Bulletproof Damsel by Amelia Hutchins

Chapter One




The headlights of an oncoming truck blinded me on the two-lane highway. Traveling at a steady pace, I was making great time over the passes, and through the backroads of Washington State, heading to the last place on earth I wanted to go: Home. I hadn’t been home in over five years, and while I’d missed it, I hadn’t missed fighting with my overprotective mother. I also didn’t miss the ugly argument we’d had on the day I’d left to join E.V.I.E. to fight on the right side of the war against immortal beings that preyed on the weak.

I could still hear her screaming at me, even though my memories were blank in places, something those at the E.V.I.E. compound had noted upon my entry. It was as if someone or something had messed with them, but there was no proof, so there was no reason to go digging into my head for more information since that was both dangerous and time-consuming.

Studying the mountain range ahead, I frowned, remembering how I found this place and thinking how perfect it was. I’d spent years moving around with my mom until we’d finally settled in the Inland Northwest, nestled high in the mountains.

It should have been safe enough, but she was fearful of being discovered, and it had driven me bat-shit-bonkers. My mother’s endless talk of the Van Helsings finding us and removing the threat we posed had driven me insane. She’d homeschooled me, forcing me into a life where I had no outside contact with anyone. Not until I’d finally run away and discovered an entire network of creatures that hunted down bad guys.

At seventeen years of age, I’d done what any other teenage girl would have done. I joined an army-type hunter’s guild that secretly kept humans safe from the otherworld creatures. I had gone through years of rigorous training, learning how to hunt and bring down immortal beings.

By the age of eighteen, I’d mastered weaponry classes and graduated as a hunter. By twenty, I’d become the head weapons master of the Pacific Northwest, and created tools used to hunt our enemies without the body count of agents being a factor. I had done things most adults hadn’t accomplished in their entire lifetime. Of course, my mother hadn’t seen it that way.

She was the reason I was coming home today. She’d failed to answer mine or my sibling’s calls for the last two weeks, which was unlike her. I turned off the highway and headed up the old gravel road that led deep into the woods. I cursed, hitting deep ruts in the road with the expensive Audi I’d loaned from E.V.I.E. to return home.

Living in Seattle inside the bunker, I didn’t need an expensive car, let alone own one. Driving in Seattle was crazy enough, so thankfully, we had drivers who took us where we needed to go, and everything else we ordered online. It reduced our chances of being caught outside the company, but they also liked us to stay close in case the need to relocate occurred. Luckily, that was something that had only happened once since I’d joined.

Pulling up in front of the cabin, I narrowed my gaze, inspecting my surroundings. The rocking chair on the porch lay on its side. The windows had shattered, apparently from the inside since the light from the headlights revealed glass outside.

Swallowing, I frowned, chewing my bottom lip as I reached for the glove box to pull out the handgun stashed inside. Slipping it into the holster on my hip, I retrieved the flashlight from the middle console before grabbing my phone as I slid out of the car.

At nine o’clock at night in the woods, it might as well have been a blackout. The sliver of light from the moon offered nothing to help me see the footpath to the cabin. At the door, I pushed my phone into my pocket and clicked on the flashlight, noting the salt line in front of the door was disturbed.

“Mom?” I called, praying she answered, and it had just been a spell that had gone awry.

Silence met my call. I shook off the sensation of unease as I slowly stepped into the house, turning on the light switch. Nothing happened, which caused my frown to deepen. My feet crunched over broken glass as I moved deeper into the house, withdrawing my gun, and pointing the business end to where the flashlight shined.

The cabin wasn’t huge, but then my mom bought it because it sat on the ley lines that made our magic more potent when casting. It boasted of a large, open front room, kitchen, and small dining area with two bedrooms and a full basement converted into an armory. Shining the flashlight toward the kitchen, I found the table smashed into two wooden pieces, the scent of rotting food and magic assaulting me.

Ignoring the signs of struggle, I walked on shaky legs into the bedroom, opening the door with my foot. I took in the disheveled bed and broken picture frames that covered the surrounding floor. Tears pricked my eyes as I turned, moving toward the one other room in the house, clearing my old bedroom, and the bathroom.

Whispering a prayer to the witches of old, I heard the sound of salt scraping over wood as it recreated the barrier around the house. Slipping my gun into the holster, I dialed my oldest sister. The call went straight to voicemail, and I muttered my message before hanging up.

“What the hell did you do, Momma?” I aimed the light around the floor, before lifting it toward the wall, finding silver bullets pebbling the plaster along with blood spatter. “That can’t be good.”

I ran my fingers over the bullets in the wall, brushing them over the dried blood. My phone chirped, scaring the life out of me, and I frowned at my response, rolling my eyes as I answered in a singsong tone.