I heard him.” Broderick came out the door to flank his brother. He folded his arms, the pair of them glaring down at Ellison with identical stares. “What? It’s early. Why aren’t you holed up with your crazy sister?”
“Where is she?”
Broderick didn’t move. “You mean Maria? Not here. Why?”
Ellison leaned toward Broderick and inhaled, too far gone in rage to care that it wasn’t good Shifter etiquette to obviously check someone’s scent to determine whether he was lying. Especially not on that rival Shifter’s territory with his little brother ready to rub Ellison’s face into the sidewalk.
Ellison didn’t smell a lie on Broderick, but he didn’t smell Maria on him either. He caught the brief scent of her from last night, when Broderick had tried to mark her and claim her, but nothing more than that. Scents had layers, fading with time and how many showers the Shifter had taken. Broderick hadn’t bathed since last night, but his clothes were clean and contained no scent of Maria.
“What did you do, lose her?” Broderick asked. “Doesn’t she live across the street from you?”
“Screw you.” Maria wasn’t here. If she had been, even if they’d locked her in the most protected part of their basement, Ellison would have scented her and found her.
Ellison spun away from the porch and started down the street again, worry piling on worry. The sky was blue, the sun bright, another beautiful day in Austin. The sunlight would sparkle in Maria’s dark hair, dance on her smile.
Footsteps sounded beside him, and then Ellison got a full dose of Broderick’s unwashed scent. “So where is she?”
“Would I be here ready to kill you if I knew?”
Broderick didn’t answer, but he didn’t leave either. “I’m coming with you,” he said.
“The f**k you are.”
“You aren’t doing a very good job of finding her, are you? Two heads better than one.”
“But I want your head on the ground,” Ellison growled.
“That’s where I want yours. But we find Maria first. Sure she’s not with one of the Morrisseys?”
“No. And they don’t seem worried.”
“Fucked-up Feline bastards.”
Ellison ignored Broderick the best he could as he made his way back to Liam’s house. Connor and Tiger were still bent over Dylan’s truck.
Ellison stopped outside the property line and hauled Broderick back before the man could run up to Connor, likely to close his hand around Connor’s neck and demand the cub to tell what he knew.
If Broderick did that, he’d lose his arm, because Tiger was already straightening up from behind the hood and glaring at them with those weird eyes of his. Tiger, though only adopted into Liam’s family and clan, was seriously protective of Connor.
Tiger hadn’t been born of Shifter parents—he’d been bred in a research facility and raised in a cage by human scientists for about forty years. They’d been trying to create a super-Shifter—one who was better, stronger, faster, and all that shit, than your average Shifter. They were trying to do what the Fae had done a couple thousand years ago, except without the magic and possibly not the maniacal laughter. The single-minded cruelty had been there, though.
The result was Tiger—superstrong, barely controlled, and not happy with people who messed with Connor. He wore a Collar, but Ellison was one of the few who knew the Collar was fake. Liam had tried to put a real one on Tiger and it hadn’t worked, so a fake one had to do for now.
The man didn’t have a name, either. Tiger didn’t know what it was—the humans who’d created him had called him Twenty-Three. The woman who’d rescued him had decreed that Tiger could pick his own name, but so far, he hadn’t. So everyone called him Tiger.
Tiger wasn’t growling, but he didn’t need to. The stare from the yellow eyes was enough.
“Connor,” Ellison said.
“Yep?” Connor answered, wiping his hands.
“You take Maria somewhere this morning?”
“Nope. But if you’re asking if I’ve seen her, I did. She came out the back door bright and early, said hi to me, said she was going to help Ronan look after Olaf, and said to tell you she could hear you snoring all the way across the street.”
Broderick made a sound that was a cross between a snort and a laugh. Tiger said nothing at all.
“Damn it.” Common sense told Ellison he was running around Shiftertown making an idiot of himself, but his hackles still wouldn’t go down. Something was wrong—didn’t matter if he didn’t know what. Didn’t matter that everyone else was being logical and unworried.
“Thanks, Connor,” he managed to say. “If she comes back, tell her to stay put, will you?”