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10. How to be Not-So-Subtly Insulting

Oh my god oh my god oh my god.

I ran up out of the subway tunnels and into the Toronto street. As late as it was - or early, depending on how you look at it - the area was still quite a bit busy. It wasn’t just the supernatural beings walking about. There were humans, too, free humans who haven’t been claimed by a supernatural.

The city never sleeps.

I wished with all my heart that the two werewolves - Oliver and Keith - hadn’t actually recognized me. I hoped that they’d waved me off as just another human absolutely terrified as the supernatural. That maybe it was just my imagination that they had been looking directly at me.

But Keith’s final words rang through my head.

On second thought, you were right.

And he’d been talking to the Alpha.

So I bolted as fast as I could, cutting through alleyways, dodging pedestrians, and nearly getting hit by no less than ten vehicles along the way.

Remember your plan, Reese.

Ah, yes. My brilliant plan.

I slowed to a walk, pulling my hood back up over my face so I wouldn’t be recognized again. I stopped dashing across streets like a madwoman, sticking to the sidewalks, blending in as just another human. Plain, boring, not worthy of a second glance. Nothing.

I took a look at my surroundings as I walked, pulling up the mental map of the city I’d committed to memory two years ago. I was on Wellington Street West, in Toronto’s Financial District. I was only a few blocks away from the Entertainment District, but the theaters and cinemas had been closed since the Takeover. It was a pity; I saw Come From Away at the Royal Alexandra Theatre when I was eleven, and it made my stomach clench to know that the beautiful theater was currently sitting idle, collecting dust and cobwebs.

No time for reminiscing, Reese. Not when you’ve got a pack of vengeful wolves hunting you down.

I needed to find a suitable location to hunker down until I made sure I wasn’t followed. Fast-food places and coffee houses were usually busy, even at this time. There was a Mcdonald’s close by, but the smell made me queasy. The Tim Horton’s sitting next to it was no better - though the smell of freshly-baked donuts and hot coffee was soothing, it held too many memories.

Going to Tim’s was one of the last things I did before the Takeover. The last thing Cedric and I did with Dad.

Like I said; too many memories. I needed to keep a clear head.

I consulted my mental map; There was a Starbucks close by, on the corner of Wellington Street and University Avenue. Though avenue led directly to the pack’s headquarters-or-whatever-they-call-it - I’m pretty sure it’s headquarters - it was still far enough away to keep me in the unnaturally calm state I’d managed to conjure up.

I stuck my hands into my pockets, my left fingers caressing my dagger, my stakes safely tucked away in my hoodie’s hidden pockets, I walked on, crossing York street to the final stretch before I reached the coffee house.

A pair of vampires appeared just in front of me, shrugging off their unnatural speed. I lowered my hood even further, though I had a feeling it wasn’t necessary - the vampires didn’t know what the Hunter looked like. That information was only known to Toronto’s largest - and most dangerous - werewolf pack.

“We lost another one tonight,” said one of them, a blonde female who had annoyingly long legs. I wasn’t particularly eager at that moment to look at my reflection in the windows I was currently passing, knowing I’d see nothing astounding, even if I had my hood down - just my frizzy brown hair pulled back into a hasty ponytail. My figure wasn’t much better, either. Though I was tall for a human female - and in better shape than most - I wasn’t made out of luxurious curves and softness, something I would have died to have eight years ago. No, I was all angles and hardness - not something that most people find attractive.

Now is not the time to worry about your body image! my inner voice scolded. I rolled my eyes.

“What?” the other vampire practically shrieked, another blonde. If they were humans - and teenagers - they’d probably be the irritating popular girls that are often portrayed in movies and books. The ones that don’t actually exist in reality, from my own high school experience.

“Yeah, at a bar in Leaside,” replied Blondie One. My attention was immediately grabbed - wasn’t I at a Leaside bar earlier? Hell, that seemed like forever ago - but, in reality, it had only been a little more than two hours. “Christian told me it was Marcus. His... remains were found in the alley by the back exit. There was some human blood there, too.”

Blondie Two stumbled. So much for vampire grace. “A human? It staked the vampire?”

Blondie One slapped her companion on the shoulder. “Are you stupid, or what? Obviously, it was the Hunter!”

Mhm. Obviously.

“Oh, yeah,” Blondie Two sounded thoughtful. “Is that why Christian was in such a bad mood?”

“Christian’s always in a bad mood. He’s in a terrible mood.”

Christian Roy. I have no idea what his birth name was. Nearly a thousand years old. Born in London, England. Lived in England for six hundred years, lived in America for another three hundred. Moved to Canada a century ago. Head of Toronto’s largest vampire clan. A target. Kind of a joke to me right now, compared to the problems I was currently facing.

I kept my attention on the blondes as I approached University Avenue. They sensed my staring, and Blondie One turned back to look at me.

“Hello, human,” she said, grinning. “You’re up awfully late for a full moon.”

My Hunter instinct rose up. I longed to grab a stake.

Kill. Kill. Kill.

I tried to fight it off. My instinct was always stronger with vampires than it was with witches and werewolves. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because technically, vampires are dead, and that’s somehow more unnatural than people that turn into dogs and magic-wielders.

“So I am,” I said quietly, biting back a sarcastic comment. There was no sense in antagonizing these vampires. Not when I was so close to temporary safety.

“Are you interested in being a Blood Bag, human?” Blondie Two turned to face me, walking backward. I wanted to gouge out her eyes. “My clan could use some more. Ten of them have awakened in the past week alone.”

Ah, yes. Blood Bags will occasionally gain back their awareness - in which case, they normally committed suicide. It was quite a tragic fate.

“No,” definitely not. “I like my life the way it is.”

I don’t think I’ve ever told a larger lie.

“Tell me, human,” said Blondie One. “What do you think of the Hunter?”

I had to choose my words carefully.

Oh, well, I think of her in the highest regard, since, you know, she’s me and I’m her. I’m particularly proud of her, since she’s killed two strong werewolves and has managed to piss off the Alpha in one swift motion.

I must have taken too long to answer, since Blondie One’s eyes flashed a bright red as she looked me directly in the eyes. A moment later, a red light temporarily upset my vision, and I could feel her trying to sink her carefully manicured nails into my mind. Then the vertigo passed, and I was myself again.

“It’s scary,” I said, forcing a note of honesty into my voice - ironic, considering how much I was lying. “Do you think the Hunter will start going after humans?”

The blondes cackled and turned back around.

I was glad to leave them behind when I turned onto University Avenue.

I sunk gratefully into a chair, a steaming cup of coffee and a chocolate croissant in hand.

Actually, I had two chocolate croissants in hand. What can I say? I haven’t eaten in over twelve hours.

Right... time to get down to business.

I needed a plan to get out of the city. Desperately.

My current plan had some holes in it. Okay, so, once the coast is clear, I go to see Opal’s warlock friend. Then what? Though I think he’ll help me, there’s always the chance I’ll be turned in instead. What do I do then?

Fight. Kill the warlock. Then go back to Plan A - though, by that point, the werewolves will probably be monitoring transportation systems all around the city. I might have to walk out of here.

I took a sip of coffee, the bitter liquid burning my tongue. Yes. I’ll kill the warlock if he decides to turn me over to the werewolves. I was good at killing supernatural beings.

Senses scanning the surrounding area, I smiled with satisfaction. No werewolves yet. I might have actually lost them. The thought made me almost giddy with relief.

But the night’s not over yet.

My phone buzzed in my bag. Wordlessly, I fished it out, staring at the caller ID.

Opal Sage.

Weird. I’d told Opal I’d call her first, once I was safely situated outside of the city. Then logic kicked in. The only reason Opal would call was if she was in trouble. Fear burned through me - and, for the first time tonight, it wasn’t fear for myself. It was for my best friend and her husband.

For the second time that night, I stupidly answered the phone.

“Opal? What’s wrong? Are you okay?” I was practically yelling into the phone. A human sitting a few tables away from me looked up sharply and raised his eyebrows. I smiled apologetically.

“I told you to surrender, Little Hunter.”

My heart plummeted - while simultaneously fluttering. No... this isn’t happening...

The physical reaction was instantaneous. At the mere sound of his voice, my breathing labored, my heart rate picked up, and a wave of heat shot through me. For fuck’s sake, control, Reese, control!

Also... another sharp spike of fear jolted up my spine. If he’s calling from Opal’s phone...

She and Kyle were caught. She’s not okay. My plan to get them out of the city had failed.

“You leave them alone,” I growled, shoving my fear aside. It would do me no good now.

“Nah, I don’t think I will,” judging by the sound of his voice, he was grinning, pleased with himself. I made a mental note to wipe the smugness out of him before this conversation was over. “You see, Reese Hearne, I think they’re the only thing that will keep you in this city.”

I almost laughed out loud. Has he learned nothing? I almost didn’t tell them you threatened them. “I doubt it,” I leaned back in my chair, having another sip of coffee. I burned my tongue again. “One thing you learn while being on the run for three years, Elijah Randon, is to keep everybody at an arm’s length.”

“Hmmm...” he sounded thoughtful. Another shiver ran down my spine. “I don’t think that’s true. You wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of trying to get them out of the city if you didn’t care about their safety.”

My heart dropped another few inches.

“Of course, unlike you, their scent is quite strong. Which reminds me; how did you mask your scent, Little Hunter? It took me quite some time to pick it up...”

I froze.

So the Alpha can smell me.

“And you have quite a nice smell. Delectable. Reminds me of lavender. I must say, Reese, it’s made me more eager to meet you in person.”

That’s got to be the weirdest sentence I’ve ever heard.

And I live in a city controlled by supernatural beings. I’ve heard some strange things.

He wants to meet me because I smell nice?

I think it’s sufficient to say that I didn’t know how to respond to his... compliment?

“Thank you,” I said, walloping gobs of sarcasm into my words. “I must say, I can’t return the compliment, since I’m fairly certain you smell of horse shit.”

He chuckled. Of course he did.

“You’ll find out for yourself soon enough, Little Hunter,” he purred. “I’m looking forward to tempering that sharp mouth of yours...”

Another wave of heat shot through me again as he hung up. What was that all about? Was he just trying to antagonize me? Get me to abandon my escape mission to go after him? Did he want me to try to rescue Opal and Kyle? Did he even have Opal and Kyle, or was he bluffing? She could have ditched her phone, for all I know.

I stared down at my phone. Remembering the time one of my targets got away from me - after he gave me his number. How I found him after calling him, begging - ugh - for...

Oh no.

Reese, you idiot.

The son of a bitch was tracking my call.

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