The guiding light of my ancestors burns inside of me. Their ancient power was once greater than the hard elements of this earth. It forged our mighty clan and fortified our warriors against our greatest enemies.
Their voices have been locked away. Buried in a time capsule known as Aeon.
It’s time to reclaim their power.
I should have gone inside ten minutes ago.
It’s one of those unwritten rules that nobody really talks about, but following it keeps you alive. When it comes down to it, you only live once.
Thunder’s great booms resound in the warm, muggy air. Another storm rolls through the Badlands sky. The rain will be here soon. It’s almost time to retreat before the alphas start their nightly hunt, terrorizing no-man’s land. But the night is young, and I’m itching for trouble.
I’ll do just about anything to get out of this desert. I’ll even allow myself to get kidnapped if I have to.
Sitting on my porch, I face the wind and rows of dead crops, and I listen to the thunder as my father hurls a few obscenities at the hologram cube inside our trailer. I tune him out of my head. Alone on a planet lightyears away from my real home, I look at the stars and dream of a better life. One with love, lust, and most of all, passion. One where I don’t feel like a total outcast.
I’ve never been in love, but I hear it hits you fast. And for once in my life, I wish it would. I’m alone, and it’s getting harder to face it. Problem is the Badlands isn’t known for its princes.
Terrible noises echo in the valley between the two mountains that nestle our ghost town, the sights and sounds of alphas sniffing out my heat. I hear them running, feet pounding like obsessive jackhammers against the desert. My heart slams against my ribcage like I just ran a marathon. My skin pricks. Yet, I don’t move.
I’ve grown accustomed to their sounds. Night after night, sex-deprived feral alphas roam the outside perimeter of our trailer compound, searching for the newest ass in town. They howl at me. They tell me what they’d do if they ever got their hands on my soft cheeks. My round bottom and fertile womb are trophies to them. And the worst part is I think I want it. This mixture of fear and desire is dangerous, but it runs through my veins, defining who I am.
I am an omega.
Dragging my heel against the porch, I slow my rocking chair, and I focus on my surroundings. The sounds of monsters intensify as they hit the edge of our compound, fists banging against the perimeter wall, slobbering on the desert floor. There’s not just one alpha out tonight. There are many of them.
The hunt begins. I’m their target. What’s my move?
My fingers knot around my skirt as I try to calm my nerves. I’m safe here, I reason. The fence has a voltage strong enough to kill an elephant. I’ve played this game before, and I’ve seen the bodies on the outside to prove our security is top-notch.
Sweat builds on my forehead, and every breath I take is rushed. The continuous thunder frightens me, and I finally stand, regretting my initial desire. Sometimes my heat makes me behave irrationally. This time, I’ve gone too far.
I catch sight of another face, something hideous and cruel. Something inhuman and completely alpha.
The moon’s reflection casts a bright and frightening glare on the creature’s body. He’s wearing a mask that covers his face. Horns jut out from his temples. His hands are like claws. Like the rest of their alien race, he’s a tower of rolling muscles and thick scars that cover his extremities.
On warm summer days like this, when the air is heavier, and my scent is more… pungent, I usually take my heat suppressants right away. Doctor’s orders. I use my scent blocker religiously, but it never seems to work properly. My heats come on too strong. Every two weeks, like clockwork. Alphas can scent me from a mile away. They’ve got the noses for it.
Well, here they are. They’ve finally found me.
This savagely gruesome alpha has the capacity to unhinge me in a heartbeat. He flashes a horrible grin before climbing the fence with ease. As soon as his feet hit the ground on my side of that fence, he huffs, eyes rolling back in his head. That’s when I know I’m in real danger, but I’m too shocked to make a move.
It seems so easy to run. In theory, it’s something everyone knows how to do. In this moment, however, there’s no connection between my body and mind. I can’t move, no matter how hard I try. The shock makes my legs weak. And my spine runs cold.
I recognize his disgusting face. He’s an alpha from another mining zone nearby, and he rolls with a crowd I’d like to avoid. They call themselves the Reapers. The outlaw clan runs in the thousands. I’ve heard rumors of what they do to omegas. This planet is a prison, and they want to keep it that way.
It’s okay. Once they hit the tripwire, they’ll explode.
As soon as the thought comes to mind, I glance at the voltage generator. A red light penetrates the darkness: Power Failure.
We should never have come to the Badlands…
How did this all start? I start to relive my past, and I remember how it was on Earth before we arrived on Planet Eridani.
When we left Earth, we didn’t know I was an omega. I didn’t even know what an omega was. Or an alpha for that matter. As far as I was concerned, I was just another American girl growing up in the hustle and bustle of the last big city on Earth, Jersey. No one thought it would outlive Chicago, but it did.
Strange reports started to circulate on the daily news. Women all over Earth were experiencing what they called biological changes. These changes came with some really weird symptoms, including hot flashes, a growing heat between the thighs, and a strong desire to mate. They made it sound like we were animals.
Tests showed a link to increased fertility rates, but no one knew why it happened. Men theorized it was the natural progression of our biological evolution. I, on the other hand, had a different theory. Humans had been exploring and living in space for almost a century, and while they had adapted to life in a vacuum, they were still susceptible to microbes the alien lifeforms unintentionally carried.
My heat is a virus. Go figure.
Someone infected our population. The urge to breed surged through us. Not long after, I felt it. My first heat shook me, and I never looked back. But that’s not why I left Earth.
We were dirt poor. Intergalactic contracting jobs demanded new workers. My dad got an offer to move to the Badlands on a newly inhabited planet called Eridani. The offer was an all-expense-paid trip, and he jumped at the opportunity. My dad was a shoo-in to get accepted into the program, but there was a catch.
To work in the alpha mines, you had to pay an upfront fee. That fee got you a work license. Without that holy piece of paper, you couldn’t get access to the planet’s diamonds. And without that, you were stuck on an acre of dirt with nothing but sweat on your back and a comb in your pocket. There was no industry as lucrative, and none so lonely.
Mining was the endgame. But you can’t win a rigged game.
My dad thought a license would make us rich. A small deposit of gold, silver, or fuel was a small price to pay for our freedom. But without a reliable source of income, he couldn’t afford the deposit in the first place.
The program was—and still is—run by thugs like the Reapers. They rejected him. End of story.
It’s been a few months since we landed. Dad still doesn’t have a job because he still can’t afford that deposit. He relies on government-issued tax tokens from Earth. It’s a vicious cycle. To stay safe, he built this compound, complete with a bunker underneath my room.
It’s not the life I imagined, that’s for sure. In fact, I’ve never been so lonely in my entire life.
It doesn’t matter how I got here though. The alarming reality of the present day is right in front of my face. The terrifying alpha is nearing the tripwire my dad and I installed a few weeks prior. Thankfully, it’s hooked up with enough explosives to take out an entire caravan of alphas. “Dad,” I yell.
I turn toward the window to get my dad’s attention. He’s preoccupied, collapsing into his favorite chair from the kitchen, enjoying a new bottle of whiskey. His eyes are only half-open.
“Dad!” I shout again.
It starts to rain, but the sound of water beating against the arid dirt is soon replaced by pounding footsteps. That ravenous alpha lets out a chilling roar, and soon, more wildlings, thieves, and bandits join him in scaling the perimeter wall. Pieces of scrap metal armor and rags cover their bodies, and their savage demeanor sends a cold sting of dread within my bones.
Noticing the tripwire on the other side of the wall, the alpha leader reaches down, tearing it free. I back away in a full-blown panic. Suddenly, I don’t want this to happen. This is too real for me, but I can’t turn back time.
As I breathe, my nerves tighten, and the beat of my heart is heavy in my ear. I take a few steps back, hoping to meet the front door of our trailer. I move my hand toward the knob, but the alphas move so much faster. One of the savages lunges past me, cutting off my only path to safety. Taking hold of my wrist, he twists his grip, sending me to my knees. I lose control so fast.
As I writhe in pain, they howl with bellowing laughter. Their nightmarish noises send chills down my spine. The pack surrounds me. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere at all. This place is a desert, and the mountain range is a death sentence once the sun is in the sky. My legs tremble as I wait for them to snap my neck.
The alpha leader slowly wades through the pack. His cape brushes through the dirt, leather boots and shiny silver spurs scraping the rocks, his movements fluid as he moves in my direction. The long barrel of a rifle pokes above his shoulder. “Little girl,” he growls. “Why do you run?”
My throat closes. I’m so scared my blood runs cold. “Who… who… are you?”
“Ahrimon,” he mutters. “Lord of the Reapers.”
My heart beats as fast as my chattering teeth. “Please, Ahrimon,” I cry. “Don’t hurt me.”
The alpha holding my wrist chuckles. “Oh, I love it when they beg.”
“My father is inside.” I speak quickly. “He has weapons and ammunition. You can take it all, but you need to leave.”
My dad has one weapon, but it won’t be enough to take out the entire pack. There’s no way to escape…
The evil alpha chuckles. “Shut your mouth,” he growls.
I hear my dad laugh inside the trailer, and I come to the terrible understanding that he has no idea what is happening outside. If they push their way inside, he’ll put up a fight. They’ll kill him. I should be more worried about myself, but I don’t know what I’d do without my family. He’s all I have.
The alphas continue circling me, eating up every ounce of fear I show them. They are hungry, thirsty, and as desperate as any human relocation family around the Badlands. The alphas were cut out of most of the deals made with the resource companies. They steal from us instead. I should have known they’d come here eventually. Human omegas are worth a lot these days. We’re the rare ones.
I try to reason with him. “We have metal you can recycle in the back.”
His smile grows, teeth dripping with saliva. I take it to be a good sign. “Now that I see you, my little one, I am sure that you are a prized trophy for breeding.” He sniffs the air above my head, scenting me as my throat closes. “Oh, yes…”
The tension in the air reaches a fever pitch. They want to taste me. They want to tear me to pieces. I can feel the cold sweat dripping down my face, and the chill of fear rests in my throat. I stare into his soulless eyes. There is no trying to reason with a Reaper, so I don’t even try. I meekly bow my head.
His lips wrinkle in disgust. “You’re so pretty,” he coos.
“Give her the mark,” someone says. “Brand her.”
“Let me enjoy her some more,” the leader says.
He has no face. Just a pair of staring eyes, a slotted tongue, and a mouth full of tusks. His nostrils open, and his ragged breaths push into my ear.
I feel his touch, an icy burn, scratching down my neck with razor-sharp nails. I let out a scream as my blood freezes in my veins. He presses his face into the soft skin beneath my collarbone, forcing me to gasp. And when he bites me, I feel a dark poison enter my body.
Unleashing pain into me, he digs down deeper into my flesh. I pause, unable to breathe, let alone scream. He follows through with his punishment, carving an insignia above my left breast with his sharp canines. I’ve seen the shape before. It’s the sign of the Reapers. It burns like fire.
“Reaper’s property,” someone in the pack howls. “Ours for the taking.”
“Turn around.” I resist his orders, but an abnormal amount of pain flashes where he cut me. “Surrender to me.”
“No,” I whisper. Breathless, I force my neck straight so I can see inside the window of our trailer. I don’t see my father anywhere. “Dad…”
The door opens beside me. Even though I feel my father’s presence, I don’t dare turn to look at him. I shouldn’t even be outside at this hour. He’s warned me of it before. I broke the rules.
“Dad,” I keep whimpering. “Help me.”
My dad’s boots echo behind me. The pack goes silent. All eyes are on him.
“Leave her be,” he says.
My heart shoots endorphins throughout my body. His voice is strong and sure, and he follows it by cocking his shotgun.
He’s going to save me.
Finally, my father has found the courage to be a hero.
The pack scowls at the menacing gesture. The alpha in charge snarls in frustration. He swivels his palm through my hair, pulling and then exposing my chest more, humiliating me. The slick, cold metal of a blade presses into my skin, the threat of death. The pain in my chest grows so excruciating that I can’t breathe.
Now I can see my father’s face. His eyes are narrowed, courageous. “I said, leave her alone.”
The leader chuckles. “We demand payment. Did you forget our agreement?”
“And you’ll get it,” Dad says. “In time.”
His words shock and confuse me. He must’ve made some kind of deal, but there’s no way in hell he’d use me as collateral. I’m his daughter. “Dad, what’s going on?”
The Reaper lets go of my wrist, and the pack turns their focus on my dad. The leader stands in front of my dad’s shotgun, taking hold of the rusted barrel and positioning it against his chest.
“We made a deal,” he growls. “Are you going against your word?”
Betrayal is worse than death out here. They’ll kill him if he chooses to argue. “Dad, what he is talking about?”
My dad won’t look at me. He just lowers his gun. “I didn’t think you’d come so soon. I thought I could find another way to pay.”
It feels like my heart is eating itself. “Dad,” I shout.
The leader’s face twists in disgust, and he takes hold of my chin. “Let your father speak.”
My dad rubs his neck, gasping. “If you take her, I’ll get my license, right?”
The alpha holds up a thin piece of paper with an official stamp. “Reapers hold up their end of the bargain. You will get what was promised to you in exchange for your daughter’s womb.”
My jaw drops. Every nerve in my body pulses.
My dad exhales, mouth tightening. He doesn’t respond.
I can’t believe what I’m witnessing. I’m the payment, the deposit my dad’s been obsessing over this entire time. In a few seconds, my life will be over.
My dad reaches into his pocket, pulling out cigarettes, drawing one out of the battered pack. Hands trembling, he lights it, taking a long, slow drag. “You can have her,” he says. “Just promise me one more thing.”
“The Reapers make no promises,” the leader says.
An alpha with a long and disgusting tongue laughs. “You’ll get your mining equipment. We get the girl. That was the deal.”
“Please,” my dad begs. “Just one more favor, and she’s yours.”
“Let’s kill the human. We don’t have much time,” another alpha suggests.
The leader’s neck pulses. Without warning, he slashes his nails across the alpha’s neck. The body falls, and a pool of blood forms near my knees. I fall back against the dirt, kicking away from the dead alpha as my mind races to understand this cruelty. But the crimson liquid spreads around my toes.
I lurch forward, stomach quaking with fear. “Oh, God…”
“Does anyone have anything else to say?” the leader asks. There is no response, the group seemingly unfazed by the lunatic’s violence.
The leader smiles and wipes his claws clean. His fingers are long and meaty, decorated in gold rings. “Good. I want to hear what Daddy has to say.”
My dad drops the gun on the porch. “Keep her alive,” he says. “Make sure she goes to a good home.”
“Dad, no!” I plead. “Wait…”
When my father takes a few steps closer to the entrance to our trailer, I realize he’s already let go of me. This place is no longer my home. He’s no longer my dad. What’s done is done.
That’s the price of doing business in the Badlands.
I start to cry, but I stop as soon as the wicked leader drops to a knee in front of me. “Sweet, sweet human. He is no longer your daddy,” he says. “Do not be sad. I’m your new daddy now. I’ll treat you right.”
My stomach lurches, and before I know it, I’m vomiting on his boots. “Please,” I whisper. “Don’t do this to me…”
He licks his scaly lips. “Take her away.”
No, no, no. Fuck this. I am not their cattle!
I grew up in a progressive city, for Christ’s sake. I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons, and I went to college. I did everything right.
How did I end up here?
They drag me away from my father, and when he’s just out of sight, I hear him say, “I had to do it, baby. I had to do it…”
His voice is strained. But it’s not sincere. There’s no turning back from this. I’ll never be able to forgive him.
And I resolve he’ll never see me again.
“Bring her to the compound!” Ahrimon bellows. “That’s an order.”
Laughter turns to silence. Their hollow eyes stare at my skirt, my exposed thighs, and the thin shirt that hovers over my belly button. I press my hands to my cleavage, breathing fast. Their mouths gape. A feeling of numbness rushes through my veins. The air smells like dead leaves and dust. They got what they came for. I just have to shut up and deal with it.
On the outside of the perimeter, a transport vehicle rests in idle. Dust gathers near the headlights, illuminating the nearby mountain range. Their horrifying shadows dance along the rocky surface, and they appear as giants. These are devils I cannot run from.
As they carry me to the vehicle, I weep, my throat burning. My senses are dazed, obliterated by the shock of this experience, but something catches my attention. Near the perimeter wall is a field of tall weeds and yellowed grass. Huddled in the entanglement, someone else watches us. As soon as I spot the dark presence, he ducks away.
Helpless, I close my eyes, whispering, “Help me.”
Ahrimon turns, perhaps sensing something near. But the alpha’s dark and mysterious presence is gone. I squint, eyes pleading for him to return, but I cannot see where he’s hiding. The weirdest thing is I can feel him.
The engine roars.
Don’t run. Don’t hide. In the Badlands, there are no heroes.
I remember the day I left Earth like it was yesterday. It was springtime, just a few weeks before the first brutal summer brought a heatwave that started the farmland fires in the Midwest. It was my graduation day, and the flowers were blooming outside the city. Everyone was ready to celebrate the beginning of our new lives.
I’d been invited to Lake Marcia just two hours north. It was a quiet, peaceful place to visit, but it was supposed to be the party of the century. There was just one issue. My dad didn’t want me to go.
He went through some tough times after Mom died, and ever since then he needed me around more often. At first, he was sullen and withdrawn. After a few months though, he was back to his old self. He even went on a few dates. But then something happened and he started to backslide.
If that wasn’t enough pressure for one girl to handle, he was starting to rely solely on me to take care of him. He worked a few pyramid schemes before losing pretty much everything we owned. So, while people swam at the lake, I helped my dad sell the remainder of our possessions.
After we boxed our memories, we got a knock on our door. When I opened it, a manila envelope fell against my feet. But there was no one in sight. My dad slid by me, plucking up the letter.
I didn’t have to ask him what that weathered envelope contained. All it took was seeing that U.S. stamp of approval, and I knew he was involved in another scheme that would mess up my life forever. I was right, but I couldn’t leave my dad alone on another planet with a bunch of dangerous alpha aliens.
My dad was many things, but he was not the kind of man who could pull off an interstellar con job. His brand of sleight-of-hand tricks involved deception and exaggeration. Like many of his peers, he had a gift for telling stories. This was surely going to be his last. I knew he couldn’t survive without me.
I never went to the party at Lake Marcia, and I never saw my friends again. That night, I sat on my porch and stared at the stars. I thought about life and love, and my heart swelled at the thought of being with a loving, caring partner for the rest of my life. I didn’t know what we’d find on Planet Eridani.
I gave up everything for my dad. And he gave me away for a crappy job.
That was then. This is now.
Outside of the perimeter wall near my home, the Reapers toss me in the back of their transport and my body hits the truck bed with a thud. The air is cold, and the soft vibration of the truck’s engine feels like the calm before a storm. They’ve parked it on a road that leads to forgotten lands far from this region of desert.
My heart rocks against my sternum, and my lungs tense with air. Before I can even try to escape, they fasten rope around my limbs, making sure I’m nice and secure.
Adrenaline courses through my veins as I try to fight them off, but there’s too many of them, and their hands are everywhere. All over my hips, back, and ass. This is a nightmare I can’t wake up from, though I’m trying.
The door slams, plunging me into darkness, but I notice a small slit in the back that allows me to see the road outside. I search for the pair of possessive eyes that were watching me earlier from the tall grass, but all I see are the Reaper shadows.
“Time to go,” their leader, Ahrimon orders.
As they get into the car, the truck sways. The surrounding desert is silent and still, but my heat is coming on strong. I hold my breath, praying these creeping emotions will go away, but the more I think about the alpha hiding in the grass, the hotter I get.
I sense his presence, the one that watched the Reapers’ depravity unfold just minutes ago, and that means he must sense me. Whoever he is, he’s not a Reaper.
My thighs tingle with a deep need I refuse to acknowledge. My clit pounds. My heat suppressants are back in my bunker. I don’t know what to do.
As soon as the alphas start the engine, a plume of dust billows across the road. They drive through the open desert, heading into rugged, mountainous terrain. I claw my fingers around the barred window at the back of the vehicle. When I focus my eyes, my heart flushes with relief.
The alpha I was searching for lunges toward the open road, eyes dead set on mine as he chases after us from behind. There’s a weird connection between us, or maybe I’m just imagining it. It feels strong and comforting.
We veer off the path, heading through a deep valley. The rocks are red and tall like giants, blocking out the moon’s reflection. I close my eyes and whisper, “Hurry…”
His body is a hulking monster with strong muscles, yet he keeps a flowing robe wrapped around his shoulders that cloaks him in shadows. His eyes are red like two smoldering coals. He shakes the dust off of his body and stalks us, moving into a swift sprint. He’s chasing the transport—and he’s actually keeping up.
My eyes widen, and I suddenly turn hopeful. Is he going to save me? No, probably not. Alphas aren’t charitable toward humans. We’ll always be the invaders to them. They either fuck us or kill us, and I’m not sure what’s worse. Still, I watch him follow us through the entire valley, using his muscled legs to speed across the dry earth. And I hope he catches up to us.
Unlike the Reapers, he’s not wearing any body armor. He’s a primal creature with stone-like muscles, guided by what appears to be a strength of dominance within. He’s naked, and my eyes slide over his lean body, my heat coming on even stronger. His cock, swinging between his thighs like a pendulum, is thick and commanding. He must be counting down the minutes until he can finally have me.
To my surprise and subsequent shame, an agonizing lust flares up inside of me. My heat radiates desire. The idea of him rescuing me from this vehicle, rutting me hard and rough from behind, flashes through my mind, causing me to break a sweat. I grip the edges of my skirt tightly, the apex of my thighs slick and hot with my wetness.
After a few minutes, I feel the truck accelerate. I slide to the front, placing my head against the metal barrier to listen. I hear the driver groan. “Sir, we’ve got someone on our tail.”
Ahrimon, the evil Reaper leader who stole me from my home, replies with an angered tone. “Stop the vehicle.”
“But sir,” the driver protests.
“Stop. The. Vehicle.”
The driver slams on the brakes, which in turn slides me across the floor of the enclosure. My back hits the door, and a wave of pain debilitates me. My stomach jerks with fear as Ahrimon slides the rear door open. “Get out.”
I cower against the corner, kicking my feet at his clawing hands. “No!” I shout. “Stop!”
Ahrimon grabs my ankles while calmly humming a tune to himself. Pulling me out, he drops me to the desert ground. The pain knocks the wind right out of me, but I don’t dare try to scream.
His eyes are alert, scanning the dark horizon. “Who have you brought?”
I bow my head, hoping to placate him. “I came alone. I swear.”
Ahrimon slides his fingers through my hair, petting until I relax. “I own the Badlands. There is no escaping me.”
The driver steps out with him. I watch as he walks to the side of the road, staring at the darkness around us. “He disappeared, sir.”
Ahrimon inhales deeply. “Don’t be fooled. He’s around,” he growls. Then he drags me across the ground by my hair, forcing me back into the enclosure, locking it for good measure. “Stay put. I’m going to find our stalker.”
Ahrimon walks into the darkness, searching for my alpha rescuer. The soft rumble of the truck engine fills the night. Ahrimon growls like an animal that’s about to rip out the throat of its prey. “You cannot hide from me, brother.”
Hugging my knees, I rock back and forth. I close my eyes and try to lose myself in the strange, peaceful silence of the desert. Of course, that’s easier said than done. I hear a sharp, piercing noise outside, the sounds of gunfire, and then I feel our vehicle rock forward.
My eyes shoot open as the firing of exhaust nozzles alongside the panicked screams of the driver. The truck accelerates, but something strong is pulling us backward. Using the last of my strength, I grab the bars along the window and see my alpha hero lifting the transport high above his shoulders. He’s still here.
Ahrimon returns from the darkness, a burning panic in his eyes as he sees what’s coming for him. He swings his rifle into his hands.
My alpha rescuer tosses the entire vehicle at Ahrimon’s body, and weightlessness takes over. My stomach sinks, and my breath leaves me, the taste of iron and dust filling my mouth. I slam against the roof of the truck, then land in a heap, shocked I’m still alive.
Suddenly, I’m cold. As I try to move, sharp pieces of shattered glass fall from my hair. My ears ring as smoke filters in through the back window.
The dust forces me to cough, which hurts even worse than my landing. I check for any blood. As far as I can tell, I’m okay. No cuts. No broken bones. It’s a fucking miracle.
The barrier dividing the front and back of the transport vehicle has warped upon impact. I take a deep breath and crawl to the front, groaning as aches shoot through my body. I slide over to the broken window, and see Ahrimon against the front of the vehicle, clutching his side. He gets up slowly, dust falling from his shoulders. He carelessly drops bullets as he tries to load his rifle’s magazine.
I reach for the handle of the door, but when I try it, it’s locked. “Come on,” I whisper, frantic to escape and run the entire way back home.
A fight between the Reaper leader and this mysterious figure ensues. Bullets whiz and ricochet off the mountainside, but my alpha hero dodges each projectile with ease. Two Reapers rush him from either side, but the alpha uses the other’s gun to shoot each of them. It happens with such ease it shocks me.
Ahrimon stands in the center of the car’s headlights, cloak swinging around his ankles. He brings his rifle to his shoulder, hands trembling. “Ronan,” he growls. “How did you find me?”
So that’s his name. I shouldn’t get ahead of myself; he’s not a hero. He’s probably as evil as the Reaper he’s sparring with.
Dripping with the blood of his enemies, Ronan emerges from behind a boulder. He walks near the headlights, toward the leader without showing an ounce of fear. As he steps back onto the road, his muscles rise as he inhales, ignoring the interrogation. “Where is she?”
My heart pounds as I try the passenger door. It won’t budge.
“The one you stole,” he growls.
“The human is mine.”
Ronan bites down. “We will fight for her then.”
Ahrimon fires his rifle. The bullet hits Ronan’s chest, but he takes the shot in stride, pulling the steaming bullet out with his fingers. His jaw tenses. “I’m not leaving without her.”
Ahrimon lowers the weapon, a curious smile developing on his face. “We’ve got the Hunters on our side. We’re closer than ever. Are you worried I’ll find it?”
My eyes widen. They’re looking for something. But what? Maybe if I find out, I can use it to get out of this situation.
Ronan walks slowly, blood channeling down his powerfully cut abdomen. “This is your last chance to run before I kill you, Ahrimon.”
The two circle each other, and judging by the fearful look in Ahrimon’s eyes, Ronan isn’t going to make this easy on him.
Not too far down the road, I see another car’s headlights shine. The vehicle rounds a ridge and heads toward us. Both alphas turn to look at the incoming vehicle.
With a burst of confidence, I push my head through the window and scream, “Help!”
Ronan turns to look at me. Unfortunately, Ahrimon uses this chance to run toward the approaching truck. The passenger side door opens, and the alpha leader ducks into the front seat. Then the vehicle turns around and speeds off.
The Reaper driver of the transport comes to his senses, first seeing the carnage outside, then Ronan’s dark image wandering in our direction. Panicked, he tries the engine. “Shit, shit, shit.”
Ronan limps toward us. His eyes are cold and punishing. No matter how hard the driver tries, the motor isn’t starting.
Reaching through the shattered window, Ronan grabs the alpha’s head. But he’s staring at me the entire time. “Are these alphas bothering you?”
I nod, stunned. I’m still unsure if he’s on my side or not. “They… kidnapped me.”
Ronan eyes my chest, while the driver gasps for air. “Did they hurt you?”
I check my body for any injuries. No blood. That’s a good sign. My chest still stings, but that’s the least of my worries. “I think I’m fine.”
He nods, staring at the mark with disgust. I look down at the healing scar, an amber glow emanating from it that burns with the rhythm of my heart. Startled, I look away.
“We’ll find a way to remove that scar. I’m Ronan,” he says.
My heart starts to pick up again, and my cheeks turn hot. “I’m… Naomi.”
Twisting against the alpha’s punishing grip, the driver chokes. “Ahrimon… will… find you.”
Ronan looks down, jaw tensing. “Enough talking.” With a sharp jerk of his wrists, he cracks the driver’s neck. The dead man slumps left against his door.
Ronan reaches through the window. With one swift motion, he tears the door off its hinges. Carefully reaching inside, he takes me gently in his arms. “I’ll get you out of here, little one.”
“Who are you?”
He grins. “Your new master.”