Cole led his group of wolves, and the witches through the portal, glad it was still a day until the full moon, making it possible for everyone to control the change. The wolves and panther were in human form and would stay in human form until Cole gave the signal. After all, there might be a talking part before the fighting part.
The demons followed, all invisible, including Jane. She hadn't loved the plan of being off the grid like this. She wanted to confront and tell Anthony off, but this plan was better.
The address on the slip of paper Z had given them was a big warehouse close to the border of Cary Town. Cole reached for the door, but an invisible hand grabbed his.
"Yeah. Cain said I should stay with you in case you need me for something. I just wanted you to know I'm right here so I don't freak you out."
He chuckled. "Good plan."
Inside the warehouse, there was a platform up on a second level on one end, with doors that looked like they led to offices. On the main level stood large several large crates.
"Send the demons to check the inside perimeter. Make sure nobody is hiding and waiting to ambush us. If anybody is there, see if they can quietly take them out," Cole whispered.
"Okay," Jane whispered back.
A spotlight came on over the platform, a door opened, and out filed ten vampires, heavily armed, followed by Anthony, who was also armed. Then a couple of sorcerers.
"Cole! Nice to see you. How are things?"
"Shut up, Anthony."
"Hmmm, should I consider that a treasonous offense?"
"Let's get one thing straight," Cole said. His voice was a low growl, but he knew with the acoustics that it was carrying just fine to the vampire king. "You do not own my wolves."
"I own Cary Town. Are you not in Cary Town?"
"Ah yes. And that's the problem. You see, therians aren't allowed to leave Cary Town without permission from the border patrol, and yet, your wolves move in and out of the city. That's a problem for me."
Cole was startled by that bit of intel. He'd thought he'd been clear with the pack about not going into town. With Blake left in charge, things must have gotten lax. He wiped any evidence of surprise at the revelation off his face.
"Boo-hoo," he said. He needed to stall for Jane and the others to get a chance to see what was what on the ground floor, though riling Anthony was always fun. "Maybe we'll just move out of Cary Town altogether."
"I'm afraid I can't authorize that action. Besides, there's only so far you can move. Do you think I'm stopping with Cary Town?"
"Well, now I don't." Though Cole had always suspected the power hungry vampire had dreams of world domination while others dreamed of sugarplum fairies.
Anthony held something in his hand that looked like a detonator. Cole fought to remain in control and keep the rage inside. His eyes panned up to the vampire's bland expression. Anthony stretched his hand out and pressed the button.
"NO!" Cole lurched forward, his hand outstretched as if he could magically stop whatever Anthony had just set into motion.
But nothing exploded. Instead a large screen lit the back of the warehouse. It was Fiona in a well-furnished room with the pup. Cole's eyes filled with tears, seeing his pup for the first time. Both of them looked healthy. The woman was throwing a ball for him.
"I am so sick of seeing our pup on a screen," Jane whispered from beside him.
The screen captured a couple of vampires standing guard off to the side. Fiona appeared to be talking to someone who wasn't visible onscreen, but Cole couldn't make out her words.
Anthony clicked the button again and the screen went black. "Now," he said. "You see that they are unharmed. I have no burning urge to hurt anyone. All I want is to know the location of the hive. That's it. Tell me where you live and how you get past my border patrol, and everybody gets to go home tonight."
Z growled and shifted, not content to wait for a signal. Seeing Fiona under lockdown had been all the signal he needed.
Anthony laughed. "I take it that's the boyfriend?"
Cole pressed on. "And if we don't tell you? What will you do to them?"
"What do you think? Werewolf blood is strong and delicious, and so is witch blood. Both will make fine meals. It's a very simple choice. What's more important, your child or your pack?"
"And if the question were reversed? Your coven or your mate?"
"My mate. Always my mate without question," he answered. "The coven could go fuck themselves." A few of the vampires on the platform raised eyebrows, but that was all. They must be low enough on the totem pole for him to get away with saying that without an uprising. Or maybe they were his inner circle, his trusted advisers. Whoever they were, Cole wanted to stake them all out in the grass and wait for the sun to rise.
"I need to talk to you," Jane whispered. "Buy us a few minutes."
Cole kept his eyes straight ahead toward Anthony so as not to give her presence away. "Do you mind if I confer with my pack for a moment?"
"Not at all," Anthony said. "I've got all night."
The alpha turned toward the pack and motioned them all to gather around as if they were in a football huddle to shield who he was speaking with.
Jane kept her tone low. "The perimeter down here is clear. He's got his whole group up there on the platform with him, which means he thinks it's just a bunch of therians, not demons. The magic users may sniff us out soon, which is why I need you to distract them so I can slip out the back door. I know where he's keeping Fiona and the pup. That's his penthouse. I recognize it from the weird little windows. I stayed in that building during the coven tournament. If I go in invisible, I can take them out and get Fiona and the pup to safety."
"No, I think it's a bad idea," Cole said.
"And what do you suggest?" Cain's voice.
"It's too dangerous," the alpha growled.
"I'm not human anymore, Cole. I'm immortal. The worst that can happen to me is being locked up somewhere by a spell. If I don't show up, you guys will come after me."
"Don't downplay that risk," Cain said.
"Hey, I'm trying to get him on my side, here."
Cole wasn't convinced that was the worst that could happen, but having a conversation with invisible people was giving him a headache, so he growled and said, "I'll stall. Be careful. I love you."
"Wait. Take a portal charm. It'll be safer to get them back to the demon dimension than looking for a portal point," Cain said.
There was some fumbling around as one invisible demon handed a charm off to the other invisible demon, then Cole felt warm lips against his mouth, and she was gone.
He turned back to Anthony. "How do I know you'll release Fiona and the pup if I tell you where the hive is?"
"Well, your other option is to fight, and we outnumber you. We're up here on this platform, you're down there on the ground. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. And oh look, we have guns."
Stall, stall. What else can we talk about? Oh! "How did you find the pup? How did you know he was mine?"
Anthony made a condescending sound somewhere between a snort and a sigh. "You know, Cole, just because I only own Cary Town, doesn't mean that I don't have eyes and ears everywhere. I am the vampire king. And a few of your wolves liked to wander around the Cary Town forest. Some of them have big mouths. I also had a top sorcerer until the other day." He pierced Z with a glare, and the panther growled in response.
The vampire continued, "We discovered you were running in Golatha Falls, but what was more exciting... Jane was pregnant. We didn't expect to find the pup. We considered taking members of your pack until somebody talked, but that can be so messy. This was a more elegant option. Once we heard rumors of a wolf pup in his fur, we figured... jackpot."
One of the sorcerers on the platform moved up next to Anthony and whispered in his ear. The vampire's eyes narrowed and he nodded.
"Are you ready?" Tam whispered to Anna on Cole's right. "That's our cue." Tam tossed some strongly scented herbs around them.
"This is very interesting," Anthony said. He was trying to maintain a calm composure but it was clear he was spooked. "One of my magic users tells me that he senses the magical signature of more than what it appears."
"That is interesting," Cole said. "What do you know that can be invisible?"
Anthony paled. "How many?"
"Count for yourself," Cain said. One by one, the demons materialized.
Anna and Tam joined hands and began to chant, "Liberi et ab aliis verbis. Liberi et ab aliis verbis. Liberi et ab aliis verbis..."
Energy buzzed around them. A shimmery film cloaked the therians and demons, then blended into the background. Though it could no longer be seen, it was felt: a strong protection against any magical barbs thrown their way.
Anthony didn't seem to care about the protection spell; he was too preoccupied with the presence of the head demon. "C-Cain is here? I thought you didn't get involved in petty infighting between Preternatural species. I thought you were above all of that."
The demon shrugged. "Cole and I are friends."
"No, there's something more."
"Release them or we're fighting. The boyfriend is getting restless," Cain said.
Z growled, still in panther form, stalking back and forth, watching Anthony like he was a meal.
"Shoot the witches!" Anthony said.
Tam let go of Anna's hands and bullets went through her. At the same time, Tam closed her eyes and must have channeled the power Luc had lent her, because the bullets went through her as well.
"What the hell?"
"That's right. Waste some more ammunition," Cain said.
Cole shifted, and the other wolves followed his lead. Z didn't wait for another cue. He took a flying leap onto the platform and batted the gun out of Anthony's hands, fangs bared.
Jane raced full speed through Cary Town. It took a lot of energy to maintain invisibility. Being a new demon, she needed to feed more often. She'd needed to feed earlier, but it felt like such a stupid time to have sex. She hadn't been in the mood. All she wanted was her kid back and this whole nightmare to be over.
It was like being hungry but nothing looking good. She just hoped she had enough energy to see her through this. Either way, she felt strong enough to take on a couple of vampires, especially if they couldn't see her, and she didn't intend on giving up that advantage no matter how much energy it took from her. As long as they didn't have a witch with Fiona and the pup, she was home free. If there was a witch, she wasn't sure what she'd do.
The Cary Town Luxury Apartments were a shining beacon rising up in the middle of the downtown area. She slipped into the lobby behind a couple so the door wouldn't appear to open by itself.
The guardian at the front looked in her direction. He seemed to see her - or at least sense her. He stared for what felt like forever, but then he shrugged and went back to reading his newspaper. Jane let out a breath and moved toward the elevator.
When she was sure nobody was looking, she pressed the button. She couldn't go straight up to the penthouse. For that, you needed a key. But she had another plan. The elevator stopped on five, one floor below Anthony's place, the same floor she'd stayed on for the tournament. At the end of the hallway was a window. Because the building was old, the window opened. In a newer model hotel, it would have been sealed for a hallway like this. Safety first.
But since the guardians looked the other way while vampires brought meals up to their rooms, Jane was thinking safety first wasn't one of their mottos. It was hard to fathom the clueless humans who lived here. She pushed the window up and took one last look down the hallway.
It was empty, so Jane materialized. If she shape-shifted into something that could fly, she could zip up to the roof and get in through the door, even if she had to use brute strength to rip it off its hinges. Though that might blow her element of surprise.
She closed her eyes and focused on a memory of a raven she'd seen after a fresh snow one winter. It had been eating berries off an otherwise scraggly and bare tree. It wasn't working. Dammit! She didn't know how long Cole could stall. She'd been fast, but they must be fighting by now.
Jane moved down the hall, holding her hands out, hovering over the walls and doors... Somebody be feeling amorous tonight. Anybody. She sensed two humans in one of the apartments and the beginnings at least of flirtatious energy. She could work with that.
She knocked on the door of 5G. A woman answered, an irritated look on her face. "Who the hell are you?"
Jane's lips turned up in a friendly smile. "I'm not here. You don't see me. You want to climb your boyfriend like a tree and fuck his brains out. You can't stand for another moment to go by without him inside you."
The woman went back inside the apartment, the command fresh in her mind. The man showed up then. "Hey, what's going on?"
"I'm not here," Jane said. She was about to put a suggestion in the man's head, but the woman needed no additional help. As the two writhed on the kitchen floor like they were in heat, Jane's hands hovered over them, soaking in the sexual energy. How she wished she'd just inconvenienced Cole for twenty minutes before they'd left for Cary Town. This was... more inconvenient.
When she was satiated, she left the two none the wiser and went back into the hallway. This time, the shift came on easily. She hopped onto the window ledge in bird form and flew up to the roof. She would have loved to enjoy the thrill of flying, but now wasn't the time. She shifted back and went invisible again, making her way to the door that led back inside.
The knob on the metal door turned easily in her hand. As quietly as she could, she went through the penthouse, assessing the situation. There were only the two vampire guards, just like on the video screen. Fiona and the pup were playing in the main living area, but there was a witch besides Fiona. Not good.
Who first? If she took out the vampires, the witch might start chanting, and she didn't know how strong she was. It had to be the witch first. The pup looked right at Jane as if he could see her. She looked down at her hands but she was invisible. Could he sense her? The thought made her all warm inside. But if he sensed her, the witch would soon as well.
She backed into the kitchen and the curious pup followed her. Maybe he could see her? Cole couldn't when she was invisible. Maybe it was some preternatural mother-child bond. Since returning, she hadn't had time to read up on weirdness between magical mothers and their offspring.
"Stay here, I'm going to go after the pup," the witch said to Fiona from the other room, then she followed him into the kitchen. Exactly where Jane wanted her. Alone.
Jane moved behind the witch and put her in a sleeper hold, cutting off her oxygen so she couldn't chant. The witch struggled at first, but the demon was too strong for her. The blonde slid to the floor, and Jane stepped over her body.
Fiona appeared in the kitchen, having ignored the witch's order. Her eyes widened at the blonde passed out on the floor. Jane materialized. "It's okay, it's just me."
She knelt next to the pup and scratched behind his ear. "Go back in the other room with Fiona. Mommy has to kill some people," she whispered to the pup. She wasn't sure how much of that he could comprehend, but he trotted back into the other room, anyway.
Fiona seemed to be analyzing and sizing up the situation. Jane was impressed by her outward calm in the face of everything.
"Can you go back to being invisible?"
Jane nodded and changed back.
"That's better," Fiona said. "They think I'm crazy, so if we get interrupted they'll just think I'm talking to myself. You should take the big one out first. I've been watching him, and not only is he big, but he's old, so he's the strongest. I'll try to distract the other one when you make your move. And there's also..."
"What's going on in there?"
Fiona rushed out of the kitchen before the vampire could come in and see the witch on the ground. "Nothing, nothing. Sonya is just making the pup a snack."
The vamp grumbled something incoherent as Fiona corralled him back to the living area.
And there's also what? What had the witch been about to say? Damnit. Jane pulled a stake from her jacket. She'd foregone a gun with wooden bullets. She'd been so angry, she'd wanted the intimacy of a stake. She'd envisioned taking out the vampire king herself, but a gun would have been so much easier. Boom. Boom. Assassin style.
When everyone settled back in the living room, Jane crept over to the burliest of the two vampires. Without hesitation, she slammed the stake home. He cried out, and then his flesh began to melt off the bones. She pulled the stake out of the goo and leapt out of the way of the other vampire who was lunging toward her now, looking for the threat.
Fiona screamed and started to babble nonsense. The vamp turned toward the outburst, perhaps thinking she'd used magic somehow. In the moment of distraction, Jane rushed him. He sensed the movement and turned toward her again, so she jerked her elbow up hard, smacking him against the jaw.
The vamp let out an oomph and stumbled back. "Where are you, you little bitch?"
Fighting invisible was taking too much energy, and the element of surprise was long gone, anyway. She shed her invisibility. "Right here, you little half-breed."
He barreled toward her, all brawn and no brains. She sidestepped the vamp at the last moment, sending him into the wall. Jane pivoted and swung around, her fists ready to pummel him. She just kept punching, throwing everything she had into it, going for his ribs and any weak points he exposed in his struggle. He fought to turn around, and when he succeeded, she didn't miss a beat, grabbing his shoulders and kneeing him in the groin.
The vampire crumpled. Jane flipped him on his back and raised the stake in the air, prepared to drive it home, when a door opened. She looked up to see a very pregnant Charlee coming out of the bathroom. Well, that cleared up the mystery of and there's also... The distraction and the squick moment over Charlee carrying Anthony's evil seed caused the vampire to gain the upper hand and flip them, reversing their positions.
"Get off me, you psycho. You can't kill me, and you've got no witch. So what are you going to do?"
"I can torture the shit out of you until Anthony gets back, then we'll decide from there. You seem like you're running on empty."
Yeah, so? Cain's alternate method of feeding wasn't meant for this much ass kicking. It was more of a small between meal snack.
"Get off her," Charlee said.
The vampire hesitated. Charlee was only human, and a pregnant human at that. You couldn't get much more vulnerable with a vampire. But the mating mark on her throat from the vampire king, gave her a different kind of power.
"I am your queen. Get. Off. Her."
Wow. Charlee had been brushing up on her regal demeanor. She'd been good at it when she'd taken Jane down to execute Paul, but now she was a pro.
The vampire grumbled, but obeyed the order. He must have thought he was safe because his stance was just relaxed enough for Jane to drive the stake home. The vamp started to melt.
"Was that necessary?" Charlee asked.
"Was kidnapping my child and Fiona necessary?"
"It wasn't me. You know that. Who am I going to be kidnapping with this stomach? I can barely fit through doors as it is."
"You didn't try to stop him. You didn't do anything to get my child back to me."
"We thought you were dead!" Charlee said.
"Well, what about Cole? You knew Cole wasn't dead!"
"And how was I going to find him without Anthony finding out? You might think my mate is evil, but he's just doing what he has to do. Not everybody is on board with him having me for a mate, and now I'm pregnant. Do you know what they do to babies born from a human mated to a vampire?"
Jane shrugged, not sure she cared, seeing as they hadn't cared what happened to her kid.
Charlee's hand went over her stomach in a protective gesture. Jane knew that gesture, and she softened.
"They kill them. Babies born to a claimed human mother from a vampire are weak. They have all the weaknesses of a vampire but none of the strengths. They're considered an abomination. Anthony is doing what he's doing to protect our daughter. He has to be ruthless enough that no one will try to cross him and kill our child. All we want to know is where the hive is."
"Anthony can't look weak," Charlee said, pleading in her eyes.
Jane put her hands on her hips, feeling odd with the two of them together in this building again. "Look, some of my pack could be dying right now. They're fighting, and it has to stop. Anthony won't look weak if I have a hostage."
Charlee's eyes widened. "You'd do that to me?"
Jane growled. "Jesus, Charlee, no. Do you not know how to act? Just look pathetic, and I'll sell the rest of it. I've worn one mask or another so long I can be anything or anyone. Anthony doesn't know who I am. He's never known."
Charlee nodded. "Okay."
"Um, guys?" Fiona said. "I think we should move me and the pup to a safe location. If we go with you, the tables could turn on us again."
Jane nodded. She'd assumed Fiona would be dead weight in all of this, and was surprised when she wasn't. "That was my plan, yes." She pulled out the talisman Cain had given her and turned the shiny, golden stone over the runic markings to the correct combination. The shimmery film appeared.
"When you go through with the pup, ask for directions to the werewolf camp. Tell them Cain said you're off limits. Actually, you might want to lead with that part."
The internal struggle was clear on Fiona's face as she looked at the film and the potential danger beyond.
"Hey, you've got this. Trust me. You're stronger than you think," Jane said.
The witch bit her lip and nodded. She turned and hugged Charlee. "Thanks for keeping me sane in here."
"No problem. Good luck."
Then Fiona took the pup and disappeared into the safety of the demon dimension.
When Jane and Charlee reached the lobby, the guardian at the front desk didn't look shocked to see them, his suspicions of something amiss confirmed. But he went right back to his paper.