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Embers curse prime wolf, p.18
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       Ember's Curse (Prime Wolf), p.18

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  The double doors pushed open with ease. Every light in the restaurant was turned off and blackness consumed the place. It only took a second for my eyes to adjust. I pulled my gun free and with slow, careful steps, I walked inside. I took the far left path inbetween the tables and Collin took off down the right. I hunched down, careful to keep a distance, and scanned floor level in search for any hidden monsters. There weren’t any vampires hiding in the booths or under the tables. I caught a glimpse of Collin from my peripheral. He was signaling for me to come over to where he was. Before I could reach him, he disappeared behind the front counter. I could smell the heavy call of fresh blood before I came up behind him. My stomach cramped and griped at me for a taste of it. The all-consuming need disgusted me and I pushed myself to ignore it. I would never allow myself to become a mindless blood addict like some vampires. I can control myself and my urges, I reassured myself.

  "Her heart still beats, but it beats very slowly," he whispered to me when I knelt down behind him. What I saw when I glanced over his shoulder made my chest ache. Roxanne was sprawled out on the floor in front of us. Her soft curls fanned out all around her head like a glowing halo. I winced when I saw the nasty bruise forming, blue and puckered, underneath her left eye. The hit was recent. Her neck was oozing blood from the deep slice that ran halfway across it. From what I could gather, it looked as though we had interrupted someone in the process of slicing her throat. But regardless of the timing, it was still a mortal wound.

  "She can't survive the blood loss, let alone the severity of the wound," I told Collin.

  I scooted myself closer to her. I lifted her cold hand in mine and rubbed it back and forth, over and over again. I hoped that the friction would give her some warmth, a little bit of comfort. She and I had never been close. Hell, we were barely acquaintances, but she had always been pleasant to me. If circumstances had been different and she was born something other than human, then I was certain we could have been friends. But as it stood, I was the bartender that left her a decent tip after my night shifts, and she was the waitress who always managed a smile and furnished me, and whomever I was with, with great service.

  "Nathan is going be devastated," I sighed.

  "Why would her fate have that kind of effect on him? Did he know her?"

  I nodded my head. "He has a thing for her...a huge crush, has for a couple years now."

  Collin’s face froze and his eyes shifted back on her. The corners of his lips fell into a frown. "Is her name Roxanne?" he asked me with a soft, sad breath.

  "Yes," I answered.

  "He talks about her all the time...I always tease him about it." My eyes fell down to Collin’s hands. He was fumbling with the strap of his holster. It reminded me of something important; it reminded me that we had let our guard down. I set Roxanne's hand down on her chest and pushed my back up against the wall. I rearmed myself and stood. "There's nothing we can do for her."

  We shared a remorseful look and then his eyes shied away from mine and fell to the floor. "We can try and turn her."

  "Sorry…What did you just say?" I asked shocked. "You want us to try and turn her? Turn her into what?" I said shaking my head. "We don't even know exactly what we are."

  Collin lifted his finger to his lips and shushed me. "Keep it down."

  I threw up my hand and gestured around. "They already know we're here."

  "Look, we can waste time arguing or we can save her life. Her breathing is too shallow; it's now or never...think of Nathan."

  Three words. That's all it took to change my mind. "Think of Nathan." I owed him that much. I looked down at the object of his affections. I have to at least try, don't I? I thought.

  I swallowed hard and whispered the words that I knew would change so many things. My shoulders fell and I slunk to the floor next to her. "Fine, I'll do it, but only because I know Nathan would want this."

  Collin’s hand found the back of my neck. He caressed my tense muscles for a moment and then it dropped away.

  "I can do it, if it's too hard for you, Ember."

  I glared over my shoulder at him when I felt my wolf crawl out of her hidden place inside of me. My eyes flashed red and she growled low in warning. "I don't think that's a good idea. At all."

  He pushed up onto his knees and stood a few feet from me. With guns drawn, he walked to the other side of the counter. He then trained them on the door leading into the back of the café.

  With my wolf satisfied that her mate was far enough away from the other woman, she settled back down and let me concentrate on what I had to do. I shook my head at her but understood. Primal instincts could be a bitch to deal with and nobody but us was allowed to form an intimate bond with our mate.

  Roxanne's body was too fragile to move, so I was left with only one option. I had to lie down next to her. The linoleum floor was cold to the touch and I couldn't help but think about all the foot traffic and spilt food that had accumulated on it throughout the day. I brought my hand to the few curls that covered the side of her neck and brushed them aside.

  I had no clue what I was doing. Harper explained to me, over margaritas one night, how she had been turned. I ran the conversation over and over a few times in my mind to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything. My fangs quickly slid out of my gums at the chance to feed. I touched them to her skin and let them sink in. The blood flow was almost nonexistent. With a hard pull, I managed to suck out the mouthful necessary to start the conversion. After I swallowed the bland, almost lifeless blood, I brought my wrist to my mouth and bit into it. My blood dripped onto her lips and down the side of her cheeks. Using my other hand, I pushed up underneath her head and tipped it back just enough for her mouth to fall open. I waited patiently, holding my wrist over her mouth for her body to soak up enough. My eyes were glued to her wound waiting for signs of healing. Time passed slowly, every drop of blood signaled a second and every second dragged on into minutes, but finally the blood started doing its job. I set her down gently and lifted myself off the floor.

  "It is done," I said walking up to Collin. "All we can do now is wait."

  Chapter 22

  Sweat formed at the base of my neck and trickled like a river down my back, making the leather I was wearing very uncomfortable. I had picked this particular jacket because I wanted to make it hard for any nippy vamps to get their fangs into me. Nothing stung worse than the venom of a vampire’s defensive bite.

  "Why is it so hot in here?" I complained.

  Collin frowned and pulled at his own collar. "I don't know."

  We pushed open the kitchen doors. The hum of the exhaust fan over the stove filled the otherwise silent room with an irritating buzz. Dishes overflowed in the double sinks that sat against the back wall. There were pots and pans stacked almost to the ceiling. At first glance, nothing seemed out of the ordinary; it just looked like the kitchen staff got lazy and left the place in a shambles.

  "I bet they're waiting for us out back," I said, pushing a mop bucket out of our way. The smell of vampire grew stronger the closer we got to the back door. It made the hair on my arms stand at attention. We didn't hesitate. We slammed the door open and pointed our guns at the first thing that moved. My aim landed on one of my pack wolves. I quickly pointed my gun down and laid my hand on Collin’s arm to stop him from accidentally shooting any of our guys.

  "What's wrong, Tyson? Are you not man enough to face me? You have to hide behind my wolves like a punk?" I spat out. I kept my gun pointed low to the ground and slowly reached behind my back to grab the spray can strapped to my belt. It was filled with holy water that I had the Adelphi resident priest bless before I left. I was surprised to find out that they even had a small chapel on the compound grounds.

  The can almost slipped from my hand when my body jerked at the sight of Nathan. He had his hands tied in from of him. The other end of the rope was attached to the tow hitch of an old silver truck. My heart was beating so fast I wondered how it was still in my chest. The exhaust
pipe let out a bang and black smoke billowed out. Nathan coughed from inhaling so much of the noxious gas. He was leaning over the tailgate trying to escape the fumes. Both of his eyes were swollen shut and a jagged cut ran from his forehead to cheek. His face looked smashed in. I had a feeling that the person responsible for the injuries was none other than Tyson.

  "Release him now," I warned. My knees bent and I narrowed my eyes on Tyson. I was ready to attack. He grinned at me. I took a step towards the bastard, but Collin’s hand came to rest on my shoulder and I stopped.

  "You have been nothing but a huge pain in the ass to me, Ember," Tyson said. "You owe me for the wolves you stole, a compensation for my loss."

  My eyes shot over to Nathan, then to the three wolves that were each being held captive by a Gatherer.

  "I won't sacrifice my wolves," my lip twitched with disgust at the idea. "Betrayal doesn't run in the family. Tommy's just an unfortunate gene deformity."

  "Words like that won't go very far in saving your friends," Tommy said, walking around the back of the truck looking a little too pleased with himself.

  "Did you ever care about your pack, cousin?" I asked, anchoring myself to the ground by sure will. I wanted to punch the smirk off his traitorous face and the wolf in me wanted to rip out his throat. A cool breeze blew a loose strand of hair out of my face. It did little to ease the heat rapidly overtaking me, but it did carry along with it a familiar scent.

  "What do you want from us, Tyson?" I asked, turning my eyes away from Tommy. I knew how arrogant he was, so my abrupt dismissal most assuredly rattled him to no end. I liked the thought of that very much.

  I had to hide a smile when I caught the sight of pieces of blue tipped hair sticking over the ledge of the building across from us. Tyson and the rest of them hadn't seen Tegan sneaking around up there yet because their backs were to her. The wind was also blowing in her favor or they would have easily gotten a nose full of witch. Tegan, being a water witch, smelled of the air right after a spring rain.

  She doesn't like to stay home like a good little girl, does she? I sent to Collin.

  His chuckle tingled down our path and he coughed into his hand to hide his own amusement. If you haven't noticed already. She does as she pleases.

  I had noticed and I appreciated the fact that she always seemed to have great timing to go along with her rebellious streak.

  "I simply ask for what's rightfully mine," Tyson said, regaining my attention. He pushed the wolf he held in front of him to the ground. "I want my damn prisoners back."

  I jerked my chin up and gave him a stone cold look. "I already told you that wasn't an option."

  Anger flashed across his face and he grabbed the fallen wolf, Michael, and jerked his head back. Several puncture wounds covered the wolf’s neck; a few of them were still fresh and leaking blood. A tingle started at the base of my skull and slinked its way around my neck and down my chest. My wolf was being spurred on from my growing anger. My veins pulsed with adrenaline and sharp nails slid out of my fingertips piercing the palm of my clenched hands. I hid the evidence of my change and willed myself to wait. I looked around the alley at my pack and the Adelphi wolves. I was in no position to go all prime wolf on the enemy, not unless I was okay with a few causalities on my side. Some of our people were on their knees with a gun held to their head. Others were being used as shields for the vampires. Sadie stared at me with anger scorching her eyes. There was no fear hidden in her expression, only rage. She was standing in front of a Gatherer who kept her in place by a silver leash. The smell of her burnt flesh filled the air. The fact that she didn't even flinch under the intense pain she had to be experiencing was impressive.

  I tried to think of a way to reason with the madman orchestrating all of this. Unfortunately though, when dealing with a person this crazy, I knew what an impossible task that could be.

  "None of us are willing to give ground here, so where does that leave us?" Collin asked from my side. His tone had changed. Anger laced his words and I noticed small drops of blood dripping from his hands. He was holding back the change too. Clever wolf, I thought, pleased.

  "It leaves you fucked asshole, considering we hold all the cards," Tommy chuckled.

  The sound of my cousin's grating voice sent me spiraling over the edge. I lost the slight hold I had over my beast and a rush of pure power overtook me. My back bowed against it. Light poured from Collin and I, illuminating the alleyway. Everyone except us had no choice but to hide their eyes from the blinding light. Fur rolled over my body replacing my clothes. It covered my skin like a glove, but not like before. Instead of falling to the ground on all fours, I remained upright. My long dark hair fell against my back and over the silver, short fur, of my shoulders. My nose had lengthened and hair covered my face, and somehow, I still had use of my vocal cords. Tyson and his lackeys fell to their knees at the high-pitched howl that bellowed from my throat. Collin’s howl joined mine and we sang to the setting moon, a song of becoming. Our bodies and soul had finally completed its conversion. I had no more doubts about who I was. I was everything I was meant to be. I was wolf, vampire, my hybrid beast. Collin and I were and always would be The Canons.

  When Tyson was able to open his eyes, they grew wide. His fingers released Michael’s hair and with both hands, he pulled the two guns he had holstered at his chest. My eyes shot to the roof where Tegan was hiding.

  “Protect our wolves!" I yelled up to her before I jumped towards him.

  "Oh, fuck," Tyson said, throwing Michael in my path. I had to scramble back, the claws on my part wolf, part human, feet dug into the hard gravel and I picked the frazzled wolf up and threw him over my shoulder.

  "Sorry," I growled out to him. He stood a better chance landing face first on the ground than being mowed over by me right now. I must have grown a few feet taller because when I stopped in front of Tommy he had to look up at me.

  "Don't hurt me," he cried, cowering halfway behind a light pole. Fear swam across his face and I felt a slight twitch of remorse for the child I use to run through the forest chasing deer and rabbits with. There was a time when he and I had been close. I pushed back the pity and reminded myself that the once innocent child had grown up to be a cruel and selfish man. I gave myself only a moment to mourn the loss of that young boy. He saw it in my eyes, the lack of mercy, and he knew that his pleas fell on deaf ears. Tommy's face went still and I could have sworn I saw a cloud of darkness settle in over his stare.

  "Even if you kill me, you can't stop what's about to happen. Tyson will free the Darkin, and when he does, you'll be the first person to suffer."

  I brought my arm back and aimed my claws at his throat. With one quick jab, they stabbed through his neck, pinning him to the post. Blood bubbled out of the corner of his mouth and I watched as my cousin’s life drained from him. I yanked my claws sideways and his flaccid body, minus a head, slunk to the ground. I glanced over my shoulder and saw Collin, Tegan, and the rest of the Adelphi, battling the rest of the vampires. They were blocking punches and holding their own, with impressive efficiency. That just left Tyson to deal with. I searched the alley for any signs of him but he was gone.

  "Damn it, where the hell did that scumbag go?" I sniffed the air, but all I caught was the smell of battle, adrenaline, fear, and blood. Bloody hell, it looked like the bastard had eluded me again. Collin touched my shoulder and I jumped. I turned around just in time to watch my sexy wolf melt back into his human form. His nose shrunk back to normal and I reached over and touched his once hair masked face. My claws rested naturally against his skin, my fur against his complexion unmarred and smooth. I studied the contrast for a moment and then shifted back as well.

  He looked at me with those captivating eyes and laid a hand over mine. "I'll go untie Nathan," he said.

  I nodded. "If you don't mind, I'd like to tell him about Roxanne."

  "How do you think he's going to take it?" he asked.

  My gaze traveled over to where Nathan was. He
was kneeling on the ground with his head bent. He looked lost, sad even.

  "They slit her throat in front of him. He thinks she's dead. I think the news will shock him, but he'll be relieved she's alive."

  "Guys...we have a problem," Tegan said, walking up to us. She was decked out in all leather. Her three middle fingers on each hand were adorned with crystal spikes and she wore a long sword strapped to her back. She looked like she was dressed for Armageddon. "That asshole is up to something."

  She pointed over to where the truck sat, still idling. The 'he' she was referring to was Tyson. He jerked open the door and jumped behind the wheel.

  "Oh my God, we have to free Nathan," I said, knowing what was about to happen next.

  Tyson looked out of the back window and with a malicious grin, threw the truck into gear and gunned it. A growling sound erupted from behind us. I wanted to turn and look to see what it was but I couldn't tear my eyes away from the disaster about to unfold in front of me. Nathan yanked at the silver ropes binding him to the truck but all that accomplished was more burnt skin.

  A furry white blur rushed by my head from out of nowhere. Sadie ran to my side and watched along with the rest of us as the whitest wolf I'd ever seen scrambled after the fleeing truck that had Nathan dragging behind it. The wolf was swift of feet; I'd never seen anything like it before. It took the animal a few short seconds to catch up to the vehicle and when it did, with one giant leap, huge white paws landed on Nathan's chest. My heart raced with panic and fear that the wolf would hurt him but my worries were quickly relieved.

  There was a long silence from my group as we watched those paws turn into hands while its body began to shrink into itself leaving a naked woman draped over him. Roxanne grabbed hold of the silver chains and ripped them apart with barely any effort. The feat should have been impossible for a werewolf but she snapped through those chains like they were nothing but twigs. They slammed hard to the ground, toppling over each other and finally, after picking up several deep abrasions, skidded to a stop.

 
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