Poe’s Avenue, Virginia, FBI Paranormal Operations Division HQ
Alejandro cocked his shotgun and followed his teammate into the burnt and jagged opening in the side of the building, hoping that—for once—there weren’t any trolls.
He hated trolls.
“Clear,” Mac, already moving through the narrow hallway, called back to him. It was Mac’s turn to go first. They kept score.
Lately he’d been keeping score on a lot of things. Like time. The year, two weeks, and five days since he’d seen the sunlight outside of the academy, for instance.
Not that he was counting.
Anyway, the course at the FBI’s sister division, P-Ops, had kept him plenty busy.
“Shotgun! You coming or scratching your ass back there?”
“No, my friend, I was just thinking of asking your sister to scratch it for me,” Alejandro said, grinning at the nickname he’d won for obvious reasons. “She reaches all the itchy parts so well.”
“I will kick your ass if you get any of your itchy parts anywhere near my sister. Or she’d kick it for you. Jenny scares even me.”
The sound of Mac’s Glock firing three shots in rapid succession caused Alejandro to break into a run as he slapped his night-vision goggles in place.
“On my way,” he called, not bothering to try to be stealthy. “Save some for me.”
He caught the shifting glimmer of light in the corner of one eye and whirled around, aiming and firing in one smooth motion. Whatever it was, he missed. Too short to be a troll, so there was one mercy. If he were the type to have nightmares, he’d still be having them about the last one’s breath. Green, moss-covered teeth. What the hell was that about? Toothpaste was cheap.
“Shotgun! Could use a little help here!” Mac sounded just the slightest bit out of breath, which was unusual for the man who’d beat the all-time speed record for the FBI’s obstacle course at Quantico in an inter-agency competition. Alejandro had won a hundred bucks on that one.
He took off running, cocking the Remington as he moved. The vampire who jumped him five feet down the hall took a blast to the head. Alejandro vaulted over the disintegrating body, not wanting the acidic slime of decomposing vamp on his new shoes.
A high-pitched scream warned him of the approach from overhead of a deadly Mngwa, but he had a silver throwing knife at hand. One lethal toss later, a couple hundred pounds of mutant killer cat lay on the floor, blood gurgling out of its throat.
He skidded to a stop at the end of the corridor, not willing to rush headlong into a blind turn, and Mac called out to him again, his deep voice rough and strained. “Alejandro, if you’re coming, now would be a really good time.”
Alejandro instantly switched from student-taking-his-final-exam mode to deadly-predator mode. They had a code between them, he and Mac. They were only Alejandro and Maxwell to each other in the event of a dire emergency. Whatever faced Mac around that corner was no training-ground obstacle. Somebody had set a trap, and Mac was caught in it.
Alejandro was going to kick somebody’s ass for this one.
He dove for the floor, rolling to the side to protect the Remington, and did a modified army crawl around the corner. The natural expectation was to look for an enemy at man-height, not on the floor or the ceiling. It’s why the vampires and other supes who could climb down a building or fly always had the advantage. Nobody would expect a P-Ops rookie to come in at ankle-height.
Alejandro was far, far more than a rookie.
His first glance assessed the situation and told him everything he needed to know. A trio of wolf shifters surrounded Mac, and one of them had gotten in either a good swipe of his claws or a bite—Alejandro hoped it was only claws—and Mac was down and bleeding, his gun a crushed hunk of metal on the floor.
“Come out, come out, little human,” snarled the shifter who stood with one claw-tipped foot on Mac’s head.
Another was on all fours, his massive head hanging down near Mac’s struggling form. As Alejandro watched, that one’s long tongue snaked out as he licked blood off the side of Mac’s face.
“Yummy,” the shifter said in his garbled voice, and then he laughed.
It was the laugh that put Alejandro over the edge. Cool, clear-headed, Paranormal Operations training flew out the window. Hot, primal rage from years of battling murderous vampires in San Bartolo took over. He triangulated his shots in his head a split-second before he took them.
A couple of heartbeats later, three werewolves lay dead on the ground.
“Glad you talked me into that silver shot,” he said mildly, as if his partner hadn’t almost died and wasn’t now in danger of becoming a shifter himself.