“Please, I can explain.” He looked up at me from his knees.
“Don’t worry.” I narrowed my eyes and glared. “You don’t have to.”
His intestines spilled from his body just before his head rolled across the floor. His wife screamed and scrabbled away from me, but she couldn't escape my wrath. Her body hit the floor with a dull thud. The silence was broken by the pattering of blood dripping from my nails as it hit the concrete floor. I flicked my hands, annoyed with the sound.
“I know you’re here. I can smell your rot. Come out, come out wherever you are.” I prowled the room, trying to find the scent that spoke of my kind. I extended my claws and retracted them. An alpha would have come at me by now.
“Secure in your little hidey hole?” The source of the scent was masked by the putrid smell of the doctor’s innards spilled from his eviscerated body in a rush of bile and blood.
“You should have known better than to work with him.”
My ruff stood up, the skin on my neck and shoulders prickling. I huffed a sub vocal sigh. “I will find you.” Trespassers did not live after they crossed my borders. “Did you think his experiments would make you stronger than me?”
I’d not faced a credible threat in years, not that I cared much anymore. I held onto my land because once… he’d lived here. He’d loved the hills and the forests that ringed my estate, and for his memory I’d protect my claim.
“I’ve seen his files. The tests, the trials.” I turned in a slow circle. “The good doctor was using me all along. For you.” I’d allowed the bastard to move to my town. His knowledge had been useful. Finding a doctor who’d treat werekin could be hard. I’d kept my distance, until the worm I’d sent into his computer system cracked his firewall and found everything he’d been trying on his sneaky guest.
“Did you think you could become an alpha? That something in our blood could actually change you into something strong enough to face me?” I was not an alpha because of the blood that ran through my veins. Obviously neither the doctor nor the bastard trying to challenge me understood that. “If you want to live, you’ll come out now.” I scanned the walls, searching for the cracks that had to be there.
There was a lab here somewhere. The blood and tissue samples he’d taken from my people had to be processed, and it wasn’t at the clinic we’d raided. The good doctor had rushed down to this room for a reason, and it wasn’t to protect his woman.
I snapped my head and stared at the south wall. There. A faint chiming sound, like a blade drawn from a sheath.
Striding to the wall, I spun and kicked sideways. The thick sole of my boot absorbed the blow as my leg went through the wall. The gaping hole exposed a room partitioned off from the rest of the basement. I grabbed the sheetrock at the sides of the hole and tore it from the studs. A long steel counter ran the length of the wall. Tools of all kinds were strewn haphazardly across its surface. Darkness hide what lay at the far end of the counter but nothing could hide the stench of feces and urine.
The coward must have fouled himself. Alpha… yeah right.
“Last chance to come out and die with a shred of dignity.” Not even a human was as weak as this bonded werekin filth.
I crouched when metal slid across the ground. Clumsy. He had revealed his location in the shadow and that he was armed. It would be his last mistake.
A slender arm reached into the light. Dirty fingers scrabbled at the cracks in the stone floor and then pulled.
Deep blue eyes dominated the pale face. His skin stretched taut over knife-edge thin cheekbones. A black mask covered his muzzle, the straps digging into his patchy ruff.
His blood began to flow toward me in thin rivulets along the white grout between the stones from his lacerated wrist.
Not a challenger.
Park’s little brother.
We’d been told he’d died in an accident on his way to college. He’d decided to leave town and head to the city, where I couldn't follow, and my best friend had been inconsolable when his parents broke the news Kraig would never come back.
I jumped through the hole.
The straps were easy to slice away with my claws but the mask was adhered to Kraig’s face. He cried out weakly when I ripped it away.
“Deke,” he whispered.
My heart pounded. It had been two long years since I heard my name said in that voice. Adrenaline surged through me in a way it hadn’t when I killed the doctor and prepared to kill the trespasser hiding in my territory. I felt alive in a way I hadn’t since I lost Kraig.
Not since he left without a look back for me because he didn’t believe he, a lowly human werekin, could possibly belong at my side when he couldn’t be blooded as my mate.
“I’ve got you.” My hands trembled as I traced them in the air over his wasted form, unsure of where it was safe to touch. He’d sliced his wrist to the bone yanking it out of a manacle holding him to the wall so he could reach out to me. The other wrist was still clamped with a band of thick metal. I breathed through my mouth, taking in his changed scent.
“I’m dying. Hold me… while I go,” he begged. His cracked lips bled fat, red drops of blood down his muzzle. His face, so different, was just as beautiful as it had been when I knew him last. I didn't understand what had happened to him, but it didn't matter.
“No!” I denied his request vehemently. My claws dug into my palms as I clenched my hands into fists. “Don’t ask me to do that, not when I just found you. Not when I can save you.”
“Not safe.” He began gasping for air. “He did… things… let me die.”
I ignored his plea. I leaned down and began to lick his wrist to stem the tide of blood. There was no time to find bandages.
“What… are you… No!”
I pierced my tongue with my fangs, ignoring the stinging pain. I would not let him go again no matter the risk. If the doctor doomed him to die with his experiments, we’d die together. If I had to I’d beg Kraig’s forgiveness, but he’d only be able to give it to me if he lived. I couldn’t believe I’d find him now just to lose him. One day he would know, just as I did, that he belonged to me no matter what soul he'd been born with.
I shoved my bleeding tongue into his mouth.
You. Will. Not. Die.
Each thrust of my tongue denied his fatalistic desire as if I spoke the words aloud. He battled me, struggling in vain before my essence swept him away. We stared into each other’s eyes as I cradled his body in my arms and forced Kraig to accept me inside him.
The blue bled from his eyes, and they shone red for a long moment until he shuttered them, his lids sliding shut slowly.
He was blooded.
My heart sang when he began to suck on my tongue. His free hand dug into my ruff, yanking me closer. A purr vibrated against my chest, startling me, but then I pulled him in closer.
Kraig was mine.