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In a far corner of Nashville, away from the glamour and lights of Music City, there was a small bar, tucked away on the bottom floor of a high-rise. On this particular night, it was empty, except for one man, a frequent patron of the place.
He sat in silence, sipping whiskey and cola, tapping his fingers to the song on the radio. It was Walk the Moon, he thought. “Big Bad Wolves.” The thought of a song like that played in the Red Crescent, an establishment popular with men like him, brought a smile to his lips. Irony was a beautiful thing.
The brass doorbells sounded cheerfully. The man didn’t look up, even when a second figure sat beside him, invading his peripheral vision. “I’m not drinking tonight,” the newcomer informed the bartender. “Or...well, we’ll see. But for now, only water, please.” The bartender nodded, turned his back. “Adam Dark, I presume?”
His voice made the man’s skin crawl. The last time he heard that voice was three weeks ago, giving a speech on national television that was abruptly cut short. The day everything changed. “What’s it to you?”
“Are you? Or aren’t you?”
“First things first,” Adam Dark replied, “gun down.”
“What makes you think I’ve a gun?”
He laughed, a short, harsh laugh. “Don’t BS me. I know exactly what you are, and your men always have guns. Put it down.”
There was a clicking sound of wood-and-metal on wood. The bartender stared. Adam waved him away. “Charlie, could you leave us alone for a moment, please?”
“Y-yes, of course, Mr Dark,” he said, flustered, and scrambled away.
“Get me a refill, if you wouldn’t mind,” he called, taking a final swig of whiskey. Finally, he spun around on his barstool. His skin crawled. The man beside him was tall and handsome...on one side of his face. The other looked like it had been slashed with a razor, and the eye was cold, unblinking glass. “What do you want?”
“Do you always conduct conversations this way?”
“With hunters who’ll blow me away if I’m not extremely careful? Yes.”
“Well, it could be your own fault you have to be so careful, Mr Dark. Killing four people and infecting seven others is a hard crime to hide, plus being the suspected Alpha of -- again, just suspected -- the largest wolfpack in the East. It’s impressive you’re still alive, really.”
“I’m not sure if I should be offended, or thank you. You have no proof I did any of that, ‘impressive’ or not.”
“DNA doesn’t lie, Dark. It’s all enough to get your name slapped on an FWR list.”
FWR. Fire whenever ready. Basically, any hunter who wanted to and could do so could shoot him, no waiting for a signal or any such nonsense. In his world, in the enemy’s eyes, Adam Dark was an outlaw.
“So is that what you came to do, kill me? Drag me away to one of your prisons?”
“Hardly. I came to help you.”
“Help me? That’s a laugh.”
“I mean it. There’s something I desperately need to do, Mr Dark, and if you can do it for me, let’s just say I can keep my people conveniently far away from you.”
“You’re saying you’ll leave me alone?”
“You and your people,” the hunter affirmed.
Adam’s first thought was of Sam, his wonderful Sam, and the child they were soon to have. The thought of never having to worry over his family’s safety again, raising his son or daughter without fear....
Why, he would sell his soul for that.
“Alright, I’m listening. What’s your deal?”
“I thought you’d never ask.” The hunter slid a photograph across the table. It was a yearbook photo, sophomore year, labeled Mountain Home High School. Gazing out with the steely eye of one looking down a gun barrel, not a camera lens, was a teenage Native American girl, dressed entirely in black. “This is Hailee Jackson. Now, we at the Defenders don’t have a Most Wanted list, but if we did, she’d be our number one.”
Adam scrutinized the picture. “And?”
“And you’re going to kill her for me.”
He looked up, eyes Changing abruptly. “What did you say?” he growled.
“I said you’re going to kill her for me.”
“And why would I kill one of my own?”
The hunter shrugged. “She isn’t one of yours, Dark. Think of yours, the people under your control, who look up to you. Do you want to protect them? Do you want to protect your family? For good?”
“More than anything,” he answered unhesitatingly.
“Then what’s one life?” he asked, tapping his fingers. “It’s not like you haven’t taken life before.” Adam’s mind immediately snapped to one moment in particular. The hunter, too, thought the exact same. “Remember how you came to power, Dark.”
His heart skipped a beat. Yes, he did. “What makes you think she’ll come here?”
“Trust me. Where I go, she goes. That girl hates me like I’ve never seen anyone but God and the Devil hate each other. And she’s very, very ambitious, you know. Certainly you don’t want competition, do you?”
“Shut up,” Adam said, slamming his hand to the table. “I’ll do it.”
“Excellent.” His grin shone through the word. “Excellent. Hey, bartender!” he yelled. “I’ve changed my mind. Get me one of those, too. Whatever he’s drinking.” His grin shifted into a smirk, the look perfectly complimenting his two-faced appearance. Adam couldn’t stop staring at the man’s scars, wondering how the hunter’s face had come to be that way -- did the girl do it? He couldn’t help remembering, too, how the last hunter that crossed him had ended up with a similar pattern of cuts on his chest and stomach. Much more damage than simply an eye.
He had no sympathy for any of them.
A moment later, the drinks arrived. The hunter raised his glass in a toast. “Cheers.”
“Shake on it?”
Adam Dark shook on it, digging his claws into the man’s hand out of pure spite.
The hunter forced his grimace into a smile. “Pleasure doing business with you, Mr Dark.”
“You too, Mr Tyrone.”
Tyrone grinned. “Oh, I prefer Director.”
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