Authors: Veronica Del Rosa
She straightened and pulled away from him.
D slammed a fist into her side, aiming for the tender area. While the wounds she’d given herself had healed, her ribs were still sore. Air left her lungs, and she reacted on instinct. Her foot shot out and connected with his sternum.
A satisfying crack accompanied the breaking of his bones. That should put him out of commission.
His lips stretched upwards, a horrible facsimile of a smile.
“I hope you have more of a fight than that in you. I thought you were a werewolf,” he jeered at her. The crazy human actually liked the pain she caused him. “I’ll even give you a chance to beat me. I’ll put the rifle aside, and we can fight hand to hand.”
Now she knew he was insane. Didn’t he understand that, even weaponless, werewolves were deadly? But who was she to give up an easy kill, especially when he stood between her and freedom? She grinned viciously at him.
She waited until he put the rifle down. Once he faced her again, she leapt into the air with a roundhouse kick. Her heel caught his cheekbone. D’s head snapped around, and he spat blood onto the tiles. Approval glinted in his eyes.
As she touched down, she brought her foot backwards and landed a blow against Baby’s chest. He flew into the opposite wall and slumped to the floor. One less asshole to deal with.
D used one hand to wipe away the blood then slammed a straight cross into her jaw. The force of his blow snapped her teeth together. Luck was with her, and she didn’t accidently sever her tongue.
Sylvia pushed for a partial shifting, and her body denied her. She’d already shifted several times today, more than she should have, and a partial took extra energy to maintain. She was tapped dry.
They traded several blows, each trying to get the upper hand. D surprised her with his speed and ability to take the punishment she dished out. Like fighting against a werewolf except he didn’t heal from the wounds she caused. Blood streaked across his face and dripped on the floor. He winced a few times when she snuck under his guard and nailed his chest. Broken bones were a bitch in a fight.
With the siren wailing, she nearly missed the rustle of clothing behind her. Keeping D in sight, she twisted her head to assess the threat behind her. Jeff had succeeded in cleaning the blood from his eyes and was sneaking up on her. As she shifted her body weight to attack, cold steel brushed past her bicep.
A knife bristled in Jeff’s shoulder, not a mortal wound, but one that put him out of play. He stumbled backwards, landing near Baby. Too far away for her to grab the knife. Damn it.
She whirled back towards D, and he gave her a creepy, unsettling smile.
“This is between you and me. You’re mine.”
He lifted his hand and flicked his fingers toward himself, the universal sign for
She’d underestimated the depth of his insanity. He had no sense of loyalty or even care that he’d attacked a fellow guard.
And yet he hadn’t pulled any weapons on her. He could’ve attacked her with the knife at any time. He said no weapons, and he’d used no weapons against her.
She rolled her shoulders, not caring about his mental psychosis. Fucker was crazy and keeping her from freedom.
Sylvia placed her weight on her left foot, knowing he’d expect her to kick with her right. Instead she snapped out her right fist, punching hard into his side. Air burst from his lungs, and he fought against the instinct to double over. If he had, Sylvia had planned to meet his face with her knee.
She swiftly recalculated her next moves as she assessed his weaknesses. While his speed was more on par with a werewolf, his healing was all human. A sheen of sweat and a slight increase in breathing told her he was tiring.
Drawing on her energy, she let loose a flurry of punches, attacking his face and chest. Unable to block all her punches, D began to sway, loss of blood and pain finally overwhelming him. A hard jab to the stomach and finally he doubled over for her. Instead of kneeing his face, she laced her fingers together to make one giant fist and slammed it down onto his back.
A groan slipped from his lips as he dropped to the ground unconscious.
Chest heaving and the end of her endurance threatening to envelop her, she glanced around. Baby stayed slumped against the opposite wall, unmoving, with Jeff next to him. Shock kept him still. Neither of them were a threat now.
Racing down the hallway, she continued past the checkpoint they had been guarding. Caution kept her tread light, her body tense and ready to attack.
Victor and Zmitro
followed close behind Markus and Derek as they exited the holding room. Lights in the hallway near the entrance had gone out due to the blast. The werewolves didn’t need any extra illumination, and Victor had great night vision due to an ancestor.
The mages, though, needed a light source. Stumbling occurred behind him as mages lost their footing on the uneven ground. Rocks and chunks of the ceiling littered the floor.
A few curses broke the heavy silence before a mage – ah, Jackson, the only one now without
– conjured a small ball of light, letting it float low to the ground. The sighs of relief were the last noise heard from the group as they picked their way through the rubble.
Markus sent the command to the group, although he continued forward with Derek.
Zmitro tensed next to him and pressed against Victor, indicating for him to stop.
love pretending it was their idea to do something.
Not caring who gave the order, he obeyed his friend and surveyed the area. The rest of the mages and werewolves had also stopped.
Scrutinizing the dark shadows, he wondered when Seraphina had disappeared. No spell casting had betrayed her intent. Well versed in glamours and other spells that took little energy or time to cast, the Fair Folk turned magic into child’s play.
The ease with which she had opened the portal was staggering. Never had he seen someone create a seamless gateway.
He would’ve admired her expertise if he didn’t hate her.
With a light shrug, he dismissed her. He refused to give Seraphina any more thought as long as she stayed out of their way. The Fair Folk enjoyed causing destruction and mayhem and didn’t care who they caught in the crosshairs.
Anger spiking again, he shut down that line of thinking and forced himself to think about Sylvia. He was here to save her and punish those who’d taken her. Her safety was more important than his hatred for an entire race.
An itchy voice filled his mind. His eyelid twitched and he rubbed at his head, trying to block the sound. Damn it. He recognized that horrible noise. Jackson’s imp, Xerix.
, while useful, was limited. A set amount of words or images could be sent before the spell dissipated. No sense wasting it on information the imp gathered when it had the ability to speak mentally. Its preference was whispering to its victims and driving them insane. Today, his ability was helpful.
“Guards coming. Human weapons. Smell no magic on them. Human victims, delicious.” When he started cackling Victor pushed him from his mind. The imp’s pleasure at attacking humans was unnerving.
Xerix shot forward, a dark streak in the shadows. Victor knew the bloodshed the imp could cause if Jackson didn’t keep a tight rein on him. Why Jackson kept the little bugger was beyond him. He would have melted down the ring years ago after banishing Xerix back to the demon plane of existence. For some reason, Jackson appeared attached to him.
He wondered what Julia, Jackson’s fiancée, thought of the nasty little creature. She was too sweet to actually tolerate a demon, let alone like one. Then again she did tolerate Victor, so who knew what went on in her mind?
Screams distracted Victor from his musings. He shook himself mentally and focused on the upcoming battle. It’d been a while since he’d engaged humans. Mainly he tracked down and banished demons – those breaking the law, of course. Not all demons were evil. He snorted at that thought. Yeah, right. The only good demon was a banished demon.
He ran through his spells, making sure they were all active. He double-checked the ones on Zmitro, not wanting his friend hurt in the battle. While Zmitro would heal quickly, loss of blood was a serious factor. Plus he wanted the wolf to have all the advantages possible. Shielding, extra strength and extra speed were the main defensive spells, but Victor had also added a few special ones.
When a human looked at Zmitro, they’d see a nightmarish werewolf, one with massive teeth, blood-red eyes and sharp claws, larger than the average werewolf. He also wouldn’t be in the same spot where the human would see him. Instead, he’d be a foot to the left. Other races wouldn’t be fooled by this spell due to scent and sound, but a human was much weaker and easier to deceive. They relied on what their eyes showed them and not what their other senses perceived.
A wailing siren cut through the silence.
Took them long enough to respond,
Victor thought in disgust. Enforcers would’ve had this area secure by now.
The screams died off as Xerix incapacitated the guards. Victor knew Jackson wouldn’t let the imp kill them. They wanted prisoners, and more importantly, Jackson took his Enforcer vow seriously – they both did. Enforcers were not executioners, merely the force that kept the fragile balance between the races in check.
Markus took the lead with Derek padding closely behind him. The tension radiating from Derek was palpable. A loaded weapon ready to destroy any who crossed his path, and Victor knew he could easily become a victim of the Alpha’s rage. He made a mental note to stay far enough away from the near-homicidal wolf. No sense having an “accident” he wouldn’t recover from down here.
Zmitro followed next, and Victor took up the rear. The rest of the mages and werewolves alternated behind them moving single-file. While the others still had their
spells running, the only one in the group visible was Jackson. Since battle would find them soon enough, there was no point in Jackson wasting energy or the spell component, diamond dust, to cast
Worry for his partner didn’t cross Victor’s mind. They’d been in hairier situations and had come out just fine.
Hell, Jackson had spent a year on the run from the Enforcers, only recently having been exonerated from a crime he hadn’t committed. He was the sole person who’d ever successfully eluded the law, and he’d never even been close to capture.
The bugger had actually given himself up to help bring down the Werewolf Coterie leader, Logan, who’d been torturing and hunting humans for sport. Obviously a huge no-no, and it would have destroyed the Werewolf Peace Treaties if the civilian population had found out. Furious was an understatement for how the werewolves had felt when they’d found out. The Werewolf Enforcers were the ones who had literally torn him and his two Elites apart.
Light slowly filled the hallway as they made their way deeper into the complex. A part of him marveled at how well they’d made the building. Solid past the area they’d blown apart, no cracks and no shaky foundation. They must’ve spent a fortune on this facility.
What were they doing down here that required so much effort and a state-of-the-art building?
Xerix’s voice invaded his mind again, scratchy tendrils wrapping around his thoughts. “Many guards, guns, coming this way. Master wants me hidden.”
Victor glimpsed the annoying imp from the corner of his eye racing back to Jackson before disappearing. The imp had a knack for drawing shadows to him, becoming hidden from view.
Victor, however, could sense him, knew exactly where the little bastard was. Too many times Xerix had tried to scare him over the years, popping out of the shadows. Thanks to that long-gone ancestor, Victor was able to sense demons and accurately pinpoint the depth of power each demon possessed.
The Enforcers rounded the corner and stopped.
Guards swarmed from an open doorway and took up position in front of the single available door. Each one cradled an assault rifle. Grim faces ready for battle glared down the long hallway unaware of the threat staring back at them.
Glass double doors slammed shut behind the guards, and the click of its lock was a gunshot in the oppressive silence. Another hallway lay past the doors, branching to the left and right. More doors lined the passage, each one closed.
Counting the men, he idly wondered how many would become prisoners and how many would die. Yes, he preferred not to kill, but in every battle there would be bodies.
Werewolves crept forward, silent predators with their prey in sight. Mages snuck into position. Victor targeted one to the far left. Each Enforcer stood behind a guard waiting. A glance to his right showed Zmitro sitting patiently, although his muscles were tense and ready to spring into action.
Jackson hadn’t yet walked into the main corridor, allowing the mages and wolves time to get situated.
Tension filtered through the air. The guards had no idea what awaited them and the Enforcers wanted to attack.
Come on, Jackson
, Victor mentally urged. Any longer and he’d forget protocol. Energy hummed through his body, responding to his adrenaline and gathering in strength. If he didn’t release it soon, he feared he’d lose control.
To his eternal thanks, Jackson stepped into view, and several guards gripped their rifles tighter.
“Step aside and let me pass.” A few of the men snickered at Jackson’s bold statement.
They assumed he was alone and vulnerable. He obviously wasn’t wearing a Kevlar vest. Then again, he didn’t need one. Mage shielding was more effective than a bulletproof vest. It stopped bullets, knives, physical hits and magical attacks. Good luck finding a Kevlar vest that could do all that.
Jackson’s hands stayed loosely at his side, but Victor noticed his fingers were twitching, gathering energy for an offensive spell.
“Surrender and we’ll go easy on you. Trust me. You won’t like it if you resist us,” one of the guards responded. His hand lifted to the radio on his shoulder. “Hostile in main corridor. One so far.”
Standing front and center, he appeared to be the leader of this squad. He had a hardened look to him and held his rifle loosely, no tension evident. Victor marked him as a mercenary, someone used to tough situations. Perhaps it also meant he had no loyalty and would stand down once he realized who surrounded them.
Jackson chuckled, enjoying himself. He was able to see what they couldn’t: eleven werewolves each covering a man, ready to attack. The remaining four men had a mage next to them, waiting for the signal. Markus was next to the squad leader, his black eyes glowing with restrained power. One wrong move and the guards were dead.
“What’s your name, solider? I’m Jackson Thorne, Mage Enforcer for the Coterie.”
The leader snorted. “Is that supposed to impress me? We have several of your kind imprisoned here, along with the other races. I’m not afraid of a mage.”
A slight clenching of Jackson’s jaw was the solitary sign of his anger. Enforcers did not show their emotions and weren’t ruled by them, either. With the amount of power at the fingertips of battle-trained mages, it was too easy to release a lethal spell without thinking. It was, in fact, a lot easier, since strong emotions helped fuel their magic.
Rage swept through Victor at the leader’s boastful words. He clenched his fists to keep from striking out, knowing that if he did so, there’d be nothing left of these men. They’d be torn apart from the force of his rampage.
An image of Sylvia floated in his mind, helping to calm him. Breathing softly, he pulled himself together and focused on the men. In doing so he caught Markus’ eye. He realized Markus had perceived how close he was to the edge and had sent the image to him.
How the hell did he cast a spell and not have his
“You and your men are surrounded. You have no hope of survival unless you submit.” Jackson’s voice was light and even, no sign of his own anger, although it burned hot. After five years of working together, Victor was attuned to his partner’s emotional state. A close friend of Jackson’s, he took Sylvia’s abduction personally.
The cavalier attitudes held by these men were not helping.
The werewolves hummed with suppressed violence. Sylvia was their packmate, a respected and loved member, and these men were wasting their time. Derek, a huge, dark gray wolf whose head reached the shoulder of the man next to him, bared his teeth, inching his face closer to the man’s throat.
Victor’s eyes snapped back to Jackson, hoping he noticed this new development. Then again, the giant wolf was hard to miss.
While he did want these men subdued, they needed to do it as a cohesive unit to minimize casualties. Derek knew better, but he hadn’t been right in the head since Sylvia’s abduction. He’d heard whispers that Derek was feeling her pain and connected to her during her torture yet couldn’t locate her or speak to her via the pack link.
“Enough of this. Drop
.” Markus’ voice sliced through the tension, causing the guards to jump.
The mages cancelled the spell by mere thought. Within seconds, eleven Mage Enforcers stood in the hallway, most of them behind Jackson and four of them now with knives against the throats of their prisoners.
Refusing to surrender, several of the guards attacked. Rifles swung backwards, aiming for stomachs. Victor’s guard was one of them. The physical shielding protected his gut, but the movement jerked Victor’s arm. Blood seeped from his opponent’s neck. Instead of subduing the guard, the wound energized him.
Victor laughed. Finally, a release for the energy building within him. He grappled with the other man and wrenched the rifle from him. Tossing the weapon to the side, Victor turned and slammed his fist into the guard’s face. The other man shook his head and grinned.