Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Half Blood: Chapter Three

Three






Rhett had had a hard time keeping his cool that afternoon. He had felt his “human” face slipping, the face and persona he used when he was away from the pack. First it was the problem with Indi, and then Jerry getting up in his face about what had happened between them. He’d had it under control until the asshole mouthed off at her. He looked over at the girl he’d been charged with taking care of, mentally reaffirming to himself what he was meant to be doing. Jerry said that he owed him for walking her back, but the reality was he’d wanted to take her home. He’d give up a limb for Indi if it meant she’d be safe.
“You didn’t have to do it, you know,” Indi said, breaking the silence for the first time since they’d left the cafe.
“Walk you home?”
“Lie for me. Jerry knows I have a short fuse.”
“He was…” Rhett bristled over the thought, “touching you. Nobody gets to touch you without your permission first.”
She shrugged. “I had it under control. Besides, I’m not worth losing your job over.”
Rhett gave her a look that set her pulse pounding. “Of course you’re worth it, Indi,” he replied seriously. She held his gaze for a long, slow minute before walking again. She thought she was worthless, but to him, she was priceless and he would do whatever he had to do to make sure she knew that. He glanced over at her again, noticing she was shivering which wasn’t a surprise. The coat she was wearing was threadbare at best.
“Are you cold?” he asked, already pulling off his jacket to give to her.
Stubbornly, she shook her head. “I’m fine,” she replied through gritted teeth. She tried to shove her nearly-blue hands into her pockets before he could see them.
“You’re not fine,” he grunted. “Here. Take mine,” he said, draping it over her shoulders, his hand accidentally dragging softly over the nape of her neck as he positioned the jacket. She didn’t seem to notice as she pulled the edges closer to her body and inhaled the scent of him from the collar when she thought he wasn’t looking. A flare of possession burned through his body, but he tamped it down before it could properly ignite. He was her Guardian. His job was to keep her alive. He had no other part to play in her life.
Exhaling a frustrated breath, he tipped his head back until he could see the stars without the interruption of buildings. It seemed endless to him—the night sky—stretching out for miles; it was nothing but a blank canvas ready to be painted on. When he looked back down, Indi was doing the same thing. The angle she tilted her head back at exposed her long neck to him, sending the desire to have her under him right that moment through his veins, heating his blood and sending it shooting around his body. He looked away and ran a hand shakily through his hair.
“So how did you end up living in Hell?” he asked, trying to distract himself and his body from her, but his pounding erection pressing against the fly of his pants wasn’t interested in anything else but her.
“Bad fucking luck,” she drawled slowly, giving him a haunted smile. “I got kicked out of my last foster home,” she added, looking down at her feet rather than in his eyes.
His heart ached for her. So she was a foster kid. That explained why she kept her cards so close to her chest. But if she was a foster kid, that would mean…
“Your last foster home was Jerry’s parents’ place, wasn’t it?” Pain flashed in her eyes, but she didn’t answer. “How long has it been since you were kicked out?”
“Six months,” she replied, threading her hands through the arms of his jacket as another gust of winter wind careened towards them. “Do you want your coat back?” she asked, her teeth still chattering a little. He could see the line of goose bumps on the skin of her neck, and wanted nothing more than to run his tongue along them and taste her skin. He shook his head, remembering that he hadn’t answered her question.
“No. I’m fine,” he replied hastily. His body ran at a healthy one hundred and five in both of his skins. There were definitely some perks to being a werewolf. “You like living here?” he asked, gesturing to the squalid buildings around them. They’d just stepped into the suburb of Buxton known as ‘Hell’, crossing the figurative wrong side of the tracks, or in this case, south of Wheeler Street.
“Not really, no. But it was all I could afford.”
“Where are your parents?”
She didn’t answer for a long time, and Rhett didn’t push her. She’d answer when she was ready. “I don’t want to talk about them.” Her whole expression darkened. She was retreating again.
“Sorry,” he said quickly. No matter how much he tried to scratch more than just the surface of her away, she would pull back again, push him away, and the fact that she was a foster kid who went through the system more than explained it. She probably felt like if she gave a piece of herself to everyone who drifted in and out of her life that there wouldn’t be anything left of her.
He wanted to reassure her that he wouldn’t be taking anything away from her. He wanted her to stay safe and he would give his life to make sure that happened. He wanted her to know how much he cared about her. Without thinking, he stepped in front of her, causing her to stop abruptly, her face a few inches away from his chest. His arms ached to pull her to him, but he curled his hands into fists at his sides instead.
“Rhett? What is it?” she asked. He watched her mouth form the words, watched her lips and tongue roll over the sounds until that was all he could focus on. In his head, he could picture himself taking her face in between his hands and kissing her gently on the lips, exploring her tongue and her mouth. He wanted to know how she tasted, how warm her lips were. But the reality was Indi would have the hunting knife she kept in her boot through his heart before he could draw a breath.
He gritted his teeth, the words you’re-a-dumbass banging around his skull. He was being an asshole if he thought a girl as great as Indi would ever want someone as faulty as he was. He wasn’t even human for Christ’s sake! When he opened his eyes again, her eyes were curiously on him. This time he didn’t stop himself even though he should have ten times over. He reached for her, his fingers barely brushing her cold cheek. She shivered under his touch and he dropped his hand. He couldn’t do this. Guardians were not supposed to have relationships with their charges. Attachment meant feelings and feelings were bad—especially for him. He had nothing to offer her and nothing good would ever come of it.
With a soft growl, he pulled away from her, turned and walked a few paces up the street. She didn’t follow him though, not that he was surprised. He stalked back to her, noticing the curiosity in her eyes was now gone—replaced by a rage he could understand. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Let me walk you home.” The tension between them was so thick you could have walked on it. But he ignored it, concentrating on keeping Indi safe.

* * *

Rhett had left Indi standing just inside the glass doors of her apartment, shivering and angry. Shivering because it was so damn cold in her apartment building, and angry because he had pulled away from her. She had no idea what had happened between them before. Her heart was pounding in her ears as he reached for her, and for the first time she wanted a man to touch her. There was just something about Rhett that she knew she could trust. Her normal instincts of get-the-hell-out-of-there were nothing but a distant memory when she was with him, when he was touching her so gently. She never thought she could feel that way about a guy again.
Before she could feel anything else for him though, she let her anger swirl through her body. He had rejected her—flat out, cold rejected her. His refusal stung a little more than she would have liked, but it was not wholly unexpected. Why would Rhett want her? She was just damaged goods. And with that thought, the emotional scab of her insecurity started to bleed once more.
Her anger felt good flowing through her veins again as she took the three flights of stairs up to her apartment. She was swimming in the violent ocean of her rage, enjoying the sensation. Pulling her apartment key from her pocket, she jammed it into the lock angrily and opened up her front door.
The whole apartment was a festering sore, an open wound—ragged and septic. These four walls contained Indi’s entire pitiful life and wasn’t that the most depressing thing ever. The carpet was worn through in some spots, the holes made bigger by the rats that shared the space. An old couch she found out on the sidewalk when she moved in took up most of the space; her twin mattress on a cheap iron bed frame took up the other half. And in the far right corner was a small bathroom, the only place for any real privacy in that hell hole.
Dumping her bag onto the floor next to the door, she stalked around to the couch and sank down into it as she turned on her tiny TV. The news had just started, the headlining story the same as it had been for the past two weeks—the rapist was getting a fuckload of coverage. The report was on his latest victim—a sixteen-year-old girl snatched while walking home from the library last night. Indi switched the TV off in disgust. Hell was his favorite hunting ground and she hated that there was yet another man out there that wanted a piece of her. The cops had no leads, either. All she knew was that if he came after her one night, she would make sure he wouldn’t be able to walk, talk or take a piss standing up ever again.
The shrill buzz of her doorbell rang through her small apartment. “What?” she snapped into the intercom. She’d found it was better to shoot first and ask questions later in a neighborhood like Hell.
“Indi? It’s me,” her best friend replied. Her voice came out tinny and thin. Indi pressed the button to buzz her in and paced around her apartment. Beth was early. The knock on her door came a minute later.
“What are you doing here so––” she began to say, but stopped when she realized it wasn’t her best friend standing in front of her. It was her neighbor from across the hall.
“James?” she asked, a thrill of fear licking up her spine. His sheer size and fondness for football reminded her of the first guy who had gotten his claws into her. James was standing with his shoulders rolled forward so he looked smaller than his actual six-foot-six height. His dark hair was cut short making his dark blue eyes rimmed with gold around the pupil stand out on his handsomely angular face.  
“In-In-Indigo,” he said warily, his nearly debilitating stutter almost swallowing his words to a point past incomprehension.
“What are you doing here?”
“I-I w-was just g-going out t-t-to the sh-shops. D-Do you n-n-need anything?”
“Ah, no. Thanks,” she replied, trying not to look at his face. She focused on his chest instead. Not ideal when you’re trying to be tough, but good enough.
“O-o-okay,” he stuttered before leaving. “Good-good-goodnight,” he called over his shoulder.
 She closed the door and leaned her forehead against the cool wood before there was another knock vibrating through her skull. She opened up the door, greeted by the smell of the Italian food Beth had brought around for dinner. Indi’s mouth watered. She hadn’t eaten a proper meal in two days—not after she had to pay her rent and phone bill in the same day.
“Indi!” Beth said, throwing her arms around Indi’s neck in a hug. Indi tried not to pull away from her straight away.
“Hey Beth. How are you?” she said into her ear.
“I’m good,” she replied, pulling out of the hug. 
“What ingenious lie did you spin to get away this time, and how long do you have?”
“I told my mother I was going to a bible study group, so I’ve got a couple of hours, max.”
“We better make it count then,” Indi said, closing the door behind them. Beth was already rummaging through Indi’s poorly equipped kitchen looking for clean plates and cutlery.
“Indi, when are you going to wash up? I can’t find one clean plate.”
“If you think it’s so important, knock yourself out,” Indi replied offhandedly, settling down onto the sofa.
“That wasn’t what I meant,” Beth muttered under her breath without stopping her search.
Glancing over, Indi said, “I don’t know why you’re bothering. It just means that I’ll have to wash them up afterwards. Can’t we just eat out of the containers?”
Beth didn’t answer her, which meant she was being polite. Indi switched the TV back on, absently flicking through the five channels it picked up.
“So how’s your gilded cage?”
Beth stuck her head past the bookshelf that split the kitchen from the rest of the apartment. “That’s not funny.”
“Sure it is,” she smiled.
“School’s not the same without you, you know?” Beth said as she brought two mismatched plates out with pasta sprawling over the edges.
“I’m not going back there.”
“But it was the final year. You could still graduate if you wanted to.”
Indi took the plate she was offered. “Beth, we’ve already been through this. I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t even make my rent on my wage, let alone pay those ridiculous school fees.”
“I know that, but still…” Beth finished with a shrug, sinking down onto the sofa with one leg tucked under her body. Beth didn’t know about the money sitting in Jerry’s bank account and thank God for that. If she did, she’d be pushing Indi to use it.
“So what’s new? I haven’t seen you in a week.”
Beth’s bottom lip disappeared into her mouth for a momen, her eyes cast down to the floor. “Nothing really.” Indi knew exactly how to translate that. In Beth language, that meant that there was something major going on.
“Spill it,” Indi demanded.
“It’s nothing.”
“Bullshit.”
She sighed. “Fine. I called Jason this afternoon,” she admitted.
“You did what?” The memory of Beth crying on her shoulder was like a smack in the face for Indi. About two months ago, Beth had broken up with that knuckle dragger after he posted his latest conquest on every social media network available to him. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t still been dating Beth at the time. “Don’t you dare think about going back to him,” Indi bit out the words, holding back on a few other choice ones she wanted to slip in.
Beth ducked her head, shame and regret bruising her cheeks. “I just wanted to talk to him.”
“Why? What could you possibly have to say to him?” Indi snapped back.
“I miss talking to him.”
Indi slammed her fork onto the side of her plate, causing Beth to wince. “After what he did to you, you want to talk to him? Still? Tell me you told him to shove it at least once when you were having your catch up chat.” Her voice was hard, the edge so sharp it could have drawn blood.
“He said he missed me and he was sorry for what he did,” she replied softly.
With a cool rush, Indi’s anger woke from its temporary slumber. “No.” It was the only word she could formulate that didn’t involve a curse. Indi hated Jason with such passion. He had hurt Beth and Indi had promised herself that she would never let that happen again. Ever.
“What do you mean ‘no’?”
“I mean no—not him Beth.” Indi didn’t beg, so this was as close as she ever flirted with it.
“I still don’t understand.”
Indi couldn’t believe Beth couldn’t see what he was doing. Hell, Beth couldn’t even see what she was doing. “Don’t believe his lies. Please,” she ground out. She suddenly felt dirty for dipping her toe into the begging pool. Twice in as many minutes was not good.
“What’s wrong with Jason?” she asked in her softest voice ever. “You liked him just fine before.”
Indi wouldn’t have even said that. Like was a strong word. Tolerated maybe, but even that implied a certain amount of apathy. No, Indi would say that she hated his fucking guts, not that she had ever told Beth that. “Exactly. Before. Before he went and fucked Sophie because he couldn’t get what he wanted from you. Before he broke your heart. What he did to you…” she stopped abruptly, feeling the familiar unease of her anger clawing at her skin. “Has what happened slipped your mind completely?” she finished harshly.
Beth’s arms crossed over her small chest. “No, I haven’t forgotten,” she said in a hard whisper. Indi just couldn’t understand what the hell was going through her mind. Love wasn’t just fucking blind. “The Bible says we should forgive others,” Beth added softly.
Indi shook her head at her, not even bothering to launch into the whole Bible thing with her. “He’ll hurt you again, Beth. And you know what will happen if he hurts you, don’t you? I’ll make sure that he’ll never be able to have children—that’s what will happen.”
Beth frowned and turned away from her, concentrating on the TV. Fuck it. Indi didn’t like it, but she knew she had to apologize, but Beth’s phone rang just as she opened her mouth. Her eyes snapped down to the illuminated face of her iPhone laying on the table next to her plate. The background picture was of her and Beth on Indi’s last day of school. “HOME” flashed impatiently on the screen, tap dancing with the Marimba ringtone on the phone.
Beth glanced at Indi. “It’s my mother.” She waited for Indi to nod before running her finger over the screen to answer the call. Not wanting to be rude, Indi focused on the TV while Beth talked.
“Sorry Ind. She wants me to be home in half an hour,” Beth told her a few minutes later.
“So we can finish eating, at least.”
Beth shook her head. “I also have to stop at the store to pick up some things.”
Indi didn’t want to leave things how they were right now. “Feel like some company?” Besides, she’d rather be dead than let Beth out of her apartment in this neighborhood at night.
Beth seemed to think about that for a moment. “You’ll have to walk home afterwards.”
Shrugging her shoulders at her, Indi asked, “So?”
“What about the rapist?” Beth asked, lowering her voice as if the rapist were in the room and would be offended if he heard they were talking about him.
“I’ve got it covered,” Indi smiled coolly. Beth’s eyes flickered to Indi’s right leg then back to her face. Weapons made her nervous. At least it wasn’t a gun. There wasn’t a chance that she could accidentally cut her own foot off with a knife. Indi could practically see the thoughts churning around in Beth’s head as she tried to think of a way to stop her from going with her. “Beth, I’ll be fine. Trust me.”
Her bottom lip made a trip into her mouth. “Okay,” the word and the tone of her voice didn’t really match, but Indi let it go. Her anxiety was just that––hers.
“Are you ready?” Indi prompted after Beth just sat on the couch looking at her while worry etched small lines on her face.
“If you’re sure?”

* * *

Rhett had felt Indi’s anger like a slap in the face as he left her at her apartment. And he deserved to feel every little bit of it. He had overstepped his bounds. He ran a hand through his dark hair, fighting the urge to rip it out in frustration. He’d been a fool to think that he could take on this job. He had no idea why the Seer had even found Indi while scrying for other wereanimals in and around their territory about six months ago, but she’d shown up all the same.
“I’ve found a felvair,” the Seer said, sounding like she was a five-pack-a-day smoker.
His alpha—Antain—steepled his fingers under his chin. “Are you sure, Seer?” he asked in his deep, rumbling voice.
She nodded, her white, spider-web hair rasping against the top of the hood on the black robes she always wore. “Yes, Alpha of the Helheim Pack. I am sure.”
Antain settled further into his seat becoming deathly still as he considered the news. The pack’s beta, Vaile, schooled his expression well—giving absolutely nothing away. He made the cop-face into a scary-ass art form. Rhett glanced over at Sabel. He was captain of the pack’s enforcers and technically Rhett’s boss. The guy was an asshole who he’d never seen eye to eye with anyway.
Sabel's hand was clutching the arm of his chair—his knuckles turning white with the effort. Chartreuse eyes stared out at the Seer, his wolf at war with the man. Suddenly his eyes narrowed, swinging dangerously in Rhett’s direction. Instinctively—but not consciously—a low growl vibrated Rhett’s chest, his lip curled away from his top teeth. When he realized what he was doing, where he was, he looked away into the hearth he was standing next to, watching the flames lick the wood like a sadistic lover. Submitting to Sabel made his skin crawl, but it was a necessary evil. 
“You,” the Seer croaked. Rhett turned around to see her pointing at him with a bony finger. “Come here.” Her sightless eyes were eerily precise, managing to stare right into his soul even though her sight had been stolen so many years ago. Rhett glanced over at his alpha, waiting for permission to participate in the meeting he was technically intruding on. Antain's brown eyes slipped to gold before he gave him a nod. Rhett swallowed past the lump in his throat and pushed away from the mantel.  
 The pack’s Seer had always given him the heebies. Her leathery skin was stretched tight over long bones. Her hair trailed down her back like long fingers, her cloudy eyes sitting in hollow sockets.
 “Give me your hand,” she commanded.
Rhett exhaled and placed his hand in hers. Her skin was warm and oddly smooth. When she started to hum something quietly, he felt a tingle rush over his skin, burrowing into every cell in his body. After a few minutes, she released him and placed a hand over his heart. Heat flared from between the connection of their meeting skin until Rhett thought he couldn’t take anymore. Just as he was about to break, the heat faded and it was just an old woman’s warm hand on his chest again.
“You will be her Guardian after her transition.” The Seer dropped her hand just as Sabel lost his goddamn mind.
“What?!” Sabel roared, pushing out of his chair and sending it clattering to the ground. “This fucked up excuse for a wolf? He should have been put down when he was a pup,” he yelled, moving towards Rhett until he was up in his face. Rhett’s chest vibrated, the growl traveling up his throat and trickling out from behind his bared teeth.
“Sabel!” Their alpha’s voice boomed through the room, shaking the pictures on the wall and making the fire in the hearth hiss anxiously. “Enough,” he muttered. “The Seer has said it is so, and so it is.”
“He’s defective. Rightfully, he should have been dead already. He has no right to have the honor,” Sabel spat, glaring at Rhett, challenging him with his fixed chartreuse stare. Sabel’s wolf was dangerously close to the surface.
“Purer blood runs through my veins, you Bitten piece of shit,” Rhett snarled back, feeling the hairs at the back of his neck standing on end—the best his human body could do to represent his wolf’s raised hackles.
A giant hand landed on Rhett’s shoulder. He didn’t need to turn around to know that it was Vaile’s palm. “Break it up,” he rumbled. Rhett refused to back down, waiting until Sabel moved first.
The Seer pointed at Rhett again, breaking the tension in the room. “He is the one who must be her Guardian.”
Antain held the Seer’s gaze. “And it will be done, Seer. I will make sure of it.”
“Alpha, I would like to speak with you privately if I may. There are some things you must know,” she added in her rasping voice.
Antain bowed slightly. “Of course.” Turning to Vaile, Sabel and Rhett, he said, “We’re done for tonight.”
“I cannot leave your side,” Sabel replied, stepping forward.
“I am quite safe, Sabel. Leave us now.” Rhett could tell by the way Sabel curled his fists that he was fighting the direct order. “Now!”. The look on Sabel’s face was like a puppy being hit with a rolled-up newspaper, but he turned on his heel and stalked out. Vaile followed him and Rhett came up the rear, closing the huge mahogany door behind him and leaning against it for support.
“I bet you’re pretty fucking proud of yourself, aren’t you?”
Rhett opened his eyes to find Sabel eye-fucking him about two inches away from his face. Rhett’s wolf bristled. “Get out of my face, Sabel,” Rhett growled.
He didn’t move. “You weren’t even supposed to be in that meeting.”
“And I didn’t ask to be there, either,” Rhett replied, glancing over Sabel’s shoulder at Vaile. He had propped himself up against the opposite wall just watching them as he always seemed to do. He wouldn’t intercede unless blood was going to be spilled.
“That doesn’t stop it from happening though, does it?” Sabel snarled, still not giving an inch.
Rhett’s eyes ratcheted sideways back to Sabel. “Fuck you, Sabel. I didn’t ask for this.” He shouldn’t have been in that meeting and he sure as shit shouldn’t have been chosen as Guardian to the felvair. That honor usually went to the strongest, unmated wolf, which meant that Vaile or Sabel really should have been selected—not him. He tried to sidestep the guy, but he moved in front of him again.
“The only reason you’re still breathing is because of our alpha.”
“And that’s the thing that really gets to you, isn’t it? How a defective wolf, who should have been put down when he was a pup, has the ear of the alpha. I’m the only family he has left. I should be alpha. Just be thankful that I’m not because I would have had you killed the moment I assumed leadership. Now get out of my fucking way before I make you get out of my way,” Rhett snarled. After a long, hard minute, Sabel backed away from Rhett and stalked up the stairs. After getting his temper back in check, Rhett looked up to find Vaile staring at him from the same position he was in before. He didn’t say anything, but Rhett could have sworn that he nodded at him before navigating his way through to the kitchen.
So here he was, six months later, still her Guardian and still with no idea why he had been chosen. He’d started just going to the cafe to see her, to make sure she knew who he was before he applied for a job there. He figured he’d keep her close. He just had no idea that by keeping her so close that he’d develop feelings for her. He ran a hand through his hair again, laughing at the hopelessness of the situation when his phone started ringing.
He pulled it out of his pocket without checking who it was. “Yeah?” he answered gruffly.
“It’s Vaile. Get back to the house. We’ve got a situation.”
“What is it?”
“Just get back to the house,” he said, the line going dead a second later.
With a curse, Rhett jogged to his car and began driving home. Even though he’d just seen her, he drove past Indi’s apartment block—relieved to see the lights on. Lights on meant she was safe and just where she was supposed to be. Driving north, he got out of Buxton and headed towards the farmhouse.
Rhett pulled his 1993 Volkswagen Jetta onto the gravel road that lead to the pack’s farmhouse on the outskirts of Buxton. The place had been built at the turn of the last century, and had been in his family ever since. His father should have been alpha, not his uncle, but being killed sure put an end to that particular dream. Leadership ran from family to family, and father to son unless the son abdicated from the duty—in which case the next eldest son would step forward. If there were no sons to take control, the alpha could choose their own successor. That’s what had happened to Rhett. When his father died, he was supposed to become alpha of the Helheim pack, but his defect would never be accepted, so leadership went to his uncle. Rhett brought the car to a stop next to the house and got out, leaving the bitterness that constantly lapped the angry shores in his head behind.
He found his uncle, Vaile and Sabel in the living room waiting for him.
“Is she safe?” his uncle asked as soon as he walked in the room.
Rhett nodded. “The last I checked she was.”
“Good, because we have a problem.”
“What is it?”
“A vampire,” Vaile replied, taking over from his alpha. “In Buxton. I came across a body on my shift tonight. The body was drained, the throat slit to hide the bite marks.”
Rhett swallowed thickly. “Is it one of the Sicarii?”
Vaile shrugged. “Not sure, but the Sicarii don’t feed on humans, so I’m guessing it’s just a regular vamp.”
“What are we going to do?” Rhett asked.
“Hunt it down and kill it,” Vaile replied, a glint of malice flashing in his normally passive eyes.
“When?”
“Now,” Antain said. “You, Vaile and Sabel are going in.”
Rhett glanced at Sabel then Vaile then back to his alpha. “Isn’t that a bit of overkill?”
His uncle gave him a meaningful look. Right. So leaving Sabel alone with him wasn’t such a good idea. He was being babysat. Rhett opened his mouth to protest, but a stern look from his alpha closed it for him. “I want you to be careful, Rhett. It’s not just your life you have in your hands now. Remember that.”
“I will Uncle.”
Rhett took the Jetta into Buxton. Vaile was riding shotgun while Sabel kissed his own kneecaps in the back seat.
“I should have been driving,” he grumbled.
“Nobody drives my car, Sabel,” Rhett replied, trying to hide his smile but failing. “How’s the space back there by the way?”
“A fucking midget wouldn’t be comfortable,” Sabel muttered.
“Enough,” Vaile snarled, his eyes flashing icy-blue before looking out the passenger window again.
Twenty minutes later, Rhett parked in Hell, one block away from where the body had been found. Vaile had called in the pack to dispose of the body as soon as it was discovered and found to be a supernatural kill. Humans didn’t need to know about that stuff.
“It was down this alleyway,” Vaile said, leading the way down the dark, dank space. To Rhett, all he could smell was death; the scent of the vampire was an aftertaste to that. “Rhett, shift so you can pick up the scent a little more strongly,” Vaile added.
“No. I’m going to Change. Rhett’ll probably fuck this up for us,” Sabel snarled, pushing past him as he pulled his t-shirt over his head and unbuttoned his jeans.
“This isn’t some kind of pissing contest, Sabel,” Rhett said. “But go for it. I haven’t got a hard on to get killed tonight.”
Sabel’s lip curled away from his lip, but he said nothing. Vaile and Rhett turned around when the alleyway filled with the wet sucking sounds of the Change. Shifting into a wolf wasn’t a pretty thing. When Sabel growled softly, they both turned around to face the huge chocolate-brown wolf that shared Sabel’s body. Dropping his head to the ground, Sabel sniffed around the alleyway and picked up the scent a minute later. He charged out of the alleyway with Vaile and Rhett on his tail.
They didn’t get very far before Sabel stopped and growled down a dark backstreet. By the looks of it, the streetlights overhead had been broken and never replaced. Sabel disappeared into the swallowing darkness, leaving Vaile and Rhett to cautiously slide in after him. The sound of suckling was faint, but Rhett honed in on that one sound, navigating himself to the other side of a dumpster.
The vampire hadn’t heard them or smelled them yet, too engrossed in feeding than worrying about its safety. Sabel crouched down to hide and after a nod from Vaile, Rhett stepped away from the dumpster, his arms crossed his broad chest. “And what do we have here?” he asked, staring into the dirty-brown eyes of the vampire. Shocked, the vamp disengaged its fangs and let the human drop. She was female and probably no older than nineteen or twenty. Her clothes told him that he had picked her up from The Imp and Impaler, an underground Goth club not too far from here. She made no attempt to move, the euphoria on her face enough to tell Rhett that the vamp’s saliva was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing.
The vampire bent down to pick up the girl again, but Rhett had him around the throat before he could lay a finger on her. He tutted condescendingly. “Didn’t your mother tell you not to eat off the floor?”
The vampire snarled at him, its fangs and mouth stained with blood. Rhett bared his own teeth at the creature and slammed it against the wall. He couldn’t see any tattoos on its neck, so it wasn’t a Sicarii. Regular run-of-the-mill vampires were still dangerous, but not as dangerous as a Sicarii. Rhett studied its chalky face, looking for any other signs of ownership, but found none.
The vamp began making soft mewling sounds when Rhett cranked his fingers tighter around its throat, hoping to get more of a fight out of it, but it was weak from excessive consumption of human blood. Vamps could drink human blood, but it wasn’t their normal form of food. It would sustain them for a while, but in the end they would weaken. Vampires fed on other vampires. If they didn’t have a mate, they were either forced to buy it from immara—unbranded vampires—who whored it out, or forcibly take it.
“Sabel,” Rhett called. Sabel’s huge, brown frame skulked out from behind the dumpster, his top lip curled up from his canines. Rhett threw the vamp down to the ground, and although he struggled a little, he was no match for Sabel. He had decapitated the leech before Vaile even had a chance to get the girl away. With any luck, the high she was still riding would have fogged her little Goth mind up enough that she wouldn’t remember any of it. When Rhett turned back to check on Sabel’s progress, he was sitting on his haunches, cleaning his paws. The vampire’s face was still twitching—baring its fangs and hissing—but its body remained still. Pulling a knife from the small of his back, Rhett cut open the vamp’s chest cavity and took out its heart. 
The body began to flake away soon after, the cold air swirling through the backstreet and picking it up in one, powerful gust. “Let’s get back home,” Vaile said, returning from leaving the girl somewhere she’d be seen soon. If she talked about what had happened to her, nobody was going to believe her. Vampires weren’t real, right?
After retrieving Sabel’s clothes from the alleyway he’d changed in, they piled into Rhett’s Jetta and drove back to the farmhouse.

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