Hunted is a Shadow Sprawl Historical story written by Terri Pray, and continues the current story line begun with Adriana.
Artwork by Samuel Pray, created using Daz3D, Photoshop and Filter Forge.
Marcius glanced back over his shoulder, eyes wide, nostrils flared as he ran, ears pressed back against his skull, tail even with his body, paws near silent as he moved. They would be looking for him by now, searching through their home and then the surrounding streets. Before long the alert would sound and the guards, when that happened the hunt would begin and they would find him unless the gods were on his side.
The gods. He snorted at the thought. As if they would ever come to his aid. No, he was on his own in this and his family would call out the pack, setting them on his trail until he was dragged back and thrown at his parents feet. Then what? His scant chance at freedom would be stripped away from him, public disgrace would be heaped upon him and he would be the laughing stock of the city.
Am I not one already?
No, he didn’t want to think about that.
They smirk when I walk past them, laugh behind my back and they know - know that I have no choice.
He couldn’t turn back, wouldn’t turn back, not when it meant he’d have to pair off with the woman his family had picked out for him. It didn’t matter that the woman was willing - at least he assumed she was, she hadn’t spoken of it. No, when the announcement had been made, she had lowered her gaze and kept silent. Meek, submissive and in no way appealing to him, despite the fact that she was a physically attractive young woman.
What good is a mate who is too afraid to stand up and show her teeth?
He shuddered at the thought. No, she wasn’t the one for him. She would find a better mate, one more suited to her temperament perhaps an omega within the pack? As for him, his life wouldn’t be one that was ruled by his family, no, he’d make his own path, find his own way in life even if that meant he could never return to his home, to Rome and to the pack.
I might be able to return one day, when I have a mate of mine own, and children who will strengthen the pack as a whole.
What if that didn’t help, if he still couldn’t return to his home even when he found the female he was meant to be with. His family, could he truly leave them behind for the rest of his life? He turned, looking back at the walls. Even from here he could see the movement of the guards along the wall. No sign of alert yet, no calls, shouts of alarm, but it would come. Soon enough it would come and a patrol would be sent out to find him. At least, it would if his parents had anything to do with it.
Damn them. Why couldn’t they let him choose his own mate? He’d done everything else they’d ever asked him to do. Been a good son, a loyal member of the pack, but picking out his mate was one step too far. Something he couldn’t accept even if they claimed it was for the best.
His top lip lifted in a snarl.
For the best? Did they think him a fool that he didn’t know what was going on? That he had no idea that this was about wealth and position? A means of bonding two families together. A bartering piece, that’s all he’d become to them, all he would ever be. If they dragged him back to Rome, it would be into an unwanted mating with a woman, a female shifter, who wasn’t his true mate.
Marcius snarled and turned as he ran, seeking out one of the smaller trails, one less used than the main trails. They’d assume he’d take the easy path and unless the pack was turned out, these would be humans sent after him, not fellow shifters with their all too sharp noses.
He could shift, use the wolf form to increase his speed but changing so close to the city wasn’t wise. Instead he focused on putting one foot in front of the other, running in human form, his hands clenched into fists, pumping with each new step as he ran, his gaze scanning the path, watching for trip hazards, loose stones, a damaged pathway, anything that might bring him to his knees and eat into the limited time he had.
How long he ran he didn’t know, he had no way of tracking the time save through the passage of the moon across the sky. He ran, following the path he had picked out several days before, ducking under the low hanging branches as he entered the woods. Streams, bodies of water, anything of that nature would help to cover his tracks, something he had to do because sooner or later the pack would be set on his trail.
Branches tugged at his clothing, stones moved under foot and he flinched every time his passage into the trees triggered a loud noise that carried through the crisp night air. If one man, just one, heard it, he’d be caught before he even had a chance to breathe.
Not going to happen. I’m not going to be a part of their games. Not anymore.
His heart raced, lungs ached and burned as he reached a sharp rise and leaned against one of the trees, trying to catch his breath. Was he far enough away to make a difference when they came for him? He frowned, peering through the trees.
No sounds, no movement, nothing but the play of the wind through the trees.
He inhaled deeply, tasting the air, nostrils flaring. Something tugged on his senses and he turned, walking at first, running a moment later, following the scent. Sweet and spicy, honey and fire rolled into one, mingled with the unmistakable scent of a female.
Follow it. Hunt it down.
The thought flashed through his mind and he’d taken a dozen steps before he had a chance to acknowledge the movement. He paused, frowning, listening to the sounds around him. The soft noise of forest, rodents, deer and small predators. None of them a threat to Marcius nor the cause of his impulse to move toward the scent.
He scowled, forcing himself to stop. The scent, yes it belonged to a female, but not one of his kind, nor a human, but something else.
He shuddered at the thought. They were rare this close to the city, but that didn’t prevent the bolder ones from attempting to seduce some of his people in an attempt to gain a food source. Why would anyone from his pack give themselves willingly to a vampire, a blood sucker who would use them as nothing more than food? His skin crawled at the thought and he shuddered, cold sweat forming and dissipating in the cool air of the late spring evening.
A soft breeze caressed his face, bringing with it the strong aroma of the female, tempting, a mix of spice and sweetness that drew him closer, and he took a dozen steps before he realized what he was doing.
Come to me.
A low growl formed in the back of his throat, hands clenching at his sides, nostrils flaring as he took in the scent again.
You need me. I need you. We can both be free, but only if you come to me.
Siren’s song, strong and beautiful as tempting as the scent that carried on the breeze. Whatever she was, she offered only danger.
Not true, I offer so much more if you have but the strength to answer me, to come to me and listen.
Marcius cursed under his breath. Did he have a choice? Of course he did. He’d had a plan when he left the city, it hadn’t been a mad dash into the hills, but a planned escape. Just as the route he’d taken was one he’d traced out in the days before, paying a handful of people to leave items in arranged locations. The first package, wrapped and buried, wasn’t far. All he had to do was make it to the rocks he’d picked out and dig beneath the north most rock, one with a lightning strike pattern of minerals on the east side of it, and he would have money and a belt belt knife. The money would be enough to purchase a horse from the farm that would be his next stop. It was all so very simple.
So why did his steps now falter?
Why did the voice tug on his senses?
You know why.
He shook his head, trying to throw off the power that the voice held over him.
Come to me. Do not let fear rule you.
He bristled, jaw clenched, teeth bared as he bit back the growl that threatened to slip from his lips. He wasn’t afraid, could not be afraid of a strange female voice. What harm could a woman do to him? Even a vampire female would lack the strength to harm him.
Tempting me, tormenting in a hope I’ll come to her. That I will hunt her down only to give myself to her.
It wasn’t going to happen.
Then I’ll come to you.
The breeze rose again, colder than before, striking a chill into his marrow. He hissed, taking a step back, his hands curled into claws. All it would take was a moment of concentration and the shift would be upon him. “Come then, if you seek prey come and take me if you can, woman.” Did the creature really believe she could defeat a full blood shifter? One trained to fight from the day he could hold a sword? “Do you dare hunt me down?”
Is that what you think? That your handful of years in battle could defeat me if I wanted to kill you? I have no desire to treat you as prey, sweet one.
No, it wasn't that simple. He slammed mental walls into place as realization struck. She could hear his thoughts.
He tensed, if this was a vampire female then perhaps the stories about them were true and they preferred to play with their prey. His top lip curled in disgust. He wasn't prey, would never be prey, and the female would have a fight on her hands if she thought he would bend to her warped desires.
A soft, sensual laugh teased his senses.
“Would you run from me or run to me?” A warm, playful tone touched her words, her voice an erotic melody that tightened his loins. “Perhaps you believe the stories, that my kind forces yours into service. That I would force you to bare your throat to me and drink you unto death?”
“Vampire,” the word a curse.
“A daughter of Lilith,” she corrected.
“A blood beast, one who drains the life from those foolish enough to give themselves to you.”
She sighed and stepped into the shards of moonlight that pierced the canopy of leaf heavy branches. “Only a fool would kill that which they need.” Waist length pale hair brushed over her shoulders and down the length of her back. That, combined with a knee length man’s tunic, barely served to conceal the lush curves of her body from his gaze. “No, that is not why I have come, why I have tracked you down.”
“This is a hunt,” instincts told him to move, but they were torn, between the need to run from this woman and the need to run to her. His cock hardened, balls ached, and the desire to taste her threatened to control him. “And I am no weak thing to be turned into prey for you or anyone else.” Hadn’t he left his home to escape being used as such? “I will choose my own path in life and not you, nor anyone else will prevent me.” Yet his body had other ideas, he took a step and then another before he realized what he was doing, the pull between them far stronger than he would have ever expected.
“I need you.”
“As food,” he snapped.
“No… yes… more than just that though. I need you here.” She pressed the tips of long, elegant fingers over her breast. “I feel it, the pull, it’s more than just you, it’s me.” She ran the tip of her tongue over her bottom lip. “My family will disown me for this, if I let this feeling claim me, yet… I can’t…” she ducked her head, eyes half lidded as she turned a half step away. “I must go.”
He moved, letting the wolf claim him, shifting shape within the first step. Cloth fell away, paws hitting the ground as he launched himself at the woman. He struck, claws kept away from her skin as he let his weight carry her to the ground. She grunted, twisting beneath him, eyes wide as she looked up into his eyes, her long pale hair splayed out against the damp earth, lips parted as her breath came in rapid gulps as a single word claimed his thoughts.
To Be Continued.