Chapter 35: Carson's last stand
I focused on the drop of blood as it slowly moved down my nose. Starting from between my eyes where the men had hit me with a brass knuckle, it took twenty-two seconds for the drop to make it to the end of my nose. From there, as my head hung forward, it took another nine seconds before it dropped to the floor.
I was rocking slowly back and forth, watching the pool of blood a foot below my bare toes. The last round of beatings had been a doozy, they had worked my legs and stomach with a baseball bat. My right leg was heavily bruised, the kneecap cracked. My left leg wasn’t much better. All they wanted to know was where DeWalt was, they wanted her like a man in the desert wants water. I could smell their fear, their desperation, and I fed off it. There was no way in hell I was going to give them an answer that could lead back to my mate.
I closed my eyes, remembering better times. The night she agreed to be my mate. Our first time making love. Watching her walk out of the surf in her bikini, the setting sun setting her blonde hair afire. I lost myself in the memories, ignoring the pain of my shoulders and legs as I thanked Luna for having her as my mate.
The moment was broken when the men came back in. “Ready to talk yet?” The Beta, a hulking and scarred man in his forties, came to stand in front of me. He grabbed my hair, pulling my head up to look at him.
I’d saved the blood and spit in my mouth, and the stream hit him in the cheek. “I’ll talk about how I’m going to kill you,” I said.
He wiped the pinkish slime from his face, a grin coming to his face. “I was hoping you would say that,” he said. One of his goons went to the winch on the wall, pressing a button to lower me until my toes just scraped the ground. “Your legs and back workout is done, I thought we’d move on to chest and arms now,” he said.
“I only work chest and arms on even days, you don’t build muscle unless you give them time to recover. You’d think a steroid-rage, acne infested freak like you would know these things,” I teased.
He wrapped his fists with tape, clearly enjoying this. “The boss said we can’t kill you yet, but we can make you wish for it,” he said. He tossed the tape to the other goons. “Just tell us where Doctor DelMara is at, and the pain ends.”
“She’s dead, she died six years ago when her clinic was attacked and firebombed.”
“Don’t lie.” He started to work my exposed ribs, like a boxer working the bag. The heavy blows made it difficult to breathe, and I could feel the cracks as ribs broke under the assault. When the Beta tired, one of his men took over. They laughed as I was knocked around, taking their time, looking for spots that hadn’t been hit yet, so they could hear new cracks. I grunted and grit my teeth, not willing to give them the satisfaction of knowing how much it hurt.
I had just taken a shot to the kidneys, I think one of my vertebrae cracked from the hit, and I was swinging from the impact. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my groin. I screamed in agony, trying to raise my legs, anything to ease the pain. “What did you do,” the Beta asked the man who was working me over.
“Nothing, I hadn’t even hit him!”
The pain went on for what seemed like forever, but probably was only a few minutes. The men who had been working me over stood back watching, wondering what it was that finally got me to scream in agony. When it was over, I slumped in the shackles, breathing painfully with my broken ribs, and sobbing.
“Ready to talk yet, Carson?”
My head hung down, sweat and blood dripping down my face. “Fuck you.”
“I don’t swing that way, but I’ll ask around. With so few women left, it’s becoming kind of popular.” He walked out laughing, clapping the shoulders of one of the guys before the door closed and locked. They left me in the darkness, naked, bleeding, bones broken, hanging from my wrists. I prayed to Luna like I never had before. I prayed for my daughter, for her to be kept safe from Packs like this. I prayed for Vivian, that she would never become the mate of a vile man like this Beta. I prayed for Jessica, that she would be strong enough for our daughter when I don’t return. Finally, I prayed for the strength to resist them and to die honorably.
The pain was intense, my neck and shoulder felt like it was on fire all of the sudden. I screamed in agony as it moved from deep inside, setting every nerve ending alight. I’d seen it before, I knew exactly what it was as I screamed my loss to the Moon herself.
My beloved Jessica was gone.
I couldn’t do anything without permission and an escort.
Alpha Philip Stanton had me guarded like a prisoner with an escape record, even though with the mark and the baby belly there was no chance at that. I hated my life, but I loved the child within me. My baby was innocent of all this, he or she would kill me, but I would gladly die if he or she could live.
I had been his mate for two years now. When our Pack was taken over, I and the other females were brought back to Wyoming to be “redistributed” as war spoils. My Charlie somehow escaped the battle, sparing me the indignity of being put onstage with the others to be picked from by the senior unmated in the group.
Instead, I was forced into sexual service of the lower ranks, those who had no chance to have their own mate. I spent the first four years with a chain on my leg in a room with a shower, toilet and bed, the silver preventing me from fighting back.
Then my Charlie died, my mark disappeared, and I was up for bidding. With my Beta blood, the Alpha took me as his next mate despite my age. Our first year I hadn’t become pregnant, this year I had.
None of the males in this pack learned a damn thing year to year. Heats would come, they would get their women pregnant, the women would die. Instead of keeping their dicks in their pants, they would shuffle the deck- capture more women or kill mates of lower ranking women and take them- then start the whole thing over the next spring. And medical care? You’d think a Pack with people and resources would have doctors, nurses, lab staff and researchers devoted to finding a cure. They’d reach out to other Packs, creating a network of information exchange, an atmosphere of cooperation towards a common goal- finding a cure for this plague of death that threatens us all.
No, instead they killed the medical staff in a rage over lost mates, attacked other Packs, and then wondered why none of the women survived. I may be force mated, I may have hated the man before he took me as his, but I was no idiot. We were circling the toilet like a floating turd, soon to disappear from the world.
“Good morning, Luna, how did you sleep?”
“It was good, Lisandra.” She was a sweet girl, twelve years old, and had been with me for the past year. A war prize, she was still too young to be mated, but that didn’t mean the men weren’t already jockeying for her when she became of age. She was a slip of a girl with brown curly hair and emerald eyes.
“The Alpha wants to see you at breakfast, Luna.” She was already pulling out clothes from my closet, ones that had probably been used by the last three women he’d had in this bedroom. When they only last a year, not much of a point in having a big wardrobe. The dress was loose enough my belly was not obvious, I was twenty-three weeks along and already in the danger zone. She helped me get ready, then stayed to clean the bedroom and bathroom.
I moved down the stairway carefully, making my way to the dining table where the senior members and their mates were already eating. “Good morning, Denise,” he said as he smiled at me. My insides flipped, the mate bond pulling me to be next to him even as my mind wanted to avoid it.
“Good morning, Alpha,” I said as I sat next to him. His hand moved to my belly, rubbing it gently as the baby kicked back. “Ow, that was a good one.”
He smiled and made up a plate for me, making sure I had enough food for us both. “My love, you remember Carson Patterson, don’t you?”
My heart sank as I nodded. “Yes Alpha, he left our Pack with our medical assistant, Jessica, to go with Doctor DelMara and try to save our females.” I looked at my plate. “None of the women made it.”
“No, no mothers survived, but the baby did. She survived until an idiot left her behind. That was six years ago, and if DelMara is still around, she probably knows more. That’s why when a request for a specific blood type came along, from her old Internet ID, we had to act. Carson was the one who came to pick up the blood. I’m certain he knows where the Doctor is, and that she was the one needing the blood.” I had kept quiet, but the news that the Alpha’s daughter had survived childbirth had spread like wildfire in the Pack.
Hope started to spring up inside me, if I could talk Vivian into helping me, our baby had a chance. “That’s wonderful! Maybe we can do the same deal my old Pack did! Our women go with her, and she gives us medical care and a chance.”
“That’s not the deal. She’s got, oh, twelve hours to turn herself over to us or Carson dies.”
I looked at the table. “He won’t do it, sir. Is he mate marked?” The Beta nodded. “Then Jessica is still alive, the blood is for her. Giving up Doctor DelMara is giving up on his mate and child. He’ll gladly die first.”
The Alpha’s hand on my knee squeezed down until it was painful, he felt it and backed off. “What do you suggest?”
“Let me talk to him alone,” I said. “I’ve known him since he was a baby, he will trust me. More importantly, he will want me, my child to live. He may not tell you where she is, but he might take me with him. It’s the only chance for you to have an heir, a future.”
“I don’t like it.”
“You don’t have to like it, but it’s the only way. Let me at least talk to him.”
He looked at his Beta, who shrugged his shoulders. “She can’t do any worse than we have, we’ve gotten nothing from him.”
He stared his Beta down. “Fine, but you and your men make sure he can’t hurt her, and be right outside the room.”
Thirty minutes later, I was following three very large men down a stairway to the cells. I was thankful I had put on warmer clothes, the cells were only about fifty degrees, same as the surrounding rock. They came to a stop in front of a door, the Beta entered and left the others with me. A few minutes later he was back out. “He’s strung up, his legs are shackled, and they are silver, so he can’t hurt you. We’ll be right outside, yell if you need help.”
“He’s a friend, he won’t hurt me,” I said. I walked past them, closing the door behind me. My stomach retched at the smell of blood, piss and sweat. The room was dimly lit. I could see him hanging from the ceiling, his toes barely touching the floor. His feet were shackled together by a short chain. “Carson, it’s Denise.” I walked until I was right in front of him.
He took a sniff, then his head raised up. His face was swollen and bloody, his body no better. “Beta Denise. Or should I say Luna, you’ve moved up in the world. Congratulations on your pregnancy.”
“Pregnancy hasn’t been congratulated since this plague started, Carson. It’s a death sentence for mother and baby, unless Vivian is there to help.”
He laughed. “Vivian’s dead,” he said.
“No, she’s not. She’s with Jessica right now, she’s the one who needs the blood. You need blood, I need her help. We can work a deal.”
His eyes closed, he took a breath. All of the sudden, his legs kicked up, wrapping the chain around my neck as I was pulled to the floor. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t warn anyone, the silver in the chain took away my ability to link. His legs wouldn’t move, I didn’t have the strength to move them aside. “I’m sorry, Denise, but if your Alpha had given me the blood my Jessica might still be alive. He killed my mate, I’m killing his.”
I said a prayer to Luna, my burning fingers clutching at the chain that was choking the life out of me. I felt my body fight for air, my vision started to dim, then all turned black.