Authors: Veronica Del Rosa
“Is that all you’ve got?” he taunted Victor.
A swift look showed the other guards also fighting back. Magic slithered through the air, and ozone coated each breath. Werewolves, no longer invisible, attacked with teeth and claws. Blood dripped from wounds and weapons.
A gunshot rang out, slicing through the grunts and curses, followed by an angry growl. A punch to his nose snapped Victor’s attention back to his own enemy. The force caused his head to fling back, but no pain accompanied the hit.
“Pay attention, asshole. Look at the person who’s gonna kick your fucking ass.”
Magical energy crawled through Victor and flared at this arrogant bastard’s words. Didn’t he realize the stupidity of picking a fight with a mage? Idiot should’ve run while he had the chance.
A tight smile stretched Victor’s lips. He’d enjoy teaching this one an important lesson. Don’t infuriate a mage. It never ended well.
He dipped a finger into one of his many pockets and grabbed a pinch of salt.
he whispered and tossed it. When the salt
touched the guard, ice crawled over his skin. The other man screamed in pain, slamming at the ice to break it. Within moments he was encased.
As the ice was magical in nature, it didn’t kill the target. The guard was aware of everything around him. Feeling petty, Victor gave him the finger before turning his attention to the ensuing battle.
A few broken bodies lay on the floor, all guards. Werewolves and mages fought the remaining few.
“And now we’re done,” Markus said.
Sharp ozone choked Victor. A light wind caressed his exposed skin and ruffled his hair. He grinned at the surprised barks from the wolves. Their opponents were gone, even the bodies. The room was now empty, save for the Enforcers.
Markus had teleported fifteen men at once.
Mage training stated the max amount was three people: the mage and two passengers. Fifteen stretched that limit and then some. Fuck.
With a soft whistle, he stepped over to Zmitro. Smeared blood marred his fur coat, and red footprints followed him. A swish of his tail told Victor he had no lasting damage. He placed a gentle hand on Zmitro’s head and gave him a scratch behind the ears.
Footsteps rung out against the concrete as Markus strode to the double doors. He placed a hand on the lock, and the doors slammed into the walls. Cracks formed in the bulletproof glass near the handles.
It was time to enter the belly of the beast.
The taste of
blood lingered in his mouth. He licked his snout and cleaned some of it from his fur. The human side was repulsed but only for a moment. Satisfaction pushed aside any distaste. That fucker had had a hand in Sylvia’s capture and torture. They all had. If they had done nothing to save her, then they were guilty.
Derek entered the corridor, close on Markus’ heels. A quick sniff and he whined to his friend.
“Yeah, I sense them,” Markus said. “They’re fanned out on both sides. Maybe six to the right and six to the left.”
Victor and Zmitro joined them.
We have more waiting for us. Spread out. Follow the mages’ lead,
Derek sent to his waiting pack.
The wolves fell into formation with the mages.
“Rooms here are empty. They must’ve evacuated them when the blast occurred,” Victor whispered.
Humans on both sides waiting.
Markus gestured to one half of the group and then the other.
This half takes left, this half takes right. Prisoners if possible.
As one, the Enforcers nodded and moved into place. Markus strode towards the T-section, his steps unhurried and sure. He stopped less than fifteen feet away from the branching hallway. Derek kept pace, confident in his friend’s shielding to protect him. Bullets wouldn’t harm him until the spell wore out. By that time, the guards should be subdued.
“I’d suggest a surrender. We’ve already taken out your first line of defense,” Markus’ voice rang out in the hushed stillness.
Metal rolling across the floor was the guards’ answer. Derek tucked his chin to his chest and closed his eyes while wishing he could plug his ears. Flash-bangs were a bitch on werewolf hearing.
came from the grenade. Derek’s eyes flew open, locating the spent metal. Smoke swirled inside an invisible shield, containing the noise and light as well. Huh, imagine that. Mages could be handy at times.
He chuffed and grinned lopsidedly Markus. What other tricks did he have waiting for their enemy?
The sight of a rifle muzzle peeking from the corner distracted him from that thought. Surrender was not the guards’ first option. Good. The little skirmish in the room had whetted his appetite for revenge. Not enough blood had been spilled to satisfy the debt the guards owed Sylvia.
Rush them. Take them down quickly,
Derek raced forward, reaching the left side first. The gunman fired a shot, and the bullet smashed into Derek’s shielding. The magic rippled as it absorbed the impact. Damn, it would’ve hit him in the head.
Grunts, yelling and screams soon filled the air as the werewolves tore into the other men. Each attack was meant to maim and disarm, not kill. The screams soothed Derek, especially as he caused more than a few of his own. Blood clung to him, creating the illusion of black patches on his gray fur.
Soon, the only ones standing were the Enforcers.
“Second wave is here. They’ll help secure the area. Mages, teleport directly to the prison cells. We’ll sort out who’s who afterwards. Stay together,” Markus stated, not bothering to wait for an answer. “I want some men in that room checking over the footage. Find out what the hell is going on in here, how much fire power they have and how many guards are left.”
He pointed to a glassed-in security room. Monitors covered the back wall, and images flickered across the screens as the camera feeds switched.
Markus spun on his heel, clearly intent on finding more trouble.
A double set of steel doors stood on either end of the hallway. Derek caught up to Markus, lightly grasped his sleeve between his teeth and tugged. A small whine to indicate he wanted his partner to follow him.
Right, not left. Sylvia’s essence called to him. His connection to her had snapped into place, and the pull was too strong to resist.
Markus nodded, deferring to Derek. Zmitro and Victor followed close behind.
Ears straining against the wailing sirens, Derek heard the faint slapping of bare feet against the floor, closer with each passing second. He whined again, this time in excitement and raced to the steel doors. He slammed his body into it, hoping to force it open.
Instead he bounced back and skittered across the floor. Damn, that hurt. A quick shake of his head cleared the ringing from his ears. Best to let a mage open the door.
Unable to stop himself, he glared at Victor as the other man swaggered to the door. Smug son of a bitch, acting like his magic made him the better man.
Energy hummed in the air, causing Derek’s fur to ruffle. Fucking mages and their magic. He couldn’t wait to be away from them. As soon as he had Sylvia, he’d have Markus teleport them out of here. And yes, he fully realized the irony of using a mage to leave.
The steel door was now ajar, part of the push bar melted. Victor rushed through it, Derek close on his heels. They both jogged down the hall, keeping an eye on the other closed doors lining either side of the hallway. Markus was a few steps behind them with Zmitro. Just as they rounded the corner, a tall woman came into view, running toward them.
Derek stopped dead, unable to believe his eyes. Sylvia. His beautiful Sylvia. He gave her a once-over, checking for wounds, and growled in rage when he saw blood drying on her side.
Hurt. Someone dared to hurt her.
The need for retribution screamed in his mind, his entire body burning with hatred.
How dare they touch her?!
Slowly his mind comprehended the fact that she was naked. Completely, utterly naked. Where the hell were her clothes?
“Victor! Holy shit, Victor!” Sylvia yelled.
She ran the last few steps and launched herself into his arms, hugging him like he was a lifeline. She buried her face in his neck, and her sobs echoed in the hallway.
The sound tore him apart.
He wanted to be the one to hold her, the one who rescued her and the one she viewed as her solid rock. Not Victor.
The sole woman he had ever loved.
And she was in the arms of another man, one he hated with every fiber of his being. He growled in frustration and slammed his lids shut to block out the pair, unable to witness her joy at being with someone else.
He thought that after thirty years he’d be used to her rejection of him, of seeing her with Victor, but it continued to devastate him. One day, he’d be strong enough to cut her loose, send her to another pack. Then again, he’d been telling himself that for decades now and it still hadn’t happened. It seemed he was a glutton for punishment, and nothing hurt worse than seeing her naked in this man’s arms.
“Here, take my coat.” Tender words from Victor.
The mage always treated Sylvia with care and love, as if she was made from spun gold. She deserved to be treated as a fine treasure, but he didn’t want Victor doing so. Wolves had one mate, and Victor was touching Derek’s.
The ocean of rage called to him, enticed him to wade into the tide and breathe in the all-consuming fury. Let go of his humanity and revel in his animal side.
Don’t think, just act. Attack. Leave the mage’s broken body on the floor at Sylvia’s feet.
Images flicked through his mind, and he took one step closer to Victor. His nails clicked on the tile, and the sound penetrated the haze. He couldn’t kill the mage. Not when his only crime was caring for Sylvia.
He skittered backwards, horrified at how close he’d come to losing himself. Needing to put space between him and the loving couple, he turned and raced down the hallway. The pain stayed with him, burrowed deep in his heart. A festering wound that might never heal.
Markus averted his
eyes from the two hugging and watched as Derek ran from them. Damn it, where the hell was the wolf going? They weren’t done securing the area yet. He was breaking protocol. No one leaves the area until it’s cleared and the Enforcers were accounted for.
With a shake of his head, Markus flicked his finger and tagged his retreating friend with a bit of magic. No one else would follow the feral Alpha, and he’d need to find Derek once the facility was empty of personnel.
Poor bastard. Years of loving a woman he couldn’t have. Markus closed his eyes briefly as a familiar pain washed through him. Who did he pity, himself or Derek?
He marched down the hallway, making his way deeper into the building and trying to shake off his dismal thoughts. Self-pity helped no one. He had made his choices centuries ago. Whining about them wouldn’t change the outcome.
Perhaps he’d meet some resistance, guards they hadn’t yet incapacitated. He hoped so. Magical energy still saturated the very molecules of his body. The energy-consuming spells he had cast hadn’t drained him, not even close. He could siphon it to another, one used to receiving the extra magic, except Markus anticipated more conflict.
He rolled his shoulders, tilted his head to one side then the other. A loud, satisfying crack echoed in the empty hallway. The other Enforcers had scrambled to follow his orders, and no one had followed him. They knew better. He needed help from no one.
His grin, brutal and cruel, matched his now dark mood. Time to find some trouble. And where in the nine hells was Seraphina?
The uneven green
fields disappeared, giving way to the forest. At first the trees were sparse, the trail easy to run. Soon saplings, heavy underbrush and thick tree trunks forced him to slow down until he stopped altogether, his sides heaving. Derek had no idea how far he’d run and frankly didn’t care.
Pine, oak and birch trees surrounded him. Fallen leaves crunched underfoot, and twigs snapped as he adjusted his weight. A deep, shuddering breath inwards filled his lungs with a myriad of scents. A nearby patch of wild raspberries attracted adventurous squirrels and birds. Listening to their chatter, he wondered why they hadn’t scattered. He hadn’t been stealthy in his haste to escape. Perhaps they had regular intruders in their home.
Derek changed back to his human form and settled on an exposed tree root. The rough bark against his naked skin was a mild discomfort that he ignored.
The image of his laughing Sylvia tormented him, reminding him of the love he didn’t have and would never have. How many times over the years had he seen that smile on her face directed at Victor and not him? An intimate smile meant for a lover.
His Beta and nothing more.
His heart stuttered at that thought. How much pain could he take? How many decades, centuries could he suffer through this torment? His mate and he couldn’t claim her.
He scrubbed at his face, hard, and the physical pain helped distract him.
“Put these on.”
Jogging pants and a black tee dangled in front of him. Not his clothes, but clothes nonetheless. He looked up. Only one person would dare to intrude: Markus. No one else had the balls to follow a pissed-off Alpha. Markus, however, feared no one.
Grabbing the clothes, he tugged them on. The shirt was snug, and his biceps strained the thin material. The jogging pants must’ve been Zmitro’s as they fit him almost perfectly. He was one of the few males who came close to Derek’s tall, muscled frame. He clinched the drawstring tight. His feet were bare, though it didn’t matter. Any cuts he received would heal soon enough. He settled back on the tree root.
He sighed, not in the mood to play nice. “Why are you here, Markus?”
“You have no ride home. You can’t use the portal through Fae, and without a mage, you can’t teleport.” Calm words that gave nothing away, but Derek had been friends with Markus for too long to miss the undertone.
With a narrowed gaze, he studied the mage. Leaning against a nearby tree trunk, he had his arms and ankles crossed. The perfect picture of calm.
He didn’t fool Derek.
“Don’t worry, I’ll make it home. I’m not suicidal. She’s back home, and that’s cause for celebration.” Weariness settled deep into his bones.
Back to the same status quo, so close to his mate. Her scent in his home, teasing him. He wanted her scent in his bed, on his skin. Didn’t matter what he wanted. Her happiness trumped any of his desires.
“I know how you feel. It’s hard, and I don’t think it ever gets any easier. But you need to suck it up. You’re the Alpha. You don’t have time for a mental breakdown.” Markus clapped him on the shoulder in a rare show of affection.
“That’s one shitty pep talk. Damn, did you practice that in the mirror, or did it come naturally to you?” Derek snorted, feeling marginally better.
Theirs was a strange friendship, one built on mutual respect. Neither of them had the time for male bonding, so they didn’t visit each other’s houses or hang out after work. However, they did email and text, mainly to talk about Enforcer business but occasionally to discuss their personal life.
One particularly lonely night, Derek had confessed to Markus his feelings for Sylvia. He regretted it immediately, expecting to be ridiculed. Markus was almost a god amongst the Enforcers, without weakness. How could he possibly respect Derek when Derek couldn’t even claim his lifemate? Unexpectedly, Markus had understood, and it’d cemented their odd friendship.