It was a long dash to the house with the red door. I leapt over bodies and debris. My nose and mouth were masked under my shirt. The smell was unpleasant but muted enough to keep me from gagging. I held the fabric between my teeth so my hand could clamp on my wrapped wound. By the time the door came into sight my lungs were on fire along with my arm.
Deep breaths wheezed from my mouth. I entered the stone cabin and released my gag. “Mama, Thia, and Tuk we have to leave.” The stick, still secure in my hand, was used as a crowbar to pry the hatch open. I opened the door to find darkness instead of my friends and family. “Mamá!” I cried out between breaths. “Thia!” No one answered. Where had they gone? North like Tuk suggested, or did they come after me? Vampires could have found them. If they followed the trail of bodies they could be fighting the High Alpha right now. I debated which path to choose, wonder aimlessly calling for them or going back to Michael and Nash. A small human girl was no match for a newborn vampire, let alone the King of Alphas; which is why I was chosen to run, my fight would have lasted two seconds. If I went back, I could die.
My decision tipped in favor of returning to Nash and Michael. Even if all I could do was tell them the girls had run for it and throw rocks, it was better than sitting here questioning. I moved the stained cloth; the wound somehow looked nearly healed. I had never been seriously injured in my life. Was this a genetic perk to being a partial werewolf? Or was the bite more venomous from a newborn with untold affects? This wasn’t the time to question it. With the cloth secured back in place, I steeled myself against the door. One deep breath calmed my nerves enough to start the run back.
Nearly there I could just make out Michael with his long sword circling the last vampire. Nash’s pelt tinted red under the setting sun. The cloud cover dissipated in a few areas to reveal the beautiful warm glow of twilight.
I caught Michael’s attention first as I entered the clearing. “Jessica you idiot!”
“They’re gone!” I cried out in alarm. The High Alpha switched directions and began to stalk towards me. Nash snapped at his back paw to get his attention, but he was a focused predator. He gained ground even as I backed behind a fallen stone wall, gathering as many rocks as I could to defend myself with.
A sound ricochet from the trunks of the trees and rubble of the houses. The gunshot made everyone pause but only one stumble a step forward. The High Alpha was shot; I could only guess who took aim. The distraction was all Michael needed to finish the other vampire. Nash went for the Alpha’s throat. A blurring speed deflected his attack. Even wounded, he outmatched us. Michael tipped the blade in the Alpha’s direction, a threat. Another shot hit its immobile target. With a second bullet, the Alpha slumped to the dirt. His nostrils flared with exertion and huffed in the chilling air. A third shot and I could pinpoint where it had come from. I hadn’t seen my mother camouflaged laying on the ground at first. Her body was covered from head to toe in the same dirt and blood that littered the area. She was sprawled out, arms leaning against a fallen branch for a steady aim.
The Alpha grunted with pain but otherwise was motionless on the ground. His blood stained a trail to the Earth from each wound. Relief seized my body in the form of trembling hiccups. I hadn’t realized my vision was blurry because of the river of tears constant throughout the battle. Michael and Nash cautiously neared the body. My mother stood from her hiding place and crossed the expanse to hug me tightly in her arms. She kissed my face repeatedly whispering a thankful prayer. The gun quivered against my temple, but I wouldn’t complain. We were alive.
“Stay back somethings happening!” Michael warned with a hand outward. Nash began the transition back to his human form the same time the Alpha did. Nash didn’t wait, the moment he had movable limps the silver dagger was plunged deep into the Alpha’s chest. A burst of color erupted from the Alpha and his eyes shot open. The purple and blue swirled around him like smoke, each strand tethered to where the dagger stuck out. With one hand he gripped Nash’s neck between his thumb and fingers raising him from the ground as he stood. Michael took a step back, terror flashed in his stretched features before he could school them again. My mother raised the gun and I realized the reason she was laying down before was to steady her shaking hands. Before she could pull the trigger, the Alpha used his free hand to pull the dagger out. The colors sucked back into the wound as it closed. The silver knife flicked in his wrist and sunk deep into my mother’s chest. My scream echoed and with it drained all sense within me. I dove to my knees by her side and touched the dagger but remembered as I gripped it, it was better to have it in. We had to find a hospital now!
From the corner of my eye I saw movement, but was too hesitant to look up. I unwrapped the cloth from my hand and placed it around the knife, pinching at the edges of the knife to stop the bleeding. “No no no no no.” The one word was the only one in my vocabulary. Blood trickled from the corner of her mouth, she was bleeding internally.
“Jessica the gun!” I didn’t want to look away. At Michael’s insistence I finally glared back at him. The same vibrant colors leaked from the Alpha’s wounds before they sealed. Nash struggled against the Alpha’s choke hold, his legs wrapped around his arm and feet kicked at his face. “Jessica, aim for his head!” Michael stabbed his sword through the Alphas wrist and held it back to display the werewolf’s broad chest.
I hesitated to leave my mom on the ground. I would do this one thing and come back, I promised myself silently.
The gun cradled in my palm. My first shot missed as it kicked back in my hand. I secured it back in my palm. The Alpha taunted me to come closer to hit my target. Two steps were all I dared. I squinted against the smoky colors bleeding out in ribbons around him. They were faded compared to when Nash pierced his chest. I blinked back the tears and set my jaw. The gun rose level with his head. I steeled my muscles in preparation and took another step. I couldn’t afford to miss. The last two shots were inches apart from each other folded into the crease of his forehead. Michael pulled his sword free and forced it back into the Alpha’s chest, pinning him to the ground. Bright colors burst from the sword’s entrance. They defied gravity and reached for the stars. The ends curled grasping the air. Nash hit the ground along with the Alpha. A deep bruise ringed his neck. He crawled away gasping for breath.
“It won’t hold him long he’s been enchanted. We can’t kill him today.” Michael gathered Nash and Jessica into his arms. “We need to leave now.”
“Wait my mom!” I reached out for the still form. Tears blurred my vision as I realized I missed her last moments. “Mamá!” Her name was a shrill outcry that burned my throat.
Michael passed me to Nash, who leaned against my frame heavier than before. Michael picked up my mother and began to run in a specific direction. We followed limping along.
Three cars were parked beside the one I arrived in at noon today. Michael tugged at the knife in my mother’s chest until it was free. I sobbed at his rough treatment. He gently placed my mother in the back of his Mercedes then pierced all four tires of every other car.
“Wait! What if Thia and the others need the other cars to escape?” I settled Nash in the front seat of the Mercedes.
“Too late now.” Michael shrugged and led me into the back of the car. Michael slammed the driver’s door shut and started the engine.
“I don’t understand. Why didn’t the knife pierce his heart?” Nash’s voice was raspy. The bruise around his neck was a lighter blue.
Michael peeled out and slammed his foot on the pedal. We accelerated enough to force my body into the seat. I placed my mother’s head on my lap and buckled up. My numb fingers brushed back her bangs. Their voices sounded miles away.
The car wound around trees on the single car path. Michael picked up the phone in the compartment. “The Witch Queen has been infatuated with him for years. I’m willing to bet she placed a protective enchantment on his heart.” He began to dial. “Hello my King, forgive my intrusion but I have urgent news.” Michael was silent for a moment. “Yes I understand.” With no goodbyes he ended the call.
“How do we break it?” My voice sounded hollow and strange.
“I’m not sure yet. I’ve been summoned to the council to report to the others what happened today. When I expose Ambrosia, the Witch Queen, I’m sure we will get our answers one way or the other.”
“What about the vampires under the High Alpha’s control?” Nash turned in his seat. I could feel his eyes on me, but I didn’t have the strength to meet his gaze. The numbness spread up my arms to my brain. It wasn’t that I felt overwhelmed, what alarmed me was the lack of anything. The fire from the vampire bite was mute, along with any thoughts that attempted to form, feelings I knew I should be experiencing. It was almost like I couldn’t believe what had happened, it was someone else’s story and I was just a stranger to it.
Nash crawled between the front seats to squeeze between me and the door. His arms wrapped around my shaking torso. “I’m so sorry.” His empathy broke the dam I didn’t know I had built. Through my sobs he nuzzled my neck and held me tighter. Nash checked on my fully healed arm in secret. He looked me over to make sure I didn’t have any lasting injuries. Nash brushed through my hair as I combed through my mother’s. Her body was growing colder and stiffer as the hours sped past. “I’ll stay as long as you need me.”
“Jessica did you pass the message to the women before they left?”
I shook my head with after-cry hiccups. My eyes were puffy and sore but I refused to look away from her even now. How could I have left her there? “They were,” Hiccup. “-gone when I got there.”
“Then Nash, you need to find the other two packs and rally them to fight against the High Alpha.”
Nash growled in response. “I’ll stay with Jessica as long as she needs me.”
“My assistant is preparing the funeral and death record now. You can stay until then. After that I need you to find the other two packs and help save your kind.” Michael was typing furiously on his cell.
“He’s right. They need you.” I whimpered trying desperately not to think of the funeral.
“We slowed the Alpha down, but we’ll need to act fast to stay ahead. I will convince the council to stand against him.” Michael set the phone back down only for it to light up again.
“And if they don’t listen? We already know the Witch Queen will side with him.” Nash paused to answer his own question. “It’ll be a bloody war.”
“Not if you can convince the wolves to stand with our kind against your King.” Michael weaved through the late night traffic.
Silence held our tongues as we all reflected on the future. I fingered the locket heirloom my mother died with around her neck.
Nash broke the silence first. “If the first Alpha never drowned, maybe the High Alpha has a greater bond with the witches than we assumed.”
Michael tilted his head as he ended another call with Amber, his assistant. “I don’t follow.”
“The water witches.” Nash leaned forward and rested a hand on my knee.
Memories consumed my thoughts as I blocked out the two men. I wanted to always remember her. Maybe I could put her picture in the locket. I inspected the jewelry for the first time in my life. My mother wore it every so often. She said it was good luck ever since she landed her job as head nurse even though she was under qualified. That night she unclasped it and kept it safe in the lockbox under her bed. It was only taken out if she felt particularly unlucky.
“Aren’t they just sirens who drown men at sea?”
“Usually, yes but I once heard a rumor that one saved a man’s life instead. Maria the water witch of-”
I turned the locket in my hand and read the two words scrawled on the back.“Willow Ware.”