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Bound Chapter 1

 

Chapter One

 

 

Rain from Tropical Storm Jacob pounded the Miami streets while the residents rushed for last-minute supplies. The storm-darkened skies allowed the nightly predators an early reprieve from their daily slumber. The hunters woke ravenous and emerged from their lairs in search of prey and fresh human blood.

 

A lone figure stood on a hotel balcony using thermal scanning goggles to search the bustling crowds on the sidewalks below for bodies devoid of normal heat signatures. She knew from nights of surveillance that the streets of this section of Miami were home to at least a dozen of the frigid-bodied, blood seekers. She expected that tonight she would find the prey she sought. The horrid weather had no effect on their bodies, or their abilities to hunt the living. Nor did it hamper her skills. Her eyes found what they were looking for—a body registering fifty degrees.

 

“Hmmph, found ya.”

 

 

Winona “Win” Weston fished a pack of Marlboro Lights from the pocket of her knee-length, all-weather coat and flipped open the top to tap out a cigarette. The snap of her Zippo lighter broke the silence on the balcony when she lit the cigarette and took in a lungful of smoke.

 

“You know that shit is going to kill you one day,” a deep voice commented from inside the bedroom.

 

Win smiled. “Only if I live long enough.” She waved away the plume of exhaled smoke and she turned to peer inside the room.

 

From the shadows of the darkened room, a large figure approached the balcony. Dressed identically to Win, the dark-clad watcher, a woman with piercing amber eyes, stepped out onto the balcony. Alix’s size dwarfed the smaller watcher who turned at her approach.

 

The rain pelted off Alix Augustus, a steam cloud forming an aura around her figure. Her Werecat metabolism, which raised her body temperature at least ten degrees above a normal human level, would prevent her from becoming chilled on a night like tonight. She smiled, thinking that her partner Win might benefit from the added heat if her smaller, human form required rapid warming.

 

“Damn, you’re smoking hot,” Win teased.

 

Alix knew that her figure was glowing bright red in Win’s goggles.

 

“I bet you say that to all the girls.” She peered out across the balcony. “A great night for a hunt,” she added.

 

A feisty human with exceptional fighting skills, Win was a bounty hunter along with Alix, a Werecat with tremendous strength and hunting abilities. Together, they had become an excellent team. Their skills and years of experience made them perfect hunters for all manner of supernatural creatures. Partners and lovers for five years, they had learned quickly that once they bonded it enhanced their ability to hunt together, each knowing what the other’s reaction would be during combat. Their reputation as an efficient killing team grew and had spread throughout the supernatural world, and they rapidly became the most sought after team of elite assassins in the United States.

 

Such was their mission in Miami. King Renaldo, the eldest of the Miami vampires, had contacted them to dispose of two undisciplined rogue vamps whose careless hunting habits were drawing unwanted attention that threatened exposure of Renaldo’s clan. The Vampire Laws prevented vamps from killing one another unless it was in an all-out war. The two rogues plaguing Miami were merely a tiresome distraction, so Renaldo had contracted the bounty hunters to exterminate them.

 

 

 

Alix and Win had no problem killing rogues, whether vampires or any other type of supernatural being, when there was a bounty on their head. They were both born to hunt and relished the adrenaline rush they got from the danger of tracking and exterminating dangerous supernatural beings. Alix especially despised rogue vampires. One of them had destroyed her family, leaving her orphaned as a toddler.

 

 Alix and Win had tracked the feeding patterns of Jimmy Juice and Ricardo for three nights. In hindsight, the two young vampires should never have been allowed to turn. They lacked the discipline to keep themselves, and the clan, safe from exposure. Renaldo was paying the bounty hunters handsomely for their services, and after tonight, the two rogues would no longer be a threat to him or his clan.

 

Alix growled, her keen sense of smell alerted her to the rogues’ approach. She despised the reeking scent of the undead. “Smells worse than a boatful of long dead fish,” she snarled.

 

Win crushed out the butt of her cigarette and glanced at her watch. “Right on time.” She grinned. “At least they’re predictable.”

 

They knew from previous surveillance that the two vamps would turn left at the next block and wait in a small park for unsuspecting victims to rush toward a parked car, or to catch a nearby bus to escape the weather.

 

“Are you ready?” Alix asked.

 

Win double-checked her weapons and nodded. “Let’s do this and then go someplace where it’s not raining.” She grinned and a shiver from the dampness began seeping into her bones. “I get the bigger one again, right?”

 

“You always get the big ones,” Alix groaned.

 

“That’s because they always underestimate my size. They see you and know you'll be a brute to kill,” she teased.

 

“All right, Win, you can have the big one just this once more.” Alix winked. “You really need to work on picking on someone more your size though.”

 

Win chuckled when they left the room. Their bags were packed and left on the bed. Once the job was complete, they would retrieve their belongings, drive to South Beach to collect their fees from Renaldo, and then make a beeline north to escape the approaching storm.

 

Bypassing the elevator, they made for the stairwell, the four flights of stairs warming up their muscles for the impending battle. Win kicked open the heavy metal exterior door and they stepped out into the pouring rain. Still wearing the unusual goggles, she watched while their prey turned ahead of them to approach the park, and then separated to hunt.

 

“You get the right side of the park.”

 

Alix grinned, and they went in separate directions. The right side was darker, and had landscaping that would allow her to undress and shift undetected into the form of a sleek black panther.

 

Win stalked the larger of the pair, her heartbeat steady and strong. She slipped her right hand into a compartment of her cargo pants to grasp the handle of a specially equipped revolver. Instead of bullets, the chambers held six sharpened wooden bolts. That would be her weapon of first choice, but if necessary, she would draw the silver-bladed sword strapped across her back, concealed by her dark coat. She looked to her right to see that Alix had completed her shift and was silently stalking the vamp. She would need no manmade weapons, just her razor sharp teeth and claws to tear the vamp to pieces, removing his head from his body if necessary.

 

Win’s prey sensed her approach, and spun on his heels to face her with a hiss, baring his pointed canines when he saw the revolver loaded with bolts.

 

“I can hear your heart pounding,” he sneered.

 

She released the first bolt from her revolver, but the vamp known as Jimmy Juice easily dodged its flight.

 

“You have to do better than that, hunter,” he hissed and began running toward her in a blur of movement.

 

“I’m just getting warmed up,” she growled back at him.

 

Win released three more bolts in a pattern she knew would cover his approach and then drew her sword. The third bolt caught him in the left shoulder after he dodged the first two, and he howled in pain when he reached for it. A fierce cry from off to his right froze his movement briefly. He realized his partner was also under attack, and the hesitation allowed Win to swing the shining blade and separate his head from his shoulders. She watched his body collapse to the ground and burst into flames, leaving only the wooden bolt untouched. A smile of victory crossed her face.

 

She had learned early in her career to soak the bolts in holy water for the extra pain effect, and to protect them from incineration when the vamp’s body disintegrated into ash. She stopped long enough to retrieve the bolt then rushed to Alix’s aid.

 

She aimed the revolver and, without hesitation, released a shot, sending a bolt into Ricardo’s heart. Win waited for his body to complete his unholy cremation before collecting the bolt, which she tucked into a pocket inside her jacket.

 

Turning to Alix, she saw the big cat wiping the fresh blood from her face with large paws, and waited until she shifted back into her human form.

 

“I think we’re done here. I’ll get the car and meet you at the back door if you’ll collect our bags,” Win requested.

 

Alix stood and stretched, willing away the discomfort she felt while waiting for her remaining muscles to shift back into place then nodded her agreement. She walked back to collect her clothing and returned to Win.

 

As Alix dressed, Win admired the beautiful naked form of the woman she loved. Alix saw her watching and the desire smoldering in her lover’s eyes. “See something you like?”

 

“Oh most definitely,” Win answered.

 

They swiftly jogged back through the rain-soaked darkness to the hotel to finish their work. They were both fully aware that one of Renaldo’s generals had followed them and would report to him the rogues’ destruction. Win would also present him with the two bolts, which would still hold the scent of the recently deceased vamps, for further proof when they arrived to receive their payment.

 

They caught a glimpse of Renaldo’s general before he disappeared in the shadows when they reached the hotel.

 

 

Alix took the stairs two steps at a time up to their room. She opened the doorway from the stairwell and the hackles on the back of her neck rose in full alert when she sensed another supernatural being in the hallway ahead. She determined by the scent that another vampire was present and stepped out of the stairwell with caution. She could shift more quickly than most of her kind, but if the vamp were close, and aggressive, she would have to rely on her power and agility to ward off an attack.

 

There was no one in sight so she rushed to the room to gather their bags. When she opened the door to step back into the hallway, a small female vamp lunged at her. The dark circles around the woman’s eyes betrayed her hunger and her weakened reflexes. Alix thrust out her right hand, catching the vamp by the neck and lifting her off the floor, then slamming her into the wall of the hallway before moving quickly to the stairwell. Still carrying the stunned vamp like a rag doll, Alix rushed down the stairs, kicked open the exit door, and stepped into the darkness.

 

 

Win retrieved the black Yukon from the parking lot and drove to the back door to wait for Alix. She put the heavy SUV in Park and emerged to run around to the passenger side. Her partner had much better eyesight at night, especially in this weather, so Win would concede her dominance to allow Alix to drive.

 

The door slammed open, and when Win looked up she saw what Alix was carrying. Jumping out of the passenger seat, she drew her revolver in a smooth motion. She pulled the trigger while Alix held the vamp, who was struggling for release, at an arm’s length away.

 

After the bolt struck true, Alix dropped the vamp as she began smoldering and then burst into flame.

 

“That was a nasty little surprise.” Alix bent down to retrieve the bolt from the pile of scorched clothing.

 

“Let’s get going before anyone else shows themselves.” Win tucked the third bolt in her coat.

 

“You’ll get no argument from me.” Alix tossed the bags in the backseat and slipped in behind the wheel.

 

“Let’s go to South Beach to collect, and then drive up the west coast so we can hopefully bypass this rain.”

 

“Can we find a drive-through somewhere along the way afterward? I’m starving.”

 

Win smiled at her lover. “Yes, we will find a spot to feed that beast of yours.”

 

Alix growled her pleasure and then she put the SUV in gear and followed the GPS directions to Renaldo’s South Beach home.

 

 

The streets of south Florida were beginning to look like a ghost town. Business owners were closing up shop and heading for higher ground before the storm intensified. Hurricane Andrew had taught them all a brutal lesson when it devastated nearby areas in 1992, causing billions in damages and claiming sixty-seven lives.

 

When they reached Renaldo’s home, they pulled into the large circular drive and parked. Two huge men greeted Alix and Win at the front door and ushered them inside.

 

“King Renaldo is waiting for you in the parlor,” one of the men stated, pointing to large double doors.

 

Win did not expect an ambush from someone respected like King Renaldo, but she had reloaded her revolver out of habit. The weight of it on her thigh gave her a sense of security, and her hand remained close until they stepped inside to find Renaldo waiting for them alone.

 

“Welcome back, ladies. My sources have informed me your contract was completed tonight,” he reported with a charming smile. “May I offer you something to drink?”

 

“Do you have bourbon?” Win asked.

 

“But of course.” Renaldo drifted more than walked to an elegant bar. “For two?” he asked, looking at Alix.

 

“That would be fine,” Alix answered.

 

“I brought the bolts if you need further proof,” Win offered.

 

“Not necessary. Rafael witnessed the execution of the two rogues, and then the third waiting for you at the hotel.” He poured two glasses halfway full with caramel-colored bourbon and handed one to each of the women.

 

“Thanks,” Win replied and Alix nodded her appreciation.

 

Renaldo returned to the bar and picked up a large envelope that he handed to Win.

 

She took a sip of the bourbon before handing Alix the envelope.

 

“You won’t even check it?” he asked.

 

“No need. I checked my account on the drive here and saw that fifty thousand had been deposited into the account like we agreed. Besides, I know where you live,” Win added with a deadly look.

 

Renaldo smiled. “The envelope holds the receipt for the transfer, the ten thousand in cash to cover your travel expenses, and a small bonus of appreciation for your excellent work.”

 

“That’s always a nice surprise.” Win smiled. “Thank you.”

 

“So where are you off to next?” he asked.

 

“We’ve been requested to visit New Orleans, to help Lord Jordan out with a minor problem,” Win told him.

 

Renaldo grinned. “Please give my regards to my friend and remind him to come visit me, if you will.”

 

“Consider it done.” Win slammed back the rest of the bourbon.

 

“One more for the road?” he asked.

 

“Thanks, but no, we have a long road ahead of us tonight.”

 

“Be safe then, and like always, it was a pleasure doing business with you.” He extended a cold hand to Win.

 

She didn’t hesitate to reach out to shake his hand. “You know how to reach us should you have future problems.”

 

“I have you on speed dial.” He chuckled, revealing his unsheathed canines.

 

They handed him the crystal glasses and turned to leave.

 

“Ready to go?” Alix asked when they reached the foyer.

 

They stepped out into rain and a howling wind when they made a dash to the SUV.

 

“West across to Alligator Alley and then we’ll run up the coast to Clearwater. Hopefully we can find a room,” Win said. “If not, we crash in the back.”

 

Alix handed her the envelope and started the SUV. “I think I would rather drive all night than try to sleep in this vehicle.”

 

Win smiled at her lover. “Find someplace still open for food if you can, before we leave town. I can hear your stomach grumbling.”

 

“I’m all in for that,” Alix stated while Win programmed the GPS.

 

When Win opened the envelope she whistled in surprise, finding another five thousand on top of the ten agreed upon for travel expenses. “Too bad there isn’t a decent steak house open, or I’d buy you the biggest steak I could.”

 

“There’s always tomorrow.”

 

They finally found a fast-food restaurant that was the last open business in the area and drove away with a bag of twenty double cheeseburgers, French fries, and supersized drinks.

 

“This should hold you for an hour or two.” Win removed a cheeseburger from the paper wrapping and handed it to her lover. “Don’t forget to chew this one,” she teased and took a burger for herself.

 

Two hours later, they were deep in the heart of the Everglades and heading north. The rain had begun to lessen with each passing mile and when a deer beside the road was illuminated by the SUV’s headlights, Win heard Alix growl.

 

“Would you like to stop for a run?”

 

“That would be great,” Alix replied.

 

Win glanced at the GPS. “There should be a turnoff ahead a few miles. Take it and find a safe spot to park.”

 

“Thanks.” Her amber eyes aglow with excitement.

 

 

Win reclined in her seat while Alix undressed before she shifted and went for a run. She hoped her lover would scare up some wildlife to hunt and kill. Her cat needed a fresh kill to remain happy and there was no more promising area than the Florida Everglades to satisfy that hunger.

 

After her eyes closed, Win reflected back on her life. Delivered to a Memphis orphanage when she was an infant, she never knew or cared about her biological parents or questioned why they had abandoned her.

 

Her petite size had made her an easy target for larger children at the orphanage, and daily bullying became a part of her young life. When she began junior high and her size remained smaller than her peers, Win realized she needed to learn ways to protect herself. She was a fast runner but some of the boys were faster and she feared for her safety. After her school day, she worked odd jobs whenever she could to earn money. When she had the required funds, she entered a martial arts program on the campus of Memphis State.

 

Her instructors found her to be a motivated student and challenged her development at every potential level until she had reached the highest level of black belt possible for her age and training. When she entered high school, other students found out quickly, and for some painfully, that she was not one to be harassed or intimidated.

 

When she turned eighteen and graduated, Win left the orphanage that had been her home and traveled south. It did not matter where she ended up, if it was out of Memphis.

 

Her first major stop landed her in Jackson, and on a stormy night similar to tonight she was wandering the rain-slicked streets, munching on a burger, when she met Harley. She had stopped under the front stoop of a closed business to escape the rain for a few moments while she ate. It was the first food she had consumed all day and even though it had probably sat under a heat lamp for hours, it tasted like a gourmet meal to a starving teen.

 

The darkness had concealed her on the stoop and movement to her left caught her attention. A park took up the entire city block and Win strained her eyes to detect the movement. A sliver of light flashed, followed by a burst of flames, and then the most horrific smell assaulted her nose. Curious, she ate the last bite of her burger and slipped into the night to investigate.

 

In the center of the park she saw a dark man standing over what appeared to be a burning body. She watched with amazement when he bent down and withdrew something from the fire. She froze when the man turned and their eyes locked.

 

“Approach if you are a friend,” he spoke.

 

Win, drawn to the sound of the man’s voice, found her feet moving forward.

 

His steel-gray eyes followed her carefully while she approached. He sheathed the sword across his back, beneath a black leather coat, and Win realized that it was the moonlight flashing off his blade that she had witnessed. “Who are you?” she asked.

 

“My name is Harley. Who are you?”

 

“Win,” She eyed the burning body warily. “What happened here?”

 

“Something too dangerous to be discussed out in the open, follow me.” His eyes searched the surrounding area.

 

Win was amazed at how easily she followed Harley, but her instincts told her he was to be trusted. She followed him down the sidewalk, almost running to keep up with his long strides, until they reached an all-night diner, allowing him to hold the door for her while she entered the building. When she walked past him, she felt a buzz of electricity radiating from his body and she shivered with excitement.

 

 

Harley led her to a secluded corner booth and handed her a menu. “You look like it’s been a while since you had a decent hot meal. Order what you want, and lots of it.”

 

The server brought them both strong coffee and Harley gave her his order. “Two eggs over easy, bacon, and dry toast.”

 

“And for you, young lady?” she asked.

 

“I’ll take that and an order of pancakes. Some apple juice too, if you have it,” Win requested. She waited for the server to leave. “You realize I don’t have the money to pay for this, right?”

 

“Did I ask you if you had money?” he asked.

 

“No, you didn’t.”

 

“With the money I just made, I can afford to buy you breakfast,” he told her while he leaned across the table.

 

She wiggled in her seat. “What are you?” she asked, “Some kind of bounty hunter?”

 

“You’re very clever.” He chuckled.

 

“I saw enough to know you used a sword. I presume to decapitate them based on the arc of your swing.” She had a worried frown on her face while she contemplated her next sentence. “What I didn’t see was how the body was set on fire.”

 

She studied the weathered face of the man sitting across from her and judged him to be in his late forties. Win noticed he had a quick smile when she made a comment, but his eyes were what drew her the most. His steel-gray eyes appeared to look deep inside her soul when he gazed at her.

 

Harley started to speak, but after a quick glance beyond her, he realized the server was approaching. He waited until she placed the plates of food in front of them and returned to the counter. He began mashing up his eggs while he spoke. “Do you believe in vampires?” he asked, not looking at her.

 

“I’ve never seen one, but I guess anything is possible in this crazy world,” she answered and took a bite of pancake.

 

“You are correct in assuming I’m a bounty hunter, but my prey is not human. I only hunt vampires, Were creatures, and witches that have caused havoc in the supernatural world by their actions,” he uttered as simply as if he were describing a banking job.

 

Win stopped mid-chew to look into his eyes. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

 

“Deadly serious,” he answered, dredging a triangle of toast through the egg yolk. “What you witnessed tonight was the execution of a rogue vampire who has been feasting on small children in the area, causing the authorities to ask some uncomfortable questions about what is going on in Jackson.”

 

“But how did you do that?” she asked.

 

“I shot him first with a wooden bolt, but just missed his heart, so I had to use my sword to take his head. Once relieved of that, his body burst into flame, sending him to hell where he belongs. That Win, is what you saw.”

 

Win did not appear shocked by his answer, which brought another of his mischievous grins to his face.

 

“Are you from around here?” he asked.

 

“Nope, just passing through,” Win answered between bites.

 

Harley cocked his head to the side. “Headed where?”

 

Win stopped chewing and swallowed. “I don’t really know,” she admitted. “I just aged out of an orphanage in Memphis that has been my home for eighteen years.”

 

“Have you ever been to Monroe, Louisiana?” he asked, already knowing the answer.

 

She chuckled when she looked up at him. “Who are you kidding? Until yesterday, I had never left the Memphis city limits.”

 

Harley resumed sopping up the egg yolks with his toast.

 

Anxious to learn more about the mysterious man, she asked, “Is that where you’re from?”

 

“I travel all over for business, but yes, that’s where I call home,” he replied. “What are your plans for the future?”

 

Win placed the coffee mug back on the table. “I thought I would travel around a bit until I find someplace I like, and where I can find a job.”

 

“What job training have you had?”

 

“I've done some odd jobs, painting, cleaning, and have limited fast-food experience,” she answered. Even to her ears, she felt she had little work experience to offer a potential employer.

 

“So what are you good at?” he asked.

 

Win chuckled. “Surviving,” she answered. “I had to learn to fight to protect myself at the orphanage and in public school. I worked after school to pay for martial arts lessons and I can hold my own in a fight.” She continued eating while she weighed her options. She had little money, very few clothes, and no means of transportation. Her instincts, which generally were spot-on, made her think she could trust Harley.

 

Harley liked the grit in her voice, and though she was small, he bet larger opponents frequently underestimated her. He could also imagine many left in shock by her ferocity and skills after she took them down. He decided to go for broke and come right out with an offer.

 

“I have an old barn that needs a fresh coat of paint and an extra room that you could stay in,” he told her. “Nothing fancy, but it would get you out of the weather and fed regularly.”

 

Win was considering his offer when he decided to sweeten the pot. “We would love to have you stay for whatever time you wish,” he added.

 

“Who is we?” she asked, curious.

 

“Alix, my daughter. She’s also an orphan who has lived with me since she was a toddler,” he replied. “Maybe a year or two older than you, but still close to your age.”

 

Harley saw a spark of interest when she looked up at him.

 

“How do I know you aren’t an ax murderer or someone who will do me harm?” she asked.

 

Harley chuckled while he formed his answer. “I use a sword as you’ve already seen, but I will not harm a human.”

 

She thought about his answer a few more minutes while she ate, then looked up at him. “Tell me about Alix and how she came to live with you.”

 

Harley pushed his empty plate away and began his story. “I was contracted for a job near Jonesboro and had been tracking a rogue vamp for two days. He was killing off every Were being he encountered. His last targets were Alix’s parents. When I crashed into her home, I was too late to save her parents, but I did kill the vamp before he could rip out her throat.” He smiled at the memory. “She lifted her arms for me to pick her up and I couldn’t resist her charms. Her parents were the last of their clan. She had no relatives to leave her with, so I brought her home with me.”

 

“Were, as in Werewolf?” she asked in disbelief.

 

He shook his head no. “There are plenty of Werewolves around, but no, Alix is a Werecat. When she grew into her teens, her first shift was into a sleek black panther.”

 

First vampires, and now Werewolves and Werecats. This night is growing stranger by the minute. She studied him. There was no sign of humor or dishonesty in his face.

 

“What other types of Were creatures are there?” she asked with genuine curiosity.

 

Harley was pleased that she was showing an interest in the supernatural. “Wolves are the most predominant. Cats like Alix used to be more common, but the breed is dying out. Hunted almost to extinction for their pelts, mating pairs are rare these days. Birds, primarily large raptors, are rare, although I’ve heard stories about overly large eagles spotted out west. Foxes are also talked about on occasion.”

 

“What does Alix do for work?”

 

“She runs our small farm, and is in training to become my future partner.”

 

That piqued her interest more than anything he had shared. “Would you train me?” she asked.

 

“I would consider it. After you finish painting the barn,” he had replied with a grin.

 

 

The sleek black panther slipped deeper into the night when she found a game trail leading away from the parked vehicle. She scented the fear of a small animal while her feet glided silently down the trail, and her ears picked up the distant sound of a wild pig rutting through the underbrush looking for food. Perfect. She began silently stalking the pig. When it came into sight, she circled slowly to remain downwind of him. Alix felt a brief pang of guilt for hunting the smaller prey and decided it would be no challenge if she attacked him while he fed, so she intentionally stepped on a branch to make a crunching sound.

 

The pig’s keen hearing picked up the sound and his wild eyes were frantic when he turned to see the black panther twenty feet away from him. He immediately fled the underbrush in an attempt to save his life, running as fast as his short legs would carry him. The cat continued to walk slowly, giving the pig a head start to make the hunt as fair to the pig as possible.

 

As her pace increased, she opened her senses to track the animal. The scent of his terror made it easy to follow his trail, even though a light rain had begun to fall once more. She loped through the forest, following his trail. When he was only several feet ahead of her, she pounced. Her sharp teeth sank into his neck while her powerful legs trapped him, her grip on his neck snapping his spine and killing the pig instantly. Her teeth ached for the taste of a fresh kill and a low growl escaped her after she ripped the first mouthful of flesh from his body.

 

She feasted on the pig until her hunger was sated, and then located a small creek to drink the fresh, cool water and cleanse the blood from her face and paws.

 

Alix turned away from the creek to run back to the SUV and, for a moment, she thought Win was asleep. The big cat planted her large paws on the door and placed her face against the window glass, her heated breath fogging up the window.

 

 

A loud purr rattled against the window and Win turned to find large amber eyes staring at her. She rolled down the window, buried her fingers in the silky coat of the cat, scratching behind her ears. “Welcome back, my love. I hope you had a good hunt.” She softly stroked the cat. Win watched the body of the cat blur when her shift began, then watched while Alix stood from a crouch, the light rain trickling down her bare skin.

 

Win reached into the backseat for a towel. “You better wipe down and get dressed in something dry before the clouds decide to open up again.”

 

Alix took the offered towel. “Thanks.” She quickly wiped her body down and slipped into a new set of clothes.

 

“How was your hunt?”

 

Alix’s damp black hair fell into her eyes when she looked up from lacing her boots. “It was just what I needed. I killed a nice little pig that has me stuffed for now.”

 

“Do you want me to drive for a while to let your meal settle?”

 

She brushed the hair out of her face. “Yeah, that would be great.”

 

Win stepped out of the vehicle and walked around to the driver’s side to slip in behind the wheel. Alix pulled a shirt over her head and took the vacant passenger seat.

 

Win drove back to the highway and after she turned north, the sky opened and torrential rains began to fall.

 

“You good to drive in this mess?” Alix asked.

 

“Yeah, go ahead and crash for a while. If it gets too dangerous, I’ll find a safe spot to pull over until it breaks,” Win told her.

 

Alix nodded and curled her lithe body up in the seat. It wasn’t the most comfortable position for her but until her body metabolized the pig, she would rest the best way she could. She placed her hand on Win’s thigh and closed her eyes.

 

The warmth of Alix’s hand was very comforting and helped Win to relax tense nerves. The SUV cut through the dark night while Win raced to get ahead of the storm. It didn’t take long for Alix to fall asleep, and start purring softly while she slept, bringing a smile to Win’s face.

 

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