Hunter

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24. How to Conceal a Stake


You’d think that winding up in the infirmary after nearly losing my arm would give me a free pass out of helping the pack hunt down vampires.

But no. I spent all of two days in the infirmary before Alpha Bossiness decided I’d wasted enough time sitting on my ass.

I’d tried to point out that I had the slight problem of being unable to move most of my body, but he’d fixed his green glare on me and pretty much pushed me off of the bed.

Rude.

I’d begun wondering if maybe I’d imagined that brief moment of vulnerability he’d showed when I was practically unconscious. It certainly didn’t really fit the character he’d been sporting since I woke up.

An undefined period of time after I desperately wanted to punch him in the face but could only summon enough strength to gently squeeze his hand, my body had finally started cooperating with my wishes. The instant I’d opened my eyes, they locked with his own, which had widened the smallest amount.

Honestly, there were worse things to wake up to. At least I had something attractive to look at.

We’d stared one another down for about five minutes, before I shifted my shoulder and winced as pain ripped through the wound.

His gaze had immediately flicked over to the wound - or, rather, the bandages covering the wound, and he frowned, which I began to think of as his signature expression. Would it kill him to smile - and not in a mocking way?

Probably.

“You’re awake,” he’d finally said. Thank you, I hadn’t noticed.

“Your perceptional skills have improved,” I’d said sweetly, my rasping voice taking the punch out of my words. Traitor. “Where’s Opal?”

He snapped his eyes back to mine. “Gone. I seem to recall making a deal stating that you can only see her after you help me,” for a brief moment, he peeked back over at my shoulder, before his gaze slid aimlessly around my face. “For a fire witch, she did a decent job healing you.”

I’d looked at my bandaged shoulder, then at my broken hand, bound in a cast, and raised an eyebrow.

“It’s better than it was,” he’d said. “I’d never seen Tristan panic before.”

“Who - ?”

“The medic,” he’d explained. “He’s used to treating wolves, so when you didn’t start healing on your own... he didn’t know what to do,” something had flashed across his eyes then, and I finally sat up, gritting my teeth as the action sent a fresh bought of pain through my shoulder.

“Why are you here, Elijah?”

For once, there had been no hostility in my tone, only simple curiosity. It surprised me.

“I had to make sure you’ll be well enough to join the strike team in a few days.”

Of course.

I had raised an eyebrow. “A few days? Do you even know how long it takes a human to heal? My wrist will need a least a week or two. And my shoulder will - ”

“Which is why I had your witch accelerate the healing process,” he’d interrupted. His tone hardened, and he moved to get up. “You have two days.”

“Two days for what?”

“To heal,” he’d said simply. “We’re striking in two days, and you’re coming.”

“I can’t control how long I take to heal,” I’d protested. Just the thought of leaving this uncomfortable yet comfortable bed made me want to groan.

He’d grinned mockingly, his teeth flashing. “Two days.”

Then he’d left.

You’d think that after nearly dying, even the Alpha of Toronto’s pack would have managed to dig up a tiny bit of compassion. I’d lain in that bed, cursing him mentally for setting me into a bad mood. Then, a few hours later, Rebecca had come in, happy, enthusiastic that I was awake, spouting sunshine and rainbows, and I’d remembered who it was that I had been dealing with. Elijah Randon? Compassionate? Sympathetic? What a hilarious joke.

Which was why, two days later, I was able to walk out of that damned infirmary without anybody protesting. My shoulder was aching, but healing remarkably quickly - thanks to the questionable healing abilities of Opal, I had guessed. The cast came off of my wrist; too soon, in my opinion, but the medic - Tristan or whatever his name was - deemed my physical health as satisfactory and sent me on my way.

Satisfactory.

Satisfactory.

I certainly didn’t feel satisfactory. I felt like one gentle nudge against my shoulder would be enough to send me right back into the infirmary. Honestly, I kind of wished something like that would happen, just so I could rub the Alpha’s stupid decision in his face.

Back in my glorified cell, I made a face at the outfit I found resting on my bed, as well as a note to go along with it. I read the note first.

The target is Isla Roy. Get dressed. Rebecca will come to escort you downstairs.

The handwriting was unfamiliar, but the curt, bossy, no-nonsense tone the words were written with let me know exactly who’d written the note.

Just as he’d said, Rebecca came knocking a half-hour later and raised an eyebrow at the dress I wore.

“I thought we were killing vampires, not going to a strip club,” she said, though she, too, was dressed similarly to me. I grimaced, looking down at the dress I wore. It was similar to the one I’d been sporting when I was hunting Marcus Chauncey nearly two months ago; tight, formfitting, the hem just barely touching the tops of my thighs, the neckline plunging down, revealing much more skin than I was usually comfortable with. Thankfully, I had a lot of practice hiding my discomfort while wearing clothes like this. Plus, I had to admit, I looked good in bright red.

“The last time I wore a dress, I burned it,” I said, grabbing a slab of wood I’d whittled days ago, purely out of boredom. Expertly, I weaved it into my hair. Rebecca watched me curiously.

“What’s that?” she asked.

I grinned. “A stake. I know it looks weird - they’re not normally flat, but any kind of pointed, wooden object through the heart will easily kill a vampire,” I pulled on the heels the Alpha so generously supplied, grimacing at the thought of the foot pain I was bound to experience before the night was over. “I prefer the rounded stakes - they have better grip, so I’m less likely to fumble or drop them. But flat stakes are easier to conceal,” I adjusted my hair, making it look more natural and less like a hiding place.

“Where would you conceal a rounded stake, then?” Rebecca seemed to be genuinely curious.

“Last time I hunted a vampire at a club, I had to hide it in the waistband of my underwear,” I cringed. “The outfit I was wearing at the time wasn’t good for concealment, but I was out of flat stakes.”

She leaned against the wall. “I take it that mission was a success?”

“Of course it was,” I strode over to her, my heels clicking on the floor. “Though he did bite me, first. Opal had to medicate it to counteract the effects of the venom.”

“So you wouldn’t turn into a Blood Bag,” Rebecca held out a jacket for me as I approached her. “Here. Elijah thought it would help to conceal your wound,” she eyed my shoulder. “It looks better than it was.”

“The last time you saw it, my shoulder was a bloody mess,” I craned my neck to examine it. Tristan had taken off the bandages before he excused me - at the Alpha’s orders, of course. Damn prick doesn’t want the bandages to hinder my movements. Though, to be fair, the wound was healing more quickly than it would have on its own. The two-day-old wound had scabbed over, looking like it had happened just a week or so ago. Still, I hissed in pain when I shrugged the jacket on.

“Are you sure you should be doing this tonight?” asked Rebecca as she led me down the hallway. “If your injuries are still bothering you - ”

I cut her off. “Your brother made it remarkably clear that he has no interest in my well-being.”

Well...

Again, his voice raced through my head. Softly-spoken words my subconscious was not allowing me to forget.

You’ve fought supernatural beings with twice the strength as you for seven years. You can fight the injuries inflicted by them, too. Fight.

Inspiring words, from somebody who supposedly despised my very soul.

“Of course he did,” Rebecca snorted. “He’ll say that to you, and then throw a hissy fit when I announce my intention to come.”

I glanced sideways at her as we left the building. “You’re not coming?”

“Oh, I am,” she winked mischievously. “From what I’ve heard, your friend Opal comes with you on undercover hunting missions such as this one to serve as your wing woman or whatever. I don’t think one of these gentlemen are going to make your cover as convincing if they step up to the role.”

True. It was hard to imagine sweet old Keith playing the role of my sidekick while I go out to seduce a bloodthirsty vampire.

“Keith isn’t coming,” Rebecca said, and I realized I’d spoken the thought aloud. “After the stunt he pulled the other day, Elijah banned him from the mission.”

I was somewhat surprised by this. From what I’ve seen - and from what Simon told me during those days I was confined to the room - Keith was one of Elijah’s best warriors. The difficulty I had while fighting him at Starbucks and again when he nearly killed me the other day proved that. I guess the esteemed Alpha didn’t want anybody damaging his precious pet Hunter.

“Well, I guess that’s one less thing for me to worry about,” I said as we came up to the group standing outside the main building. There were five or six of them, though I only recognized three - Elijah, of course, being one of them. The other two were Evangeline and Luca. The former crinkled her nose when she saw me.

“Why do you look like you’re about to go to a strip club?” Evangeline echoed Rebecca’s exact words from earlier.

“We’re going to a strip club,” Elijah didn’t look at me; his gaze instantly slid to his sister, his eyes narrowing. “Why are you dressed like you’re going to a strip club?”

Rebecca rested her hands on her hips, putting on her best I’m-not-asking-I’m-telling face. “Because I’m coming with you.”

“Like hell you are.”

“I am,” she insisted. “Reese needs to blend in - who goes to a strip club alone?”

“Evangeline will go in with her,” Elijah’s tone brokered no further arguments. Fortunately, Rebecca was even more stubborn than he was.

“Evangeline hates her,” Rebecca said, a nod from Evangeline all the confirming her words. “She’d have to be the best actress of the century to fool everybody into thinking that she and Reese are friends.”

“It feels like you’re insulting me,” I said.

“I’m not,” Rebecca slid her emerald gaze to me. Quiet, her eyes spoke. After a moment, she turned back to her brother. “I, on the other hand, genuinely like Reese. I’d be able to pull it off with minimal effort.”

“Laura likes her, too,” Elijah countered. “I’ll get her to join the mission; you, on the other hand, are not going.”

At the mention of his mate’s name, Luca frowned. “Laura’s otherwise occupied tonight,” the Beta said. “She’s negotiating with - ”

“Yes, yes, I know,” the Alpha snapped, not diverting his attention from Rebecca. “No.”

“I’m going.”

“You can’t.”

“And why can’t I?”

This was very amusing to watch. My head darted back and forth, watching the argument like a sports game. I never enjoyed watching sports, though; a Battle of the Wills was much more entertaining than any soccer, hockey, or football game.

“You know why,” Elijah’s tone softened, almost gentle. “The full moon is next week. You won’t be able to - ”

“I’ll be fine,” she cut him off. “I haven’t had a... problem in weeks.”

Problem? What does that mean?

“I’ll stay out of the action,” she continued. “If I feel off at all, I’ll leave. But I won’t stay behind,” she swallowed. “I need to do something, Eli.”

Elijah looked torn. I could almost imagine him looking the same way as he sat next to me in the infirmary, watching me sleep, speaking to me in an uncharacteristically soft tone...

A hallucination, I reminded myself. It never really happened.

Didn’t it? my Hunter’s voice stirred deep in my head. It’s been a few days since I last heard it. I wondered if Keith had somehow managed to kill it, rather than killing me.

It didn’t, I insisted. I hit my head. I was unconscious. If he sat by my side, it was to wait for me to wake up so he could mock me. Which, I recalled, is pretty much exactly what he’d done.

The Alpha sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Fine,” he said, forcing out the word. “You’ll go in with Reese, then, and keep an eye on her closely. She’ll seduce the target and bring her out back, where she’ll kill her. I trust you know - ”

“Isla Roy,” I said. “Nine hundred and seventy-nine years old. Born in London, England, where she lived for six hundred years, then went with her brother to America for another three hundred, until they moved to Canada a century ago.”

“And her brother is...?” Luca prompted, a gleam in his eyes. Was he impressed by my memory for this type of information?

“Christian Roy,” I responded immediately. Information on Christian Roy and his family was one of the first things I’d managed to find out when I started hunting supernatural beings. He didn’t hide his history very well. “Head of Toronto’s vampire clan,” something hit me. “You’re making me kill another one of his family members? Hell, the guy already hates me enough.”

Evangeline frowned. “What do you mean, another?”

A smile spread across my face. “Well...”

“His wife,” Luca said. “She died last year. Christian officially stated that she grew weary of eternity and took her own life, but...”

“You killed his wife?” Rebecca was definitely impressed. “You really have to teach me how you manage to piss off powerful supernatural beings.”

“Killing their family members is best,” I said, tossing a smirk at Elijah as he glowered at me. Yes, rub it in. Remind him of who exactly killed his brother. “If they’re angry, they’re more likely to come after you, and they’ll be more reckless about it,” and then, when they’ve caught you and for some reason refuse to kill you, you can set about destroying their lives from the inside. A prickle of guilt shot through me, and I turned to Rebecca, remembering that Nicholas had been her brother, too.

But other than a slight shadow that momentarily crossed her expression, she appeared unaffected by my words.

“Right,” said Elijah, his tone darker than it had been. Courtesy of me and my loose tongue, I suspected. “It’s your usual type of mission, Hunter. Almost the exact same thing you pulled with Chauncey.”

How he knew what I did to kill Chauncey was a mystery, then I remembered Nicholas had been following me.

“Great,” I said. “Then why am I being escorted by a parade of werewolves?”

“We’ll be outside,” he said. “Making sure she can’t get away if you somehow screw up.”

I crossed my arms. “I won’t screw up,” I was slightly offended. “I’ve never screwed up a mission before,” well, besides that one time I murdered Ryker Marcel in front of Nicholas Randon, which started this whole mess.

“You’ve never been injured during a mission before,” he said.

“So now you’re concerned about my physical well-being?” I scoffed.

He shot me a glare, then stalked over and grabbed my arm, pulling me away from the group. I was tempted to dig my heels in, but that wouldn’t end well. For me or my screaming shoulder.

“Your reflexes will be slower,” he said once we were out of earshot. “And she’s a vampire - she might be able to smell the blood.”

“Glad to know where your priorities are.”

He ignored my words. “If she decides to attack, and you lose the upper hand, we’ll be there,” a grin twisted his face. “Consider us the backup plan.”

“Great,” I paused. “But why are you coming? This hardly seems to be a mission where the Alpha is needed.”

He gave me a meaningful look. “The others can’t smell you. If you’re somehow... misplaced, they won’t be able to track you.”

He means if I try to escape. “But you can smell me,” I said.

“Precisely. So don’t run, Little Hunter, because I will find you. And I don’t think you want to face the consequences of defying me again.”

Opal.

I swallowed, nodding, and he released my arm. As he turned to rejoin the others, I said, “So what do I smell like?”

He twisted back to look at me, his eyes flashing. He paused, hesitating. “Lavender,” he finally said, then turned and walked away.

Huh. Not what I was expecting.


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