Coveted

By: Stacey Brutger


He needed to shift, and soon, or he’d be in danger of going into flux. Locking out his wolf for extended periods of time would either stifle or kill his beast outright. Aiden wouldn’t survive being trapped in his human form for an eternity, half of his soul damaged beyond repair.

But if he shifted, he was dead. They would put him down like some rabid animal, drain every last drop of blood they could squeeze from his veins, and bottle it.

An ounce sold for thousands of dollars.

The hottest new drug on the market.

Since blood deteriorated so quickly, they required more wolves to maintain the supply.

He was an alpha, a purebred born and raised, not some bitten mutt. That made his blood more potent. They’d discovered that while he was unconscious. They offered him food and water, better accommodations, if he would voluntarily give his blood. Aiden refused. It was the only reason they didn’t kill him outright, but their patience was growing thin.

They wanted his blood, and they were becoming more determined to take it from him one way or another.

One dose gave the purchaser a surge of adrenaline. People could do impossible things, heal from life-threatening injuries. Diseases went into remission. It wasn’t a complete cure. They needed continual doses. But after the first miracle, people didn’t care where it came from or that a little too much would kill them.

Or worse.

Transformed them into something no longer human.

Those genetically predisposed, those that carried the werewolf gene, would turn into the very creatures they’d hunted if they consumed too much blood.

A lone wolf on its first change would rampage, its human side overtaken by a wolf more savage than those in the wild, and massacre anything in its way. A news report he’d spotted shortly before he was captured proved this point. A wolf had ripped through an apartment building, killing dozens before morphing back into his human from.

The police had taken one look at him, naked and covered in blood, ranting about monsters, and raised their weapons.

The first shot hadn’t even given the guy pause, only a hail of bullets succeeded in bringing him down.

The rest of his teams had been on assignment, tracking the record number of missing people from the surrounding area. People whom Aiden suspected were wolves. With no one else available, he’d gone himself to investigate. It was their first clue in months, his chance to search for the source of the drug.

That was when he met Nora, the lone survivor.

Nora had been on the drug, he’d smelled the blood on her. When she said she knew where he could get some, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to hunt down the culprits and eliminate the problem once and for all.

Too bad he hadn’t trusted his instincts.

She hadn’t lied. She knew where the drug had come from.

His veins.

And she was desperate for more.

She’d set up her boyfriend by giving him an overdose while he slept, possibly hoping to lure out more of his kind. Aiden should’ve been more careful. He took one look at her pretty face and underestimated her addiction and her knowledge of wolves. When Aiden had lunged, ready to force the truth from her broken body if necessary, she’d tossed a handful of powder at him.

Wolfsbane.

He’d tried not to inhale, but the damage was done. The instant the powder came into contact with his skin he was flat on his ass, only dimly aware of his surroundings.

Warmth burned under his skin to know that he’d fallen for her lies like some feeble human.

That carelessness had landed him in this hell.

He missed the feel of the sun and moon on his skin, the fresh breeze instead of the stink of this sewer. The passage of days could be measured only by the pull of the moon. Even now, his skin prickled, and his wolf stretched under his skin, testing the boundaries.

The moon was rising.

Night was ready to fall.

And they always came after sunset.

Aiden stopped in front of the wall, flicked out his claws, and pressed the sharp edge against stone, slashing a single mark next to the long line of others.

Nearly two months.

Thunder boomed in the distance, loud enough that a fine sift of sand rained down. The sound sent his stomach rumbling pitifully. He scratched his chin through the thick beard, while his wolf scenting the air for prey. Thunder meant a torrent of water would sweep through the underground, carrying rats in the floodwaters.

And if he was lucky, something he could use as a weapon. Everything he’d gathered so far had been useless. Every makeshift weapon he’d constructed had failed, the wood too rotten to be of use, and anything heavier never made it far enough to reach him.

He’d relentlessly battered his fists against the stones for the first few days of his stay, but the foot-thick slabs of rock had refused to relent. He ended up beating himself into a bloody mess. He would’ve continued his destructive ways but for one thing. The more blood he lost, the weaker his control over his wolf, ultimately leaving him more vulnerable to his captors.

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