“Do you like my hair?” I was standing in front of the sink and staring at myself in the mirror, frowning.
“Green does not suit you,” Freya said from the opened doorway, her hands in her pockets and leaning casually against the doorjamb. To others, she might look calm and for all the world like she didn’t give a shit about what was going on around her, but the truth was; there was a war raging inside her, and I had no fucking idea how she was just standing there, all calm-like. Her hunger was beating at me, as if it was my own. Fucking hell, she could give Tristan a tip or two on self-control.
“It’s more blue than green,” I said, scowling at her in the mirror.
“You must be blind, because it is nowhere close to blue.” I glowered. “Elijah and the others will have a heart attack when they see you like this.”
I snorted. “How come you’re not clutching at your chest and falling over dead?”
She chuckled. “It will take more than an undesirable choice of hair color to kill me.”
I harrumphed. “Fine,” I said, looking at my collection of hair-dyes that were on the sink counter. “What color should I go for then? Don’t say blond, because there are already enough of those running around.”
Freya shrugged. “I am not an expert when it comes to things like hair.”
“Can’t you do a spell so my hair changes color every midnight or something?”
She smiled. “I can, but you would not like the outcome.”
“You have a point,” I muttered, picking up another shade of green. “What about this one?” I asked. “It’s a brighter green.” She made a strangled sound at the back of her throat, and I laughed, setting the box back down. I nodded to the opened doorway. “If you don’t mind, I’d like for you to leave and close the door.” Freya smirked, amusement in her eyes as she straightened and stepped back, closing the bathroom door with a snap. I didn’t bother locking the door, because there was no fucking point to it. Opening the cabinet that was above the toilet, I took out a bottle of laundry detergent. Yes yes, I knew there were such things as hair color removers, but I ran out of that stuff two days ago, and I didn’t feel like stopping by the store to pick up some more. I willed the shower on as I poured some onto my hand, trying not to spill it as I capped the bottle. I scowled as I began washing the green dye from my hair. My stomach seemed to flip-flop around as Freya’s hunger continued to grow, and with that came the increase of her aura—the oh-shit-you-better-start-running-now meter that all vampires had when they were starving or about to end someone’s life in a spectacular, brilliant, marvelous, unpleasant way. Hoping she wasn’t going to come in here and rip out my throat, I reached for the conditioner, grimacing as I shampooed and washed the stuff off. Shutting off the shower, I straightened and reached for a towel. After I was no longer dripping water, I plugged in the hairdryer. Taking in a deep breath, I began to dry my hair, wincing every now and then as my sensitive ears reminded me just how sensitive they were. Hell, half of me just wanted to just go ahead and stick my head into the oven while it was on over this loud ass thing. When my hair was dry, I quickly shut it off and unplugged it, throwing the damn thing into the cabinet. Grabbing another box of hair-dye color that wasn’t green, I began the lovely process of re-dying my hair. As I finished up, the air around me stirred, and my spine tingled as Elijah appeared behind me. He made a choking sound and coughed. “Sorry,” I muttered.
“Bryn,” he growled, his eyes watering. “Do you not know how to open the window?” I glanced at the small window high up near the ceiling and shrugged. Shuddering, he opened the bathroom door and stepped into the hall. “You look like you’re going to kill someone in a few seconds here,” Elijah said, and Freya let out a low growl. He glanced at me before shaking his head and walking away.
“Where are you going?” I asked as I washed my hair. “Don’t check my refrigerator.” I smirked as I heard his exasperated sigh in my head. “So,” I said conversationally. “How is Aisley?”
“You’re not going to let it drop, are you?” he asked with a sigh.
“Does she know you like her?” He groaned, and I laughed under my breath as I shut off the water. “You two look good together.”
“Who is this Aisley?” Freya asked, and I shivered at just how calm she was sounding despite her rising hunger.
“She’s a shifter,” I said, drying my hair with a towel and stepping from the bathroom.
“Is she hot?”
“Yeah,” I said dryly.
Elijah let out a heavy sigh. “She knows.”
I tossed my wet towel at him, and he caught it effortlessly. “Did you sleep with her?”
He just stared at me. “Did you sleep with anyone last night?”
I blinked. “What?” I scowled. “I’m not going to tell you,” I spluttered.
“Exactly,” he said and glared at me, the towel vanishing from his hand. “And you are out of blood.”
“I know,” I said as I eyed Freya warily. “She killed my remaining eight bags.”
“Yes, and she is still quite hungry.” My sire scowled. “So am I,” he muttered and glared at Freya who didn’t react. “Report?” he asked, not taking his eyes off of her.
“I emailed it to Tristan.” He nodded. “I also emailed it to Jailyn.”
“And who put you with Brynna?” he asked, directing his question at Freya.
“Hey!” I exclaimed as I felt the approach of another vampire. “I partner up with whoever I want.” I flashed to the front door and yanked it open to find Sarisa walking up the driveway. She waved and flashed over to me. “I have to have you around as well?” I asked and resisted the urge to pull a blade on them all.
“You do,” Sarisa said as I stepped aside for her to enter. As the door closed with a slam, I let out a growl as Ari appeared in the middle of my living room.
“Am I in trouble?” I asked. Ari arched an eyebrow and dropped onto the couch beside Freya.
“No,” Elijah said and tilted his head to the side. After a couple of seconds, he let out a sigh and disappeared into thin air.
“Ari is here, because I am here,” Freya finally said and rubbed her temples.
“Yes,” she said, and then I let out a strangled scream, my hands smacking into her throat as she came at me, fangs bared. Fuck, she was just as fast as Tristan or Elijah. A tingle of magic ran down my arms and I dropped, rolling and popping up from the floor, a blade in my hand. Chills ran up and down my spine as she laughed softly. Ari had a lithium blade pressed to the side of Freya’s neck, and I frowned.
“Davina let you borrow the blade?” I asked.
Ari snorted, withdrawing the blade and sheathing it. “She doesn’t know that there’s another witch in town.”
“She will soon enough,” Freya growled from her crouching position on the floor in front of me.
Ari nodded and tapped the hilt of the lithium blade. “This is Freya’s own magical weapon.” I nodded and slowly straightened from my crouch, making damn sure that I didn’t take my eyes off Freya for even a millisecond. She growled, glaring at me as I sheathed my blade. “Were you trying to prove a point?” Ari asked, wincing.
“I was,” Freya hissed as Tristan appeared behind her and rested his hands on her shoulders.
“I didn’t know I was throwing a party,” I said dryly. Freya let out a strangled sound, and Sarisa groaned, because Freya wasn’t the only one starving. Tristan blinked and glanced around, his gaze landing on me. I gave him the finger, and he growled as he hauled Freya to her feet. I winced as I saw the pain in her eyes, and she looked like she was going to cry. Sarisa looked like she wanted to cry as well, and Ari just looked… helpless to do anything. Damn, I thought. This was just sad. Tristan pulled her into his arms, tightening his hold as she stiffened even more. Ari took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“I thought you would be interested in taking down another rogue hideout,” she said to me. I stiffened, very much interested. “Sven, Jude, Trent and the others are already at the location.”
“How many?” I asked.
“From what I’ve heard,” she said slowly. “Around fifty.”
“And… what did they do to catch the attention of us?”
“The usual,” Ari growled. “Draining…”
“Raping…” I remained silent, because there was more she wasn’t saying. “Children,” Ari said through gritted teeth after a long few seconds of silence. Freya, who was growling and snarling at Tristan, abruptly went silent and very, very still. I also went very still, as cold, unadulterated rage came over me—red clouding my vision like a veil of fresh spilled blood.
“What did you say?” Freya asked, slowly, calmly, and softly.
Ari gulped, shifting a step away from her. “You heard what I said,” she replied quietly.
“Tristan,” Freya said, her voice still calm and soft. “Release me.” For a moment no one moved or spoke, and then Tristan reluctantly dropped his arms from around her and stepped back. Freya straightened to her full height, and I inwardly shuddered as her entire body went from being tense to relax. Oh, don’t get me wrong, her hunger didn’t suddenly up and disappear; it was still there, if anything, her beast was just an inch from surfacing. Her eyes flashed white, and it did not go back to their normal black.
“Uh,” Ari said slowly. “We should uh… go?” At Tristan’s nod, everything went dark.
Sarisa, Ari, Tristan, Freya and I found ourselves standing before a building that had seen better days. The windows were boarded up, and I winced at the displaced bricks. They looked like one poke would send them flying to smack an unsuspected someone upside the head. My every instinct told me to kick the door in and lay waste to everything inside, and enraged as I was at the moment, my training as a hunter would not let me. Sven was also standing not ten feet from me, and he would kick my ass to the next state and back if I so much did something as stupid as giving away our presences before we were ready. I blinked as Donnica rounded the side of the building and came over to us. Tristan let out a low growl and glared at her as she stopped beside Sarisa. Hell, we were all glaring at her. “What the fuck are you doing here?” I hissed at her as Trynnadon joined us. Tristan’s eyes went solid white in a heartbeat as Kira dropped from the sky. Fuck, I silently snarled. This shit wasn’t going to end well. Tristan looked like he wanted to smack her, throttle her, stab her, bite her, or all of the above. Kira, on the other hand, cringed and ducked behind Sven, as if he was going to protect her from their sire. Freya was eyeing her thoughtfully, a disapproving scowl on her face. Fuck, I thought again and glared at the fledgling. Freya growled something under her breath, and a second later, a transparent bubble-like barrier surrounded us. Sven barely got out of the way in time as Tristan went for Kira. She let out a gasp and dodged, but she was nowhere near fast enough as he grabbed her and slammed her against the barrier.
“Did I not tell you to remain at home?” he snarled. She opened her mouth to speak, but Tristan slapped his hand over it and effectively shutting her up before a word could escape. “I don’t want to hear it,” he hissed, and Kira sucked in a sharp breath as her eyes rolled to the back of her head. “God fucking damn it,” he growled as he caught her before she could hit the ground. “Why don’t you ever fucking listen to me?” he snapped and glared down at her unconscious form. We all glanced nervously at him, because swearing wasn’t part of his daily vocabulary when having a conversation with someone. He took in several deep breaths before straightening and handing her over to Ari. The air, already crackling with power, became even more charged as he stared intently at Kira. “You will not wake,” he said softly. “Until I call you.” Kira didn’t so much as stir in Ari’s arms, but every vampire standing there knew that she had heard every single word. Something flashed in Tristan’s eyes, but it was there and gone too quick for me to make anything of it. Ari let out a sigh and disappeared into thin air, leaving a heavy silence in her wake. “Donnica,” Tristan said slowly a minute later. “Might I inquire to why you are here?”
“Can you go back to modern speak?” Donnica asked and put up a hand as he scowled at her. “Trynnadon and I won’t get in your way. We’re just here in case there are surviving humans.”
“Ah,” he said. “I smell demons nearby so do be careful,” he said and nodded to Freya. A second later the barrier dropped, and I had to wonder if that barrier was some kind of a shield against others from overhearing or seeing us. Is everyone in position? Sven asked, and I grimaced as his mental voice stabbed against my eardrums. Tristan nodded and vanished from sight—becoming nothing more than a shadow before teleporting.
“Freya and Sarisa, I’m guessing you guys are with me?” I asked. They nodded as I walked to the closed door and peered through the dirty ass glass. There were two guards inside, but they were too busy having a heated argument about something to notice us. I glanced to Sarisa and frowned. “Where is Sergei?” I whispered, low enough for only her and Freya to hear.
“He’s with…” She trailed off as he—speaks of the devil and he comes—dropped from the sky to land beside me.
“Anyone else?” I asked.
“That’s all of us,” Sergei said, straightening and unsheathing a blade. “They’re waiting for you to give the signal.”
I scowled. “Since when?”
“Since the first mission you were assigned to.”
I snorted. “First?” I asked. “In my first mission, I had to do exactly everything I was told.”
Sergei grunted. “Get moving before they have a throw-down.”
“Won’t make a difference,” I muttered, and then busted the door in with my mind. The explosion of glass deafened me for a split second, and I smiled as the projectiles hit the two surprised rogues inside.
“Hunters!” one of the guards bellowed. He was going to say something else, but I didn’t let him finished; I dug my fingers into his neck and ripped out his larynx. I followed that move up by slamming him against the wall and tearing out his heart. Sergei, Sarisa and Freya were a blur as they engaged six rogues that were now in the room. Screams from other parts of the building reached my ears as I unsheathed a blade and drove it into the rogue reaching for Sarisa. He didn’t even get a chance to turn on me before his head was rolling across the floor. Donnica flashed through a doorway that led upstairs and kicked a rogue up the flight of steps where Freya waited. Donnica let out a shudder as Freya fell on the rogue, her fangs tearing into his neck as she drained every drop of blood from him. I ran to them, and I smiled evilly as Sarisa grabbed a muddy brown-haired rogue and began beating the shit out of him.
“Let’s head up,” Trynnadon called from somewhere beyond the door. “Liana and the others have most of them trapped on the third floor.” Freya let out a snarl, and I smirked as the rogue’s head exploded. Sarisa finally killed her rogue, and we flashed to the second floor. Trynnadon’s eyes were on Donnica as we headed for the third floor. If he was a newly trained protector, hunter, or whatever rank, I would’ve reprimanded him, but he wasn’t. After losing three of his friends, he was far from doing something so fucking stupid, like allowing himself to drop his guard or go after the demons responsible. For one thing, Donnica was no longer the only protector in California. This state was crawling with them along with more hunters, spies and watchers. Speaking of protectors, four of the newly arrivals rounded the corner to join us as we stopped before an opened door. One of them flashed to Trynnadon and whispered something in his ear. He grunted, and then I let out a gasp, cursing as screams filled my ears. Trent, who was standing closest to the door, looked around in confusion. Sergei glanced at Sarisa, his gaze going to each of us in turn. Then we all turned to Freya, who was standing at the end of the hall, covered in blood and looking for all the world relaxed and calm.
“Freya,” Sergei said with a heavy sigh.
“Someone must get the party started,” Freya said and flashed over to us. “I thought I would do the honor.”
“What exactly are you doing to them?” Ari asked as she came out of the large dust-filled room. The rogues were all on the floor, writhing and screaming as blood poured from their eyes and ears.
“Nothing permanent I assure you,” Freya said, stepping into the room with us following her. “They do not deserve a quick death.” She glanced at Tristan and winced, because he, too, was bleeding from his eyes, ears and nose, though this was more due to the deafening screams than the magic in the air. Hell, I could feel the hot trickles of blood sliding down the sides of my neck. With a sigh, Freya unsheathed a blade, and I let out a relieved breath as the screams died down to a more manageable level. A few seconds later, the rogues were up and launching themselves at us. I had to give them credit; they recovered fast indeed. Sven gave Freya a grateful look before launching himself at the rogue coming straight for him. Then it was nothing more than a blur as the ceiling gave way, sending dust and plasters crashing down on all of us. From the gaping hole, more hunters dropped into the room—most of them staying airborne to catch the escaping rogues. Blood flew into the air and body parts rained down on me as I weaved my way through them. I stabbed at them, driving my blades through their eye sockets, ripping out hearts, and tearing off heads as I went. I shoved my hand into a rogue’s mouth, ignoring the fangs that were slicing me open. She fought me with all the strength she could muster up as I slowly ripped out her esophagus. Unsheathing my deadly silver blade, I released her, letting her drop to the floor. I followed her down, and I put my blade to her neck, slashing and slowly pressing downward, until her head parted from her shoulders. “You love taking your sweet time, do you not?” Freya growled as she stood over me.
“I do love it when they try to beg for mercy,” I said and straightened.
She smiled, and there was nothing friendly about it. “You have been taught well, hunter.”
“Oh, I have alright, but I was trained to be a hunter, the rest is all me.” Freya’s smile remained in place, but something dangerous glinted in her eyes, and I did not want to know what she was thinking about.
“There is death magic in the air,” she said, and without any other warning, it felt like my stomach had dropped to the floor as I felt a tugging sensation at the center of my being. Knowing that I only had seconds, I mentally reached out and sent Freya flying as she reached for me. The battle abruptly went silent around me, and I gasped as my entire body exploded in pain. I couldn’t help it; I let out a scream as I was yanked backward. My own streaming blood blocked out my vision, but I did not missed the fact that the ground shook, Tristan’s aura slashing at me, and Freya’s magic reaching to a boiling point. Her aura was also pummeling me, but that was a lot better than the pain that was increasing by the second. My ears popped and darkness closed around me as I continued to scream. I felt like I was slowly being torn apart as the vortex sucked me in, and I knew no more.