The frigid sensation sliced through Ayden’s veins, leaving a numb trail in its wake as she stepped through the remains of the abandoned factory—one of many havens for the crack addicts and prostitutes. The old Packard Plant had become no more than a ghostly haunt for tormented souls.
Shitholes were cropping up everywhere, much more rapidly than ever before. Detroit, once a thriving city, brought to ruins. Gray and lifeless like the suffocating overcast that loomed during daylight.
A vile stench assaulted her nose, a potent blend of piss, sex and rotted meat, as garbage crunched beneath her boots. Foundation had collapsed all around where she stood, crumbled as if the building would fold into the depths of hell.
The graffiti spattering the walls gave the impression that gangs were the real threat—‘We don’t die, we multiply.’
Right. Like gangs own any part of this city, anymore.
A Beretta, loaded with silver bullets and a silver parrying dagger rested at one of Ayden’s hips, a silver bullwhip at another, as she moved past comatose bodies and decaying corpses.
Feeding grounds, like a bait pile.
Deadened eyes slowly tracked her movement in the darkness, squinting, as though craving the light that hers didn’t need to see. Humans so strung out on drugs, they failed to recognize the half-eaten carrion were once their own kind.
Not that knowing would stop them. They’d apparently chosen to face danger rather than kick their addiction, roaming the streets every night in search of their next high.
They were already dead. Death just hadn’t come to collect yet.
The blissful sigh of a hopped-up junkie reached her ears. She snarled her lip. “Enjoy it while it lasts, asshole.”
It’d be one thing if they were homeless. Hell, she might’ve fired a warning shot to evacuate.
The homeless didn’t come here, though.
Neither did the police—making it the perfect spot to get wasted and hustle some money.
Shots fired would’ve been nothing more than a momentary distraction before their minds slipped back into their ignorant state of euphoria.
For any other girl, the place promised very bad things—an opportunity for a sadist to live out wild fantasies without ever getting caught.
For Ayden? Humans posed no threat. Their fragile bodies would shred like paper dolls against the work of her hands. Luckily for them, she sought something else to sate her thirst for bloodshed, something far more threatening than their most psychopathic criminal—and she’d tracked it right to the surrounding cornucopia of human flesh.
A thin, black mesh hoodie beneath her jacket concealed her face while the shiny black leather covering her body acted as a beacon in the moon’s light.
It didn’t matter.
Contrary to the fairytales and movies, they didn’t need a full moon to change.
Werewolves, some called them—like a supernatural Bigfoot on the loose. Nothing more than fodder for the tabloids, not to be taken seriously.
Lycans is how those ‘in the know’ referred to them.
The bastards could transform at will. In the middle of the day, if they wanted. Though, like a true predator, they’d evolved throughout the centuries, eluding humans by hunting them at night, catching their prey in their most vulnerable state.
Ayden reached a door in a darkened corner. The stubborn panel held stiff against the push of her palm, giving way only beneath one heave backed by exceptional strength. Beyond, a spiral of stairs wound above and below. Visuals flashed through her mind as she imagined the stairwell bustling with men in suits who passed each other with carefree visages—every one of them ghosts that roamed the destruction.
A quick scan showed no movement.
She tipped her head back and inhaled the repugnant scent the beasts had left behind.
Her feet took light steps, hardly making a sound against the concrete as she descended further into the pit of hell otherwise known as the lycan’s lair.
With each step, she wished her heart would pound wildly in her chest, or that her pulse rate would surge—both human reactions to fear. Neither of them did.
What fragments of her human soul remained had been stripped bare the night the Alexi made her one of their own. Even that, as tortuous as the unrelenting pain that seared through her body while it underwent its transformation, was a memory she could hardly summon anymore. Only a silent blackness dwelled in the place where snapshots of her life would have roamed free, a void that she couldn’t see beyond, separating her present from past.
She’d become one of them: an Alexi soldier. A cold and remorseless killer designed to eradicate in one sweep.
A noise piqued her sensitive ears.
Two flights below.
It could’ve been the skittering feet of a mouse beating against her skull like a base drum.
The thirst for blood moved like a dark storm cloud through her veins, a mix of raw adrenaline and something else—the something that came with her transformation.
Her feet moved on impulse, carrying her closer to whatever it was, rendering it nothing more than a thread-width away from its death.
In the corner of a landing, he sat hunched over on himself, body convulsing.
A grin skated across her face as she approached her first kill of the night.