Careless feet slapped the pavement in front of a suburban train stop as Duncan paced to and fro. She’d claimed she could handle it, that she could hunt down their target without anyone finding out. What if she’d failed? Or worse. What if something had happened to her?
The linchpin of all his plans, he could not afford to lose her. Not after that potential—that mind-boggling, destiny-delivering potential—had stared at him through eyes ablaze all those years ago. If she was lost, he could blame no one else, for he alone had sent her on this task, this dangerous task, a task he should have completed himself.
A growl interrupted his uneasy ruminations.
Duncan whirled on the brute hidden in the hedge. “I told you, be quiet and stick to the shadows,” he hissed.
Echoes of Duncan’s whisper bounced off the glass sheltering the handful of empty seats.
Duncan scanned the bare parking lot, his insides clenching against all the ways this could go wrong. When no movement met his eye, his shoulders relaxed, though his mind remained sharp. Fortune had favored them when their quarry selected this final train to this deserted station. Duncan would not risk losing that advantage even if it meant ending the slavering imbecile squatting in the shrubs behind him.
The train crept toward thirty minutes overdue, but no thing broke the silence.
Duncan passed another two hundred laps across the station’s miniscule width. At last, a yellow glow pierced the fog. A headlight rounded the corner, illuminating the groundcover slinking toward the track. The train burst out of a tunnel cut through the lower branches of a dense forest. When it slowed to a stop, Duncan inhaled sharply—a habit from his human days that he’d yet to extinguish.
After infinite anxious seconds, the door slid open. Duncan’s breath escaped in a relieved whoosh. Adara pranced down those steps, her neck twisted and tilted upward as she chatted with someone he hoped was their prey. Flaming locks wound around the edge of her raincoat’s hood, something she’d insisted on wearing despite the clear skies.
The stranger followed a stride behind. Beneath eyes the size of boulders, a narrow nose poked into the darkness. Her pointy chin thrust forward as if seeking to impale creatures like him.
Duncan tilted his head toward the beast in the bushes. “Go. Hide yourself and await my move.”
Obedient for now, the creature padded away, its footfalls softer than Duncan would have believed possible had he not known what it was—what they both were.
“Honey! Oh, honey!” Adara waved to him as she bustled forward. The outsider trailed in her wake.
Adara was laying it on thick tonight.
Upon reaching him, Adara wriggled her freckled fingers through his. Her lips brushed his stubbled cheek. “This, my dear, is Miss Constantin, and she is simply the most fascinating creature I have ever met.”
Duncan’s stomach flipped. That was the code word; this was their target. Tonight they would attempt it yet again. In a few days—practically instantaneous for any eternal being—a weapon nearly as powerful as Adara herself could arise.
“I told you, Adara, please call me Sandy. And you are?” After tucking a rebellious curl behind her ear, Sandy’s hand extended toward him. The light of the half-moon glinted off her bejeweled rings.
As Duncan grasped Sandy’s hand, her hawk-like gaze captured his. Fear sprinted up Duncan’s spine. But no, if she were a Warrior, she would have attacked him the second her feet touched the pavement. Diviners could not sense his kind.
Not missing a beat, Adara covered for his hesitation. “Duncan…McMannister, my husband.” Adara then chronicled all the tourist attractions she’d allegedly completed in the city while they strolled toward a plaza of long-closed restaurants, shops, and convenient alleyways.
“Anyway… Say, Sandy, I remember you said you were walking home. I’m certain my hubby here wouldn’t mind giving you a ride.”
Duncan smothered his grimace. It was too soon.
“Oh no, it’s all right, Adara. I live just down the road. It was a pleasure meeting you though.” Sandy turned to follow a sidewalk heading away from the parking lot, then waved a hand over her shoulder. Ahead, an apartment complex rose out of the fog. By Duncan’s estimate, it was at least a quarter-mile behind the plaza, giving them plenty of time.
As Sandy Constantin drifted away, Duncan and Adara checked their surroundings. They were alone; the few people who exited with Adara and Sandy had long driven away. Out of the corner of his eye, Duncan watched the creature shadow their every step, clinging to the gloom.
“Are you certain, Miss Constantin?”
It didn’t matter if she was. Her fate had been determined the moment she departed that train.
“Yes, I’m cer—”
Duncan hurled himself at her. His arms wrapped about her frail human body. He tossed her like a ragdoll into the nearest alley. Bones cracked when she landed.
Duncan leapt onto her prone form. Flashing canines enlarged with the thrill of the hunt, he awaited the usual shriek of terror—the one that sent his heart racing, his blood pounding, his mouth salivating.
Only a whimper greeted his eager ears.
Squelching his disappointment, Duncan wasted no more time. He tightened his grip on Sandy’s wrists and pressed them into the damp asphalt of the alleyway. His knees pinned her squirming thighs to the ground.
Sandy twisted and turned, trying to avoid his teeth.
It was no use. Duncan ripped into her throat. Hot and juicy, her life force flooded his mouth—a wine more potent than any he’d tasted while human. Duncan indulged for an instant. Then he yielded her to the mindless monster beside him.
While the beast drained her, Duncan counted the moments between Sandy’s slowing heartbeats. A breath before it would be too late, Duncan tore the brute off and launched it in Adara’s direction. With two swallows, Duncan finished the deal.
Sandy Constantin, known Diviner, died at his hand.
Duncan shouldered her body, ready to race to the car, but Adara was not finished yet. Heat rippled off her in waves. The beast cowered against the brick wall. It watched her, licking the blood off its fingers.
“May I?” Adara’s eyes of copper rose, but the question was mere formality. Adara would have it with or without his permission, not that Duncan cared about the creature now that it had served its purpose.
“Of course, but wait until we’re in the car.”
A grin more terrifying than his own spread over Adara’s freckled face. Her teeth reflected the moonlight as she swung a discarded bag of trash toward her victim.
The beast pressed itself into the brick wall, probably debating between fight or flight, unaware that neither held any hope against Adara. No doubt this turn of events—predator becoming the prey—bewildered it. Few of Duncan’s kind knew of the Clan and its vampire-annihilating magic. Fewer still lived to speak of it. Nevertheless, some instinct alerted it to the peculiar danger of Adara.
Duncan bounded away without a backward glance. Over his shoulder, Sandy’s body bounced with his every stride. Upon reaching the car, he settled her corpse on the backseat with a moth-eaten blanket hiding it from view. He sank into the driver’s seat.
An animal’s screams filled the night air.