Derek gently wakes me up as the guard drops our daily care pack. The burning skin on my back has been replaced by a broad, dull ache, although my shirt chaffs painfully as I make my way over to the tray. Six bottles of water, some sort of sausages, and a full loaf of bread complete with cheese is the most food we’ve gotten.
“Is this our last meal?” I ask skeptically, setting the tray down on his lap. I carefully lean against the wall, the cold concrete sends waves of relief through my welted back.
“If it is ,who are we to squander it,” he laughs. I check the first bottle before opening it and handing it to him. It takes two bottles of water to quench my thirst. I sniff the sausage, meeting the unpleasant aroma of anise and recoil.
“They’re all yours-”
“Jess you need to keep your strength up,” he chides me.
“They have anise in them. I can’t stand it, my stomach’s finally settled. I’ll take the cheese and some bread.” He sniffs them, confirming my statement before relaxing. We eat slowly, trying to stretch the meal out. After the water and cheese, I don’t have much room left for bread.
Derek is looking slightly improved, at least to the point I didn’t think he’d die on me at any moment. “You’re looking less dead,” I tease, trying to lighten the mood.
“That break did me a world of good. If I could access my wolf, I’d be in fighting form by morning,” he replies wistfully.
I kneel up to take a better look at his collar once again. It’s simple and smooth, made of heavy silver with a substantial lock. “What are you thinking, you’ve already looked at it before?” He questioned, curiosity evident in both his eyes and his voice.
“I must have missed something. My head’s clearer now, maybe I can see something new,” I mumble.
The lock is too big, I’d need tools to cut it off or even to try and pry it. He hisses as I accidentally shift the collar, causing it to burn a new spot.
“Sorry,” I say, withdrawing.
“No, I’m fine, keep looking,” he encourages. I run my fingers on the smooth face, looking for any weakness.
“There has to be a hinge somewhere, how else did they get it on you?” I muse to myself. I run my finger on the bottom lip instead. “Bingo,” I say with a smile. I run my fingers along the top feeling for the opposite side and find what I’m looking for... a bump.
“What did you find?” He asks, perking up instantly.
“The hinge pin, the lock’s too big and thick for me to do anything with but the hinge pin is thin, like a needle. Looks like they designed it to be an invisible hinge, and it is except for that. It’s offset too, no wonder why I missed it. I can file the flange off and try to work it out but that will probably hurt a fair amount.” I look at him leaving the ball in his court.
“Do it,” he says without hesitation.
I set out, looking for anything to work with. Silver is metal, but it’s a softer metal that can be worn away with a rock or concrete but the position on his collar is bad. Ha! I spot a couple concrete chips that have fallen from the crack in the wall.
“Sorry, I’ll try to be as gentle as possible but it’s going to move some... Wait!” I pause, heading to my blanket and rip a few thin strips off. “If I can work these down between your skin and the silver will that provide any relief?”
“It can’t hurt,” he shrugs but inspection of his neck says otherwise.
“Your neck is completely burned raw and blistered, pretty sure it’s going to hurt. A lot,” I say with a frown.
“Just do it,” he growls, losing patience.
The process is painstaking and slow. It requires me to push the collar into his neck in order to make space on the opposite side to shove the material in between. By the time, I’m done he looks like an Elizabethan actor, but the relief is clear. Once that’s done, I set to filing off the pin’s flange. The work is too slow, but what else can I expect from cement chips since they sure aren’t a grinder.
“This is seriously Mack-level shit, remind me to introduce you guys when we get out of here,” he says, grinning.
“This is caveman-level shit,” I reply. “But I’d love to meet your friends. Don’t thank me yet, I still need to figure out a way to back the pin out of the hinge. It’s still tight. I need like a pin or something.”
My eyes roam our surroundings before settling on his watch. “How sentimental is this?” I ask, tapping the watch.
He grumbles but takes it off and hands it to me. I take off the band and pull the pin holding the band to the watch face and hand it back to him. He carefully tucks it in his pocket and watches my every move.
Trying to line the petite watch band pin up with the larger hinge pin is difficult to say the least. Add to that I have to press with enough force to drive the needle-like pin up is ridiculous. After nearly an hour, my fingers are bleeding and the pin has only moved up slightly. If I had pliers it would have been an easy pull but my fingers couldn’t get any purchase.
“Give it a break,” he finally says, taking in my frustration. “You need to sleep for a few hours anyways.”
I reluctantly give in, snuggling up with what was left of my blanket rag against him. I opt to use the cool of the wall to relieve my back. There are no cuts, just welts. If I could ice them I would have been in good shape by morning.
As dawn breaks, he wakes me up in a rush, whispering instructions for the day as he hears Jonah coming early. “Try to keep him distracted if you can, if he doesn’t lock the cell I can take care of him if I can get the collar off.”
I quickly tuck all the cloth under the collar, keeping it away from his neck but the edges could come into contact with skin again. The short respite had done him a world of good. All of his wounds have started to heal. I scoot off to the far corner to keep Jonah’s attention off of Derek as much as possible.
“Didn’t wake you, did I?” Jonah drawls, walking up to me. “Timeline’s been moved up,” he growls, reaching for me. I let him drag me to the door but twist in his grip at the door, bolting away and causing him to chase me, leaving the cell door open.
“Still some fight left in you yet then is there,” he challenges as he crashes into me from behind. My back screams in protest as my gut takes the force of both of our bodies colliding as he bends me over the workbench. I can’t hold back the hiss of pain that escapes me at the impact.
“I don’t have time to play slowly with you today. It’s now or never,” he warns.
“Never sounds great,” I grit out, bracing my palms on the workbench top. His hands tangle in my hair as he slams my face into the workbench. I barely manage to turn my face at the last minute but the blow still splits my lip and stings my cheek.
“Ah, now we’re getting somewhere,” he says, pushing my face down again. He grabs both wrists, collecting them in his one hand and uses them to pin me by the back of my neck. “Aww Sugar, that’s what he called you right? My sugar, my sweetness.” I shudder at the phrase that has brought me so many nightmares.
I fight against the panic with everything I can, desperate to not lose control. Images long past buried flash through my mind opening up old wounds. His other hand roams my back slipping under my shirt as I freeze.
“I will kill you,” Derek threatens from the cell. “It won’t be fast and it won’t be painless, I promise you this!”
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but you’re in no position to make threats,” Jonah gloats, earning a growl from Derek. “You could end this all, but you’re just too fucking stubborn.”
I don’t know where the knife came from but I feel cold metal graze my skin as he splits the back of my shirt open. Next, he kicks a foot between mine, pushing my fear out in a clear lead over my other emotions. I forget how to breathe as panic wells up faster than I can handle.
Oh fuck, I can’t hold against that!
“Yes,” he rasps in my ear as his body presses flush against mine. His skin on mine just makes mine crawl. I struggle under him but that just seems to excite him further, sending my panic into over drive.
A burning sensation spreads across my left forearm as his knife cuts deeply. Bile rises in revulsion as I felt his lips on my arm, lapping my blood. “That’s it Sugar, show me everything.”
I struggle to break his grip and grab the knife he drove into the bench in front of me. He delights in my fight, having put the blade there to tease me. A howl sounds in the distance, faint but there and he pauses, having heard it.
The momentary distraction is all I need to shift his weight, allowing me to twist in his grasp. I shift under him, facing him now and ignoring the bait knife, instead opting for the unguarded switch blade at his waist. With a flick of my wrist, it’s open and I bring it back to his body with force, sinking it deeply into his side before withdrawing it and sending it back to his ribs twice more before he catches my wrist, smacking it out of my grasp.
“You fucking bitch,” he roars, backhanding me across the room. For the first time, his expression isn’t stony confidence, his eyes are full of doubt.
“I broke you! I felt your panic and terror?” He questions, enraged as he launches himself at me. Another howl sounds closer, joined in by more wolves. His confusion only grows.
I need to stall... just a little longer.
His face contorts in a mix of anger and confusion as he grapples with me before he manages to pin me against him, wrapping his hand around my throat. “How!?”
“I played you,” I gasp out. That got his attention as he ripped me away from his body, holding me at arms length by my throat.
“What did you say?” His tone is more dangerous than ever before.
My fingers claw desperately at his hand on my throat as my blood runs freely from the gash on my arm, coating everything. Slowly I say, “You were looking for something, so I gave you a breadcrumb trail to follow.” I can’t help my triumphant smile as I see the realization flash in his eyes.
He slams my back hard against the pole. Blinding pain races across my back as I stifle a scream.
‘Time, you need more time, just hang on a little longer.’ ‘Fuck I’m trying but I’m on empty here!’
“You think you’re so smart,” Jonah sneers, bringing his face inches from mine, “But you don’t even know what you are!”
“Smart enough to play you,” I shoot back. “I knew exactly what bait to use and you took it hook, line, and sinker.” That’s the final straw, as he snaps, sending a savage hit to my gut and knocking all the air from me.
Derek roars from behind as he finally breaks free of the collar when the door bursts open as several rogues pour in. Derek starts swinging as someone crashes into us, knocking me free from Jonah’s grasp but sends me to the ground in a heap. Too many people are in the room. I crawl desperately towards Derek as he cuts through men.
A series of deafening howls echo in and around the building as more men and wolves pour in. Utter chaos reigns as men and wolves rush around the room, growling and fighting as blood falls freely.
The creepy man from the woods tackles me, pinning me down beneath him and making my heart race. “I guess we should’ve just killed you in the woods when we found you after all,” he jeers, lifting a knife over his head but before he can bring it down, a blade bursts through his neck from behind.
I shoved him off as he spits blood, eyes already glazed, unseeing. I didn’t have long to recover before a large charcoal wolf cuts in front of me, blocking my way. As he lunges for me, a tricolour wolf meets him head on and an even larger, sandy wolf tackles him. The fight is short with Jace pinning him and Sara going in for the kill, shredding his throat.
I want to scream for joy but the fighting is intense everywhere.
I’m going to die on the floor if I don’t get out.
Sara nudges me towards the door and I’m only too eager to get out of this hell hole.
Suddenly, everyone is pushing for the door as I’m checked off balance, sending me crashing to the ground where I would surely be trampled to death. Before I fall completely, someone’s hand wraps around my wrist, pulling me back up with him and out into the open.
I grasp onto Derek like a lifeline, afraid if I lose my grip then I’d be swept under the sea of wolves and men. Everything is catching up to me, my body is beyond exhausted and starting to fail as I drag my feet, desperate to keep up with him.
“Wright,” I hear Derek bellow as he drags me along like a rag doll.
“Derek,” a woman shouts as she bounds into view. He holds out a hand to her and she latches on. My head snaps back as an electric charge goes off, jolting every part of my body before Derek loses his grip on me, sending me tumbling to the ground.
Dazed and a crumpled heap on the ground, I struggle to rise as a second charcoal wolf launches itself at me. A flash of black meets it head on as Chris takes him out. I struggle back to my feet, taking in the brutal scene around me.
“Jess!” Derek shouts as he runs up to us. He presses a dagger handle into my palm as the next wave of wolves comes at us. I don’t even know how I’m standing at this point, but that lightning bolt that hit us seems to have recharged us both.
A new wave of howls cut through the air, causing the fighting to pause. At first a wave of dread passed through me, thinking a third wave of rogues is here but the look of panic on one of the rogue’s face tells me that they are ours.
The remaining rogues try to break off but are taken down one by one as our fresh wolves swarm the field. I spot Jonah across the clearing, trying to slip away. Suddenly two blades bury in his legs and bring him to his knees.
“Take her home brother, I’ve got a promise to keep,” Derek says darkly as he stalks off towards the bleeding crawling Jonah. The woman flashes a mischievous grin as she twirls another blade in her hands before following him.
Now that the fighting has died down, my adrenaline’s gone and I drop down to my knees exhausted. Chris shifts back in an instant and looks at me, eyes wide, fear dancing in them as he searches me over for wounds. Reality dawns on me, I no doubt look like shit.
I flash him a small smile before wrapping my arms around his neck. I feel his tension and worry leave, instantly replaced by relief as he stands, scooping me up and wrapping my legs around him like a child. I bury my face in the crook of his neck and his scent even mixed with the battle instantly soothes me.
Jonah screams but can’t seem to find an ounce of remorse or pity for him. Instead, I focus on Chris, being wrapped in his arms once more and feeling the sparks that I thought I’d never feel again.
He sets me down long enough to put shorts and shoes on before picking me up once again. “Sleep baby,” he murmurs in my ear as he strokes my hair. “I’ve got you now.”