Chapter Twenty-Two

Trauma, Torture, and Terror

Richard was a heroin addict. It was a fact he could no longer deny. For years, he had honestly believed that his addiction was not to the drug, but to the peace it brought him. The withdrawal symptoms he currently dealt with told him otherwise.

He leaned over and dry-heaved for the third time that morning. There was no longer any food in his stomach to lose. Most of it had ended up on one of the hunters, unfortunately not Victor but at least it had been a hunter. Some of it had ended up on the floor in front of him and on his shoes, which completely sucked. It was beginning to smell, only making the dry-heaving and gagging worse.

The hunters couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. He was clammy, almost constantly running a fever, moody, achy, and barely sleeping, not that the last two were extremely unusual considering his situation. He couldn't keep anything down and they had stopped trying to feed him, which was probably for the best in a way. Victor was concerned they were going to lose him at this rate and Richard no longer cared. If he died, he died. He wasn't giving them any information- wouldn't even tell them what the problem was. They would simply find some way to use that against him anyway.

Victor was not okay with the idea of the seer's death, not yet at least. He still wanted information, but it seemed as if he was running out of time.

He entered the room and looked at Richard. The boy was bruised and bloodied. His left arm was probably broken and his shoulder had been dislocated. He had a busted lip and a black eye. Neither of those were visible because his head hung low, refusing to look up and meet his tormentor's eyes. Victor wouldn't have that. He placed a finger under Richard's chin, lifting his head to make eye contact. The boy flinched, breaking the skin contact and beginning to hyperventilate. Victor smirked.

"That's the worst kind of pain for you, isn't it? Seeing what I'm going to do to your little friends when I find them." He had such an unfair advantage over the teen, knowing how to control just what he would foresee. He just had to focus on the Sullivans and Richard would see their fate.

"It's also one helluva reason not to tell you where they are."

Victor had to admit, his loyalty was impressive- highly annoying, but very impressive. Perhaps under different circumstances he would have made a good hunter.

"But can you handle what will happen if you don't?" he wondered, casually brushing his hand against Richard's cheek while focusing on the seer. The hyperventilating was replaced by silent tears. Fear replaced with reluctant acceptance, Victor mused.

"It's the better scenario," he whispered. Victor wondered what the boy had seen. Death by the hunters' hands was not in his future, not yet, but there wasn't much Victor wouldn't do to catch the Sullivans. Those wolves could not be allowed to survive.

"You'll cave eventually," he observed. They always did. People could only take so much. There was only so much pain, physical and emotional, that anyone could handle before they would crack.

"I know, but I can only hope they're gone when I do," he muttered, more to himself than to Victor.

"Now that just won't do," Luna pouted, walking into the room. Richard jumped at her sudden appearance. She grinned and held up his cell phone. "We got past the passcode. He has a certain puppy's number in his contact list. Should we give her a call and let her know what's up?"

Victor chuckled as he saw Richard pale at the suggestion. Who knew the boy could even get whiter?

"I think that's a brilliant idea. Of course, she'll want to hear from our guest and I don't think he wants to say hi."

"I'm pretty sure I can get some sound out of him." Luna chuckled as her grin twisted into something terrifying as she handed the phone to her father. He found Elli's number and dialed.

Richard prayed to every deity he could name that she didn't answer, because he knew the siblings were damned if she did and that was the absolute last thing he wanted.

Elli was walking home from the grocery store when her phone rang. The screen informed her that it was Richard. She wondered what he needed. Had he left something important at the house? Was he back now? Maybe he had locked himself out or something. It was totally possible that he'd forgotten his keys when he went home. He would have to call Desmond to let him in. She was halfway home, but it would be a little bit before she got back with all the bags weighing her down.

"Hey," she answered, shifting the groceries to hold the phone to her ear.

"Hello, Eliza."

She stopped walking, frozen to the spot, and dropped one of the grocery bags in surprise and terror.

"…Victor?" she asked, knowing it was him but wanting the caller to deny it, wanting to be wrong.

She wasn't. "Long time, no see."

"Where's Richard?" she demanded, still frozen in place.

"He's here. Doesn't seem to want to talk though. I think that's a little rude. Luna, would you…"

Before he even finished the sentence, there was a sickening crunch and Elli heard Richard's brief scream. Her blood ran cold. At least he was still alive… Although that wasn't exactly comforting considering the circumstances.

"What do you want?" She tried to sound strong, but the question came out more begging than demanding.

"Oh, Eliza, you already know the answer to that. Yet somehow I don't think this one boy's life is worth both yours and Noah's, so for now just don't run. If you flee, he will die."

"And if we stay?" She needed some sort of guarantee that he wouldn't get killed.

"Then his life is in his own hands. Goodbye. We shall talk again soon."

The line went dead and Elli continued to just stand there. The man who had killed her parents- her whole pack- had her housemate. Her brother's mate was suffering who knew what kind of torment at that psycho's hands. She couldn't save him. She didn't know where he was. She didn't know what to do.

She sat down on the sidewalk, letting the groceries fall around her. Her head fell into her hands and she started to cry.

Gods, Victor has Richard. How do I tell Noah? Should I tell him? Yes. Richard's his mate. Oh, but what if he gets himself killed? It has to be a trap. I can't lose Noah. But Noah can't lose Richard. What do I do? Oh, gods. Ohgods. Ohgodsohgodsohgods, she mentally rambled.

There was snow on the ground around her, but she ignored the cold as she sat there and broke down. This was exactly what she and Noah had been afraid of. The hunters were here and another person she and her brother cared about was caught in the crossfire. The last time she had felt like this was the night her parents died…

Normally now would be the time to flee, but that wasn't an option anymore. Richard's life hung in the balance. Even if they couldn't save him, they sure as hell wouldn't damn him.

She took a deep breath and massaged her temples.

Gods, damn it.

She grabbed the groceries and stood up, ready to head back home. Noah needed to know. In fact, everyone needed to know because the wolves weren't the only ones in danger. As much as she hated the idea of ruining their Thanksgiving meal, she would bring it up at dinner, because she knew they would all be together.

That meant telling Peter… and Jasper. She wondered how that would go over and imagined it wouldn't end well. Informing humans of the supernatural never did. But everyone's safety was much more important that Elli's love life. He might have been her soul mate, but she could learn to live without him if that was what it took to keep him- and everyone else- alive.

She walked through the front door and plopped the groceries onto the kitchen counter. Mechanically, she unpacked stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, various spices, vegies and a 'tofurkey' that her housemates were sure to complain about. Now she actually wished she had bought them a real turkey. Then there would at least be something for them to enjoy…

Gods, why isn't life simpler?

Richard sighed as Victor hung up. Luna smiled at the seer. They all knew that the wolves wouldn't be going anywhere now. Richard regretted ever getting their phone numbers, even if they had come in handy on a few occasions. Being able to call Elli when she was at the store or running around town was not worth their lives.

"I wonder if she'll try to find you," Luna pondered.

"She won't," he quietly replied, silently adding, But Noah might.

He hoped Elli would stop him from doing anything stupid.

"You really underestimate the connection a wolf feels to her mate," Victor commented.

"So you've told me." It might have been true, but he wasn't underestimating what Noah would do. He just didn't believe Elli would do those things. She might, but it would be for her brother's sake and not for his. He wished neither of them would do anything.

"I know a thing or two about mates," the hunter answered mysteriously.

A ping! came from Luna's pocket and she pulled her cell phone out of the tight pair of jeans, looking at the screen.

"Seth is on his way back," she announced, looking up from the message to glance at her father.

He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Can you send him after something else? Isn't there another vampire nearby?"

She shrugged, looking like she honestly didn't care if there was. "I don't know, but I can look into it."

"Just keep him occupied. I don't have time for him right now." He sighed again and turned his attention back to Richard.

Luna nodded, despite the fact her father was no longer focused on her. "I'll see what I can do."

"You do that," he replied absentmindedly.

Richard didn't like the look he was receiving from the hunter. He suddenly had this feeling things were going to get a lot worse for him.

"You seem to be losing patience," Richard observed. "Do you have a deadline to worry about now?"

Victor smirked. "You're not quite that lucky. No deadline. Just trying to figure out what will be your breaking point."

His feeling was right then. Things were going to get worse.

His mom telling him, "Things get worse before they get better," flashed through his mind. It was often true, but he wondered if it would be this time. He also wondered what better would be. Because at this point, dying seemed better than this.


A/N: Look! I updated! :D I'm so sorry that it took so long. I got really sick and ended up in the hospital and let's just leave it at that. But I'm out and doing better. I hope you enjoy the chapter and with any luck, I'll be able to update more frequently now! Happy reading!