30.2 | Savage Delights

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Even as Nika ripped through the woods, miles outside of headquarters, she heard the alarms blaring. But she didn't turn back.

Wolves are coming from the northwest, the voice warned. Veer east and stay quiet.

Nika listened, a puppet on strings. She had a bad feeling that this was a trap, but the bare possibility that it wasn't drove her onward. Because if there was any chance of saving Lu tonight, right now, then she wouldn't hesitate to squander it. She wouldn't even wait to make a plan.

Nika found herself smirking. Impulsive, Ren had called her. She hoped he'd forgive her for breaking that promise, hoped she'd survive the night to see him scowling at her for it.

One foot in front of the other, she pushed on. So fast and fervently that she couldn't slow down after breaking through the trees, and nearly hurled off the edge of a rugged drop.

The ravine.

As her toes dangled in the air, Nika peered down. Vicious terrain greeted her. It was all dagger-like rocks, snarling vines and weeds, and a river that forked like a serpent's tongue far below. The mouth of a great beast.

She backed up slowly, heart pounding so hard that she didn't hear the footsteps crunching toward her, didn't sense the danger until he spoke:

"I worried you wouldn't survive those injuries. You must have had quite the feast, to flush out all that belabane."

Nika whirled on Dante. He leaned against a nearby tree, casual as ever.

"Where is she?" The words were a breathless croak.

"Lu? Oh, she couldn't come with us, unfortunately. But I assure you, she is safe. Comfortable, even."

Nika shook her head. "But..."

Her instincts had been correct. A trap. Lu wasn't coming, and she never had been. The voice, whatever it was, had lied.

Before Dante had a chance to move or speak again, Nika bolted. She barely reentered the thick woods when another wolfblood leapt into her path. She turned around, but Dante now stood on the grassy overhang.

Definitely a trap.

Nika whipped out the handgun that Sokol had given her. She raised it at Dante, then swiveled and pointed it at the other young man. Her aim was terrible to begin with, and now she faced two moving targets on opposite sides.

She was doomed.

Dante slowly lifted his palms in the air. "You'll be free to leave when we're done talking. Try to escape, and Sam will use force to stop you. Try to attack, and it will lead to the same result. Understand?"

"You tricked me," Nika growled.

Dante shrugged. "Trick is such a negative word. It was more like persuasion."

"You made me think it was Lu's voice. You lied."

"Yes, I stretched the truth to get you here. But not about the lack of time."

Nika pulled the trigger, but the bullet whizzed past Dante's head and over the canyon. Before she knew what was happening, his companion—Sam—tackled her to the ground.

Nika smacked the earth, a sharp spasm running through her arm. The weapon fell several feet away.

She writhed like a fish as Sam flipped her over, baring golden eyes drenched in violence. He raised a set of menacing claws, and trapped her hands with another.

"Stop!" Dante shouted before Sam could strike.

The wolfblood growled but obeyed. He dragged Nika onto her feet and held her against him, arms trapped behind her back.

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