Firestorm Ch. 03byFatality©
Authors Note: Hope this chapter doesn't disappoint. Thanks to my editor Jillieb for her incredible input and editing.
Micah, age 19
Micah clutched the wallet to her chest as she ran like the wind.
Adrenaline pumped through her system. The dull ache in her muscles was a subtle reminder that she was being chased by wolves – wolves in human skin, yes, but wolves nonetheless. They had more stamina than humans, and the chase pushed her limits until the dull ache intensified.
How she loved every damned second of it!
A wicked smiled graced her lips when she stole a quick glance backward and saw that the wolf following her had slowed down and was close to giving up on catching her.
Stealing was not a necessity, but she craved the thrill of the chase – even if she was the one being hunted. No other experience was this exhilarating.
She didn't have much time to bask in her victory though; something crashed into her with the force of a torpedo, knocking her off her feet. "What the—!"
When Micah finally got her bearings back, she saw that her torpedo was actually a female with caramel-coloured skin and steel-grey eyes. She'd not seen this female wolf before, but Micah immediately recognized the power that radiated from her. Her dominance leaked from her pores without effort; she was clearly an Alpha.
The female wolf gazed at her with open disapproval. "My pack aren't the richest of people, but we have our pride. We do not steal. What pack are you from?"
"I don't have a pack," Micah replied in a tone that also said she didn't need a pack. She swiped the stolen wallet from the pavement as she rose to her feet.
Those steel-grey eyes studied Micah's face intently. "If you want, you could join my pack."
Stubborn pride reared its head. "I'm a lousy cook, I can't clean for jack, and I don't take orders very well."
A short burst of laughter met her words and the Alpha's steel-gray eyes flashed with unexpected warmth. "I'm looking for a packmate, not a maid," she said.
Micah had yet to meet an Alpha who could tolerate her bluntness, much less find it amusing. It made her wonder what it would be like to be in this female's pack.
"What's your name then, Alpha?"
"Kiara. And your name?"
"Name's Micah. So can I call you Kiki?"
"No." A blunt response.
* * * *
Caspian glided effortlessly up the manor's staircase, still carrying the unconscious human in his arms.
He frowned when he saw that Micah had not kept up with him. It made him wonder again if the wolf's injuries were not as shallow or minor as she had claimed.
He'd suspected as much during the uncomfortable ride in the car, where the scent of her blood had been almost overpowering.
Strangely, he'd had no trouble ignoring the human female's scent, despite the fact that she'd literally been in his arms. His senses had honed in almost exclusively on the scent of Micah's blood. It was layered with the same sweet, tantalizing aroma as her skin, only richer, darker, more tempting.
It had taken concerted effort and concentration on his part to stop his fangs from elongating right then, when the scent of her blood was wrapped around him like a silken cocoon. It had made him want to sit beside her, slice open her shirt to check her wounds, and maybe close them with a lick...
"I still can't believe she's half-Seraphim!" Leigh's incredulous voice had suddenly sounded in his head, their mental communication made possible by their familial blood-bond.
It was a timely reminder, one that snapped him from the sensory haze that had fogged his mind. There could be no tasting, no biting, no licking... not unless he had a death wish.
Painfully aware that he needed to regain control, Caspian had systematically begun to suppress his emotions, a capability that all empathic members of the Black family possessed to some degree. A quick mental check through the blood-bond had shown that Leigh too was going cold to suppress the bloodlust, though they were both careful to avoid switching off completely.
Half-Seraphim, he finally replied mentally to Leigh, his tone now icy and emotionless, and therefore deadly to all of us. Inform the coven, and make sure only humans are assigned to clean up the limo later. I don't want any accidents.
It had been a relief to get out of the car. And he'd noted with approval that his vampire bodyguards had quickly left the vehicles and avoided Micah upon their arrival at the estate.
Caspian had entered the manor with the human and released the cold as soon as he was inside. The bloodlust had returned immediately, but it had been tempered to manageable levels.
He was already halfway up the staircase when Micah finally came through the front door. He was quick to note her bloodied shirt. He could also smell the blood that seeped from her even though he was across the foyer; it made him realize she must have lost more blood than he'd originally suspected.
He could tell she was fading fast, though not in any mortal danger. He also knew wolfen pride wouldn't allow her to acknowledge her wounds, so he feigned ignorance of the severity of her injuries to avoid wounding her precious pride. He pretended to not notice her weakening pulse or her labored breathing even though he monitored her vital signs closely.
At the infirmary, he laid the human down on one of the beds in the middle of the room. The primary infirmary was on the ground floor but his sharp senses had alerted him to the fact that the room was occupied. He knew it would be foolish to bring the injured women there. Bloodlust was intensified by injury; he couldn't risk one of the coven being tempted beyond endurance.
The secondary infirmary was immaculate; the scent of ammonia was thick in the air, overwhelming Caspian's senses. He usually disliked the smell of the chemicals that were an integral part of the place, but tonight he welcomed the way they cleared his head of the wolf's scent.
Nikka, the coven's healer, walked into the room just then. Leigh had called ahead while they were en route in the limo to give her ample time to prepare for the arrival of her new patients.
Caspian heard Micah's unsteady footsteps approaching and fought the urge to step out into the hall to help her. He forced himself to stay in the infirmary and watched as Nikka assessed the wounds on the young woman's throat. The human's arrival at the scene had been unforeseen, an unwelcome complication to the events he had set in motion at the club.
The plan had been simple enough. He had staged the altercation in the alley, had sent the vampire there to attack Micah when he'd seen her leave the bar and head for the exit.
Caspian was a master of mood control, an inherited ability he shared only with his now-deceased mother. The gift has its drawbacks but it was powerful. His subjects never managed to detect his presence in their subconscious.
It had taken very little effort on his part to heighten the vampire's already existing bloodlust. Then he'd used his ability to manipulate the emotions of his little wolf bodyguard. She should have been completely overwhelmed by fear, fear so devastating that it would have broken many weaker beings easily. But Micah wasn't weak; she had battled Caspian's influence, refusing to accept the crippling emotion he had transmitted to her.
He should have been upset, but he found himself strangely pleased, almost smiling as he thought of how she had strengthened her mental shields and fought the fear that he had seeded in her mind.
She was proving to be every bit as gutsy as he'd been told.
He turned his attention back to the healer, a stunning, petite vampire whose ebony-haired head barely reached his chest. Her pretty hazel eyes and creamy skin usually left males around her panting for her attention.
"How is she, Nikka?"
"There is venom in her system. Do we terminate or monitor her turning?"
Caspian did not answer immediately. He heard a soft crash just outside the door and knew Micah had finally succumbed to her injuries. He hurried over to find her crumpled awkwardly on the floor. Although her pulse was still weaker than normal, it was steady enough to reassure him.
He reached for her, lifted her up into his arms, and found himself wrapped in her scent again.
The soft warmth of her body left an imprint of heat on his skin, and a pulse of need pierced through him. He was achingly aware of how much he craved her. He had carried the human woman without reacting to her flesh or her blood, but Micah was different. She was temptation itself, her soft flesh beckoning to be caressed; the scent of her blood intoxicating.
He thought of embracing the cold again, but he'd been doing that too often since her arrival. So he denied himself that escape, hissing out a harsh breath as he placed Micah on the infirmary bed that was situated against the far wall. He stepped back to place some distance between them as soon as she was settled on the bed, but his body still remembered the feel of her in his arms, and her blood now smeared the front of his shirt.
"Assess the wolf," he said to Nikka, his tone harsher than he'd intended. He wasn't surprised when she complied without hesitation. She was a healer without any prejudice against wolves or humans. She didn't follow his order because he was her Lord but rather because it was a compulsion within her to help the injured.
Nikka slit Micah's top open with a scalpel and pulled the material aside. Given her blood loss, Caspian was not surprised to see that her injuries were worse than she'd claimed. There were multiple stab wounds on her stomach, no doubt from talons sinking into her flesh. Remarkably, the wounds were showing signs of healing at a rapid rate.
Nikka's hands stilled. She watched with fascination as the wounds on Micah's stomach continued to heal without her assistance.
"She's more than wolf."
"Yes, she's half-Seraphim. You'll need to be careful when you handle her blood."
Caspian was still surprised by this new revelation. He and Leigh had been monitoring the attack in the alley, and they'd both heard Micah when she'd admitted her heritage to the other vampire.
Given her seraphim bloodline, they'd expected her to dispatch of her attacker quickly. Caspian had been preparing to exert his mood control on both combatants to keep the fight from turning deadly. They'd been surprised to realize Micah lacked the killing instinct. It was an instinct he'd hoped she would have because she would need it to survive what was to come unscathed.
Still, he thought with a frown, though Micah had failed to kill when she had the opportunity, her seraphim heritage made her even more valuable. Thanks to the massacre that had almost wiped out the race, seraphims were now extremely rare. Their power and ability were not fully understood, and their origins remained shrouded in mystery.
"I believe she doesn't need much help," Nikka said as she cleaned the area around the wounds and gently applied antiseptic.
"Fine," Caspian said. "The human looks strong enough to withstand the turning. Watch her closely."
Not for the first time, he regretted his decision not to intervene when the woman had walked into that alley. He'd thought it would be worth the risk to see how well Micah would handle the situation. Now the human would suffer for his mistake. If she survived the turning, he would accept her into the Black coven and help her adapt to her new life; he owed her that much.
Nikka nodded in agreement and moved back to the bed where the human lay. She worked quickly and efficiently, binding the human's wrists and ankles. The turning process was excruciatingly painful and the restraints were a necessary precaution.
He spared one last look at Micah, relieved to see that she continued to heal rapidly. "Contact me if there is any significant change in either woman."
He left the infirmary and tore off his bloodstained shirt as soon as he was out in the corridor. There was no point torturing himself with the scent of what he couldn't have.
* * * *
Ice-blue eyes that reflected only cold, dead nothingness stared at the drying blood on the arena floor.
Metallic cages hung over the three arenas in the large, underground room that was built directly beneath Diablo. It was a room cloaked by magic so powerful that the room's existence remained hidden from even the oldest and most skilled of beings.
"Daemon?" A hypnotic voice called out, pulling Daemon from his fascination with the drying red liquid.
"What is it, Christian?" Daemon asked, his cold gaze turning to the man who had been his leash for several centuries.
"You need to stop and rest." Christian watched as Daemon frowned and turned back to face the blood-stained arena. "Brother, you can't go on like this."
"What do you suggest, Christian? Should I accept death and allow them to wipe me out like I'd never walked this damned planet?"
"You have left footprints of blood, brother."
For centuries, Christian had tried to sway Daemon from the bloody path he'd chosen. Guilt twisted in his heart when he thought of how his efforts to save his brother had so far failed. Daemon would one day die a vicious death; no one with that much innocent blood on their hands escaped the judgment of the gods.
"I wonder how much the Death Angel will bleed before she dies."
Daemon's voice held a trace of excitement that left Christian feeling cold. Time was running out for all of them; every day, Daemon walked closer to the edge of sanity. All Christian could do was try to delay the beast that lay in wait, ready to strike out.
Perhaps this Death Angel could pass judgment over his brother, Christian thought, and finally give Daemon some peace.
* * * *
Green eyes the color of stained glass fluttered open to stare at the white ceiling. The scent of antiseptic was overpowering. Micah groaned and rubbed the heels of her palms over her temples to ease her pounding headache.
Mercifully, the pain eventually receded. Micah's senses sharpened enough to pick up the raspy breathing of a woman close by. Even as she turned her head to look at the room's other occupant, she ran her fingers gingerly over the wounds on her stomach. She was glad she healed at an extraordinary rate, even for a wolf. The wounds were still sensitive to touch, but they were now sealed, leaving behind new, pink flesh.
The silence of the room was suddenly broken by a short scream of pain; the woman lying in the nearby bed moaned as she thrashed against her restraints. Micah forced herself to get up and hurry to the human's side. She laid her hand on the woman's arm and found her skin burning hotly. She was turning.
"Help me," the woman pleaded with a tortured whimper. Micah could see the eyes of a fledgling staring up at her. Her blood-red eyes should have scared Micah, but she felt nothing but compassion.
She placed both hands over the woman and began to chant in a language that was older than time. Her palms heated and glowed with a power that flowed so easily from her.
Micah was breathing heavily and was leaning on the edge of the bed by the time she completed the chant, but she was satisfied knowing that she'd done her job well. The fledgling was now resting comfortably, her face no longer lined with pain. Those blood-red eyes had fluttered shut and she was breathing more easily.
Micah dragged herself back to her own bed, feeling so much weaker after the chant. She lay back down and closed her eyes as fatigue swept through her body. The act of healing another always drained her, and her recent injuries made the weakness worse. But it was a minor and temporary side-effect, and the gift of healing was one she treasured and would never, ever regret.
Micah pried her eyes open to find a vampire with hazel eyes and long, black hair standing next to her bed, looking down at her with a slight smile. It was a testament to how tired she was that someone had managed to enter the room without her sensing it. The newcomer carried a light within her that Micah rarely glimpsed.
"She's turning," Micah said as she gestured toward the woman who was still held down by restraints. "She doesn't need the binding anymore."
The healer smiled and moved to free the fledgling. "What are you?"
"Wolf... and seraphim."
"You're a healer, though, aren't you? And not a Death Angel?" The healer's voice held so much fascination and excitement that Micah smiled despite her weariness.
"Yeah, I'm a healer, like you."
The vampire's smiled broadened. " My name is Nikka."
"I'm Micah, but I bet you already knew that."
Nikka laughed, the sound rich and pleasant. "You're the only wolf in a vampire coven. It's impossible to keep little details like your name hidden. I swear some of the coven gossip worse than humans."
Micah snorted in amusement as she sat up and leaned her back against the wall next to her bed. "Sounds exactly like a wolf pack. Never could keep a secret for too long. I find the males to be the biggest mouths in the pack."
Nikka giggled before she turned to look at the woman that would be the coven's newest member. "Leigh says her name is Lisa. He found some ID on her, so at least we won't have to call her 'the fledgling' when she awakens." She turned back to Micah, her eyes curious. "How did you help her?"
Micah shrugged. "It's just a simple healing chant, though the words of the chant mean nothing. It's just the right word said with the right tone that allows me to heal."
"So the words are used as a trigger for your ability?"
"Pretty much." Micah smiled at the amazement in Nikka's hazel eyes.
"You must be treasured by your pack." Nikka frowned in sudden thought. "Why did they allow you to come here?" Her tone was full of concern.
"'Cause I'm the only one who knows how a coven works. And probably the only fool who was willing to step foot in enemy territory."
Nikka wanted to ask more questions, but she could tell the wolf was still tired. She curbed her curiosity and urged her patient to lie back down on her bed.
Micah sighed deeply, grateful for the opportunity to rest. She was exhausted.
* * * *
Caspian stared at the blank screen of his cell phone before carefully putting it down on his desk.
After assuring himself that both injured females were in stable condition, he had changed into a new shirt, then retreated to his study.
A cocktail of anticipation and rage clawed at him viciously as he thought of the phone call that had just ended. Relationships relied on give and take, and he'd just been reminded that he was expected to make a sacrifice, to surrender something precious if he wanted to rebuild the foundation of trust that had been shattered so long ago.
He held his head in his hands, despair coiling in his chest as the long silken strands of his hair fell over his forehead.
Heavy footsteps sounded in the hallway just before the scent of sweet spice reached his nose. He looked up just as his cousin stepped into the doorway.
"What is it, Leigh?"
"The limo is ready," Leigh said. "Also, I'm following a hunch, now that we know the wolf is half-seraphim."
When Caspian looked at him expectantly, Leigh continued. "Do you remember the vampire who mated into the Valkery Clan?"
Caspian did. He nodded as he rose to his feet, his mind already sifting through the possibilities. Leigh's hunches were rarely wrong; it was one of the reasons he excelled as the coven's Head of Security.
The sky was a stunning blend of orange and red, and the scent of damp earth would have soothed even the wildest beast. It was a calming feast for the senses, but Caspian was not in the right frame of mind to admire the beautiful wildness as he sat next to Leigh in the limo.