Finding finn, p.2
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       Finding Finn, p.2

           Lynn Crandall
 
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terrifying state of heightened senses and transformation of his physical body.

  “I know where we can go,” he strained to say, startled again by the gravel in his voice. He handed his cellphone to Nissa. “Punch Asher’s number and let him know we need to meet him at his house. He’s my brother. He’ll give you directions.” Resting his head against the seat again, his sense of smell gave him a new detail. He hadn’t, couldn’t have, noticed before this transformation that unique scent wafting around her. He wouldn’t say anything to her about the implication. It was her story to tell. But the scent and her kick-ass ability with the men told him with almost certainty. Nissa was a were-cat.

  IT WAS HER DAMNED FEAR of “what if” that had put Finn in danger, and now the unthinkable had happened. He’d been bitten and was turning into a were-lynx. A specific kind of were-lynx, for that matter. A very volatile and vicious kind.

  She’d never met Finn’s family, so the call to Asher sent her nerves firing. With the directions in her head, Nissa kept her hands steady on the steering wheel and her eyes on the road ahead, but with her peripheral vision, she kept track of Finn. Her heart clenched, wanting so very much to take it all back. The morning, the secrets she’d kept from him, and now the gut-wrenching change he was suffering.

  A quick look at him sent shudders up and down her spine. She didn’t need to ask if he was all right. Clearly, he was in agony. His teeth clenched as everything in his body grew into its new form. Arbitrarily in different places, his muscles bulged then retreated to their original size. He moaned and doubled over in his seat. It tore at her heart. “I’m sorry, Finn.” She rested a hand on his arm and nearly flinched. His metabolism was shifting into high gear and his body temperature was rising as a result.

  He turned glazed eyes on her. Remarkable golden glazed eyes on her. The eyes she’d been captivated by since the first day she’d walked into his research lab. The eyes she’d been trying to ignore ever since. She knew he was a human, so there’d been be no point in developing anything but a coworker and friend relationship.

  “You didn’t do anything, Nissa. Those screwballs had no right to strong-arm you.”

  He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. Her mouth went dry and she didn’t attempt a response.

  He was right about the bullying were-cats. But he didn’t know the whole truth, and when he did, he’d surely agree with her. She was responsible for his predicament. Predicament? That’s a mild word for the complete transformation he was going through. Her heart thudded heavily. She should have told him all about herself and her colony, despite colony laws that prohibited it. The funny thing was the rules didn’t scare her, the what ifs—what if he reported her to some authority at the university and she lost her grant, what if he was afraid of her? What if he rejected her? Those were the fears that had kept her silent.

  At the lane Asher had directed her to, she turned in and followed it a ways to a small but cute house sitting on the edge of open fields and a grove of trees. Before she could turn off the car and help Finn out, a young man bearing a remarkable resemblance to Finn walked out the front door, followed by a young woman with long dark hair and a quick step.

  She climbed out of the car. “You’re Asher?”

  “Yes,” he nodded, and motioned to the young woman. “This is Kennedy.” Then his eyes widened and he sprinted to the passenger side of the vehicle.

  “What happened?” Asher asked her en route.

  Nissa hesitated and he didn’t wait on her for an answer. He pulled open the car door and quickly reached for Finn.

  “Finn, can you hear me, bro?” His gentle voice had an edge. Asher lifted Finn up and, while eyeing her, carried him inside as Kennedy held open the door.

  Nissa sucked in a deep breath and followed inside. She’d detected their scents: were-lynxes.

  “Put him on the couch,” Kennedy said, arranging the throw pillows to make him comfortable. Finn’s muscles stiffened and for a second his eyes shot daggers.

  “Holy Chicago!” he spit out. His hands gripped the couch and Nissa heard a crunch as a piece of the arm broke. Two cats with gleaming black fur cruised by Asher and Kennedy and lifted their noses to smell Finn.

  Kennedy picked up one and ran her hand over the cat’s head. “I work at a cat rescue, Cats Alive. We’re fostering these two cats, sisters Gem and Grace, until the right adopters come along.”

  Nissa nodded, reserved. Kennedy seemed nice, but it was too soon to tell for sure how far that niceness would extend after the truth came out.

  Another agonized moan filled the room, drawing all eyes to Finn.

  Nissa twisted her hands, helplessness and regret swirling in her chest. This waking nightmare was hard to explain without telling everything. Asher’s question still hung in the air like a dark cloud.

  Kennedy and Asher stood silent over Finn for what felt like forever. Each one sniffed the air, obviously picking up scents.

  They knew. Of course, they knew she was a were-lynx. And she knew they’d also easily ascertained that Finn was well on his way to becoming one, too.

  Asher slanted his head. “So you’re a were-lynx. Who are you and why is my brother wasted?

  She cleared her throat. “I can explain. I want to.” She exchanged glances with first Kennedy, then Asher. Their expressions offered no clues as to what they were thinking. “But I need to talk to Finn first. Explain everything. He deserves to know.” She dropped her gaze to Finn and his feverish eyes touched her soul. He was like that. Capable of piercing insights and gentle kindness, while also nanosecond impatience and impetuousness. At least that was the man she’d known for six months. What he would be as the were-lynx he was becoming was unknown.

  Kennedy wrapped an arm around Asher’s waist and both continued to stare at her as if she hadn’t finished her sentence. Silence hung heavy between them. She had to say something.

  “Finn and I ran into some young men who were trying to capture me.”

  “Capture you?” Asher’s eyes flashed with unblinking concern.

  “Yes. Finn fought them.” She swallowed a hard lump in her throat and set her gaze on Asher, then Kennedy, attempting to deduce the dimensions of their hostility. But when she landed on Finns eyes, he reached out a trembling hand and she didn’t hesitate to drop beside him and take it.

  “The guys were were-lynxes, very confrontational and determined.” He let out a ragged breath and drew in a shallow one, wincing. “One of them bit me. I guess I’m going be more like you, bro.”

  Asher spoke low, each word emphasized deliberately. “You’re becoming a were-lynx.”

  Finn shoved up to a sitting position on the couch. “Can you fix this?”

  Asher knitted his brow. “Fix it?

  “Make it stop. Before it’s too late, Asher. I don’t want to be a were-cat. How could this happen? I’m human, not were.”

  Her heart in her throat, Nissa sat beside Finn, quietly folding into herself. How will he take it when he learns she’s one, too? Apparently, the lynx gene was in his family but he hadn’t expressed it. He was fine with being a human. Did that mean her fear he’d reject her if he knew all about her would now come true?

  It didn’t matter. She had to come clean and deal with his reaction. It was what was best for them both. But right now it was important to attend to Finn’s health.

  Asher perched on the edge of an overstuffed chair. “I don’t know what to do, Finn. I can see you’re having a hard time of it. It wasn’t like that for me.”

  Kennedy spoke up. “Maybe it’s different because of your age. Were-lynx genes express typically at eighteen. You’re twenty-two. And maybe transforming because of a bite is more like being poisoned than simply expressing a natural part of yourself.”

  Finn covered his ears. “I’m hearing so much. So many sounds, scents, sights. My brain can’t process it all. And to top it all off, I’m starving.”

  Nissa jumped to her feet and planted her fists on her hips. “Listen to me, Finn. Just me. You can d
o this. I get that you don’t want this, this change. Maybe there is help to stop the process or reverse it. But if not, it is not the worst thing in the world to be a were-lynx.” She twisted her lips, conscious of all eyes on her. “I mean, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

  “What?” Finn looked confused.

  “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to say that outloud.”

  The quiet all around felt palpable. She pursed her lips and couldn’t help but soften her eyes on Finn. The revelation concomitant in her rant bloomed slowly in Finn as she watched. He lifted his nose a tiny bit, naturally using his new heightened sense of smell.

  “You’re a were-cat.”

  Dare she touch him? She wanted to. She’d been walling herself off to any possibility of closeness during the months they’d been working together. Now that her biggest secret was out, power and confidence filled her. She stepped closer and cupped his face in her hands. “Yes. I am.”

  His pupils dilated. That was to be expected, she told herself, dropping her hands before he could rip them away. He slanted his head and stared at her. It didn’t have to matter whether he accepted her now that he knew her true identity, she argued with the butterflies in her gut. Not as long as they could still work together. “I…I…Arrgh!” He doubled over again, but this time he passed out.

  “Check his pulse,” Asher commanded.

  She put her fingers to his neck and closed her eyes. The steady pumping at
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