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Devils playground, p.13
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       Devil's Playground, p.13

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  “What in the world?” I whispered, looking around me, just in time to see Rafe fly overhead.

  I sprang up and followed him, tracking his descent, as he disappeared over the railing. I spotted Rush, and we stared at each other for a moment. As our eyes met, my heart thundered. He was truly alive, and by the looks of his tensed jaw and balled fists, he wasn’t in a good mood.

  Camille was standing in the same spot as before, a full story separating us. Rafe swooped over her head, before landing across the room, at Rush’s side.

  My cheeks burned, as anger flared in me. Oh, hell, no! There was no way I was going to be shoved to the side, unable to fight.

  The barn doors flew open, and several leather-clad vampires poured inside.

  I glanced left and then right for a way down.

  “Shit!”

  It was somewhat ironic and terribly inconvenient that I could create a vampire with wings and the ability to fly, but I didn’t have that same power at my disposal. I was going to have to get down there the hard way.

  I grabbed the banister and climbed over the railing. All the while, I watched the growing group of vampires, as they formed a tight wall behind Camille. She hadn’t taken her eyes off of me; they followed my every movement. But I didn’t care.

  I dangled from the wooden railing, and without the slightest hesitation, I kicked the wall with one leg to push off, and half my body swung out and then descended.

  After landing on my feet, my legs quaked with pain. Luckily, nothing was sprained or broken from the fall. It was only a one-story drop. I could handle at least two, without fear of injury, unless I landed wrong or was recovering from a toxic affliction, which I was.

  Rush stiffened, as I landed. I gave him a look of assurance and then walked across the open space of the large barn, coming to a stop next to him. No one moved to approach me. I was pretty sure the vampires knew better than to try and touch me, after they witnessed what I’d done to the last two who were dumb enough to try.

  “Your body is still fighting the Hellhound venom. You’re not safe,” Rush whispered.

  He sounded frustrated and concerned all at once. I didn’t have time to argue with him about it or to try and soothe his nerves. I knew I was fine, and that would have to do.

  “I’m glad to see you alive,” I said, noticing the strain in his eyes and his staggered, uneven breaths.

  Amongst the danger and stress of the situation, Rush managed to flash me a quick grin.

  “Me, too.”

  We broke eye contact the moment we heard a bark from one of the hounds. I watched, as the massive poison drooling beast lowered his red glowing eyes onto Rafe, who was slowly making his way to my side. I hadn’t seen his movement at first. I was too mesmerized by my man and the fact that he was alive for anything else to register.

  Luckily, the demon dog had tipped me off to his slinking presence. I sidestepped away from Rafe, so he couldn’t pull anything wonky, like scooping me up and flying me off with him again. There would be no more of that nonsense. I pointed a finger at him, with a hard set brow.

  “Not another step.”

  Rafe opened his mouth to say something, but instead, he scowled and took a step back. He knew better. Smart vampire.

  At that point, we were all safe. Well, kind of. There was still the slight annoyance of being surrounded by vampires but nothing I couldn’t handle. Those poor women, however, were anything but secure.

  My eyes drifted to Camille, and I asked, “Where are you keeping the women?”

  She lifted her arm and pointed, smugness flittering over her face.

  “The cattle are behind those doors, several feet behind you. You can go to them if it pleases you.”

  When I glanced back over my shoulder, to where she was pointing, I saw a door. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that it looked thick, sturdy. It was in way better shape than the barn. Something pretty important was tucked away behind there.

  By Camille’s calmness, and the extra security measures, I knew she was telling the truth. I clenched my fists, fighting the urge to run and help those women. But then, what would jumping the gun accomplish? I wasn’t leaving the room without a fight.

  “I’m not going anywhere, until every last one of you murderous scumbags is dead. But nice try,” I said with a smirk.

  One of the vampires chimed in, saying, “Let’s just rush them. I count three of them and a whole bunch of us.” He chuckled, his stance wide, arms and fists at his side, the picture of cockiness. “They don’t stand a chance.”

  I stepped forward, calling on my magic with all my might. I teetered on my feet; my ears echoed my heartbeat. And to my horror, the familiar buzz and heat of the magic that usually flowed within me, always surfacing when called upon, didn’t respond—I’d hit a wall. I closed my eyes tight and tried again. Still, there was the same dizziness, accompanied by a strong nauseous feeling. My body was sick. Not mortally wounded but crippled by the poison that had ravaged my system. I was completely tapped—a drained battery.

  Shit, this isn’t good.

  The sound of gunshots tore across the silent terror of my realization. I jumped to the side, away from the onslaught of bullets.

  A breath later, I could hear screams and then more gunshots. Something large, with a trail of blonde hair following behind it, almost hit me. But somehow, I was able to jump to the side, barely dodging the hairy mass right in the nick of time. Whatever it was crashed into the barn wall and slammed to the ground. I watched the lump for several seconds, but it didn’t move. All it did was let out undecipherable moans.

  I had two choices: I could stand there like an idiot, while everyone I cared for got maimed or killed, or I could find a way to fight the battle without my magic.

  A cool calm deadly voice came from within me, answering my own question. And then I was suddenly brave, equally capable, and utterly without my marbles. I was going to fight those monsters without a lick of magic at my disposal.

  I met Rush’s eyes from across the room. His arms rose up, and he slammed a 2 x 4 upside the head of a vampire. He was a Creator, like me, and he was holding his own just fine, without any extra special magic. Necromancers were strong, but damn it, vampires were stronger. But were they smarter?

  Abandoning my semi-safe spot in the shadows, I leapt into the fray. Rafe yelled something from above, but I tuned him out. I scanned the space for Camille. She was standing by the opening of the barn, a pleased smirk on her face. Then her cool eyes turned to slits, and a look of anger seeped across her features, like a thickening fog. She spun around, and her hounds turned with her.

  In the next second, I was face to face with a vampire. He was thin but still muscled, wearing nothing more than a leather vest and blue jeans. His face was smooth, perfect. Not even a single line marred his beauty. His stare was cold and vicious, blank—a disoriented madness.

  I could see Camille over his shoulder. She was motionless.

  The vampire stared at me long and hard. It was like he didn’t know what to do next. I understood his confusion. By that time, I’d have already charged up the juice and obliterated that fool if I still had the use of my magic.

  “You’re helpless.” His statement sounded more like a question.

  I was hard pressed to hide the wince that followed.

  The revelation made him smile wide enough to flash fang.

  “Oh, you’re going to taste so good.”

  There was a long pause, as another stepped up beside my current tormentor.

  “What do we have here?” he said, flicking the point of one of his fangs with his tongue.

  And then another one joined in, asking, “Can I play, too?”

  Rush had picked that moment to play baseball with the third vampire’s head.

  “Sure, join the fun, but I’m on the pretty lady’s team.”

  He swung the same wooden plank I saw him use earlier like a bat. The homerun-worthy swing cracked hard against that one’s temple with a thwack. His
face scrunched up, blood spraying from the side of his head and the corner of his mouth, and then he fell to the ground, out cold.

  Not wasting any of the paralyzing shock Rush had inspired, I dropped down to the ground, grabbed a piece of the splintered board, and stabbed the long ragged shard straight through the vampire’s heart. Only a clean decapitation or the total decimation of the heart could kill one of them… or me. But the impalement would stun and hurt the bloodsucker enough to keep him down for a while.

  I met Rush’s stare, and his eyes sparked with fire and determination. He gave me a wink. I smiled and hopped back to my feet. My eyes widened, when I saw a group of vamps running toward us. I bent over and yanked the makeshift stake out of the one at my feet. I spun it once in my hand and then gripped it firmly.

  “Incoming!”

  I stabbed one of the attackers in the chest, and he fell to his knees. I ducked a punch from another and kicked the one rushing at me from behind in the gut. In the midst of the melee, a headless body fell to the ground from out of thin air. I swung my head up to the ceiling, just in time to watch Rafe cut a vamp’s neck wide open. There was a rabid look in his eyes, a determination in the swift and deadly strokes of his knife.

  I turned away from the bloody scene, scared to be caught off guard, but there were no more vampires coming at me. What I did notice in that moment of calmness was the sight of Camille, as she ran from the barn, with something hanging from around her neck and flapping out behind her. A familiar-looking ghost was hot on her tail.

  “Jude!” I yelled out.

  What the hell is he doing here?

  I turned away from Jude, to check on Rush. He and Rafe were cutting through the remaining vampires like a well-oiled chainsaw, with limbs and blood flying. They had all of the monsters distracted enough for me to see what lay behind that door. Hopefully, I’d find the women who were being held as blood and sex slaves.

  With urgency, I put sole to ground, as I splashed through never-ending puddles of crimson. As I reached the door, I called upon all the strength I had left in me. Even though I couldn’t produce a spark of the kind of magic I used to animate corpses, I still had the extra strength that being a supernatural creature allotted me. I lifted my leg and kicked out with all I had and winced, as pain reverberated through bone and muscle on contact. I’d barely made a dent, but I jacked up my knee.

  Damn it.

  My anger burned, along with my muscles. I backtracked several paces for a running start. I wasn’t going to give up. It was personal. I may’ve been a blood-drenched petite and exhausted woman, who was facing insurmountable odds by fighting vampires without the use of magic, but I wasn’t a quitter—never that. I shot the door a glare and let out a fierce shout that was more growl than words.

  “You’re going down!”

  And then I charged.

  Chapter Eighteen

  The door crashed in, taking me with it. Since my shoulder had taken the brunt of the impact, it sizzled with pain. Tears welled, but I pushed them back and sat up, in the midst of splintered wood and, golly gee, some more of my own blood. I seemed to be losing a lot of that stuff.

  A quick exhale blew the frazzled strands of hair out of my face, and with a firm hand pressed against the pain in my shoulder, I pushed out of the wood pile. The room spun, as I scanned and spotted dim lights that glowed from the back of the sparse room, behind a wall of flimsy partitions. A few chairs were scattered about, and a folding card table was situated smack dab in the middle of the space.

  Beads of condensation still pearled on two beer bottles that sat on the table, next to an ashtray, a pack of cigarettes, and an old metal lighter. Whoever had been there had decided to beat a hasty retreat. Since there seemed to be no danger in that part of the room, I hobbled in the direction of the light.

  Panic was building inside me like a wild animal restrained by chains, but I controlled it. Everything was about control. My wounds would heal soon, but not fast enough for what I feared I’d find behind those panels. A rancid odor hit me, as I neared the partition.

  That part of the room felt colder, and the first thing I saw, other than the pathetic and gross state of the space, was three metal cots. Each one had a paper-thin mattress covering it and was pushed up against the wall. They were empty, with only crumpled-up sheets and restraints with Velcro straps secured around the metal legs.

  On the far bunk, the bedding wore a big red stain.

  I inhaled deeply, testing the air, and I could tell right away that the blood was still fresh. Someone had died there recently, and the killing had been a grisly one, judging by the size of the stain on those sheets. So where was the body? I looked around, hoping to spot some more clues, and after a few slow beats, I hit paydirt. Bloody footprints, which were shaped more like streaks than feet, led to the farthest part of the room. I squinted, but I couldn’t see beyond the shadows gathering there.

  Shit.

  My body tingled from head to feet, as I realized there was only one being that could create shadows in spaces where there shouldn’t be any. A vampire was hiding in the room. Considering my natural armory was of no use to me, I kept my cool, turned my back on it, and scanned the room for anything I could use against it. My spirits brightened, when I saw a can of kerosene over by the window. I remembered the lighter on the table, not too far behind me. If only I could get to it before the monster figured out that I knew it was there….

  I moved away from that corner of the room and prayed the lurking vampire still believed that I had use of my power. I couldn’t think of a single reason why he’d know any different, so I had that going for me.

  Rush and Rafe were a room’s length away, and I could still hear the sounds of their battle. I needed to get back out there with them.

  My steps amounted to six, by the time I reached the window, and as I gazed out into the nightscape, goosebumps skittered wildly down my spine. I could feel the vampire’s stare, burning into my back; it felt as if it were almost a physical thing. Ignoring it, I turned from the window, knocking the fuel can over with the side of my foot. I swallowed a smile, when I smelled the kerosene spill out. I didn’t know how much of it had escaped, and I wasn’t about to draw attention by checking. I had to hope it was enough. I relaxed my muscles and readied myself for what was to come next.

  Swiping the lighter from off the table was easy. It was the sound of grinding metal against flint that stirred the monster into action. She revealed herself to me, emerging from her false shadows, swallowing them up, until all that was left was an unimpeded view of her, with her short red hair and deep green eyes, wearing body-hugging short leather overalls. Her skin was white, almost an albino shade of pale, which ended up being quite a fetching match, against the shade of her eyes and hair. The vampire ghosted forward, to stand on the other side of the table from me. She sniffed the air, her festive eyes glued to the flame in my hand.

  “What are you doing, necromancer?” she asked in a shaky voice. Her eyes twitched to the ground, where the can was tipped over, and she considered it briefly. “Do you think I’m scared of a little fire?”

  All at once, my instincts took over, and I tossed the lighter at the fuel can… and waited. And then I waited some more… but nothing happened. There were no menacing flames, shooting to the ceiling. Not so much as a spark…there was just a bunch of zip, zilch, zero for my efforts. It was all very anticlimactic.

  I glanced at the vampire. She was amused. Her lips spread into a toothy grin that showed off her pointy fangs. And as an added hit to my ego, she looked like she could bust out laughing at any second.

  I cleared my throat and said, “Do I at least get an A for effort?”

  Her features morphed into something ghastly, and she took a step forward, which left her stomach pushed up against the edge of the table. I hadn’t realized she was so short. I guess I had other things on my mind, like her deadly fangs and strength.

  “More like D for dead.”

  I didn’t have a comeba
ck for that, because it was too close to the truth.

  She cocked her head, and a choppy swath of red hair fell to shade the right side of her face.

  “Why aren’t your eyes shining that awful red color they do when you’re around my kind?”

  “Because I’m… uh, wearing special contacts. That’s why.”

  Even though I’d finished strong, I still ended up sounding like a scared idiot.

  Fear seeped into my chest, making my heart beat wildly. Being a vampire, she picked up on that telltale sign of terror real quick, and before I could blink, I was thrown against the wall, with a forearm pressed against my windpipe. The pain was indescribable.

  “You’re so fucking dead, bitch.”

  Her fangs sliced into my neck.

  I’ll never get used to the strength of these monsters.

  As she drank, her arm shifted, and she subdued me by grasping onto my neck. I felt like coughing, but I couldn’t catch enough air to make it happen. I thought I was going to pass out and collapse onto the floor at any second from the loss of either air or blood. It didn’t matter how it came to pass—dead was dead.

  As a last-ditch effort to save myself from becoming an evil predator’s dinner, I opened my mind and followed the path I’d established with my vampire creation, Rafe. It took only a second to latch onto to him but longer than that to get a clear connection. Nonetheless, once linked, it was like I’d been doused with pure adrenaline.

  I’m in trouble.

  Rafe caressed my mind with an immediate response: Not for long.

  I felt a flush of terror, as the room blinked in and out. Each time my eyesight cleared, it was like a gift from the heavens, because I knew I was still hanging in there. I braced myself against the wall, but my backbone felt like it was made out of jelly. My knees wobbled, and my hands swatted limply at my attacker’s back. I was running out of time.

 
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