Garrison Aimes chased his prey, rushing fast through the city. For a human, that asshole he was after could sure move fast.
But I’m faster. He was catching up. He could see the fellow up ahead, rushing through the crowd.
Garrison pushed people out of his way. He followed his prey around the nearest corner and then—
The scent of a vampire hit him. Strong. Overwhelming. Blood and death, and his beast bellowed within him. Garrison stopped his chase and spun around. His gaze scanned the street. His nostrils flared. The vamp was close. Hunting me?
He knew he was supposed to catch the human who’d been after Detective Hart. Distantly, he heard the guy’s thudding footsteps as he kept racing away. But Garrison wasn’t following him any longer. Instead, he was tracking the vampire. Following that blood scent.
Vampires…they’d killed his parents. Nearly killed him. He’d been just a kid. A dumb, helpless kid who hadn’t even realized he was any different from his friends. He hadn’t even known he was a werewolf, not until that day. Not until claws had burst from his twelve-year-old hands as he fought to defend himself. They hadn’t expected him to fight back.
Maybe that was why he’d lived.
Since then, his grandfather had been grooming him, always training him—kill or be killed. The old werewolf motto. Only the fierce survived.
He guessed that his parents hadn’t been fierce enough.
His hands curled at his sides as he followed that vampire’s scent. An ambulance rushed by him, its lights flashing in a sickening swirl. New scents hit him as that ambulance careened down the street. Blood and death. And…
Her. The woman who’d been broken on the ground. Her scent was different. Earthier. Richer.
Her blood was still on his hands. He’d tried to help her. As his fingers had become soaked in that woman’s blood, Garrison had remembered that he’d tried to help his mother in the same way. He’d put his hands on the wounds, those terrible wounds that had ripped open her throat, and he’d tried to help.
But he’d been too late.
The ambulance was gone.
The vampire’s scent was strengthening. The guy was coming closer. Moving fast. Does he think to hunt me? Garrison would prove he wasn’t weak, not the runt of the litter, the one who’d survived by chance.
He stepped off the curb and then—
A motorcycle revved. His head whipped up and he saw a black clad figure on that motorcycle, hurtling toward him. The vampire wasn’t on foot—he was on a freaking motorcycle, and he was coming straight for Garrison.
Garrison didn’t jump out of the street. His beast wouldn’t let him. The vampire was coming at him, in a straight and deadly game of chicken.
He wouldn’t back away.
His claws burst from his fingertips. A snarl lifted his lips.
The motorcycle’s engine roared, louder and louder, coming closer and—
He could smell the scent of burning rubber. Could see the green gaze of the vampire. It was a gaze he’d seen before. A face he’d seen before.
His control vanished in that instant. The past rose around him, so much fury and hate and pain. He screamed as he ran toward that motorcycle, toward that bastard who’d haunted his nightmares and robbed him of a family. He screamed with his hate and he knew he’d battle to the death right then. He would not stop.
The motorcycle sped toward him, faster and faster. He leapt into the air, trying to hurtle over the front of the bike. He swiped his claws across the vampire’s chest—a chest that was already bloody but the motorcycle’s front wheel slammed into Garrison, and he fell back. The motorcycle barreled down onto him, and he rolled quickly, spinning, but the wheels caught his left leg and he heard the bone snap.
The motorcycle flew past him.
He heard humans gasping and yelling. Others had seen the attack. He should get up. His hands pushed against the street. Pain throbbed and burned in his smashed leg.
The motorcycle braked.
His head lifted and he saw the vampire turn his bike around. Turn around and then gun the ride again—he’s coming at me once more.
Garrison tried to stand, but his leg gave out. The humans close by were still screaming, but none of them were helping. None of them were coming to help drag his ass out of the street.
Because they don’t want to die.
He started crawling. He hauled his damn body and realized his leg was far more savaged than he’d realized. Not just broken, bones were shattered.
The roar of that motorcycle was close. Too close.
Then…Jane was there. She jumped in front of him and lifted her gun. “Everyone get down!” Jane yelled.
The humans were huddled on the street corners. They pretty much were already down.
“Stop!” Jane shouted at the motorcycle driver.
He didn’t stop. If anything, the vampire just drove faster. Of course the freak is coming faster, he wants her to die, too.
And she was going to die. Die while trying to…
“Not…worth it,” Garrison yelled. “Go!”
The motorcycle was too close. Jane fired. The bullet slammed into the front tire. The woman had some fucking good aim.
She fired again, another direct hit and the bike spun to the right as the driver lost control. The vamp jumped from the bike as it turned onto its side, sending a bright spray of sparks into the air as the metal scraped across the street.
Jane spun back to him. She grabbed his arms and dragged Garrison out of the street. She was groaning with the effort, and some of the other humans finally came forward and helped him.
“What in the hell just happened?” Jane demanded once he was pressed to the side of a nearby building’s wall. “What were you doing? Death wish much?”
Only some days.
He peered over her shoulder. The motorcycle had stopped its deadly slide. It now lay in the middle of the street, twisted, on its side.
“Where is he?” Garrison demanded, ignoring the pain that burned in his leg.
Sirens were blaring. Uniformed cops pushed their way through the humans. Why did humans huddle so?
“He’s crumpled in the road,” Jane said. “I’m getting him, don’t worry.” She slapped her hand on his shoulder. “And…don’t look at your leg, okay? Just…don’t.”
She jumped up and ran back to the street. He glanced down at his leg.
Jane pushed through the crowd. Garrison’s leg was a twisted mess of bone and muscle. The motorcycle had obviously driven right over it, and she didn’t know what the hell was going to happen to him. Don’t let him lose the leg. Don’t.
She turned to the street—but the man who’d been on that motorcycle wasn’t there. The street was empty.
Jane rushed out and spun around, looking to the left and the right. She wished she had a shifter’s nose so she could track the guy. Maybe sending Aidan away hadn’t been the best plan ever. Hell. She could sure use him right then.
As she stood there, Jane felt as if someone was watching her. The hair on her nape seemed to stand on end. Hunted. That was exactly how she felt.
Only Jane didn’t want to be the prey. She wanted to be the hunter.
Hurrying, she made her way back to Garrison’s side. A cop in uniform was trying to help him. She slid in close to Garrison and whispered in his ear, “Do you still smell the vamp?”
Sweat dripped down his face. “Gone.” Anger beat in that one word.
“But he’ll…he’ll be back.” Garrison’s head turned and he stared into her eyes. “For…y-you.”
Aidan didn’t spend much time in hospitals. He had a normal clean-up crew who came for any wounded or dead werewolves. But this time…this time was different.
He stalked through the halls of the hospital. Human doctors couldn’t help Garrison. When they tried, they’d just do more damage. He walked briskly forward, two of his most trusted pack members right at his heels.
Graham Faulkner, his second in command and the manager at Hell’s Gate, was tall and lethal. His blond hair was shoved back from his high forehead and a slashing scar cut across his cheek.
Paris Cole, Aidan’s right-hand man, didn’t so much as stalk as the guy glided. He was a werewolf who moved like a jungle cat. His dark coffee skin was a sharp contrast to his light, golden eyes, and women were often charmed by the guy. They didn’t see his danger, not until too late. Paris’s pretty boy features tended to blind them. They should learn that death could look a lot like a GQ ad.
Paris and Graham didn’t speak as they followed him. They’d gotten the call about Garrison, and about the Master Vamp who was playing in their town. They were just as pissed as Aidan, and when werewolves were pissed…
It is never a good thing.
He turned to the right and ignored the nurse who jumped up and shouted, “You’re not allowed back here!” Aidan just kept walking right past her and into the emergency room.
“Of course, we’re allowed, sweets,” Paris said, his voice all charm. “We’ve got family back there.”
Family. Pack. To werewolves, it was always the same thing.
Aidan shoved open the swinging doors in front of him. Pandemonium. Chaos. Not just one room—but a series of beds housing about half a dozen patients. The patients were sectioned away from each other by thin, white curtains.
“I’m not losing my freaking leg!”
He didn’t need Garrison’s shout to find the guy. Aidan had already been following the younger wolf’s scent toward the last curtain. He yanked it to the side and saw Garrison—too pale, too weak, and with one hell of a mess that was left of his leg. Two doctors whirled at Aidan’s approach.
“You can’t be here!” One sputtered. “Get out, you—”
Aidan wrapped his hand around the guy’s shoulder. “Other patients need you. Go see about them.”
The guy nodded and walked off.
“What the hell?” The other doc demanded, a guy wearing green scrubs and with a face mask concealing his mouth and chin. “You can’t—”
Aidan stepped in front of him. “You never saw this patient. You never saw me. Go help someone else.”
The man’s brown eyes blinked once, twice, and he nodded.
Jane would be pissed with him. She’d say he shouldn’t control humans.
She was in that emergency room. Aidan could smell her. Her sweet scent blocked out the blood and antiseptic and stirred him deep inside. She wasn’t hurt—no blood from her. But she was afraid.
“Get Garrison out of here,” he ordered Paris and Graham. Because they always took care of their own kind, and in order to save Garrison’s leg…hell, they’d have to be very, very careful.
Garrison couldn’t heal like Aidan. His power was so much lower and his body would take a much longer period of time to repair itself. But he could heal. Provided human docs didn’t screw him up by inserting bolts into his leg—or by cutting the leg off.
Once they had him out of that hospital and in werewolf hands, Garrison could be given some of Aidan’s blood to help with the recovery. Aidan’s blood was always kept on hand in case any of the pack members were severely injured.
The others stepped forward. Aidan turned away. Jane’s scent was calling to him. She was—
“It was him.”
Aidan’s shoulders stiffened at Garrison’s words.
“It was the vamp who killed my parents. “
He looked back at Garrison. “Are you sure of that?” He’d thought the vampire had looked familiar…and if it really was that bastard…
Thane. Thane Durant. He wasn’t some newbie vamp. Thane Durant was an ancient with one hell of a lot of power. There was a reason vamps like him earned the title of Master. Power flowed through the guy’s whole body. Every kill increased his strength. And he loved draining werewolves. Loved causing chaos.
And I have wanted to end his sorry existence for years. Ever since Aidan had rushed into Garrison’s home and seen the carnage left in the vamp’s wake.
Thane had gotten away that night, and Aidan had only caught a fleeting glimpse of the bastard.
Pain had darkened Garrison’s face. “As if…as if I could forget that…” Garrison said, breath heaving as Paris pulled him from the bed. “It was…him.”
Aidan nodded. “I will deal with him.”
“N-no…my family, my—”
Aidan crossed to him in an instant. “How did you survive tonight?”
Garrison’s gaze dropped.
“You think I haven’t heard? You think I don’t know? She saved you.” Jane. Putting herself at risk. “He was coming at her because she became a shield for you. You were supposed to protect her, but she saved your hide.” And she could have died.
“Get him out of here,” he snapped again because the scent of Jane’s fear had just ratcheted up higher. “Out.”
Then he whirled and rushed back through the maze of the ER. And then…another door. Another nurse who tried to get in his way and—
She came to him. She shoved open swinging doors and froze when her gaze locked on him. Her dark stare was stark. Desperate. And she just looked so hurt and sad. He wanted to pull her close. To never let her hurt again.
This woman…she was dangerous to him. Too dangerous.
“She didn’t make it,” Jane said. Her hand pushed against the heavy curtain of her hair. “I thought…I was praying…” Her hand fell limply to her side. “Too much blood loss. She fought, but there was…the doctor said he couldn’t save her.”
He wasn’t the sort to comfort. Gestures like that weren’t part of his life yet he found himself walking to her. Lifting his arms and wrapping them around her shoulders. She was stiff at first, but then she leaned into him. His head lowered over her and Jane’s soft hair brushed against his cheek.
“I wanted to save her,” she said, as if confessing a deep, dark secret. “Now…” Her hands had closed around his shirt, balling the material into her fists. “Now what am I supposed to do?” Her voice was so low, just for him alone. “Kill her, again, when she wakes up as a vampire?”
He wasn’t sure she would wake up. Maybe she’d be one of the lucky ones who just died. But since Thane did enjoy his chaos…odds are that he turned her. I bet Thane gave her his blood. The bastard seems to be making an undead army. His lips brushed over her cheek. “She isn’t human any longer. That means she isn’t your problem.” He stepped back. “You do nothing. I’ll handle everything.”
Alarm flashed in her eyes. “No, don’t!”
There was no choice.
“Aidan, there has to be another way.”
He caught her hand in his. Such a small hand. He lifted her fingers to his mouth and brushed a soft kiss over the back of her hand. “There isn’t. She’s gone, sweetheart. If she rises, only a monster will be in her place.”
She pulled her hand from his and moved, putting herself in front of those swinging doors as if she were physically blocking him from getting to the vampire. “How long will it take? When will she turn?”
He glanced over his shoulder. If they weren’t careful, others would overhear. “Not immediately. It usually takes a few hours.” Long enough for the bite’s power to spread through her body. To reanimate her. She’d be transferred to the hospital’s morgue, and there…well, he’d make sure she didn’t have the chance to hurt anyone else.
“You can’t do this,” Jane whispered.
It was what had to be done.
A group of nurses and doctors swept out of the ER. He smelled the blood on them.
One of the doctors stopped near Jane’s side. “I’m sorry, detective.”
So am I, sweetheart. Because he would do what was necessary. If that woman woke up, she would be a dangerous threat. One that had to be stopped.
He would stop her. Aidan turned and left Jane with the doctor.
Johnny Smith waited outside of the hospital, hiding in the shadows. Every time an ambulance approached and the flash of those swirling lights lit up the night, he tensed.
Ginny was in that hospital. The docs wouldn’t save her, at least, he didn’t think they would. She’d looked…bad. So bad, on the ground. For an instant, he wondered if he’d done the right thing. But…
Eternity. Once she changed, she’d have eternity. They wouldn’t have to worry about growing old and their bodies falling apart on them. His Ginny would always be strong. He would always be strong, once she turned him. They’d be together.
She’d just…she’d been so pitiful on the ground, choking, twitching.
She’ll be strong now. He skirted around to the back of the hospital. His gaze slid to the entrance for staff. He hurried inside, taking time to grab some green scrubs from a locker and don them as quickly as possible. He knew where they’d be taking Ginny. As soon as they were done with her…
His steps quickened as he headed to the morgue. He’d be waiting on Ginny to arrive.
When he entered the morgue, the place was cold. Icy. And there was some big, fat asshole who roused at his approach. “What’s happening?” The guy asked, frowning. “Where’s your ID badge?”
Johnny reached under the edge of his borrowed scrub even as he flashed a smile at the fellow. “Right here.” Then he moved fast, bringing up his knife and shoving it right into the guy’s throat before the fellow could make a single sound.
The guy’s thick, big fingers tried to rise up and fight him, but Johnny just jerked the knife hard to the right. Then he let the dumbass fall. Blood poured from the wound. He stared at it a moment, thinking. Maybe Ginny would like that blood, once she woke up.
He grabbed the guy’s legs and started dragging him. The man grunted, still alive. Well, he wouldn’t be alive for long. Johnny dumped him behind the desk. Then he just sat down in the man’s chair, the wheels rolled back beneath his weight, and he made himself comfortable. Soon enough, Ginny would be coming right to him.
He couldn’t wait to see her again.
When Aidan stalked down the hospital corridor, Jane watched him with desperate eyes. The victim was dead. She knew that—but, killing her again? No way did that seem right.
Her breath eased out slowly. She had to stop Aidan. To do that, she’d have to buy herself some time. How much time, well, that just depended on how good Aidan was with his mind control routine. “Stop that man!”
Everyone in the hospital turned to glance at her—everyone, including the security guard and the two uniformed cops who were near the emergency room exit.
Even Aidan glanced over at her.
She lifted her badge, like they needed the reminder of who she was. “Stop him!” She stared straight at Aidan. “That man needs to be taken down to the police station for questioning.”
There was a roomful of people watching them. Surely he couldn’t do that mind control mojo on them all at the same time?
The uniformed cops hurried toward him.
“Take him in your patrol car,” Jane instructed. “Get him out of here.”
One guy locked a hand on Aidan’s shoulder. When Aidan tensed, so did Jane. Don’t pull out your claws. Don’t.
He didn’t. He did glare at her. “This isn’t what you want to do.”
No, it wasn’t, but she didn’t have too many options and just stopping the guy at that moment was right at the top of her list. Stop him, distract him, and then she could try and handle their victim/vamp-to-be. Jane nodded curtly. “Take him.” Though she didn’t know how far they’d actually get with him. Aidan wasn’t turning on his beast mode right then, so that was good. Maybe he’d save the mind control bit for later, but to be safe…
She hurried away from him. She wanted to get to the victim. She needed to see her. Jane pushed through those swinging emergency room doors. “The victim! Where is—”
“They’ve already taken her down,” the nurse told her, sympathy on her face. “You’ll get a full report, don’t worry. But that is going to take time.”
Time wasn’t something she had and the report wasn’t something she wanted right then. So she rushed by the nurse, running for the stairwell that she saw on the right. Jane knew the bodies were kept below in the morgue, and she had to get down there.
Before Aidan does.
Aidan didn’t put up a fight, at least, not with every eye in that ER on him. He had to hand it to Jane, she’d played him well.
Just not well enough.
As soon as he was outside and the only eyes on him belonged to the two cops, he whirled around. He grabbed the cop on his right and slammed him back against the side of the hospital. The cop on his left fumbled for his gun.
Aidan caught his hand. “You don’t need that.”
The man stared into his eyes.
“Go back on patrol. Forget me.”
The fellow nodded. And his partner…well, he was rising.
“Kenny, you crazy? Attack that asshole!”
Aidan sighed. He let go of cop number one, and turned to fellow number two. “Kenny isn’t crazy.” And that guy had lifted his gun, too. “You don’t want to do that…”
“Get on your knees!”
Ah, now, he didn’t do that for anyone.
Aidan flew forward and slammed the guy into the wall once more. He felt the power of the beast bursting inside of him. “Don’t piss me off.”
The young cop shuddered.
“Go out on patrol,” he gritted. “Forget me.”
He waited for that message to be received, and then, when the guy’s eyes glazed over, Aidan stepped back.
Jane, why the hell are you doing this? He’d gone over the rules of the paranormal world with her. And now she was going to play games? Fuck, no, that couldn’t happen.
He wouldn’t let it happen.
Jane shoved open the swinging doors of the morgue. “I need to see the woman who was just brought in!”
“Um, hello?” Jane advanced toward the desk. An empty desk. Oh, jeez, but the place reeked. It smelled of antiseptic and, well, death. “A body was just transferred down here!” She called out. “I need to see her, now.” Aidan had said she had a few hours, but Jane didn’t want to push things. The sooner she got the victim, the better.
But no one was in the morgue. The place was icy and…
Was that blood on the floor?
Jane peered down, and, hell, yes, it was. She followed the trail. It looked as if someone had been dragged…and—
A body was crumpled far behind the desk. An older man, wearing blue scrubs, and with an ID badge that identified him as Dr. Ken Loft.
His throat had been cut wide open.
I am so tired of that sight.
The doors squeaked behind her as they opened. She spun and found Aidan standing right there. His face was tight with fury as he reached for her. “You can’t trick me, Jane.”
Um, she could. She had. But right then, they had a bigger problem on their hands. “The guy who runs the morgue is dead.”
His nostrils flared. “Yeah, I smelled that.”
Right. Werewolves. Sharp noses. Blood. Whatever. “Did…did she do it?”
He glanced over her shoulder. “The vamp won’t be awake yet. I told you that.”
She wasn’t awake. She wasn’t there. She should have been. “Where is she?”
A muscle flexed in his jaw.
“Can you track her?” Jane asked him. “Can you find her?”
“Now you want my help? Ten minutes ago, you were trying to get the cops to lock me up.” But he’d already pulled away from her and headed back for the door.
He paused. His hands were clenched at his sides. “I’ve got her scent. Let’s see where it leads.”
Her breath heaved out as she rushed to catch him. Just as she reached for the door, he captured her hand in his and held tight. “You owe me, Jane.”
“And never, ever betray me again.”
“It wasn’t a betrayal.” Not really. Someone needed to relax. They’d address that whole betrayal business later. Right then… “Find me the body.”
Johnny shoved his foot down hard on the accelerator. How fucking convenient. Someone had just left an ambulance out for him to use at the back of that hospital. The perfect getaway vehicle.
“Don’t you worry, baby!” he called back to Ginny. “I’ll get you someplace nice and safe for you to wake up. I’m going to take care of everything.” She’d wake up, change him, and they would fucking be invincible. “Don’t you worry,” he said again as he drove faster. “I’ve got you.” And he would never let her go.