Authors: A.D. Ryan
“Never been better,” I finally assured her, pulling my hand back into my cell and looking a little more closely at the keys. There was one that was smaller than all the rest, so I used my left hand to feel the back of my collar. I closed my eyes and visualized what the pads of my fingers were telling me, and when I looked at the smaller key again, I realized that it was the key to unlimited transformations. Deciding I needed to know for sure, I blindly slipped the key into the lock. It fit. I took a minute to pray to whomever might be listening. I prayed that this key would disengage the lock on my collar and allow me to gain the upper hand. Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath and turned the key. All the air left my lungs when I heard the single click of the lock and the relief around my neck as the collar released.
I met Cordelia’s wide eyes once more to find shock reflecting back at me. “You ready to get out of here?” She must have been stunned, because she didn’t answer me at first. “Because we’re escaping tomorrow.”
e can’t,” Cordelia whispered. “They’d stop us.” There was a tremble in her voice that reminded me just how afraid of these sickos she was.
Before I replied, I listened closely. I needed to make sure we were alone before I started filling her in on what I’d been planning. When I didn’t sense anyone else’s presence, I held Cordelia’s gaze. “Look, I know you’re scared—so am I—but we will escape. We’ll wait until they’re dormant.”
Cordelia shook her head. “There’s always someone around,” she whispered, eyes darting around nervously. “They’ll never let us get away.”
“No,” I told her. “I’ve been paying attention ever since I woke up here. They stop coming around during the hours we’re left in here to sleep, then they come back and take us to the rooms. I don’t know exactly how long we’re left alone, but it’s several hours—more than enough time for us to break the hell out of here.”
I watched as Cordelia’s expression softened slightly, registering what it was I was telling her, then she contested me again. “They don’t all rest at the same time. Someone’s always around.”
Ready to argue with her on this, my mouth opened, but I immediately snapped it shut again; she’d been here far longer than me, so chances were she knew what she was talking about. Perhaps I was jumping the gun. I didn’t even know the entire layout of this place; how could I expect to get us out of here undetected?
Nodding, I slipped the keys into my pocket and kneeled on the floor. “Okay,” I told her. “We’ll wait. We can plan this together.” I paused, gauging her reaction. She still wasn’t convinced that this was possible. “But I’m going to need your help.”
Cordelia’s slumped shoulders lifted for the first time I’d seen. I’d made her feel important—necessary—something I was certain she hadn’t felt in quite some time if at all. “You will?”
My head bobbed again. “Absolutely. I need to know more about this place. Their habits, where the exits are, how guarded they might be.” I bit my lower lip lightly before releasing it, suddenly nervous that she wouldn’t have any of the answers we needed. “Do you think that’s something you can help with?”
Inhaling a shaky breath, Cordelia smiles. “Y-yeah,” she told me with a single nod. “I can help.”
We spent the next couple hours sitting in our cells while Cordelia told me everything she knew.
“I’ve never been outside,” she confessed. “But I’ve been near the exit often…usually when they take me to one of the other rooms.”
“Other rooms?” I was shocked to hear there were more than the ones I’d been to. “And you’re sure this door is an exit?”
“They’re not stupid enough to mark it, but I could smell the fresh air, and they don’t take me there often, but when they do, it makes me feel…different.”
My eyebrows pull together. “Different?”
“Yeah…my tummy feels weird, my heart beats really fast, and my hands start to shake.”
I understood in an instant: the wolf sensed the freedom of the outside world and wanted out. Smiling, I explained that to her. She understood and even looked relieved to know it was normal to feel that way. This also meant that this door absolutely led to our freedom.
“So, have you ever run outside as a wolf?” I asked, changing the subject for a little, hoping to keep her feeling comfortable. She shook her head. “Never? Well, I guess we’ll have to change that in the near future.”
Cordelia continued to tell me everything she knew about this place. She told me where this exit was located, whether or not it was usually guarded, and I learned that every door used only a key to unlock it. For a secret underground fortress, they were surprisingly minimalistic. This would work in our favor.
Unfortunately, escaping from our cells was sounding more and more impossible with everything I learned.
“They usually have someone at that door,” Cordelia explained. “Even when the rest of them are sleeping.”
I let this information sit for a moment while I tried to find a workaround; I failed. If we waited until we were taken to one of those rooms, only one of us would get out. Cordelia must have sensed my desperation, because she offered a possible solution.
“The last wolf they had here—Barry—they took us together sometimes.”
“Who’s Barry?” I asked.
Cordelia pulled her knees to her chest. “He was nice. Older, like my brother. I think he came from up North—near Slave Lake. He was always more worried about me than himself.”
“What happened to him? Why isn’t he here anymore?”
Cordelia paused, almost as if remembering a memory that was less than pleasant. “They’d take us to a bigger room, wait for us both to change, and then expect us to fight.”
“And did you?”
She shook her head. “Barry refused every time. It’s why he’s not here anymore.”
I shuddered, realizing the truth of what she was telling me. They’d brought another werewolf in here, put them together in a room, made them shift, and then expected them to fight one another. It was already a questionable situation, but then to kill a man for refusing to fight
…it was the cherry on top of an already messy sundae.
Her eyes rose from the floor and locked with mine. “It won’t be long before they put us in that room together. Barry was here almost a week before they put us in that room for the first time.”
I nodded along, wondering if there was any way I could speed up that process. The sooner I could get us close to that exit, the better off we’d both be.
Turned out, we wouldn’t have to wait for long.
Two vampires came for Cordelia a few hours later. She put up a fight as they hauled her from her cage, but it was no use. She wasn’t strong enough to fight both of them off.
I didn’t know where they were taking her, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before someone came for me. What they had in store for me remained a mystery. After my little chat with Bobby, I just couldn’t be sure. But I could be prepared for when they came.
It was unlikely I’d be taken to the same room as Cordelia, so I decided to stash the keys I’d kept hidden in my pocket. I looked around my cell until I found a crack in the wall from when I’d punched it the other day. It was the perfect size and just deep enough to conceal the keys until I would need them.
I had just finished hiding them when the huge iron door opened and I heard someone coming for me. Imagine my surprise when I watched my brother saunter toward my cage door and open it.
This time, I didn’t hold back the snarl I felt building upon locking eyes with him, and he only smiled as he reached into his pocket and withdrew a syringe. I glanced at the fluid in it for a moment, recognizing it as the sedative that had been used on me last time and not his blood. While I didn’t want to be sedated, a part of me was glad that this was not the day I would be used as his lab rat to test this whole hybrid nonsense he’d been spouting off about.
“Good evening, Brooke,” he said, finally tipping me off to the time of day. I may not know the exact hour, but I could use this as a rough estimate. Maybe I could hone the wolf; she’d always been pretty good at sensing the sunset on the day of the full moon. I bet I could use her to do the same any other day. Why hadn’t I thought of that earlier?
“What do you want?” I spat at him, moving to the left as he moved to the right. He’d left the cage door open, and while I hadn’t planned to escape right now, the wolf couldn’t let the opportunity slip by.
“I’ve come to escort you to the lab for a few tests,” he informed me. “To make sure you’ll transition successfully in the coming months.”
“I told you I’m not interested. I’d rather die.”
The smile that crossed his face sent a chill straight down my spine. “Well, that’s always a possibility with our little experiment, so you may very well get your wish.”
I was a foot from the cage door, and while I tried to keep myself from bolting toward it, the wolf wasn’t missing out on the chance for freedom. She bolted, but I’d barely made it out of the cage before Bobby’s arm was wrapped around me from behind and I felt the pinch of the needle in my neck.
He pressed his cold cheek to mine, his clammy lips grazing my skin as my body went limp in his arms. “Don’t worry, sis, I’ll have you back in your cell after we complete your little check-up.”
The voice I heard sounded far away, almost like I was hearing someone call for me while I was submerged in a pool of water. My brain felt foggy as I tried to focus on the voice, but every time I was called, the clearer the voice became. It was Cordelia.
Slowly, my eyes opened, and I groaned when I sat up, pressing the heel of my hand against my temple. It felt like a vice grip was tightening around my head, and I needed it to stop.
“Cordelia?” I said, my voice raspy.
She exhaled a breath of relief. “You’re okay. They brought me back to my cell and you were gone…then when they did carry you back in here, you were so out of it, and I could smell blood.”
“Bl-blood?” I asked, confused and unable to wrap my head around it. I sniffed tentatively and picked up on what she had smelled. I raised my hands and inspected my arms. In the crook of my right elbow was a small red dot. Someone had drawn my blood. I inspected the rest of my body, not finding anything. Was that what Cordelia had smelled? The wound was so small…but the smell was…
My stomach lurched as I caught another whiff of the dried blood on my skin and I ran for the corner of my cell and emptied the contents of my stomach. It was weird. The smell of blood had never done this to me before—especially my own. Hell, I’d managed to keep myself from throwing up whenever I caught the putrid scent of a vampire. The only explanation was that the sedative they used was making me nauseous.
“Brooke?” I groaned in response. “Are you okay?”
I spat and then held the back of my hand to my lips for a minute, feeling my stomach roll again. When I was sure I wasn’t going to get sick again, I slowly stood upright and turned around to find Cordelia looking at me, her eyes wide with concern.
“I’m fine, sweetie.” I smiled, hoping it was convincing enough. “I think the drugs they gave me upset my stomach.” Her head tilted to the left, eyebrows knitting together. She was eyeing me in a way that worried me. “What?”
Closing her eyes, she shook the expression off her face. “Nothing. I was just worried.” She paused for a moment. “Can you remember anything about where you were?”
I tried to, but the last thing I recalled was Bobby’s cold face pressed against mine. “No.” I held out my arm and looked at my elbow again. “But I think they took me to the lab. They must have drawn blood for whatever testing they need to run for their stupid project.” My knees trembled, and I succumbed to the feeling, collapsing to the ground.
I needed to rest some more. I needed to clear my head of the drug-induced fog so I could further plan our escape.
I leaned my back against the wall of my cell and turned my head toward Cordelia. “How are you?” I asked. “Did they hurt you?”
She gave a non-committal shrug. “Not really. They mostly focus on my transformations. Doing whatever they can to force it. I’m getting pretty good at it.”
I could only imagine the lengths these bastards went to to force a young girl to shift, and it made me angry enough to forget about my fatigue. “I’m going to kill them all,” I promised her. “Maybe not the day we escape, but I promise you, none of them will survive this fight.”