Authors: E.S. Moore
A hand like a vise latched around my wrist. I tried to jerk away, but it held strong. I looked back to find Mikael staring at me. The skin of his hand felt feverishly hot.
“Let go of me,” I growled. “Now.”
Mikael was breathing fast and hard, but at least he was looking at me like he actually saw me this time. “Can’t you feel it?” he asked. “There’s something in the air, something new.” He took a deep breath like he could smell whatever it was he felt. “It’s like I can remember it, but can’t. It shouldn’t be here. They’re all dead.”
“Who is?” I asked, my blood running cold.
Mikael’s grip tightened so hard, it actually caused me to hiss in a breath. No human was that strong.
“You must be careful,” he said. His eyes bore into mine, pinning me in place. “Something is coming, something terrible . . .”
TO WALK THE NIGHT
TAINTED NIGHT, TAINTED BLOOD
BLESSED BY A DEMON’S MARK
BLOOD FROM A SILVER CROSS
SOULS OF THE DAMNED
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
Kensington Publishing Corp.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
The door stood ajar. No sound came from within, but that meant little out here. Werewolves could be quiet creatures when they wanted to be. The one I was hunting had spent a lifetime hidden from the sight of others.
Plastic wrappers littered the stairs. Crushed cans lay off the walk leading to the large, dark building. While the place had never looked pristine, it had always been taken care of. The trash and abandoned look of the Luna Cult Den was enough to cause a sliver of pain to shoot through my heart.
Only a few months before, the rundown look of the old library had been a put-on. Jonathan Alucard, the Denmaster of the local Luna Cult, had used a magical glamour to hide the true nature of the building. Now, the graffiti and the scarred and pitted brick were real. With each passing day, it only got worse.
My teeth ground together as I listened at the door. I could smell old blood somewhere inside. There wasn’t the telltale scent of rot that would give away the presence of bodies, yet there was enough blood to tell me someone had died in there sometime in the last few weeks. Either the corpse had been moved or it had been consumed. Neither was a good scenario.
I really should have left the place alone. When I’d heard the rumor that a couple of werewolves had moved in, I had to investigate to be sure it wasn’t the old Denmaster. The Luna Cult was fractured. Only a few members survived the destruction and those few had banded together to become more of a street cult than anything. Jonathan would have nothing to do with them.
The last time I’d seen Jonathan and his surviving wolves, Keira and Nathan, we were in the graveyard where Nathan said good-bye to his dead wife. Since then, there’d been no calls, no mysterious letters. There hadn’t even been the faintest hint of rumor as to where the weres had gone. Even Jeremy claimed not to know where his Denmaster was.
And that’s why I was here. If there was even the slightest chance Jonathan had returned to the Den, I was going to find him.
The door creaked as I pushed it open. My gun and sword were in hand, just in case the werewolves inside weren’t ones I knew and trusted. The smell of alcohol mingled with the blood. The air itself felt disused, abandoned.
My hand tightened on the grip of my sword as I stepped inside. No light blinded me as it once used to. More trash littered the floor. Beer cans, needles, and other unmentionables lay scattered seemingly everywhere. It was almost unbelievable how much trash could accumulate in such a short span of time. The office door to the far left of the stairs was open. No one appeared at the top of the staircase.
The urge to call out for Jonathan was strong, but I kept quiet. If there were indeed werewolves in residence, there was no telling who they might be. If they were rogues, I could be in for a serious fight.
I started for the office door when my eyes fell on a faded plastic cup. Flashes of memory assaulted me. Bodies scattered like debris. Pablo’s bunny slippers. A birthday cake that spelled the end of a Cult I’d come to trust.
I closed my eyes tight to the memories, pushing them away. I couldn’t let what had happened here distract me. The bodies were long gone. There was no sense in mourning them now.
A scrape from somewhere upstairs helped dispel the painful images. My aim immediately swiveled upward, but I couldn’t see anyone in the gloom. Oddly, my vampiric vision didn’t pierce through the shadows as easily as it used to. Perhaps Jonathan really was up there, using his glamour to shield himself in darkness.
The thought was enough to get me moving. Ignoring the office, I headed for the stairs. My heart was pounding, not because I was scared, but because I was worried what I might do if Jonathan really was up there. The man had avoided me for so long, I was afraid I’d shoot him the moment I laid eyes on him.
The stairs were littered with more trash. I stepped carefully around it, so as not to give myself away. I doubted a werewolf could have missed the sound of the door opening, but hey, not everyone was as observant as they should be. It was about time I got lucky.
The sliding sound came again as I reached the top of the stairs. My eyes were instantly drawn to the closed door down the hall. Carvings of werewolves in various states of shifting dominated the door. A circular window up top was decorated to look like the full moon. It looked somehow sad now that the Cult no longer called this place home.
A moan came from behind the doors, followed by more scraping. I approached the door warily, not sure if the sounds were a ploy or if someone was actually doing something on the other side. I really didn’t want to think about what I’d do if I found Keira and Jonathan wrapped around each other in the throes of passion.
The anger came out of nowhere. I’d done such a good job of controlling it lately, it caught me by surprise. The thought of Keira and Jonathan together was enough to send reason flying out the window. I strode toward the door, discarding stealth in favor of rage. If they wanted to screw around behind my back, that was fine. It wasn’t like Jonathan and I were an item, but damn it, he should have told me.
I burst through the gilded doors, gun raised, anger causing red spots to flash in my vision. The door at the far end of the room, the one that led to Jonathan’s old bedroom, was open. I caught a glimpse of a bare leg jerking out of view as I stormed toward the opening.
“I . . .” I trailed off as the scene came into full view. A girl lay on the bed, head tilted to the side, blood running down her neck. She looked at me with a faint smile. Her eyes were half-lidded and unfocused, telling me she was either near death or stoned out of her mind. Another girl was backed up against the bed, vainly trying to use her torn blouse to hide her naked body. She was sitting on a piece of cardboard.
Standing at the far end of the room were two men. Both of their eyes glowed yellow, yet they’d managed to keep from shifting. Both looked to be no older than eighteen, but that meant little with werewolves. Neither of them was Jonathan.
“Who the fuck are you?” the wolf on the left growled. He glanced toward the girl on the bed and slid ever so slightly her way.
“Don’t even think about it.” I aimed straight for his head. If he so much as twitched toward the girl again, his brains were getting scrambled.
The wolf smartly raised his hands. He, like everyone in the room not named Kat, was completely nude. Sweat glistened on his body and a trail of blood dribbled down his chin. It wasn’t hard to figure out what he’d been doing.
“Thought you were going to have a little snack after your screw?” I spat the words, so angry, I very nearly shot them out of pure disgust. The girl on the floor started to cry. The girl on the bed didn’t appear to notice what was going on around her.
“No,” the were said. “We were just having some fun.” He licked the blood from his lips. “No one was going to get hurt. They wanted this.”
I seriously doubted that. More likely, the two weres had gone to a college frat party and had picked up the girls after supplying them with enough drugs and alcohol to keep them from protesting. This wouldn’t be the first time I’d broken up a would-be slaughter.
Yet I didn’t pull the trigger. I glanced at the girl on the floor. She didn’t appear to be bleeding anywhere, nor did I see the telltale signs of violence that would tell me she’d been forced into anything. Still, if they’d drugged her to get her here, it wasn’t any better than if they’d held her down against her will.
“Did they hurt you?” I asked, mostly to hear her speak. If she sounded as drugged as her friend looked, the wolves were dead.
The girl shook her head. “No,” she whispered. She looked up at me, displaying bright blue eyes that appeared clear of influence, though they were red from her recent crying bout.
“What about your friend?” I indicated the bed.
“This is what she wanted.”
If this had been a year ago, I probably would have already shot the two weres on principal. The girls were teenagers. They didn’t know what they were doing. All of this probably seemed like a game to them, a fun night out with a little danger involved. This sort of thing usually ended up with skeletal bodies in a Dumpster.
My aim firmed, but a nagging voice in the back of my head told me not to shoot. Jonathan wouldn’t have wanted me to. He would want the chance to tame the wolves. He would keep them from feeding on girls like this, would do his best to make sure they never hurt anyone ever again.
But Jonathan isn’t here.
Reason warred with rage. I wasn’t sure if I was angry at the kids or if I was pissed at Jonathan for not being here. In the end, my confusion made my mind up for me.
“Go,” I said, fighting back the anger. I stepped away from the door. “Never come back.”
The two weres glanced at each other and as one, began to edge around the room toward the door. I followed their movements with my gun, finger on the trigger, ready to fire the moment one of them made a move I didn’t like. Werewolves were fast. Not being ready could easily get me killed.
The wolves ignored their clothes and slipped out the door, naked as the day they were born. Chances were good they’d shift as soon as they got outside and would be halfway across the ruined campus before I could so much as give chase.
As soon as they were out the door, they turned and ran. I gave them a good thirty seconds to make themselves scarce before lowering my gun and turning toward the girls.
“That was fucking stupid,” I told the girl on the floor. “They could have killed you.”
“They wouldn’t have.” Her voice trembled as she spoke.
“You can’t know that,” I said. “I don’t care if you’ve been fucking him for months. A werewolf can lose control at any time. You’d be dead before you realized what was happening.” Or at least, she would if she was lucky. I’d known more than one wolf who liked to play with his food before eating it.
Tears poured down the girl’s cheeks. She was still cowering against the bed, trying to conceal her nudity.
“Get dressed,” I said as kindly as I could. I didn’t want to terrify the poor girl to death, though she needed something of a scare so she wouldn’t do something so mind-numbingly stupid again. “And get your friend dressed. I’ll make sure it’s safe to leave.”
I didn’t wait for a reply. I turned and walked out, leaving her to gather what dignity she had left. I probably should have stayed, but damn it, I was frustrated enough to make a mistake if I stuck around. A part of me had been positive I’d find Jonathan there, but instead, I found a couple of teen girls making the biggest mistake of their young lives.
At least they’d live to regret it. That was more than I could say about most people who tempt fate.
The wolves were long gone by the time I left the library. A faint howl in the distance could have been one of them, or just another were out on patrol. There was no way I could know for sure.
Still, I scouted the area to be certain they were gone. The girls took longer than I liked, but eventually emerged, leaning on one another. They looked terrified and I hoped that would keep them from ever coming back.
Once they were safely away, I headed to the old Den parking garage. The walk was long and as each minute passed, I grew angrier. By time I headed down into the depths of the garage, I was as pissed as I’d been back in the Den.
“Fuck!” I shouted, kicking a stone across the concrete. It bounded into the darkness, clattering on the floor until it hit the far wall, where it fell silent.
Tears burned my eyes. I wiped them angrily away. I shouldn’t be crying over someone who apparently wanted nothing to do with me, but I couldn’t help it. I’d made a lot of progress in accepting others into my life and then suddenly, they up and vanish on me. It wasn’t something I could accept.
I mounted my bike and tore out of the garage. A big part of me wanted to hunt down the two weres, but I resisted. It wouldn’t make me feel better. In fact, it would probably only make me feel guilty.
The first drops of rain pelted me as I sped home, just to accentuate how shitty a night I was having. Could things get any worse?
I was soaking wet and pissed off by the time I got home. I stalked through the kitchen, into the dining room, where I threw my weapons down on the table so hard, they slid across the surface and fell to the floor on the other side. I looked up to see both Ethan and Jeremy staring at me.
“What?” I said, running my fingers through my wet hair. I was about to say something snarky when I noticed how pale Ethan looked. Jeremy took a hesitant step forward. “Kat . . .”
“What’s happened?” My mind raced. Something was clearly wrong. And since Ethan and Jeremy were standing right here, that left only a few possibilities.
My throat went dry. Everything took on an unreal sheen, as if I was looking at the world through a haze of heat. I felt like throwing up.
“I’m not sure,” Jeremy said, carefully. “She hasn’t woken up.” Keira. Something had happened to Keira. My heart clenched. I strode forward, stopping inches from Jeremy.
“Where is she?” I asked through clenched teeth. If Jonathan died without me . . .
“Kat.” Jeremy licked his lips. “You don’t understand.”
“Where is she?” I shouted. I reached out like I was going to grab him by the shirt, but stopped myself. Beating up on the messenger wouldn’t accomplish anything.
“In your room.” Ethan spoke at a whisper.
I didn’t wait around for them to tell me more. I was positive Keira was lying in my bed, dying from some horrible wound. I needed to see her, needed to find out if she could tell me anything about where Jonathan might be, if he was alive or dead.
Jeremy and Ethan followed me up the stairs. I practically ran up them. Jeremy was talking, but I couldn’t make out a word he said. I had only eyes for the door at the end of the hall.
“Kat . . .” Jeremy said, pleading for me to stop one last time. “It’s not what you think.”
I burst through the door and strode to the bed. The covers were piled up on someone. Blond hair spread across the pillow.
I hesitated halfway to the bed. Keira didn’t have blond hair. If it wasn’t her, then who was in my bed?