“I do not want to kill you, Heinrich,” he breathed. His hair was tousled around his shoulder, spilling over Heinrich’s wet snout. The wolf was panting heavily from their short battle. The hot dog breath made Fane wrinkle his nose, and he could feel the ribs moving beneath him as the lungs made an effort to breathe.
Heinrich growled. Fane didn’t understand what he was trying to say.
They remained that way, trapped on the forest floor as the strigoi morţi and vârcolaci around them slashed and snarled at each other. An echoing boom made the trees shake and the reek of gunpowder suddenly tore through the cool calm of rain.
Distracted, Fane glanced up. The movement tore at the scratches on his chest, and he inhaled sharply against the pain. Before he could look around to see who had fired the gun—honestly, the fight had only just started—Heinrich snarled and kicked him off.
Fane tumbled back and rolled down a slight slope, coming to rest at the base of a large evergreen. Woozy, he pushed off the leaves and onto his fingers and toes, squinting through the dark.
Heinrich stalked toward him, tail swishing in the dirt. His lips pulled back from his long, filthy teeth as a low growl issued up from his throat.
Fane stared, waiting.
Saliva dripped from the fangs. Deadly teeth in a powerful jaw, ready to snap. Sharp claws, already proved to draw blood even from a vampires. Heavy yet agile. Fane was almost intimidated. Werewolves were worthy foes.
Or at least, Heinrich Abendroth was a worthy foe.
Just as the wolf was about to pounce again, Fane lunged and grappled him to the ground. The rain was picking up, washing the dirt and blood from flesh and fur. Heavy, muscled legs thrashed out, slicing claws in all directions. Fane snarled and rolled to the side to grab Heinrich’s flailing legs; the wolf’s filthy, matted fur pressed into the open wounds on Fane’s chest, making the jagged edges sting.
Heinrich wriggled away and snapped his drooling fangs at his opponent. Pain blossomed in Fane’s shoulder; thick blood pooled down his flesh and ruined shirt.
He had not been bested in a true fight in years, not since the 1970s, when he had been briefly killed by his father’s former friend, mind lost.
He leaped forward, batting Heinrich’s sharp claws and bloodstained maw out of the way. The wolf roared, but Fane dodged his next attack by feigning to the left, and leaped at his object of desire: his black frock coat, cast so carelessly on the leafy carpet, soaked by the waterfall of raindrops. In one quick motion, he bent and swiped up his coat, unearthed his revolver, clicked back the hammer, and aimed it at the approaching vârcolac.
“Silver alloy ammunition, Heinrich,” he hissed.
All around them, the strigoi morţi and vârcolaci still fought with snarls and awry gunshots, oblivious to their leaders’ halt. Rain soaked his hair, his shirt, watering down the coagulated blood on his chest and shoulder and sending it in thin rivulets down his stiff body.
The wolf stared at him, tail swishing over the damp leaves.
“Take one more step toward me and it shall be your last. That is a promise, Heinrich. You know I do not make empty promises.”