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Carmella is a Diablon, and according to her human hunters—a monster. Will they catch her and kill her like they did her family? Or will the hunters become the prey?
Carmella hurried up the rocky slope, scratched and bleeding and gasping for breath. Her coat snagged on a bush, and she whipped it free with a grunt. She stumbled and collapsed to her knees. The earth spun beneath her, the sky whirled. She had been on the run for over a day, had barely drunk, hadn’t eaten, and sleep was a distant memory. She was so exhausted, she almost contemplated giving up.
There came a distant shout, and she scrambled to her feet and clawed ahead. No, they could not catch her. If they did, they would take what they wanted then murder her. Humans were like that—violent, insatiable, completely without conscience.
The slope became steeper the further she climbed the mountain. She looked behind her. The humans were very close now, following in a trail of shining chainmail and glinting swords, gaining on her bit by bit.
‘I can see her!’ one of them shouted, waving his arm. ‘Just there. Up ahead.’
Carmella had told herself she wouldn’t cry at the end, but against her will the tears began to flow—tears of frustration and rage and sadness. They had murdered her alpha—her mate and best friend. She winced—and her child.
She sagged to the ground, face in the dirt. What did she have to live for?
A gust of wind blew through her hair. She looked up in surprise, nose lifted to the air. Hope flared in her heart. She couldn’t believe it. There was another Diablon—an alpha, and he was close. She could smell it.
It wasn’t over yet.
She looked behind her again. They were so close now she could smell their sweat, hear them grunt and curse as they struggled. She locked eyes with the man in front and saw his determination, his hate, his greed.
Carmella drove herself to her feet and pounded the earth. Up ahead was a rock face composed of dips and cracks and bulges—plenty of handholds. She jumped, gripped onto an outjutting rock and heaved herself up with a grunt.
She was an excellent climber, but it proved useless when an arrow whizzed close to her ear and chipped into the rock beside her. She froze, heart thundering in her chest.
‘Come down from there,’ a voice said smugly. ‘We have you in our sights.’
‘You need me alive,’ she gasped. ‘My tail is worthless dead.’
‘True, but we can wack an arrow in your arse, and it wouldn’t make a difference.’
Carmella gritted her teeth and spat into the rock, ‘Come and get me then.’
‘Sir Cheston, her arse is at your disposal.’
‘All right.’ She inched back down.
She dropped to her feet. There were six knights with several more still climbing the slope, all kitted up in their chainmail. Four grasped swords, two held bows, their arrows notched and pointed at her face. She glared at each in turn. Which one had murdered her mate, slaughtered her baby?
The leader stood at the forefront. He wore an iron helm with an eagle carved into its nose, its wings outspread across his brow. ‘On your knees, and if you try anything, I’ll slide my sword right through your devil’s heart.’
He nodded at his men. ‘Sir Wensley, Sir Dutton, take her.’
Hands tied at her back, Carmella stumbled down the slope in the middle of a trail of men, five at the front, six at the rear. They had tied a rope around her waist and coat, binding her tail securely to her back. And yet, the man directly behind her kept his distance, sword at the ready. For a female Diablon, her tail was her best defence. It was deadly, its tip so sharp it could spill a man’s guts.
It was evening by the time they reached the camp.
Carmella slumped to the ground. ‘Water,’ she said.
‘Water?’ Sir Dal, the head knight, sneered. ‘I thought you only drank the blood of innocent children.’
‘Fine,’ she said. ‘I’ll have your oldest then like you took mine.’
He narrowed his eyes. ‘Yours was not innocent.’ He looked to his men. ‘Someone give her water.’
She drank, and afterwards they tied her to a tree, her hands still tied at her back. She watched as the men gathered around the fire. The head knight had removed his helm, revealing a mane of black hair. A long, jagged scar tracked from his right eye, across his nose, to the left corner of his mouth. She hoped it had hurt and that whichever alpha did it had got away.
She glanced across the landscape. Darkness had fully descended, and she would have seen clearly if not for the flickering fire burning at her night vision. It was a mostly barren landscape, composed of bushes, squat hardy trees, dried creek beds and a great expanse of waving grass. There was nowhere for the alpha to hide, except within the darkness. Luckily, it was a moonless night, the clouds thick above.
‘What are you looking at?’ one of the older knights spat at her. ‘Thinking of escape?’
The others watched on quietly as he got to his feet. They were eating dinner: gnawing on gristle, sucking at the bone marrow of the boar they had killed. Someone had sawed off its head and sat it on a rock, blood oozing in a puddle around it. Its dark eyes gazed at her through the flames, tusks glinting in the light. Away from the fire, the night was black. Where was that alpha?
The older knight approached her. He was tall and heavily muscled; thick grey stubble speckled his chin.
‘Careful,’ Sir Dal said.
He crouched in front of her, picked up a trail of her long red hair and ran it through his fingers. ‘A beautiful one, this one—for a monster.’ He took her chin and looked into her eyes. ‘Green—pretty.’
‘Sir Clinton,’ Sir Dal warned.
Sir Clinton looked at him. ‘Haven’t you ever?
‘Haven’t I ever what?’
‘You know,’ he thrust his hips, ‘fucked one.’ He looked at Carmella and licked his lips. ‘I think it would be unforgettable.’
‘Don’t even think of it,’ Sir Dal said. ‘I have seen a man lose his manhood to one of them.’
Sir Clinton laughed. ‘Clearly, he was doing it wrong.’
‘No,’ Sir Dal commanded, eyes flashing against the flames. ‘You might have been in charge in your own province, but this is Lord Merek’s land, and I am in command so you will follow my orders.’
The older man gritted his teeth. He stood, glared at Sir Dal and the circle of watching knights, then stalked away.
Diablons usually didn’t sleep at night. They were nocturnal, but Carmella hadn’t slept for over twenty-four hours, and she was sleeping now, so deeply she didn’t notice Sir Clinton tugging at her britches until they were at her ankles. She opened her eyes, but before she could make a sound, he stuffed some disgusting linen in her mouth and bound it with cord. She thrashed and grunted, kicked her legs at the ground, at him, until he slapped her hard in the face. Stars burst in her eyes.
He looked around, but the other knights hadn’t stirred. He went to the back of the tree, untied the rope and dragged her into the darkness where the sputtering firelight couldn’t reach her. Straddling her, he reached under her tunic and rubbed her breasts. He grunted, then grinned as he pinched her nipples. Carmella thrashed against him, screamed against her gag. She squirmed and wriggled as she tried to free her hands, but they were bound tightly behind her back.
He leant over and sucked at her breast, tongue fondling her nipple, then reached between her legs, dragging his fingertips along her cleft.
He grunted in surprise and delight. ‘Eager for it, are we?’
Carmella rolled her eyes as she scanned her surroundings. Where was that alpha? His musk was so thick it made her dizzy, and her body was responding. Pinning her between his legs, Sir Clinton turned to his britches. He untied them and took out his cock. It was hard and red as he smoothed it between his hands. Carmella pushed her mouth against her gag. If she could expose her teeth, she could rip out his throat, if not that, then at least she could scream and get the attention of the others. She’d still die, but at least she wouldn’t be raped.
‘Ready?’ he said in a husky voice.
He lowered himself on top of her, greasy hair falling around her, his breath hot against her cheek. Carmella pushed her tongue against her gag, felt it shift, felt it shift a little more. He thrust into her.
‘Clinton,’ she said.
He was pounding into her as he looked up without thinking, eyes glazed over. She lunged and sank her teeth into his neck. He screamed as she tore a chunk out of him. Blood gushed all over her cloak and tunic, down his front as he clutched at his throat uselessly, gasping and choking. She swallowed, licked her lips. It had been so long since she had eaten and it tasted so good. She kicked him away and struggled to her feet, her hands still bound, but before she could take more than a few steps, the others caught up with her, tackling her to the ground.
‘Is her tail still bound?’ asked Sir Dal.
Someone yanked at the rope at her waist. ‘Yes.’
‘Take her back to camp. Let’s get this done now.’
Carmella screamed into the night, hopeful the alpha would hear as they dragged her between them, her face and tunic and the ends of her hair wet with blood. Sir Clinton was spasming on the ground, eyes wide, the blood that was once gushing from his throat, now weeping. Sir Dal’s sword thudded into the earth, parting Sir Clinton’s head from his body.
They threw her onto the stump they had used to carve up the boar and crushed her into it until her cheek stuck against the grain. Someone lifted up her coat, exposing her rump to the cool air.
‘All right, hand me the hatchet,’ Sir Dal said. ‘Will somebody shut her screaming up?’
Another gag was shoved into her mouth.
‘I forbid it, Sir Dal,’ somebody said. ‘You cut it off now, and it’ll dry out and be half worthless. We’ll go home poor men.’
‘Don’t you think I know that?’ Sir Dal snarled. ‘But she’s proven herself too dangerous. It’ll be days before we get back to Barthum. I won’t risk it.’
‘But she’s just a female.’
‘Wherever there’s a female, there’s an alpha.’
‘We’ve killed her alpha.’
As if to prove them wrong, an enormous bellow echoed from somewhere in the distance. Carmella thrashed in the men’s grip, screaming against her gag. Yes! The weight eased off her and Carmella seized her chance, thrusting her back up and throwing her captor to the ground. She spat out the gag.
‘Hold her down!’
More weight flattened her onto the stump until she could barely breathe. There was another enormous bellow, closer this time. Swords unsheathed from all directions.
‘Keep together!’ Sir Dal cried.
They stood around her, a wall of backs.
‘We should release her and flee,’ somebody cried. ‘There’s not enough men.’
‘We release her, we die.’ Sir Dal said.
‘And if we keep her we die!’
Footsteps thudded against the ground as someone dashed away. More followed. They were the smart ones.
Carmella’s heart thundered. It had suddenly turned quiet, but she could smell his presence like he was right beside her. There was a rustle, a thump, then someone screamed, and one of the backs standing around her vanished. The men cried out. Arrows whizzed in the air. A sword hit the earth with a thud. Another back vanished, followed by another. Then the night filled with cries and pounding footsteps as the rest fled, all but Sir Dal who was still holding her against the stump.
She could feel him tremble against her, heard him suck in a shuddering breath. A low growl vibrated in the air, and the hairs stood on Carmella’s arms, not in fear but in anticipation. He finally released her, and she stood beside the—her alpha.
Sir Dal gazed up at him, hand on the hilt of his sword, not knowing what to do. There was nothing he could do. Carmella smiled as her alpha charged, and the night exploded with screaming.
© Morgan Tonkin 2018