“What are you doing out here?” Dodge cocked an eyebrow at us. “It doesn’t look like you’re on a friendly hike.”
There wasn’t really a good answer to the question. We didn’t look like vacationers or skiers, and these were probably the lycans after Peter.
“She’s never been here before,” Ezra chose his words carefully. “She wanted to explore.”
“I like exploring,” I added, and Ezra shot me a look.
Dodge chuckled but that only infuriated Stellan. He stood up straighter, making himself larger and more imposing. To Dodge and Leif, we appeared to be a curiosity. Leif especially looked at us with tolerance, but Stellan seemed threatened.
Glancing back at Leif, Stellan shouted something in Finnish. He kept talking to Leif, but he didn’t take his eyes off us. Ezra could understand everything he said, but he played dumb.
“Did you know this was our territory?” Dodge asked when Stellan finished his rant.
“No. This is a National Park, isn’t it?” Ezra pretended to be confused.
Leif and Dodge exchanged looks. They seemed skeptical of our intentions. But based on Dodge’s casual shrug and Leif’s nod, they didn’t think we were a danger to them. We probably weren’t, so that made sense.
“This is lycan territory.” Leif looked gravely at us. “It’s best if you don’t wander around here.”
“We’ll be more careful in the future,” Ezra apologized.
“Make sure that you do,” Dodge said, abandoning his earlier humor. His face and voice hardened, resembling Stellan’s. They were threatening us.
Ezra nodded at them and ushered me away, back the way we came. The lycans didn’t move, and I felt their eyes on us as we hurried through the forest. Ezra kept his hand on my back, pushing me to go faster. I started to say something several times, but he shushed me until we got to the car.
“What are we doing?” I asked when he unlocked the Range Rover and got inside.
“Get in,” Ezra commanded and slammed his door shut.
“It’s only one-thirty.” I climbed in after him. “We have plenty of time to look for Peter.”
“If they caught us in the woods again tonight…” He trailed off.
He made sure the doors were locked before racing down the snowy road. He kept glancing in the rearview mirror, and I turned around, half expecting to see a pack of wolves chasing after us. But there was only an empty road.
“What’s going on? They didn’t really seem that bad. In fact, other than the Finnish one in the river, they seemed like ordinary vampires,” I said
“That’s not the whole pack.” His eyes flitted back to the rearview mirror. “They were following us, and that’s why I wouldn’t let you say anything in the woods. Now they’ve seen us, and they know our vehicle. We can’t do anything more tonight.”
“You’re just being paranoid.” I shook my head, but his certainty was unnerving.
The road had patches of snow and black ice, and the signs on the side warned of reindeer crossing. In spite of that, Ezra sped up faster, and his eyes rarely stayed on the road in front of us.
“I don’t want to scare you,” he confessed randomly.
“Thanks,” I said.
“I’m not sure how many lycans are in his pack anymore. At times there were as many as fifteen or twenty, and other times there were as few as four. It depends on what kind of mood he’s in. He’ll wipe out his entire pack for the hell of it, and start over fresh,” Ezra talked as if he was explaining something to me, but he started in the middle of the idea.
“Who are you talking about?” I looked over at him.
“Gunnar.” His eyes went to the mirror again, as if saying his name summoned him. “He’s led a pack in the Lapland for the better part of three centuries. They winter up here, and summer in Russia and Siberia.”
“How do you know that he’s still the leader?” I asked.
“It’s been fifty years or more since I saw him last,” Ezra admitted. “But when I was told of Peter’s troubles, Gunnar was mentioned by name.”
“So you knew exactly what you were getting into when we came here?” I narrowed my eyes at him, and he pursed his lips. “Then why are you so freaked out by this? If you knew that’s who were dealing with.”
“I was hoping to avoid him entirely. I thought we’d find Peter and depart, before they knew we’d been here,” he sighed. “And that’s how I know Peter’s on a suicide mission. He was with me the last time we encountered Gunnar.”
I sank back in the seat and finally grasped what frazzled Ezra so much. They outnumbered us, and they were pissed off. We had just very narrowly escaped death.
“How do you kill a vampire?” I breathed.
With my murder becoming increasingly imminent, I wanted to know possible methods for my demise. Ezra once mentioned starvation lasting for months or years led to death, but that seemed unlikely here. I imagined something more instant, more violent.
“Head. Heart.” He shifted uneasily, but the car slowed, meaning his initial panic ebbed. “Our bones are nearly unbreakable, but another vampire could do it rather easily. We’re our only enemy in this world.”
The imagery of my heart getting ripped out was enough to keep me silent for the rest of the car ride back to the hotel. When we parked, Ezra didn’t check behind him for lycan, but I did.
The clerk behind the desk made googley eyes at me when we came in, but I barely even noticed. There were far more important things on my mind. Like how I planned on surviving.
We made our circles wider around the lycan territory, but after three days, we had no choice but to move in closer. Besides that, everything Ezra heard said Peter was imbedded in lycan land. It was all part of his suicide plan, I guess. Hang out around them long enough until they slaughtered him.
Since we saw the lycan, Ezra became hesitant about bringing me with him. His whole plan for getting Peter rested on my ability to convince him, but that wasn’t fool proof. Neither of us were sure how he’d respond to me.
Except… the last kiss we shared, the only time Peter truly kissed me, I felt something different.
Peter tasted Jack on me, he knew Jack had bitten me, but Peter didn’t come back to kill him. Everything inside him, the insistent bond in his blood, screamed that he should kill Jack, but he hadn’t.
Instead, he planned on really letting me go, not because of his own fears or what his body demanded, but because he knew that would be what made me the happiest. The one true kiss we ever shared had been a kiss goodbye. Underneath all of his chemicals and reservations, Peter had to have genuine feelings for me, otherwise he never would’ve let me be with Jack.