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Embers curse prime wolf, p.3
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       Ember's Curse (Prime Wolf), p.3

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  I rolled behind the couch for cover and waited to hear the gun fire.

  "Ember, it's me," came Harper’s trembling voice.

  The gun fell out of her hand and clattered to the ground. I jumped up and ran over to her. She was lying sprawled out on the dining room floor.

  "Are you okay?" I gasped as I began inspecting her body. "Where are you hurt? What happened?"

  She grabbed my hand and stuttered, "Blood...I need blood." Her grip around my fingers went slack and I watched the whites of her eyes appear as they rolled back into her head. I had to do something, and thankfully, I knew where she kept her stash.

  It seemed like it took forever to make it to her room, and when I did, I jerked open the mini fridge by her bed. "Ah fuck." There were only two bags left. It would take twice this amount of blood to even begin to heal her wounds. I set the bags on the bed and grabbed my cell out of my pocket so I could call Nathan.

  "Miss me already?" Nathan said yawning.

  "I need you over at my place now. Harper's hurt." I hung up the phone before he had time to respond.

  I rushed back to her side. She was still out cold. Her open wounds weren't bleeding as much anymore, so I assumed that meant her body was almost completely drained. The blue cast of her skin wasn't a good sign either. I ripped a bag of blood open with my canines and held the dripping container over her still mouth. The blood spilt over the jagged edge of the torn plastic and splashed uselessly onto her lips and down the side of her face. Harper didn't react at all to the life-giving elixir.

  This technique wasn't getting me anywhere so I scooted closer to her and gently lifted her doll-like head into my lap. I tried to pry my fingers in between her teeth but they wouldn't budge. I was running out of time and had to figure something out before she slipped into Le Mortem Somno, the death sleep. It is a fate worse than death for a vampire, and I had no idea who or where her maker was. Without her Sire’s blood, there was little to no chance of being brought back from that dark abyss.

  "You have to do something. Think!" I berated myself.

  "What the hell is going on?" Nathan panted as he came barreling into the open door. He took a fast look around the apartment and then his frantic eyes landed back on us. A haze of horror painted his face when he saw Harper's broken body.

  "Get over here and help me," I ordered. Nathan ran over and fell to his knees on the other side of her.

  "Let’s get her mouth open. She needs blood now." We both began to try to pull her teeth apart but lockjaw had already set in.

  "What's going on with her mouth?" Nathan huffed out. "It won't budge."

  "No time for explanations, I need you to run to my car and grab a funnel." I cringed at the thought of what I had to do next. "It's in the trunk." I tossed him my keys.

  After the longest few minutes of my life, Nathan returned to my side with the metal funnel.

  "This isn't going to be pretty so if your squeamish look away."

  I held my right hand up and focused on the change. My white tipped fingernails slowly lengthened and curved, eventually transforming into claws. I cradled her lifeless head in one hand, and with the other, I punctured her exposed throat. The flesh gave way easily to the sharpness of my claw and I carved out a hole big enough to fit the end of the funnel into it.

  "Slide it in now," I said in a rush.

  Nathan slid the end in without resistance. I had already made sure to cut deep enough to breech the esophagus. With the funnel secure, I let go of the ends of the skin to settle around the metal tube. Without further instruction, Nathan began pouring in the blood.

  "Will this work?" he asked. Sweat beaded at his hairline and his forehead was etched with lines.

  "Let's hope so because I'm out of ideas."

  After we finished emptying the second bag into the funnel, I inspected the wounds that littered her body. I could see signs of regeneration but not nearly enough.

  "She needs more blood. What we gave her isn't enough," I said, pulling off my sweater and throwing it aside.

  "Is there anymore?" he asked me, looking around.

  I shook my head at him, "Nope, that was it."

  I sliced my wrist and held it over the funnel. "Get your arm ready ‘cause you’re up next," I said, already starting to feel lightheaded from the rapid blood loss.

  "I thought vampires got all freaky on our blood," he said confused, but he began rolling his sleeve up over his forearm anyway.

  "They do, but like I said before, this is our only shot at saving her."

  When I finally gave her all the blood that I could spare, I pulled my arm back. I leaned up, grabbed a dishtowel off the countertop and wrapped my wrist with it. My blood helped her immensely. Her cheeks began to flush, the rosy blush chasing the eerie blue color away.

  "I think that did it but let's give her a little more... just to be safe." I reached over and grabbed Nathan's arm.

  His blood streamed down the funnel and into her throat. It only took a few more seconds before the rest of Harper's wounds began to close, even the wound we made at her neck. I grabbed another dishtowel and wrapped it around his wrist. The funnel made a strange popping sound when I pulled it out of her neck. The skin had already begun to heal around it. I threw the funnel behind me and grabbed Harper up off the floor.

  "She's going to be out of it for a while," I said, looking at the clock on the microwave. "The sun will be up soon. We can't stay here."

  Nathan stood up and walked over to me. He carefully took the wounded vampire out of my arms and tossed back my keys. "We better hurry over to my place then," he said, already heading toward the door. "Grab that blanket on the couch; we can use it to cover her up."

  ***

  We pulled up to Nathan's house a few minutes before sunrise. He lived only a mile or so away from my apartment, and even closer than that to Haven, so thankfully, Harper was never exposed to any sunlight. We had made it just in time.

  The small yellow ranch house was warm and inviting as we entered. The smell of Amaretto coffee and Lemon Pledge filled the air. If I'd learned anything about Nathan over the years, it was that he was a major clean freak. Comically so, which is fine by me. I really can't stand a messy werewolf. Sometimes, just for fun, I would move one of his carefully placed brick-a-bracks. It would take him less than a minute to figure out what was missing and put it back in its precise spot. It had become our regular game. Well, except for today.

  Today, there was no room for games. We had to figure out what the hell happened over at my place. Many questions needed answers and the only person who could make any sense out of them would be passed out for several more hours.

  "Where should I put our sleeping beauty?" Nathan asked.

  That’s a good question, I thought. Where should we put her?

  "The bedrooms are out of the question. For all we know someone could be after her. That would make it too easy for them." I looked down the hall that lead to the kitchen. "Don't you have a guest room in the basement?" I asked.

  "Basement it is," he said, heading for it. "Let's get her tucked away before the sun eats her for breakfast."

  I followed Nathan down the steep, narrow steps and when we reached the bottom, the stairway opened up to a tastefully decorated game room. There was a pool table that sat off to the side, next to a bar; both nestled in the corner out of the way. The center of the room had a cozy lounge area. Two overstuffed love seats sat facing each other. They had only a rug and wooden coffee table to separate them.

  "I'm just going to get our patient tucked in," he said, walking passed the love seat to the bedroom door. "Make yourself comfortable. There's Pepsi in the fridge. I keep it stocked just for you."

  I watched as he disappeared into the room with Harper cradled securely in his arms. I couldn't help but think how sometimes I took for granted what a good friend he was. He had never failed to be there for me, or anyone else, when needed. I had no clue how I was going to make this up to him. Or maybe I did, I thought. My mind briefly
wondered over to a certain shy waitress.

  The dryness of my mouth snapped me out of my musings. A Pepsi sounded great right about now, so I grabbed one. The icy cold liquid slid down my throat and I moaned from the taste of it. After I finished chugging the whole can, I bent over and snatched another one out of the fridge.

  When I stood back up, I caught sight of my bedraggled reflection in the mirror hanging over the bar. Where once my hair was pulled tightly back into a bun, it was now all disheveled. Long, blood caked strands fell limply over my shoulders. My pale, lightly freckled, face looked whiter, if that were even possible. Dark brown eyes stared back at me blankly and at that moment, I realized how exhausted I was. "I need a shower and a long nap," I told my reflection. Anything else could wait until then. I tossed my empty cans into the garbage pail. No need to induce the wrath of Mr. Clean by leaving a mess.

  "Nathan, I'm heading upstairs for a shower," I yelled loud enough to wake the dead. "I'm also raiding your drawers for something to change into. See you in a couple of hours." I started up the stairs, taking them two at a time in my eagerness to get cleaned up.

  "I'm on the phone. Park it on the couch for a minute; I need to talk to you."

  I looked at the stairs longingly and switched directions. "You better make it quick," I huffed.

  ***

  I woke up to someone shaking the hell out of me. Irritated, I pushed away the offender and snuggled back up into myself.

  "Ember, wake up."

  There was that irritating shaking again. I popped open one eye and stared straight into Nathan's face.

  "You're only moments from death. This better be important."

  He actually had the nerve to laugh at me.

  "I leave you alone for ten minutes and you pass out. Typical werewolf."

  I forced myself to sit up and tried my hardest to shake off sleep. The vampire genes that lurked within me made the need to take my rest during the day an almost irresistible thing.

  "I'm listening," I yawned.

  Nathan sat down on the love seat across from me. He leaned forward and placed his elbows on his knees, cupping his chin in one hand.

  "I put a call into a friend," he said cautiously. "I know this is pack business, but frankly we could use some help."

  "You're right. This is pack business, something Tommy should be dealing with. Not us and especially not outsiders," I said. "What were you thinking?"

  It upset me that Nathan didn't consult our pack leader before airing out our business. It was very important to follow pack protocol, but lately, Tommy hadn't been acting himself. He seemed to be unnecessarily cruel and uncaring to his pack. Those and other similar thoughts kept badgering my mind.

  "I know, and I'm sorry. I just thought since it was your home and best friend attacked, you'd want first crack at finding the ones responsible."

  Hmm, that did sound appealing. It was also a good reason to say, ‘screw protocol’ and take matters into my own hands.

  "Who's this friend you called? Do I know him?"

  "You don't know him but you've heard of him." Nathan became serious. He leaned in closer to me and I couldn't help but follow suit and lean in as well. "He is my cousin, Collin, Leader of the Adelphi."

  Chapter 5

  The Adelphi...what was Nathan thinking? They were the last group of wolves I wanted sniffing around me right now, especially if I decided to keep Tommy in the dark about all of this. This group was no joke. They were handpicked by each of the different species’ elders that currently inhabited the earth. They were given the power to disband, incarcerate, and execute any supernatural being that broke our laws. The leader was reputed to be straight as an arrow, completely by the book. And if that were the case, their first stop would be to see Tommy and Sylvia, not to pay a friendly visit to a rebellious Alpha female and her pack mate.

  "I'm not sure that was such a smart move," I said, getting up. I rubbed the pins and needles out of my legs. I couldn't remember the last time I felt this worn out.

  "We should've at least waited until Harper woke up. We need her to tell us what happened. As of now, there's not much information to relay to them."

  Nathan strolled over to the fridge and grabbed a couple of sodas. He tossed one to me and then popped one open for himself. After a couple gulps, he pointed at me.

  "Let's get you cleaned up," he said, eyeing me up and down. "You look like shit."

  I looked down at my favorite T-shirt. I could barely make out the cute little cherub-like face of the Care Bear hidden underneath all the dried up blood. My father made it a habit to buy me something Care Bear related every year for my birthday. He gave me this particular shirt five years ago. He died shortly after that, so this one held a certain sentimental value. I peeled it off my body mournfully. I wasn’t worried about undressing in front of Nathan. We were wolves in the same pack. We had seen each other naked after hunts hundreds of times and besides, he was like a brother to me. I filled the bar sink up with water and threw the shirt in. My clothes usually shifted back with me, leaving them good as new, but the silver had interfered with the magic and left them still torn and dirty. I could try and shift, to clean things up, but exhaustion weighed too heavily on me.

  "How long will it be ‘til he arrives?" I asked, scrubbing out some of the stains with dish soap.

  "His plane should land in about an hour or two. He is flying in from California."

  Nathan reached over and unplugged the sink. He then stopped my hand mid scrub and took the shirt from me. After he carefully wrung it out, he started for the stairs. "I'll take care of this. Just go wash yourself up."

  ***

  A loud pounding at the bathroom door pulled me from my watery heaven. I finished rinsing the conditioner out of my hair and turned off the shower. My body shivered from the sudden loss of heat.

  "This better be important," I snapped at him.

  "Collin is here," Nathan's voice echoed through the door. "He wants to talk to you."

  "I’m just finishing up in here. Can you give me a sec?" I wrapped an oversized towel around my dripping body and opened the door. Nathan was already showered and had a fresh set of clothes on. His hair was hanging in his face, almost dry. I must have lost track of the time. Did I forget to mention I take very long showers?

  "Clothes?" I asked.

  "I put some on the bed," he said, handing me a sandwich. "Try and hurry up. My cousin doesn't like to be kept waiting."

  Nathan zipped across the room in three long strides and left, slamming the door behind him.

  I looked down at the peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my hand and my mouth began to water. I finished it off in three bites. I wiped my sticky fingers on my damp towel and made my way over to the cherry wood sleigh bed.

  The beautiful hand crafted bed took up most of the small guest room. I picked up the neatly folded pile of clothes that sat on the cream-colored pillow, and fantasized about laying my head down in their place. I would kill for a quick nap right about now, but instead of soothing my tired beast, I grabbed the freshly laundered grey sweats and black cotton tee.

  I slipped the shirt over my head and pulled the pants up over my hips. The borrowed clothes were big and very baggy, but with a tuck here and a fold there, I made them fit quite nicely. I ran my fingers through my wet hair to smooth out the tangles, and then headed for the door. I was as ready as I could get. It was time to meet the leader of the highly respected and feared Adelphi. Oh joy.

  ***

  I was halfway down the hall when I overheard Nathan and his cousin arguing back and forth.

  "Remind me again why you had me rush down here?"

  I paused by the entryway to the living room. I had never heard a voice like that before. The deep timber of it left me out of sorts. I shook off the feeling and took a few more steps into the room.

  "I wouldn't have called you if it wasn't important, Collin. I believe that the Gatherers have set up shop here in Astoria."

  Nathan was standing in
front of a tall, dark haired man. He was dressed in tight fitting jeans and a white button up shirt. As soon as my eyes settled on the stranger’s back, an odd tingle began to radiate through me. It must be the lack of sleep, I thought to myself.

  "Ah, here she is. Ember, this is my cousin, Collin. Collin, this is my friend and pack mate, Ember."

  I walked across the dark hardwood floors and stopped just behind the tall, well-built man.

  "Hi," I said shoving my hand at him. He shifted his body and turned in my direction.

  His warm hand wrapped around my smaller one. The velvet touch of his fingers against my skin shook me. My legs turned to jelly and I fell to my knees. With his hand still holding mine, he followed me to the ground.

  "What the...?" I vaguely heard Nathan say in the background.

  When I was able to move my head without feeling nauseous, I took a deep look into Collin’s eyes. They were a crisp shade of emerald. That was the first thing that jumped into my mind. He had the most beautifully vivid green eyes. I could lose myself in the shiny depths of them. My heart began to pump against my chest like a jackhammer. I'm having a heart attack...that's what this is, I thought.

  Collin fell forward onto his hands and began to shake. In the next moment, my clothes began to shimmer away and I watched as he shifted into his wolf form. My shift, like always, was instantaneous. His, surprisingly, was almost as fast. As soon as he was finished, he let out a long guttural howl. I had only heard a howl like that once before; when my grandfather was protecting me and my grandma from a bear attack. So, I didn't know how to react to it.

 
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