The SUV rocketed along the dirt track, right on the motorbike’s tail. The surrounding trees were a dark blur in the night, lit only by their headlights. Ash realized he was holding his breath, and let it out in one big exhale. Becca heard and chuckled.
“Apprentices,” she said, shaking her head. “So darn cute. Hey, don’t worry, kid. We’re in good hands. Your old man’s the best in the business. You don’t get to be Scion of the New England Chapter of sentinels for nothing.”
Ash would have protested, said he wasn’t worried, but it would have been a lie. Becca would have known; they all would. You couldn’t lie to a sentinel. Instead he gritted his teeth and tugged at his bulletproof vest. The borrowed body armor he wore was too tight across his shoulders. His whole chest felt too tight.
Becca drew closer to the stuttering motorbike, still trailing acrid clouds of smoke. The trees opened suddenly into a vista of dark fields, and Becca accelerated, throwing the car off the road. They ripped through the tall grass, stems slashing viciously at the sides of the SUV.
There was a sudden impression of approaching buildings, and then the side of the SUV hit the bike hard. The bike went down in a tumbling crash, the engine’s growl cutting out abruptly as the vampire fell head over heels to land on his back. The SUV skidded to a stop, high beams raking the black. The vampire scrambled to his feet and took off, Deacon in pursuit with his sword over his shoulder as Ash leaned over his cousin to watch.
Becca snagged her hunting rifle from the back of the car and turned to Ash and Jordan, still inside. “Well? You here to learn, or what?”
He let himself in and found Del in the kitchen. He’d left the stove set up for her, and she’d dug into his stash of supplies. He smelled toast and chamomile tea.
She eyed him over the rim of her mug, wary. “What are you doing here, Ash? I’ll be gone in a while. You don’t have to see me out.”
“I promised to help.” He rubbed his cheek, self- conscious. She didn’t look happy to see him. Her eyes had dark shadows under them, like she hadn’t slept much, and her face was pinched with worry. “Del, I want to help.”
She sighed and put her mug down in the sink. “No you don’t. You just want this over. I don’t blame you.” She rinsed the mug and set it carefully on the draining board. “I’m going to get my stuff.”
He was still by the doorway when she passed, and her arm brushed his lightly in the cramped space. He felt that tingle again like an electric jolt that ran all the way down to his toes. She flinched, and he was sure she’d felt it too. He put a hand out and caught hers. She stopped where she was, waiting. He was waiting, too, but he didn’t know what for. The doorway they stood in was a frame for a captured moment, a stolen image frozen in time. The scent of chamomile clung heavily to her skin.
He turned her wrist to expose her forearm and the letters carved into it. “Never. Do you mean it? You’ll never give in to her?”
“Never.” Her voice was soft but firm, and she looked so serious and so fierce.
The motorbike raced along the deserted road, the engine a defiant roar in the dark. Bleak empty fields whipped past, the bright sparkle of Christmas lights left behind along with the last of suburban Toronto.
Raze tucked her cold face closer to the leather-clad back that rubbed against her cheek, tightening her arms around the lean waist as she screwed her eyes shut. The wind and the wild sang in her veins, tempting her, whispering. Let go, they said, join us. She smiled to herself — a grin that was all teeth and fierce pleasure — and ran her tongue over her chapped bottom lip.
She tapped his shoulder as they drew near, and the bike slowed and pulled to a stop underneath a towering elm tree, bare branches stark against the cloudy night sky. Raze climbed down, boots crunching on fresh snow. The driver killed the engine and pulled off his helmet, watching her as she tugged off her black woolen hat and ran her fingers through tangled curls. His name was Dave, or Steve, or something. She hadn’t really paid attention.
“So,” he said, “this is where you go to school?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
He was cute, dark-eyed and dangerous-looking. She moved closer, right in his face. He had a small scar on his chin. She ran a gloved thumb over it, and then leaned in and kissed him, hard and fast. Then she drew back, already turning away as she jammed her hat back on her head.
“Raze, you going to give me your number?”
She gave him a wicked smile over her shoulder. “Oh, I don’t think so.” Then she was gone, running through the ankle-deep snow to leap at the high wall, fingers and toes finding purchase where most people would see nothing but sheer stone. She climbed higher and higher, until she threw a leg over the top and sat there, watching the boy on the bike speed away.
Raze moved her other leg over and dropped. For one instant she drank in the thrill of falling. Then she shifted, clothes and skin and shoes and self turning to fur and packed muscle. She landed lightly and scented the night, the wolf’s senses coloring in everything that her human portion was blind to. And then she smelled him and froze.
“Raze? Is that what you’re calling yourself these days?” The vampire stepped out of the trees, his aura a faint red glow in the dark. She knew her own blue werewolf aura would be clinging to her fur like a cloud. She shook herself and shifted back, body prickling with cold from the sudden change in skin temperature.
“Alex,” she replied, aiming for casual. “I was just out for a run.”