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"Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit," Stiles was muttering next to Scott, turning this way and that, taking in the no less than five guns pointed at them. Held by five guys with really pitiless looks on their faces.
"We can explain this - - we can so explain this," Stiles was babbling in a panic, claiming things that they in no way could do. There wasn't an explanation, save sheer stupidity on his part for insisting on coming down here. If they got out of it in once piece he'd humbly take whatever bitching Stiles decided to dole out.
"Can you?" Dupont arched a brow, not amused.
"There was a noise and the door was open - -" Stiles was snatching at air, his heart pounding so hard and fast it sounded as if he might faint at any given moment.
"It was not," Dupont said flatly.
Stiles looked at Scott in overt panic, and just standing next to him when he was fairly exploding with nerves was making Scott's pulse race.
"Yeah? Well - - you're keeping a monster in your basement. And that's not a bear."
Scott caught his sleeve, wanting him to shut up, wanting to figure a way out of here that didn't involve Dupont and his men shooting at them, because as painful a getting shot was for him, he'd heal. Stiles wouldn't.
Dupont stared at them, inscrutable expression on his face. He was dressed haphazardly, shirt untucked and half buttoned, as if he'd been roused from bed to rush down here. Most of the men accompanying him were as well, which made Scott think maybe they'd tripped some alarm on the way down.
"No, it is not a bear." Dupont conceded, finally holstering his gun. None of his men lowered their weapons. He waved a hand towards the cage, where the thing crouched in the furthest corner, as if the light was painful to it. Or it was cowering in the presence of Dupont. Terrified of a single man. Almost Scott could smell the fear radiating off it, focused like a laser on one man. What Dupont might have done to it, to trigger such a reaction was - - unsettling.
"But it does originate in Russia," Dupont was saying. "Back when Russia was still Russia. It's called a vanago. Particularly nasty. Particularly rare. Most of them were killed off during the Bolshevik wars. Ironic since the revolutions were the primary cause of their creation. It was a miserable time and miserable times tend to spawn miserable people. Legend has it, that a group of Russian soldiers came upon a family of Polish gypsies and slaughtered them in the most creative of ways - - save for one survivor, who placed a curse upon them with her dying breath. Turning them into the mindless beasts they had proven themselves to be. This is the last one. The last of its kind. "
Scott exchanged a wary look with Stiles, neither one of them comfortable with the sudden willingness to share.
"Really? A gypsy curse? That's a little cliché," Stiles scoffed, his go to reaction to taut strung nerves to open his mouth and let anything that crossed his mind flow out unchecked. Scott contained the urge to elbow him.
Dupont lifted a brow. "You doubt the possibility of vengeance taking such a path?"
Stiles opened his mouth. Shut it for a second then muttered. "No. I can totally buy it."
"The last of its kind? Not including the one you killed?" Scott asked.
The dead calm in Dupont's eyes was freaking him out a little. There was nothing in any of these men's eyes that suggested they'd hesitate to gun them down. He could almost taste it in the air, the grim calm of men that had killed and would kill again. If there weren't guns pointing at them from both sides, he'd have tried to edge in front of Stiles and give him that little bit of protection.
"You noticed that, did you?" Dupont inclined his head marginally, a faint smile touching his mouth. "Was it the scent?"
Scott took a panicked breath, forced himself to slow his breathing and shook his head negatively. "Its just - - smaller."
"Yes, it is. There was a woman among the Bolsheviks. A camp whore that followed them and participated in the slaughter. The only female vanago. Smaller yes, but no less vicious. More so, being female. She's grown wily and cunning over the years. It took me two years to trap her. But it was worth it, rare as she is."
"And you just keep it down here?" Stiles asked. "For what? Shits and giggles?"
"Until someone pays me the price of a hunt. And for a creature that's the last of its kind - - that will be a hefty price indeed."
"A hunt?" Stiles asked warily and the bottom dropped out of Scott's stomach. The thing they'd killed in the woods - -the vanago - - hadn't been a beast they'd been trying to stop from a rampage, it had been prey. Sport for them to chase it down and slaughter it.
Dupont smiled, not bothering to answer. "I think you've seen enough down here."
He jerked his head and the men behind them moved forward, urging them towards Dupont with flicks of the rifles they carried. Stiles cast Scott a worried glance and started moving. Dupont stepped forward, a hand on Scott's chest stalling his forward momentum.
"A moment," Dupont said.
Scott stared down at the offending hand, clenching his fists. Stiles looked back at him, immersed in the group of Dupont's men where they'd stopped, not far from the entrance to the passage leading out.
"Funny thing," Dupont said casually. "The vanago has distinctive blood. Once shed, it dries almost instantly. Turns to powdery ash. And yet, the blood inside the Hummer the night you were attacked was fresh. Which leads me to believe that your claim that you weren't, at the very least, scratched by it, was a lie. Why would you lie about such a thing, Scott?"
"I didn't," Scott said softly.
"Yeah, that's crazy. Why would he lie?" Stiles echoed.
"So, just the bruises then, from when it hit you?"
Scott swallowed, feeling himself falling deeper and deeper into the quicksand. He nodded slowly, trying not to look at Stiles, who was attempting to subtly mouth 'no. no.' As if Scott didn't' realize the trap he was walking into.
"I'd like to see them, if you don't mind."
"And if he does?" Stiles countered. One of the guys surrounding him, the big mechanic from the garage, grabbed his collar and shook him for the outburst.
Scott narrowed his eyes and looked back to Dupont. He could take this man down before he even realized Scott was making the move, but the four across the chamber with the guns on Stiles presented a more challenging problem. He couldn't cover that distance and make a dent before one of them could squeeze a trigger. Which was likely the very reason Dupont had separated them. Because Dupont knew. Or at the very least suspected.
"I don't think so," Scott said, meeting Dupont's eyes.
Dupont lifted a brow. "Don't be shy. Let me see how lucky you were to survive with a few scrapes and bruises."
Scott clenched his jaw, glaring at Dupont from under his lashes.
Dupont gave him half a minute before he calmly directed. "Shoot the boy in the head."
"What? Wait, wait - -" Stiles stood there, caught in the grip of guys half again his weight, skin going pale as the muzzle of a gun was shoved under his jaw.
"Okay. Okay," Scott held up both hands in desperation.
"Now," Dupont snapped and this time the cool boredom evaporated from his voice, replaced by the ironclad command of a man used to getting his way.
Stiles had his eyes shut, the gun digging into his jaw forcing his head back. There was no way out save compliance. Scott yanked his shirt off, stood there with it clenched in his fists while Dupont circled him, seeing exactly what Dupont had suspected he'd see. Unmarred skin. He flinched when fingers grazed his back, but endured it.
He had to concentrate to keep his claws from popping when Dupont dug his fingers into his hair and jerked his head back, leaning in close from behind to hiss in his ear. "Did you think I was a fool not to know when a wolf was under my own roof?"
"We didn't ask to come here," he ground out. He just wanted him to back off, to give him a little distance, because the feel of the man against his back was making his skin crawl and his vision tunnel.
Dupont patted his shoulder, eased back, circling again, one hand on the butt of his holstered gun.
"If you two hadn't been so eager to trespass in places you had no business being, I honestly wouldn't have cared if you had tainted blood or not. Wolves are a dime a dozen. Not worth the time and effort to hunt down."
"Then we're good, then?" Stiles said, sounding a little strangled, a little desperate with a gun still jammed under his chin. "No need to finish with the Jeep. We can walk."
"Julian," Jan Dupont oozed up from the shadows of the passage leading up to the lodge. How long she'd been there, Scott had no idea. His attention had been firmly elsewhere. "These are two boys who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And youth tends towards inquisitiveness. Young men. Young wolves."
"Exactly," Stiles jumped to second that opinion. She slid up next to him and eased the muzzle of the gun down from his jaw, brushing her fingertips along the crescent shaped mark left behind.
"They don't always think before they act," she said and Stiles was nodding, latching on to any hint of an ally.
Scott wasn't so sure that's what she was. She moved like she was on the prowl and her smile hadn't changed, like it was only a façade for darker things going on behind it. She made him uneasier than her brother.
"But," she said, turning to look at him. "There's something about this one - - something interesting - - call it my women's intuition."
Dupont ducked his head a little, looking Scott in the eye, gauging him. "Is there now?"
"Ask to see the color of his eyes," she purred.
Dupont canted a brow, commanding with his look. An intimidating look. An intimidating man with a lot of guns to back him up and a vulnerable shield in Stiles. Scott's options were severely limited.
"Why do you care?" Scott ground out.
"Because a beta or an omega is barely worth the time and ammunition it takes to put it down. An alpha makes for more interesting game."
"Oh my God," Stiles exclaimed. "You people are seriously twisted and my dad's in law enforcement and his is in the FBI. So if we turn up missing shit will hit the fan."
He got the back of one of his captor's fists in the face for that threat. His head snapped back, blood spurting from his mouth where teeth had likely shredded the inside of his lip. It shut him up for a second.
It made Scott start forward, growling with out even the benefit of canine cutlery, but Dupont stopped him with the muzzle of the gun he'd snatched from his holster pointed at his forehead.
"You're trying my patience."
"Screw you," he snarled, barely audible.
The scent of blood was acrid in the air. The vanago in the cage, growled, scenting it too, shifting in the shadows it had retreated to. Jan Dupont glanced that way, her smile turning speculative.
"It's a tracker, you know," she said. "A huntress with few equals. Most female beasts are more adept at it than the males. Once she has a taste of blood, she's relentless. Shall we treat her?"
She drew a knife from the belt of one of the men. With one smooth motion she grabbed Stiles' arm and sliced the blade across the soft inner skin above his wrist. Then she grabbed his shirt while he was gawking in wide eyes shock, and hauled him towards the cage. The thing within it surged forward, slamming against the bars hard enough to make the rock they were embedded in crumble a little.
"Stop," Scott screamed it, letting claws pop and fangs, every sense he had clearer and cleaner with that partial transformation. Jan let go Stiles' arm and he scrambled backwards, clutching his hand around the wound.
Dupont stood there, the gun still pointed at Scott's forehead, a faint satisfied smile on his lips.
"Young for an alpha. Very young."
"Help him," Scott growled, because Stiles fingers around the wound weren't stopping the flow and he was turning paler by the second. The smell of blood becoming overwhelming. The beast in the cage howling and throwing itself against the bars as if it had already taken the scent and targeted Stiles for the kill.
Dupont jerked his head, acquiescing and one of the guys grabbed Stiles' by the arm, hauling him towards the passage out. Dupont smiled, lowered the gun so that it was aimed dead center at his chest, and pulled the trigger. It was unexpected. A debilitating shock. The bullet tore into Scott's chest like an ironclad fist. It slammed him backwards, a fiery trail of agony seizing up his breath, his vision, his consciousness. He heard Stiles screaming, cursing incoherently, tasted the bitter tang of blood in his mouth and then there was nothing.
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