Authors: A.D. Ryan
“About that,” Cordelia interjected. “The escape?” I tried to push the thoughts of vampire genocide away for a moment. “When they were bringing me back here, I pretended to be out of it.” I nodded, sitting forward, suddenly alert. “I overheard them saying they’d be pitting us against each other in a few days.”
I inhaled deeply, not because I was worried that I would be forced to fight Cordelia, but because in just a few short days, we could be on our way back home.
e waited. It was all we could do. Having been given a rough time of day from Bobby, I was able to sort of gauge where we were at as each day passed. In addition to that, I tried to listen to my body a little better. Over the course of a couple days, I was able to pinpoint when the wolf became a little more agitated, and compared it to how I’d felt in the past. I recognized these feelings as ones that usually occurred around sunset. I told myself to trust my gut, and it pleased me to know that I was finally channeling the wolf so easily. I might not have been able to shift, but I could rely on her to help me through this as best as she could from her submissive vantage point.
We hadn’t been taken from our cells since I was drugged and tested on. The only vampires we saw were the ones who brought us the silver-laced food I advised Cordelia to refrain from eating as much as possible. I felt a little weak and shaky without food, but I hoped it wouldn’t be much longer before we would be taken to this room. Not eating the food could almost guarantee we would be able to shift the minute I got the collars off of us.
As she grew increasingly more agitated, I wondered if she was worried about the escape, which was completely understandable. Of course, the idea of seeing her parents and the rest of the Pack after all this time was also a reasonable explanation for her behavior.
We slept a little here and there, but I think it was hard for me to fall into that restful sleep due to my deep desire to get the hell out of here. The way I saw it, there would be plenty of time for sleep once I got back home and could sleep in my own bed…with Nick.
Thinking of Nick made my heart hurt. I was loathe to admit that I refused to think about him often. Why? Because I couldn’t afford to be distracted. And thinking about him did exactly that. All I could do was think about how I left things, and how it was my unwillingness to act like an adult and talk through our problems that led me here.
Of course, I realized that if I hadn’t stormed off, we never would have found Cordelia. Every cloud had its silver lining, I guess.
Cordelia seemed nervous the entire time we waited, but not nearly as nervous as when I would slip out of my cell to explore—and she wasn’t the only one. I knew that the risk of getting caught by Bobby or his goons was very real, but I needed to get a lay of the land before I could feel confident in my escape plan.
Armed with large stones in my oversized pockets, I slipped out of my cage and moved through the dark hall. I honed my keen sense of hearing and smell to alert me should one of them still be lurking about, monitoring.
I opened the iron door that led to the observation rooms, slipping a rock in its path so it would remain open enough for me to make a quick getaway, should I need to. I made sure to leave my collar back in my cell, mentally preparing myself to shift should I get caught. Hopefully it didn’t come to that; I wanted to get Cordelia out of here and back to her family.
Each of the rooms was empty, so I continued on my way. I found the door that Cordelia had told me about, down the hall on the right, feeling the pull the outside world had on the wolf. My fingers twitched with the urge to go now, but I contained it. It was night; if we set off an alarm and there was anyone around to hear it, we’d be caught for sure. We needed to escape during the day to keep the vampires from following us outside. Without disengaging the lock, I tried inserting the two remaining keys into the lock. Only one fit, and I could feel the mechanism give when I jiggled it slightly. Pleased with this discovery, I removed the key from the ring and put it in my pocket so I wouldn’t risk fumbling with them when the time came.
I could have turned back, but my curiosity got the best of me.
Slowly, I crept forward, staying close to the wall, crossing one foot in front of the other as my hands trailed along the cold, rough wall. At the end of the hall was a staircase that curved around. I hesitated at the bottom, wondering and worrying about what I might find up there. I knew I should go back—common sense screamed for me to do it; I had learned what I needed to—but I couldn’t stop myself from taking that first step. Or the second. Or even the third. Soon, I was on the next level, creeping through the shadows to see what was up there.
On either side of the dank hall that reeked of death and decay were heavy wooden doors. I approached the first one and listened closely. There was no sound, so, with a deep breath, I pushed it open. I released the breath when I found the room unoccupied. In the center of the room, against the far wall, was a large bed. It wasn’t anything special, and there were no blankets on it. In fact, taking a look around, there was nothing more than basic furniture in the room. Nothing in here would indicate that the thing that occupied this room had a personality at all.
Probably because they didn’t; a personality would make them human.
I exited the room and kept searching the floor. All the rooms were the same, but when I reached the one at the end—the largest one—I recognized Bobby’s scent immediately. Again, nothing in this room indicated that my brother lived here. His room back home had posters of bands and girls on the walls, various sports ribbons and trophies adorned shelves… Here, though? Nothing. Just further proof that my brother really was gone, in case I still had any doubts.
Sensing the approaching dawn and not wanting to push my luck any more than I already had, I exited the room and headed back down to the lower level. They could be returning from their hunt soon enough, so I walked quickly through the hall, past the exit and observation rooms. When I crossed through the iron door, I pocketed the rock that had held it open so I could take it back to my cell and not leave any evidence of my adventure behind for them to find.
Cordelia had finally fallen asleep in her cell, so I closed my door quietly before slipping my collar back on with a scowl. I hated it, and I couldn’t wait to take it off for good when we escaped. The sound of the lock echoed in my cell as I lay down on the floor and tried to rest.
I was in and out of consciousness for hours, unable to keep my mind calm. When I heard stirring across from me, I looked up to find Cordelia picking at the hem of her pant leg. It felt like late afternoon, but I couldn’t be sure. Had half a day passed already?
“Tell me again how we’re going to do it,” Cordelia requested softly, and I pushed myself to a sitting position.
“Well, we’re going to wait for them to come for us. You said you heard them say it would be soon, right?” She nodded. “Good. We wait for that. When they take us to the room you were telling me about, I’ll take out whoever’s escorting us—”
“What if there are more than one of them?”
I smiled confidently and tilted my head to one side. “Wouldn’t be the first time I took out more than one of those bastards at once.” Cordelia seemed a bit shocked, but also mildly impressed, and she smiled. “Once we’re out, I’ll take the collars off and we’ll be able to shift.”
This gave Cordelia pause, so I prodded her to open up. “What if I can’t?” she asked. “I’ve never really shifted on command.”
“But you’ve shifted when the moon wasn’t full? When they took you to the rooms and removed the collar?”
“Y-yeah, I guess. I just assumed it was because I hadn’t turned in a while.”
“Okay,” I said gently. “Well,
you’re unable to, all we have to do is run. Hopefully they come for us during the day, or even with just enough sunlight to give us a head start.” Cordelia still appeared hesitant as we discussed the plans in more depth. I told her that I felt more confident now, having walked through the halls myself and finding the exit. I could sense her apprehensions alleviate, slightly, but something still bothered her. Perhaps it was that she thought we were on our own.
“Sweetie, I have absolutely no doubts that the Pack is combing this mountain looking for m—” I stopped to amend myself. “
. This will work, but I need your help. You can make the difference to us getting out of here.”
When I knew I held her full attention, I continued, telling her things that could hopefully help her control her wolf side the way that I sometimes could. “I know it can be scary, but you need to trust the wolf. When she wants out, let her. Don’t fight her. There’s usually a reason she’s fighting to be freed, so let her lead. You’re stronger when you work together.” Suddenly, the iron door down the hall opened, screeching across the stone floor. My heart thumped wildly, panic and anticipation fuelling it. I hadn’t expected them to come for us so soon, and had I returned even a few minutes later, all of my planning might have been for nothing if I’d been found out. I looked at Cordelia once more while checking to make sure the keys were in my pocket. “Remember what I said.”
Two vampires rounded the corner. One was the man who’d interrogated and tortured me the other day, and the other was a woman I’d never seen before. She smelled foul—dirty, even. It was then I realized she was new; I remembered Nick and Roxanne telling me that the newly turned vampires often smelled even more awful due to their bloodlust driving them more than anything else. She could be trouble, but she could also be the easiest to take out if she was hungry enough. I doubted she’d feed on one of our kind; I’d gathered from my limited experience with them that we were a less than appetizing meal choice.
The man went for Cordelia’s cage while the woman came for mine. This was it. It had to be. I was ready. The only question that remained was whether or not Cordelia was.
The female approached me, the cage door clanging against the bars when she pushed it open. Her eyes narrowed sinisterly, the left corner of her lips twisting up with malicious intent.
“What do you want?” I demanded. She grabbed my arm roughly, her nails digging into my bicep almost painfully. “Where are we going?”
She remained silent as she hauled me toward the heavy door. I didn’t go willingly, pulling back and slowing her down. I figured if I went too easily, they might know something was up. Ahead of me, Cordelia didn’t struggle, but she definitely looked scared. I knew she wasn’t faking it; her fear hung in the air around us all.
We went through the door, my vampire escort closing and locking it behind us, and then we were moving again. They pulled us past the doors to the observation rooms, just like Cordelia said they would. There was another corridor down at the end of the one we were in, turning left. The male grabbed his keys and unlocked the door before we were taken through it, and the second we stepped over the threshold, my skin hummed. The wolf was immediately alert, and I inhaled deeply, smelling the faintest hint of the fresh mountain air from when they’d come back in hours earlier.
We walked further, and I had to fight to keep from walking a little more eagerly. The door to our freedom was several yards ahead and off to the right. The smell of the crisp winter air got stronger with every step we took. When we were within just a few feet of it, Cordelia looked back over her shoulder, giving a gentle nod toward the door as if to confirm this was it. I nodded once in return before channeling all my strength into my upper body. With a loud roar, I yanked my arm from the vice-like grip of the vampire holding me and then grabbed her around the neck with one hand. Through my periphery, I saw the man holding Cordelia turn around. He snarled, tossing Cordelia aside like a limp noodle. She hit the wall with a soft
before catching her balance and standing up tall. The vampire grabbed me by the hair and tried to pull me back away from the woman I still held firm around the neck. She was struggling against my strength, her nails clawing at the skin of my arms.
I was able to ignore the fact that my hair was being pulled as my temperature slowly began to rise, activating the collar around my neck. I could feel the burn of the silver against my throat, and the gentle hiss of the nitrate being released into the air. I honed my focus, forcing the change to just my arms where I needed it right now. I’d done it before, and when I focused just right, the warmth spread through my limbs and the itch of the collar stopped immediately. I felt the pull in my hands as my fingers lengthened, and the tips of my fingers tore as my claws broke through the ends. The vampire I held looked at me with wide, terrified eyes as my hand tightened around her neck, and soon there was a snap before I disconnected her head from her body and let it fall to the floor.
With her disposed of, I was able to direct all of my attention to the other one. He still had a firm grip on my hair as I whipped around quickly, and I lost a small handful of hair. It stung, but my adrenaline made sure to keep me from really feeling it. I turned on him and found him backing away quickly. I didn’t realize it until a fraction of a second too late, but he lifted his arm and shoved his elbow through a glass plate and then reached in and pulled an alarm.