Wolf Hunger (Book 3 of the Dragon Heat series)
Title – Wolf Hunger (Book 3 of the Dragon Heat series)
Author – Ella J Phoenix
Publication date – March 12, 2014
Publisher – Self Publishing
Word count – 126,900
When the last box of deadly bullets is stolen, the hunt is on and the Vampire King’s band of fighters is set for the challenge of recovering it. But Yara, the shifter-witch, has other problems to face. She must help her leader to overcome the strange illness that has befallen her before it’s too late. For that, she must go back to the only place she swore never to return – her home land.
Rafe is a typical lone wolf who spends his nights earning his bucks in the fighting ring. When he was offered a pardon for his debts in exchange for the Vampire King’s head, he didn’t even blink, thinking it would be a hard mission but not impossible. He just wasn’t expecting the saucy shifter-witch to cross his path and ruin his plans. Now, he can’t get her out of his mind and the clock is ticking for him to make good on his word.
This is the third novel of the Dragon Heat series – a paranormal lover’s delight with vampires, shifters, dragons, witches, bathed in magic.
***Warning: this novel contains hot, steamy, descriptive sexual scenes. Enjoy.***
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The crowd was clearly not in the mood to cooperate tonight, or the current fighters weren’t doing their jobs properly. Either way, shit was going to hit the fan very soon. The usual cheering had been replaced by curses and boos just 3 minutes after the bell rang.
Hidden in the shadows, Yara cracked her neck, left, then right, then carried on wrapping her hands with the protective cotton straps. After ensuring both her wrists, knuckles and thumbs were safely strapped, she pushed off the stool and stretched her calves. In the corner of her eye she saw Dyam, her vampire friend and brother-in-arms of sorts, leaning against the bar. His silky-smooth long hair and olive skin contrasted heavily against those of the other patrons, who were basically a bunch of supernatural, stinking low-lifes. His chocolate gaze briefly met hers. He gave her a quick nod, then returned his focus to the octagonal cage-like ring in the middle of the club. Yara roamed her eyes over the crowd and spotted her other co-pilot in the mission, the vamp Joel, standing a few feet from Dyam. Just like his counterpart, the royal bodyguard exuded a calm that was as reassuring as it was deceiving. Yara had no doubts that he was ready to pounce at anyone or anything to protect her.
Joel lifted a blond brow at Yara, as if asking if she would still go ahead with the plan. She narrowed her eyes at him. By the gates of Hiad, of course she would! Ever since they destroyed Dr. Burvis’ laboratory in the U.K., where the psycho was attempting to mass market a bullet-size H-bomb, they had been trying to track down the last box of the little atomic fellas – the box she had let be stolen. Damn the Soartas! She was still kicking herself for that. Yara had come face to face with the mugger and what had she done? Did she kick his ass and snatch the box away? No, she stood there, like a deer headlights, hypnotized by gods knew what! Now after almost three months chasing ghosts and dead ends, they had finally got wind that the thief was going to sell the bullets tonight, and the deal was going down here, at this fighting joint. And since she had been the only one with access to the place – let’s just say she enjoyed the occasional bet – it was only natural for her to set their plan and get that freakin’ box back. They had carefully planned it all out – while the patrons were focused on the fights, Joel and Dyam would go in disguised as patrons and search the general area of the club. Sam and Hikuro, Yara’s best friend and the vampire king’s second in command, were outside, ready to jump in if needed. Yara would be working on the inside, since she had easy access to backstage. It was all mapped out and calculated by the second. In no time, Yara would be able to spot the buyer and the seller, then she’d call Joel and Dyam, they’d break the deal up, get the box back and tah-dah! Mission accomplished.
However… it was easier said than done. The Dungeon, the fighting joint in question, was famous for holding the most brutal and ruthless fights to ever take place outside the umbrella of the law. They were usually quick, some even lasting less than a minute, but the best ones – the ones that really drove the crowd wild – lasted ten times as long. A massive scoreboard located just above one of the ends of the cage-like ring displayed the sad tally of the current battle. The ten-foot iron net shook with another blow from the contestants but the crowd wasn’t impressed.
Yara turned around to see her “guy” staring back at her. CJ was the Dungeon’s master of ceremony. Despite his many shortcomings, he had been her contact for a lot of her “hobbies,” like her underground fights and her poker nights with morally-questionable individuals. He had even introduced her into her favorite past-time of late. A naughty smile lifted the corner of her lips. Yep, it was worth keeping him around, and his half-demon/half-human nature had come in handy more than once. The SOB had an incredible knack for sensing bad news, and tonight his gaze carried a weight that didn’t match his relaxed greeting.
“Hey, CJ,” she replied as gravely. “What’s up?”
“The buyer is here,” he replied, scanning the area for eavesdroppers.
He lifted his chin toward the back of the room. Yara followed his hint, and spotted a tall blond man with grey eyes leaning against one of the pillars on the far corner.
The buyer was Phillip – the draco who was working with Dr. Burvis in London, the rat bastard who double crossed them one too many times.
Yara clutched her jaw tight. “What about the seller, any sign?”
CJ shook his head. “No, but I’ll keep you posted.” He started walking away, but stopped, turned back around and pinned her with his eerie snake-like eyes. “Look, be careful out there, alright?”
“If I had a penny for every warning I got, I’d be rich by now,” she answered.
“I’m serious,” CJ replied.
Yara frowned, then narrowed her eyes at him. “Is there anything else you’d like to share, CJ?”
He quickly scanned the area as if afraid they were being over heard or something. “Weird vibes in this place tonight. Weirder than usual. Just saying.” He shrugged then walked off.
Hmm, a knack for sensing bad news.
A loud thump followed by a painful grunt called Yara’s attention back to the mission. The crowd cheered rowdily. And another one bites the dust, she thought. After a few seconds, a massive bouncer left the cage carrying one of the fighters over his shoulders. But apparently the audience wasn’t very supportive of the winner, because all he got was a shitload of boos and curses. The iron grid around the ring was the only thing that protected the winner from the empty bottles that went flying by. She bet that the supposed winner was thanking the Soartas for the protective grid. People thought the cage-like ring was to keep the fighters in and protect the audience, but nah, they were so wrong, it was there keep the angry mob out.
Yara was very well acquainted with what went down in this sort of hellhole. Only one fighter was divulged before the showdown. His opponent was a surprise – supposedly “taken out of the hat.” This way the audience were kept intrigued by who would fight whom, and throw more money on last-minute bets.
“And now, for the second fight of the evening we have two very different opponents,” CJ declared from his safely guarded post near the sound booth. “On one side, we have the bulldozer of the east mountains, the beast who enjoys ripping his opponents guts out – Bulldozer Jones!” he chanted, pointing to the opposite direction.
From her vantage point, Yara couldn’t see much – the place was packed to the rafters – but she bet that someone who had been nicknamed after a tractor wouldn’t be scrawny.
Suddenly, a bushy head opened the sea of drunks and made its way into the ring.
“And to fight against the beast of the east,” CJ bellowed over the keyed up cheers from the crowd, “a queen of the underground circuit, a flower that would tear you apart and leave you smiling. From the depths of the Amazon jungle, I give you …”
“Yara, the Brazilian witch!”
The crowd went crazy, searching for a rose with thorns.
Yara took a deep breath, straightened herself up and pushed her way through the sea of smelly males. She didn’t bother using the little side door to the ring; she climbed the tall iron fence instead and landed expertly on the inside.
The drunken mob went completely silent. A coin would have been heard dropping on the sticky floor.
Yara roamed her eyes over them, clearly showing she wasn’t seeking anyone’s approval, and met a bunch of confused looks. Some guys stared at her face, others were locked on her red sports bra and spandex shorts, but none had any idea of what to make of her.
Then someone shouted, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”
And the cursing started again, followed by very creative indecent proposals.
Yara ignored them all. Having been in that ring a couple of times before, she knew the crowd’s disapproval would come sooner or later. Not worth wasting her time; instead, she focused on reading her adversary.
Being more than a head taller than her, Bulldozer Jones did his nickname justice. His neck was the size of her thighs; his chest was so puffed up that his bulging arms were resting on a 45-degree angle away from his body. His bushy red hair was thick and short, looking more like a fur. Long sideburns framed his disproportioned face, and matched his fat nose.
She sighed. Ai, Apa Dobrý, this was going to hurt. With virtually no rules and no referees, there were only two ways to end a fight in the cage – as the winner or a corpse. You could do whatever you wanted to earn your cash in the ring, except shape-shift or use magical powers. That’s why it was very rare to see a female name on the scoreboard.
Yara flicked a glance at the panel on the far wall. CJ’s assistant was holding her name in his hand, as if waiting to see if it was worth the effort to put it up or not.
“Last bets, fellas!” the bookie, and owner of the joint, shouted from somewhere near the bar.
A swarm of males surrounded him, waving dollar bills up high and shouting “On Jones! On Jones!”
Yara rolled her eyes but deep inside, she’d have bet her money on the bulldozer as well. She took the opportunity to scrutinize the room. Phillip had disappeared. The guy who stole the bullets from under her nose in London would have arrived. The cage was a few feet higher than the standing audience, so she should be able to spot him easily, but would she recognize him? Their encounter had been so quick and he had been protected by the shadows, so despite her acute eyesight from her panther inmã, all she could get was a glimpse of his amazing biceps and ripped abs.
Dyam moved from his spot near the exit to the crowded front row. His eyes were filled with concern. She gave him a reassuring nod, but deep inside her panther paced anxiously. She could do this; she had won many fights like this before. The main question was at what cost? She liked her limbs how and where they were, and would like them to stay that way.
The bell rang. Bulldozer Jones jumped forward, like an ugly bear in heat.
“I’m gonna make you beg, love,” he drawled. “And after I take you down, I’m gonna show real fun.”
“Charming,” Yara replied.
She lifted her fists high up, to shield her face, and kept her feet light, skipping in place. It would be a lot harder for Heavy Jones here to hit a fast, moving target. Her only chance was to use her speed and agility against his sheer strength.
He came at her with the arrogance of a bulldog, drooling and all. Yara’s stomach churned at the sight of his ugly yellow teeth. Without ceremony, he threw a cross punch at her. She quickly shifted her balance and hunkered backwards, missing the guy’s wrist by a few inches. She then slid underneath his still outstretched arm and punched his exposed ribs, several times. Bulldozer hunkered down, obviously feeling the pain.
For the second time in the night, the crowd went silent. Sharp intakes on breath and curses of disbelief replaced the earlier slurs.
Dyam’s shout brought her back to the present. She turned around, forearms high for protection but it was no use. Jones’ fist connected to her right ear with such a force that she saw stars. She stumbled sideways and before she could recover, a tight bear-hug locked her in place, whooshing the air out of her lungs.
Not good, not good at all. She tried to break free, but Bulldozer’s thick arms were like an anaconda around her.
“That’s it, bitch, struggle for me, I love a fighter,” her charming opponent drawled just inches from her nose. Then he clacked his teeth together, as if giving her a snapshot of what he’d really like to do to her. His putrid breath reached her, making breathing even harder.
The crowd went absolutely insane.
Dark spots filled Yara’s eyesight, her oxygen intake was running dangerously slow; a few more seconds and the Bulldozer would succeed in blacking her out, or worse, cracking all her ribs.
Right. Time to end this circus.
Yara lifted her knees up and planted her both feet firmly on his thighs. Using them as leverage, she pulled back as far away from the stinking rat as she could, and then rammed her forehead into the fucker’s nose. A crack and a grunt later, she was free to breathe.
“You fuckin’ bitch! You’re gonna pay for this,” he bellowed holding his bleeding nose. But in no time, he was charging at her again, arms outstretched, like a bull in Pamplona.
Yara swirled around, hooked her left arm on his and in a fluid movement, she dragged him down and over her, lifting his heavy body by her feet. Bulldozer did a cartwheel in the air and crashed down with a loud thump on the arena.
The crowd cheered and more profanities were suggested, together with marriage proposals. Hmm, that’s an improvement. But Yara didn’t have time to laugh at the crowd’s change of heart. Before Jones could recover, she climbed on the thick fence, then jumped, elbow first, on top of S.O.B.’s stomach.
“Oooh,” the audience shrieked.
Feeling the love in the room, Yara stood up and swirled around slowly, making sure they all saw the message stamped on the back of her shorts – “Dream On.”
Her respite didn’t last long, though. Jones shook his head awake, pushed off the floor and roared at her. Yara stood her ground, showing him no fear, but then, the unthinkable happened. He started heaving and growing and getting heavier at each breath. Smoke came out of his abnormally enlarged nostrils and two horns emerged from his forehead, at the same time a set of immense wings popped out of his shoulder blades. His eyes turned bright yellow and his skin got covered in thick red fur.
The Bulldozer was a Lamassu deamon, aka a freaking winged bull.
Her evening was getting more promising by the second.
“Hey! No shifting!” she heard someone yell, but the crowd had gone even more berserk with the promise of a good blood-spilling showdown.
The Lamassu lunged forward. His spike-like teeth glistened with moisture. The ringmaster was giving no indication that he intended to stop the fight, so it was up to her to get her ass out of that cage, and fast. At the same time that Jones lunged at her, she shifted to the right, dodging his attack by a millimeter. Leveraging off the guy’s own weight, she leaped off the ground and landed on his back. He tried to get her off him, but, as she predicted, his arms were much too thick to reach back. She rode him to the left, then to the right, making him lose his balance. In no time, they crashed to the ground. Advantage #1: neutralized. While on the ground, the Lamassu couldn’t use his height and length against her. Next step, neutralize Advantage #2: his freaking wings. With her left hand, she quickly pinned one of his arms to her chest, while her right hand locked his elbow out-stretched. She then placed her left foot on his hip, pivoted her body exactly forty-five degrees to the right, then swung her left leg up, wrapped it around the bastard’s neck, and squeezed. The beast tried to fight her off, but the beauty of an arm-bar move is that no matter how big you are, the more you struggle, the more you choke.
Thank you, Brazilian jiu-jitsu!
After a few moments of more struggles, his limbs lost the strength, went floppy then completely still. He wasn’t dead, Yara knew it for a fact, but the beast was going to enjoy a little nap before waking up with a headache from Hiad.
She took a deep breath and stood up. The crowd replied with applause, whistles and other less-polite noises. Joel was clapping his hands together, his loud laughter adding to the audience’s cheers. Even Dyam’s grim face showed a hint of amusement. She winked at him. He shook his head in disapproval but she noticed his lips curving up in a small smile.
Now all they had to do was find the thief, get the box of bullets and get the hell out of there. As per protocol, she would be taken to the back room to receive her share of the winnings. And as per their plan, she’d use the opportunity to access the secure area and find the bastard thief with the box.
Yara’s eyes perused the room, looking for CJ, but didn’t find him. Instead she met the most amazing grey gaze. Fearless. Powerful. Viral.
The pair of eyes belonged to a dark haired, tall man with sharp features and broad shoulders. Even his long sleeved T-shirt wasn’t enough to hide the well-defined muscles underneath.
Again, wow. Her panther purred inside.
She frowned. I know him, her mind uttered, but from where? A tightness curled in her heart, something she’d only felt once before – when the Soartas placed her at a crossroads that changed her life forever. Yara blinked, trying to deal with the flood of feelings that threatened to overwhelm her. Focus! Focus on the mission!
The sound of the cage’s small iron chains opening up reached Yara’s ears. The bookie got inside and gestured for the crowd to shut up. They complied, barely. “This fight is a ‘no contest’!’”
“What?” Yara shouted in utter disbelief.
“Because shifting and magical tricks are not allowed in my ring.”
“I didn’t use any magic,” she growled between clenched teeth.
“But he shifted,” the bookie retorted, pointing at the Lamassu deamon still napping on the floor. “And that’s not allowed.”
Loud cheers mixed with angry curses swamped the house.
“You worthless prick!” Yara shouted. If that weasel thought she’d let him take that win away from her without a fight, he was terribly wrong. She had gone through Hiad to get them inside that club tonight. She was not giving up now.
She opened her stance and prepared to give the bookie a piece of her mind, when the fence was suddenly shaken so hard that made both of them stop halt.
“Let her fight me,” the guy with amazing grey eyes said.
He looked at Yara as if daring her to accept. She glared back at him, and couldn’t stop the low growling from escaping her mouth.
“Let her fight me,” he repeated, louder this time. “And if she wins again, she takes the winnings … from both fights.”
There, he’d done it. The crowd stood up and roared, showing their support with whistles, clapping and more obscene proposals. She glared at the mob, unable to mask her annoyance. Seriously? Every time?
Yara turned back around and faced the owner of the ridiculous idea. “I won the fight with honor, no cheating. I deserve my share.”
“And your share you will get,” the bookie said with a sleazy smile. “All you need to do is defeat our champion.”
Champion? Ai, Apa Dobrý, her night couldn’t get any better.
As if on cue, the crowd cheered again, like the filthy monkeys they were.
Yara quickly searched for Dyam. He wasn’t happy. He ran his tongue over his teeth and shook his head, a clear sign of “don’t you dare accept this.” Joel was right there, too. Murder stamped on his face.
Did she have any choice in the matter? If she backed down from the challenge, they’d never be able to come back to the club – hell, they’d probably be kicked out like rabid dogs and miss out on the chance of retrieving the black box with the last sample of the atomic bullets. No, she couldn’t let Phillip get his hands on that box. If that happened, their entire efforts in London would have been for nothing, and Hiad would break loose. Literally.
Yara exhaled a tired breath. She had no other choice but to agree with fighting this new guy. “Whatever. Just don’t spring any wings or horns when you lose, alright, champ boy?” she sneered.
Grey Eyes bowed ceremoniously, then leaped over the grid and landed smoothly in the middle of the ring. The bookie took his cue and quickly made himself scarce.
At close range, Yara was able to scrutinize her new adversary better. He wasn’t handsome in a Hollywood sort of way. His beauty was rough, savage, but very handsome nonetheless.
He grabbed the hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head.
Ai, Apa Dobrý. Yara’s jaw dropped involuntarily. His broad shoulders and pecs were covered in intricate tattoos. His square jaw carried a delicious stubble, that matched perfectly with his deceivingly disheveled brown hair. There was a raw vibe to him that permeated in the air like the amazing scent of dark spices he gave off. And reverberated all the way to her core.
We’ve definitely met before … but where?
That was so not the analysis she needed to be doing right now. She shoved the wanton wonderings back into her subconscious, and focused on the planning her fight moves.
He stood imperially on the opposite side of the ring, watching her, but not giving her a hint of opening the tally.
She cocked an eyebrow at him. “So are we doing this or what?” she asked.
A lazy, crooked smile played on his lips. “Let’s dance.”