What was he going to do now- shift into a bear?
Contrary to my sarcastic thinking, he didn’t. Of course, he didn’t because shifters did not exist.
I watched him as he unwrapped all of the makeshift bandages that I’d made and lifted his clothes to show me his injuries. But instead of the bleeding holes that I had seen earlier, all there was now was perfectly smooth skin. I was drawn to run my fingers over it to ensure that I did not imagine things because I knew that the gunshot wounds were there earlier. I saw him bleed with my own eyes and now they were just….gone. There was nothing left even to suggest that he had ever been shot.
“What the fuck?” I was so stunned that my manners went right out of the window. “How the hell did you do that?”
“Shifters have super healing.”
Ugh, not that story again!
But I couldn’t deny that what I was seeing now was impossible. No human could heal this fast and definitely not like this from three bullet wounds which were bleeding just an hour earlier.
I looked up to give him my most disbelieving look, yet what I saw made me gasp. His eyes were glowing feral gold as if some beast possessed him. What shocked me even more was that I was not even remotely scared by the abnormal sight in front of me. Quite the opposite- I was intrigued, even attracted, by what I was seeing. Those eyes were so familiar, almost like they were beckoning me home.
“What is going on, Callum?” My bewildered tone reflected the confusion inside my head—none of this made sense.
“It’s my bear, Mahon,” he explained while I watched those captivating ice-blue orbs return to their normal colour. “He wants to come out and meet you properly.”
If I weren’t sitting already, I would have certainly been on the floor by now, my mind dizzy with all the strange sights and statements.
Yet, before I could respond, there was a commotion on the other side of the door, where our captors were most likely plotting their next move. Their voices and heavy steps were nearing with every second that passed.
My heart pounded hard in my chest, and my body stiffened- these guys meant business. I knew it from the two agents in London and even more so from the way they had shot Callum multiple times. What if they decided to hurt Callum again? Fear trickled like ice water through my veins at the idea that anything could happen to him because of me.
“Listen, Callum- these men, they just need me,” I whispered, my voice resigned to my fate. There was still hope for him though. “If I go with them, maybe they will let you go because you have nothing to do with this craziness.”
His eyes flashed yellow once again, his soft expression replaced with a beastly look. But I did not have time to dwell on his bizarre behaviour- they were going to come for us at any moment and I needed to make sure that he was not going to do anything stupid, including risking his life to stop them.
“Like hell I am going to let them hurt you,” he barked, his voice an angry threat. “I will protect you until my dying breath, mate.”
Jesus, this was the opposite of what I had just told him. Couldn’t he listen to me for once! Not to mention that he sounded a bit dramatic and weird with this whole dying-breath and mate business.
I contemplated how else to tell him to stay out of what was probably about to happen but his warm, rough hand cupped my cheek, interrupting my thoughts. The tenderness of his touch softened my attitude. It was like I was ready to melt in his arms.
“I meant it, Flame. I am here to take care of you and I always will.” The way he looked at me as if I was his whole world took my breath away.
“That’s not what I-”
I didn’t get to finish. The noises on the other side were getting louder- they were coming, and we were outnumbered by the sounds of it.
A loud gasp slipped in between my lips when Callum jumped to his feet, like he was not lying there bleeding hours earlier, and pulled me in for an embrace that left me stunned. I didn’t fight him when he placed a featherlight kiss on my forehead. Instead, I breathed him in, filling my lungs with his soothing scent. For a moment, I imagined that everything was going to be okay. That this wasn’t the end.
My body whimpered in protest when he finally moved away but not before he tenderly tilted my chin up, his gaze meeting mine.
“Just follow my lead. I will get us out of here.”
Without another word, he moved closer to the door and began to undress. His shirt came off, exposing his muscular upper body, parts of which were covered in intricate tribal tattoos. I forced myself to look away when he unbuttoned his jeans and pulled them down along his toned legs. I rolled my eyes at the ridiculousness of what he was doing, even if I appreciated the view moments earlier- we were about to get murdered by professional hitmen and Callum was getting naked instead.
First, I heard the cracks. The sound of countless bones breaking, snapping like they were thin twigs, made me shift my gaze back to him. He fell on all fours but he did not look in pain. In fact, he appeared calm, not even bothered by what was going on. I would have never believed what happened next if I did not see it with my own eyes- his flawless, smooth skin turned into thick brown fur covering his whole body. Except, his body was no longer human. His hands and feet turned into big paws with long, curved claws. His perfect shoulders were replaced by a slight, furry hump above them. And when his head snapped towards me, it was not the face of Callum that I saw but that of a huge brown bear with round ears and a long snout.
I should have been freaked out about the whole thing. Even with the kind of day that I was already having, what I was witnessing topped everything that had happened.
The bear stared at me but its gaze was soft, curious even. When it lowered its head in an invitation to pat him, I had no idea how I knew that was what it meant but I did. Deep down, something was telling me to run my fingers through its fur and I did, a quiet purr of contentment greeting me in return.
There was a connection between this bear and me, one that vibrated in the air. Everything that Callum said earlier played again in my head. This was him but also his animal. Or maybe I was going crazy?
“Mahon?” I murmured my question, incredulous that I was actually talking to an animal.
The bear rubbed its head against my hand before it let out a deafening roar—a warning. We were out of time.
“What the fuck was that?” A deep but trembling male voice somewhere on the other side of the door shouted. I could almost imagine the beads of sweat dripping down his forehead as he spoke.
“It sounded like a wild animal nearby,” someone else pipped in. “Go check on the girl and that guy. He might be dead by now.”
Oh, they had no idea what was waiting for them here.
Mahon nuzzled my leg, urging me to stand behind him as he placed himself between me and the door but I was not going to hide like some damn damsel in distress, especially when I had told Callum to stay out of this for his own safety. Okay, that was before I knew that he could transform into a bear but I still had no idea what kind of damage the goons that were after me could do to him and his bear.
I scanned the room to see if there was anything I could use but the only thing around was a folding chair. Still, I could do some damage with that. I grabbed the chair and readied myself to use it as a rather large bat against the man who was about to come in. Mahon, or Callum, or whoever was in there, didn’t seem to approve but there was no time to argue over this.
Seconds seemed like hours as we waited for the door to open. When it finally did, confusion was written on the guy’s face as he saw me standing there with a chair in my hands, ready to attack.
But before he could finish his sentence, his eyes widened when he zeroed in on the bear in front of him, panic crippling his face. He reached for his gun, yet he was too slow. With a growl, Mahon rose on his hind legs, bit and held on to the neck of goon. The crunching and breaking of bones as the bear’s jaws crushed his body with a clamping force sent a chill down my spine. The pungent smell of blood slowly filled up my nostrils, and I fought the urge to wretch. I had to remind myself that as surreal as the whole scene was, the man who now lay dead on the floor would not have hesitated to kill Callum and me if he had the chance.
Another growl echoed in the room. Mahon’s head snapped back to me, and I was taken aback by how savaged the bear looked now. His muzzle was covered in blood, his eye burning with an angry fire. Any normal person would have been petrified. Not me- I was not scared. Maybe I had also gone bonkers listening to Callum’s crazy stories. Whatever the case, we had bigger problems to worry about at the moment than my level of sanity.
Clutching the chair in my hands, I followed Mahon when he exited the room that we were held in and ventured further into the cabin.
“Jackson, what is going on there?” Someone yelled at the dead guy, I guessed. The voice sounded near, just around the corner from the corridor where Mahon and I were hiding. I held my breath and tried to be as quiet as possible not to give away our position. For a bear, Mahon was also surprisingly quiet. The silence in the air as the man waited for a reply became eerie. “Jackson?”
His chair scraped against the floor as he got up from his seat and the wooden floorboard creaked under his heavy footsteps. When he finally made it around the corner, I was ready for him. He dropped on the floor like a sack of potatoes once I knocked him out with my chair.
The loud thud from his fall alerted his companion, who came running with his gun in hand. He wasted no time in pointing it right at me, all set to shoot. But it was my bear protector that once again sprung into action, pouncing on the goon and pinning him on the floor as he began to shoot around the room. I did not want to leave Mahon alone but getting shot was more dangerous for me than for him, so I darted to the small kitchen next to the room that we were in.
The scuffle between the man and the bear continued until silence once again settled in. I peaked to see what happened; my heart stuck in my throat as I prayed that Mahon was not heard.
“Where the fuck do you think you are going, you little bitch?”
I didn’t even get a chance to see who was behind me. My scalp began to itch, involuntary tears pooling in my eyes when my attacker wrapped his fingers in my hair and yanked it mercilessly, sending me tumbling backwards until my back was pressed against his chest and he had a chokehold on me.
“I don’t know what tricks you have up your sleeve to get past my guys but we were told that we don’t have to bring you in alive if you cause any problems. Perhaps it’s time to shut you up forever the good old way.”
The amusement with which he talked about ending my life was terrifying and there was nothing I could do to stop him. My fate was in his hands and he planned to crush it without a second thought.
I jerked from the cool sensation when a cold blade pressed against my neck. The knife
was so sharp that my shudder earned me a small cut, the sting of which made me wince. A tendril of panic seized my chest- there was no way out of this.
“Eager, are we?” His sardonic question begged no answer, but even if it didn’t, the lump stuck in my throat didn’t allow me even to make a sound.
And then it happened- the metal bit into my skin, slicing it while my killer slid the knife along my neck.
There was no pain, to begin with. Just the feel of the blade before my warm blood began to trickle from my wound.
Then came the burn.
“Mr Armstrong says Goodbye,” my executioner whispered in my ear with evil satisfaction.
My survival instinct kicked in when he finally let go of me, my hands immediately flying to my neck to stop the blood loss in a vain attempt to save myself. But it was useless- my body and my mind were already shutting down.
I dropped to the ground, unable to stand on my feet anymore. Everything went into slow motion when my head hit the floor. Above me stood the man who took everything from me, a wicked grin sprawled across his face.
The pain that finally kicked in from my wound was a bitter reminder of what being alive felt like, just as I was about to lose that forever. I turned my head towards the door that I just came through, yet no one was coming for me this time. My heart ached as I realised that not only did I lose the fight against my boss but Callum had perished in it as well.
“I’m sorry.” The faint words rolled off my lips with my last dying breath.
.... For once I can’t find the right words for this AN.
Trust me, this is not a drill. It is not a dream either. Our Flame is very much dying and Callum is nowhere to be seen.
Is there a way back from death and how will bear Alpha cope if he loses his mate? The wait until next Tuesday is going to feel extra long this time.
It was an emotional chapter to write and I hope you enjoyed it, despite the darkness it ends with. Can’t wait to hear what you think.