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Embers curse prime wolf, p.8
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       Ember's Curse (Prime Wolf), p.8

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  Before I could enter the room, I was stopped in my tracks by an overwhelming feeling of anxiety. The tip of my boot was only inches from where Harper laid at the brink of death just hours before. There wasn't a trace of evidence left. The floor was so clean that it was like it never happened, but I knew better than that. The images of her beaten and bloody body assaulted my mind and I reached over and leaned on the counter to steady myself.

  "Ember, what's wrong? Are you feeling okay?" Collin asked. He rushed to my side and grabbed me around the waist. "I knew it was too soon for you to come back here."

  "I'm fine," I said, shrugging out of his hold. "Really, I am."

  I looked around my apartment. Other than the place where she had laid, it still felt like home. I opened myself up and sent my feelings and thoughts to Collin. He received my messages immediately and smiled in relief.

  I'm glad you’re okay, he sent back to me.

  Like I said, I'm alright. It would take a lot more than that to run me out of my territory.

  It really would take a whole hell of a lot more than what those sorry sons of bitches did, to cripple me. All they accomplished was to piss off a very mean she-wolf.

  "Alright lady and gents, let's go crash a party," I said, grabbing my keys and purse off the counter.

  "Am I staying here?" Brady asked. He was sitting off to the side of the room, far away from everyone. I had completely forgotten about him. He still looked a little confused and frightened, but after Collin had talked to him and reassured him that he had a place for him at the Adelphi compound, he seemed to have calmed down.

  I was already breaking the rules by bringing Harper to the party with me. Collin was in the middle of an investigation, so he and Milo had every right to show up unannounced and uninvited. Nathan is part of the pack, so that just left our newborn vamp here, and he in no way could be left alone, not yet.

  "You will be coming with us," Collin chimed in. His statement caught me off guard. He must have noticed my confusion and said, "I'll just say he's with me. I shouldn’t be questioned."

  As plans went, his was a simple one and I didn't see any flaws with it, so I just shrugged my doubts off and headed towards the door.

  "Sounds good, let's go."

  ***

  We all piled into Collin’s vehicle. The brand new silver Range Rover gleamed under the street lights. I had never been a fan of flashy cars, but this particular SUV was damn sexy, and it didn't have anything to do with the arsenal he kept in a hidden, steel lined hatch in the back. Well, almost nothing to do with it anyway. My index finger did twitch with want, when I happened to spy a Ruger SR22 cradled in its holster at the top of the pile. I put shooting that pistol on my mental to-do list and went back to admiring the rest of the weaponry until it was time to move out.

  "So where is your pack house?" Harper asked. "If it's far, I need to stop and make a withdrawal from the blood bank."

  "It's about a 45 minute drive, so to be safe we will run and grab you and Brady some nourishment," I said, buckling my seat belt. "We wouldn't want you two nibbling on any of the pack wolves."

  After stopping to retrieve the blood, we were finally on our way to the party. I was a little disturbed by the sight of Harper and Brady sucking down their bags of blood in the back seat. I watched on in the rear view mirror as a little of the red liquid spilled over her lips and my gut clenched. Not with disgust, which is what bothered me the most, but with hunger. Ever since the ‘bonding’, I had been feeling out of sorts. It was like part of my whole biology was undergoing some kind of change.

  Are you feeling the same way I am? Collin asked.

  Apparently whatever was affecting me was affecting him as well. Interesting.

  Yes Collin, I am, I answered back.

  So, we now have fangs and a craving for blood. I think that limits the options of what's happening to us, Beautiful.

  He was right. There were only a couple reasons why we would be exhibiting signs of vampirism...because we were vamps...or because my vampire half had become less dormant, and just for shits and giggles, the magic from the curse decided to take Collin right along with me in the conversion.

  "What the fuck?" I heard Harper yell out in surprise from the backseat. I turned around to check what all the commotion was about and out of the truck’s back window, I could see a Humvee barreling down on us. The Hummer’s windows were heavily tinted and the front grill had steel bars across it. From what I could make out, whoever was inside that armored beast meant business. Off to the side, there were several motorcycles pulling up from behind it. The proverbial swarm of bees ended up at its flank, in a front line formation that stretched across the five-lane freeway. All of the riders had on heavy artillery. I couldn't tell if they were male or female, human or ‘other’, because their entire bodies were covered in dark leather and they all had full helmets on.

  "It's him... I warned you. He won't let me end up in the Adelphi’s custody," Brady said. He watched the small army behind us with fear in his eyes. "Tyson is going to kill us all."

  I unbuckled my seat belt and climbed over into the backseat. "I have a shitload of metal in the back that says he won't," I said.

  Harper immediately jumped into action with me. "What can we do?" she asked, unbuckling her belt as well. She pushed her purse to the floorboard and sat perched at the edge of her seat, awaiting instructions. I made my way into the very back of the truck. When I got there, I could hear the revving of several motorcycles all around us. I took a deep breath and focused on my task, moving the carpet that covered the hidden hatch. When that was done, I lifted the steel lid to reveal Collin’s secret stash of weapons.

  "I need everyone who can shoot to say so now," I announced to the group.

  "I can," Nathan said, holding out his hands expectantly.

  I grabbed the AK-47 semi auto, and tossed it to him. It slapped against his hand as he caught it. Nathan took a second to check his ammo and then flipped off the safety. "I'm a go," he said, cracking the window so he could slide the barrel through it.

  "You wouldn't happen to have a crossbow in that box of goodies, would you?" Harper asked.

  I picked up and set aside another assault rifle and two handguns. Lying under a few clips and couple boxes of ammo, I found what she was looking for. I pulled out the bow and passed it to Brady to give to her. Harper’s face lit up when the weapon settled into her hands. "It's been a long time since I've handled the likes of you," she said, caressing the shaft of one of the arrows lovingly. I decided to leave Harper to her odd reunion and got back to handing out more weapons.

  "Throw me that SKS and a couple handguns," Milo said. His eyes left mine and refocused behind me. His brows pulled together in shock and I had only seconds to drop to the floor. "Everyone down!" Milo screamed as he followed suit. A loud crack reverberated through the truck and glass splashed all around me. The Ruger I had been eyeing earlier lay next to me, so I picked it up and started shooting out of the freshly broken window. A hail of bullets rained down on our truck. Everyone with a weapon began to return fire, but we were outnumbered. That had to change, and change fast, or we wouldn't stand a chance. I threw the small handgun aside and picked up the remaining semi-automatic rifle. I cocked the bolt and took aim at my target. "Take out their tires!" I yelled before firing my first shot. My finger squeezed the trigger and the bullet hit its mark. The tire exploded under the heavy caliber bullet and the rider laid his bike down and slid into the one next to him. They both veered off the road in a tangle of metal. Two down and from last count, six more to go.

  Are you okay? came Collin’s frantic message to me.

  I'm fine, just keep this truck moving. I sent back.

  Pass me the silver metal box on the bottom of the cache.

  The box he was talking about was no longer in the weapons hatch but on the other side of the truck. Only a couple dozen bullets or so stood between it and me. I didn't tell him that, though. I army crawled underneath the spray of metal and soon re
ached the box. I grabbed it and sent him a signal. At the same time, I threw the box at him.

  Catch! I said. He threw his hand up, caught it by its handle and set it next to him in the passenger seat.

  Time for me to join in on the fun, he said, pulling out the box’s contents.

  I watched in wonder as Collin pulled a grenade out of the metal box. He wore a pinched look of concentration while he somehow steered the speeding truck down the freeway and pulled the pin from the grenade at the same time. He steadied the wheel and tossed the live round out the window. The sub-sequential explosion rocked the ground and us right along with it.

  "I can't believe it!" Brady exclaimed.

  I lifted my hands off my head and looked around. We were still moving at an excessive speed but there was no one chasing us anymore. All I could see was an imposing wall of black smoke billowing out from behind us. I had missed the grand finale...damn it.

  "Where'd they all go?" I asked.

  "The grenade took out the Hummer," Nathan said.

  "Good shot," Milo praised Collin while patting him on the shoulder.

  "Thanks man. Figured I'd chip in a little," Collin said.

  Harper casually sat back into her seat. She set the crossbow at her feet and picked up her purse like nothing happened.

  "I'm keeping the bow," she said matter of factly. No one argued with her.

  Chapter 9

  The remaining drive to the pack house was uneventful. Well, as long as you didn't count having to pull over twice so Brady could puke up all of the blood we just scored earlier for him. Who knew that new vampires had such a hard time keeping their first few meals down? I certainly didn't, but I knew first hand now. Harper tried her hardest to explain it to me. Something about the gastric fluids and mucous membranes adjusting to its new diet of only blood. Since I'm not a doctor, I didn't understand the specifics. I did know for a certainty that it was going to take a long time for me to scrub my memory of that spewing red fountain of yuck from my brain, regardless of the reason it was coming back up. I shook my head to try to jog the icky picture from my mind and focused on more current events, or to be more specific, future events.

  We pulled off the main road and onto a long stretch of dirt road. It was a good thing we were traveling in an all-terrain vehicle. Its excellent traction made the jogging bumps barely noticeable. We made our way through the dark and eerily quiet night for about another ten minutes or so before we arrived at a turn off. We were now about fifteen miles into the Ash Woods and only had a few more miles to go before we reached the dock.

  Tall, lush trees framed the remainder of the drive. The trees had carefully manicured branches that held up mini white bulbs. The strings of lights were strung from one tree to the other, connecting them all together in arches of white brilliance. The decorators had done a great job of lighting up the usually pitch dark path. The dirt road brought us up to the front entrance that would lead us to "Ash Island."

  Even though it was dark out, we could still see the silhouette of the two boats tied to the dock, reflecting in the water. They rocked back and forth, riding the gentle waves of the large lake. The full moon gave off the necessary light that made the beautiful image possible.

  "You can pull up over there to park," I said, pointing to a vacant spot under a large ash tree. Trees such as the one that I currently had Collin pulling under, were very common to this area. The Island, our current destination, was also covered with them, giving it its name.

  I climbed out of the truck and pulled down my dress. The silky fabric had ridden all the way up my thighs, leaving my ass to poke out a little. I took a moment to look at myself in the side mirror and was pleased that my hair and makeup had survived the trip here. It would have been a shame for all of Harper’s hard work to be ruined.

  "There are a few things you guys need to know before we get on the boat," I said while shutting the door. I turned around and looked over at the lake again. What my companions didn't know, with the exception of Nathan, was that this lake was home to a very ancient race of Hydriads. They are more commonly known as water nymphs. I remember my Grandmother telling me the story about how our ancestors made a bargain with the Queen of the Nymphs, Orea, before they could make Ash Island their home. They had settled upon a few seemingly easy terms. She had decreed that our pack of wolves could inhabit her island as long as three rules were never broken. The first and most important of them being, we keep their existence secret. The second rule was that we were to never allow humans on the island. And the third and final rule was that on the Night of Rebirth, which is a sacred ceremony between The Queen of the Hydriads and The King of the Meliads, the wolf pack was charged with the well-being of the trees and the nymphs while the royal couple was otherwise engaged in the ceremony. To put it simply, we take over their guardian duties while they screw and bring forth twins. A new water nymph for the lake, and a wise male spirit to inhabit an ash tree. The ceremony happens once every century. I have stood guard over two of them so far.

  I turned back around and looked at everyone. I sucked in a deep breath and spoke in as level a tone that I could muster. I needed to make sure they understood how serious, what I was about to tell them, really was.

  "When we walk to the dock, it's very important that you never look directly into the water. Not even a quick glance. Keep your eyes forward. No exceptions."

  I will give Milo a direct order to do as you have asked. As his Alpha he has no choice but to listen, Collin sent to me.

  I was so grateful that I was able to share my secrets with him now. After our bonding, which is equivalent to a ritual mating, he was now considered pack, and as pack, was privy to the lake and island secrets.

  Thank you, Collin. As you know, there can be no mistakes.

  I know, Love...no worries, he sent.

  I leaned over and kissed his welcoming lips and sent back to him in reply, No worries at all. I nodded my head at him and continued to explain to the group what needed to be done.

  "Is there a special reason why we have to go through the same motions of someone trying to escape the fire pits of Hades’ realm?" Harper asked me.

  She unzipped her purse and pulled out a tube of lipstick. When she finished flawlessly applying it to her lips without help from a mirror, she twisted it closed and looked at me. "Well?" she asked impatiently. "Am I in sudden need of a million SPF Sunblock?"

  "Get your facts straight, Vampire Barbie. You can't look behind you while leaving the underworld...that has nothing to do with water," Nathan said.

  She stuck her tongue out at him in response and said between chuckles, "Shut up, Fido."

  I quickly tried to figure out a way to explain to her why I made such a strange request. I wasn't allowed to tell her that if she happened to make eye contact with a water nymph, she would be under its spell within seconds, completely hypnotized and a slave to its whims. Not to mention, if someone that I brought sees one of them...yeah, you guessed it, I would have broken the pact. I shivered at the thought of both possibilities.

  "I can't tell you why, Harper. I just really need all of you to trust me on this one."

  Brady backed up slowly. His face flushed red and then it completely washed out, leaving it so pale it was almost blue. "Are you alright?" I asked him. He shook his head vigorously. He continued to back up until he was stopped short by the truck. "Wha...wha, what is that?" he asked, pointing towards the lake. I followed the line of his finger and almost yelped.

  Everyone else turned and looked at the same spot with confused expressions.

  "What are you talking about, dude? There is nothing there," Milo said.

  Boy was he wrong. There was most certainly someone there.

  "Get back in the truck now!" I yelled. "Roll up the windows and lock the doors. Don't look anywhere but at each other."

  The tone of my voice must have been warning enough because, before I could check to see if they had complied, I heard the doors to the truck slam shut.

 
I'm not leaving you out here alone, Ember.

  I know...it's okay. Is she allowing you to see her? I asked Collin.

  Yeah, I see her. Who is she?

  With a graceful stride, a beautiful nymph stalked towards us. She had light brown hair that draped in waves to her knees. Her auburn streaked locks were as dry as a bone, even though she had just emerged from the water. She was cloaked in a sheer ice blue material. The dress molded to her body and fanned out behind her in several mini trains. She was breathtaking; it hurt my eyes to fully take her in. If there were such a thing as too beautiful, Orea would be the embodiment of it.

  She is Orea...The Queen of the Hydriads, and she isn't very happy with me, Collin.

  I extended my arm behind me and made a pushing gesture for him to stay back.

  "She-wolf," Orea said, addressing me in a cool tone. "You have done me and my people a grave dishonor tonight." She clucked her tongue and then slightly tilted her head to the side while her expression remained neutral.

  "Does your pack wish to break oath with me?"

  Immediately, I began to shake my head no. I then did something that only a few people have ever lived through; I made complete eye contact with her. The queen’s silver orbs swirled hypnotically. I tried to pinpoint an exact color, but every time a flash of green or even brown would surface, a swirl of silver would wash over in its place. I cleared a lump in my throat and measured my words carefully before I answered her.

  "No Orea, we do not wish to break oath," I said respectfully. "If it so pleases you, may I ask you a question in turn?"

  I went over my words a few times in my head to make sure I addressed her properly. I was already on thin ice, and I hadn't a clue why. I didn't want to fuck things up more by misspeaking.

  "I seek only answers here, Wolf," she hissed. In a flash, her face transformed into something serpent like. Her pupils turned to black slits and a thin, forked tongue slashed out of her mouth. I blinked and her beautiful mask was back in place. My inner wolf growled in response but I caught the sound of it in my throat and forced it back down.

 
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