He put on a burst of speed as the cars reached the mountain. Several wolves rushed out of the parking lot and charged at the first car. They knocked it down, sending it sliding off the path. The other screeched to a halt.
Humans aimed their guns out the windows of both cars, but the pack attacked as a unit. Fast. Cold. Brutal. Without mercy.
With a vicious growl, the black wolf dived at the second car. He sank his teeth into an arm, tasting blood, enjoying the cry of agony. A gun fell at the wolf's feet, but he kept his grip on the human.
The male punched him, spitting harsh words. Snarling, the wolf bit down harder and yanked. The human slipped out of the car, banging his head on the ground. The wolf wasted no time in tearing out his throat, but he felt no triumph. It was the leader he wanted.
The car rocked as the Alpha dragged another human from it. The white wolf helped her mate slash and maul their prey. His screams split the air, joining the growls, snarls, yelps, shouts, and sounds of bullets firing.
Some bullets hit the ground or the cave wall. Others sank past the fur and flesh of his pack mates. But the wolves did not retreat. They gave no reprieve. Blood, sweat, and rage scented the air, feeding his fury.
The wolf scrabbled to get inside the car to reach the human hiding there, but the male stumbled out the other side and tried to flee. The Beta wolves quickly took him down, slashing his back and pitilessly ripping into his shoulder.
Another human leaned out of the other side and aimed his gun at the Beta pair. Heart beating fast, the black wolf rounded the car and lunged. The human heard his growl and turned. Eyes wide, he fired. A burning heat skimmed his ear, but the wolf bit down on the human's hand. The male cried out, but he did not drop the gun. He moved it to his other hand and-
The car rocked again, making the human lose his balance and topple out. A she-wolf appeared and slashed their enemy's throat again and again, until he was choking on his own blood.
A female scream made the black wolf's head snap up. His mate and another female were falling off a balcony. They shifted midair into ravens and attacked each other. Their wings flapped in a frenzy, and feathers seemed to burst off their bodies.
The wolf watched as they bit and stabbed each other with their beaks. Watched as they repeatedly clashed, raking each other with their talons. He could feel his mate's pain. Despite it, she did not weaken. Did not ease back. She fought harder. More brutally. More-
The wolf's breath left his lungs as something hard and hot smashed into his shoulder. Despite the blinding pain, he spun to find his attacker. The human was hanging out of the car roof, gun still pointed at the black wolf. Then he was gone-yanked back inside by a wolf whose jaw was locked around his ankle in a crushing grip.
Taking a moment to look around, the wolf growled. Most of the humans were now dead, but many of his pack were hurt. Some were hobbling. Others were weak from blood loss. One wolf had fallen and was being guarded by pack mates.
A howl split the air. Not one of triumph. Not one of grief. One of frustration. Following the sound, the black wolf ignored the burning pain in his shoulder as he ran to his Alpha male. The wolf paused as he caught another scent. It was a scent he knew, a scent that made him growl with a cold rage. It was the scent of the human who had wounded his mate and tried to snatch the cheetah cub.
With a snarl the wolf changed course, following the scent past the car and over to-
A loud bang was followed by a squawk. The wolf halted and looked up, panting. His heart leaped as the tangled ravens dropped from the sky. He felt his mate's head slam on something hard not just once but twice; he winced at the echo of her pain.
His leg muscles tightened as the urge to run to his mate took over. He rushed into the woods, skirting trees and kicking up dirt
Gunfire cracked the air. A force slammed into the wolf's thigh, making his leg almost crumple beneath him. More gunfire. Pain after pain exploded in his flank. His world tilted, grayed, became diagonal. And as he landed on his wounded shoulder, a crippling agony radiated through him. His vision blurred and faded until it was almost black.
The wolf lay there, sides heaving, breaths bursting in and out of him. Except for the ringing in his ears, everything seemed quiet. Too quiet. He could not seem to move, not even when he heard footsteps rustling in the grass.
The voice sounded distorted and far away, but the wolf knew it was the leader, the one they called Ramón. The human that the wolf most wanted to rip apart with claws and teeth.
"Now, which of the pack would you be?"
The wolf did not understand the words, but he snarled. He wanted to rise, to attack. But his leg, shoulder, and flank pulsed with white-hot pain. Warm blood kept pumping out of his wounds, soaking his fur and the ground beneath him.
Another human walked through the trees, holding a limp raven by the talons. It was the same male who had tried to snatch the cub. "You shot it right out of the sky, sir. The little bitch deserved it after what she did to me."
Ramón smiled at the black wolf. "Is that why you came running this way? You were looking for the raven? How sad that you couldn't save her."
The wolf didn't panic at the sight of the dead raven. He knew his mate was alive. She was in great pain and barely conscious, but alive. The wolf wanted to go to her, to help her, but he could barely move. Fear skittered through him. The wolf had been hurt many times before, but this seemed different. The blood would not stop pumping out of him. He felt wet. Cold. More tired than he had ever been.
"Put down the bird. Let's get him in the car."
The wolf snarled, but the humans grabbed his legs. The wolf reared up with a growl, teeth bared, but a crippling pain lanced through him. Everything started to fade. Darken. Then there was nothing.
Something buzzed at Tao, prodding him awake. Not an insect, he thought as he gathered his jumbled thoughts. Not even a sound. But what was it?
It happened again. A spurt of strength buzzed all the way up the mating bond. It was like being given a shot of adrenaline.
Fuck, he was cold. Heavy. Sluggish. Digging deep for energy, he tried to move, and pain rolled over him in waves. Never-ending waves that made his stomach churn and his head spin. He breathed deep, taking in the scents of blood, oil, leather, and . . . Ramón.
Tao forced his eyes open, and there was the bastard-sitting on a bench inside a van, pointing a gun at him. Tao really was damn tired of guns.
The arrogant piece of shit hadn't even put any restraints on Tao, so sure he was in the position of power. And fuck if Ramón wasn't in the position of power. Tao had little to no energy in his system and, honestly, he was pretty sure he'd pass out again if he moved.
Only once in his life had he felt this weak-the night he'd almost died.
"You're awake. Good. I didn't know your kind could shift while unconscious."
It happened occasionally.
Ramón smiled. "I must say, you and your pack mates are much more vicious fighters than I gave you all credit for." There was actually a little respect in those words. "I'm pretty sure me and my driver are the only survivors." And that didn't seem to concern him.
Tao's upper lip curled. "Maybe if you hadn't come after the others and then hidden in the trees like a couple of pussies, you'd be just as dead as them."
Ramón's anger rose up in his scent. "I'll let that comment slide, since I'm quite sure this has been a trying evening for you." His brow creased. "It's been just as trying for me. Things didn't really go to plan."