Happy New Year Everyone!!
I wanted to ring in 2018 on a nice note, so I thought I’d share an unedited excerpt from When Dying Is Done (Shivers and Sins Volume 3). We’re picking up right where we left off with Volume 2, so if you haven’t read it, go do that!
If you have read Volumes 1 and 2, just know that Evie wasn’t too keen on leaving a special someone behind. And the coven wasn’t too keen on letting an angry, near feral bond witch inside its protections. Chaos ensues. Hope you enjoy.
Jaws clamped down on my shoulder and dragged me away from Josh’s shadow. The crunch of my collarbone as a wolf shook me in his jaws nearly drowned out my ear-splitting shrieks. I reached up behind me hard and fast, and buried my hand into the guardian’s neck. Growls turned to howls and whimpers of pain. But the wolf didn’t release me. He only bit down with sharp persistence and wrenched bone from skin and muscle.
Even under the excruciating pain, something else hummed. Something sinister, but not as foreign as I’d hoped. The stirrings of the beast in my blood, the yawn and crack as she stretched into awakening. She’d abandoned me to weakness when I failed to kill Jesse, instead letting him into my heart. Now she returned, licking her chops at a good kill. My conscience seemed farther away than ever. The squish of flesh over my hand, the hot blood lapping against my forearm like a river. The beast wanted this. She missed this.
God, I relished the feeling, the give of vital life flowing away from my opponent and into me. I could hurt something where moments ago I’d only been able to register my own pain. I closed my hand like a metal claw around a prize and snatched bone, severing a throat from meat and fur.
Killing a sacred wolf.
His death cry shuddered through me like a gong, right down to my marrow. Then the sound stopped abruptly. His limp form collapsed. But silence didn’t prevail. Other wolves felt his last breath and took up a mournful howl that tapered into pure rage at their lost pack member.
Now I had no choice. I had to escape the coven, because killing a guardian was a death sentence. The second one of these creatures could get to me they’d avenge their brother.
Over top of me, Josh’s protective form growled and buckled. His back was strewn with smaller, snapping wolves. The pack ripped and tore, clawed through him trying to get to me. Blood splattered my face. The sweet scent of wolf, the muted tang of my own bond witch flavor. I curled in on my side, spotting my escape through a haze of red. I could barely hear my own thoughts through the unceasing barks of the pack on the hunt for blood.
Between the splayed legs of my tail-less wolfman, the mists churned in warning. A wolf snapped its jaws just in front of my face, distracting me. The wolf missed the front of my skull by a hair, but Josh shoved her head into the hard ground and hunkered just a bit lower.
I curled into a tighter ball, dug the hand of my uninjured arm deep into the soil. This earth had once cradled part of me as a witch in training. Now the ground soaked up my vampire blood as the price for my sacrilege.
I pushed off with my good arm as hard as I could, kicked out my legs to give me more momentum. I shoved myself through the gap in my friend’s legs like a rocket.
My friend. My protector.
Deep down, where my heart still beat with the cadence of a good woman’s, I mourned for Josh, for us. Seemed like just moments ago we were in a tent, the smell of breakfast in the air.
Seemed like just moments ago he’d kneeled in front of me, sniffing at my belly, caressing a sliver of my bare skin with the point of his nose before raising his perfect blue gaze to mine.
He’d been the first to know about my child. He’d been the one to tell me the impossible had happened, but that everything would be alright. He always had been.
And this is how I repay him? Leaving him here to die as he protects me? For a murdering rapist, a parasite I’ll finally be free of if I just let him die for Altani?
I killed the vampire queen, not Jesse.
Considering everything he’s done, taking the fall for Altani is the least he can do, the beast cooed.
Using the momentum from the shove I lurched forward onto my knees and then stumbled up to my feet.
I dared a glance at Josh as I hurtled away from him and into the beginning coils of mist. Tears stung my eyes as the world went a gauzy gray. I heard his whimper caged in a roar of frustration. He redoubled his efforts, leaping behind the spot where he’d once shielded my body. He knew I’d escaped.
Evie, come back! I can protect you. I can hold them off. We’ll explain. Let me help you!
Despair made me stumble more than blood loss or the pain in my slow-healing shoulder.
He’ll be better off without me. They may yet let him live if I’m not there setting off the wards.
The lie, even though I hadn’t spoken aloud, coated my tongue with ashes.
I would throw away every moment of tenderness between us just to run, bleeding and wounded, back into the cold world beyond the mists. All to fight for the vampire Josh had once tried to safeguard me from.
Can’t think about that now. I can’t.
I cradled my injured arm. The flesh dangled, numb and useless as the tendons and bone crawled back together. Damn near detached. The wolf I killed had left me quite the present before his death.
A few minutes ago, I’d barely been able to hold down human food. Now my body screamed for blood the way my mind screamed for Jesse. I gritted my teeth against the agonizing slow-ness of the healing and sprinted into the mists. I called out in my mind for Jesse, hoping the closer I got to the exit the more I’d be able to hear his voice in return.
The first inklings of panic tapped along my spine like raindrops on a windowpane. The mists thickened, so deep that I couldn’t see any farther than a hand’s length from my face, even with enhanced sight. My heart thudded in my chest, disorientation causing me to stumble.
Something’s wrong. Something’s… what direction am I in?
Against my own instincts, I spun hoping to see a thinning grayness behind me. I saw nothing but a cocoon of death closing in. No left or right, no up or down. Clamping my teeth in determination, I spun in the opposite direction and lunged forward, whatever forward meant.
The blow to my chest was like nothing I’d ever felt before. Even the catapult into asphalt months ago in Tennessee, when Jesse had stopped my escape car with his bare hands and sent me through the windshield, only loomed as a shadowy comparison to this moment. An arm like a tree trunk had slammed into my sternum, crushing bone and puncturing organs in the process. I fought to inhale and failed as I flew into the air, wind whistling past me, a gray world whipping away me as I soared towards the direction I’d come. Away from freedom.
Back to the death sentence. The beast licked her teeth. She’d rather die fighting than lost and starving in the mists.
Back to Josh’s body. He’s probably dead by now. Because of me. Because of me!
Jesse. That poor pack wolf. Even fucking Vaughn, the lunatic. All dead because of me.
I landed with a thud and a pathetic wheeze just as a rust and gray wolfman lunged through the mists from the outside world, eyes glowing amber with supernatural sight. With fury.
I didn’t try to lift myself up, but he didn’t trust me to stay put. His massive hand-paw stamped me into the ground. I cried out, my voice so weak even I could barely hear the squeak. Tears rushed like rivers from the corners of my eyes at the pain. A stomping sound to my left drew my attention. I’d been pinned at the base of the fight Joshua Stark had lost. My guardian lay flat on his belly, clawing at the ground with blood in his eyes. Still when he turned his head in my direction, I knew he saw me. I knew because he bared his teeth and forced his back to arch skyward. Pulling away from the ground. Still fighting.
I had the vivid sense of his nose against my belly, smelling life. His mind recalling one of he reasons he fought. His mind recalling the smell of me, of my hair. The taste of my sweat as he licked my palm. The scent of my blood, and the feel of my body against his when he held me close.
The rust and gray wolfman snapped my attention back to him as he lifted his giant maw to the overcast sky, and loosed a roar so powerful, my spine wanted to crawl out of my skin like a frightened worm.
The roar had been a call for silence, for the fighting to cease and the wolves obeyed. At least, the ones who were still conscious after Josh’s thrashing. The pack stopped tearing chunks of flesh from Josh’s massive body, stopped digging canines into his vital veins, and scratching organs free of his thick hide with massive fore paws.
The wolves whimpered and scampered away from Josh, and he collapsed, the fight siphoned out of him like his blood. Barely any of his slate gray fur remained visible under the flood of violent red. Only the faintest whisper of breath from his unconscious form revealed life. He still lived. Though for how much longer, I couldn’t say. That went for both of us.
I shuddered as the great monster turned his gaze to me once more. He titled his head, observing me with a sentience that scared me, as if his beastly face were only a mask he would soon peel off to reveal the man underneath. Then he snarled, lifted his giant fist into the air, and buried the hammer in my face.
I didn’t have time to feel shock before the world snapped off like a light.