The Kitten Has Claws [Chapter 16]

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Chapter 16

"Dream of me," Raine whispered softly to Noelle, making sure to leave the room quietly. He left the door open as a reminder to her that it was safe to leave the room. He hated leaving her behind, but he knew that talking to the Elders and getting information was more important than his feelings towards her.

Waiting by the front door was Paxton, pacing anxiously. He nodded stiffly when he saw Raine and then resumed his pacing.

"Nervous?" he asked Paxton.

"No," Paxton growled, "I just want to get this over with. Something doesn't feel right."

At that moment Finn and Ryder walked in. "I agree with you," Finn said quietly. "Something is off."

Raine looked each man in the eye sternly, "Whatever it is, we can handle it. I'm tired of not having answers. If you don't want to accompany me, that's fine. Stay here and guard the women. However, I am still going with or without you."

They snapped to attention and looked bravely at the door. "I'm in," Ryder said firmly.

"So am I," Finn and Paxton barked out. They would complete this mission. Remaining in the dark was never an advantage, nor an option. Besides, they knew they could take on the Hunters. It was only the fear of the unknown that was causing their hesitation.

They walked through the front door and headed towards the iron-wrought gate, staying alert for any signs of danger. Raine motioned for Finn to open the gate slowly before they filed through. Seconds after the gate closed about a dozen Hunters swarmed out from the surrounding forest. They created a half circle in front of the panthers and sneered.

"Well, well," what do we have here?" the lead Hunter jeered. "You make our jobs too easy."

He had pasty white skin and beady black eyes. His hair was unkempt and greasy. This Hunter was unused to traveling and tracking for long periods of time. Raine smiled inwardly, perfect.

The panthers snarled and tensed, preparing for battle. Raine sized up the other men; they were all puny and weak, besides, it was four against twelve, easy odds. He cracked his neck and whispered to his men, "On my count."

"Now, now," the Hunter called out, "Not so fast. We have a bargain for you. Hand over the Vessel and we'll walk away without killing anyone. Deal?"

Raine pretended to think about it before snarling, "No deal."

The Hunter cocked his head to the side mockingly, "Are you sure? I'll give you one more chance to give us the right answer before we do something you'll regret."

"I said," he ground out, "no deal." He would never willingly hand the Vessel over to their greatest enemy. Even if he knew who it was. Damn the Hunters for delaying them. He and his men would teach them a lesson and then be on their way. "Why do you want it anyways?"

The Hunter gave an oily smile that made Raine cringe, "We wish to study her, maybe use her for our own good, but we will most likely destroy her." The Hunters laughed chillingly and nodded in agreement.

"And that will convince me to hand her over to you because..." Raine drawled.

"That may not, but this will: since you have chosen to disagree with me, you leave me no choice." He let out an ear-piercing whistle and waited. Seconds later a large black hawk broke through the trees and landed on his arm warily. "Observe," he whispered evilly.

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