The last thing Armand expected to find out by his woodpile was a werewolf. The man is freezing, injured, and in desperate need of some help. But for vampires and werewolves, centuries of old conflicts make being friends now nearly impossible. One night of comfort by the fire might be enough to sway a chilly heart, if both Armand and Puck are willing to take that chance.
The rich smell of blood lured him outside. It coated Armand’s tongue like a beacon demanding to be noticed, to be found. He hadn’t been able to get comfortable, not even in his favorite chair, while whatever poor bloody animal was around.
He left the warmth and comfort of his cabin in search of the animal. Armand expected to find a raccoon, or maybe even a deer, as he followed the droplets of bright red blood through the crisp white snow. The trail led around to the back of his house, and ended near the wood pile, right at a pair of large black paws.
The wolf growled at him. His ears were back and his amber eyes, much too bright to belong to an actual wolf, shone in the darkness. Armand went on the defensive, baring his fangs at the werewolf as well.
“You need to leave. Get out of here,” Armand hissed at him. They weren’t allowed to attack each other openly anymore, but if the wolf came at him he could absolutely defend himself, and he fully intended to do just that if he was pushed into it.
The werewolf lowered his head and continued to snarl. Blood lay splattered around them in the snow, but Armand couldn’t see where the beast was injured in the dark. Even his eyes weren’t good enough to distinguish between blood on black fur.
The werewolf shifted, becoming a man in the space between one heartbeat and the next. He was still low to the ground, still deep in the snow, but now he clutched a hand over his bleeding side. With his transformation the brand on his shoulder was revealed, stating who his pack was, and why Armand couldn’t kick him off his land.
“You’re one of Dylan’s,” Armand said, barely restraining his disgust. Dylan was the local werewolf alpha whose land butted up against Armand’s. He had a treaty with them, allowing them to hunt on his property in exchange for them not coming around to bother him if a few prisoners from the nearby minimum security prison happened to go missing each month. After three years of having the treaty between them, the most Armand had ever seen of the wolves had been a stray wolf track in the woods. As far as he knew, they’d never dared to come so close to his house before.
The werewolf nodded. “Puck,” he wheezed.
“Armand.” Since Puck was one of Dylan’s, Armand had to help him, like it or not. “Can you stand?”
Puck lifted his head, and Armand caught sight of his bright amber eyes in the darkness. “I’ll be fine after a few shifts. I just needed a place out of the wind to dig out this bullet. I’ll be gone by morning.”
Armand pursed his lips. “Who shot you?”
“A rancher trying to keep me off his land. I took a shortcut through one of his pastures tonight, and he didn’t seem too happy to find me out there among his cows. Seriously, you can go back inside.” He nodded back toward the way Armand had come.
He was tempted to leave the werewolf out there to freeze. If Puck said he was fine then who was he to argue with him. There was no reason that Armand should think otherwise. Except, unlike a wolf it seemed, Armand knew about blood, and there was quite a bit still pooling under him. The wound should have closed up by now, that it hadn’t was a concern. Armand could help him, but he’d have to get the bullet out first, and he refused to do that outside in the snow.
“Come with me. It won’t take long.” Armand offered him his hand, but Puck just stared at it.
“I’m fine.” His voice was gruff, almost ending on a growl.
He could say that all he wanted. Armand saw the blood and knew otherwise. Without waiting for Puck to argue with him more Armand lifted him by his arm, yanking him to his feet. Puck tried to fight him off, but however old Puck was, Armand must have been far older because dragging him along took very little of his effort.
He pulled him around the side of the house, with Puck growling at him with every step. Once Armand had him inside, he brought Puck to the fire where a small rug had been laid out and left him there in front of the flames.
“Wait here. I’ll get some tweezers,” Armand ordered. Puck bared his teeth, Armand hissed then left to go to the bathroom where he kept his first aid kit.
When he came out with the tweezers in one hand and a few towels in the other, Puck was stretched out on the rug. His gaze was fixed to the small pine tree in the corner of the room. It was only two-feet tall and planted in a red and gold pot.
“Your houseplant has miniature ornaments on it,” Puck commented dully.
“It’s Christmas Eve.” Armand would have thought a werewolf would be aware of such a thing. They were supposed to be more connected to the human world than vampires were after all.
Puck flashed his attention over to Armand as he sat down next to him by the fire. “I thought you vampires didn’t do Christmas. Or any other holiday for that matter. Isn’t there some code about none of you being allowed to have any fun if humans aren’t dying in the middle of it?”