Rayne sensed new scents the instant she re-entered the Alpha’s house. They were coming from the third floor so she assumed the Hanlon Alphas had arrived to welcome the new babies. She was aware of the power players in this part of the world. She always made sure she knew just who everyone was if she was going to stick around any one place for a while.
The Hanlon and Armand-Hanlon packs was very closely interwoven. Her research had told her that Rafe was an adopted brother to Jared Hanlon and he had also practically raised Jared’s mate Millie when they were still human, classing her as his sister. He did have a biological sister who he had raised from and young age and viewed more as his daughter than his sibling. Rhianna Armand was now a vampire and mated to the most power Ancient to walk the planet, Caleb Cullen. She was surprised the vampires hadn’t appeared yet to greet the new additions to their family.
Practically skipping into her room, Rayne headed for the shower and stripped quickly. She tried to push Gard out of her mind as she washed quickly, erasing his scent from her body as thoroughly as she could. That was one of the downsides to unmasking their scent. Others would be able to pick it up on their skin.
It struck her that she should probably mention to Rafe that Gard was always lurking around in the forest, watching the Pack. Now she was part of the wolves she felt a pressure on her to do so. But she held back, knowing that he wasn’t a danger to anyone. He had, after all, almost killed her because he had considered her to be a threat to the pack, which clearly marked his intentions as non hostile to the wolves. Still, it was strange that he hid himself from them. She wondered why that was.
“So that’s what you smell like,” Dayton mused from his position on her bed when she walked back into the bedroom draped in a towel.
She smiled and continued drying her hair, her eyes intent on his face which was withdrawn, hiding all his emotions. “You like?” she laughed lightly.
He frowned and sat up running a hand through his unbound hair. “You feel at home here, Rayne.” It wasn’t a question more of a statement. “You wouldn’t unmask your scent otherwise.” He appeared unhappy about it.
Chewing her inner lip, she sat down on the bed beside him. “And you don’t?”
Dayton took a long time to answer, thinking through her question carefully. “It’s not that,” he finally sighed. “Part of me feels a connection but it’s incomplete somehow. Like I have something else I need to do before I can be truly at home here. I’m leaving, Rayne.”
Sadness welled up inside her, partly hers and partly his emotions which were raging wildly deep inside him. He ached to belong to the pack and yet a cold thread of hatred ran through him growing stronger with each passing moment.
“Let it go, Day,” she whispered. “You’ve let your emotions out and that’s a good thing. But don’t fixate on the negative ones. They’ll destroy you just as much as withholding them was destroying you.”
“I can’t remember what Faith’s lips felt like pressed against mine anymore.” It was a tortured admission, pain in every word. “She took that from me, Rayne. She laughed and she took it for no other reason than she could.” His eyes were flashing with pain laced with a dark hatred when he turned to look at her.
Rayne sucked in a deep breath, touching his face gently. “She hurts too. The first time I saw her in your gallery I thought my knees would buckle at the pain she carried deep inside. I was amazed at how serene her expression was considering all I could feel coming from her. She must be a very strong woman to have walked the planet for over two thousand years with all that anguish deep inside.”
“You want me to feel sorry for her?” he hissed furiously, pulling away from her touch, disbelief in his eyes.
“I want you to look at her objectively, Day. Look at what she’s become. Because that is what you will become if you allow your negative emotions to take over.” Rayne knew her words were harsh but he needed to hear them. “If you can’t find it in your heart to pity Freya then at least try and find some understanding. Maybe understanding Freya Eriksson is what you need to finally come home.”
Dayton was off the bed in an instant, fury racing through his blood as he glared down at her. He couldn’t believe she was sticking up for the vampire, asking the impossible from him. “If you love her so much then you go and pity and understand her,” he ground out through clenched teeth. “Just don’t ask me to do so. I thought you were supposed to be my friend, Rayne.”
His rejection of her caused a deep pain to settle in her heart but she held her ground. “Friends tell each other the truth even when it hurts,” she answered sadly. She didn’t want to hurt him and she knew she was but she had to try and stop the growing hate which was ready to consume him and turn him colder and harder than he’d ever been before.
A cold, hard mask settled over Dayton’s face, reminiscent to the one he was used to showing to the world but never to her. “Friends are loyal and stand by each other no matter what,” he said quietly, turning and walking out the room without a backward glance.
Rayne stared after him trying to decide whether she should follow him or give him some time to calm down. The sound of voices made her decision as the visitors began descending the stairs from the third floor. She didn’t want to meet them just yet. She knew Rafe would have told the other Alphas about her and she didn’t want to see their speculative glances.
Sighing she lay back on the bed and hoped that Dayton could work through his hurt and anger quickly so she could try again to break through the new barriers he was starting to wall around his heart. If he allowed the hate to fester then there was no telling what would become of him or the woman he was so focused on hating.
Dayton was furious with Rayne, so angry that he flew out of the compound and deep into the forest. He ran until a light sheen of sweat covered his body and then he slowed down, finally coming to a standstill in a small glade. He couldn’t believe she was defending the vampire, taking her side over his.
Rayne’s betrayal was like a knife to his heart. She was the one person he had come to rely on to always be there for him, to stand with him through everything. And now she sided with the woman who had taken his last precious memories from him with her cold callous act. The anger and pain he felt was threatening to overwhelm him completely.
He couldn’t stand it, shifting in a blink of an eye, letting go and allowing his wolf to come out. It wasn’t even a conscious decision, it just happened. He could hide within the wolf, crouch down so low, cut himself off so completely that the animal became almost whole, just shy of being completely Rogue.
The large brown wolf howled into the forest and took off at full speed, running faster and faster away from the Pack, away from Rayne. In a matter of moments it was miles away. Sensing the end of the forest approaching it veered left, towards the more mountainous region it didn’t normally traverse.
The need to run was a compulsion. The wolf couldn’t have stopped even if it tried. And then a scent hit it and it was like having its heart ripped out. Cherry blossom, so sweet, so tantalising, so deadly.
The wolf howled loudly and the man crashed forward to take control. His wolf howled again, struggling to stay the dominant mind but he wouldn’t allow it, snarling as the scent overwhelmed him and he changed direction heading straight for the woman who owned that scent. Blue eyes flashed with death, the need to rip and claw and destroy the only thing on his mind.
The fury within made him careless, less observant. The old pit trap was upon him before he could halt his forward movement. The wolf’s howl turned to one of utter agony as Dayton tripped the trap and began falling downward into the twenty foot deep pit with large, razor sharp spikes embedded firmly in the ground.
Freya heard a wolf howl and looked up from the papers littered across the table top in front of her. The sound was feral, full of rage. It told of a death about to come. The sheer viciousness of it made her smile before she dropped her eyes back to the documents before her.
The next howl was of such agony that she was moving before she realised what she was doing so, standing on the porch of the well concealed wooden retreat high up in the mountains surrounded by trees. Nors had built the place almost a thousand years ago. They had lived there together for a few centuries before he had become bored with it and moved back down into the city.
She had always treasured that time, how close she had been to her brother, just the two of them content with each other’s company. This was probably why she had maintained the retreat long after Nors had forgotten it even existed.
She knew there was something pathetic about how she kept the place almost the same as it had been then. The only real additions she had made to it was to put in a modern bathroom and upgrade the kitchen too. She didn’t eat but it was always in the back of her mind that one day she may sell the place and if a Were or Human bought it they would want a proper kitchen.
The retreat had been everything to her once so very long ago. A place of happiness, a place of safety. It had been instinctive to come here, to retreat to the last place she could ever remember feeling true happiness. And now there was an animal out there intruding on her privacy, a wounded animal by the sounds of things.
Should she look for it or should she let it die? In the wild survival depended on being strong and fit. If the wolf had been stupid enough to get itself into trouble then it was no business of hers. And yet the echo of that anguished howl still hung on the afternoon air and she found herself remembering a pair of dark blue eyes, agony shining in their depths.
Freya stepped off the porch and inhaled deeply. Her body stiffened and her head swung around to the left. The scent that greeted her was like a punch in the gut. She could smell the forest, the rich earthy masculine scent that belonged to only one male she knew. She took off into the trees in an instant, following that scent and the sweet, sweet smell of warm hot blood.
The pit was twenty foot deep, her keen gaze easily taking in the long, naked limbs of the man lying impaled on the wicked looking spikes. Her heart twisted hard as she walked the pit carefully working out the best place to drop down into it. She ignored the twisting of her heart, pushing it deep down out of the way.
Dayton had obviously gone into the pit in his wolf form but had reverted back to human after being impaled. It would make it awkward getting him out because the pit had been dug for a large wolf not a six foot three man. She could scent his blood, could tell that something major had been severed by its thickness. It was evident she didn’t have time to be pissing about.
Freya dropped into the pit, a spike piercing one thigh deeply, another shredding her hand that reached out to avoid falling on top of him. She ignored the pain, was used to suffering all manner of injuries over the long centuries. She snapped off the spike below her thigh and pulled it through, tossing it out of the pit. She then did the same with the one through her hand.
She was healing instantly, her agile mind working out how best to free Dayton from his spikes. Luckily for him he was unconscious. The agony he would be in, had he been aware, would have driven him insane. There was nothing for it; she was going to have to lift him up. His weight had pushed the spikes in deeply and she needed to sever them beneath him.
Dayton Alexander was not a light man, his big body full of thick heavy muscles, but she was an Ancient vampire and her strength surpassed his to the nth degree. Freya wrapped one arm securely under his back and raised his body slowly, ignoring the sucking noise of his torn flesh rasping against the thick wood.
She worked quickly, methodically, severing each spike beneath his body. Most of them had missed vital organs which was a minor miracle, with the exception of the one through his left thigh. That had hit his femoral artery. It was that one which was pumping his blood out so fast that he was probably moments away from death. She could hear how weakly his heart was beating and she strove to work faster.
Freya sprang up agilely, easily clearing the pit with the man secured in her arms. She lay him down on the ground and moved to the worst injury. She stared at the spike, knowing that the instant she pulled it out there would be precious seconds remaining to stop him from bleeding out.
She had been in this situation once before, the night she had tried to keep Ashleigh alive long enough for Nors to come heal her. She’d been unable to do the healing because they wouldn’t have been able to mate if she had. Dayton required the same kind of healing. His only chance of survival was if she mixed her vampire blood directly with his.
He would never be able to mate with another vampire if she did so but then he was still pining for his dead mate anyway. She figured it was a moot point for him.
Making her decision she gripped the protruding stake with one hand and ripped open her fingers on the other. With the speed born of an Ancient, she pulled out the stake and plunged her blood soaked hand deep into the wound. Searching quickly for the rupture in his artery, she mixed her blood with his until it sealed completely; then she closed the wound.
She treated the non lethal injuries in the same manner, removing the stakes and sealing the wounds quickly. Then she opened his mouth and fed him a few drops of her blood, holding it closed until he swallowed reflexively.
His heartbeat was stronger, the imminent threat of death receding. But he would hurt like hell when he woke up. She hadn’t been able to give him enough of her Ancient blood to speed up his healing too quickly and she doubted that he would accept any more once he woke up, not the way he felt about her.
Standing up slowly Freya stared down at Dayton wiping her hands against her already bloody jeans. She studiously ignored the pull of his blood; that sinfully wicked flavour that had set her on fire when she’d first tasted it.
What was she to do with him now? He was alive but unable to fend for himself. She didn’t want to return to the compound or her family, didn’t want Nors to remember their secret place and come looking for her. If she left Dayton here he would most likely die and her efforts to save him would have been pointless.
She wasn’t even sure why she’d bothered to save him. Maybe it was her way of apologising for what she’d done to him? Something had touched her cold heart long enough to make her unbend enough to save a dying wolf. Allowing him to perish now wasn’t an option. Sighing deeply, Freya reached down and picked him up almost tenderly. She streaked through the trees, taking him back to her sanctuary.
To be continued...