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Authors: Megan J. Parker

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BOOK: Scarlet Dawn
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“Good. My answer is still ‘no’, so I guess this is the last time I’ll have to say it, and none-too-fucking-soon either! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going on a run.”

“Ugh! You stubborn little mongrel! You
will
regret this decision! I promise!”

He watched as she spun on her heel and stomped off down the street, unable to hold back a laugh as she stumbled on the curb.

“Stupid bitch,” Axle shook his head. “Must think I was born yesterday if she thinks I’d buy that much rubbish just because she talks like a damn dictionary!”

Sighing, he ducked into the alleyway to finish undressing and focused on allowing the transformation to grab hold of him. As his body shook and shifted with the excruciatingly liberating process, he gripped a nearby dumpster to keep his body upright. Breaking free of the confines of his human form, he let out a triumphant howl before he rushed towards the concrete wall in front of him and began a full sprint up the side. As his vertical climb lost momentum, he vaulted to the neighboring wall behind him—pivoting in midair to meet it head-on—and then repeating the act again and again until he’d reached the rooftops. Feeling the blood coursing through his veins like gasoline running through a V8 engine, he started across the blacktop, throwing himself over generator and in a forward summersault before landing in a tucked-roll that carried him back to his feet and an even more momentous sprint.

The humans were a clumsy and foolish lot…

But whoever had developed
parkour had had the right idea!

This was the
only
way to run!

And while the bulk of his species enjoyed nothing more than ducking and weaving through the trees and brush of their natural habitat, there was no denying the potential thrill to be had in the urban jungle!

A
fter the night’s ordeal, Serena and Zoey had finally made it back to the clan. Ever since the original headquarters that had been Serena’s childhood home had been destroyed, they’d been forced to relocate. Fortunately, Serena’s father had gone to great lengths to construct a secret underground facility in the event of an attack, and though the decision had been seen as somewhat unconventional, this bunker had been successfully expanded upon to allow for not only all the necessities and conveniences that they’d come to know, but an eerily vast sense of security.

After all, who would think to look for a complex clan of non-humans beneath a dense forest?

Isaac, already waiting at the entrance, hurried to Zoey’s side and began to look her over. Serena sighed, rolling her eyes as Zoey’s therion lover scrutinized over every bump and scratch.

“Really? We’re only an hour late, for fuck’s sake! She’s fine,” Serena chuckled. “No need to get your panties in a twist. Lord knows they’re crowded enough already!”

“Serena!” Zoey’s face went bright red.

“Oh, right! Like he doesn’t know he’s got a ballistic weapon in his—”

Enough!
Zoey’s psychic voice rang in Serena’s head, silencing her in mid-joke. “It’s alright, Isaac, really,” she smiled warmly up at him and gave him a quick kiss. “We just had some car problems. Had to call for a tow.”

“Yea, ‘car problems’. That’s one way to put it, I guess.” Serena sighed, “You know that most of what was under that hood was custom?” She drove her fist into her palm, “I am
so
going to make those rogues pay!”

“Oh good! You guys are finally back,” Nikki stepped out, her hair held up in a bun and her dark skin glistening from sweat.

“You’d better just be sweaty from an actual work out!” Serena narrowed her eyes.

“Yeah, yeah! We just got back from the gym.” Nikki smirked. “No need to get your panties in a twist.”

“Lord knows they’re crowded enough already,” Isaac chuckled.

“Oh, I bet you’re just happy as a pig in shit to have had
that opportunity, aren’t you?” Serena stuck her tongue out at Isaac.

Both Isaac and Zoey laughed.

Serena rolled her eyes and sighed, turning back to Nikki and watched as Raith stepped out, still shirtless.

Serena stared. Though she knew that it wasn’t Zane—not in the sense of who was driving the body, anyway—it was, day-by-excruciating-day, becoming a chore to not let that fact simply be forgotten. How simple would it have been just to let
herself forget that the body she was staring at—the body she’d come to know and love—no longer contained the vampire she’d come to know and love? What she and Zane had had was, though based on a fleeting and chance encounter, far more meaningful than she’d even come to fully appreciate before it was taken away. Now that she was face-to-face with a walking, talking reminder of who had been taken away, the potential to forget that pain within the
actual
arms of who’d been taken was a throbbing possibility.

Except that it wasn’t.

He
wasn’t
Zane.

He wasn’t hers.

And that hurt.

“Did you tell her what you found out, luv?” Raith asked Nikki; the faint hint of an Australian accent riding on his words and forcing Serena’s boiling blood finally cool. It wasn’t Zane’s voice; it wasn’t Zane’s posture or gestures. Even his eyes had changed; the once silver and alluring right eye now showing as a dull brown, though the left was still the same blue that Serena remembered.

Serena frowned, “Did you tell me what?”

“What did you find out?” Zoey chimed in, stepping forward to join Serena at her side.

“It looks like we have some competition heading in,” Nikki frowned. “Word on the street is there’s a new clan in the works on the South side of town and The Council has already offered their support.”

“Why the hell would The Council agree to
another
clan in
our
jurisdiction?”

Zoey frowned, “Do you think this is all in response to Axle and his gang?”

Serena growled, “This is bullshit! The damn file even said that he was a minimal threat!”

“The overall theme I caught drift of is ‘added security’,” Nikki offered. “Whether or not this Axle character actually poses a threat might not matter to them. Maybe they feel more manpower in their court will keep any
potential
plans to be reconsidered.”

“Decrease the threat of crime by increasing the threat of punishment,” Zoey nodded slowly.

“Fuck! As if there isn’t a big enough turd on the goddam table, now they gotta invite Michael Moore to dinner?” Serena shook her head, “Between doing
our
damn job and trying to track down that Kristine bitch I’m not sure how I’m supposed to be expected to play the charming neighbor housewife.”

“I’m not sure who in their right mind would see
you
as the charming neighbor housewife,” Isaac frowned.

Serena glared at him, “Blow me, Donkey Dong!”

Zoey gave Serena a look, mouthing “Donkey Dong?” before finally turning her attention back to the group, “It may not be that bad, actually. Think about it: they can help us and that way we have a lighter workload. That lighter workload means you have more free time; free time that you can use to work on tracking down Kristine.”

“And Zane,” both Serena and Raith chimed in before looking at the other with a startled-but-appreciative stare.

Nikki bit her lip, “Do you really think that he’s still… y’know, around?”

Raith nodded, “I really do. It’s hard to explain, but being ‘tied’ to a person like we were for so long creates an undeniable bond.” He shrugged, “I can’t say
how
he’s still alive, or
where
he is, but I know he’s still with us and that the key to finding him is with that Kristine-twat. It would be nice to see my buddy again and actually have a chance to hang out like we used to, rather than just swimming around in his head.”

Nikki bit her lip and looked away.

Though Serena wasn’t happy about Nikki’s reluctance to help them find Zane—to restore the
proper
owner to the
proper
body—it wasn’t something she couldn’t bring herself to understand. Though the details of their history were still unknown, Nikki and Raith
were
, at one time, very much in love, and though circumstances had removed Raith from his body and, Serena was sure, even seen an end to that body, they still had feelings that transcended the flesh. Though the turn of events were like something from a bad 70s sci-fi movie, the aura of Nikki’s dead lover
was
now in control of the body of Serena’s disembodied lover. Though everyone’s effort to find and return Zane to his body was an undeniable priority, it did force Nikki to worry about what would happen to Raith’s mind when things were restored.

And, though Serena was eager to have Zane returned to her—mind
and
body—she couldn’t shake the crippling empathy of what it would do to Nikki.

“You alright over there, Ink-Doll?” Serena asked, giving Nikki a gentle shove.

Nikki smirked at the nickname and nodded, “Doing great, Goldi-fucks.” She smiled and returned the shove, “Hey! Why don’t you visit the clan tomorrow, Serena? You know, bring them some baked goods and introduce yourself. And by ‘baked goods’ I mean your typical snark and by ‘introduce yourself’ I mean remind them not to step on any toes.”

“That’d probably be a good idea,” Serena nodded and turned to the others, “I’m calling it a night for now though. See you all tomorrow!”

With that, she turned from the group and headed to her room, closing her inside her solitude and the only time she could ever let herself remember…

 

 

“Do you think she’s going to be alright?” Zoey frowned, turning to the others as soon as Serena was out of earshot.

“She will be. It’s going to work out. I know it.” Nikki smiled, though Zoey could see the shift of pain clouding her aura. “Hey, I’m going to go take a shower and get some rest as well.”

Raith grinned and started forward, “You want me to join you?”

Nikki noticeably wavered at the offer, but finally shook her head and took a step away from him. “I… We can’t. It wouldn’t be fair to Serena and Zane.”

Raith’s excited eyes sagged and he looked at his hand as remembering that he wasn’t in his own body, “Oh… right.” He shook his head, “Sorry…”

Zoey frowned and offered Raith a pat on the shoulder, “We’ll figure this out. No matter what, we
will
make things right.”

Raith nodded his thanks to Zoey before smiling at Nikki. “See you in the morning, luv,” he leaned in and kissed her cheek—the only gesture they seemed to allow themselves—and headed towards his own room.

Zoey watched the two part ways, feeling an immense weight of sadness grow greater with every step that divided them. They had finally been reacquainted after such a terrible tragedy—a tragedy that even she had not been able to get Zane to explain in the many years they’d been together as colleagues and friends—but, despite regaining what they had lost, they forced themselves to keep their boundaries in respect to Serena and Zane, the two who had done so much for them both.

“Everything okay?” Isaac looked over, the nervousness in his eyes bringing Zoey back from her thoughts.

“Yea,” she blushed, taking in the sight of him and feeling a calming warmth crawl over her, “I was just thinking.”

“Thinking, huh? Isn’t that that thing that turns your hair blue?” Isaac smirked and nuzzled her, “You want to head to bed as well?” Isaac’s voice was a husky growl that crept up her throat and tantalized her ear.

“I’m… uh, not very tired,” she confessed.

“That’s okay,” Isaac brought his carnal gaze to meet hers and smirked as he reached around and pinched her backside. “Neither am I.”

Zoey squealed and grinned, turning to face her lover, “So what did you have in mind?”

“Let me show you!” Isaac scooped her up and carried her bridal style towards their bedroom.

Zoey giggled and smiled. She had never been happier before meeting Isaac, and, since the Vail Clan had opened its doors to therion members and taken in Isaac’s pack, she’d no longer had to hide her otherwise taboo relationship and had been allowed to finally grow closer to him. Though the process of assimilating with the clan had come as something of a culture shock for Isaac’s packmates, they’d looked to the two of them as a symbol that the union
was
possible; that vampires and therions
could
co-exist and even come to know each other as so much more.

It had given her a whole new degree of confidence.

Though Isaac still had some irritating concerns to work past:

“So…
a lot
of people have seemed surprised when they find out we’re together. They say my kind can hurt others that aren’t of our own kind. I was just nervous that maybe… you know, uh…” Isaac frowned, fumbling on his words, “I mean, I’d never asked before but… does being with me hurt you?”

“Isaac, baby, I’m a big girl, and I can handle you just fine. Trust me, you’ve
never
hurt me,” Zoey smirked and pulled his head down and captured his lips with hers.

BOOK: Scarlet Dawn
5.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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