Status: Finished.

More Than Just Baser Instincts.

The Deadliest Duet

I tried to hide my shallow breaths, and I fought the overwhelming urge to pant as my body screamed in protest. My eyes were narrow slits as I watched my father carefully.

“Elaine, is all you know defense?” he taunted, his voice echoing throughout the grand hall. "I'm not making much of an example of you, not when all you do is run."

"It's always been my default response,” I commented dryly between breaths before cutting my gaze to the audience around us. It had grown in the past twenty minutes as word broke out about the challenge.

My eyes swept across the faces of my crying sister, and then I saw my mother, who could not even look up. She was helpless here. A mother would do anything for her child, and it was obvious that Gerald kept her from that—and it killed her.

So I had to fight for these people. No one else would!

“I can't say I'm very surprised, though,” he mused, smirking as he stepped tenderly closer. His claws clicked against the glass tiles, and each pinging sound was surely another nail in my coffin. "Your skittering is entirely founded. I mean, I'm in charge of this place for a reason."

“The reason is that you torment and terrify these poor people into submission!" I cried, backing up with each stride he took.

His steps, however, were larger than mine and, in a last attempt to get away, I took quicker steps. I misjudged myself and cried out as I stumbled before catching myself and continuing our little dance. A warrior... That was not a way I would describe myself. With no formal training whatsoever, I had only instincts to guide me.

The bastard chuckled yet continued forward at a steady pace. I focused on his massive paws, keeping in pace with the rhythmical movement. And yet, suddenly, he took a few quick, long strides and I stumbled yet again. He lashed out, his claws gleaming under the chandelier light, but I ducked under the swipe and rammed into him from his left flank. His body began to give, but a horrifying pain made me stumble away as a shrill cry tore past my lips.

Blood tangled itself in my fur from the new wound caused by a well-placed swipe of those deadly claws. I just counted myself lucky that I had stumbled away in time before he could clamp his jaws around my leg and tear it right from me. But he could have killed me so easily... He had hesitated for a fraction of a second. But at this rate, he would still kill me with these wounds.

"Some father you are!" I spat after him, licking fervently at the gash.

"We all have disappointments—you are mine, after all." His voice was lazy and haughty, a combination that was like flame to already hot water. I clenched my jaw so tightly that it clicked.

The blood pouring from my leg was easily forgotten.

I charged at him, barreling across the floor so quickly that the frictionless surface did not even hinder me. The look of shock on his face slapped a smug grin on mine, but then he started grinning. I gritted my teeth tightly and leaped into the air. I would only be satisfied when he was writhing on the ground, his death bed!

"Bold move, little girl," Gerald spat up at me, struggling as I pushed my claws deeper into his chest.

"I'm just trying to be like you, Daddy." My eyes zoned in on his throat. The kill...

"Not just yet, dear one."

It was barely a whisper, much like the wind in a forest that keeps getting side-tracked by all of the trees. My eyes widened as time seemed to freeze.

Sharp fangs pierced the soft flesh of my neck, and my scream only caused even more pain. Breaths became nearly impossible. My limbs began convulsing, unresponsive to the cognitive thoughts that I was unable to form. His body slammed onto mine, and my spine collided with the tile. I kept scrambling, pushing to get his jaw away from me as the world started spinning.

He suddenly unclamped his jaw, but he kept his paws pressed to my throat. It blocked the wound—at the same time, however, it also crushed my windpipe to the point that tears simply poured out of my eyes. Gerald knocked his head to the side and spit out a mouthful of blood—my blood.

"I never thought I'd kill my own daughter," he told me, though his eyes showed no remorse. "But if it's what must be done for my sector, I will do it." I panted heavily, scrambling as I felt my body starting to numb. But I just couldn't shift back, not now! "I give you one last chance, Elaine. Tiberius will still have you, and Rory is a fine male already. You can stay here, or you can die. Because you're my daughter, you get to pick."

As soon as the world began to fade to blackness, my lion form faded. The change was painful and forced, and in my weak, human form I was defenseless. All of my wounds increased in severity, and I could feel the life fleeing from me. I rasped for breaths, grabbing at his paw and trying desperately to move it.

He finally lifted his paw, and the rush of air that attacked my lungs made me cry out in pain as even more blood began to pour from my neck. Gerald stood carefully and began circling me with his head cocked slightly. But as time passed, his steps quickened.

"You have to give me your choice, Elaine!" He sounded...almost panicked.

I knocked my head to the side as I began to feel so horribly woozy. Was I lying on the ground...or was I lying on the ceiling? I simply couldn't tell anymore. But I could tell that my sister was watching me with tears in her eyes. My baby was simply crying "Dada!" over and over as he sobbed.

My baby...

"Rory, I love you," I whimpered with the last bit of voice that I still had.

Arianna cried out then, but Leonard gathered her in his arms quickly, like the good mate he was. My chest convulsed as I choked, and the pain would have made me scream if I could still make a sound. I was stupid... I was so stupid to think that I could take him on my own. I was just some dumb woman who didn't have an ounce of fighting in her. Hell, I had spent my entire life running from anything that seemed remotely challenging! First it was my home—an entire state—and then it was Quince—my entire world.

I smiled meekly. So maybe I could finally stop running.

"Why are you smiling!" my father demanded, snarling down at me. He clearly was displeased with the show I was putting on for his loyal subjects.

I just shook my head and looked to my Rory one last time. My sweet prince. I shouldn't have dragged him into this, but surely he had some of Quince's fighting spirit in him. He would get out—even if I couldn't see it.

Let me see my baby one last time. If you are even half of a man, you will grant me this last wish.

"It doesn't have to be this way, Elaine. Just tell me that you submit!" he snapped, much too close to my face. But I just lay still, and he growled—a frustrated sound—before nodding to Arianna.

Tears still streamed down her face as she obeyed. Obviously I couldn't hold Rory... So she held him out to me, and I smiled as I looked into his pools of silver. His sweet little face was twisted up in despair as he continued to cry out for Quince, and his tiny body was thrashing about.

But then a harsh breath winded me, and Arianna stumbled backwards as I leaped onto my feet.

...How had I not seen it before?...

I lunged at my father, who was startled so much that he stumbled when I jumped onto his back and bit into his neck, mid-transformation.

...My little Rory...

My nails lengthened enough that I could clamp them into his shoulders, and my fangs sharpened enough that his blood pooled into my mouth.

...My "Red King"...

My father's scream filled my ears, but I clamped more tightly until I felt his windpipe in my own mouth. The heartbeat beneath my fingers pounded and throbbed erratically.

...Rory had his first sprig of hair, a tiny thread coming out of the top of his head. My baby was growing hair...

Gerald fell suddenly and without fighting, and soon I was pinning him to the ground, my jaw tightening past each snap and pop as bones broke and skin tore open. Tears slipped down my cheeks.

..Rory had red hair...

"You can't have Quince's son," I rasped, barely able to find my voice.

"E...Elaine..." he whispered, his eyes glazing steadily as his body stiffened beneath me. His lion form faded, and his eyes fluttered shut. My father's audience was silent...

I carefully pushed myself away from the body and glanced around. The room broke into cheers, and tears welled up in Leonard's eyes. I smiled to him even as tears wet my cheeks. My own father...dead at my feet. But hopefully this would make up for these people suffering while I was so carefree. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mother collapsed on the floor, holding her heart. She had just lost her mate, and I could never forgive myself for hurting her like this.

My sister started running toward me, but I held out my hand.

"Arianna," I choked, shaking my head. I didn't have long for this world, and I didn't want her to see that up close. It was like how they say not to look at the body at an open casket funeral...I wanted her to remember me as I was, not remember me like this...

But then the world started spinning before turning pitch black.

And the pain... It was gone...