It pissed Lorn off more. He couldn’t ask the Vampire where Kira was if he wasn’t able to talk. Davis circled the enemy, snarling too, and shifted to skin.
“He did something to my daughter.”
Lavos stopped next to him, still wearing his clothes since he had stayed in human form. “That’s fucking sick. What did that to him? It looks as if most of his jaw is going to fall off. He’s lost a shitload of blood, doesn’t even have the strength to stand. He definitely can’t hunt for fresh blood to heal in that condition. He’s really messed up.”
The Vamp gurgled again.
“Kill him,” Lorn ordered, turning away to follow the blood trail in the other direction. “He can’t give us information but I’ll find out where that happened.”
He ran through the woods, the blood trail a dark stain over the ground. It didn’t take long to find where the incident had taken place. He crouched and sniffed the area. Two bloodsuckers had invaded their territory. Kira’s badge lay on the ground.
Lorn followed another trail of blood and came to a halt when he saw an area where the grass had been trampled He wavered on his legs as Kira’s blood filled his senses.
A handgun rested near a pool of smeared blood. Something shiny caught his attention and he spotted a bloodied blade a few feet away. The handle of it was the one Kira had shown him hours before.
He threw back his head and howled in rage. Crouching again, he took a few deep breaths. The stronger blood smell was from the Vampire. It gave him hope that she might still be alive as he straightened, on alert.
Lavos walked up behind him and gripped his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
His head snapped in his direction and he growled. “It’s not certain. She hurt it, but she’s not here.”
“Neither is the Vamp. We’d know it if she dusted one of them. We’d see ash scattered over the blood.”
It spurned Lorn into action. He jerked out of his brother’s hold and rushed forward, tempted to shift. But he wanted to save his strength if he needed it and too many transformations in a short span would weaken him.
“Davis killed the fucked-up Vamp and is going for reinforcements. They never should have screwed with us by coming here.” His brother kept up.
He ignored the information, too intent on following the trail. He jerked to a halt and sniffed the trunk of a tree where he found a dark smudge. “She was alive. This blood is hers.”
“So was the Vampire. I’ve got blood drops over here. The question is, who’s hunting who? I doubt they were traveling in the same direction for any other reason.”
“Fuck.” Lorn surged forward and followed the trail to the edge of the river. He bent, examining the soft mud. Two small footprints were planted together side by side and the imprint was deeper near the toes. His head snapped up, staring at the briskly flowing water. “She went in here.”
“The suckhead didn’t.” Lavos stood about twenty feet down the river. “There’s no more blood but I’ve got footprints. I’d say a size eleven in men’s, and the stupid bastard isn’t wearing boots. I’d guess they’re some kind of dress shoe. Male or a big-footed female. By the looks of it, he kept going along this side of the embankment.”
“You follow the Vampire.” He needed to find Kira. He took a deep breath and dove in where she had.
She’d cross the river to reach deeper into clan territory. He was sure of that. If she didn’t drown.
He tried to push that thought back as he made it to the other side. She’s a shitty swimmer. His memory flashed to the day he’d had to fish her out of the water when they were teenagers. It wasn’t exactly something he’d ever forgotten. It was the last time he’d trusted himself to be too near her.
He shook off the water when he climbed out of the river and searched the embankment for any signs of her. He ran downriver, his gaze constantly moving. The only movement was from the dark mass he’d just swum through and Lavos on the other side of the river.
It was taking too much time to search every foot of the bank. Where is the night guard? His rage built. Probably at that damn mating ceremony instead of doing his job. Part of that anger was directed inward. He should have predicted that some would forget their duties without a leader present to enforce what needed to be done. I should have acted sooner, taken control when Decker and his closest enforcers fled the territory.
Kira was out there, hurt and alone. Lavos had been kind by even implying the one being hunted was the Vampire. Lorn was certain that wasn’t the case. It hunted Kira. Her human blood made her the weaker of the two. He paused and closed his eyes, thinking. Where would she go? There are no homes nearby to seek shelter.
Memories of their childhood flashed through his mind. They’d played a lot of games, including hide and seek. A hint of smile played at the corner of his lips. She’d always been the rabbit he’d chased. It had been important to him that she knew how to outsmart the others because she sure couldn’t outrun or overpower a VampLycan. He’d wanted her to be safe if he wasn’t around to protect her. The clan members could be cruel.
His eyes snapped open as he surveyed the terrain to identify exactly where he stood. This had been their playground once. She’d know it as well as he did. The south sector wasn’t a place most went, and that’s why they’d picked it.
He turned and rushed away from the river, opening his mouth to howl. He did it for two reasons. The Vampire would know reinforcements had arrived, possibly frightening him from his prey, and to let Kira know help was close.
She’d hide her heat signature from the Vampire. The falls were ahead and she’d know that as well. The place where the river flowed to another, lower section was at least a fifty-foot drop. The rocks below would break her bones if she allowed the water to carry her that far downstream. The damage would be devastating to her, even if she was in prime condition, fatal if she was already hurt. Kira was smart enough to get out. That meant she’d search for a place to hide, perhaps underground.
The old den.
He ran at full speed, leaping over downed trees and large rocks. The Vamp would have to follow any signs she’d left behind to track her but Lorn had the advantage of knowing the precise location. Please be there, he prayed. Be alive.
All VampLycans built hidden underground lairs in the woods in case of an attack. Constructed homes were too easy to find but they afforded more comfortable living in times of peace. The lair he’d created as an adult was a mile from the cabin he owned, but as kids, he and Kira had used a tiny cave.
It had taken them days to dig deep enough to make their childhood den roomy and comfortable. It afforded them a cooler place to avoid hot days. They’d spent hours talking and laughing in that deep hole, and they were some of his fondest memories. An ache began in his chest that had nothing to do with how rapidly his heart beat as he pressed his body for more speed. Kira might be dead.
He howled his fury again, wishing he could find the Vampire to seek vengeance, but that was secondary to hoping his howls would send the bastard into a panic. He could always hunt the son of a bitch later if he fled. Kira was his priority.
The sound of water drew him as he cut across land where the river bowed outward and then twisted inward ahead. Large boulders helped lead the way too. He adjusted his direction toward another set of large rocks where the old den lay.
Be there, damn it, he silently pleaded. Alone and alive. An image surfaced of what would happen if the Vampire found the cave entrance. They’d never constructed a door of any sort to keep anything out and there wasn’t a secondary escape. She’d be trapped if the damn Vamp crawled in after her.
Almost there. He sniffed the air and the faint stench of Vampire filled his nose. It was close—and so was Kira. He jumped over a crevice in the earth and landed hard on the other side. His bare feet hit rocks, cutting into flesh. The pain was minimal but he’d heal fast.
He rounded the boulders and stared at the dirt leading to the entrance under the overcropping rock. It was disturbed, a sure sign
someone had been there.
His nose flared as he breathed and picked up Kira’s scent. She was inside.
He turned, his glare searching the darkness because he also smelled that damn Vampire.
A new smell reached him and he howled again. Lavos was closer now. He dropped to his knees and cursed over how large he’d become since the last time he’d visited the den. The hole wasn’t wide and his shoulders were. He tore at the earth, digging to make the entrance bigger.
“Kira? I’m here. It’s Lorn. Are you okay?”
His keen hearing detected faint breathing inside.
Something thumped behind him and he snarled, twisting his head. His brother had landed in a crouch from above, almost seeming to fall from the sky.
“I took to the trees,” Lavos explained. “The Vampire is on the run.” He jerked his head. “I caught a glimpse of him. Do you want him, or should I go?”
Lorn was the older brother, and it was his place to take on the enemy first.
A soft female whimper came from inside the den. He was torn between going to Kira or doing what he’d been trained to do all of his life. His mouth opened but then another pained noise came from her.
“Kill that son of a bitch,” he ordered his younger brother.
Surprise widened Lavos’s eyes but he only hesitated for a heartbeat before racing off into the night.
Lorn attacked the narrow opening of the den faster with claws that shot out from his fingertips. He needed to reach Kira. The blood smell wasn’t strong but she didn’t answer him. That couldn’t be good.
The frantic digging widened the entrance enough for him to ram his broad shoulders into the space. Loose debris rained down his back but it didn’t matter. The inside was larger than the exterior hole. He pushed through and had to belly crawl down the next eight feet since the roof wouldn’t allow anything else.
His vision adjusted to the darkness and the sight that greeted him seemed grim. A small form huddled in the fetal position under what appeared to be the childhood blanket he’d once borrowed from his twin bed. The print of cars had faded, the red dulled against the mostly blue material. He’d forgotten about ever bringing it here; Kira used to become cold after some of their swims.
Her long hair was wet, appearing darker than the light brunette with its sun-streaks of blonde that he’s always found fascinating. One pale hand clutched a fistful of the blanket. She moaned, twisting more to her side, as if she wanted to roll onto her stomach but couldn’t quite make it.
He made it to her and gently gripped her hand. It was chilled to his touch, proving she’d been in the water too long. He scooted until he lay next to her lengthwise and pressed against her. She needed body heat immediately. He released her hand to hook his arm around the curve of her back and pull her closer, until she was curled into him, flush with his front.
Her voice came out so weakened it didn’t even qualify as a whisper. The scent of her blood filled him with rage but none of it smelled fresh. Whatever wounds she’d suffered couldn’t be too bad. Her human healing was slower than a full VampLycan’s. The relief that swept through him was great. He could warm her and she’d be fine.
“I’m here,” he assured. “You’re safe.”
He strained to catch her words. “It’s not your fault. A guard should have relieved you.” He silently swore to find out who had been scheduled to cover the night patrol and beat the asshole to a pulp. He rubbed her back with great care, hoping it would help speed the process of regulating her temperature. “The Vampires invaded our territory but they’re dead.”
She shivered and he wrapped around her. Kira fit against him perfectly, in his opinion. He hated the damn blanket and tugged at it, wanting to see her. She refused to release the thing though and burrowed tighter to his chest.
“It’s not working. Not Lycan enough to…”
Lorn barely heard her soft words. “What? Release the blanket. Let me look at you. Where are you hurt?”
“Don’t kill me.”
Head injury. That was the only reason she’s say something so outlandish to him. Kira must be mistaking him for the bastards who’d attacked her. He turned his head to peer up at the hole but nothing moved at the top. Why hasn’t help come? He needed them to arrive quickly but no one did. He looked down at her wrapped body.
“It’s Lorn, sunshine,” he crooned. “You’re safe.” She had once hated him calling her that endearment but he wanted to convey to her that he was real. “I’d never hurt you.”
Her hand unclenched from the blanket and she blindly gripped his chest near his heart. The soft sob that came from her had to mean she was in pain. All kinds of horrific reasons for the symptoms she displayed tormented him. A skull fracture wouldn’t cause much blood loss but it could kill her. It would explain her confusion regarding who was the enemy and who wasn’t.
His fingers trembled from fear of discovering the worst when he tugged at the blanket to free her head. Silent prayers dashed through his thoughts that whatever she’d suffered wasn’t too bad.
I can fix her, he swore. Decker and his rules be damned.
He wouldn’t allow Kira to die. He’d rip open a vein and make her swallow some of his blood to heal, if that’s what it took. It was forbidden to use any of their blood to heal anyone except a severely injured family member or a mate. But as long as he didn’t take her blood as well, it wouldn’t bond them.
His fangs elongated into sharp tips that pressed against his lower lip, ready to bite into his wrist. He ignored the way his dick twitched, certain he’d burn in hell for being turned-on by the concept of her lips on his skin, taking any part of his body inside herself, when she may be dying.
She whimpered when he freed the covering from her face and upper body.
The wound at her throat sent pure rage coursing inside him. The Vampire had bitten her, tearing tender flesh. It no longer bled, which meant the water had stopped the bleeding. It was an affront that she’d been savaged; a forced bite was akin to rape. It would probably scar, marking her for the rest of her life. It was tempting to lick it closed, but she couldn’t take his blood if he ended up swallowing some of hers.
A new thought struck and he bit his tongue, making it bleed. He coated his thumb and gently rubbed blood over the worst of the savage bite on her throat. He switched hands and did it again so none of her blood entered his mouth.
The Vampire bite began to heal. It might not leave a scar after all.
It took considerable control to stifle the snarl that nearly choked his throat. His gaze lifted from the horrific sight of the bite, up to her face. There were no obvious marks on it, no sign of more trauma. He studied her head and his fingers tenderly dug into her wet hair, feeling for anything to indicate skull damage. It felt perfectly shaped, no dents or bumps.
She kept her eyes closed, her face slightly turned away. She resisted when he attempted to turn her head. Another whimper nearly shredded his control.
“Let me see what he did, sunshine.”
Her eyes opened and tears slid out, rolling down the sides of her face.
He barely noticed them, too engrossed by what else he saw.
Her irises glowed a luminous blue.
The sudden way his stomach clenched, as if he’d been punched, rapidly expelled his breath in a gasp when the meaning hit.
He knew her well—and she didn’t have that ability. She had lovely blue eyes but they never took on a supernatural quality. Those weren’t human eyes peering back at him.
Her mouth parted and he was in for another unpleasant shock. Her incisors were more pronounced, longer than the rest of her upper teeth.
“Please don’t kill me,” she pleaded.
His chest tightened until he couldn’t draw air into his lungs. His mind didn’t want to accept the truth but it couldn’t be denied.
He suddenly wished he’d gone after the bastard who had attacked h
er. He wanted to rip him apart a piece at a time, starting at the limbs. Crush bones. Make him suffer before tying him up in the shade to wait for dawn. It would be a slow, agonizing death that would last for a few hours without direct sunlight to speed the process of him burning to ash.
Her expression twisted in pain and she jerked in his arms, her back arching as she cried out in distress. Her breasts pressed flush against his chest. He cupped the back of her head to protect it when she convulsed. He shifted his position enough to get his other arm under her, taking her with him when he rolled onto his back. Her slight frame sprawled over his larger one while he cushioned her from the ground. The shaking went on for what seemed like forever before she stilled.
Soft pants were the only sound from her while Lorn stared up into the hard-packed dirt and rock above them. Greif became a blade in his heart.
The Vampire hadn’t killed her. He’d done far worse.
Something thumped from above and every instinct inside Lorn burst to life. He snarled, ready to push her out of the way to safety. He’d fight to keep anyone from reaching Kira.
It didn’t matter who was up there at this point. Most of his clan would attempt to end her life once they realized the truth.
Lavos appeared, his face at the entrance. “Is she alive? The Vampire is toast.”
“Go away,” Lorn growled.
“Fuck. It’s that bad? Hand her out and we’ll run like hell to our doctor. Maybe he can do something. I hear her breathing.”
No one could fix what had been done to Kira. There would be no undoing it. To take blood from a half-breed would heal her, but blood from a full Vampire would attack her mostly human system. The signs couldn’t be denied. She didn’t have enough Lycan immunity to combat the infection. It had already taken hold, giving her fangs and shimmering eyes.
Lorn struggled to find calm and rationality but it wasn’t within his grasp.
The first time Kira had really come to his attention had been when she was four years old. His father had forbidden him to even speak to the mostly human child living amongst their kind. Davis had brought her to the clan, but Decker had been clear she wasn’t welcome. The adults whispered one word when it came to the child.
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