“Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing.”
~James Anthony Froude
“My price is this,” I started, keeping my voice as steady as possible. “Release those from the Laroche and Stark packs you have imprisoned here unharmed and alive. Allow them to return home safely without any interference. Do not inform them of my role in this or tell them my name. Do not give them the chance to figure out the location of where we are.”
Tyrese stroked his chin thoughtfully, mulling over my offer. “If we agree, you promise you’ll answer our questions?”
“I promise to tell you everything you need to know.”
“Hmm… Victor, Nicole, what do you think?”
Viktor stepped forward, staring me down, our faces barely two inches from each other. “Why don’t you want the Starks and Laroches to know it was you? Or where you are?”
“Because there’s a price on my head, and they’d come after me. I don’t care how good you think you are. If the Laroches and Stark band together, you best get out of their way or risk dying. I can’t give you that information if I’m dead, and I will be if you let the others know who I am and what our location is.”
“How important can an omega be?”
“Ah, I did lie about that bit to save my friends,” I replied. “I’m not an omega. I’m an alpha, which would mostly explain the price on my head. I am a rogue, though. I’m a threat to the Starks and Laroches, which is why they want me dead.”
Viktor placed his hands on the arms of my chair, bracing himself. “How can we trust you to hold up your end of the bargain?”
“Because I wouldn’t risk the lives of the other Shifters or the rogues you found me with,” I said seriously. “The Starks and Laroches may hate me, but that won’t stop me from being the bigger person and saving their lives.”
Viktor stood up and turned to Tyrese. “Despite the initial lie she told us about being an omega, I think she’s telling the truth right now. I think we should do it. If you want to grab the boss, I’ll stay here and watch her. Make sure she doesn’t try anything.”
Tyrese nodded. “Don’t let your guard down. The bitch is as pretty as an angel and twice as clever. Nicole, come with me.”
The young girl worriedly looked at Viktor, but with an assuring nod from him, Nicole followed Tyrese out of the room. Viktor waited for a minute before whispering, “Think we convinced him?”
“I sure hope so. Don’t forget what we talked about earlier, though. Do whatever Tyrese asks of you to do to me.”
Viktor grimaced. “I remember…”
“It’s the only way we’ll pull this off. We can’t let him suspect anything.”
“We need a safe word, so I know when I need to help you.”
“No, because I don’t trust myself to say it prematurely.”
“Fine, then I’ll come up with one myself, so you know when to pass out. How about ‘night night’?”
I shook my head, half amused and half exasperated. “If you want them to catch on, yes.”
“I don’t see you coming up with anything!”
“Shhh!” I hissed. “We don’t want anyone overhearing us. Okay, fine, what about ‘Take that’ or ‘I’m going to get you to talk’? Maybe add an expletive in there somewhere to make it sound genuinely angry.”
Viktor rubbed the back of his neck. “Let’s do the first one. I’ll have the liberty of adding ‘bitch’ if I need to, but if I say ‘take that,’ I need you to pass out or to pretend to.”
“Deal. Now get the taser ready and act like you’re about to zap me because they’re coming.” I cocked my head, listening to the footfalls. “Sounds like there’s more than just three people. Sounds like a big group.”
Viktor lifted the group and pointed it threatening at my neck, growling, “Shut up, bitch!”
“What’s going?” Tyrese asked, entering the room with Nicole and a striking woman behind him.
“She’s talking shit is what she’s doing.”
“Don’t let her get under your skin. Shifters are good at that.”
“Oh, bravo, you used the correct terminology. I see you can teach an old dog new tricks,” I remarked, trying to think of something sarcastic to say on the fly to keep up with Viktor’s lie. I had a big part to play in this too. “Who’s the suit behind you?”
“Our boss: Odette Clinton,” Tyrese introduced. The woman stepped forward. While her facial features were soft and kind, her outfit contrasted sharply with a power suit and heels that I swear were torture devices in disguise. “Leader of the operation in this part of the world.”
Odette leaned forward and placed a collar around my neck before uncuffing my wrists. Smiling deceptively sweet, she said, “Follow me. I want to show you something. Don’t try anything funny; otherwise, the lovely collar around your neck will shock you. If you speak, it will shock you. If you put one toe out of line, it will shock you. Am I understood?”
I nodded, not wanting to be shocked again and not wanting to give her the satisfaction of watching me be electrocuted. Her disappointment was evident on her face. Turning on her heel, Odette strode out of the room. Tyrese shoved me after her, and after curling my lips threateningly at him, I followed. Through the impressive compound, she led me into what looked like her office and onto a balcony. From there, I could see a long driveway, mostly hidden by trees. One story below us, four figures were being loaded into an armored truck: Riley, Akira, Gigi, and Tommy. Riley glanced up in my direction and went white, although I realized he probably was trying to figure out if I was Anna or Elsa.
I gave him a little wave.
“They are being transported back to Estes Park, where they will be dropped off, safe and sound, at their respective parents’ businesses. Of course, they’ll be tranquilized on the way there, so they can’t figure out our location per your request,” Odette said. “To be frank, I’d quite enjoy the Laroches and Starks coming here. Wipe them out like the abominations deserve.”
I forced myself to remain quiet, knowing she was attempting to get a rise out of me so I’d speak. I wouldn’t be so easily fooled or persuaded, which Odette would learn sooner or later.
The armored truck drove away once the four Shifters were in the back. We watched it until it disappeared.
“Let’s get you back to your cell. We have something special waiting for you,” Odette said. I followed wordlessly behind her. Viktor and Tyrese walked behind me, ensuring I didn’t try anything funny. As long as Odette held her finger on the trigger button for my shock collar, I wouldn’t try anything. I was tired of being electrocuted.
Stepping inside my cell, I found the floor covered in a thin layer of water.
I scoffed. “What the-”
I never finished my sentence. Odette pressed the trigger button, and I collapsed to the ground screaming at the top of my lungs as the collar sent wave after wave of electrical currents through my body. Lying in the water, the electricity transferred to the liquid, amplifying the effects and increasing my pain and suffering.
“Stop! Stop! Please stop!” I pleaded, crying.
Odette relinquished her control of the trigger, handing it to Viktor. I could barely concentrate on them between my splitting headache, spinning vision, and the sensation of something warm trickling out of my ear.
“Wha-what did I… I do?” I croaked, attempting but failing to focus on her.
“Nothing. This is just a reminder you’re at our mercy,” Odette replied, stepping up to my cell bars and bracing herself on them. “This is also a reminder for you to know what will happen if you even think about lying or trying to escape. Am I understood?”
I nodded, unable to speak without the knot in my throat bursting forward into another sob.
“Viktor, Tyrese, Nicole, with me. We must discuss the questions we need to know from her.” Odette strode off with the others behind her, but not before Viktor glanced over his shoulder, mortified.
I’m sorry. He mouthed.
I wanted to respond. I tried to tell him it wasn’t his fault, but I couldn’t, and I succumbed to the headache, my world slowly fading out.