Here’s another unedited taste of the final installment of Evie and Jesse’s journey! Should be self-explanatory if you read the first excerpt. Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading!
“Jesus Christ!” My choked gasp made the stranger chuckle and sweat bead on my upper lip.
“Baby bond witch not handling that wolf bite so well?” A male voice from somewhere beyond my line of sight called, humor and bitterness twisting his words on the air like chain links. “You ever been bit before?”
I had sense enough to glare at the woman tilting her head above me instead of shaking my head, or searching for the man who’d spoken. The wolf woman laughed and threw a joke in Spanish over her shoulder, a masculine snort the reply.
I’d expected to see harsh light when I opened my eyes. So much of these perpetual near death experiences had involved waking up under the glare of natural or fluorescent light. Not now. We were in the darkness of night, in a hut. Thatched roofing and open air swirling with that strange magic spring scent of the coven accompanied my shallow inhales. Only slivers of moonlight shone through a window behind the wolf woman, behind the strands of all that red hair.
Threads of gold kissed strawberry where the light touched her haphazard bun. I saw them all with such razor sharp focus I could spot where the strands thickened or thinned. I could spot every freckle on her tan face if I wanted, every fiber in her tan cotton shirt. My fangs, like my eyes, had gone vamp again. Her hair made me think of Margot Jane, of blood running so fast and free that the sheets were stained near black with the crimson in a seedy vampire motel. My cracked lips and parched mouth screamed at the memory, longing to taste the sweetness that had once left me ill to my stomach. I thought the artery in her throat pumped just for me.
I demurely covered the weapons in my mouth by way of apology, lips pressed together so I didn’t bare them again.
“No, I don’t suppose you would’ve been bitten before,” the woman answered for me. Hazel eyes regarded me and the stranger tilted her head. Under the notes of her musical voice I detected the faintest hint of an accent. Mexican maybe? “From what I hear, you’ve been on your best behavior up until now. Must be why the packless one interfered with the will of our pack.”
I shot up to a sitting position at the mention of Josh and screamed at the wrench of tissue in my brutalized shoulder. Blood gushed to the surface of my bandages.
“On your back, girl,” she chided, slamming my back onto the cot by my good shoulder. I’d never wanted to cry more in my life than I did when I hit the thin padding. “You’re not going anywhere until that bite runs its course.”
“When will that be?” I gritted my teeth and ignored her command, sitting up once more. My entire body shuddered in protest, sweat slick and feverish as I hunched over my trembling lap.
“When your body finishes attacking itself trying to fight off the bacteria in our saliva. It’s not friendly to anyone but us.”
Wolves have venom?
Skipping over the question in my mind I met her confident stare with my feral one. “You need to tell me what happened to my friend.”
She cocked her head back, chin raised as she gave me a conspiratorial once over. “Friend, huh?”
“I don’t have t-ttime for twenty questions,” I hissed. Moving equaled excruciating pain, fever sweats and a reminder that my head wobbled on my shoulders like a bowling ball attached to a stick. “Where are my clothes? Why am I naked?”
“Because A. the pack tore your shit to shreds,” said the man sitting in the corner behind me. He let out a sigh and the sound of shifting furniture told me he must be getting comfortable. “And B. you’ll just sweat through them. Have to wait till the fever breaks. The deeper the bites, the more bites you sustain from different wolves, the harsher the reaction. It’ll take your venom a while to cycle through and clean up the damage.”
I had to force myself not to twist around to spot the still invisible man. His voice had a familiar cadence, no distinct accent like the woman’s. I didn’t recognize his scent either, just notes of it that seemed vaguely familiar. I was still getting used to the heightened senses, so maybe they were playing tricks on me?
“I don’t have venom.”
“You don’t have venom you can use to change others, theoretically,” the woman corrected. “But every vamp has venom in them. Your maker sees to that if you’re turned, and it’s what powers the engines in your body, keeps you healing. And keeps you blood thirsty. Like a parasite.”
I looked at her, torn between wanting more answers about who I’d become, and wanting to know where Josh was being kept. What had happened to Vaughn and the guardian quadruplets who protected the gate from the outside?
What had happened to Jesse? Could I track his scent? Would they let me out of here so I could try?
And if I found him, would I find my mate, or the pieces left behind when Metis had finished with him?
“Even if you did have an idea of how regular vampires work, those rules don’t always apply to me. I’m a bond witch.”
“I can make educated guesses. And now that you’re here I can run some tests. I was a doctor on the outside, in Mexico,” she continued. “On the inside, the coven affords me the luxury of research. Couldn’t touch you before, there was no time. But now—”
“Where is he? Please.” I didn’t want to think about what she meant by there being more time. If I had my way I’d be out of here as soon as I could. But first I needed Josh. “I wasn’t thinking when I left Josh behind. I was trying to get out, to get to Jesse and—”
I choked on an unexpected sob and forced myself to swallow the lump in my throat. Jesse. Josh. Flirtatious Cade, gruff Bailey, maybe even shy Daniel. Vaughn could be dead too. I felt a strange twinge at the thought. I’d wanted Vaughn dead since the moment I’d laid eyes on him. I’d killed him after a fashion. He’d tried to kill me, raped and beaten me. And if he were dead I couldn’t say what I’d feel. Not altogether nothing. Not triumph. I garnered some comfort from the idea that I wouldn’t be devastated. Just sad at another life lost, at the secrets I’d seen deep within him. Sad for the person buried under the bloodlust, before the venom and cruelty he suffered at Eamon’s hands killed him.
“Hey,” the stranger cooed. She didn’t touch me with anything but her voice. The sound left warmth where the chill of terror and feverish cold had been. “Your friend is… alive. I think he’ll live. We don’t react to bites the same way you do, but we’re weaker in our beastly form. Stronger, but something has to give, and in our case it’s our health when we sustain fatal injuries. He was attacked by a good portion of the pack during the fight. I won’t know if I can even help him until he spends a few days in his regular wolf state to heal the worst of the damage.”
“A few days? Is that normal for him to be shifted that long?”
She didn’t answer right away. I hung my head as the first tears fell and splattered against the gossamer sheet wrinkled around my knees. I must have kicked off the breezy garment in my sleep. Funny how nakedness had become second nature now. True nakedness meant vulnerability, not a lack of clothing. Vulnerability meant sitting on a cot in a strange hut, trapped inside a coven while my body tore itself apart from the inside out to heal.
“He’s strong. Alpha stock, by the feel and the smell of him. I can’t make any promises, Evie, but I’d like to think even the weakest of us are marvels of nature. With the coven’s help he could pull through. My mother is tending to him herself.”
I wanted to collapse and my body gave into the desire without my permission. The ceiling rafters drew my eye, and so did the upside down form of Cade.
Oh, thank God. At least he made it—
No, not Cade. Not Bailey. Daniel had never spoken more than a few words to me through a blush.
“Adam. The last quad,” I murmured through a shudder. “I don’t think we’ve met before.”
“Not officially, no. I’m responsible for some of your discomfort though. I was there, guarding the gates. You killed my cousin before our Alpha put you down. So I think we’ll be getting acquainted real soon. If I have my way, after the priest and priestess are done with you, I’ll make your shoulder feel like a fucking paper cut.”
I swallowed at the coldness in his brown eyes, the glare raining down on me from that oh so familiar face. He smiled at what he saw in my gaze. I’d seen more malicious grins than I could count at this point. To see one on a familiar and friendly face, dimples and all, made my stomach churn.
He couldn’t be alone in his feelings. Outside of this hut an entire coven waited for retribution and blood. My blood. And the only thing standing between them was Yana and Keith.
What have I done? What have I done to Josh?
“Get some rest,” Adam ordered. “Kansas, here, will see to your wounds and get you a blood donor. You and… the thing growing inside you are probably hungry. Wouldn’t want to starve to death.”
The venom on his lips when he mentioned the child could have rivaled any true born’s. He’d barely stopped short of calling the fetus an abomination before stomping off into the cool night air through the door-less opening of the hut.
The woman gave me a two finger salute and a tight smile. “Well, we haven’t been formally introduced. Kansas Alvarado, M.D. at your service. At least, until the priest and priestess decide whether to put you to death. We’ll know in a few days, after they question you. And the packless one.”