30.4 | Savage Delights

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Feet battering the earth, blood surging in her veins, Nika Dimitrovich flew through the forest. Southbound—straight into hell.

She pushed herself to the brink of her supernatural abilities, running so fast that a blaze might have guttered in her wake. As she grew closer, headquarters' alarms shook the heavens. Screams and gunshots pierced the night.

You're one of us...a wolf.

Dante's words pressed on her mind, but she buried them beneath the adrenaline and ran faster.

Branches and thistles whipped her skin as she barreled through the wild woods. The air had grown colder since the night began, almost as if it sensed that things had gone awry.

As Nika mounted the next slope, the familiar shapes of Lirovin Square emerged in the distance—grand mansions with various styles that hailed back to different architectural eras. Among them, she spotted the Gothic barbs of Dimitrovich Manor.

Relief and joy flooded into her veins when she saw that it had been untouched. But the same couldn't be said for the home of Minister Laguna.

"Nika!" a rough voice bellowed.

The next thing she knew, something big, fast, and unbelievably solid slammed into her. She gasped and struggled as a pair of strong arms closed around her, wrenching her feet off the ground.

She jabbed and kicked, but the assailant spun her around, and—

Ebony eyes.

Nika blinked, slowly registering the sight of Ren's scowl. It almost made her smile.

Almost.

"What the hell are you doing?" he growled, squeezing her arms. "Why did you leave?"

Words failed her as she took in gulps of air. Ren waited all of ten seconds before demanding answers again.

"I—" Nika stopped herself.

What would she say? A voice told me to come into the woods, where Dante Azzara claimed I'm a Volkari and asked me to join his cause?

He'd think she was insane. Or lying. Maybe both. And a part of her feared the validity of Dante's declaration. She couldn't speak of it to anyone until she knew the truth.

Ren's face twisted with rage. "You broke your word, and now you won't even tell me why?" he shouted.

His grip tightened until Nika buckled, shrieking, "Ow, stop! You're hurting me!"

He released her with a forceful shove. All she could do was gape and rub the marks he'd left.

"And what are you doing here?" she countered. "You should be with Elliot and Misha!"

A glance toward Lirovin Square, and dread coiled in her gut like a bed of eels. Had Ren just abandoned them in the middle of an attack?

Nika watched him warily as he paced before her, muttering in Russian. She could have sworn tendrils of smoke danced on his shoulders and bled into the darkness, as if his fiery emotions had produced them.

"We can talk about this later," she finally told him. "Let's go back."

"No!" he barked, whirling on her. "I'm not going anywhere with you! I'm done!"

"Done with what?"

"With trying to protect you! And being worried and exhausted all the time!" An exasperated breath. "I'm done with you, Nika."

As the words settled, Nika's world shifted on its axis, and a cruel knife of pain twisted into her.

Because she couldn't bring herself to acknowledge how much it hurt, she said, "You're just angry. You need to calm down, clear your head."

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