Running full out in the night, the air danced across my skin and I inhaled deeply as we moved. We didn't know what triggered the werewolves' perimeter alarm but the reaction of Archer and the others was disconcerting. They were ready to kill it no matter what they found. We were faster and would make sure whatever justice was served was our flavor. Harry was ahead of us by no more than a stride but he wasn't wearing a skirt or carrying a weapon like Renee. I hiked up my skirt a bit more and quickened my speed. There still wasn't any discernable scent other than chaparral, dirt and dry grass. Renee was also breathing for a clue, she finally caught something in the wind and hissed, "Natasha, it is a vampire."
I growled, "Figures." This wasn't good news. A human would have been better and easier to handle. Adding yet another vampire into the volatile mix wasn't ideal. But at least we beat the werewolves. They had enough swords to severely compromise a single vampire. With the current hostilities I wanted to make sure we wanted the intruder dead before the fact. It'd be nice to not be playing clean up. We'd yet to find Jessie and Buddy's murderer and stockpiling more bodies didn't seem like the right response.
We got to the middle of the clearing and I saw a creature hunched over as if in pain. She tipped back her head and howled deliberately calling the werewolves to her. This wasn't a lost day hiker who'd mistakenly stumbled into the werewolves' territory. I immediately noticed that she was furious and desperate enough to use herself as bait. Skin rippled on her face and she had her fangs out and her eyes lit with hunger.
It was then I saw Lee had disobeyed Carlos' command. He was faster than the others not burdened by blades and a human form. He was mid-transformation and heading right for us. Pain ripped open and he screamed out his true nature. The beast clawed out from pink soft humanity with echoes of the forest and earth. He tore off his clothes while silky long brown black hair sprouted from him nearly as fast as the destroyed clothes landed in the grass. Screaming loud, he dropped to the ground and his voice changed roughly in the middle of a roar. The creature howled deeply to the overhead moon. The vampire shrieked uncurling from the ground and headed towards the ball of fur. I saw that his body had undergone a sleek transformation. Sinew and raw sexuality dripped from the werewolf. Lee was gone and in his place was his other nature.
This was what the vampire summoned. Harry, Renee and I slowed to see what was going to happen. The werewolf Lee was standing tall. The vampire was smiling and circling the beast. She was glowing with a mystical energy. The unknown vampire was lit with magic. Harry sucked in a breath and said, "Wow, that's not good."
The rest of the werewolves arrived with blades drawn and panting. It wasn't from exhaustion but excitement. The idea of a hunt stirred their base natures.
Looking at the circling creatures nobody ventured into the field. Harry said, "Well, it looks like the boys are here now. I guess we can see what this vampire wants."
He was the voice of reason. Nearly. Lee was spectacular and equal to the vampire's circling. The predators were both not giving any opening to the opposing creature. The lines were drawn and nobody wanted to cross over and break what little commonality we had. The dancing magical energy was also something that needed to be considered. Lee was a new werewolf and the unknown vampire didn't seem much older to me. There was no need for us to interfere just yet.
A large cloud shadowed the vampire and newly furred Lee pulling the moonlight away. Lee feigned to the left and lunged for the vampire. She spun and ran with supernatural speed. Lee was left in the clearing still in werewolf form when she jumped clear and landed next to Archer. She slapped the sword he'd been holding free from his grasp. He growled and snapped at her face with human teeth.
I watched the woman pull away from the werewolf with a slight growl of her own. She wasn't much more than five feet tall and had a mane of dark brown nearly black hair falling down her back nearly to her waist. Her eyes were honey brown and flashing fury and anger in equal measure. I didn't recognize her and Renee stiffened letting me know she had a clue.
"I think that's Jessie's best friend. Her name is Victoria Truman. She used to be a Latin torch singer. I guess she wasn't happy to hear about Jessie's murder." Renee whispered to me keeping her eyes on the two squaring off on each other in the middle of the shadow filled yard. The trees seemed to frame our group and hide us from the darker edges of the night. That was just an illusion. The night was in us all.
"She doesn't look like a Vicki," was my only reply. I was busy trying to assess the possible damages. There was going to be blood that was for sure. I could already feel the emotions rising to the surface as they paced around each other slowly stirring up bits of debris at their feet. We all hung back and let them work it out. I wasn't going to jump into this mess anymore than I had to. The crackling of magic went far to keep us in check. Archer was equal to the vampire from what I could tell. Harry nodded as he met my gaze from his side of the circle. The werewolves weren't nearly as calm as we were but then it was more in our nature than theirs. I could smell the blood rushing through their veins intoxicatingly almost exotically calling to us. Werewolf blood was forbidden fruit to vampires.
"No, I heard she goes by Tori." Somehow that made sense. A strong name for a very tough looking lady but there was something about how she was holding herself that led me to believe she wasn't out of control yet. It was the yet that worried me. We didn't need more bloodshed but that wasn't my choice.
Tori stood in front of the werewolf and hissed, "You were supposed to protect her. You told me if she stopped seeing Buddy all this would go away." Her hand swept out angrily from her side and I saw the curl of her hands lit by a soft purple glow of magic. She was getting mad and she wasn't as in control as she'd been. Her fangs dropped down further and her nails appeared sharper. She wasn't just some pretty face anymore.
The vampire's voice wasn't loud but her words carried weight.
Harry nodded to Marcus and the werewolf called out, "Step back, Archer. She is right. You did promise Jessie your protection."
It was a huge admission from the werewolf. With his position as the lieutenant to Carlos there was something being offered to us vampires. More than what Kenyon had. It also spoke volumes about how the dynamics of the pack were changing. Archer's face paled and he dropped inside his own skin. There was no other word for it.
That was all Tori needed she leapt from her casual stance and clawed out at him. Her nails tore open his flesh. A fountain of steaming ruby blood and ribbons of meat quickly soaked his shirt and splattered the floor around him. Archer dropped to his knees and howled. The moon called him and he answered with a rippling and expanding of his form erasing the rip in his human hide.
As a vampire I move swiftly as did my vision, so my enhanced senses watched his transformation with awe. It was magical and frightening. The sensual earth energy joined with the moonbeams and seemed to swell over his form and tearing away his humanity leaving his beast for us all to see. It was light years from what Lee had done when he changed. The creature now was howling his own challenge to the angry vampire.
Harry sighed and said, "Natasha, we can't have this."
Oh goodie my turn. I assessed the still crackling magical energies dancing between them and went low. Really low. I tucked and rolled in between them and scissor sliced Tori's feet out from under her. I pounced her face with my claws and grabbed both sides of her head with my fingers entangled in her long lush hair. The pain shooting down my hands let me know I was right about the magical power. She just hadn't known she wasn't the only one with tricks up her sleeves. Literally, in my case. Two bracelets set higher on each of my forearms than style permitted danced back her spell and bounced it back to her head. She zapped herself unconscious with her own knockout spell. I released her still form and swung upright while looking for the werewolf. Archer had leaped away from us and turned his muzzle towards me with a quizzical expression on his face. In human form it would have been a 'what the hell was that?' expression while on his werewolf furred face it was surprised. At least that was how I interpreted it. I shook my wrists freeing myself from vibrations still running down my arms.
Brushing at the bits of dry grass and dirt on my skirt I said, "I really liked this skirt."
The skirt wasn't going to be wearable after this evening. The jacket was scorched from the magical blowback and was equally trashed. Looking at Harry I said, "You owe me a shopping trip."
Smiling he said, "Not a problem."
Archer paced while still in wolf from looking back and forth between us. In werewolf form Archer looked formable and strong. It didn't matter since the vampire, Tori, wasn't waking up any time soon. Her spell casting was solid and the knockout was complete. My bracelets still vibrated with power.
Finding another twig buried through the edge of my skirt I plucked it out, saying, "Okay, I am so not carrying her back. Renee, why don't you and Carlos work out the details?"
Renee nodded and went to Carlos talking softly. I thought I was being a very good maid of honor letting the two engaged folks work out a problem together. At least that's what I told myself as I approached Marcus. Harry was still in earshot and smiled at me. He liked watching me work. Then I found another slit in the skirt and shook a finger at his leer. Okay, maybe he wasn't just admiring my crowd control. He winked and turned slightly away as if he wasn't listening.
"You want to share with us what that was all about?" I thumbed at Archer and Tori. Archer was actually sniffing at Tori's unconscious body. That was a bit distracting but he didn't seem upset and sat on his haunches and scratched behind his ear. I wondered if he was mocking me. I didn't know Archer and wasn't precisely filled in on werewolf behavior.
"Archer swore a promise to the vampire that he'd protect Jessie if she kept Buddy away from the vampire. Buddy protected Archer's child and Jessie was compromising that with their affair. A distracted werewolf can't do his job. And Archer's child is important to the werewolf society on many levels." The gravelly words came out without any sort of emotion. Marcus was just relating the facts. I wondered at his outburst earlier at Archer about his holy child. There was a history there for sure and it didn't seem like he respected Archer very much.
"What does it mean now that they both are dead?" I asked.
"It means all hell will be breaking loose." Lee was back in human form. Naked and raw he looked at me and added, "The rules are broken and the alliances are sure to follow."
That was not what I needed to hear.
To be continued...