Wild Hunt - Kali Argent
“And you’re sure you feel okay?” Behind the wheel of her SUV, Mackenna Wade watched the white center lines on the two-lane road whip past her. “No headache, nausea, vomiting? You’re not bleeding from your eyes, right? Nothing like that?”
“I’m fine, Mack.” Jessica Juarez’s voice blared from the phone’s speakers and echoed through the interior of the vehicle. “Stop worrying so much.”
How could she not? According to the news channels, no one knew what the hell was happening, not doctors, scientists, or the government. They were calling it a virus, but no one really knew for sure.
Whatever was causing it, humans all over the world had been flooding into hospitals, clinics, and emergency centers, all exhibiting the same terrifying symptoms. It started with a headache and vomiting. Then came the fever. If one survived that, they could look forward to excreting blood from their eyes, ears, and nose before finally succumbing to the disease.
The only silver lining was that the victims didn’t suffer long. From the onset of symptoms to expiration lasted only hours, and so far, there was no effective treatment. Thousands of humans had already perished, and the death count continued to climb every day.
“They’re calling it the Purge,” Mackenna insisted. Well, her people—the paranormal population—were. The humans called it an apocalypse. “That sounds like something to worry about.”
“Whatever.” The slight tremor in Jessica’s voice belied her dismissive tone. “Where the hell are you anyway?”
“Actually, I’m not sure.” She’d been driving on the same stretch of bumpy road for hours, trying to make it back to her hometown before shit really hit the fan. “Hold on, I think there’s a sign.” The reflective green highway sign came into view, giving her the names and distances to the next three towns. “Looks like I’m about three miles from Salt Rock, Colorado.”
“I am not.” She’d exited the interstate to avoid the multitudes fleeing the big cities and had never quite found her way back. “I’m taking the scenic route.”
“Right.” Jess drew the word out sarcastically. “So, is that where you plan to stop for the night?”
“Uh, definitely not.” Mackenna had been on the road for nearly six hours, and she could feel every mile in the tight muscles of her neck and shoulders. Even if she had planned to pull over for the night, it wouldn’t be in a no-name mountain town with a population of just a few hundred. “I’ll stop for coffee at the next place I see. If I keep going, I can make it there before sunrise.”
She could practically hear Jess rolling her eyes on the other end of the line. “Relax. I’ll be fine.”
“Being a werewolf doesn’t make you invincible.” There was a long pause, followed by a heavy sigh. “Never mind. Just check in soon. Promise.”
“I promise.” Grinning, Mackenna reached toward her phone where it sat in a stand attached to the dashboard. “I’m hanging up now. I’ll call you back in a couple of hours.”
Without giving her friend the chance to respond, she pressed the circular red button to disconnect the call. Then, returned her attention to the current stretch of dark and deserted road.
Ahead, the sky illuminated with the faint glow of streetlights, and minutes later, a faded and crooked wooden sign announced she’d entered the Salt Rock city limits. She’d just crossed a narrow bridge over a slow-moving creek when her SUV began to shudder and veer to the right, pulling her forcibly onto the shoulder.
With her heart pounding into her throat, she gripped the wheel tight and slammed on the break, sending her vehicle fishtailing through the gravel before finally skidding to a jerky stop. Cursing under her breath, she fumbled around with the gear shift, placing the transmission in park before killing the engine.
Eyes screwed closed, hands still grasping the steering wheel, she dropped her head back against the seat as she inhaled deeply through her nose, then out through her mouth. She repeated the breathing exercise for several seconds until her heart rate returned to normal, and she felt calm enough to investigate. After checking for approaching headlights in both directions and seeing none, she exited the vehicle and walked around to the right rear tire.
Everything about the slate gray Ford Edge was new, only a few months old actually, right down to the blown tire. Anyone else might have taken her misfortune as an omen, a sign that things would only get worse. Mackenna saw it as a challenge. Tilting her head back, she glared up at