Book 7: UNTITLED
TUESDAY / NOVEMBER 28
Persephone sat in the back seat of an Audi--one of the haven's fleet of cars. She was behind Zenzele who was driving. Beside her, Menessos was on the edge of his seat, more in the middle than on his side, gripping the shoulders of the front seats and generally being a terrible back-seat driver. “You should have turned there!”
“This is faster.”
“There are more lights to contend with this way!”
“There are more cars to contend with that way.”
She had to give Zenzele credit, he maintained a calm tone while he was questioned by his former master and driving very fast. Also, his route selection had given Menessos something else to be dissatisfied about; he had been contending that she should have remained at the haven and as that argument went nowhere it had evolved into him insisting that she stay in the car when they arrived at the wærewolves’ den. She was glad Zenzele had his attention.
“You can maneuver around cars.”
“There are fewer to have to maneuver around this way.”
“But the lights—”
“I do not intend to obey the traffic lights.”
That shut Menessos up. He sat back and crossed his arms like a spoiled child not getting his way. Hearing Zenzele’s statement, however, Persephone nonchalantly slid the seatbelt around her waist. When the mechanism clicked into place, Bjorn, who sat in the front passenger seat, gave her a sidelong glance. Even from that angle his derisive expression was obvious.
“Immortality must be grand,” she muttered.
The tires squealed as Zenzele weaved around vehicles. Seph caught her breath and, trying to cover it, twisted to see out the back window. The lights of another car made the same move, and behind it, a van followed. The next car held Goliath and four others. The van held nine. All were vampires. No Beholders were brought. No mortal muscle. Just fang.
That—and Menessos’s frantically urgent behavior—worried her more than the lack of safety in their travel plans. She touched Menessos’s arm. “How do you know the den is being attacked?” She’d asked the question three times already. No one else had questioned him, but his statement had set off a flurry of activity that impeded getting answers. He could not ignore her now, though.
“He told me.”
“He called you?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
She gave him a look.
“He used the pieces we shared.”
A ha. She understood he meant the soul-sharing. “Who is attacking them?”
“Does it matter?”
Whenever he answered her inquiry with a question, she’d learned, he was hiding something. “Doesn’t it?”
“He did not say.”
If he sent a message via the soul, there would be much more than words conveyed. “He didn’t have to.”
He met her gaze, but his eyes revealed nothing. “Just stay in the car.”
There was little that Menessos feared, but this attacker had summoned his dread. She squeezed his arm.
He took her hand into his. “Our trio is in danger. I will not let it fail.”
Ever one to measure and guard his words before they found utterance, those two sentences told her a lot. He was trying to reassure her, but mentioning failure meant he was acknowledging there was a possibility that it could.
And that was why she had no intention of waiting in the car.
“Holy shit.” Zenzele pointed directly ahead.
They were closing in on the den. A limousine sped from the parking garage below the building. Another limo trailed it, and a third. Then a fourth.
Persephone jerked free of Menessos’s hand, unfastened her seatbelt, and scooted forward. Her mouth dropped open as she recognized the vehicles as the four she had seen earlier, when she arrived in the city.
“Do I pursue them?” Zenzele asked.
“No!” Menessos answered.
“What if they have taken hostages?”
Persephone’s stomach did a flip at the word.
“How do you know?” Zenzele demanded.
“I know. Just get to the den.”
The tires squealed again as the Audi braked to make the tight turn into the den parking garage. The rear fishtailed, then straightened as the sedan accelerated forward, and screeched to a halt near the elevator.
Seph had her door open before the vehicle had completely stopped.
Menessos’s cry was too late. She hit the stairwell at a run and had barely made it to the first turn before she heard them charging after her. After the second turn, as she started past the first floor, she heard the howling above.
Not joyous howling, but cries of pain and sadness.
Her rapid footfalls carried her swiftly, but when she saw the thick smears of blood in the stairwell she faltered.
Menessos caught her, strength pulling her upright before she could take a nose-dive across the landing. He shoved her into the unbloodied corner of the second floor alcove and let Zenzele and Bjorn pass. “Go back to the car!” He fixed her with as stern a stare as she’d ever seen, then followed them up.
Brows low, panting, she pushed off the wall and followed Menessos.
The other vampires were in the stairwell below. She heard Goliath giving orders. She knew the fourth floor was the first of the kenneling levels. She was trailing them, but their footfalls stopped suddenly and a guttural growl filtered down the stairwell.
Making the turn midway of the third floor and approaching the landing of the fourth, she nearly ran into Menessos. He was stopped behind a wall of muscle as the two vampires blocked the way. But she knew why they had stopped. She recognized that low-pitch growl. Johnny’s human voice was unmistakable to her ears, and so was his wolf voice…and this wolf had attacked her the last time they met. She’d never forget the sound of his snarl.
Regardless, she shoved Menessos aside. He didn’t react, but she felt a slight arc in energy as she touched him. That told her he was trying to contact Johnny via the soul pieces. She didn’t intend to wait and hope. She clawed at the vampires before her and squeezed between them. “Let me through!”
Pushing free of their bodies, she darted up two steps to stop short, nose-to-nose with the black wolf that had tried to kill her.
His yellow eyes were slits glowing through black lids. His ears lay flat. His muzzle was all curled lips and gleaming fangs and dripping saliva.
The guttural growl abated. The yellow eyes opened wider and the attack posture relaxed. Then, he lunged forward. His teeth clamped the sleeve of her coat as he pulled her upward. He dragged her into the fourth floor room.
She saw hundreds of wæres. Some stood. Some lay still—too still. Some writhed in agony. Blood smeared and speckled the walls. The doors to the kennels behind them stood open.
Johnny pulled her along the wall, but she couldn’t rip her eyes from the horrific scene.
Seeing her, many of the wolves reacted; heads lowered and lips curled. Other wolves trotted to the forefront, blocking these growlers. She recognized Erik and Celia, Theo, Kirk and Gregor…others who had gone through the forced-change spell. They came to the head of the room and kept the others back as Johnny led her—
Seph finally scanned the direction he was taking her.
When she’d thought about the den being attacked, she’d thought only of the wolves. She hadn’t remembered that he was their kenneling watchman.
The old man lay, bloodied, below the keypad that controlled the kennel doors. He set them free. He gave them the chance to act as a pack to protect themselves.
A scarlet wolf, once white but now soaked in blood, lay beside Beau. It rose as she was brought near. It stood over Beau and emitted a guttural warning.
Johnny released her to bark at the white wolf.
It snarled at him too.
He snarled back, hackles rising.
The white wolf relented. It stepped aside so as to not be straddling the man, but it kept close to him. She walked around Johnny to crouch beside Beau. The white wolf gave a low growl.
“I’m trying to help him.” Her voice cracked as she saw him up close. She didn’t know what to do, or where to start. His nose was broken. Blood dripped from his nostrils like a faulty faucet. His eyes were bruised and swollen. His lip was split in three places. His arm—her stomach flipped again seeing the bend in it where no bend should ever be. The other shoulder must have been out of socket it was so low.
“Oh Beau,” she whispered as she moved closer and tried to assess him. Tears welled in her eyes until she couldn’t see. She blinked them away but more followed.
A fresh round of growls filled the room.
Her vision was too blurry to discern why, but Johnny’s barks and growls silenced the others and a heartbeat later Menessos came to his knees beside her. She wanted to shout, Call 9-1-1. But no emergency crew would come to the wærewolf den.
“Do something,” she begged.
Gently, he felt the old man over, frowning. “He has many broken bones. Arm, ribs, jaw. I can sense the blood moving through him. He is bleeding internally.”
He touched her hand. “I can’t.”
“I’ll call the ley—”
“He’s been Bindspoken, Persephone. Magic can’t touch him even to aid him. Moreover, any magic attempted here would affect the wærewolves.”
“Where’s Doc Lincoln?”
“On his way, but…Persephone.” He smoothed her hair back. “Keep him comfortable.”
Her throat tightened. A sob wrenched its way painfully out. She covered her mouth with her hand and let the ache come, knowing it would not be denied.
She slipped her hand into Beau’s. “Beauregard…” She wiped her free hand across his head. He’d given her an amulet. One precious to him. It had saved her life. Saved it so I could sit here beside him like this.
There was some small blessing in his lack of consciousness.
Menessos got up and left, giving his attention to the wærewolves. She heard Goliath’s voice across the room. He and the others were doing what they could for the wolves. But she couldn’t take her eyes off of Beau.
His breathing was so shallow, labored, raspy.
How could anyone beat an old man like this?
The white wolf licked her fingers, where she held Beau’s hand.
Blinking away tears she looked at this wolf. He came around to this side of the old man and stood at her shoulder. He laid down, pushing his head under Beau’s and hers. He gave a great, sad whimper.
Keeping one hand on Beau, and ignoring the fact that this wolf’s coat was slick blood, she bent down to embrace him. Dear goddess. This must be Beau’s son, William.