Sylvie’s forehead warmed the tinted glass of the jeep as her driver sped along the winding country roads. The bear of a man, Jace, barely spoke a word to her, his black, narrowed eyes occasionally flicking to the rearview mirror.
Her bound hands sat uselessly in her lap. All the energy from her adrenaline-fueled rage in avoiding his capture was completely used up.
She wondered if Elias and Kian had noticed she was missing yet. The men who held her mark and had given her symbols of their own over her heart— violet and crimson patterns almost interlinking. Her Fae and Vampire. Those were her mates, not the man driving the car in front of them.
Rowan Hex was deluded. She felt nothing towards that monster but unfathomable hate that burned her to her core.
“Pull over,” she croaked, nudging the driver’s seat. “I need to pee.” She did need to pee, but it was the spattering of trees along the roadside that actually drew her attention. If only she could hide inside one, it would give her true mates time to find her.
“Here,” Jace growled, throwing an empty juice bottle on the seat beside her.
“I’m not using this,” she snapped. “I can’t even use my fucking hands.”
Jace’s dark chuckle sent shivers along her spine. “Foul-mouthed whore.”
“I’m foul-mouthed? You talk to your mother with that mouth, you ugly fuck?”
The car lurched, and her face slammed into the back of his chair. She groaned, pushing herself back to scowl at the man.
“I’m gonna enjoy torturing you,” he said, taking off behind the leading jeep again. The conviction in his statement radiated genuine fear through her.
“Please,” she tried again. “I just need to use the bathroom.”
Jace stayed quiet, the back of his shaven head mocking her with a subtle shake, left to right.
“Fine, I’ll just piss all over your back seat then-”
“Do that,” he shouted, “and I’ll use your head as a fucking mop.”
She curled her feet beneath her and buried her face in the crease of her folded arms. He would not see her cry or how his words affected her. While Rowan’s hatred fired her up, Jace’s genuinely scared her.
They drove in silence for a while, and when her heart stopped feeling like it would jump from her mouth, she peered out the window. The midday sun barely penetrated the glass tint, and she tried the window button.
“Can you open the window a bit?” she asked quietly, hoping her more pliant demeanour might soften his anger directed at her.
“Can you shut the fuck up?”
And nope. That failed too.
She squinted, staring at the rapidly passing trees, the groupings of plants growing closer and closer as they neared what she assumed would be a forest. So many trees she could escape into. Maybe the secondary location wouldn’t be a death sentence after all.
A buzzing from the centre console stole her attention before Jace picked the object up and put it to his ear. Hadn’t he heard of hands-free? Getting kidnapped only to die in a car crash wasn’t high on her list of things to do that day.
The voice on the other end of the call mumbled lowly through the phone, the owner clearly Rowan, but too far away for Sylvie to distinguish any words.
“Yes. I’ll head straight there. How long will you be?”
More mumbles. Where was he going to go? He better not be leaving her alone with Jace once the car ride ended; she didn’t think she’d survive if he did.
“Hey!” she called out weakly. “Rowan said he’d meet me back at the pack border....”
“Shut up,” Jace growled, reaching behind to paw at her legs.
He stilled as more words poured from the phone, and his body tensed.
“Can you hear me now?” Rowan’s gruff voice asked through the phone, and Sylvie paused, unsure who he was talking to.
“Woman,” he said then, reminding her she hadn’t even told him her name yet.
“I can hear you.”
“Good. You’ll be escorted to the holding cells while I fortify the borders.”
“But you said-”
“I know what I said. Jace can take care of it.”
“By it, you mean me.”
The phone call ended, and Sylvie groaned, slamming her clenched fist on her knee. Stupid damn, bastard, dog, fuck!
“We’re almost there,” Jace growled, more to himself than her. Sylvie just rolled her eyes and continued plotting her escape.
Sylvie’s bladder was almost bursting when the car pulled to a gravelly stop. Jace took his time, striding from the driver’s seat, the whole vehicle jolting up when his feet hit the ground. His colossal size blocked out the sun as he lumbered to the trunk.
His grumbles vibrated through the leather seats beneath her as he threw open the back door. The sounds of metal, crumpling paper and plastic had Sylvie gulping. What was he doing back there?
When he returned with a roll of duct tape, adrenaline surged through her body. She jerked away from the door, kicking her feet towards Jace’s pawing hands.
His grip around her ankle made her bones ache as he dragged her beneath him, tearing a strip of tape and binding her hands tightly.
“My hands are already tied. What are you-”
He slapped another strip over her lips and palmed it down, cutting off her words and almost her breathing. She’d be a goner if she got emotional and her nose blocked.
“Now, if you don’t walk where you’re told without causing trouble, I’ll tape your legs together and drag you. Understand?”
She frowned and pushed her hands against him so he would move out of her way when his thumb and forefinger pinched her nose. Hard. The sudden lack of oxygen shocked her system, making her writhe and let out a muffled squeal.
“Nod when I ask you something, whore.”
She nodded frantically, tears forming in her eyes, inhaling desperately when his fingers finally let go.
She fought the urge to cry as she shuffled out of the jeep and onto the loose ground. As she feared, her nose blocked slightly from her distress, and the oxygen drawable through her nostrils dwindled. She poked out her tongue to lick some adhesive off and pushed air into the tape. A tiny gap formed, and she relaxed, letting some extra air seep passed her lips while following Jace towards an old cabin structure.
The thick wooden beams formed an H-shaped building with iron bars as thick as her wrist covering each window.
The gravel paths and forest beyond were silent, only the soft chirrups of birds suggesting they weren’t alone.
Jace shoved her towards an imposing door with inch-deep slashes and dried rust dribbling from the cuts. She pushed the idea of blood from her mind as Jace unlocked the door and forced her inside. Immediately the stench of faeces, blood and mildew filled her nostrils, making her gag. God, vomiting with her mouth duct taped would be disgusting.
She turned, staring at the lumbering shape behind her and pointed to her mouth.
“Leave it. I’m sick of your voice,” he said, using his hard body to push her forward. Stumbling, she focused on drawing shallow breaths and averting her gaze from suspicious patches and puddles on the floor.
The building had eight empty cells, all conjoined by a long solitary hallway with flickering lights lining the ceiling. Each cell had one barred window, a metal mattress-less stretcher and a bedpan. No way she was using that.
“In here,” he said gruffly, gesturing to a doorless room before the last cells. Behind the concrete frame stood a grey brick wall and a fire hose suspended from the opposite side.
“Go stand against the wall.”
She shook her head with wide eyes as he picked up the nozzle of the hose by his side.
“I won’t ask again,” he threatened, not lifting his gaze to her yet.
Swallowing tears, she dragged her feet to the concrete wall, shivering after spotting the chips and cracks in the grey blocks.
“Take off your clothes.”
Terror filled her as his head lifted, regarding her trembling form. His bored eyes were almost comforting, and she awkwardly flicked the bottoms free, letting her blouse fall to her elbows. The pants were easier. She shimmied them off and stood with them around her ankles. Her taped wrists and sandals stopped the clothes from going any further, and Jace stared at her with contempt.
With that, he turned the nozzle on, pointing the pelting ice water straight at her bare legs. Immediately, her body shot against the concrete wall with blinding force, bruising lashes smacking her knees together and arms against the concrete as he moved the hose across her body. Her muffled screams of pain sprang free as a stream of water hit her jaw, ripping the duct tape free.
“Stop!” Water flooded her mouth, and her head whipped into the wall, the crack echoing in her ears as she fell to the ground, curling into a protective ball.
Sobbing and shaking, the violent stream struck her over and over until every part of her ached. Finally, the water shut off, and she remained frozen, shivering in a puddle of ice water and urine. She tried to hold it in, but her bladder released as soon as the torrent hit her stomach.
Sylvie sobbed with unbearable shame as Jace grabbed her by the wrists and dragged her from the room to the nearest cell. His face twisted into a disgusted scowl at the sight and probably smell of her.
Dropping her in the middle of the floor, she stayed curled on her side, staring despondently at the cell’s exit. Her bare legs were peppered with bruises the size of softballs, and her bound wrists hung limply in front of her aching stomach.
“Change into this,” he growled, throwing a small pile of clothes on the floor near her sopping form.
She remained still, not even blinking as he slammed the cell shut and stomped away, turning off the lights and pitching her in semi-darkness.
Too cold to shiver or tired to sleep, her eyes bored holes into the ground until her naked body dried in the humid, shit-stained hellhole. Not even an inquisitive mouse biting her fingers was enough to elicit a response beyond a light twitch.
As the light outside melted into darkness, and the room’s heat dwindled to hypothermic lows, she vowed she would kill Jace and Rowan and any other shifter who harmed her, and nothing, not even a bullshit matebond, would get in her way.