Excerpt: Hunter by Blood

The attack had come out of nowhere. To Kayn, it felt like finding himself in the middle of a nightmare without remembering falling asleep. The werewolf, one of the truly gigantic kind, had bitten deeply into his left shoulder, almost severing his arm. The pain spreading instantaneously in his body had robbed him of most of his senses, and after that, his memory was wiped out.

How he had possibly gotten out of the situation was a riddle. All he knew was that he was currently lying stomach-down on his bed with a fever and the worst pain he ever had endured. The knowledge that he had gotten himself into quite a mess was like a bitter taste on his tongue, making him want to throw up out of guilt. He had always been a diligent yet careful hunter. But this one time he had been careless—and the punishment for this carelessness had come immediately.

A hand brushed along his neck, feeling like ice to him. It had a familiar roughness to it—that calloused quality many hunters’ hands possessed. One of the other hunters had found and brought him there, or so he assumed. Kayn coughed into the pillow, his stomach twisting and turning like he was on a ship in a heavy storm. He was nauseated, on the verge of losing consciousness once more. But some stubborn voice in his head refused to let him slip into the embrace of sleep.

“Kayn? Can you hear me?”

The soft voice close to his ear was familiar. Through the thick haze clouding his mind, he recognized the man sitting by his side as Bryce Anderson, a fellow hunter as well as a friend and rival to him. That Bryce’s usually so cheerful and loud voice could soften into a worried whisper was something completely unexpected and strange to Kayn.

“Hey.” Kayn’s voice was raspy and shaky, nothing like the smug tone his voice usually carried. “What the fuck happened …?”

“Well, I guess you remember that this damned beast attacked you. I found you and brought you back to your apartment. I have to be honest, though. The bite went too deep, Kayn.” Bryce’s voice quivered with something Kayn assumed was regret. “You’re infected.”

“Thought so. The damned rotten dog was lurking out there for me. He was waiting for a single mistake or moment of distraction to attack me.”

Bryce remained silent while Kayn broke into a violent coughing fit. Kayn was aware that it was a wonder they were talking at all in that very moment. He should have transformed already, considering how deep the bite had been and how long the infection had been spreading in his body. At least in his experience, it took mere minutes for the infection to take effect. But he was aware, if in pain, and he was completely human.

However, soon enough it would become difficult to claim he was a human being any longer. Kayn was very much aware of that. Even through the haze of the strange fever, he knew that at some point he would no longer be seen as a full human. Maybe Bryce was already considering him a threat, though if he did, it wasn’t really showing through in his behavior quite yet. One way or another, the situation was going to change, and he would have to deal with a beast within himself.

“Get some rest, Kayn. You look like hell.”

“I know. But I don’t feel like I’m able to sleep.” Kayn coughed into his pillows, grimacing. “I rather feel like I’m burning up and that I’ll be up soon with too much energy.”

“What …? Kayn, you’re not making any sense.” Bryce looked completely confused. “Hell, you were bitten by a damned werewolf. You should be half dead by now and turning already!”

“Sorry for not obeying the rules, but I’m serious. I’m starting to feel better.”

Kayn wasn’t any less confused than Bryce. But at the same time, he had the feeling that things couldn’t have happened any other way. It possibly had to do with his past, with his childhood. Memories he had chosen to suppress and banish to some remote part of his conscious mind. But memories couldn’t be eliminated, and they were still influencing him. Maybe it had to do with the most obscure part of his family’s heritage …

He slowly pushed himself up with his right arm, cautiously testing the movement in his left shoulder. Big mistake; it hurt immediately when he only slightly moved it. His left arm felt numb and useless, which was both unsettling and creepy. Considering that he was lucky to have even been alive, Kayn didn’t complain about it. He was more concerned with figuring out what in the world had happened to make it so that the infection wasn’t taking effect as it should have.

“Bryce, we need to see the boss about this. This is freaking me out.” Kayn tried to remain serious without falling into panic. However grateful he was for still being aware, he was beginning to freak out inwardly over the unnatural pace of the whole situation.

“That’s weird, coming from you; usually you’re the most stoic person I know.” Bryce even snickered quietly, despite the grim situation.

“Very funny. I’m not stoic.”

“You have no clue, Kayn, believe me. But all right, let’s go. I’ll drive; you still look like you saw a ghost.”

They didn’t talk on their way to headquarters. Bryce was a little tensed up with the knowledge that a potential werewolf was sitting next to him, or so Kayn assumed. He couldn’t really blame Bryce. He would be just as anxious if he were the one to have witnessed such a scene. Merely imagining what it must have looked like to Bryce was giving him goose bumps.

Assuming that the attack had gone down like any other, Bryce would have found him in a puddle of blood. He had seen many bite victims before, so he knew how horrible it looked when finding one of them, especially when they weren’t aware of their surroundings any longer. It was bad enough if someone was crying in pain because of a bite, but it was much more horrible to find someone completely motionless and possibly dead. Maybe Bryce had assumed him to have been dead already, until he’d felt the weak pulse beneath his fingertips. From that moment on, everything would have been a question of time and the proper action.

Kayn had always hunted on his own, and it only worked out because he made countless preparations for virtually all of the possible scenarios he might encounter. This one instance, when he wasn’t careful enough, Bryce had been there to rescue him. And he was grateful for that. Kayn knew that, if there hadn’t been anyone close by, he would have been mauled to death by a raging werewolf.

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