Stricken (The War Scrolls Book 1)By: A.K. Morgen
She shivered at the thought of something worse than the weak demons prowling through the dark in cities far and wide. Some of those demons were decent. They didn’t harm the humans who lived beside them. But the others? They were worse than foul—hunting and murdering without regard for human life.
Stop cowering, and run, Aubrey demanded of herself.
Her muscles screamed in protest, refusing to unbend and move.
Her shoulders slumped.
Who was she kidding?
If another wolf appeared, she wouldn’t last five minutes. So she stayed put, too scared to creep from behind the hedge and ask the men for help and too tired to make a run to safety.
Sure, give up, a little voice complained from its corner of her mind. Maybe your heroes will kill you quickly when they find you lurking around out here.
“They won’t kill me,” she muttered, praying she was right.
From the little bits and pieces of their conversation she’d heard, the men were more concerned with being found than with committing murder. Knowing that didn’t make her feel any safer, though. She’d seen them kill one of the wolves with nothing more than knives.
God. The wolves. Were they wild, or were they—?
A sharp scent wafted toward her, halting that painful thought in its tracks.
Too late to ask for help now, the little voice observed.
A familiar growl sounded behind her.
A bloodcurdling scream tore from her throat, terror and fury winding together and ripping through the still night before she could stop herself.
Aubrey leaped to her feet and ran full tilt toward the rotting house and her mysterious knights. A part of her mind warned her that she was being careless. But she couldn’t stop screaming any more than she could stop herself from pounding up the decaying steps and plunging headlong into the pitch-black of the condemned property.
She made it an entire four feet into the murky darkness before slamming into a wall.
No, not a wall. A person.
She bounced off his chest and sat down on the floor so hard, her teeth clacked together, jarring her.
“What the—?” Strong arms reached out and plucked her from the rotting wood. Warm hands wrapped around her upper arms. “Who the hell are you?”
“Outside,” she whispered, squeezing her eyes closed. “There’s another wolf outside.”
“Another one?” One of the men swore in alarm.
A thud sounded somewhere beyond the voice, followed by a more colorful curse from a third voice and the hiss of steel leaving a sheath.
“Dom!” The man holding her upright spun around, his grip on her not wavering. “Hold her!” He let her go before she stopped spinning.
Her arms windmilled wildly as she scrambled for balance.
“Got her.” Another set of arms grabbed her before she could fall on her face.
Her head smacked into something hard—an arm, a chest, she didn’t know—and the man hissed between his teeth. “Damn, girl, stand still!”
He shifted her around, his large hands like vises on her upper arms. Her back thumped into a wall before she felt the man spin, putting himself between her and the wolf outside.
Her heart pounded as she waited for the wolf to tear through him and gobble her up like a pig in a straw house. For long moments, her breath rasping in and out of her throat and the chattering of her teeth were the only sounds in the oppressive darkness. Then a howl ripped through the air, seeming to bounce around the house. Chills raced up and down her spine as the distorted, eerie sound echoed in dark corners.
Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes, fear and exhaustion overwhelming her.
A second howl started as soon as the first began to fade, followed by wordless shouts and the sounds of a brawl. A curse rang out and then a heavy thump.
The animal’s howl faded into a whisper and then dead silence in the blink of an eye.
Aubrey’s heart broke a little as the whimper died. As much as the wolves scared her, she didn’t wish for their deaths. Something was obviously wrong with them, and she wasn’t callous enough not to care about that.
“Yes!” The man holding her to the wall cheered. “Got him!”
Aubrey felt him turn toward her.
She pressed herself farther into the wall, holding her eyes open wide against the darkness. If she closed them again, would she have another chance to open them?
Don’t be ridiculous. He shielded you with his own body, didn’t he? the rational part of her mind pointed out.
He’s going to kill you, the hysterical part screeched in response, refusing to listen to reason. Probably hide your body in a suitcase in the wall, never to be seen again! Aunt Mel won’t know what happened to you.
The man shifted positions, moving so close his warm breath blew across her temple.
She flinched away from him, startled.
“What’s your name, beautiful?”
“Aubrey,” she whispered, not particularly soothed by the pleasant tone of his voice or by the implication that he saw well enough in the darkness to think her pretty. She certainly couldn’t see anything.
“Aubrey,” he murmured. “Cute. I’m Dahmiel, but you can call me Dom. You’ve heard of me?”