Like everyone else, the blast knocked me off my feet, sending me crashing against the wall behind us. I hit my head on something sharp and was overtaken by a cloak of darkness.
I was gone less than a minute, but it was enough.
I blinked my eyes, trying to focus on the room, but in those short seconds, everything was different than I remembered. Furniture was blown apart, walls were left half-standing and everything was covered in rubble and dust.
None of that mattered though.
None of it could even compare to the relief I felt when I heard the small noise next to me as my sister began to cough.
I turned my head to see my mother cradling her close, rubbing her back in small circles and giving the odd tap here and there to help Antheia bring up the debris that she had swallowed during the explosion.
“Eros,” my dad breathed, his voice breaking as he sank down next to me. He lifted me, placing one hand behind my head and the other on the small of my back until I was sitting, my elbows on my knees for support.
“Sophia?” I croaked, “Where’s Sophia?”
“I’m right here, baby, I’m right here,” she cried, grabbing hold of my hand, and placing kisses along my knuckles. “Your dad saved me. I don’t know how they did it, but your parents had a plan the moment the bomb hit. Your mother grabbed Antheia and shielded her from the worst of the explosion and your dad grabbed me. He made sure nothing could hit me whilst I was out cold and do any more damage. Before I had come round properly and could even process what was happening, he was back on his feet as though he hadn’t just been hit with falling bricks and killed every warrior that came into the room.”
I looked at my dad, seeing the fear in his eyes but also the specks of relief that I was okay. He was covered in blood, some his own but most of it was from the wolves that had been foolish enough to take him on.
The room was something out of a horror movie. Guts and body parts lined the floor, headless bodies scattered around. There were splatters of blood where my dad had ripped apart warriors limb for limb. I noticed a severed head next to me, the warrior's eyes ripped from their sockets. “Your dad pulled them out with his claws and severed the nerves with his teeth. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Sophia whispered, horrified by what she had seen.
I gave a grim smile as I looked up at my father. “Still got it old man, huh?”
“You bet your ass I do...” he froze, his head jerking to the side.
I stiffened, hearing the slow clapping of hands. Jeremy walked into the room, followed by half a dozen creatures the likes of which I had only seen one time before. I heard Sophia’s gasp of breath as she recognised the faces of those that had killed her parents.
“Very impressive,” Jeremy laughed, stepping over the headless bodies of one of his warriors and kicking away the train of intestines in his path. “Tell me you didn’t think this was over so soon? The night has just begun,” he smirked, gesturing outside to where our own Lycans were being surrounded by the same disgusting creatures that were facing us.
They panted, the breath rattling through their bodies in painful gasps. Some had fur, some were hunched over, and others were just plain disfigured. “Let the games begin,” Jeremy announced, his eyes trained on Sophia.
I couldn’t even take in the pure devastation that was happening around me. The minute Jeremy had entered the room, my body was covered in goosebumps, my panther coming to life with a cheerful roar, confirming what I had been in denial about since I had last laid eyes on him.
“Sweet Sophia,” he murmured, sidestepping the fighting happening around him and making a beeline straight for me. He pulled a knife from his pocket and ran his finger along the blade as he approached. “You sure do know how to try my patience, it’s been a long year looking for you,” he stepped closer, and I edged back, scanning the room for Eros.
I saw him, fighting against two of Jeremy’s creations as he dodged their swords and monstrous claws. He wouldn’t be able to come to me, not without hurting himself. I was on my own. Khaos was surrounded by three of the beasts and Violet had just killed the one coming for her and was preoccupied with finding somewhere for Antheia to be safe.
“Are you coming to the same realisation I am, sugar? There’s no one here to save you.” He was close, too close. I felt the pull and knew the moment it hit him too.
I closed my eyes and shook my head, helpless to fight against it.
There it was. The fact I had been fighting against all year but now screamed out, loud and clear to everyone. A deeper voice spoke up, one that often left me alone and let my wolf take the reins. The one that had been letting her unhappiness be known for fear too long. The one that was missing her other half. She now sang out her happiness.
“Mate, mate, mate.”
My body lurched forward without my control, silently offering all that we had.
My panther was now complete.
Jeremy laughed, drawing his finger down my face. I held my breath, knowing it wouldn’t be long until he realised my worst fear.
“This is precious,” he chuckled. “Here I am, mated to the hybrid shifter. Artemis must favour me to have blessed me in such a way. Look at you trembling - fight it all you want, your body likes my touch,” I shook my head, tightening my lips and squeezed my eyes shut.
It was useless. My body responded without any encouragement. My nipples hardening, the dampness growing at my core.
We both knew what was happening. He smiled once more, scenting the air. “Ahh, a panther’s arousal. Is there anything more... wait,” he scented the air once more and my heart stopped.
No, no, please, Goddess, please don’t let him smell the baby.
“You whore!” He roared, slapping around the face so I hard I felt several teeth dislodge as blood burst from my broken nose. He punched me again, this time with enough force to knock me onto my ass as my lips split open.
He stood above me, sneering down at me, his fists clenched at his sides. I spat at him, leaving a blob of my blood on his shoes. “Fuck you!”
He kicked me in my side, the force of it sending me flying onto my back. “Whore!” He screamed again. I raised my head just in time to see his foot as it slammed down onto my stomach.
I screamed, trying to roll into a ball to protect the baby but he kicked me again. Over and over he stomped on me, his face wild with fury. I knew he was completely out of control, his panther ready to burst free.
The pain made me see stars, white-hot flashes appearing behind my eyes as my head grew fuzzy. I felt the damp, warm liquid seeping out of me, soaking through my trousers and onto the cracked concrete beneath me.
I struggled to breathe as he stomped on my ribs, breaking them under his heavy feet. I heard Eros roar in anger, but I had no strength left to raise my head and see where he was.
I knew the very moment I lost our baby.
My wolf cried out in anguish, her distress rattling around in my already fuzzy mind.
Jeremy kicked me one final time, sending me rolling onto my side. He looked down at me and spat into my face, grinding his disgusting spit into my cheeks with the heel of his feet. I felt the bones crush under his foot and closed my eyes, praying that death would take me soon and free me from this torture.
I saw Sophia get kicked to the floor, felt the anger shimmer through my body. My wolf roared, causing rubble to fall off the walls with the strength and power behind his angry cry. He burst free from me and before I knew it, we were racing forward, ready to kill the Alpha once and for all.
I wasn’t looking at what I was doing. I was too blinded by rage. I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings. I felt my dad grab me and shove me with all his strength, sending me hurtling across the floor. I used my nails to slow me down, scratching along the concrete and hoisting myself to my feet within a second.
It was too late.
I went to charge at my dad for daring to stop me protecting my mate and realised why he had done it. His hands were clutched at his stomach, blood spilling from between his fingers. The warrior creature behind him laughed, twisting the sword, and ripped it from my dad’s body. I shifted into my human skin and caught him before his head hit the floor as he fell backwards.
“I’ve fucking had enough of this, seize the woman and child and get me the fuck out of here!” Jeremy roared.
I jumped up to protect them but before I could move Alpha Jeremy was on me, injecting a vial into my neck that had me frozen. He grabbed fistfuls of my hair to hold me in place as the venom ran through my body. He brought his lips close to my ear and snarled, “I’ll be seeing you soon, boy,” then he shoved me away from him.
I was worth nothing. My one job in life was to protect my family and I had failed. The last thing I remembered as the wolfsbane took me away was my mate coughing up blood, my dad’s body stiff, his eyes rolling into the back of his head as he was swept away, and my mother and sister screaming out in terror as they were bundled out of the room.