Now that Dante has found his mate, Brenden, all he wants to do is live in peace and be left alone. Unfortunately, peace is pretty hard to find when you are living with a clan of Drone Rebel Vampires. After years of being treated as second-class citizens by the Pure Born run government, the discrimination against the Drones has reached frightening new levels. Entire clans are disappearing as rumors of mass murders swirl around the paranormal community. Dante knows it’s only a matter of time before his adopted Drone Clan is next. The situation becomes even more desperate when the Pure Borns learn that Brenden has created a weapon that could turn the tide for the rebels and help end the persecution forever. Will Dante be able to protect his mate or will he be forced to sacrifice Brenden to help save the rest of the Drone Clan?
Dante just wished the guy would shut up and die already. Not only had the whiney werejackal killed an innocent human, but he had almost blown their cover by drawing the attention of the VRF soldiers who were patrolling nearby.
“Please, it was only one human and it wasn’t even me who killed him,” the werejackal pleaded, his dirty face contorted in fear.
Dante grimaced as he noticed the small male was filthy all over. Jackals weren’t known for their hygiene and it appeared this jerk wasn’t about to buck the trend. His natty hair was so greasy it was impossible to tell what color it was.
“One human will bring the rest of them crawling out of the sewers,” one of the guards sneered.
Or at least Dante thought he did. Since the VRF uniform called for a black mask and goggles, he couldn’t see his face.
“But he was a scrawny one.” The jackal yelped, canine like, when the guard jerked on his hair.
“Humans don’t think like a pack,” the soldier said. “They don’t kill off the weak and small like your kind does. Instead they coddle and protect them.”
Even though there was no one that he hated worse than the VRF, Dante found himself nodding in agreement. By killing a kid, the jackal had all but guaranteed the human police would now be involved and that was the last thing any vampire wanted. Be they the Pure Born VRF ones or the made Drones.
His finger caressed the trigger of his gun as he thought about how good it would feel to put a bullet in the jackal’s head, then the two soldiers. The jackal because the air was still rich with the smell of the blood from the teenage boy he’d ripped apart. The soldiers because they were guarding a transport truck full of Drone vampire prisoners. He shifted the barrel back and forth. Werejackal or jackass? So many choices, so few bullets.
“You can’t shoot him,” Brenden whispered as he came up to stand by Dante.
“Why not?” Dante whined-whispered back. Not that they really needed to keep their voices down. The jackal was screaming so loud a marching band could have thundered down the streets of Detroit and nobody would have noticed.
“Look at his wrist.” Brenden’s blond hair glinted in the poor lighting as he jerked his head in the direction of the slobbering mess on the street.
Dante cursed under his breath when he saw the remains of silver handcuff hanging from the jackal’s arm. “So?” he challenged even though he knew it was a losing battle. Once his mate got it in his mind to play hero he could never change his mind.
“Dante,” Brenden said softly, his light blue eyes narrowing.
“But he killed a human,” he protested.
“Look at how thin he is.” Brenden sadly shook his head as he gazed at the jackal. “He was probably in some prison or something, starving. He just attacked the first food source he came across.”
“Yeah, some kid who couldn’t defend himself.”
“It seems like the jackal is just a kid himself.” Brenden pressed his full lips into a grim line as he glared at the VRF soldiers who were still delivering the beat down. “He’s scared and couldn’t control himself.”
“He should have,” Dante snarled, more mad at the situation, than he was at his mate. “Weres teach control to even the youngest of their pups.”
Luckily he was saved from any more of Brenden’s guilt trip when their earpieces crackled before the clan leader Eric’s voice came through, “We’re ready to roll. What’s your position?”
“Besides the fact that Brenden wants to adopt a new pet, we’re set.”
A high-pitched wail filled the air, followed by several sharp yelps. Both Brenden and Dante winced, the sounds harsh on their vampire ears. They lowered their UV goggles and made sure their other protective gear was in place. Another yelp filled the air, showing the jackal was still on the wrong end of the VRF soldiers’ boots. Brenden cursed under his breath as he raised his rifle and trained it on the soldiers. Instead of the usual bullets, it was loaded with a special weapon that Brenden developed—sunlight grenades. Instead of the usual explosion of the human made grenades, these let off a burst of sunlight. Instantly incinerating any vampire who wasn’t wearing protective clothing.
“Be patient,” Dante warned as he placed a comforting hand and his mate’s arm. “We don’t want to blow it now by letting the other VRF soldiers still at the convoy know we’re here.”
“How are we going to know when the others have attacked?”
No sooner had Brenden asked than the ground shook with a huge explosion. Bright orange flames illuminated the night before a heavy billowing smoke filled the air. The VRF soldiers let out shrieks of fright as they dove to ground, their bellies flat to the asphalt as they ducked for cover.
“I’m guessing that is how we’ll know they attacked,” Dante yelled over the roar of flame and beeps of numerous car alarms. The VRF was going to have a bitch of a time explaining this one away to the human authorities. Sucked to be them.
The two soldiers stood up and Brenden wasted no time taking them out. Shooting off the weapon, there was a loud crack followed by a whoosh as the weapon detonated. Bright light temporarily blinded him and when he could see again, he found that the two soldiers were now piles of dust while the jackal was unharmed. Dante felt a little thrill of pride go through him at the evidence of Brenden’s expert marksmanship. Not only was he the best weapons maker around, be knew how to handle them, too.
“Remind me never to piss you off,” Dante remarked as they stepped over what had moments ago been two full-grown vampires.
The jackal was in a tight fetal position, trembling.
Dante wrinkled his nose in disgust. Even over the mixed smells of gasoline, ash and smoke, he could still detect the rankness rolling off the kid. Brenden didn’t seem to mind though, crouching so he could put a gentle hand on the jackal’s shoulder. Dante lifted his gun and trained it on the injured youth, not trusting that he wouldn’t attack Brenden.
“Come on, get up,” Brenden coaxed. “We need to get you out of here.”
The jackal whimpered and shrank away from the vampire’s touch. Off in the distance the rat-a-tat of gunfire rang out.
“We really need to get moving before the VRF Calvary comes and ruins our day,” Dante called as he eyed up the bloody mess of a were. Despite himself, he was actually beginning to feel sorry for the jerk. Damn Brenden and his good intentions, they were more contagious than a case of pink eye.
When the were continued with his ball of fear act, Dante cursed under his breath, stepped forward and grabbed him by the back of his shirt. Throwing the teen over his shoulder, he tried hard not to breathe in too deep. It was no use, the rancid stench of spoiled meat, mixed in with the smell of unwashed body, hit Dante’s senses like a ton of bricks. “You owe me,” he grumbled to Brenden as he walked by.
“Are you going to kill me?” the teen stammered.
“Unfortunately not.” Dante shifted his load into a more comfortable position. He frowned as he felt more bones than fat or muscles. Brenden had been dead-on with his guess about the poor kid being starved. Poor? Great now his mate had him sympathizing with jackal, too.
“I love you,” Brenden said, the corner of his mouth hitching up into a grin.
It made his dimples come out and suddenly Dante forgot that he was mad.
“I love you, too?” the jackal ventured in a timid voice. Another explosion ripped through the air and, off in the distance was the wail of sirens.
“We better get out of here,” Brenden suggested as his gaze searched the horizon. “I hope the other team wraps things up quick and comes to pick us up or else it’ll be a long hike back to clan headquarters.”
“I suppose I can’t convince you to leave this kid behind?” Dante grimaced as another wave of toxic fumes hit his nose.
“You know better than to ask that question. Besides, he might have some information we could use.” Brenden leaned forward and sniffed himself before he gagged. “I think we’ll give him a bath first though. Damn, wherever they kept him must have been filthy.”
“Hate to break it to you, but this is pretty normal for even free jackals. Now you know why I like cats better.”
“Forget it, I’m allergic.” Brenden chucked as he leaned down to pick up the weapons left by the now ash VRF soldiers.
Dante watched the way his muscles rippled under the form-fitting Drone Rebel uniform of black cargo pants and long sleeved tee. Even though Brenden had just been turned into a vampire a couple of years ago, he still had the massive build of a predator. As he studied the confiscated weapons, his tongue darted out to caress his left fang. It was a nervous habit Brenden had and for some reason, it never failed to turn Dante on.
He was dragged out of his lustful thoughts by a wet rattling sound coming from the young jackal. Dante both felt and smelled a fresh wave of blood coming from the kid and his heart tripped in concern. Despite all his snide comments, he hated to see anything suffer and judging by the were’s appearance, he had been through the wringer. “You better call Doc,” he said. “I don’t think he’s going to make it until we get back.”
Brenden nodded, his hand going to his earpiece.
Dante barely heard the conversation with Dahlia, the clan doctor, he was too focused on listening to the jackal’s breathing, fearing it would stop before they could get the help he needed. Finally, a van rounded the corner and Dante ran to greet it.
The back doors swung open, revealing Doc. Instead of her white coat, she had on the same black Drone uniform they did. She had her dark hair pulled back in its usual bun and her grey eyes were caring as always. Dante breathed a sigh of relief, knowing the jackal was in safe hands and he might actually have a chance of making it now.
The van had been converted into an ambulance and Dante gently laid the jackal on the cot before he sat heavily on the floor on the other side so he was out of her way.
Brenden settled next to him.
Dante took comfort from the way their bodies were pressed together. It wasn’t much, but he would take it for now. “How are the others?” he asked as he grabbed Brenden’s hand and held tight.
“Fine, we managed to save all the prisoners in the transport.” Dahlia didn’t look up from the were as she answered. “We did it without any casualties on our side, too, thanks to the enhancements Brenden’s team made to our weapons.”
He started to congratulate his mate only to find that Brenden was sound asleep, his head resting on Dante’s shoulder. Dante frowned as he realized how exhausted he must have been. Between leading his team and working the field, Brenden hardly rested anymore.
Guilt stabbed at him when he noticed a pair of puncture marks on Brenden’s neck. Puncture marks made because Dante had fed on him right before they had left for the mission. Usually they would have disappeared by now since vampires were fast healers, but since Brenden was pushing himself so hard, he was weakening.
As soon as they got back and debriefed, Dante was going to make Brenden rest, even if he had to carry his ass back to the bed. The last thing he needed was to go out on missions not a hundred percent and get himself hurt or worse.
He didn’t realize he was emitting a low, rumbling growl until Dahlia jerked her head up from the patient. “Brenden is fine, he’s just tired. I promise you it’s not the empusa blood again.”
A few months ago, Brenden had accidently ingested empusa blood and almost died before Dante was able to find the antidote. Even though it appeared that the medicine had worked, he still lived in fear of Brenden getting sick again.
“Are you sure?’ he rasped out in a dangerous tone. The darkness that still lurked in his soul threatened to come forward.
“I’m positive,” Dahlia replied firmly. She was one of the few vampires who didn’t back down when Dante got this way. For that, he counted himself lucky to be her friend. There weren’t too many who had stuck with him through thick and thin like she had.
“Brenden needs to start worrying about his own hide instead of parasites like that jackal,” Dante snapped.
“You can act all hard ass, but you and I both know you would have saved this kid even if Brenden hadn’t of guilted you into it.” Dahlia tapped on the jackal’s arm, trying to get a vein to stand to attention so she could start an IV.
Dante grunted, not even trying to deny it because they both knew it was true. He’d always been a sucker for the helpless. It was one of the reasons the VRF had turned on him when he had still worked for them.
“Brenden’s going to be okay,” Dahlia reassured.
As Dante rested his cheek on Brenden’s head, he wanted to believe her, but the sick feeling in his gut refused to go away. It wasn’t just the empusa blood he had to worry about. Since Brenden was a Drone and the Pure Born run VRF was now openly hunting them down, Dante lived in constant fear of losing his mate. It didn’t help that Brenden had an even bigger target on his back because he had developed the sunlight grenades either.
While the new weapon had helped the Drone Rebels even out the odds in their favor, it had also drawn the attention of the leaders of the VRF who wanted the weapon for their own use.
Dante clutched Brenden’s hand tighter. There was no way he could continue to exist if something were to happen to his mate. Dante’s greatest strength was also his biggest weakness. For if Brenden were to die, Dante’s soul would perish with him.