Salvation by Brannan Black

Salvation by Brannan Black

Salvation
Wolfman Apocalypse Collection, Book 4
by Brannan Black

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 06644-02137

Personally, I’m not too thrilled with this whole dominance/submission thing but that doesn’t make them monsters. Unfortunately, not all of them are like Mace. We call the others rabids. Wild and crazy dangerous, most run when they get their asses kicked. We tripped over the one group that won’t run — and now the real monsters are pissed.

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Chapter One

I bolted up in bed, my heart pounding, the sounds of a shotgun blast ringing in my head, the smell of blood and gunpowder in my nose. For a heartbeat, I was back in the truck, blowing that rabid’s head off. I gulped several deep breaths in the dim light of Mace’s room. I might be living here but it didn’t really feel like mine, yet.
I fell back onto the sweat soaked sheets. Without windows to let in light, I had no idea what time it was. The passing sounds of laughter and voices carried through the door. So. Morning. I should get up. I should. But I didn’t fucking feel like it.
I heaved a sigh and forced myself out of bed. Laying there wallowing wouldn’t help. I needed to get busy and stay busy. Too busy to remember yesterday’s carnage and my place in it. Too busy to think about all the other times I’d had a wolfman in my crosshairs. And pulled the trigger. My stomach clenched, and the taste of bile rose in my throat.
Oh, I knew I’d had no choice but to pull the trigger. That really didn’t make it any easier. Not even when I thought they were all monsters, inhuman beasts that would maim and kill anyone in their path. Now, fuck, how many had I flat out murdered? What if someone like me had gotten to Mace?
I sucked in air, fighting the nausea rising inside me. I couldn’t even be sure I’d killed any, not at the distance I normally shot from.
Yeah, keep telling yourself that, maybe someday you’ll believe it.
Finding my clothes with just the light leaking under the door wasn’t always easy, but last night I’d undressed alone, so I’d put them away. Unlike those nights Mace helped strip me and they got tossed everywhere in our rush to get naked with each other.
How long had it been since I could put clean clothes on whenever I wanted? Way too fucking long.
After a quick trip to the showers, I entered the main room. The tension stretched so fucking tight one wrong pluck of the string and the whole thing would snap in our faces. The pack hadn’t been this tense since right after Tat died.
Warning snarls equaled polite hellos. A fair number of the pack members sported new bruises or scrapes. The newly adopted rabids looked far worse.
The only woman in sight was Doc. She was working on a rabid with freshly washed dark hair and warm brown skin. Looked like the one who’d been pretty shot up. As I got closer, I could see he had plenty of new bruises and claw marks. Doc stitched a deep wound in his arm. Looked like a bite. Slade had his claws wrapped around the guy’s neck, tips dinting his skin, in a not so subtle warning to behave. The rabid’s feral gaze locked onto me, hungry, wild. A chill caressed down my spine, raising all the hair on the back of my neck. Could such a fucking wild beast really be tamed?
Slade’s growl called his attention off me. Not far away, the other two who’d submitted after the fight sat with a pack member on either side. One of them tracked me with his one open eye. Must have been a rough fucking night. Hound sat next to him and snarled. The rabid dropped his gaze, whining softly, which earned him a pat on the head. Yeah, good dog. Fuck.
Mace stood near the weapons locker talking in low tones with Hawk, Vegas and Cowboy. Ice and Wraith leaned on the wall nearby, listening no doubt, but also keeping a wary eye on the room. China, like the other women, was nowhere in sight.
I scanned the room. “Hey, anyone seen RK?” I got several confused stares. “The blond rabid that was hanging out in the corner last night, looks like road kill? Quiet and kind of shy for a wolfman?”
Several rude snickers startled me, but no one bothered to answer. “Obviously you know who the fuck I’m talking about. Where is he?” A few snarled at me before ducking their heads. What the fuck was up with that? “What the fuck happened to RK? Tell me he’s not what’s for breakfast.”
That got a bunch of nasty snickers. “Try behind the couch.” A weasely looking wolfman pointed toward the back of the room. What was that fucker’s name? Guess I didn’t really care.
Behind the couch? What the fuck? He’d seemed fine when I left last night, hanging out in a corner, staying out of the way. No one had seemed interested in him.
“No, the one over there.”
So, not on the dais but the massive leather beast set at an angle and snugged up against the dais and the wall. It had one of those high backs that leaned just a little with a thick roll along the top. I leaned over and peered behind it. Crammed into the small space where the platform and wall made a corner was RK. He curled in tighter as I watched him.
I moved to the end of the couch, pulling the end out to give myself some room, and crouched down so I could see him. “Hey, RK, buddy, come on out. It’s breakfast. You hungry?”
Freaky pale yellow eyes stared back at me unblinking. He didn’t move, just stared.
Someone landed on the couch with a loud thud, rocking it back slightly and jamming the big soft roll on the top edge into the wall. I fell back on my ass in surprise and RK tried to make himself even smaller.
A couple more wolfmen joined in, shaking the couch and taunting RK. One reached behind, swiping at him with his claws. RK whimpered and flattened himself like he thought he would fit under the couch. Was he fucking shaking?
“Fuck off. Don’t you assholes have anything better to do?” I jumped to my feet, facing those fucking bullies.
They stopped and snarled at me. Fuck, when was I going to learn some tact? At this rate I’d be dead first, a victim of my own big mouth. I backed into a hard body and jerked forward. Fuck! A gentle hand steadied me. I relaxed. Mace, thank God.
“Get, all of you.” Mace snarled at them and they ducked their heads and scurried away. Weasel face tossed a look over his shoulder at me that promised retribution. I really needed to learn all their fucking names. Know your enemies, right? Fucking beasts.
Mace yanked the couch out from the wall. “You, get up here, now.”
Whining softly, head down, RK crawled out and cowered at Mace’s feet.
Shock snaked through my veins. “What the fuck happened to you?” The road rash and bruises were healing nicely, but sometime during the night he’d run into a shredder. At least that’s what it looked like. Blood crusted the ripped tatters of the shirt and jeans we’d given him. Shit, those jeans looked like they might fall apart with the least movement. Dark blood crusted in his fair hair.
I reached down to help him to his feet only to have him snarl at me. Even to my untrained ear, it sounded like fear, not aggression. I froze. Nothing worse than a fear-biter.
Mace yanked him to his feet, snarling in his face. A raw whimper replaced the growl and Mace let him go.
RK stood, head down, shoulders slumped, nervously flicking looks around the room. He wavered slightly like he was having trouble standing. A snarl and snap from behind me sent him diving for the couch but Mace grabbed him.
“Stop!” Mace turned his angry glare on me. Or maybe the guy behind me. “You, all of you, I said get. Now!”
I glanced over my shoulder to see a familiar outline retreating. Fang. Fucking bastard.
“Doc!” Mace hollered and she hurried through the dispersing crowd. “Take him to the showers and get him cleaned up. See if he needs bandaging.”
Slade growled low and put a protective arm around Doc’s waist. RK drew in on himself, whimpering softly under Slade’s possessive glare.
“First, I want to know why the fuck he was hiding behind the couch and who the hell tore the shit out of him?” I searched the room for guilty faces. A sea of tight, feral looks locked onto RK like wolves on a wounded deer. Had they all had a hand in this?
Mace shrugged. “He’s new. He needs to learn his place.”
“Seriously? And that place is the pack’s scratching post? Or hiding under the couch to escape the fuckheads trying to have him for a late night snack?”
“He’s weak.” Someone snarled.
“Worthless excuse for pack.” Sounded like Fang though I couldn’t make him out in the crowd. “Somebody should do us all a favor and put it down.”
“And that gives you the right to beat the shit out of him?” Normal bullies had nothing on these assholes!
“He’s not dead. He’ll be fine by dinner. Slade, you better help Doc with him.”
“Yeah, watch out, might take the whole fucking pack to keep this raging monster in line.”
Mace glowered at my full on snark mode. Fuck him. Fuck all of them. They asked for it.
Slade let go of Doc and grabbed RK by the arm, dragging him toward the showers. A gauntlet of snarling pricks formed. He jerked away from grabbing claws, whining and struggling to keep up with Slade. Finally, Slade turned on the pack. I’d rarely seen him let loose. His snarl raised the hair on the back of my neck and arms. Those fangs he bared would have done an African lion proud.
“You shits really want to play with me?” Ice would’ve felt warm compared to his cold, deadly tone. It was impressive and effective. The gauntlet of pricks vanished in a wolfman flash.
“Daniel, don’t you have shit to do?” Mace didn’t sound too happy with me.
Fuck him. He wouldn’t understand. It was my fault RK was hurt and afraid. I’d injured him, me, and now he was paying for it. Fuck, how many had I murdered over the years? Beasts that could have become pack? Like Mace. My stomach clenched. I could have killed my lover without a thought. Didn’t matter that I didn’t know they could be anything other than vicious killing machines. They were still dead.
Lacking anything close to an appetite, I headed to the unfinished part of the building and my growing workshop. A few parts and I could spend the day working on lights and stuff in the main room instead of in the generator shed. No fucking way was I going to leave RK alone with those fuckers! Didn’t take me long to gather what I needed and I was headed back to the main room.
* * *
Taming full-grown adult rabids took way more than the couple of ass kickings Miss Ellie’s grandson, Jeremy, got. These rabids didn’t have names yet, unless Dogmeat, Fuckhead and a string of other epitaphs counted. The two that hadn’t yet made the showers got cleaned, shaved and dressed. On the surface they looked like pack. Their wild yellow eyes gave away the beast inside.
Something still wasn’t right with RK. I’d never seen such a passive wolfman, not even the lowest member of the pack. That difference seemed to trigger the nastier instincts in the pack.
Vicious growls and a pitiful whine drew my attention from the ceiling light I was wiring. I didn’t see what started it, but RK was already on the ground, cowering. A pissed off wolfman standing over him snarled like a wolf defending his prey. Was that fresh blood on his claws?
What was that fuckers name?
“Hey, Rif, he submitted. Back the fuck off!” I pointed my screwdriver at him. Any bonus in intimidation looming over him might have conveyed was outweighed by the precariousness of standing on a fucking ladder. Rif tensed up like a he was about to pounce. Shit. I scrambled to get down.
Sensing a fight in the making, the rabids got pretty fucking excited. One even howled in anticipation — then the fight was on, but not with RK or even me and Rif. Nope, those rabids were in for another ass kicking.
Not so good for me, Mace was out of the room and the rest of the pack busy. I was on my own. With a triumphant grin, Rif sprang in my direction. And right into Spider and Race. I hadn’t noticed them watching us, but thankfully they were. With a last snarl at me and nasty kick at RK, he retreated. RK fled to a corner but still managed to get a few snarls tossed his way.
The roof door slammed open and heavy steps came down the stairs. Mace stomped to the second floor railing and leaned over, surveying the mayhem below. He didn’t say anything. Didn’t have to with that snarl plastered on his face. One loud growl and even the rabids got the point and gave up. Things settled down for a while. Whatever Mace had been up to on the roof must have been dealt with. He spent the rest of the morning in the main room doing not much of anything that I could see.
* * *
At lunch, it nearly killed me watching RK dodging wolfmen who snarled and snapped if he got too close, which in a crowded room meant constantly. I didn’t see who, but someone shoved him so he fell into one of his former pack mates. I was up from the table without pausing to think. Only Mace’s hand on my shirt stopped me. The brawl didn’t last more than a couple of tense heartbeats. The rabid and RK submitted while the pack circled around them. A booted foot caught RK in the ribs.
“Hey, asshole, you planning on stomping kittens next?” Whoosh, went right over their fucking heads. But at least it drew their attention off RK. And right onto me. Fuck, a few even took a couple of steps toward me.
Rising from the table, Mace pulled me into a very public display of possession disguised as a kiss. Not that I’m complaining. For a guy with fangs, he’s one hell of a kisser. Reminding them of the ass kicking they’d get if they touched me? Just an added bonus.
A few well placed snarls and Mace took off with a group to check the watch posts.
* * *
I had to spend some time in my new workshop after lunch. Not really all that long, but it still made me nervous to leave RK to the tender mercies of the pack. I hurried to get what I needed prepped so I could go back to the main room.
I walked in just in time to see Fang and Spike with RK between them, head down, neck exposed. Every line of his body screamed submission. Fang had that look, the one he had when he’d cornered me in the shower. Eyes glowing, fangs bared and a tension running through his body you could almost feel from across the room.
Fresh blood welled from a cut on RK’s face. Before I could react, Spike struck, driving RK back into Fang. Howls of blood lust echoed around the room. What had been just a couple of guys threatened to become a murderous mob.
“Fuck! Leave him alone you bastards!” I hollered even as Fang slammed RK into the floor. The dull thud of skull meeting concrete brought a sudden stillness to the room. As fast as they’d quieted, the snarling, growling madness returned and they closed in for the kill.
I shoved an eager wolfman out of my way. In the back of my brain I heard Mace’s disgusted voice. “Too stupid to live.”
Beta turned on me, snarling and swiping out with claws. Hot pokers dug into my shoulder while cold fear clinched my gut. What the fuck had I been thinking?
A loud roar echoed around the rafters. “Break it up now!” I’d never heard Slade so loud or angry. The crowd stilled. Strangled noises and the sound of RK puking filled the silence.
I pushed forward and dropped to my knees. For a moment he lay utterly still, curled up in a fetal position. “RK?” His gaze stared at nothing and for a moment I thought he was dead. And then the convulsions started. He flopped to his back, his head making another sickening crack as he jerked. Grabbing the nearest pillow, I stuffed it under his head and the nauseating thudding stopped. He convulsed for what felt like forever before stilling.
Doc squatted down beside me. “Roll him to his side, Daniel.” I carefully rolled him away from his puke. She reached for his wrist. “What happened?”
“The butt-head twins attacked him and threw him to the fucking floor. Hit his head, hard. Pricks!” I glared at Fang, who snarled and took one step toward me. Slade’s low growl stopped him in his tracks. Others had gathered now and my new buddies, Race, Spider and Slick stepped between me and Fang.
RK stirred, then went rigid. A weak growl rumbled up and he flashed fangs. His eyes didn’t seem to focus on anyone or anything. “Back off, both of you.” Slade snarled, grabbing Doc by her shoulder and pulling her away.
Sitting behind RK, I ran my hand gently up and down his back, making soothing sounds.
“Daniel! He could kill you without warning. He’s not right,” Slade growled as he restrained Doc from joining me.
“No shit, he’s not right! He just had a seizure because some fuckers thought it was fun to smash his head into the concrete!”
“Everyone needs to back up. Give him some room.” Doc’s calm authority eased some of the growing tension. Most moved off on their own, but Slade had to growl a threat before Beta, Fang and Spike left with a last snarl.
RK shivered and rolled onto his hands and knees. A couple of dry heaves and he collapsed back to the floor. The low warning growl stuttered through it all but he made no move to bite me.
“Easy, RK, you’re safe. You need to stay still.” His gaze flashed to me, blinking rapidly as if he had trouble focusing. He snarled and rocked back on his heels. Fucking weird watching his eyes roll around in his head. Nystagmus — involuntary eye motion. His equilibrium was all out of whack. He looked a little green again. Bet he felt like the world was one big tilt-a-whirl.
“Careful, he doesn’t seem very aware right now. You, grab me that bucket and then some cleaning stuff.” Doc sounded a bit worried. “Just how hard did he hit his head?”
“I think they re-injured his brain.” We hadn’t done X-rays but it was obvious I’d nearly caved his face in, despite a wolfman’s stronger bone structure. Chalk one up to the adrenaline rush. “Took a shot gun butt in the face and then fell from a moving truck and got run over. He had fractures to his nose and occipital bones. Without an MRI, we couldn’t be sure how bad the trauma to his brain was. He seemed better until those fuckers started smacking him around.”
RK wavered on his knees, a look of exhaustion dragging his pale features down.
“Let me help you. Let’s get you some place you can rest. Somewhere safe.” I talked to him like I would a child or injured dog. At the moment either fit.
He glanced around, snarling every time his gaze landed on anyone, then looked back to me.
“Easy, RK, I’m a friend.” I kept my voice low, firm and as non-threatening as I could. “Come on, let me help.” I offered my hand slowly. He snarled, watching it closely. I touched just my fingertips to his arm. He focused on that, ignoring the shuffling as Doc ordered the area cleared.
“Easy buddy, come on, let’s get you up.” I let my fingers brush down his arm to take his hand. The growling stopped as I closed my hand over his. I stood and drew him up. He staggered and without stopping to think, I set my shoulder under his arm and braced him. He whimpered softly, rubbing his head on mine.
“Daniel, let’s get him on the couch here.”
“I’d rather take him to my room.”
“I don’t think Mace would like that, Daniel. It’s a territory thing. Besides, I don’t think he should be moved that far and we can keep a closer eye on him here.”
A surge of anger washed through me. Right, not my room, Mace’s. Fuck, I hated that. On the other hand, the poor guy felt so shaky, maybe Doc was right. I helped him to a couch against the wall and well out of the way. I didn’t want him harassed any further.
Doc shoved a pillow under his head. As soon as we had him settled, he dropped into sleep.
“Let me see that shoulder, Daniel. Mace is gonna kill RK when he sees what he did.”
I snorted. “I got this courtesy of Beta.” I knew I’d have to confess to Mace that I’d shoved Beta first but I didn’t feel like getting chastised twice. No need to tell Doc. While Doc cleaned up the little punctures left by Beta’s claws, I got the satisfaction of watching Slade make Fang and Spike clean up the mess RK had made on the floor.
A brief scuffle involving one of the rabids drew our attention. Looking back at me, Fang smiled, a malicious smirk speaking of blood and pain. His gaze shifted toward the rabid getting reminded of his place and back to me. That cold hand danced up and down my spine. What evil plan was that fucking bastard working on? I’d have to be on my toes. Fan-fucking-tastic.

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