“Another wave of violence erupted in the city of angels late last night. There are unconfirmed reports that dozens of deaths occurred after midnight due to what some witnesses are calling unexplained phenomena. While the police have yet to weigh in, I spoke to the chief of police, Mark Franklin, who assured me that methods are being put into place to stop the bloodshed.”
From the pictures I’d seen over the last few days on the news as well as the patients coming into the emergency room, we had a full-scale war going on. What was wrong with people?
I moved closer to the television, a cold chill trickling down my spine. Even the reporter had a concerned look on his face. “This is crazy,” I whispered, more to myself than to anyone in the room. I headed for the coffeemaker, uncertain I wanted to listen to anything else.
“It’s LA for you,” Emily said.
We’d worked on and off together for almost two years, had seen dozens of horrific cases. Gang wars. Domestic violence. Ten-car pile-ups. However, what I’d seen over the last week had been indescribable.
As if animals had ripped people apart. I knew the police had their hands full, including trying to keep the public from panicking, but the news coverage was close to sparking panic.
I couldn’t shake the image of beasts that had been described chowing down on people out of my mind.
“I’m beginning to wonder,” I said as I walked toward the window. I could feel a strangeness in the air, an ominous stifling aura surrounding the city. I could almost smell it, danger and death wrapped up together. The ugly sensations had unnerved me for days. I was a doctor, yet I had difficulty stomaching some of the injuries.
“It’s December fifteenth. We’re supposed to be singing Christmas carols, not worrying about violent criminals taking over the city or creatures from hell lurking in our backyards,” Emily groaned.
Creatures from hell. Another bloody vision shifted into my mind.
“Did you hear the rumor?” another nurse asked. Ginny was new, only on the job for three weeks. At this rate, she’d quit before completing four.
Emily shot her a look. “You mean the wolves?”
Ginny shook her head, shaking on purpose. “Isn’t that creepy? There are reports that they’ve been seen in collars too. That’s even weirder. And their howls are eerie as crap. I was standing on my balcony a couple nights ago and heard at least eight or ten of them. Scared me to death.”
Collars? That was ridiculous. “There are packs of wild dogs. They also howl.” My words didn’t seem to register.
“Nope. You didn’t hear them,” Ginny insisted.
“That’s not what I heard either. They’re big, I mean larger than a human male. Scary-looking too.” Emily shuddered visibly. “Like werewolves but not exactly.”
“First of all, there are no species of wolves that grow that large. People also don’t know the difference between wolves and coyotes,” I interjected, rolling my eyes.
“No, I buy it,” Emily answered then rose from the chair, tossing her cup into the trash. “I’m having trouble sleeping at night, crazy dreams keeping me awake. Big bad wolves breaking into my house. That’s not like me.”
“Did you hear Dr. Brant almost ran over a creature in the middle of the freeway?” Ginny asked, turning red when she glanced in my direction.
“It’s the two blue moons. I’m telling you.” Emily shook her head, staring at the television again.
“Two blue moons?” I asked, curious what the hell she was talking about.
She turned toward me. “You haven’t heard? There’s going to be a second one this year on New Year’s Eve. That’s creepy enough in itself.”
“That’s not possible,” Ginny chortled.
“All the scientists are saying it’s a once in a million-year event.” Emily shrugged. “There are various cults and other more spiritual organizations who think this is the reason for the animal attacks and that they’re only going to get worse. Some curse is the reason why all this is happening.”
Sighing, I gave her a dour look. “Give me a break. That’s crazy.”
“I don’t think so,” she answered.
I rubbed my eyes before checking my watch. The break certainly didn’t seem like much of one. For the third night in a row, I’d been asked to provide assistance in Emergency. Suddenly, we had a shortage of personnel. The coffee tasted bitter anyway. After tossing the cup, I headed for the door.
“You’re heading back already?” Emily asked.
“Not yet. I think I’ll stop by pediatrics first.” I winked before leaving the breakroom. I didn’t know why going to see the children always made me feel better, but it did. Maybe their innocence was the draw, their sweet little faces and eyes so eager for life a reminder of what was most important in life.
Sighing, I stepped into the elevator, backing against the wall. I understood the dreams Emily had talked about, but mine had existed for years, since I was a child. Until recently, I hadn’t been able to grasp a good portion of any nightmare, but every time I woke covered in perspiration, my heart racing and the fear crippling. Almost a year before they’d changed, as if I was a predator stalking whoever the victim was in the dream. I shook my head, trying to rid my mind of the images shown on television.
For the first time in ages, I thought about my past. I’d refused to allow what I’d experienced on a cold winter’s day to derail my life or my career, but every once in a while, I missed the loving arms of my father. Even though I’d only been seven when he was killed, I could still remember his congenial laugh, especially when he’d yanked me into his massive arms, swinging me around and around like his helicopter princess, as he’d called me.
He’d been the center of our little family, my mother and I his beautiful women. Sighing, I closed my eyes, allowing an image of his laughing face to enter my mind. With red hair and a beard, he’d always seemed like he was smiling.
At least until the last time I remembered seeing him… the afternoon he’d died. It had been a horror that no young child should face. My mother had never gotten over the brutal shooting, refusing to remarry or even care about another man. Now she was a shell of herself. I needed to stop by and see her later, take her some of her favorite chocolates.
I rubbed my arms, shivering as the vision continued, although after all these years, most of them had faded away. Thankfully.
But I would never forget the blood from the day of the shooting, so much blood. I’d also never forget screaming and crying as the EMTs tried everything to resuscitate him, but his heart had been too damaged. That had been the single reason I’d become a surgeon. I’d wanted to save another family from going through hell.
I rolled my eyes, trying to shove the memory aside. Why in hell was I going down memory lane? It had to be because of the constant news on the violent attacks. You graduated top of your class. You’ve helped hundreds if not thousands of people. You’re successful.
Even though my little voice did everything to try to make me feel better, she was doing a piss poor job of it right now. The question that I should ask is why did I feel like something was missing from my life? Laughing, I realized I had to cut back on two things: coffee and the morning news.
As soon as the elevator pinged, I felt better, finally able to smile. I waved to the nurses at the station, noticing they’d added to the holiday decorations. At least this area of the hospital was festive. I glanced at my watch, happy to see I hadn’t missed story time. As I moved to the door, I tried to remain quiet as I peered in through the window. There were at least a dozen children, maybe a few more. When I stepped inside, I placed my finger over my lips when the storyteller looked up.
Sheila was in charge of nursing but squeezed extra time in her busy schedule as often as possible in order to read a book or two to the children. She was animated and often in costume. Her nickname ‘The Storyteller’ suited her. She winked as I walked in, not stopping a beat and the kids were hanging onto every word.
I moved to the back of the room, leaning against one of the bookshelves. While there was no way anyone couldn’t like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I found my mind drifting off. What was happening in the city and why couldn’t the attacks be explained? The injuries weren’t consistent with any kind of weapon I knew of, and I prided myself in knowing a lot about guns and knives. My father had insisted I knew how to take care of myself. I could even change a tire in three minutes flat.
Chuckling, I glanced down at Sheila’s things. She was getting off shift, her purse and book bag waiting for her when she finished. Good for her. When one of the kids leaned against the table, the force knocked over the book bag, a single book falling to the floor. I reacted immediately, moving forward and reaching to grab it.
As I pulled the thick volume into my hands, the title caught my attention. Ancient Voodoo Curses. Really? That didn’t sound like anything Sheila would be interested in. I’d expected maybe a Nora Roberts book or even another textbook since she was always continuing with medical classes, but the dark book appeared old, the binding broken. I had no business snooping, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself from peering inside.
What in the world was this about? Curses? Did they really exist? I’d heard of many beliefs, including various religious groups believing they could perform black magic, but the book was nothing I’d expected Sheila to purchase, let alone believe in. As I read page one, I was drawn in almost immediately, even more curious as to why Sheila would have something like this. From what I could tell, an ancient voodoo curse had turned the descendants of an entire family into wolves. Lycans.
In this country.
That was insane.
My thoughts drifted to the news as well as what the girls had mentioned in the breakroom. When I flipped to the page on the curse of the two blue moons, a single trickle of fear pulsed through me. Even though I wanted to laugh given I was a doctor of science, I found myself more curious than ever.
As I started flipping through page after page, I didn’t realize how long I was taking until the children started clapping. Startled, I almost dropped it, half laughing to myself until I noticed Sheila headed in my direction.
She gave me her usual motherly look as she walked closer, more amused than anything.
“I’m sorry,” I said, still laughing. “The book fell out of your bag.”
“Uh-huh. I noticed you were looking at it. What do you think?”
“I’m not much into horror, especially since we seem to have a bit of that in real life right now.”
She took the book out of my hands, patting the top. “This isn’t horror, at least in the way you mean.”
“O-kay. Now, I’m really curious.”
“Don’t worry, I’m no voodoo priestess. This belonged to my mother. I finally took the time to clean out her house the other day and found this.” Sheila took it into her hands, fingering the page I’d been reading.
“I’m so sorry about your loss.”
“Thank you. She lived a long life. Ninety-seven. That gives me hope I’ll be around for a few more years.” While she laughed, I could tell she was as drawn to the book as I’d been.
“Two blue moons. I didn’t think that was possible.” I couldn’t help but smile as the kids grabbed candy canes before leaving the room, ready for bed.
Sheila watched as they trailed out of the room, her mouth twisted. “My mother was a firm believer in magic, curses, and paranormal activity.” When she noticed my expression, she laughed. “She was born in Cajun country, one of the original locations harboring black magic. Don’t laugh. The stories she used to tell me were… well, interesting to say the least. This was kept in a special glass case, so I thought it had to be important to her.”
“So, what about this family?”
“I haven’t read the entire passage on that particular curse, but from what I can tell, a very powerful voodoo priestess placed a curse on one family because her entire community was slaughtered, their land stolen. She cursed their descendants into becoming wolves, able to shift freely. Until the year of the two blue moons.”
Swallowing, I realized my throat was tightening. “Does this have anything to do with the recent murders in the city?”
She sighed and grabbed the rest of her things, sliding the book into her backpack. “I haven’t gotten that far, but if any of the stories my mother told are true, then the murders are going to increase, the wolves preparing for the end of their human cycle.”
“Human cycle?” This was getting way too farfetched for me to believe.
“If the sons of the original descendants of the cursed family don’t find mates, then by midnight on the last night of the second blue moon, they’ll shift for the last time into wolves, never to return to their human forms.”
“Fascinating.” But bullshit.
She grabbed the straps, swinging the bag over her shoulder. “Then all hell will break loose, their hunger uncontrollable.”
“For human flesh. Be careful out there. Wolves are real.”
As she walked out of the room, I took a deep breath. Great. Now people were believing gang violence was attached to a wonderful but impossible ancient campfire story. I glanced around the colorful room, trying to rid myself of a cloud of visions forming in my mind. The entire thing reminded me of the recent dreams I’d had.
Shuddering, I heard an incoming text and grabbed my phone.
9-1-1. Emergency room stat. A dozen incoming casualties. Gangland-style war.
“Fucking fantastic. At least this was something I could handle.” As I raced out of the room, ignoring the elevator, choosing the stairs, I couldn’t get the curse out of my mind. The entire thing was ridiculous. I was a woman of science, not one who believed in fantasies.
Then why did it bother me so much?
I slammed my hands on the exit door, racing toward the emergency room. “How far out?” I barked to no one in particular.
“Two minutes. At least fifteen victims,” one of the nurses called out.
Fifteen. Great. The high number would stretch the staff and our facilities. As I raced past the triple set of sliding doors, the darkness as well as the glow from the moon caught my attention. Stopping short, I took a deep breath before heading outside onto the sidewalk. The chill in the air, while not unusual for this time of year, sent a series of violent shivers jetting through my bloodstream. I moved away from the overhang, staring up at the sky. While the moon was only half full, it still had an ominous appearance, a strange haze covering it.
And I could swear it was tinged in blue. I was pulled toward the stunning sight overhead, finding it difficult to take my eyes off the giant orb. The moon seemed closer than normal. While I wasn’t into zodiac signs or astrology, I remembered something I’d been told about the various monthly full moons. The one in December was called the cold moon, the meaning about finding something or someone to warm our bodies. There was no sexy man in my life who would fit that bill.
I folded my arms, rubbing both until a sound caught my attention.
Dozens of them.
They were coming from every direction, the woeful sounds unmistakable. There was also an odd stench in the air, the odor stagnant and metallic. I knew it far too well. It was the scent of blood. The nasty substance filled the air as well as my nostrils, creating an instant wave of nausea. I backed away, covering my mouth and nose.
Then a vibrant, powerful vision rushed into my mind, everything else around me fading away.
There was only darkness as the image became real, so much so I could reach out and touch the world filtering around me.
The woods were dense, the overhang of the massive trees blocking a good portion of the bright moon, yet I had no difficulty capturing every shape and shadow. I moved forward, my senses heightened. Every sound made by a night-stalking creature echoed in my ears, the scent of moss and decay thick. I took a deep inhale, detecting the stench of blood and death. But I wasn’t afraid.
As I walked forward, I sensed him, a powerful creature standing only a few yards away. Watching me. Studying me.
Hungering for me.
I should turn and run but instead, I was drawn to him, every inch of skin tingling. As I moved closer, I shed my clothes, dropping them along the way like breadcrumbs. Completely naked, I came within a few feet of the incredible beast, lowering my head the second I caught a glimpse. My actions were an offering. I was submitting my body as well as my soul.
Within seconds, I heard movement, the beast shifting through the underbrush. As he approached, I could feel his hot breath cascading down the length of my body. Every growl he made sent a wave of desire deep within, my nipples fully aroused, and my thighs slickened from my pussy juice.
“You are mine now and forever.”
I couldn’t hear his words, but I understood them. I’d been commanded here to fulfill his filthy needs. And there was nothing I wanted more than to satisfy him.
“Yes, sir,” I whispered, my breathing shallow.
“Stand facing the oak tree.”
My legs trembled as I walked, following his orders without hesitation, closing my eyes as the anticipation of what was to come stole my breath. I was alive, electricity crackling all around me. I’d never felt so at home, happy that I’d found him. As excitement pushed aside the anxiety, I sensed him drawing closer. Why had I ignored his cries before? Why hadn’t I fulfilled his needs?
“You will be punished for ignoring your master,” he huffed, a slight snarl erupting from the depths of his being.
As the ground beneath me began to vibrate, butterflies erupted in my stomach, and I could no longer feel my legs. Sounds permeated the forest, cries of other beasts mixing with his insatiable growls. I could feel his hunger, I could sense his building needs. Soon he would ravage me.
The noise intensified, cracks and groans creating a trickle of fear, even though I knew he wouldn’t hurt me. I’d been chosen. I belonged to him.
I felt a brush against me, not from the wolf I expected, but from the hand of a man. Moans slipped past my lips as he rubbed the rough pads of his fingers along the back of my neck then down my spine to the crack of my ass. When he parted my legs, I offered no resistance. I wanted him to touch me, to stroke me.
To fuck me.
“So beautiful,” he whispered, his voice husky, dripping with lust.
As he shoved his hand between my legs, I held my breath, another wave of tingles keeping my heart thumping and my pulse racing. He continued growling as he fingered my clit, rolling his fingers around my tender tissue then pinching.
The draw to him was indescribable, my body aching, yearning for his touch as well as his harsh discipline. Every touch tickled my skin, his hot breath like a firestorm. I yielded for him, my moans remaining soft yet insistent.
“You are a very dirty little girl.”
His words were thrilling, another push into an abyss of seductive need, my hunger knowing no bounds.
“Soon, I will fuck you.” He held out a freshly cut switch, his guttural sounds continuing. Then he dragged the tip of the small branch down my back, tapping my buttocks. “But now, you begin learning to obey my every command.”
I bit my lower lip, trying to keep from crying out. I deserved this. I’d defied him. When he issued the first strike, the sound of his wrist snapping was all I heard. Anguish tore through me, the pain enough I rose onto my tiptoes. “Oh…”
He cracked the wood across both buttocks four more times, a deep rumble coming from his chest.
Stars floated in front of my eyes, and I hugged the tree tightly, digging my fingers into the bark. When he smacked me several additional times, I threw my head back and cried, my wail echoing even in the denseness of the forest.
“You will learn to obey me at all times, no matter what I ask of you,” he muttered then cracked the switch against my upper thighs.
Tears formed in my eyes, but I blinked them away. “Yes, sir.”
He caressed my aching bottom, rubbing his fingers from one side to the other before slicing several strokes in rapid succession. I would proudly wear his stripes for days. The thought brought another wave of desire rushing into my system. As my nipples scraped against the bark, the electricity soared between us. I was never meant to be with any other man. I’d been born belonging to him.
The savage man continued the spanking, making certain that I would never forget to come when he called again.
And I wouldn’t.
As he tossed the implement away, I sucked in my breath, uncertain of what to expect. When he rubbed his hands down my back, cupping my bruised and heated bottom, pulling my hips away from the tree, I hung my head. My mouth was dry, my needs building to an explosive level. I wanted to beg him to fuck me.
But there was no need.
Within a few seconds, he thrust every inch of his thick, throbbing cock deep into my womb. A rush of air escaped my lungs as I was shoved against the tree. When he pulled almost all the way out, I whimpered, arching my back and begging him for more.
He laughed, the gravelly sound pushing me even further to the edge of reason. “You’ve become insatiable.”
“Yes. Yes… Just fuck me.”
When he plunged into me again, the rush of excitement from before moved to total euphoria. Breathless, I dug my fingernails into the bark, trying to hold on as his actions became exactly like the savage he was.
And I wanted more. I craved all of him. His cock filling my mouth and pussy, driven into my asshole. Over and over again.
“All mine. My tight little pussy. My dark little asshole. You will learn to obey me, won’t you, my princess?”
His filthy words only added fuel to the fire.
He chuckled, the sound unearthly. Birds and other creatures scattered the second he issued a keening growl. And he pumped harder and faster, slamming me into the tree.
I couldn’t breathe or think clearly, but I didn’t care. I was his. His!
“That’s it. Come for me. Come…”
It was as if I’d never be able to ignore his command. I closed my eyes, dragging my fingers down the side of the tree until they were raw. As the orgasm rushed into me, the sparkle of light floating across my field of vision was exquisite, capturing my breath.
“Oh. Oh. Oh…” The moans escalated as the climax sent wave after wave of vibrations throughout my body. I was on fire, every nerve ending seared, the pleasure like a firestorm.
“More, my princess. More,” he commanded, jerking me away from the tree then bending me over as he fucked me like an animal.
He didn’t have to demand a second time, another climax stealing not only my breath but any sound I wanted to make.
The beast refused to stop, shaking me like a ragdoll as he fucked me long and hard, smacking my aching bottom every few seconds. When his body began to shake violently, a smile crossed my face seconds before I clenched my pussy muscles.
I’d never heard another sound like the one he made as he erupted deep inside, filling me with his seed. The roar was an awakening, a statement meant for every other creature in the forest, including the wolves.
I belonged to him.
He continued pumping, drilling deep into my womb. As he raked his fingers down the length of my spine, I could swear they were sharp claws.
After his breathing slowed, he pulled me to a standing position, wrapping his arms around me, holding me close against his massive chest.
Then a few seconds later, he turned me around, tossing me over his shoulder and heading into the denser part of the forest to his lair.
Soon, I would become his mate.
What the hell? Gasping for air, I was yanked out of the ridiculous vision by the sound of the approaching ambulances, sirens screaming in the distance. My God. The images had seemed so real. Enough so, my chest was tight, tingles drifting down my spine.
Even worse, my panties were soaked. As if the experience had happened and he’d fucked me. Filled me. That was crazy. What was going on with me? I raked my hand through my hair, finding it impossible to breathe normally. I could still feel him filling me deep inside.
Another blast of sirens finally broke the trance.
But they were unable to block out the constant howls of the creatures in the night.
“Goddamn coyotes,” an employee muttered as he rushed by me.
“No. They’re not coyotes. They’re wolves. And they’re very hungry.”
Two hours earlier
I was ravenous inside, barely able to control my natural urges. Beads of sweat formed across my brow, my heartrate faster than normal. I hadn’t fed in two days and that was two days too many. I dragged my tongue across my exposed canines, longing for the taste of blood in my mouth and throat.
There’d be no chance in hell I could hold off feasting tonight, but that would need to wait.
I was a powerful man, ruler of Los Angeles. I was brutal in both my legitimate and my more unscrupulous business operations. Between my film production company and my import/export corporation, I’d become a very wealthy man. With the added merchandise of jewels and cocaine, I’d become a billionaire. Many men had tried to bring me down over the years from Russians to South Americans, but I’d not only survived, I’d thrived in every business endeavor, just like my four brothers had done in other parts of the country, most expanding their territories.
As the last-born son of Chandler Dupree, the most ruthless crime syndicate boss in the country, I’d experienced my share of difficulties. Unfortunately, given the curse plaguing my entire family from over a century before, things in my world had recently gotten dicey.
There was bloodshed occurring in my city that had become out of my control.
There were rabid wolves attacking people on the streets, many of them causing a feeding frenzy. Only they weren’t traditional canines. They were Lycans. Loup-garou. They weren’t just rogue wolves, able to be hunted and exterminated at will.
They were my extended family.
Their hunger was raging out of control. Mine was as well, making it difficult to maintain any sense of humanity.
I’d never thought that being a shifter inhibited my lifestyle in any way. After all, I’d been born with the affliction, although I’d always thought of my different abilities as an attribute.
Until this year.
My family was everything to me. Losing my father had left a hole in my heart. At least I had four older brothers, all of us ensuring our beloved mother was protected. Gabriel, the oldest, had taken over the role of patriarch, the first to find his fated mate, a crazy requirement of the curse in order to maintain our humanity.
The second in line, Sebastian, was the consummate businessman, controlling Miami in the same dark and merciless manner I did with LA. Dax was the rebel, a man with scars and continued rage. And Marcel was the fighter, his brawn and refusal to tolerate enemies keeping most of the East Coast in fear of his power. I had to admire all four including their acceptance of the wretched curse we were all facing. Now it was my turn to deal with the devil, something I’d done everything to avoid.
“Did you hear about the recent attacks? Wolves, I mean?” Jagger asked, my Capo waiting for my instructions. “Some of the fuckers are wearing collars, at least if you believe any of the news reports.”
I also knew firsthand about the wolves who seemed to be controlled by a mysterious source, turning them into aggressive killing machines. The collars were likely the source, the person controlling them providing an electric surge of some kind in order to provoke their hunger and their rage. Almost every major city had reported sightings and the packs were expanding, moving into smaller locations of the country as well. Sadly, the attacks were getting worse every week.
Soon, we’d be forced to eradicate our kind, a move that was against everything we’d been taught since we were children.
“You okay, boss?” he asked a few seconds later.
I heard the concern in my Capo’s voice. Jagger had seen me at my worst as of late, the need to feed starting to interfere with my duties as the leader of hundreds of men and several businesses. If I didn’t get my shit under control, I’d open myself up to the possibility of an attack by even the weakest of enemies. “I’m fine,” I managed, although I was anything but fine.
“Boss. Hey. Should I call this off tonight?”
“No!” I snapped, snarling after I answered him. I paced the room, gulping down the rest of my drink to try to calm down. “I’m sorry, Jagger. I have a lot on my mind.”
“It’s getting worse, isn’t it?” he asked after a few seconds.
“I can handle it.” It. He meant my need to feed. Worse wasn’t the correct word. I was slowly turning into the monster so many had accused me of being, but this time for an entirely different reason. Little did the good people of LA know I was hungry enough to rip apart and devour hundreds of unsuspecting citizens. I rubbed my mouth, pushing the ugliness out of my mind. “Need I remind you that two of my men were killed, decapitated, and left on my front lawn?” The fucker responsible would pay.
“I know, boss. I had to clean up the mess. Remember?”
Jagger was my go-to man about everything. There were days I had no idea how he’d been able to tolerate the various jobs he’d been given. “That’s why we will attack.” I sounded almost juvenile in my statement, which wasn’t like me in the least. I was acting on emotions instead of logic, something else that had changed over the course of the last few months.
His heavy breathing indicated he didn’t believe me. “I got some new info from our informants. The Black Dragons have been asking questions about the import ship coming in.”
Goddamn fucking cartel. They’d been low-level players until recently, but I had no doubt their fucking leader was responsible for the murder of my men.
I was sick and tired of my shipments being derailed. The fuckers had gone too far. I refused to allow them to get their hands on the precious jewels coming from Saudi Arabia. Or the party favors that would sell for millions. No fucking way in hell. “That’s why tonight goes through as planned. Period.”
“If you say so, boss. The soldiers are ready.”
Jagger seemed far too eager for the attack, although I couldn’t blame him. He’d been there to pick up the pieces the last couple of months, doing his best to keep the businesses under our protection in line. Everyone was on edge, fearful of the recent events.
Until recently, what few organizations had dared to challenge my empire had learned quickly that fucking with a single member of the Dupree dynasty wasn’t in their best interests. While I’d always been considered more refined than my four brothers, they hadn’t learned how merciless I’d become in protecting my businesses, both legitimate and ones considered off the books.
Yet there was no amount of money that could break the stranglehold that had been placed over my entire family. All five of us were required to mate before the end of the year of the two blue moons. Sighing, I was sick of thinking about the curse, especially when I had tangible enemies threatening to capture a portion of my territory.
Hell would freeze over first.
I shifted my attention toward my Capo, nodding before staring at the sky through the window. The ugly haze covering the moon was as disconcerting as the events of the last month. There’d been dozens of attacks in the city, the violent murders blamed on organized crime including the two drug cartels that were attempting to take a firm hold of portions of California.
Fuck. I had to take my mind off the person responsible for our increasing misery. Jade Brousseau had been considered a powerful high priestess in the art of black magic and voodoo over a hundred years before. She and her descendants continued to haunt us long after her death. While my immediate family were taking the brunt of the curse, every extended family member had been affected.
And it was the middle of December. As the last child of five born to the direct descendants of the man who’d stripped the land from Jade and her community, burning the homes and businesses as well as killing almost everyone, the end or continuation of the curse remained directly on my shoulders.
I had to find my fated mate before the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve or every family member would shift one last time into our predatory state and remain.
Then all hell would break loose.
I’d all but given up hope of finding that one woman at this point.
What I had to concentrate on was business. My anger had been riled, enough so nothing was going to stop me from taking the first asshole down. That would send a message to the smaller group to stay the fuck out of my world.
Snarling, I took a deep breath, trying to calm my anger.
No one was going to usurp my authority or claim a portion of my business. I’d worked too hard in developing my business, both legitimate and under the table. While I preferred my notoriety as a film producer, it was my import/export business from fine jewels to expensive party favors where I made the majority of my fortune. Heroin might be all the rage, but cocaine still held a stronghold with celebrities and corporate moguls.
And the Black Dragons had reared their ugly heads, determined to take a lion’s share of my market.
That wasn’t going to happen. I would have their leader, Diego Santiero’s head on a silver platter. Tonight was the night, the attack on their illustrious compound necessary in order to send a warning to any other asshole attempting to move in on my turf.
“And Switch?” I asked, my other Capo dispatched to locate Diego and nothing else.
“He hasn’t reported in yet,” Jagger answered. “I wouldn’t worry about him. He can handle himself.”
Switch was a hardhead, the kind of man who ignored every aspect of danger. I could see the man getting himself killed.
I chuckled as I moved toward my car, the Trans Am the only vehicle I used in this scenario. I’d spent a significant amount of money making the car impervious to bullets and blasts, a necessity in my choice of professions.
“You sure you don’t want me to drive?” he asked as he flanked my side.
“Not necessary.” I opened the trunk, tossing in a second bag of weapons and ammunition. Then I grabbed my favorite assault rifle and another clip of ammunition before shutting the trunk. “This needs to be quick and without hesitation.”
“There ain’t a man who isn’t looking forward to taking these fuckers out,” he said gruffly.
“We need to do it expeditiously and without taking a single family member. You got it?”
When he hesitated, I snarled, my wolf already coming dangerously close to the surface.
He held up his hands, realizing that I’d been close to the edge lately, barely able to control a part of me that I’d tried to ignore my entire life, even deny. That wasn’t possible any longer. I was a vicious killer both in human and wolf form, only the creature dwelling inside of me was winning the battle. My wolf’s hunger had become uncontrollable, and tonight was no exception. I could easily rip a man apart with my teeth, feasting on flesh and bone.
However, I’d never lose my humanity, God willing. Even though I wasn’t a religious man by any standards, I was a firm believer in a certain aspect of right versus wrong.
Even if I was a brutal, merciless man, often called a monster. The reporters and law enforcement officers had no clue just how true their statements had been. Still, slaughtering innocent people, including the wives and children of Santiero’s clan, wasn’t something I was prepared to do.
“I got it, boss. I just… What if they get in the way?” he asked.
“Then get them out of the way no matter what it takes.” I glanced at my watch. “It’s time. We will finish this tonight. I’m through fucking around.”
His grin returned. “We’re ready.” As he turned away, jogging toward the three dozen waiting vehicles, the engines revved and ready, I took a deep breath before sliding into the driver’s seat. Tonight would likely start a war, but I was running out of time.
Two blue moons.
A fucking curse that had plagued my family for over a hundred years.
A desperate need to find a mate.
Tonight, I was the king of LA.
Before closing the door, I heard a familiar sound, one that terrified the millions of residents in the city of angels.
There were hundreds of wolves hunting, taking to the streets in an effort to satisfy their dark cravings, no longer able to control their instinctive, primal needs. Soon, I would join them, sinking my teeth into my prey of choice, but I refused to fall victim to the curse. No goddamn voodoo priestess was going to force me to turn into an animal. I slammed the door, blocking out the sound, even though intense hunger furrowed into my loins.
Control. I would maintain full control.
As I started the engine, the sound of the Hemi was like music to my ears. Then I flipped on the radio, popping in a CD. Tonight I needed heavy metal music. Disturbed was perfect. When one of my favorite songs, ‘The Animal,’ started playing, I jerked the gear into drive. The selection was perfect.
For a slaughter.
Santiero’s compound was located just outside LA, his mansion flanked by almost two dozen smaller homes, his top soldiers given a place of residence. He also had at least two dozen guards outside the partial wall that had been erected. It was obvious he was planning on staying in my city for a hell of a long time.
Over my dead body.
As I pressed my foot down on the pedal, I thought about the past few months, most of which hadn’t altered my life. Now everything had changed, every aspect based on my need to hunt.
I dragged my tongue across my already exposed canines, my wolf craving bloodshed. Squelching my natural instincts would prove to be difficult, if not impossible, during a battle of this nature.
Only five minutes later, we were within close proximity, my soldiers rolling on either side of me as I braked with a hard jolt in front of the main gates. After cutting the engine, I studied the area, my sharp senses detecting the position of every one of Santiero’s soldiers. As I climbed out, I took another deep whiff of the night air, able to taste blood on my tongue.
Another night of carnage had begun.
As Jagger jogged toward me, he didn’t need to provide an indication that Switch had located my primary target. Diego was located inside the main house.
That would make things easier.
I took long strides toward the gate, waiting until one of my soldiers moved toward me.
“The security is cut,” he said in a deep growl.
“Good.” Time to eradicate a significant portion of my latest enemy’s army.
My men knew all about my heritage, the fact I’d been born as a freaking hybrid. They’d learned several years before that they were in no danger, although I wondered how far I would go given the increased hunger. I was focused tonight, refusing to succumb to the darkness that had seemed overwhelming as of late.
I would use my wolf’s abilities to my advantage, including my increased strength and endurance, and my ability to identify body heat enveloping a human being. I could see the red glow around them, but only if I allowed my beast to surface to a point. While I wanted nothing more than to allow my beast to run free, tonight wasn’t the night to provide permission for him to ravage my opponents.
As I approached the main house, I took a deep breath, able to identify the rooms in which the occupants were staying, and the radiated heat allowed me to interpret their size and weight. I scanned the area, my keen eyes also able to detect any movement. After reaching the wall closest to the family’s estate, I laughed softly to myself. It would seem we’d kept the element of surprise.
Over the next few seconds, I used a more traditional method of sending my soldiers to battle.
I texted them.
While my men were stealthy in their actions, they advanced without hesitation, although each one of them knew capturing, interrogating, and exterminating Diego was my mission alone. No one would dare fuck with my orders.
While Jagger and six other men used various instruments to gain entrance, including grappling hooks in order to scale two sides of the estate, I moved to the front door, kicking it in within seconds. I needed no additional guidance as I headed up the stairs, the sounds of my soldiers filling the house behind me providing a smile. When I reached the bedroom, I chuckled under my breath seeing the cracked door.
However, in the next few seconds, I realized that Diego had been anticipating an attack. As hairs on the back of my neck stood up, I dropped and rolled, grabbing my weapon at the same time and firing out several rounds.
As the stench of gunfire filled the air, my anger increased, fury overcoming almost everything else. I darted into the room as additional shots were fired, the fucker standing on the other side of the bed a solid shooter.
But I was a highly trained marksman, leveling him in two seconds flat.
Then I bolted out of the room, kicking in every door on the second floor, finding no one. How the hell had the motherfucker found out about the attack? It didn’t matter at this point, although I would secure the identity of whoever betrayed me.
Then they would face my wrath, only in an entirely different form.
I turned in a full circle, taking a deep whiff, my wolf clawing at the surface.
Then I gathered the scent of the man who’d dared cross my path.
After closing my eyes, I raced down the stairs, moving to the location the fucker thought he’d be safe. There wasn’t a steel door that could keep me from entering. As the popping sound of gunfire permeated the air all around me, I took my time, allowing my wolf to breach the surface, no longer fighting the shift.
As my muscles stretched, my tendons shredding, I relished the agony, gasping for air as the sound of my bones breaking permeated the air around me.
Forced to drop on all fours, I shoved the weapon aside, snarling as the transformation continued. My spine erupted from the skin on my back, my legs twisting as my hind legs appeared. When claws erupted from my fingertips. I clawed the floor, growling and twisting my head back and forth. What humanity I’d tried to keep was tossed away, replaced with the need to feast as I exacted my moment of revenge.
As the pain began to subside, I lifted my head, issuing a keening howl. I took a deep whiff, enjoying the glorious scent of blood as it filled the air.
A single noise drew my attention, one of Santiero’s soldiers hiding in the shadows. I could smell his fear. Growling, I threw my head over my shoulder, pawing the floor.
“Fuck. What the hell?” The soldier backed away, his hands shaking as he tried to point his weapon in my direction.
I padded closer, the same low-slung growl permeating the room, my pulse increasing as my need to feed continued to grow. While I’d enjoy nothing more than a snack, I refused to allow my wolf’s cravings to interfere. I’d spent far too much time planning the attack.
Lunging forward, I knocked him to the floor, his assault rifle tumbling from his hold. His screams filled the night air as I stood over him, dragging my tongue across my canines.
Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!
The sound of gunfire erupted all around me, a not so gentle reminder of what I was here to do. Without any further hesitation, I ripped out his throat, immediately pulling away and heading for the location where Diego had sequestered himself.
Then I leapt toward the room, the power and force I used easily knocking down the door.
As I tipped my head back and roared, the three men inside jerked to their feet, not a single one of them anticipating the monster they were forced to face.
“Fuck. What the hell is that?” one of the men screeched, dropping his weapon in the process.
“Your greatest nightmare.” While they couldn’t understand my words, I was able to laugh as I stalked closer.
Diego moved in front of the other two, his chest heaving, yet I could tell by the look in his eyes that he thought he was impervious to death.
The fucker was wrong.
Before one of the other soldiers got off a single shot, Jagger rushed into the room, spraying the two soldiers with bullets. However, he knew better than to rip the kill I’d insisted on carrying out away from his leader.
“Ten down. Four more to go,” Jagger hissed, keeping his weapon pointed at Diego’s head.
Diego laughed, although by his tone, I detected he’d finally accepted that his death was imminent. “The fucking curse is real,” he half whispered. “Fascinating.”
His actions quick, he managed to pop off a single shot, the bullet cutting through my shoulder.
While the rush of pain was biting, nothing was going to stop me. I stared into the whites of Diego’s eyes two seconds before I leapt off the tile floor, slicing my canines into his neck.
As the blood began to flow, there was no moment of satisfaction, no thrill at the kill.
Only a sick sense of knowing that the battles I would face were far from over.
Soon, the need to feed would prevail.
Then all hope would be lost.
The task complete, I raced out of the room, taking on one soldier after another, ripping away their lives as quickly as I tore through their skin and bones. When I rushed into the night, I threw my head back and howled. A stench permeated the air, filling my nostrils and as I turned, I was shocked at the sight of the man standing in front of me.
He grinned seconds before he pulled the trigger.
There was a moment of blinding light.
Then nothing but utter darkness as life began to ebb away.
“Get him into trauma one,” I barked at the EMT, pointing to the right, the flurry of activity in the emergency room increasing, the sound deafening. One gurney after another was brought in, the number of casualties more than what we’d been told. I rubbed my arm across my forehead, trying to keep perspiration from burning my eyes.
“What about this one, Doc?” the EMT asked as he rolled another gurney in my direction. Blood was everywhere, the man’s chest like fucking Swiss cheese. I pressed my fingers against his neck, checking for any sign of a pulse.
“DOA.” I threw the sheet he was covered in over his head, trying to remember if this was the fourth or fifth dead man I’d counted.
“Where do you want him?”
“Rack ‘em and stack ‘em with the others in the hallway.” My words sounded crude, but given the volume of patients flooding the hospital, I had no time to waste.
“You got it.”
“We got a live one,” one of the other EMTs yelled, running with the gurney toward me.
I arced to the man’s side, sucking in my breath. The poor bastard might be alive, but he was losing a hell of a lot of blood. I hissed as I peered down at him. Blood oozed from his mouth, the bullet wound to his throat cutting off most of his air supply. “I need oxygen!” I called, uncertain who would hear my cry or be able to heed my request. There were just too many people being rushed into the emergency room, all victims from some gangland-style shooting.
While I’d seen a few of them in my day, this was by far the worst. What the hell was going on out there?
“This is getting insane,” Emily huffed as she rushed to my side, ready to mask the victim.
He coughed, blood spewing from his mouth and all over my neck and chest. Then he went into cardiac arrest. His eyes were wide open with horror, his arms twitching involuntarily.
“It’s going to be okay, buddy,” I said, trying to smile. I hated lying to them.
Emily groaned. “We’re losing him.”
“Fuck. I need a cart. Now!” As I placed both palms on his chest, starting compressions, the angle wouldn’t allow for me to do a damn thing. Hissing, I climbed on the gurney, straddling him as I started CPR. And the bodies continued to pile in. “Where is the goddamn crash cart?”
“Coming!” someone from the staff called. At this point, I didn’t care who’d answered me. I continued pumping the man’s chest, realizing a short time later that I was losing him. Blood continued to ooze from his mouth and within seconds I could see the haunted, vacant look forming in his once dark blue eyes.
“Shit,” I huffed, shaking my head then scanning the perimeter. This was getting out of hand.
“Here you go, Doc,” the male nurse yelled over the din of the moans and yells.
“Too late. Pronounce then stack him.” I didn’t wait to hear his answer, moving to another batch of victims. Two of us were directing traffic yet it wasn’t enough.
“We’re out of rooms,” Dr. Parker said, tossing me a look. James Parker was highly respected, a man who enjoyed spending time in the emergency room. I wondered if that would be the case after tonight.
“Then we treat them in the corridors.” I shifted toward the entrance, moving past the crowd that continued to grow and into the night. “How many more are coming?” I yelled, hoping someone knew the answer.
“This is it.”
I nodded, giving a smile to the EMT who looked just as haggard as I knew I did. I remained outside, catching my breath until I heard a powerful engine. There was no ambulance made with that kind of power under the hood. Headlights washed over the ambulance entrance, the vehicle coming straight for us. What the fuck? The asshole driving wasn’t braking.
“Back away,” I yelled, unable to take my eyes off the driver. While I couldn’t see his face, I sensed his presence, which made no sense. The car careened over a concrete block, and I expected it to go airborne, but he was able to control it, jerking the wheel to the right just before he slammed on the brakes. When the vehicle jerked to a stop, the left front tire slamming into the sidewalk, I realized I was holding my breath. Steam rose from underneath the hood, a slight creaking sound permeating the night air.
“What the hell?” one of the EMTs muttered from beside me.
I took a deep breath then rushed forward just as the occupant opened the door, struggling to pull himself from the car. As the lights of the ambulance entrance splashed over his hulking frame, it was easy to see his chest was covered in blood. While that didn’t surprise me, the fact he was completely naked did. The odd but instant pull to the man brought a wave of nausea. I was startled by his appearance, including my reaction to his muscular body, my mouth watering as I stole a quick gaze down the length of him.
Get a grip. You’re a surgeon.
My throat still tight, I finally pulled out of the haze.
“He’s injured. Get me a gurney!” I raced toward him, moving to within a few inches when he tumbled in my direction. “I’ve got you,” I managed, although as he slumped forward, pitching his entire weight against me, I stumbled back by a couple of feet. “Whoa. Just hold on. Get me that gurney.”
As two EMTs flanked my sides, the unknown man lifted his head and for a few seconds, all time stopped, his eyes piercing mine. There was no noise, no activity, just the two of us. The crackle of electricity was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. When he lifted his arm, brushing his bloodied knuckles across my cheek, I was thrown by the sensations dancing through me.
Then as quickly as the surreal moment had started, his body went limp in my arms.
“Help me. Get him on the stretcher.” I backed away, realizing I was covered in his blood. My throat was parched, my body still tingling from the touch. Exhaling, I did what I could to shake off the vibrations then followed behind the men as they pushed the latest victim into the emergency room. I continued following them, trying to make sense of what had just occurred.
A flash of the earlier vision rolled into the back of my mind. Although it made no sense, I felt as if I knew the mysterious man. When the stretcher was pushed against the only available free space on one of the corridor walls, I moved to his side, peering down. I’d seen his face before, but from where?
After doing a quick examination, I was shocked the man had been able to drive himself to the hospital. He had three bullet wounds in his torso, any of which should have been fatal, but his heartrate and breathing were strong.
“What do we have?” Emily asked from behind me.
“This one’s critical but his vitals are good. I need to get him into surgery.” She didn’t question my orders, moving toward the admin desk to find an available operating room. The moment I pressed my hand against his forehead, another jolt of electricity surged through every muscle and tendon, several bursts of bright, vibrant hues dancing in front of my eyes. I jerked my hand away, instantly lightheaded. What the hell was going on?
“Number three is free,” Emily exclaimed, her lilting voice barely able to rise above the din of the continued chaos.
“Check for any identity.” When Emily hesitated, I snarled, “In his car outside, an old Trans Am.”
“Okay,” she muttered. I was forced to give her a stern look when she remained where she was, gawking at the man as if she knew him.
“Go!” As I moved around to the back of the gurney, I glanced down at his body again. If I didn’t know better, I’d say his wounds were already healing.
That wasn’t possible.
Or was it?