Fit For Fire

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A Debt Owed

Thirty minutes, and a few spoon licks later, I was belting out Sam Smith, while putting a pan of double chocolate brownies in the oven. I sang while rinsing the dishes in the sink. Putting them in the dishwasher, I started it, then moved to the counter tops, trying to keep my hands and my mind occupied. It was almost eight o’clock at night and after a long day of running, I was exhausted. I couldn’t shut down now though, as I had a lot to do.

Turning towards my living room, I crossed my arms as tears pricked my eyes. Staring out at the open space, I let my eyes wander around the room. Light from the streetlight streamed through the double windows that sat in an exposed brick wall, a white heater sat on the floor, mounted to the wall between them. I had placed fake flowers in a wooden box on the top in the warmer seasons to try to disguise it. My tan couch, the left side faded from the sunlight, faced a wide bookshelf that doubled as my entertainment center. A modest TV sat on top of that, surrounded by paintings from local artists. No personal pictures lined my walls as I didn’t really have any. I did have a photo of my mother, but it was framed and sat on my dresser.

My apartment wasn’t much, but it was mine and I was proud of it. I had worked hard and landed myself a decent job, and I was able to have my own place, and pay my own bills. I didn’t lead a charmed life. There were still things I wanted, things I wished I had. I wasn’t rich, but I was happy. Or had been. I had worked so hard to make it here. To move passed people’s assumptions of me based on my background. I guess if I did it once, I could do it all again.

Walking to my room, I changed out of my robe and into a faded pair of skinny jeans and a white lacy tank top. Rummaging through my closet, I pulled out a backpack that would be small enough for my wolf to carry. Grabbing all my important documents, including my state ID, and ATM card, I carefully placed them against the back of my bag. Pulling out the cash I stashed in my underwear drawer and a few other essentials, I packed the bag and slid it under my bed. In the event anyone came for me here, I could escape out the fire escape that was outside my bedroom window. Looking out that window I grimaced. I hated that my time here was over. Next, I pulled out a small suitcase and packed it. I would bring both bags with me if I had time, but if I needed to leave quickly the backpack would have to do.

Pulling out my tablet I laid on my bed. Sighing in frustration, I started looking up how to replace my phone and the specifics on reporting my vehicle as stolen. Knowing I needed a plan in place, I looked up area’s with multiple job openings in my career field that I could get to by bus. Lucky for me, being an IT specialist meant I could get a job nearly anywhere, so relocating wouldn’t be as hard as my mind made it out to be. Looking up the price of bus tickets I began to formulate a plan. Getting out of bed, I tucked my tablet and its charger into my backpack. Walking to the closet I pulled on my shoes. All I had left to do was pack my toiletries, and bag my brownies.

Leaving my room, I walked begrudgingly to my bathroom so I could pack my personal items for my bag. Shoving my toothbrush and toothpaste into a Ziplock, I grabbed my hairbrush and a few other things, before returning to my room to pack them in my backpack. Shoving them in the bag, I hated myself for deciding to go for a run so close to home. I should have had better control. Now I had a pack of werewolves on my case and I would have to leave everything. Straightening, I looked at my ceiling and tried to find the good in all of this. I knew now that I wasn’t as alone as I had thought. Closing my eyes, I forced a tight-lipped smile on my reluctant lips. That was something.

I genuinely smiled as the smell of brownies started to fill the apartment. Ditching my bag, I followed the delicious aroma back to the kitchen. I was passing my front door when a sudden noise caught my attention. I could hear heavy footsteps stomping up the stairs. With hearing as good as mine, you often become familiar with the way everything, and everyone sounds around you. My only neighbors being an elderly couple, and a single mom and her daughter, this sound was unfamiliar to me. Reminding myself that people occasionally get visitors, even at this hour, I took a breath to steady myself before looking out the peephole.

Closing one eye I leaned in, hoping to see the source of the sound. Gasping I panicked when I saw that the commotion was caused by a couple of tall, well-built men in black suits. One of them had dirty blonde hair and green eyes. Jeremy. Turning from the door, my pulse raced and my breath hitched. This was definitely going to interfere with my brownie eating plans.

Pushing myself away from the door I ran to the kitchen. Turning my music up louder, to impair their hearing, I threw my oven a last look of longing. With only a few minutes left I shut the oven off, just as someone knocked. Running to my room, I closed and locked the door, shoving my desk chair under the door knob. Grabbing my bag, I rushed to my window. I could hear my front door open as I opened my window and climbed out.

Realizing that sneaking out of windows was starting to become a regular thing with me, I raced down the fire escape. I made it down a floor before a tall man with thick black hair, and dark eyes appeared on the stairs in front of me. The man had on black slacks and a white button up shirt that was hastily pushed up passed his elbows. The collar of his shirt was stretched and his tie was loose, and his hair looked as if he had repeatedly raked his hand through it. Despite his disheveled uniform, I was sure he belonged to the group of wolves who I had seen thundering up my stairs the moment before.

Screeching to a stop, I nearly fell into him. Catching myself, I took a step backwards on the landing. Climbing the rest of the way up to the landing, a smug smile stretched across his handsome face. He was a foot away from me. His large form blocked off any hope of passing him. Behind me there were only stairs that led back to my window. Feeling trapped, his smug look pissed me off. Clenching my fist, I had a hard time resisting the urge to wipe that stupid smile from his face.

His dark brown eyes focused on my feet before rising to study the rest of me. The way he studied me with a careful curiosity, made my palms sweat. He leaned forward and then pulled himself back quickly as if he was trying to keep himself away from me. Releasing the breath I had been holding I took a slow breath in, gasping at his scent. He smelled like cedar, citrus, and fresh rain. A part of me wanted to shove my face into his chest, just to get a better sniff. Pulling my brows together in frustration, I scolded myself for thinking of something so ridiculous in a moment like this. Taking another small whiff, I acknowledged that he wasn’t human, and he was part of the pack I had escaped.

Taking another step backwards, a small breeze blew from behind me, moving my hair in front of my face. Taking a step towards me the man suddenly stiffened. As if by instinct he took in a lung full of air before his eyes locked on mine. His eyes grew wide with surprise, and he ran a hand through his thick hair, and licked his lips. Something about the way he looked at me made me feel nervous. It also made me want to walk towards him.

Confused by the mixed signals my body was sending me I started walking back up the steps. Shaking himself out of his trance he started to follow me. Seeing a pull-down ladder to my right I lunged for it, only for him to jump forward, his hand landing on my arm as he pushed me away from it. The moment his fingertips touched my bare skin he shocked me, and my whole arm began to tingle underneath his touch. I gasped and jumped backwards as if I’d been burned. What was that? Confusion stained my face as I looked from my arm to him. Something about this man both scared, and excited me.

Still leaning forward, I could feel his hot breath fan my chest. He was still too close. I needed to distance myself from him. There had to be some way to get passed him. Making my way backwards still, I closed the distance between me and my still open window. A small tear ran down my face as I watched him follow me. Herding me backwards. Casting a sideways glance towards the stairs that led to the roof, I considered my options. That may buy me some time, but ultimately, I would be trapped. Sighing, I realized this wasn’t the first time in my life I was mad that I turned into a wolf and not a bird. With nowhere left to go, I climbed back through my window.

Moving into the middle of my room, my heart jumped into my throat as I watched my bedroom door get ripped from its hinges. Jeremy stood behind the werewolf who was still holding my door in his hands. I watched as the man from the fire escape climbed through my window and swallowing my tears, I put on a brave face before looking to Jeremy. I knew that mouthing off to these men could be dangerous for me, but in that instant, I decided that I was not going to show them how scared I was. Crossing my arms over my chest I said, in the most casual voice I could drum up, ” You owe me a door.”

The man from the fire escape motioned for us to move out of the room. Walking through my doorway, I saw Patrick leaning against my kitchen countertop. My radio had been turned off, and the door to my hall closet was open. I could have laughed. I may not know a lot about the werewolf community, but I knew enough about myself to know that they would have been able to hear and smell me hiding in the closet. Tossing a look over my shoulder, I noticed the man behind me smiled at Patrick. He raised his hand over his head, rubbing his thumb across his remaining four fingers before saying ” Pay up.” Grumbling Patrick pulled out his wallet and handed the man a few bills. ” You called it Zach. She took the fire escape.” Another surge of anger ripped through me. They had bet on how I would try to escape? My life was a joke to these people.

Right then my kitchen timer went off. Thankful for the distraction, I was heading towards the kitchen when Jeremy grabbed my injured shoulder. I yelped at the same time a deep growl came from behind me. Thinking it was meant for me, I turned to look at the man I now knew as Zach. I watched Zach stiffen, his eyes narrowed at where Jeremy touched me. He shot angry eyes towards Jeremy not me. Still, the anger in his gaze made me shiver. Jeremy looked confused and conflicted, and as Zach growled louder his hand released me. Motioning towards my stove I asked ” may I?” My voice dripping with disdain. Jeremy shrugged, eyes still on Zach.

Turning off the timer on the way to the oven, I slipped on a mitt and pulled out the brownies. Their chocolatey aroma hit me the moment I opened the oven door. I gave them an appreciative look, satisfied that they had still turned out okay. “Would anyone like a brownie?” I asked dryly as I slid the pan onto the stove. Although the moment was tense, and I had no idea what was coming next, I tried to act as normal as possible. Besides, I’d be damned if after all of this I didn’t eat at least one of these brownies.

The men looked at me shocked. ” First time you home invaders have ever been offered dessert?” I asked, eyebrow raised. “I’ll take one.” Jeremy said raising his hand sheepishly. The other men looked at him and he shrugged ” She offered.” Pulling out a couple of plates, I cut a big square with a spatula, before scooping it onto a plate and sliding it towards Jeremy. He thanked me before breaking off a piece and hungrily shoving it into his mouth. Grabbing a fork, I served myself one.

Zach, who still stood by Patrick never took his eyes off of me. I kept my eyes trained on my plate. “Search the house.” Patrick said to the men as he went back to lazily leaning against the wall. They split up and I winced when I heard glass shatter in my bedroom. “Sorry!” I heard the man who broke my door call out. Apparently destroying things was his specialty.

Zach moved around the room, looking bemused as he took everything in. ” Not the dark sanctum of rogue-dom you expected?” I shot his way as he inspected my bookshelf. Looking at me, my face felt hot as his gaze traveled down the length of my body. ” It’s better.” He whispered in response. His voice was so soft I barely heard him. “Excuse me?” I almost squeaked out as he took a step forward. His only response was his stare as he started walking towards me.

I watched him, holding my ground as the closer he got, the stronger his scent became. His very presence seemed to intoxicate me, and I liked it. A bigger part of me hated it. I hated this odd power he seemed to have over me. I hated how I felt like my body was betraying me, and, as he came to a stop right in front of me, I hated how my hand itched to reach out and touch him.

Heavy footsteps had Zach tearing his eyes from me. I exhaled a shaky breath, glad for the distraction. Patrick approached Zach, and when he was beside him, the two looked at each other seeming to communicate wordlessly. After a moment Patrick nodded and Zach left to do his own inspection. Eyeing Patrick wearily I stabbed my brownie, thinking of my next move. A minute later, the men were all standing in my living room once more. ” We didn’t find anything.” Jeremy said in Patrick’s direction.

Patrick nodded at him before turning to me. “Ms. Harris, you’ll be coming with us.” Looking at the guys behind him, I briefly contemplated my chances of winning this fight before saying “No, I’m not. You found nothing; I’ve done nothing.” Patrick smiled. ” Then why would you run?” My eyes widened and I threw my arms out in front of my chest, motioning towards him, “Why wouldn’t I? What? Was I supposed to trust the strange men who had abducted me and incarcerated me for being born alone?” The corner of Zach’s mouth twitched.

My hands were shaking. My tired mind worked to calm them. The more at ease I seemed, the less suspicious of me they would be. If I acted scared and shifty they would watch me more closely. I hoped that if I acted calm and level headed, they would let their guard down, giving me the best opportunity to escape.

Pushing my emotional outburst aside Patrick continued, ” As it stands now, you have information that may compromise the safety of our pack.” Rolling my eyes, I shrugged my arms at Patrick before asking ” like what, the shirt size of your guard?” Hearing this Jeremy crossed his arms before saying “You owe me a shirt.” He must have found his pants in the bushes where I left them. Patrick cleared his throat to catch my attention. Turning my head back in his direction, I noticed his brown eyes twinkle. “Information like how to break in and out of our holding facility.” Shit.

The twinkle in his eyes only got brighter as he realized he had me. “You could easily take that information to other rogues and they could use that against us.” He had a point. He also had very poor security. I doubted the rogues would need my help breaking in or out of the place. If I could do it so could they. Groaning I put my hands together in front of my body and shot a silent prayer for patience to whoever was listening.

“How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t know any other rogues? Besides if that was what I was going to do, don’t you think I would have already done that, gone there? Why would I come back here?” The light in Patrick’s eyes diminished slightly. Why would I come home if I had somewhere else to go? Especially since I had to have known they knew where I lived.

I could see he realized that. If I was intending to do damage with the information I had, I would have already done it. “You will still be coming with us.” Patrick said lightly. “You guys are doing a lot of extra work to avoid changing a security code.” I mused. Zach and the home destroyer laughed. At least someone found this entertaining.

Biting my lip, I looked at the men around me. Their heads seemed to tilt in the direction of one another from time to time. It had me convinced that somehow, they were communicating with each other. After my recent exchange with Patrick each had grown more tense. It was strange to me that they took the time to talk to me, instead of just shoving me in some back-ally van.

From the corner of my eye, I watched as Jeremy tried to walk past me into the kitchen. Grabbing my fork, I shifted my body to look at him. I knew their kindness had limits. Eyeing my fork, Jeremy put his hands up slowly. “Just grabbing another brownie.” He explained. “Please let me get that for you.” I said, offering a small smile. I did not want him behind me. I had a better chance of fighting my way out of this if I wasn’t surrounded. Cutting him another brownie I scooped it onto the plate he was holding. Giving him a pointed look, I watched his slow retreat back to the living room.

“What will you do with me?” I asked Patrick, stalling for more time. I needed to work out a way out of this. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to think of a single idea. “We will keep you at our facility until we have finished gathering information on you. The Alpha will decide what will happen after that.” My body shook. “You’re alpha doesn’t own me. Tell your alpha that I’m not his to do whatever he wants with.”

The tension in the room grew thick. I knew it was stupid to try to aggravate them, but it was slightly satisfying as, at the moment, this was the only way I could fight back. Giving me a long look Patrick turned from me. ” Jeremy, Greg, please get the cars ready.” The men instantly headed for the door. Jeremy gave me a reassuring smile as he passed me. Although Patrick had never physically hurt me, I felt a lot more anxious watching Jeremy leave. I didn’t exactly trust him, but a small part of me knew he wouldn’t hurt me unless I gave him a reason to.

Patrick then looked over at me, “Our kind attracts a lot of attention, especially when we are in groups like this. We are going to have to wait until the streets die down before we can head out. If you have anything here you need to take care of, now would be the time to do it.” Attention? The men were all on the tall side, nicely toned, and fairly attractive. I could see how them walking around in a group would turn some heads. That and being dressed like FBI agents didn’t help make them less conspicuous.

Looking between Zach and Patrick, both the biggest out of the group of werewolves, I wondered what my chances of making it past them. “So, I can grab a change of clothes since we have time?” I asked, trying to mimic his casual air. “Of course.” Patrick replied before he started pacing my living room. Taking my eyes off of him, I watched Zach. If Jeremy and Greg were handling the vehicles, then Zach must be the person responsible for getting me down the stairs.

Noticing me watching him, Zach returned my gaze. Seeing the apprehension in my eyes, he started to approach me slowly. When he was an arm’s length away from me, I moved back. ” I promise you that no one will hurt you.” Zach put up his hands in an effort to comfort me, his dark eyes getting lighter as they burned into mine.

A shiver went up my spine. I wanted to believe him, but I couldn’t. ” I understand this is hard for you, but there is a lot you don’t know right now. Coming with us is in both of our best interests.” I could have laughed. “I can’t see how that’s true.” I crossed my arms in front of my chest. “Even so, it is in your best interest not to try to fight us.” Zach said as he tucked a stray hair behind my ear. My breath hitched at his touch. “I-I’d prefer it if you didn’t touch me.” I sputtered. When had he gotten so close to me?

Breaking eye contact with him, I stared at his feet to hide the flush in my cheeks. Had I been looking into his eyes the whole time? Looking back up at him, he looked from my eyes to my cheeks before an amused smile played over his lips. Turning away from him to hide my look of frustration , I walked past him heading for my bedroom. “Where are you going?” He asked, sounding worried. “Patrick, or, the ahhhh beta said I could pack.” I mumbled. “Oh. Yeah, of course.” Zach responded scratching the back of his neck.

I made it halfway to my room when I realized he was following me. I had hoped I could do this alone. Actually, I had hoped for another chance to sneak out my window. Stopping, I turned to face Zach. Looking at him like he was a lost puppy, I rolled my eyes before saying “I’m pretty sure I can do this alone.” “I’m well aware of what you’re capable of.” Zach replied with a mischievous smile. I guess my reputation precedes me. Then again, they wouldn’t be here if it didn’t.

“If you need a moment alone, I would be more than happy to wait here.” He offered, leaning against the wall. From his position he could look right into my bedroom. Nodding, he tapped his ears and gave me a serious look before turning to watch Patrick pace. Knowing super trooper would be listening I crossed the doorway into my room. As I made my way to the closet I was stopped by the small crunch of glass under my foot.

Taking a step back, I examined the glass and looked for its source. I only had to shift my gaze a few inches away to see where it had come from. There on the ground was my mother’s picture. The glass from the frame had shattered. Bending down I began to pick up the glass from my floor.

While I worked, I let my eyes drift over the beautiful woman in the photo. She had long, honey blonde hair and sapphire eyes. She was freckled and had full pink lips. She was laughing in this picture, and I couldn’t get over how young she looked. Whoever had taken the photo had clearly loved her very much. They had captured her perfectly. Or at least I imagined they had.

This thought and the picture itself presented me with a mystery. If she was so loved, then why did she die alone in the hospital? Why was no one with her when she had me? The picture couldn’t have been taken too long before she gave birth to me. The evidence evident in the way her hands covered her growing abdomen. So where was this person, and how did she end up alone? Pain shot through my hand and up my arm. Something warm trickled down my hand, and looking down, I realized I had squeezed my hand together so hard that the glass I was holding had cut into my palm.

“Are you ready?” A voice asked from the door. Zach.” ummm, yeah. Almost. I just need another second.” Hearing footsteps behind me, I looked up to find Zach’s’ dark eyes examining my mother’s picture. His eyes jumped from the picture to my face and back again. Getting up with my hand still closed I headed for my closet, not wanting to test his patience further. Dropping the glass in the trash bin by my dresser, I grabbed a few shirts with my good hand and tucked a couple pairs of jeans under my arm before walking them to the bed.

Taking my backpack from my back, I tried to unzip it one handed to shove the clothes inside. I had the bag halfway unzipped when a warm hand grabbed hold of my injured hand. The moment the hand made contact with mine it began to tingle. Jumping backwards at the unexpected touch, I turned, my good hand balled into a fist that I sent flying towards my assailant. Zach caught my punch effortlessly with his free hand. Realizing who it was I gasped and quickly pulled both hands away from him.

“Are you always this jumpy?” Zach asked, eyes still wide from the unexpected attack. “Only after repeated abductions.” I answered back. “This isn’t an abduction” Zach retorted. “You’re making me come with you. I have no choice.” I shot back. “You’re walking out on your own.” He countered. “Because I have no other choice!” I had him. “If it makes you feel better, I could carry you. That wouldn’t be so horrible. ” Zach threw out, changing directions on me with a raise of his eyebrows. He smiled smugly thinking he had won. “For my pride it would be.” That knocked the smug right off his face.

“Why didn’t you tell me you hurt yourself?” He asked me. That threw me off. “Did I have to? Besides, I didn’t want to keep you guys waiting, in case you guys decided to drug me again or something.” I flinched a little at the sound of my own words, they had come out sounding way more hostile than I had originally intended. My own reaction shocked me a little. Why should I mind how hostile it sounded? It was the truth wasn’t it?

Zach’s answer was a sad shake of his head and a roll of his eyes. Taking the wrist of my injured hand he pulled me into the bathroom. Turning on the light he pried my hand open and inspected it. Sparks from his touch were leaping up my whole arm. Bringing his head down to observe my palm, I almost gasped at the close proximity of his lips to my skin. Inhaling slowly, I tried to concentrate on the metallic smell of my blood as his scent was overpowering in the small space. It made me want to lay my head on his chest and have him envelope me in his arms. Shaking my head to rid myself of all thoughts of him touching me, I started to stare at my hand instead. The glass had sliced across my palm.

Putting my hand in the sink, Zach started to rinse the cut. Hissing as the water touched the open wound, he threw me an apologetic look before turning off the faucet. Now clean, I could see the cut was a lot shallower than my bleeding had let on. “Do you have any bandages?” He asked me. “Under the sink.” I replied. Pulling them out, he placed them on the counter before turning to me. A mischievous look came over his face, and before I had the chance to fully register what was happening, he picked me up and sat me down on the counter.

The warm sensation of his large hands encasing my waist, coupled with the agonizing tingling that came with his touch had me gasping. Taking one look at my face, he laughed huskily. “Why . . .” He looked at me and I stopped mid-sentence. What was I going to say? ‘Why are you so tingly?’ Biting my lip, I looked away. “Yes?” Zach breathed; his eyes trained on my face. “Why is it that when we t-touch . . .” I attempted again staring at our joined hands. He stared at me, with this odd look on his face like I should know something that I didn’t. “Never mind.” I finished, deciding it was better not to ask.

Being both speechless, and an unflattering shade of red, I stared at my hand while he bandaged it. When he was done, he placed one finger under my chin and raised my face to meet his. “That wasn’t so bad was it?” He asked softly. Not waiting for a response, he leaned down and brushed his lips down my palm until they rested in the middle of my hand, giving it a light kiss. Still looking me in the eyes, he closed my hand in both of his.

Breaking eye contact with him my cheeks continued to burn from the intimacy of his actions. My heart fluttered in my chest threatening to expose me, and I coughed trying to cover the noise of it, as it was evidence of my obvious, and seriously misplaced attraction to him. Pulling me to my feet, He opened his mouth to speak, when his eyes suddenly glazed over. Shutting his mouth, he tilted his head towards the door and then nodded stiffly. “It seems we’re ready to go.” He finally spoke, as he tucked my hair behind my ears.

Ignoring the urge to reprimand him for his boldness, I asked a more pressing question. “How do you know?” He offered me a small smile, and something that looked suspiciously like pity touched his eyes. “You really don’t know much about us.” He said in response, saying it more like a statement than anything else. Before I could react to his words, he pulled me closer. His scent was everywhere, and I gave a feeble attempt to turn away from him. He responded by wrapping his arm tighter around my waist. His presence was almost hypnotic.

Lifting my chin to catch my eyes again, my knees weakened a bit and warning bells sounded in my head. He was too close. Putting my hands on his forearms I tried to push back from him, only to find that my strength had little effect on him. Was I really even trying? Caressing my cheek with his thumb, he gave me a sad look before his hand drifted to the back of my neck. “I’m sorry.” He said quietly. Suddenly I felt a quick wave of pain shoot down my neck and then the world went black.

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