The Crimson Shadow pack had a problem and right now I was staring at it straight in its face. The man grimaced and for the briefest of moments, his eyes flashed bright red. This was the third attempt to break into the pack’s territory in a week and this particular vampire had come the closest to actually being successful.
Honestly, it was becoming something of a nuisance.
His upper lip rolled slightly, his nose crinkling along with it. A harsh scarlet glow burned around the edges of his irises, the veins surrounding his eyes darkening as his teeth lengthened to sharpened points capable of piercing through human flesh. This was a newly born vampire; all the signs were there, including the desperate lack of control when it came to hiding his true nature.
They were the only ones with the audacity to challenge someone like me. Overconfident pricks that deserved nothing more than a thick stake right through their still-beating hearts.
I swung my arm around and caught him in the side of the temple hard enough to make him growl anew. My ring cut his cheek, but it healed right before my eyes in no more than a fraction of a second. Annoying little perk, really. I’d just have to hit him harder.
“Why are you here?” I roared. The vampire should have shuddered in fear, but he did something far more stupid. He challenged me instead.
“I don’t have to tell you anything,” he snarled. His lips rolled again and he hissed. I didn’t hold myself back.
I punched him again, the crunching sound loud enough to make even Theo grimace beside me. The vampire hardly even flinched. God damn supernatural healing. Sometimes it was so incredibly inconvenient and this one seemed even more resistant to pain than usual.
What was he on? Was it some new drug? Ecstasy? Meth? Something else? What the fuck was going on here?
There was an oddly deranged gleam to his gaze, something more than just the fact that he was a newly sired vamp. It was sharper. His pupils were dilated, his eyes bouncing back and forth so rapidly that a normal person wouldn’t even have picked up on it. Something was off. I could feel it.
Tomorrow, my alpha Amir was supposed to meet with the leaders of the Malkovian clan to sign a peace treaty, which was all pomp and circumstance. This guy had probably been sent to throw a monkey wrench into all of that. Maybe it was another jealous clan wanting to move in on our territory. I didn’t know.
Whatever it was, it was my job to handle it.
Slowly, I took a step back, taking stock of the situation before I decided on a course of action. I was nothing more than a soldier within the Crimson Shadow pack, but I hadn’t gained the respect of my men by making reckless decisions in the past.
I looked at the well-groomed Venetian-style gardens all around me. It was well into the night, but the moon was bright, illuminating the flowers below in an ethereal glow. The rest of the grounds were silent, but that didn’t stop my hackles from rising all the same. This didn’t make any sense. Why would any of the nearby vampire clans send several lone men into our compound knowing that they’d be easily overpowered and killed as a result? What could their reasoning possibly be?
This one hadn’t exactly been quiet in his approach. He’d triggered pretty much every motion capture camera and had seemingly set a direct course for a run-in with me and my men.
Something was going on and this newbie vamp was only a piece of it.
“I’m not afraid of you,” the vamp goaded, but I didn’t respond. Instead, I studied him more closely. My existence in the pack was well known. I was unbeaten in a fight, so much so that people were intimated by nothing more than my simple presence when we were together in a room. It had worked well for Amir in the past, especially when he wanted to procure a deal that wasn’t necessarily fair for the potential recipient, which he took advantage of. Again. And again…
I was the one who did the dirty work for him. I always did.
The vamp struggled in his bonds, but he wouldn’t be able to break them. The ropes I’d used were too strong, threaded with blackthorn to keep him weak. He rocked back and forth, trying to tip the heavy stone bench Theo and I had secured him to. He was strong enough to move it just a little bit, probably a perk of the extreme strength of a newly sired vampire. He continued to goad me, but I no longer took heed of him. There was something more to his presence than what appeared to meet the eye. I could feel it in my gut.
He was dressed in all black, which was usually a token of the Lasombre clan, but it could also be just a cover to use in the shadows of the night. He had the look of a vampire that might have been compelled, which might explain the insanity I could see within his eyes. He didn’t carry himself in the haughty way a vamp from the Malkovian clan would, plus they’d been allies with the Crimson Shadow pack for centuries. Maybe he was a member of the Asamire clan, but that would mean he wasn’t a very good assassin if he’d gotten caught this easily.
It was possible he could be Venuti, but they’d gone quiet ever since their run-in with the Council last year in New Orleans.
“Whom do you serve?” I snarled. His maniacal laughter followed, slowly rising in pitch until it burrowed into my eardrums and made every single hair on my arms stand on end. His pupils dilated even further, the red of his irises only a thin border now encompassing pitch black spheres.
A woman screamed in the distance.
Impossibly, his laughing surged to a deafening decibel as his psychotic derangement took over completely.
“You’re too late,” he sneered gleefully. On instinct, I surged forward and gripped his skull. With a hard wrench, I tore his head from his shoulders and tossed it aside, ending him so quickly he hadn’t even gotten the chance to panic that his life was over. The rotten scent of vampire blood pierced my nostrils and I scowled with disgust.
The woman screamed a second time, and I burst forward. The sound had come from the northern reaches of my alpha’s compound, where his daughter’s quarters were located. Knowing speed was of the essence, I shifted into my wolf form and sprinted across the gardens. I rounded the corner and leapt up onto the second-floor balcony to catch sight of nearly a dozen vampires crawling up onto the third. I grasped one by the ankle and jerked him down hard, throwing him to the ground below. He landed on his back with a grunt and was just about to leap at me when Theo made a grab for him and dislocated his angry head from his shoulders with a ruthlessness that had more than earned the position of my second in command.
I howled and the vampires looked back at me with surprise, almost as if I’d caught them off guard. They hadn’t expected to be discovered at all.
The other vampires had been a diversion. They’d sent loners in enough times to lull me into a false sense of security when their real goal had been something else entirely.
They wanted Ashleigh. They wanted to kidnap the alpha’s daughter.
I wasn’t going to let them.
Behind me, my soldiers answered with excited yips as they jumped up onto the balcony along with me.
“Get out!” Ashleigh screeched and I pushed onward. My men would follow me. They had walked through fire for me, and this time would be no different. My claws dug in between the mortar of the rock, pulling me up onto her terrace with frightening speed. Once I reached the top, I shifted back into my human form. A blond-haired vampire was climbing through her window, not caring that he was slicing himself open on the broken glass in the process. I rushed toward him and reached for him, grabbing the hair at the back of his scalp in my fist so hard that it stopped him dead in his tracks. I reached down to my belt and un-holstered a thick wooden stake, quickly spearing him straight through the heart with the violent force I was known for.
His body twitched for several seconds in my arms before I threw him aside. I didn’t bother pulling the stake back out.
Ashleigh screamed bloody murder and I looked back to see her fighting off a vampire that had made it all the way inside. Her small size put her at a distinct disadvantage to his much larger one, no matter how hard she fought. His hand closed around the back of her neck, whipping her around so that her back was pressed against him. With his other hand, he boldly pressed a silver blade firmly against her throat. She stilled, trembling in both fury and abject fear.
She was completely naked, water still dripping down her damp glistening skin.
She must have just gotten out of the shower. There was a towel on the floor. Her chest rose and fell, her nipples tightening in the chilliness of the night air, and I watched a single bead of water roll down between her swollen breasts, down the flat expanse of her lean stomach and the toned surface of her right thigh. Her wet hair framed her face, more water dripping from the soaked ends. Several strands were plastered to her left cheek and her throat, dark mahogany that was almost black against the paleness of her skin.
A breeze whipped through the room from behind me, catching me by surprise.
I wasn’t prepared for what came with it.
Her scent was something like a gift from heaven. Men had described the sensation to me in the past, but a gift like this was too incredible to be put into words. I knew the signs, what it was supposed to be like, but this was something I had never really understood until this singular moment.
When I felt the call of my mate.
It was so much more powerful than I’d imagined it would be.
She trembled in the vampire’s arms, her full breasts bouncing just the slightest bit as she tried to break his hold. Her pale flesh was still slightly pink from the hot water of her shower and her gaze met mine, bright green emeralds glimmering with fear. The vampire only needed to wrench the silver knife across her throat to end her. Nothing more than a single flick of the wrist and her life would be over.
I wouldn’t allow that.
My hand dropped back down to my belt, gripping my gun next. I whirled my arm outward and aimed directly at his head. Without hesitation, I fired that gun, catching the man right in between the eyes with a bullet.
A normal bullet wouldn’t pierce a vampire’s skull, but this wasn’t any normal bullet. It was a new development in the weapons world, a sun fire bullet. At its core was a magnesium ribbon. Once it was exposed to oxygen, it would explode with enough light and power to simulate the sun.
A particular weakness of the bloodsucking monsters with pointy teeth.
The bullet penetrated the vampire straight between the eyes and a burst of violent light shattered his skull from within. The explosion was too bright to look at directly, so I chose to look into Ashleigh’s burning gaze instead.
In an instant, I saw fury, humiliation, and most intensely, her wounded pride that I was standing there in front of her, a lowly soldier staring at the alpha’s daughter completely naked. I could see everything, from the pink peaks of her nipples to the trembling in her thighs. She breathed in deeply and started, narrowing her eyes in my direction.
Had she caught my scent too?
The arms holding her captive loosened and the body teetered sideways. She took a step forward, shivering with disgust as the vampire’s headless corpse collapsed to the floor with a sickening crunch. His blood was spattered all over her face. She used her palm to try to swipe it away, but it only ended up smearing across her blushing cheek.
Behind me, the rest of my soldiers made quick work of the remaining vampires. None of them had been particularly well equipped with weapons. Not even one of them had a gun or silver bullets. Just silver knives from the look of it.
I shifted back into my human form now that the threat had passed, taking a step toward Ashleigh with wild intent. The wind whipped around me, surrounding me in the deliciousness of her scent and a primal instinct deep inside me awakened.
I wanted to take her there and now.
“Stay back, soldier,” she spat. She knew my name; I was sure of it. She raised her chin haughtily, looking down at me with revulsion as if she was too good for me.
Her defiance only made me want to claim her even more. It also made me want to throw her down on her own bed and teach her a lesson at the end of my cock about who was in charge, only after I marked her pretty little ass with my belt.
I went to take another step toward her, and the door burst open, two dozen members of my pack filing in ahead of Amir. His aristocratic gaze flicked from me to her, taking in my wild state and her very naked one.
Ashleigh looked away from me, breaking the moment as she rushed to grab the towel at her feet. Hurriedly, she wrapped the massive towel around her beautiful body, and I was deeply aggravated at the sudden loss of it, that she hadn’t asked me for permission to cover herself first.
My palm twitched. How would she look when I put her over my knee?
It was as if there was a wild beast that had suddenly emerged from deep inside me. It wanted to dominate her so completely that she had no choice but to admit that she was mine, that I was the only one who could leave her trembling and satisfied after I was through with her, that I was her destiny and her mate.
“Elijah,” Amir purred, and the powerful judgment of the alpha was upon me. His stare searched mine, like he was daring me to take another step toward his daughter and for a long moment I considered defying him. Her scent was still running strong through my veins, an intoxicating sensation that was too intensely potent to ignore. With every single breath I took, it spiraled, lodging its place so deeply in my soul that I knew I’d never be the same again.
The entire room was tense for several long moments and when I eventually managed to pull my gaze away from Ashleigh, the savage beast inside me quieted only a little.
“Alpha,” I finally managed, but my voice rumbled with need so powerful that even Amir flinched.
Ashleigh gripped the towel tighter, hiding from me as she moved back behind her father. She still held her head impossibly high, looking down at me from her place of royalty at Amir’s side.
“You should be wary of the treaty tomorrow, Amir,” I said gruffly, but I didn’t look at him. Not even once. My gaze was firmly locked upon the haughty glare that painted my mate’s face. It was clear that she thought herself too highborn for a man like me, that her father would never approve of me, and that our pairing would be impossible.
Amir was in the process of arranging a highborn marriage for her. I didn’t know the details, but I knew that whatever man he chose for her wouldn’t be the one meant to have her because that man was me.
I took a step toward her, letting myself reach my full height. She was maybe five foot two or five foot three. I towered over her at six foot eight. She might be one hundred thirty-five pounds soaking wet, but she didn’t stand a chance at my three hundred fifty pounds of solid muscle.
As if she sensed the imposing inevitability of her claiming, she maneuvered herself completely behind the wall of her father and his closest guards.
She wouldn’t be able to hide from me. I’d take her eventually.
I took a deep breath, attempting to control my wolf. I drew up to my full height and Ashleigh took another step back until she was fully hidden by the much bigger form of Amir.
He pulled his shoulders back protectively. His gaze was judgmental and threatening. I should submit to him. He was my alpha, but I wanted to do nothing more than shove him aside and take what was mine.
“I’ll take note of your warning, soldier,” Amir replied idly. He looked around at the mess of dead vampires that littered his daughter’s room. “See to it that this is all disposed of by morning,” he continued pointedly.
I nodded once as if I understood my duty, but my gaze never left Ashleigh’s as she rushed out of the room in a nervous hurry. Her fingers had gone white, she was clutching the towel so tightly. Her hair was still dripping down her back. She’d looked back once, wide-eyed and furious, but I couldn’t be certain if it was directed at me or at herself because of her body’s own betrayal.
She shouldn’t respond to me. I was beneath her. She’d looked down on me her whole life from the pretty pedestal that was the position of the alpha’s daughter.
I could read it all over her face.
None of that changed the fact that I could literally smell the sharpness of her arousal dripping between her thighs as she fled. She could deny it all she wanted to, but her body knew her place.
In time, I would teach her what that meant.
The arrogance and sheer pompousness of the whole event was staggering. Not only was there enough food and wine to feed an entire army for more than six months, but there were naked human women wandering the whole castle so that the vampires we were meeting with wouldn’t go thirsty for even a moment.
Some of the vampires were even whispering about the fact that a few of them might be virgins, but I’d seen none of the telltale intoxication in their eyes to suggest it. Likely, that was a treat reserved for only the highest born royals in the Malkovian clan, not for the vampires that weren’t even remotely ranked.
Every year, the Crimson Shadow pack and the Malkovian clan met to make a show of their alliance, like they were screaming to the world about their combined power and how afraid of it everyone should be.
The whole thing was just a big formality. The Crimson Shadows and the Malkovians had been in alliance for hundreds of years. This meeting would change nothing. It never did.
I stood guard at Amir’s side for most of the gathering, but I didn’t partake in much of the ceremony. This was a celebration of those high in the aristocracy reveling in their power and money, namely Amir, his beta Isaac, Ashleigh, and anyone else that was highborn enough in pack hierarchy to play a role in the festivities.
I took orders. That was it.
Ashleigh avoided my gaze as much as she could, but that didn’t change the fact that she was reacting to my presence in the same way she did last night. Her dark brown hair hung in waves down her back, occasionally falling in front of her pretty face. Her dress was a deep forest green, luxuriously elegant in the way it wrapped around her body.
None of that hid the scent of her arousal from me.
I was there to guard Amir from a nonexistent threat, but I didn’t pay attention to him all that time. I was watching her.
I knew she could sense me staring at her. From the stiffness in her shoulders to the way she kept turning her back to me, she gave every sign that she would flee from my presence at the first chance she could.
For one moment, she let down her guard though and we locked eyes. She started for the briefest of seconds, but then she remembered herself and tried to hold her ground.
Amused, I decided to let her try.
I cocked my head to the side, sliding my gaze up and down her body, imagining her just like I saw her the night before. My cock hardened painfully, my balls squeezing so tight I thought I would burst. I breathed in deeply, surrounding myself in the utter perfection of her. Her face tightened as she remembered herself, glancing away quickly and grabbing a goblet full of wine in an attempt to distract herself. She brought the glass up to her mouth, sipping daintily. All I could imagine were those pretty lips wrapped around my cock. As if she could read the direction of the thoughts in my head, she took an even bigger gulp as if she could hide her own need from me. I smiled knowingly in her direction, and she choked, coughing into the back of her hand as she struggled to get a hold of herself.
It was difficult, but I fought the urge to give chase and teach her a lesson about who was really in charge.
My alpha would never approve of such a match. I knew that, but that didn’t stop my instinct from flaring intensely inside me anyway.
Amir’s hard stare caught mine and I leveled him boldly with my own. Arrogantly, he held it for a short moment before turning away to continue talking with the Malkovian clan kingpin. He just expected my obedience and that annoyed me.
I flicked my gaze back to Ashleigh, listening closely in on the conversation between Amir and Augustus at the same time. She turned away and started whispering with another member of the royal court beside her. I didn’t know her name.
“With the downfall of the Asamire in the western hemisphere, there is an opportunity for us to take their place,” Augustus whispered, and my ears perked up. Las Vegas had been a vampire-run town ever since its establishment; that was until recently. From what I’d gathered, they’d clashed against a wolf pack and lost in a major way.
“What do you mean?” Amir asked, a sense of boredom clear in his tone. He was watching one of the naked women walk by with a tray full of wineglasses. By the heavy metallic scent on the air, not all of them were wine either. He probably didn’t know what Augustus was talking about. He often thought more grisly matters were beneath him, so he depended on men like me to keep him informed.
“Their absence opens a new trade for us,” Augustus explained patiently. He nodded his head suggestively toward the woman Amir was staring at and smirked gleefully. “These women could make us an awful lot of money, both on the auction block and on their backs.”
Taken aback, I stopped observing Ashleigh so closely and turned my eyes to the two kingpins about to procure a new deal right in front of me. I gritted my teeth, disgusted to take in the excited expression on Amir’s face. He was seriously considering what Augustus had to say. He absolutely worshipped the highborn vampire. Augustus could probably spit in his face and Amir would simply thank him for it while asking for more.
It was unnatural.
They lowered their voices, but I was listening. They talked in detail about the taking of women from foreign countries, the selection of those who wouldn’t be missed and the kidnapping of virgin women with the express purpose of selling them to vampires who were addicted to the feeling of getting blood drunk.
The more I heard, the sicker I felt.
I’d done my fair share of dirty work in the past. As Amir’s head soldier, I’d killed for him. I’d defended him. I’d fought the battles he refused to fight as he grew old and fat as alpha. I’d fought fiercely to hold our turf against any pack or clan that dared to cross us. If Amir had a problem that could be solved with fists, he called on me to take care of it.
Every. Single. Time.
There were lines I refused to cross though.
I didn’t hurt women and kids. I most definitely wouldn’t take part in a trade as dirty of the trafficking of them either.
Amir looked far too interested. I shouldn’t be surprised. He’d been so closely aligned with the vampires for so long it was almost as if he was one himself. Vampires were supposed to be the enemy, but Amir was so taken with Augustus that the fabric of our very nature no longer mattered to him.
It did to me though.
I couldn’t hide my scowl anymore. Beside me, Theo noticed the direction of my gaze and it didn’t take long for the topic of their conversation to become clear to him too.
“He can’t be serious,” Theo whispered furiously, and I grunted with revulsion.
“Elijah!” Amir called out and a sickening feeling rumbled in the pit of my belly. With a sigh, I walked over to the table and nodded my acquiescence. Amir’s excited glance was almost too much, and I had to bite my tongue to keep quiet.
He was the alpha. I was nothing more than his subordinate. I kept reminding myself of that simple fact, but it was getting harder and harder to submit to.
“I have a job for you, Elijah. You’re going to head a brand-new division for me and Augustus,” he declared.
“And what is that?” I pressed. I knew the answer, but I needed him to say it anyway. Every hair on my body bristled with unmatched fury. I took a deep breath. I told myself to hold back, but it just felt like a matter of time until my fists met his face.
“Women,” he answered gleefully, and my fury sizzled past the breaking point.
“No,” I replied. My voice was soft at first. Amir looked at me in disbelief, like he had imagined the word that had come out of my mouth. His eyes narrowed as he stared, almost as if it had never occurred to him that anyone would ever defy him, especially in the presence of the Malkovians.
“What did you just say?” he said quietly. I lifted my chin slightly, leveling him with a glare as ferocious as his own.
“I said no,” I repeated.
His mouth closed into a firm line, his brow furrowing with annoyance. He stood up and I took in the state of my alpha for the first time in a long time.
He didn’t stand a chance against me.
When he tried to make himself appear bigger than he was, I almost laughed. He was well past his prime, approaching his late fifties. He had stopped keeping himself fit years ago, relying too heavily on men like me to solve his problems for him. His belly was round, his arms skinny, his legs weak. His hands were soft like a child’s, the product of not having to put in a hard day’s work in decades. If I faced anyone that amounted to someone like him in a fight, I could win without even really trying.
Defeating him would be easy. Taking his place would be child’s play.
His hair had long started to turn gray. He had to look up at me from below since he was almost a foot shorter than me. I smirked as he tried to capture his role as alpha once more, but I detected the slight quiver on his lips. He was afraid of me. To be honest, he should be.
“You can’t say no to me. I am your alpha. I will not stand for this kind of defiance,” he spat.
My grin widened as I felt the pull of his alpha fade the longer I stood in front of him like this. I rolled my lip and crossed my arms in front of my chest.
“I’m done taking orders from you,” I answered him boldly. I wasn’t backing down from something like this.
“I can have you killed where you stand,” Amir growled.
“Who would win in a fight against me? You?” I dared. He visibly grimaced at the prospect of facing me in a fight. He and I both knew who would win if we clashed. His hands twitched and his eyes flickered around the room. The room had gone silent. There was no doubt in my mind that everyone was watching.
I allowed my gaze to slide over to her. She’d taken her seat at the head table. Her green eyes were stormy, fully focused on the exchange between me and her father. She looked furious that I would challenge his authority like this.
I was about to take it one step further.
“How dare you!” Amir exclaimed furiously.
“How about it, Amir? Could you defeat me?” I taunted him.
My inner wolf roared with excitement. The alpha I’d always resisted burned through me with wild abandon and at long last, I finally let him out.
For as long as I can remember, Amir had sat as the head of our pack unchallenged, like he had forgotten that his seat of power was an earned one rather than an inherited one. He’d kept it by way of money, blackmail, and unending nepotism. An alpha challenging another alpha was a basic law of nature that would never disappear and now that I’d done it so publicly, he would be unable to sweep it under the rug like he usually did.
Amir picked up his wine goblet, covering up his distress with a big gulp. Augustus sat beside him with obvious arrogant interest. No matter how much he allied himself with Amir, it was clear that the vampire still thought himself better than all of us.
“Of course I can,” Amir blurted, and I grinned knowingly. I took a step toward him, and he visibly flinched, which only made the beast inside me preen with glee.
“Seize him!” Amir exclaimed and I stood a bit taller. I turned my head, catching Theo’s gaze and then the rest of the soldiers that typically followed my orders. None of them made a move toward me. Instead, they looked to me for direction first. I grinned. They would choose me over him in a second.
I’d earned their respect. Amir, on the other hand, had not.
“Amir, I challenge you as alpha. I will save you the embarrassment of a drunk fight since you’ve partaken in much of the free-flowing wine here tonight. Tomorrow, we will determine who is worthy of the title of pack leader of the Crimson Shadow pack,” I declared boldly. My voice reverberated off the walls all around me and the ensuing silence that followed was like music to my ears.
Amir’s face paled and beside him, Augustus looked like he was witnessing the most exciting entertainment in the world.
“I’m not afraid of the likes of you, Elijah. I accept your challenge.” Amir’s gaze was furious. By the way his fingers were clenching, he was having extreme difficulty keeping his anger at bay.
“Good. Then I will see you tomorrow here at noon,” I spat, and I turned away with every intention of leaving.
“I did not give you permission to go,” Amir snarled.
“Are you going to stop me yourself?” I asked pointedly, glancing around to the men who surrounded us. None of them made a single move toward me. Amir’s hands tightened into fists and his nose scrunched in anger. He lifted his chin to say something more, but the loud scrape of a chair against the tile echoed throughout the room instead.
Ashleigh had stood up and slammed her hands on the table.
My gaze slid to hers.
Her eyes burned into mine, showcasing in a single instant more spirit than her alpha father. Her fierceness drew me in, and I turned my full attention to her. I wanted to reach out, wrap my hand around that pretty, dainty throat, and kiss her like she’d never been kissed before.
Ashleigh had been expected to marry a high-standing gentleman of a rival clan a while back, but she’d refused the match and now her father was scrambling to marry her off to another in his vie for more power. It didn’t matter though. She was my mate.
I wouldn’t allow her to refuse a man like me, not ever.
“Get out,” she snarled.
“Or what, Ashleigh?” I answered gently.
Her upper lip curled adorably, but I could see her nipples pebbling through the draped fabric of her dress. I cocked my head to the side and made a show of scenting the air.
The aroma of her arousal was just as sharp as I’d expected it to be. I cleared my throat and decided to reveal my intentions for her, at least a little bit.
“When I defeat your father in combat tomorrow, I’m going to take not only your pack, but you as my prize,” I vowed, and her face twisted with anger.
“I’ll never be yours. You’re nothing more than a brute,” she spat, almost in disgust. Her pretty lips pouted as she turned away, both scared and aroused at the prospect of belonging to me. There was a very slight hint of curiosity in the way her eyes flicked back to meet mine, but I turned away first.
“It’s only a matter of time, mate,” I promised, and I walked out of the room with my head held high, thoroughly enjoying the way the scent of her arousal only grew stronger after that.
That night, I waited up in my room. I was not foolish enough to sleep the night I challenged my alpha for his position. I peeked out of my window, watching how a number of wolves had been positioned strategically on the grounds in a way to cut off any escape routes. Boldly, I walked out onto my balcony, looking over the compound and watching as the Malkovians took their leave. The treaties had been signed, the deals made. The show was over now.
By morning, it would just be wolf shifters here. Amir probably didn’t want the vampires to witness how gloriously badly he would do in combat tomorrow.
In the distance, I could see the main house. Much of it had gone dark. Amir and Ashleigh had probably gone to bed by now.
I started at the sharp squeak of my bedroom door. I could have oiled the hinges long ago, but I’d left it that way on purpose so that no one would ever be able to sneak up on me in here. I lived a dangerous life, and I had my fair share of enemies. Tonight, I’d added one more to the list.
I dropped down and armed myself with a knife, sneaking into the room. It was pitch black, but I could see the form of a large man inside it. Just when I was about to spring, a familiar voice rang out.
“Elijah, it’s me,” Theo whispered gruffly.
“Theo, you should know better than to sneak up on me like that,” I chided him quietly. “What are you doing here?” I grabbed the curtains and whisked them shut before I turned on a light so I could see him.
“It’s Amir. I came to warn you of his plans,” he replied immediately. My expression sobered quickly at the seriousness in his tone. “Augustus offered him assistance. He agreed to loan out his best men in order to kill you tonight. I placed the rest of us on the perimeter just in case they try to sneak in from out there. I came as quickly as I could so you could be prepared along with us.”
“Theo, you shouldn’t risk yourself for me. Nor should the others,” I said softly, shaking my head.
“It isn’t a risk. I’d rather follow you than a man like him, even if it means exile or death. He treats the vamps like they’re better than his own kind. The rest of the men feel the same,” Theo spat.
I stared at him. He was a loyal soul who had done nothing more than fight by my side for much of his life. He was always kind, a bit sarcastic at times, but a true soldier. I reached out my hand and he took it. With a firm handshake, I nodded.
“Thank you for coming to warn me, Theo,” I replied. “When is the attack?”
“They could come at any time,” he whispered.
“Then we’d better be ready, shouldn’t we?” I answered and his face lit up with an excited grin. I cleared my throat and walked over to my bed, grasping the mattress and flipping it up.
I’d built a storage compartment that functioned as my own personal armory. It was full of guns, knives, stakes, crossbows, and herbs that both wolf shifters and vampires were weak to. I grabbed two 9 mms, loading each magazine with sun fire bullets. I shoved multiple stakes into the slots in my belt. Just as I slammed two more full magazines into my pockets, the door burst apart in a shower of thin splinters. I quickly whipped up my arm to cover my face, wincing as the tiny pieces of wood scratched at my flesh. The sting faded quickly.
Vampires weren’t the only ones with supernatural healing abilities.
I leapt into the fray with Theo at my side. One vampire after the next flooded into my room, but Theo and I tore through them as if it was nothing more than a game. The visceral feel of slamming a stake into as many of them as I could was invigorating, and I howled as I whirled through the room with the full intentions of ripping through every single one until there wasn’t a pointy toothed fucker left.
One of them came at me with a silver knife and I caught his wrist in my hand. I wrenched it to the side, the sounds of bone splintering sharp before I pulled him in hard and viciously pierced his heart with my last stake.
Quickly, I threw his limp body to the side as I un-holstered both guns from my belt. More vampires were pouring in the door, and I started squeezing the trigger. Each gun was equipped with a long silencer that quieted the gunshot substantially, but soon the sound of the constant pop was the only thing echoing throughout the room.
The entryway exploded into a fiery display of bright light as one bullet after the next ended each vamp before they could enter. The doorway soon became thick with bloody headless corpses, one dead vamp piling onto the next until the ones coming began to trip on them.
I was a good shot. I didn’t miss, not even once. When my magazines ran empty, I replaced them with the skill of someone who’d done it a thousand times. By the time I was finished with those, there wasn’t a vampire left standing.
The ripe scent of their deaths was harsh on the air. I lifted my chin and had to force myself not to gag.
“Damn, Elijah. You could have left some for me,” Theo joked. “I only got, what, five to your two dozen?”
“Sometimes I’m greedy,” I joked back. As the smoke from my gunfire began to clear, I took state of the fallen carnage. My walls were splattered with blood. My carpet wouldn’t be able to be salvaged, not by a longshot. From behind, I heard the sound of boots landing on my balcony and I looked back to see my pack members.
“Let’s clear this out. I have an appointment tomorrow at noon,” I added and Theo’s answering grin was contagious.
“You wish is my command, alpha,” he replied, and I chuckled.
“In time, my friend,” I answered.