The scent of rotting flesh grew stronger as Bryce reached the mine. He stumbled back from the entrance, the stale, tainted smell of old blood turning his stomach. His wolf urged him forward, eager to check out the new smell. He refused. His beast may not have been revolted but he was.
“What the hell is that?” Dillon asked.
Bryce shook his head. “No clue.” He turned and looked down the path. “Where’s Garrett?”
“Coming up the hill.”
They waited. The new pack leader raised a curious eyebrow when he reached them. “What the hell is that?”
Bryce grinned. “We were wondering the same thing. It’s coming from inside the mine.”
They turned to look back at the entrance. The old pack leader’s second in command, Caleb, had been making a small army of werewolves for some unknown reason and had been keeping them here in the mine. Since Caleb’s death in the fight against Garrett, the mine had been forgotten. Rayna seeing Jacob in the forest left the pack no choice but to search the entire mountain again. The mine was their last stop.
“Do you really want to go in there?” Bryce asked. “Surely the kid wouldn’t be hiding in a place that smelled as bad as this.”
Garrett sighed. “I don’t think Jacob is in there,” he paused and studied the darkened interior, “but I want to know what Caleb was up to.” He glanced at Bryce, then at the others. “Jacob’s scent wasn’t the only one I found in the cabin.”
“No. I picked up Carmen’s scent as well.”
Bryce’s blood ran cold. Since the day she’d disappeared they lived with the fear she’d be back. Carmen was a threat to every member of the pack. She’d lured over half of them to stand with her and Caleb in overthrowing Malcolm. She’d instigated the entire idea of taking the wolves public, to let the world know they were there. She was the strongest female in the pack and many feared her. He did himself to a certain degree. The woman might look like a walking sex dream but beneath all that flowing hair, and those curves, beat the heart of a vicious killer.
Turning to look back at the mine entrance, Bryce knew they had to go in. If for no other reason than to see if they could find out what Caleb had wanted those wolves for. “So, who goes first?”
Garrett grinned. “Well, it was you who reminded me of this place.” He held out his arm toward the entrance. “So I think you should have the honor.”
Bryce rolled his eyes and took several deep breathes before walking back to the entrance of the mine. Beams that looked half rotten, and ready to fall down with the slightest touch, supported the wide opening carved into the side of the mountain. The dirt floor was packed. He followed the line of footprints leading inside.
With every step the smell grew worse. When they reached the first turn, he looked back over his shoulder. Garrett and Dillon were right behind him, followed by Gavin, but the others were still hovering around the entrance.
His enhanced night vision let him see things the normal human couldn’t but the confined space inside the mine made it almost impossible now. He pulled the flashlight from his back pocket and flipped it on, aiming the beam of light in every direction. “Which way?”
Garrett grinned. “Follow the smell.”
“Somehow I knew you were going to say that.” Bryce took the left passage, sweeping the beam of light across his path. When he saw the first dead animal, he stopped. “I think I found what’s causing the smell.”
Garrett crouched beside him and studied the animal, flipping it so he could see the other side of it. It had been there a while but other than being bloated and a magnet for anything crawling, there were no visible clues as to how it had died. “Let’s keep going.” The further into the mine they walked, the more dead animals they found. Some had gashes torn into their flesh with chunks of meat eaten away. Others looked intact, which only made the mystery more curious by the second. When they reached another fork in the tunnel, Garrett stopped him with a hand to his arm. “Do you hear that?”
Bryce held his breath, listening for any sound. He heard it moments later. “What is that?” A barely-audible tapping was coming from somewhere inside the tunnels. There was a discernable pattern. Three taps, a pause, and then three more taps. It continued without fail.
Garrett shook his head. “Don’t know.” He looked down the right tunnel, then the left. “It’s hard to tell how many tunnels are in here and with the acoustics I can’t even tell which direction it’s coming from.”
Neither could Bryce. “Want to split up?”
He nodded. “Dillon, you and Gavin stay here in case the others decide to join us. Bryce, take the left tunnel, I’ll take the right. Yell if you see anything.”
Bryce headed down the left tunnel, his flashlight beam sweeping across the packed dirt floor and across the walls. There were more dead animals along the path, some nothing but skin and bones. He’d seen too many things since the day he’d been turned into a werewolf to be squeamish but even this made him sick to his stomach. The sight alone didn’t bother him. It was the eye-watering stench that did it.
He rounded a sharp turn and the tapping grew louder. Movement further up the tunnel made him pause. He aimed his light toward it, seeing something crouched near the wall before disappearing. He looked behind him, wondering if he should yell for Garrett and decided against it. It could be another animal… one that hadn’t died yet.
Taking a few cautious steps, he eased up the tunnel, his flashlight beam scanning the corridor. Whatever he’d seen move had disappeared. When he reached the spot where he thought he’d seen it, he stopped. The smell of decay was thicker here. Dark splotches covered the earthen floor and the number of animals littering the tunnel was mind numbing. A sound further up the passage drew his attention and he aimed the beam of light into the darkness, listening to what sounded like shuffling of feet before taking a cautious step. He’d only taken four when a dark shadow flew past him. He turned as it grabbed him, launching itself onto his back and biting into his neck.
Bryce yelled and fell to his knees, reaching behind him as whatever was attached to his back sank its teeth deeper into his flesh. The pain caused his vision to blur moments before his claws lengthened and he slashed at whatever had a hold of him. The sound of people running, and Garrett’s voice, barely registered as he weakened. The thing on his back was draining him quicker than he could fight it off.
“Christ! What the hell is that?”
The thing on his back was yanked away moments later. Bryce screamed as the creature was ripped away, taking his flesh with it. The pain in his neck was excruciating and he fell face first onto the dirt floor as multiple voices yelled and someone touched his back.
“Fuck man, are you all right?”
It was Gavin, one of the few remaining Alpha males in their wolf pack. Bryce turned his head to the side, trying to filter out the scent of rot as he gasped for air. The commotion at his back was a riot of shouts, shocked gasps and a loud hissing. He placed his hands on the floor and raised his body up off the ground. The cave went out of focus again. Whatever the hell attacked him damn near drained him. Blood leaked from his neck and he raised his hand to cover it before Gavin stopped him. “Don’t touch it, man. Your hands have lord knows what on them. Here, use this.” He heard something rip before Gavin handed him the remains of what looked like his t-shirt before pressing it to his neck. When the pain subsided, he noticed the commotion had stopped and nothing but the hissing and soft whispers remained. He turned to look behind him.
A glance into the corner showed his attacker and his eyes widened when he saw it. Or rather, her. It was a girl, crouched in the shadows. Her hair hung past her waist and stood out on her head in a mass of tangled curls. She was pale as death and hissing at them, his blood dripping from her fangs
Climbing to his feet, he blotted at his neck one last time before tossing the shirt away and staring at the girl. Taking a few steps closer, he stopped next to Garrett. “Is that what I think it is?”
Garrett nodded his head. “If you’re thinking vampire, then, yeah.”
She sat there, unmoving, and Bryce felt his stomach roll at the thoughts of that… thing, touching him. He hated vampires. Loathed them. His disgust grew when his neck started to throb where she’d bitten him. His first instinct was to kill her where she sat. He wasn’t sure how the others would react, though.
The girl barely blinked. She watched them, unflinching, and seeing her so still unnerved even him. No one said a word for long moments and the silence was deafening. He finally spoke up. “What the hell is a vampire doing in Caleb’s hideout?”
“That’s a very good question.” Garrett lifted his flashlight, the beam reflecting off a thin wire attached to the wall. The end disappeared in the girl’s hair. “A better question would be, what is a vampire doing tied to the wall in Caleb’s hideout.”
Bryce edged closer but stopped when the girl shrank away from him. For a creature that tried to kill him minutes ago, she was skittish as hell now. He watched her turn her head, staring at everyone in the tunnel before she looked back at him. Her mouth was smeared with his blood, and she was a sight he would never forget, but when she lifted her head and looked him in the eye, his breath caught. Her eyes were quite large and almost white, the irises the palest ice blue he’d ever seen. The color didn’t shock him as much as what he saw in them did. Fear. Since she wasn’t human, he couldn’t smell it like he normally could but there was no mistaking what he saw in her face. As aggressive as she’d been, this girl, this vampire, looked terrified, something he’d never seen before in the species. Vampires weren’t scared of anything but this one was.
He took a step closer to her, stopping when she shrank away from him again and lowered her head. He bent at the knees, stooping down to get eye level with her before tilting his head to try and see her face. “What are you doing up here?” She looked up but didn’t say anything. She flicked a quick glance to his neck before meeting his gaze, her eyes shimmering with color for a brief moment before turning back to that pale ice blue. She licked her lips, his blood still on her face, and the animal corpses they’d found made more sense now. She’d been surviving off of the animals stupid enough to venture into her tunnel and he was one of them. She’d attacked him to feed. Nothing more.
He glanced up at Garrett, watching the pack leader raise an eyebrow at him before he looked back at the girl. She was still watching him and he wasn’t sure what the hell to do. Apparently no one did. Biting back a sigh when no one offered to say anything, he said, “I’m Bryce. This is Garrett,” he said, pointing out the packs leader to her. “We live down the mountain, near Wolf’s Creek. Who are you and what are you doing here?”
She opened her mouth but shut it without speaking. She flicked a quick glance up at the others before raising her hand and pushing her hair away from her face. The moment she did, he sat back, stunned. The metal wire attached to the wall was around her neck. In her neck would be a better way of putting it. Dried blood coated her skin and he could see the wire below both her ears. Where it met around her throat, though, was imbedded into her flesh. “Christ,” he whispered, moving closer to her. “Who the hell did that?”
Garrett moved closer, leaning down to look. His eyes widened a bit before he blew out a breath. “She’s damn near cut her own head off trying to get out of here.”
“Yeah.” As much as Bryce hated being anywhere near the girl, a stab of pity hit him when he looked at her. Regardless of what she was, being treated like this was inhumane, even for a vampire. He’d met many vampires in his life he would rather see dead but this was torture. He couldn’t abide by that. He glanced back at her throat and winced. The front of the wire couldn’t even be seen it was imbedded so deeply into her flesh. “How the hell do we get that wire off?”
“Do we want to do that?” Dillon asked.
Bryce didn’t look behind him but answered him anyway. “If this was you, would you want someone to help you out of some lunatic’s trap?”
Dillon was quite for a long moment before saying, “Yes. Guess I would.”
“Thought so.” Bryce studied the wire around her neck again and shook his head. “Anyone have any ideas on how to remove that wire?”
Bryce turned his head. “Anyone have any?”
Henry, one of the oldest wolves in the pack, stepped forward. “I have a pair in my pick-up. I’ll go get them.”
He nodded and looked back at the girl who hadn’t taken her eyes off of him.
Garrett moved closer and bent down beside of her. “Can you talk?” he asked. She flicked a quick glance at him before staring back at the Brye but a quick shake of the head gave them their answer. She couldn’t talk. “The wire must have cut too deeply.” Garrett sighed and scratched his chin. “It’s going to be hard as hell to get any answers out of her if she can’t talk.”
“Hard but not impossible.” Bryce snapped his fingers at her to get her attention. She looked at him through a veil of hair. “Did Caleb bring you here or did you wander up here by yourself?” She opened her mouth again and shut it, her eyes clearly showing her frustration. He edged closer to her. “Did Caleb bring you?” A quick nod of her head that time. “Well at least we know how she got here.”
“Yes, but you’re not going to be able to find out why if she can’t talk.”
Henry ran back into the tunnel a few minutes later and Bryce reached for the wire cutters wondering how best to cut her free. “I’m going to cut the wire holding you to the wall but if you try to bite me again, I’m going to knock you out, got it?” She glanced away from him but nodded her head moments later. He stood and edged closer, keeping a watchful eye on her. When he reached her, he fell to one knee and hesitated, half-expecting her to jump him again. When she just sat there, he relaxed. “Someone hold the wire so it doesn’t come back on me.” He lifted his hand, moving her mass of hair away and clamped the wire cutters across the wire under her ear. It snapped with a loud pop. “Turn your head.” He waited until she’d done so before cutting the other side. When she was loose, he waited. Waited for her to jump him again. She didn’t move.
Standing, he backed away from her and stopped beside of Garrett. “So, what now?”
Garrett stared at her before crossing his arms over his chest. “Hell if I know. We can’t leave her up here, though. We need to find out why Caleb had her and where the wolves he made have gone.”
“Take her back to the house then?”
“We have to put her somewhere and see to that wire still in her neck.”
Dillon cleared his throat. “Aren’t you guys forgetting something?”
Bryce lifted an eyebrow. “So?”
“So,” Dillon said before smiling. “Sunlight? Vampires? Makes them go all ‘balls of fire?’ Does that ring any bells?”
Bryce glanced at Garrett. “So what now?”
“Well, someone can wait with her until nightfall or we can cover her and take her back with us.”
“I have a tarp in the back of the truck.” Henry said. “That should work.”
Bryce looked back down. The girl was still crouched in the corner staring at the floor. He noticed for the first time that her hands were shaking. Whether that was from hunger or fear he wasn’t sure but even though the girl had attacked him and damn near killed him, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. She’d been tied like an animal to the wall and left to starve to death. As much as he loathed vampires, this was cruel. Of course, Caleb was responsible, which explained the world. It was hard to tell what Caleb had done to her. The thought alone made him cringe.
Turning his head he looked at Henry. “Go get it. I don’t want to sit in this foul smelling tunnel for another six hours. We’ll take our chances with the tarp.” Walking back in front of her, he leaned down. “Can you stand up?”
She grabbed the wall, placing her palm flat against it before trying to stand. Her head was bowed, her face obscured by her mass of hair. Her clothes were in ruins. Tattered jeans, a loose fitting top that was so filthy it was hard to tell its original color. She was barefoot and the stench coming from her was enough to take his breath. When she was on her feet, she raised her head to look at him. He stared back, speechless. Her eyes were the color of dark jade. Small flecks of gold shined in her irises and his pulse jumped to life the longer he stared at her. Warmth spread through his limbs and he blinked before looking away when he heard Henry running up the tunnel.
When the tarp was in his hands, he took a deep breath and glanced back at her. “Let’s get out of here. We’ll get you something to eat and see if we can get that wire out of your neck.” He thought she smiled but it was hard to tell in the dim light of the flashlights. As she moved toward him, his heart raced. He locked eyes with her and the heat he felt running laps over his body increased. He looked away, holding the tarp by his side and motioning her forward. They moved as one, back toward the mine entrance.
Rayna grabbed Garrett by the arm the moment he stepped inside the house. She dragged him down the hall, away from the others, before turning to look at him. “There’s a wolf in the living room.”
Garrett raised one eyebrow and smiled. “There are wolves in every room.”
“He’s not one of ours!” she hissed. “I’m not sure where he came from but he smells funny.”
He laughed. “Funny how?”
Rayna scowled. He turned his head to look behind him, watching as Bryce carried the vampire up the stairs. “What is that?” she asked.
“A vampire.” He turned back to face her and smiled at the look on her face.
She blinked. “A vampire?”
Garrett nodded. “We found her in the mine. She’s pretty messed up. Half starved, too, from the looks of her.”
“Why was there a vampire in the mine?”
He shrugged a shoulder. “No clue. She was chained like an animal and living off anything stupid enough to venture down the tunnel she was kept in.”
“Is she all right?”
“Not sure. Let’s tend to our guest first and we’ll go find out.” He turned and started walking toward the living room, Rayna following close to his side. “Did this guy… it is a guy, isn’t it?” When she nodded at him, he said, “Did he say what he wanted?”
She snorted a laugh. “Yeah. He wants Malcolm.”
Garrett stopped and stared down at her. “Malcolm?” She nodded again and his blood ran cold. He turned and hurried to the living room without another word. The man he saw when he entered the room caused him to pause. He looked young, dressed in black, and walking around the room inspecting the items on the tables. Their appearance was noted when the man said, “You’re not Malcolm.”
“No, I’m not,” Garrett said. The man turned to look at them, then. His hair was dark, falling past his shoulders. Bright blue eyes looked cold and indifferent. Garrett guessed his age to be somewhere in his twenties, by appearance, but he knew never to trust the eye when dealing with a wolf. “What can I do for you?”
“Bring me Malcolm.”
Garrett crossed his arms over his chest. “I can’t do that.”
“I killed him.”
The man stilled, nothing on him moving. When he blinked long moments later, his shoulders relaxed. “And who are you?”
His attitude annoyed Garrett in ways he couldn’t describe. “I think a better question is, who are you?”
Bryce carried the vampire into one of the spare bedrooms on the third floor, waiting by the door as Judith closed the curtains to block out the suns rays. When the room fell dark, he crossed to the bed and sat the girl down. He let go of her and pulled the tarp away. She shrank back against the headboard.
He took a few steps back, glancing over at Judith before looking back to the girl. “This is Judith. She’ll help you get cleaned up.” Judith smiled and walked toward the bed. “She can’t talk,” Bryce told her. “There’s a wire imbedded in her throat.”
“Oh.” The word came out as one long breath. Judith stared down at the girl before shaking her head. “Well, lets get it out, then we can get you cleaned up.” When she took a step toward her, the girl’s eyes turned ice blue, her pallor went ghastly white as blue veins spider webbed her temples and down over her cheeks. Bryce grabbed Judith’s arm and held her back.
“Don’t get too close. She hasn’t feed in lord knows how long.” Bryce stared at her, not sure what to do. He hated asking Garrett. Since being named Garrett’s second in command, he’d done his best to act without guidance, but some things left him wondering what to do. This girl was one of them. Especially since every time he looked at her his pulse leaped and his skin felt hot and itchy.
Turning to Judith he said, “We need to find her something to eat first.”
“Okay. And where do you suggest we find a willing donor for that?”
His neck tingled then, the bite she’d given him in the mine obviously healing. She’d taken a hunk out of him but he knew it wasn’t enough. It was hard to tell how long she’d been without anything to eat. He sighed. “Hell if I know.”
The girl was staring at him and he didn’t miss the glances she darted toward his neck. She sat quietly while they contemplated what to do but he didn’t for a second think he didn’t look like a meal to her. “Stay here with her. I’ll send Dillon in to sit with you.”
“Where are you going?”
He reached the door before turning back to look at her. “To find her something to eat.”
Read Chapter Three
A Night Breeds Novel
© 2011 Lily Graison