The Lost and Forgotten
by Cassandre Dayne
Rebel Ink Press
eBook ISBN: RIP000900
Their only hope? Find the one woman that had been destined to be their mate and the Queen of their Pride. Gage Trevillian and Lucan Morgan were the lost & forgotten. More ghost than man or beast, their goal was to find Nicolette and forever break the curse. But unfortunately, a pact made with the devil put the entire town at risk. Amidst a volley of secrets and lies involving both the humans and tigers, only a select few would survive.
The keening growl grew close, savagely pressing against his heels, stopping him cold. As the terror rose from the boughs of his stomach, flowing into his neck, he felt the hold strangle him like a tight metal vice. He hugged a tree, feeling the panic trickle up and down his spine as his heart raced sending pounding echoes into his ears. Throwing his hand over his mouth, he tried to stop the scream that bubbled in his throat as he turned his head slowly, staring into the darkness. The moon barely a sliver, he couldn’t see anything in front of him. Why oh why had he taken a walk tonight? Why had he ventured down a path he didn’t know?
He bit his lip and tried to hone in on the sounds. What the hell was following him? He thought it was a dog but the sounds were too large, too wild and his instincts told him the creature wanted blood. Tilting his head, he heard the night sounds of crickets and frogs and little else. Maybe the creature had left? Closing his eyes, he prayed to a God he’d already forsaken and breathed a sigh of relief, hearing nothing but the soothing sounds of a quiet summer night.
Until a snarl floated around the tree behind him, the subtle echo banking against the trees.
“Oh fuck.” It was closer. How? Where to go and what to do was all he could think about. He took off running, tripping over several branches, slamming into the ground with a hard thud. Get up, get up, get up! Ignoring the pain flashing through his body, he scrambled up and stumbled forward, hearing nothing but the sound of his thrashing moves as he pressed deeper and deeper into the woods.
“Don’t…no… I don’t know what you are…but….” Every one of his senses on fire, he could see nothing and while he knew the woods and had camped deep in the heart of the forest as a child, he had no idea what direction he was going in. Run! Run! It’s so fucking dark! Help me! The sounds grew closer and stopped and then roared from another direction. “Shit!” Unable to hold back his terror, the crackling and sputtering sounds of the vicious growl became even more menacing. A tiny cry escaped his lips as he struggled to move yet he steeled the nerves that threatened to drop him and forced his shaking body on, fighting the dense foliage with each step.
Disoriented, he fell into a patch of briars, the twigs snapping under him as he tried to catch his breath. “Mmmm…” He could feel the slickened beads of blood trickling down his face. The coppery smell mixed with his sweat and the tangy scent made him nauseated. Gagging, bitter fearful tears mixed with the blood stinging his eyes. He wiped furiously and whimpered. Where the hell was he going to go? Where was this fucking creature? “God, help me please.”
He waited, controlling his breathing as he tried to concentrate on where the unknown beast was. There was one thing he knew from his days of being in the woods, he was being stalked. There was no doubt. He had been through enough hunts with his father as a child to tell what was happening. The animal was lying in wait for him to make another move, planning the kill. Planning on how to rip me to shreds. He had no idea what he was up against and the unsettling thought of what could be in lying in wait was the most terrifying part. He racked his mind trying to think about what it could be, but there was no way to know. Was it a bear perhaps? No, he had never seen a bear this close to the town. Maybe the creature was lost. Oh dear God, what was he saying?
He knew one thing with absolute certainty; he was a sitting duck where he was. Garnering all his strength and his nerve, he climbed out of the patch, ignoring the pain and stumbled forward listening and waiting, willing the creature away. Licking his lips, he inched forward only to hear a single snort, coming from directly behind him. Very slowly he turned, seeing dazzling yellow gold iridescent eyes glowing back at him. “Oh…my…God.”
From the position of the animal and the guttural sounds that came from the belly of the beast, he knew damn good and well the creature was huge. Without a doubt he was being studied, sized up. He controlled his nerves and attempted to listen to any other sounds that might guide him to safety. You can do this. A laugh fluttered past his lips before he could stop the eruption. It was now or never.
He took off running; his vision now used to the darkness enough so that the shadows seemed comforting. He heard nothing behind him for several minutes and he could almost make out something ahead. Oh God, he knew where he was. He knew that if he made it to the clearing he was safe. There were few sounds but the crackle of the forest floor. Exhausted, he rushed into the clearing and fell to his knees, panting and groaning. The lights of the nearby homes would keep the creature at bay. He could see a long bank of brightly lit houses ahead of him teeming with night time activities and at that glorious moment he made a promise to himself that he would never take another walk again by himself. Thank God for civilization. The creature would have to wait. He snorted. No, he would do the consuming this go around. The thought somehow comforting, he steadied his shaking form and willed his nerves to calm down.
He laughed finally and drew to a standing position, inching forward as he wiped the sweat and blood from his eyes. There was no doubt he needed a stiff drink and a long hot shower and definitely in that order.
An outside light flipped on from the closest house and the crisp sound of the dog barking furiously to his left dragged his attention to the last house. Ah, that would be the perfect place to go. Of course he knew he must look a mess but hell, he had been through a nightmare, right? No doubt he would get his friends together and they were going hunting in the morning.
“You bet, you asshole. Gonna come find your ass!” He laughed as he imagined the ugly creature on a fire spit as he slathered it with barbeque sauce. “Mmmm…tasty.”
Something sharp raked across his back, grabbing and jerking him back into the forest as if he was a Kewpie doll and he could just make out the long claws, brimming from what was more of a hand than a hoof.
The blinding anguish stunned him to the point he opened and closed his mouth, yet only the bubbling whistles of a damaged man trickled from his lips. As the terror dragged him into lala land, he knew one thing for certain. His flesh was shredded. The intensity of the anguish was blinding. “Ffffffuuuuuccccckkk!” He scrambled to grab onto anything but his arms wouldn’t work. The next sound was something he had never heard before except in horror movies. The growling ragged panting of the beast was filled with absolute sated joy. His mind took him to many places as the flashes of his life danced across his vision like a parade of insanity. His father, his mama, his kids were splatterfucked across his field of vision and everyone he had ever done wrong sparkled around him in vivid color, reminding him that his life had been something wonderful. Licking his lips, he smiled remembering a particular scene as an intense wave of cold slivered across his body. There was no doubt what was happening. He laughed, spurting blood and guts from his mouth as his body was dragged further into the forest and knew with complete certainly as he reached across his chest and felt the stump where his arm used to be.
That he was going to die.
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