"He won't know." Hunter's deep voice cut through the din of the alarms outside and the tension mounting inside the Ancient's containment chamber. "Dragos tells us nothing. As his Hunters, we serve. That is all."

Tegan snarled, looking like he wanted to snap the assassin's collar then and there. Keeping one hand on the blade that pressed against the UV collar, he put his other hand on the assassin's brow and pushed the big head backward. "Motherfucker. He knows something."

The assassin's mouth curved with private amusement.

"Start talking, you lab-spawned piece of shit, or you go up in smoke right here and now." The assassin's gaze was glacial. "We are all about to go up in smoke," he hissed through his teeth and fangs.

Kade glanced at the control panel on the opposite wall, only just that second realizing that there was a digital timer counting down on a five-minute clock. On top of the gnawing cold that was still chewing away at his chest, now a sick sense of deja-vu gripped him as he watched what had to be the mine's selfdestruct mechanism ticking off seconds. "Shit. He's already dropped the switch. This whole place is gonna blow."

Tegan growled, low and deadly, as he withdrew the knife from under the assassin's chin and left him standing in the Ancient's holding cell. Kade and the others stepped back as he strode over to the control panel and punched the button that operated the ultraviolet light bars. The vertical beams of light went live, circling the Gen One assassin inside and imprisoning him more securely than any amount of metal could.

"Let's get out of here," Tegan said, stalking out the door. The rest of the warriors fell in behind him, Kade and Brock at the rear.

Brock paused to give the captive assassin a broad smile. "Don't go anywhere now, you hear?" Ordinarily, Kade would have gotten a good chuckle out of his partner's grim humor, but it was damned hard to appreciate anything when his heart was hammering like he'd just run a hundred miles and his veins were lighting up with the same odd chill that had made a home in his chest. He ran with the rest of the group, out of the mine's building and into the main yard of the site, which looked like a war zone. The alarm sirens howled the loudest outside, screaming into the night. The snow was coming down at a furious pace now, blanketing the field of dead Minions and dropping visibility to next to nil.

"We need to adios these bodies, make sure there's nothing left to identify once this place blows," Tegan said. "Come on, let's drag them inside one of the outbuildings and send them off with the rest of that C-4."

"On it," Brock said.

Kade joined the rest of the warriors as they worked to clear the yard before the self-destruct clock wound down to zero. It was getting hard for him to breathe now, his blood throbbing with alarm sirens of its own, awareness seeping through the wash of adrenaline and battle focus that had swamped his senses for much of the combat at the mine.

As he and his brethren dragged the last of the Minion dead into place, and the first rumblings of the coming explosion began to shake the ground, the cause of his internal distress hit him broadside. Alex.

Holy hell.

Something had happened. She was upset, shaken. Something had terrified her ... horrified her. And he felt her trauma like his own now, because he had taken her blood into his body, and it was that blood bond that had been clamoring in his own veins.

Her name was a plea--a prayer--as the ground beneath him gave a mighty shudder, and the mining company blew sky high behind him.

Chapter Twenty-five

Okay, Alex. Now, hold on here. Slow down, all right?" Zach Tucker carefully closed the door of the shed in back of his house and looked at Alex in stunned disbelief. She couldn't really blame him. No one in their right mind would believe what she'd just told him--not unless they'd seen it with their own eyes.

"You're telling me you just found another dead body in the bush, and you think it was ... a vampire attack?"

"I know it was, Zach." Her heart ached to say the words, but the image of Kade, and the image of the hunter's savaged body he'd left behind, tore at her with icy talons. "Oh, God, Zach. I know you don't believe me, but it's true."

He frowned, staring at her for a long moment. "Why don't you come inside? It's freezing out here, and you're shaking like a leaf."

Not from the cold of the outdoors, but from the confusion and horror of discovering that Kade had betrayed her. He'd sworn he was different from the monsters of her nightmares, and she had believed him. She would have believed everything he'd told her, if she hadn't seen the blood-soaked proof of his deception for herself just a short while ago.

"Come on," Zach said, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and guiding her away from the shed, toward his house. Luna got up to follow, keeping pace at Alex's heels, but before the wolf dog could make it into the house, Zach closed the door in her face. "Sit down, Alex. Let's take this slowly now, all right?

Help me make sense of what you think you saw."

Numbly complying, she sank down onto the sofa in his living room. He took a seat beside her. "I don't think I saw anything, Zach. I did see it. It's real, everything I told you. Vampires do exist."

"Listen to yourself. This isn't like you, Alex. You've been acting strangely ever since the attack on the Tomses. Ever since that guy--Kade--showed up in Harmony." Zach's eyes narrowed on her. "Has he been giving you drugs? Is that what his business is in Harmony? Because if some asshole thinks he can come into my town and start dealing--"

"No!" Alex shook her head. "God, is that what you think? That I'm telling you all of this because I'm high or something?"

"I had to ask," he said, still watching her with an intensity that unsettled her. "I'm sorry, Alex, but all of this sounds a little ... well, crazy."

She exhaled a sharp breath. "I know what it sounds like. I don't want to believe it any more than you do. But it's the truth. I've known it was the truth since I was nine years old."

"What do you mean?"

"Vampires, Zach. They're real. Years ago, they killed my mom and my little brother."

"You always said it was a drunk driver."

She slowly shook her head. "It wasn't. I saw the attack with my own eyes. It was the worst thing I've ever witnessed. And I didn't need to see the attack on Pop Toms and his family to know that the same evil killed them, too. I should have said something then. Maybe I could have stopped what happened to them, or to Lanny Ham and Big Dave."

Zach's frown deepened to a questioning scowl. "You're saying it was vampires that attacked them in that cave?"

"One vampire," she corrected. "The same one that probably killed the Toms family. It's stronger than other vampires, Zach. It's one of the fathers of the entire vampire race. And it's not ... from this world." Zach leaned back and barked out a loud guffaw of laughter. "Oh, Christ, Alex! What the fuck are you on right now? You look sober enough, but you must be completely stoned to sit there with a straight face and expect me to believe this shit. Alien vampires, that's what you're talking about?"

"I know it's hard to imagine something like that could exist, but I'm telling you, it does. Vampires exist, and they call themselves the Breed." She stopped short of naming Kade in their number, not quite ready to betray him, even though he seemed to have had no difficulty when it came to her. Zach stood up and threw out his hands at her. "Go home. Sleep it off."

"Listen to me," she cried, desperate that he not dismiss her as wasted or crazy. She could see that she was losing this battle, she was afraid that her failure to convince him now might cost other lives before long. "Zach, please! We have to warn people. You have to believe me."

"No, I don't, Alex." He whirled around to face her, something brutal in his expression. "I'm not even sure I can believe anything you've said today, including your claim of another dead body in the woods. I don't have time for this kind of bullshit right now, okay? I have my own problems I'm dealing with! Folks are already worked up over everything that's going on around here lately. I've got troopers arriving tomorrow, and the last thing I need is you adding to my headaches with a lot of crazy talk about bloodthirsty, killer aliens running loose in the bush!"

Alex looked away from him, unable to hold the sharp fury in his gaze. She'd never seen him so angry. So ... unglued. He was in a state of near panic himself, and it didn't seem due to anything she'd told him. As she turned her head, she noticed a folded wad of cash on the coffee table and a cell phone that looked vaguely familiar. She stared at both items, a peculiar inkling of suspicion worming its way up her spine.

"Isn't that Skeeter Arnold's cell phone?"

Zach seemed caught off guard by the question. "Huh? Oh. Yeah, I confiscated it off the little bastard this morning."

He picked up the roll of twenty-dollar bills without offering an explanation and stuffed it into his pocket, his eyes on her the whole time. Alex's blood slowed in her veins, oddly chilled. "I haven't seen Skeeter around all day. When did you see him?"

Zach shrugged. "I guess it wasn't long before you got here. I figure the Staties are going to want that phone for their investigation, seeing how he used it to record that video of the Toms settlement." The explanation made sense to her.

And yet ...

"How long ago was it that you saw him?"

"About an hour ago," he replied, his answer clipped. "What does it matter to you, Alex?" She knew why he sounded defensive, even without having to reach out and confirm it with her gift for pining the truth with her touch. Zach was lying to her. Skeeter was dead hours before now--dead at Kade's hands, after Skeeter had finished off Big Dave.

Why would Zach lie about seeing him?

As the question sifted through her mind, she thought about the cash Zach had tucked away, and the cell phone he couldn't have gotten when he said he had ... and the fact that although most of Harmony and the communities roughly a hundred miles out knew that Skeeter had connections in bootlegging and drugdealing, Zach had never found sufficient evidence to arrest him. Maybe Zach hadn't been looking hard enough.

Or maybe Zach had no desire to remove Skeeter Arnold from his line of work.

"Oh, my God," Alex murmured. "Did you and Skeeter have some kind of arrangement, Zach?" That defensive gaze narrowed even further now. "What the hell are you talking about?" Alex stood up, feeling some of her horror from everything that had happened today begin to melt under the heat of her outrage. "You did, didn't you? All your trips to Anchorage and Fairbanks. Is that where under the heat of her outrage. "You did, didn't you? All your trips to Anchorage and Fairbanks. Is that where you picked up supplies for him? What kind of commission did you skim off the top of his drug deals, or off the backs of the Native kids who threw their lives away on the alcohol he peddled to them on the side?

Good kids, like Teddy Toms."

Zach's eyes blazed with anger, but he offered her a sympathetic look. "Is that really what you think of me? You've known me for years, Alex."

"Have I?" She shook her head. "I'm not so sure. I'm not sure of anything anymore."

"Then let me take care of you," he said, his voice gentle, but she was hardly convinced. "I'm going to get my coat, and I'm going to take you home so you can get some rest. I think you need it, Alex." He pressed his lips together and gave her a vague nod. "I'll be right back, okay?" As he walked out of the room, Alex stood there, overwhelmed with uncertainty. Everything in her life had tilted beneath her. She didn't know whom she could trust now. Not Kade.

And apparently not Zach, either.

She didn't think it would be wise to trust him at all now.

Flames and debris shot high into the darkness as the mining company exploded behind him. Kade threw a glance backward, feeling the push of the expanding heat against his face, heat that turned the snowstorm that swirled around him and the other warriors into a brief, warm spittle of rain. The warmth didn't last. Frigid cold roared back in, all of it settling in Kade's chest.

"Alex," he whispered.

He had to reach her.

Brock shot him a concerned look. "What's going on?"

Kade rubbed at the icy hurt under his breastbone. "I'm not sure. It's Alex, and whatever I'm feeling, it's not good."

Even though he could tell from his blood bond to her that she wasn't in mortal danger, every instinct within him screamed for him to go to her. But he had a duty to the Order, and a duty to the warriors he still might have failed by losing sight of the ball on this mission. Dragos's Alaskan outpost was destroyed, a few more of his assets eliminated, but the Ancient was still at large. The warriors' mission here would not be complete until that deadly otherworlder was located and contained.

"Shit," Kade hissed.

This was not good. He couldn't go another second without talking to Alex at the very least. He had to reassure himself that she was all right. And part of him just needed to hear her voice.

"Call her," Brock said. When Kade hesitated, wondering why the ice in his chest was crawling up to his throat to taste like dread, Brock gave him a stern look. "Call your female." Kade took out his cell phone and walked until he was several yards from the other warriors. He dialed Alex's number. It rang three times before she answered.

"Alex?" he said into the silence on the other end. At his back, the crackle of flames and the soft hail of falling shrapnel seemed deafening when she was so quiet. "Alex ... are you there? Can you hear me?"


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