Gage watched the eyes of the man he passed to climb into his truck. His expression was hollow, his eyes were void. He had to be close to his own six foot five, but this man held himself close, small and inward.
Turning, he glanced at Jesse. “What the hell happened Jesse? He looks like he’s been broken like a god damned horse.”
Jesse sighed and rubbed his jaw, the exhaustion clear on his face. “The sad thing is, he’s in better shape than the others.” Flicking his eyes back to the passenger in the truck, he met Gage’s stare. “Devin said it would do him good to be around other shifters of his kind,” he shook his head, “I don’t know if he’ll ever fully recover though.”
“What about the others?”
A haunted look flashed in Jesse’s pale eyes. “They’re at the camp. I doubt any of them will ever be able to integrate back into society.”
“What the hell did Tomas do to them?” Gage struggled to keep his anger from showing.
Slamming the door on the car, Jesse spun around shaking his head. “The two women we managed to get out were used as breeders, as near as we can figure. They shrink away from any male like they’ve…” He stopped, clearly not wanting to continue.
Gage fought the bile that rose in his stomach, swallowing it down with an audible sound.
“The three men, including him,” he motioned to the other vehicle, “were used worse than slaves. They’re not very forthcoming with details.” Shoving his hands in his pockets, he looked up and Gage’s muscles tensed when he saw the depth of the anger in the otherwise mild-mannered man. “They’ve been beaten into complacency and carry the scars to prove it.”
“Aren’t they all pure bloods?”
Something in Jesse’s tone made Gage’s cat want to growl. “Then why are they scarred? Shifting heals fresh…”
“Not if they’re prevented from shifting until after the wounds have healed.”
“Holy hell.” Shuddering at the thought of the torture the man now hunched in his truck had survived, Gage took a deep breath and nodded to Jesse. “I’ll see what I can do for him.”
Jesse stepped back toward his car. “Devin said to give him a call.”
“Will do.” Gage watched him get in his car and then slowly walked around to the driver’s side of his truck. He had hundreds of questions but didn’t want to bombard the damaged man with them.
Forcing an easy smile, he looked at the man beside him. “I suppose Jesse should have introduced us.” He held out his hand, “I’m Gage Lockman. You’ll be staying with some of my clan.”
With hesitation, the man extended his hand and grasped his briefly. “Noah Reyes.”
“They’re getting in touch with your family, Noah. If later on you decide to go be with them, then we’ll get you there.” He watched as emotions flickered through Noah’s amber tinted eyes.
“No,” his voice was heartrending, “I-I don’t want to go there.” Apprehensively his eyes met Gage’s again. “I’ll stay with your clan, if that’s all right?”
Nodding, Gage put the key in the ignition and tried to appear relaxed, even though he wasn’t. “That’s fine by me, we can always use a hand at the shop.”
Starting the truck, he put it into gear and pulled out of the empty parking lot. Watching the dust kick up behind them in his mirror, he kept his eyes from going back to the injured soul beside him. “Yeah, my family owns a heavy equipment business. We lease all the big rigs and do the repairs and upkeep ourselves.”
“I don’t know anything about shop work.”
Ignoring the fear in his voice, Gage shrugged. “We’ll find something for you to do that leans to your strengths.”
“I doubt it.”
Glancing at the empty man beside him, he gave him an easy smile. “Why’s that?”
Noah turned and looked out the window. “I’ve only been a guard.”
“Like a bodyguard?”
The silence was tense as he waited for an answer.
“No. Like a guard that keeps others against their will.”
Shit. “Well, we’ll find a place for you.” Every muscle in Gage’s body was taut, he had to strain to keep his animal under control. He breathed it away for a few seconds. “I don’t want to pry, and for the most part I won’t, but I’m bringing you into my family and need to know some of the facts.” He paused for objections then continued when none were voiced. “How long did Tomas have you?”
It was said with venom that Gage was almost happy to hear, that brief expression of hatred meant there was some fight left in the younger man. He was going to ask more when Noah’s tortured voice silenced him.
“Since I was six. They got my sister and I.”
He glanced at Noah for a moment to let him know he was listening.
“I don’t know what happened to her. I tried to find out when I got older, but…” His voice cracked, “I wouldn’t even know her now.”
Swallowing, Gage kept his eyes on the road. “Your cat would know family. If she ever crosses your path, you’ll know.”
“I didn’t know that.” Noah sighed softly. “I don’t know a lot about what I am, or how to function in a group. The things I do know are only from what others that worked…” he cleared his throat, “were held by Tomas told me.”
Gage glanced at him and tried to give him a look of encouragement. “We’ll work it out, Noah.” He took a moment to look at him. Biologically this man was only twenty-one, but he appeared much older, and Gage suspected was aged beyond anything he would ever understand.
“So, are you the clan alpha?”
Gage grinned. “No. The second. My father’s the alpha, but he’s away right now.”
Noah nodded and then sat there for a moment, Gage could see the questions going through his mind.
“Do you have a mate?”
Snorting, Gage nodded, “Yeah, only she doesn’t know she is.” He grinned, not even knowing how to explain his own personal torment. “I’m sure the boys will love filling in the details for you.”
“I found mine…at least that’s what the others told me.”
The silence that followed his admission stabbed pain right through Gage. “And?”
“When,” Noah closed his eyes and inhaled deep for a moment, “when I recovered enough to remember, she was gone.”
Holy hell. Is Devin aware of any of this? What the hell do I say to that? “You may still find her someday. Fate is a tricky bitch.”
The word meant he agreed, but the heavy overlay of emotion inside the cab told Gage the man beside him didn’t believe it would happen. He tried to keep his tone from revealing anything that could be considered close to sympathy. “You’ll be bunking in with four others while you’re here. Jake, Gary and Blair are close to your age. Then there’s old Cooper, no one can even guess his age, but he’s fairly easy to be around.” He continued to ramble out the stories of things the men closest to him did in hopes to give Noah a sense of what he could expect. Not once did he offer comment or ask for more.