My blood pooled to the vein between Michael’s fangs, as if by his will alone. I began to tilt in his arms, becoming light headed. Thoughts hazily flitted through; this wasn’t right, no very wrong, I wasn’t Davis’s daughter. My vision blurred in and out but always in Nash’s direction. If these were my last moments as a human, I wanted to at least see something beautiful one last time.
Nash couldn’t decide where to keep his eyes, golden specks danced within his hues begging for his wild side to break through. He inched ever closer while crouching lower, ready to spring. His transformation would waste time, we all knew his only hope was to fight his urge to change and get within arm’s reach. Nash bared his teeth in a threat, elongated canines poking against his lip. Michael tightened his grip which had begun to cradle my jaw, cutting off more oxygen. A fleeting impression haloed around Nash in my addled state, disappearing as my vision teetered.
Michael inhaled, the sound amplified by his closeness. A distant thought acknowledged this being his first time breathing around me. How strange. He sniffed again, the tip of his chilled nose touched my skin. “They drugged her.” I had thought once that nothing moved slower than my mother in the morning, but the time it took for his fingers to peel away from my neck seemed impossibly slower. With care, Michael laid my body down. A layer of frost, once a barrier between my body and the Earth, melted into my skin and leather clothes. Everything felt colder to the touch than normal, yet I didn’t feel feverish.
Nash fell to his knees, shoving Michael away in the process. His body caged mine as he inspected every inch of exposed skin. “You nicked her!”
“What?” Michael sounded surprised by the accusation. Nash continued to push Michael away but the vampire didn’t give up easily. “Let me see if I can help, you mutt! Obviously I didn’t mean to.”
“Then explain the stunt you just pulled off! You threatened to turn her into a walking corpse!” I wasn’t sure why Nash’s raised voice made my body involuntarily flinch but when Michael matched his tone and volume it was as if he whispered the words instead. My senses were off, that would explain the faint gleam pulsing from Nash and Michael. Both men yelled in panic, but only Nash’s voice rang loud through the haze. “Bluff? Why?” The glimmer was vivid one moment but faded within an instant only to return again. “Well it worked. I’m not going to thank you for endangering her life though. Here, help me bleed out whatever venom may have gotten in.” I was shifted onto Nash’s lap, his fingers tangled in my hair as he finger combed through it. A firm hand massaged from my shoulders up. My fingers reached out to touch the pulsing color radiating from within Nash’s chest. Pretty, what color is that? “Her heartbeat is returning to normal.” On cue the strange light permanently faded. A moment of déja vu cleared my thoughts, before in the pack the mist had surrounded me with the sound of drums but in a moment of clarity I had realized the pounding in my ears was just my heartbeat accelerating. This too had been a mirage. My hand was firmly at my side, not touching the strange light I believed had emanated from Nash. A single word caught my attention, wouldn’t the drugged tea have been out of my system when I woke up?
“How long would the effect last? Seth gave me that tea two days ago.” I sat up with Nash’s help.
“What tea?” Michael asked it, but Nash seemed to already know the answer.
“No the tea just puts you in a deeper state of sleep, like a sleeping pill. It wouldn’t have any affect now.” Nash pulled us to our feet. Consternation pulled his brows together. “The scent is strongest in your hair; did you inhale anything strange recently?”
I shook my head and repeated in detail everything that had happened from the kidnapping to the moment I met them in the forest. I flinched at the terror lining Nash’s features. Sudden awareness struck as I pushed away from both men. Michael just tried to turn me into a vampire, and Nash was a murderer. While recalling what Seth had said Nash didn’t deny it. “Stay away from me.”
Michael collected his emotions into a stoic expression almost immediately. “It was a ruse Jessica. I needed an excuse to scare off the pups before they tore us all to shreds. I just used what Seth was threatening to do in reverse.” I shook my head in denial. “I would never turn a human against their will Jessica.” My eyes searched for any truth I could pull. Michael let me go once we were alone, and even helped when I was bleeding from his accidental bite. My fingers feathered over the sore spot on my neck. It felt like a bruise would, but was sticky with blood surrounding it.
“So I’m not turning into a vampire?”
Amusement reflected in his words. “No little one.”
The tips of my fingers poked against the skin but found no trace of a hole. “But how did you-”
Michael chuckled and looked to Nash. “Vampire venom can kill, whereas wolf spit-”
“Saliva.” Nash interrupted irritably.
“Saliva.” Michael corrected with a smirk. “has the capability to heal.”
“Wait, you drooled on me?!” My alarm sent Michael into a fit of laughter. His towering form bent in half.
“N-no. Not exactly. And be quiet do you want them coming back?” Nash hushed us and listened carefully for any sign of the wolves return.
“That is a good point, we should go before they realize I was lying.” Michael gathered Nash and I into his arms and ushered us away from where they had come.
We hadn’t run far before I was out of breath and slowed the pace for everyone. Nash offered to carry me to which I refused. Michael suggested nearly the same but was cut off by Nash’s warning growl. With time his teeth shrunk back to normal and his features looked more human than before. “I don’t get how I was drugged then, I didn’t take anything.”
“It wasn’t fog.” Nash had been silent up until now, his face was pinched in a searching way as if he couldn’t understand something.
“Hu?” I didn’t understand his meaning until I recalled the fog surrounding us in the clearing near the fire. “He drugged everyone then?” Nash nodded. “Why?”
“Alpha Davis used it as an enriching experience to bring us closer to our wild. I banned the use of it because of its side effects. Seth is still blindly living in Davis’s shadow. What happened to him to make him so...” Nash pulled back a branch for me to duck under. “unstable?”
We all reflected on the question, lost in our own conclusions. I broke the silence first. “So what took you guys so long?”
The vampire nimbly dodged trees and debris, a stark contrast to my very presence. Tree limbs appeared out of nowhere, and I fell in every critter hole created. “We started in the northern part of the state, where the pack usually sets up camp for the full moon celebrations. Nash and I split and searched until we met back here at the southernmost camp. Seth was smart to use this location as it is hard to find. It rests between dense forests and a winding creek which splits into many streams. We were close enough to hear the screams, but couldn’t pin point where it came from. I couldn’t scent who was approaching but I could smell the blood from their cut.” I looked down to the dried blood on my leg, I had forgotten I’d cut it on the rocks when I climbed out of the creek. “I followed the smell of blood to you. We are lucky you ran this way instead of the opposite direction.”
The feeling dwindled in my chest at its mention. I just knew Nash was this way, and I was right. I barely knew this guy and right now I didn’t want to know him at all for what he’d done. Nash continued to pull branches out of my path but respected my space. Seth had said Nash hated humans, I was human and yet he treated me with kindness. Unless, Nash believed I was his victim’s daughter and he was waiting for the right time to kill me too, to tie up loose ends. Immediately, the pain in my chest rejected the thought. If he wanted to kill me he could’ve done it in the cave when we first met, or anywhere on our week long car ride. So he must agree with me, Davis isn’t my father and I’m human. Then why doesn’t he hate me? Did Seth lie to paint Nash in an ugly light? Did Nash do the same when he said Seth had the police in his pocket and we needed to run or Seth would kill me? Seth had plenty of opportunities to kill me and yet he contradicted what Nash predicted. Seth believed I was a dead alpha’s daughter; he wanted me to change and do what, lead the pack? I was human, my mother confirmed it.
Then how do you explain the pull you have to Nash, a dark whisper echoed within my mind. There was an unexplainable connection to Nash, I couldn’t lie. I had dreamed of our first meeting, slept walked to his exact location just when he needed me most, and when I needed him I felt his presence call to me from beyond the creek. Even if I was wrong about the cabin being his home, how did I explain the confidence in knowing it was? Who was Nash and why was I so drawn to him? How did he make all my worries disappear in his presence but in his absence my heart ached for him more than home did? I could feel the need to touch him even now when I believed he was a murderer. My head and my heart warred against the other. I needed him but didn’t want him.
Our fast pace turned into another burst of energy. Every time I tripped Nash pulled me up then released me as if I’d burnt him. We slowed to a walking pace while I caught my breath. Michael was irritated at our speed but kept silent under Nash’s glower.
I came to a decision, someone was lying. Both Seth and Nash painted each other in a threatening light, but both contradicted it. Seth hadn’t drugged me but given me a much needed sleep and answered every question I had. Nash was secretive but always kind to me, a human who he supposedly hated. The question burned my tongue with a fervent desire to be unleashed. “Nash” I had caught both men’s attention although I asked for only one. “Did you murder Davis?”