From CHAPTER SEVEN:
Cain bent over the couch again, checking the pregnant Whoun, Raina. There had been a sound, a scratching and clicking on the oak boards of his front porch. At first he'd thought it was Kyle and Tru coming back, but their boots wouldn't have made that kind of noise. And it scared him when it seemed that Raina heard the sounds too, and her eyes snapped wide. He straightened, lifting the shotgun whose stock had suddenly turned damp against his palms.
Raina sat up and Cain didn't caution her. His mouth was too dry, drier than his hands were wet. It was as if the vague fear that had ridden him all evening had crystallized and been projected as sound into the outside world. He took a short step toward the front door, cocking his head to listen.
The click, click, click came again. And he had no idea what it meant. He told himself that he didn't want to know. But now he heard it on the back porch too. Whatever it was, it surrounded them. An image came to mind, a noose tightening around a neck.
Raina stood and moved up beside him. Whether he wanted it to or not, her first steps identified for Cain the sound he was hearing. His living room was floored with hardwood and when the claws on Raina's feet touched over the planks they tapped like fingernails on Formica.
"Your people!" he blurted. But he said it quietly because he could see the tension that thrummed the female Whoun's body.
She shook her head. "Warkind."
"They hunt." She leaned forward, her mouth opened slightly and her nostrils flared, reading the air as if it were engraved with smells. "And... There's something wrong. I don't know."
"What do you think?"
"Their smell is wrong. Not natural."
Cain's spine shivered, and the shivers spread as the knob of his front door turned and then released. The door rattled but did not open. How long would the lock keep them out? Cain didn't know what a Warkind was, but if they were anything close to the size and strength of Raina then no lock would hold them long.
"Upstairs," he said. "Quick. First door on the left."
Raina's cramps seemed to have retreated for the moment and she moved swiftly to obey. Cain hurried after, thinking that even if the doors held there were windows to worry about. But at the head of the stairs stood a bathroom with a window too small for anyone to enter. That would leave only one approach to guard, and the Mossberg 12-gauge he carried was perfect for that task. It held nine 3-inch magnum shells and he'd loaded it with buckshot. At close range it would stop just about anything living.
Raina had almost reached the bathroom, with Cain a few steps behind, when all the doors and windows in the bottom floor imploded at once and the Warkind burst through amid a welter of flying splinters and glass. Cain spun around on the stairs with the shotgun leveled, and his first thought was that the gun wasn't big enough, 3-inch magnums or not.
Even the smallest Warkind bulked a head taller than Raina and outweighed her by a hundred pounds. They all had musculature that seemed too massive for their skins, and yet their movements were as fluid as well-oiled pistons. They were like triggers with the slack taken out of them.
Cain took a step backward, then another, whispering over his shoulder at Raina to get into the bathroom. He didn't dare turn his head to see if she obeyed. His attention remained riveted on the single Warkind who had smashed through the door and stood closest to the stairs. There were two more that he could see, and from the sound at least one had come in the back.
All three of the ones below were crouched and scanning. They seemed coiled to move in any direction and Cain had the sudden thought that they were expecting resistance. They didn't know he and Raina were alone, and that might work to split their attack.
He backed up another step and felt the floor level out as he reached the top of the stairs. Just a few more feet to the bathroom. He should have known it wasn't going to be that easy. The closest Warkind's eyes scanned in their direction and saw Cain even through the shadows on the stairs. Soundless it came, on all fours, in a blur so swift it froze Cain like a deer in a spotlight.
"Shoot," Raina yelled, and her hand snaked by his shoulder to flip on the stairwell light.
Brightness erupted, jerking Cain from his half trance. It did worse to the Warkind, dredging from it a single hissing squeal and making it stop and throw up its head as if in pain. That gave Cain the chance to pull the trigger on the 12-gauge. In the excitement he missed, blowing splinters from the oak railing of the stairs.
The Warkind reared on its hind legs. It hissed again, shook its head. The light hurts it, Cain thought. It can't see.
He pumped the shotgun to chamber a shell, which proved there was nothing wrong with the creature's hearing. It homed on the sound, locked in, and in a single bound seemed to explode in Cain's face. He pulled the trigger at point blank range, and nothing unarmored could resist that lead hammer. Flesh seemed to dissolve and flow, then erupt out from the sides and back of the thing's head. He knew it was dead before it fell backward down the stairs.
Cain chambered another shell. He had seven left and there were at least several more of the creatures below. He cursed himself for not having stuffed his pockets with extra bullets. But at least for the moment the Warkind seemed to be hesitating. He doubted it was from fear.
Cain felt Raina at his shoulder and pushed against her to get her moving again toward the bathroom. He took a step toward that sanctuary himself, and the lights went out. Cain's heart nearly seized. He'd almost forgotten that he dealt with intelligent creatures. They'd located the fuse box.
I can't handle this! Cain's thoughts shrieked.
"They're coming," Raina spoke into his ear, and though her voice cracked flat and low it seemed to go off in his awareness like dynamite. He fired into the blackness of the stairway, unable to see anything but hoping the spread of buckshot would stop whatever moved down there. The muzzle flash strobed the shadows and lit up emptiness.
They weren't on the stairs.
Cain felt Raina move away, heard her claws skitter faintly on the hardwood floor. And then there came a second noise, a whisper of sound as faint as a breath. It arose from Cain's left and he spun hard in that direction, swinging the shotgun to bear...