Heart of Stone - Book 3: Souls Entwine

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Chapter 44 - Stone

Rain plummeted down harder, pounding against Stone’s back as the wind whipped through the trees, knocking down branches and pulling up the smoke into the sky, twisting and turning it into funnels.

Vampires scattered and took to the trees when pea-sized hail began to pummel down on them.

Picking up the fallen ax into his paws awkwardly, he ran on his hind legs after a few vampires, striking two down before throwing the ax and executing another twenty yards away that tried to take out Gunner in his weakened state.

The hail beat down on him as he panted. Looking around at the massacre, he couldn’t detect any other vampires in the valley. The stench of vampire blood mixed with smoke whipped around him, making it hard to breathe as all the air sucked skyward.

[To the pack house,] he commanded his beta and head warrior.

He howled to inform the Council members that they should sweep the forest and kill as many vampires as they could, even though he knew they would stay out of reach in the trees.

The three of them returned to the shelter of the forest as the hail continued to fall for a few more minutes.

Grunting, Gunner stopped after a dozen yards and sat down on the moist soil and began to lick his wounded hind leg. The gash was deep and long, oozing with blood and unable to stop.

[You two go on ahead,] he said. [I will only slow you down.]

[No,] Alistair snarled, his ears pulled back and his upper lip curling. He shook Gunner’s shoulder gently with his paw to draw his attention up to him. [A brother never leaves another behind.]

Stone swallowed as Gunner hung his head and touched Alistair’s paw, knowing all too well the weight those words carried.

[In that case, you go ahead Alpha, and we will catch up,] Gunner said.

Stone didn’t want to leave his best males behind, but Alistair gave him a nod of permission.

Despite the wounds in his shoulder and calf, he hurried back to the pack house, running into Amora along the way. She followed him, blood and mud splattered across her hardly recognizable pure white body.

The smoke had nearly cleared and the fires put out. The hail ceased, but the rain continued to pour down for a minute before subsiding a bit. The wind died down a notch but continued to howl through the trees.

“How is your mate?” Amora asked in a warped, grizzly voice.

He reached into the mind-link with her to check-in.

[Fine, but there’s a lot of smoke here,] Aubree replied.

Smoke? There were ventilation tubes running up through the ground to allow oxygen into the space when both ends of the tunnels were closed. Could the wind blow it into the vents of the safe room?

Smoke rises...

Stone barked to Amora to follow him as he picked up his pace.

[I’ll be there soon, Love,] he told her before reaching out to Gwen and Gavin for updates.

[The hail has chased the vampires into the trees,] Gwen replied. [I’m not sure how long they will stay up there, though.]

[Smoke has gotten into the air vents of the safe room. Amora and I will be at the back door soon to—]

His thoughts were cut off when a sharp yelp sounded ahead and Aubree’s voice cut into his thoughts.

[Someone’s here!]

He snarled. [I’m coming! Fight her off until I can get there! Gawain, guard the house! Backdoor, everyone!]

A snarl ahead, then another yelp as pain struck his shoulder.

Tripping over a root, he slammed into the muddy earth and barked for Amora to keep going. The hidden exit to the safe room was another fifty yards ahead.

Scrambling back to his paws, he staggered forward as another yelp rang out and pain struck his flank. He stumbled into a bush and nearly collided with a tree.

Snarls and growls rumbled ahead of him as his neck burned and the horrid woman from nightmares appeared before him outside the tunnel with a silver chain wrapped around the neck of his beautiful mate as Gwen and Amora surrounded them, baring their teeth, dripping with hate.

Somehow, she’d figured out that the tree stump behind her was the trap door to the safe room. The tunnel ran forty yards out into the forest for emergency escape purposes, and somehow she detected it among the ferns, mushrooms, and the rotting log behind it.

Smoke clung to her as rain dripped down from the trees and slowly washing the stink away.

“Don’t come too close now,” Carina sneered as Aubree stood still, the chain around her neck digging through her fur as she whined.

[It has sharp silver prongs,] she whimpered.

“If I pull on this chain, it will kill her in seconds. We wouldn’t want that, would we?” Carina taunted.

[What do we do, Papa?] Gwen asked, pawing at the ground as she whined and huffed.

He didn’t know. Standing between Amora and Gwen, he stared back into those fearful hazel gemstones across from him as silver continued to burn her flesh.

He didn’t know what to do. His mind drew a blank.

If any one of them moved, Carina would jerk the chain and the prongs would pierce her neck, perhaps her windpipe, and she wouldn’t be able to recover fast enough from it.

She’s can’t die...

[Dammit!] He half snarled, half growled as he shifted back into his human form.

Carina’s smile pulled up in a haunting grin, pleased to see him shift where he was more her match in strength and speed.

Rising to his human feet with Gwen and Amora taking two steps behind him, he clenched his fists at his side as his nostrils flared in fear and rage.

“What do you want? To avenge Adranus? We are even. You killed Adelaide and Arthur and I killed Adranus and Gerald. Why must you take away my mate from me again?” he demanded.

“You seem to think I give a damn about your life and your pack’s life,” she spat. “You are all scum. The moment you were created to destroy us, you never questioned your nature to kill, yet you judge us for simply trying to exist. As long as you all live, there will never be peace between us. We will continue to kill you as you continue to kill us. So, let’s hurry this along and end your precious mate’s pathetic life before I finally take you out once and for all.”

He narrowed his eyes. “You still think you can beat me?”

She smirked. “Maybe. Maybe not. But at least I’ll die knowing that I’ve destroyed your life far beyond repair again.”

Snarling, Gwen lunged forward, but Carina jerked on the silver chain.

Aubree yelped. The smell of her blood—lycan blood—penetrated the air as Stone clutched his own throat in pain.

“Stop it—you’ll kill her!” he snapped at Gwen.

Deep rumbles crawled up Gwen’s throat as she stepped back again and Carina cackled.

[Don’t fight the chain, Love,] he mentally pleaded with Aubree. [Move closer to her to loosen it.]

[It doesn’t loosen,] she whimpered.

“Don’t even think about trying to attack me. You’ll kill her before you can even get your paws on me,” Carina said. “Really, you have made this too easy.”

Her laughter burned into him like the silver burning against his mate’s neck.

[Keep her distracted,] Alistair whispered in the pack’s mind-link. [Gunner and I are close.]

Stone clenched his teeth. [Hurry up! Aubree’s burning and bleeding at the neck!]

[Calm your tits, bro. We got this. Just keep her distracted.]

Stone’s brows furrowed. [Did you just call me, bro?]

[Yeah, picked it up a few days ago and have been dying to use it!]

“I can see you’re discussing something with your pack, care to share it with the rest of us?” Carina leered.

His muscles twitched “What kind of a fool do you take me for, Carina?”

She narrowed her eyes. “The kind who will do anything to protect—”

Carina screamed as Aubree lunged and clamped her jaws around her shoulder. Carina tried to throw her off, but she wasn’t quick enough.

Twisting and throwing her head back, Aubree tore her arm off. Blood spurted all over her as the chain tightened around her neck.

Shrieking in agony, Carina yanked hard on the chain, choking Aubree.

In milliseconds, Stone rushed forward as Alistair sprang from the bushes with his claws extended, jaws open wide, and pounced on Carina. Sinking his teeth into her skull, he silenced her as he ripped her head off.

While Alistair took care of the carcass, Stone hooked Aubree into his arms and fell to his knees, pulling her roughly down with him. Pain burned his neck as he struggled to breathe.

Aubree thrashed about, before realizing it was him. Her large hazel eyes stared into his as she relaxed, her mouth opening and emitting gagging noises.

The chain was too tight. Blood poured down her white and tanned chest. She couldn’t breathe.

“Dammit! No!” he cried out, his fingers unable to slip under the chain to loosen it. She couldn’t shift back to her human form because of the silver.

His fingers burned against her ripped-raw flesh. Tears poured down his cheeks and dripped onto her muzzle.

There was no release of the chain. It would only tighten. He couldn’t get it off without cutters and there wasn’t enough time to run home and get them.

Her blood painted his hands red.

“What do I do?” He sobbed.

Stroking her head, his chest constricted, fighting for air as her life slowly slipped away from him as she repeatedly told him in his head that she was sorry and loved him.

Burying his face in her fur, he cried out, “Goddess, please!”

A hand touched his head.

“I’m here.”

That voice...

Looking up from Aubree’s fur, Amora was back in her human form. Her pale blonde hair, silver as the moon’s light, waved gently around her face as she got down on her knees across from him with Aubree between them. Her skin was glowing, radiating a soft white light as she touched Aubree’s head.

Stone stared at her—at the Goddess within her—as she gazed lovingly at his mate on the verge of death.

“It’s not time to join me, Little One,” She whispered as her hand softly caressed over Aubree’s neck and stopped at the chain around it.

Light—power—slipped underneath it from both of her hands as she clenched them into fists side-by-side and pulled.

The chain snapped and fell away.

Aubree was still unable to breathe.

Her body began to seize up, her paws scratching at the dirt, her mouth opening and closing, her mind screaming into his.

“Hold her still,” the Goddess within Amora commanded as she leaned her face down, mere inches away from Aubree’s neck and blew curling white smoke against it.

It wrapped around her neck, glowing, and she gasped her first full breath in minutes.

Choking back a sob, Stone listened to her heartbeat return to its normal rhythm—although, still too fast, it wasn’t skipping erratically anymore.

Whines and whimpers surrounded him as Gwen, Alistair, Gunner, and even Gavin appeared, closing in tight around them, licking his face and Aubree’s, nuzzling their noses against his cheeks, shoulders and Aubree’s muzzle. Their voices filling each other’s minds, expressing their joy and relief as they took turns nuzzling and licking Amora’s face.

The Goddess’ light laughter filled them as she kissed their heads, and healed their silver-inflicted wounds.

“You are my greatest joys. The way my creations were meant to be,” She said. “The love you all have for each other is the greatest blessing I could ask for.”

She smiled a radiant smile before She withdrew from Amora.

Pressing her palm to her head, Amora looked around. Her energy spent.

“Alert the Council that the vampires are withdrawing. The victory is ours. Carina and her legacy is dead.” Amora closed her eyes and heaved a sigh. “Thank the Goddess.”

Alistair, Gwen, Gavin, and Gunner threw their heads back and howled over and over in joy and praise to the moon.

As their chorus continued for several minutes, Stone held Aubree tightly against him, burying his nose in her fur and repeatedly thanking the Goddess for all of Her blessings.

She never left him. Even after he accused Her of abandoning him, She gave him a second chance.

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