Page 38

Except again, none of that was on his radar.

At least not consciously.

Although his mind was utterly blank, there were great waves of aggression going through his body, the engine that fueled his state of fighting readiness like a nuclear reactor that was threatening to melt down the core of him.

But he wasn’t pissed off at his father. Nah. He was Just Fucking Fine.

He only wanted to kill every single lesser that had ever existed in the history of the war. And after that was done? He was going to have to find something else to engage because at this moment, in this frame of mind, he was insatiable on an epic scale.

Coming to the end of the alley, he didn’t pause before walking out into a four-lane byway, sparing not even a glance at the cars that sounded their horns and hit their brakes to avoid hitting him. In his wake, he heard crunching metal and cursing voices, and soon there would be sirens. But he would be long gone by that time.

Boone kept on going, progressing down the alley, barreling through other intersections in the grid of decaying buildings. About a half mile later, an opportunity finally presented itself. But it was a case of beggars and choosers’ luck.

Rather than the lessers he was looking for.

The human female who ran out in his path was half dressed, barefoot and bleeding from a number of places. And like all the Hondas and Nissans he had surprised at those intersections, he was forced to hit his brakes without warning—although the treads of his boots were much better than any set of Michelins on the snowy cover. His heavy weight stopped short on demand.

The woman craned around, took one look at him and screamed her head off. Then again, he had bared his fangs twelve blocks ago. And he was easily three times the size of her.

Slipping and skidding, she tore off down the alley away from him, leaving a bloody trail behind her as she ran.

Boone just stood there and panted, great puffs of white leaving his open mouth. Oh, for fuck’s sake. The last thing he wanted was to get roped into a shit ton of human drama. But it was kind of like being in a car, heading for Starbucks for a venti latte—and having a dog run out in front of your bumper.

Sure, you could keep going and get your fucking coffee.

But you were going to waste the rest of the night wondering what the hell happened to that goddamn dog.

And no amount of milk foam was going to make you feel any better.

“Oh, come on,” he muttered as visions of slaughtering a slayer got replaced with the hassle of stripping memories and calling 9-1-1.

Except as she continued to run, he realized she was naked from the waist down . . . and there was blood on the inside of her thighs—

A door was thrown open about fifteen feet in front of him, the shitty panel smacking into the flank of its building with the crisp, clear exclamation point of an axe going into hardwood.

The human male who came out was pulling his pants up and had a knife between his teeth. Unlike the woman, he didn’t even notice Boone. He was too busy tracking the bloody footprints in the snow with his eyes—and when he saw the human female, the laugh that left his lips was pure evil.

He didn’t pursue her at a run. He walked, in boots, after her, his naked torso marked with tattoos in black, his muscles covered with a healthy layer of fat.

“It’s a dead end, bitch,” he called out. “And ain’t no one gonna save you.”

* * *

Syn got the message about the trainee going AWOL at the beginning of his shift. He didn’t say anything about it to Balthazar because there was no need to. For one, the other male had gotten the text alert, too. But more to the point, although the Bastards helped out with the training program from time to time if the Brotherhood was short-staffed, for the most part, Syn and his boys did not truck with the young soldiers.

So really, the fact that one of those kids was out in the streets, heavily armed and without a partner, wasn’t the kind of problem that anyone would expect him to solve.

So Syn blew the shit off as he and Balthazar covered the western quadrant of the city. The collection of abandoned walk-ups and filled-up crack dens happened to be his favorite assignment because the humans who were in these neighborhoods stuck to themselves. No matter how many gunshots or screams or strange smells percolated up into the night air? You could be guaranteed some privacy to work in.

Naturally, the Lessening Society knew this, too, and as a result, this stretch of ten or fifteen blocks was the best hunting in the city. And what do you know, two slayers appeared about an hour and a half into their sweeps. Syn killed his quickly—a disappointment, but that was what happened when you got sloppy with your knife and hit the jugular too soon: He’d been aiming for a shoulder stab so he could draw out the death, but the fucker had zigged when it should have zagged.

And then it was a case of Old Faithful, a goddamn geyser of foul-scented black oil.

The fucking asshat bled out so quick, Syn decided the Omega must be putting his new recruits on Coumadin.

Meanwhile, Balthazar, the lucky shit, had gotten a live one with good fighting skills. The two of them were going hand-to-hand in the alley even though there were plenty of guns available, at least on the Bastard’s side. But hunting had been slow of late, and that meant, if you got the chance to hone your skills, you took advantage of it.

Who knew that the end of the war would be so boring?

After Syn stabbed his pathetic leaker back to its boss, he got out of the way, even though he was dying to “help” Balthazar out. And by “help,” he meant jump in and stab the enemy. A couple hundred times.

Give or take.

The trouble was, it was early in the night, and a move like that would get his partner for the shift cranky as shit and thus guarantee a long grind of no fun—

As the wind changed direction, the scent of red blood that reached his nose was faint and kind of distant. But the copper perfume made his fangs drop down and his mouth salivate. Both of which were sure signs he had not fed in way too long—especially as the plasma that had gotten his attention was human in derivation, not vampire, and usually that watered-down stuff failed to interest him.

Lifting his chin, he sniffed at the air. Very fresh. Like . . . really fucking fresh.

Whistling loud through his front teeth, he waited for his comrade to respond—and the Bastard didn’t waste time. Balthazar threw a vicious right hook that sent his slayer careening into a dumpster, and then he looked over.

Syn tapped his nose and then pointed farther down the alley.

Balthazar nodded once and got back in his fight, jumping on his lesser, grabbing the back of its hair and playing Hopper Ball with its face and the side of a brick building, bangada-bangada-bangada—

Jesus, that black splatter stain was an urban Rorschach test if Syn had ever seen one.

Turning away, he knew that Balthazar had things well in hand, and if there were any slayer backups that rode up on the scene? Then Syn wasn’t going to be far at all.

Following the scent, he went farther into the alley, and some three hundred yards later, he found bloody footprints in the snow—and two other pairs of tracks with them. And just as he was starting to follow the road show, he heard a male voice farther down, the deep tones ricocheting around like whoever it was was at a dead end.

Something was flashing, something pale, in the shadows far ahead.

Syn fell into a jog, and when he entered the darkest part of the alley, his eyes adjusted quick: A woman was running for her life in the snow, some portion of her clothes hanging off her, blood streaming down her legs, her movements uncoordinated as if she were in great pain or had been drugged. Closing the distance, a man stalked after her, his slow, even steps a metronome of death that was imminent—

A third figure appeared without warning, a great dark shape materializing from out of thin air directly between the man and the woman.

Like only a vampire can.

Syn recognized the black leather jacket and the stance instantly. The face took a second longer to come online.

Well, what do you know. He’d found the missing trainee. And Boone was a mountain of muscle blocking the path of the man, protecting the injured woman.

Gallant move, even if the victim was a human. Too bad the Good Samaritan routine broke a shit ton of the Brotherhood’s rules, starting with the Do Not Get Involved in Business That Is Not Ours. Which was pretty much the first no-no on the list.

Fortunately for the kid, however, his kind of freethinking was, along with his location and the load of shit he was no doubt about to throw down, not a problem Syn was looking to solve.

At the end of the night, who was he to rain on a parade like this?

As Boone reassumed his corporeal form between the man and the woman, his sudden appearance caused a big reaction on both their parts: The victim behind him screamed and her assailant with that knife in his hand jumped back and fell right on his ass.

And a partridge in a pear tree, to go with the winter theme of the alley.

Boone glanced over his shoulder at the woman. “Close your eyes.” Her pale face was bruised badly, her hair matted with blood. She wasn’t shivering in the cold temperatures, either, which was not a good sign.

“Sweetheart,” he said softly, “put your hands over your eyes. I’ll tell you when you can look again. Trust me. I’m not going to let anything happen to you, but you do not need to see this.”

Her chest was heaving, her stare peeled wide. But something about him got through to her. Nodding in a series of head jerks, she lifted her blood-soaked hands to her face and caved in on herself, squatting down and ducking into a tight ball.

Like maybe she was used to protecting herself from blows.

Boone refocused on the man and bared his fangs.

Her assailant was pushing his heels into the snowpack as he tried to crab-walk backward, that knife in his hand hindering his process. Gone was the manly bluster, the aggression, the all-powerful sense of I-gotcha.

He’d even wet his fucking pants.

As Boone walked toward the man, he knew which weapon he was going to use to kill the guy.

“She’s just a whore,” the human said. “For fuck’s sake.”

There was another bunch of words spoken, but Boone was done with that shit.