The Urban Predators transformed in perfect unison, not even bothering to take off their clothes first. In the space of a few seconds, the five humans in front of me were replaced with five wolves, shaking off the last few shreds of cloth that still clung to their four legged, fur-covered bodies. Kaylie howled in challenge to me.
I glanced at Dex. “This wasn’t part of the plan.”
“Is that a problem?” he asked with an eyebrow raised.
I smirked. “Not at all.”
And then I transformed. And let me tell you, the look of absolute shock and terror on the Urban Predators’ faces was a sight I would cherish for the rest of my life. The shift pins made my clothes vanish, saving them from the sudden increase in size I went through. I fell forward onto all fours before my body had even shifted that far to keep from hitting my head on the ceiling. Claws as big and as sharp as swords sprouted from my newly formed paws. Teeth long enough to stab straight through a fully grown man grew from my mouth. I felt the strength, the pure, unadulterated power of the Silverblood spread through my body like an avalanche of thunder and fire.
And then, fully changed, I answered Kaylie’s howl with one of my own. My voice shook the walls. The windows cracked. Kaylie’s pack cowered, whining as my howl tore at their sensitive ears. I looked at them, baring my teeth in a feral grin, eagerly anticipating the slaughter that was about to take place.
This is your last chance to run, I thought, even though they couldn’t hear me. The only one who has to die today is Kaylie.
But I’d be more than happy to take care of the rest of you, too!
The Predators cowered from me, taking shelter behind their alpha. The wolf in me found that hilarious. After today…if I left any of them alive…they’d have to rename themselves the Urban Prey pack.
But Kaylie was made of stronger stuff than her packmates. While they cowered, she glared at me—her obvious superior—with a defiance that impressed even my wolf. She growled, not at me, but at her pack. Reluctantly, they came out from behind her and reformed their battle formation. I didn’t attack. This fight would be one sided enough as it was. The least I could do was let them make the first move.
And make the first move they did. With one more howl, Kaylie charged at me, flanked by her pack. She wasted no time in going for my most obvious weak spot, my eyes, by pouncing straight for my face. My snout was big enough for her to stand on, and her claws pricked at the skin beneath my thick fur, but just as her teeth snapped at my left eye, I sent her flying with a mere twitch of my head. She landed twenty feet away, rolling across the floor until she struck the wall. Too easy.
But while I’d been distracted by Kaylie, the rest of her pack attacked me from the sides. One of them—I think it was Twitchy—sank her teeth into the heel of my back paw. A smart move. Cripple your opponent, and the fight is over. But she was weak, her teeth as flat as a cow’s compared to mine, and she barely managed to break the skin. I sent her flying as well with a kick from my back paw.
The twins, never leaving each other’s sides, darted underneath me to bite at my soft underbelly. That could have been a problem. Being so big, it gave my enemies easier access to what was usually well protected. One of them jumped up to sink their teeth into my skin. They had more luck than Twitchy, and a sharp flash of pain actually ripped through me. I growled, and immediately rolled over. The speed with which I moved sent one of them—I think it was Sis—flying. A trickle of blood leaked from where they’d bit me, but I’d spent all last night soaking up moonlight. The wound healed itself almost before I could notice it.
That left the first twin, the brother, for me to deal with. Rolling back to my feet, I opened my mouth and came at him, ready to snap him in half with one huge bite. But just before my teeth could close around him, a big black blur streaked in front of me, tackling Bro out of my path. My jaws smashed shut with a sound like a gunshot, but there was nothing in them.
I growled, turning to look as she picked herself up off her packmate. She had saved his life, no doubt about that, but it was a wasted effort. In just a matter of minutes, they would all be dead.
Snarling, I took a threatening step toward her, but still Kaylie held her ground. My wolf didn’t like that. A pup like her needed to be taught how to respect their betters! I opened my mouth again, ready to taste her blood, when—
Something tugged on my tail. Surprised, I turned to look, and found Benny Rattail hanging from it. He’d actually jumped up to close his teeth around the very tip of my tail, and now he was dangling from it like a fish on the end of a line. Irritated, I flicked my tail upwards, throwing him free, and watched him sail up and over my head to land on the concrete floor right in front of me.
Everything went still for a second. Kaylie’s eyes widened.
And then I stepped on him, crushing Benny under my paw like the pitiful insect he was.
And just like that, the reality of this fight seemed to crash down on the other wolves. I raised my paw, letting them see the bloody smear that had once been their packmate. This time, even Kaylie was intimidated. But that fear didn’t overpower her rage. I’d killed her brother, and now two of her beloved packmates. If anything, it just made her even more determined to bring me down!
With a sound that was equal parts a scream and a snarl, she came at me again. I bit at her, but she was just a hair too fast, and when my jaws snapped shut she was beneath me. I spun around, swiping at her with my claws, but she narrowly dodged those as well. It didn’t matter. She was right beneath me. All I had to do was crush—
The sister twin leaped on me while my attention was on Kaylie, sinking her claws and teeth into my side. I growled, and immediately threw myself at the nearest wall. It wasn’t a move that a normal wolf would have thought of, but to a werewolf—having the strength of an animal and the cunning of a human—it was second nature. I smashed Sis against the wall hard enough to make the entire building shake. Bones crunched beneath my power. When I backed away, Sis fell to the floor as limply as a wet dishrag. The second death.
Bro howled, his voice filled with despair at seeing his sister die. That left only him, Twitchy, and Kaylie herself. Blinded by rage, he tried to charge at me, only to be cut off by Kaylie. She was trembling now. She obviously hadn’t thought that the fight would go this disastrously. I could see her weighing her options in her head. Run, and live in shame? Or stay, fight, and die? I looked at the glove, still lying on the floor where Kaylie had thrown it.
Leave it and go, I silently urged her. Keep what you still have, and be thankful for it.
But no. Of course things could never be that easy. Kaylie came at me again from the front, with Twitchy and Bro coming from the right and left. I sighed as much as a wolf can sigh, and then spun in a circle. My tail struck Bro like a giant baseball bat, breaking his spine even before he had bounced off the ceiling and landed in a crumpled heap on the other side of the building.
We’d only been fighting for a couple of minutes, but I was already tired. Not physically, though. It was like I had a wildfire blazing inside me big enough to burn every forest on earth to cinders. No, I was tired of the killing, tired of the misery that Hendricks made me cause, tired of being the monster I’d always known I was. I knew I’d never fully escape it. The best I could do was end things quickly, make the gap between this murder and the next as long as possible.
I spun again just as Twitchy came within reach, and she practically ran straight into my mouth. I scooped her up, biting down on her struggling form just once. Blood flooded my mouth, invigorating that primal part of me that Stark had created four years ago. She stopped fighting immediately, and I tossed her aside like a ruined chew toy.
And that was that. With a snarl, I turned back toward Kaylie, who was staring up at me in horror. Three minutes. It had only taken me three minutes to reduce her remaining pack from five to one. Just her. Just like before, she was all alone in the world.
Because of me.
Just go! I thought desperately. Don’t make me kill you too. Please!
Did she deserve to die? Maybe. But not from me. She was angry and heartbroken, and I couldn’t blame her. I hadn’t killed her brother, but I couldn’t deny that if it hadn’t been for me, he’d still be alive right now. Miserable, practically enslaved, but alive. We were both victims here. If I killed her, how did that make me better than Hendricks or the goons at Majestic?
Go! Run! Live!
She began to back away, and for a second I actually thought she was going to take my unspoken advice. But then she did the last thing I was expecting.
She changed back.
I cocked my canine head, confused. She couldn’t fight in that form, and her clothes were ruined. If she tried running like that, she’d be—
“Now, Dexter!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “Do it now!”
I froze, then swung my head over to look at Dex. He was still standing on the other side of the warehouse, scepter in hand, watching us fight with passive interest.
“Do it!” Kaylie yelled at him. “Blast her already!”
My head spun. What the hell was happening now? Why would Kaylie expect Dex to help her fight me?
And with that, the last piece of the puzzle clicked into place. Suddenly it all made sense. How could Kaylie have known where I’d be the night of the full moon? How had she known I would leave the gauntlet behind? How had she gotten it, evaded Hendricks, and left such a perfect trail of clues that would guarantee to lead me straight to her? It was impossible, unless…
Unless she had someone on the inside.
Terror filled my heart as I looked at Dex. Not just a traitor to Majestic, not just a traitor to Hendricks, but a traitor…to me.
“What are you waiting for?” Kaylie demanded, still backing away. “We had a deal! Kill her!”
I couldn’t move as Dex slowly raised his scepter, the gem glowing. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be happening! After everything we’d been through, everything we’d shared over the past few days, he couldn’t betray me now! He’d told me he loved me. Had that all been a—
“No,” he said, and blasted Kaylie.
Kaylie was thrown off her feet and sent skidding across the concrete floor by the blast. Even without my sensitive nose, I would have been able to smell the burned skin. She stopped, lying on her back. Alive? I highly doubted it.
I turned to face Dex again, silent except for a broken hearted whine. Dex looked into my eyes and lowered his wand.
“Amber,” he said slowly, “please, let me explain.”
I took a deep breath, released it, and then shifted back to my human form. My clothes reappeared as soon as I’d shrank enough to fit in them. Now that the fight was over, there was nothing to distract me from the sharp, burning sense of betrayal I got just from looking at him.
“You were behind it all, weren’t you?” I asked.
He sighed, looked at the floor, but nodded. “I never wanted to hurt you, Amber. I only…”
He looked back up, his voice trailed off, and I spun around just in time to see Kaylie escape through the exit, re-transformed—and with the stupid glove in her mouth!
“Oh, crap,” Dex moaned.
I spun to face him, eyes burning and fists clenched. “We will be talking about this when I get back, you pig!”
And then I turned and chased after her.