Wrecked: Chapter 1 & 2
I’m really excited to post the first two chapters of Connor’s and Ember’s adventures. Scroll down to read here, or download it to your e-reader device here. https://dl.bookfunnel.com/m1k32ylau2
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© Karen Tomlinson 2020
My strike wasn’t hard. I had no stomach for hurting this spindly, strange-looking fae who cowered against the wall. This clearly wasn’t the first time he’d been beaten. The male trembled like a leaf and tried to protect himself with his long thin upper arms.
With my wolf’s strength to draw on, I could break him into pieces without thinking twice, but that wasn’t my goal. My eyes narrowed on the tiny barbs my weapon had left in his skin. The spiked metal glinted in the dull light of the twin fae moons before they burrowed further into his turquoise skin.
I sighed and stood to my full height. Placing my hands on my hips, I stared down at him. This fae was just doing what his master had ordered. Like many of the lower castes in the Summer Kingdom, he had no power and was repeatedly beaten into submission. I could see the old bruises on his arms and neck. Whatever bastard owned this blue-skinned, yellow-eyed servant did not treat him well.
I narrowed my eyes on him. “Who’s your master?”
He peered up at me. His throat bobbed. “I-I can’t tell you, Yellow. He’ll kill me and sell my family to the traders.”
I flicked my dyed-blonde hair off my shoulder. Normally I plaited it so it was out of my way, but I didn’t bother today. My lead on Walker, the fae who betrayed my family and me, had come to nothing again. I curled my fists and took a deep breath. The disappointment meant mundane things like my hair were easily forgotten. My target watched me with wide eyes as I quickly braided the stuff out of my way. I had to agree, it did seem a weird thing to do when I was supposed to be threatening him. I shrugged. My work involved a lot of fighting, and these days we often had to run from the fae authorities. It would just get in the way. I suppose I could cut it off, but Connor, the guy I grew up with and the only person whose opinion mattered to me, had loved it, so I wanted to keep it even if I did have to disguise its normally bright red colour.
“Fine. Get lost. But if I catch you sniffing around this place again, your boss won’t get a chance to end you. I’ll do it myself.” I infused my voice with enough venom to make the threat believable. I hated the hierarchical system in Faerie. It was like going back to the middle ages on Earth.
“Whoa, Yell, you can’t just let him go. He knows where our stash is, and if he knows, so does his master.” Blue, who was my friend, and the most awesome, bad-assed bitch I could have as my partner, looked at me like I was crazy.
I yanked the tall, ridiculously thin fae up from the ground. He swayed a bit, a sickly sheen covering his skin as I straightened his clothes. I made a show of smoothing down his silk waistcoat. He obviously worked for one of the disgustingly rich high fae families.
“What’s your name?” I asked, knowing full well he wouldn’t give it to me. Names held too much power in this land. But Blue was right; we couldn’t afford for him to go spreading word of where we hid our stash of digitalis. The petals, leaves and roots of the plant we knew as Foxglove were worth a fortune here in Faerie. Blue and I dealt in the sale and distribution of the plant. It was deadly to humans, but to the fae, it had opiate-like effects that they paid for handsomely.
We’d been dealing here for four years now, but rather than the authorities managing to catch us and shut us down, we just got more creative and always evaded them. It was a dangerous career choice, but definitely worth the risk to our lives. Though it was more than the riches, which I never really spent, that made me continue with this unlawful existence—it was the challenge and the fact I got to search for Walker. I loved evading the cunning and powerful fae royal families. We’d been dealing within the borders of the summer realm for about a year now. Rumour had it that it wasn’t just the Summer King who was out for our blood but the High King of Faerie: the Winter King.
Fortunately, the threat of capture didn’t matter to me. I had nothing beyond this life. No, I’d lost everyone I’d loved years ago, so there was nothing to hold me on Earth. I went back because we had to go there to resupply, but other than a good Chinese takeaway and perhaps an occasional McDonalds, there was nothing there I wanted. I did, however, have a reason to be in Faerie. I was still searching for Walker, and I always would, until either I caught him and ripped out his heart, or I reached the end of my days; which, courtesy of my mother’s gift, would not be for a very very long time. My nostrils flared, my anger still as raw as it was the day Walker left me and the man I loved to the mercy of our enemy. Except they didn’t have any mercy.
I tilted my head and contemplated the spindly fae. The last thing I needed was to free someone who could ruin our business here. When I was eighteen, I’d struck a deal with Somnelaire, the Bogwart fae who was our boss. I got thirty percent of the profits from our Faerie drug deals. But it was the chance to hunt for Walker that drove my success and gave me purpose. Our illegal portal between Earth and Faerie was nearby, and if that were found, we’d all be in deep shit. Som had no loyalty to anyone but himself. I didn’t take offense; it was just the way fae like him were made. Nothing personal. If necessary, he would run to save himself and hang us out to dry. Both Blue and I knew it.
The spindly fae pressed his wide thin lips together, his eyes glowing eerily.
I contemplated the little device I held between my finger and thumb. My leather jacket creaked as I shrugged. “Fine.” And I pressed the button.
The fae squealed, his body going rigid and jerking. His eyes rolled back in his head and spit dribbled down his chin. I kept my finger on the button long enough that when I released him, he fell to the ground, still twitching when I squatted next to him. I inhaled the sweet smell of summer grass and sunshine that surrounded us, and grinned, though I didn’t really relish this side of my job.
Carefully, I brushed strands of silken hair from his sweating face and kept my voice hard. “I can keep doing this, you know. But if you give me your name, and your master’s, oh, and definitely the name of the person who told you about our store, I won’t press this itty bitty button anymore.”
He pressed his mouth together and shook his head, looking so scared I felt sorry for him. The poor bugger was stuck between a rock and a hard place; me or his vicious master. I pressed the button again, I had to make a point; we had lingered here too long.
The stink of urine hit my sensitive nose and my wolf grumbled, her dislike of my harsh treatment of this creature a feeling I didn’t relish—at all. She had been mistreated by her past host and I had promised never to disrespect her like that. I hadn’t, but she still hated when I had to get violent. Hush. This is necessary if you don’t want me dead again. I might get reborn, but you would end up on your way back to the Mother Wolf. She huffed her disapproval but settled, leaving me to do my job.
I took a breath but kept up my cool, drug dealer facade. “Just so you know, those little barbs in your skin can’t be removed. They just burrow right on in, and if you try to dig them out or disturb them, they will release an overdose of digitalis serum and you’ll die. Understand?”
He nodded, his eyes wide enough that black surrounded their solid yellow center.
“Good. Now what’s your name? Come on, don’t be shy. I promise I have no idea how to turn a name into any kind of faery magic.”
He studied me, his wide eyes staring into mine. “Waib.”
I smiled, but not necessarily in a friendly way. “Hi, Waib. Now, who’s your master? And I know you can’t lie, so let’s make this less painful for us both. Just tell me and we can save a lot of time.”
I looked at the egg sized device again while Waib turned an ugly shade of purple. Having spent the last four years of my life breaking the law in the land of Faerie, I knew this was his version of going pale. I made a show of lifting the device and pressing my thumb on the button that would bring those barbs to life again.
I tilted my head, sending my plait swinging over my shoulder. “Damn!” The Voltair caste were closely related to the Winter King, I was sure of it. It figured high fae like them would abuse their staff and force them to do their dirty work. And they were so extremely vocal about condemning drug use, even for good reasons like pain relief. It really shouldn’t surprise me that they’d be so hypocritical as to send their staff out to buy those same drugs for their own use.
I held back a snarl. “Thank you, Waib. Now, who told you about this place? Your master is clearly very well off; a high fae of the royal bloodline. And seeing as our store and dealings are under the radar of the fae guard, even the Summer King, how did your master find out? We’re miles from the Winter Kingdom.”
Waib blinked and sat up. “My master told me about this place. He bid me to spy on you and try to steal a sample, but I don’t know how he found out about your…er..store.”
“Really? Well.” I shoved a little packet in his pocket. “Tell him this is on the house, but if he or you, ever breathe a word of this location to anyone, I will take great pleasure in ripping your throats out. Do I make myself clear?” My voice was as cold as my glare, as I let my wolf show in my eyes.
Waib nodded, his fear a bitter scent up my nose.
“It’s true, this servant knows nothing, it was an anonymous tip to my father. So you can stop torturing him now because you won’t discover the answer,” said a deep, commanding voice.
Blue and I both cursed together.
I flicked the switch on the barbs and poor Waib started to fit and thrash on the floor. It was not a pretty sight. I swallowed hard, knowing I had just made him our distraction. Looking down at him I mouthed, “I’m sorry.”
“Let him go, drop your weapons and surrender to us. Do that, and I will let you live.” The voice came from the shadows of the forest, colder this time. In fact, I could swear the temperature had dropped a few degrees. I shuddered.
Blue slapped her hand against the stone of the cliff. “No fucking chance.” Instantly, a shield of energy slammed down in front of us, stretching from the mouth of the cave, which was our store, to a thicket of thorn bushes on the other side. “That’ll only hold them for a few minutes, I’m afraid. Whoever that is, might let us live, but it won’t be a pleasant existence.” She pulled her weapon. “And I am not getting stuck in Faerie as a human slave.”
A beautiful man stepped from the shadows. His blue, waist-length hair gleamed and his form-fitting armour moulded to his powerful, yet elegant body. My jaw dropped. He was gorgeous. He grinned like he’d heard Blue’s words, though his startling pale green eyes were as cold as ice. He drew back his hand. Ice green magic swirled around his fist before he released it. Power exploded across the shield, erupting like a thunder crack as the two forms of energy connected. He directed a snarl right at Blue, before bombarding the shield again and again.
My faith in Blue’s talents was normally unshakable; after all, my partner-in-crime was the cleverest person I had ever met. But right then, saying a prayer to the Mother Wolf to save our arses seemed like a good thing to do.
Blue’s bobbed blue hair swung as she turned to face me. Behind her, more fae guards stepped from the shadows, all dressed in battle armour, and all carrying beautifully crafted bows. Fae weapons were infused with magic, but they were made all the more powerful by their own brand of technology. And these had to be royal guards, their expensive and elaborately etched armour a huge calling card.
My heart slammed against my ribs.
“Damn it! They’re not summer fae. That armour isn’t like any I’ve seen before, and we’ve been to every kingdom except Winter and the dark fae in the Orth Kingdom.”
“Shit!” Blue’s face blanched.
“We need to get to the portal. Now! That fae’s magic is also far stronger than any other fae’s I’ve ever seen. Come on!”
Blue glanced over her shoulder at the small army now approaching.
The fae commander stopped on the other side of the shield and fixed his gaze on Blue. His lips stretched into a cold smile. “You’re mine, human.”
Blue rolled her eyes and gave him the finger. “In your dreams, motherfucker.”
Even in this dire situation, I had to laugh. She had the biggest balls of anyone I knew. “Yep! Let’s go. He’s got too much of a hard on for you to risk fighting it out.”
Blue nodded and winked at him. “He surely does.”
Keeping my weapon in my hand, I jumped over Waib’s twitching body, knowing Blue would follow. We sprinted into the dark forest towards the stinking bog that Som had used as a landmark to form his portal.
There was a huge explosion behind us.
“Damn! That guy’s already destroyed the shield. Jump!” Blue yelled.
Together we leapt into the swirling portal. My wolf growled as power tried to rip her spirit from me. Fire—my other spirit, the one that hibernated deep inside me, didn’t like my wolf’s distress, not one bit. My first wolf spirit had returned to the Mother Wolf when I was eighteen. Fire and I had sacrificed her to give me a chance to escape the people who had taken Connor. Now I housed a lovely white wolf, one I had taken from a murderer that very same day. Fire never liked travelling through the bridge between worlds. I sensed she couldn’t tell whether my human body was dying each time I did it. I had to admit, leaping from Faerie to Earth, and vice versa, was painful enough that I could believe my soul was being ripped from my flesh. My lungs squeezed so tight I couldn’t breathe, and an icy cold seeped into my bones, reaching so deep I was sure it was trying to freeze me from the inside out. With a yell, I battled the effects of the portal and fought to keep my wolf inside me. She whined and dug in her claws.
Blue watched me carefully. She was totally human and had no shifter power to control in the portal. The lack of duality made it as easy for humans as it was for fae to go through the portals.
The tarmac of Som’s lockup loomed ahead. My feet slammed into the ground, but I had done this hundreds of times, as had Blue. We hit the ground running, and I held my weapon out steady. It was programmed to stun, the setting that had taken Waib down. With my thumb, I flicked it to kill and ignored my ebbing discomfort from the leap as I turned to face the portal.
If that fae showed his face, he’d get a bullet between his teeth—no matter how gorgeous he was. I doubted even a fae like him could move fast enough with his magic to stop it.
“No, Em! You go and find Som! I don’t know where that slimy shit has gone, but something doesn’t feel right. He’s normally here by the time we get back, waiting to shut the gate down!”
Blue grabbed another gun from behind the storage crate where we hid extra weapons and stood with her feet apart, a weapon now in each hand, trained on the swirling vortex. Her stance was solid, and her expression fierce, ready to take down anything—or anyone who came through.
I didn’t want to leave her, but she was right; Som was never absent. My eyes drifted to the storage building across the yard. Underneath it was our escape route.
“Fine! But if that fae is the next one through, you shoot him between the eyes and then run! You hear me? He’s got an army at his back, and we don’t.” I grabbed another weapon.
Blue flicked her attention to me and nodded her agreement. “Go!”
I held one gun in each hand and ran up the rickety wooden steps of Som’s place. My stomach clenched, but I forced myself not to look back at my friend. I knew deep down she wouldn’t run; she was even more stubborn than me.
Not one for carelessness, I stopped and pressed my back against the wall. Slowly, I opened the door of Som’s warehouse office. My senses sharpened. He never left it unlocked.
The stench of blood and bowel contents hit me first. I wrinkled my nose as my guts fizzed and bile splurged my throat. Grimacing, I swallowed the vile stuff back down and made my way inside. Carefully, I missed the squeaky floorboards and crept down the poorly lit corridor.
The stench of death grew stronger.
Something dark and evil slithered against my skin. I shuddered and peered back over my shoulder. Nothing but shadows. My wolf whined, urging me to run. She was right. If that smell was anything to go by, Som was already dead and I needed to get back to Blue. I cocked my head and listened with my shifter hearing. There was no sound of a fight and no gunshots from the yard. And Blue would fight—if she could. That thought spurred me on towards Som’s office. If Som was dead, I needed to know so that I could grab my emergency bag from under the storehouse in the yard and get the hell out of here.
My heart thumped a fast, erratic rhythm, and my palms were sweating. The last time I had run for my life, I’d lost everyone I loved. But Som wasn’t my family, he was just a Bogwart fae who had been banished from Faerie. He worked under the radar of just about everyone and could glamour better than any fae I’d ever seen. I’d worked with him since my parents died when I was six, and I had to survive in London’s back streets. Surprisingly, he’d been the only one I could trust to hide me when my foster family had been betrayed by the very agency they’d all worked for. Doherty, the director of the Supernatural Bureau of Investigation in Britain, and the man I suspected had killed them, had always wanted something from me. I didn’t hang around to find out what; instead I hid here.
I crept down the dull corridor, my footsteps near silent, my breathing controlled. A droplet of sweat ran from my hairline down my neck and spine. My wolf snarled, wanting me to let her out. I was sorely tempted to do just that, but I had a feeling being dexterous enough to use my weapons would be more useful than fangs and teeth.
The stink of death became overpowering. I froze and took slow and controlled breaths, just like I learned in my time as a trainee SBI agent. If Som was dead, his killer might still be here—which also meant the portal couldn’t be closed.
Shit… That put Blue at more risk. The fae could come through and cause havoc in this world. And a portal open for longer than an hour would mean Doherty would be alerted. The SBI sensors would pick up the portal’s energy surge, and he’d send a team here to close it.
Adrenaline coursed through my blood, sending my heart rate skyhigh. Blue and I needed to get out, right now. Fire uncoiled, sensing my anxiety. She pushed against the walls I’d locked her behind, but I ignored her, just as I had since the day I’d left Connor to die. Instead, I nudged my wolf forward just a little. She responded, and I gritted my teeth as my bones stretched, making my ears and claws grow. I stopped well short of a full shift, just needing her heightened senses, and though she grumbled at me, she complied.
I paused and strained my ears. Nothing. No sound. Just the wind shifting around the outside of the building. The hair on the back of my neck rose. It was eerie—and wrong. Som always had some kind of crazy heavy metal banging away in the background. He said he found it relaxing.
With the guns clutched in my clawed hands, I edged down the corridor. Taking a deep breath, I tensed my muscles and kicked open the door to his office. Instantly, I retched. Not even my stomach could ignore the blood and body fluids painting the floor and walls. In the moonlight that streamed through the small, dirty window, the bits of skin I could see appeared dark, like Som’s. I had no idea if it really was the bogwart or not, as Som’s little gang of fae creatures all had blue, purple or grey skin when in their true form.
I spun in a circle, expecting some kind of enemy to still be there. It didn’t help my nerves when the room appeared empty. Something had done this, something strong—and vicious. The office had been trashed. The metal filing cabinets were ripped open, huge jagged gashes torn through the sides. Whatever had done this didn’t have the pure magic or knowledge to undo Som’s fae charmed locks, so they had gone for the pure muscle method of getting in. Papers were strewn over the floor, covered in blood and other grim stuff.
I had no idea what the thieves were looking for, and I didn’t want to know. Som’s dealings were not legal—in any world. His glamour worked on humans to hide his drugs and magic, but not on shifters, SBI agents, or on other fae. Maybe that beautiful fae that had found us had actually found Som first.
“Blue…” I whispered, my heart racing. The floor was slick with congealed blood, and my boot sole slipped as I pivoted. There was no time to even blink as the shadows came to life. Red eyes burned through the darkness. My wolf snarled, and so did I. Recognition hit me. This thing had darted and drugged Rawson. Rawson had been a powerful alpha bear, yet it took him down in a heartbeat.
Run… urged my wolf. I roared through my surging memories, pushing down my fear.
Red eyes moved. His body was huge, almost too big to be human or even alpha shifter, but still he was quick.
I couldn’t see him clearly, so there was no way I could fight him and win. I knew that for sure because this bastard had caught me before, right after he’d caught Rawson. Reflexively, my forefingers squeezed on the triggers of the guns I swung in his direction. Bullets fired in quick succession. The force vibrated up my arm, but I held them steady; it wasn’t the first time I’d fired my weapons.
I didn’t wait to see what happened. I ran. I could shift into another form, but Blue couldn’t—she was totally human. Even if she was one of the best and most cunning fighters I knew, she’d need my help.
I sprinted back down the corridor using my wolf’s speed. It wasn’t fast enough! Footsteps pounded behind me, getting closer. I burst out of the door and rammed straight through the banister rails into mid air. I twisted as I fell and fired up at red eyes. His body jerked as the silver bullets slammed into his flesh, and he toppled after me.
Dammit! There was no time to turn or shift to save myself. All I could do was force my body to relax and hope I bounced on the pile of rubbish that was always under the steps. I blinked once, then hit the mound of boxes. Pain slammed through me, but my bones didn’t break.
Red eyes fell towards me, bellowing.
“Shit!” I rolled sideways, an arm outstretched. And fired.
There was a heavy thud, and the bellow cut off.
I pulled my wolf back, arched my spine, flipped to my feet then launched into a sprint towards Blue. My friend had her arms outstretched and her guns held steady, pointing towards the portal.
“Blue!” I yelled. “We gotta go!”
She didn’t even turn her head.
My wolf growled, the sound echoing inside my skull.
“Blue! What the hell? Run! Now!”
Nothing. Not even a twitch. My blood ran cold. I reached her and skidded to a halt. Her face was like one of those freaky china dolls, utterly blank—almost translucent in the moonlight.
I froze and stared. “Blue?” My voice was barely more than a whisper. I had no idea what was going on, but it was bad—very, very bad.
She was totally and utterly frozen. My heart hammered against my ribs and my wolf howled. Run! Run! But I couldn’t leave my friend. Her deep brown eyes suddenly flicked my way. She blinked rapidly and her pupils dilated. Desperate noises came from her throat.
“I can’t!” I glanced back at red eyes who unfolded his body like a predator. Not shifter then; if he was, my bullets would have killed him. He straightened with powerful grace and precision and stalked towards me. Keeping my eyes on him, I curled my fingers into Blue’s jacket and shook. But even shaking her hard had no effect. She blinked and blinked until a tear fell from her right eye, blazing a path over the soft pale skin of her cheek.
“Blue! Snap out of it! Whatever magic this is, fight it! I know you can!” I shook her again. Blue blinked even more rapidly. She was right, I had to go.
Gods damn it! It was happening again! I was going to have to run—alone. Only this time there was no Som for me to run to.
“Move!” I yelled at Blue, shaking her viciously.
“It’s really no good,” said a smooth voice; one I’d had nightmares about for years.
I yanked my hands back.
“Neither of you are going anywhere.”
I spun and faced the man who had taken everyone I loved from me. Doherty was still as smooth looking as ever, dressed in an immaculate grey suit and shiny shoes. Grey peppered his hair, and there were more lines on his face, but his jawline was as hard and sharp as it ever was, as were his eyes. They glinted as he looked me up and down.
I swallowed hard, praying Som’s glamour held. With my dyed blonde hair and altered appearance, perhaps he wouldn’t recognise me.
Doherty frowned, but there was no recognition on his face. Hatred churned in my gut. This man had taken Connor from me. On instinct, and in a move I’d repeated over and over in my head, I raised my gun and pulled the trigger. There was a blur of movement in front of me. I didn’t wait to see what it was, I launched into a sprint only to slam into a wall of muscle. I bounced back, the air knocked from my lungs. There’d been no one there; only space. A fist in my belly dropped me to my knees.
Coughing and spluttering, I raised my gun—only to freeze.
Rawson loomed above me, his body stuck in Were form—a half shift. His face was a grotesque mask of hair and teeth, but I’d know those eyes anywhere. They’d once held such kindness, such spirit. Now they were utterly empty, as if his deformed body was there, but his soul was gone.
Pain tore at my chest, tears burning my eyes. He wasn’t here…he was dead. I’d grieved for him. I swallowed over and over. This couldn’t be happening. My mind whirled with what this meant. Could Connor be alive, too?
Red eyes stood next to Doherty. He held his right arm out straight and opened his clenched palm. A bullet fell to the ground, pinging as it hit the concrete.
“Now, now, settle down. There is no escape for you. My men surround this place. Besides, you’ll not be missed by anyone here and I need females. You’ve been sold to me,” Doherty said.
I peered up at red eyes, unable to even look at Rawson. I didn’t believe Doherty had a whole army here. He was working under the radar again, and I was his captive—only this time he didn’t realise I was the girl who’d escaped his clutches four years ago.
“Our intel told us we were waiting for the murderer of the proprietor to resurface—and you did.”
That got my attention. My head jerked, and I gave him my full attention. “What? I didn’t kill anyone.”
Doherty shrugged. “Well, someone killed those fae up there, and you seem like the best person to blame. Either way, if you try and run, not only will you die, so will your friend.”
I swallowed my fear. I could possibly shift and rip red eyes a new one, I might even be quick enough to kill Doherty. But Rawson? He’d be faster than me, and he clearly had no control over his mind. If he was told to kill me, he would. And what about Blue? She was human—and she’d been bespelled; she couldn’t run. My gaze slipped to her, and I ground my teeth.
“That’s right. She will die.” Doherty stepped aside, allowing me an unobstructed view of the portal. My stomach sank.
The beautiful fae glared back at me, no hint of softness in his face. “It’s true, I can end you both for entering my world without permission. You are both mine now.”
“Oh no, no, no, that’s not the agreement, Prince B’nar. This one is mine. The crime of murder far outweighs trespass and drug dealing.”
Prince! Shit! I looked at Blue, hoping he wouldn’t take her. High fae were powerful, but those with royal blood were the most powerful, the most cunning and definitely the cruelest fae around. For someone like him, compelling her and controlling her body would be child’s play.
The fae prince snarled at Doherty. Magic swirled around his arm, and he eyed the director with such coldness I prayed the man might drop dead from it.
B’nar looked at Blue, then back at me. I tried to hold that powerful gaze, but it was hard even for me. My wolf cowered from the weight of his power and dominance.
“In the interests of peace between our worlds, I will allow you to keep the dealer known as Yellow. This one… this Blue… comes with me. She will await trial, at my pleasure, for crimes against my people and the laws of Faerie.”
It could have been my imagination, but I was sure Doherty’s shoulders relaxed a little. Whichever fae prince this was, he was a threat to the director, maybe even our world.
The director gave a small nod towards me.
I glanced up at Rawson, searching for any sign of the man beneath, ready to plead for my life, but it wasn’t him who moved. Red eyes raised a familiar looking dart gun. I didn’t fight. There was no point. A dart pierced my neck. Pain instantly burned through my body, ripping through my cells. With a gasp I dropped to my knees and the ground tilted as I pitched sideways. My wolf howled and thrashed to get free, but she was imprisoned in my paralysed body. I watched through heavy lids as the tall fae snapped his fingers in front of Blue’s face and she dropped to her knees. She must have completely lost control of her actions, but she managed to meet my gaze. We were both in a bad place, but we were fighters, so no matter what happened now, we would survive. I tried to let her see I would get out. “I’ll find you,” I whispered. Her swallow was answer enough.
The fae made a summoning gesture towards the portal, and two armoured fae stepped through. They grabbed Blue, hoisted her under her arms, and dragged her into the vortex.
The fae didn’t even glance back at me. He merely stepped into the portal and disappeared, the portal closing behind him.
My breathing was quick and shallow as I stared impotently at the empty space. The only faerie, besides Som, I’d seen summon and disperse a portal had been Walker.
Strong hands gripped me and flipped me onto my back.
My vision blurred as my heart slowed, and my wolf became silent. Sensing my body shutting down, Fire flared through my blood; a defense mechanism as the prelude to death.
Red eyes squatted beside me, blocking my view of Doherty and Rawson.
“Don’t.” He shook his head, and his hand gripped mine, absorbing the heat from my body. Red flames flared in his eyes. “The drug will not kill you, and he doesn’t recognise you. Keep her hidden, don’t give him your secret, or your life will get far worse.”
I gritted my teeth and tried to keep my eyes open. What did he mean her? Did he know what I was? “I can’t. Stop.”
“I know. That’s why you need to sleep. It’s safer for everyone, including you.” There was another sharp sting and his harsh features faded into a blur. My eyes closed, my wolf howled from far away, and the flames faded from my blood.
My head jolted side to side and my chin bounced on my chest, sending shooting pains down my neck and spine. Shit! I snapped open my eyes and raised my head, then groaned. My head pounded like there was a hammer bashing the inside of my skull.
It had been the same last time I’d been darted by Red eyes, or…maybe I’d just call him Red.
I blinked rapidly. I couldn’t see where I was, but the sway and bounce of the seat underneath me told me this wasn’t a cell but a moving vehicle.
Wanting to rub my eyes, I tried to raise my arm, only it didn’t move. There was a harsh metallic sound when I tried again. What the hell? I peered down. My arms and torso were wreathed in silver chains, and my wrists were handcuffed together in my lap. I hissed as pain from my burned wrists along with the numbness in my backside all registered through the fog of my pounding head. I’d probably been in this upright position for a while.
I squeezed my eyes shut against the pounding in my skull, letting my nausea settle. The weight of another presence pressed against my awareness, so tentatively, I opened them again and slowly raised my head.
Red regarded me steadily.
I held his stare. “What’re you looking at, dickhead?” Yeah, maybe my verbal attack didn’t hold quite the force and venom I’d have liked. My voice reverberated like a fog horn in my skull, but barely more than a rasp escaped my lips.
His eyes narrowed almost as if he was laughing at me, but he kept his face expressionless and merely lifted a finger to his lips, then nodded to where Rawson slumbered next to me. My eyes widened. The Were was held down by chains just like mine, only there were more of them. Was he that unpredictable?
“Piss off!” I snarled and yanked my body around rattling the chains. If I woke Rawson and wound him up enough, maybe he’d break his chains or cause enough of a diversion for me to escape mine. I eyed the back doors and sides of the van. Damn! No windows—anywhere. No matter, I’d find a way out somehow. Red had to have a key…
Red leaned back against the metal sides of the van and crossed his arms over his chest, watching me until I ran out of energy. Even the bumping of the prison van didn’t phase him. He managed to look cool and in control even as I was being shaken around.
“I need to pee.” I winced as another bump made my bladder scream.
He merely shrugged, leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
“Hey! Unless you want me to pee all over the floor, you need to let me out!”
Nothing. The bastard didn’t even flinch.
“Let me out!” My bladder was so full, it hurt. I had no idea how long I’d been in this van, but the stench coming from my clothes told me I’d been here long enough to wet myself before, and for it to dry. My cheeks flamed.
I called on my wolf to help, but no matter how she fought, there was no breaking past the effects of the silver chains. I glared at my captor, praying to the devil himself to see this demon struck down.
A huff, which sounded suspiciously like a chuckle, came from Red, then he settled back down without even opening his eyes.
Surely he didn’t read minds, did he?
I closed my eyes, concentrated on my breathing, and tried to ignore the fact that my bladder wanted to burst and my kidneys were ready to explode. I concentrated on not letting my pelvis relax even for a second, but every bump and turn in the road was torture. I didn’t even care where I was going, only that I didn’t want to piss my pants in front of Red.
A bang at the partition between us and the cab made me jump enough to let a little escape. I bit back a pained groan.
“Heads up! Nearly there!” shouted a disembodied voice.
Red opened his eyes and straightened. He inhaled and growled, his features twisting.
“Be grateful I haven’t pissed all over your shoes—yet,” I said sweetly.
He merely grunted and leaned forward. His bulk was intimidating this close, but I didn’t shrink away; I wouldn’t. There was a sting in my neck. I hissed. “Again?” The world went fuzzy, but I was aware when warmth ran down my legs.
There was a muttered curse.
“Serves you right.” I smirked before I lost consciousness completely.
This time when I woke up it was to the sound of growling and banging. Once again, agony stabbed behind my eyes. I inhaled sharply, and gagged on the stench of stale urine, vomit, and yes, faeces. Urgh! I swallowed over and over unwilling to open my eyes, praying it wasn’t me who’d made that awful stink. There was no burning when I moved my arms, so I figured I wasn’t chained, although there was the weight of a silver collar hanging around my neck.
My wolf howled, delighted that I was waking up. Whoa there, sweetie. Gently now. I’m a bit delicate. Just quiet down for a moment. Her relief washed through me. Yeah, I’m glad to be conscious again, too.
Around me, male and female voices yelled. I cracked open my eyelids just enough to see—and did my level best not to react. What the hell? I was on the metal floor of a huge cage with curved sides. There were no windows, but there was the steady thrum of engines beneath the chaos of swearing, and snarled threats.
Three large men faced off against one another. Their wolf and feline scents mixed with the general nastiness of the scents encasing me. Around the small group, men and women yelled, egging the males on to fight. The atmosphere was volatile and burning with alpha aggression and violence. This was somewhere you didn’t ever want to be, stuck in a cage full of shifters all vying for the ultimate position of power—to be alpha.
No one noticed that I was awake so I kept my position on the floor, but pushed myself backwards right up against the metal walls. Then I just studied my surroundings. Trying to make my five feet four inches as small and unnoticeable as possible, I curled my shoulders down and my legs in. I could hold my own against any of these shifters if I had to, but it was always wise to weigh both their strength and my situation first.
Beyond the thick metal bars of the cage, guards observed the matches. I couldn’t see their faces because of the full face masks they wore, but their whole demeanour suggested they were disinterested, and would do absolutely nothing to intervene. All of them held weapons far outmatching anything I’d ever seen at Rawson’s house, or that Blue had ever developed. All of them wore black armoured jumpsuits with no identifying marks. Only the fact that Red sat against the bulkhead at the far end of the space on the other side of this cage, told me this was all part of what had happened at Som’s. I didn’t know what the director was up to, but thinking about it sent ice skittering down my spine. I sure wasn’t going to any supernatural court in Britain—I was on a bloody plane!
I lost my view of Red as the crowd on my side of the bars closed in on the antagonists. The wolves snarled and launched themselves at their enemy. The stink of pheromones and blood lust flooded the air. My wolf slammed against the power of the silver collar, my vision merging with hers. I winced. My skin burned as she tried to burst through and protect me, only to be forced back.
The crowd parted for a body to come flying through the air, its arm hanging on by a thread.
Jesus! The shift might be held back by the collars, but the viciousness of the predators in this cage was not.
I snarled as one of the large males leaped closer to me. He was obviously trying to get to the victim who was bleeding out all over the floor.
I honed my vision in on that male wolf and gripped the edge of the bench, ready to tear his heart out if he so much as looked my way. My heart rate spiked, but I took a deep breath and exhaled. Yes, I was at risk here, but my life was not in immediate danger. I could fight if I had to, I’d been trained by the best—Rawson and Connor—and I had not exactly played the prim and proper princess in Faerie these last years. Besides, it wasn’t the others in this cage that I was most worried about, it was the guards, particularly Red. I didn’t know what his deal was, or why we were here, but I had a feeling if I ended up being the most vicious fighter, I’d get special treatment and not necessarily of the good kind.
A second, smaller wolf pounced on the back of the feline shifter, digging its teeth into the back of the man’s neck. He roared and shook, trying to dislodge his enemy. While he was distracted, a big male wolf, with shoulder length blonde hair and the golden sun-kissed look of a surfer, pounced. He clamped his large hands onto the feline’s head, twisted and pulled. The metallic stench of blood flooded the air. The feline male hadn’t stood a chance, not alone.
Christ! I cringed as the headless body fell to the ground. The large male threw the head over his shoulder. Right at me. The fucker! It thudded to the floor and bounced then came to a halt about two feet away. I deliberately didn’t look at the gruesome trophy. I’d seen more death than I cared to admit of late —especially in Faerie—and I’d dealt out my fair share. Not saying my halo was still bright, or even still there, but I’d only ever killed in self-defense, or to save myself and Blue, never out of pure, predatory evil.
I grimaced as the fight continued. This many shifters in a confined space made fighting for the top position of alpha an inevitability. I lamented the loss of my weapons, but if all else failed, Fire would break free. Things would have to become critical for that to happen, though, like me being close to death, so I kind of hoped it wouldn’t be necessary. I’d managed once in the past to summon enough heat to help Connor escape a silver collar just like mine, but I hadn’t been able to summon Fire at will since. It was as if my mind and body had locked her away and she had no choice but to stay in her cage.
The blood and aggression drew in the other shifters. They bayed for more blood—all except one, a large man who sat in the far corner of the cage, opposite me. His face was heavy, his jaw square and his nose flat and misshapen. Golden wavy hair fell to his shoulders in a tousled, greasy mess, and his clothes were ripped and dirty, making me wonder what had happened to him and how long he’d already been imprisoned.
His amber eyes watched the others carefully—coldly detached and predatory. I shuddered. Now, there was the predator to worry about amongst this lot, not the one who had just killed the feline male. Whatever this man’s shifter spirit was, it was powerful and patient and totally in harmony with the man. He’d tamed it enough to do what I did—see through its eyes and use its senses and strength without fully shifting. Only the most harmonised shifters could manage that.
As though he could feel my gaze, he slid his attention to me. His eyes narrowed as the weight of his dominance pushed against me. That same shiver of power that Connor had always used to intimidate others, slid over my skin. I kept my face impassive, but did not lower my gaze. That would show weakness, and I was anything but weak. His eyes gleamed with something akin to respect. My stomach tightened as he contemplated me, then he returned his amber gaze back to the crowd. Watching. Waiting. Deciding when to pounce.
I gave a short sigh of relief and swallowed against my dry throat, unable to resist the urge to wipe my sweaty palms down my jeans. My skin prickled with awareness, so I scanned the cage. Red studied me coolly, almost as if he was wondering what I’d do next.
I dragged my gaze away from the cold hearted fucker. It was more important to be aware of what was happening in this cage.
Claws sliced and teeth ripped. Flesh and blood splattered the floor and walls. The overwhelming coppery scent of blood was a catalyst for the other shifters to take each other on. I pushed back against the bulkhead of the plane, hoping it would soon be decided who the alpha was, finally establishing a hierarchy. It didn’t matter to me who won since not one of them here deserved my loyalty. I looked after myself. And bowing to an alpha wasn’t going to happen—ever.
The guards continued to watch the struggle impassively. Red had closed his eyes again.
How could he sleep through this racket, with the stench of blood and death everywhere?
I kept my head down, attempting to look as non-threatening as possible. The amber-eyed male across from me remained still but alert, his body relaxed. It was a deceptive posture. Anyone with any sense would know he was ready to attack.
Red opened his glowing eyes and tilted his head. “Light them up.”
The guard nearest the cage flicked a switch and I could have sworn lightning struck me. My whole body spasmed, my muscles turning to concrete, as my teeth snapped together. Mercifully, it finally stopped, and everyone fell to the ground. Groans and cries echoed around me. All the shifters had received the same jolt of energy from their collar. The male wolf roared, an inhuman sound of anger and challenge.
Red looked over. “Again.”
This time as my muscles seized, Fire reared inside me, smashing through her confines in my soul. “No,” I whispered, trying to keep her at bay. I couldn’t let these guards see her. Here was not a good place for her to be released. There were far too many witnesses. I glared at him. Evil fucker!
His gaze turned to me. His body uncoiled and he leaned forward, elbows on his knees. His eyes were like something from an eighties vampire flick; they actually glowed. Through my eyes, Fire looked right back at him. He huffed, a smirk curling his mouth as he leaned back.
I had no idea what that meant, but it was clear he knew about Fire. That thought turned my blood cold. Why was he keeping it to himself?
“Cut it. That should keep ‘em quiet while we land.”
The electric pulse was shut off and the agony in my body receded. I lay there panting, my body exhausted and twitching. Perhaps this was karma for all the times I’d shot my enemies full of taser bullets. Waib’s face came to mind. Bizarrely, I wondered if he was alright. He’d been terrified of his master. I just hoped Blue never came face to face with Waib or the rich asshole who owned him. I doubted that would end well. Then again, why in the hell would Blue ever meet Waib? She was a prisoner. I shuddered, my heart squeezing hard. There was no way I could have prevented her capture, but that didn’t make me feel any better.
Worn out by the shocks, I drifted in semi-consciousness, only stirring when the plane tilted, and the engines changed pitch. We were landing.
Ⓒ Karen Tomlinson 2020. It is the right of Karen Tomlinson to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, mechanical or otherwise) without prior written permission of the author.