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Book 6 of The Crush Saga
Copyright © 2015 by Chrissy Peebles
Edited by: Autumn J. Conley
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
My brilliant editor, Autumn J. Conley. Thank you for all your hard work!
Spoiler Alert: If you haven't read before this, there are spoilers. This is book 6.
How do I describe this moment? There is only…nothing. No sensation, no pain, no dreams, no memories. There is only…darkness.
Wait! What is that? A bright light? A voice? A touch!
“I’m Dr. Rivers,” a woman said, shining a light into my eyes. “Taylor, can you hear me?”
“Yeah,” I answered.
“Do you know where you are?”
“The immortal sanctuary?”
My stomach clenched. “My gosh. I shouldn’t be alive!”
“No, you shouldn't, but you’re a survivor. You were bitten by a vampire and a werewolf, but you're fighting like a champion.”
“Okay. She’s coming to,” a woman yelled. “Everyone take extra precautions!”
All the memories flooded back from that night. I was buried alive. Almost sacrificed. Julie and Drake had both bitten me. Halo. The millennium ceremony. Ivan and his wolf pack swearing revenge against me. Yes, it was all coming back.
I'm a hybrid!
I could hear people talking over me as I tried to force my eyes open. When I listened closer, I heard a beeping sound, the electronic chorus of monitors. My hand throbbed, but I quickly located the culprit: an IV attached to a bag of fluids on a silver pole. I tried to figure out what was going on in the haze that surrounded me, but nothing made much sense in all that craziness. I knew I was in a hospital bed with white sheets and blankets. My body felt limp as a wet rag. Everything and everyone seemed far away. Part of me wanted to fall into a deep sleep, while the other part desperately wanted to fight it. Then I heard a familiar voice that sounded like an angel right out of Heaven.
“Taylor, it’s me, Jesse. I’m here for you, baby…and so are all your friends. I’m right here,” the love of my life said, holding my hand. “You’re so strong, so brave. You’re gonna beat this thing.”
I squeezed his hand to let him know I heard him and that I was indeed going to fight for my life. I’d worked so hard to stay alive, and I wasn’t going to let some immortal virus take me out. Jesse and I still had so much to see and so much to do, so many years to love each other. We had our whole lives in front of us, and I couldn’t wait to go out there and face the world head on. I hung on to that glimmer of hope, and I wouldn’t let go. Keep fighting, that tiny voice inside me kept saying.
“You need to leave,” a male voice said. “Please let us do our job. Taylor is in good hands.”
“What? Are you nuts? You can’t expect me to just leave her,” Jesse argued. “Please. I need to be here. She needs me.”
My eyes fluttered open.
“Taylor?” Cindy’s voice called. “I don’t know what to say, but I care about you. I know it’s difficult, but we’re here for you.”
“You let her in here?” an agitated voice whispered. “She’s a gargoyle, very, very dangerous. Don’t you remember what happened the last time we let a gargoyle in here 100 years ago?”
“This is a sanctuary,” a voice whispered back. “We accept everyone.”
“But she hasn’t been through decontamination! You’re breaking the rules. They all have to go through it before being allowed in for a transformation.”
“Her body is going through an immortal process. Germs don’t matter right now. All that matters is that she knows her friends are rallying for her, giving her the encouragement she needs to fight for her life, inspiring her will to survive.”
“I want her out now!” he said.
Cindy looked at him, and his eyes widened in fear.
“Did you see that? She’s flashing me those gargoyle eyes of hers,” the guy said, terrified.
“You act like you’ve never seen glowing eyes before,” I said. “Isn’t this is a place for supernatural creatures?”
“Those were threatening eyes,” he roared, “like she might devour me in one gulp. I can’t work in a place where I don’t feel safe. She has to go…or else I will!”
Julie turned to face him. “Taylor needs us more than anything right now. She needs all her friends.”
Footsteps echoed as the man took his leave, ignoring Julie’s pleas.
“I’m here too,” Fred said. “I wish I could fix it all, Taylor, just take away your pain.”
“Grant and I are here too,” Julie assured me. “You know how much we love you, and we’re rooting for you.”
“Just hang on,” Grant said.
“I’m hangin’ in there,” I whispered.
“You’ve got those stubborn genes, just like me,” Tabby said.
I gazed up at her. “I hope so!”
She squeezed my hand in excitement. “Girl, you did it. I’m so proud of you! You stopped the petals from being sacrificed and got the witches’ power back. You even sent Halo back to Hell. You’re a true hero. I bet you’re on the front page of the immortal newspaper.”
“There’s an immortal newspaper?” I asked softly.
“Sure. It’s called The Forever Times,” Julie said, then chuckled. “She’s only kidding.”
“I need to see my mom and dad,” I whispered.
“I’m working on that,” Tabby said, “but getting them in here is a little tricky.”
“We’ll need a cover story,” Fred said.
“Or just compel them to forget,” Cindy chimed in with her French accent. “Taylor needs her parents.”
I glanced at Tabby. “What powers did you get?”
“Everyone got at least one power, but because I’m a petal, I got a few extras. You, Violet, and Julie will get them too. I can levitate stuff and move things with my mind. I have enhanced senses. I can manipulate the air and wind and lots more. It’s really amazing.”
“My power is fire,” Julie said. “I don’t have it all figured out, but I’ll learn it eventually. I can do a few other little things too.”
I looked at Violet. “And you?”
“Mainly teleportation,” she answered. “I wish my powers were as exciting as Tabby’s or Julie’s.”
“Exciting? What good is fire?” Julie asked with a chuckle. “Unless I’m camping.”
Suddenly, every part of me began to itch profusely, and I started scratching everywhere. As I did, I noticed a red, blotchy rash spreading all over my body. “Ah! I can’t stop the itch!” I said.
The doctor rushed to my side and examined the hives. “She needs Benadryl, fifty milligrams in her IV…STAT!”
“Yes, Dr. Rivers,” a nurse said.
“I need a mirror,” I said, wanting to look at my face.
Cindy handed me a compact, and I flipped it open.
“Wh-what’s happening to me?” I asked, staring at my bloodshot eyes. “I mean, I know I’m turning, but what’s causing this?”
A male nurse tried to comfort me by explaining the process. “You’re in Stage One, infection. You’ll go through fever, chills, itching, headache, and other flu-like symptoms. In Stage Two, you’ll want to sleep a lot as your metabolism slows. Your breathing will be shallow, your pupils dilated. During that time, your fangs and nails will grow.”
Another nurse touched my arm. “Your senses are sharpening, Taylor. Your sense of smell, for instance, can be 100 times sharper than a mortal’s, and you’ll hear 4 times better than any human. Your eyes are changing as well, adapting to your new wolf-vision.”
“You’ve been infected with a complicated virus,” Dr. Rivers elaborated. “It is really quite complex, so much so that it rewrites the genetic code of every nucleus in your body. Countless alterations to your biological makeup are taking place.”
They went on to explain, in great detail, the differences between a vampire and werewolf change. I caught some of it, but I kept fading in and out as they blabbed on in their supernatural medical jargon, until I finally fell asleep again.
Sometime later, I woke up. I had no idea if I’d been asleep for hours or days. I could hear voices, but none of them sounded familiar. What happened to my friends? I wondered.
“She didn’t want this,” a faint voice whispered, sounding a million miles away, “and to be bitten by two immortals is highly rare.”
“Taylor cannot outrun her destiny. No one can.”
I felt my pulse speed as a flood of thoughts and questions pounded through my brain. I thought about my destiny and wondered what my future held. Will I even live long enough to see it, or will the hybrid virus eat me alive? Am I doomed to be yet another casualty, like all those other victims who hoped to escape their fate?
Noises jolted me out of my thinking. Amongst the voices, I heard so many things: distant footsteps, a phone ringing down the hall at the nurses’ station, someone scratching their head, lips smacking, and even an ice cube melting in a diet soda—things I never should have been able to hear. For a moment, I considered that maybe I was just dreaming.
“I’ve got the preliminary test results,” a woman said.
“All right. What wolf line is she from?” another said.
“You’re not gonna believe this, but she’s from the Lycan Ice Pack.”
“What!? The ancient werewolves from the Arctic? I thought that was just a myth.”
“No, and here’s our living proof. Julie is from the same pack.”
“I want those records sealed,” the doctor said. “Nobody is to breathe a word about this to anyone. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Dr. Rivers.”
“Why?” another asked. “With all due respect, Doctor, this is an important discovery. We need to inform the others so they know how special Taylor truly is. Why hide it and seal the records?”
“Why!? Look, Taylor was bitten by the strongest, most powerful breed of werewolf that has ever existed, the ones gifted with the powers of the Danan, the ones tasked with protecting elite supernatural. Don’t you realize what that means?”
“It means they’ll snatch her up in a heartbeat. If they find Taylor or Julie, or any of the other bitten petals, they’ll sweep them away and they’ll be forced to serve as guardians. This is a sanctuary, and we can’t have that kind of invasion and kidnapping going on here. Word of this cannot go beyond these walls, so just keep your mouths shut. You’re not to speak to anyone about this.”
“Are you going to tell them?”
“No. It’s best that we say nothing. The girls will be safer—as will we all—if they remain unaware of their true identity. If they don’t know, they can’t blab, and no one will ever know they’re here.”
“What about the werewolf who originally bit Julie? Is it here? Also, why’d it bite her in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been taken as a guardian? Or is it hiding here in Big Bear Lake?”
Dr. Rivers sighed. “I don’t know, but I’ll find out. In the meantime, not another word about this to anyone. We can’t have anyone knowing we have two guardians taking harbor here in the sanctuary. And don’t forget about the other bitten petals. The Ice Pack will come and retrieve them all. Right now, silence is our best friend.”
“You know I won’t say anything, but Dr. Michaels ordered the test, and he’ll demand answers.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll rig up some results for him, as I’ve got unlimited access to the lab computer. This girl is beyond special, and we have to keep her safe. She has Drake’s elite, royal bloodline in her, as well as Lycan Ice Pack blood, and she’s a tenth-generation petal witch/doppelganger.”
“Wow. That’s some combination. That should help her beat this virus though, right?”
“Let’s hope so.”
My eyes fluttered shut, and I drifted off into sleep, without them realizing I’d heard a word they’d said.
My dreams were hectic and chaotic and quickly morphed into dark, twisted nightmares. I woke up screaming in agony and went straight into a panic, thrashing and flailing as I was held down against my will. I let out a long growl and viciously fought against my attackers.
“How much valium are we giving her?” a man asked.
Maurice shot me a wicked smile. “We should euthanize the wolf, put her out of her misery!”
“No!” I shouted.
He held up a gold dagger. “You were born to die. Fate has always wanted this. Only the strong survive, and you are far too pathetic. Just let go, Taylor. It’ll all be over soon.”
“No! I won’t give up without a fight. I’ll kill you first! You tried to kill me before and failed, so you tell me who the pathetic one is! How’d you ever get the job as head witch anyway?”
Suddenly, the witch from my dreams appeared before me.
“You!” I said, letting out an audible gasp.
“I tried to tell you of your destiny, that you are to be a hybrid, but you didn’t believe me. Maybe death is the only way out of all this.”
I gasped, realizing my worst fears had come true. “You all want me dead! You and Maurice and everyone else!” I shouted at her.
“We all want you dead, newborn werewolf and baby vampire.”
My hands wrapped around her throat. “I’ll never go that easily. I’ll take you all with me!”
“Sh-she’s h-hallucinating!” a woman screamed, unwrapping my hands from around her neck and choking on her words.
“Taylor, come back to us!” the familiar’s doctor’s voice rang. “Maurice is not here.”
I blinked and realized the doctor was right. Everything seemed fuzzy, and I had a headache from hell, like seventeen sumo wrestlers were tap-dancing on my cranium. My heart pounded, and my muscles ached something fierce.
“She’s going into shock!” a woman said.
“Embrace the pain,” the doctor coached. “Fighting it will only make it worse, put more stress on your body. Just ride it out, Taylor.”
I was groggy and disoriented, and I felt like I’d been run over by a truck after running a long marathon. I was gasping for breath, and my insides ached something fierce. “Wh-what’s happening?” I stuttered.
“The werewolf is taking over. Do you remember what we talked about? This transition will be different than a vampire’s. You’ll feel more agitated, aggressive. You’ll be prone to unprovoked rage, anger, insomnia, and restlessness in this first phase. It will pass but it won’t be easy.”
I growled, wanting to attack and lash out at her. I’d never been so angry in all my life, and I was sure that if she didn’t shut up, I was going to rip her to shreds. I hated feeling like that, because it wasn’t like me at all. It was as if something sinister had possessed me, some violent demon. Deep down inside, I felt a strong urge to rip off my clothes and run through the forest, howling like the cursed monster and mythical creature I was destined to become.
“We’ve got gold eyes, and she’s exhibiting canine behavior, Doctor,” a woman said, shining a penlight in my eyes, just about blinding me. “She’ll soon emerge in full lycanthrope form.”
“Do you want to live, Taylor?” Dr. Rivers asked me.
“Yes!” I snapped, seething. “What kind of stupid question is that? Of course I wanna live…more than anything!”
“Then act like it. Fight this! Times are tough, but you’ve gotta be tougher. We already warned you that this transition isn’t going to be pretty. Your energy will spike, then crash. You’ll be on an emotional rollercoaster, and the pain associated with becoming a vampire will take its toll. I know it can be downright ugly and scary, but you’ve got to fight through transition, or you’ll die in the process.”
“Okay, but this anger is just… It’s just too much, Doctor. I feel like I wanna punch a wall as hard as I can.”
“That’s the werewolf rage setting in, but there’ll be no left hooks for you, to a wall or otherwise. You have to learn to channel the anger.”
“But I can’t!” I screeched, wanting to channel an uppercut to her face instead.
“You can…and you must, Taylor.”
“Isn’t there any other way?” I asked.
“No. I’m sorry, but there isn’t.”
“How did you survive the petal curse?” someone else asked, having the audacity to touch me.
I thought about that long and hard for a moment. “I believed I could, so I did.”
She smiled. “That you did. Now, you only have to do the same, and I know you can do it.”
“But all this anger, this wrath or something! It’s just…bubbling up inside me, like hot lava,” I said, gripping the sheets and knotting my hands up in them. “I wanna pound something so bad!”
“There will be no pounding today.”
“Then let me break through one!”
“You’re not the Incredible Hulk, and I won’t have my sanctuary destroyed like that.”
I looked around me, furious, and pointed at a recording device. “In that case, I highly suggest you turn off that videocamera!” I ordered. “I never said you could make a stupid reality show outta this!” I snapped.
The woman with the camera ignored me and continued recording, and another kept jotting down notes on a big yellow legal pad, in shorthand, which only ignited me more.
Suddenly, a man hovered over me and lifted my eyelids with his fingers, then peered right into my eyes. “The werewolf symptoms aren’t letting up. I’m afraid she’ll have to be…subdued.”
Suddenly, claws extended from my fingers, and I reached for him and let out a growl that even scared me. I’d always liked getting my nails done, but this was no French manicure, and I looked at my own hands in horror.
“Restrain her!” a man shouted. “Her feral instincts are kicking in!”
“She can’t control it,” someone else said in a panic. “She’ll have the strength of a dozen humans!”
“No,” a woman said, struggling to hold me down. “She won’t hurt us.”
“You don’t know that!”
“She’s just a little freaked out right now,” a kind voice said. “Tying her up will just make it worse. She’ll only get angrier.”
I threw the two men off me as if they were paper dolls. My human voice melted into a strained, scratchy series of growls, grunts, and hisses, and I began to foam at the mouth, as if I had rabies. I felt rabid, crazed, aggressive, and out of control. More adrenaline pumped through me than ever before, and my muscles rippled and thickened beneath my skin. This is a real bitch, I mused, though I was in far too much distress to even smile at my own pun.
“Restrain her!” a man yelled to the doctor.
“Not yet,” Dr. Rivers said. “Just give her time.”
“Time? If this gets any worse, time is one thing none of us will have. Somebody’s gonna get their head ripped off!”
The doctor shook her head. “We’ll only tranquilize or restrain her as a last resort. For now, just keep your distance.”
My body shook, and my chest felt so tight. I gritted my teeth and stared down at the backs of my hands, only to discover white hairs push through my skin. The button of my jeans snapped off and flew across the room, then landed on the linoleum floor, and my clothes began to rip under the pressure of my swelling form. I stood on the bed, contemplating my next move. When all the eyes in the room widened in terror, I knew they feared for their lives; because of me, they didn’t know whether to freeze or run. Part of me felt bad about that, but the more powerful part really didn’t care.
I felt myself changing and helplessly tried to fight it as my muscles rippled beneath my skin and more fur began to sprout from me. My gums tingled, and I felt my canine teeth grow into fangs as my jaw suddenly lengthened. “No!” I screamed as my fingers lengthened and my arms and legs stretched right before my very own eyes. “What’s happening?” I shouted. “Julie changed so quick! Is this normal?”
“It’s your first time,” a nurse gently said. “The change will be slow.”
With my clawed hands, I reached up to feel my ears as they merged while the metamorphosis continued. Either there was no pain or the extra adrenaline compensated for it. New ears formed on top of my head, in a mess of white fur. I hunched over as my spine contorted and twisted into an unnatural shape, stretching out and elongating my upper body. As I stretched and jerked, my body burned, and my entire body was instantly covered with plush white fur. I felt a burning sensation, but the pain was minimal and nothing I couldn’t handle. It really all happened over a time span of a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. I desperately wanted to stop it, but I was helpless to. My muscles longed to be free, and the transformation was going to happen, whether I liked it or not.
Suddenly, a powerful surge ripped through me, from my head all the way down to my toes. My muscles stretched, my skin ripped, and my bones lengthened. Scared to death, I let out a long scream. I began to drool and any attempt at speech was reduced to guttural sounds. I dropped down on all fours and saw that all my nails on my fingers and toes had extended into two-inch talons, sharp as steel. My body finished morphing into a wolf in a glorious flash of light. I snapped my jaws and looked around at the group surrounding me, then let out a deafening growl. Everything within me and outside of me seemed to vibrate with an energy I couldn’t comprehend or understand.
I bared my fangs, and a few of the doctors and nurses stepped back in fear, which was entirely understandable. I was bubbling over with rage and bloodlust, but at the same time, I felt more charged up than ever.
Suddenly, my vision sharpened. I gazed at all the warm-blooded creatures around me and saw them in a different light, as if I’d slipped on a pair of thermal-imaging goggles. I had infrared vision, and I wondered if I would keep it when I was not in a state of bloodlust.
As my shape-shifting was coming to an end, a man burst into the room. “We’ve got problems! Werewolves have breached the perimeter!”
“What!?” Dr. Rivers yelled.
“Send everything we got after them!” a woman commanded.
“You know what they’re here for. They’re out for blood, for revenge. They want Taylor, and I don’t think they’re gonna give up very easily.”
“Well, that’s too bad. We’re not about to hand her over,” the doctor said. “Triple security and keep them at bay. This is a sanctuary, and sometimes you have to stir up a little war to keep the peace.”
“We’ll do more than that,” the man said. “I elicited Drake’s help.”
“Seriously?” a woman said, then frowned.
“He’s the most powerful thing we’ve got around here. He volunteered to help, and we took him up on it. Unless you wanna see everyone here slaughtered before nightfall, we’ve got to take him on as an ally.”
“Why’d he volunteer?” the skeptical woman asked. “He’s never helped us before.”
“His blood flows through Taylor, and that makes her part of his coven.”
“It most certainly does not!” the doctor snapped. “Drake has no claim on Taylor.”
“Legally, he does have a stake in her.”
“I’d like to shove a stake in him,” she said, sighing and shaking her head. “I don’t care what he tells you. She’s a werewolf now, too, and that changes all the rules.”
“She’s got no pack to claim her, so by supernatural protocol, she’s to go right back to Drake. He’d win that case in any immortal court.”
“You don’t have to educate me on how the supernatural world works. I know the rules, but she is not property. Use Drake to fight off the wolves if you have to, but I’ll get the witches to claim Taylor before I ever let Drake take her away.”
“But she hates the witches!”
“They’re a whole lot better than Drake.”
“Wait, Doctor,” the woman chimed in. “Maybe he’s right. If we give Taylor to Drake, it will put us in his good favor. She’ll want to make her sire happy because of the sire bond. Besides, you know he’ll take good care of her. She’ll be safe with him.”
“What!? Have you all gone insane? Taylor is warm, kind, caring, and everything Drake’s not. That sire bond means nothing when she has wolf and petal blood in her too.”
“Drake will protect us for now,” someone else said, “but what if their moon princess gets involved? We’ll be in real trouble then.”
“If that happens, we’ll have to move her to a safe house…and as far away from Drake as possible.”
Before they could bicker about it any further, the lights went out, and the entire room erupted in a loud mess of screams and chaos. I knew the wolves were coming for me, because I could sense it deep down inside, and as brave and angry as I felt in my new form, I was also scared to death.
End of Sample.
Available for preorder now:
Click here: http://www.amazon.com/Conflicted-Book-6-Crush-Saga-ebook/dp/B00UIODG90/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432338591&sr=8-1&keywords=conflicted+peebles