We cruised down to the abandoned warehouse that Claw claimed as his den. His ride wasn't there and there was no sign of him anywhere.
“Where the hell is that son of a bitch?” Ace muttered under his breath.
“Beats me,” Blade piped up. “Shoulda' been at the clubhouse like the rest of us.”
“It ain't looking good for him,” I spoke flatly. “He's either in trouble or he's going to be.”
As soon as we busted through the door, the air inside reeked of death and decay. It smelled as if it had been used to dump rotten meat, just like a slaughterhouse.
Ace gagged, covering his airways. Blade buried his nose in the crease of his elbow. I pulled my scarf up around my nose and mouth to mask the worst of the smell.
It was bad. The rancid scent filled lungs, choking me, the fumes causing my eyes to water. It was a good job I had a cast-iron gut, or else I would be spilling the contents of my stomach all over the concrete floor.
The further we went into the warehouse, the worse the pungent stench got.
Ace made for the stairs, taking out his gun. He put a finger over his lips to silence us. Blade pulled out his gun and went to follow him. They'd obviously heard something up there, something that I'd missed whilst being distracted by the putrid smell.
I could continue to check out where the smell was coming from or I could follow the boys upstairs. I chose the latter, opting to go upstairs because I had a strange gut feeling that was where I needed to be.
I thought that maybe Claw could be hiding someone up there. So, I maneuvered past Blade and Ace, edging up each step slowly, my boots making a slight tap up each metal platform. I stopped at the top to take a look around, then signaled to the boys that the coast was clear.
It wasn't well lit up there, but we shifters could see just fine. There was only one door at the top of the stairs, so I rattled the handle. “It's locked,” I snarled.
Blade gave me a sharp nod, second-guessing what was coming next. I took a step back, bolstering enough strength to kick the door off its hinges in one swift blow. A high-pitched scream echoed all over the warehouse, causing the boys to flinch back, startled.
“The Fuck?” I stood in the doorway, shocked by the discovery.
I pulled out my gun, stalked into the room, not knowing what the fuck to expect. All I could scent was a female and an abundance of fear.
The petite figure huddled in a ball in the corner of the darkened room, whimpering. Her terrified little sobs, echoed around the room, probably thinking that these were her last few seconds on earth.
The closer I got to her, the more I could make out. She was bound and gagged, completely fucking naked too.
Blade let out a growl with temper.
“Shit, Claw!” He seethed. “That fucker has gone and done it this time.”
This was bad, proving our suspicions about him having teamed up with those Shadow fuckers. We don't pull this shit with women. It was against club rules, and if you were stupid enough to break those, then the punishment was death.
“Ace, call this in. I'm going to go check out the damage,” I instructed.
I wanted to be the one to handle the female. Not Blade, not Ace... me.
Something awakened the bear in me as soon as I saw her. Pure blind rage had me seeing red, misting my eyes like 'Toro the fucking bull' with Claw being the fucking matador.
Something happened to me right there. It bothered me, seeing her all roughed up like that. Trembling like a pretty little flower in a force gale wind. Too darn beautiful to see her go to waste, such a travesty to watch her wilt and wither.
She really was something. Too good for a monster like me.
Why the fuck did that just cross my mind?
As I pulled out a switchblade from my back pocket, she screamed some more as if she thought that this was going to be her demise. I probably shouldn't have chuckled but I couldn't seem to stop myself.
“Hold still, I ain't going to hurt you,” I tried to make my voice sound less gruff.
I knew I sounded like a serial killer from a horror movie. My voice was gravel rough, worse than a sixty-a-day smoker, just as deep and throaty like the heavy throttle of my ride.
My eyes winced as I looked at her tear-streaked face, canting my head to one side with wonder. Fuck knows how long she has been kept here without food and water.
She looked half-starved and bruised to hell. Dread filled me as I leaned in to inhale her scent. I couldn't smell another males seed on her, so I knew she hadn't been violated in that way, thank God.
She looked at me with wide trembling eyes and I snapped back to life, realizing that I was kneeling over her whilst holding a knife. I began sawing at the binds to her wrists first. She held them up to make it easier for me. Good, she's realizing that I'm actually trying to help her... it's a start.
Next, I cut through the ones at her ankles. She removed the gag from her mouth herself, gasping between breaths, waiting to see if I was going to do something bad.
I stood to my feet, offering my hand out to help her stand. She took hold of it and I pulled her up. Her whole body rocked with tremors as she stood on shaky legs.
Shit, she's fuckin' naked and probably freezing cold as well as shit scared. I didn't want anyone seeing her like that, so I took the t-shirt off my own back and handed it to her.
“Here, put this on.” I held it out in offering.
She took it with trembling hands, then pulled it over her head. “Thanks,” she whispered, timidly.
There was a spare pair of jeans in the box of my ride, she could make use of. I made an attempt at smiling to put her at ease, flashing my pearly whites.
Jax usually teases the shit out of me whenever I attempted to smile, saying I could scare small children away. Whatever I was doing seemed to be working because she smiled right back at me.
“You can trust me, do you hear? You got a name, honey?” I put as much emphasis on 'trust' as I could.
She nodded her head as if to say 'yes.'
Good. We were getting somewhere.
“Gia, my name's Gianna,” she offered, “but people call me Gia for short.”
“Who did this to you?” I gestured at herself.
She swallowed with difficulty which was another indication that her throat was dry, as well as wondering how much information she felt she should divulge.
“He was a... um, a bear,” she spoke with caution, eyeing my reaction with a look of trepidation.
Shit! The fucker shifted in front of her. Now this alters the game board.
I asked again but more specifically, making sure I lowered my tone so that the boys couldn't hear from outside. I needed to be completely certain of what she meant. For all I knew, I could've misunderstood. She may have meant to say that he was a member of the Blood Moon Bears and not an actual bear.
“When you say a bear, do you mean the MC?” I held my breath as I waited, wide-eyed.
She shook her head as if to say 'no'. This was bad.
“No, Claw could change into a bear,” her voice strained, sounding petrified.
It was my worst fear confirmed. She knew. The club rules were: she had to die. There were no two ways about it. We had to protect the secret at all costs. My loyalty had always been to my Alpha. But ever since I first laid eyes on Gia, that shifted. My priorities had changed, focusing solely on her instead.
“You can't tell anyone.” I gripped her shoulders, looking her straight into her big blue eyes.
“When I bring you in, you know shit, do you here?” If my voice sounded harsh and panicked, then too fucking bad because spewing that shit to the Alpha was going to put a bullet in her head.
Worst of all, I'd be the one expected to do it, and fuck me sideways, this woman meant something to me. I ain't ever had anything I cared about in a long, long time. I was an orphan boy who came from a broken home, fending for myself and relying on my fists, fighting for survival every fucking day of my life just to get through one stinking day to the next, and for what?
I had a feeling that she could very well be my 'one and only, till death do us part' and I wasn't planning on the death part yet. Not while she had me fighting her corner. I was a dexterous fighter, undefeated, skilled in the art of inflicting pain on my opponents. Gia's enemies were my enemies now. I was her warrior. Every fucked-up, broken piece of me was hers to heal, providing she wanted to, of course. If, perhaps by some miracle, she thought I was worthy of her time.
“Why not?” She asked with questioning doubt in her eyes.
I kept my hold on her, looking at her full-on because I needed her to understand. She had to realize that I wasn't playing around and that her life depended upon it.
“Because they'll kill you, darlin',” I give it to her straight, knowing that it would hit home hardest.
She gasped at my revelation, her bottom lip quivering as the news took root and spread. Moments later, the understanding settled in her eyes.
“They'll kill me anyway, won't they?” Her voice broke at the end.
I swallowed hard, my jaw pulsing as I thought things through. She was right, they would kill her the second I brought her in. I needed to protect her. She's mine.
“I got me an idea about that,” I told her, feeling her stiffen in my grasp.
“What's that?” She asked, the glint of hope sparkling in her teary eyes.
I lowered my face an inch from her ear, feeling the heat spread through my chest and head due south.
“I'm mate claiming you,” I promised.