"You've got to be fucking kidding me. Now?" Alex growled with frustration as Abby reversed their positions and pushed him against the car, a fraction of a second before she snatched a dart from the air which had been aimed at Alex's back.
"Under the car seat, there are katanas, quickly, grab them," Abby urged as she scanned the surrounding car park for the shooter.
Standing at the bar, Alaric's body went rigid, his power flashing to life, dipping the temperature inside the cosy pub. His eyes glittered fiercely and his fangs peeked beneath furious lips.
"It's a trap," he snarled. "Abby and Alex are in trouble."
"What?" Cassie's legs began to shake. Now she knew why she'd been feeling so agitated all night. She should have listed to her instincts and stayed home. But, no, she was determined to play match maker.
"How many?" Brian Harlow asked across the bar.
"More than a dozen vampires and a handful of humans," he answered, his attention quickly falling back to Cassie. "Call Narayan. Get him here now. And, whatever you do, do not leave this spot until I come back for you." His steely gaze bored into her with sufficient gravity to cement her feet into place.
Cassie nodded silently as he leaned down to kiss her forehead briefly.
In a flash he was gone.
Oh God. This was all her fault. If she hadn't insisted they come out tonight….
Cassie jumped when Brian Harlow gave a sharp whistle interrupting her mental self-flagellating epitaph. Every head in the room lifted instantly. Except for the cheering commentary on the big screen television, the pub fell into silence as several very large burly men stood to attention and began shrugging off jackets and shoes. Their wrestler physiques rippled with muscle and power as they hurried towards the door, a trail of clothes left in their wake.
"Not this time." The aging Alpha grabbed Marcus and Callum by the scruff of their necks as they prepared to march out with the other men. "Your turn will come soon enough," he reassured. "You two boys stay here. No one comes in and no one goes out. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir," they both agreed with staunch obedience. Although the wolf inside them both clawed and snarled at the command, nobody disobeyed the Alpha.
"Good lads. I'm counting on you." And, he too disappeared out into the darkness. Sounds of shouting and fighting filtered past the two boys to Cassie's straining ears before the heavy door closed. Quickly they slid home the three sturdy bolts on the door, sealing them in before moving on to shutter the windows as well.
More than once the quaint country pub had doubled for the Lycan clan's refuge against the numerous threats that menaced their lives over the years.
Cassie dialled quickly.
Narayan picked up on the first ring. "I'm already on my way," he blustered as the line went dead.
Narayan's bond to his sire was strong. He felt Alaric's distress the moment his power flashed, alerting him to the danger they were in. A couple of swords in hand, he was half way through Savernake Forest before Cassie had begun dialling his number.
Alex drew the katanas from their sheaths and gave them a twirl, handing one to Abby. Back to back they waited to face the first wave of attackers approaching from the shadows.
"God dammit. We were set-up." she growled as Alaric appeared at their side. His eyes glowed so fiercely they illuminated the area around them. His power lashed the air in angry pulses, forming ice crystals on the windows of nearby cars. His fangs fully extended into twin blades of instant death.
Alaric needed no weapon. He was a living breathing eternal weapon, and severely pissed off.
His only thought was to neutralise the threat to Cassie and get her home where she was safe. His fists clenched open and closed in anticipation of the retribution he intended to inflict.
Several vampires descended upon them in a violent clash of blades, fangs and claws, targeting their focus on Alaric as their major benefactor.
This was a suicide mission and they knew it. The fear in their eyes, the knowledge that they wouldn't leave this car park alive radiated from them in varying degrees of regret, dismay and even madness, but they persisted with their attack.
He was Sammael, the most feared creature on the planet. What then, could they be more afraid of, that facing him in a Lycan stronghold was the better option.
Ahriman, Alaric thought, as he ripped the heart from the vampire he held in his grip. A young vampire, little more than a fledgling, his eyes closed as he prayed for mercy.
A swift death was the only mercy he would receive from Alaric.
War cries, howls and pain filled screams shattered the peaceful night as the Lycans joined the fight.
More gun shots were fired from high powered rifles from a distance well beyond the car park, aimed directly at the pub's front door and the Lycans exiting it as they shifted into their wolf forms.
A gangly curly headed vampire rushed at Alex. He had no weapon drawn and dodged the swing of Alex's blade with great efficiency. The vampire circled him, taunted him, drawing him further away from Alaric and Abby, closer to the edge of the car park.
While fighting raged around him, no one attempted to fight Alex. That didn't mean he felt any less inclined to despatch their sorry arses back to Hell. It only meant it gave him a better shot at a quick kill.
Alex was seething. Abby had been right there against him, not even a millimetre existed between their lips, so close he could almost taste her, when these dumb fucks ruined the moment he'd been waiting weeks for. He fully intended to claim compensation for their intrusion.
Alex struck with one brutal slash across the throat of his attacker, relieving the vampire before him of the burden on his shoulders. Mere seconds later, the next one was upon him with stunning speed.
A swift glance toward Abby, Alex momentarily lost his concentration and his new opponent took full advantage.
Reaching to take Alex in a choke hold, Alex retaliated with a quick set of blows, spinning out of the vampire's uncertain hold.
A ball of dread lodged in the pit of his stomach as he felt the blade of a knife slice through his inner thigh in their struggle.
Fear encroached the vampire's eyes as the smell of Alex's blood reached his nose. Nostrils flaring, the vampire dropped the weapon and attempted to flee, escaping only as far as Abby's wrathful blade barely metres away.
Pain struck his thigh as the adrenaline which had flooded his body, waned. The strength left his legs and his knees gave out. Panting, he sank to the ground, his hands landing in something hot and sticky.
Abby crouched between Alex's legs and ripped his jeans open further, exposing a deep gash to his inner thigh.
There was too much blood.
"Alex, you're going to be ok, just hold on." She locked eyes with him. The fear he saw there stilled his movement.
How bad was his injury?
"I'm going to try and heal you. But, if I can't…." She couldn't finish the sentence, her voice choked in her throat.
"If you can't, give me your blood before I die," he finished for her in a steadfast calm manner.
Their eyes burned with a thousand unspoken words and emotions between them. Time was against them, he could feel it.
Abby dipped her head to the wound on Alex's thigh. Her lips closed around the edges of the wound, her tongue lashing the inside of the gash, filling it with as much healing hormone as she could, gulping down mouthfuls of blood as it gushed from the torn femoral artery.
The moment her lips touched his skin, the wall of restraint in his mind crumbled and the floodgates of pleasure opened and rippled through him.
Abby felt his reaction. She felt his cock hardening and swelling against her, the rampant burn of heat flaring in answer to his uncontrollable need for her.
Breathing was a chore. Her chest was so tight with the need to hold back the moan rising inside it, she felt light-headed from the effort. His fingers speared into her hair holding her firmly against him. She was shaking so hard her shudders vibrated through his body, intensifying their combined hungers.
The taste of him was ambrosia, warm and sweet. The feel of him was heaven.
Abby held his leg down with one hand, the other pressed firmly against his pelvis to hold him in place. She had to staunch the bleeding, seal his wound as quickly as possible before he bled out.
He was losing too much blood.
He began to move more aggressively beneath her as the healing hormone she was pumping into him created a whirlpool of desire that spiralled out to encompass them both. She felt liquid heat slither throughout her entire body just from the understanding of her effect on him, the heated sap coiling into intriguing puddles of arousal.
His blood flowed through her body, his thoughts touched her mind and his soul joined with hers. Their hearts beat as one as the world around them imploded in a kaleidoscope of sensation, bonding them together.
Alex had no words to describe what he felt. For a brief moment he felt whole. It was as though they already knew each other with perfect intimacy, from thought to touch, from soul to soul. Nothing had ever felt this perfect or so real.
The pressure from her mouth receded, replaced by the light caress of her body as she moved over him. The loss of their intimate contact had him reeling instantly in distress.
"Shh. I'm here," she soothed, brushing his dark wavy hair from his face.
Relief flooded his system as he took a shuddering breath and reached to touch her face. His head felt foggy, loss of blood and the healing hormone taking its toll but he fought the darkness that threatened to engulf him.
"Narayan." Abby called desperately.
"Abby, baby." Alex drew her attention back to him. His hand moved around her waist as he attempted and failed to sit up. His head swam with the sound of a thousand bees buzzing in his ears as he grappled against his body and willed himself to remain coherent. "Abby."
"I'm here." Shifting her weight she raised his head to her lap. "Shh. Everything's going to be fine. Narayan's here. We'll get you home and get some blood into you."
"I can't do this anymore. I'm dying here." Alex reached up to stroke her face.
"You're not going to die." She cried, pressing her cheek into the palm of his hand, tears welling in her determined eyes.
"Baby, I need you to put me out of my misery." Her eyes widened to the size of saucers in panic. She couldn't let him die.
He had lost a critical amount of blood. His life still hung in the balance.
She couldn't let him die. She couldn't lose him.
Abby dropped her fangs and raised her wrist.
She wouldn't let him die.
"No. That's not what I mean." Grabbing her hand he smiled bashfully pulling her down toward him. "I thought you could read my mind," he chuckled weakly.
"I'm sorry. I'm a little bit stressed here, ok?" she blustered.
"Abby. The need to kiss you is killing me. Please baby, put me out of my misery and kiss me." His voice slurred drunkenly but his eyes conveyed his desperate need. The need to touch her, taste her, to be a part of her.
Abby's breath hitched in her throat. Relief flooded her body.
Relief that he hadn't given up his fight for life.
Relief that he needed her.
Relief that she could still give him her blood if need be.
She held her breath momentarily, entranced as hunger licked hotly through his irises, skimming over her, devouring her without so much as a touch.
He reached for her face, his fingers seeking refuge in her short hair, his thumbs at her temples, soothing away the tension pulling her forehead into deep furrows of concern.
"Kiss me," he whispered again, drawing her lips closer for a soft lingering kiss.
Abby looked upon the strong, bold lines of his face. His facial bone structure had a refinement that was echoed in the frame of his body. A masculine elegance that caught her eye and tugged at her heart.
His mouth was sensually carved with full lips, but it was his worldly, knowledgeable gaze that drew her closure. Those breath taking eyes were smiling at her, despite his perilous situation.
He needed her touch like parched land needed rain. He needed to soak in it, feel it inside him, soothing him, healing him.
She hesitated for only a moment before releasing her shyness and propriety.
Abby cupped his face, his lips touched hers, burning hot passion simmering beneath the gentle kiss. The pleasure so intense, so fiery, it would seem impossible from such a simple caress.
Alex drew in a sharp breath, desire curling stridently through his entire body and soul as he deepened the kiss.
He was acting purely on impulse, every wild twist of his mouth against hers a reflection of that mindless need for connection. She moaned and her body became more pliant against his demanding lips.
"I don't mean to interrupt this touching moment, but we need to get out of here." Narayan urged quietly at their back.
"Narayan, your timing sucks, do you know that?" Alex chastised but there was little fire in his voice. His energy was fading fast. The buzzing in his head increased as he fought against the darkness that blurred the edges of his vision.
The brisk wind bore the scent of coming snow, biting through the layers of his torn clothing and elicited a round of almost convulsive shivering.
The fighting had ended but the fight for life still hung in the balance for two in their alliance. Alex desperately needed blood, without it he most likely wouldn't see out the night.
Brian Harlow too, teetered on the brink of life. The human attackers came prepared to take out the Lycans, firing hollow tipped bullets filled with silver nitrate. Damon Harlow had taken a bullet in the calf and although he would survive, the silver neutralised his body's ability to regenerate. It would take him weeks to heal completely. Likewise, another Lycan had taken a shot to the shoulder.
Unfortunately Brian Harlow had not been so lucky. He had taken two bullets to the chest. He was the oldest of the Lycans, and as the Alpha he was also the most powerful, but it would take a miracle for even him to survive such an injury.
Angry howls echoed throughout the region as the pack relayed the news.
"Alex." Cassie's terrified cry drew their attention as she skidded to a halt at Alex's feet. His normally olive complexion so pale, he rivalled the vampire's skin tone for pasty white perfection, only with a blue tinge to his lips. There appeared to be more of his blood covering his body and the ground than was left in his veins.
Alaric's unfurled wings extended around the group protectively as he stood behind Cassie, wrapping her in his arms as she began to tremble.
"Oh my God. What happened? Is he going to be okay?" she demanded, slipping Alaric's hold to get to him.
"Hey kid," Alex answered, his voice slurring thickly. As hard as he tried, he couldn't get his eyes to focus on any face by Abby. "I'll be fine. Some fuck knuckle stabbed me in the leg is all." He quickly shot Abby an apologetic look who just chuckled quietly. He'd been trying his best to be more mature and not to swear around her, but he just couldn't help himself sometimes. "Once I soak up a couple of bags of blood like my fangy friends here, I'll be good as new," attempting to reassure her with a weak smile.
"We need to go." Abby stated, as Narayan bent down to pick Alex up.
"No. Narayan, let Alaric take him." Cassie turned to Alaric, her eyes pleading with him to take her cousin.
Alaric was torn. He was forced to choose between protecting his Mate and saving her cousin. Every molecule in his body screamed at him to take his Mate home, not to leave her side. But, he couldn't take them both together and Alex desperately needed immediate attention. Since the fastest form of transport was by air, and he had the only pair of wings, he grudgingly nodded in favour of the latter.
Both Cassie and Abby sighed with relief as they hovered over Alex protectively, shielding him from the bitter wind.
It was getting harder to speak. Alex just couldn't find the energy to make his mouth move.
"Abby, I think I love you." He thought to himself as she gently stroked his forehead, her worried eyes never leaving his face.
"I love you too."
Confusion resonated in Alex's large expressive eyes.
Brain fade. He must be suffering some form of delirium from lack of blood or shock. Although, he could have sworn he heard Abby speak to him in his mind.
"You did," she answered him aloud, a little sheepishly.
Alex cocked his head to examine Abby more carefully. His tongue felt like it had been glued to the roof of his mouth, attempting to speak only ended in garbled noises. "How is that possible? Why can I hear you in my head?"
"We created a blood bond when I took your blood. Does that upset you?" she asked him silently, her past rejection issues rearing their ugly head causing her stomach to do back flips in the seconds she waited for his reply.
Alex dragged his hand to hers, linking their fingers together. "I just told you I loved you, and I meant it," he vowed, as though that was the only answer that mattered.
"Abby, is everything okay?" Cassie asked anxiously as a tear rolled down the vampire's cheek, her joyous almost hysterical giggle seemingly out of place for their current situation. Maybe with her mind reading abilities she was somehow experiencing Alex's delirious euphoria from the healing hormone, Cassie thought.
"Everything is great," Abby assured her. Sniffing back her tears, she leaned over to give Alex a soft kiss on his very blue and ice cold lips. He was shivering so violently she worried he might be having a reaction to the healing.
Pulling him tighter against her, her lukewarm body couldn't offer enough heat to stop him from going into hypothermia. She rubbed his arms, his legs, chest, cheeks, anywhere she could reach, rubbing with her vampire speed, desperate to build enough friction to warm him. As she did, she listened carefully to the beat of his heart, now tuned to the beat of her own. At the first sign of a stutter to its rhythm she was ready to give him her blood.
She would not loose him.
"Leave the car here," Alaric ordered. "We'll collect it tomorrow." The only safe route home was through Savernake Forest. A much slower trek on foot but at least they couldn't be ambushed again. "Narayan, could you take Cassie? I don't want to take any more chances tonight. They might make another attempt at her," he hissed venomously.
"Of course," he replied instantly.
"Those fucking sons of bitches. I should never have believed the Guild would lift the bounty on Cassie," Alaric continued his self deprecating rant, his choice of expletive words eliciting a few startled looks. Maybe he'd adopted a few words from Alex's vocabulary. So what? It was hard not to when the language was so liberally used and suited his current mood perfectly.
"Killing Cassie wasn't their objective." Abby reluctantly announced. She had picked up the thoughts of their vampire attackers, their minds loudly broadcasting their intentions.
"What do you mean?" Alaric asked, a quizzical frown between his brows, his eyes beginning to glitter with an otherworldly light once again.
"It appears the Guild have rescinded the order to kill Cassie, that wasn't a lie. But, they have issued a new order." Looking between Cassie and Alex anxiously she continued. "The Guild wants to capture Cassie alive,…and they want Alex."
"What?" Cassie's head was spinning. Why would they want to kidnap her and Alex? What possible reason would they have, except….
"Oh my god," Cassie gripped Alaric's arm as the world shifted on its axis. "It's my blood," she uttered breathlessly, on the point of hyperventilating. "My blood is the Key isn't it? I carry the immortality gene that would make Ahriman immortal. He wants my blood."
Cassie doubled over to put her head between her knees in an attempt to avoid the embarrassment of fainting.
A violent growl erupted from Alaric's chest. His jaw clenched with enough force to fracture bone. The audible crack barely registered in his conscious thought until Cassie's gasp drew his attention to his re-setting jaw. His eyes blazed in his darkened face, deep blue flames of determination, dominance and retribution.
Alaric rose over Cassie, the width of his angel's wings shadowing her as he wrapped his arms around her comfortingly. She could feel his power flowing through him, the strength that was so much a part of him, wrapping around her, sheltering her. Protecting her.
"Why would they be after Alex, if it's my blood Ahriman needs?" she probed, her heart still hammering in her chest.
"We can only assume that Ahriman doesn't know which one of you carries the gene." Narayan replied, his large frame moving to stand behind Abby and Alex, his eyes locking with Alaric's, mirroring the same determination to protect them. They were his family now too.
Alaric turned Cassie in his arms to look at her, his hands reaching for her pale face, threading his fingers through the golden tendrils of hair which had escaped her elegant twist in the frigid breeze. His stalwart conviction tempered the bubbling undercurrent of fear amongst them.
"I won't let Ahriman get anywhere near you or Alex. I promise." Despite his exterior mask of calm, he couldn't quell the raging sea of trepidation building within. His most primitive instincts to protect his Mate were being stirred to fever pitch.
Cassie cuddled up against him and rested her head on his chest. With a heavy sigh she pulled herself together. This was no time for a pity party. Things could be a lot worse right now, she reminded herself.
"Time to go," Alaric ordered, lifting Alex's limp and barely conscious body from the ground.
"Did any of the Guild attackers survive?" Cassie asked as they marched to the edge of the forest.
"One human sniper," Alaric answered, his top lip curled back revealing his protruding canines. "He won't get far though. He shot the Lycan's Clan Alpha. They won't rest until they've caught him."
"But, what about the human bodies? They don't disintegrate into dust like the vampires," she asked him, breathing heavily between every other word. She had always considered herself to be reasonably fit but keeping up with the pace these vampires set and talking tested her lungs abilities to draw in enough air to do both at the same time.
"Lycans are experts at covering crime scenes and body disposal. Even the best CSI team won't find a single piece of evidence by the time they're through cleaning the area. That's how they've managed to stay hidden from the world for so long."
"And the people inside the pub? Surely not everyone in there was Lycan. How do they hide all this from them? Even if they couldn't see what was going on out here, they could quite clearly hear the fighting and gunfire," she asked when they reached the edge of the forest.
"You worry too much love," Alaric chastised, one corner of his mouth curling into an adorable lopsided grin. "Mrs Harlow or one of the other females will take care of it."
"Take care of it, how?" she asked suspiciously. "Will those humans become the main course at the Clan's next banquet?"
Alaric and Narayan laughed. Abby was still new to all this too to know quite what to think and shrugged her shoulders when Cassie looked in her direction. "No love. The female Lycan's can't shift into wolf form but they do have their own gifts. They can wipe the memories of humans. Those people in there tonight will wake up tomorrow and have no recollection of anything that happened.
"Well, that's good to know." At least she could rest assured that there wasn't going to be any 'exotic' meat kebabs or funky roast de Homosapien served at their wedding.
Alex's convulsive shivers abruptly ceased as he finally passed out.
"Alaric, you really need to go. Alex is…." Abby couldn't finish the thought.
He was fading.
"Go. Quickly," Cassie urged him. "We're safe in the forest, now go." A fresh injection of fear crawled beneath her skin. Alex had always been there for her. He was her friend, her protector, often her adversary and the only family she had, until now. She couldn't imagine her life without him.
He had to make it.
The pain in Cassie's eyes trebled Alaric's anger.
He was going to enjoy killing Ahriman, very slowly. He'd start by peeling away one layer of skin at a time…just as soon as they discovered the identity he was masquerading. The longer it was taking to find him, the more pain he wanted to inflict on something, anything, just to let of steam.
At this rate, if his anger and frustration continued to increase, it was highly likely he could reverse global warming and freeze over the polar ice caps with the power that threatened to explode from him.
"We'll just be a few minutes behind you," Narayan told him as Alaric's silvery wings launched him into the air with Alex's limp body in his arms.
Alaric watched As Cassie climbed on Narayan's back and disappeared into the forest.
For now, at least, she was safe.