Authors: J. C. Daniels
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Vampires, #Tagline… A knife in the dark
“I didn’t kill them.” I watched as he hurled the heads. One went flying into the trees. The other almost hit somebody. The unfortunate person barely managed to catch it and stood there looking at it in dismayed horror for long, long moments.
The pack leader took a step toward me.
My hand itched. Burned.
, the sword whispered in the back of my head.
I’m here…we can fight, we can fight
No. Not the time.
“I didn’t kill them. I’m here on official business, as a member of the Assembly. I’m to deliver this, its contents within, and a message,” I said quietly. My heart rate started to skip and immediately, I focused on Damon’s voice. The low, growling rumble. His strength.
I am aneira. My sword arm is mighty
“Give me the fucking message, nugget, and get the hell out of my territory,” the pack leader rasped.
“Alpha Alisdair MacDonald cordially requests that you cease and desist sending your men to his territory to hunt for ‘bitches to take back to the mountain’.” As MacDonald had indicated, I made little quotation marks in the air, keeping my voice flat and impersonal. “You may or may not be aware, but the ‘two bitches’ they tried to grab were his teenaged daughters. The oldest killed one of your men. He killed the other. The next time one of your pack members tries to abduct one of his people, he will lead his enforcers into your land and kill every last man among you. You will be the last and he will kill you slowly, strangling you with your own entrails.”
The pack leader was red by the time I was done.
My heart was racing.
Megan placed her hand on my shoulder. “We have one hundred enforcers, pack leader. Our pack numbers at five hundred. My Alpha awaits my call and if he doesn’t receive it, you will be exterminated. You’ve been warned.”
“Get the fuck
!” he screamed.
* * * * *
“You do good work,” Megan said cheerfully as we made a quick stop in Gatlinburg. “Hey, you wanna hang around here for the night? There’s this bar on the strip—they don’t have many of our kind around here thanks to that bastard, but the guy who runs the place keeps a stock of decent liquor. We can go get plastered and head back in the morning.”
I stared at the bracer as I tried to figure out a way to get it back on. It wasn’t going to happen. Screw it. New laces would fix it and I had plenty of those. Tossing it through the open window of the car, I eyed the marks on my wrist and debated.
I could let it go.
Maybe I should.
Megan turned away and that’s when I moved. Yeah, it’s a dirty trick, but when somebody is strong enough to rip you apart with their bare hands,
is the best way to fight. I drew a blade I’d kept sheathed at my thigh. As I turned, I palmed another blade and threw even before I turned. A pained scream ripped from her as the silver buried itself deep in her thigh. I was on her in the next second, kicking at her left knee and listening as it crunched.
Her body trembled under mine and power rolled through the air. “Don’t shift,” I warned, pressing the tip of my other blade to her neck. “You know what Night is?”
“I think that means you do. This is a spelled blade…it’s coated in
—” Night was a narcotic that had been formulated to hit shapeshifters hard enough to render them unconscious. It would kill humans…and probably me. That’s why it was spelled. “All it takes to break the spell on it is shifter blood. So if you’re up for a nice long nap, just keep moving around.”
“Do you have any idea just how much pain I can put you in?”
“Yeah, yeah.” I sighed and looked around. We were parked next to a small convenience store just outside the National Park. It wasn’t exactly busy, but we wouldn’t escape notice forever. “You know how often I hear this song and dance, Megan? Listen, sweetheart. The next time you pull a trick like that, I’m going to get pissy.”
“A trick like what?”
Glaring at the back of her head, I said, “You know what. Who I’m sleeping with doesn’t have a damn thing to do with my job. I’ve worked jobs for your Alpha
I hooked up with Damon. The next time you bring him up on a job is the last time I’ll
work one for the wolf pack again. Pass the message on.”
I shoved back and immediately put distance between us.
She shifted with a roar of rage, reaching around pulling on the silver blade I’d buried in her thigh. I smelled her blood and saw it gush out as she flung the blade to the ground.
I left it lying there, still gripping the spelled blade, my stomach in knots as I watched her.
I really had to work on that fear thing more.
“You crazy little bitch,” she growled. “It worked, didn’t it? We got out of there, no harm, no foul, right?”
“Did it occur to you that if I wanted to tattoo
on my forehead, I’d do that?” I held the knife ready, wondered if I was going to have to use it. “Do you go around parading the fact that you’re screwing MacDonald and think that’s going to open and close doors?”
In the form she wore, it was hard to read facial expressions. But something in her alien eyes flickered. And then, I felt the blast of her power against my skin as she shifted back to her human form. The shift from human to were had healed her leg and she stood before me now unharmed…unharmed, but still pissed and looking confused. “You’re
a shifter,” she pointed out. “You’re just barely something more than human and you’re easier to hurt. I was doing what I could to avoid that.”
“I was the one hired to do the job.” Recognizing that the threat had passed, I slid the spelled knife away. “Was I supposed to do the job or just come along for the ride?”
She inclined her head. “Point taken.”
I turned away and headed around to the front of the car.
I wanted to get home. I
to get home.
“You…” She paused and blew out a breath. “Look, you didn’t do bad. I’m sorry if I screwed things up.”
I went to open the door but she came up and I paused, shifting around to meet her gaze. “You should put some clothes on. Even with the pack here, they probably aren’t used to seeing a naked woman striding around town.”
She watched me closely. “Are you okay?
No. I was pissed. And although I wouldn’t admit it, I was still freaked out by the monstrous pack we’d just left. Curling my lip, I replied, “I’m just super. Although it might have been nice if somebody would have mentioned the pack leader was an evil son-of-a-bitch.”
“No, it wouldn’t.” She stared at me coolly now. “You held it together and even when you got a little nervy there, you got it under control. Hell, you didn’t even let on that I’d pissed you off like that. But if we’d told you that Dex Conrad is a wolf who is rumored to butcher his own people when they try to leave him, that he rapes his own young and is pretty much everything humans
we all are…you would have walked in there throwing off so much fear, we would have needed an army to get us out.”
“Oh, fuck off—” I started to say. Then I stopped.
The heat in my hand flared so bright, so painfully hot, it
“He butchers those who try to leave him?” I said quietly.
“That’s what they say,” she said tiredly. “Word went out after this latest mess. If he tries anything else, we’ll hunt him down. But for now, he’s keeping it to the idiots too stupid to stay–”
I hit her.
I heard bone crunch in my hand, felt the pain flare up my arm.
—?” Megan snarled.
TJ. That was all I could think. There had been a time in my life when I had been scared and on the run, and a woman had taken me in. Given me a place to hide, a home. The very first bed I could call my own.
Her name had been TJ and she was a werewolf who would live the rest of her life unable to walk or run the way another shapeshifter could…all because her Alpha had amputated her legs when
had tried to run.
Shapeshifters can heal almost anything, but if the wound is healed through magic first…he had the wounds cauterized and closed and now her legs ended in stumps at her knees.
My fury almost blinded me as I stared at the woman in front of me. “You
coward. Too stupid to stay?”
I turned away from her before I did something that would put me in more hot water than I could handle.
Right then I was so pissed I didn’t care.
But I knew what would happen if the two of us went head to head.
I’d get hurt.
And the man who shared my bed would take it personally. Personally enough to cause major hell and while part of me wanted that, it wasn’t right. The cats outnumbered wolves two to one.
And as pissed off as I was, I had to keep my cool.
For now, at least.
I heard her coming behind me and I turned, drawing the spelled knife from my thigh. My palm itched, yearned for my sword, but unless I managed to cut her head off, the only thing I do with that was piss her off and this needed to stop and I could hear people drawing closer—we’d just been noticed.
This needed to stop. Now.
Gatlinburg was mostly human turf and if this didn’t stop, our asses were in major trouble.
“If you take one more step toward me, I’m using this,” I warned her. “And I’m feeling mean enough that maybe I’ll deliver you tied and bound to that pack up in the mountains.”
She sneered at me. “You wouldn’t.”
No. She was right. I wouldn’t. Lifting a brow, I shrugged and said, “Probably not, but imagine what it might be like…if you were one of their young…a kid, sixteen, seventeen. Going through your spike, scared to death of your alpha and desperate to run. So you try. And you fail. What do you think happens?”
Her lids flickered.
“Still think all those people are
Her gaze slid away from mine. Her shoulder slumped and she turned away, using her hand to wipe away the blood running down her face.
them there. You bunch of fucking
,” I whispered, throwing the words out between us. Shaking my head, I climbed into the car, still gripping my knife.
I hadn’t gotten home until almost eleven. The good thing about Florida, it’s not overrun with feuding, hostile, hungry vamps the way South Carolina is, so I’d felt safe enough making the drive home. Colleen had been waiting for me.
I had called her from the road and told her I thought I had broken a bone in my hand and she might have to fix it.
By way of rebreaking it.
It sounds terrible and feels much worse, something I’m actually familiar with, since I’ve had it done several times. The first two times happened when I was a kid. My grandmother wasn’t the loving sort and when I didn’t perform well in training, my punishment wasn’t extra training. It was lashes with a whip or broken bones or other forms of torture.
Colleen was a much kinder healer. Instead of forcing me to remain awake as my grandmother had, she gave me something to put me under.
I didn’t come out of it until sometime near dawn and she was curled up in the chair, watching over me.
I stumbled to the bathroom to empty my bladder and when I came out, she was holding a mug.
The smell alone was enough to make me want to run back into the bathroom. I could hide in there. I’d be safe. Safe from whatever vile nastiness she’d put inside that mug. I almost did it.
Apparently the look on my face told her what I was thinking. “Don’t try it, Kit,” she warned me. “I helped build the damned wards for that room and I can break them. You need the damned tonic or you’ll be dragging for a week.”
I hated healing tonics.
They tasted like piss and vinegar and death.
“No,” I said, glaring at her.
“Take it.” She glared right back. Then she smiled evilly at me. “I can always call your sweetie and tell him you’re hurt…he can come play nursemaid and you can take the medicine for
“You know…I’m sick and tired of people forgetting I’m an adult who took care of herself
I met Damon.” Sourly, I eyed the nasty mess in the mug. It was the color of rancid milk and vomit mixed together and smelled about as pleasant. Taking a deep breath, I tossed it back as quick as I could and then concentrated on not puking it back up. After about sixty seconds, I thought I
be able to keep it down.
It was a full five minutes before I was certain it was all going to stay down. After another glare at Colleen, I stormed into the kitchen. I needed chocolate or something to get that taste out of my mouth and I needed it fast. Once that hit my system, I was going to crash. Hard.
“Hell, you don’t need Damon to care of you. Who thinks that?”
Rooting through the cabinet, I pulled out a package of
. “Everybody?” I said. I gave her the condensed version of the job I’d just finished as I ate two cookies and washed them down with milk. Already my brain felt logy. Bed. Needed bed.
I stumbled on the way to the bedroom and Colleen steadied me with her shoulder under arms. “Bed, Kit,” she said firmly.
“Brush my teeth,” I mumbled.
“You have a fetish with this clean thing.” But she helped me to the bathroom and kept me from falling over while I hurriedly brushed my teeth. “You know, it’s not a bad thing the wolf was with you, right? It’s not like you haven’t worked with back-up before.”
I made a face at her. Then, despite my thick tongue, I said, “The pack leader needs to die. He’s the one…”
“What one?” she asked, guiding me to the bed.
I whispered, “TJ.”
Colleen’s face went tight.
That was the last thing I remembered before darkness grabbed me.
* * * * *
Sunlight greeted me. But that wasn’t what woke me. I was so tired I could have slept if somebody had been shining floodlights in my face. No, what woke me was the fact that somebody was trying beat the door to my home down. Hard, hammering blows.