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“Be careful,” his shellan said.

“Always.” He bent down and kissed her. “You know it.”

He hated leaving his mate there all alone, her eyes wide and scared. But there was no time to waste. He went upstairs, geared up, and then popped a window, dematerializing to the location that Axe had sent the SOS out from.

He’d been looking for a distraction.

Saving three recruits wasn’t exactly what he’d been after, but he would take what he got.

Elise’s heart was thundering against her sternum, beating so hard, it was a wonder the muscle didn’t explode.

From behind Axe’s huge shoulders, she could see the three lessers approaching, their bodies moving with deadly-smooth strides, their expressions cold and flat, utterly emotionless.

They had guns.

The female trainee—Elise couldn’t remember her name, but she recognized her from the night she’d first met Axe—stepped into their paths with a gun up and a murderous expression on her face.

Elise couldn’t imagine being that calm or that aggresive in a situation like this.

“Stop where you are,” the female said. “Or I’ll shoot you.”

A fourth lesser, who seemed to come out of nowhere, just laughed. “Really, bitch. Do you actually know how to use that—”

Elise’s entire body jumped as there was a pop! and the slayer fell to the ground.

That female had put a bullet right between its eyes.

“Holy shit,” Elise breathed.

But that was the last time she had a chance to track anything. All at once, the drama went into overdrive—the three slayers rushed in, bullets flying everywhere and ricocheting around as she was spun to the left and shoved behind something big and metal.

Car? Dumpster?

No, it was a discarded meat locker the size of an SUV.

A split second later, Elise felt a lash on her shoulder, like someone had put a curling iron on her skin—but she couldn’t worry about it as Axe jumped in front of her again, and Peyton pressed into her from the side—

“He’s on top!” Peyton said.

What? she thought.

“Motherfucker!”

As Axe cursed, he angled his gun up to the heavens and pumped off more rounds—and then a body was falling on them, a body that leaked black blood and smelled like baby powder and spoiled milk.

“I’m out!” Axe said. And she took that to mean he had no more ammunition.

Someone cursed. More gunshots. Her ankle hurt now, too.

And then Peyton fell away. Just dropped off like a blanket falling from the side of a bed.

“Peyton!” she screamed as she turned.

Just as she was reaching out for him, that female soldier grabbed her by the back of her coat and hauled her to her feet.

“Can you shoot?”

Elise blinked, her vision going fuzzy. More bullets were whizzing by. God, where were the bullets coming from? And then she focused on the female. “You’re bleeding! Y-y-y-you’re—”

The slap came from the left and made a cracking impact on Elise’s face. But it was like throwing a window open in a smoke-filled kitchen. She was suddenly able to concentrate on the soldier.

“Do you know how to shoot?” she was asked again.

“P-p-point and pull the trigger,” Elise blurted.

“That’s right.”

Suddenly there was a heavy piece of metal in her palm. “Two hands. And only if you need to.”

And then Elise was picked up and thrown.

As she was airborne, her hair whipping her face, her body totally numb, she had the absurd thought, How the fuck was this happening right now? How the holy fuck was she—

Bam!

She landed on her ass, her body slamming back against something else—it was a Dumpster this time. She’d been thrown behind the bar’s Dumpster.

As she fought for her breath, her hands were shaking so badly they were a blur, but she was not going to drop the gun.

Looking out into the alley, she saw Axe going hand to hand with a slayer as the female stood over Peyton, who—oh, dear Lord—looked like he’d been hit in the head. So much blood—too much blood!

And the human police were coming—she could hear the sirens.

Except then the tide turned. From out of nowhere, the biggest vampire she had ever seen in her life materialized right in the middle of the alley. He was blond and dressed in black and he attacked like a demon, grabbing on to the slayer that Axe was trading punches with and pitching the enemy against the side of the building like it was a doll.

Axe moved on to the next, and so did what had to be a Brother.

More lessers showed up, having obviously been called, but between Axe and the Brother and that female trainee, heads were snapped, and black blood that stank flowed, and bodies lined the pavement—

Right as things were winding down, just before the cops arrived … something caught her eye.

A subtle flash.

That lesser who had been shot in the head, the one behind the meat locker where they had started out, was still moving, and it had raised its gun up, pointing the muzzle at the Brother.

“He’s going to shoot!” Elise screamed.

Everything went into a slow crawl, and Elise watched in horror as the Brother turned his upper body in her direction—which put him directly in line with the shooter.

And the lesser pulled its trigger, emptying bullets into that huge chest. Pop! Pop! Pop!

Someone screamed—probably her—as the blond-haired Brother threw up both of his hands and fell back onto the pavement. And still the slayer discharged its weapon.

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