Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Little Taste of Red by Beth Wylde

Lance knew the woman was close by. Along with the increasingly overwhelming scent of fruit and blood, he could see the first tendrils of smoke as they crept out from between the thick, viney undergrowth up ahead. The smell of fire and peaches grew stronger, newly tinged with a harsh chemical undertone, and he knew the scene was going to be a bad one. It was too late for him to turn his back on the woman, but he could still protect his nephew from the sight.

“Jacob, run home and tell your mom there’s been an accident. There’s a woman hurt. She’s human and bleeding badly. It may already be too late.”

The boy caught up, shaking his head vehemently. “I want to come with you.”

“No. You need to do what I tell you. Get your dad, too. Tell him there’s a fire. We can’t risk having someone call the fire department. A lot of people prowling around here at night wouldn’t be a good thing after what happened to the Collins family last month.”

Jacob was trying hard to hide the fact he was terrified, but Lance could smell the fear rolling off the adolescent in waves. “Don’t make me go back alone.”

Lance paused for only a moment to address the boy, knowing he needed to be firm but hating it all the same. “I said go home! Now, Jacob. RUN!” He despised himself for sounding so harsh, but it had taken the voice of authority to make the teen listen when he was so frightened.

Lance quickly regained his focus, listening intently for some sign of life. The lack of sound frightened him to the core of his soul. Panic rose swiftly inside him at the thought that she might already be dead and he cringed at the feeling. He did not need to bond with the woman before he even met her. His future was looking bleak enough as it was.

Lance moved faster, bursting into the ravine at a dead run. When he came upon the accident site, he stopped dead in his tracks. The woman looked like a corpse and, if not for the fact that up close his sensitive hearing could still detect her shallow breathing and the sluggish pump of blood through her veins, he might have started digging a grave instead of attempting a rescue. Based on what he saw, he knew burying her was still a possibility. Her chances for survival looked grim at best.

He shook off his gloomy thoughts and got down to business. At present, she was still alive and he needed her to stay that way. His inner wolf had already made his choice clear, so he needed to rescue her and quick. His first priority was getting her out of the cold and away from the steadily growing fire. He could smell gas now, too, which was a really bad sign. Gas and fire did not mix well, and he knew from recent experience that burnt werewolves smelled especially gross.

Lance bent down on one knee, noticing for the first time how critical the woman’s injuries actually were. She was completely unconscious and he had no idea how long she’d been that way. Her body lay motionless on the ground and where her skin was visible it was nearly bone white in color. Her lips were tinged blue and her broken leg was still oozing blood. Death seemed almost imminent.

His hands reached out, almost of their own will, needing to touch her in order to assure himself she was real and not just a figment of his imagination. As he smoothed the tangled mass of red hair back off of her forehead, he gasped. She was tiny and delicate and so damned beautiful it made his chest hurt. With her fiery red hair and alabaster skin, she looked like she’d stepped directly out of a children’s fairytale book. The image of her lying battered and broken on death’s doorstep made him want to howl in outrage.

The sudden sound of a deep male voice cut through the haze of Lance’s thoughts. “Lance! What’s going on?”

“Over here, Thomas. Hurry.”

Lance sighed with relief as his older brother stepped out of the trees. Even through there was almost fifteen years difference between them, the two men looked almost like twins. They were both tall and devastatingly handsome, and even though it was freezing outside, they were dressed in faded jeans and sleeveless T-shirts, as if the cold didn’t affect them at all. They each had the same amazingly long, golden blond hair and sharp cheekbones. Thomas’ golden mane was streaked through with gray, but instead of making him look aged, it lent him an air of distinction that fit perfectly with his title as the Alpha. Both brothers even had blue eyes, but Lance knew his were a startlingly odder shade, nearly aqua in color.

* * * *

The sudden heat and feel of a man’s hand on her body startled Tinsel so much that she opened her eyes. She was busy staring up into cerulean orbs when the second man coughed to get the other’s attention.

“Hmmm, looks like she likes you, Lance.”

“Shut up, Thomas. This is serious. The car is on fire and we need to put it out before someone calls the police. Her leg is also broken and I’m afraid to move her before I get it splinted.”

“I’ll go find something suitable to use for her leg until we can get her back to the house. Dalenna is setting up the guest room with whatever medical supplies we might need.” Thomas paused long enough to give the injured woman another quick once over. “She’s shaking. She needs to be heated up fast or she’s not going to make it.”

Tinsel giggled as her blue-eyed Adonis leaned down and buried his face against her neck.

“She’s going into shock. Don’t worry about the splint. We need to get her to your house and get her warmed up.”

The two men came to an easy compromise. “I agree, you take her back to Dalenna and I’ll take care of the fire.”