The blood that coated my stomach and hands was warm in comparison to the shadow’s ice coated words. Maya recoiled at their price; her hackles raised as an earsplitting growl reverberated throughout my mind. Breyona was still crouched over Giovanni, her eyes burning madly as she watched the shadows pulse around my body.
They had asked the unthinkable, and Breyona had agreed blindly.
‘Our price is this.’ They hissed seductively in my ear, ‘To save the Vampire she calls mate, we ask for the form of her wolf.’
“She’ll pay it.” I whispered, meeting Breyona’s burning gaze. “Now save him.”
The shadows pulsed around my body, slithering between my legs as they raced towards Breyona.
“What–what was the price?” Breyona whimpered, her body unnaturally still as the shadows glided around her body.
‘Your wolf form–” I croaked. Pain wracked through my body, but it wasn’t originating from the wound in my stomach. The pain coursing through me was for my friend and what she was willing to give up for her mate.
Her wolf would remain in her mind, trapped in a flesh-prison. Unable to shift and roam the earth, unable to feel the dirt beneath her paws. Breyona had made the ultimate sacrifice for Giovanni, and I prayed he was willing to do the same.
“Their taking my wolf?” Her voice was small, smaller than I had ever heard it before. Breyona’s voice was paper-thin glass, transparent as fear bled into her eyes.
“She’ll still be there–within you.” My voice cracked as I struggled to force the words from my mouth. “But you won’t be able to shift anymore. That’s–that’s their price.”
Realization dawned in her eyes as one of the shadows surged forward, latching onto Breyona’s chest. I was rooted in place as a gut-wrenching scream tore from Breyona’s mouth, cracking as her vocal cords struggled from the pressure.
After just a few moments, the screaming died down, turning into a heartbroken whimper. Everything within me erupted into agony at the sight of her face, and for a moment I wished I had been the one to pay the price.
One by one the shadows glided away from Breyona and over to Giovanni. The blood coating his body was thick and had a sweet smell to it. I knew without the shadows, Breyona’s mate would be all but lost.
The shadows caressed Giovanni’s body, and Breyona’s eyes widened as the shadow’s voices spilt into the air. I could hear the sharp breath Asher su*ked in, and knew he could hear them as well.
‘Remove the knife from his chest, she-wolf.’ They hissed, their silky movements becoming still as they waited impatiently.
Breyona grasped the handle of the knife tightly, unresponsive as the silver coating seared her skin. Giovanni let out a grunt as the knife slipped from his chest and clattered to the pavement.
She tore away the ripped shirt that covered his chest, exposing a smooth plane of bronze colored skin.
The shadows had wasted little time, gliding over Giovanni’s body to the wound that sat just above his heart. I watched in painful silence as the threads of his flesh formed together, muscle connecting to muscle, and his life-blood running dry.
The shadows slithered away from his body, wrapping once around my ankles as though they were parting me goodbye.
The street was silent, the only noise coming from Giovanni’s chest. A dull thud that grew stronger, faster, as the wounds within his body healed.
When his eyes fluttered open, a sob tore from Breyona’s chest. She threw herself into Giovanni’s arms, her body shaking as his arms snak*d around her body.
Giovanni’s dark eyes met my own, and for a moment, I swore there was a message deep within his intrusive gaze.
Asher was at my side in seconds, his hands shaking as they peeled away the bottom layer of my dress. Blood had soaked into the black fabric, staining his skin as his hands roamed my stomach.
“I’m fine, Asher.” I hissed; my eyes remained on my best-friend.
“You were stabbed, Lola.” Asher met my eyes with murderous intensity, his hands trembling as they brushed across my bloody skin. Asher shot a hard look at Giovanni and Breyona, “Stay where you are.”
“I have nowhere else to go.” I could see a flash of surprise in Asher’s gaze at Giovanni’s unexpected response, followed by suspicion.
“Where is the wound, Lola?” Asher’s voice was hard, guarded as his hands ran over the smooth skin of my abdomen.
“I’ll explain later.” I whispered, and met Giovanni’s gaze. He was listening to our entire conversation, and while Breyona seemed to trust him, I remained on guard.
Asher’s eyes were burning with emotion, each flashing in his gaze faster than I could process. His rough hand remained on my stomach, where the stab-wound had once been.
“You would betray your own kind for her?” Asher turned away from me, shooting me one last glance before placing his attention on Giovanni.
Asher’s voice swelled, feral dominance filling his voice as he stepped into the position of Alpha. His honey eyes were darkening, heavy flecks of gold swirling in his gaze. Giovanni met his stare unflinchingly, his arms never once wavering from Breyona’s shaking form.
“Yes.” Giovanni answered, and I noted there was no hesitation in his voice. “Yes, I would.”
“And what is it you expect now?” Asher questioned harshly, though there was no malice in his words. “A place in the pack? You would join a community that holds nothing but hatred for your kind?”
“So long as Breyona remains, then yes.” Giovanni nodded, his arms tightening around Breyona.
I noted the way she looked up at him, comfort and love blazing in her hazel eyes. Something had dawned on me at the sight of them together.
Breyona had been with him before, had met up with him in the past. I hadn’t a clue where or how, but love like that is not instantaneous.
The way she looked at him struck something within me, and I found myself wondering how different Vampire’s truly were to Werewolves. Asher was right, this town harbored much animosity towards Vampire’s, and for a good reason but they hadn’t a clue about my true heritage.
Would my own pack reject me if they knew what I was?
‘Asher?’ I whispered through the mind-link, even though no one could hear us.
His eyes remained on Giovanni, but his voice filtered through my head.
‘Do you trust me?’ I asked, and this time his eyes found my own. Confusion lingered in his eyes, but I could see in his gaze that he trusted me fully.
‘I do.’ He responded.
‘Give Giovanni a chance.’ I spoke quickly, leaving him no time to interrupt. ‘Question him, keep him away from the pack, but do not tear him and Breyona apart.’
‘You are supporting this?’ His voice was laced with anger, though not directed towards me. ‘You would have this pack harbor a Vampire, knowing the deaths and attacks we’ve suffered?’
‘I am half-vampire, Asher.’ I forced strength into my words, and realized this was the first time I had admitted the truth to someone other than myself or Maya. ‘It is not right to allow me to remain here, while casting Giovanni out.’
‘You are also half-werewolf, Lola.’ Asher responded; his tone hard. ‘Giovanni has been directly involved with the deaths and attacks on this pack. For all we know, he could have helped take Sean.’
‘I understand that.’ I replied, my voice cracking at the thought of my Dad dragging a wounded Sean into the house. ‘He is Breyona’s mate for a reason, Asher. I think things are changing. I think–I think Vampire’s and Werewolves have been separate for far too long.’
I could feel the reluctance seeping from As her’s pores as we locked eyes, but I could also see the unwavering trust he held for me. The emotion was strong enough to bring tears to my eyes, to which Asher’s eyes softened.
“If it were up to me, you would be executed come morning.” Asher turned to Giovanni, his voice lowering into a rough growl. At Asher’s words, Breyona’s eyes snapped up. “Lola has convinced me otherwise. She has convinced me you deserve–a chance.”
Two sets of eyes met my own, Breyona’s and Giovanni’s. Each burned with gratitude, but Giovanni’s was laced with surprise.
“Breyona had once told me you would accept me.” Giovanni’s light accent curled around his words, “I did not believe her at the time. I hope I am able to live up to your expectations.”
“Oh, you will.” Asher nodded darkly, the blood of an Alpha coursing through his veins. “Your existence will not be revealed to this pack–not yet. They will not take kindly to your presence here.
There is a house on the outskirts of my territory, head there now and remain unseen. I will come to question you when this mess is fully sorted.”
“I would expect nothing less, Alpha Asher. Yet, I thank you for your hospitality.” Giovanni nodded; his face oddly serene as he looked down at Breyona.
“It’s not me you should thank.” Alpha Asher grunted, “Thank Lola, without her you would be dead.”
“Thank you, Lola.” Giovanni nodded, keeping his intense gaze on my face. Gently, Giovanni stood and pulled Breyona into his arms. Her hazel eyes were wide and blood-shot as they burned into my face.
I watched as her lips parted and moved silently, unable to force the words from her lips.
“I’ll tell your Mom you decided to stay with me.” I promised her, “I’ll tell her you’re alright.”
The edges of her lips pulled up in a small smile, but I could see the shattered pieces of her heart slicing into her skin. I could see the pain of Breyona and her wolf lingering in those hazel eyes, celebrating their mate but mourning their loss.
With Breyona in his arms, Giovanni darted down the road, his body becoming blurred from the speed.
“Sean.” I choked, stumbling towards my house. The Vampire’s corpses sat in the middle of the road; the scent of their thick blood lodged in my nose.
Asher was beside me in an instant, his rough hand under my arm as he led me up the porch stairs. Lying on the floor was Sean, much paler than usual, with Dad hovering over him.
Dad’s face was rigid, the lines on his face appearing deeper and much more drawn out. Grandma flitted from the backyard to the kitchen, and finally back to Sean.
She placed a wet rag against his stomach, pressing firmly as she looked between the two of us.
Her dark hair was streaked with grey, pulled up in a bun as her face contorted in concentration. Her eyes widened as she took in Asher and I standing there. I was sure the two of us looked horrible.
I could feel the sticky blood drying to my skin, flaking and peeling off with every move I made. The short dress I was wearing was torn, revealing my blood-coated stomach and dark shorts.
“I put herbs on the wound.” Grandma’s words were clipped as she focused on Sean. “It’ll help dissolve the silver in his blood, but he needs a doctor.”
“One is on their way.” Asher nodded; his face hard as he looked down at Sean. “The Doctor’s at the hospital will be quite busy, so I called for my personal Doctor.”
“The patrol teams.” I choked, my heartrate speeding as I remembered the fight occurring around our town.
“When–Tristan vanished, the rest of the Vampire’s retreated.” Asher grimaced, his tone filled with fury as he spoke Tristan’s name. Even with the horrendous scarlet mark on my skin, my stomach turned sour at the sound of Tristan’s name.
We remained with my Grandma and Dad until Asher’s personal Doctor arrived. Only when I was sure Sean would survive, did we finally leave the house.
As guilty as I felt over Sean’s injury and Breyona’s loss, my mind was overflowing with questions and sick realizations.
My Father had used the shadows to save Tristan, which meant a price was to be paid. What had my Father paid for Tristan’s escape?
Alpha Asher and I got back into the car we left on the side of the road. Some of his men had already arrived, removing the bodies and blood from the road.
Asher had told me Alpha Zeke fought on the northern side of town, mowing down Vampire’s as fast as he could. Zeke had brought Bran with him, who killed the Vampire’s with equal ferocity. Luna Freya had remained at the packhouse, but sent her men to aid in the fight.
The silence in the car allowed me too much time to think.
Either Brittany had been wrong, or she had planned for Asher to move all of his men to the southern side, taking her warning as truth. While I was still suspicious, I still believed Brittany deserved a chance to clear her name.
The scent of drying blood set my teeth on edge as I allowed my fingers to graze my creamy skin. Beneath the thick layer of dried blood, my stomach was smooth and without injury.
‘Where is the wound, Lola?’ Asher had asked as the fighting finished and Giovanni was healed.
Maya had recoiled from the thought, from the same realization I had but it would change nothing. Even Maya couldn’t deny what had happened.
Turning my head from Alpha Asher’s gaze, I ran my tongue over the dried Vampire blood on my lip and trembled at the taste. The Vampire had been half-human. I knew that, because as the blood hit my tastebuds, strength and bliss shocked my nerve endings.
I had been stunned into silence as the blood brought strength to my weary body, the wound in my stomach sewing itself back together.
Most of the drive home I had been mulling over the price my father paid for Tristan’s escape, and why he would agree to such a thing in the first place. What was so important about Tristan?
While questions swam in my head, battering against my skull until a dull ache formed, only one of my questions was answered.
Situated in front of the packhouse, with her back against the door sat a girl I had thought about only a handful of times. Our only interaction had been before I knew the truth, when the Vampires were sneaking onto our land.
Jessie was positioned against the front door, her legs stretched out as though she were waiting for someone.
Only she wasn’t waiting. Her eyes were wide in fear, staring off into the distance. Her small hands were clutching her neck, and through them I could see the thick jagged line that nearly severed her head from her body.
Just like with Adrienne, there wasn’t a drop of Jessie’s blood on the ground.