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Chapter 76 – Freedom? – Raine's POV

I didn't have another second to think about it before all hell broke loose. Suddenly, the door was decimated into pieces and several vampires flooded the room, General Raed and Alaric leading the way. I clutched the sheet to my chest to cover myself.

Alaric's eyes snapped to meet mine. Understanding and unbridled rage crossed his expression when he saw me naked in the bed. He hissed, "Get dressed!"

I flew out of the bed, completely unconcerned that an entire room full of male vampires was getting a first-row look at my body. I just wanted out! Hell, I probably would have been willing to run naked through the streets if it meant my freedom from Marku.

Marku roared angrily, "Are you quite sure you want to challenge me?!"

Alaric snarled, "I have never been more fucking sure of anything in my life!"

I fumbled with the zipper and button on my jeans, my hands shaking too much. I finally got it clasped and shrugged quickly into my T-shirt, not bothering with my bra. It took me less than ten more seconds to shove my feet into my boots, before I was ready to go.

Adrenaline crashed through me, heightening my senses. In a blink, I assessed everyone's position. I was tucked behind Marku with the bed to my side and the wall at my back. I was going to have to get around him to reach the door, which I knew he had no intention of letting me do.

Alaric and General Raed faced Marku. I didn't have time to count, however there were several vampires fanned out behind them. I hoped it would be enough. All of their bodies were crouched and quivering, ready to attack. It suddenly became very clear to me that if a fight broke out with me still in the room, there was a high likelihood anyone of them could kill me quite by accident.

I had no intention of staying where I was and I certainly couldn't just walk past Marku, so I decided to throw myself across the bed instead. Given it was a king size, I landed a little past the middle and had to scramble to make it to the other side.

Marku lunged to recapture me, however General Raed exploded into motion at the same time, crashing into him right before he reached me. Apparently, it was the opening that Alaric needed. I never heard a command given, but suddenly all of the vampires broke into a coordinated attack. Every one of them assaulted Marku, except for Alaric and two other vampires. Alaric snaked across the room, snatched me and shot out the door with the two vampires protecting his flanks.

Marku roared furiously and the sounds of the battle behind us increased exponentially. I shook in Alaric's arms. I wasn't sure if there were enough of them to defeat Marku.

We were currently on the 20th floor and sure as hell couldn't take the time to ride down the elevator. I expected Alaric to make a break for the stairs; however they shocked the hell out of me when the two vampires suddenly surpassed us and careened down the hallway at a breathtaking speed.

I watched in horror.

There was no way they would be able to stop before they hit the window at the end! And then my horror amplified one hundred fold when I realized they didn't intend to stop! The sound of shattering glass confirmed my fears, as they hurtled their bodies through and dropped from sight. In the next millisecond, Alaric followed them with me still grasped tightly to his chest!

Oh shit!! I was going to die!!

Alaric clasped a hand over my mouth, making it impossible for me to release the scream that surged up my throat, as we free fell back down to the earth. His feet barely touch the pavement, before he rocketed forward. The abrupt change in direction and momentum jarred my body painfully, but I was thrilled to find I was still in one piece.

A block ahead of us, the side door of a white van was open, ready and waiting for us to dive in. The instant we made it inside, one of the vampires slammed the door shut, the engine revved and the tires squealed as we took off down the road.

I was a little confused. A utility van certainly wasn't faster than a vampire. Alaric guessed my question and answered, "We need to conceal your scent. General Raed won't be able to contain him for long, and then he will hunt for you again."

I shivered. I thought it was due to my anxiety at the thought of Marku hunting me again, but then I realized it was genuinely icy cold in the van. My teeth chattered. I wasn't quite sure how freezing me to death was going to conceal my scent, but suspected it had something to do with diluting it inside of the tightly, sealed van. Regardless, I trusted Alaric.

He noticed my discomfort and peeled off his jacket, tucking me into it for added warmth.

I breathed, "Thank you."

He wrapped his arms around me and asked quietly in my ear, "Do you want to talk about it?"

I knew what he meant. He was asking what Marku had done to me. Embarrassment and shame washed over me when I remembered how I had responded to Marku. I couldn't tell Alaric that. I just shook my head.  He looked intently at me for a moment, his worry and concern evident. I could tell he didn't like my response, but he didn't pressure me.

I asked, "How did you find me?"  I was still stunned and amazed.

He reached for my necklace and murmured, "There is a tracking device behind the sapphire."

I inhaled sharply. I wasn't exactly sure how I felt about him giving me a tracking device without telling me, but I couldn't deny it had been a wise choice. Neither of us said anything. Fifteen minutes later, Alaric phone buzzed. He answered immediately, "Yes?!" He was silent as the person on the other end of the phone spoke, and then he asked tightly, "What were the damages?" His expression was hard as he nodded and then hung up.

I whispered, "What happened?"

"That was General Raed. Marku is free," he answered.

Fear crawled through my belly, but I pushed it back fiercely. This was no time to have a meltdown. I was afraid to ask the question, because I already knew the answer, but I whispered, "What did you mean by damages?"

A muscle in Alaric's jaw twitched as he replied shortly, "Three dead."

My heart clenched. First the hunters in the woods, and now three more people had died today because of me. I struggled to control my breathing, and tears splashed down my cheeks.

Alaric noticed my distress and tightened his hold on me, whispering quietly in my ear, "I'm sorry."

After that, we just rode quietly as the clock ticked by.

Thankfully they had clicked off the AC. I wanted to breathe a sigh of relief at the small improvement, but every nerve in my body was strung snap-tight, not allowing me to relax even a little.

The scary-as-shit reality remained – at any moment, Marku could find us and tear apart the van. Even with Alaric, four vampires wouldn't be enough to prevent him from taking me once again. And this time, I knew he wouldn't stop until we were inside of his fortress, completely impenetrable to outside attack.

After several hours, excitement coursed through me when I saw the lights of Quinn's compound ahead. We had made it! As we rode through the entry, I wanted to cry with relief. But my joy was cut short, when the tone of Alaric's voice chilled me to the bone. Tension rolled off of him as he stated shortly, "Quinn is expecting us."

Something was very, very wrong...

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