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Authors: Megan J. Parker

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BOOK: Scarlet Dawn
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Serena glared, “You ass-sniffing
mong—HEY!”

But Axle had already leapt back to the trunk of his car, securing himself in place at the driver’s seat once again.

“Ser-en-a!” Zoey’s voice cracked with each syllable as she fought to hold the aurics’ forces back. As her hold on the battle wavered, her aura shifted and broke—withdrawing back into her chest—and the two aurics, now free to reach the car, seized Serena’s own and broke her hold on the car.

As the tires made contact with the street, they began to feel their gained momentum lag as they slowed down. Slamming her foot repeatedly on the gas but finding no reaction from doing so, Serena began cursing as the now-smoking car stuttered and began to skid out of control off the road and into the Nevada desert.

“Bastards! Those fucking bastards!” She ground out between clenched teeth, slamming her fist against the steering wheel with each word, bending it inward until it finally was torn free from the dashboard.

“Serena…” Zoey said flatly, not taking her eyes from the night-bathed desert ahead of her.

“Don’t say it, Zoey. Don’t you dare even—”

“Next time, I drive!” She grumbled, ignoring Serena’s growls as she pitched her head over the door and finally threw up.

A
xle smirked, watching in his rearview mirror as his pursuers disappeared in the distance.

“Man! That was close!” Axle smirked. “Well done, boys! You really did me proud back there! I was
almost
afraid she’d get us.”

“As if! She was not even close to getting us!” Tristan grinned, “Though it
was
the first time I’ve ever had to lift an entire car just to avoid being caught. Wouldn’t mind doing
that
again!”

“None of that was supposed to be fun!” Drake growled, turning to glare at the other three in the back.

Frowning, Axle stayed quiet as he took an exit off the highway and started up the road towards the gutted factory.

“That was too close for my liking,” Drake went on, “And if we intend to stay here and do what we’re doing, we have to do this right.” He narrowed his eyes at Tristan, “If Lucas hadn’t jumped in with his aura when he did, then that blue-haired bitch would’ve smeared us all over the pavement… and I think we all know that snarky dyke would’ve finished whichever of us weren’t already dead!”

“Oh come on, Drake! We made it, didn’t we? We got the money
and
we got to stick it to the local law!” Shayne paused and shrugged, smirking, “Though the one with blue hair
was
kind of cute! Had a sort of Sailor Moon vibe to her.”

Quinn frowned and shook his head, his
sangsuigan fangs extended in response to his irritation. “No! Drake’s right! We’re not here to have fun and play Cops and Robbers with the local clan! We have a job to do and this stunt nearly fucked it up!”

Axle frowned and shook his head, “Drake! Quinn! Chill-ax! We got the job done, but if either of you thought that we’d dodge the officials forever then you were
both
fooling yourselves! Everyone did
exactly
what needed to be done back there, and, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re
here
! Nobody’s dead and the money is where it needs to be!” He looked over at Drake, his childhood friend, whose body was so tense that it was noticeably beginning to shift into his therion form. Resting a hand on his shoulder, he sighed “Don’t worry so much. You drove like a beast back there, man! How could you think we’d
not
come out of this alright when you’ve got moves like that? And you”—he looked over at Quinn—“you made some great calls back there! I hadn’t even realized what those vamp-chicks were doing before you made the call to Tristan to take us off the road…
literally
!” He nodded to them, “You guys did great, but don’t take out your tension on the others; they’re just letting off a little tension after our big encounter. Either way, I can handle them.”

Sighing, Drake nodded and allowed his body settling back in its human form.

As they pulled up to the old factory, the tension began to subside. After Axle parked in the cracked and dusty parking lot near the long-unused loading area, he nodded to the others to collect the bags and glanced over at Lucas, who bit his lip as he felt a pair of eyes on him.

Offering the shy auric a reassuring smile, Axle nodded, “You really saved our butts back there.”

“Th-thanks,” Lucas’ shoulders eased noticeably in reaction to the compliment.

Axle gave him a pat on the shoulder, “Keep an eye out for anything while we get the bags inside, okay?”

Lucas nodded and stepped out with the others, leaning against the car and closing his eyes to let his aura do what it did best, nodding to him when he was certain that there were no unwanted onlookers.

As the group brought the bags inside, they were greeted by the many excited cries of children, who rushed towards them to celebrate their return.

“Oh no! They’re gonna get us!” Quinn play-cried as he saw the wave of young mythos orphans, and he quickly let go the two bags he was carrying and dropped to his knees to play-wrestle with the kids that honed on him in a group tackle.

Axle smiled, seeing Quinn laugh and play. Though it was hard to get him to operate on any setting but “serious” anywhere else, the moment he was around the kids the fun-loving side emerged. This, however, came as little surprise to any of the crew, who knew of Quinn’s own history of growing up in such a setting. When he’d turned eighteen he decided to join Axle and the others to help raise more funds to keep the orphanage afloat. Though he was the youngest in their group, what he lacked in age he more than made up for in dedication. It was this dedication that had driven him to train and become one of the strongest sangs—young or old—that Axle had ever known.

“Man, I hope this all works out for them,” Lucas stepped beside Axle. “Do you think that someday these kids can have a better place to stay? This isn’t fair for them.”

Drake frowned and shook his head, “All that money and access to resources and The Council can’t help?”

Axle shrugged, “Their parents lived as rogues—unregistered and denouncing any system—so, as far as The Council’s records go, they don’t exist.” He looked back and sighed, “It’s sad, yes, but The Council can’t do anything about the things that so many have gone to such great lengths to keep them blind of. It will get better for them soon enough, though. I promise,” Axle frowned as hefted three of the bags and headed further inside.

Getting to the top of a flight of stairs, he turned towards the gutted office, already hearing the muffled pitter-patter of tiny footsteps nearing behind him. Grinning, he pretended not to notice the sound until the source was nearly upon him, then…

“GOTCHA!” Dropping the bags, Axle turned in time to catch the young vampire in mid-jump, “Oh, look at that! Your teeth are coming in nicely, Fang,” he smiled, noticing that one of the young sang’s fangs had grown longer than the other.

Fang was one of the newest additions to Sierra’s orphanage, having been brought there a week earlier after Axle had first arrived. Though he’d been born to innocent, unregistered rogues, their lack of shelter had made them and their child easy targets for a group of mythos hunters. By the time Axle had come across the scene, Fang—who had expressed a preference in Axle’s nickname for him over “Jace”—had already lost both of his parents and one his fangs. The humans were about to pull out the other, but had come to an untimely end at the end of Axle’s claws.

“I know! I bit Elrik earlier to show him, but he didn’t like that,” Fang grinned.

“You bit
Elrik?” Axle chuckled, “I’m sure Miss Sierra didn’t like that, huh?”

“No, but
Elrik liked it even less,” Fang giggled and bounced in Axle’s arms, “Are you going to stay longer today? I want to play!”

“I can’t today, bud,” Axle smiled softly, “but I promise next time I’ll stay longer. We’re just here now to drop off some things for Miss Sierra.”

Fang pouted for a moment.

Behind Axle, the sound of high heels
clack
ing down the hall picked up as Sierra started towards them and Axle smirked, looking over his shoulder at her. She still had the same long, straight black hair and deep green eyes that she’d had when they were kids, but her years and assumed responsibilities had traded her once bouncy and casual demeanor with a stoic formality that only seemed to wane when Axle was able to rob a moment alone with her. It was his and Drake’s childhood friendship with the sang vampire that had carried their investment in her efforts with rogue orphans as well as introducing them to the vampires of their gang. Because all of Sierra’s initial efforts for the kids had been paid from her inheritance—an inheritance that had soon run out—the urgency for supplies had motivated the group to do all that they could to keep the hope alive…

Even if their methods
did
get him into trouble with The Council.

Setting Fang down and retrieving the bags, he held them up and smiled, “There’s two more downstairs, I’d have brought them up, but Quinn was already drowning in kids and I think it’s gonna take a full team to extract him
and
the bags he brought—OOPH!” He nearly toppled over as Sierra all-but threw herself around him in a tight and thankful embrace.

“Thank you so much, Axle! You really don’t know how much this means to us!” She whimpered, snuggling her face into his chest, “I get so worried, though. I just wish there was another—”

“None of that,” Axle felt his chest tighten and he softened his face as he pressed his palm to her tear-soaked cheek as he lifted her chin. “It’ll be alright from now on. I promise,” he smiled warmly and wiped a tear from her cheek, “No tears now, alright?”

She choked out a chuckle, nodding and quickly wiped her face and looked back to the bags and sighed, “I don’t want to see you imprisoned by The Council. They can be ruthless!”

“As if they could catch us,” Axle smirked. “I’ve been doing this every night for a week now and there are
zero
leads.
Nothing
. For the humans
and
The Council’s lackeys.” Though he wasn’t happy about lying about the warriors they’d been lucky enough to escape from, he knew that telling her would do no good for either of them. Though Axle was proud of his therion roots, he often wished that he had the powers of an auric vampire—powers that would allow him to manipulate and shift emotions—to offer some aid to Sierra, who was prone to panic attacks. For a sang, she definitely didn’t have the strength and confidence that ordinarily seemed the norm with her kind, and he constantly worried about her wellbeing given all the responsibilities she’d taken.

And what would happen to her and the kids if they were ever attacked…

As Axle started to pull his mind from the nerve-wracking thoughts, he heard the others starting up the steps behind him.

“Hey, Sierra,” Tristan called out, “Did Axle tell you about the warriors that chased yet?”

Axle dropped his face into his palm.

“Chase?” Sierra’s eyes went wide, “What kind of chase? Who was—

“It’s fine. Really! We just got chased by a few girls on the road,” Axle smiled reassuringly.

“Psh! They weren’t
just
girls!” Tristan beamed, “Clan warriors, Sierra! And we left them in the dust!”

Shayne smirked and nodded, “Oh man! Just
thinking
about that blue haired one is making my pants tighter! Oh god, the things I’d do!”

“Shut it! Both of you!” Axle glared as Sierra’s cheeks turn bright pink. “You”—he pointed at Tristan—“learn to keep your mouth shut with pointless details. And you”—his finger shifted to Shayne—“the next time you talk like that in front of a lady I’m going to walk away with your
teeth
in my fist! Both of you got it?” The two nodded solemnly, “Good! Now take Fang and get out of here!”

As the two were escorted down the stairs by the young vampire, Axle fought the urge to laugh as he heard, “Wow! He really told you, huh? I bit
Elrik today…”

Sierra was shaking by the time Axle turned back to her. “Axle…” Her voice was a panicked whisper, “I-is that true? Were warriors after you?”

Axle sighed, “It… it
is
true, but they only saw me and they lost control of their car back on the highway. They don’t know who the others are and they don’t know about this place.”

“B-but what about you?” Sierra’s lower lip started to quake.

“They lucked out with finding me this time; probably a slow night in the neighborhood and they picked up on my aura and decided to investigate. They probably don’t even know who I am. Nobody even knows I’m
here
! As long as I keep under their radar then they’ll never have a reason to look.”

Sierra bit her lip and looked between him and Drake, “A-are you sure?”

Axle nodded and smiled, “Worst case: they bring me in—and me
alone
—on a few minor charges. No execution; just some served time or community service work. In the meantime, Drake can take my place and keep you and the kids safe and supplied.”

Drake nodded, knowing Sierra just as well as Axle. “Until we know for sure how these warriors will respond to tonight, we’ll keep our ears to the ground and stay out of the city. The next town is just a bit further out, so we can target a few of the smaller sites there to avoid heavy security and any added attention until we’re sure this has all blown over.”

BOOK: Scarlet Dawn
9.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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