Bitten Under Fire(7)

By: Heather Long


Another scream, this one more horrifying than the first. Collin jerked up and released a choked sob. “Bianca?”

“I’m here,” she said, wrapping her arms around him. Letting him burrow into her embrace, she kept her gaze focused in the direction of the door. A third scream, then the gunfire started. Bullets sprayed across the ceiling, the wood shutters over one of the windows splintering.

Bianca rolled over the top of Collin. “Stay down.”

The boy didn’t argue. More terrified shrieks shredded the night. Then another shuttered window came apart, and the door began to break apart under the frequent bursts of gunfire. More bullets slammed into the brick walls, then abruptly cut off.

A howl cut through the air. All the hair on her body seemed to stand on end. A blood-curdling scream jolted her as it echoed right outside the window nearest them. Whatever was going on out there was war. Collin shook beneath her and Bianca couldn’t say she was much better.

The door crashed open and suddenly one of their captors charged in. Spitting rapid Spanish, he lunged at Bianca, and she barely got her arm up to block the anticipated blow when he dragged her away from Collin. Shrieking, the child fought to hold on to her even as she began beating on the guerilla.

Her fists seemed ineffectual against his strength. Cuffing her once, he shifted his grip and struck her across the face. Falling, she blinked against the stars dazzling her vision. Once she was down, he ignored her and seized Collin.

“No!” She wouldn’t let him take the boy. Collin struggled for all he was worth, but like Bianca, he was no match for the man’s much larger size and strength. Pushing away from the floor, she hurtled herself at the man. Shouts echoed outside, but she struck as hard as she could, then dug her nails into his face.

All of a sudden, he dropped Collin in order to seize her. Grappling with him, she yelled, “Run!”

The boy gave her one terror-filled glance then bolted for the door. One moment she fought, the next her captor locked one hand around her throat even as he wrenched her arm at an awkward angle. Tears filled her eyes as sharp pain ripped through her. The wrench of muscles pulling burned. Time spun as she kept fighting. The agony threatened to black her out. Then a sharp slice dug into her arm, like being stabbed. Before she could process the fresh pain, the man was off her. A snarling filled the cabin, a sound so dark and reverberating it penetrated her adrenaline- and pain-fueled haze.

Her captor screamed as he went down. Bianca froze, cradling her wounded arm to her chest. She wasn’t sure what was worse—the ache or the fear. The shadows seemed to seethe, growls vying with the retched screams until the latter faded away and the former grew ominously silent.

A thud echoed as the mangled remains of the soldier struck the floor. Bianca didn’t dare move or breathe. Tears pooled in her eyes, pain flaring in her injured wrist, forearm, and shoulder. The darkness shifted, and her heart seemed to thunder in her ears as light gathered into a pair of golden, glowing eyes, then a deeper shadow separated from the gloom and coalesced into—a wolf?

Fear raced over the surface of her skin. A wild animal. A wolf—primitive, dangerous—and she was alone with it. More terrified than she’d been of the soldiers, she didn’t dare move.

Swallowing hard, Bianca squeezed her eyes closed and prayed. Please be a nightmare…

Even the cries from outside had gone silent. Time seemed to elongate as she waited for the animal to tear her apart. When nothing happened, she dared to open her eyes. The wolf was gone, but the corpse remained. Bile coated her throat, and her heart thundered in her ears. Stumbling to her feet, she turned away from the body and limped to the door.

The world tilted as she walked, swaying as if she were on a boat. It was nauseating, as though she’d lost her grip on reality after one too many drinks. Even with the body behind her, outside was the stuff of nightmares.

Collin’s shout pulled her attention away from the gore. Oh, thank God, he was safe. When he reached her, she fell to her knees and endured the sharp bite of pain as he crushed her wounded arm between them. Wrapping her good arm around him, she forced herself to her feet while lifting the sturdy kid.

Dizziness assaulted her, but she refused to stay there. Bodies were everywhere… “Keep your eyes closed,” she ordered Collin. He didn’t need to see the horror show. Even if he had already seen it, he certainly didn’t need to see it again.

Scanning the village, all she saw were bodies…dead bodies and nothing else.

A wolf had done all this…?

Impossible.

Turning away from the carnage, she stumbled in the direction she faced. The more miles she put between them and the terror-filled village, the better. She’d made it a dozen steps when a man stepped into view.

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