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.you name it.This one's been here for almost six years, and they still haven't been able to break him.He fought back this morning because that's what he does.""But you're sure he won't fight back against me.How is he going to know I'm not one of them?""He's still wolf.He'll be able to smell it."She thumbed the latch and stepped out of the way when she swung it open.I waited for her to go in first, but when seconds passed and she didn't move, I realized she meant for me to go in after him instead.My stomach churned.I didn't want to be nervous, but I was.A hurt werewolf? Asking for trouble under any other circumstances.She cocked a brow.Her opinion of how ridiculous I was being was obvious.If she wasn't afraid, I wouldn't be either.I had to duck to enter the stall.The floor inside was packed dirt, with a bucket in the corner that was obviously meant to be used as a toilet.Though the cell was clean, the lingering scent of shit and piss hit the back of my nose strong enough to make me wonder how a creature with a super-sensitive nose managed to survive in it.A pile of blankets along the outside wall served as a bed, but its owner wasn't on it.He was curled up in the corner, his back to the door.His head was tucked into his arms, but the shaggy ends of his dirty blond hair fell over his thin neck.The threadbare T-shirt he wore was ripped over his shoulder blades, like someone had tried to grab onto him and he'd wrenched away.Through the tears, burn marks in varying healing stages peeked through the gray fabric."Jesus," I muttered.At the sound of my voice, his muscles visibly hitched, like he'd caught his breath.Was he awake? Alert? In the long run, did it matter?"Hey," I said softly, testing the water.I inched forward, keeping it slow, just in case he turned and lashed out."I'm not going to hurt you."A sound that was undoubtedly a whimper emanated from the man.The only word to describe it was pathetic.My heart broke a little."I know you must be in pain." Crouching down, I closed more of the distance, more confident than I'd been when I'd entered."I'm here to make sure that stops." I paused.I was within reach of him now, but I wasn't sure if it was safe to touch him yet.Though he was conscious, he was too accustomed to punishment.I didn't want to scare him further."I'm Denny, by the way.What's your name?"I heard his exhalation, and his shoulders sagged.A pale hand braced against the floor, the nails caked with dirt, the cuticles filled with dried blood.The muscles in his forearm trembled as he tried to lift himself up.My instincts took over.I slid an arm around his chest to give him more leverage."It's okay." I wondered if saying it actually made a difference.It did to me, but my well being didn't matter here."I've got you."Another whimper vibrated through his frame.He was whipcord thin, but displayed surprising strength as he finally lifted his head.The hair fell away to reveal a familiar set of blue eyes.I hadn't seen them in over seven years, except in dreams, and those paled in the face of the real thing.It was my turn to be afraid to breathe."Oh, my God.Elijah."Chapter 2I'd met Elijah Garber on the first day of seventh grade, when we both sat in the back row of Mrs.Palumbo's biology class.I was back there because I was a wide kid.Not fat, though if I hadn't been athletic I probably would've gone that way.The polite term was husky, which basically meant I was broad-shouldered and broad-chested with thighs like miniature redwoods.I'd learned early that other kids had problems seeing around me, so rather than suffering the embarrassment of being shuttled to the back of the class, I placed myself there first.Elijah was new.He took the back row because he didn't want to be noticed.But I did.Growing up in San Francisco, you get confronted with the question of your sexuality pretty early.Nobody judges, but it's such an ingrained part of the city's culture, you simply can't avoid it.By seventh grade, I was pretty sure I was gay.Though I had plenty of friends that were girls, I only ever crushed on guys, not overtly, but I found excuses to hang out with the ones that caught my eye or defended them if the need arose.Since I was a jock and semi-popular, nobody thought it was weird.The first time I talked to Elijah, he looked at me like I was a serial killer.He had eyes like an anime character, deep blue and so expressive I forgot my own name when I met them.His family had just relocated from San Antonio, and the whole San Francisco experience was overwhelming him, to say the least.But I liked the way he blushed when Mrs.Palumbo called on him, and I really liked the molasses smile when he finally laughed at one of my bad jokes.I kept at him until I got through his defenses, and by Halloween, he was my best friend.He came out two years later by kissing me under the mistletoe at my family's Christmas party.After that, we never looked back.Elijah was half the reason I became a cop instead of enlisting.The thought of leaving him behind for boot camp and deployment ripped me in half.He'd chosen Berkeley so we could stay together, too.Our futures were set.Or so I thought.The August after we graduated from high school, Elijah disappeared.He left behind a note that said he wasn't ready for college or a permanent relationship, and that I was better off moving on without him.I didn't believe it for a second, but no matter how hard I searched, I couldn't find where he'd gone.His family had received similar notes, and nobody from either of our lives had a clue where he might have gone.I even convinced Corey to search for him using more official means, but he hit the same dead ends I had.It took me a year to date someone again.I'd even thought myself in love again a few years back with an older guy named Hudson.But seeing Elijah now brought it all rushing back with a vengeance.I'd gone through all the stages of grief over losing him, but after it all, I'd never stopped loving him.He was so much thinner than the last time I'd seen him, a good forty pounds gone from his already tight, tall body.Smudges beneath his eyes betrayed lack of any real good sleep, and he had two new scars crisscrossing his left cheek.One pulled at the corner of his eye, diminishing its width, but the gaze that collided with mine was as expressive as it had always been, a maelstrom of emotions.Relief and pain and adoration, but most heartbreakingly, guilt."I'm going to carry you out." Somehow, I kept my voice even.I needed to be rock steady for Elijah more than anybody else."But it's going to be awkward getting through that door, so bear with me."He nodded.I blocked out all my questions and concentrated on the here and now.First priority.Get through the door without hurting Elijah more than he already was.Carrying him out fireman-style would be easiest on his back but impossible in such tight quarters [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]