My hands trembled as I reached up and felt wildly for the seatbelt buckle, My vision was tinted red from the blood that trickled down my face, but I couldn’t-wouldn’t take my eyes off those boots.
I must’ve made some sort of sound when the stranger took a step forward, because suddenly they started sprinting. The glass crunched beneath their feet, the sound grinding against my teeth as they got closer and closer.
I knew how to keep a level head as my fear turned into full-blown panic, but no amount of thrashing or struggling helped free me from the car.
My fingers were slick with blood, making it impossible to find the button that would free me. Spots danced in my vision and every breath took much more of an effort than it should.. I knew I had punctured something when the remaining air in my lungs crackled.
Something gave beneath my fingers. The click of the seatbelt was the last thing I heard before I slid from the seat and landed on the roof of the car. My hands and face stung from the pieces of glass embedded in them, which ratcheted higher with every movement I made.
I turned my head and looked out the shattered window, feeling my breath come faster with each passing second. There were no scuffed boots sprinting my way, only chunks of metal and shards of glass.
A wet cry tore itself from my chest as a face peered just outside of the car window.
“Why…” I tried to ask, feeling my eyes roll as I passed out.
My eyes snapped open, and I lurched forwards, feeling a sharp pain blossom across my chest and stomach. The instantaneous rush of adrenaline that surged through me, made my head throb until my vision turned blurry.
I was battered by memories, bulldozed by the pain of a harsh impact. I remembered the c***h, the car that Asher had loaned me, crushed like an empty soda can.
He wouldn’t care about the car-no, but he would be worried about me. There was no mind-linking him with my head pounding like this, so hard I could feel the vibrations in my teeth.
A face flashed in my mind, the last thing I saw before I passed out.
I slammed myself against the passenger door of the vehicle I sat in, barely registering the pain as I wiped at my eyes, trying desperately to clear my blurry vision. The spots faded from my eyes, and even though I knew my captor, I didn’t relax.
Asher was going to be pissed.
“You look like s**t.” Brandon said from where he sat in the driver’s seat. His posture was relaxed, and he didn’t even bother looking my way as he dug through the console with one hand and tossed me a lukewarm blood bag. “Drink up, we still got another two hours left.”
The first thing I did was glance down at his feet, which were in a pair of sneakers. No scuffed boots.
I tore into the bag with my teeth and downed the thick liquid, feeling my tastebuds explode with flavor incomparable to human food. Like a cup of hot tea laced heavily with honey, the blood spread its warmth throughout my body, and eased some of the pressure still weighing on my chest.
I met Brandon’s eyes, uncaring that he watched me tear into the bag like an animal, because I just now registered what he had said.
“Excuse me? Two hours from where?”
“That’s kind of hot…” He ignored my question and looked towards the highway. There was the shadow of mountains off in the distance, but those were the only ones in sight. The forest had thinned out too, becoming sparce a s the buildings grew taller and the streets more crowded.
Abridge sat up ahead, down below it was an even busier stretch of road. “…does my brother ever let you drink his blood?”
“Brandon don’t f*g play with me. I’ll send this car right off the side of the bridge with us in it.” I snarled, “Two hours from where?”
I didn’t have that deadly-calm voice Asher had when he was seconds away from tearing someone’s head off. Mine would swell with power, like the tendrils of shadow that writhed and gathered, reacting to the rage in my voice-hoping I might be desperate enough to whisper their names.
“You’re crazy enough to do that, aren’t you?” He snorted, then shrugged. “Don’t matter anyway, we’re too far away for you to do anything but tag along, Even my brother can’t travel that fast. You and I are off to visit a friend of mine, Lola.”
“Oh Goddess, Asher. He’s probably destroyed half the pack by now looking for me.” I groaned, feeling Maya begin to stir from my distress.
“Actually, when I stepped in all heroically and pulled you out of the car, I found your phone in the wreckage. Sent him a quick text letting him know exhausted you were after moving all of that furniture, and that you went out for drinks with that friend of yours, the perky brunette with the vampire mate.”
The blood was helping me heal faster, which was a miscalculation on Brandon’s part. The more he talked the closer I found myself to running us off the road. “He mind-linked the pack hours ago, finally found what was left of his car.”
“Give me my phone.” I snapped and held out my hand.
“Sure thing, sure thing.” He nodded, too compliant for me not to know something was up. I wasn’t at all surprised when he tossed it in my lap and added, “Battery died a few hours ago, and unfortunately I left my car charger at home. What a shame.”
I covered my face with my hands and groaned, “he has no clue where I am, no clue if I’m wait, what happened to the glass in my face and hands?”
“I picked out what I could.” Brandon shrugged, then narrowed his eyes when I gave him an odd look. “Don’t go thinking I did you any favors. You’re useless to me if you’re not healed up and in tip-top shape. Also, pretty sure I’m at the top of Asher’s “most-wanted list” since I’m ignoring his mind-links. You know how paranoid he is, probably pieced it together already. I meant to ask, what the h**l did you hit that caused that much damage?”
“An invisible f**kinng wall.” I groaned, sinking into the seat because what else could I do? “Courtesy of whatever witch or witches I’ve managed to p*s off.”
“Well, then it’s a good thing you’re with me, because I just might be able to get you some answers.” His grin was cocky and self- assured but had the same lopsided tilt as Asher’s. “Bet you never saw that coming.”
“How are you going to get me answers?” I snorted, “I thought all you were good for is getting drunk, pissing off Asher, and chasing after school-girls.”
“Those are my best qualities. I’m surprised you noticed them. Think about me often?” He lifted an eyebrow but must’ve seen the hint of murderous rage still lingering on my face because he quickly dropped it.
“I might not be Alpha of a whole pack, but I’m not without my connections. I happen to have a friend who…dabbles in magic. She conveniently stopped answering my calls the day you and my brother got into town. I want to know why.”
“You kidnapped me and brought me outside of the pack boundaries because a witch you slept with ghosted you?” I deadpanned.
Brandon nodded then asked, “how’d you know I slept with her?”
“I didn’t.” I grunted, “It was a lucky guess.”
We stopped at a crowded gas station on the outskirts of some city. I wasn’t picking up the scent of any werewolves, but I could smell the ds on the humans lingering against the side of the building.
It infuriated me how Brandon hopped out of the car, whistling as he filled up the gas tank. The a**e knew I wasn’t going to run. Even if I did, what good would it do me?
“When you sneak off to borrow someone’s phone, make sure you tell Asher how I saved your life–and how I’ve behaved myself this entire trip.” Brandon grinned, leaning against the side of the car as the numbers on the gas pump climbed higher.
I turned my back on him and gave him the middle finger for good measure, “Hey! You owe me a life debt, now keep my feral as brother from kg me.”
‘Asher. Who is it?’
I sighed the moment I heard his harsh voice, earning an odd look from the cashier who hovered by the phone protectively, as though they had lost one before to a needy customer. He was in full Alpha-mode, ready to storm the borders of any pack if it meant finding me.
‘Lola? Fg h*l, where are you?! Are you hurt? I thought since you texted you were alright. Tristan told me about Holly’s nightmare. I found the car the damage doesn’t matter. Are you with Brandon? Tell me where you are, I’ll come get you.’
‘ He said you were paranoid enough to figure it out. I was hurt, but your brother…helped bandage me up. Maya still hasn’t woken up and my phone is dd, or I would’ve talked to you sooner.’ I chose my words carefully, glancing at the cashier whose nervous eyes flitted my way every couple seconds. ‘I know this sounds crazy, but I think he saved my life.
We’re hours away from the pack boundaries and believe me, I know. He’s a reckless idiot who has a d***h wish, but he’s taking me to meet a…special friend of his, one that might know more about what happened last night.’
‘I don’t like this one f*g bit. Going anywhere with Brandon-it’s not safe. He would never hurt you, but clearly, I don’t know who he associates with. I don’t know what intentions his friend has, but if you have to hunt them down for information, that’s already a red flag.’
An echo of pain settled in my chest because I knew that the harshness in his voice was there to cover up the worry, the fear of losing me the first time. It resurfaced from time to time, turning his eyes dark and giving his touches a protective edge. ‘Tell me where you are and we can speak with his friend together…I can’t protect you there, Lola.’
From where I stood, I could see out the large windows, to the gas pump Brandon stood at. He caught my eye and waved, gesturing to the car with a dramatic flourish.
Guilt lodged itself in my throat because I knew what I needed to do.
I’ll give you the address to the gas station we’re at. We’ll meet you here after we talk to his friend. She vanished on him the day you and I got into town–if she does have something to do with this, and she knows we’re coming, she won’t stick around for long.’ I swallowed, ‘I love you, Asher. And I’ll be here to tell you in person once I get the information we need.’