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EMERY

“You’re kind of annoying, you know that?” I ask Graham as he sits on the other side of the cell wall. It’s a solid wall so I can’t see him, but I can still sense him just beyond it.

“I… haven’t said anything in like hours,” Graham grumbles from the other side.

“I know. Annoying,” I mutter. Sometimes, I just like pestering him for mere entertainment. There’s little else to do here.

After my new alpha, Quinn, had taken us to a walled-in shifter community in the hopes of finding us protection, we’d learned that we’d walked into another trap—one set by Mercer, a crazy scientist who got his kicks experimenting on shifters, like he did to me. When he had arrived to take over Quinn’s pack, we’d managed to break through after Quinn killed Mercer. We’d still had to deal with Mercer’s men, which wasn’t an easy feat. In an attempt to hold them off to give Quinn a shot at getting his pack away, I’d gone back to slow them down.

Being insanely overpowered by Mercer’s men led me to being tossed back into a cell, which is something I’ve grown horribly familiar with. I feel like I’ve spent more of my life in cells than out of them, constantly being controlled by Mercer and his minions.

At least Quinn and his pack were able to get away.

And Mercer is dead. But sadly, it was only a starting point.

Then we have Graham, who stupidly followed after me when I was trying to be all heroic and shit. And now not only do I have to worry about myself, but I have to worry about his sorry ass because if I came back without him, Quinn would be rather sad and that’d make me sad.

“Why are you over here making Quinn sad and shit?” I growl.

“Why are you being all evil and shit?” Graham asks.

“I was born evil,” I assure him.

“Then maybe you’re wearing off on me and I have no choice?” he asks.

I sigh rather loudly, just to make sure he can hear me through the wall.

Graham is the younger brother of Quinn, but he’s a little older than me… honestly, I don’t know how old he is. I’ve tried not to care. The issue is, I have trouble trusting people. And when I finally do, I just assume they’re going to turn around and stab me in the back at some point like everyone else has in my life. The only person I want to trust is Quinn and maybe Rowan because he’s like a fluffy pet, but that’s it. I don’t want or need to have anyone else in my life. I’m perfectly fine all alone and not dealing with people. The very last thing I’d ever want is someone else I have to wait to betray me.

“Why do you keep talking to me if you don’t want to?” Graham asks.

While it might be a valid question, I just ignore it. “Why do you keep overanalyzing everything I do? Maybe I was just checking that you were alive and didn’t choke on your meal.”

“Wait, you got food?”

I snort as a grin plays at my lips. “No… but they hate me. I assumed they at least threw you a bone.”

“Not that I’ve noticed, but it’d be pleasant if they had,” he says.

“Graham?”

“Hmm?”

“You’re a fool.”

“Thank you,” he says, all nice-like which is annoying. So I grumble at him some more.

“You weren’t supposed to follow me; I was supposed to go down a hero. Now everyone will be like ‘Oh, did you hear about Graham and that other guy?’”

“You don’t even like people, you hate people talking about you… do you see the issue here?” Graham asks.

I can’t help but be a little amused. “Not in the slightest.”

“Why are you so difficult?”

I lean against the wall even though the shitty bed is on the other side of the room and the floor is getting increasingly painful. But over there, I can’t harass him… or be near him. “It’s kind of fun,” I say.

“At least you’re honest,” he says. “So instead of bitching, have you figured out a way to escape yet?”

“Yeah, I’ve thought of at least fifteen, but I decided I like my new digs so I’m going to stay.”

“When I dig my way out of this room with the spoon I have, I’m going to leave you behind,” Graham decides.

“Good. I hope you think of my body withering away, slowly starving to death every time you close your eyes.”

“I will. I’ll smile when I think of you,” he says.

“You’re a stubborn one.”

“How could I possibly be the stubborn one when you’re the stubborn one?” he asks.

“I don’t know, how could you?” I retort.

A noise in the hallway immediately shuts me up and Graham is also quiet as we listen. We’re both drugged to keep us from shifting, and it’s about time for them to administer our next dose, so I assume that’s why we’re being graced with their presence.

The front of the room has a door with a small slider that Raylon pushes open to look in at me. He wants to check where I’m at in the heavy-duty cell that makes it impossible to escape.

“Against the wall,” Raylon says as he kicks the door. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe he wants to break his foot, which would be nice. I feel like he’d be a bit easier to get away from with a broken foot.

“I’m against it,” I say, since I technically am, just not the wall I know he’s talking about.

“Back wall.”

“Why are you so fucking picky about which wall?” I growl as I scoot over so I’m barely touching the back wall. Raylon’s not pleased and storms in because of it. The annoying thing about Raylon is we used to get along. We used to be in this together, and I honestly thought that as long as I had him by my side we could get through it. He was my only friend in this place, and then he turned into an epic asshole and decided that Mercer was his holy king or god or some bullshit. He lost himself to the constant drugs and tests and torture, and at some point, he was manipulated into thinking that Mercer’s words were sacred.

But now that Mercer’s dead?

Raylon’s still an ass.

He comes in and grabs me by the hair before shoving me onto my side and pressing his foot against my throat.

“I told you to get against the wall.”

“I heard,” I say. “It’s a pretty small room, and you like to talk extra loud so everyone can hear.”

“You’re always such a snarky asshole.”

“You used to like my snark,” I remind him.

He growls at me before pressing down harder. It’s on the side of my throat, so not as easy to choke me, but he just gets some fun satisfaction from hurting me in some way. It’s like it’s his only way to express himself anymore.

“You going to tell me what you did to Quinn’s pack?” I ask. When they were dragging me off to my cell just after they brought me here, I was told that they’d sent Quinn a “gift,” but what that was, I have no idea. I’m terrified to know.

“Why would I?” Raylon asks as he looks down at me.

I try to shrug. It really doesn’t come across as a shrug while being smashed against the floor, but it’s still a solid attempt. “I fucking hate you,” I say.

He grins down at me. “I know you do. That’s why things like this make my day so much better. Now, you have a visitor.”

I can’t stop the growl that escapes me. I can only imagine who wants to see me and it’s the very person I’d love to see dead.

Raylon keeps me pinned down until Diego, one of his lackeys, comes up and grabs my arm before hauling me to my feet. The hallway I’m dragged through is white and endless, a hallway I’m quite familiar with, having been holed up in this place for far too long. I refuse to aid them, so it results in me being pulled along until they come across a room I’m taken into. Not too keen on dropping into the chair with visible arm and leg shackles, I struggle against Diego’s hold, so Raylon helps shove me down.

Diego moves in to start locking me down, so I headbutt him right in the nose which at least gives me some satisfaction. He jerks back with a squeal as I pull free and lunge at Raylon. I get a solid punch right to his face before the rest of Raylon’s shifters are on me, eager to keep me down. If I could shift into my animal form, I’d have put more onto the ground, but like this, I’m practically useless.

Raylon’s eyes promise murder as he looks up at me and reveals his bleeding nose. Blood is gushing over his lips as I grin, extremely proud of myself even if it’ll end up worse for me in the long run.

That’s when I see a familiar face. Brennan, Rowan’s brother, pushes me down in the seat and starts strapping me down so I can’t hit anyone else. He’s just as brainwashed as the rest of them. Even his brother breaking him free of this hell and trying to help him couldn’t snap him out of this.

“I keep hoping one of these times that I punch you it’ll knock some sense into you,” I growl at Raylon.

Raylon walks up to me and I see his hand clench into a fist a moment before he drives it toward my face. Since I’m strapped down tight, he assumes I’ll do nothing, but I manage to dodge it just in time so he barely grazes me and ends up slamming his hand into the back of the chair.

The pure satisfaction I get out of it is enough to make the second punch that lands on my face feel less painful.

The door opens and the man who steps in glares at us. “That’s enough!” he growls. “All a bunch of fucking animals.”

All the shifters in the room bow their heads, and the younger ones drop to their knees as he walks into the room. The man is entirely human, just like Mercer was, but he controls all of them with ease. Even though Mercer made them and tortured them and brainwashed them, their respect for this man has grown out of control.

I don’t know his real name, but when he’d introduced himself to me as Pete Stone, I’d been fooled into thinking he was a kind man.

At that point in my life, I was fifteen and had been living on the streets for a while. I was so close to giving up on everything when this man came into my life, offering me things I’d never had before. He was kind, caring, and he gave me a purpose and a reason to keep striving forward… and he got me to trust him.

But when I woke up in a cage as a result of that trust, I realized he was worse than the others. So much worse.

He smiles when he sees me, a look I once thought brought hope but now fills me with nothing but anger. “Emery, it’s a pleasure to see you again. I was a bit worried we wouldn’t after that whole fiasco with you running away. I worked really hard to get you back,” he says as he walks over to me.

“Why can’t you ever just be happy? What’s wrong with the pack you have? I want no part of it,” I growl.

Stone’s smile doesn’t falter as he reaches out and pats my head, like I’m a pet. “We will make you better, Emery. But before all that, I’d like to have a talk.”

Brennan growls something and Stone looks over at him with narrowed eyes.

“Don’t think I didn’t hear about you running all the fuck over… going against orders, going out alone. We’ll have a talk as well,” he says, and Brennan’s face twists into something filled with anger and hatred as he turns and leaves.

Moments like this make me feel like Brennan could someday be reasoned with. That there’s a possibility that he’d switch sides to be with his brother, but still… he just keeps going back to them.

I’m not sure I can blame him when all Stone and Mercer do is fuck with your body and brain until you start to forget who you are. I forgot too, for a while, but I won’t forget again. I’d rather die than let them torture me anymore.

Stone grabs a chair and drags it over to me before sitting down in it, putting it so close his knees knock against mine. “I want you to tell me everything about this alpha and his pack. Okay?”

I nod. “Of course.”

He seems pleased by my answer; clearly he hasn’t been around me enough. “Let’s hear it, then.”

I nod again eagerly. “Okay… where to start… so I’m well aware you know his name. Quinn, the alpha, he is… a really nice person. He wasn’t birthed from hell’s uterus like you were.”

Stone’s face slowly hardens as his eyes narrow. “Cute.”

“And he didn’t go fuck Satan like you have.”

He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath before rubbing his forehead like he’s getting a headache. “I remember now why I absolutely hate talking to you.”

I smile, pleased by his reaction. “Good.”

“Give me the full layout of their village. I want to know the strength of his pack. And why they listen to him.”

“They have these little dog houses everywhere. And little holes in the ground for some of them, or maybe they just like digging holes because they’re practically animals. And they listen to him because he’s not a pile of shit like you,” I say.

Stone reaches out and grabs my face in his hands. “I’m so fucking sick of your shit, Emery. You’ve been such a hassle and irritation.”

“Good. Do you want me to tell you what you’ve done to me? We could compare, if you’d like, and see who the unfair one is here.”

He slams my head against the chair before stepping back. “Raylon, make him talk,” he says as he waves Raylon toward me.

Raylon’s more than pleased about rushing into the mix and punching me in the face. He lands a few solid punches to my stomach before another hit to my face as air is knocked out of me. I try to pull back as I gasp for air, but I can’t go anywhere while strapped down.

Stone pulls Raylon back when it doesn’t seem like he’s going to stop anytime soon. “Talk.”

I can taste blood on my lips as I shake my head. “No. You might as well kill me because I’m not giving up anything about him. I will never give up anything to help you. I’ve never lived in his village so I don’t even know anything!”

“Oh, Emery, you will,” Stone says as he steps toward the door. “When you’re done with him, throw him back in his room, he’ll talk eventually. And someone find Brennan for me. I’d like a fucking talk with him as well.”

And then he’s gone.

Raylon punches me in the face three more times, making my world spin before they unbuckle me and pull me to my feet. Everything darkens as Raylon drags me back, leaving me to stagger after him.

And then he tosses me back into my cell where I trip and fall onto the ground.

“Emery?” Graham asks from the other side of the wall.

“Hmm?”

“Are you okay?”

“Just peachy,” I say as I sink to the ground. “I want to kill all of them. I want to tear them each apart piece by piece. I used to be a kind person, Graham. I used to care about others. I used to be the kind of person who’d stop and help others. Who’d never dream of hitting, or hurting, or any of that. And they changed me. They made me into a monster that dreams of killing and desires it more than anything.”

Instead of being disgusted like I assumed he would be, he says, “I don’t blame you… I mean, after all you’ve gone through. But look around you, Emery. There isn’t a single person besides you who kept their humanity intact. So as long as you’re not dreaming about killing innocent people… there’s still hope for you yet.”

I wipe the blood from my nose even though more quickly follows as I let his words sink in. “Sometimes… I feel like all of this is my fault, them targeting your pack. If I hadn’t escaped, none of this would have happened.”

“You’d have just let them continue to destroy you?”

“I could have just killed myself instead.”

“Don’t say that,” Graham growls, voice sharp. “Don’t ever say that again.”

I ignore him as I stare up at the ceiling, the taste of blood strong in my mouth.

 

Chapter Two

   

EMERY

“Emery?”

Graham has been trying to get my attention for a good five minutes now. Instead of answering him like a semi-decent human being, I’ve been neglecting everything and staring at the ceiling.

“Emery, I know you’re in there, and I know you didn’t just croak off in the middle of the night. Answer me, you little shit.”

“Whaaat?” I ask as I roll to face the wall I’ve been lying against.

“I have a plan,” he says.

“Sounds suspicious as hell.”

“Thanks. It involves… stuff.”

I wait for this ultimate plan to surface but after a bit of hemming and hawing around, I realize he has no plan and is just trying to get my attention. “My god, that plan is amazing.”

“At least I’m trying! Come on, help me out here. You lived here for quite a while; you at least know the layout,” he says.

“Raylon said he sent something to Quinn’s pack,” I blurt out, a secret I’d kept since the moment I’d been told.

Graham is silent for a moment. “Something as in?”

“I don’t know. But if Raylon sent it… it means it’s something bad… really bad,” I say.

“When did he tell you this?” Graham asks anxiously.

“A couple of days ago—”

I hear Graham slam his fist against the wall. “And you’re just now fucking telling me?”

“Because there’s nothing you can do,” I growl. “Would anything have changed if you knew and were just rotting in here while constantly thinking about it?”

“I have no idea what’s happening out there. Quinn could be hurt or the pack could be suffering, and instead, I’m fucking stuck in here with you,” he yells.

There it is.

“Yes, it’s my fault you followed me,” I say sarcastically.

He lets out a growl. “I never said it was your fault.”

God, why am I being such an ass? That’s his brother out there that he’s horribly worried about, and I’m over here being an absolute dick.

“I’m sorry,” I say so quietly that he might not even hear me.

“It’s okay. You have nothing to apologize for,” he says. “I’m sorry for acting like that. I’m frustrated.”

“I don’t like working with others. I don’t like… trusting others. Everyone I trust turns around and morphs into massive assholes. I’m clearly a horrible judge of people and trust the worst ones.” Why the hell did I tell him that?

“How did you end up here?” Graham asks, voice turning soft. “The first time.”

I shake my head even though he can’t see it. “Trusted someone I shouldn’t have. But anyway, let’s stay focused. Okay, I think we’re on the second floor. The issue is figuring out what we could use as a way out. Of course, we have the mines down below. But I can’t imagine that they haven’t blocked them off and secured them by this point, which means we’d have to get through the main gate. The main gate is guarded by multiple shifters and a security system, and if that’s not enough, it also requires a keycard. Only Mercer and Stone had one but now Stone has to be putting someone else in charge unless he’s been staying here.” Something else dawns on me. “They didn’t drug me today. Whether or not that was on purpose, I can’t tell you, but I can at least feel my shifter side because of it. If I could keep them from drugging me, I could find them—”

“And what happens when they hurt you?” Graham asks, but the better question is what happens when they start running tests on Graham? What if they try to destroy him like they did the others?

They’ve already fucked me up as much as they can, but Graham is fresh. A normal shifter. He’s nothing like me. He’s a large, healthy man, so the thought of them trying isn’t out there.

“Then I guess I’ll come limping to save you. You’ll be my teeny little prince I must protect,” I say, even though the man is anything but teeny. He makes me feel small. “Don’t trust me?”

“I do trust you.” He sounds amused, which makes the tension in the room dissipate a little.

“Tell me how you’re scared and need my help,” I say.

“No.”

“Then I’m not saving you,” I decide.

Graham lets out a long groan of annoyance. “You’re worse than my brother. Fine, I’m a wee little prince needing your protection.”

“Good,” I say as I stretch out and wince at the tightness in my stomach. But Graham’s teasing makes me feel oddly at ease. Like there’s a possibility a part of this could go well.

As predicted, they come not long after, probably wanting to torture me some more before Stone leaves to go about his day being a villain. I wonder what he does while he’s out and about? Make clothes out of shifter fur and parade around? Push grannies over and steal little children’s candies?

This time, I don’t fight them when Brennan and Diego come into the room. I’m semi-disappointed Raylon’s not there but decide this will have to do. I slump down and let Diego do most of the work while dragging me after him.

“Do your feet not work?” he growls as his muscles bulge against my weight, especially when he’s trying to pull me with just one arm. His other doesn’t seem to be in working order yet after Quinn broke it.

“Nope,” I say as my feet skid along the floor while he drags me before desperately looking to Brennan.

“Can you help?”

Brennan’s look quickly makes Diego retract that statement. Diego forgets that idea and looks around for someone else before noticing a man at the other end of the hallway and waving him over. “Jack! Jack! Come help me.”

“Your arms broken?” Jack asks.

“Yeah! One of them is!” Diego growls as he waves his arm around. From what Quinn told me, he broke his arm the last time Mercer had them locked up in here.

Jack grumbles but comes up and roughly grabs my arm and jerks me forward. When I play dead, he’s left dragging me after him. “What the fuck, get up,” he growls as he knees me in the side, which allows me to dramatically twist my body away. He loses his balance and drops me onto the ground.

The issue with all of this is that I’m not a big guy. I’m a decent height of about five nine but these three are built for punching and maiming and making my life miserable. So I have to use their own stupidity to aid me as Jack reaches down for me where I’m playing fish out of water. As his hands come toward me, I snatch up his arm and jerk him forward before throwing a leg over the arm extended toward me. As I draw his wrist into me, I push my hips forward, putting an immense amount of pressure on his arm until I hear it snap. Then I kick him in the gut, pushing him back.

Diego’s never been the brightest, so I leap up and tackle him to the ground before he has time to register what’s happening. Swiftly, I wrap one hand around his throat and with the other I punch him in the face. His head slams down just as I hear an animalistic scream and realize that Jack has decided to shift, which includes a horrible amount of pain when your arm is broken.

I know this all too well.

He leaps onto me and I throw my left arm up to keep him from getting to my throat as I’m shoved onto the ground, head hitting the floor. His fangs tear into my wrist as I jerk back, but he’s not happy with that and goes for my throat. He narrowly misses it and instead gets my shoulder, jaw clenching down as his teeth break through skin.

I do everything I can to try to make the shift to my animal side, but it’s like I’m slammed right into a brick wall, and no matter how much I fight or struggle or punch, I can’t get through it.

Jack shakes his head, tearing into my skin as pain flares into my arm, all the way down to my fingers, a moment before he’s torn off. I look up in surprise as Brennan, in his shifter form, slams into Jack and just tears into his throat. Jack is so shocked he doesn’t even get a chance to defend himself as he cries out.

I’m up on my feet only to realize Diego is also on his feet and deciding to have no part of this. The only problem with that is Diego likely has the keys since I doubt Raylon would trust Brennan with them after Brennan’s escapade with Quinn’s pack.

I leap forward and tackle Diego to the ground, patting him down vigorously before finding the keys in his pocket. He’s so convinced he’s going to be the next one murdered that he doesn’t put much effort into anything other than getting away. And by the time Brennan drops Jack’s lifeless body on the ground, we’re both running neck and neck down the hallway.

“He’s your buddy, go sate him,” I tell Diego.

“Fuck you! He’s fucking crazy, you sate him!” Diego says as he runs as fast as his stupid legs can carry him.

“Yes, but you’re meatier, you’ll definitely take longer for him to chew through, so really, I think it should be you.”

“No! You!” Diego gives me a shove into the wall just as I try to kick his feet out from under him and we both go down. I look back as Brennan rushes straight toward us and I realize that I don’t have to get far, I just have to get farther than Diego.

I kick Diego in the face and try to leap up just as Brennan is on us and… leaps over us before continuing his journey down the hallway.

“Oh fuck me, man. I thought he was gonna kill me,” Diego says as he grabs his chest. “We made it!” He high fives me like we’re best buds before remembering he’s supposed to hate me. “I mean… why didn’t he eat you?”

“He’s coming back!” I shout, and Diego is up and running the other way before he has time to realize I was just joking.

Ah well, let him run from his invisible enemy all he wants, it keeps him out of my hair. I rush to the room Graham is being kept in and begin cramming my keys into the door. The first one won’t go in and the second one won’t turn but the third one turns.

Thankfully, Brennan is doing an amazing job keeping everyone busy as I jerk the door open only to have Graham nearly pummel me to the ground.

“For fuck’s sake, I know you missed me, but this is a bit much, eh?” I ask, barely dodging his attack.

Graham’s eyes get wide. “I’m so sorry, I thought you were someone else.”

“Come on. I can’t imagine we’ll get out through the basement, so we’re going right out the front door,” I decide.

“Sounds risky as hell.”

It sure does. “We have no other options, unless you want to split up? You can go for the basement and I’ll go for the front door?” I suggest. “Then if it’s open, you can just send a mating call my way.”

His eyebrow lifts as he stares at me like I might be crazy. Hell, I might be.

That’s also when he realizes the blood on me isn’t anyone’s blood but mine.

“Oh my god, you’re hurt,” he says as anger consumes his features. I kind of feel like if I just pointed at an outer wall and told him the wall did it, he’d plow right through it and create a hole for us to escape out of. “Who did this? I’ll kill him.”

“He’s already dead, but if you’d like to maim his body some more, it’s that way. I’m going this way,” I say as I point it out for him so he can be a big boy and make his own decisions. He must decide my way is better because he rushes after me as I hurry for the stairs.

Just walking these halls again fills me with so many negative emotions. I thought I’d escaped this hell, but of course, here I am, back again. I will make sure this will be the last time I ever set foot in this horrible place. And then to be dragging Graham through it as well? What did I do to deserve this?

I need to stop thinking about that and stay focused.

As I look around, I push my senses into overdrive, doing my best to listen for anyone else who might rain on our parade. I know Stone has to be around here somewhere and I’d absolutely love to tear his throat out, but I also know that I should be a good, patient boy and get out alive first.

Ohhhhh but his throat. How fun that’d be! I could even take his head to my alpha and I bet he’d give me pets—

What the fuck? I’m losing my mind.

I growl at Graham just for fun and he gives me a weird look, but it makes me feel a bit better.

We’re halfway down the stairs when I hear what sounds like someone coming up them, so we make a quick retreat back up the stairs. We’ll have to wait for them to pass, so I slip into a cell room, much like the one we’d been in, really hoping no one locks us inside.

The biggest issue we’re going to have is that I smell like blood, and it’s going to raise the suspicions of anyone trucking on by.

I pull Graham in close, not because I care, but because I might need a meat distraction if someone busts in here.

“What are you…?” Graham asks.

“Meat shield,” I explain.

“Ah, thanks. I’m glad I could sacrifice my meat for you.”

I grin. “I am too. Now shush, they’re coming. Stand still and quiet like a good meat shield.”

He clearly has to try his hardest not to sigh as he stares at me, probably contemplating why he has the hots for me. (I know he has the hots for me, and he knows he has the hots for me.)

Poor, poor Graham.

The only issue is he seems to like it.

We listen to them walk past before I hear their feet backtracking toward the door. They must have gotten my scent, which probably wasn’t too hard with all the blood coating my left arm. The moment the door is thrown open, I shove Graham to the side. “Go, meat shield!” I say, which distracts the shifter who’d come to see what’s happening and allows me to leap onto him and grab him in a choke hold. He thrashes about before throwing himself back and slamming me into the wall until Graham socks him in the stomach.

The man gasps as Graham’s fist knocks the air out of him, and just like that, I choke him out before dropping him on the ground and looking up at Graham approvingly. “Good job! You’ve leveled up from meat shield to meat mace,” I say.

He stares at me for an extremely long time when we’re in a hurry trying to escape this place. So I reach up and pet his head like I would a dog.

“Thanks,” he says, rather sarcastically I might add, but I don’t miss the way he leans into my pat.

We slip back into the hallway and down the stairs, making it to the first floor without incident. Now comes the hard part.

“I guess… we can try the basement,” I say, honestly not sure. The front door is risky. It’s too well guarded and I’d have to do a lot of fighting to get through it, but the basement is probably closed.

“But like you said, it’s probably guarded.”

I nod and inch forward before pressing my foot against the swinging door to see out it. It’s quite apparent the security at the front door has gone up a notch since they seem to keep ending up with escapees. There are six of them hovering around and while hand-to-hand, we might have a chance, if a single one of them shifts… we’d be fucked.

And on top of that, my arm is starting to throb so much I’m not sure what use it’ll be.

“Let’s try the basement,” I say as I pull him back into the stairwell and continue down it.

We don’t get to try anything as Stone slides into my path with his own mini army behind him as soon as we get through the basement door.

“Where oh where do you think you’re going, Emery?” he asks.

Come on, shift, shift, shift.

If only I could shift, I’d have a shot.

“And I see you’re taking your friend with you. Grab them,” he says as he lazily waves at his shifters. They’re on us immediately, but I sure as fuck am not going down without a fight. I punch the first guy before two are on me, but Graham hauls one off me. That’s when they seem to realize I’m not the only one they’re dealing with and grab for Graham.

We are steadily losing as more come to see what’s going on but I try to stay focused until someone slams Graham’s head against the wall. He staggers back as anger fills my body, sending it coursing through me.

A growl escapes me as I feel my shifter side bust through that wall of drugs and tear out of me. It hurts, the wounds on my arm and shoulder making sure of it, but I’m too enraged to care as I shred through my clothes. I’m too infuriated to even think straight as I land on my paws, and instantly, I’m off the ground. I tear into the one who dared touch Graham.

I shove him to the ground as I twist my head, hearing the bones in the man’s shoulder break as he cries out.

And then another shifter slams into me and chaos fucking explodes. I’m fighting off five of them in their shifter forms as Graham tries to keep me from getting hurt. But he doesn’t understand that he needs to just step back and get away to safety.

“Run,” I growl at him.

“I can’t,” he says as he tries moving back in to help me until Stone presses a gun against his head.

Just seeing it distracts me enough that when Raylon comes out of nowhere, he slams me onto the ground.

“Emery, stop fighting or I will shoot him in the head. Do you want me to shoot him in the head?” Stone asks.

Raylon’s fangs sink down on my throat, cutting off my air, but I try to fight him off because I can’t let him touch Graham. I can’t let him kill Graham.

And as darkness hits me, I see Stone drag Graham after him.

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