"Is that it?" Jacque asked as they all looked at the carnage before them. Burned and bloodied bodies of wild boars scattered the ground. Jen cringed when she saw Gavril in his wolf form, licking his muzzle.

"That was a test," Elle answered as she stepped from the shadows of the forest.

"More will come," Adam added.

"Okay, no offense, but you guys are kind of creeping me out with the monotone, short responses," Jacque told them as she turned slowly in a circle, her eyes bouncing from the sky to the ground and back again.

Adam walked over to the pile of knives, which had taken a dent from the battle. He held out his hand and muttered something under his breath and more knives appeared.

Jacque shook her head and snorted. "I would be a cow if I could do that and conjure cupcakes up anytime I wanted to in mass quantities like that."

Adam looked at her with his head cocked to the side. "Do cows like cupcakes?"

Jacque rolled her eyes and let out a loud breath, waving him off. "Never mind, Legolas. I forget that my sarcasm and witty banter is wasted on your pointy ears."

This time Adam was shaking his head, but he didn't have a chance to respond before the sky around them grew dark. The flapping of wings filled the air around them. The sky above them was pitch black, making whatever was flying invisible. As they all craned their necks back and narrowed their eyes, trying to pierce the darkness above them, Jen realized what it was they were hearing.

"Bloody hell, those are bats!"

The bats began dive-bombing the group. Gavril jumped into the air and snatched one in his jaws. He crushed it and spat it out, only to continue the process again. Adam and Elle were once again shooting fireballs and Rachel, Jen, and Jacque were holding their knife-wielding hands in the air, stabbing at anything that came their way. Wave after wave of the nocturnal creatures swarmed and dove at the group. Jen, Jacque, and Rachel had formed a back-to-back circle with each other so that none of them was left with a vulnerable side.

Jen didn't know how long it had been since the first of the bats, but she was beginning to get really ticked off. The ground was growing black, covered with the bodies of dead bats – which they were killing just as quickly as they could. However, with every bat that fell another replaced it.

"Is she breeding the damn things?" Jen yelled.

"She can command them to come from all over." Rachel spoke over the flapping wings.

"How long can this go on?" Jacque shouted over to Elle who, like Adam, had her back to a tree and was aiming her hands at the sky, sending flashes of light and balls of flame at the unrelenting bats.

"Until we're weak enough for her to kill," Elle answered honestly.

Chapter 27

"Vasile, you cannot wait any longer," Peri told him firmly. "You must call the other packs; you must remind them of what happened during the werewolf wars. They have to remember why a witch cannot get her hands on a healer!"

Vasile stood, staring into the dancing flames of the fire. He was still angry over Peri binding him and his wolves. Alina had kept him from doing anything stupid, but his wolf wanted to teach that Fae a lesson: you don't mess with an Alpha or what belongs to him. Alina had told him to look at the bigger picture and to get over himself. He'd snorted to himself and thought, not for the first or last time, that the American girls really were rubbing off on his mate.

"So you think I should call on them?" he asked her.

"You cannot defeat both Thad and Desdemona without their help."

He looked up from the fire at Peri. The stern lines etched across her forever-young face seemed to be deeper today. She held his stare and he knew she wasn't challenging him – she was imploring him.

"This battle will happen on my terms, where I choose." Vasile had read the history of the wars and knew it would be a tactical error to let his enemy pick the battleground or time.

"Then you had better ready your troops and begin getting your players into position." Peri held out a phone to him. Vasile took it from her and, without hesitating, began calling the Alphas from Hungary, Bulgaria, and Colorado as well. He brought them up to speed on all the happenings over the past four weeks and – with Peri barking in his ear – explained the possible outcomes if Desdemona and Thad weren't dealt with.

After an hour long conference call with the three other Alphas, it was decided they would meet at the Tavern in three days' time. That would give Dillon and the members of his pack he would bring time to get there. From the Tavern they would make the final preparations and decisions on where to mount their attack.

Vasile got in contact with Skender, who he had left in charge at the Tavern, and explained that the other packs would be arriving and that he needed to help Nicolae set up. A lot of wolves were about to descend on that small building.

Sally stood, wearily looking out the second story window from the room she had been sharing with Cynthia and Crina. She watched as the snow fell and blanketed the landscape – which, despite knowing it wasn't – looked identical to to her world. She was tense and worried, wondering what was happening to her friends. She was hurt that they hadn't confided in her that they were leaving. For the first time in the history of their friendship, Sally felt left out, like she didn't fit, and it hurt. She wiped the tear away that escaped her eye.

Suddenly strong arms came around her from behind and pulled her back against a firm, warm chest. She knew she should probably refuse his comfort – she was already going be nursing a broken heart when Costin lost interest in her – and she shouldn't encourage him, but she needed him. She turned in his arms and wrapped her own around his neck and laid her head against him. She listened to his heart beating and the slow, steady breath that made his chest rise and fall. Something in her reached out to him, craved him, and she was so tired of fighting it.

"Why didn't they tell me?" she whispered.

"They didn't want to put you in a position that would compel you to lie."

Sally pulled her head back to look up at his bright, hazel eyes. "Did they tell you?" Her voice revealed the hurt such a revelation would cause.

"No, Sally mine, they didn't tell me. But I've been around you three long enough to have an idea of how much you guys care about each other. They knew you couldn't go with them. My thought is that they knew Vasile would question you first and they didn't want you to have to lie to your Alpha."

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