A Long Walk Home Ch. 17byJazCullen©
Dayton woke abruptly surprised to find he'd actually dozed off for a few minutes. Freya was curled up against him, the springy moss they were laying on not really cushioning their bodies that much. He felt sated and happy though, the best he'd felt in a very long time. And it was all because of the woman in his arms and the trust she'd placed in him.
She'd brought him back to life. It had been a hard road but he knew he was almost at the end of it. Once he claimed Freya completely everything else would fall into place. Life couldn't get any better and he smiled contently for a moment before a frown crossed his face.
His thoughts drifted to Rayne and he couldn't help worrying about her. He had no idea where she was but he knew she was hurting and needed him. She was so conditioned to running that she wouldn't be able to stop herself doing so unless someone stepped in and stopped her. He felt guilty for being happy when he knew she was suffering.
Had she left the area already? He could try calling her again, try and entice her to gallery so they could talk. It had worked before but he wasn't so certain it would work again. He just felt so damned happy that he wanted that same happiness for the woman who had stood by him for so long, refusing to allow him to completely self destruct.
"You're thinking about Rayne."
Freya's words cut through his thoughts and he tightened his arms around her and brushed his lips against the side of her neck. She didn't sound jealous but he instantly wanted to reassure her of his love. "How did you know?" he sighed against her skin.
"I can scent your concern," she answered, turning in his arms to meet his gaze. Her soft skin pressed against his and it was all he could do to stifle down the groan of appreciation. Her arms snaked around his neck, her leg come to rest over his hip bringing their bodies together in a very intimate contact that had his breath catching instantly.
"She is a very resilient woman. You worry too much about her. But then, you care about her and it is your nature to be protective of those you care about."
For a moment he had to struggle to remember what they were talking about so intent was he on the way her curves fit him so perfectly. His lips twitched and then a wide grin split his face as her words registered. "That actually sounded convincing, Freya, normally you're ready to rip Rayne limb from limb."
She shot him a withering look though her lips were curling in a smile as she cuddled closer to his warmth and ran her tongue against his neck where she'd bitten him. The deep groan and the surge of his body against her made her sigh in pleasure. "Mine," she whispered against his ear. "I can afford to be generous now, wolf."
He gripped the nape of her neck and brought her mouth to his, plundering her lips hard as need rocked through him. One kiss and she scattered his senses. His vampire was so intoxicating she could block out anything with just one touch of her lips.
She tasted so good he wanted to take her again, hard and fast this time until they both cried out their pleasure. He knew they didn't have time for it though so he feasted on her lips a moment longer and then pulled away regretfully. "I need to try and find her, honey. She's hurting."
Freya could here the appeal in his voice, knew he was worried that she would feel neglected that he had a need to find the wildcat. Perhaps she would have before he'd made love to her but she didn't any more. "I understand. I will help if you want."
The surge of love that washed over him left Dayton speechless for a moment, and then he kissed her again taking his time to enjoy her lush lips. "You're amazing," he breathed against her mouth. "I'm so going to enjoy spending my life with you, honey. Thank you for the offer but I think I'll have a better chance bearding Rayne alone. If I can get her to come see me in the first place, that is."
He let her go reluctantly and rose to his feet, holding out his hand to pull her up beside him. "You need to think about where we should live. It doesn't have to be the compound if you're not comfortable with it. There's the apartment over the gallery or your house when the work is completed on it. Or we could get something completely new if you'd prefer. I don't mind as long as we're together."
His words caught her off balance and she stared at him in surprise for a long moment before she blinked slowly and headed over to retrieve her clothes. She hadn't even thought about their living arrangements. Her heart started beating rapidly as she realised that she truly did get to keep him forever. As she pulled on her jeans she considered their options.
"I can handle pack life now and then," she finally said. "If it is essential that you be close to the compound at times. But I'd prefer the retreat. It's close enough we can be here quickly but far enough away that we can be alone. I have nothing but good memories there and Nors won't mind us using it. I will buy his stake in it from him."
She pulled her top on and slipped into her sandals before turning around to look at him. "And I will scout out any old traps too so a certain stupid wolf doesn't fall into one again."
Her breath faltered as he laughed at her jibe, so completely unashamed by his nakedness, his body teasing her mercilessly. "I should have carried your clothes with us," she muttered under her breath and was rewarded with a huskier laugh.
"Self control issues, vampire?" The teasing in his voice was unmistakable as was the smug male satisfaction that she wanted him again. He strode over and pulled her into his arms for another long, slow kiss that had them both breathing heavily at the end of it. "The retreat is perfect, honey. I really liked it up there but then I'd like anywhere that had you and a large bed in it."
Heat rushed through her at the thought. Being alone with Dayton in a large bed was very appealing but she pushed at his chest for him to release her. "I thought you had a friend to go rescue."
His grip tightened in reluctance and she couldn't resist caressing his hot skin when she was meant to be pushing him away. It was hard not to when he stood there allowing her to do as she wished, gave her that right to stroke him.
Dayton smiled ruefully and finally dropped a quick kiss on her lips. "Thought I was supposed to be the responsible one here," he chuckled lightly stepping back. "Guess we should get back."
Freya moved to head back the way they'd come and then suddenly spun around to face him before he'd even taken a step. Her eyes were as black as midnight, her fangs elongated. Long, wicked talons reached for him and he was so shocked at her transformation he could only stare at her in astonishment. He didn't fear her but was confused as to what had set her off.
He opened his mouth to ask and found himself being picked up as if he weighed nothing. A split second later he began flying through the air backwards, away from Freya and towards the densely packed trees behind him.
Dayton knew she had moved at an insane, vampire speed and yet everything appeared to happen in slow motion to him. The instant Freya released him she was spinning around; running away from him, towards what he had no idea.
His heart pounded so loudly it was all he could hear and then muted sounds echoed on the air in front of him and his vampire was suddenly spinning back towards him, lifted bodily from the ground.
"Freya!" Her name sounded as if it came from a distance even though it had ushered from his lips. He watched her body jerk wildly as she flew through the air, her top suddenly wet and a much deeper shade of red than before. A ragged hole appeared in her shoulder blade and then blood began to ooze from the site.
"NO!" His scream was gut wrenching, memories of his last run with Faith vivid in his mind, the resounding crack of her neck breaking that signalled his heart dying along with her. Not again! He couldn't live through that a second time. He'd only just found Freya and someone was trying to take her away from him.
His brain was finally connecting what was happening and his next scream was one of combined fury and anguish. Freya's body was being thrown wildly from the impact of bullets smashing into it. Someone was firing some kind of semi-automatic weapon, trying to kill his mate and he was helpless to do anything about it.
Freya hit the rock where they had been not so long ago, landing hard enough for bones to break. Her momentum and the violence of the impact kept her body moving and she tumbled sickeningly over the stone to fall behind it. Dark red blood covered the rock. Freya's blood. Dayton tried to scream again but he'd finally hit the tree line, pain engulfing his body entirely as he connected with first the trees and then the hard packed ground.
His head was the last part of him to hit the dirt and it hit with a resounding whack. Instantly he was disorientated, nauseous, and he could feel blackness starting to descend. Sick, terrifying fear clawed at him as he fought against the blackness, tried to get to his mate. He couldn't pass out! Freya was hurt and he had to get to her. He tried to move but his body wouldn't obey his commands. The darkness won and he sank into oblivion.
Freya knew she couldn't stay where she was. They would have tracked her the entire way and would triangulate on her position in an instant. There were three of them that she knew about and God knew how many others. Ignoring the searing pain in her body, she was up and into the trees in the blink of an eye. Another gunshot hit close to her head but thankfully missed her as she gained relative safety within the tree line.
"Nors!" She had no idea if her brother was at the compound or had left for work. She was still moving, still ignoring her torn chest which was already starting to heal from the multiple gunshot wounds she'd taken. She had to get to Dayton, had to protect him.
"Freya!" She almost wept with relief as Nors' alert mental voice answered her while she wove through the trees in the direction she'd thrown her wolf. Her brother knew instantly that something was wrong and didn't stop to ask what, he merely waited for her to tell him as quickly and succinctly as possible.
"West of the compound, approximately a mile away. Vampires. Three with guns. I've taken wounds but Dayton's safe from the bullets at the moment. We need help."
"We're on our way."
His mental touch was gone and she couldn't help the shiver of relief that went through her just knowing he was coming. Nors always came when he was needed and God help whoever was responsible for this when he got there. He didn't tolerate anyone hurting what was his to protect and his sister was most definitely his in his mind.
The feral part of her nature wanted to hunt the vampires responsible for this and tear them apart. One thing that seriously pissed her off was being used as target practice. That someone was foolish enough to attack an Ancient vampire of her standing was a personal affront and one she wasn't willing to let go. But her heart was in control at the moment and all she could think about was her wolf and how she had to find him.
She was furious with herself. She couldn't believe she'd let herself become so distracted that she hadn't even scented the danger approaching. It was a fucking youngling mistake! And her mate had paid the price for it. She would never forgive herself for it and she would never make that mistake again.
She was furious with the vampires out there too but they would pay for their actions. Once Nors and the pack arrived, once Dayton was protected, she was going to rip those vampires apart with her bare hands and feast on their blood. The world would know that no one fucked with Freya Eriksson and those she loved.
She tried to keep an eye on the forest as she moved. The vampires would be changing their position to hide themselves and she needed to know where they were so she could better protect her wolf. She found him a moment later, unconscious with one leg bent at an impossible angle.
Guilt engulfed her as well as another cold, hard bubble of rage. There would be death for this atrocity; slow lingering death. She sank down beside Dayton and very carefully rearranged his broken leg as best she could. Then she ripped her wrist and pressed it to his mouth, forcing her blood down his throat. She held his mouth closed to stop it leaking out and also to stop him making any noise when he regained consciousness.
She had charged the vampires in the hope she would have distracted them from the direction Dayton had disappeared into. She didn't know if it had worked but she had to believe that it had because she couldn't tolerate them knowing where he was. He was hers to protect.
Dayton became aware that he couldn't breathe and started to struggle against the hard hands holding him down. A barely audible hiss sounded in his ear and he froze instantly.
"Stop fighting, it's me. Three vampires with guns and very acute hearing. Do not speak above this level."
Relief washed through him and his eyes opened to see Freya's blood-streaked face beside him. Tears filled them and he could only stare at her mutely, his mind registering that she was alive, that she hadn't left him as Faith had.
She was a mess but she'd never looked more beautiful to him. Her expression was hard, fury blazing in her eyes as well as concern. He knew that concern was for him so he did as she ordered and stayed still, feeling the pain in his body beginning to ebb slowly and realising she must have fed him some of her blood.
"Nors has been alerted. The pack comes. As long as the vampires make no move on our position I'll stay with you but I may need to distract them again."
Dayton swallowed hard, working on containing his emotions. His mate was okay. She was more than okay, she was pissed as hell and that fire in her eyes reminded him that she was a vampire and a lot harder to kill than most people. He pulled her ear to his mouth, his lips caressing her gently for a moment as he breathed in her scent, his wolf becoming less agitated at the contact with her soft skin.
It took him another moment but he finally managed to ground himself in her scent, satisfy himself that she was as safe as either of them could be at the moment. Her calm, controlled demeanour helped him and he finally let out a muffled sigh. "Honey, your idea of distraction is enough to stop my heart," he murmured softly. "If you could keep it to a minimum I'd appreciate it." He kept his tone light but he knew she would hear some fear in it.
Freya knew where he'd just been in his mind, knew he'd relived losing Faith and the agony that would have caused him. It was another reason to add to all the others for why she was going to spill blood in the not so distant future. His tone didn't fool her but she strove to match it.
"They'll pick up the blood trail fairly quickly. Once they do that I'm going to have to act if the pack hasn't arrived. I will try to avoid being shot again." She let her lips curl in a slight smile. "This is the second time you've passed out at the sight of blood. You could have warned me I was choosing such a sensitive soul to mate with."
His hand gripped the nape of her neck and his kiss was hard and bruising. It was brief but he needed the contact with her even if it lasted only a fraction of a second. "When we get out of this, you are so going to pay for that smartass remark, vampire."
"I will look forward to being suitably punished," she remarked drolly, her eyes flickering into the forest again. "Now hush and let me listen while your body heals. I need to see if there are more than the three I originally picked up."
The instant Nors warned Rafe of his sister's distress call the compound turned into a flurry of activity. The Alpha had learnt well from previous experience and the new pack was prepared for the unexpected.
The compound had been built with attack in mind and the moment the order went out, the vulnerable members of the pack were being escorted down to the basement levels of the Alpha's home, the community centre and the medical centre.
Experience had shown that having a separate evacuation site split the pack to its detriment. Beneath the main buildings were purpose built tunnels blocked off by carefully concealed steel doors and shrouded in a low static pulse that shielded thoughts from Vampires. The tunnels were soundproofed and well stocked with basic foods and water. They could shelter the vulnerable for weeks if need be.
Rafe left Aaron coordinating their defences and ran upstairs to his room. Lacey was already dressed, their sons clutched tightly to her chest as her eyes shone with fury. He felt a surge of pride deep within him as he strode to the closet and pulled out the pre-prepared bags full of essentials for both his mate and his sons.
He hooked the bags over each shoulder and then turned to face her. "The compound is safe for the moment. The danger is about a mile away. Dayton and Freya are pinned down and we need to get to them as quickly as possible." He reached out as she handed Ben to him.
He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and leaned down to give her a hard kiss as she cradled Aaron protectively in her arms. Her scent held no fear, just the rage of a mother whose children were being threatened. He couldn't have picked a more perfect mate.
"Dayton can't lose another mate, Rafe. It will kill him." Lacey hadn't spent much time with the newer member of their pack but the little she had was enough to tell her that they would be friends.
"Freya can take care of herself. It's Dayton I'm more concerned about. If one of the vampires gets to him then we'll lose him." Rafe was ushering her out of the room and down the stairs as he spoke, his arm a band of steel across her shoulder.
"She's wild," Lacey countered. "And thinks she's invulnerable. She could do something stupid in her need to protect him. You have to get there as soon as possible. We'll be fine here. Everyone knows what to do."
Rafe's heart swelled with pride as he stared into his mate's eyes. Her protective instincts for the pack rivalled even his own. He kissed her, long and hard, a little of his hidden fear coming to the fore. He knew he had to leave her to protect his pack members. It didn't mean he wanted to.
"I love you, Lace." It was a quiet declaration breathed against her lips. "Take care of our boys and make sure that you don't come out of the tunnels until the all clear has been sounded."
"I love you too, Rafe. Now go do what you need to do." She nudged him away and he handed off the bags to Harley who was waiting patiently beside them. He gently placed Ben back in her arms and kissed the babies on their foreheads. Then he kissed his mate once more.
"Make sure the door is sealed tightly and then meet me at the community centre," he told his Beta before he turned and strode away. It went against everything within him to walk away from his family but he knew that taking out the attacking vampires was the only true way to keep them safe.
He met Aaron on his way outside to the gathering group at the community centre. Cedar and Loretta were already there as well as Nors and some lower ranking pack members.
"Anything more from Freya?"
Nors shook his head. "I don't want to distract her in case she needs her full concentration. If anything changes for the worst then she'll let me know."
"Dayton?" Cedar's eyes reflected her concern for her brother as she watched the vampire's face intently. Aaron was standing beside her and his body was taut with strain. They had only just gotten their brother back. It would crush them if anything happened to him.
Nors couched his answer carefully. Freya had a habit of being evasive at times when she didn't want something known. The fact she'd only stipulated the wolf was safe from bullets didn't preclude that he hadn't been hurt in some other way. "As far as I'm aware he's fine at the moment. Freya will protect him until we get there."