Her first breath of clean air burned Hailey's lungs. Her painful coughs were echoed سے طرف کی her fireman as he set her down in the cool گھاس past the درخت line. They were far from the heat of the house burning like a piece of paper incinerating in a bonfire.
"Ça va?" Aleksander managed after a few minutes, albeit hoarsely. "Are آپ okay? Did آپ get burned at all?"
The young woman shook her head, on her hands and knees as she took deep, slow breaths. Cool night air caressed her bare skin. She was grateful for her earlier judgement in leaving her stifling dress in the wine cellar and her even earlier judgement in wearing black laced underwear rather than something the soot staining her skin would ruin.
"I'm fine, Aleksander," she replied breathlessly. She raised her head and choked his name out again. Her rescuer sat close beside her in the grass. His suit, so carefully prepared to meet the Crown Prince, was charred crisp around his shoulders. She stared at them as they halted stiffly with burning breaths like her own. The soot stained his white hair a dark grey. Black coated his skin, smeared along his cheek bones and down his sharp jaw where smoke has caused tears to stream from his eyes. Hailey's own watering eyes were focused on his hands, dark red and blistering with burns.
"It took me a while to find you," he explained. His eyes stared back at her, clean crystals on his dirty face, narrowed سے طرف کی worry for her. "The Prince's car peeled out just as I got here...I assume he got out, possibly injured. But your car was still here. I looked everywhere for you..." he paused, coughing into his hand. Hailey suddenly threw her arms around him. She rested his cheek on his shoulder, the image of him tearing through a burning house for her forever seared into her mind. "Thank you," she murmured against his skin again and again. "Thank you, thank you..."
After a pause, she whispered, "Did آپ see him?"
"Who?" he asked, turning his head to look at her, but not pulling away.
"The man with the flame thrower." This time, Aleksander did pull away enough to see her face. His brows were furrowed in confusion, then, quite suddenly, an anger that lit his crystal clear eyes aflame.
"Those sons of-" He cut off his own words as his whole body tensed. He shifted to face away from her, staring into the dark forest.
"What's wrong?" Hailey whispered fearfully. Her hand gripped his arm.
"Go," Aleksander replied, getting to his feet. He helped her up. Barefoot, practically naked, she felt smaller than ever compared to his hulking frame. "Go, Hales, get to your car. NOW."
Without questioning him again, Hailey turned and scrambled back to her car. The house آگ کے, آگ raged on, heating her car from the outside in, but she didn't hesitate to yank the door open and jump inside. She reached into the دستانے, دستانہ compartment for her key, but found only her handgun.
"The key's in my dress pocket," she gasped, "Aleksander-" She turned to get out and stilled. Her savior hadn't followed. Instead, a massive, black furred feline much like a lion crouched at the edge of the درخت line, glaring at her. It's skull was mostly bare, exposing white bone.
The bonfire reflected in its hollow eye sockets. The smoke surrounding its body condensed around invisible muscles as it coiled to pounce, then exploded as it leapt. Hailey jumped back as far as she could into the car--
A blur intercepted the undead beast, knocking it out of the air. A vicious smashing of bones followed, then a harsh growl, then nothing. Hailey remained frozen, staring out into the night. Only after several minuted of silence did she lean آگے out the car.
Standing in the dark over its kill, stood a بھیڑیا taller than a horse and wider than a bear. The beast, its فر, سمور coated in ash, whirled around to face the woman. She stared back into his big, blue eyes. Her shock redoubled at the sight of the wolf's massive horns coiling back behind its ears.
Before Hailey could recover, the giant بھیڑیا stood, making her flinch. He paused to give her a moment as she regained her courage and stepped out of the car.
The بھیڑیا growled suddenly at something behind her, and she whirled to see another undead lion of smoke and bone prowl from the forest. It screamed at Hailey, who stumbled back, then quickly covered her head at the great بھیڑیا leapt over her head with unforeseen grace and barreled into the monster.
The young woman jumped up as the creature's bones were crushed under the force of the wolf's massive jaws. She opened her mouth to call to her thrice-savior. Only a scream made it out as a third creature jumped from the trees onto the wolf. Her guardian howled in pain, then yelped as another latched onto his leg. He threw himself against a درخت hard enough to bring leaves and limbs showering down, dislodging the monster from his back and its teeth from his shoulder muscles. The سیکنڈ stayed latched on, determined to tear its opponent's leg to pieces. The بھیڑیا whined, but focused his energy on snapping at the creature who had torn into his shoulder, corralling it away from Hailey.
In a moment of fury at her rescuer's pain, the young dhampir jumped back into the car. She snatched up her gun, cocked the barrel, and unloaded bullet after bullet towards the hide of the monster clinging with its teeth to the wolf's leg. It released after the third bullet shattered an exposed rib. Blood sprayed from the wolf's ripped limb, but he whirled around with unhindered speed to snap the creature's neck in half.
The remaining hellion screamed in rage. Responding to its call, two مزید of its companions leapt from the darkness. They cornered the wolf, cutting him off from the young woman. He limped back a step, paused, and began barking thunderously at Hailey. The latter stared at him, instantly remembering his orders to go, go, GO. Something deep in her womb, an instinct مزید than anything physical, responded to the commands, urging her to run. With tears in her eyes, Hailey took a step back, then turned and ran away from the monsters. She sobbed as she heard the lions' screams and wolf's howls clashing in a caucophany of fighting. Her barefoot slapping against the forest floor, stench of smoke filling her nose, Hailey sprinted until her surroundings became a blur, running away from the creatures to protect her life, her unborn child's life, and the life of the بھیڑیا fighting to protect her.