Relentless, p.13
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       Relentless, p.13
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         Part #1 of Relentless series by Karen Lynch

  * * *

  “Too bad the party got rained out,” Roland lamented, leaning back and stretching out his legs as far as he could. “It was just getting good.”

  “At least you two got to have a few,” Peter groused as he focused on the wet road ahead.

  Roland poked me with his elbow. “That’s right! Did I actually see you drinking?”

  “I’ve had beer before. I’m not a saint or anything.”

  On either side of me I heard snickering, and Roland leaned toward me. “According to Samson, you’re an angel. What did you say to that guy? He was like a lovesick puppy all night.”

  My face grew hot, and I shouldered Roland away. “I didn’t say anything to him. I mean, we talked about music and whatever, but that’s all.”

  “Must have been some whatever,” Peter teased.

  “Why? He didn’t think I was coming on to him, did he?” I liked Samson, and I found him easier to talk to than most guys, but I hadn’t intended to lead him on. I admit there might even have been some interest on my part, but flirting had been the last thing on my mind tonight.

  Roland chuckled. “No, and that’s probably what snared him. Samson’s used to chicks throwing themselves at him. He said he’s never met a girl who was ‘so real.’ His words.”

  “Oh God.” I covered my face with my hands.

  “Hey, look at the bright side. We’ll get in free to all their shows now.”

  I elbowed Roland hard in the ribs. “Shut up!” I half shouted, half laughed at him.

  “And just think, if he gets famous, you’ll already have your own bodyguards,” Peter gibed, and my mood dampened at the mention of my Mohiri shadows. I wondered where they had gotten to. Chris had disappeared after Nikolas showed up, and I hadn’t seen Nikolas much after our talk on the beach. But I knew he was there in the background even if he did give me space. There was no sign of a vehicle behind us, so hopefully he had finally realized I was safe here.

  “Where are we going anyway?” I asked, noticing for the first time that we weren’t headed to my place.

  “Well,” Roland answered, dragging out the word. “Since Dylan’s bash was cut short, we thought we’d check out Dell’s party. It’s not that late and – ”

  The truck began to shudder violently, and the tail slid sideways on the wet pavement. Peter cursed and gripped the wheel as he reduced speed and eased over to the shoulder of the road.

  “What was that?” I exclaimed breathlessly.

  “Feels like a tire blew out.” Roland jumped out into the rain, ran around the back of the truck, and climbed inside again. “Yep, rear tire is shredded.” He groaned and waved at the rain hitting the hood like pellets. “Someone does not want us to party tonight.”

  “Do you have a spare?” I asked, and he nodded. “Maybe you should wait until the rain lets up a bit. You’ll get drenched by the time you change the tire.”

  We waited ten minutes for the rain to lessen before Roland reached for the door. “Looks like it’s not going to stop. Come on, Pete.”

  They hopped out of the truck. I slid over to follow Roland, but he put up a hand to stop me. “No need for us all to get wet.”

  Several minutes later he opened the passenger door again, frowning. “We found the spare but no lug wrench.”

  “You’re kidding,” I said as they climbed in, water dripping off them.

  “We’re on Fell Road, less than half a mile from the turnoff,” Peter told me. “It’ll take me no time to run to my house and grab my mom’s car.”

  I looked at the dark road, which was obscured by a curtain of rain. “It’s cold and you’ll get soaked through. Can’t we call someone?”

  He shook his head. “Dad, Uncle Brendan, and Mom are in Portland, and Aunt Judith is working.” He opened the door. “Don’t worry. I’m already soaked, so getting a little wetter won’t make a difference.”

  “Be careful,” I called after him, and he gave me a thumbs up before he set off toward home. Within minutes the darkness had swallowed him up.

  Roland reached over and flicked on the hazard lights just in case anyone happened along. I leaned back, and we sat quietly, listening to the rain drumming on the hood and roof.

  Roland roused me from my doze. “It’s been half an hour. Pete should have called or been back by now.” He picked up his cell phone and hit a number, and Peter’s phone vibrated on the seat between us. Roland swore.

  “Maybe he got held up. Let’s give him a few more minutes.” Two weeks ago I might have been worried, but that was before I’d discovered what Peter was. I doubted there was anything out there that could harm a werewolf.

  Five more minutes passed before Roland opened his door and bellowed Peter’s name several times. We both got out of the truck and stood in the rain, which had lessened to a heavy drizzle. “Peter?” I called as loud as I could.

  “Wait, did you hear that?” Roland said in a hushed voice. He held up a hand. “I think I hear something.”

  I listened hard, but all I heard was water dripping from the trees. Roland’s werewolf hearing was a lot better than mine, so I waited for him to say something.

  “There, down that way,” he said, pointing the way Peter had gone. “Pete?” he called, running up the road with me close on his heels. The cold rain flattened my hair against my head and drenched my light coat, but all I could think about was finding Peter. Then I heard it, faint but unmistakable – Peter’s voice calling from somewhere up ahead. “Help.”

  “Roland, I hear him,” I cried. “Peter, where are you?” I shouted.

  “Help!” Peter called again, closer this time, somewhere in the woods to the right of the road. What the hell was he doing out there? I plunged into the trees, too wet now to care about the cold droplets showering me from the branches overhead.

  Beneath the tree canopy it was almost pitch black, so I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and opened it to give me a little light. It wasn’t much, but it allowed me to see a foot or so ahead of me.

  “Peter, where are you?” I called again, and when he answered it sounded like he was no more than a dozen yards ahead of me.

  “Sara, wait!” Roland shouted frantically from behind me. “That’s not – fuck!” he swore as he tripped and crashed through the trees. “Sara, stop!”

  But I was almost there. Plunging forward, I broke through the trees into a wide clearing. I strained my eyes until I could barely make out the dark shape crumpled on the ground. “Peter!” I cried, starting toward him.

  A strong hand grabbed my wrist and jerked me backward. “What the hell, Roland!” I cried angrily. “What are you doing? Peter is hurt.”

  “That’s not Pete,” he whispered urgently as he started pulling me back the way we had come. It took me a full five seconds to realize what he had said and to recognize the fear in his voice.

  “Of – of course it’s him,” I stammered, trying to pull away from Roland. “I heard him.”

  “I did, too,” he said hoarsely. “But it’s not – ”

  I heard movement behind me, and I looked over my shoulder to see the figure unfurling from the ground. It rose up on four legs, large and dark and in no way resembling a teenage boy. I couldn’t make out the creature’s features, but I thought I saw two glowing eyes – predator’s eyes – and coarse fur covering its body. My breath caught. Nothing prepared me for the horror that lanced through me when the creature opened its mouth. “Help me. Please help me,” it said in Peter’s voice, followed by a spine-chilling cackle that set my hair on end.

  “What is…?” The words died on my lips as the woods at the other end of the clearing moved and a second shape emerged. I stood on frozen legs and watched in fascinated terror as the second creature faced us for several seconds, then said, “Peter, where are you?” in an eerily perfect imitation of my voice.

  In the next instant, I found myself over Roland’s shoulder, fending off the branches that slapped at me as he tore through the woods. “What was that?” I want
ed to shout, but the only sound I could make was an occasional “Oof” as I banged against his hard shoulder. Peter, oh God, Peter! That thing knew his voice.

  I could almost taste the fear rolling off Roland as he pounded toward the road in long strides. It filled my nostrils and buzzed through my head like a live wire as a new terrifying thought struck me. What the hell frightens a werewolf?

  Behind us a high-pitched giggle pierced the air, followed by a second. From off to one side came an answering giggle and farther away, a fourth one, moving closer. Four of them!

  Moving in.

  Hunting us.

  We reached the edge of the trees, and Roland practically threw me out onto the road. “Run, Sara! Get to the truck,” he yelled as I stumbled from my landing.

  “What about you?”

  “I’m going to shift. I need you to get to the truck.”

  Branches snapped close by like a gunshot and spurred me into a run. I heard fabric ripping and an awful stretching, crushing sound, then a savage howl that almost stopped my heart. It’s just Roland, I told myself as I skidded on the wet road toward the headlights that shone like a beacon a few hundred yards away.

  The growling became a roar as two large bodies slammed together viciously, rolling over and over, snarling and barking in the underbrush. Roland! I agonized, powerless to do anything but run. He was outnumbered four to one, and I had no idea what was out there or how strong the creatures were. Please be okay, I begged as I swiped wildly at the tangle of wet hair obscuring my vision.

  There was a thump behind me, followed by a loud scraping sound. I dared a glance over my shoulder and nearly tripped at the sight of the dark shape on the road, its claws clicking against the pavement as it slunk toward me like a lion zeroing in on its prey. I screamed, and my pursuer let out a laugh so human-like that my stomach dropped like a lead weight.

  The headlights blinded me when I sped inside their range. The truck’s dome light was on, and the driver’s side door still hung open just as Roland had left it when he took off after Peter. I was so close now – less than twenty feet.

  Fifteen feet. The monster snarled in outrage and increased its speed.

  Ten feet. I could hear the creature’s teeth gnashing as it closed the distance between us.

  Five feet. I skidded past the headlights and grasped for the door, but I missed.

  Spinning around, I got my first good look at the monster bearing down on me. I saw a large head with rounded ears and a wide grinning mouth, a thick, maned neck, a sloping back, and powerful legs with clawed feet. It reminded me of a hyena, but it was as big as a buffalo.

  I scrambled for the door and threw myself into the truck. My arm hooked on the seat belt, and I lost precious seconds untangling it before I could grab for the door. Through the windshield I saw the hyena-thing leap at the truck a split second before I hooked the door handle and slammed the door shut. The creature bellowed in rage as it went flying past the door.

  I barely had time to catch my breath before the truck shook violently and something landed on the hood in an ear-splitting screech of claws on metal. The hood buckled beneath the weight, and I saw jagged scars in the metal where the creature’s six-inch claws had found purchase. That could have been me, I realized, fighting the terror that threatened to suffocate me. Stop it. I had to keep my head if I was going to get out of this alive.

  The hyena-thing turned and looked at me through the rain-splattered windshield like someone studying an insect under glass. Leaning forward, its face touched the windshield and its hot breath fogged the glass, its black eyes never leaving my face. The mouth opened, and I gasped at the double rows of jagged teeth in a powerful jaw strong enough to shred flesh and bone. If that thing gets in here, I’m dead.

  I looked around frantically, and my eyes fell on the keys dangling uselessly in the ignition. An hysterical giggle bubbled from me when I thought of all the times I could have asked Roland to teach me to drive and I had to wait until tonight to do it. Even with a busted tire I have could have driven it as far as the Knolls for help.

  Call 911, said the logical part of my brain. I scrambled to find my cell phone, then remembered in dismay that it was somewhere out there in the woods. “Give me a goddamn break!”

  Then I spotted Peter’s phone lying on the dashboard. I leaned forward but froze when the hyena-thing’s eyes hungrily followed my movement as if it might break through the glass at the slightest provocation. Drool dripped from one enormous fang and splattered the windshield. Don’t move, don’t move, I chanted.

  My gut twisted painfully. Roland and Peter were out there, fighting for their lives, and I was inches from a phone to call for help. They could be hurt or dying while I sat here like a coward. I couldn’t live with that. The thought of losing either of them broke through my paralysis, and I reached for the phone.

  The hyena-thing saw my intention, and it grinned at me again, its eyes sizing me up with eerie intelligence. Then it looked up at the roof of the truck… and jumped.

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