I woke to a pounding head. My eyes were foggy as I lifted my head to look around. I blinked my eyes adjusting. My whole body hurt, I was sitting in a chair, my arms were tied behind my back. Secured with what felt like a zip-tie or some other bind.
I could feel my shirt sticking to my shoulder and back. The smell of blood met my nose before my eyes had a chance to look. A small groan rolled from the back of my throat as my eyes took in my surroundings.
Hidden behind the metallic smell of my blood, I could sense dust, soil and what smelt like hay. My eyes took longer than usual to adjust to the dim lighting from the large metal light that hung above me, flickering every few minutes. It cast a warm yellow glow across the small building. Past the edge of the light, I could see broken-down wooden doors.
Old stables. My brain connected the dots.
I looked down at the ground. Remnants of hay and wheat littered the floor. It was stained with dust and dirt. It was black, partially broken down from the constant exposure to moisture.
Definitely a barn, we are way past city limits.
I felt my stomach roll at the thought of being outside of the city. Would Kaine ever find me? Would Greg find me, or anyone for that matter? What was Daniel’s end game here? Was he going to kill me the most human was possible? The coward.
The sound of a dragging object met my ears. I followed the sound as Daniel came into view, pulling an old wooden stool behind him. I glared at him as he watched me with a smug look on his face.
“Glad to see you’re finally awake.” He sat down in front of me. I said nothing.
“Look,” He started. “I’ll get to the point. I just want to know what you know.”
“So you abducted me from the office to find out if I know anything…about?” I raised an eyebrow, hoping my poker face was still as good as it was when I was a teen caught coming home too late, but not as shitty as it was when I was with Kaine.
“Don’t play stupid.” He sneered. “I know you know about the company finances. You’ve been spending all that time with Kaine.”
“Company finances?” I played dumb. “I’ve been meeting with Kaine because that’s part of my job. I don’t know where you’ve been but we’re getting teams ready to send to five locations in the next two months.” I shook my head, as I rolled my eyes. “I’m not part of the finance team, Daniel.” I said matter of factually.
“Cut the bull.” A new voice came from behind me. A female voice, one that was familiar, one that was British.
“Claire?” I tried to look over my shoulder.
“Yes, of course.” She said, as if I should be expecting someone else.
“What the hell is going on?”
“Well, Daniel here wants to know what information you have about the investigation and I just want you out of the way.” The leopard flicked her hair off her shoulder.
“You know what I know, Claire.” I glared.
“No, I think Kaine has told you more. Whatever it is, I don’t care because I’ve been leading him on a wild goose chase for five years. He’ll never know my involvement.” She spoke as she circled me. “I’ll be his saviour, swooping in at the last moment to save him and his company. I’ll make him fall in love with me. We’ll be mated in no time once you’re out of the way.”
“And how exactly are you going to get rid of me?” I laughed.
This has got to be the stupidest plan I’ve ever heard.
“You’ll be mated to me of course.” Daniel said.
I looked at him dead in the eyes. My laughing was beyond hysterical at this point.
“M-Mate you?” I wheezed. “Over my dead body.”
Daniel lunged at me, my words striking a nerve. His hand came to the side of my face. I tasted the copper flavour of my blood before I felt the sting.
“That’s exactly why I would never be with you.” I spat the blood to the floor. “What grown man puts his hands on a woman?” My blood was boiling as anger rolled through me. “Does the poor baby not know how to use his big boy words?” I mocked him.
I watched as his eyes flickered from human to wolf. He clenched his jaw tight as he watched me. Anger was rolling off of him in waves as he fisted his hands closed. His knuckles turning white.
“You took me from the office, have me held against my will and now you lay your hands on me? Why would I want to be with a scumbag like you?”
“Exactly why Kaine didn’t want to be with you.” Claire spoke. “You’re not good enough for Kaine, not strong enough to handle an alpha like him.” Her eyes gazed over my body as if she was analyzing all of my flaws.
“You would be better with a beta, like Daniel. Kaine doesn’t want you, he made that clear when he left you to come to England for me.” She smiled. “We had lots of fun spending late nights at the office, or weekends at his place.”
I grit my teeth, feeling the sting inside my chest.
Poker face. I reminded myself.
“And yet in the five years he was in England with you, he never mated you. He came home, and here we are, he’s with me and not with you.” I half shrugged. “If anything you two would be great together because all psychopaths belong together.” I smiled, tilting my head to the side.
“You stupid bitch.” Claire moved to strike me. I braced myself for the impact, it never came. Instead, I watched as Claire paused, her eyes moving from the top rafters down to the red dot pointed at her chest.
“Hmm,” I smiled. “Seems like you guys were a little distracted, you didn’t realize the calvary rolled in.”
“No.” Claire whispered. “No!” She shouted. “You said we wouldn’t be found!” She turned on Daniel.
He looked at her shocked, his eyes following all of the red lines that were pointed at them. At least three men were up top, another two at the exit, and who knows how many more sat positioned outside.
“You underestimated me.” His voice came from behind me as he entered the barn. “I’ve known for a long time you were in on this Claire. I just wanted to you think I didn’t so I had time to find the rest of your team.” I felt Kaine’s hands come to mine, a cool blade pressed against my skin as he snapped the zip-tie away.
I brought my hands forward, letting out a soft groan as my muscles moved, and blood flowed past my wrists. I moved from the old chair and stepped back into Kaine. His presence a welcome that both myself and our tiger had been longing for.
“You okay?” His breath tickled my neck. I nodded. He looked back at Claire and Daniel.
“I found them by the way. They’re being arrested as we speak. Your encrypted files are being backed up into the server and analyzed. The money will be traced, and you’ll spend the rest of your life in the compound.”
“How?” Claire looked at him, her mind clearly spinning as her hands were shackled behind her back.
“I’ve always been five steps ahead, Claire. Why do you think I welcomed your advances even though I was clearly a mess with my own thoughts?” He smiled at her. “I had a job, I did that job.”
I shifted, slightly uncomfortable by his admission.
We have time. I reminded myself.
My eyes moved from Claire, over to Daniel. He was standing there, his body tense with anger. He looked at me, fire burning in his gray blue eyes.
“Why?” I asked him. “Why’d you do it? Betray your friend?” I wanted to understand.
“Friend?” He laughed. “Kaine hasn’t been my friend since he partially claimed you at the Christmas party.” His eyes moved to Kaine. “You knew how I felt about her, I was going to ask her out, but you couldn’t stand the idea of me having her so you tried to take her for yourself.”
“You’re right.” Kaine said. I looked up at him. His hair was a mess, his dress shirt long gone and swapped out for a black long-sleeved shirt and a bulletproof vest. “I couldn’t stand the thought of her being with you, or anyone else because she was mine. She was always mine.”
I rolled my eyes. Men.
“You son of a bitch.” Daniel snapped. He knocked his head back, his skull slamming into the face of the enforcer behind him. The enforcer stumbled back, his grip on Daniels's hands slipped as he tried to grab him back to cuff them.
I stepped away from Kaine. My tiger rushing to the surface. I felt my nails turn to claws as I swiped my hand back, slashing it across his chest before coming in with my fist and connecting it with his nose.
“Go fuck yourself.” I spat as he stepped back, surprised by my attack. I spun, my foot connected with his chest. “I hope you rot in hell.” He stumbled, his balance was lost and he fell to the ground. I spat on him before turning to face Claire. I created another fist and smacked it on the side of her face.
“That’s for calling me a dumb bitch, and trying to steal my mate.” I turned away from her, my eyes finding Kaine.
“Take me home.” I sighed, I could feel the adrenaline leaving my body, and I knew it was a matter of time before the fear that I had been pushing aside finally broke free and the tears would follow.
“Always.” He wrapped his arms around me. His nose came to the side of my neck as he breathed me in. His lips touched my skin, a gentle kiss was all it took. I felt the tears rim the bottom of my eyes before they slipped down my cheeks.
I dug my fingers into his back, clutching him, pulling him closer to me.
“Take me home.” I repeated, this time my voice cracked.
He pulled away from me, his eye searching mine. He nodded, not saying anything before he leaned down and pressed his lips against mine. I sighed into him as more tears fell down my cheeks, falling in between our lips. I could taste the salt on my tongue. He pulled away and wiped the tears from my cheeks with his thumbs. He moved his hands to the side of my neck, tipped my head down and placed a kiss on the top of my head, just like he had always done when we were kids. His hands moved down my arms before his right hand took mine and he lead me from the God-forsaken building that I prayed would be burnt down by the morning.