Numbers Page 51

’’You think you can frighten me?’’ She shook her head, and then looked at the male behind the gates. ’’Four days ago I escaped captivity and killed a woman who worked for Mercile. You remember them, don\ you? I\m tired, hungry, dirty, and I don\ like what I\ve seen of this world so far. I don\ belong out here, but I do belong in there, even with your walls.’’

Absolute silence reigned. She had their attention. She cleared her throat. ’’I\m going to slowly reach behind me and withdraw a knife. I\ll toss it to you. Your nose will tell you I speak the truth.’’

They didn\ shoot her when she did exactly that, tossing the knife a few feet from the gates and in the direction of the male behind it. The metal blade clattered on the pavement. She waited, watching him. He motioned with his hand and the gates opened a few feet.

’’Stay still,’’ he demanded in a harsh tone.

She didn\ move a muscle. He stepped out and bent. She could hear him sniff, and his helmeted head snapped up. A deeper growl emanated from him.

’’You\ e not a canine. You\ e feline. My apologies.’’

’’You can tell that by the sound I make?’’ He picked up the knife and stood but didn\ retreat.

’’No. They can sound the same, but you had to get closer to that blade. A canine wouldn\ have had to. His sense of smell is better than yours.’’

’’Who the hell are you?’’

’’Candace Chazel, formally experiment H dash 01. Some of the asshole technicians shorted it HOL but said the word hole as I got older, because they knew what my purpose would be. I would appreciate not being called that. It was an insult, and brings back a lot of bad memories.’’

The male passed the knife back to another guard, and then his gun. He approached and tears filled her eyes. She blinked them back, but watching him strut forward there was no other way to describe how a feline moved was finally something familiar and welcome. He stopped close. She wished she could see his face, but that black glass shield was too dark, too murky.

’’Explain.’’

’’That\s going to take some time, but I was raised at Mercile too.’’

He sniffed at her. ’’I don\ believe for a second that you\ e Species.’’

’’I\m not, but I was raised there. One of the doctors decided they\d like to find out what would happen if they put a five-year-old human girl into one of the cells with a canine male.’’ She peered up at him. ’’I was there until I was sixteen.’’ She pushed back the painful memories. ’’After that I was taken to a human place where they kept me drugged and locked up. Do you know what an asylum is, for crazy humans? The doctor who made me an experiment paid them to keep me there so I couldn\ tell anyone about Mercile, or what they did belowground. The woman in charge of that hellhole also worked for Mercile. That\s her blood you just smelled. The doctor in charge of putting me inside Mercile is dead too. Two down, and so many more to go. I want your help finding the rest of the technicians and doctors. They need to pay for what they did.’’

He said nothing. It made her angry.

’’I could have given up and just died. I refused. Do you know why? I spent every waking moment plotting revenge. They killed the male I loved. He was my everything. He\s dead, and they will pay for it.’’ She growled low, furious. ’’I won\ rest until every one of them is dead too. I am not asking for your help. I am demanding it. You owe him the same. We\ e here, but he\s not.’’

The big feline reached up and pulled off his helmet. His long black hair reminded her of the male she\d lost, but his catlike, deep-blue eyes were drastically different from the dark-brown ones that haunted her. He frowned, seemingly unconvinced.

’’Do you want me to describe our cell? One sink, a toilet and a pad on the floor. No blankets. We had a hose to shower with. Every room I saw was the same. They had a medical supply closet in the far corner, past the kill-zone line. They had a mechanical rigging system of chains on the wall. Sound familiar? There were constant injections, and they played stupid games while they tested their drugs. You were fed seared meat on platters they brought in while they restrained you against that wall.’’ She lowered her voice. ’’Breeding experiments were performed, hoping to create more of you through natural births since they could no longer use surrogate births. I was there.’’

He paled a little.

’’They used us against each other. You know how f*ked-up they could be. They made me decide between doing something that would hurt my male or watching my male be murdered in front of me as punishment. I would have done and endured anything to save him. I did.’’ She inched closer and clutched his uniform sleeve. ’’I didn\ understand the game that time, and they used my decision to snap his mind. He died howling and enraged.’’ Tears slipped down her cheeks. ’’He thought I betrayed him. That\s the last memory I have of the male I loved. They killed him, but I have survived to see this day. Help me find every last bastard who was there, and make them pay.’’

’’Jinx?’’ It was the annoying guard up on the wall. ’’What the hell is she saying? Are you all right? Get back from her.’’

The male moved slowly and his big, gloved hand covered her own. He didn\ force her to let him go, but instead just held on. ’’What do you like to be called?’’

The tightness in her chest eased. ’’He called me Candi.’’

’’Come with me, Candi. I believe you. You\ e safe.’’

She released his shirt, but he kept hold of her, laced their fingers together, and slowly turned. She kept pace with him as he walked her through the gates. All her fear and worry dropped away. For the first time she felt safe.

’’It\s okay.’’ He glanced around at the males. ’’Someone get on the radio and tell Medical we\ e on our way there. Call Justice and tell him we have a situation. He needs to meet me there. Breeze too.’’

She jerked to a halt, instantly fearful. He stopped and turned his head.

’’I\m not crazy. Don\ drug me again.’’ She yanked her hand out of his, backing up. ’’No more drugs. No more locked rooms and silence.’’

’’Easy.’’ He just dropped his helmet on the ground. ’’I just want a doctor to examine you. They work for us.’’ He glanced down her body. ’’You don\ look well. We do it to all incoming Species. No one is going to drug or hurt you.’’


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