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Pine, cypress, swamp, and…cat?
Jackson Xenos snapped his attention in the direction of the pungent feline scent.
Male. Jaguar. Not far ahead.
His vision encompassed everything before him even in the thick underbrush, not because the light from the full moon penetrated the dense canopy of trees above him, but because he was wolf.
He saw more than most—was more than most. Lycan and vampire. Hybrid, the first true hybrid to ever survive. A miracle. A term that made him shudder. Vampires had lost the ability to reproduce after his father was born. His mother was the daughter of an alpha Lycan, and his father was the demi-god, Niccolai Xenos, the last full blooded vampire—born over three thousand years before to a Titan female and the god, Zeus. The Titans, believed to be the first vampires, were destined to protect humans, the source of the blood that kept them immortal. Now Jackson inherited the charge.
New world—new rules!
His sharp night vision took in the trees, the shrubs—all enhanced with a cast of blue haze. The fallacy about animals seeing in black and white or shades of gray was just that…a fallacy. In the form of the wolf, blood red was the strongest color he could identify. So blindingly bright, the color of blood stood out from the rest in the darkest circumstances. And the scent…? How could he describe the power of the scent of blood? Not only could he see and smell the color of blood from a great distance, he could all but taste it in his mouth. Rich, metallic, delicious.
The scream of a large cat rang out through the quiet night. Jaguar. More than likely a rogue in this area. Jackson believed the demons were making more and using them to bolster their forces. Could his pack stop them without outside help?
Maybe. With the increased number of unexplained killings, his usual skepticism filled him with doubt.The demons were here even though the portal had been sealed. Now he sensed rogue jaguars were nearby.
A wolf’s cry—high pitched, in pain—the sounds of battle urged Jackson on.
His heartbeat picked up, but he slowed his breathing to conserve his strength. He howled once for the others and, not waiting, ran. Turning mid-stride, shifting from wolf to something more, larger, as he moved through the swamp, past the snakes and gators and panthers…and yet in this new form, his speed was unmatched by any land animal.
Bad movies named his kind many things, but Jackson was different. He’d been born not turned. What he became no one had named yet. But those he was destined to lead knew what he truly was…Vaewolf. The prophesies had foretold his birth, and he was living proof the scrolls stated the truth.
Jackson stopped short of the battle, stood upright to his full height, and entered the clearing where one of his pack was outnumbered and wounded. His sheer size and formidable power was evidence enough he was the son of a demi-god. As a man, he stood over six-foot-five, and carried almost three hundred pounds of pure muscle on his frame. As the vaewolf, he was even larger.
Covered with ebony black hair, the wolf shifter within him was evident, the appearance of the Werewolf took over in size and bone structure—still more human than animal. But his vampire nature gave him an advantage over the rest of his makeup. Brains. Intellect he could use while in animal form. Smart, powerful, and fast.
He noted the surprise on the demons’ faces and watched the jaguars back up at his appearance. The rogue jaguars didn’t stand a chance against him and they knew it. The demons were another story. His experience with them had been limited until recently, and now wasn’t the time for him to hesitate.
Jackson launched himself at the demon holding his pack member hostage, and removed Jude from his clutches. He moved the wolf out of danger before planning his attack on the creature with the sixteen foot wing span—wings covered with taloned claws that caused wounds to fester from the toxin within them.
Jackson had his own arsenal of claws, not as many but just as lethal, and beneath his black fur was a hide as rugged as armor. He was up for a good fight, a test of his abilities, but although he was immortal, he didn’t enjoy the pain a fight like this would cause or the down time from the wounds. Demon toxin could mean weeks or even months of recuperation, and he couldn’t afford to take time away from his training.
Jackson needed to finish this, cleanly and quickly, while avoiding those talons.
Behind him, the sound of Jude’s groan, sounded way too human, but Jackson didn’t dare take his attention from the group readying to attack.
One demon? He could take him and stand against a few of the jaguars. Take them all? Probably and handle the damage he’d sustain, yes. But he’d need help from the pack to save Jude and get him the medical care he needed.
From the sounds coming from Jude, he was beginning to shift. Big mistake. The bleeding wouldn’t stop if he shifted to his human form. He had greater stamina as the wolf than in his human state. The only hope Jude had of surviving his wounds was if he returned to wolf form.
Jackson needed help and from the look of things…he need it soon.
He risked glancing over his shoulder once more to check on Jude before he focused on the circle closing in on them. Then he immediately attacked, going straight for the closest demon. Avoiding the wings, Jackson drove his fist into the demons chest and ripped out his heart so quickly the demon took a moment to look down at his heart before he collapsed.
Jackson couldn’t worry about his pack member’s injuries, at the moment, not with the remaining demon and six rogue jaguars descending on them.
The rest of his pack wasn’t far behind, but could they get there in time? He’d need to hold off as long as possible, alone. He could do that. Downside was that Jude couldn’t wait to get help.
He growled at the jaguars trying to circle him, and then let loose with a howl that filled the night. He hoped the pack heard him and followed his scent through the swamp.
The returning howls sounded close, and relief shot through him. His pack his family. The jaguars instinctively dropped back into the trees becoming shadows in the night.
The remaining demon let out a sound Jackson took for a laugh. Then he spoke, saying something in whatever language demons used.
Jackson didn’t understand a word, but he got the gist of the meaning, clearly enough. They’d meet again. Damn straight they would.
Jackson snarled and nodded as the demon moved into the the forest, disappearing along with the jaguars.
He didn’t move until he heard the first of his pack approach, then he bent down and shook the injured man.
“Jude, shift, damn it.” He bit into his own wrist, took some of his blood, and wiped it over Jude’s lips hoping he’d last until he completed the shift back to wolf. Several seconds passed without Jude reacting, then he licked his lips, and a low growl rumbled through his chest.
Jackson let out a long sigh of relief. The blood seemed to help. The wolf shift started slowly, and though it seemed to take forever, soon Jude was his golden furred and fanged self by the time the rest of the pack arrived. A few gave him a sniff or two to make certain he was okay, then they stood around him in a show of protection. Jude’s litter mate, Kade, nudged his brother a few times for encouragement, while several wolves circled the perimeter making sure no other attack threatened.
As soon as the man was fully in wolf form, and the bleeding slowed to a trickle, Jackson nudged him in the direction of home. Jude, weak but alive, stood on wobbly legs, took a few steps, and the rest followed, walking close by for support.
Jackson took the rear, remaining in vaewolf form until they crossed into St. Loupe Parrish. Someday he’d lead all the packs and the vampires. Destined to be the future leader of all the supernatural beings, Jackson wondered how to deal with the rogue element. He’d sworn to protect the humans in his Parrish as well as the rest when the time came—and time was running out.
Two years—he didn’t have much time left. He had to prove himself daily, because as Dylan Macgregor once told him, “Trust is earned not given.”