Acquired Taste | iv

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Neither of them could gather the crystal. As harmless as the pieces looked scattered on the ground they were not. They were heavy and they burnt.

"This isn't a safe place to be."

"I am aware of that," Steele snapped now as frustration took its toll. "But what are we supposed to do. If this remains open more creatures will come out."

"And we will fight them."

"Not everyone knows how to wield an axe, Bile. Those people in the tunnels, they are not warriors. They are mothers—terrified children."

"Men," Bile added.

"Men who are not equipped to fight the things that are destroying the city. Men who never had to fight in a war their entire lives." Steele walked away fists clenching and opening. "The vampires were the armies. We protected the city and the people in it. Duncan caged them and left them to starve. They fed on each other to survive. The vampires who did escape made it to middle earth." Steele turned to face them. "Do you think they would come back for this?"

"If you asked them—"

"I am not Caine, Bile," his words trembled. "Vampires are not packs like werewolves or covens like witches. We are not naturally loyal to anyone but ourselves, anything but blood."

"Caine made them loyal."

"Caine made all of them." Steele was not certain of his sire's age but he had been the most powerful vampire there ever was. His only weakness had been his people, his family. That was what had gotten him killed. If he had not been distracted trying to be something vampires were not meant to be he would not have been killed.

"You are their leader now. Some will accept—some will not. That is always the case whether vampire or werewolf. Not all werewolves run in packs." Bile failed to mention that those who did not were sentenced to death. Steele did not bother to highlight that either. He understood Bile's attempt to soothe his mind. It would take more than words of encouragement.

As they stood there pondering over their alternatives the throbbing of the crystal could be heard. Before it had only been the intensity of it reflecting in the rhythm of its light but now they could hear it. A steady throbbing building. Higher, louder. In unison, they stepped back, the feeling of impending dread mutual.

"Time to move."

They got as far as the center of the forest when they heard the roar. When they felt the ground vibrating beneath their feet. The second wave was here. Bigger things were coming.


Riding on the back of a hound, she searched the Hunts Clan. Chances were the people had made it to another realm but she did not see that being possible. Like the werewolves, they would have been ambushed out in the open. There was no sign of carnage outside of the city, which meant they had not tried to escape it. They were still there but where? The hounds picked up nothing.

Nerina was not sure how they understood her when she spoke but when she had given the order, they had done as she said. Barks echoed through the city as they passed on information that weirdly she understood. Not in words but in sensations. She instinctively knew what they were saying. There was a kind of kinship and she was their leader. Their Alpha. That opened up the doors to more opportunities. She would face Duncan again and she would have her own pack.

The problem now was finding someone to open the portal. There were other portals Nerina thought. Leading to other realms. The only portals she had used were the ones that led her here and back to middle earth. Not forgetting the one that had led her and Steele to the dungeon. Nerina gritted her teeth. He had left her again. From the looks of the map he had provided, there were vast opportunities to explore. They could not shut all the portals from her. One would be open and whoever was on the other side would be very—unlucky. She was not selective at this point.

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