In the shadow of darkness there remains a curse, one aimed at destroying those considered immortal. The Red Moon was a time of death or a new beginning for creatures deemed as dangerous, loathsome to humans. For those embroiled in the mystery, there could be nothing left.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are.” The snarl was intense, the words said in a husky tone, full of dangerous desire.
Scarlet Dumane suppressed a moan as she heard his voice booming in the living room, searching for her, assuming the role of hunter. And she was his prey. She crouched in the back of the closet, hiding behind various boxes and bags of old clothing. This was their game, hide and seek, a master dominating his submissive, but only after securing her fate.
She adored the premise of the sport as well as the way he challenged her every time they were together.
“If you don’t succumb and accept your fate, your punishment will be worse.”
Daniel Gunner was a powerful man, sexy as hell in a dark and demonic kind of way. She’d been attracted to him the first moment she met him in the local BDSM club. Her dominating personality by day was all an act, her submissive desires innate, longing to succumb to the right man as if by instinct. The single drink and almost brutally honest conversation had led to one incredible night of impact play. Then they hadn’t spoken for almost three months. Another chance meeting had led to some very kinky experiences, even though she wasn’t considered his girlfriend.
She simply wasn’t what his family would consider the right fit for his status. His influential family had no idea about his nefarious activities, cravings that were sadistic in nature. She was his play toy, his muse, and nothing else. Neither of them cared. They weren’t in this for the long term. Her ideal man was fueled by vivid and very dark fantasies, ones she’d had since entering puberty. At least Daniel fulfilled the kind of cravings she could never explain to friends or family. They’d call her a monster.
Her nerves were on edge, beads of perspiration covering portions of her naked body. Even her heart muscle was skipping, current fueling what she called the animal within. He could draw this out for a full hour before pouncing, dragging her into position and providing his method of punishment.
And she’d love every second.
Her breath skipped as she tried to listen for any sounds. There was absolute quiet in the loft space. Had he left? No, he would never concede the game. He was always the victor. She rocked back and forth, her pussy clenching as she waited, on pins and needles as to what he would do next.
“The beast is hungry, famished for a taste of your sweet body.”
She shuddered as he drew near, desire skipping through every cell in her quivering body. He’d been the only man to understand her needs, kinky desires that would turn any other man away. They’d gone to dinner outside the city in a location where no one knew their identities, a dungeon-like atmosphere where she’d been required to strip after entering. She’d remained titillated the entire evening.
“Are you ready for your punishment, little girl? Are you ready to pay your penance?” Daniel issued a low-slung growl, the sound reverberating into the small space.
The animalistic resonance kept her nipples erect, aching with need. She panted, licking her parched lips, longing to lunge out of her hiding spot.
Silence enveloped again, creating an eerie atmosphere.
In her mind, she heard a ticking sound, as if the clock was chiming, counting down seconds until she would be discovered. When the door was finally thrown open, his angular face peering into the darkness, she let out a strangled purr.
“And what have we here? An innocent girl waiting for her master.” Daniel issued a slight grin as he held out his hand, beckoning for her, his eyes narrowing.
In the slender light of the full moon streaming in through the blinds, she was able to see the thick vein in his neck throbbing. Her vision was keen, even in limited lighting. Reaching out, she placed her hand on his groin, moving closer as she meowed. He was hard and throbbing, his massive cock pushing hard against his expensive linen pants. She rubbed her face back and forth across his leg, the rumble of her purr creating vibrations.
“Yes, my sweet kitty. I’ve found you.” He rubbed his hand through her long strands of hair, taking his time to caress.
She gazed up at his shadowed features as she pressed her face into his crotch, her own hunger cresting, electrified from the experience.
“Come. We have discipline to attend to.” He gathered her into his arms, smacking her ass as he carried her into the living room.
The cathedral space had floor-to-ceiling windows, all without blinds. Even though she knew the closest of buildings had no direct line of sight, the concept of being seen was a wonderful aphrodisiac. After placing her onto the couch and pressing his hand on the small of her back, she leaned over, the anticipation even more extreme tonight. She could see her reflection in the window, the same girl who had been searching for answers her entire life.
Daniel’s image appeared behind her, wavering almost like a manifestation. The smile on his face was dancing with evil as he held out his favorite implement. The impressive wooden paddle had been in his collection for years, a thudding impact tool that she absolutely craved as well as feared. As he twirled the piece with one hand, he ran two fingers down the length of her spine.
A series of shivers skidded down the back of her neck, sliding all the way down to the crack of her ass. She gripped the back of the couch, her eyes never leaving him.
He tapped on her buttocks then each upper thigh. “You’ve been a very bad girl tonight.”
“Yes, sir. I know.” As she prepared for the first strike, eager to hear the whooshing sound as the wood was swung through the air, a slight fog appeared in front of her eyes. Blinking several times, she could swear there was a haze surrounding a portion of the room. No, surrounding her alone, the vapor bluish in color, the form undulating as if alive. She almost reached out when Daniel made the first swing.
The pain was blinding, sending her mind reeling, her body lurching forward. “Oh!”
Daniel grunted his satisfaction as he smacked her again, hitting her squarely across both ass cheeks.
Scarlet was locked in the moment, captivated by the wiggling mist, the hue becoming more vibrant. Then she heard a whisper, the sound something only she could hear and the very one she’d heard more than once in her dreams.
You are the one. You are the salvation.
Her grip tightened as he struck her again, moving back and forth from cheek to cheek, taking his time, so practiced and methodical. The one. She had no understanding of what the words meant, but tonight, they were said in urgency, as if something had changed, as if an event was about to occur.
“This is exactly what you need,” he whispered and rubbed her skin, dragging his fingers down her ass, back up the crack, his fingers pressing to find her dark hole.
She closed her eyes, eradicating the vision, allowing herself to fall into the joy of what Daniel was giving her.
He pressed two fingers inside her ass, flexing them open and pumping in a steady fashion then pulling out, smacking her again.
With every hard strike thudding against her, creating a wave of anguish, she fell deeper into a peaceful realm. She could no longer feel her legs and the pain was exquisite. She was floating, spinning, her breath skipping.
You are the only one now who can save them. Heed your destiny…
The words were startling, pulling her out of her moment of ecstasy. “What…” When she opened her eyes, she half expected to see a monster standing in front of her, a true beast that had scoured the earth for food and sex. Hunting. What is wrong with me?
Daniel wrapped his hand around her hair, tugging. “You’re not enjoying tonight.”
“I just…” The mist was gone, vanished. This time, a cold chill swept through her body and her thoughts drifted to her grandmother, startling her. “I am… fine.”
“Just breathe, sweet kitty. Relax.”
She swallowed and tried to smile yet her instinct was screaming.
He swung the paddle again.
This time she yelped, and her reaction had nothing to do with the pain. She watched as a book tumbled off her bookshelf, what she’d been told was an ancient first edition that had been tightly sandwiched between dozens of other books. The thudding sound was like dynamite.
“Shit,” Daniel muttered as he walked around the couch, crouching down, glaring at the intrusion.
Scarlet knew the book and even though she’d never read a page, she was aware of the contents, the ancient myth believed and honored by her grandmother. Her heart skipping, she eased off the couch, her feet heavy as she walked in the direction of the bookshelf.
He reached out, ready to retrieve it. “Something else must have rattled the building. You know how the damn city is. Could be a gas explosion.”
“Don’t touch it.” She held out her hand then hunkered down beside him.
“The Curse of the Red Moon?” He laughed. “Are you into werewolves, my sweet kitten?”
“Not about werewolves,” she muttered and pulled the book into her hands, rubbing her palm across the front. The feel of the gilded letters was almost peaceful, and she was reluctant to place the book back in position. A note slipped from the interior, floating toward the floor.
“What is that?”
Swallowing, she stared at the square of paper, terrified to learn what was written. “I don’t know. I never looked at this before.” She held her breath as she fingered the linen paper, finally taking it into her fingers. Written in a deep red, the handwriting definitely belonged to her grandmother.
My sweet Scarlet,
The time is here. Your destiny, a fate I’ve tried to prepare you for. There is little time, or many will lose the battle. You are required to find your true mates, three members of the Pride. They will own you, protect you, and secure your future. Together, you can break the curse. Apart, you will die.
What the hell? Her heart racing, she read the words again then shoved the paper back into the book, terrified of the meaning. What destiny? A violent jolt of current tore through her system, stealing the air from her body.
“What did it say?” he asked, leaning in closer. “Scarlet. You don’t look well. Jesus Christ, you’re white.”
“I’m fine and nothing. Just ramblings of my grandmother.” Nothing. This was more of the same crap she’d heard. Even though she’d loved the stories, the closeness shared with the vibrant woman, Scarlet refused to buy into the legend. No. This wasn’t real. This was a wild and insane story.
Then why are your nightmares driving you to the brink of madness?
There was no decent answer to the question.
“Well, that was a fucking mood breaker. Do you want a drink?” Daniel exhaled and rose to his feet, immediately storming toward her kitchen, dropping the paddle onto the couch.
“Sure.” Cradling the book against her chest, she struggled to stand, feeling weak and disoriented. Why was she being sent a message? Had something happened to Viola? The woman lived alone, mostly by choice. Scarlet had been close to her grandmother as a child, but her own mother had pulled her away, refusing to allow her to visit after dragging them from their home in the middle of the night. The move to Chicago had been without planning and they’d left the majority of their things behind.
She’d asked dozens, hundreds of times, but had never been given an answer as to why they’d moved and why she wasn’t able to talk about their previous life. Her mother had simply pretended that they were from Chicago, never mentioning their former life to any of their friends, what few they’d had. After the death of her mother, she’d eventually gravitated toward finding family, including the woman her mother seemed to hate.
They’d rekindled some form of a relationship, spending time on the phone talking. Scarlet had longed to find out the truth of why her mother had moved so far away. Viola had never admonished her mother’s decision, nor had she explained why there’d been a rift. Sadly, Scarlet had grown weary of her grandmother’s tall tales, of monsters living in the forest and of a blood cursed moon and beasts ready to take over the world. She didn’t believe in ghosts or vampires, werewolves or nasty demons.
She was a crime reporter. She believed in fact, not fiction. Yes, she’d written about the worst of humanity, deaths and violence, abductions and gangs, but they were real people just doing wretched deeds. They were the true monsters. Even though she’d listened to the stories, taking in as much as she could tolerate, she’d never bought into the legends.
But the book had been sent to her on her twenty-first birthday, a note attached with beautiful scripted writing.
My dear granddaughter,
You have no idea how important you are. This book will explain certain aspects of why, but the remainder you must learn yourself. You are the chosen one. You are the salvation.
I will be here to guide you.
The book had been put away unopened, never thought of again. By that point, she’d been concerned her grandmother was losing her grip on reality, seeing ghosts and demons. Maybe she’d wanted to believe the wretched story instead of finding out the truth. Her dreams had turned into nightmares of ghoulish acts and forbidden fantasies, complete submission to powerful, dominating men. Every day she woke to the kind of hunger food would never satisfy.
Now, almost three years later, she was very much afraid.
She padded toward the couch, the book still nestled in her arms. Her mind was muddled, reeling from the possibility that this particular note was a recent message from her grandmother.
A crack of thunder could be heard in the distance, a single lightning bolt catching her eye. She stared at the window, unable to move, her breath caught in her throat.
“I brought you bourbon. Looks like you could use it,” Daniel said as he walked into the living room, two glasses in his hand. “Are you okay? You really look… sick. You’re white as a ghost.”
Scarlet turned toward him as a knowing settled in. “My grandmother is dead.”
“What?” He scanned the room. “How do you know?”
The sound of her cell phone ringing came from the kitchen. As she walked in the direction, the book felt hot to the touch. Every move methodical, she pressed her finger against the screen on her phone. “Scarlet Dumane?”
“Miss Dumane, this is Sheriff Jefferson of the Lafayette Parrish down here in Louisiana. I’m sorry to catch you like this and even sorrier to call and give you the news.”
“My grandmother is dead.” Her whisper was met with silence.
Fire ripped through the building, blue flames licking up the walls. Larken Myers adjusted the angle of the hose, allowing a massive stream of water to blanket the entire area. Acrid smoke rolled up from the floor, his attempts to focus on the surrounding area not possible. He took practiced steps, avoiding the falling timbers from the upper floors. The entire building was gone, engulfed in a wild fire caused by a horrific explosion that had rocked the entire block.
He swung the hose from right to left, making headway, steam rising as the flames were extinguished. He could hear screams from the other firefighters, three engine companies working to control the destruction.
Larken heard the voice of his captain through the communication system, the man’s tone of voice laced with urgency. “Here!”
“Get out of there. The roof is caving in.”
He took a quick glance over his head, hearing the intense crackling sounds as the fire whistled through another area. A jolt of current rushed into his system, paralyzing his actions. Blinking, he watched as the fire formed a figure, dancing in the darkness, a creature served up straight from hell. Mesmerized for several seconds, he could almost feel the entity, extend his arm and touch the figure as it moved closer, undulating in eerie formations.
There was no terror in his mind, only respect. Reaching out, he connected, if only briefly. Vivid images rushed into his mind, swirling images of death and destruction. He was shaking, a distinct chill racing down his spine.
The call was muted, at least in his ears. He knew the voice was that of his captain, but he was lost in the moment, frozen in time until the creature seemed to make the determination to let him go.
“Larken. Where the fuck are you?”
This is only the beginning…
The sound of the creature’s voice reverberated in his ears, a soft whisper, a foretelling of the future.
His future, the damning curse of a life he’d abandoned several years before.
You will find her. You will take her. You must destroy the others.
Another crackle formed around him, an intense sizzle and he was thrown from the vision as the upper floor caved in, heavy beams and metal tumbling down in slow motion. He had two seconds to react, taking a flying leap just as the entire building rocked from the aggressive explosion. He hit the ground hard and rolled, his body tangled in the hose. His training enabled him to react, to break the hold the being as well as the water hose had on him. He could just make out the stairs only ten feet in front of him.
Adrenaline flowing, he took the stairs two at a time, going down three flights, his hands slamming against the metal door just as—
Pitched forward, he could see a light over his head, blinding in its brightness. And he knew the curse had found him. Images rushed in front of his eyes, visions of death and destruction, not of life as his kind so hungered to achieve.
“Jesus Christ. Myers. What the hell?”
Larken opened his eyes as two other firefighters crouched down, helping him remove his helmet. “Shit.”
“Are you okay?”
The man’s gruff voice was enraged, his eyes roaming Larken’s face.
“I’m fine, Captain.” Captain Rawlings was one of the most respected firefighters in all of Los Angeles, but he was also a tough taskmaster. Struggling to sit, Larken wiped soot and grime from his eyes as he glared up at what was left of the building. “Fuck. Me.”
“Yeah, I’ll say,” the captain mumbled under his breath then stood, slapping his hands on his hips. “When I say get the hell out of the building, that’s what I mean. Get it?”
“He’s one badass, Captain.” The firefighter grinned as he helped Larken stand.
Larken eyed his buddy of two years and grinned. “Just doing my job.” Riley Cooper was a straight-up guy, his drinking buddy and a damn good firefighter. He also had absolutely no idea that Larken was a creature of the night, capable of terrorizing the entire city in his need to hunt.
After all, he was only half human.
“Shit. That was righteous,” Riley huffed. He chugged a half bottle of water, his eyes dancing over the destruction.
All Larken could think about was the vision. While he’d been experiencing nightmares for the last two months, vicious images of his Pride being ripped apart, he’d pushed the ugliness aside, preferring to live his life as a mortal, instead of the cursed being he’d been born as. He struggled to remove his jacket before heading for the water cooler and grabbing a bottle of water. He was being called into action, but not by his fellow firefighters. His leadership, as well as his expertise was needed back home, and he wasn’t certain how long he could avoid returning.
A battle was looming.
“Let’s get this cleaned up, ladies and gentlemen,” Captain Rawlings instructed. “Been a shit-ass day.”
Larken watched, locked in the moment, as the other engines managed to reduce the fire into nothing more than smoldering ash. He leaned against the fire engine and sighed, his entire body shaking, but his condition had nothing to do with the ravaging fire.
“How about grabbing a drink later?” Riley asked as he flanked his buddy’s side.
“No can do. Becky is expecting me home tonight.” Larken cringed. While he once adored the rambunctious girl, even considering asking her to marry him, his understanding that she wasn’t his true mate had instilled a block, that and the fact she had roaming eyes. Maybe his inability to commit had taken the real toll. Why he continued fighting his true identity had been on his mind more these last few months. The visions had changed, becoming reminders of his childhood, his beloved mother. And his father—one powerful man. Yet everything was hazy. Maybe he was trying too damn hard to forget his past.
“Ah, Becky. She has you so wrapped,” Riley teased.
“Not really.” He said the words blandly, yet his thoughts were locked on the words issued by the creature from the fire. The beginning. He knew about the ancient writings, the teachings from the Elders of his Pride, but he’d not only refused to accept, but denied the fact the apocalypse was close. At least for his kind. And now? Hell, he didn’t know what to believe.
“Okay, then. You’re way out of sorts. Get hit on the head in there?” Riley chided. When Larken didn’t answer, he snorted. “Let’s get this shit cleaned up. At least I plan on having more than one drink tonight.”
Almost an hour later they were back at the station. Larken stood under the showerhead, his hands planted on the cold tile, water spraying down his back. He waited until the shower room cleared out before turning off the shower and grabbing a towel. There was no way he could avoid the inevitable much longer. He wasn’t necessarily surprised his father hadn’t reached out to him, at least mentally. The patriarch had been more than supporting of Larken leaving the village. So many other Pride members had built a life outside the protected grounds, buildings careers.
But no families…
He half laughed as he dried off and headed for the locker room. Returning to Lafayette wasn’t tops on his list, no matter that Bayou country was his home, his heritage. He had no desire to be a werelion, but the longing to shift had been increasing, pushing him in ways he hadn’t anticipated. He’d only allowed himself to shift a few times since leaving, until he’d been able to build up his control over the snarling beast lurking under the surface. In the last few weeks, aches and cramps were telling. His resolve wouldn’t hold much longer.
You are rare, my son, capable of doing great things. You must adapt to your special gifts, hiding amongst those we all fear. A time will come when you will be called to duty.
The statement had been the most shocking, whispered on the day of his departure. But in front of everyone else? Duty. Honor. Vindication. These were the three words that had been drilled into his mind since the early days, training of a different kind. Others would say retaliation was the correct term.
Enough of the old ways, the curse, and the need for brutality. There were far too many humans who knew of their existence, and who enjoyed making their life a living hell whenever possible. He huffed and yanked open his locker door, another pang of anguish filtering into his stomach. Dropping his head, he controlled his breathing, eventually squelching the pain. There was no denying the inevitable. The last thing he wanted to do was shift in the middle of a crowded city. Fuck!
After throwing on clean clothes, he grabbed his keys, sauntering toward the captain’s office. Every muscle in his body was on fire. He rapped on the door before sticking his head inside. “You busy?”
Captain Rawlings lifted his head, his expression difficult to read. “Sure. Thought you’d be out of here, clamoring to get to a bar.”
Larken shrugged as he walked inside. “Date tonight.” An awkward tension settled in. “Look, I’m sorry about today. I just froze.”
The captain sat back in his chair. “I don’t buy that in the least, Myers. You’re the best firefighter we have, even if you’re hot-headed at times. However,” he said as he pointed a finger in Larken’s direction, “you ran into that building without backup. You ignored my instructions and you almost got yourself killed. By all rights, I should place you on probation.”
“Yeah, I know.” How was he supposed to explain that he’d had a vision of the devil himself? No one around him had a single inkling of who or what he was. He’d perfected his ability to hide his true identify—just as required.
“That’s all you have to say for yourself?”
“I just lost it in there. That’s all. Won’t happen again.”
Captain Rawlings shook his head. “See that it doesn’t. Now, why did you really come in here? I know you too well, son.”
Larken rubbed his jaw as he tried to formulate his request. “I have some family issues I might have to contend with.”
“You’ve never even mentioned you even had a family.”
“I’m not close with them, but this is something I don’t think I can get out of. I might need some time off.”
“How long are we talking?”
“Not certain. A couple of weeks, but I won’t know for certain until I make a few phone calls.” He only prayed he would be able to return.
Captain Rawlings leaned across the desk. “Family is the most important thing in the world, Larken. Trust me on that one. I forgot until it was too late. If you need time, I’ll arrange it. Just let me know.”
“I will, sir. Thank you.” He gave his captain a respectful nod and turned to go. There was no reason to feel such extreme apprehension, but he couldn’t abate the foreboding eating at his insides.
“Find yourself, Larken. You’ve been lost in something for months. If family is keeping you from doing that, maybe this is karma kicking your ass.”
He had to chuckle hearing the words. His captain had suspected from day one that he had troubling issues. Maybe he wasn’t as good at hiding as he’d thought. “You could be right.”
Larken walked out of the firehouse, the station that had been his home for long enough he was melancholy at the thought of leaving, but he had few choices or hundreds, if not thousands would die.
Including the entire Pride.
“There you are,” Becky snapped as Larken walked into the small apartment, dropping his things. “You’re late as always.”
“Massive fire, Beck. I didn’t really have any choice in the matter.” He walked toward the refrigerator, pulling out a beer. The creature’s words flowed in his mind, creating a reckless need to feed. He’d staved off the ache in his loins, the burning in his belly for so long. Fighting.
Think. You are human. Rubbing his temple, the anguishing pain behind his eyes had nothing to do with the previous fire. An odd vision swept into the back of his mind. A woman, her face shrouded. Suddenly, every portion of his body was tingling.
Find your true mate.
Jesus. He wiped a few beads of sweat from his brow, masking his emotions.
She huffed, mumbling under her breath. “Yeah, whatever. Your job always comes before me, every time. I don’t know any longer what we’re doing or who we are as a couple.”
He twisted the top, taking a long pull before noticing that she’d set the table. A quick glance at the clock gave him an idea of why she was angry. It was already after seven-thirty. “Beck, I’m sorry. I don’t punch the clock. I can’t predict fires. You know that. We’ve talked about this before. This is my job.”
“Yeah, whatever.” She grabbed a half-full glass of wine off the table, moving toward the balcony door. A string of curse words popped out of her mouth as she fumbled with the lock, throwing open the door and barging outside.
Closing his eyes, he held the cold beer to his temple as he leaned against the counter. A rumble of thunder in the distance caught his attention. There hadn’t been a cloud in the sky when he walked in. He could just make out her form as she stood leaning over the railing, taking sip after sip of her wine. She’d had over half the bottle and he had no doubt she would continue drinking, her way of dealing with what she called his ‘perfectly ridiculous profession.’
Telling her he was going back home for a couple of weeks would no doubt cause a fight, but he certainly wasn’t going to take her with him. He sucked in his breath and moved toward the back door, hesitating before walking out onto the small balcony. The six hundred square foot apartment had been difficult to come by and the tiny space outside was the only reminder of the expansive land and beautiful cabin back in Louisiana. He loved the outdoors, the clean air and forests surrounding the property he’d grown up in.
This was everything he’d thought he wanted, the bright lights of the big city, but Los Angeles could never be home, no matter how hard he tried. “Becky. We need to talk.”
“Yeah, we do,” she scoffed, darting him a nasty look. “Long overdue.”
He flanked her side yet kept his distance. Finding the correct words wasn’t always easy for him, especially with a woman. Lightning flashed, electrifying the sky, the perpendicular bolt catching his attention. “Becky, I—”
“I don’t want to do this any longer,” she interrupted.
“This? What do you mean?”
“This. Us.” She turned to face him. “You’re a nice guy and all, but I want someone I can count on. You’re not that guy.”
Larken wasn’t necessarily surprised. She’d been hinting at her unhappiness for at least four months. They were no longer close as they once were, even foregoing sex the majority of the time. She hated that he wanted absolute control, including requiring her to follow rules or receive punishment. He loathed that fact she had no respect or understanding of his chosen career. “Okay. So, what are you saying?”
“I’m saying,” she stated firmly as she inched closer, “that this is over.”
He wanted to be unhappy, to fight for what they’d shared, but in truth, he knew this was the best thing for both of them, especially given what he would be facing. “All right. I understand.”
Another clap of thunder boomed. Larken could feel the vibrations in his loins. Even though the moon was cloaked by the ominous clouds, he could swear there was a crimson mist, a warning that he couldn’t refuse.
“That’s all you can say to me?” she demanded, her face pinched.
“What do you want me to say?”
“That you love me. That you want more. That you’ll give up everything for me.”
A series of lightning bolts flashed, the long tendrils colored in a vibrant blue. He swallowed as an uneasy feeling settled in. The vision of the woman was a foretelling. His mate. “Becky. I’m not giving up my career.”
“Then we’re through.” She polished off her wine and stormed toward the door, merely giving him a disgusted look. “I thought I loved you. Goodbye, Larken. I’ll come by to get my things tomorrow.”
His beast slithered to the surface, threatening to breach, to claw its way through the skin and bone, taking over as he’d wanted to do before. Only tonight, the sensations as well as the need were entirely different, loaded with venom. The electricity in the storm was like a fuel, his muscles and blood cells lapping at the current. He was being given a sign. He held out his hand, curling his fingers and for a few seconds envisioned a bloody stained paw. Hissing, he brought his fist to his mouth, thwarting his beast. He would be in control at all times.
At least Becky would be safe. He tried to make sense of what was happening. All the stories, the teachings he’d read as a young boy, the knowledge that was innately given to every lion was coming true. He’d fought his place, his requirement his entire life. Now, there was nowhere to run.
He would face his destiny, one way or the other.
The second another bolt of electric rays lit up the night sky, his phone rang. He didn’t need to look at the display to know who was calling. He jerked his phone out of his pocket, turning away from the storm. “Trevor.”
“You’re needed home, my friend. I’m sure you feel it.”
“Yeah, the pull had gotten stronger.”
“And just think. You’re thousands of miles away,” Trevor chuckled. “I don’t like the shit going down here in town. Some bad vibes have the Pride all up in arms.”
“That’s nothing new.” Larken couldn’t take his eyes off the raging storm.
“I do understand, buddy. I left too. I thought I could run away from the inevitable. You see how that worked out.”
“Fuck, Trevor. I don’t want this. I don’t believe in the ancient crap.” The truth was that he didn’t want to accept what had been foretold over thousands of years. But he could no longer run from his destiny.
Trevor exhaled. “You need to know this. There has already been one death just outside of town and you know how the older townsfolk are. Talk is, there could be more.”
“Blaming it on the Pride?”
“Not directly, but I hear talk. Just going into town to buy supplies I can see the ‘looks’ from the older generation. I swear, I think they’re itching to pull out their guns.”
None of their Pride were allowed to kill humans for any reason other than protection. Shedding blood in any violent manner was grounds for banishment. Yeah, there was something going on. “The Pride needs to be addressed.”
“Yeah, I agree, but by you, you dumbass,” Trevor said, chuckling. “Look. You don’t have any choice but to return and you know it. Besides, the Elders are anxiously waiting, even your father.”
“And the others?” He studied the sky, the ominous colors, the light show that was directed at him alone.
“There is talk in the village about your abdication of the throne, many willing to take your place.” Trevor’s voice rumbled with increasing anger.
He knew exactly who wanted to take his place and his rightful mate, whoever the hell that happened to be. There was no recourse. “I’ll be there.”
The end had begun.