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Wild Beast Mate

By´╝ÜMilana Jacks

Chapter One


Dewlyn



You’d think by this day and age, the beasts who took over the Earth after the Great Nuclear War would bring us humans out-of-the-world advanced technology. Like they could come up with some sort of a universal key set for burglars, a shape-changing key that molded to every lock you jabbed it into so that I wouldn’t have to swipe hairpins from random women as I swooped from the sky. Just sayin’.

At midnight, inside the dark office space of a recently built high-rise in the city once called Louisville, I dreamed of a universal key set as I picked a tiny little lock with hairpins I’d gotten from Rey, my sister-in-law, before I ran away from Vice, my beast mate. Before I ran away from him the second time. The first time, after Vice had proclaimed me his mate and not just a pair he’d bought because of my red hair, petite body, and pixie face, I’d knocked him out in his sleep and run. I’d just wanted him to leave me alone. But he hadn’t.

The second time, he caught me when I tried to rescue Rey from drowning. Then he got smart and put me in a cage at night while he slept. But one morning, while Vice showered, my sister-in-law—bless her good heart—gave me her hairpins. I picked the cage’s lock, freeing myself, then took to the skies with her unused horrific-pink bike. For a few days, I huddled inside the shelter I’d set up for me and other runaway pairs. Until we ran out of food, and, again, I needed to get out there and get some.

Luckily, my friend Patty, our house sister, got news from her boyfriend just as I set out to raid fridges and pantries in Beast City. He’d heard of New City, a city on the rise, and located a storage place where the construction workers got their food supplies. That much food? So worth checking out, and so I traveled to New City.

At first, I scouted New City for a temporary home, and once I found one, I scouted the construction company’s building. Now I readied to rob the construction manager’s office of the key to the storage place. However temporary my stay might be, I welcomed the relocation into New City. Vice flew over Beast City, relentless in his pursuit to bring me in and lock me up inside his house. So my mission out here in the middle of Nowhere, Kentucky, afforded me an opportunity to get away from his big hands.

The beige paint on the office walls, the leather furniture and polished metal desk, along with a new carpet decorating the office all stank with that telltale new smell. I pulled the hem of my T-shirt over my nose.

Beyond the wide window behind me, most of New City rested in quiet slumber. On the ground floor, four hundred and twenty feet below my feet, the security guards snored at their posts. Maybe not both of them, but I knew at least one snored away while the other tried to keep his eyes open, alert to the monotony of the empty building on a monitor before him.

Since escaping Vice, I’d observed many guards, detailed many buildings back in Beast City. When I first left Vice, and without a roof over my head, I’d survived by scavenging the Dumpsters and sleeping inside empty homes. Then I found an abandoned basement right under a bakery and spent a few weeks hiding in there, coming up only long enough to hoard some food. One day, I met Patty, another runaway, who knew her shit around the kitchen. Together we founded the very first and only Shelter from the Beasts. The shelter hid paired woman who’d refused pairings, and we’d since grown to eighteen women. And all those mouths needed to eat.

My stomach growled.

It might as well be a beast in its own right, I was so hungry. I jabbed the pin, trying to force the lock open. The pin snapped. I flicked the broken piece. I popped my knuckles and adjusted my backpack, then crouched, eye level with the desk drawer where I hoped I’d find the storage key. If the key wasn’t in the drawer, the next option was the safe inside the wall. If it was in there, I’d need to blow the safe door. When it exploded, the guards would figure out someone up here was robbin’ their asses, so I’d need to drug them before blowing shit up. I really hoped the manager hadn’t felt the need to hide the key.

I jabbed a pair of new hairpins inside the small lock, then fiddled with the metal until a click sounded in the silent room. Sweat accumulated on my forehead, and I dabbed it on my sleeve, then peeked inside the drawer. Winner winner chicken dinna! Literally. I hadn’t had a chicken in like…months, ever since I’d escaped Vice for the first time.

The key was a rectangular plastic card half the size of my palm. It was smooth and transparent, but much thicker than the keys beasts used in the city. It looked outdated. I pocketed it, then peeked back inside the drawer. Oh, a protein bar! I unwrapped it. Sitting down cross-legged, I bit into the delicious morsel. Mmmm, orange flakes and nuts coated in chocolate.

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