40 I Tried
Every stumble sends searing pain through my already injured shoulder as the hostile man pushes me through the woods. His iron grip on my wrists keep my arms twisted painfully behind my back.
Apparently the man’s nose I broke is named Craig, he has whined nonstop since I was caught that he needs to teach me a lesson. The first man I dodged also caught up to us but walks quietly. Both are smaller than the creep holding me.
“Took you long enough,” the creepy man sneers. “The fuck happened to your face Craig?!”
Craig is spitting mad but is cut off before he can start explaining. “We have to go, now!” One of the other men cut in. “They will be here soon.” My heart leaps at the fleeting hope.
“Was there anyone else?” The creepy guy asks, turning his attention to me. My skin crawls as he leans into my neck, inhaling my scent deeply. I shudder at the intimate contact and feel my internal fire dying as it’s smothered by panic.
“Her scent is all that I can smell, she was alone.”
My eyes lock on Derek, “I’m sorry, I tried to run but they were too fast.” I pour every bit of my panic into my voice, willing them to believe he was just protecting me, a coward.
“Decide, we have to go!” The other guy shouts again. “Just kill her, it’ll be hard enough to drag him back.”
My eyes go wide as his words sink in, sending my panic into overdrive. I lock eyes desperately with Derek, silently begging for something to hang onto.
“No,” the creepy guy says as a dark grin spreads across his face. “She’s the Alpha’s.”
“No she’s not! There’s no claim mark on her,” Derek scoff, trying to persuade him otherwise.
“Don’t lie to me, I can smell him on her,” he growls as he runs his knuckles up my neck. I try and pull away but the iron grip holds me in place.
“Men have needs, she’s just a bit of fun,” Derek dismisses. His words sting but I understand what he’s trying to do.
“Bring them both, I don’t care but we have to go!” The panic is clear in his voice as he argues with the creepy guy who is clearly calling the shots.
Derek looks like hell. He’s bleeding all over, with a silver collar around his neck and his arms bound behind him. The three men have him back on his knees. A roar in the not too far distance sends shivers through the rest of them. Excitement hits me as I recognize it’s Chris.
He’s pissed and coming for me.
Next thing I know, a backhand flies across my temple. The force hits me so hard, it leaves me seeing stars. Rough hands grab me and toss me over a shoulder as blackness swallows me.
My throbbing head is the first thing that greets me as I fight my way out of the black abyss. I feel sluggish, my body won’t respond to my commands, and my head is in a fog.
I groan as my body reluctantly begins to obey. Everything hurts, my shoulders are on fire, my head is splitting, and my vision blurry. A full blown migraine, complete with nausea, dizziness, vertigo and vision issues is in full force. I’m half-ass blind with the lightning dancing in my eyes.
The smell surrounding me is revolting; blood and body odor on a normal day is bad but migraines turn my senses up to max. My stomach churns equally from the stench and the nausea as I try to roll over. Rough concrete scratches against my tender skin as I try and prop myself up.
“Jess, don’t,” Derek’s voice cautions from behind me, his voice sounds strained and harsh. “Stay still, you’ve taken a few hard hits.”
Groaning, I lay on my side trying to get my bearings. I can just make him out chained against the far wall.
“Where are we?” I rasp out.
“Some dungeon. They chained me up and threw you on the ground hours ago, I was starting to worry you wouldn’t wake up,” he trails off. “How bad is it?”
“Full blown migraine... Overall, I’ve had worse.” My words are true but I’ve also had access to medication and can only hope the residual meds in my system will be enough to help me now.
“Listen Jess, about what I said-”
“Don’t. I get it,” I cut him off, my voice a mixture of bitterness and sadness. I bring my knees to my chest and curl myself tighter into a ball. Even in this cold miserable place the migraine fogs my brain, demanding I rest.
“He’s coming, you just have to hang on,” is the last thing I hear him say as the blackness takes me once again.
Several hours later, I wake up in panic as someone drags me by my foot. I kick out against whoever’s grip is on me and am snapped down hard on the ground, knocking the air out of me and leaving me gasping.
Derek roars in the background, struggling against his chains as the man tackles me and pins me down. The man whose nose I broke, Craig I think they called him, comes into view.
“Not so tough now are you bitch,” he sneers, inches from my face. His breath reeks as it fans across my face.
Without thought, I slam my forehead into his face, smashing his already destroyed nose. He roars, pulling back and clutching his face as blood spills freely. I take the opportunity with his shifted weight to roll him off of me and try to crawl away, silently thanking Jude for his training again.
My victory is cut short as he grabs a fistful of my hair, flinging me back to him. His face contorts in a murderous rage as he strikes my left cheek, delivering a stunning blow.
“Let her go Craig,” a man directs calmly from behind him.
Craig whips around to face him, wild anger in his eyes as he still holds my hair painfully. “When I’m done you can have what’s left Jonah,” he growls.
“Now. Final warning,” Jonah threatens, calmly stepping towards us.
Craig turns his back on Jonah, wrapping a grimy hand around my throat and sending my panic into over drive. The movement is the last thing he did. Jonah snaps his neck and throws him back, dropping me roughly on the cement floor.
I groan at the impact and instantly scoot back to get some distance before hitting the cement wall. My heart hammers as I take Jonah in, standing there perfectly calm like he hasn’t just killed a man in front of me.
“Apologies... rogues are so difficult to work with but necessary,” he says with a frown, looking down at the corpse. “The door will be locked from here on out, in addition to your cell.”
I just stare at him in disbelief, does he think that statement is comforting? Jonah doesn’t look particularly crazy, but something feels seriously off about him. He’s tall and well built but nowhere near bulky, more of a lean ripcord build. His brown hair and dark brown eyes are as plain as can be. But the emptiness in his eyes chills me, showing no emotions whatsoever.
He feels off... dark.
I shrink back as soon as I feel for him like recoil. His energy isn’t the oil that I’ve felt with other rogues, more like a tar.
“Why are we here?” I ask almost a whisper.
“YOU were in the wrong place at the wrong time unfortunately. We were after him,” he nods to Derek.
“So let her go,” Derek rasps.
“Afraid not, can’t have your brother running back here for you. It’s bad enough we have his mate,” he emphasizes the last word for effect. “But at least she will keep him distracted.”
My nails dig into my palms as I try so hard to remain impassive and meek, but on the inside my mind screams for me to run.
“She’s no mate,” Derek scoffs, trying to dissuade him.
“Come now Guardian, do you take me for a fool? I can smell him all over her and is that a faded love bite I see?” Jonah taunts, craning his neck to get a better look at me. His intense scrutiny makes me shudder.
“For fun, no mark. A man can have some fun-” Derek tries before he’s cut off.
“Nice try,” he says, winking at me. “You’re just a bonus, the Guardian is who we were after. Who knows, you may be useful yet,” Jonah drawls, raking his eyes over me one final time as he heads for the door.
“I’ll see you both tomorrow morning. Rest up, we’ll have a busy day,” he says with a smile that drops me into a pit of despair. I watch him leave and lock the doors before I let out my breath.
“We’re fucked aren’t we?” I whisper, my voice trembling. I don’t even look at Derek, fully expecting him to ignore my question.
“Don’t count us out yet. Chris is still out there. He would look for me anyways, but I guarantee he’s coming for you,” his voice never wavers.
“You heard him, it’s me they were after. I’ll just try and keep their attention on me.” He pauses, considering his next words carefully and frowning.
“You should try and rest up while you can, a level head is your best defense. If they were going to kill us, they would have by now, so that means they want something first. So for now it’s a waiting game, to outlast. You’ve done this before, you can do it again.” Derek’s pep talk has worked wonders and actually beats my nerves back into submission.
Maybe he’s right, I just need to stay alive.
I curl up against the wall where I landed, hugging my knees for warmth. Before long my whole body is shaking, making me miss my hoodie desperately.
“Come here,” Derek commands. “I can’t offer much but I can hear your teeth chattering from here,” he laughs.
Normally I would scoff at this, but right now a smidge of warmth against the pain and despair sounds like a small relief. I scoot against his side as he wraps an arm around me, flooding me with his warmth.
I spare him a quick glance and cringe. The silver collar has bitten deeply into his skin, sending angry burns into the surrounding skin. The bites and scratches on his shoulder and chest look nasty, like they aren’t healing like they should.
“I’ve had worse,” he jokes though his voice is slightly strained. “It’ll get worse, but you need to stay strong. I’ve trained more than half my life for this.”
For all his good intentions, trying to prepare me for what is coming just feeds my nerves and sends my mind into overdrive.
If someone as formidable as Derek is worried, how will I ever manage?
Morning is announced by the slightest ray of sun through a crack in the wall. I strain to listen to a lone bird’s song, even in this wretched place you could focus on something good.
I didn’t hear him awaken, but Derek pulls me closer before whispering. “They’re coming, be strong but don’t show them. They think you’re weak. Use that to your advantage, just need to wait for the right moment. Go to the corner and tune it out.”
I didn’t ask anything or hesitate, I just scoot to the corner and curl up trying to keep as much of the residual heat as possible. His words send a cold shiver down my spine.
A loud click cuts through the air, echoing off of the stone and concrete walls as the prison door swings open and three men walk in. Jonah, the large man that caught me and another equally large man. There is no mistaking the air of malice that comes in with them.
“I trust you slept well,” Jonah says flatly as his dark gaze jumps from Derek chained to the wall then to me huddled in the corner.
“Actually the girl’s teeth chattering kept me up all night,” Derek cut in, irritation lacing each word. “She’s human you know, weak things that get sick easily. May want to throw her a blanket if you don’t want her to die.”
Man, he can irritate anyone.
Jonah just looked at me with a hint of disdain before returning his attention to Derek.
“Grab him, lets see if he still feels like a comedian after we’ve spent some quality time together,” Jonah grates out. The cell door creaks open as the two men stalk in towards Derek, who flashes me a quick look of ‘Don’t even think about it.’
Derek doesn’t make their job easy, making every step a challenge for the men as they wrestle him out of the cell towards a pole in the middle of the room. My eyes are glued to them the entire time but I stay in the corner like he told me.
They bind his arms behind the pole and shackle his feet to the floor. My eyes go wide as I take in the dark stains that lead from the pole to the drain. I shudder through me as their intentions sink in.
How the fuck does this kind of shit happen in modern days?!
“That will be all for now,” Jonah says, dismissing the men now that Derek is bound.
“I would ask you if you would like to do this the easy or hard way, but,” he pauses picking up a silver knife and drawing the sharp tip across the brand over Derek’s heart, drawing blood. “You guys never do anything the easy way,” he sneers, digging the blade deeper. Derek grits his teeth, restraining a hiss as Jonah carves deeper.
“So tell me Guardian-”
Derek spit in his face, cutting him off with a crooked grin.
Jonah remains stoic but steps back, grabbing a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his face. His face is stone, revealing nothing, but his energy is boiling rage.
Jonah throws his whole body into a savage jab, no doubt breaking Derek’s nose. The series of hits that follow are no less brutal. I bury my face, wrapping my hands over my ears after the third hit, desperate to block out as much of the assault as I possibly can.
Eerie silence draws my attention so I risk a glance up. Jonah licks his blood-coated knuckles while Derek’s eyes snap wide, like he’s hit by a tonne of bricks.
“Time’s up for today, but I’ll be back tomorrow,” Jonah says, less than impressed. He turns and opens the door for the two men to bring Derek back to the cell. They drag him roughly through the cell door, tossing him at the wall before chaining him back in place.
Once they leave, I rush over to check on him. He’s bleeding even more, several open deep cuts across his chest, a split lip, broken nose and a split brow along with countless dark bruises. I look around but there is nothing to clean or even staunch the bleeding.
“He hits like a girl,” Derek laughs before wincing in pain. “Don’t worry about the blood there’s plenty more where that came from.”
“How hard did he hit your head!?” That’s the only explanation I have for how he can take a beating like that and want to crack jokes.
“My head’s fine, but we’ve got another problem,” he mumbles. “Did you notice anything odd?”
“The senseless beating and torture?” I ask, raising a brow. He shakes his head. “Is he a vampire or something? Licking your blood off his knuckles was particularly creepy.”
“Bingo. He’s not a vampire. He’s a wolf, but not just any wolf. He’s a flayer. Things just got a whole lot shittier,” he says bitterly.