Drip. Plop. Drip. Plop. The sounds wake Tanner from his unconscious sleep. His head throbs with the pain of twenty anvils plummeting on top of his head. His wrists burn from the mountain ash soaked ropes that bind him to the seat. He scans the area to get an idea of his current location. He blinks several times to rid of his double-vision.
“Where the hell am I?” He says as he shakes his head awake. “Ow.” The migraine intensifies.
Tanner hears footsteps approaching his direction. The person stands behind Tanner. The unknown man grabs a fist full of Tanner’s hair. Tanner yells. Tanner wails and his voice bounces off the rusty molded pipes and the water and lime stained walls.
“See, you almost got away, Tanner, but your mate had to leave you all alone,” The guy vice grips on his hair. Tanner lets out a pain-filled shriek. “Here you are trapped, fighting for your life and your fiancé doesn’t even know your whereabouts.” The man laughs. “Aren’t mates supposed to know the whereabouts of each other, or have some kind of telepathy?”
Tanner whines from the pain of the gripping of his hair. His feet kick from natural reflexes. His blood saturated body fights to free itself from the pain. He was trapped and there’s no way of defense. I am going to die here. No one knows I’m down here. I don’t even know where I’m at—are the thoughts that dance around on his brain.
“So, I am going to ask one more time,” he punches Tanner in the ribs. The force of the punch could have shattered a human’s entire rib cage, but Tanner was only half human. The most damage he received were a few fractured ribs and a sore abdomen, which will last no more than twenty-three hours. Being a werewolf—hybrid has its advantages than being full human.
In a pain induced breath, “Nothing. I saw nothing.” He says in one breath to relieve the pain from talking.
“That’s not a good enough answer for me.”
The man snaps his fingers and two men carry in a tub filled with water mixed with wolf’s bane and mountain ash. Inside the tub is a blade. The man puts on gloves he receives from his goon. The man asserts on the latex gloves really slowly, calculated and patient; the way the man’s legs were shaking he is anxious to use the blade on Tanner. He tugs at the end of the glove. SNAP! As he finishes putting on the first glove, and then he forces his second hand in the glove and does the same tug. Tanner’s eyes gaze at the tub. He knew what was coming. He could smell the contents in the water.
The man fishes in the tub for the blade, “I hate to have to do this to you, Tanner.” He pulls the blade from the water splashing some on Tanner’s face, instantly burning. “Since you won’t talk, I will have to torture you.”
Torture isn’t a new concept for Tanner. His lost his parents at the age of three from the pack wars. The winning pack’s alpha decided his parents were too weak to stay in his pack and challenged them to a fight. If they win, they will co-alpha, but most werewolves know that if they lose a fight with another, death is the only option. Then when he was thirteen he lost his adoptive mother to the sword of lymphoma. In high school, was bullied for being a hybrid, not having the fast metabolism of a werewolf, and for being a ginger.
The blade connects with Tanner’s already bruised skin. The man slowly cuts Tanner’s arm from the base of the arm of the elbow to the middle of his forearm. The skin sizzles, burns, and separates from the touch of the mixture, like plastic melted by acid. A high-pitched shriek escapes his throat and slices the silent air. The three guys laugh at Tanner’s torture. The wound tries to heal itself, but black blood spills from the wound. Tanner looks at the cut. Why isn’t it healing? He frantically asks himself.
“You aren’t going to heal unless we flush it with water,” the guy exposes his sly smile. “Man, this is going to be infected if we don’t treat this.” The guy connects the blade to trace over the wound. Tanner can feel the liquid on his muscles as they rip one by one.
“Okay! Okay!” Tanner gives in. Tears stream down his face, washing away the blood that covers his face.
“Look-a-here, boys, whoo-wee” the man chuckles. “I think I jogged his memory.” The man kneels in front of Tanner. “What happened to my mate?”
Three Months Ago…
Twenty-five-year-old Tanner, on a brisk December evening, enters his empty shoebox studio. His boyfriend, Jeffery, isn’t home yet. Probably another late night. Tanner thinks as he shuts the door. He throws off his shoes, takes off his coat, and drifts into the kitchen. His body aches from lifting lumber all day. His feet cry to be pampered.
“What is there to eat?” Tanner asks as his stomach is two seconds from eating the fat off his body. His stomach roars for food. “I’m coming. I’m coming.” He eyes a thawed out steak and retrieves a frying pan to sear the steak. As soon as enough blood has drained from the steak he gets himself a beer and sits by the window. The window is huge, from ceiling to floor with a ledge that comes to Tanner’s calves. As he’s enjoying his one-course meal, his phone chimes. He doesn’t feel like getting up to retrieve it out of his pocket.
CHIME! “Ugh.” He shuffles to get his phone. It’s a text from Alpha. Tanner rolls his eyes. “What does he want now?” he opens the text message.
EMERGENCY MEETING 2NITE @ 9!
Tanner looks at the phone’s clock. 8:37pm. “I can’t even enjoy a steak without something always going horribly wrong.” Tanner tosses the plate on the table and strolls to his bedroom. He looks inside of the vanity mirror. “I look awesome!” Tanner throws a kiss at his reflection.
Tanner is 6’1” with neck length shaggy ginger hair; medium gray eyes; his build is stocky, but not muscular; his face has freckle-dust which stands out with his pale skin. He opens his dress shirt and throws on a Flash Lightning Bolt t-shirt, and throws off his work pants to slide on jeans. He walks to the living room to find two more texts, one from his father and one from Jeffery. He opens Jeffery’s text.
See you tonight at the meeting. Love you. Tanner smiles after he reads the text message. Then he opens his father’s message. Just checking in to see if you are good tomorrow, you are usually here on Friday nights. Tanner replies to his father’s text. Yeah, pop, I have to take care of some things first. I will be there by midnight. He hopes. Tanner jumps into the car and speeds over to the hunting ground.
The hunting ground is flooded with pack members and different scents. Alpha Jack trails towards Tanner as respect Tanner exposes his neck, a form of submission. Andrew, the beta, Jack’s second in command, is close behind. There are usually two to three betas in a pack, but Jack is a minimalist and only trusted Andrew. Tanner assumes that they are mates, but hides it well.
“How’s work?” Jack's voice booms in Tanner’s ear.
Jack is the same height as Tanner but has bulged because of the muscle. He is a huge man and power follows him wherever he goes. Andrew is just as muscular, but around three inches shorter than the two men, but almost as powerful as Jack. Andrew could take Jack if he wanted. Tanner’s wolf wants to cower in the corner, but being half human doesn’t have to effect it would on other wolves, an advantage Tanner loves.
“Work,” Tanner smiles.
“I hear that,” Jack says.
“Tanner, when are you going to settle down and find your real mate?” Andrew says.
Now it’s Tanner’s human side that wants to run from the landmines of questions. He hates being asked this question. Every time he’s home, his father wants to know when he will have grandchildren. His pack mates want to know when he will be mated.
Tanner swallows before answering, “I’m starting to think I don’t have one.” He scans the ground, thinking of a way out of the conversation. “Jeffery is nice and all, but a piece feels missing.”
“Yeah. I used to know that feeling.” Jack says.
So, I was right! They will make a cute couple. The thought flashes across his mind.
“Hey, I have to get the meeting started,” Jack says leaving with Andrew trailing behind. Jack enters the center of the massive field. He lets out a deep and powerful roar; everyone turns their attention to him.
“I called you all here tonight because there have been spies within our pack.”
Everyone whispers at the statement. Tanner raises his eyebrows; his eyes spring open. A mole within the pack? That doesn’t make sense.
“There’s someone in the pack giving away all of our hunting spots and two of our own were killed today,” Andrew finishes the thought. “Along with two newly transforming pups.”
Whispers get louder. Tanner continues to listen to the pack talk about the murders.
“Do we know who the moles are?” Tanner asks.
The pack grows silent. Jack and Andrew have frustrated faces that resemble someone whose parents died.
“Sorry, Tan, this hurts me so much to say this,” Andrew speaks up. “The mole is Jeffery.”
Tanner shakes his head. “No, Jeffery would never…” Jack cuts Tanner off.
“I overheard him talking to some other pack about him just killing someone from our pack,” Jack says.
“He texted me saying he was going to be here tonight.” Tanner’s hands shake as he searches through his texts.
“He’s not coming here!” Jack roars.
Tanner’s whole word crashes into the sun. His heartbeat slows down. His chest tightens. He can’t breathe. He feels sick to his stomach. Good thing he was sitting down because he would have fainted. Tanner doesn’t want the pack to see him cry. He contains his tears and just stares at his alpha.
“As part of pack law, Jeffery dies,” Jack says. “Tanner, I want you to be the one to kill him. You brought him into our pack, you take him out.”
BURNING! Tanner’s eyes spring open. He looks around at his torturer.
“Had a nice little dream?” The man asks. He dips the blade in the solutions. “Rumor has it that you kill him.” The blade once again connects with the blade. Tanner cringes from the pain, the yell is rough.
“I didn’t kill, Jeffery, I loved him!” Tears stream down Tanner’s face.
“He was mine.” The man takes the blade to Tanner’s face, blood spray from the wound onto his plaid shirt. “Tell me what I want to know, and I may let you live.” The man says forcefully.
“I didn’t kill him!” Tanner cries. “I couldn’t do it, I loved him!”
The man takes the blade to Tanner’s face. Blood rivers from his face onto his shirt.
“He was mine!” The man paints Tanner’s face in blue and cobalt bruises. Blood pours from his lips and nose. Tanner struggles underneath the two fists connecting with his face. The man’s goons pull the man away.
“You can’t get answers if you kill him.” Goon # 1 said.
The guy wipes his face. “You’re right,” the man says. “Let’s go.”
Tanner’s lip is busted, nose was broken, his left eye swollen. The man and the goons leave Tanner broken, bruised, starving, and cold.
“I’m sorry, Jeff, I am so sorry.” Tanner cries. “I should have protected you.”
Another man storms into the room. His face hidden by the shadows. He takes a quick gaze at the area. Tanner remains calm. The man leans in for a kiss and embraces Tanner. The warmth was missed, but unfamiliar. The man snatches away from Tanner.
“How could you sit there and lie to me for months?” The man asks. “You were supposed to be my mate and you lied to me,” the man says. “But I love you too much to watch you die, so I am going to set you free, but after you tell me the truth.”