Clang. Clang. Clang.
I knew almost every inch of the godforsaken place. The swinging fluorescent lights, the crumbling stone in the courtyard, and the tiny cell I was only allowed to remain in one third of the time, a cinderblock palace straight from hell the other two-thirds. I’d never be able to free my mind from the damn buzzing sounds as cell doors were opened and closed or the stench that wafted through every room.
There wasn’t enough bleach in the world to remove the bloodstains from floors and walls. Violence was an everyday occurrence, gangs formed in order to try to endure spending years if not a full lifetime behind steel bars, treated like nothing more than animals. My life had been stolen from me, stripped away by a man who thought he was God.
I’d been here exactly seven hundred ninety-two days and counting.
And I was pissed.
That man would pay for his sins, but not until I wiped out everyone involved.
I’d been collected from the hellhole that had been my home for the last few weeks, solitary confinement meant to keep me safe from the riffraff. Bullshit. The guards always pretended they were tossing me into the box for my protection. Nothing they did was for any other reason than financial gain. Now I was being led to the fucking showers, a prime location for unwitnessed eliminations and fucking.
As if any of the disgusting scum had ever been able to lay a hand on me in some perverted way, my reputation as a deranged killer preceding me.
I was given a hard shove and I reacted as I always did, jerking my head around and snarling. I was forced to clench my fist, digging my nails into my skin to keep from releasing the kind of fury that would prevent me from ever seeing the light of day ever again.
“Just get it done, Dupree. You’re wanted,” the guard told me. “Clean off the stench.”
I almost laughed. I’d been a wanted man for as long as I could remember. Still, I was curious as to who was paying me a visit.
As I walked into the darkened room, blood pumped through my veins, hunger gnawing at my insides. I was famished, but my hunger couldn’t be satisfied by steak and potatoes. And it couldn’t be sated by the touch of a beautiful woman.
What I required was more… deadly.
Clang. Clang. Clang.
I fucking hated the noise.
At least the cold didn’t bother me.
The assholes running the joint purposely kept the temperature as low as possible. That included the trickle of cold water coming from the shower spigots, although I hadn’t been allowed the privilege to remove the repulsive stench for almost a month. That’s how long I’d been shoved into solitary confinement this time, although I’d begun to feel as if the place was home.
Some asshole had dared try to assassinate me during our required exercise, the courtyard area nothing more than a playground for the various Bratva and Cartel groups seeking revenge or the top rung in the prison hierarchy.
Every sound echoed as I made my way through the thirty or so men, their ridiculous banter already getting on my nerves. There was nothing worse than spending time around the Neanderthal assholes. Murderers. Rapists. Serial arsonists. The cream of the crop was housed in crowded conditions, most of them lifers, true savages. They had no conscience, no level of humanity left.
Then again, neither did I. It had been beaten out of me a hell of a long time ago.
“Look, there’s the freak,” I heard one of them whisper, although his intent was for me to hear every word.
“A pretty boy,” another one purred, making sucking noises shortly afterward.
I didn’t bother giving the assholes the time of day, moving toward the single shower remaining empty in the corner. How nice. They’d left one for my arrival. I snickered at the thought. I knew exactly what to expect.
Another jerk dared to whistle, as if I was the flavor of the month. None of them had any idea what I was capable of or what I would do if they dared to enter my space. I shoved aside my rage, tossing the threadbare towel over my shoulder. I could easily read their thoughts, what they had planned before I finished scrubbing filth from my torso.
If the fuckers actually believed they could shank me, they had another think coming.
I preferred being in solitary confinement. Hell, I’d been there for weeks at a time, but that had never bothered me. I’d been the kid to prefer time alone, my teachers commenting that I might need therapy. My father had merely laughed, not bothering to explain I flourished in isolation.
Quiet time allowed me to process and handle all the demented thoughts consuming my mind.
I’d been allowed out of my silent confines for one hour a day, but that was only when one of the guards was in a good mood, which was rare. The guards hated me as much as the inmates, and that was in their best interest.
After all, I was the kind of creature nightmares were made of.
The thought gave me a smile as I moved through the crowd of men, every single one of them darting vicious looks in my direction.
Some edict had come down from the powers that be, requiring a meeting with another damn attorney. At least that’s what I’d surmised. That required me to be clean and dressed. The prison owners certainly wouldn’t want our mistreatment getting out to the public. That wouldn’t bode well for their monthly financial aid.
After tossing the towel on the rusted rack over the showerhead, I held the soap under the stream of water, watching as dirt slid down the nearly clogged drain. I was lucky enough to soap up my arms before one of the assholes made a move.
When I swung around, kicking out my leg, I caught the dumbass right in the gut, the force pummeling him halfway across the room. They had no idea how strong I was. Up to this point, I’d managed to hide every unnatural attribute, but my patience had worn thin a long time before.
Within a few seconds, another bastard attacked, managing to stick the makeshift knife straight into my gut, the instrument made of metal. I could tell that by the sound as it was tossed away so the guards wouldn’t figure out who was responsible. It would seem the Bratva was determined to finish what they’d started a month before.
As blood streamed around my legs, I glanced down slowly, taking several deep breaths. The Russian had called me a useless pig. He had no idea that I was an entirely different creature, one that was much more dangerous. When I lifted my head, my chest heaving, the others backed away, leaving only the large, ugly Russian standing in wait, prepared to finish what had been started.
I cocked my head, laughing softly given the guards were nowhere to be seen. With no weapon in my hand, I walked toward him, trying to control my breathing. Then I stopped, his stench almost too much to bear.
“Come on, boy,” Dimitri Pavlov said in broken English, beckoning me with three fingers. “Come for me. I dare you.”
“Bud’te ostorozhny v svoikh pros’bakh,” I growled, closing the distance, raising my arm and allowing him to see my beast just seconds before I raked my claws down the front of his neck and chest, moving close enough for him to see the red glow of my eyes. While it wasn’t a killing blow, it should have been. At least a warning had been sent to leave me the fuck alone.
As the Russian gagged, wrapping his hands around his throat and dropping to his knees, the other looked at me with terror in their eyes. Now the bastard understood that my wolf didn’t like to be challenged in any way.
I concentrated on his pulse throbbing on the side of his neck, the stench of his blood enticing as hell. A short growl left my throat, the sound echoing in the dense space.
The Russian wheezed as his other brothers started inching closer, the cries of disbelief expected. His mouth twisted as he reached out for me.
“Jesus, what the hell?”
“Did you fucking see that?”
“What are you, some kind of animal?”
Laughing, I retracted my claws, but made certain he was given instructions with my mind, requirements that he would follow. “Vy budete ubivat’ svoikh soldat, vypotroshiv ikh.”
Or face my wrath.
I had no doubt he’d follow my orders.
He coughed up blood, struggling to get to me, shocked at what I’d commanded. “Fuck… you.”
“Dupree. Get your ass out here. They’re ready for you. Shut the fuck up, Pavlov, or your ass will be placed in confinement.”
I snapped my head toward the guard, giving him a wide smile. Maybe this was going to be an interesting day after all.
“Get dressed,” the guard barked as he tossed me into a room. Rick Carter was a piss-ant, a useless man who’d dropped out of college. This job had been the only one offered to him. I liked to call him Ricky just to piss him off.
The sight of another freaking orange jumpsuit brought a snarl from my throat. The fucking color didn’t suit me in the least. I shifted my head, taking deep breaths. I made it a point to learn his name months before, finding out where he lived and all about his family. The asshole had been the worst of the lot of them, enjoying every moment of pain he’d been able to inflict. I finally offered a wide grin, daring to swagger toward him.
He shifted his hand to his weapon, fear his only expression. “Don’t come any closer, Dupree. Just follow my fucking orders.”
I said nothing as I reached for the clothes, my thoughts drifting to the worthless Russian and his Bratva soldiers. It wasn’t a coincidence the scumbag had been placed in the same block. There were guards who’d been hopeful the prodigal son of a ruthless Russian crime syndicate would rid the world of my existence. The Bratva were the reason I’d been dumped into prison in the first place.
Not that I was an innocent soul.
I was vicious and unforgiving, a product of my upbringing and one I was proud of.
The wound the Russian had inflicted was already healed, barely an indentation remaining. However, I still felt discomfort, which did little to calm my fury.
As I pulled the jumpsuit over my shoulders, I thought of all the delicious, vile things I was going to do to the Russian family after I was released. Thoughts regarding revenge had kept me on edge, allowing me to tolerate the two years of brutal abuse. Even my powerful father, considered one of the most dangerous men in the United States, hadn’t been able to use his substantial influence to get me out of this rat hole.
My family controlled Louisiana and most of the southern states using brutal methods, never allowing our enemies to interfere with our various businesses. While I’d never been interested in participating in the hierarchy or the requirements my father had laid out when my brothers and I were children, I’d learned a great deal from his merciless tendencies.
Which meant I enjoyed spilling blood.
When I was dressed, I rose to my full height, turning to face the smaller guard, dragging my tongue across my canines. A pang of hunger rushed into my system, yanking my wolf from his dark lair. I’d been hungrier than usual, longing to rip my teeth through flesh and bone, but that wasn’t allowed. As required by my father and his ancestors before him, every member of the Dupree family was forbidden to taste human blood. We hadn’t needed to, able to control our cravings and our abilities to allow our beasts to surface.
Until recently, I’d had no problem, even though I’d reduced the temptation by remaining solitary even before my unexpected incarceration. Something had changed, the longing driving me to a different state of mind. If I wasn’t released soon, there would be no way to control my desires.
Then all hell would break loose.
Two beads of sweat were running down both sides of the guard’s face. He was fearful of what I could do although my attack on Pavlov would go unmentioned. Even the guards knew better than to fuck with the prisoners’ system.
“Alright. Get over here. I need to put the cuffs on, and you won’t fuck with me.” He nodded over his shoulder and within seconds, two additional guards appeared behind him. They were taking no chances I’d try to manipulate the system. Good for them. They’d learned not to trust my actions.
I sauntered toward them, glaring each one in the eyes, able to read what they were thinking. Some would say I was blessed with the ability to read human minds, controlling their actions when necessary. I was different than my other brothers, my gift more of a curse.
Our entire family was supposedly under some magic spell brought down by some voodoo priestess over a century before. Bull fucking shit. However, we were different. We were Loup-garou, creatures of the night. At least our kind were able to shift when desired, not because of some ridiculous need to howl at the full moon. For most of those born descendants from the original Dupree family, being a wolf required little change in what was considered normal. We went about our lives, acting as if the call of the wild wasn’t a hindrance. But I’d been told otherwise by two of my brothers during one of their visits.
Wolves had learned to attack humans.
As the two bastards placed shackles around my wrists and ankles, making them nice and tight, I kept a smile on my face. Ricky’s face turned beet red, the two beads of sweat turning into trickles flowing down his face.
“Hurry the fuck up. I want this asshole out of my sight,” Ricky hissed, shifting from one foot to the other before hiking up his state-designated trousers. Bland, just like him.
One of the other guards jerked my arm, forcing me into the corridor. I didn’t bother fighting but only because I was curious as to who’d come to visit poor little old me. I kept a smug look on my face as they pulled me down the empty space, trying their best to make me trip given the short length of the chain between my legs.
I didn’t give them the satisfaction.
When they came to a series of doors, one of them showing their identification to another guard behind a monitor, I turned my head, narrowing my eyes. A brand new guard. The poor girl hadn’t experienced the likes of me, but she was smart enough not to react to her swell of emotions. At least she’d been trained well, possibly able to ignore what she would soon face on an everyday basis.
The two doors opened, leading to a series of hallways. Then another door. The prison was a fortress, the routines etched in my mind. Up at five. Food at six. Required exercise at nine. I knew every inch of my block, every dangerous location. And I’d seen every kind of crime committed behind the cinderblock walls. That would harden almost any man.
I was different.
Finally, we reached the corridor housing the visitation rooms, most of them wide open spaces surrounded by numerous guards with heavy artillery. However, very few prisoners were allowed the privilege of having visitors. Up until now, I was one of those.
I was led into a private room, which meant an attorney had come to see me. How many had come and gone over the three and a half years since this bullshit had started? More than I could count or give a shit about.
Ricky tossed me onto one of the hard metal chairs, securing my arms to a thick bolt on the edge of the table. There was no way I could get to the poor person sitting on the other side.
Or so they thought.
I took a deep breath, holding it as I glanced at the two-way mirror. I wondered how many people were on the other side of the thick glass, watching me like some freaking specimen. Not that I gave a shit. They could try to glean all they wanted from the son of a mafia leader. They would learn nothing.
After another five minutes passed, the large ticking clock on the wall matching my rapidly beating heart, the attorney entered, a woman this time. How very thoughtful of my father. Even though she’d done everything in her power to maintain a professional, sexless look in both her attire and her makeup, it couldn’t hide her exquisite features.
However, I wasn’t interested in her in the least. There wasn’t a woman out there who could fulfill my needs, satisfying my sadistic hunger. But I would take what I wanted after I was a free man. The thought forced my cock to twitch.
She sat down, careful to keep as far away from me as possible. I could tell she’d been around prisons by her actions and mannerisms. My father had chosen well.
“Mr. Dupree,” she said in a clipped voice.
“Yes. You have the advantage. I don’t know who you are.” Her name was Stephanie. That much I was able to gather.
Her glance toward the two guards was harsh. “You will give me the required time with my client.”
And the woman had balls. Another plus. I liked the girl already.
“He’s an animal. He’ll eat you alive,” Ricky snorted.
He had no idea how true the statement could be.
The attorney cocked her head, keeping her rather nasty look. “Leave. Now.”
“Fine. But don’t scream when he lunges toward you.” The asshole left, slamming the door shut.
She waited for a few seconds then turned her attention in my direction. “My name is Stephanie Ramos. I was hired by your father to represent you.”
“How good of him.”
“I don’t have to tell you that you are in some serious trouble. Your request at bail has been denied several times, your former attorneys unable to get your appeal on the dockets. In other words, you are one hated man. Someone is trying to make certain you don’t get out of here.”
“Tell me something I don’t know, Stephanie. Let’s cut to the chase. Why are you here?”
Stephanie glanced down at my shackled hands, and I could sense she was concerned about my well-being. “Somehow, your father managed to get a few judges to get sticks out of their asses. You’re being transferred to a less secure prison in Louisiana, and I am diligently working on getting that appeal within the next two goddamn months. The atrocity of what they’ve done to you with regard to due process will be brought to light. I assure you of that.”
I laughed softly, leaning forward and ignoring all the rules that had been yelled at me moments before another round of punishment was inflicted the last time I’d had a visitor. “While I appreciate your attention to detail and your work ethic, Stephanie, I need to be released.”
Huffing, she shook her head. “I can’t perform miracles, Mr. Dupree. But I am trying to help you.”
“Yes. Yes, you are.” I could tell I was making her extremely uncomfortable.
“First things first. We need to get you out of here. If what your father told me is true, there is an assassination being planned within these disgusting walls.”
“Which happens every day, Stephanie. Do you know how many men have been carved out of this shithole in bloody body bags? Sliced and diced like raw meat?”
She shuddered visibly, but to her credit that was her shaken reaction. “I can imagine, Mr. Dupree. This prison isn’t known for its generosity or decent treatment of prisoners.”
“That will never change.”
“I suppose you’re right. Just hold on until in the morning. I’m getting your transfer papers signed in one hour.”
“So precise. I like that about you.”
A slight smile crossed her face, a hint of a weakness, but she was still formidable. My father had made an excellent choice.
“Guards!” she called, her nasty expression returning as soon as the door was opened. Then she rose to her feet. While diminutive in stature, she gave off a powerful aura. I couldn’t help but smile.
“The fucker try and hurt you?” Ricky asked.
“No, my client did not. Now, this man is being transferred out of this shithole. However, before that happens, he will be allowed a hot, private shower, a good meal, and a decent change of clothes. Do you understand what I’m telling you?”
I did so love a powerful woman.
“I ain’t giving him shit.”
“You will or I’ll report you, not to that worthless warden of yours, but to some people that will come down on you so hard you won’t be able to breathe ever again. Are we clear on this?”
I tipped my head, watching Ricky pale. “Fine.”
When the guards started to drag me out of the chair, I leaned over again. “Whatever my father is paying you, I will double. Get me released.” As my eyes pierced her gaze, her irises constricted as she fell into the darkness of my mind for a few precious seconds. Then she nodded once.
That’s all I needed. I would be a free man soon.
Then I would begin my plan of revenge.
God help those who’d betrayed me.
A hot shower.
I’d taken them for granted all the years of my life. The time spent in prison had changed everything, including the way I looked at life. I’d lived it precariously before, but now I had a new verve, a desire to indulge in every craving I’d ever had. At least I no longer looked like the animal the system had turned me into.
A beast of the night.
A creature capable of tearing a man apart within seconds.
That was what I’d been born into, a man yet a beast on the inside. Whatever the reason, I’d rarely questioned why our family had been inflicted with what many called a disease. If having the ability to shift on command, an increased ability for sight, sound, and smells was a sickness, then I had no problem with what hand had been dealt to us.
Our entire family lived in silence of who and what we truly were, easily able to hide our true nature from everyday life. However, I’d always wondered how long that would last. Given the fact my hunger continued to increase, my gut told me it wouldn’t be long.
I stood in a holding cell, waiting for the transfer bus that would take me to Louisiana. I wouldn’t be alone, several of the fuckers from the same cellblock leaving at the same time, including one of the Bratva soldiers. While the young man had never raised his hand to me, he was still part of the Pavlov Empire, capable of presenting difficulties to my family.
That didn’t bode well for my mental faculties or my building rage.
As I remained standing just inside the steel cage, I gathered a whiff of a different kind of fear, heightened anxiety from several of the officers. As soon as the alarm sounded, all I could do was smile. Dimitri had followed my orders, creating carnage in the courtyard. What a freaking shame.
Several of the guards raced away, heading for the scene of the bloody crime. I didn’t need to see what had happened, nor did I really care other than my command had been followed. Six of Dimitri’s men had been slaughtered by his hand, their broken and gutted bodies writhing on the muddy ground.
Whether or not his actions would delay my release from the horrible conditions didn’t bother me. It was worth the wait.
I closed my eyes, envisioning the past I’d refused to allow myself to think about since being incarcerated. My brothers had taken over my command, ensuring my soldiers performed their jobs. While I’d strayed from the family business to a point, I’d made certain that my limited connection to the South American Cartel had been profitable to the family’s dynasty. And I would do so again, only this time, anything considered betrayal would be met with swift and harsh discipline. I was tired of people fucking with me.
Two hours passed, the alarm finally ceasing its shrill cry. I took a deep breath when I heard footsteps. The guards seemed fatigued, two of the four sent to cart me toward the departure area covered in blood. A fight must have ensued, the Bratva now almost nonexistent in force. The Cartel owed me, and I would collect in the near future.
“Get him out of there. I want him gone,” Ricky said as he pushed through the others, his blood-soaked shirt clinging to his chest. When the lock was released, the door yanked open, he moved to within a few inches of me. “I don’t know how you did it, Dupree, but I know you were responsible. You convinced Dimitri to kill his men.”
I lifted a single eyebrow, holding up my shackled arms. “Just how could I manage to do that?”
“I don’t know, but I will find out and when I do, I’ll be in the front line watching them stick a needle in your arm, joyful when you take your last breath.”
I inched even closer, taking a deep breath and holding it before releasing it across his face. “You and I both know that will never happen. However, I will see you in hell one day.”
The guards jerked me forward and away from poor Ricky, who stood shaking in his boots. I was certain his drinking habit would increase after dealing with me.
When I was led to the bus, the young Bratva wasn’t as skittish as I remembered. Although he’d been reported to be a savage Capo, the single experience I’d had with him had been anything but. I studied him carefully, realizing that I would need to handle him prior to our scheduled arrival at the airport. Letting a single Bratva scum get away would tarnish my reputation as well as that of my entire family.
That wasn’t going to happen.
He’d been purposely transferred to another cell block only days before, rumors indicating he’d been responsible for at least two brutal murders following the same communications path as they did for any violent incident done within the prison walls. The fact he’d been released was a clear indication that Pavlov’s power remained strong. The asshole was several prisoners ahead of me getting on the bus, but when he whispered, I heard every word.
“Prosto podozhdi. Ty ne venesh’sya domoy.”
I wouldn’t make it home. Little did he know what was in store for him.
As the bus driver rolled down the long road, only a few miles away from the airport, I was able to read the mind of the guard in charge of the trip. There would be three planes taking the prisoners to different locations. Only Viktor Linkoff and another useless man would be taking the flight with me to Louisiana. I glanced out the window, marveling at the barren landscape, the airport I’d be transferred out of in the distance. The asshole in charge of the prison had chosen one of the smallest airports, likely terrified there would be an uprising. While the pompous jerk was smart, he certainly hadn’t been intelligent enough to gather what could happen.
I closed my eyes, allowing my brutal gift to breach the surface. Mind control was a beautiful thing when used correctly. Then I concentrated on the bus driver, providing instructions just as I’d done with Dimitri. Within seconds, he responded as required, the bus starting to weave from one side of the road to the other as he accelerated.
“What the fuck is going on?” one of the guards yelled as he moved toward the front of the bus. Two others jumped up as several of the prisoners were already became unruly, yelling over the sound of screeching tires.
The driver didn’t pay a bit of attention, swerving back and forth dangerously.
I sat back in my seat, observing what was already in play. Inmates were stomping on the steel bus platform, howling like banshees as the vehicle began to rock.
When the guard tried to interfere, yanking at the driver, the man behind the wheel took a sharp turn, tossing the guard like a puppet. As soon as the front tires slammed into the small embankment on the side of the road, the vehicle went airborne. The joyous cries of the prisoners were much louder than the barking orders of the guards as they tried to maintain control.
While there was no way to brace for impact, I had faith in the old bus, the sides reinforced to prevent escape, bars on the windows adding a layer of protection. When the bus came crashing down, it rolled twice before landing on its side and skidding several hundred feet. The crunch of metal twisting from the violent incident was like music to my ears.
While the prisoners were bolted in, the force of the accident pitched two of the guards forward, the driver smashing against the windshield. When the bus finally came to a stop, the stench of gasoline immediately trickled into my nostrils. Soon, the leak would become a problem. I took several deep breaths, scanning the interior.
At least two of the prisoners were badly hurt, several of the others knocked unconscious. But Viktor remained alert, already struggling to free himself.
There was no steel strong enough to keep me locked down, but the crash had snapped the bolt holding my shackles in place.
One of the guards hissed then struggled to get to his feet, glancing from one side to the other as he reached for his weapon. “Just stay right where you are.”
“Get us out of here!” one of the prisoners called.
“Yeah? Not so fast,” he snarled, taking gasping breaths as he lumbered toward the other guards. “You alright?”
“What the fuck was that?” the second guard asked.
“Hell if I know. The driver went nuts. I need to call this in.” He headed for the set of doors, jerking at the handles. They were winched in place.
The third guard finally roused, standing up. The gash on his forehead looked painful, but he would live. “We got to get out of here.” He pointed to the smoke already rising from the engine. “Can you smell the gas?”
“The damn door is stuck,” the first guard hissed.
“Then break the windshield.” The third guard continued making his way toward the front, pressing his fingers on the driver’s neck. “Think he’s dead.” He yanked him off the dashboard, raking his shaking hand through his hair. “This isn’t good.”
“No, this is a shit storm,” the second guard muttered.
They weren’t paying any attention to the inmates, their struggle to get out of the tight confines hindered by the very system designed to keep them protected.
One of them made a call, which meant help would arrive within fifteen minutes. The stench of gasoline grew more pronounced, the moans from several of the prisoners intensifying. When a single spark erupted, one of the inmates screamed.
“Shit. We need to get them all out of here,” the first guard said.
“Like hell we will,” the second snarked, darting a glance in our direction.
“Are you out of your mind? This bus is going to explode. They are human beings. We can’t let them die.” The third guard was insistent, but the other two had no interest in keeping us alive. What good human beings they were.
When the second guard took his weapon, smashing the windshield, the once small flame licked up over the side of the bus. We had maybe four minutes before the gas tank exploded.
“We need to unlock them!” the third guard bellowed.
“And do what? Those fuckers will kill us.” The first guard wasted no time climbing out the windshield, the second asshole following him.
Snarling, I jerked on the handcuffs, yanking until I was able to snap the steel. “Do not leave us here,” I yelled at the third guard, who remained staring at the other men who’d already climbed over the hood and onto the ground. It was obvious they had no intention of saving us.
The guard turned his head, glancing from one side of the bus to the other. I recognized his face. He’d been one of the few guards who’d actually given a damn, acting as if we were indeed humans instead of animals. He moved with jerky motions, checking on every prisoner until he got to me. As he stared down at my handcuffs, he shook his head.
“I don’t want to know, Dupree. I’m going to tell you this. If you help me get these men out of here, I’ll make sure that it’s put on your record. But if you fuck with me, I’ll put a bullet in your head. Do you understand?”
“Yeah, I understand.”
He hesitated again before dropping down, trying to get a set of keys from his pocket. When he finally managed to drag them free, he gave me another look before unlocking my leg shackles. I gave him a nod of respect and together we moved through the cabin, unlocking every set of chains. He stood with the weapon in his hand, just daring one of the assholes to try to jump him.
When one dumb fuck attempted to, I moved in between them, snarling as my beast broke through the surface. The stupid prisoner’s body started to shake and he tumbled backwards.
“What the fuck are you?”
“A nightmare. Remember that. Now, get out of here!” I yelled. My slight shift was all the others needed to see. They scampered out like rats, but I heard the cries of the two other guards as they were given the punishment they deserved.
“This one is hurt too badly. I don’t think I can get him free,” the guard said before he started to cough as smoke filled the space.
“Get outside. I’ll free him.” I glanced toward Viktor, cocking my head when he gave me a smile before backing away. I had no doubt the fucker would run.
Only there was no place he could go where I wouldn’t find him.
“You can’t help him, Dupree. Save yourself,” the guard insisted.
“No. He doesn’t deserve to die. Get outside.” I hunkered down, stretching the metal keeping his mangled leg in place. The poor kid had never caused any trouble. The last thing I wanted was to have his blood on my hands.
While the guard followed my orders, he’d seen what I’d managed to do, his entire face ghostly white.
The acrid smoke continued to fill the space, making it almost impossible to breathe. Flames surrounded the entire bus, searing the metal. I was in a damn ticking timebomb. After I managed to free him, I tossed him over my shoulder, taking long strides toward the front. As I climbed out the window, I took gasping breaths, almost laughing.
None of the other prisoners were within sight.
As soon as I jumped down, I pitched forward, the explosion pummeling me forward by several feet. When I landed hard on the dirt, I cursed the entire situation. All for the sake of eliminating a single enemy.
When I stood, I took a deep whiff, catching Viktor’s scent. He hadn’t gotten far away.
“Jesus. Thank you,” the guard said. “You saved those men.” When I glanced at the bank of trees they’d all rushed toward, he laughed. “Don’t worry. They will be rounded up.”
I glanced down at the injured man. So far, there’d only been one casualty. However, there would soon be one other.
Within seconds, the sound of sirens could be heard from a distance. I took the opportunity to enjoy my hunt. As I took off running, I heard the guard calling my name. I had no intention of leaving the scene, but I would handle business.
The risk of being seen was still significant, the daylight not my normal hunting space. However, I needed to make certain the Pavlov family got the message. I raced through the woods, inhaling every few seconds. Even the others who’d been injured had managed to push themselves, escape the only thing on their minds. The fact Viktor lingered in close proximity told me he’d been commanded to finish the assassination attempt.
When I managed to gather his wretched stench, I allowed the transformation to begin. Within seconds, my muscles stretched, my bones snapping as the force of the shift took hold. I usually reveled in the break from my human body, but the anguish I felt today was intensified. That was another bad sign that something had changed in my molecular structure.
Hunger like I’d never felt clouded my judgment almost immediately and as I dropped to my knees, raking my fingers across the dirt, the odor of his blood was an instant aphrodisiac. I could devour him easily, ripping him to shreds. It would take everything I had to make a controlled kill. Snarling, as claws erupted, I pawed the ground, arching my back when my spine snapped.
The shift accelerated and within seconds, my wolf fully emerged. I dragged my tongue across my canines, the razor-sharp teeth capable of biting through thick bone.
Then I took off running.
Within seconds, I caught sight of him. With a single howl, I leapt forward. The minute he looked over his shoulder, terror ravaged his mind. I wasted no time, tackling him to the ground. Even though Viktor screamed, there was no one around who would give a damn. I took my time, toying with him, enjoying the moment until I almost lost control.
Then I opened my muzzle, exposing my sharp teeth before slowly lowering my head.
His bloodcurdling scream was the last sound he’d ever make.