All eyes trained on Raine as he shuffled through the crowd. They knew. Every last one of them knew. He’d cleaned his clothes, doing the best he could. Splotchy stains held on strong against the white fabric.
Each sidelong gaze sent his thoughts spiraling, his cheeks flushing with guilt. He slipped into his apartment building, eyes darting from one person to another. He ducked his head as he crossed the lobby, waving a hand to security and ducking inside the gold tinged elevator.
He crossed his arms, cradling himself as he stepped off the elevator. He froze at the sight of the destroyed door, the body crumpled by Oki’s vein, the crimson pooled at its base infecting the blue. His gut tightened, mouth dry in an instant.
They’d come for him already.
Unaware of his actions, he scooped up the body, unable to recognize the battered face. They’d taken their time, enjoying the massacre. The skin of her scalp, covered with sinewy strips of flesh, revealed their savagery. They’d taken a trophy. His thoughts tripped to Marise. His stomach dropped. Had he caused another death by leading her to his apartment? Was she still inside? Worse yet, was she in his arms. His stomach plunged further than he thought possible.
Something smashed inside of his apartment. Heat rolled through his chest.
They hadn’t left yet.
If she’d become his victim, the least he could do was avenge her.
Lowering the woman to the ground, Raine peered through the gap of his doorway. He crept forward, coming to stand at the frame. Glass exploded, wood shattered in his bedroom, providing a backdrop to the carnage ahead. Three men had fanned out in the living area, one in the kitchen, one at his desk, the third stood in the middle of the room. A wood bat tapped away at his leg in anticipation. His other hand cradled against his chest.
“Where are you, you little shit?”
“We’re gonna rip you apart!” The seether’s voice had enough charisma to push others forward, but not to instill bravery in himself. Their voices cascaded over one another, calling out obscenities, each one harsher than the last.
He eyed the room for any signs of Marise, saw an unfinished drink, the remnants of a sandwich, but nothing else.
Raine took two steps into the loft. The floorboards creaked beneath him.
The leader turned to the sound, swung the bat. Caught off-guard by the man’s freshly disfigured face, Raine raised his left hand defensively, misjudged. The wood connected with his fingers rather than his palm.
A scream pressed at Raine’s teeth as he exhaled. He retreated, leaning into the doorframe. He worked his fingers, mangled and useless. A strained laugh filled his ears. “We got ‘em, boys! Let’s see if Keir will understand this message.”
Dropping his bloody hand to his side, Raine smiled. The leader’s confidence dropped from his face. He wiped away a fresh stream of blood and attacked. Raine ducked under the broad stroke, lunged forward.
A hard smack filled the air as Raine slammed into the leader’s chest. Tumbling backwards, the leader collided with a table, thick wood cracking and splintering under their weight.
The wet sound of torn flesh hit Raine’s ears.
Raine shoved himself up with his good hand, staring into lifeless eyes below him. He blinked. A fragmented shard jutted from the leader’s ribcage, inches from Raine’s face. An oozing puddle formed beneath them, the bat rolled out of their grasp. Raine’s gaze followed the weapon, heard the stomping footsteps of two intruders coming upon him.
Without thinking, Raine grabbed the glass. Liquor splashed his ruined hand, setting the fingers afire, as he rotated the edge so he gripped its base. Despite the burn, he swung in a wide arc. It exploded with contact, jagged spires digging into flesh. Blood coated the cascading edges.
Raine released the base as it planted deep. Screams filled his ears. Darting to his feet, he aimed at the next intruder’s head but he ducked, then came around and struck Raine’s face.
Blood seeped into Raine’s eye but he continued forward. Kicking at the man’s knee, he struck true. The attacker let out a labored gasp as Raine connected with his jaw. He slammed into the wall and pitched forward, his head hitting the ground with a dull thud. A moan escaped the man as he tried to pull himself up.
Stomping feet above approached in a rapid crescendo. A figure vaulted over the railing, landed on his friend’s back. A loud crack filled the confined space. He stumbled off the body and looked back. He took two unsteady steps back into the wall, whimpered, “Oh shit, oh shit.”
As the last rushed down the steps, the lights from the vein of water highlighted the carnage all around him. Raine’s set his jaw, ready for the worst, as he stared down the last man. His eyes burned.
The man looked over the other fallen intruders. He whispered something unintelligible.
Confusion crept over the final intruder’s features, then anger replaced it.
Darting forward, the intruder threw his right fist. Raine sidestepped it. The man threw an elbow back, striking Raine’s jaw, throwing him off balance. The intruder tripped over a body, sending them sprawling to the ground. Pain flooded Raine as he tried to right himself with his bad hand, moving off instinct rather than logic. The attacker growled, grabbing Raine’s head, slamming it into the ground. Raine pushed away, the world swimming and fading from his view. Blood seeped from his chin in three successive drops.
Forcing himself up, Raine turned to see the bat flying toward him. Raine’s eyes flashed, the world lost color, and he shifted his position. Air roared above him as the weapon struck a column, burst. Raine turned as it split apart in slow motion. Each shard separated and fanned outward like they were caught in molasses.
Raine stood in one fluid motion, taking advantage of this situation. Raine grabbed the man’s arm, fingers digging into the flesh. The man screamed, then Raine jerked the arm, throwing him into a column. Snapping bone followed, dulled in the roaring air. As the intruder turned, Raine wrapped his hand around the man’s neck. The thump thump thump of the man’s heart screamed through his grip.
Raine lifted the last attacker and squeezed.