Home > Tattered Thorns : A Wild Hunt Adventure

Tattered Thorns : A Wild Hunt Adventure
Author: Yasmine Galenorn

 


CHAPTER ONE

 

 

The coyote shifters attacked my front door first. Luckily, I was in the kitchen when I heard the lock rattling. Fuck—I could smell them from where I was. Wet coyotes smell worse than wet dogs, and while I had full reason to think they were back in their human shapes, I knew that smell. I never had to encounter a pungent odor more than once to remember it. And this… This odor I remembered.

I glanced around, trying to figure out what to do. The house I was renting was in a bad neighborhood, and with that came flimsy locks. If I was facing just one of them, I could deal. But they’d brought all their homies—that much was apparent by the noise on the other side of the door—and meant that it was going to be that much harder to put them out of my misery. The fact that they were the front pushers for a major drug cartel hadn’t escaped me.

Raising my foot to a half–pulled out drawer full of silverware, I reached behind the slit in the right leg of my jeans and flipped open the snap that was holding the peace binding on the sheath. As I withdrew Harmony—my blade—I plastered on a grim smile. I named my blade Harmony because she was often the only thing that managed to restore harmony to my life. Thirteen inches of cold steel, she had a black bog oak hilt and the blade itself was etched with an incantation using the Celtic Ogham. I bite for blood, it said.

The coyote shifters were still fiddling with the door, to my relief. They weren’t stupid, but when they were in coyote form and they formed a pack, it seemed that their IQs went down by about a third. Given they were hopped up on some sort of upper, it lowered the bar even more.

I snuck around the counter, wondering how many I could take down if they broke through before I managed to get out the back door. The only other way out of this joint was through the master bedroom. It led to the back yard, where I could climb over a fence and be off and down the street before they realized I had escaped.

I grabbed my purse as I stood up, and slung it over my shoulder. I was wearing stiletto boots, but I could run in them and that was all that mattered. I made sure my keys were in my purse and hurried into the bedroom. I grabbed the leather jacket that I had tossed across the bed and shrugged it on. Then, turning toward the sliding glass doors, I was about to grab the handle when I saw a shadow moving outside behind one of the large evergreen bushes. A man and a woman jumped out, slamming against the glass of the door. I took one look at the yellow glow in their eyes and bounded over the bed, back toward the door. I slammed the door behind me even as I heard breaking glass.

Oh hell, what the fuck do I do now? I dashed into the bathroom. It was the only other room in the house that locked from the inside and that had a window. I slammed the door closed, pushing the lock, then leaped up on the counter, my anxiety rising. The window was large enough for me to scramble out, but it was also frosted and I couldn’t see for sure if anybody was out there. I hesitated, but the next moment I heard the front door crash open and I knew it was now or never. I shoved the window open and punched out the screen. I took a quick look right and left but couldn’t see anybody, thank gods, so I tossed my pack and purse out, then poised with my boots on the ledge of the window as I balanced, making sure my dagger wouldn’t stab me as I leapt to the ground.

I had barely landed and scooped up my purse and pack when a low laugh came from my right, from behind a large rhododendron. One of the coyote shifters—I thought his name was Jim—jumped out to block my path.

“Lyrical, where you going so fast?” He was tall, lanky, and had bright coppery hair that hung in greasy strands. He was also carrying a thick iron pipe and was slapping it against his other hand as his eyes glittered.

I eyed the space between him and the sidewalk. I was too close to him—unless I was able to knock the pipe out of his hands, but even from this distance, I could feel the iron’s energy. It made me tingle, and in a very bad way.

My knees felt weak and I realized I was hungry. There was only one way out, but I’d have to be fast. I dropped my pack and purse. “Why don’t you put down that pipe?” I said, catching his gaze and holding it as I modulated my voice to become lower, throatier. The next moment, I could feel the ache rising, overtaking the fear. I began to walk toward him.

“What are you doing?” he asked, pausing the steady tattoo of the pipe against his hand. “What…” He stumbled over his words, unable to break away from my gaze.

Coyote shifters were easy if you could pick them off from the pack. And right now, there was no chance he was going to call for his packmates. I reached out, running my fingers over his cheeks, and he let out a low moan.

“You really don’t want to hurt me. Put down the pipe, babe.” I winked at him, running my tongue over my lips.

“No, I don’t want to hurt you,” he repeated, dropping the pipe.

“You want to kiss me, don’t you? Long and hard, probably as long and hard as your dick.” I reached up to put my hands on his shoulders and slowly pushed. He folded to his knees in front of me. I glanced around. Nobody else had noticed us in the tangle of foliage that filled the yard.

“Kiss…me…please.” He was breathing hard and I leaned down, lightly touching my lips to his. I could feel the brush of my skin against his, and then the rush of his sweet breath. It was filled with chi—with energy—and I needed that energy. I began to kiss him, gently at first, then began to draw out his life force with my breath, streaming it into my body. As the energy flooded my veins, I could feel it draining away from him. I ignored the information that threatened to overflood my senses—facts and figures and visions from his life. Instead, I focused on draining him, on sucking out every last gasp of breath, and my excitement grew.

The rush began to spiral through me as I grew stronger. I felt high, higher than any trip from the strongest drug. As the shifter realized I was draining him dry, he began to struggle. I laughed, toying with him, every spark of my being quivering. I pressed harder on his shoulders and he couldn’t break away.

“This is so good, baby. Be nice and I’ll end your life on a high instead of pain,” I whispered. Feeding my hunger was better than sex, better than the strongest orgasm, as I met his breath and drew it into my lungs. The thrill warmed me like the best fuck in the world, and then—as he began to fade—I slammed back into my body, coming so hard that I almost screamed.

As I stumbled back from his corpse I felt so strong I could have moved a mountain. I grabbed up my pack and purse and crept out of the bushes but I had miscalculated and found myself in a semi-circle of coyote shifters. As they moved in, each carrying at least one weapon, I turned back to the bathroom window and, with one leap, sprang through the air, diving headfirst through the open window, coming up into a crouch. Behind me, I heard the shifters scramble.

“Oh, shit,” I muttered. “I’m in trouble.” Dagger in hand, I straightened and prepared to face the music.

 

 

As I kicked the bathroom door open, hoping to slam it down on anybody who might be right outside, I heard a scuffle out at the front door before two shifters came toward me, one on either side. I went into defense mode, strengthened by the extra chi I had absorbed.

One of them was carrying a sword, the other a dagger. I gauged the distance between the one to my right—with the dagger—and then sprang into a front flip, stretching out to use his shoulders as a platform. He was so startled he didn’t even try to stab me as I swung over his head. As I cleared him, I gave another push, this one against his back, then went into a tuck and roll. He lurched forward as his companion brought his sword up and I heard a bloodcurdling scream behind me.

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