A growl rumbled in his throat. The men around them slipped back even further into the shadows.
Shit. This hadn't been part of his plan. "Next time, you go over Plan A with me, fucking thoroughly, before you act." When she went in the house, he wouldn't be able to protect her.
And since when did she need protecting? He shook his head, but couldn't shake the feeling that he needed to watch over her.
Bullshit. Utter bullshit.
Maya didn't need anyone's protection.
So why did he want to shield her? "Go in," he finally snarled, fighting to control the rage coursing through his veins. He'd never be able to cross that red line, but if he sensed any trouble, if he so much as heard Maya cry out-
He'd tear the house down.
Then no damn magic line would keep him out.
The beast within him began to roar.
Marie Dusean could have been anywhere from fifty to a hundred. Her face was lined, but eerily beautiful in the flickering candlelight.
She stood when Maya approached, holding out her hands. "Child, it's been too long." The sound of her native Haiti flowed richly in her voice.
Maya took her hands, felt the delicate bones, the fragile skin.
"You've fed well." Marie's eyes swept over her. "And you still look so young."
Maya stared back into Marie's faint, crystal blue eyes. Eyes that were completely covered by cataracts, and had been, for as long as Maya had known the priestess.
She forced a laugh. "Gonna keep looking that way, Marie. We both know things aren't gonna be changing for me."
Unlike Josette, Marie didn't hate all vampires. Or, at least, she didn't hate Maya.
Back when she'd been human, Marie had even tried to warn Maya about the fate that waited for her.
That first night, when she'd brought Josette back home and found Marie waiting with her pale eyes and knowing voice, the lady had whispered, "Beware of the night, child. He'll wait for you, hiding a monster, behind the face of man. He'll take you. Change you. Destroy what you've been."
She hadn't listened to Marie's words. Hell, she'd thought the lady was crazy. She remembered mumbling something and trying to get the hell away from Marie as fast as she could.
It was only later– too late –that her words had made sense.
Marie Dusean was a very special woman. Maya didn't doubt her powers even for a minute.
Marie knew things-things no human should know.
Very slowly, Marie lowered into a faded red velvet chair. Her eyes never left Maya's face.
"You've come about the child."
Marie's hands flattened on the round table before her. "Dreamed of her. Child of light, taken by the dark."
Tension tightened her body as Maya leaned forward. "Her uncle thinks she's being used as a gift for Nassor."
Marie hissed at the name, and her fingers curled into gnarled fists. "Rises soon."
"Yeah, I thought he might." Dammit . "So the vampires who took her, where are they? Have they already gone back to his-"
The mambo's hand shot across the table, grabbed Maya's. "You will have to choose, child. Life or death."
Well, shit. Wasn't she already dead? Well, undead? Her heart had stopped during that fateful attack. She'd seen the faintest glimpse of another world-then she'd been yanked back to hell. "I already chose once." She wasn't particularly in the mood to do so again.
"The desert. Seek the vampires there." Her nails dug into Maya's wrist. "Hiding where the rocks have bled."
Where the rocks have bled. Excitement pumped through her.
"They keep the girl, waiting." Marie's voice lowered to a whisper. "Not much time before the Born Master rises."
Then the shit would hit the fan.
A hard sigh shook Marie's chest and her hand slipped away as her body sagged against the chair.
Maya knew their talk was at an end. The Mambo's strength wasn't what it used to be. "Thank you, Mambo," she said softly and reached into the right front pocket of her jeans. Carefully, she pulled out a small ring. A ring of pale gold, crowned with a delicate oval ruby.
Marie's lips trembled. She lifted her hand. " Carline." Grief choked her voice.
Maya pushed the ring across the table. "Thought you might want this back."
Marie's trembling fingers closed over the ring. A lone tear slid down her cheek. "It is done?"
"Yeah, it's done." She'd had to track the vampire to Louisiana. He'd stayed on his hunting grounds all these years. She'd tracked him, found him with his necklace of trophies-rings, earrings, jewels of all sorts. He'd had his next victim in his hands, a girl, barely eighteen. Her blood had been on the ground.
Blood was precious. It wasn't to be wasted in a slaughter by a beast who'd long since lost touch with good and evil.
But the beast wouldn't hurt anyone else, she'd made sure of it.
The pale eyes closed for just a moment. Marie brought the ring to her heart. "It is I who owe you now, child."
Shaking her head, Maya rose to her feet. "No, you don't owe me a damn thing." Marie had been the one to help her after the change. The one who taught her how to survive.
The wooden floor creaked beneath her feet as Maya walked across the room. She stopped in the doorway, glanced back. A question had been nagging at the back of her mind. "Mambo, I brought a man with me. Why wouldn't he come in?"
Marie's head was bent over the ring. She was rocking back and forth slowly. But at Maya's question, her head lifted. "Evil-it cannot cross my line."
The red line of dust.
But that didn't make sense. "No. Adam's not evil. He's looking for his niece, he's not-"
Her head lowered again, and the rocking continued.
He wasn't evil. Was he? But Maya couldn't just dismiss Marie's words. She'd done that once before, and had her life stolen as a result. She turned away, her hand gripping the doorframe. "I should have listened to you all those years ago. Things could have been so different for me."
A soft laugh floated in the air. "Ah, child, now whatever made you think I was talking about the vampire?"
Her heart kicked into a furious rhythm. If not the vampire, then who? She turned around, the question on her lips.
But Marie was gone. The red velvet chair sat empty, and the ruby ring glinted on the table.
Maya stormed out of the house moments later. The yard was empty-all the men and women in white had disappeared.
Where the hell was Adam? Evil-it cannot cross my line.
She stepped off the porch-
And was jerked against a hard male chest.
Her claws lifted and a snarl curled her lips.
"Easy, vampire. It's just me." Adam's arms tightened around her as his breath fanned over her cheek.
She glanced over his shoulder. "Where did everybody go?"
"Don't know. Just seemed to disappear right before you came barreling out of the house."
That wasn't a good sign. Why would they all leave? Unless– hell . "We need to get out of here."
She shoved away from him. Noticed the utter silence of the yard.
Oh, no, not good.
She'd left her gun with the bike, not wanting Marie's guards to think she was a threat.
Marie had enough threats in her life-that was why the mambo had to move locations every few months.
She took off running for the bike. Her nostrils flared as she moved, drinking in the scents of the night. Human flesh. Decayed vegetation. Dank earth. Wisps of smoke. Animal.
She heard the growls just as she touched the cold metal of the motorcycle. She reached into her saddlebag, locked her fingers around the butt of the gun.
Over the years, she'd learned a few important facts.
Fact one. Bullets soaked in holy water could kill a vampire-if they pierced his heart. She'd been lucky enough to learn that one while she was still alive. Well, sort of.
Fact two. The bullets could be made of any metal to work on a vamp, but if she was going up against shifters, particularly those damn vicious wolf shifters, she needed to make absolutely sure the bullets were made out of silver.
Fact three. A silver bullet/holy water combination could really save her ass.
A howl sounded to the right.
Maya spun around, weapon ready.
"What the hell was-" Adam jerked to a stop beside her, his chest rising and falling quickly.
"Get on the bike." She could smell the wolves, hear the soft pad of their paws as they closed in.
How many? Three? Four? Damn. Six? More? When the wolf shifters tracked in packs, they were nearly unstoppable. The fact that they could communicate telepathically while in animal form, well, that just made it all the easier for them to hunt.
And they were very, very good at hunting.
Definitely time to leave.
She heard him draw in a deep breath. "Shit. Why are the wolves stalking us?"
"'Cause they're probably working for Nassor's men." She'd seen it before. Vamps using the wolves as hunting dogs. But now wasn't the time to talk about how easily some of the wolves' allegiance could be bought.
Now was, quite simply, the time to run.
Talk could come later.
In the darkness, she saw a pair of glowing eyes staring back at her.
"Get on the bike!" The growls and snarls were louder now. Had to be at least six of them. Maybe more.
Adam got on the bike.
The wolves stalked from the shadows, bodies hugging the ground, mouths open, fangs dripping with saliva.
The lead wolf, a big black beast missing half of his right ear, kept his eerie stare locked on her.
His muscles bunched.
Maya jumped on the back of the motorcycle, wrapped her left arm around Adam's muscled waist. With her right hand, she lifted the gun, aimed-
The wolf sprang forward "Go!" She screamed and pulled the trigger.
The bullet fired, blasting straight toward the snarling beast.
The wolf twisted, jerking to the left, and the bullet slammed into his flesh. The bastard fell to the ground, a long whimper of pain gurgling in his throat.
Not a heart shot. Or a head shot. Sonofabitch. He'd live.
The motorcycle's engine fired to life, and the bike shot forward, snarling like a demon straight from hell.
The rest of the pack sprang forward, jaws snapping.
Adam and Maya flew past them, but she felt a flash of burning pain sear her thigh.
One of the wolves had clawed her.
She jerked around, fired one shot. Another.
The wolves were chasing them, their big, powerful bodies eating up the road nearly as fast as the motorcycle.
She couldn't aim for shit while the bike was swerving all over the road.
Hell. "Faster!" If he didn't get them out of there within the next thirty seconds, the wolves would tear them apart.
The motor growled. Adam leaned forward, curling his body into the bike. Maya held on with one hand, and kept trying to aim with the other.
With a sudden burst of speed, the motorcycle raced forward.
The wolves couldn't keep the pace.
Maya tucked the gun into the back of her jeans. Her palm smoothed over her thigh. Touched blood. She hissed out a breath at the pain.
Damn. It was deep.
But she'd heal. She always did.
She pressed her head against Adam's back, drawing in a hard breath. Wolf shifters. Fucking werewolves. She hated those animals.
They'd kill anyone, anything. Conscienceless, predatory. They were the worst kinds of monsters.
And now the wolves were on their trail.
The fact that the wolves were after her, when they'd pretty much stayed the hell out of her way before, was no coincidence. She'd never believed in coincidences. Someone-probably that spineless Stephan-had reported to Nassor's men about her little meeting with Adam, and the vamps had called in the dogs.
"Maya?" Adam's voice shouted over the roaring motor.
"It's okay." She licked her lips, then said, louder, "We've lost them."
For now. But wolves never gave up on a hunt.
They'd be back. She just had to make certain she was ready for them.
The bones snapped, crunched. The fur melted from his body and the beast that had prowled on four legs slowly stood upright.
Blood dripped in long, slow rivulets down Lucas Simone's shoulder.
The bitch had shot him. With a silver bullet.
The poison was in his body. He could feel it, eating away at him.
He lifted his right hand. The tips of his nails stretched into three-inch-long claws. Clenching his teeth, he drove the claws straight into his wounded shoulder.
His pack gathered around him, heads low, bodies shaking.
The blood poured faster now.
He ripped away the skin, the muscle. Found the bullet. Jerked it from his shoulder.
The silver burned his fingers and he threw it, tossing the bullet far into the night.
In the distance, he could hear the roar of the motorcycle, fading now as the vampire fled.
She hadn't been his prey. He'd wanted the man.
The rules of the game had changed now.
"We find them," he said, his voice ringing loud and clear. The wolves around him stiffened, stared with unblinking eyes. "I don't care how fucking long it takes, but we find them ." There would be no safe place for the vampire and the man.
The wolves began to growl.
He held up his hand. Skin and blood coated his claws. "The vampire is mine." Blood for blood.
The others needed to know the kill would be his.READ MORE >>