11. How to Catch a Hunter
Panic shot through me.
Damn it, damn it, damn it!
After all the trouble I’d gone through to get away! I’d probably succeeded in losing those two werewolves from Union Station, too.
All it took was one mistake. One slip-up. One moment of pure stupidity.
Why did you answer the phone? Why, why, why?
It’s safe to say that my inner voice was as upset with me as I was.
The sound of the Alpha’s voice was playing on loop in my head. Part of me - most of me - wanted it gone. I never wanted to hear his amused, taunting tone again.
Another part - a much, much smaller part - wanted to hear him again. Wanted to see him.
Why, you lunatic? That’s suicide.
Anger flooded into me.
I set down my coffee, steam still rising from the slit in the lid. Next, I picked up my phone, and, after a moment’s hesitation, slammed it against the edge of the table.
The screen shattered with a sharp crack.
It wasn’t enough, though. My emotions were running wild, fear and anger dominating my thoughts. I smashed the phone again.
And yet again.
Then, for good measure, I threw it across the room. It hit the wall next to the door and fell limply to the floor.
“What?” I snapped at a nearby human who was staring at me with wide eyes. He just shook his head rapidly and averted his gaze. Smart human.
I proceeded to glare at anybody who dared to look in my general direction. My left hand was in my pocket again, gripping the silver dagger.
I needed to leave. Immediately.
Standing up, abandoning my coffee and croissants on the table, I headed for the door.
I took two steps before the door swung open.
Three men walked in - three tall, broad-shouldered, and rather attractive. They moved into Starbucks with a grace most humans didn’t have - myself included.
I recognized the first two from Union Station - Keith and Oliver. I couldn’t see them very well in the gloom of the subway tunnel, but now I can see just how similar they look - brothers, no doubt, probably twins. Their features were nearly identical - from the mop of light brown hair sitting on top of their heads down to the distinctive point of their chin. The only difference between them was the one blue eye on one and the crooked nose on the other.
My gaze flew to the third werewolf.
He was clearly in charge here, leading the other two into the room. He walked with a confidence that even the other two lacked. He gave off an aura of power, one that even I, a human, could feel.
Still, this was not the Alpha.
I knew what most of the higher-ranking pack members looked like. This man was close to the top. His dark, wavy brown hair and glimmering brown eyes were instantly recognizable.
Luca Rossi, Beta of Toronto’s pack.
He was definitely a target - though I wasn’t ready to face him. I was barely able to defeat Nicholas Randon; I only did because of that weird burst of speed I’d had.
It would be very useful to be speedy again. But, of course, nothing happened.
I was not strong enough to take on Luca Rossi. I was not strong enough to face two other presumably high-ranking werewolves. With my luck, they’d be just as strong as Ryker Marcel - and, probably, much smarter.
They wouldn’t be brought down easily. Certainly not by succumbing to my feminine wiles.
I’d have to do this the hard way. The fun way.
Stumbling back two steps, I sat back down in my chair, taking a casual sip of my still-hot coffee. My tongue burned.
The werewolf with heterochromia, whom I assumed was Oliver, glanced down at the floor. He nudged Luca with a shoulder. The Beta knelt down, picking something up.
My broken, shattered, mangled phone.
The crooked-nose werewolf - Keith - laughed, long and hard. “She tried to destroy the phone? Did she think she’d stop us from tracking her location?”
Oliver frowned. “It would stop us though, wouldn’t it? There’s no way to track her now if we can’t call her. And she doesn’t have a scent.”
Luca didn’t say anything for a long moment. The coffee house had gone quiet, everybody warily staring at the trio of werewolves. I didn’t blame them. Unfortunately, everybody saw me break the phone. They’d know it was me they’re looking for.
Please, please, please keep your mouths shut.
“She wouldn’t have had time to leave,” the Beta finally said. His voice was slightly accented. Spanish? Italian? “And if she did, we’d have seen her go out the door.”
“If she did somehow manage to slip by us,” Keith added. “She wouldn’t have gotten very far.”
The human who’d been staring at me earlier cast me another glance. A curious one. He looked away just as quickly.
Luca seemed to finally notice that he had an audience. He squared his shoulders, looking around.
“All right, listen up!” he said, the power of his rank emanating from his voice. Nearly every human in the bar quivered at his voice. The man who kept looking at me clenched a fist. The few vampires seated around the place looked bored.
Me? I brushed the power away like it was nothing. Looks like I’m immune to both a Vampire’s leporem and a werewolf’s attempt to be commanding. Interesting...
“We’re looking for a human,” Luca continued. “Female, tall for her species, with dark brown hair. She would have had a temper tantrum and smashed this phone,” he held up the mangled item for effect. “That being said, if she’s in here, she’s probably scowling at me right now.”
I quickly wiped the scowl off of my face. Damn.
“Did anybody see her leave?” Keith crossed his arms impatiently when nobody answered.
There was silence.
“Why are you looking for her?” said a vampire. “If she’s just a human, she can’t be that dangerous.”
My pinky finger twitched as I fought off the desire to snort with amusement. Not dangerous, huh? Tell that to the vampire and two high-ranking werewolves I’ve killed tonight.
“That’s none of your concern,” Luca’s voice was neutral as he carefully began examining faces.
The human man stood up. “She left,” he said. “I’m sure she had plenty to do.”
Oliver chuckled. “Like what? What could somebody possibly have to do at... what time is it?”
Nobody bothered to answer him.
I was still caressing my dagger. My Hunter instincts were rising up, begging me to attack the three werewolves.
Kill. Kill. Kill.
“She left?” said a woman - another human. “I thought she - ”
I threw a croissant at her.
The food bounced off of her shoulder, soared through the air for a second or two, then hit the ground, rolling to a stop just as it approached Luca’s feet.
He glanced down at it, frowning.
The human man looked like he was trying to keep a straight face.
“Beta...?” Keith was suddenly wary, his eyes flicking rapidly around the room.
“She’s still here!” a vampire screeched. “She’s - ”
I threw my remaining croissant. It landed smack-dab in the vampire’s mouth. Bulls-eye!
The vampire spluttered and spat out the croissant. It was my turn to keep a straight face.
“Where is she?” Keith’s fists were clenched. Oliver looked bewildered. Luca, of course, looked utterly unfazed.
“She’s sitting - ”
Suddenly, my steaming-hot coffee was on the other side of the room. Another human found herself drenched in it. She let out a hiss of pain as the burning liquid made contact with her skin.
The human man laughed.
I unzipped my hoodie. Since I was out of projectiles, I might have to use my stakes. They’re replaceable, anyways, and easy to make. Besides, I have at least five of them hidden in my hoodie... as well as a dozen more in my bag.
There’s no way I’m throwing my dagger across the room.
“This girl,” said the man, snickering. “Has impeccable aim.”
“Shut it, warlock,” Keith snapped.
Warlock? Damn, it’s so difficult to tell the difference between a human and a magic-wielder. Though maybe they have a different scent, one only those with an augmented sense of smell can detect. Perhaps they smell like sparkles or something.
“I’m just saying,” the warlock continued. “It’s not surprising she hasn’t been caught yet. Isn’t the Hunter famed for her precision?”
Ah, well, it was bound to come out sooner or later. There was no way I was getting out of this bar without being spotted.
A vampire, the one I’d thrown a croissant at, frowned. “She’s the Hunter?”
Luca’s calm expression suddenly fell into a sharp glare - one he focused on the warlock. “You were told to keep your mouth shut,” he said, his voice flat with barely-concealed irritation.
The vampire who had just spoken moved, blurring, reappearing a second later with his hands wrapped around my throat. My hood fell back, and I let out a string of curse words.
“Christian Roy has been dying to meet you,” the vampire hissed.
I grabbed one of my stakes and stabbed it into his heart in the span of a single moment. “Funny,” I said as the vampire began to decompose - it was obviously an older one, his years catching up to him. “Isn’t he already dead?”
Brushing off vampire dust from my pants, I turned to face the werewolves.
They looked genuinely surprised to see me - though they’d tracked me here, they’d probably assume I’d find a way to wiggle myself out of it. Oliver actually looked shocked as he eyed the vampire’s bones. Did he not hear how good I am at murdering things?
Luca’s the one who recovered the fastest, quickly regaining his calm composure. “Reese Hearne,” he said, diplomatically. “You’ve given us quite the chase.”
“I thought dogs liked chasing things?” I pulled out my dagger - there was no sense in concealing it any longer - and shrugged off my hoodie. “Though you do have tails. I suggest trying to chase those, first. Much easier to catch.”
Keith glared at me. “Listen here, you little - ”
Luca silenced him with a look. “Come quietly, Reese. There’s no need to make a scene.”
“Ah, but scenes are always so much fun,” I grinned.
At my words, the Beta let out an exasperated sigh. He flicked a finger. As if on command - well, it probably was a command - Oliver and Keith flew forward.
I dove out of the way, clutching my dagger. The twin werewolves skidded to a stop right where I had just been standing - Oliver actually slipped and fell. If my heart was beating so wildly at the prospect of killing two strong werewolves, I would have found the scene quite comical.
Keith had smashed his fist into a table - his hand was stuck in the hole he’d created.
Oliver looked to have smashed his head against the ground. He sat up, swaying. He probably had a concussion. It would heal soon.
I took the opening to even the playing field a bit. I moved, flying towards Oliver, and plunged my dagger into his heart.
His last expression was one of shock.
A pity, I thought as the Hunter inside of me took over control. He seemed like he’d be nice.
Keith let out a scream of rage and pain at his brother’s death - I can imagine what he’s going through. Distantly, the human part of me recalled the agony I had felt at the death of my own brothers - both of them, back-to-back, in the span of an hour.
The Hunter part of me didn’t care.
Kill. Kill. Kill.
I lunged for Keith. He wrenched himself free just in time, spinning out of my range. My dagger plunged into the table where’d he’d just been. I tugged. The dagger was stuck fast.
There was a snarl from behind me. I twirled around and sidestepped, avoiding Keith’s slashing claws - his hands - well, paws - were now that of a wolf.
“You fucking bitch,” he snarled. “You just killed my brother!”
I blinked. “I did?” I grinned. “Goodness me, I’m killing everybody’s brothers tonight,” I looked around the pissed off werewolf, eyeing Luca. “You didn’t happen to have any relations to Ryker Marcel, did you?”
“I’m an only child,” Luca said in a deadpan voice.
“Hmm,” I said, idly avoiding Keith yet again. I had to get my dagger back. “I wasn’t. I am now, though.”
I didn’t hear Luca’s response if he said something. I ducked out of the way, Keith’s claws cutting through the air right where my neck was. I rolled, jumping back to my feet in front of the table where my dagger was stuck.
“Keith!” Luca snapped. “The Alpha wants her alive!”
“She killed Oliver!” the antagonized werewolf growled, making the mistake of turning away from me to look at his Beta. “I think the Alpha would understand if I killed her!”
“Fall in line, Keith!” Luca pulled rank, the air vibrating with the amount of power he forced into those four words.
Keith glared at him for a long moment - too long.
Kill. Kill. Kill.
My dagger broke free from the table, and I lunged, aiming for Keith’s heart.
Unfortunately, he saw me and moved at the last moment. The silver blade pierced his shoulder. He howled with pain as the poisonous metal - to werewolves, anyways - burned his skin. Smoke rose from the wound.
There was another sigh from behind me. I pulled out my dagger, the blade coated with blood, and turned just as Luca sped towards me.
I had barely a moment to register just how fast the Beta was before pain exploded through my skull. Something warm and sticky spread down the back of my head, and the room swayed. My knees buckled under me. My grip on my beloved dagger slackened.
All at once, my senses went out.
Only blackness remained.