Chiz was tempted to spit in the face of the smug fucker smirking at him. Tempted, but Chiz wasn’t stupid. All such a thing would get him was slapped upside the head, or punched and possibly seriously injured.
So no, he wouldn’t spit. “Fuck off.” But he wouldn’t roll over, either.
“Aw, you’re a cute little queer.” The man chucked him under the chin in a most ungentle manner. “Too bad you’re gonna have to die. I don’t like conversions. The stink of human is all over you even when you shift.”
“And we’re taking over this territory,” said a second man who looked much like the first, only younger. “No more wolves leading the way. You’ll be the strongest alpha ever, Maxwell. Alpha Maxwell. With me as your beta, no one will ever get close to you, and we’ll show these idiots how dangerous coyote shifters are.”
“Yes, we are, and we’ll have a pure pack. No wolves. No conversions.” He stood up, leaving Chiz sitting on the floor.
Chiz’s wrists and ankles ached from the metal cuffs around them. He couldn’t shift, either, since his hands were behind his back.
“No humans knowing things they shouldn’t.” Maxwell gestured to Dare, who was still unconscious and too far away from Chiz for Chiz’s liking.
There was a cut right above Dare’s left temple, and blood had dried down the side of his head, neck, and onto his shoulder.
Chiz wasn’t sure when Dare had been hit so hard, but he feared for him. This was the second head injury in a short period of time, but besides that—Dare hadn’t woken up in the last half hour, since they’d arrived at some shitty barn-like structure.
“He doesn’t know anything,” Chiz said, trying to keep his fear in check, knowing the scent of it would likely feed Maxwell’s cruelty.
Maxwell shrugged. “So you say. Doesn’t matter. You’ll be dead soon too, and I’ll be the first alpha ever of a coyote pack.”
“Who’s going to know that?” Chiz asked. “Seriously. Other shifters? Because there’s a shifter newspaper or website? Humans? No, because you’ll kill any who find out. So who, exactly, is gonna be awed by this…coup?”
Maxwell scowled at him and gestured to his beta. “Stay back, Mark. I don’t want him dead yet.”
“Can’t answer my questions?” Chiz taunted, wishing he could shift just his hands—or even his feet. If he had to, he’d shift and do whatever damage to his shoulders, because he’d be damned if he died easy for these bastards.
Maxwell didn’t answer him, instead turning to Mark. “Get the others organized. They’ve had enough time to sit around and bullshit. Knock ‘em into line, bro.”
Mark’s smile was the definition of evil. Chiz shivered even though the expression wasn’t directed his way.
“Yes sir, Alpha.” Mark giggled as he left the dusty barn.
Maxwell grinned as he watched Mark leave. “My little brother’s a sociopath. Well, I think he might be. He’s going to have so much fun with you and that bag of shit over there.”
Chiz ground his teeth to keep from snarling that Dare wasn’t a bag of shit. He had to figure out a way to get him and Dare free from this mess. And he didn’t think Mark was the only sociopath in the room.
Maxwell turned his attention back to Chiz. “You smell angry. Should I uncuff you and let you have a shot at fighting me?”
Shouts and yelps came from outside, and one scream.
“Why not?” Chiz replied, trying to sound like he didn’t care, but fervently hoping to be released. He’d have a chance then—
“Maybe I’ll let the pack have you,” Maxwell mused, and Chiz knew then that he wasn’t going to be freed for a fair fight.
He probably wasn’t going to be freed of the cuffs at all.
“After I let them have him.” Maxwell cackled. “You can watch your lover die. I’ll have them draw it out, how’s that?”
“Fuck. You.” Chiz couldn’t repress his anger or his fear. “Fuck you, you cowardly piece of—“
He tried to turn his head to make the punch a glancing one, but Maxwell must have anticipated the move. Chiz gasped as his nose broke under the assault, and blood rushed down his throat and face.
He wanted to tell Maxwell what a fucking wuss he was for hitting a cuffed man, what a complete weak asshole to do what he was doing, period. Talking, however, was beyond Chiz at that moment. He had to cough and lean forward, had to try to keep from choking on his own blood.
“Anything else you want to say?” Maxwell asked, adding a kick to Chiz’s hip.
Chiz couldn’t get a word out.
Maxwell cackled again. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Sit here and think about how much it’s gonna suck watching that human die, and suffer.”
Chiz spat out blood as Maxwell left.
At first Chiz thought he imagined the sound, then he heard it again—his name, in a rough, familiar voice. He blinked and looked at Dare.
Dare’s eyes were open, and he struggled to sit up. “What was he talking about?” Dare whispered.
Chiz felt nauseated. “What did you hear?” His words were slurred, short, and difficult to get out through the pain in his head.
“Everything.” Dare shuddered, still keeping his voice low. “Shifters—what—are—“
“Real. We’re a real thing,” Chiz replied, seeing no reason to lie. Chances were, they would be dead before tomorrow anyway, and if they weren’t, Dare deserved to know why he was in this mess. “Me. Bowen.” Chiz winced as his nose throbbed. “Gotta be quiet.”
Dare nodded and began scooting over on his butt. His ankles were cuffed, as were his hands, but his arms were in front of him, not behind him.
“You’re not scared of me?” Chiz asked when Dare was almost shoulder to shoulder with him.
Dare shook his head. “No. I’m scared of them.”
“Me too.” And being scared always pissed Chiz off. “They want to kill us.”
“I don’t feel much like dying, or watching you die.” Dare jutted his chin out. “Can’t you change into…he said you’re a wolf?”
“Yeah,” Chiz rasped. “Bowen turned me accidentally. He didn’t know—he didn’t know biting me would do it, and when we were fucking…”
“He bit you. I saw—“
“I was already turned by then,” Chiz explained. “Converted.”
“Wow.” Dare’s eyes were huge. “Man. Maybe this is all a hallucination from the head injury.”
“You want to risk being dead on that theory?”
Dare frowned. “No.”
“Then we need to find a way to get out of here.” Chiz didn’t have any ideas other than to shift and hope for the best.
“Can’t you, you know. Change?” Dare asked.
Chiz grimaced. “I can, but I have a feeling my arms being behind me is going to fuck up my body. Ever seen any kind of wolf or dog with arms—legs—whatever—that go back like this?” He wiggled his fingers.
“Shit. No.” Dare bit his bottom lip. “They’re going to kill us. Me, slowly. What’s wrong with them?”
“Fuck if I know,” Chiz answered. “Can you pick locks?”
“If I had some tools, maybe,” Dare said. “I’m not great at it, but I would get you out of those. It’s that or die, right?”
“Might be dying even if they come off.” Chiz had to be honest. “Doesn’t look good for us.”
“I’d rather die fast if I have to die. Not just today, but any day. I don’t want to suffer.” Dare looked at him with nothing but trust. “If it looks like—“
“No. Don’t ask that of me.” Chiz couldn’t harm Dare, not for anything.
Dare averted his gaze. “What can we do?”
“I don’t know. See if there’s anything you can use to work on these locks?” Chiz suggested. “If I could shift part of me, that would be great.”
“Have you tried?”
Chiz spat out more blood. “No.”
“Are there rules saying you can’t?”
“No.” Chiz sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t know anything about being a shifter, just that it’s something I am, now.”
Dare cocked his head to one side. “Try while I look for something to pick the locks with. If it doesn’t work, I have another idea.”
“You do?” Chiz blinked, wondering why he wasn’t coming up with any alternative ideas.
Dare nodded. “Yeah, I do, but let’s try plans A and B first. C will be a last resort.”
“Do I want to know what C is?” Chiz wasn’t sure.
“I don’t want to talk about plan C.” Dare got to his knees began shuffling around.
“Quietly,” Chiz warned. “If they’re anything like me and Bowen, those shifters have enhanced senses.”
Dare froze. “How enhanced?”
“Enough that if you make much noise or we talk very loud, they’ll hear us.” Though maybe not with all the noise the coyotes were making outside.
Dare moved more cautiously.
Chiz closed his eyes for a moment, but that was as long as he could stand to not look at Dare. Please work. Please work. Please work, Chiz chanted silently as he willed his hands and feet to shift.