Chelsea tore out of the bar towards her car, not caring about the rain that plastered her hair to her face. Her breath hung ragged in her throat as her heart slammed into her ribs. She threw open the door and flung herself into the seat, one thought raging through her mind: Alex, Alex, I have to save Alex.
As her shaking hand tried to force the key into the ignition, all the other car doors opened. Amber slid her bulk into the front seat as the two monster hunters Chelsea had just met clamored into the back.
A warm hand clamped on Chelsea’s neck as Amber leaned over. “Take a breath. We’ll save him, but only if we use our brains.”
Chelsea nodded, swallowed the tension in her throat, and tried to simply breathe. She glanced into the rearview mirror. Two sets of dark eyes met hers. Scott rubbed at his filthy neck as Keegan nodded to her. Chelsea gave a sharp nod back. As thankful as she was that Scott and Keegan were coming to help, she wished there had been more hunters at the haunt.
Her ringing cell phone disturbed her thoughts. A glance at the screen showed Alex’s name, and she answered without thinking. “Alex—”
“Chelsea, what the hell is going on?” Alex’s normally calm voice came out strained. “Tiggy is scared, but all he tells me to do is talk to you.”
“Alex…” Chelsea pushed away all her fear and uncertainty. “I love you, but you need shut up and do what we tell you.”
Confusion rang out in his voice. “We?”
She clicked the speakerphone button, fastened her seat belt, and peeled out of the parking lot, kicking up gravel, towards the river. “Yes, we. Me, Tiggy, and our friends. Tiggy, where are you?”
“Hold on.” Alex’s mutter sounded annoyed, but his phone beeped before he spoke again with echoey quality that told her the speakerphone was on. “They want to know where we are.”
Tiggy’s normally melodious voice came out clipped and rough. “Circling the warehouses on River Street.”
“We’re on our way.” Chelsea sped through an empty red light, praying she didn’t have to deal with cops. The reflecting light dribbled down her windshield, the brightness of it adding her growing anxiety. “Alex, babe, I have a confession.”
“Shut up. This is going to sound crazy, I know. But you have to take this on faith. Vampires are real and you have one after you.”
A low groan from the back seat was the only sound in the car.
Finally, Alex gave a sound almost like a sob. “You really—”
Chelsea turned sharply toward the river. “Alex, babe, shut up, and listen to me.”
It was Tiggy who replied over the speakerphone. “Chelsea, he can’t accept it. Not until he’s seen it.”
“You too?” Alex’s tone was dismissive, but uncertainty trembled in it as well.
“Me too? Alex, it’s all real.” Tiggy’s voice trembled even more. “Look in the mirror, man.”
Alex’s screech pushed Chelsea’s foot to the floor as she sped over the wet streets.
Breathy and full of fear, his voice cracked over the speaker. “What the fuck is that?”
From the back seat, Scott’s voice demanded obedience. “It’s a fucking vampire. And if you don’t calm down, right now, you are going to end up fucking dead.”
Chelsea found the breath to ask, “Where are you? We’re almost at River Steet.”
“River and First.” Tiggy sucked in a shaking breath. “Hurry up. I think there’s more than one.”
Blood pounding in her ears, she turned sharply to the right, thanking her father, once more, for making sure she knew which tires to buy for bad weather, as more swearing came from the back seat.
River Street became a lake. Chelsea aimed the car at the dry road ahead and only breathed when her tires regained traction. She glared out the rain-streaked window, looking for Tiggy’s tiny, white two-door.
It shot out of the darkness, barreling up the street towards her.
“I fucking see you.” The white car sped past her, and Chelsea cut her wheel sharply to the left. She ignored the screams from the backseat as they slid, sideways, down the street. Their skid stopped abruptly as thuds reverberated throughout the car.
Chelsea undid her seatbelt and stormed into the rain. Ax in hand, she peered into the downpour. In the dim, orange light of the street lamps, she saw two figures struggling to their feet.
She wrenched her ax out of it’s borrowed sheathe on her hip and wiped water out of her eyes. A glance over her shoulder found the other hunters. Scott and Amber both held single axes, but Keegan had a metal staff in hand.
Where the hell did that come from?
There was no time to ask though. Beyond Keegan, Tiggy’s car made a three-point turn. Chelsea had no time to curse their stupidity. She had vampires to fight.
A wordless cry left her mouth as she charged the nightlings. The vampires were faster than her and stronger, but they were also injured. She could vaguely make out a bone jutting out one arm. The other nightling seemed to be lacking skin on half its face.
She reached the pair of them with Amber and Scott. There was no co-ordinated fighting. She and the others simply pounced, axes swinging.
All thoughts of her self-defense classes were gone. She hacked at the injured arm of the nightling. The vampire screamed and swatted her aside. Ribs aching, Chelsea landed in a puddle.
Her knee cracked against the pavement as she rolled through the rain. Adrenaline gave her the strength to pop back to feet, despite the arguing from her injury.
As Keegan battled with the skinless nightling face to face, Scott clung to it’s back, attacking its ribs. Chelsea put them out of her mind, and focused on the other one.
It had Amber’s wrist in its hand. Instinct hurled Chelsea towards them. Her ax bit into its neck. Screams washed over her, her own and the nightling’s. The vampire tried to spin around, but as soon as it released Amber’s hand, the hunter swung her own ax, burying it in the nightling’s head.
The vampire screamed again, before shoving both of them away, and running. Chelsea chased after it, knowing the cause to be lost. The nightling would soon be too far away.
To her horror, the nightling was headed straight towards Tiggy and Alex, who for some god-awful, stupid reason, were standing in the street.
She watched, helpless, as the nightling reached them. It swung an arm, batting the two men out of its way, before it disappeared into the night. Tiggy bounced off the streetlamp, but Alex flew through the air. He slammed into the brick building behind him, his head snapping around with a sickening crack.
“Alex!” Chelsea’s throat burned. “Alex!” She rushed over to him, both nightlings and the hunters forgotten.
Alex didn’t move. Not when she shook him, or when she screamed his name, over and over.***
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