Bound in death, p.14
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       Bound In Death, p.14

         Part #5 of Bound series by Lauren DeStefano
 
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Page 14

 

  The wind shifted, blowing against his face. A storm was coming. He could smell it in the air.

  He could also smell Jane’s sweet scent. Only that scent wasn’t coming from the north, as it should have been.

  The south.

  His muscles locked. He inhaled again. His senses were the sharpest in the pack.

  He focused, trying to hear—

  Racing footsteps. Heaving breaths.

  Jane was running from him. Again. A-fuckin’-gain.

  His hands fisted. She didn’t trust him. She’d given him her body, but that hadn’t been enough.

  “Why?” The one word tore from him.

  He didn’t move, though every part of him wanted to rush after her.

  But maybe it was time he stopped chasing her. Jane was right. She wasn’t a possession. She was a person. And if he caged her, how was he any different than Lorcan?

  Liam was shifting again behind him. Turning back into the form of a man. “Go…after her…” Liam managed.

  “She’s running to her brother. ” Obviously. The bond of blood. It was stronger than any bond he could forge with her. “It’s time he told her the truth, anyway. ” No more fucking lies or secrets. He was tired of them.

  “Kill…him…” A barely human demand from Liam.

  But Alerac shook his head. He could admit—to himself—that killing Ryan was beyond him. He could never be the one to take her brother’s life.

  That was a sin that Jane would never forgive.

  So he didn’t follow her toward the south. He began to walk back to his cabin. The home he’d foolishly made for her.

  A home that was empty.

  Liam didn’t follow him.

  ***

  She ran frantically through the woods. Twigs snapped at her and scraped across her cheeks. She kept slipping in the dirt and on the roots, and Jane sure hoped that she was heading south.

  Then she heard the faint rush of the stream. Yes. She burst from the bushes.

  But Ryan wasn’t there.

  The moonlight fell on the water, making it shine and glisten, as it tumbled through the rocks.

  She looked to the left. To the right. “Ryan?” Jane called out. He should have been there.

  She hadn’t heard his voice in her mind again. There was nothing in her mind but silence. Nothing around her but the rush of the stream.

  The air was cold. The wind blew harder against her cheeks.

  Jane knew she didn’t have much time. Alerac would realize that she wasn’t back at the cabin. He’d come after her.

  A twig snapped behind her. Jane spun around.

  No one was there.

  Hunted.

  The instinctive awareness was back.

  She bent to the ground and wrapped her fingers around a thick, heavy tree limb that had fallen down.

  A growl reached her ears. Her head jerked to the right, and Jane caught the flash of glowing eyes from the thick brush. Her breath rushed out. A wolf. Alerac had sent one of his men after her. So much for not having guards.

  She started to lower the branch. “I didn’t realize that—”

  The wolf lunged at her. A big, muscled wolf, with golden eyes.

  She’d seen those eyes before, only they had been in the face of a man.

  Liam?

  He hit her with his paws, and Jane fell to the ground. Her head slammed into one of the stones that lined the stream. The limb fell from her fingers.

  The wolf put his mouth at her throat.

  She heard more growls then. Other wolves were closing in on her. She counted at least three of them.

  “S-stop!”

  They edged ever closer.

  Jane realized that the wolves weren’t there to protect her. No, that wasn’t their intent at all.

  Then the wolf above her began to shift. His fur vanished from his body as his bones cracked and snapped. The brutal transformation lasted only for a moment, then Liam’s handsome face was smiling down at her.

  “You should have listened to Alerac. The fool truly did want to keep you safe. ”

  He hadn’t shifted completely. His claws were still at her throat. He brought his mouth close to her ear. His breath blew over her cheek. “He would have protected you. But me? I don’t give a damn about your safety. It’s your blood that I want. ”

  It was her blood that he was about to take.

  “No one’s here to protect you, princess. It’s time for you to bleed. ”

  His head slid down to her throat. She felt the rasp of his teeth against her skin.

  No one’s here to protect you.

  Yes, someone was there. “I’m here,” she whispered, and Jane lifted her hands. Her own nails had lengthened, sharpened, and she drove them right at his face. When her claws raked over him, Liam screamed and leapt back.

  In the next moment, she was on her feet.

  A white wolf lunged at her. She caught his head in her hands. Jerked as hard as she could.

  When the bones snapped that time, the wolf stopped howling instantly.

  The white wolf’s body fell to the ground. Began to shift.

  Her breath sawed from her lungs.

  Liam circled around her. Blood poured from the deep scratches on his face. But the crazy SOB was still smiling.

  “I guess the lost vampire has some bite after all. ” He swiped away the blood that rained down his cheek. “But you’re still on your own. Even a vamp at full power couldn’t take us all out. ”

  She grabbed for the limb she’d dropped before. “Let’s just see about that. ” Her words didn’t tremble. Her knees did.

  “Yes,” he whispered as his face hardened. “Let’s see. ” Then he motioned with his right hand, and two wolves leapt toward her.

  ***

  Alerac froze when he heard the howl. It died away almost immediately, but the sound seemed to echo in his mind.

  He turned to the right. Stared into the night.

  Jane.

  He’d thought to let her go. But—

  He took off at a run, and when he jumped over a fallen tree, his body shifted into the form of a beast.

  ***

  She’d knocked one wolf back, snapping the limb in two when she swung it into the beast’s head. The other wolf struck out with his claws. Those claws sliced their way down her leg.

  Screaming, she rushed to the other side of the stream. Where was some damn silver when she needed it? Her fumbling fingers grabbed a heavy rock. She threw it at the charging wolf.

  It smashed right into his head.

  The wolf hit the ground.

  Three down, temporarily anyway.

  That just left her and—Liam.

  He was laughing. Laughing and walking across that stream. “I forgot,” he murmured as the laughter slowly faded. “You fed on Alerac recently. That would explain the rush of strength. ”

  He was about to feel her rush of strength. Where the hell was another heavy stone?

  Right…there.

  She leapt forward and tried to grab it.

  But Liam grabbed her first.

  He caught her wrist in tight grip. “Your brother broke my arm. ” He shook his head. “Consider this payback. ” He snapped her wrist.

  Pain surged through her. She shoved against him, but he wasn’t letting go. Not this time.

  “Alerac got to you first. He found you first in Ireland. Got you to spread your legs and offer your neck. He took the power that should have been mine. ”

  His left hand fisted in her hair.

  “Now I get to taste the blood with all the power. I get the bond that he wanted so very badly. ”

  She kneed him in the groin. Punched. Twisted. He didn’t let her go.

  “I get your power, and then I’llget the pack. They’ll all follow me. ”

  Her feet kicked against his, and
Liam stumbled. They crashed right back down, only this time, they landed in the stream. The water soaked them.

  His claws rose. Scraped down her cheek. “It’s a good thing that your kind heals so easily. ”

  Wait, what—

  His claws sliced over her throat. Blood pulsed from her. The water from the stream—such cold water—covered her.

  His mouth lowered to her throat. He licked her, taking her blood. “First claws,” he whispered. “Then I get to bite. ”

  “Jane!”

  Alerac’s roar broke the night. That fierce cry was the most beautiful sound that she’d ever heard. He was coming for her.

  He’d realize what Liam was doing. She opened her mouth to scream for him.

  But Liam sank his teeth into her throat. Pain engulfed her.

  Then—then it started to thunder. No, not thunder.

  Gunshots.

  Liam’s mouth tore from her neck, and his body fell away from hers.

  She crawled away from him. Her hand went to her throat as she tried to stop the blood from flowing.

  “Hurry, Keira! Hurry!” Ryan’s desperate voice.

  She looked to the left. He was there, at the edge of the woods, and he still had a gun in his hands.

  Jane cast one fast glance at Liam. Smoke rose from the bullet holes in his chest. His eyes were closed.

  Was he dead?

  Liam’s eyes opened.

  No, not dead. Jane jumped to her feet and ran toward Ryan. He lifted the gun higher. Seemed to aim right at her.

  She ducked.

  He fired.

  A groan sounded from behind her.

  Ryan opened his left hand to her. She grabbed it, holding it like the lifeline that it was.

  He pulled her close against him. “We have to get out of here,” he whispered.

  Great plan. Fabulous plan. Only…

  She was bleeding so much from her throat. She couldn’t speak. And she felt too weak.

  He turned. Rushed back into the brush. She tried to follow him, but after three steps, she fell flat on her face.

  “Keira!”

  Hands lifted her up. She was tossed over a shoulder. Then she didn’t see anything else.

  But she heard something…a long, low howl that sent a shiver of fear chasing her into the darkness.

  ***

  When he broke from the trees, Alerac’s gaze went straight to the stream. To the stream that smelled of Jane’s blood.

  But Jane wasn’t there. Three wolves were. Wolves from his pack. They were hurt, one was shuddering.

  Yet, as soon as they saw him, they attacked.

  What. The. Hell.

  They came in hard and fast—and they came in for the kill.

  But Alerac wasn’t the pack alpha for nothing. Soon it was their blood flowing into the stream. Their bodies hitting the ground.

  They died in mere moments.

  And he howled into the night, lost, betrayed.

  His gaze swept the scene. Seeing so much. The tracks of a man, but the scent of a vampire.

  The tracks of another wolf, heading away from the stream. Heading back up the mountain. That wolf’s scent was familiar, and the sting of betrayal burned ever deeper.

  Why didn’t I see…?

  The rage built in him, but Alerac held tight to his control. He left the broken bodies behind him.

  In the form of the wolf, he inhaled deeply, pulling in all the scents—those both familiar and foreign to him. He locked onto the one scent that mattered. The only one that did.

  The scent of Jane’s blood.

  He’d been willing to let her leave him.

  He wasn’t willing to let her die.

  The paws of the beast flew across the ground. When he crossed the stream, he sent the bloody water churning and splashing around him. The others scents there—he took note of them.

  Jane was his priority. Finding her.

  Punishment. Justice. Payback. All of that would come. It would fuckin’ come.

  ***

  Liam raced deeper into the woods. No, no, no. Jane shouldn’t have escaped. Her blood was in his mouth. Sweet and rich and powerful. Everything that he’d ever dreamed.

  But she was gone.

  Her bastard brother.

  He’d told Alerac to kill the fool. Over and over, he’d given him that order.

  But Alerac didn’t take orders from anyone.

  I’m the lackey who jumps at his command.

  No more. Jane was his ticket to power. He’d known that truth for years. She’d been the one to amp up Alerac’s strength. She can give me the same boost. As soon as Jane had been located, Liam had known that he would have to take her from the alpha.

  He’d even hired those vamps to try and take her in Florida. Those men hadn’t been working for Lorcan. They’d been on Liam’s payroll. Both attacks had come by Liam’s order.

  He’d encountered plenty of vampires over the years. He’d drained most of them. But some, a few that he’d thought would prove valuable, Liam had let some of them keep living. They owed him, and he’d been collecting on those debts. Sending out those vamps on his blood mission.

  He’d been the one to connect Heath and Jane. Heath had been working under his orders the whole time. Studying Jane’s blood, trying to determine the source of her power—and of Alerac’s.

  But when Liam had realized that Alerac was going down to Miami to claim Jane, he’d sent his vamps to collect her. He’d known that his time to experiment had run out. He’d needed to make his move.

  Only those vamps had failed.

  But Alerac hadn’t realized Liam was his enemy. Alerac was too focused on Lorcan. Always Lorcan.

  Hell, Lorcan wasn’t even in the game. As far as Liam knew, the bastard wasn’t in the country.

  Liam had tried to be careful. He hadn’t wanted to battle directly against Alerac, not until he’d taken plenty of Jane’s blood to boost him.

  But his plans had changed. Alerac kept defeating every enemy that Liam had thrown at him.

  Tonight, when Jane had gone off on her own, it had been his best chance.

  I took that chance.

  Now Alerac would know that he had a traitor—traitors—in his pack. Alerac would come for him.

  His chest heaved. His claws cut into the tree near him as fury pumped through his gut.
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