Dark Hunger


Page 20



Son of a bitch.


Salvatore shook his head in self-disgust.


Of all the reasons he’d imagined for the theft of the babies over the past thirty years, he’d never even considered the possibility it had been a plot personally directed at him.


“You deliberately led me here.”


“Of course.”


“Why?”


“As I said, it is not yet time to reveal my grand scheme,” Briggs said, leaning down to better enjoy Salvatore’s frustration. “But be assured…” He bit off his words as his eyes widened in an unexpected horror. He leaned even closer, sniffing Salvatore’s skin. “What is that?”


A savage smile curved Salvatore’s mouth. “The mating bond.”


Briggs straightened, his pale face becoming downright pasty.


“No. It cannot be.”


“Obviously, it can.”


Caught in their battle of wills, neither men noticed they were no longer alone. Not until there was the distinct sound of a gun being cocked.


“Checkmate this.”


Salvatore’s blood ran cold as he caught sight of Harley standing directly behind Briggs, her handgun pointed to the back of the Were’s head.


“Harley, no!”


Chapter Nine


Harley was already squeezing the trigger when Salvatore cried out. With deadly accuracy the bullet smashed into the back of the Were’s head, the force of the blow sending him tumbling forward.


She instinctively kept the gun pointed at the stranger, her gut clenching as she watched the gaping hole in his skull swiftly knitting back together.


Where was the blood? The gore?


Not even the most powerful Were could be shot point-blank and not take a few minutes to recover.


Well, that was the common assumption.


A pity no one had told the scary Were who was already shimmering with power as he shifted.


Harley’s breath disappeared as the lethal animal with russet fur and large razor-sharp teeth turned to regard her with fierce crimson eyes.


Holy shit.


Harley never realized that blood could actually curdle.


Accustomed to curs, she was unprepared for the sheer size and terrifying power of a pureblood. The air thickened, choking her with the heavy sense of danger. Her skin prickled. And her muscles clenched.


Her gut impulse was to flee from the terrifying predator, but Harley possessed enough sense to freeze.


The fastest way to death was to give the big sceevy Were something to chase.


Instead, she steadied her arm and prepared to shoot the beast. It hadn’t done much the first time. Okay, it had done something. It’d pissed him off. But unable to shift herself, she didn’t have much choice.


The Were lowered his head, preparing to attack, but before Harley could get off a shot, a furious howl split the air.


Stunned, Harley stumbled backwards, watching as Salvatore crouched on the ground, his body thickening and his face elongating as a thick raven-black fur rippled over his skin. In the blink of an eye, he was transformed into a huge werewolf.


God, he was beautiful, she acknowledged, her heart squeezing with an odd fear as he crashed into the unknown Were with a violent force.


Rolling across the clearing, the two purebloods ripped at one another with long claws, their jaws snapping. Harley lowered her gun, unable to risk taking a shot as the vicious battle continued.


The scent of blood filled the air, making Harley’s stomach clench with dread. Salvatore was the larger, more aggressive Were, but the stranger appeared freakishly immune to his savage wounds.


It had to be Briggs, she told herself. Nothing but black magic could allow the lesser Were to survive Salvatore’s brutal fury.


The realization, however, did nothing to reassure Harley.


How was Salvatore supposed to defeat a zombie Were with evil powers?


A pained yelp echoed through the trees as Salvatore at last rolled on top of the squirming Were, latching his teeth deep into his opponent’s throat. The fight should have been at an end, but proving his unnatural powers, Briggs continued to claw at Salvatore’s back, leaving deep scratches that oozed an alarming amount of blood.


Salvatore couldn’t bleed to death, but he would quickly weaken if he wasn’t allowed to heal.


Dammit.


Harley found herself moving forward, tired of watching from the sidelines.


She didn’t have a clue what would hurt the Were, but she was willing to try anything. Starting with unloading a bunch of bullets straight into his head.


Circling wide enough to avoid distracting Salvatore, Harley waited until she had a clear shot at the Were’s head before lifting her arm and aiming the gun.


Almost as if sensing her presence, Briggs shifted his crimson gaze to regard her with a malevolent warning.


God. Her throat tightened with an icy dread, but her arm never wavered. The thing was an abomination. The thought of it creeping around the world would give any sane demon nightmares.


Perhaps reading the determination etched on her face, the Were snarled with fury and Harley was hit with a blast of frigid air. Reeling backwards, she could only watch in horror as the thing disappeared with a loud pop.


Harley ended up flat on her back, more stunned by the Were’s vanishing act than by the magical blow. She sucked a breath into her aching lungs, staring at the dappled sun that peeked through the heavy canopy of leaves overhead. Then without warning, her view was blocked by Salvatore’s lean, darkly beautiful face.


“Harley?” He’d changed back to human form, but the golden eyes continued to glow with power.


Sitting up, Harley pushed the hair out of her face and studied the hard naked body crouched beside her. It was worth studying at any time, but for the moment Harley’s only interest was in the deep wounds that marred his bronzed flesh.


“You’re injured,” she breathed.


“Nothing that won’t heal,” he assured her, his expression concerned. “What about you?”


“I’m fine.”


To prove her point, Harley forced herself to her feet, knocking the dirt off her khaki shorts as Salvatore moved to pull on his jeans and T-shirt. His movements were stiff, but it was obvious he would recover, and Harley found her rush of adrenaline fading, leaving behind a vague unease.


When she had awoken earlier in the day to discover herself wrapped tightly in Salvatore’s arms, she couldn’t deny she’d panicked.


It wasn’t shock at having so thoroughly enjoyed their night of passion. The man was a flat-out no-holds-barred expert in bed. Even now her body tingled in all the right places at the memory of his skillful touch.


No, it had been the realization that she had so easily forgotten that Salvatore was still little more than a stranger. A stranger that until a day ago she’d believed was her mortal enemy.


For all she knew, he was playing an elaborate game that was going to end with her dead. She’d be a fool to trust him because he happened to be good in the sack.


Besides, for the first time in her life she was…free.


There was no Caine with his dire warnings of what would happen to her if she dared to leave his protection. No curs to constantly monitor her every movement.


And with the amulet, not even Salvatore would be able to track her.


So she’d taken off.


Or at least, she’d tried to take off.


Stupidly, she hadn’t been able to shake the persistent uncertainty that plagued her as she had headed off to discover her long overdue destiny.


Salvatore claimed that her sisters, and even her mother, were alive. It could be a lie, of course. In fact, it probably was. Still, could she just walk away if there was the smallest chance of being reunited with the family she’d thought she’d lost forever?


Walking alone through the trees, she’d at last accepted that she would never be satisfied until she discovered the truth of her sisters. Her destiny had waited for thirty years. It could hold off a few more days.


So she’d turned around.


Watching the annoyingly beautiful man tie his shoes and collect his gun and dagger, Harley ignored the treacherous leap of her heart.


She was here to find her sisters.


That was the reason she’d returned.


The only reason.


It had absolutely, positively nothing to do with Salvatore Giuliani, King of Weres.


Busy reminding herself of that very pertinent fact, Harley was caught off guard when Salvatore whirled toward the trees behind him.


“Curs,” he hissed.


Belatedly catching the unmistakable smell, Harley tightened her grip on the gun. Dammit. The pack was already circling them.


They’d been so occupied with the near-death fight with the zombie Were that they hadn’t even noticed the approaching trouble.


“Just frigging perfect,” she muttered.


Salvatore cupped her chin in his hand, his expression fierce.


“Run.”


She narrowed her eyes. “Don’t tell me what to do.”


He growled in frustration. “Very soon we’re going to have a long conversation about the proper way of following orders.”


“Any conversation about following orders is going to be very short and will probably involve bloodshed.”


The golden light of his eyes flared, but before he could argue, two curs crashed into the clearing. Turning, Salvatore moved to stand directly before them, arrogantly confident despite the fact the two had already shifted into werewolves that were as large as ponies, and powerful enough to fill the air with a prickling heat.



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