Being Red: Chapter One

For a glorious moment I’m on top, straddling one of the hottest guys I’ve ever seen.

I won’t lie; if we weren’t rolling around on the floor of the ladies bathroom trying to kill each other, if he wasn’t a werewolf, and if I was single, I’d probably be trying to get in his pants right about now. But here we are, and I’m pretty sure there’s a used band-aid stuck in my thick curls.

I’m certain the man feels the gun strapped to my thigh digging into his rib cage as I rock my hips forward to press my knees harder into his biceps, right between the muscles where I know it will hurt, and he grunts. My skirt rides up around my hips, so he could probably see my gun too if his focus wasn’t trained instead on my purple lace panties. They have little black bows.

Balancing as the man struggles beneath me, I use my momentary advantage to punch him in the face. His cheek splits open and a thin line of blood drips down his jaw. The man bucks harder now, determined to throw me off, his tight grey t-shirt exposing bulging muscles. I strain to keep my position, but the man wrestles one of his arms free and I resort to a quick jab to his throat so I can nimbly gain my feet and put as much distance between us as the confines of the restroom allow. I draw quickly, but the man recovers quicker, and my gun is out of the holster split seconds after he is already in motion.

With preternatural speed, the man tackles me into one of the stalls. I crash through the door and sit down hard on the toilet. His momentum smashes him into my lap, and I have no time to raise my gun. Instead, I brace my fists on either side of the stall and use both feet and all my strength to kick him back out the open door with what sounds like my best impersonation of Maria Sharapova. I stand, but he is already there again, grabbing my wrist and smashing my right hand into the stall door frame with both hands. Pain flares hot, and I try not to lose my grip on my gun. I punch him in the stomach with my left hand, but he is unphased. My right hand is engulfed in flames and I hear more than feel my gun crash to the floor, skittering as the man kicks it away from us.

The pain makes me angry, and my anger numbs the pain.

I knee the man in the stomach, following up with an elbow to his face. I shove past him as he reels from the blow, a new trail of blood seeping from the corner of his mouth. My gun is under the sink, and I calculate my chances of reaching it before the man is on me again. Unlikely, so I brace for his attack. I block a punch with my forearm, but take a lighting fast hit to the face before I can bring my other arm up to deflect it. I taste blood. The man growls, his nostrils flaring, and for a moment I’m worried he’ll shift, but he remains in his human form.

I land another punch to his torso when I hear pounding at the door. “Hey you about done in there?” a woman’s voice asks impatiently.

“Uh, not quite,” I say, gasping as a punch connects with my rib cage.

“Well, you do you, honey, but some of us have to pee,” the lady answers, rattling the door handle insistently.

“I said, just a minute” I yell back at her.

There is muffled talking on the other side of the door, but I disregard it. Dodging the man’s fists is a little higher on my priority list than eavesdropping at the moment. I grunt as I dodge a punch and use the shift in my position to sock the guy in the armpit with all my strength. My already injured hand screams at the impact, but I recoil and reposition myself again to stay out of the man’s reach.

“How you doing in there Loren?” asks a man’s voice, the words made almost musical by his lilting Irish brogue.

“Managing,” the man, presumably Loren, answers.

The door handle rattles again, and then with one great twist, the lock snaps. My neck prickles as the newcomer enters, and I know he is a werewolf too. I don’t dare take my eyes off Loren, but this is going downhill fast. I’m outnumbered and I can’t risk calling for help because this isn’t an authorized mission, and I’d rather Loren kill me than Gregor find out I’m picking fights just to blow off steam. He’d have my hide.

“We don’t want to hurt you,” the newcomer says behind me. I can hear his proximity.

“The hell you don’t!” I rage, swinging around to attack the new guy before either of them can figure out what I’m doing. During the brief moment between turning and launching myself at him, I realize he is even hotter than Loren. It’s almost a shame when my fist connects with his eye socket in a blow that will surely leave a mark.

He doesn’t flinch, and in moments, Loren wraps his arms around me from behind, pinning me in a vise-like grip even as I kick his shins mercilessly.

“I asked you to wait outside,” Loren protests.

“But you were taking too long, and I outrank you, so I came in.”

“Kellan, “ Loren warns.

“I couldn’t risk her killing you. What would I do without my second?” Kellan explains rhetorically. He focuses on me. “Are you going to insist on kicking Loren for our entire conversation?”

In answer I smash my heel into Loren’s instep. He grunts, but doesn’t let go.

“So be it,” Kellan says, advancing on us.

He pulls zip ties from his pocket and proceeds to bind my wrists and ankles together. I struggle, but with Loren immobilizing my upper arms, my forearms are no match for Kellan’s strong hands and he easily presses my wrists together. When I am tightly bound to his satisfaction, Loren releases me to stand on my own. I don’t have much of a choice considering I won’t get far hopping like a child in a sack race without being intercepted or falling over, so I remain where I am. I glare at the two men in front of me.

“What do you want?” I spit out.

“A deal,” Kellan answers.

“That’s awfully vague,” I accuse. I notice Loren stands silently in front of the door, holding it closed with his boot.

When I am no more forthcoming, Kellan adds, “In exchange for your life.”

The sassy retort withers on my tongue. In my line of work, I always knew my life might be forfeit, but I never saw it going like this. In an epic fight, gun blazing, yeah. Not trussed up in a ladies’ restroom, my gun lying useless under a sink!

“What do you want,” I repeat, less hostile this time.

“I know you hunt us for revenge,” Kellan says. “But it’s inhuman to seal the fate of every werewolf based on the actions of a minority.”

“You would defend them?” I ask.

“No!” Kellan exclaims, “That’s not what I said at all! The opposite, actually. I just want honest folk to be free to go about their lives.”

“How am I to know the difference. A were is a were.”

“And just because there are humans who commit murder, the rest of humanity should suffer for it?” he asks. At the word murder, his eyes are like daggers. If only looks could kill, perhaps we would both drop dead.

“So what do you propose?” I ask, breaking our silent stand-off.

“I want you to replace your assigned marks with those on an approved list.”

“That would never work!” I exclaim. How could I keep it from Gregor? There’s no way in hell I’d risk him ever finding out. Then I’d be dead. But if I don’t, I might be dead anyways.

“How can the boss argue if you bring him a dead wolf?” Loren asks, finally joining the conversation, his boot still unmoving against the door.

He has a point, but I say, “Sometimes there are pictures.”

“So we ensure the kill happens in wolf form,” Kellan says, as if it’s so simple.

Loren laughs. “Or we match up body type. Maybe their faces won’t survive the fight.”

I’ve seen some pretty grisly stuff, but that’s a bit much even for me. I don’t mutilate bodies. I don’t even clean them up afterward. There’s a crew for that, one that’s probably grossly underpaid given the nature of the task. I ask anyways, “Who’s first on the list?”

“So, you agree to the deal?” Kellan asks, brandishing a small pair of wire cutters he pulls from his pocket.

Contemplating whether there’s any way I can possibly get myself out of this nasty situation and finding no good options that end with me, my life, and all my lovely bits where they belong, I hold out my hands. “What are you waiting for?” I prompt. “Cut me the hell loose before you regret all of this,” I threaten. Before I regret all of this.

Loren pockets my gun before Kellan snips the zip tie at my wrist. I glare at Kellan, although Loren is the one who pilfered my firearm, and spit a mouthful of blood on his boots. I yank the wire cutters from his hand and cut the tie at my feet. Tossing the tool back, I shoulder past him.

“I assume we’ll be in touch,” I say.

As I stalk from the premises, my mood souring by the second, I wonder what the hell I’ve gotten myself into.

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