Night had fallen. Cool air brushed against my face as I stalked through the woods. The temperature had dropped since I first began my rotation. I pulled the sleeves of the black hoodie I wore over my hands to ward away the chilly night air. Eli’s scent floated to my nose as the fabric stretched. The memory of when I’d borrowed the sweater from him flickered through my mind. We’d been scoping out Drew’s house, planning our attack while hoping to rescue Violet and Glenn.
That night seemed like forever ago.
My gaze drifted to Eli. I took in his profile. His features were constricted, making him seem lost in thought. There was such a serious air surrounding him. While I knew the current situation called for a methodical mindset, I missed the ease of life we had before all this. How we used to roll around in bed laughing and doing other things. I missed cuddling on the couch while watching TV with Moonshine tucked between us. I missed the way things were before the Midnight Reaper and the death of his father.
Eli glanced at me. Either he could feel me looking at him, or he was able to pick up on the shift in my emotions. Being bound to Julian still meant he harbored Julian’s gift of feeling others’ emotions. It was getting on my nerves.
“You okay?” he asked. His hand reached for mine, and our fingers interlaced. I enjoyed the warmth of his palm against mine.
I nodded. “Yeah. I’m fine.”
Eli opened his mouth to say something, but Julian stopped walking. His hand lifted into the air, signaling we pause too, as his head tipped to the side.
Had he picked up on something?
“Do you feel that?” Julian asked.
“Feel what?” I asked.
“Sorry, but I was talking to Eli,” Julian insisted.
Eli tensed beside me. My wolf went on guard.
“Think it’s Roman?” Eli asked.
What were they feeling? Evil? Hunger?
Julian’s brows pinched together. “Most definitely.”
Music floated to my ears. Not just any music—high school band music. The beat of the drums echoed through the trees.
A thought came to me that turned my blood cold.
“The game!” I shouted. “There’s a football game happening tonight. The homecoming game. Half the town will be there. You don’t think...”
“Oh, yeah. My brother is definitely going to the game.” Julian scanned the woods. “How close are we to the high school?”
“Close. It’s just through the woods that way.” I started in the direction of Mirror Lake High.
I hoped we were right in thinking the guys had sensed Roman and that he was headed for the game. If so, this all could end tonight. However, a part of me also hoped we were wrong. There was a real risk people would get hurt. People I knew. My breath hitched.
Gracie and Cooper were supposed to go to the game tonight.
The conversation from earlier with them flipped through my head. I’d been walking Moonshine when I overheard Gracie say to Cooper she wanted to do something normal tonight. I’d thought she would be safe so I’d encouraged the two of them to go to the game.
Knots formed in my stomach, and I quickened my pace. If Roman was headed there, we needed to stop him.
The lights of the football field came into view as the three of us exited the woods. We rounded an oddly shaped building that had been a real estate office for as long as I could remember and continued to the sidewalk. I glanced around, taking in the traffic to my right while searching through the shadows for Roman. I didn’t want to miss him if he was lurking nearby.
A car horn honked. Laughter and the sound of car doors slamming floated through the air the closer to the high school we came. Murmured conversations and the drumbeat from the song the marching band played made its way to my ears. The line at the ticket booth wound into the parking lot and was filled with chatting people.
Practically everyone in Mirror Lake was here tonight—exactly like I’d thought they would be.
“Why would Roman come here?” Eli asked. “It seems like the last place any supernatural would want to be. Too many people are crowded together, and it’s so damn loud.”
“Why not?” Julian countered. “To a vampire lost to bloodlust, this is a buffet.”
My stomach flip-flopped. He was right. There were loads of people to choose from here. Young. Old. He could even have an entire group of people to feast on if he wanted, picking them off one by one. In a crowd this size it would be a while before anyone noticed someone missing.
Perfume from a group of young girls nearby clung to the breeze. It was sickeningly sweet. I glanced at them. Each wore too much makeup in an effort to appear older than they were, and their clothes were way too revealing.
Gran would have kicked my ass if I’d left home dressed like them. Actually, she still would and I didn’t even live with her.
A guy in his late teens walked by the group of girls as I stared. They batted their lashes and grinned after him like lovesick puppies. My lips curled. They would be such easy targets for Roman. All he would have to do is flash a smile and show them a bit of attention. They’d be eating out of the palm of his hand without him having to tap into his mind juju powers. Then, they’d be dead.
God, we needed to find him.
The three of us stepped in line at the ticket booth. Another group of girls who looked to be a little older than Gracie waited in front of us. I tried not to listen to their conversation while they giggled about some guy. Instead, I swept my eyes through the crowd around us. When a tall guy with dark hair and similar body type as Roman’s sauntered toward me, my wolf went on guard. Eli squeezed my hand, steadying me.
“It’s not him,” he whispered.
My gaze zeroed in on the guy’s face. He had a baby face—one way too young to be Roman. The kid was just tall for his age. And built. What the heck were his parents feeding him? I watched as he cut in front of us in line and realized the girls had been chatting about him.
My wolf growled.
The overstimulation of my senses from being in a crowd this large and excited was getting to her. Eli let out a slow breath, and I imagined it was getting to him as well. If not worse. After all, he was the one with empathic tendencies now, thanks to drinking Julian’s blood.
“I haven’t been to a football game in a long time,” Eli said when he caught me staring at him. His free hand smoothed over his face. “There sure are a lot of emotions flying around.”
“I wish I could give you some pointers on how to shield yourself from it all, but it’s hard to do in a crowd this size,” Julian insisted.
We moved forward in line.
“Do either of you sense Roman?” I asked.
Eli shook his head. He released my hand and smoothed both hands over his face. “I can’t focus.” He glanced at Julian. “Is he even here?”
“Oh, he’s here,” Julian insisted. “I’m just not sure where.”
Great. It was like a game of Where’s Waldo, but with a psychotic vampire hell-bent on killing people.
When it was our turn to pay for our tickets, Julian whipped out his credit card first. Eli didn’t seem to object. He was too occupied with pressing his fingertips to his temples to care. I let it slide too, but I did toss out a thank you. The tickets were overpriced, so he’d done us a huge favor by paying for them.
Once we bypassed the front gate and maneuvered through the crowd congregating near it, I resumed my search for Roman.
“You know your brother better than anyone,” Eli said. “In a crowd this size, would he stick to the sidelines or be in the thick of everyone?”
“It would depend on his mood. There isn’t a way to tell,” Julian insisted. He maneuvered around a group of teen boys fist-bumping one another and laughing over something. “We’ll have to search both.”
A girl screamed nearby, capturing my attention. My heart kick-started as I spun in the direction of her. Adrenaline spiked through my system only to fizzle out seconds later once I spotted her. She wasn’t in danger. Some guy had picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder. Now they seemed to be flirting with one another.
My wolf paced.
I tried to calm her down, but it did no good. She’d remain on high alert until we were out of here safely. So would I.
“That doesn’t help us much. We can’t just wander around aimlessly through all these people.” I pushed my way through a group of people talking. One of them shot me a nasty look when I accidentally bumped her. I ignored her as best I could. It was for the best.
“Maybe we would have a better chance of spotting him from a higher location,” Eli suggested. He’d stopped massaging his temples, but the look etched into his face indicated he was still having a hard time being in this crowd.
“So, head to the bleachers maybe?” I asked. It was the highest location I could think of.
“Good idea,” Eli said.
We started in that direction, but then Julian paused.
“Wait. I think I’m picking up on him again,” he said.
Eli positioned me behind him. “Me too.”
I scanned those around us but didn’t see Roman. However, I could feel someone’s eyes on us.
The sensation prickled across my skin. Where was it coming from?
“He’s close,” Julian insisted.
A whistle blew and the game started. People crowded around us, eager to take their seat on the bleachers or to gain a better view of the field.
Where was Roman? I still didn’t see him.
“There.” Julian pointed to my right. “Under the bleachers.”
I spun around, seeking out the area he’d mentioned. Shadows encapsulated the space beneath the bleachers, but I could clearly make out someone standing there. They leaned against the metal supports holding the bleachers up.
Roman stepped forward, coming out of the shadows. His arms crossed as a shit-eating grin plastered on his face. Arrogance oozed from him. For a moment I thought he was looking at Julian, but then I realized his eyes were on me. He winked and the words he’d said after taking Ridley flashed through my mind: I’d love to go head-to-head with you. You’re spunky and I find you interesting.
I shook the thought away, choosing to focus on the fact that we’d found him. Now, the question was: Would we be able to catch him?