The discussion on their shifter poison ended with just the name. Melanie didn’t explain what was in it nor how it affected shifters. All she knew was that she wanted no parts of it. She did learn, however, that it wasn’t just in the bullets. Explosives, knives, hell even the damn batons were made of it.
“If majority of the Felids in the Valley are dead, why are you guys still in full war mode?” She asked, having watched them for hours going back and forth with loading and unloading things capable of killing her.
“Because we are in war mode,” Melanie answered without taking her eyes off the paper in front of her. She was on the couch checking things off a list. “You think everything will really go back to normal after all of this? And you certainly can’t think just killing Kaleb with that godawful, poorly written, novella excuse, was going to sit well with people?”
Course not. And speaking of which.
“Do we have to ki–”
Melanie slammed the paper on the desk and raked her sister with a harsh glare. “I’ve told you time and time again, that there is no stopping that. Robert has decided to kill him. He’s going to die. And I am not going to commit high treason for your abomination fuck buddy.”
“Hold, thee, fuck up!” Marissa yelled back. “He’s not my fuck buddy for one. We haven’t even done that. And secondly, I’m a gotdamn abomination too remember?”
Melanie sighed and rubbed her temples as though she was dealing with a child.
“How many times do I have to tell you you’re not like them. Aside from the obvious–you’re half human–you didn’t ask for this and you certainly weren’t raised to be our enemy.”
“So you’re just going to kill all of them except for me? How do you know that there aren’t others just like me?”
“That’s not my problem,” Melanie answered simply and even shrugged her shoulders to emphasize how little she cared.
“And what exactly do you plan to do about me? You have a job to do. Our Father–”
“Robert,” Melanie interjected.
Marissa rolled her eyes. “Robert, wants to kill me and I’m sure anyone that lives here knows what I look like and will probably make sure that happens. ”
Melanie stood up after checking something off the paper again. Shawn came downstairs and took it from her, then disappeared again.
“You’re going to stay with Shawn and I. We’ll take care of you. You won’t have to do anything but live.”
“You mean survive in captivity.”
Again with the shrug. “Call it what you want. You’re going to stay here out of harm’s way. We have to move soon so you can just come with us when that happens. You should have some more freedom once we’re not in the Valley.”
Just what the fuck was up with everyone and trying to keep her locked up?
“I can’t deal with this right now.” Marissa stood up from her seat on the adjacent couch and headed for the door.
“Where are you going?”
“Away from…” She waved her hands in disfigured circles “…All of this shit.”
“And go where? To where you were hiding before? How is that any different from what I just told you?”
Ah Fuck..She hadn’t thought about that. Living with Mason and the gang was the same. She could only hide. Outside wasn’t safe for her. The town just wasn’t safe for her anymore.
“We just got back together and you’re considering throwing a shot of something decent away for some animals that would probably turn on you when they got the chance?”
Marissa didn’t know what to do honestly.
“I’ll…I don’t know…I have to think. Just let me think.”
Melanie turned her back to her sister. “Remember I said we had to move? We leave in a week. I’ll pack your things in case you change your mind by then,” She glanced back at her. “But after that you’re on your own.”
She could live with that. She’ll figure something out in a week. It wasn’t enough time, but it would do. She had–looking at the clock on the shelf and saw it was 8:38 p.m–about 15 hours to find and release Kaleb, and from there, a week to decide what they would do next.
“Don’t leave out the front door. Someone should be coming in shortly. Go out the back…And be safe,” Melanie said, and listened while her sister quietly exited.
Dominic huffed tiredly, wearing a victorious smile while blood dripped off the knife in his hand. He covered his face with his his empty hand and tilted his head back as he began to cackle.
His laughter slowly began to die out and he breathed off when he finally caught himself from his little “episode.”
He knelt down beside Kaleb’s body, admiring his fancy work. His smile turned into a frown though as he noticed the boy, sprawled on the ground and decorated with slices, was smiling too.
“Are you taunting me?”
Kaleb coughed out blood, then lifted his chained hand and draped it across his face. He shook his head, not sure exactly what to say.
He was hanging around, not that he had much of choice, minding his business when Dominic strolled in three hours ago and ordered everyone out. He had loosened Kaleb’s chain, allowing him more mobility and removed the collar from his neck.
Then he punched him and demanded Kaleb fight him.
“Are you done entertaining yourself?” Kaleb asked. He could feel his wounds healing over. That told him that Dominic’s weapon of choice was not one of their special little toys.
He heard the sound of someone moving out, the cage door sliding open and shut. Dominic had left he assumed. Then a moment later, he heard the same sounds again as Dominic returned, but not empty handed.
Kaleb’s eyes shot open when he felt something being poured on him, followed by an intense burning sensation. He attempted to hop to his feet, when Dominic dropped onto Kaleb’s body and held him in place.
Salt. A shit ton of it too.
He didn’t give Dominic the satisfaction of screaming while he thrashed about. Though Dominic seemed perfectly satisfied as he literally rubbed salt in his wounds.
“Because I want you to remember me,” Dominic laughed as he finally removed himself from Kaleb. He dusted the residue off his hands, watching Kaleb’s suffering delightfully. “See. Even though you’re going to die tomorrow. I want you to look at those scars and think about me in your final moments since I have to be reminded of you for the rest of my life.” He said and pointed to his ear.
Kaleb wanted to snap Dominic’s neck, but settled for riding the pain. When it dulled to nothing more than occasional throbbing, he finally spoke.
“You have some kind of hard-on for me huh?”
Dominic plopped himself down near Kaleb. He reached into his pocket and fiddled with some paper. “You’re interesting,” He said simply and lighted what Kaleb realized was a joint. “Haven’t had this much fun in a while.”
So he was, as Kaleb thought, a lunatic.
“Thrilled to be of service,” Kaleb said and rolled his eyes. He sat up and slumped himself against the wall. When he blinked, Dominic was handing him the burning paper.
“It won’t kill you,” Dominic said and took a hit as proof.
Kaleb was still skeptical, but fuck he was going to die anyways, might as well.
“So you come here, beat my ass, stab me, scar me and now you’re having a friendly smoke?” Kaleb asked after a long pull.
“Don’t misunderstand. I still hate you. Your kind will be exterminated. I’m just tired right now and like I said, you’re interesting,” Dominic explained honestly.
The next few minutes were spent in silence while the prison was overpowered with the smell of smoke.
“What did you do to Thomas?”
Kaleb glanced over, confused.
“Sehjada. What did you do to her?”
“I didn’t do anything to her,”Kaleb said.
Dominic didn’t push for more answers, but he kept talking. “She’s been on a mission to find out what the hell you did. I don’t blame her. I know she wouldn’t just let you out without reason.” He paused and then laughed. “And she looked hot and bothered. You did something. You don’t have to lie.”
Dominic looked at his watch and noticed time was definitely leaving. He had spent enough time down there. He sat up and brushed off his clothes.
“Well. See you later for your death sentence. Better get the last of your rest.” Dominic said. He left, not bothering to tighten the chains. “Any regrets?”
He wished to God he could have seen Marissa again.
When Marissa slipped back into the hideout just shy of midnight, she thought it would be pitch black inside.
In fact, she was hoping to be welcomed by darkness so she could have some piece of mind with her thoughts. She had to figure out how to get into the Council building, save Kaleb and leave the town in one piece and the more she thought about it the more the feeling of helplessness drowned her. There was no way she could save him. Rather than silence though, she was bombarded by faces at the door, questioning her whereabouts.
“We thought you were dead!” Mason, the biggest of the bodies crowding her said. He was shirtless and his black skin was matted with sweat. He was clearly working off steam before she got in. Beside him Carlos was being extra dramatic, ranting in a mix of English and Spanish. His concern was evident in his brown eyes but she had no time to deal with him.
Scarlett, the resident mother had returned, her thick, burgundy curls bouncing wildly as she lashed out at Marissa. Aiden, of course, was buried in the laptop, uncaring of the commotion.
“Guys, GUYS! Relax. Can I just explain?”
“Carlos saw you disappear into a house with hunters and you never came back out!”
She cursed under her breath. She couldn’t exactly tell them that she came from a line of hunters.
“That was a close friend of mine. She thought I was in danger outside and I hadn’t seen her in a long time. She doesn’t know what I am,” She lied effortlessly. “Where’s Raghib?” She changed the subject quickly both out of concern and to get them off her back.
Mason hesitated before he answered. “He’s dead.”
She finally saw some movement from Aiden. It must have been the first time he heard it too. The other three just looked away.
She didn’t have to ask how. There were really only two ways you died around here lately. Natural causes or hunters.
With that out of the way, the topic quickly switched back to her. “And that could have been you too. It’s not safe for us here anymore period. We have to leave.”
She was sure Mason was mourning in his own way. He didn’t peg her as the cold-hearted type. He was trying to remain their rock and to do that he didn’t have time to wallow in sadness over a death. Scarlett was at his side rubbing his arms sympathetically.
“We planned to leave at dawn. Are you coming with us?”
Her hesitation spoke volumes.
“You’re still thinking about saving that guy?”
“I can’t just leave him,” Her eyes turned down at the floor. “He wouldn’t have left me.”
Mason was pacing now. He was rubbing his hand over his shaved head, cursing while Scarlett breathed a sigh. She finally spoke.
“It’s a suicide mission to go after him. He’s dead in 12 hours. It’s in your best interest to leave him behind.”
Marissa slunk against the wall. She hated how everyone was trying to reason with her to leave him to his death and go away with them. She hung her head, her dark brown hair falling forward as she battled internally with what to do. Kaleb wouldn’t have left her. She was certain of it. If anything, he was probably locked up because of her. Despite their constant fall outs, he never left her for dead before. She wasn’t Kaleb. Hell, she still didn’t have shifting down properly, but she wasn’t about to leave him behind.
“Then it’ll just have to be suicide. I’m staying. You can leave.”
Four sets of bewildered eyes latched onto her. She met their eyes with a look of defiance. She wasn’t leaving without Kaleb. It was final.
“You’re being unreasonable!” Mason shouted and she stood up to meet him head on.
“I’m not asking you all to throw away your lives. You can go. I’m staying.”
Carlos cursed from nearby. “You gotta be kidding me. Marissa, babe, listen. You have a whole life ahead of you–”
“I don’t want to hear that shit right now.” She cut him off curtly. That kind of talk was for someone who didn’t have their own family trying to gun them down.
“We can save him if we move by dawn.”
Everyone shot a glance over at Aiden who finally turned away from the computer screen.
He adjusted his glasses over his gray eyes and stood up. He walked across the room and gathered a pen a large sheet of paper and then began drawing on it.
“I spent the last month or so going over the security footage from the council headquarters,” He said while everyone hovered over him. “I wish I had a printer. Why didn’t we invest in one of those?”
“What are you getting at Aiden?”
He looked up from what was now clearly a map and tilted his head as though the answer were obvious.
“I know the way in and out of that building along with where the security cameras are stationed, blind spots, rotations…In layman’s terms I can get us in and out with Kaleb with as little trouble as possible,” Aiden said. “As long as we’re long gone by 10 a.m. when the building is crawling with people.”
Mason rubbed his temples while Aiden went back to drawing.
“I don’t think this is a good idea.” He said. “On execution day? It’ll be obvious.”
“I doubt anyone expects him to be saved at this point,” Aiden countered. “You don’t have to come. The less of us the better and It’s easier for me to slink about than you anyway.”
“Look, it’s not that. We just don’t have to do this. The risk is too great.”
Aiden merely shrugged his shoulders. When he was finally done, he gathered up his map and walked over to a still dumbfounded Marissa.
“You should get some sleep. We can wake up at 4, get ready, then leave at 5:30. It shouldn’t take us more than 15 minutes to get over there and…” While Aiden spoke, she found herself lost. He was really going to help her?
She rubbed her eyes, trying to catch the falling tears. “You don’t have to do this.”
“I want to. I don’t know about the others but you’re my friend at least.”
There was some more grumbling then a collective sigh.
“Fine,” It was Scarlett. “Go over with us how we’re doing this. ”
When she looked around, Carlos, Mason, and Felicia had closed the gap between them.
“I’m not thrilled, but shit, why not,” Felicia said, rolling her eyes.
Marissa felt a weight lifted off her shoulders. “Thank you.”
Things were going too smoothly.
If there was anything Marissa learned from all of her experiences was that her life never had a moment of normalcy. The fact that they had managed to get inside and were currently running through the halls so easily had her stomach in knots.
Something wasn’t right.
In fact, something was terribly wrong.
Felicia must have sensed it too. At the last minute, she decided she didn’t want to go with them and Scarlett decided to stay behind with her.
As a result, only her, Carlos, Mason and Aiden went along on this suicide mission.
She was currently wondering if it was too late to send them back while she handled the rest on her own.
They stopped right before the last corner. Mason peaked around, checking for anyone. Spotting no one, he waved his arm, beckoning them to follow him.
Marissa glanced back at Aiden and realized that he may have been feeling the same thing she was.
When they got to the “dead end” Mason pushed on the doors like Aiden had instructed, to lead them to the staircase.
Except, on the other side was a large executive office with a wide screen television on the end.
And they weren’t alone.
Warning bells went off. The door behind them shut. She glanced around looking for an escape. They needed to get out of there.
“You know this guy?” Mason asked, shielding Marissa with his body from the man on the other side of the room.
Why the fuck Jamoy was there was beyond her.
Mason was growling. His hands contorted into claws as he half shifted. She didn’t even know you could do that. Carlos was the same.
Their growls were met with Jamoy’s who was stalking closer, but was wary of Mason who both outweighed and towered over him.
“This is wrong,” Aiden whispered to Marissa . He pulled out his phone, but found it had no service. Up until that moment it was working perfectly fine. “We need to leave. They’re on to us. They’ve probably always been on to us.”
He cursed, the sound unfamiliar to her ears as Aiden rarely ever spoke like that. “We were tricked.”
The TV on the far end clicked on, startling everyone in the room. On the screen was her brother Dominic, several armed men, her former best friend and Abdul. What captured all of their attention, however, was the menacing apparatus behind them.
The tall, obsidian upright frame held a weighted and angled sharp silver blade.
And secured at the bottom, a head hung through the hole, positioned over a basket. The condemned person, his face was hidden under a black sack, but she recognized the brown locs dangling through them.
“A bit gaudy for my tastes but I mean really, look at it!” Dominic laughed as he fascinated himself with the guillotine. “By thee way. How stupid did you think we were that we wouldn’t notice one of you poking around the system?”
Aiden cursed again.
“Sister! Long time no see!” Dominic waved.
Mason and Aiden looked over at her, confused. Her saliva felt like nails as she swallowed hard, nervous, not sure what to say to them.
“Sister?” Carlos asked. “Who the hell are those people?
“She should know us,” Abdul answered. “We’re her friends and family after all.”
“Why the hell are you all here?” She asked, utterly confused.
Abdul folded his arms. “Lots of reasons. To get rid of Jamoy for starters. He was digging entirely too deep for my tastes. To kill whoever is here, and Kaleb of course.” He said while counting on his fingers. “Oh, to get rid of this building annnnnnnnnd,” He then pointed at her. “To get rid of you too.”
Jamoy was baffled and speechless. When he found his voice he asked. “You were working for them?”
Abdul merely shrugged. “Nothing personal. I have some plans of my own and you were getting in the way. I had hoped you and the boy would kill each other but that didn’t work out. I snagged Salima in hopes she’d either kill you in jealousy or Marissa but she was useless. You’d think she would be motivated with the throne on the line.”
Abdul ignored the question. “But all this talking is wasting time right, Dominic?”
“I know we scheduled this for noon, but some circumstances, like you popping up at the ass crack of dawn, forced us to make some adjustments,” Dominic said and sighed as though he was being troubled. Then, he perked up. “But, on the bright side, your little mission now gives me not one, but four deaths today. It could have been more but it seems your other two friends already escaped your hideout. Lucky them.”
They all felt relieved, but there was no time to show it.
Carlos then glanced around and she realized he was counting.
“Ah yes, I said four. Despite what Abdul thinks, my sister gets to live for a job well done in bringing you all here.”
Marissa felt the air thicken with tension. Aiden, Carlos and Mason were eyeing her.
“What?” Carlos asked.
Dominic clapped his hands, drawing their attention again. He pulled a black mask from one of the hunters in the area, always being one for theatrics, and placed it on his face.
“Enough talking for one day. It’s time for the fun to begin!” He cheered and while she screamed for him to stop, he released the blade and it fell.
It must have taken seconds, but it felt sickeningly slow as it sliced through Kaleb’s neck, and dropped his head into the basket below.
She wasn’t sure if she had ever stopped screaming.
Carlos snatched Aiden who then grabbed Marissa. He barreled into the door hoping it would budge but nothing happened. Dominic was still cackling from the TV.
Carlos released Aiden, shifted into a large tan cougar, and continued to throw himself at the door that wouldn’t open.
You traitorous bitch!
He snapped and turned panicked eyes on the still frozen Marissa.
Your brother is a fucking hunter? You have Felids trying to kill you? You planned to sell us out from the beginning right?!
Aiden, and Mason placed themselves between the two. Jamoy was lingering near the window, lost in thought.
“You know she didn’t! There has to be a reason.” Aiden said.
Bullshit! She set us up!
When Carlos lunged for her he was instantly pinned by a Black Bear as Mason shifted.
Then everyone paused, hearing a soft click. As a hush fell over them, the sound of the tick grew, escalated, and then the room was swallowed in the flames caused by the explosion.