Authors: A.D. Ryan
With the air clear of his sleazy intentions, he opened my cage door while maintaining a firm hold on me. Now that I likely didn’t have to worry about him having his way with me, I thought back to my initial plan to escape as he led me down the dark corridor and toward the heavy iron door. I realized that this—even though I had no idea what to expect—could actually benefit me. By seeing the rest of the compound, I could better formulate a plan to get out of here and back to the manor. Plus, I now had an idea of his fighting strategy and felt confident that I could take him next time if it came down to it.
I couldn’t make this too easy on him, for fear he’d figure out what I was planning, so I continued to struggle, just not as intensely.
Beyond the iron door, it was a stark contrast to where Cordelia and I were being kept. It was bright, walls made of perfectly smoothed concrete or stone that had been painted white. It wasn’t inviting, by any means. If I had to describe it, I’d say it was bordering on clinical, with just a smattering of an underground military operation.
We walked past several metal doors. Curious about what might be happening behind each one, I strained my ears to try to find out. I didn’t hear anything. Were they empty? Which one had they taken Cordelia into?
Before I could determine anything too conclusively, I was being shoved through another door that looked like all the others. The collar around my neck seemed to tighten, almost like it was being grabbed or yanked, and then I stumbled forward a few steps. The lights in the room were brighter than in the hall, causing me to squint my eyes until they adjusted to the change. When I turned around to face the thing that brought me to the room, I was met with the slamming of the heavy door and an iron lock sliding into place.
My heart raced, pulse pounding in my ears again. I spun in circles, around and around, almost as though it would help answer all the questions I had. I noticed the mirror first, walked right up to it and tried to see what was behind it. I couldn’t, not even with my keen eyesight. I could smell them though, and if I really focused, I could hear them in there, shuffling about as they took in the show. I imagined them back there, snacking on humans like they were popcorn during the opening previews at the theater.
Cordelia’s voice replayed in my head:
“They watch. They take the collar off and watch me change.”
My hand went to my neck; it was bare. The collar had been removed. That was what he had done when he grabbed it before shoving me in the room. I glanced down at the ground for a moment before raising only my eyes in their direction. I felt rage and disgust coursing through my veins, but even more strongly, I felt defiance. I would
give them what they wanted.
stood in front of the mirror, unmoving. I stared into it, not recognizing the face staring back at me. My cheeks appeared hollow with malnourishment, my eyes sunken in from dehydration. My hair lay limp and stringy around my shoulders, greasy from not having showered in days, my skin was sallow—my skin was
sallow—and my once bright eyes were now dull and lifeless.
This was what captivity did; it weakened and disabled those who were meant to be free.
Angry, I narrowed my eyes, hoping I held their attention completely. I knew it was unlikely, but I wanted them to be afraid of me; to know they didn’t stand a chance and that I would end each and every one of them the second the opportunity presented itself.
Without thinking—mainly because it was a wolf impulse—my hand shot out, punching the mirror so hard it sent a vibration up my arm and down my body. It was the same hand I had used to punch the wall in my cell earlier, so there was a significant amount of pain that shot through me, but I refused to let the shock rattle me. I contained it.
It didn’t surprise me when the mirror remained unbroken; not even a crack marred the smooth surface. The wolf was not pleased by this. I sensed that it had hoped to find a weakness in our prison; truth be told, I hoped for the same. The only difference was my common sense knew we would have to be smart about all of this, while her animal instincts clouded her judgment. I would have to plot and scheme, finding any and all chinks in the armor.
I could do that; of that, I was most certain. Many years on the police force had heightened my attention to detail, and becoming a wolf had increased my senses and awareness. I knew I could hone both strengths and be virtually unstoppable. I just had to prepare and be ready to strike when opportunity presented itself.
Unable to stand still much longer, I backed away from the mirror and began to circle the room, taking in the institutional color of the white walls. I reached out and ran my hand along them, noticing the deep gouges in the cement that had most likely been caused by other wolves. Using a fingernail, I chipped away at the gouges, realizing that the walls were made of cinder blocks, based on size and texture. Not unbreakable, I was sure, but now wasn’t the time to test that. I needed to see as much of the compound as possible before I tested the strength of the foundation. How many vampires was I up against? Was there a security system? Which keys worked on which doors? Were there passcodes to be learned to get me from Point A to Point B? Fingerprint scanners?
That last one could pose a problem unless I mapped out every possible scenario. If I was going to be successful at getting out of here in one piece, these were all the things I would have to find out.
“What do you want?” I demanded loudly, throwing my head back and yelling at the ceiling. “Why am I here?” Pacing the sterile room, my eyes continually scanning my confines, I carried on, my questions soon turning into threats. “You won’t break me! And when my pack finds me? You’ll wish I’d killed you all myself.” I stopped in front of the mirror again, drawn toward it for some unknown reason. I looked through my reflection, tried once again to see who stood on the other side. Without realizing it, I raised a hand, pressing it to the unbreakable glass. Surely it was just my imagination, but soon the mirror felt cool beneath my touch. Normally, I’d pull away as the frigid temperature traveled up my arm, but that…that influence I felt before crept back in, and instead, my fingers curled, sliding along the mirror with a low squeak.
Something told me that I wasn’t alone. Someone was watching me. At first, I thought it was multiple observers, but I sensed it was really only one. I felt it right down to the marrow of my bones, and it made me shiver with unease.
Slowly, I backed away, letting my hand fall heavily to my side as I continued to survey the room. The more I paced the room and got no answers from my captors, the more bored I became. They were all talk and no action, I came to realize, and that I could handle. I’d killed their kind before—multiples at once, even. If these were Gianna’s lower ranks, how good could they possibly be if I’d taken out their all-mighty leader?
That one question led to so many others: How long would they keep me in here? Would they grow as bored as me and just take me back to my cell, or would they wait patiently until they got what they wanted?
My answer came approximately fifteen minutes later, according to my newly acquired nervous habit: counting. The door to the room swung open and not one, not two, but
vampires strolled in. Jason was one of them, and instantly, my hackles rose, muscles tensed, and I bared my teeth. I knew within that first second that I was wrong earlier; they would get exactly what they wanted, because they would manipulate the situation until they did. Just like Cordelia said they would.
I tried to control it, but as they surrounded me and closed in, I felt the change coming on stronger and faster than ever. In addition to that, I also recognized the signs that I was losing control. Accepting the wolf, like I’d grown accustomed to doing, was difficult in this stressful situation, and soon, it was like it exploded out of me, and everything else went dark.
Shivering, I awoke. My stomach flipped, and I licked my dry lips as I attempted to focus my eyes. It was bright, and I briefly forgot where I was. I likened what had happened to a bad dream, hoping I was waking up in my room back at the manor…
I was wrong. I pushed myself up, taking in my state of undress. Dazed, I looked around the room I was in. The familiar hum and burn of my collar reminded me I was a prisoner, and the white walls and the two-way mirror told me I was still in the observation room.
Feeling more than a little exposed, I stood up, trying to keep my breasts and lower body hidden from the prying eyes of these creatures, should they be watching behind the mirror. Scattered across the floor were the shredded remains of my clothes. There was no way they would cover me up now. As my mind became clearer, I noticed the new scratches along the walls and how there was blood and bits of fur and nail in them. The tips of my fingers ached with the memory of what happened, and I noticed that the skin was raw and healing.
Flashes of my transformation—quick and painful as the wolf practically ripped its way out of my body—played on loop in my mind. It wasn’t a slow and controlled change like the previous times; one minute I was in this body, and the next, I was a wolf. Thick, foul blood still coated my tongue from where I had latched onto one of my attackers and bit down hard. I smiled at the memory, wondering if the leech was off somewhere suffering before he turned to ash. Would my bite turn him to ash? From what I’d learned over the last couple months, I knew our bites were harmful to them, but to what extent? I remembered biting Samantha Turner as a wolf, but she hadn’t lived very long after that for me to witness what might happen to her. Honestly, I could only hope our bites were fatal.
My ribs and lower body ached, and I remembered being picked up and thrown aggressively into the wall. They took advantage of my dazed state, kicking me and hitting me while I was down. Thankfully, it didn’t feel like anything was broken, just sore. Thinking back, what they did to me didn’t scream “research”; I could only assume it was payback for humiliating Jason in my cell.
Behind me, metal scraped against metal, and then something slid across the floor. I whipped around, looking down, and I saw a haphazardly folded pile of clothes several feet away. They reeked of those vile creatures, but I accepted them over being naked and on display for
I quickly dressed, the pants a couple sizes too large and extremely unflattering like the last ones. They sat on my hipbones, which I noticed as I buttoned the jeans were bruised and jutting out. I didn’t remember them being like that when I awoke in my cell. I had sustained a pretty bad beating, but I vowed to not let it happen again.
After pulling my shirt on, I noticed the tremble in my hands, and my stomach growled, cramping almost painfully. How long had I gone without food now? Surely they had to feed me soon. They took every precaution to capture and contain me for some reason; my survival must have meant
to them, right? My only hope was that whatever they offered up for my next meal wasn’t spoiled like last time.
Muted rustling came from behind the mirror again, drawing my focus. I gripped my stomach again when the small opening within the door slid open again and a tray flew across the floor, hitting my bare foot. It embarrassed me to admit that I drooled a little as I crouched down and gave the plate a tentative sniff. I immediately picked up the traces of silver nitrate, but the huge slab of rare steak smelled fresh enough. Edible.
It wasn’t surprising they didn’t include any cutlery, so I picked up the slab of meat and took a bite. My tongue tingled, warmth spreading through my mouth as the silver nitrate coated it. It didn’t burn like pure silver, but it was definitely noticeable. In my current state of hunger, I couldn’t be too bothered by it. I knew that the nitrate would weaken me if they continued to lace my food with it, so I made a mental note to try and take in as little as possible while also eating just enough to keep my strength up until I could break out of here. It might keep me from shifting, but even Karl retained his speed and agility when he cut back on portions.
Shaking my head, I laughed under my breath at myself. Who’d have thought that animal might actually teach me something useful? Not me, that was for damn sure.
Right now, I just needed to eat. By the time the steak was gone, my entire mouth, including my lips, were slightly numb. It felt like I’d been shot up with Novocain.
When I stood upright, my head felt a little foggy. I realized the meat hadn’t only been tainted with silver, but a mild tranquilizer as well. Apparently I was too much of a threat without a sedative. I decided to try and dial back my aggressiveness a little so they wouldn’t feel the need to drug me every time.
Groggy, I slumped to the floor, but forced myself to stay awake. I assumed they would be collecting me any minute and taking me back to my cell.
Sure enough, the door opened, and Jason stalked back in, grabbing me by the hair and hoisting me to my feet. I raised my hands and grabbed his wrists. My grip was weak, and it only seemed to make him want to pull harder as he forced me back toward the heavy iron door that led to the cages. Before opening it, he shoved me against it and pressed his body to mine, copping a feel when he knew I couldn’t fight back. It was hard to believe this was the same man whose fiancée spoke so highly of his character after his death.
Instead of struggling—or attempting it—I remained motionless, looking around to see if there were cameras or any signs of a security system. Even with the drug-induced fog in my brain, I tried to pay attention to the hall. I noticed that all the doors had traditional locks. Nothing too fancy or state-of-the-art. This would work in my favor when the time finally came.
The drugs affected my sense of hearing, but someone said something that forced Jason to back the hell off. Even though it was probably his boss or someone slightly higher up than him and still sadistic, I wanted to thank him. But I was unable to. Even if I could, it wasn’t like my heartfelt gratitude would get me released from here.
I stumbled and fell to my knees inside my cell, the stone floor scraping them even through my jeans. The heavy cage door slammed shut behind me, and the key turning in the lock echoed as I turned around.
Jason sneered at me before winking. “See you tomorrow, mutt. I look forward to seeing just how much you can handle with that collar on.” I grimaced at his underlying implication, but swore I wouldn’t put up as much of a fight if it meant I could avoid being sedated again.