Brecon, Maine, April 2017
From the corner of his eye, Beast watched his father share biting kisses with his girlfriend, Martina, and then lean forward to kiss the man who was taking her from behind. The beer had a bitter aftertaste, but Beast had more nevertheless, tapping his teeth against the glass bottle so hard he feared it would break from the force of his jaw clenching.
Heavy beats exploded within the old walls of the former asylum, drumming under the high ceiling. The splash of violet and green illumination licked the shapes hidden beyond its reach, making even the most mundane of things appear phantastical. In the corner of the large room, hiding in the violet glow, the three lovers moved as one, transformed by shadow and smoke into one monstrous body that pulsed at break-neck speed, twisting and shuddering, as if it were about to leave the shadows and attack Beast with all its ferociousness.
It was moving quicker now, caught up in a rhythm that would have to end soon. Two pairs of thick limbs wrapped around the quivering flesh of the woman in the middle, furiously thrusting to completion before disintegrating into separate bodies.
Beast stayed on the sidelines with his arms crossed on his chest, quietly watching over the buffet of flesh that he could sample if only he wished to. And the truth was that he’d love to join the shameless club party the way he used to. He’d go for Spike first. The handsome hangaround had a thing for bikers and never missed an opportunity for the dick of a patch, always there to open his legs at parties, the elegant suit he wore to work forgotten in his Portland home.
If Beast could have his way, he’d stuff his cock into that wide-open mouth and watch a dark flush spread down Spike’s face and spill over his chest. And the worst thing was that were he to say this out loud, Spike would already be kneeling in front of him, ready for the taking. Beast was positive the guy had already crossed all the other members of Kings of Hell MC off his bucket list, and there was no end to the suggestive glances thrown Beast’s way. But Beast would not be a freakshow, or a pity fuck, or yet another patch in Spike’s collection of sexual partners.
He would not be someone’s shortcut into prospecting either.
Beast doubted any of the hangarounds would ever want him anywhere near them unless out of morbid curiosity or to gain favors. And Beast was not about to be someone’s sugar daddy, all the while wondering if they were even attracted to him. No. This was better. Watching would do.
While he was looking away, King, Beast’s father, Martina, and the male hangaround all finished. She slid off the third wheel’s lap and stumbled into King’s arms, sharing yet another kiss with him. She pulled down her skirt and walked back into the light with her hand resting against the wall for support, looking dizzy, though whether it was from the double-teaming or having too much liquor—Beast didn’t know. She waved at him and stumbled right after, thankfully grabbing the nearest chair for support instead of rolling onto the collection of bottles and glasses on the dirty coffee table.
A heavy hand landed on Beast’s skin so abruptly he barely kept himself from wincing as the mangled nerves of his scarred shoulder cried out in alarm. He knew who it was before his father even spoke.
King’s fly was still open, which made Beast immediately look up into the handsome face that always reminded him of his own long-lost good looks. He used to be a mirror image of his father. Too bad good genes stood no chance against fire. Looking into King’s masculine, ageless features was a daily reminder of what could have been if Beast hadn’t been disfigured in an accident twelve years ago.
His old man on the other hand could easily be one of those hot fifty-somethings Hollywood seemed so fond of. His hair and beard still a golden shade of blond, lips pink and plump as a young man’s, and his body buzzed with vitality despite all the violence, alcohol, and sleepless nights it’d been subjected to all of King’s life.
“Got laid yet?” King asked, presenting Beast with two rows of perfectly white teeth. “I am gonna ask you every day until it happens,” he said, digging his fingers into Beast’s aching flesh until he struggled not to flinch from the warning sensations his damaged nerves were sending his brain.
But Beast couldn’t show weakness, not this long after the accident that left his body a minefield of pain—yet another reason why casually fucking someone during a party seemed more alarming than exciting. What if they touched Beast too firmly and made him cry out? What if they started talking about the president’s son being a weakling who squeals in pain when he’s being touched? The club was the only family Beast had. His only reason to be. And he could not put his position here in danger, because King would not hold him up, were he to fall.
“Just relaxing,” Beast said in the end, cooling his neck with the empty bottle.
King’s mouth stretched into a wider smile, and he slapped Beast’s back. “Only your dick’s relaxed, am I right?”
Beast forced himself to smile, and his gaze trailed over the cluster of sofas and chairs the party spun around. At the beginning of this evening, Beast’s closest friend, Knight, and his girlfriend Jordan had seemed back to normal, but the mood must have deteriorated throughout the last few minutes, because they now sat turning away from one another and alternated hissing over their shoulders.
Sometimes, Beast considered dipping his toe into finding a regular partner—if there was a man interested in him enough—because then he could actually teach a guy how to touch him and not have to do it over and over again every time, like he would have to with every new casual lover. People didn’t want to put effort into a heavily tattooed man with burns and a shady life when there were so many easy lays to be had at the click of a button. And then Beast thought of Knight and Jordan’s relationship and shuddered, immediately losing interest in any kind of romance. Being with someone would only bring him more trouble and annoyance than remaining celibate ever could.
King groaned. “Are you in one of your moods again?”
“My moods?” Beast asked, as if he didn’t know what his father meant. King was the kind of guy who believed not smiling all the time made you sulky. And Beast was just fine. He felt completely normal. Watching couples who actually had a romantic and sexual connection had only hurt him in the first few months after he realized he wasn’t ever going to have that again. He was thick-skinned now, and he had the scars to prove it.
King raised his hands in mock-defeat and laughed. “Okay, okay. At least get yourself another beer.”
Beast squeezed his hand around the bottle, stopping only when he realized that cuts were the last thing he needed in his collection of imperfections.
With the music so loud they all needed to shout in order to hear each other, Beast hadn’t noticed a fight starting on the other side of the vast room, but two men shoving each other eventually caught his attention and pulled him away from King. One was their VP, Davy, the other—Gyro, a newcomer who got invited by one of the girls. Barely anyone noticed what was going on yet, with the band playing almost too loudly, but Beast was on it, rushing through the middle of the crowd of people engaged in a mating dance that would soon move to the sofas or to the bedrooms nearby.
“The fuck is this, anyway?” Gyro yelled and pushed at Davy so hard, Davy’s favorite racoon hat fell off. Things were about to get ugly.
Davy’s eyes opened wide in fury. “You don’t come to an orgy and expect to only be covered in pussy. A guy stroked your shoulder! Get over yourself, motherfucker!”
Not this again. Beast wasn’t in charge of vetting new people, but at times like these, he wished he were. That he could handle it all himself if some of his brothers lacked the sense of responsibility required for the job and allowed some homophobic trash in the clubhouse. At least this fight would give him something to do instead of sulking that he hadn’t gotten any action for so long.
The music stopped. First the guitar and base, with the drums going strong in the silence for another two seconds before the guy realized things were heating up beyond the stage. Gyro’s voice was loud and clear in the void left behind by the lack of heavy metal.
“You call yourself a biker club? You’re all a bunch of dick-loving pussies,” he growled and tossed a bottle at the wall, his intoxicated body swaying to regain balance following the rapid movement. The bottle broke into a million pieces, but the sound of shattered glass drowned in the onslaught of shouting and noise as the bikers turned their attention to the insults thrown at them.
Joker pushed a girl off his lap and stood up, jumping over the backseat of the leather sofa, nimble like an acrobat in his bright green shirt that surely hid a collection of weapons that could be used on the offender who’d come here to break club rules.
“We’re outlaws. We do what the fuck we want! You have a problem with me fucking a guy when I feel like it? Maybe my dick should go into your ass then and show you what it’s like, huh? Wanna be converted?” Joker hissed, pushing back his bright, spiky hair that had gotten slightly tousled throughout the party.
Gyro’s eyes went wide, and before Beast could get to him, the fucker pulled out a gun. A small thing, one of those women were encouraged to carry in their handbags, but no matter how small the firearm, it could do a lot of damage. “You better stay the fuck away!”
The atmosphere got dense as cooling tar. Hangarounds scattered, shrieking in fear as they hid behind furniture or fled the room, some without their clothes on. The sheer sense of panic was sour in the air, and Beast’s gums itched for violence.
He ducked and moved behind the sofas, intent on approaching the fucker from the back. The cigarette butts and dirt littering the floor were disgusting against his fingertips, but he progressed toward the enemy as quickly and silently as possible, his head pulsing harder. The longer he took to disarm the fucker, the more dangerous the situation would get. Beast couldn’t have that. Not in his home.
“Come on now, don’t be an idiot,” said Rev, their sergeant-at-arms in a calm, steady voice. His reliable personality was one of the reasons why he played the club lawman, and maybe he would provide enough distraction for Beast to attack the piece of trash from the back.
“Me? You guys are fucking laughable. You don’t even carry your firearms on you?” Gyro hissed with a slur to his voice, and Beast clenched his teeth. At this point during a party, all the club members were too drunk to take out an armed enemy without it being a risk to everyone else, but if Rev kept up the negotiations, the situation could still be diffused. No one needed a dead civilian buried on club grounds, just because he’d had too much speed and considered himself untouchable.
Knight must have noticed what Beast was doing, because after their eyes met for a split second, Knight casually pushed back his long hair and stepped closer to Gyro. Inevitably, Gyro turned the gun at him, but at least it drew attention away from Beast.
“How many bullets do you have in that tiny gun of yours, asshole? How many people can you shoot before someone bashes your brains in?” Knight asked in a low voice.
Not exactly the approach Beast would take when talking to an armed man who was either drunk or on drugs, but it would do as distraction. The moment the fucker opened his mouth, all his attention on Knight, Beast leapt at his legs and cut him down like a tree.
Gyro let out a high-pitched yelp, but as soon as he hit the floor, the gun went off, followed by a rumble.
Beast twisted Gyro’s hand to make him let go of the firearm, then delivered a powerful punch by slamming his elbow into the twisted face. Plaster-smelling dust unexpectedly blew into his face, and the room exploded with loud cries. Beast’s head shot up, and in the pale, powdery cloud he saw a man struggling against a large block lying among scattered pieces of rubble. The subdued light was barely enough to illuminate the ceiling, but with his heart beating furiously Beast noticed a large dent in the sculpted decoration above—the source of the debris that rained to the floor in chunks rather than tiny pieces.
Lizzy, the band’s frontman, jumped off the stage, screaming for someone to call an ambulance for his father, but barely anyone listened in the commotion. More people were fleeing the room now that they weren’t at risk of taking a bullet, and Beast was left calculating if they should all evacuate.
Gyro squirmed under him, trying to free himself out of Beast’s grip. “I’m sorry!” he screamed, now sounding not only regretful but frightened for his life. Too late for that.
Rev, was by Davy’s side, lifting the pieces of wood and brick off alongside Lizzy, Knight, and Joker. “I told you this place isn’t safe! We either actually invest and renovate, or we have to move!” he growled, tossing a large chunk of debris so hard it hit the nearest wall and fell with a dull thud.
Only seconds later Beast realized it was King Rev was arguing with. “It’s only stops being safe when someone shoots at the ceiling, for fuck’s sake!”
“And what, a chunk of the ceiling would fall off in a normal building? Get a cold shower,” hissed Rev, straining his muscles as he and Knight lifted the large piece off Davy, who screamed out as if someone was pulling his nails one by one. Lizzy, who tried to help his father get out from under the heavy slab of brick, was so pale Beast feared he’d faint at any moment.
Pushing Gyro firmer against the ground to keep him still, Beast looked at them, still confused by the choking dust and chaos around him. “What happened?”
King looked to him with a scowl. “The bullet dislodged something in the ceiling—”
Rev butted in with a snarl, spreading his thick arms away from the naked, tattooed chest. “The ceiling is falling apart. Look at this, Davy’s leg is fucked!”
And to make matters worse, only now Beast realized a loud, ferocious barking was resonating from the corridor where Hound, his dog, had been locked away for the night.
“I’ll just be on my way! I didn’t mean to shoot! I forgot I even had it on me,” Gyro kept squealing like a piglet that knew its time for slaughter had come.
Martina was already speaking to the emergency services on the phone, but due to the drunken slur in her voice she had to repeat herself and got more frustrated by the second. Davy’s face, twisted in pain, and red behind the white beard, dominated Beast’s thoughts. Davy was like an uncle to him. It was him who’d taught Beast survival skills and the enjoyment of camping out in nature. And now he was down because of an idiot who did not respect the rules of his hosts.
Beast grabbed the fallen gun and pulled up Gyro with a single upward tug. The fucker’s confidence melted away, replaced by a fear so intense he was shuddering and barely able to stand upright. To think that someone this pathetic was the source of Davy’s pain was an insult on its own. Beast’s eyes met King’s. Wordless understanding passed between them, and King nodded, giving Beast permission to deal with Gyro as he saw fit.
“Prospect,” yelled Beast, already forcing Gyro away from the circle of people formed around the wounded club member. “Who’s the pussy now?” Beast hissed into the man’s ear when he noticed tears streaming down the guy’s face.
Jake, their prospect, was already on Beast’s toes, following him like Hound did on their walks.
“What do you need me to do?” Jake asked, his blue eyes wide, the young, still boyish face flushed. He used to play football in high school, and he now looked as excited as if he scored a touchdown.
“Come with me,” Beast said and pulled back Gyro’s arms, forcing the bastard to walk in a bent-over position. His heart was breaking for Davy. Beast of all people knew the value of good health, and he hated thinking of all the things their VP would have to go through when he was so close to retiring.
Jake ran ahead and opened the double doors leading to private quarters where only club members were allowed. The light went on, blinking in yet another testament to the building’s deteriorating state. It was likely the dampness that caused constant problems with electricity, but the falling ceiling was the last straw. Gyro was guilty of pulling out a gun in their clubhouse, on a senior club member at that, but consequences wouldn’t have been so dire if this building wasn’t slowly turning into a death trap. Beast had been suggesting a change for a while now, but after tonight, everyone would finally see how urgently they needed to either renovate the old building or move.
As they approached the room where Hound had been locked for the time of the party, the barking grew louder, drilling into the anxiety centers in Beast’s brain. It was likely Hound sensed the chaos and was frightened of all the noise, but he still needed to check up on his dog.
“Prospect, the cellar,” he said, easily subduing their prisoner, who didn’t even attempt to twist away, shuddering like a frightened rabbit. It was too late for apologies or mercy.
Jake gave the man a long look full of pity. He needed to get over that if he wanted to become a patched member one day. The way to the cellar was a maze through disused rooms where rubble and old furniture lay covered in dust. Jake had to pull away a medical cabinet on wheels to access the hidden door.
“Please, I don’t swing that way. I mean— no offense! I was too drunk!”
Looked like he was sober now. Good.
Beast pushed the fucker forward, sending him into a tumble down the old stairs. The sound of the body hitting steps and finally the floor farther down did nothing to relieve Beast’s anger. Nothing could make this better. “You were a guest here. We can’t tolerate this. You don’t get to hurt our VP and walk away,” he said, switching on the single light bulb, which illuminated the small empty space that smelled of mold and rat droppings. He was down in the cellar within three long steps.
Gyro gave Beast a nervous smile as he tried to pick himself up from the floor, only for Beast’s boot to help him down. “I— I could swing that way if it… helps,” he finished in a trembly whisper.
Beast sneered, mildly disgusted. “No,” he said and grabbed Gyro’s collar, pulling him all the way up. A quick punch sent Gyro stumbling to the floor with a shocked yelp, but Beast was not done. Over and over, he made the fucker stand, and no matter how Gyro crawled away or flinched, Beast’s fists did their duty, slowly turning Gyro’s face into bloodied tenderized meat. Jake watched on, completely silent as Beast kneeled next to Gyro, who stayed down after the last punch, seemingly unable to pick himself up anymore.
Blood ran fast through Beast’s veins, and even looking straight into the eyes visible through swollen slits he felt no remorse. Gyro should be happy he would be leaving the clubhouse alive. But that did not mean he could leave Davy a cripple and walk out of this with just flesh wounds. Before Gyro could react, Beast pulled on his right hand, the same that sent the bullet into the ceiling, and rested his forearm against the edge of a cement block that had been here since forever. Beast pushed down using the block as leverage, and the bone broke with a sickening creak. Gyro gave a frantic scream, only to still, passed out on the bare floor.
The moment silence enveloped the room, Hound’s barking seemed to reach even here. Beast took a deep breath and finally looked back at Jake who stood straight, like a soldier awaiting orders.
“Take care of this. Drive him to town and leave him close to the hospital. Make sure you’re not on camera. And then find out for me who vetted this fuck.”
There was some kind of ‘yes, sir’ from the prospect, but Beast didn’t wait to acknowledge it and climbed the stairs.
Hound’s alarmed growling was coming his way, along with whines, when he reached the right door and opened it, only to have the massive Rottweiler’s body rush past him and into the corridor. Beast expected his pet to rush toward the room where the accident happened just minutes ago but Hound looked back at Beast, as if signalling he wanted to be followed, and rushed the other way, stirring the worst of feelings in Beast.
Was there an intruder somewhere in the house? With the sheer size of the former asylum that has served as the Kings of Hell Clubhouse for the last fifteen years, it was easy to overlook things happening in the disused parts of the property. They once had a bunch of teenagers who came over wanting to spy on the orgy. That thankfully didn’t end in blood, and out of the whole mess they got Jake to join their ranks.
Beast wondered whether he shouldn’t go back to the armory and get himself a gun but ultimately decided against it. There would be police and emergency services coming for Davy, and he didn’t want to run around with a firearm, no matter how good their relationship with the local police was.
Hound moved as if he were following a clear trail, but Beast couldn’t smell anything apart from dust and dampness. They were leaving behind the shouting and even the sound of the ambulance approaching, and eventually entered a corridor so disused it had a thick layer of dust on the floor. Now even Beast could see faint footprints in the dust, and next to them, dark droplets that could be blood.
Hound smelled the traces, looked back and broke into a run, which had Beast following him with the worst of expectations as to what he would eventually find. His heart beat faster as they ran down the dark hallway.
The building was a labyrinth, and this far away from where they all lived and worked, it wasn’t even wired anymore, so he breathed in the smell of mildew and followed Hound through the darkness in hope he would not stumble.
Windows in the doorless rooms on both sides of the corridor were the only source of light, now delivering a faint red and blue glow of the approaching ambulance. For all Beast knew, this could have been a gothic castle, something out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with bloodthirsty monsters waiting for their next victim in one of the endless hallways, and yet he only ran faster, listening to the steady tap of Hound’s paws.
Without any hesitation whatsoever, Hound rushed inside one of the rooms and gave a growl so vicious something inside Beast mourned his decision not to take a gun with him. But no one shot at him when Hound let out a single bark. Beast pushed past the empty doorway, jumping over a fallen chair, only to see someone hiding in the shadows.
Judging by the long, wavy hair and small stature, Beast at first thought it was a woman, but then the person spoke with a distinctly male voice.
“I… I’m not certain where I am.” The stranger took half a step out of the shadow, and into the flashing light coming from outside. His accent was distinctly foreign. French maybe?
Beast took him in with a scowl. Blood covered the stranger’s face, hair, dripped from his chin, from the tips of his trembling fingers, and stained the outfit that looked as if he’d stolen it from the set of a costume drama. Knee-high boots, fitted pants, a vest worn under a tailcoat.
“What the fuck are you doing on our property, boy?” hissed Beast, watching the soft features of a very young man. “Whose blood is this?” he asked, still cautious. In his experience, a non-threatening presence could hide an adept fighter, so he was not taking any chances as he joined Hound in front of the stranger, who was so short in comparison to Beast’s own six foot five form that his red-stained head only reached Beast’s pecs.
The stranger backed away into the corner, whimpering in fear the moment Hound growled at him again and lowered his head, but Beast wasn’t having any of it and grabbed the boy’s arm. “Is the blood yours then? Someone attacked you? Where?” he asked, not hesitating to pat the intruder down, to make sure there were no weapons hiding under the fancy coat.
The boy tried to weasel out of his grip, but he didn’t seem adept at using force. “N-no. I don’t think it’s mine. I don’t know. Is this hell?”
Beast groaned, staring at the silly-looking young man, whose white shirt was completely drenched in red. Someone must have died to produce this much blood.
“You will explain yourself to King.”