The sizzle of grass turning to ash was very loud, despite the heavy panting of the cats behind me, and Frankie’s quiet whimpers. I didn’t dare look away from the snake’s eyes long enough to check on her, my body tense as I waited for it to strike.

Slowly, Lila and Mugsy flanked me, their fur bristling and teeth bared as the snake towered over us.

Footsteps in the distance had my shoulders tensing. Sam and Devon had clearly caught up, but I hoped the snake couldn’t detect their arrival. We needed to separate Frankie from the creature before the others got to the clearing -- I didn’t doubt that, with one wrong move, the damn thing would take off with her in its clutches.

Y’know, for all that a giant snake could have clutches.

Beside me, Lila’s claws dug into the dirt as they crouched a little further, their shoulders tensing. I hissed at them, waiting for their attention to land on me before I shook my head. We couldn’t risk Frankie by attacking so blatantly.

Apparently, Lila didn’t fucking agree, because they immediately disregarded my orders and launched themself at the snake. Lila was fast, but the snake had already been primed and ready. It tightened around Frankie, drawing a sharp squeal from her, and dodged Lila’s attack, swiftly snapping its maw at their legs as they flew past. It missed, but barely.

Before Lila’s feet hit the ground again, the snake had gripped Frankie tight in its grasp and made its way deeper into the clearing. Its eyes flickered red and gold as it sank into the shadows.

Well, there was no help for it now.

Dirt kicked up as I twisted and shot across the clearing. Mugsy didn’t hesitate to follow, his form a yellow and black blur beside me. Evenly matched in speed, we reached the snake at the same time, and split from each other, flanking the creature. Mugsy pounced, his claws and fangs sinking into the vulnerable belly of the snake.

I fell back into a skid, snatching my blades from their sheaths, slicing deep into the iridescent scales, spilling viscous blood to the forest floor. As I came to a stop beside its writhing form, I stabbed the blades into its flesh, staggering their position to provide myself with makeshift handholds to climb.

Between my knives and Mugsy’s teeth, the snake reared back, its jaws open wide on an unholy shriek. It tried to coil tighter around Frankie, twisting to snap at Mugsy, who had locked his jaw.

“Bunny!” Frankie cried, her cheeks red and tracked with dirt and tears.

While the snake was distracted, I used my blades and climbed up, reaching out to grab her outstretched hand. We locked our hands together, and I tugged. I wasn’t the strongest vampire, but even I could rip someone’s arm off if I wasn’t careful.

Lila’s roar echoed through the trees, and the smell of the creature’s thick blood got stronger.

“Get me the hell out of here!” she said, trying to wriggle out of the snake’s tight control.

“Working on it, squirt,” I snapped. I let go of her hand and leaned in closer, wrapping my arm under hers and around her back. “Okay, deep breath.”

She sucked in air, her eyes scrunched closed.

I pulled.

And the snake moved.


We both went flying, hitting the dirt as the earth shook with the snake slamming itself against the ground in rage. I scrambled up, pulling Frankie with me, looking over my shoulder at the snake. It whipped its tail at Lila and Mugsy, sending them across the clearing and slamming into the trees and shrubbery.

Shit, shit, shit.

I hauled Frankie into my arms, wrapping her legs around my hips, and dashed to the edge of the clearing, in what I hoped was the direction of Sam and Devon.

I was right, but also...too late.

Sam and Devon came barreling into the circle of trees, out of breath and weapons out. Devon carried medical supplies on his back, and Sam had a gun in her hands, pointed at the ground. Sighting the giant fucking snake behind me, that gun was lifted up without hesitation and she fired several rounds at the creature.

“What the fuck is that?” Devon yelled, his eyes wide.

“Don’t worry about it,” I snapped, all but tossing Frankie into his arms. “Take her and get the hell out of here.”

He hesitated, clearly torn.

Snarling, I pushed him back. “Go!

With a nod, he gripped Frankie tight and disappeared into the trees. Snarls and staccato chirps almost drowned the sound of a magazine being released and replaced before gunshots resumed. As I turned back to the fight, I managed to register Sam’s rigid expression, her eyes laser-focused on her target as she continued to release bullets into its flesh.

Pure skill, and decent team training, meant she didn’t so much as clip the others as they continued to attack. The snake had clearly managed to clip the others with its teeth and venom enough that the scent of singed fur and human-ish blood reached my nose.

Bleeding from numerous holes the cats had made in its body, the snake continued to hiss and snap, slithering around the clearing to avoid further damage from their teeth and claws.

Before I could rejoin the fight, its eyes landed on me, red and gold flickering like a fluorescent bulb, and I watched it realize that Frankie was gone.

Its eyes went pure red.

“Aw, fuck.”

When did having red eyes ever mean good things?

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