Chapter 17: Predator
I’d love to say I had the confidence to just jump in and strip in front of this ridiculously attractive beast of a man, whose tyrian purple eyes were so entrancing it was hard to look away while also all too easy to at the same time. The arrogance and menace consistently lurking beneath the tyrian colour, showed Dale to be a man of complete calculation.
A good soul? No.
An evil soul? Most likely.
So why did I trust him so entirely?
“How old are you even, boss?” I ask, out of the blue, tempted to add some humour at least to break this intensity between us.
“Irrelevant, kitten,” Dale reaches for the bottle of whiskey and I notice he doesn’t grab a shot glass, “I’ll ask you one more time. Strip. Or there will be a punishment to endure. Compliance is all I ask and I promise in return I’ll take care of you from the corruption of this planet. Physically and mentally, I can provide you with the guarantee of myself as a shield.”
Yes but… from the planet?
Clearly, he liked to think further afield than just Frankincense City.
I wanted to ask about this but as I watch him open the whiskey bottle and down half of the liquid in three gulps, I decide not to question him further. My eyes are instead popping out of my head as he puts the half empty bottle back on the polished coffee table, without one wince or cringe at the burning liquid that just passed down his throat.
Now, I just decide to follow his order.
I take off my tube top first.
I move my head down so my auburn hair dangles forward. The top slips off to the ground with a few puncture holes from my finger nails. I flip my head back once I’m done, now bare breasted.
“You’d think having sharp hair like mine would be cool,” I mutter to Dale, with a half-smile, “It’s not. Trust me.”
“It certainly doesn’t bother me, sweety,” he drawls. Leaning forward, he watches with unblinking eyes as I carefully grab a hold of my black jean’s waist line that still has the huge loop holes to grab and pull down.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” I whisper, annoyed but smart enough not to yell anything at him.
I was more than curious to find out what he was going to do. In fact, I was quite excited.
But always in the back of my head was that caution. Not fear, per say; but caution to tread slowly and without recklessness.
My jeans are now at my ankles and I push them aside and then raise my chin, holding my hands behind my back. I try to appear confident while standing naked before him.
“Good, kitten,” Dale smirks and suddenly leans back into his seat, relaxed.
I’m glad he doesn’t stand up, because if he did then my thin confidence would have quickly evaporated.
“I don’t want to sound…” I think for the right word, “Like I’m… whining. But, I really do hope I’m more value to your group then just… a ‘whore’,” I use the word, feeling my gut roll with the use of it. With what feeling? I don’t know.
Acceptance? Disgust? Excitement? A combination of all three, I suppose.
“Do you know why I accepted you into our company, sweet pea?” he asks, in the smoothest drawl I’ve ever heard from him. Appreciation on the tip of his tongue, as he watches me with half hooded eyes.
“Honestly?” I ask, thinking back to meeting them in the Black Lair Clubhouse, “I have no idea. I was just an amateur spy who happened to make it into your VIP section by accident. It wasn’t even intentional at the time.”
“You’re trying to think of the specific skills I like about you?” he suddenly asks with a huge mocking grin, “Your winning attributions physically? Your Gift… as an advantage in a fight?” he is trying very hard not to laugh.
The small smile on my face quickly drops off and for the first moment since meeting the Lord of the Underworld…
…I hate him.
Because suddenly, I feel worthless, like I had felt my whole life growing up with people avoiding me because of my useless gift.
That’s what he called them before.
Just like a real kitten, except claws on a human didn’t really work when we were always needing to grasp objects.
“Then why?” I ask, in a monotone. There are tears in the back of my eyes, but I refuse to let them seep out any further.
“Because, Alyssa,” he answers, quietly, “You’re quite possibly the most beautiful female I have ever seen. Possibly the most beautiful female to have ever been born and placed on this Earth,” his eyes, his voice, his posture, all reek of complete honesty.
And my recently hurt heart? Suddenly glows with confidence and warmth.
Vain? Heck, yeah. But what girl wouldn’t feel good hearing that?
“Thank you,” I manage to speak and blush slightly, “But… what value does that bring? Besides you or them wanting to sleep with me.”
“Power, of a different kind,” Dale’s eyes sparkle as he says the word, “Beauty is very powerful, kitten, perhaps you’ve never thought about it that way.”
“I’ve always loved the phrase, ‘beauty is a curse’,” I add in swiftly, biting my lip in anticipation of what he’ll choose to say next. Perhaps more compliments?
“Then it is time you started to change your thinking,” he commands this and now reaches out a hand and curls a finger for me to come closer, “Come here, get down on your knees and face the screens.”
I’m so tempted to question this, but for the moment I decide to do as he says.
I bite my cheek to stop myself blurting out more questions. I simply walk forward towards him, eyes downcast so I can avoid his dark gaze. I eventually fall down to my knees and face the digital screens.
I’m in between his spread legs and I place my palms on my thighs as I straighten my back, waiting.
“It’s true, I recruited you without too much hesitation,” Dale grabs my hair, but gently, as he slides his fingers through the strands and parts the length three ways.
He starts to braid my deadly hair.
This confuses me for a moment but eventually I decide to just let him continue; it felt nice.
“You ‘hired’ me because I’m beautiful?” I ask.
“Yes, kitten. I didn’t expect you to have such an unexpected temper, either,” I gasp when he suddenly tugs on my hair, hard, forcefully straining my neck back so I have to look up and back into his eyes, “My mistake on jumping the gun, sweety.”
“I’m sorry I’m outspoken,” I hiss, my anger bubbling it’s way to the surface. He doesn’t let my hair go so I just suck up the pain and continue to glare at him, “How can you touch me?” I ask, hoping to break the sudden aggravated tension between us.
“Fair question, kitten,” he says more lightly, slowly letting his grip on my hair slacken.
“Well?” I ask, facing the digital screens again, “And why am I naked?”
“To your first question my answer is quite complicated. To your second question, you’re naked because you took your clothes off,” I can tell he loves to rub this in and I simply roll my eyes, knowing he can’t see.
“Fair enough,” I growl, I can’t deny I didn’t do as he said.
“So, you would like to know why I am… the way I am?” he asks, rhetorically before adding, “You can stand, kitten,” he grips my shoulders to help me up and I instantly spin to face him, hands on hips. I don’t back away like he expects me to. I just stand before him and raise a brow.
“Yes please, if you will,” I then hurriedly choose to plop down on the couch next to him and push back into the corner furthest from him, getting comfortable, “Also why are you, Dale, a Megalomaniac? This will go down well in the report I’m doing for school on psychopathic behaviours,” I wink, trying to be funny.
Dale does find it amusing because he smirks.
Well, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t find ‘what I say’, funny.
Rather my attempt to be amusing, not being so amusing, hence he was amused that I was not amusing. At least I assume that’s how his megalomaniac brain calculated things and chose to react to things like a ‘stupid’ but beautiful female like myself.
I was starting to get a feel on how I was viewed and clearly for the moment my physical attributions, for some reason, were extremely alluring for this man.
I’d let him believe whatever shallow thoughts he wanted; as long as I got what I wanted at the end of the day.
I’d prove him wrong, I’d prove them all wrong.
I’d show them my worth was beyond my beauty.
“I don’t have a Gift, sweety,” he tilts his head to the side and watches me carefully, “and if you keep thinking so defiantly, you will know about my displeased manor, kitten, so watch it.”
“Noted,” I respond dryly, hugging one knee closer with one arm. Shallow thoughts on some levels, it seemed… and not so on others. Like, apparently reading my mind by reading my facial expressions… how else did he know I was thinking defiantly? “… but if you were not born with a Gift, how does my hair not shred your skin?”
“A Gift is given to those affected by the SD bombs,” he explains, “It alters DNA.”
“And yours wasn’t?” I ask, lowering my tone. I could see by the intense light in his eyes, he was about to tell me something big, “I mean, whatever you are, you’re different. The way you move, the way you speak and command others. It’s more than just leadership.”
“It’s called the animal kingdom, kitten,” he raises a brow, interested for my reaction.
“Humans are at the top of the food chain, I know this,” I explain, “At least out of the wild.”
“And what if, we were not just at the top of the food chain in metropolitan areas… but in the deserted, harsh and wild areas of this Earth?” he asks, posing me a riddle.
“What if? Who cares. We aren’t,” I shrug, “We have more of a chance with certain Gifts,” I raise my nails, “These might help me in the wild. Without any Gifts, like you… how would anyone survive the wild?”
“Spanky Dust was never meant to fail,” Dale reaches for his whiskey and I put up a hand, wanting to warn him off drinking anymore but he just passes me a menacing, unimpressed look so I drop my hand instantly.
“It might have never been intended to fail, but it did,” I remind him, “Five generations ago it wiped out 85% of the population.”
“In theory, it was meant to affect genetically equip humans by enhancing their strength. In turn, genetically un-equip humans weren’t meant to be affected at all. It was designed to be safe,” Dale takes his swig and I watch him drink every last drop of whiskey from the bottle.
I stay silent now as he eyes a bin near the self-serving bar and without a second glance he flicks his wrist and I watch the bottle go flying… and land upright and smoothly right through the narrow entrance.
Super human accuracy.
It hits me then; what he is trying to tell me. He continues even as I’ve realised it.
“The SD bombs had one flaw,” he clasps his hands together, his eyes distant as he explains. “One common gene among every human was not taken into factor. A gene affecting sexual reproduction in 100% of the population. When the SD bombs hit, most humans could no longer reproduce. The rest of us… the dose wasn’t strong enough to affect that particular gene. We survived with mutations or we lived through it by not being touched –”
“Where did you grow up, Dale?” I ask, not just curiously, but with concern and sympathy.
I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be your normal upbringing.
“In a lab,” Dale turns to face me now, shifting in his seat so his inhuman eyes devour me whole. I see him zone in on my expressions; the way I fidget with my toes, or the way I tug on my braid over my shoulder while we talk.
“A lab?” I ask, nervously.
“I saw the footage; my mother’s pregnant belly being injected time and time again with more serums and potions and boosters. For nine months she was made an experiment,” there is no emotion in Dale’s eyes but I can hear in his voice the level of control he maintains to show not a hint of his real thoughts on this matter. He simply speaks coldly, like he is feigning the ability to feel, “She was made a successful experiment. Or should I say I was.”
“Dale… Howl?” I whisper and I don’t expect his eyes to appear like they completely break.
He jumps to his feet in an instant, slowly turning to face me, his eyes confused and stricken.
“I researched it,” I blurt out, clearly the question was in his eyes.
“No one knows my real surname,” he growls, his tone has dropped lower than I had ever heard it before while his eyes look completely spell-bound with shock, “Kitten…?” the warning is there.
I make sure I don’t hesitate to answer for my knowledge.
“Simple research, your name is on the Five Reds databases as an unknown identity. They summarised everyone possibly you, except the dead Dale Howl, who died from SIDS 6 months after your birth?” I shrug, trying to pretend like it’s obvious.
Suddenly he looks a tad relieved.
“No, that Dale wasn’t me,” he shakes his head, half smiling to himself, “That was my brother,” I slowly bring my other knee to my chest, trying to sort through this new information.
“A failed experiment?” I ask, quietly.
“Yes,” Dale’s eyes look distant as he internally struggles with his past, “and my father loved the name so much he’d use it again without a second thought.”
Even after all this talk, I still had my assumption about him unanswered. Despite how certain I was of what Dale encompassed, I wanted him to just say it as it was.
“So, boss,” I rest my chin on my knees, looking him up and down, “What are you?”
“Patience, kitten,” he sits back down on the couch, this time closer to me, “How the research into SD started was based off an idea the Howl family proposed generations upon generations ago. Ultimate Gene Sequencing. Not just one sequence of DNA but many choices of superiority. Including ultimate qualities. They sat down and tried to make a man – not a female as the estrogen makes your kind inferior,” he says this condescendingly on purpose and I’m not too sure if he’s joking or not but I do straighten my back a little. Oh really, Mr. right-about-everything? Oh, really? However, I let him continue, because in this instant, I just want my answer no matter what, “… so a man they wanted. A man that encompassed the highest IQ, the strongest physique enhanced with chemical structuring, an entrancing eye-colour – eye colour has a lot to do with power, sweet kitten – also enhanced decisive thinking, superior manipulative skills, both emotional and logical, confidence in general, a high degree of risk taking with no option of failure due to other enhanced factors… you catch where I’m going with this, sweet pea?”
I decide to just say what my exact thoughts are, no holding back.
“You’re a super human!” I guess, “Aren’t you?”
“The one and only,” he purses his lips in a smile, “The ultimate male, sweet kitten. I am the best that will ever be.”
“The best?” I question, “Are you sure about that?”
“In all areas,” he shrugs, giving me a wink.
Ha, ha… in all areas…
Although, now wasn’t the time to get distracted.
“So… what does the ultimate human want, then?” I ask, quizzically, “besides the most beautiful woman on the planet sitting naked on a couch for him,” now I wink and Dale smiles, dangerously.
“What do I want?” he asks, repeating my question.
“It’s simple, kitten,” he licks his lips and pauses a moment too long while watching me with lust filled eyes.
I try to shuffle further back into the corner of the plush couch.
“To rule the world?” I ask, hypothetically, nervously meeting his gaze.
“Yes and no. Rather, I want to master the food chain and the animal kingdom,” his eyes flash with something not normal, “I’m not just human, sweety… kitten,” he changes the endearment last minute and I freeze as I literally watch his irises transform, slowly… to slits! “I have leopard DNA mixed in with my tampered human DNA.”
“Did you just say what I think you just said?” I blurt out, literally making myself breathless as all the air leaves my lungs and I forget to breathe more back in.
“More informally, sweety, it’s panther DNA,” he tilts his head, his big cat eyes watching me like I’m literally prey.
And he was the predator.
“Panther?” I whisper, my throat raspy. Panthers were just black leopards.
I suck in a breath, finally, suddenly understanding why he commanded such a dangerous air.
Why he could touch my hair or nails and not be cut.
He had super human chemically enhanced genes… and big cat DNA.
Now I knew why he wanted to rule what he referred to as the ‘animal kingdom’.
And why he called me kitten.