Dead wolf walking, p.1
Dead Wolf Walking, p.1Veronica Blade
DEAD WOLF WALKING
By Veronica Blade
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Copyright © 2015 by Veronica Blade. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be used or reproduced in any form or by any means whatsoever without the prior written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Crush Publishing, Inc
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The places, characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by author.
For Zane Rae Blade
I love you more than mocha.
Dead Wolf Walking
(Shapes of Autumn, book three)
When a tragic death triggers Autumn and Zack’s worst fear—pursuit by dangerous werewolves—they escape to a safe house. But within the walls of the refuge, an even greater menace looms. Now under the reluctant protection of a vampire king, Autumn and Zack are targeted by a palace full of vamps out for revenge against vampire-killing werewolves.
After the vampire king discovers a rebel plot to overthrow him, Zack and Autumn are forced to remain in the palace as bait to draw out the enemy. But can the king shield them from so many who want them dead? They have only days to root out the traitors before Autumn’s parents arrive to claim her—not to mention it’s illegal to mix species—which gives them little hope of a future together. But with werewolves hunting them and vampire rebels out for their blood, Zack and Autumn need each other more than ever. Each secretly dreams of finding a way to be together—if they can stay alive.
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With our legs tangled together in the sheets, Zack pressed so close to me, a gnat couldn’t slip between us. His hips lay flush against mine, his nearly two hundred pounds of solid muscle weighing me down against the mattress like a heavenly anchor.
His hand swept slowly along my side, inching my tank top up, his hot mouth trailing kisses over my shoulder and setting my skin ablaze. My head angled to the side and my lungs quivered on a soft, lusty sigh as his lips burned a path over my shoulder and up my neck.
As much as I would’ve loved to drag Zack to my empty house two blocks away and be alone with him, we both knew where that could lead. Werewolves didn’t associate in any way with shape-shifters. As if being able to morph into a multitude of forms instead of just one made us inferior. Not only was it against werewolf law for Zack to treat me as an equal in any way, but mixing species—having sex—was believed to make both sides weaker.
I suspected that to be a myth though. But what if I was wrong? Neither of us could afford to lose our powers if we were going to be on the run soon and fighting for our lives. No matter how much we both wanted to abandon all logic and reason, we refused to allow our hormones to take over.
But we could reap every last ounce of pleasure from the things we could still do.
Reduced to ragged breaths, I arched up, my mouth capturing his. He groaned into my mouth and I drank him in, not sure how much more I could take without ripping his clothes off. I stifled the urge to moan. Sure, everyone in his house—his mom, his aunt Cara and uncle Mac, his cousin Trevor, and probably Trevor’s younger brothers—knew I snuck into Zack’s room most nights. We weren’t usually doing much more than sleeping, but since they all assumed more, the whole situation was embarrassing enough. So I opted to pretend everyone was oblivious to my presence.
Zack’s arms straightened and he lifted off me, his arms flexing as they took the bulk of his weight. He cocked his head.
“Everything okay?” I asked, running my fingers through his dark tousled hair.
He rolled off me, his feet landing on the floor. “What’s that noise?”
With my shape-shifter perceptions, I could hear as well as Zack or any other werewolf. I tensed, alert for the slightest sound. There it was again, coughing from somewhere in the house. Or choking. Zack rocketed off the bed, snatched a T-shirt off the chair, and threw it on as he sprinted out of the room so fast I forgot to pretend not to be there.
I heard the sound again, like someone gasping for air, and leaped off Zack’s bed to navigate the near-black hallway on my way to his mom’s room. In the dim lighting from the bedside lamp, Zack leaned over Favianne, her long, dark brown hair partially obscuring her too-pale olive skin.
“Mom, wake up!” Zack held her by the shoulders. “Mom! Mom! Wake up,” he demanded, his voice breaking.
Struggling for oxygen hadn’t woken her and she wasn’t responding to Zack’s jostling. That had to be bad. My heart pounded as I skirted to the other side of the bed to lay my ear against Favianne’s chest. Her pulse seemed agonizingly slow and her lungs sounded like sandpaper scraping.
“We need to get her to a hospital,” I said, ready to dart back into Zack’s room for my cell.
He grabbed her phone on the nightstand and dialed 9-1-1. Moments later, he’d given the operator all the info and hit the end button. “I’ve never seen her this way,” he said. “A couple of months ago when we took her to the hospital for pneumonia, she was at least conscious.”
I didn’t want to think about what her lack of response might mean. I chewed my lip, my throat swelling. If we lost Favianne because Zack and I hadn’t acted fast enough, I’d never forgive myself. “Wouldn’t it be quicker to load her up and drive her there ourselves?”
“Your car is at your house and I’m afraid my Jeep will be too bumpy.” Zack gathered her frail body into his arms, and I skirted around him. He was already tall, practically towering over my five-eight. He dwarfed his mother even more. She had lost so much weight since we graduated high school only a few weeks ago. I couldn’t imagine her having it in her to go another day. Tears wet my lashes as I held the front door open for Zack.
His aunt Cara burst into the living room, cinching her bathrobe closed. It didn’t take a genius to figure out where we were taking her sister. “It’s bad, isn’t it?” she asked, using the back of her hand to brush away dark wisps of hair from her forehead.
“I don’t know.” But I did know, and my pulse hammered at my temple.
In the distance, red and white lights flashed against the night sky as an ambulance turned the corner and came into view. I jogged to the curb and stood beside Zack an instant before the ambulance pulled to a stop. Two paramedics gingerly transferred Favianne to a gurney. With his arms free of his mother, Zack slumped, a deep line etched between his brows.
The EMTs secured Favianne inside the ambulance, then closed the doors. The garage opened behind us as Cara bustled down the porch stairs and jingled her keys. Zack’s shoes dangled from two fingers of her other hand. “We can follow them in my car. Jump in.”
I touched his hand, my teeth digging into my bottom lip to keep it from trembling. “I need to stop at my house. I’ll get the Mustang and see you there as soon as I can.”
At least I’d had several months to fall in love with her sweet smiles, subtle humor, and fierce love for Zack. That was about to end. Deep down, Zack knew it too. And he wouldn’t want to waste one minute of his last moments with her. No way would he leave the hospital anytime soon.
Hustling into his closet, I jumped high enough for my hands to touch the top shelf and reach his duffel bag. My gaze caught on the black box his mom had given him a couple of months ago and insisted he take. It contained documents, bank records, a passport, and everything he needed to access the money his father had left him.
If Favianne did indeed die, Zack would have to get as far away from Los Angeles as possible or else Renzo Soriano would very likely try to escort him to the werewolf king where he’d serve the crown or be assigned to a pack—which Zack had already declared to me he would never do.
Unless Renzo felt no loyalty to the werewolf king. In that case, we had nothing to worry about. But I couldn’t be sure either way. Renzo had mysteriously shown up at the coffee shop weeks ago and he’d never said much about anything other than he was “on vacation.” Yet he always seemed to be around, and I couldn’t figure out what he wanted.
We couldn’t take the chance that he was setting us up. Zack’s only choice was to run and his best chance of escaping Renzo—and every other werewolf scout—would be to leave from the hospital without returning home.
From the moment Zack and I had gotten together, we’d known our relationship was doomed. Traveling together and breaking werewolf law by associating in any way other than master and slave would attract attention and paint a big, fat target on our backs. We’d already agreed that when Zack left, I’d stay. We vowed to enjoy each other for however long we had and not talk about the end.
But Renzo knew I was a shape-shifter and he barely tolerated me as it was. He’d been hostile toward me from the beginning and I never knew why, other than the obvious—he was a werewolf naturally predisposed to not liking my kind. What if, once Zack left, Renzo couldn’t find a reason to let me live? No way could I stay behind, alone. I’d have to gather my things and be ready to meet up with my shape-shifter parents.
For the past few weeks, Zack had been sneaking clothes to me in preparation for his imminent escape and I’d been hiding them in my room. But if Zack was leaving for good, he’d need more. I loaded the black box into the duffel bag and then located some of his favorite jeans and T-shirts, boxers, socks, his laptop, a razor, his toothbrush, and black boots.
After zipping up the bag, I swung it over my shoulder and padded into the dim hallway.
“Hey.” Zack’s uncle, Mac, threaded his fingers through his thinning red hair. “What’s with the big bag?”
I forced my hands still, battling the adrenaline racing through my veins. Mac didn’t need to know I was slightly panicked over my and Zack’s inevitable need to flee. “Zack won’t want to leave Favianne’s side. He’ll need a change of clothes, his phone, laptop. Stuff like that.”
He nodded, his expression grave. “I’ll be taking off for the hospital as soon as the boys are ready. If there’s any news before I get there, would you ask Cara to call me?”
“Sure. But I need to stop at home first. You’ll probably beat me there.” I offered a small smile before heading out the door.
Despite the weight of Zack’s duffel bag, I made good time down the two blocks to my house. Thankfully, I’d backed the Mustang into the driveway earlier and pulled it alongside the neighbor’s fence. Much easier to get something through the window and into the trunk without being spotted. I squeezed by the side of the house to the rear of my car, which was obscured by bushes, and tossed his bag in the trunk of my car, then hurried inside to shower.
Knowing I’d be at a hospital for a while, then possibly traveling to who knew where, I gathered my now-shoulder-length hair into a low ponytail. Good thing I’d cut off my long tresses a few weeks ago. I’d had a feeling I’d need a simple hairstyle the next few months. Or years.
As I sped through my house a few short minutes later spotting things I needed, an ache mounted in my chest. An ache I didn’t think would go away anytime soon.
Even if I got to the hospital in time, my gut told me we were losing her. She probably wasn’t going to wake up and it was too late to say good-bye. And I wasn’t at the hospital to comfort Zack. But the chance was too great that he and I couldn’t return to our houses. We’d very likely be leaving our home, our friends, for parts unknown. I had to be ready, because I had no idea how many werewolves were out there and how many of them the king would have hunting Zack.
I jogged after the paramedics pushing the gurney through the emergency entrance of the hospital. They wheeled my mom toward another set of double doors and as they swung open in welcome, a woman in scrubs strode toward me, a stethoscope hanging from her neck. I attempted to follow my mother, but the woman stood in my path and blocked my way. I started forward to go around her, and she thrust out an arm, stopping me. “Personnel only beyond this point,” she said.
Antiseptic and chemicals stung my nose as I peered over her shoulder, watching the gurney disappear around the corner. “I’m family.”
“I’m sorry. Personnel only.” She shook her head.
“She’s going to be okay, right?” I coached myself not to shove the woman aside and tear through the corridor. But if my mom had a chance of being saved, I needed to allow the doctors to do their job. I backed off, putting more distance between my mother and myself.
“We’ll do everything we can,” she tossed over her shoulder and then vanished behind the double doors.
A soft hand stroked my back and I turned around to see Winnie, her chin quivering. The warm smile that usually greeted us was absent from her face. “Oh, honey, I just heard about your mother. I’m so sorry.”
“Thanks, Winnie.” I stooped and folded her into a hug, barely getting my arms around her thick middle. My mom loved Winnie and by now the hospital staff knew to always assign her to my mom anytime she had an appointment. I hoped today would be no different. “Always good to see you.”
“You’re such a good boy.” Her mouth trembled before she gave my hand a quick squeeze. “I’ll go check on her and be back as soon as I can.” She swished away in her colorful scrubs, and I prayed this visit wouldn’t be the last time Winnie attended to my mom.
Alone again, I paced the waiting room, unable to stand still. My mom couldn’t die. We’d had scares before due to her autoimmune disorder, but she’d always come through. She was a survivor and she’d get past this too. She had to. But what if she didn’t?
Since I didn’t know how long I’d be gone, I probably needed more than the emergency bag I kept in my car. I could morph into a ferocious bear and kill a werewolf, but I was still a girl. I wanted my stuff with me.
After I’d overfilled a large suitcase, I stood at the front door of my empty house. I gazed forlornly at the tidy modern kitchen, then let my eyes follow the length of the house—the perfectly distressed wood floors, the sparse furniture, the soft pastel walls and white trim—my gaze ending at the staircase. I’d probably never again climb the steps to my room and lie on my purple comforter. My naked toes may never again glide through the white faux fur rug at the foot of my bed.
On a long, deep inhale, I said a silent good-bye to the only real home I’d known. I dragged my luggage to the dining room and crammed it through the side window so that it dropped onto the driveway. I slithered through after my stuff, then opened the trunk as quietly as I could.
By the time I got to the hospital and parked, over an hour had flown by. Tiny wisps of light on the horizon hinted that daylight would soon come. Cara met me in the emergency waiting room, her lips a grim line as she hugged me. “It doesn’t look good. Zack’s going to need you to be strong.”
Tears pooled in my eyes and I sniffed as she released me. “That’s not going to be easy. What did the doctors say?”
“Her organs are shutting down, one by one.” She let out a shuddering breath. “My sister has a do-not-resuscitate order. If her heart stops or her kidneys shut down, they can’t do CPR or hook her up to a machine.”
Oh, God. Poor Cara, about to lose her only sister. I clutched her hand. “Did she ever wake up?”
“No,” she whispered, her gaze lowering to the short, tan carpet.
My body went slack and my tongue refused to budge. The automatic doors to the emergency rooms swung open and Zack emerged, his skin pallid. Was his mom gone? Abandoning Cara, I sped into Zack’s arms and buried my face in his neck.
“So glad you’re finally here,” he said, holding me tightly.
We stayed that way for what seemed like minutes, my arms wrapped around his waist and my cheek resting against his shoulder. He loosened his hold and I studied his red, swollen eyes, wishing I could take away his grief.
“The doctor told us to say our good-byes, but how am I supposed to do that if she doesn’t wake up?” he asked, his voice hoarse.
“You have to believe she knows you’re here, Zack.” What else could I say? I attempted to do the impossible and comfort him. “She knows you love her.”
Zack pressed his forehead to mine, his lids drooping. “Don’t go anywhere, okay?”
I cupped his cheeks. “I’m staying right here.”
Dead Wolf Walking by Veronica Blade / Romance & Love / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes