Relentless, p.6
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       Relentless, p.6

         Part #1 of Relentless series by Karen Lynch
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  Chapter 4

  BY THE TIME Delilah’s Crush began pelting out their last set, my temples were pounding and I wished I could heal myself. Roland was right – Dylan’s new band was great – but I liked my music more rock and less metal. I didn’t think Delilah’s Crush knew exactly what type of music they wanted to play, so they went somewhere in between. Roland and Peter were having a great time, cheering and moving with the rest of the crowd. My sigh was drowned out by the music. Maybe it was me; I just didn’t know how to enjoy myself like a normal teenager.

  The truth was that I was disappointed and more than a little annoyed that my reason for coming here tonight had not shown up. NightWatcher, the guy I’d talked to online this week, was supposed to be here at ten o’clock, and it was almost eleven with no sign of him. We had agreed that I would wear a silver cross in plain sight where he could see it, I guess because vampires couldn’t touch silver. My fingers went to the cross to make sure it was still hanging outside my shirt, and I almost smiled at the idea of anyone mistaking me for a vampire. It looked like that didn’t matter now since he hadn’t even bothered to show, or if he had, he was not approaching me for some reason.

  I scanned the room again, and this time my gaze fell on a dark-haired man who looked more out of place here than I felt. Leaning against a wooden column at the edge of the dance floor in dark jeans and a snug gray knit top, he looked more at home in a Calvin Klein ad than here at the Attic. It wasn’t just his clothes or the way his dark eyes swept the room lazily that drew my attention; he was just too . . . beautiful, like one of those androgynous male models. In a room full of teenagers and college students wearing T-shirts and jeans, he stood out like a beacon.

  It took me a few seconds to realize that Mr. CK’s eyes were staring into mine. The boldness of his gaze brought heat to my cheeks, and my eyes darted away from his seductive smile and the invitation I saw in his stare. I had little – okay, zero experience with the opposite sex – but I’d have to be comatose not to understand the signals coming from him. What I couldn’t understand was why he was turning his attention to me with all the attractive girls here trying to catch his eye. Not that I think I’m unattractive; I’m just not what you’d call alluring, and I’m certainly not used to hot guys giving me the “come hither” look.

  A little breathless, I shifted my attention to the stage where the drummer was revving up the crowd with an awesome solo. I moved forward and nudged between my friends, dancing along with them. Five minutes later I stole a glance at Mr. CK, and I smirked when I found him engaged in conversation with two shapely blondes who were almost comical in their attempts to out-flirt each other.

  The band finished the song and started another, and everyone on the dance floor began dancing again, except for me. After downing two bottles of water in two hours, what I really needed was to find the restroom. I tapped Roland on the arm and mouthed “restroom” to him to let him know where I was going. He nodded, and I headed for the ladies’ room where I stood in line for five minutes before I got inside. I was washing my hands when the two blond girls I’d seen with Mr. CK came in.

  “I saw him first, Shelley,” one of them said, pulling a tube of dark red lipstick from her handbag.

  “You always say that, Trish,” the other girl replied with a scowl. She started retouching her makeup. “This one is mine.”

  Trish checked her perfect hair in the mirror. “If you think I’m letting you walk off with this one, you’re nuts.”

  “Letting me?” Shelley’s voice went up a notch.

  I shook my head and left the restroom before they started brawling over the guy. There was no arguing the fact that Mr. CK was incredibly hot, but no guy is worth fighting over, especially one you just met in a bar.

  Apparently, Trish and Shelley disagreed with me. I barely made it ten feet from the restroom when I heard them coming behind me in a heated argument that drew amused looks from the people nearby. I slowed and stepped sideways to let the angry pair pass me. It’s no wonder I don’t go out much.

  I heard Shelley shout “You bitch!” a second before she gave Trish a hard shove that sent Trish stumbling backward into me. “Umph!” I grunted as one of the girl’s elbows got me in the stomach before we went down in a tangle of arms and legs. I saw stars when my head hit the hardwood floor. It didn’t help that I had cushioned the bigger girl’s fall.

  Someone pulled Trish off me, and a girl asked, “Is she alright?” I assumed she was talking about me because I was the only one still lying on the floor, a little dazed and not sure whether I was more embarrassed or pissed.

  A hand waved in front of my face, and I realized someone was bending over me. “Are you okay?” he asked in a deep voice that carried the trace of an accent I could not place. The ceiling lights behind him made it impossible to see his face, but from his voice I guessed he wasn’t more than a few years older than me.

  “Um, I think so,” I said, moving to get up. The man reached down and took my hand, and I gasped at the warmth that rippled through me. I stared at our clasped hands as he helped me to my feet, and I stood there for a moment before I realized I still held his hand. I let go and looked up at him with a sheepish smile. “Thank – ”

  He stood so close I could reach out and touch him. His face was no longer hidden in shadows, and I found myself gazing into a pair of steel gray eyes that looked at me with such intensity I almost forgot to breathe. Mutely I stared at him while my stomach twisted with a sensation I could not put into words, and I felt a touch against the back of my mind like the flutter of butterfly wings. I experienced the strangest sense of recognition, though I knew I had never seen him before, and deep inside me something stirred like a cat uncurling from a long nap.

  The man blinked and took a step back, breaking the spell that held me. Remembering to breathe again, I glanced down to steady myself then looked back to find him watching me with a slightly confused expression that probably matched my own. My eyes moved up his handsome face taking in his square jaw, firm lips, aquiline nose, and black hair that fell across his brow in careless waves with a few strands curling around his ears. His skin was lightly tanned, and the shadow of a beard played around the curves of his jaw.

  I suddenly realized we were staring at each other, and I smiled to cover my embarrassment. “Sorry, I must have banged my head harder than I thought.”

  My words did not elicit the reaction I expected. His whole body stiffened, and his eyes suddenly blazed as if I had slapped him. I took a step back, stunned by the hostility in his stare, especially after his kind assistance. “Okay… well, thanks for your help,” I mumbled and fled.

  I slipped through the crowd until I spied the door that stood open to the deck, and suddenly I was in desperate need of fresh air. What the hell was his problem? I stewed as I leaned against the rail and stared at the dark building across the street. This night just kept going downhill. First my contact didn’t show, and then I got dumped on my butt in front of a room full of people, and on top of that I acted like a total idiot. I cringed, remembering how I’d stood there like a fool staring at him. What had gotten into me, going all slack-jawed over a hot guy? God, I’m as bad as Trish and Shelley, I groaned inwardly and closed my eyes, letting the night air cool my burning cheeks.

  “I believe this is yours.”

  The voice so close behind me made me jump because I hadn’t even heard him approach. I turned to see a silver chain dangling from his fingers, and my hand went to my bare neck. I reached out gingerly without looking at his face, and he laid the necklace in my hand. “Thank you.” I ran my finger over the cross then put it in my front jeans pocket. The chain was broken, but I was glad to get it back. It had been my grandmother’s, and Nate had given it to me last year on my birthday.

  I expected the man to leave then, but he stared at me for a long moment, studying me. It felt like he was sizing me up, trying to figure me out as if I was a weird piece of art he couldn’t understand. There was nothing suggestive
in his look. If anything, he looked at me with something akin to dislike.

  “Are you done?” I finally asked after I’d had enough of his rudeness. His eyes widened a little, and I got the distinct impression he wasn’t used to being rebuffed, especially by the opposite sex.

  “You’re a bit young for this place,” he said brusquely, ignoring my barb.

  I bristled at his tone. “I’m sorry but I don’t think that is any of your business.”

  “You can’t be more than seventeen or eighteen. You shouldn’t be here alone.”

  “You’re not much older than me,” I shot back. “And I’m not here alone.”

  “I’m older than I look.” His voice was cool, but his eyes burned into mine and the beast in my head stirred again. After what had happened to Scott, I clamped down tightly on it until it was silent. All I needed was for that thing to get loose again. Besides, this guy might be aggravating, but I didn’t sense any real danger from him.

  He ran a hand through his dark hair and looked out at the city. I could not help but think that he really was gorgeous. Not like Mr. CK, who was way too pretty for my taste. No one would dare call the guy in front of me pretty. There was an edge to him – serious, almost guarded.

  “Nikolas,” said a voice from the doorway. We both turned to face a blond man who gave my companion a “raised eyebrow” look, as if he wasn’t surprised to find his friend alone with a girl. “Ready to move out?”

  I wasn’t sure if Nikolas’s frown was for me or his friend. He gave me another searching look then nodded. “Be out shortly, Chris.”

  I expected him to say something else to me, but he only stood where he was for a long moment before he strode to the door. He swung toward me again before he stepped inside. “Stay with your friends. This part of town is not safe for a girl alone at night.”

  “I’ll keep that in mind, thanks.”

  And that wasn’t weird at all. It was definitely my week for strange encounters.

  I waited another minute then made my way back to Roland and Peter. They were still dancing where I’d left them, and Roland had made a new friend. A petite brunette girl had taken up my spot, and she was rubbing against him like a cat on a post. I was beginning to wonder if the girls in this place had never seen a good looking guy before.

  When Roland saw that I had returned he beckoned me closer, earning me a glare from the brunette, which I chose to ignore. The band had almost finished their last set, and I was ready to leave. My head was pounding even harder after my fall, and I was a little wigged out from the whole encounter with that Nikolas fellow. I wasn’t sure what bothered me more; his behavior or my reaction to him. He was gone now so it didn’t matter, but I couldn’t put it out of my mind.

  The band finished their last song to loud cheers and shouts for an encore. Peter hooted at them then turned to me and Roland. “That was sick! Did you hear Samson’s solo?”

  “It was hard not to,” I said with a laugh. My ears were ringing.

  “I told you they were good,” Roland said, nudging me with his arm. “Dylan’s gotten a lot better since the last time you heard him play.”

  “Yes, he has,” I agreed.

  Peter punched Roland’s arm. “They’re starting to pack up. Let’s go.” They both looked expectantly at me, and I waved them off.

  “Go on. I want to sit down for a bit anyway. I’ll be over there.” I pointed at pair of leather chairs being vacated by a couple of girls. Roland nodded, and he and Peter headed for the stage with the brunette in tow. I snagged one of the chairs and laid my head back with my eyes closed, trying to will my headache away. It was a little better now that the music had stopped. I listened to people milling about, content to sit there quietly until Roland and Peter came back for me.

  Someone took the chair across from me. I opened my eyes, expecting to see one of my friends, and I was more than a little surprised to find Mr. CK sitting there watching me. He was alone, and I wondered how he had managed to slip away from Trish and Shelley.

  He was maybe nineteen or twenty, and up close he was even more beautiful – if that was possible – with ridiculously thick lashes and full lips that parted in a disarming smile. I could not help but smile back.

  “Did you like the band?” he asked in a voice so silky it was almost a caress. For a moment I forgot to answer.

  “They weren’t bad. You?”

  He gave a small shrug. “They’re decent, but the next one is much better. The Furies, have you heard of them?”

  “No.” I found it a little hard to believe that he was into hard rock. The Attic and this type of music really didn’t seem to suit him. But then what did I know?

  The leather chair creaked as he leaned forward with his elbows on the armrests. His bottomless indigo eyes bored into mine. “You should stick around to see them. You won’t regret it.”

  I felt an inexplicable urge to lean forward too, to get closer to those mesmerizing eyes, but I stopped myself before I did. Wow, this guy was good. I wondered if he was aware of the effect he had on the opposite sex. I almost laughed out loud. He definitely knew.

  I gave a mental shake to clear my head. “We only came to hear our friend play,” I told him, pointing to Roland, Peter, and Dylan. We’re leaving as soon as they finish packing up.”

  He seemed puzzled for an instant, but then he gave me a small smile of resignation. “That’s too bad.” He leaned closer and spoke in a soft voice. “You’re not like the other girls here. It’s quite refreshing.”

  Not sure how to take that, I quipped, “If the girls here don’t suit your tastes, maybe you’re looking for women in the wrong place.”

  His eyes flashed in amusement, and he settled back in his chair. “I think you may be right.”

  I saw Roland waving me over. “Looks like my friends are ready to leave.” I stood, and my companion stood, too. “It was nice talking to you.”

  The corners of his mouth turned down slightly. “Are you going to run off without leaving me a name to put with your lovely face?”

  Smooth. “I don’t give my name to strange men.”

  He raised his eyebrows and gave me a beguiling smile. “Not even a first name.”

  “Sara,” I replied without thinking. I immediately wanted to kick myself.

  “Sara.” He said my name like he was tasting an exotic fruit. “I’m Eli, and it has been a pleasure. I hope to repeat it sometime.”

  I doubted the likelihood of that ever happening, but I smiled anyway. “Well, enjoy your band.” I turned toward the stage, blinking several times to shake off the feeling of lethargy that had stolen over me while I sat. I must be more tired than I thought.

  “You ready to go?” Roland asked when I reached them. I saw with some amusement that the brunette was hanging off Samson now and the blond drummer was looking around helplessly for someone to come to his rescue.

  I glanced over at Eli as we headed for the exit and saw that the seats around him had already been snatched up by some new girls who were vying for his attention. He gave me a slight nod as we passed, and I returned a polite smile.

  The Attic was on the second floor of a converted warehouse, and we had to descend a set of stairs to get to the street. Music had started playing inside the building again, and it wafted down the stairs after us.

  I yawned. “That was fun, but I’m pooped all of a sudden.”

  “You guys stay here, and I’ll go get the car.” Roland set off running to the parking garage at the far end of the street. I sat on the bottom of the staircase while Peter called someone on his cell and started raving about the band.

  I took out my own phone to call Nate and let him know we were leaving the club and I’d be home in an hour or so. Nate was pretty cool about me staying out late as long as I let him know where I was. Before I could dial, the stair above me creaked and Eli appeared beside me. I tried to hide my surprise and dismay. I hoped he didn’t think I’d been flirting with him upstairs because I hadn’t been; at least
I didn’t think I had. It was not exactly my area of expertise.

  “Have your friends abandoned you?” he asked, and I felt a little tremor pass through me at his nearness. Really, what was this guy’s secret?

  “No, Peter’s right there...” My voice trailed off when I realized that Peter had wandered off. I could still hear him talking on his phone so he wasn’t that far away.

  “I thought you were leaving,” Eli said, his breath warm against my cheek. Too close for comfort.

  I shot to my feet, not caring what he thought. Okay, enough of that. “We are. My friend went to get the car, and we’re waiting for him.” I knew I was babbling, but I wanted to put some distance between me and Eli. Something didn’t feel quite right about him, and he was starting to make me nervous. I started toward Peter until I felt a hand on my arm. It wasn’t restraining me, but it still set off alarm bells in my head. Nikolas’s earlier words rang in my head. Stay with your friends. This part of town is not safe for a girl alone at night.

  “You seem to be in such a hurry to leave all of a sudden. Nothing I have done, surely?”

  “No, no, it’s nothing like that. I just think I hear my ride coming.” I tried to swallow, but my mouth was dry. Where was Roland?

  “You are a terrible liar, you know,” Eli said softly. He moved so fast he was standing right in front of me before I knew what was happening. “But you are such an intriguing creature that I will forgive you for it.”

  My mind struggled to grasp what my eyes were seeing. How did he…?

  The truth hit me like a truck, knocking the air from my lungs and sending spikes of fear into my brain. I opened my mouth to call for help, only to find myself rendered mute by a hard hand. The street blurred, and I found myself in the alley, pressed face-first against the building and unable to move or call out.

  “Sara,” he hissed against my hair. Terror threatened to choke me as the image of my father’s mutilated body swam before my eyes. Oh God no. Please, not like this.

  I screamed into Eli’s hand and struggled wildly to twist out of his hold, but his grip was like steel bars holding me fast. He laughed softly in my ear and pressed his body against my length. “You’re a fighter. I like that.” I could hear the excitement in his voice, and his body responded to my fear. My heart threatened to explode from my chest.

  “As soon as I looked into those beautiful green eyes of yours, I knew I had to have you. Those other girls, they simper and fawn, and they would do anything I asked of them. But you… you are different. You are an orchid in a field of dandelions.” He ran his free hand along my throat, and I whimpered. “Now, you are mine, little flower, and I cannot wait to taste your sweet nectar.”

  His words sent shudders of revulsion through me. Pinned between him and the wall, his scent assailed my nostrils, and I almost gagged at the sickly odor that permeated his skin. It had been faint at first, camouflaged by expensive cologne, but the longer he held me, the stronger it grew. I found a fox once with a badly infected cut. Eli reeked of that same stench of rotting flesh and death.

  “I just have to know one thing first,” Eli whispered and spun me around to face him while keeping me silenced with his hand. In the weak light of the alley I could see him as he smiled at me almost tenderly. “How did you do it? How did you break the compulsion? No one has ever resisted my will before.”

  He started to lift his hand from my mouth, and I sucked in a deep breath to scream my head off. He tilted my head, forcing me to look into his eyes. “One thing, little flower. If you call out, I will rip your little boyfriends to shreds. You don’t want that, do you?”

  My eyes widened even more, and I shook my head frantically.

  His lips parted in a smile, and I watched in horror as two curved snake-like fangs grew from his mouth, gleaming in the pale light. In that moment I knew what a mouse felt like when it looked into the eyes of a rattlesnake. The mouse knew it was going to die, but it was too mesmerized with fear to move.

  When Eli lifted a hand to my face I tried to jerk away from the inch-long black claws where his fingernails had been. He touched my cheek lightly, and I shuddered at the feel of the cold, hard claws on my skin.

  “Now tell me how you resisted me and I promise your friends will not be harmed.”

  “I–I don’t know.”

  He sighed impatiently, and his clawed hand moved down to brush against my throat. I swallowed convulsively. “I’m not lying. Please… I don’t know what you want me to say.”

  Eli’s eyes narrowed, and he stared down into mine. “I think I believe you. Hmm, can it be that you don’t even know what you can do? It makes me wonder what other charming little talents you might be hiding.” He licked his lips and gall rose in my throat at his meaning. “What a delight you are. To think I almost settled for one of those insipid blondes.”

  He put his mouth to my ear, and his words sent waves of fresh terror through me. “I am going to savor you, little Sara. I had planned to have you now, but why rush when we can take all the time we want later.”

  “No…”

  “But I think a taste first to whet the appetite.” His face lowered as he forced my head to one side, baring my throat. His lips touched my skin, and his tongue lapped at the spot where my pulse beat. Blackness swam before my eyes.

  “What is this?” he murmured and sniffed as if he was trying a new wine. His tongue touched my skin again. “You taste like – ” His head whipped up, and his eyes glittered like he had just been served a favorite dessert. “You’re a – ”

  “Now that is no way to treat a young lady,” said a deep masculine voice from the other end of the alley. The voice was cold and menacing and the sweetest sound I had ever heard.

  Eli moved so he was backed against the wall with me dangling in front of him like a ragdoll. “You are very brave, my friend, but you will move on if you know what’s good for you.”

  “I have been told that I don’t heed orders well.” The shadows shifted, and a tall shape moved forward into the meager light. He wore the jeans and navy blue sweater I’d seen him in earlier, but over them he now wore some kind of leather harness that crisscrossed his muscled chest, holding an assortment of knives. Behind his right shoulder I could see the handle of what looked like a sword strapped to his back. I was so happy to see him that I almost sobbed his name.

  Eli stiffened and let out a hiss. “Mohiri!” Fear crept into his voice, and my dazed mind wondered what on earth scared a vampire.

  Nikolas chuckled, and I felt a tremor run through my captor. “I see there is no need for introductions. Good. I hate to waste time on formalities.”

  “Stay back or I will rip her apart.” Eli’s hand was at my throat now, the icy claws biting into my skin. I was afraid to breathe and risk being sliced open. I froze and focused on Nikolas’s face, praying he would save me from this nightmare. For a second his eyes met mine, and I saw barely controlled rage in them. I glimpsed something feral and lethal simmering below the surface.

  “A bit melodramatic, don’t you think?” Nikolas quipped, but steel laced his voice. He took a step forward, and Eli jerked in response.

  “Her death will be on your hands, Mohiri.” Eli’s claws pressed tighter against my throat, and warmth trickled down my neck. He shuddered at the scent of warm blood beneath his nose, and I could tell he was about to lose it. Nikolas would never reach us before those fangs tore my throat out.

  Nikolas’s expression never changed. His voice grew deeper, colder, and I shivered at the power radiating from him. “Do it and it will be your last act, vampire.”

  Eli quailed, but he did not loosen his grip. I could sense the struggle inside him. He was afraid, but he craved my blood. Would he stay and fight for his prize or run for his life?

  “Brother, how like you to sneak off and sample the sweets by yourself,” drawled a male voice from above. “And look at the trouble it has brought you.”

  Dread filled me as I looked up at the figure standing on the fire escap
e above our heads. Eli’s grip on my throat loosened, and he sighed with relief against my hair.

  “Come now, Joel. You know I always save some for you,” Eli’s voice rang with triumph, and the hope I’d felt a minute before died. What chance did we have against a pair of vampires?

  Joel laughed and leaned against the metal railing. “I think I deserve a little more than a nibble this time. Mmm… she looks like a tasty little bit.”

  Eli caressed my cheek. “This one is mine.”

  “No!” I shouted, twisting out of his hold. For a second I was free, and my eyes immediately flew to Nikolas. His body tensed to spring.

  Eli snatched me back against him just as Joel landed softy beside him. I found myself flanked by two snarling monsters, and my newfound courage floundered.

  Nikolas drew a long lethal sword and faced them with no trace of fear on his face. In that instant I knew that no matter what happened, he would not desert me. For whatever reason he had risked his own life for mine, and live or die, we were in this together.

  “You can’t take us both and save her,” taunted Eli. “She will die, and your efforts will be for naught.”

  A ghost of a smile passed over Nikolas’s face. “Then I will have to settle for killing only you.”

  If Eli reacted to that statement, I did not see it. But I thought I detected a small quiver in his voice when he said, “Bold words for one outnumbered.”

  Before Nikolas could reply, a new voice cut through the tension in the alley. “Sara?” called Roland, followed by Peter shouting, “Sara, where are you?” My heart constricted, and I had to bite my lip to keep from calling out to them. I couldn’t drag them into this and watch them die beside me.

  Eli’s head jerked a little, and Joel’s eyes darted from Nikolas to the alley entrance.

  Nikolas laughed harshly. “Do you smell that my friends? I believe the odds just changed.”

  I shot him a horrified look. Was he planning to use Roland and Peter as decoys to draw the vampires away from us? I would rather die than watch my friends get hurt because of me.

  “Come, brother. There are sweeter meals to be had,” Joel said, not taking his eyes off Nikolas.

  “No,” Eli spat. “I want this one.”

  Nikolas shifted, and his sword gleamed wickedly. “Release her or die, your choice. And you’d better make up your mind very soon.”

  “Sara, damn it where are you?” Roland sounded frantic. They were closer, almost at the mouth of the alley.

  Eli’s hold tightened convulsively, and I let out an involuntary cry.

  One of my friends shouted, but I couldn’t tell who it was. I heard a commotion in the street, followed by a growling noise that made my hair stand on end. Oh God, what is that? I didn’t want to think about what horrors Roland and Peter could be facing now, too.

  I couldn’t see the street, but I heard something big run into the alley. Eli let out a screech unlike anything I’d ever heard and lunged for the fire escape, pulling me with him like I weighed nothing. When he reached for the metal ladder, my gut twisted because I knew if he made it up the fire escape I was dead. Once he reached the roof he could easily jump to the next building, and there was no way Nikolas would catch him. I’d rather die here in this alley than be tortured at the hands of a vampire.

  Behind us, I heard snarls and the sounds of a battle as Nikolas engaged the other vampire. There was no time to wonder who was winning that fight because I was fighting for my own life. I scratched and kicked and struggled futilely to break free from the vise-like arm around my waist. Eli’s other hand snared the ladder and pulled it toward us.

  He made it almost to the first landing before he shrieked in pain and jerked backward violently. Hanging from the ladder with one hand, he lashed out with his feet at whatever was coming at him from below. He could have thrown me at his attacker to save himself, but he held on, determined to keep me while I screamed and clawed like a wild cat. The ladder groaned as the thing below tried to pull the vampire to the ground. Eli kicked at it with a force that would have killed a human, but it held on. Whatever it was, it was as strong as a vampire. The thought of something that powerful terrified and thrilled me at the same time, and I twisted my body to see what it was.

  The creature had to be almost seven feet tall, even while slightly hunched over. It stood on two legs, and it was covered in dark, bristled hair with broad shoulders and clawed hands and feet. My eyes lifted to its face, and I sucked in a sharp breath at the yellow eyes, short pointed ears, and long snarling snout that revealed the biggest teeth I’d ever seen.

  Werewolf! My mind struggled to come to grips with what my eyes were telling it. I was face-to-face with a real live werewolf. I knew vampires and werewolves were mortal enemies, but what were the chances of me ending up in the middle of a battle between the two in an alley in downtown Portland?

  The werewolf’s terrifying gaze met mine, and I saw savage intelligence in his amber eyes as his powerful jaws clamped down on Eli’s calf. As the deadly fangs tore through his flesh and bone, Eli screamed in pain, and his arm around me tightened until I gasped for air. With a bloodcurdling roar, he kicked at the werewolf with his other foot, and the force of the blow sent the wolf staggering backward. It was all Eli needed to pull us both up to the metal landing.

  He lay there panting for several seconds before he struggled to stand on his ravaged leg. Through the grate, I saw the werewolf recover and jump at the ladder again. Eli saw it, too, and pulled me toward the stairs. I looked at the distance between us and the wolf, and my heart plummeted because I knew it would never reach us in time. Werewolves were powerful creatures, but their bodies were not designed well for climbing. And once we got to the roof, Eli would have healed enough from his leg wound to carry us both away from here.

  Eli sped up the stairs. I grabbed for the rail to slow our ascent, but he was too strong. At the last landing he paused to adjust his grip on me. “Now it’s just you and me,” he said with a triumphant leer as he started up the narrow ladder to the roof.

  We were almost to the top when Eli let out a pained screech and stopped climbing. I looked down, hoping to see the werewolf latched onto Eli’s leg again, but the creature was two landings below us. Eli gasped and struggled to hold onto me and the ladder with one hand while his other hand tried to reach something behind him. My eyes followed his movements until I saw the silver hilt protruding from a smoking hole in his side. I watched him grasp the handle of the knife, then yank his hand away, screaming as the pure silver scorched his skin.

  The fire escape shook below us as the werewolf drew closer. Please hurry, I begged him silently, and I could have sworn he looked right into my eyes and sped up.

  Eli saw him coming and abandoned his attempts to remove the knife. He reached for the roof two feet away. I did the only thing I could think of to stop him. I stretched out my hand and grasped the hilt of the knife. Pulling it free, I twisted and swung at the vampire. I didn’t aim. I just tried to make contact, anything to slow him down, and I felt a bolt of satisfaction when the knife sank into the soft flesh of his shoulder.

  His scream of rage and pain was like a thousand nails on a chalkboard. He shook me violently, and I dangled away from the fire escape, three stories above the ground. Far below, I saw Nikolas’s furious face as he reached for another knife. At his feet lay the decapitated body of the other vampire.

  Nikolas drew back his hand to throw the knife, but he stopped when he saw me hanging above the ground. He was afraid Eli would drop me if he wounded him again.

  “Do it!” I screamed. I didn’t want to die, but I would rather fall to my death now than let this monster carry me away to rape and torture me. My voice turned pleading. “Nikolas… please.”

  His arm moved so fast I barely realized the knife had left his hand before it whistled past me to embed itself in Eli’s other shoulder. The vampire moaned in pain and scrabbled to maintain his grip on the ladder. He looked up at the roof, then stared fearful
ly down at the werewolf who was now at the bottom of the ladder directly below us. He was out of time.

  The fury and hunger in his eyes when he glared at me sucked the air from my lungs. “I will have you,” he rasped right before he let me go.

  Time seemed to stand still. In one suspended moment I was dimly aware of the werewolf’s roar, of shouts below me, and the smoking dagger in my hand before time sped up again.

 

 
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