The Night Before Dead

By: Kelly Meding

(Dreg City Book 6)



Prologue


If you'd have told me a week ago that I would be sitting across a conference table from an elf, about to listen to what he had to say, I'd have told you to go to hell. Might have even punched you in the mouth for good measure. Elves had been nothing except trouble in the brief period of time that they'd been a part of my life.

An elf set me up to die. An elf tricked my boyfriend into making a bargain that traded his free will for my life. An elf tried to bring a demon across the Break and into our world, which would have been a complete and utter disaster. I don't trust elves. And vampires, of all similarly untrustworthy creatures, helped us stop that particular elf.

Now our vampire allies have fled the ranks of the Watchtower—the initiative of humans, weres and vampires that try to protect the city from the darker races—leaving us at half-strength. Erratic half-vampires were rising in numbers, the Fey were plotting against us, and there was enough dissention among the thirteen Therian (shapeshifters) clans to keep everyone involved in the Watchtower on their toes.

I used to think my life as a Dreg Hunter was complicated. That old life is a fucking fairy tale compared to life as I know it right now.

The conference room was our War Room in the Watchtower—which isn't really a tower at all, it's more of a metaphor. We'd overtaken the skeleton of a defunct mall and revamped it to provide housing, training rooms, a cafeteria, showers, and a gymnasium. An obstacle course was under construction in one of the old department stores, and I couldn't wait to see that finished.

At the moment, work was at a stand-still while we dealt with the elf on our shelf.

Okay, so we he was sitting in a chair at one end of the conference table, surrounded by three guys with guns.

Like guns can do much against a fucking elf. Tovin plucked a bullet from the sky.

This particular elf was as calm as Tovin had been insane. Brevin, as he called himself, had been brought to us by one of my dearest friends in the world, Phineas el Chimal, an osprey-shifter who'd left us almost six weeks ago to seek out others of his kind. Brevin wasn't what anyone expected him to bring home as a souvenir of his travels.

Phineas towered over Brevin, who was about the size of a middle-schooler, skinny as a rail, with white hair and pointed ears. His sharp eyes didn't seem to miss a thing, and he’d been exceptionally polite about being asked to spend the night in one of our jail cells. Apparently Phin had explained our last encounter with an elf, and Brevin didn't seem to mind the fact that we were terrified of him.

Not that we'd ever say so out loud.

"We have quite a lot to discuss," Astrid Dane said. The co-leader of the Watchtower, she stood at the far end of the conference table with Gina Kismet on her left. Astrid was a spotted jaguar shifter, and had been leading the Watchtower since its inception. Kismet was a human, a kick-ass fighter, and had only stepped into the role when the vampires left and Adrian Baylor (another human ally and co-leader) was killed.

I didn't envy the pair their positions, and I certainly didn't want to be in charge. I was a soldier, not a captain. Point me at something and I'll fight it. Ask me to make a plan of attack, and we're probably going to be in trouble.

"We certainly do," Brevin said. His voice was deeper than expected, considering his frail shape, and carried a kind of authority found in few creatures surrounded by their mortal enemies. "Thank you for hearing me out."

"We trust Phineas's judgment," Kismet said.

I held back a smile, impressed she hadn't sprained something admitting that.

Okay, so most of we humans in the Watchtower still had trouble admitting we trusted the Therians. As Hunters, we'd been trained to distrust nonhumans on principle. Period. They were bad, we were good, end of story. Except our lives had too many shades of gray for that philosophy to stand, and now we were allies with the very creatures we once hunted.

Weird, huh?

I never expected a shifter to be my best friend and confidante, just like I never expected my lover to be half-Lupa. On my left, Wyatt Truman observed the scene without comment. Born completely human, Wyatt had been bitten and infected by a Lupa over a month ago. Lupa were wolf shifters and thought to be completely extinct, killed off by other Therians because their bites could infect a human and cause them to go insane from fever before dying a painful death. Wyatt nearly died from his bite, but in surviving, he was forever changed.

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