Rather than felt, I heard the screech of metal twisting and tearing, followed by a loud splash. Before I could swipe away the moisture that coated my face, the entire world went dark.
“Damn it, Lola…” A voice snarled, practically shouting in my ear. “ …one minute before I throw your ass over my shoulder and—”
All at once the memories collided in my head, exploding in a symphony of screeching tires, torn metal, and rushing water. The soundtrack was backed by Tristan’s voice, which was growing angrier by the second.
When I was able to pry my eyes open, my surroundings quickly sharpened and the forest we were in came into view. While I was more than thankful there wasn’t any light to blind me, there was a gnawing sort of pain covering most of my body.
‘Goddess, I hate cars.’ Maya groaned, ‘We’re running everywhere from now on.’
“You need to get the hell up before the witches catch up.” Tristan hissed quietly, wedging his hands underneath my arms.
As he lifted me to my feet, the pain that wrapped itself around every bone and muscle in my body began to throb, pulsating to the same beat as my heart.
I must’ve let out groan of some sort because Tristan muttered an apology and began looking me over. I swayed on my feet as he lifted my t-shirt, trying and failing miserably to swat his hands away.
“I’m fine!” I insisted, “I just need a damn minute.”
“We don’t have a minute.” He retorted, jostling me hard enough to snare my attention.
It was then I looked at him, noticing the blood that trickled from a gash on his forehead. His hair was matted and disheveled, the blond strands tinted copper with blood. I trailed my eyes downwards and frowned. His clothes were wet. Soaked to the bone, actually.
I spun around fast enough to make my vision blur, the tree’s doubling and tripling before my eyes. It didn’t stop me from seeing the river we’d crashed into, or the minivan wedged directly in its center. The windows were blown out and the airbags deployed, blocking me from seeing into the driver’s side.
“Tristan, where is Dina?” I asked quietly, not tearing my eyes away from the van. “Don’t tell me you left her in there.”
“Lola.” He said in warning.
“Get her out of there!” I snarled, whirling on him. “Get her out, now! ”
For a moment, all we did was stare at one another. Tristan’s face was grim, his eyes haunted yet filled with a determined light. He was waiting for me to break, to realize that time was ticking away and that sooner or later the witches would find us.
Panic swelled in my chest, but not at the thought of getting caught. Dina was moments away from becoming the next person to lose their life because of me. That fear, it overshadowed everything.
Tristan must’ve sensed it because his face contorted into a look of outrage. His eyes flared so brightly that for a moment, I thought he might throttle me. Instead, he ran a hand over his face, smearing some of the blood down his cheek, and raced to the minivan.
I took a few uneasy steps in his direction, wobbling ever so slightly. The dryness that had encompassed my mouth now spanned down my throat, bringing on a familiar burn that I had felt a time or two before.
What I needed was blood, both to speed my healing and to chase away this exhaustion that was looming over me like a shadow.
When I was able to move without falling over, I hurried to Tristan’s side. He had hoisted Dina from the driver’s seat, slinging her over his shoulder.
The slight limp in his left leg was the first thing I noticed, followed by the milky white bone protruding from Dina’s calf. The Vampire groaned weakly, lifting her head high enough to meet my eyes.
“Legs broken…” She murmured, wincing as Tristan lowered her to the ground. “Can’t run like this.”
“No, you can’t…” Tristan said briskly, “…and neither can I.”
I ignored the two of them, focusing only on the jagged piece of bone that had torn through Dina’s flesh. “We need to set her leg so she can heal properly, then we can get out of here.”
“Sun’s coming up. Won’t be here for a few more hours, but I can feel my healing slowing.” Dina said quietly, her tone eerily peaceful and face turned towards the skyline. “I won’t be healed before it rises. I’ll only slow you down, which means you need to leave me behind.”
“No, that’s not what that means—” I snapped, grinding my teeth together to hold back a scream.
“Lola, you need to shift.” Tristan said firmly. “You need to shift and get out of here.”
He took a few steps in my direction, blocking my path to Dina with his broad shoulders. I could feel my adrenaline spike, matching the refusal that not only burned my tongue, but stung my eyes and constricted around my throat. The world around me was trembling.
Every branch and every leaf shook, yet no one else noticed. It took me longer than it should’ve to realize I was shaking my head, showing my refusal in the one way I could since words were failing me.
I could see the impatience growing on Tristan’s face and anticipated his explosion half a second before it occurred.
“Fuck! Why do you have to be so goddamn stubborn? Be selfish, Lola. Get out of here and live. Your life matters more than ours.”
His chest was heaving, rising, and falling even faster than mine. There was something about the raw edge to his rage that sapped my own. I was still exhausted, but I could think clearly, could feel the twisting in my gut guiding me to a decision.
I took a deep breath, and when I spoke, my voice level and calm.
“That’s the mind-set that made Vampire’s, Werewolves, and Witches hate one another. It doesn’t matter what I am, my life is not worth more than hers or anyone else’s.”
He clenched and unclenched his fists. “Lola—”
“I have made my decision, Tristan. Respect it and help me set her leg so we can get the hell out of here.”
The tone of my voice would’ve left me stunned if we the situation we were in didn’t have a countdown. I’d heard myself take on the confidence and fearlessness of a Luna a time or two, but this was something more. The shadows lingering in the forest writhed at the sound, inching deeper into their hiding places.
Tristan didn’t fight back or argue, but there was an emotion on his face I couldn’t quite identify.
He nodded, “Yes, my Queen.”
First aid had always been included in warrior training but was a bit more extensive given werewolves had faster healing.
That meant instead of learning how to patch cuts and sterilize burn wounds, we learned how to set broken bones and preserve severed body parts until pack doctors could arrive.
I’d only ever put the knowledge to use once, during the fight that left my father without his head.
I could get used to battle, to the snarling and the bloodshed, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever get accustomed to the aftermath.
With my hands firmly on the shard of bone, I slid my eyes away from Dina’s pained expression and to the blood seeping from her wound.
The ragged breaths she let out were muffled by Tristan’s shirt. We had no choice but to stuff the wad of cloth in her mouth, both to give her something to bite down on and to keep her from screaming.
“On the count of three…” Tristan murmured, “One, two—”
Blacking out, I pushed with all of my strength. Even blinded, I’d never forget the feeling of bone grinding against bone, or the agonizing scream Dina had let out, muffled by the wad of cloth in her mouth.
Even minutes later, or perhaps it had been hours, I could no longer tell. I replayed the events that led us to where we were now, dragging a half-conscious Dina through the woods, using what articles of clothing we had to keep her blood from hitting the ground.
Tristan shouldered most of her weight, muttering something about how tired I looked. I was thankful, even if I didn’t say it out loud. It was taking most of my energy not to trip over every stray root or sharp stone that stuck up out of the ground.
The sky had gotten just a tiny bit lighter and was now a deep indigo rather than a vast expanse of star-flecked nothingness. What little visibility it provided only made things worse. I could now see my hands and the dried blood that coated them. Each time I looked down, Dina’s scream would ring in my ears.
At one point Dina managed to lift her head from Tristan’s shoulder and let out a sardonic laugh.
“What I wouldn’t do for a pint of blood right now.” She chuckled weakly.
A seedling of hope sprouted in my chest when I heard the faint rumbling of cars speeding off in the distance. I refused to give into the feeling, and knew I’d been right in doing so when we came to the base of a steep hill.
There were trees scattered along the terrain, which would surely be helpful since the ground was nothing more than mud.
I dug my fingers into the bark of a nearby tree and began to climb, gritting my teeth as my feet sunk into the wet earth, letting out a loud squelch in the process.
I turned back to Tristan. “How are we supposed to—”