Abby Curry's strength was gone. She had given up hope that she'd be found by someone that could help her. The blood trail she'd left was easy enough to follow. The three men that hunted her would finish her off if she wasn't dead already before they got there.
Vicente caught her before she could hit the ground?there was something about her?he didn't even know what she looked like she was beaten so badly, but he had to save her if he could....
But when he heard her name, his blood ran cold...it couldn't be her...it couldn't. He'd left her five years before...standing at the altar.... Now what was he going to do?
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Abbie Curry moved as far as she could before she simply dropped to her knees. Her strength was gone, and she was going to bleed to death soon anyway if no one came to help her. She was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen. No one had come so far. Looking at the snow around her knees, she watched as it turned red, then melted around her. If she stayed like this for much longer, she’d be a frozen statue and no one that could actually help her would ever find her for sure.
The men behind her would have no problem finding her at this rate. The trail of blood alone would have led them to her, but the footprints were there as well. The snow and blood were making her trek all too easy to follow. She wanted to call out to them to hurry, but knew that when they found her—and she knew they would—they’d make her get up and run again. Her being their prey was what they wanted. They had found her three times already.
Abbie had been working at her office when she began to feel sick. It wasn’t enough to send her running to the bathroom at first, but the longer she stayed at work, the harder it was not to lay her head on the desk and rest. She’d thrown up several times, and if not for her need to complete her job before going home, she might have been home and safe when they had taken her.
Her body didn’t just hurt, but felt as if she’d been run over twice before they picked her up, shook her out, and ran over her again. Abbie had never been so ill in her life. On her way to her car she must have passed out, because when she woke, she knew a new kind of terror.
There were three of them. Each man had worn a mask to hide who they were, but she’d been able to figure it out quickly enough. Then when she’d called them out, told them to let her go, the beatings began.
Her arm was broken, she knew. Every time she’d tried to move it—or, as had happened just a few minutes ago, tried to keep from falling on her face—she cried out in pain. But the arrows in her back hurt her the most. She had no idea after the first three how many more times they’d hit her, but she knew that it had been a lot.
Abbie heard them then, or at least she thought she did. Usually they made enough noise to wake the dead, but this time they were quiet. Perhaps they’d finally grown tired of their game and were going to kill her.
“I’m not going to hurt you.”
Abbie smiled at the voice behind her, knowing that whatever he did would not be anything she’d feel. Her body was as cold as ice and ready for her to simply lie down and end it all. She wondered just how cold it was. She’d had nothing on but a pair of men’s boxer briefs and a bra for two days now.
“Kill me.” Her voice sounded harsh even to her own ears. She’d been screaming so much she was sure that she’d never be able to talk like a normal person again. “Please, kill me before they find me.”
“I’m not going to kill you, and they won’t be finding you any time soon.” She nodded and cried out in pain. “If you would allow me to, I’ll put you into a deep sleep and remove the arrows from your back.”
“No.” She hadn’t meant to scream at him, but the thought of going to sleep by drugs was too much. “I don’t want you to drug me. If you’re going to finish what they started, then have at it. I’m not going to fight you.”
She thought he said something about giving up, but she didn’t have the strength to tell him she was too hurt and didn’t have the energy to tell him to fuck off. When someone touched her she tried to look around, but it hurt too much. The pain that radiated from it made her sob.
“They’d been…do you know why they’d do this to you? Or better yet, do you know who they are?” She told him no, she didn’t. She had an idea that they’d deny it, and she’d be in deep shit…more than she was now. Powerful men like the ones who held her and the others didn’t fuck around with peons like her.
“They said I was going to be their prey so they could practice with their Christmas presents. Hunting season, they said.” He growled behind her, and she thought of a great big dog. “I was beaten first because they said I was in better shape than they had hoped. They didn’t want me to get away.”
“Fucking bastards.” She started to fall forward, her body simply giving up. She heard the stranger start cursing and thought he could string the words together better than she could…and she’d been told she was a champ. But the snow was coming up fast, and she let it take her.
Vinnie grabbed her into his arms just before she fell. Her screams tore through him, and he laid her down as gently as he could on her belly, because there was no way he could lay her on her back. He pulled out his cell phone and called the police. As much as he wanted to take her to safety, he knew that picking her up would kill her, and his dragon would only cause her more harm than good. Whoever had done this to her was going to pay.
After explaining where he was and what he’d found twice, he hung up the phone and called for Samuel. While this wasn’t his land, he did oversee most of the area around it. Vinnie told him what he’d found too. He got a great deal more help from him than he had the woman at the station.
Is she going to make it? He told him he didn’t know. What do you mean she was used as target practice? You mean someone shot her? What the fuck for?
Just before she passed out she told me that these bastards had told her she was going to be their prey as practice. They’d apparently gotten bows and arrows for Christmas and wanted to get in some practice before the season opened. She didn’t tell me what season they were waiting for. Oh, and they beat her to shit too. Apparently she was too healthy for them to hunt down. I’m thinking her arm is broken as well as…Samuel, there are nine arrows in her body, five of which are in her back. Three are broken off in her legs, and she has one in her shoulder that looks like it’s gone through. Vinnie thought of the bloodied trail he’d been following. I think she’s been at this for over three hours. And she’s walked at least five miles dressed in nothing but some
men’s underclothing. She doesn’t even have on a decent pair of boots. A pair of tennis shoes, for Christ’s sake. There is nine inches of snow here.
Samuel told him he was on his way. But the police just went by the house, so I’m betting they’ll be there before me. I was going to shift, but I don’t think that’s a good idea right now, do you?
No. The hunters are still out there. I scared them off about thirty minutes ago by roaring at them. They’re going to pay for this. He thought about going to find them now, but he didn’t want to leave the woman unattended. He had no idea where the men were, and he knew if he left her they’d come in behind him and kill her. Samuel, I’m going to find these bastards and kill them all.
I’ll help you. He knew that Samuel was talking to someone else, because Vinnie could feel them. He thought it was Kennedy, Samuel’s mate, but didn’t know. When he spoke again, Vinnie felt a good deal better.
I’ve sent Jimmy and a few of his men to search for them. I’ve also told them not to kill but to capture. I thought you’d want to deal with them on your own. Vinnie thanked him. And so you know, we’re coming across fields and not the roads. We’re making better time that way.
Vinnie looked down at the woman and took off his coat. He felt stupid for not doing it sooner, and laid it as gently as he could over her. When she cried out again, he stepped back but he didn’t leave her. The men were going to pay for this. No one should be treated this way.
When the police arrived, he told them everything he could. He’d left out the conversation with Samuel, as well as how he’d been flying overhead trying to work out a problem at work when he’d smelled the blood. For whatever reason, it had called to him…something humans just wouldn’t understand. When the medical helicopter came into view, he asked the first officer if he could ride with her.
“I don’t know if they’ll have the room. You can ask, but they get kind of territorial about that thing.” Vinnie knew that he’d be in the chopper even if he had to fly it himself. “You know her?”
“I don’t. In fact, I don’t even know what she looks like.” Her face had been battered as well. Vinnie had touched the largest gash on her cheek that he could see and healed it, but he’d done nothing else. Humans were very testy about things like that as well. When they saw that you’d been injured, they wanted you to remain that way until you healed in their time frame. When the cop asked him what he’d been doing out in this weather, Vinnie lied.
“Looking for some property to buy. I’m sort of a health nut too, and thought I’d take a run.” The officer looked at how he was dressed and then at his face. “Yeah, well I didn’t say I was a smart health nut.”
His clothes were a pair of sweatpants and a heavy sweatshirt. His jacket, a lightweight one, was still on the girl. His shoes, while boots, were untied and opened, but he’d pulled them on in a hurry. Vinnie had been dressed just like this when he’d left his house over three hours ago. He was one of the few dragons he knew that could shift and keep his clothing on.
By the time Samuel and Kaleb got to them, the girl was being loaded in the helicopter. Samuel was moving up to him when Vinnie saw the men. He nearly took off after them until Samuel put his hand on his shoulder.
“They’ll be at my house after you take care of the woman. If you leave her now the police are going to want to know why, and I’d just as soon not have to explain to them why this big assed dragon has gone after a few humans to have for dinner.”
Vinnie nodded. “I wouldn’t eat them, just so you know. I plan to hurt them a great deal, but not eat them. I don’t want to be too ill.”
Kaleb laughed and told him to get going.
Vinnie was crawling into the front of the chopper when the woman started screaming, and she continued to scream until someone gave her something for the pain. Vinnie was ready to eat every one of the fuckers in the chopper before she finally settled down.
The staff at the hospital was prepared for her when they finally landed. Seventeen people in coats and hats were on the landing pad when the chopper sat down. Each of them moved toward the back end of it as soon as it was opened, and they had her inside before he could get to the door. One of the crew led him to a room to wait. He was sitting there when Samuel walked down the hall.
“I don’t know anything as yet. They’ve taken her to surgery and said that it would be a while. I was told to go and fill out her paperwork, but I wouldn’t have the first clue as to what to put about her.” Vinnie rubbed his hand over his face and stared down the hall. “They said she would be dead by morning.”
“No, she won’t. I have a feeling that she’s a little more stubborn than that.” Vinnie told him how she’d begged him to kill her. “I’m sure it was the pain talking. When Kennedy was in labor, she told me all kinds of things I’m betting she’s forgotten about. Some of them were down right scary too.”
Somehow Vinnie thought Kennedy remembered everything she’d said. He loved the lioness, but that didn’t make him any less terrified of her. She could be as mean as a dragon when her Irish was up. And her Irish went up higher when she thought an injustice had been committed. She’d been pissed off since she arrived an hour after Samuel had.
The surgery took nearly five hours. The nurse had talked to them twice, since he’d been the one who had been with her when she’d arrived. Then the doctor had sent a message telling them that he’d been able to remove the broken arrows, but the police had taken them. Vinnie knew that it wouldn’t matter to him if they had evidence or not, the hunters were still dead men. The doctor coming toward them had all of them standing up.
“She’s in good shape or we’d be having a different conversation. I still don’t know if she’ll make it or not, but I think she stands a better chance than most.” He asked them to sit. “I’m telling you this because we still have no idea who she is. And as you brought her in, I’m going to assume you’re going to be caring for her for the time being.”
“I will. And any bills she might have as well. I don’t know her, but I do feel responsible for her.” Vinnie tried to ignore the look that Samuel and Kaleb gave him. He knew just what they were thinking but said nothing. “What is her prognosis now?”
“Her left arm is broken in two places, but it should heal well. Her face had to have over two hundreds stitches to put it back together, mostly in her cheeks and inside her mouth. Two of the wounds had to be stitched twice, as they were all the way through to her gums. A gash in her head was closed, though we’re going to keep an eye on it for swelling. Then there was her back.” He took a deep breath as if he was trying to get a grip on his anger. “Why the hell would anyone do that to someone?”
“I don’t know. When I found her she was on her knees and staining the snow around her red. I think she thought she was going to die out there.” The doctor nodded. “I have a friend I’d like to see her. She could use his special kind of magic.”
“A vampire.” Vinnie nodded, knowing the man would understand because he too was a super. A panther, as a matter of fact. “Just let me know when he gets here and I’ll make sure he has no problems. I’d like for her to live as well. She’s been through enough. I don’t suppose he’d be able to come now, would he?” Vinnie told him that Stephen was coming in as soon as it was possible for him to get there. The doctor nodded.
“Was she raped?” Everyone looked at Kennedy. “Did those bastards rape her as well as what else they did to her? I’m hoping you say no. I’d hate to have to hurt them more than once for this.”
“No, she wasn’t raped. She’s still intact from what I can sense.” He looked at Vinnie as he continued. “I don’t know how your kind finds out if someone is their mate or not, but I have to ask. Is she?”
He shook his head. Vinnie had no idea if she was his mate or not. But he did know that he wasn’t going to find out. Dragon mates were more…complicated. He thought that was a good term for it. There was no scent to draw them together, not even a sexual desire like most of his friends had when they were near their mates. It was more of a human reaction at first, simple attraction. Then they’d fall for each other, he supposed. But once they did come together, something as small as a kiss could trigger his dragon to mark her quickly and painfully until she, too, wore the mark of the dragon. His dragon. His mother had been a full-blooded dragon. His father too, he supposed, because of how much magic he’d had. Vinnie had never met his father, but he knew about him and the way he’d treated others. He was happy that the man hadn’t wanted to claim him any more than Vinnie would call him Father. Vinnie had been raised by a single mom and had never seen her date during his childhood. He doubted that she ever did after he’d left home either. And about ten years ago she’d taken it into her head that she didn’t want to live any longer, and that was it. She’d died a few days later of what the doctors had called a broken heart. Vinnie wasn’t sure his mom had had a heart, but never said anything when he’d been told of her death.
She’d never wanted to talk about what they were. Her idea of information was to tell him to go to his father; which, of course, never happened. But there were days when he wished he could find someone to answer questions for him other than the one man he hated more than he did himself on most days.
Like this mate thing. He didn’t have a clue what really was supposed to happen. He’d heard things, like most supernaturals did, but he wasn’t sure what would really happen if he did find a mate. As much as he loved Yve, his dragon faerie, she didn’t have the answers either.
The doctor stood up and started talking, startling him out of his thoughts, and Vinnie hoped he hadn’t missed anything.
“That’s too bad. The girl is going to need someone if she makes it.” The doctor left them a few minutes later and told him again to let him know when his vampire friend got there. Stephen was having a fit because he couldn’t be there now. Vinnie hoped he could make it in time.
Vinnie filled out what he could on the papers that a nurse brought him. He didn’t have any insurance, but he told them he’d pay cash for her stay. He had to fill out her name as Jane Doe, but that didn’t bother him as much as the other empty spaces he had no answer for. Was she married? Was there someone to notify in the event of an emergency? He had no idea, but put his name in that blank as well.
“What will you do now?” He looked at Samuel when he sat next to him. A nurse had just told them that the woman was in recovery and would be there until morning. Vinnie wasn’t really sure what he was supposed to do now.
“Stay, I guess. It’s not like I can do much in the way of construction right now anyway.” It was two weeks before Christmas and he’d gotten all his projects finished early. Not for him but for his staff. And he’d paid them for the three weeks they’d be off. Samuel nodded and stood up.
“If you need me again, you know where I am. The men we were chasing weren’t the ones that hurt her, as you know, so we set them free. Scared the shit out of them, but we didn’t have any reason to hold them.” Vinnie had heard the same thing from Jimmy. The guys they’d found had been on a hunting party, yes, but they’d been using guns and not bows and arrows. Vinnie hoped the woman could tell them more.
“I have Yve looking now too. She said she can do more than we can anyway.” And she wanted to help, more than he’d thought she should for the nameless, faceless woman. He figured that he had pissed her off by saying that to her, but she had huffed at him and flew off. Vinnie had a moment of panic. He needed the faeries more than they needed him.
Reaching out to Yve, he was happy when she answered him so quickly. I am not mad at you, sire. You are eleven kinds of stubborn, but I am not mad.
It’s ten kinds of stubborn, and I just wanted to make sure. She huffed again. I love you; you know that, correct?
And I you. And I was correct in what I said. You are eleven kinds of stubborn. He laughed. I have found nothing more than her clothing in the area she was found. There is the scent of fear on them, from her I would guess, but little of the men who were chasing her. I have taken it upon myself to have some of the others in the area to keep an eye out.
Thank you. She’s hurt very badly. I’m waiting on Stephen to come and help her out a little. The doctor here is a super, and he said to let him know when he arrives so he can make sure he isn’t disturbed. Vinnie looked at his phone to see what time it was. I would have thought he’d be here by now.
He may be in an argument again. Lady Summer and he have been at it. I do believe he provokes her to see if she will rise to the worm. She can be quite vocal when she believes him not to be doing what he should. He told her it was bait, not worm. Is that not the same thing? A worm is bait, is it not? Why someone would not just go into the water and simply catch the fishes is beyond me. But humans can be very strange, can they not?
They can. He saw Clar, Stephen’s mate, coming toward him and he stood up. Clar is here. If you find anything, let me know immediately.
I will, sire. But I would like for you to explain to me why you are doing this for her. She is only human, is she not? He ignored Yve and kissed Clar on the cheek. He could see that she was ready to bust out laughing, but waited until they were walking down the hall from the nurse’s station to ask. The doctor was on his way.
“He’s arguing with Summer again. I swear to you, it’s like they’re married or something. And for an hour after they’re done going at each other like a couple of bullies on a playground, he sulks about her being his boss and how much he despises her.” She laughed again. “He loves her and hates it when I tell him that.”
“What are they going on about now?” Last week it was the fact that he was not going to let the council use his house when they had conventions. Then just yesterday it was about how much time he was spending on projects and not helping his subjects.
“She told him she was wrong about his time with our subjects, and he had to go on and on about how wrong she was about everything else he’d been doing. Of course, she told him to screw off and that put his nose out of joint. I swear to you, I’m having the time of my life. I had popcorn this morning to watch them. Needless to say he didn’t find that as humorous as Kennedy and I did.” The doctor was waiting for them outside the room. “I’m Clarice Silva. I’ve come to see what I can do about helping out our Jane Doe.”
Vinnie was always surprised to hear Clar attach her name with Stephen’s. He had never thought his friend would want a mate, and now it seemed they were inseparable.
They walked into the room. He’d been in there every hour for ten minutes since the woman had been brought out of surgery. He’d given her a little of his magic; not enough to heal her, but something to ease her pain. But he was still blown away by how horrible she looked lying there. Clar stood staring at her as well before she spoke to him through their connection.
You should know that they had her for several days before you found her. He nodded, already figuring that out from the bruises on her skin. Vinnie, they had other women there with her.
Other women? She nodded and looked at the doctor, who left them. Vinnie knew that Clar had done that so they could talk.
“She saw nine other women there. Most of them have been there for a while, but a couple were brought in after she was. She has it in her head that they were going to kill
her to make room for the others.” He looked at the woman, then sat down as Clar continued. “She knows the men. I’ve not been able to find out how or who they are. Some of the head injuries that she has are blocking that even from me. But in time she will remember or I will find it. Either way, we’ll bring them to justice.”
“Do you know her name?” She nodded and sat beside him. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know now. There was something so…terrifying about the way Clar was looking at him.
“Her name is Abigale Curry.” He knew the name. Vinnie stood up when who she was came crashing into his memories. Good Christ, it couldn’t be her. He stood up and asked Clar twice more what her name was. It didn’t change either time.
“No. Oh, hell no. It can’t be.” He started for the door, only to be brought up short by Clar holding him there. “It can’t be her.”
Kathi S Barton