The disgusting Wolf ahead of me glanced over his shoulder, lips curling up in a leering grin as he unlocked the front door of a dilapidated old house and then kicked it open wide with his foot. Taking a step back, he motioned his arm in a grand gesture toward the interior and snickered.
Before I could even tell him where he could put his revolting smirk, cruel hands shot out and struck me from behind, right between my shoulder blades. The force of the strike threw me forward off balance over the threshold. I yelped and my already out-of-control fear amped up another level because my hands were tied behind my back. There was nothing I could do to stop my forward momentum, and I was going to hit the ground hard with nothing to stop me but my rounded belly! At the last second, I wrenched my body hard, twisting just enough to take the impact on my side. Electric shocks of pain ricocheted through my right hip and shoulder. The air whooshed from my lungs. I hissed and bit my lip to keep from crying out. Breath heaving in my chest, I scrambled to right myself, trying to get my legs beneath me.
Raucous laughter came from the six wolves as they walked into the house and stood around, looking down at my futile display.
“Get her into the basement,” Dagger ordered.
I glared at him.
Two of the wolves stepped forward and reached down toward me. I did my best to shuffle away from them and snapped my teeth at their hands. “Get away from me!”
Without warning, one of them backhanded me across my cheek, causing my head to whiplash to the side. The menacing wolf snarled, “Behave!”
“Ow!” I couldn’t hold back my whimper, tears coming to my eyes. The pain was shocking as the bones rattled in my face.
Still struggling, I twisted my body to wriggle away but was unsuccessful as a wolf on each side grasped under my arms and jerked me to my feet. I stood unsteadily, my legs trembling beneath me. They pushed me into motion and I stumbled forward.
My single-minded focus to escape caused my brain to take in my surroundings with hypervigilance. My eyes were wide as they skipped quickly from object to object around me, searching for available exits and anything I could use as a weapon. But there wasn’t much in the space besides a ratty looking old couch and mismatched chair, along with two end tables and a freestanding lamp, all of which had seen better days.
Turning my attention again to Dagger, I decided to appeal to his logical side. Maybe he had a bit of self-preservation left. “You know you won’t get away with this. Leander will find me. And when he does, he won’t leave a piece of you left. If you want to live, why not do the smart thing? Just let me go.”
Dagger snorted, rolling his beady black eyes. He seemed completely unconcerned about the lethal threat that was Leander. His over confident response unnerved me, but I didn’t show it. I tried to work it out in my head. Surely, he had to realize Luca would call Leander. Dagger’s biggest mistake had been leaving my brother alive, but I was never been more grateful for anything in my life.
“I’m hoping that little bitch finds us,” Dagger snarled with contempt as we walked through a long hallway toward the back of the house. “It wouldn’t be any fun if he didn’t.”
Fresh unease rumbled through my stomach.
Reaching a door, the wolf on my left turned the handle and pushed it open. I could see wooden steps descending into the dark basement below. The dank scent of mildew drifted into my nostrils.
“You want me to just shove her in and let gravity take over?” the wolf on my right asked with dark anticipation.
Alarm shot down my spine. My body went rigid. I’d been able to prevent landing on my stomach when the bastard first pushed me into the house but there was no way I could avoid injury to that part of my body if I fell down a flight of stairs.
“No,” Dagger replied. “I have plans for that evil spawn in her belly. Can’t have it dying too soon.”
“What?” I gasped, the hair on my neck and arms standing straight up as icy cold fear rolled over my skin. No! I wouldn’t let that happen!
Adrenaline surged through my body. With shocking speed and strength, I twisted out of their grip. My canines automatically lengthened in preparation to tear through flesh. Blood and fabric filled my mouth as my jaws clamped down on the nearest wolf’s shoulder just missing the life source in his neck.
“Fucking bitch!” he hollered as he tried to get away from me, but I just closed my grip even tighter and snapped my head from side to side, effectively tearing the chunk of flesh from his body. I spit it on the ground and snaked forward again.
But my assault was radically detoured when Dagger’s fist slammed into my cheek. “Stop!”
I could barely see from the black spots that had invaded my vision, but I knew that the force of his blow had hurled me forward, directly toward the stairs. I cried out, “No!”
Abruptly, my motion was painfully redirected as the long fingers that were wrapped around my bicep jerked me back.
I worked to open my eyes, but found only one of them responded. My cheek on the same side as my unresponsive eye throbbed. The sound of my rasping breathing was drowned out by the furious snarls of the wolf holding both hands to the gaping wound in his shoulder.
“Chris, go clean yourself up,” Dagger muttered.
Another wolf took his place by my side. Wrapping my hair around his fist first, he curled a large hand around the nape of my neck to keep control of my head while his other hand gripped my arm.
Lifting me completely off my feet, the two wolves carried me down the stairs. When we reached the bottom, the darkness didn’t last for long as one of them pulled on a chain hanging from a light fixture on the ceiling. Three dim bulbs cast the eerie space in dirty light.
Praying for relief from the pounding in my head, I looked around in search of anything I could put to use but again, I came up short, only finding a scratched washing machine and dryer sat against the far side wall surrounded by old boxes, trash and debris. The only other source of light was a small grimy window with dead flies on the sill. Unfortunately, it was too small to fit my body through.
The rest of the wolves had joined us at the bottom of the stairs. Dagger grunted, “String her up.”
Immediately my attention snapped up to find shackles hanging from the ceiling. This was going to be bad. I just knew it.
“Wait! Let’s just talk about this a minute.”
Dagger chuckled darkly, “Oh, we’re going to talk...and other things.”
I fought with everything I had in me but it was no use. There were just too many of them. After another few minutes, my arms were raised over my head and locked into the hanging shackles. I was barely tall enough to reach the ground that could keep the weight off of my arms if I stood on my toes.
“No!” I cried out. Instinctively, my body wanted to flinch away from the threat, but there was nowhere for me to go. Hanging from the middle of the ceiling, I had wolves on all sides.
They didn’t bother undoing my clothing. Instead, razor-sharp claws extended from their fingertips and they simply sliced the clothing away from my body and in the process, dug into my flesh, leaving warm trails of blood along my arms, legs and back.
I stood completely bare, shaking, the precious bundle in my belly sticking out noticeably. My baby. He planned to kill my baby. I choked back the overwhelming fear that threatened to seize my mind and drown me. I couldn’t go there. If my mind went to the worst-case scenario, I wouldn’t survive. I had to be strong. Leander would find me. I knew he would. I just had to hold on until then.
Dagger eyed me speculatively. “You know, I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I found out you were pregnant. What better irony could there be?”
“W-what do you mean?” I panted, still not fully in control of my breathing.
He raised an eyebrow. “What? Did Leander never tell you how his mother died?” His tone turned mocking, “Did he care so much about his little whore to keep the truth from you?”
I stared at Dagger in confusion. Of course, I knew how Leander’s mother died. But what could that possibly have anything to do with me being pregnant?
With my continued silence, Dagger’s mouth curled up in cruel expectation. He licked his lips, clearly enjoying the thought of whatever he was going to say next. Dread filled my stomach.
“No. You don’t know, do you?” Dagger tilted his head to the side, his black eyes riveted on my face, thrilling for whatever response he expected me to give as he continued, “Isabelle...was pregnant.”
He stopped and waited patiently for me to reply.
But I couldn’t.
Dagger didn’t state it explicitly but the implication was clear. Leander’s mother was pregnant when she died?
But that would mean...my father and mother had not only killed Leander’s mother in an attempt to get to him, all because he had been so unfortunate as to be my mate, but they had also killed an unborn pup?!
No, no, no...
Dagger had to be lying. But there was nothing in his gleeful expression but horrible, horrible truth.
Leander’s family had been torn apart—his mother and sibling killed, his father ruined, and his mate lost to him—all because of me.
I couldn’t speak. Breath refused to fill my lungs.
Dagger chuckled gleefully and didn’t bother waiting for my response. “Oh yes. Isabelle was pregnant. A miracle, really, at her age. Everyone believed that pup was special and meant for great things. Guess they were wrong.” He snorted. A few of the other wolves joined in his laughter. “But then she trusted the wrong woman...your mother.”
Silent tears coursed down my cheeks. I wanted to scream at him to stop, but I had to know the truth. My entire life has been a lie. Everything I thought I knew about who I was and where I came from was false. I had no more identity. I was completely lost.
“Indeed. Your mother lured her away from the pack under the guise of friendship and treaty. She promised peace when really your father was waiting for them. It was barely a fight, not with her belly so rounded with child. What better way to cripple a king than take away his queen? And your father’s plan worked perfectly, I’ll give him that. Cyril was destroyed.”
With every word Dagger spoke, my heart broke into tinier little pieces. My entire existence has been the catalyst for so much pain—not just Leander’s family, but also Luca. Lucky’s mate, the future he was meant to have, was stolen from him because of me. Death and pain. Those were the things I brought to people. A cruel truth weighed on my shoulders. My life had helped no one—it would have been better if I’d never been born.
Dagger took a step forward. He placed his hands on each side of my belly
“No!” I twisted and turned, trying to wriggle out of his grip but couldn’t shake him loose.
It was clear Dagger wanted a sacrifice as retribution for what Leander had taken from him. If that’s what I had to be, so be it. My life didn’t mean anything to me anymore. But I would fight with every last breath to keep my baby safe. I had no doubt that Leander was on his way, but that didn’t mean he wanted me back. Of course, he wouldn’t want me back. Leander would come because he was a good Wolf. He was a good Alpha. The Oracle’s words played through my mind. She had said my pup needed her father to step into her destiny. Not her mother. Only her father. I knew now that I wasn’t going to make it out of this alive. But I could withstand long enough to keep my baby safe. Leander would take care of our daughter after I was gone.
Dagger’s claws came out, piercing my skin. He squeezed hard, causing pain to shoot through my abdomen. The little one inside my belly was frozen. I could feel her fear.
“P-Please...don’t!” I cried out hysterically. “Just tell me what you want. I’ll do anything you ask. Just please don’t hurt my pup!”
Dagger smirked and stepped away.
Relief flooded through my body, but it was short-lived.
“Don’t worry. I won’t kill him yet. I plan to crush the little devil’s skull in my fist...just like your father did.”
“What?!” I gasped.
“That’s right. Your father was the real monster. You know, that’s how Leander found them—his mother in a puddle of blood, sliced open, the baby taken from her womb, but still holding on to consciousness. Sad, really. Even in her pitiful state, Isabelle tried to fight for her child. By this point, Leander was running to get to them. We all were. But we still had several hundred yards to go across a wide field. Interestingly enough, the baby was far enough along that she lived. Cried even. Tiny little limbs flailing about, equally struggling to get to her mother. That is...until your father held Leander’s gaze and then crushed it’s little skull in his fist.”
Horror, like I’d never known before, crashed through me. I was destroyed by the images in my mind. A whimper slipped from my lips, ”No.”
Dagger nodded, pleased with my response. “Yep. Those tiny cries fell silent while Leander roared in fury and pain. I’ll never forget the sound of it. Although, I must say I can’t wait to hear again.” He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “But where was I? Oh yes, Alpha Grant then dropped the pitiful bundle of dead flesh onto Isabelle’s mutilated stomach before running away—left as an offering, a statement, a big ol’ ‘fuck you’ to Cyril. I have to give your father credit. His violation was so intimate and so cruel, he brought Cyril to his knees, broken, never to be the same again. His method was effective. And I know Leander will enjoy finding his mate and pup in exactly the same way.”
His words sank in...no negotiation was going to matter.
Grasping the shackles in my hands, I lifted my lower body and kicked Dagger in the chest as hard as I could.
“Fuck!” he grunted and flew back, landing on his butt.
Scrambling to his feet, rage shining in his eyes, he prowled toward me.
“Stay away from me, you sick fuck!” I snarled.
My words did no good because his fist shot out and slammed into my chest, knocking the air from my lungs. Before I could even cry out, his other fist fiercely impacted with my face. My body was thrown about like a ragdoll hanging from the ceiling. Blood poured from my mouth. I could barely see from the one eye still open. I coughed and sputtered, trying to clear my airway but from the fire in my lungs, I suspected he’d broken a few ribs.
“So you want to play?” Dagger snarled. Without warning, his hand grabbed between my legs, his finger penetrating into my body. “Maybe I should just tear it out this way.”
I howled in pain. It felt like I was being cut open from the inside. A trail of warm blood trickled from my opening, down my thigh.
Extracting his hand, he brought it up to my cheek, and wiped the blood stained finger and fully-extended claw along my cheek.
Kicking and screaming, my knee made contact with his groin.
“You little bitch!” Dagger doubled over, one hand between his legs.
From behind me, a boot landed solidly to my lower spine. “Hold still!”
I couldn’t see which Wolf had kicked me, but I heard a sharp crack.
Dagger heaved a few breaths before coming back up. “Hold her legs!”
The other wolves grabbed to secure my legs. When Dagger reached me, I once again felt his violating fingers, this time in both entrances of my body. My back arched. Another scream tore from my throat. The pain felt like fire tearing me apart.
Still holding me tight between my legs, Dagger’s other hand came up and wrapped around the back of my neck. He breathed in my face, “Now you’re going to be a good little whore and tell me how much you like it.”
The pain was too excruciating. I couldn’t even think, let alone form words. “N-No...p-please...”
“Now, come on. Show my boys how good you are. They can’t wait to play with you too.” He pushed his fingers in deeper.
A fresh wave of fire went through my core, this time higher, causing my abdomen to constrict. More trails of liquid flowed down my legs. I was losing too much blood. I couldn’t tell which orifices it generated from, my womb or my anus, but from the pain, I suspected both. The black spots in my vision increased. I fought to remain conscious.
Abruptly, another wolf opened the door to the basement and hollered down, “Boss, we got company!”