TWENTY-SIX*

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Twenty-Six

Something poky was in my side, pressing uncomfortably close to my ribs. My body was screaming in pain from my neck and worked its way down towards my toes. My stomach howled in hunger and my tongue throbbed and stuck to the roof of my mouth from dehydration.

My mind was foggy and I couldn't function properly. My limbs felt like they were full of pudding and my brain were made of Jell-O. Nothing was in focus and my eyes were glued shut. I couldn't smell anything familiar around me, just different scents that were new and terrified me.

Something seemingly far away slammed closed and heavy footfalls crunched across gravel, steadily growing closer to my ears. But all of this was muffled, like it was a faraway dream. But when it stopped my body tensed.

Sharp pain shot through my abdomen and whatever air I had managed to get into my lungs rushed out as well as the metallic taste of blood filled my mouth. The warm liquid trickled out of my mouth and pooled under my head.

They continued, steadily getting faster and harder. They added insults between kicks they came out in low growls. "You. Dirty. Fucking. Whore!" And so on and so forth. I didn’t give him a reaction, that was what he wanted and he probably thought that I was still passed out from the toxins injected into my system. It was safer for me to have him think that, but also slightly dangerous.

But why hadn’t they killed me yet?

Rogues didn't tend to leave people they captured alive. They didn't keep anyone alive that they didn't need. If they really didn't care about me then why keep me alive?

But why did he say that he couldn't kill me? And who was this he that he was talking about? I never met anyone that would have associated with rogues who would want me alive, so who was he?

"Enough," a new voice growled. The kicking stopped but the blood still flowed and it felt like my stomach had been ripped open and my innards had been pulled out. "She needs to be in pristine condition when we take her to him, or else he'll have both our head on a steak!"

"C'mon, a few bruises wouldn't hurt anyone. Besides, the pain will help her heal faster," the first man said with a sadistic under tone that made my stomach (if I could feel it) rolled with disgust.

Someone growled and harsh footsteps became closer. “Dipshit,” the other man growled. “You lay another hand on her I’ll kill you myself! Get your ass back to the damned hot dog stand before I change my mind.” In the distance and gate crashed closed, and I kept my eyes closed and body as neutral as possible. My body was screaming in pain and it took most of my energy to not scream out in pain or tear up.

“I know you’re awake, so there’s no point in hiding it anymore,” he said, catching me by surprise.

Slowly I pried my eyes opened and closed them as soon as the harsh lights hit me. Another minutes later I tried again, blinking a few times as my eyes adjusted. All around me were whitewashed stones littering dead looking grass. Natural light was shining down from an opening on the roof, which was just a round hole about twelve feet in diameter. The roof was made of wood planks, with plywood patched in a few places. The room was giant and circular, shaped like a stubby pencil without an eraser.

As strange as everything was, what struck me were the walls. Only they weren't walls. They were windows. No matter which way I turned my head I was looking outside. People, humans were walking around with children, stuffed animals in their arms and food in their hands.

There were more cages outside with different type of animals. Lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and those were just what I was able to see. They looked bored and paced the lengths of their cages. They circled around my cage like a wall, not letting me be able to see anything past it. There was about twenty feet of concrete sidewalk between the edge of my cage and theirs.

People ogled at them, children teased them with the promise of food that they would never get. But they walked right past me. Not even giving a glance in my direction.

"They can't see you, so don't bother," someone said.

I jumped and turned to look at the man looming over my head. I had completely forgotten that he was there. He had a buzz cut, but I could tell that he had dark hair. His skin was pale but his muscled rolled under his shirt like iron coils. His harsh brown eyes stared at me with no remorse and I began to shrink back. Even though I could appreciate how attractive he was I knew when I keep my ogling to myself.

"What do you mean they can't see me?" I asked, trying to keep my voice steady and not show how frightened I truly was.

His face remained stony as he stared down at me. No merciless smirk, no deadly eyes, no looks that could kill me instantly. His face was blank and hard. "It means, no one can see you so no one can save you," he answered, enunciating every word like he was talking to a child. "You're stuck here until you've healed, with no way of escape."

No way of escape. That couldn't be possible, there was always a way to escape. I could use my powers and try to find a sweet spot to bring the roof down. I could break the window and run for dear life. I could...

"It's useless," he said, interrupting my thoughts. "There is no way you'll be able to get out. The room's covered completely in silver and wolfsbane. No matter how hard you try, there's no way you're getting out." He sounded bored. Like he had said the same thing countless times before. He probably had, too.

I slumped onto the ground, turning onto my back to stare at the ceiling. There was no point in trying to fight him, they had it all figured out. I couldn't best them, so I may as well get comfortable. As comfortable as I could be when my only pillow was a cold rock. "What happened to that girl I was with when you took me?" I asked, playing it off as though I didn't care that much. I was trying not to panic, I was trying to stay optimistic.

The key word being trying.

Inside I was freaking out. Majorly. She was pregnant, for Pete's sake! I know that they're rogues, but come on!

"She's fine, for now," he answered. "But if you don't cooperate than that could change very quickly. She's in the cage with the other wolves."

I lifted my head and saw a dark red wolf among the grey and brown ones. There were about five wolves in all and they surrounded the red one, Natalia, as though protecting her. Even from here I could sense that they were werewolves and had taken it upon themselves to protect her and her unborn child.

"For the record, if you shift into a wolf you won't be able to shift back," he informed me, as though he was trying to be helpful.

"Thanks for the tip," I said flatly, almost sarcastically. Honestly, I didn't care what he said, it was too much for me to care. "If you wanna be helpful, some food would be great."

He huffed in annoyance. "And who said that I wanted to be helpful?"

I turned to him and smirked. "Well, you have to keep me alive, if I understand correctly, and I'm half certain that I haven't eaten in over a week. So, if you want to keep your ass safe where it is I would like food and water."

The rogue shook his head, but not before I could see the amusement cross his eyes. As he turned around a thought flitted through my head.

"Hey," I called out, making him freeze with his hand hovering over the door knob. "What's your name?"

He tilted his head slightly so that I could see the side of his face, which gave me a good view of his smirking face. "Vlad," was all he said as the gate closed behind him.

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