I Am No Prey by Amal Clare May 25, 2021

10-Not in Denial

I clumsily wrapped my arms around his throat. It was a sloppy attempt, and something I only saw before on movies and never attempted it myself but I had the element of surprise. He shouted in surprise and gripped my arms, trying to pry my arms off. I grabbed on tighter until I was choking him. 

Was blocking his windpipe going to knock him unconscious or was it going to kill him? Should I press harder or was I pressing too hard? I really didn't want to kill him. I was too worried and trying not to fall off that I didn't notice when someone came and literally ripped me off him. 

"What the hell are you doing?" 

I turned around and found Everard glaring at me, his hand fisted in the back of my shirt. I met his blue-green gaze and glared right back. 

"I will not be a lab rat!" I seethed. 

His expression changed from one to anger to confusion. "Is that what you thought?" 

I heard a chuckle and a cough and turned to find the person I was choking earlier rubbing his neck. 

"I'll definitely knock next time."

His yellow-green wings and black hair seemed familiar. I wondered where I saw him before. When he met my gaze and smirked I remembered that he was one of the soldiers present when I first met the Commander. I directed my glower at him too, my anger a live thing pulsing under my veins that I wouldn't be surprised if the fire decided to show now, bursting from my skin like a living thing. 

"The idea of me as an experiment strikes you as funny?" 

"Turning you into an experiment would be a waste," he answered. 

He dared? The shadows in the room started to pulse and writhe. Everard noticed and told me to calm down. 

At my heightened anger, his smirk faded. "I didn't mean a waste in that sense," he sputtered, "I meant that it would be a waste of other things. Seeing as you seem very capable of other things." 

His answer seemed genuine, but I still smiled when one of the shadows wrapped around his ankle. He visibly paled before they disappeared once again. Ignoring my grin of amusement, he moved to the cart and pulled the cloth away. Instead of finding syringes and needles as I expected, there was coffee with a few dishes of food. I wouldn't let them know that I was extremely grateful, even if that took away my excuse for looking around under the pretense of looking for food. My stomach growled and I refrained from glaring down. The traitor. 

I glared at the newcomer. "What's to prevent him from telling the Commander about me?"

He grinned and placed a hand on his heart as if my words wounded him. I ignored him and looked at Everard expectantly. 

"I trust him," he answered. "Unlike everyone else, he doesn't look for ways to replace me." 

I wasn't convinced, but I kept my mouth shut. 

"Go to the room three doors left of here when you're done," Everard said before leaving. 

"What for?" 

He just grinned in response. A beat later and the other one followed. 

I all but wolfed the food down and drowned the taste with the coffee. It definitely tasted better than my home- brewed coffee. When I was done, I followed Everard's instruction and went to the room. It was a mini gym and I groaned. If he was trying to turn me into a soldier then this was going to take a long time. I would do everything possible to make it take even longer. 

I squinted at Everard leaning against the wall. I was still sore from the morning run-which I seriously hoped he never made me do again-and just looking at the weights and mats made my body scream in agony. 

"Are you trying to kill me?" 

He tilted his head to the side. "And deprive myself of your company? Why would I do that, sweetheart?" He grinned. "Today's your first lesson on flying." 

I had to admit that I was wanting to learn, but I narrowed my eyes at him further. 

"Why are you teaching me to fly? What's to guarantee I won't-" 

"Jump out the window and fly away?" 

I nodded. 

"You could try," was all he said. 

He still didn't explain why he was bothering to teach me, instead he moved closer. I didn't see how I was going to learn to fly in a gym. 

"First lesson, never let your wings droop to the floor." 

"Why?" 

"It's like dragging your feet on the floor or walking weird. You just don't do it." 

I struggled to lift my wings from the floor. I could open them and close them easily, even flap them, but lifting them? That seemed to require every muscle in my abdomen and back to work. I probably managed to lift them an inch of the ground. I thought I knew why I was in the gym now. I told him as much. 

He nodded. "To fly properly, you need to use your abdomen and a few muscles in your back as well." Gee, I didn't figure that out.

He started pointing at muscles over my abdomen and back that would help me move my wings more easily. I ignored how my body reacted to his touch.

And then it started. A hundred sit ups and a bunch of other exercises I didn't know the names to and didn't want to. Later and I wanted to collapse in bed and never get back up. I was sore. Everywhere. 

Everard laughed at my current state and I wanted to punch him, hard. I probably looked like a fish out of water with my face flushed and red and my hair a wild mess, sticking to my forehead and neck.

"You're done for today. Tomorrow you're doing the same thing again." He paused, and I hoped he didn't mean that I also had to do the running. "Including the running," he finished as if he could read my thoughts. 

No such thing as luck. I sighed and looked at the clock hanging on the wall. It was only one thirty. What was I going to do for the rest of the day? Back home, that was a question I never asked myself. 

He got up and started leaving. Seriously? He was going to leave me here with nothing to do? I really didn't cope well with boredom. 

"Where are you going?" 

He quirked a brow. "As much as I enjoy your company, sweetheart, being the second, I do have things to do." 

"Can I come?" 

"No." 

I sighed. "What am I supposed to do then? Stay holed in the room and die of boredom?" 

"Yes, though I would really prefer if you didn't do the latter." 

Goodness, who said 'latter' anymore, aloud? 

"Well I won't do either." 

"It's either that or I lock you in there, and I don't want to do that." 

I rolled my eyes. "Attempt to lock me up and I'll learn how to fly today because I'll jump out the window." 

He bristled and it was clear that the back and forth arguing was wasting his time and he didn't like it. 

"Just do what you're told until I'm done." 

Do what I was told? As if he controlled me? "I never do what I'm told and if you think I'm going to take orders from you and sit like a puppy then you have another thing coming." 

Technically, I did listen when he told me to run the laps and do the strenuous exercises right now, but only because they benefitted me and I didn't want to get pushed off a building. 

He glowered at me, eyes narrowed into slits and nostrils slightly flared. That was probably a sign that I should keep my mouth shut and agree with him. I was going to do no such thing. 

"I will follow you around and make a spectacle of myself," I warned, and walked out of the room to the elevator, deliberately dragging my wings on the floor and not even trying to lift them. 

If anything, that only made him more furious. I saw him struggle to maintain his temper, fists clenching and unclenching. It was one hundred percent reasonable for me to pester him about having nothing to do. 

"What would you usually do, since you clearly can't stay put?" he ground out. 

"Usually, I would be at my math period right now, but I don't think that's an option in a military base, is it?" 

He looked guilty at that. Score one for Cerise. 

"I like inventing things and reading if that helps," I added. 

He nodded. His anger disappeared and he actually smiled. I didn't like it. Angry Everard was easier to deal with, I knew what to expect. Smiling Everard? Not as much. And it did weird things to my nerves. He left the room, beckoning me to follow. I told my hormones to shut up and followed him. 

He took me to another room on the same level. I stared at the room. It resembled a living room, slightly, but seemed more formal. Stiff. Polished. There was a rug in the middle-persian, I think-with a coffee table in the center, it's surfaces gleaming, and two black sofas around it. In the corner, there was a small, tall table with a single lamp. Unlike the bedroom, bathroom, and gym, this room had a touch to it. Not personal, but pictures were hanging on the walls, they were pictures of sceneries. 

"Why do you have a living room in a military base." 

"Being the second, I live on this floor." 

"But why a living room?" 

"I guess it's supposed to make it feel like home." 

"Does it?" 

He laughed. "Nothing about this place reminds me of home."

He sounded wistful, and his gaze turned distant. I couldn't help but wonder more about him and his life. 

"I'll be right back, sweetheart. Try not to jump out the windows while I'm gone," he said interrupting my thoughts. 

He was gone before I even muttered, "Stop calling me that." 

He came back fifteen minutes later, arms full of bags. Even from here I could smell metal and grease. My hands itched to snatch the bags from his hands and see what he found. I didn't even want to know where he got them. 

He stalked over to the table and I was struck all over again that for someone so tall and muscular he moved as gracefully as a dancer. My gaze shifted to his wings as he set the bags down. With the sunlight filtering through the window, the scales on his purple-black wings gleamed. I wanted to reach over and touch them, to see if the scales were as smooth as they looked, to see if the skin between the bones felt like regular skin over flesh or if it was something else entirely. More than that, I wanted him to untuck them and stretch them to their full width so I could see how big they were. I wondered if it was just wings I was currently obsessing over, or if it was him. 

I tore my gaze away when I noticed that he realized I was staring. Flabbergasted, I moved my attention to the bags he'd placed on the table. 

"I hope you'll like them." 

He scratched the back of his neck and shifted his weight from one foot to the other before scowling and leaning against the wall, arms crossed. So different from the person who was angry minutes ago. He seemed nervous and I almost wanted to laugh. Instead I moved to the side and peered inside the bags. There were books and then there were pieces of metal, wires and other parts that I knew would be useful. 

Right now, he was my captor. The person who kept me trapped in a place with soldiers, kept me away from home and the reason I didn't know if I could ever return there with the wings on my back, wings that I was slowly starting to love and wanted to fly with. 

"I love them," I said anyway. 

He gave a small smile, and if I didn't know any better, I'd say he let out a breath of relief. I wanted to laugh at the thought again. 

"I hope they're enough for the week. After that I won't be as busy and you're going to be doing something else." 

I looked at him, confused. "What do you mean?" 

"I want to find out what else you can do." 

After that he left and I stood, staring at the books and pieces of equipment. I didn't know what was going on and while I was slowly starting to adapt to this place and trust Everard, I wasn't going to stay. He might've not realized it, but he just gave me a means to escape.