There were miles of trails in every direction, and Haden needed to find Caylee now. He never should’ve let her out of his sight. Slamming the car door, he moved quickly, allowing his finely honed tracking skills to lead him. The warm, muggy air reeked of old blood and decayed flesh. Surely, despite being human, she could smell it, couldn’t she? He grumbled unintelligibly; questioning her ability to detect the presence of danger was senseless. It was his responsibility to guide and protect her. What pissed him off was that he’d told her to stay out of the forest and now, deliberately defying him, she was jogging directly into the path of a vicious predator.

Haden stopped. The vampire was hunting again. Swinging his head to the left, he clenched his jaw, drawing his lips back in a soundless snarl. All senses on alert, he scanned the ever-darkening interior of the forest. Standing completely still, he was silent, barely even breathing, focusing on the vampire, studying the creature’s venomous thoughts. He felt the ferocious, relentless thirst for blood driving it far beyond a state of madness. He felt its depraved anticipation for the kill. Then, Haden saw the vampire's intended prey. “Caylee.” Absolute fury welled up, stirring the deepest, darkest portion of his essence, the dragon, the living force of destruction feared by even the most powerful, deadly immortals. A deep, ominous growl, a promise of swift, violent retribution to the undead pursuing her, rumbled in his throat as he expanded his mind to pinpoint her exact location. But he felt nothing. No hint of her location.

Terror instantly replaced fury. It slammed into him so hard and so quickly that he did what a fearless, unfaltering immortal never resorted to doing: he panicked. Heart pounding, he took to the sky, ripping the atmosphere apart, creating a thunderous boom while an enormous mass of black, swirling clouds that completely covered the sun hid his ascent. As he traveled with supernatural speed, he covered her with a hedge of protection, but he quickly realized that he still didn’t know where she was. His heart stopped. With his enormous power and strength, he’d never experienced fear or doubt in his ability to defeat adversity of any kind. But now with her life in jeopardy, fearing he wouldn’t reach her in time, he froze.

While he plummeted toward the ground, lightning exploded all around, violently crisscrossing the sky. He landed hard, jarring his bones, but ignoring the pain he remained on his feet. Lifting his face to the heavens, he closed his eyes and expanded his mind to search for her. Caylee, where are you? Normally, nothing ever rattled him to the core. He was utterly unshakable, but not now. Show me! He didn’t have the strength to wait for her to answer or to willingly open her mind to him. Sending forth a brutal current of power, he forced his way into her mind.