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🖤 Seductive Southern Hospitality - Part 1
Building alliances the old-fashioned way
Making a deal with the Drinkers… Was she crazy?
Drake stared into the fire while he nursed a bottle of beer. Darkness was falling and shrouded their wooded retreat in soft inky shadows. Freja sat beside him on the log bench, patiently awaiting his reaction to her proposition.
“Hey, I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I didn’t think you had the best chance of making it happen. People trust you, and they like you. They tend to hate me.”
He shrugged. She wasn’t wrong. The ice queen of the northern pack often rubbed people the wrong way. It was often one of the burdens of leadership.
“Yeah, I know. But them? Really? Are we in such a bad situation that we want to ally with Drinkers now?”
She sighed. “You heard what Michael said. It’s bad. Really bad. We know the desert pack will move against us sooner or later. Those fuckers have no sense of loyalty to our kind. He’s hungry for power and will use whatever he can to seize it—including making an alliance with the Dark Ones. We gotta move now and pick sides, or we’ll be up against the wall all alone later.”
Drake growled and grumbled his reluctant agreement. “Fine, I’ll do it. But I promise you this. If they try anything with me, I’ll kill every last motherfucking one of them. There won’t be a cleanup crew big enough to erase the bloodbath I’ll leave behind.”
She nodded and rubbed his broad back. “I’d expect no less from you, my beast. But I want to stack the odds in your favor. I’ve been doing some research. I think there’s something that will give us an edge over the Drinkers. Hell, it will help with the desert pack, too. It’s experimental, so I don’t know if you want to risk it. But, if it works, you’ll be the most dangerous fucking Were on this planet.”
Drake turned and gave her a twisted grin. “Oh, I like the sound of that. Sign me up!”
She nodded. “Ok, we need to pay a visit to our little surgeon friend. He thinks he’s clever with his secrets. But I know what he’s been up to on that hidden base that isn’t so well hidden from folks like us.”
Drake chugged the last of his beer and belched loudly. “Ok, let’s go before I change my mind.”
Dr. Wilkins pulled into his dark driveway and killed the lights. He sat quietly for a few minutes in his car with his eyes closed. He was so tired, but they were so close. It would change everything. He would change the world—if he could move fast enough and make it happen before he died. These damn clinical trials were taking too long…
He climbed out and slammed the car door behind him, walking up the sidewalk and into his home. A dark and empty house, now that Kathy and the kids were gone. He knew it was all his fault. But maybe she would forgive him once she saw that their sacrifices hadn’t been in vain.
He tossed his keys on the small table near the door and turned for the kitchen. A polite cough in the dark living room made him freeze, turning his innards to ice.
“Hey doc, long night?”
He knew that voice. Turning back to the room, he fumbled for the light switch on the wall and flipped it on. A couple sat on his couch, completely relaxed with smiles on their faces, looking like nothing more than polite neighbors dropping in for an evening drink.
He sighed. “You can’t keep doing this. It’s not polite. What do you want now?”
Freja frowned and squinted at him. “Is that how you greet old friends after everything we’ve done for you? Where would you be without the test subjects we gave you, huh? I suppose we could stop and leave you alone. Come on, Drake.”
They started to rise from the couch. He lifted his hands and motioned for them to stop.
“No, stay. I’m just tired. What do you need? Is someone injured? I can grab my surgical kit.”
She shook her head. “No, nothing like that. Well, not exactly like that. We need some preventative surgery, and it’s kind of a rush job.”
The doctor raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Preventative. Color me intrigued. What kind of preventative surgery would a werewolf require? As far as I’ve seen, you heal in minutes and are almost indestructible.”
“Almost is the operative word. We want to eliminate that ‘almost.’ Drake has volunteered for elective surgery, and before you ask, no, we don’t have our insurance cards with us. I want him armored from the usual lethal attacks. Skull, neck, chest, abdomen, and arterial vulnerabilities in his arms and legs.”
“Armored? I don’t even know understand what you’re suggesting. I don’t have any way to do that.”
Freja gave him a cold smile, then snarled with a quiet rumble in her throat. “Doc, please don’t make the mistake of thinking we’re stupid. That would be a very, very costly error for you. Understood? You think I don’t know what you’ve been doing in that little military lab down the road. There are more of us in more places than you think.”
His heart lurched, and a cold sweat broke out on his forehead. “Y-y-yes. Understood. I’m sorry. What did you have in mind?”
“See? Now we’re friends again. I like that, don’t you? It’s better to be friends.” Freja smiled warmly. “Nanofibrous biomimetic mesh for his neck, stomach, arms, and legs. The injectable fluid for his skull and chest.”
The doctor stared at her. How in the hell did she know about that? “Ummm… well then. I guess you have been doing your research. But that’s very experimental. Phase 1! We’ve only tested it on… animals that didn’t survive.”
Drake stepped forward. “I’m not exactly an animal, doc. Well, I guess I kind of am. But not like any animal you’ve ever operated on. My body can heal and adapt in ways they can’t. You’ve seen that already.”
“Yes, I certainly have. This is a massive risk, though. You know you could die? I can’t promise that your body won’t reject the implants and suffer a catastrophic immune response.”
Drake shrugged. “I’m willing to accept that risk. Just do it.”
The doctor narrowed his eyes. “What assurances do I have that you won’t punish me if this goes wrong?”
Freja laughed. “I won’t punish you, doc. You won’t suffer. I promise you it will be quick and painless.”
Fucking hell… “Wonderful. I always operate best under the cloud of a death threat.”
“Whatever. Let’s go. We do it tonight.”
“Tonight? Are you insane? I can’t go back to the lab tonight. They’ll think something is wrong.”
Freja patted his cheek. “You’re a smart one, doc. You’ll figure something out.”
He closed his eyes, then turned to grab his keys and head back out to his other vehicle—an F-150. Figure something out… Sure. But what other choice did he have?
He drove the truck to the lab entrance with sheet-covered bodies in the back. They stacked two roadkill deer on top of Drake while Freja curled onto the passenger seat floor. The guard glanced under the sheet before dropping it and turning away, gagging and almost throwing up. Using animals for their freakish experiments wasn’t unusual for the lab. He knew that.
The doctor pulled into the parking garage near the loading dock and backed the truck up before turning off the ignition. As he reached for the door, Freja hissed. “Take good care of my man, doc. I’ll give you three hours tops. If he dies, everyone here will die tonight. I promise you that.”
He nodded at her, then slipped out of the truck and moved around to the back to let the tailgate down. The sheets helped block the security camera’s view as he helped Drake climb onto a gurney to wheel him inside. Down the hallway they went—past dark lab windows and closed doors—until they reached one of the small operating rooms.
Closing the door behind them, he pulled the blinds down so no one could look inside. He walked over to the sink to wash up, putting on gloves and a mask before prepping the surgical tray with the required instruments and materials.
He started an IV on Drake and showed him the anesthesia he planned on using. “I’m going to sedate you so you don’t feel any pain. Given where I will be working, I also don’t want you twitching or moving during the procedure. So, this will immobilize you completely, ok?”
Drake grabbed the surgeon’s arm with massive fingers wrapped around the wrist like an iron manacle. "Nah, doc, we won’t be doing that. You don't want me unconscious, trust me. I can control what I am while I'm awake. If you put me asleep, I can't guarantee which one of me will wake up when you start cutting me. Understand?"
The doctor stared at him for a few seconds. “Are you crazy? You can’t tolerate this much pain. It will be like flaying you alive!”
The Were growled. “No anesthesia. It’s non-negotiable.”
The doc shook his head in disbelief, then snorted and nodded. “Fuck, man. Ok. If you want to be tortured, so be it. Just remember, you asked me to do this.”
The surgery was as painful and bloody as he had feared. But Drake simply clenched his jaw and breathed heavily, with an incredibly elevated heart rate, as he made the necessary incisions with a scalpel. He inserted the mesh under his skin and injected the nanofluid under his scalp and the skin of his chest. Perhaps a lifetime of shifting had helped him endure a level of agony no human could ever handle.
An hour later, the procedures were complete. Already the first incisions were stitching together and healing. It was something the doctor never got used to witnessing.
He hesitated, then asked, “I have something else that might help you. It’s also extremely experimental, so much so that your girlfriend didn’t know about it. Another type of nanofluid we’ve been testing to enhance strength. It embeds itself in your muscle fibers to augment them and generate more leverage. What do you think?”
Drake thought about it briefly, then said, “Fuck it, why not. I’m already some sort of cyborg freak now. Might as well see how far I can take it.”
The doctor nodded and injected him, then asked, “Do you grow larger when you change into… you know?” His voice trailed off. He had never witnessed them in their Were forms and had no desire to see it happen. Ever.
Drake nodded. “Yeah, quite a bit larger. Why?”
“Well, when you go home, you should change and let the mesh and fluid adapt to your maximum size. Otherwise, it might tear catastrophically later, and I can’t guarantee that wouldn’t be fatal. If you can control it, transform slowly and let it reflow and stretch.”
“Got it. Nice and slow. Hey, doc, I know you’re helping us, and I appreciate it. I won’t blame you if this doesn’t work out.”
The doc gave him a sad smile. “You’re not the one I’m worried about.”
Drake let out a short barking laugh. “Believe me; I understand that. More than you’d ever know.”
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