“Love me tender, love me sweet…”
“…never let me go.”
“You have made my life, complete.”
”And I love you so.”
I panted, breath sawing in and out of bruised lungs. The grass, so dark even with the moon full and swollen above the clearing was coated with glittering blood. Probably would have been a lot better if it hadn’t been mine.
Too many injuries to count throbbed in time with my heartbeat, and it was almost too hard to think around. Not that I could do anything about them right the moment anyhow. I snarled as menacingly as I knew how, praying it would buy me a few more seconds before the last one came at me.
Instead, I heard only the sound of the most peculiar thing. The automated recording of a camera shutter when it takes a photograph. Dread filled me as I snapped my head up.
The glow from the cell phone screen illuminated the cruel and smiling face of my enemy, whose deep red eyes sparkled with malice. He grinned, fangs flashing bellow his top lip even as his own sluggish blood oozed from the torn skin of cheek.
“No!” It was a scream, a plea, a sign of weakness. We both knew it.
He grinned wider. “Now it doesn’t matter if I die here or not. My master knows your face.”
A horror I had never known tore through me, propelled me up and to my feet. My wounds revolted, but I shoved the pain so deep into my mind I grew numb.
Damn it…the gods damn it all.
I rushed him, blind furry egging me on to finish the fight. They would never stop hunting me, never stop looking. And it was all my fault.
We traded blows in rapid succession, moving at speeds that neither of us had used while he’d had nine other monsters at his back. I’d killed them, though not as easily as my body had hoped. Now though, this fight devolved into a slug fest. I broke his arm; he snapped my ribs. Agony bled from my every pore, and in that moment, I realized that I might not have the strength to finish this.
His fist caught me under the chin, lifting me off my feet and sending me flying. I met the ground once, momentum carrying me further before I slid to a stop on the white rock which made up a parking lot. I struggled to gain my footing, and my mind drifted back to an hour ago, where the only thing I worried about was a drunken Were.
“You think there’ll be trouble tonight?”
I tilted my head, surveying the crowd of the bar. They seemed normal enough. For Shayne’s anyway. Rough, loud, where the alcohol flowed, and the talk was cheap. Fairly typical. But for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on, there was a twinge in the air, some hum of energy I couldn’t place.
“Maybe.” I replied, rolling my shoulders. The night was cool, so I wore my favorite black leather jacket. I didn’t actually need it, but it made the humans less likely to give me a second thought. After all, you didn’t often see a small woman walking around in a t-shirt as the temperature steadily dropped into the upper 30’s.
Beside me, Asher groaned, his shaggy sandy colored hair slipping across his forehead. He had on a black t-shirt with the bar’s logo on the front right, and the words security in bold white letters across the back. His blue jeans were clean, though his black work boots had seen better days. He was well built, a solid block of muscle, sturdy with thick arms and thighs. Handsome, but not in a way that appealed to me.
“Just what we need.” He grumbled.
I snorted. “Not like you and your family can’t handle it.” I was only here on the off chance they couldn’t. Which had never happened in the two years I’d been working there.
“Still. That just means more work.” He whined.
I rolled my eyes and chuckled. Eye candy that he was, Asher wasn’t exactly gifted with an enthusiastic work ethic. But he did his job and watched the door for his family’s bar. The McCoy’s bar was rare, and they catered to a…specific type of clientele.
My eyes roamed over the crowd periodically, taking note of those who were heading towards being drunk. Took a lot to get a Were drunk, so by the time they were they’d consumed enough to put down at least ten humans. A snarl from the bar drew my attention, and I heaved a sigh as a regular growled again at Renee, the bartender. Keelan was plowed, his glowering expression slowly turning angrier with every drink he’d had. Now, it seemed he’d reached his limit as Renee put her fists on her hips and glared right back. “You’re cut off Keelan.”
“I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough you damn dog!” he bellowed, no doubt the sound carrying far into the parking lot.
Renee tossed her blond hair over her shoulder. “I said you were done.” Her tone heavy with a not so subtle warning.
Asher was already out of his seat by the front door and crossing the room. Some of the patrons froze, while the ones too close to the trouble inched away. They at least had the good sense not to cause problems at Shane’s. Knew better than to cross that line.
Keelan, as drunk as he was, wasn’t going to let the challenge go unanswered. He jerked to his feet, bar stool skidding several feet away before tipping over with a clatter. “I said I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough. You damn Werewolf.”
I rose and leaned against the wall with my arms crossed. Honestly, it was almost comical. Keelan was a Hyena, as much a pack animal as any of the wolves present. So it was baffling that he’d forget the most basic rule when it came to Were’s that came from a pack. They were never alone. The rest of Renee’s pack were there. Some were off for the night and had come as patrons, while a few others functioned as bus boys or bar backs. By now they had all stopped what they’d been doing and had formed a half circle around the Hyena.
“You can leave now.” Renee said calmly, her bright green eyes daring him to do something stupid. Which would have been a massive mistake on his part. Above all, you didn’t mess with the Alpha’s mate. Who at that moment descended the stairs from the upper floor, the skin around his eyes pulled taunt.
“What the hell is going on?” Isaac McCoy asked, his voice tight.
Keelan spun around, only just now noticing that he’d been surrounded. Funny enough, the wolves weren’t the only ones angered by the situation. Shane’s customers came to the bar for one specific reason. It was a Were run establishment that catered only to the paranormal beings in the area. They liked to be able to be themselves, since that was impossible in the world among humans. And when someone, like the dumbass in question, decided he was gonna rock the boat, it didn’t sit well with anyone.
“What is this Isaac?” Keelan demanded, his eyes darting around nervously.
I rolled my eyes. Stupid, stupid move.
Isaac’s penetrating hazel eyes narrowed. “Funny, that’s what I want to know. Since I could here you yelling at my wife from the second floor.”
Keelan’s eyes widened, first in shock, then in fear. “You’re wife?”
Uh, duh. “Yes. My wife.” Isaac pushed into the circle so he was nose to nose with the smaller Were, who had a serious paunch tummy going on, I noticed. “Wanna tell me why?”
Oh please, please tell him why.
Keelan opened his mouth, but no words came out. All the blood had drained away from his too. Isaac nodded. “Yeah, that’s what I thought you might say. I also suspect you were about to apologize, to my wife, then do home for the night. Before someone, which would be you in case you aren’t following this conversation too closely, gets hurt. Right?”
The Hyena’s face turned red, his common sense fighting against his need to answer a challenge put right in front of him. I wondered what he’d do. At least if he apologized, he’d be able to walk out on his own two feet and with his heart beating.
“I’m sorry.” He growled, throwing a spiteful look at Renee. “I’ll leave.”
“Once you’ve paid your tab.” Renee said sweetly.
If possible, his face turned even redder. He withdrew his wallet from his pocket and extracted some cash. He slapped it on the bar and turned. The circle broke, and every pair of eyes in the bar watched as he made his way to the door. Which I opened for him so he could walk straight out and into the parking lot.
As soon as he got close to me, I watched the moment my scent hit his nose. He froze, eyes wide with panic flicking up to my face. I gave him a wide grin, making sure he got a good look at a fang. “Have a nice night.”
He ran into the parking lot. I stepped outside into the fresh cool air, watching as he climbed up into this truck and peeled out, kicking up white rock and dust in his rush to get away. I chuckled. Yeah, I did tend to have that effect on people. Good thing he wasn’t well versed in demons. If he’d recognized my scent for what it was, I’d have had to kill him. I didn’t like news of me getting around.
When I saw taillights disappear, I went back inside. The atmosphere had settled down, and everyone was in a much better mood, if a little on edge. I glanced at my watch and puffed out my cheeks. It was only ten p.m. Four hours left to go.
The demon prowled forward, and I struggled to gain my footing. I didn’t have much left in me to keep fighting like this.
“Love me tender,”
“Love me true…”
“All my dreams fulfill.”
“For my darling,”
“I love you…”
“And I always will.”