Today's teaser is from It Takes Two to Tango. This is Remi and Marshell's story.
Heller unlocked his cell. “Hey babe, I—what? Lawson, stop yelling. I can’t….” Every drop of blood drained out of Heller’s face. “Oh goddess, are you okay? How bad? Where are you? Fuck. Are you sure…. What? Yes. Okay, yes, he’s right here with me. I… oh, fuck me, are you sure?” Heller glanced at me, his breathing spiking. “Okay, we’re on our way. Just… just hang on.”
No. No, no, no. No! My chest hurt so bad I couldn’t breathe. My head spun, and my stomach roiled nastily. I wanted to puke. Little flashing lights swam before my eyes. I grabbed the side of the truck to keep myself standing upright, even though my knees threatened to give out.
Far off I heard someone yelling my name. My head hurt. My chest blazed with pain.
I heard Lawson plain as day say hunters had attacked them… and Marshell was stabbed in the chest with a knife.
I lost you before I ever had a chance to know you. My vision went gray, and everything faded away.
“ARE YOU sure we should’ve brought him?”
“Yes. This isn’t going to be easy for him, but trying to keep him away would have been useless. At least this way I’m here. If I have to, I can control him.”
Voices teased my consciousness. Something nagged at me, some sense of urgency that demanded I wake and deal with it. I didn’t want to, though. I knew, I just knew something horrible waited for me. I was tempted to turn away, to let go… to sink back into the darkness where I was numb.
But I wasn’t one to run.
I opened my eyes. My Alpha’s scent, so warm and soothing, wrapped around me, although there was nothing sexual about it. His arm was around my shoulders and my head rested against his chest. His heart frantically pounded in my ear. Why was he holding me? I glanced around and finally figured out I was in a truck cab, and we were moving.
What was I doing here? It was dark out, but I could see Heller was driving, so…. We were in his truck? Maybe? The whine of the tires echoed in my ears. So silent. They were so silent, but something, some scent—it smelled like rotten eggs—saturated the cab of the truck.
“Remi?” My Alpha’s voice rumbled against my ear, comforting me.
Suddenly my cat screamed in my mind, a wailing stab of misery. My body locked up. Pain. Oh, the pain. Sharp and nasty, it spread through me as I remembered my mate was gone. The wail went on and on, whipping against my skin, my heart. All I could do was suffer, the sound hammering at me—filling me up until there was nothing but hot, searing agony.
The scent was grief.
“He’s dead, isn’t he?” I croaked. My throat hurt. Had I been screaming? The scent of their grief increased, all but choking me.
“We don’t know anything for sure.” Heller clutched the wheel. “Lawson was nearly hysterical. He was yelling about hunters and knives and blood and…. Gods, someone tape my mouth shut, please. Fuck, I’m sorry, man. I probably shouldn’t have said that, but I’m also freaked the fuck out.”
Hearing that said out loud stabbed me in the heart. “I overheard Lawson telling you Marshell had been stabbed in the chest… in the heart. He’s dead, Heller. You can’t stab someone in the heart and have them not be dead.” Agony screeched across my nerves as my cat demanded out. “What happened?”
Look at me using complete sentences and everything.
“I didn’t talk to Lawson long because I needed to get help, and you passed out.” Heller’s voice was eerily devoid of emotions. “Lawson said they were run off the road by two hunters who then attacked them.”
That’s right, I remembered Lawson saying that now. Run off the road. That meant the hunters had staked Marshell out. How did they find him? Why were they doing this? I didn’t remember any hunters ever coming after our kind. “Is… is Lawson okay?”
“He’s… yeah, pretty much. He took a few hits, but nothing too bad.”
It pained me to hear how Heller’s voice shook. I was so lost in my misery, I hadn’t stopped to think about how Heller was doing. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Lawson gave as good as he got. He’s stronger and heals faster now, thank fuck. One hunter went after him, but he said she seemed more concerned with keeping him busy. He got her pretty good too, he said. The other hunter went after Marshell.”
“And stabbed him,” I said dully. My skin rippled with the need to shift.
“No. Don’t shift,” Alpha Armonty demanded, his voice taking on that powerful, unnatural tone that was impossible to ignore—his Alpha voice. “Not here in the truck. It isn’t safe.” I couldn’t refuse an outright order from my Alpha.
My cat settled down, but the anger and pain still swirled in my mind. There was no escaping it. How was I going to live with this anguish? I wanted to scream, yell, rip into something until I tasted blood—just claw it all to pieces.
I was afraid once I did shift, I wouldn’t change back to human anytime soon. Maybe that was better. My cat didn’t care for the things that occupied my human mind—his needs were more basic.
“Why are…. Where are we going? Where are they?” I asked. I needed to distract myself from the pressing need to shift.
“The attack happened not far from Marshell’s home. The hunters ran off after…. Um, Lawson’s truck won’t start,” Heller said. “They’re sitting out there on the side of the road, and one of them has a large… ah, that is to say—”
“What Heller means is Lawson got Marshell in the truck, so they have some privacy, but yes, we do need to get there before someone stops to help or calls the cops. We don’t need that,” Alpha Armonty said.
I was drowning. My mate was on the side of the road with a fucking knife buried in his chest. Yeah, having humans see that could present a problem for our kind, but it really didn’t matter to me. Fuck the humans. It was humans who killed my mate. Call me crazy, but that took precedence in my mind over any human.
“Dolf and the rest of the betas are on the way there too. We’ll take care of everything. You just… just—”
“Not lose my shit?”
“Yes,” Alpha Armonty said. “I’m so sorry. We’re here for you. We’ll help you—whatever you need.”
Nothing could help me, but I didn’t say that. What I needed was gone. At least we hadn’t mated. If that tie had existed between us, I wasn’t sure I could’ve survived Marshell’s death. The way I felt right now, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it anyway.
“Someone needs to call his sister,” I said.
“Oh, I’m willing to bet that was the second phone call Lawson made.” A grimace crossed Heller’s face. “If he did, then we need to be prepared for Janelle.”
“What do you mean?” Alpha Armonty asked. “Prepared how?”
“We don’t really know that much about the Vetala, but from what I’ve heard Lawson say, their females are the more… violent ones. I don’t think she’d hurt any of us since she’s part of our clowder, but she’s going to be wild with grief. I wouldn’t…. Don’t try to protect the little woman, is what I’m saying.”
“I don’t think she should be there, but I understand,” Alpha Armonty said.
“Wild horses couldn’t drag her away.” Heller sighed. “Lawson’s going to need her, and frankly…. What the hell?”
“What?” Alpha Armonty asked.
Heller stared up at the rearview mirror. “There’s a car coming up fast.”
It zoomed past us, not even slowing down. The taillights disappeared in the night.
“Oh, fuck me running, that was Janelle. Damn woman drives like a bat out of hell,” Heller snarled. “She better not wrap herself around a telephone pole. I’ll kill her if she does. That’s the last thing Lawson needs right now.”
It was the last thing any of us needed, but I didn’t say that. Not long after she passed us, we saw Lawson’s truck sitting off the side of the road. Janelle’s car was in front of them. I wasn’t ready for this. What if I… what if I completely freaked out? What if I lost it right there?
Heller pulled in behind Lawson’s truck. The vehicle used to attack Lawson and Marshell was nowhere in sight. My Alpha barely got out of the truck before I too was out. I ran toward the other truck. The passenger door was open. Janelle and Lawson were crowded around the door. I heard Heller yell Lawson’s name. His fear barely penetrated the fog of despair around me.
“I’m fine… oomph! Heller, really, I’m okay. Come on, hellcat. Easy there.”
I heard them, but all I could see was Marshell’s long braids through the back window. My mate. The scent of blood and violence still hung in the air. Just as I drew even with the back of the truck, I heard an impressive string of creative cuss words from Janelle. Well, guess that’s better than what Heller hinted at. Somehow I thought she’d be more…. I didn’t know more what, just more.
Janelle swung around and grabbed both my arms. “He’s not dead!”