“Didn’t Tseeveyo just say the same thing?”
Tseeveyo’s mouth twitched in amusement, but his humor was fleeting. “The female was promised to me.”
“She is my daughter!” Kars roared. Next to him, Fane tightened his grip on his bow.
Jaggar’s knife flipping slowed, his concentration becoming more focused.
“And she will be my mate.” Hunter flashed the imprint mark on his hand.
Kars and Tseeveyo cursed in tandem, knowing damned well that no imprinted male would allow his female to be taken from him.
Riker cursed, too, but for a different reason. The two clan chiefs now understood that taking Aylin wouldn’t be a matter of negotiation; it had become a matter of killing Hunter.
“This,” Kars snarled, “is unacceptable.” He thrust his finger at Hunter. “I will see you dead before I allow you to mate with her. Rasha is a far worthier mate —”
“Then take her back, and let me have the ‘less worthy’ daughter,” Hunter countered smoothly. “Our peace agreement can remain intact, and you’ll have another chance to make an even better political match for Rasha. It’s a win-win.”
A win-win unless Hunter was right and the two chiefs knew about Aylin’s ability. And on this, Hunter wasn’t wrong.
Murder blazed in Kars’s eyes. “I will destroy you and your clan down to the last child,” he swore. “You have twenty-four hours to hand Aylin over, or your clan will burn.”
“And I will be there to dig your bones from the ashes,” Tseeveyo said, hatred dripping from his voice like blood. He turned to Kars. “And yours as well.”
Kars bared his fangs, and with a vicious snap of his wrist, he sank a blade into the snow between them all. Tseeveyo’s blade landed next to it, and Hunter’s mouth went dry.
The two enemy clans had just declared war.
On each other… and on MoonBound.
The atmosphere at MoonBound had gone from warm and welcoming to tense and cold, with a tinge of fear dancing on the edges of the friction.
Aylin had waited anxiously in Hunter’s chambers for his return from the meeting, and the news he brought had been devastating. Now they were sitting in his battle room, his senior and second-tier warriors gathered around.
Hunter had insisted that she take a seat next to him, but try as she might, she couldn’t help but feel that this was all her fault. No one had consciously made her feel that way, but she sensed speculating eyes on her, and as battle plans were discussed, she felt more and more guilty.
Especially given that her sister had seriously injured a MoonBound warrior and left her to bleed out on the floor before fleeing like a coward. And according to Hunter, there was a strong possibility that Rasha hadn’t gone back to ShadowSpawn. So where was she?
Hunter took Aylin’s hand in his and addressed his clan members. “We have twenty-four hours to give Aylin over to either ShadowSpawn or NightShade, or we face a battle. I want suggestions, no matter how crazy.” His voice deepened with a solid warning, and maybe it was her imagination, but he seemed extra tense, as if anger was churning deep inside his very marrow. “But if anyone suggests that we give Aylin up, they will be very, very sorry.”
Everyone exchanged glances, and finally, Takis shrugged. “What if we smuggle Aylin out of the clan? If she’s not here, NightShade and ShadowSpawn will look for her instead of attacking us.”
It was a good idea, but Hunter voiced what Aylin was thinking. “They won’t believe she’s gone. Even if they do believe it, looking for her will be pointless unless they can put pressure on us to reveal her location. And by pressure, I mean an attack. Either way, they won’t leave us alone.”
“This is our territory,” Jaggar said. “We know it in ways they don’t. We can get out there tonight and set traps. It won’t win a war, but we can even the odds.”
“Do it,” Hunter said. “Take whoever you need to get it done.” He looked around the room. “Anyone else?”
They tossed around ideas, some of which Hunter approved and others, like the suggestion to barricade everyone inside the compound, held as last resorts.
Finally, with precious few courses of action, Aylin spoke up. “I have an idea.”
Accustomed to being either scorned or dismissed outright, she was shocked when everyone just looked at her, curious. How long would it take before she got used to being accepted? What a great problem to have.
Hunter inclined his head in a sharp nod. “Speak.”
She opened her mouth, but at the last second, she remembered what Hunter had said about a spy. “Can I talk to you alone?”
He nodded and led her away from the group, leaving them with orders to keep brainstorming. “Whatcha got?” he asked, turning his back to the others and blocking her from their view.
“What if I use my ability to help? I can’t see how it would be useful in a fight, but I could use it to evacuate everyone to safety if it becomes necessary.”
“That’s an excellent plan,” he mused, but the frown on his face said something different.
“What is it?” she asked. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing. In fact, I think you’re on to something.” He gestured to Nicole, who had entered a moment ago. “Do you think you can get a message to your brother?”
If Aylin remembered right, Nicole’s brother was the CEO of Daedalus… so what was Hunter up to?
Nicole blinked, apparently as perplexed as Aylin. “Chuck? Why the hell would I do that?”
An evil smile turned up the corners of Hunter’s mouth, revealing the sexy points of his fangs. “For once, the humans are going to do us a big favor. We are the alpha predators on this planet,” he said darkly, “and it’s time we proved it.”
Hunter decided to move on ShadowSpawn and NightShade before the deadline was up. There was no point in waiting, and a surprise attack could only work in MoonBound’s favor. Both clans had brought in more fighters – Riker and Jaggar had both reported seeing dozens of vampires moving in to join the camps, leaving MoonBound badly outnumbered and outgunned. They now needed every advantage they could get.
Jaggar had set up trip wires attached to small but deadly explosives, all carefully mapped out for MoonBound’s residents. Hunter just hoped their mysterious spy didn’t alert one or both of the enemy clans.
But even if the worst happened, Jaggar had also set up some special traps that delivered a dose of deadly boric acid. No one but Jaggar, Riker, and Hunter knew the locations of those traps, but they carried vials of the antidote, manufactured by Nicole, in the event that a MoonBound member fell victim.
NightShade and ShadowSpawn were on their own.
Every male of fighting age and all trained females had been outfitted with weapons and were, under the cover of early-morning darkness, slipping into the woods. Hunter hesitated at the exit, his fear for Aylin holding him back. She was the secret weapon in this crazy plan, and at some point, he’d be putting her in danger.
“No matter what happens, don’t leave the compound,” he said. “Stay here until either Riker or I come for you.”
“Be careful,” she whispered. “Unlike Rasha, I’d really like to keep you around for a while.”
Laughing, he kissed her. He didn’t linger, though. This wasn’t good-bye. And she didn’t need to know that he’d met with his senior warriors just moments ago to ensure that she would always have a place in the clan should something happen to him. No matter what, Aylin would be safe.
He jogged out of the compound and joined Riker before he could change his mind about the quick kiss and turn it into something he couldn’t pull away from.
“Rike.” He spoke in hushed tones, and the two made their way toward NightShade’s camp. Half of MoonBound’s team was taking on ShadowSpawn, but Hunter and Riker had both wanted a piece of NightShade. Hunter despised Kars, but Tseeveyo had earned a special place on his Need to Die list.
Riker eased a dagger out of the sheath at his hip as they neared the camp. “’Sup?”
“When you’re away from Nicole, does it feel like… I don’t know, an ache?” He rubbed his sternum, but it did nothing to get rid of the weird tug that got more insistent the farther they went from MoonBound.
“Yep,” he muttered irritably, but Hunter knew it was a testosterone show. The guy was completely besotted by his mate. “And the bitch of it is that she doesn’t have that same ache. The one-sided imprint thing sucks.”
“But you wouldn’t change anything, right?”
Riker grinned. “Hell, no. I —”
An explosion rocked the forest, and in an instant, all hell broke loose.
War cries rang out, followed by shouts, grunts of pain, and screams. The woods came alive with enemy warriors, and suddenly, Hunter and Riker were in a fight for their lives.
Five huge NightShade males came out of nowhere, tomahawks and daggers flying. An arrow punched through Hunter’s left biceps, but he ignored it to slash the throat of the nearest warrior. Another male hit him from behind, knocking him to the ground. He rolled, lost track of Riker, and kicked his feet out to catch his assailant in the knees. The vampire went down with a grunt, but he maintained his grip on his hatchet, and as he hit the snow, he aimed it at Hunter’s head.
Hunter dodged, barely avoiding a very close haircut. Scrambling to his feet, he broke off the arrow sticking out of his flesh. The hatchet dude got a little too close with another swing of his weapon, and Hunter ducked, leaped, and drove the arrow shaft through the bastard’s right eye.
As the enemy fell, Hunter crouched, prepared for another attack, but Riker took down his last male as Takis leaped out from one of the trees to drive his Ka-Bar through the skull of the fifth warrior.
“Shit,” Hunter breathed. “Did they know we were coming?”
“Looks like!” Takis snapped, as pissed as Hunter had ever seen him. “I think someone triggered the explosion intentionally to warn the camps. There’s no body near the blow site, but there’s an arrow at the trip-wire line.”
“When I catch this son of a bitch, I’m going to rip out his fangs and gut him with his own teeth.” Hunter had seen his father do exactly that, and at this moment, Hunter could feel his sire’s influence rising up in the anger of betrayal.
“Remind me never to betray you,” Riker muttered, just as another explosion, this one close by, ripped through the air.
Something hit the tree next to Hunter, and he whirled, expecting a weapon, but nope. A severed arm marked with NightShade’s poison-leaf symbol lay in a bloody pool on the ground.
“Remind me to give Jaggar a raise.” Hunter gestured for Takis and Riker to follow him. They had to get to NightShade’s camp. If they could take out Tseeveyo, the rest of the clan might stand down. And if they didn’t… well, at least the sick f**k would be dead.
As they approached, the sound of fighting got louder, and the stench of fear, pain, and death became almost overpowering.
“Holy f**k,” Riker swore. “It’s a slaughter.”
The carnage was beyond the scope of anything Hunter had seen in at least a century. NightShade’s fighters were tearing apart MoonBound’s warriors, their numbers far greater than anyone had anticipated.
Enraged, Hunter charged toward the fight, but before he hit the clearing, a shot rang out. He skidded to a halt as rapid-fire gunshots filled the air. NightShade’s warriors broke off from the battle with MoonBound’s fighters to deal with the new and deadlier threat.
Nicole had come through. Humans had arrived.
“Rike!” Hunter yelled. “You told our warriors to hightail it back to the clan if humans showed up, right?”
Riker shouted an affirmative, but even as his voice faded away, Hunter watched his surviving warriors sprint in the direction of the compound.
“Get out of here!” he told Riker and Takis, but neither moved.
“We’re staying with you,” Takis said. “And don’t f**king argue.”
“I’m scheduling pit time for both of you,” he growled. He turned, ready to run back to the clan for Aylin, but out of the corner of his eye, he saw something he couldn’t leave behind.
Riker grabbed his arm. “Come on, chief.”
“Go,” he said. “That’s an order. Get Aylin. I’ve got something to do.”
Leaving Riker and Takis behind, he launched himself through the forest at a dead run toward Tseeveyo’s tent.
NightShade’s chief was about to understand that Hunter was his father’s son.
No matter what happens, don’t leave the compound. Stay here until either Riker or I come for you.
When Takis showed up at MoonBound’s entrance to take Aylin to Hunter, she planned to refuse. Aylin trusted her instincts, and Takis didn’t ring any internal alarms, but she also trusted Hunter, and if he told her to go somewhere only with himself or Riker, she wasn’t going to argue.
Fortunately, Riker was on Takis’s heels, bow at the ready, and she had no doubt that he was prepared to take out any threat, even if that threat was another MoonBound member.
Together the two males led Aylin safely along the outskirts of the battle, where she needed to be in order for her plan to work. The sounds of distant fighting echoed through the forest, the screams, gunfire, and occasional explosions making her stomach clench. Nerves made her twitchy, but thanks to her experience in the demon realm, she’d learned to control her fear. And she’d also gained a lot of confidence. Twice her leg gave out, but for the first time in her life, she wasn’t ashamed of her disability. It was part of her, but she was so much more than a twisted limb.READ MORE >>