The Nature of the Beast
Chapter Two: Biological Imperative
“We can’t find her, sir. We think she may have gone into the woods; the men found signs of a struggle, but we can’t be sure it was her.” The commander strode over to the window and stared into the darkness outside.
“It was her.”
“But sir, we don’t know that-”
“It was her; I don’t need any proof. He’s got her.” He turned to face the soldiers. “Find her. Fast, and get her away from him before he starts talking. If we don’t get her back we’re going to have one hell of a situation on our hands. I don’t have to tell you how serious this is; do whatever you have to, but get her back here. Any means necessary.”
“Now get the hell out of here.”
He came back in to find her struggling with the chains again and smiled.
“Don’t bother, I had those made special. I haven’t been able to break them so I know you won’t.” She glared at him.
“I’m very strong, you know.”
“I know.” He walked over to a table a few feet from the bed. “I’m stronger.” There was something on the table, but he was blocking her view and she couldn’t tell what it was. She had a horrible vision involving instruments of torture and fear coursed through her body but then he was talking, “You know what I find interesting?” He glanced at her, but she remained silent. “I find it interesting that you had all this,” he paused to pick up the two guns he’d taken off her before gesturing towards the knives lying on the table, “and yet you never even tried to use them.” He could tell by the shocked look on her face that the thought hadn’t even crossed her mind. “Didn’t they give you any weapons training?”
“Of course! I’ve trained on every weapon there is, and I’m very good. I just, when I saw you I was…”
“Paralyzed with fear?” He laughed bitterly. “That’s their doing; didn’t want their precious creation wandering too close to the enemy, but they shouldn’t have instilled such a deep-seated fear. Fear of that kind, to that extent only leaves you vulnerable. They should have throttled back a little on your programming.”
“I’m not a machine; I haven’t been programmed!”
“Oh, excuse me! I meant your ‘conditioning’,” he drawled sarcastically.
“You say that like there’s no difference, but there is. Programming implies I have no will of my own, but my conditioning just prepares me for what I might have to face in the future. It doesn’t direct my actions.”
“Oh, really? You’ve never felt like you’re not in control? Hasn’t there ever been something you really wanted to do, but something inside wouldn’t let you?” He pulled a chair over beside the bed and dropped into it. He knew he was right when she wouldn’t meet his eyes. “They’ve been controlling you. They knew they could never hold you against your will, so they made you unquestioningly obedient. Only now…not so much.” She looked confused.
“I don’t understand. What changed? I mean, I took out ten men to get off base, and I disobeyed a direct order. If I was…programmed to obey how could I do that?” He leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees.
“Well, either you overcame it on your own or somebody altered the routine so that your conditioning doesn’t completely work anymore. Could be a little bit of both.” She was thoughtful for a moment and then said,
“A couple weeks ago I started having these…thoughts. I began to resent all their orders, I felt…caged, like I needed to escape; it must’ve happened around then. But I don’t know who could’ve…” she broke off and looked at him. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”
“Maybe you’re starting to trust me.”
“Never! I know all about you; you are an animal.” His face darkened, his eyes filled with anger.
“If I’m this monster they’ve always told you I am then why are you alive?” He stood up and kicked the chair aside. “Why didn’t I kill you in the woods? I’ve had plenty of time while we’ve been here, but you still seem to be intact. I haven’t ripped out you’re heart or anything. How do you explain that if I’m such an animal?” She met his gaze defiantly, her fear of him somewhat suppressed.
“I assume you need me for something. I’m sure you won’t hesitate to kill me once I’ve served my purpose, but you might as well get on with it because I’ll never help you.”
“You just can’t see past the lies they’ve shoved down your throat all your life, can you? You can’t even open your mind enough to see that I’m not here to hurt you. Don’t you understand yet?”
“Understand? All I need to understand is that you hunted and killed my sister for sport! You tore her apart simply because you could, because you thought it was fun. You expect me to help you? I wouldn’t spit on you if you were burning to death!”
“You don’t get it, do you? I didn’t kill her; they did!”
“You’re lying!” she whispered, stricken.
“They killed her because she discovered the truth. I’m trying to keep the same thing from happening to you. That’s why I brought you here. You’ve been working for the bad guys, princess; you were created to do their dirty work.”
“You are so full of it! Do you actually think I’m going to believe this, this filth? I’m supposed to trust you while I’m a prisoner here, chained to the bed?” She demanded scornfully with an imperious lift of her brow. “I was created by the military, the good guys, to stop men like you. Men who kill without compunction and plot to destroy everything that is good in the world.” She would have gone on, but she was interrupted by his laughter. He shook his head in amazement.
“Oh, darlin’, you really are deluded!”
“I am not!”
“That little speech you just gave me? Pure propaganda. Now I know they’ve been programming you.” He crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall. “Tell me, how many times have you heard that little speech? How many times have you given it?” He could see awareness spread across her face, but she quickly masked it and turned away. She was still trying to hide from him.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” He sat beside her and forced her to look at him.
“You’ll soon find that I know a great deal about you and your purpose in this world. More than you’ve ever been told, more than they would ever allow you to find out. You would be wise to listen and learn; there will soon come a time when you will need to use all your abilities to survive. I’d hate to see you die just because you prefer to bury your head in the sand rather than admit the truth. That would cause me great sadness.” Her lips parted in a swift intake of breath as he brushed his fingertip over her mouth. He rose abruptly and went in the other room, leaving Riana unsettled and confused as she watched him go.
He didn’t speak to her when he came back. She watched him move around the room, but she couldn’t tell what he was doing so she took the opportunity to study him. He had taken off his black sweater so that all he wore was a tight, white undershirt. He had to be well over six feet tall; his shoulders looked about three feet wide and tapered down to narrow hips and a perfect behind. His arms rippled with muscle as did the rest of his body, and she had to admit, from a purely aesthetic point of view, that he was very impressive.
“What’s your name?” she asked curiously. He turned to look at her in surprise.
“Why do you care?” She sighed in frustration at his stubbornness.
“If I’m going to hate you I might as well know your name, right?” He smiled slightly.
“Luke.” He turned back to what he’d been doing and she realized that he was ironing. She was unable to suppress the urge to giggle and he threw her a glance over his shoulder.
“My name amuses you?”
“No,” she denied, her eyes sparkling in amusement. “You’re ironing. You’re alone in a house in the middle of the woods with a girl chained to your bed, and you’re ironing.” He raised an eyebrow.
“What should I be doing?” he asked sardonically setting down the iron and coming to stand beside her. “Would you prefer that I torture you? I do have the necessary experience if you would find that behavior more appropriate.” She sobered immediately and he crouched down to look her in the eye. “Or perhaps you think I should join you on the bed; have my way with you? Would that be more to your liking?” Her mouth went dry at the image his words had conjured. She should be repulsed and disgusted, but somehow those emotions didn’t come and she stared at him wide-eyed and breathless. She had the feeling that he knew what she was thinking when a smile spread slowly across his face and he reached out to stroke her cheek. “Is that what you want, sweet Riana?”
“No,” she denied vehemently as she jerked away from his touch in mortification. “You’re disgusting!” He shook his head in disappointment as the smile slowly faded.
“That’s not how you really feel. It’s too bad that you can’t be honest with yourself, but I suppose it’s for the best.” He stood and went back to his ironing and she closed her eyes, disgusted with herself. She didn’t want to deal with the feelings he stirred in her; he was her enemy, a ruthless killer holding her against her will, and yet even in her dreams she was drawn to him.
Why didn’t she hate him? She was afraid of him, had felt great rage towards him, but there was no hate. She should hate him; it should be easy, but it wasn’t. She turned her head and watched him again, her eyes trailing over his body. Everything about him drew her, the way he moved, the way he spoke to her, his touch… She closed her eyes again; she was definitely sick. Maybe there’s a flaw in my programming, she thought bitterly, suppressing a hysterical giggle.
“There’s nothing wrong with you.” She jumped and her eyes snapped open to meet his.
“Can you read my damn mind? Cause it might have been nice to know that earlier.” He laughed.
“I can’t read your mind, but I can read you.” He dropped into the chair beside the bed. “You’re worried about how I make you feel, but you needn’t be. It’s only natural.”
“You’re very sure of yourself.”
“Yes, I am, but that’s not what I meant. It’s nature. Animals mate the same way; the female of the species looks for a strong male who can hunt and provide for the family. It’s a biological imperative.” She let out a derisive snort.
“First of all, I don’t exactly see you as a family man. Hunting, definitely; babies, no. Second, there will not be any of the, uh, the…mating!” He smiled at her teasingly.
“No, I can see you’re not ready yet.”
“Ever. I won’t be ready ever!” His mocking laughter filled the room and seemed to linger even after he had left. He was a smug bastard, but he wouldn’t be laughing when she escaped. She had to get out of there before she did something foolish.
He watched as the soldiers filled the woods and began their futile search. He had known they would come, but they might as well have stayed home. No one had ever found his place, and they had been searching for years. Hell, they didn’t even see him and he was right in the midst of them; they didn’t have a hope in hell of finding their precious creation. He smiled as he thought about the girl; he’d known she was brave, but the attitude had caught him by surprise. He wondered how she’d managed to develop it while under the watchful eyes of those intent on controlling her. He affected her; he’d been pleasantly surprised at that. Soon she would be his as he’d planned for so long and they would fight side by side the way he had always hoped they would. He cast one last look in the soldiers’ direction before he backed off to return home. They could search all they liked. She was his; he’d never let them take her from him.
“Any sign of her?”
“No, sir. If he’s got her he’s covered his tracks well. We can’t pick up anything.” The commander turned to look out the window; he’d been afraid this would happen.
“I better go tell Weiss. He’s been riding my ass since she escaped.”
“Yes, sir. Pardon me, sir, but what will happen now?”
“They’ll bring in their trackers and keep searching.”
“And when they find her, sir?”
“They’ll kill her.”
“Then I hope they don’t find her, sir.” The commander glanced back over his shoulder. He figured most of the men would agree; they all liked Riana.
“I appreciate your feelings son, but it would be unwise to repeat that sentiment outside this room.”
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”
“You might want to pass that along; I’d hate to lose any of my men.” The boy’s eyes widened as he caught the commander’s meaning.
While Luke was gone, Riana worked on freeing herself. He had been right about the chains; they were unbreakable, but she had found a weak spot in what they were hooked to. She worked on it until he returned, and then pretended that she was sleeping. He watched her for a moment and she grew nervous that he wasn’t fooled by her pretense, but then he went in the other room and shut the door. Her eyes popped open and she leaned up to make sure he was gone then she continued to work on her restraints. In a matter of minutes she was off the bed and looking for the key to unlock the chains. He hadn’t hidden it very well and she quickly removed the horrible shackles she’d been wearing.
She was ready to go, but she found herself hesitating outside the door to Luke’s room. Her hand seemed to have a will of its own as it lifted to rest against the smooth wood in front of her. She slowly moved her body closer, unable to turn away. Laying her forehead against the door she took a deep breath and quickly pushed herself away from temptation. What was she doing? I finally escape and my bright idea is to go into his room so he can see I’m loose and tie me back up! Real smart, Riana.
She rushed to the door that led to her freedom, but when she looked at it up close she realized it wasn’t an ordinary door. There was no way to open it and it was too solid for her to bust through. Although, she supposed if she did bust through the door Luke was sure to wake up and catch her before she got far. She examined every inch of the door and the frame around it until she found what she was looking for. Small enough to be mistaken for a crack in the wall, there was a passkey slot near the top of the door. No access panel though so she needed to find the key.
An hour later she had searched the whole room without success. She stood staring apprehensively at Luke’s door. Of course he would keep it with him; she should have known this wouldn’t be as simple as just walking out the front door. She walked over and put her ear to the door to be sure he wasn’t up. She didn’t hear anything so she turned the doorknob as quietly as she could and eased the door open. It was small and windowless, and the bed dominated most of the room.
She spotted what might have been the key lying next to his pillow, but her eyes were drawn to him as she walked closer to the bed. He was even more impressive in repose, all bare skin and smooth muscle, barely covered by the sheet, and his face so innocent without the guarded look he usually wore. She took a shaky breath and forced herself to look away as she realized that she would have to reach over him to get the key. This seemed like a setup; she looked at him sharply to be sure he wasn’t awake, but he appeared to be sound asleep.
She leaned gently on the bed checking to make sure he didn’t stir as she slowly crawled towards him. When she reached his side she marveled, once again, at the sheer size of him. She shook off the distraction and moved up onto her knees to stretch across his chest, but her fingertips didn’t come close to grazing the card. She looked down at his face, but there wasn’t even a twitch to make her think he might be aware of her presence. She closed her eyes briefly and took a deep breath before easing her leg over his hip, releasing the breath in a rush at the intimacy of her position. God, if he woke up now she would be mortified.
She had leaned forward slightly, just managing to reach the key when suddenly he rolled over, taking her with him. Riana froze as he settled with her partway beneath him, but when she glanced up and saw that he was still asleep she breathed a sigh of relief. Trying to ease her way out from underneath him, she found she was trapped. She felt panic setting in and tried desperately to control it. She took deep breaths and tried to relax as she stared at his shoulder. His very naked shoulder, attached to his very naked body which was, at this moment, pressed tightly against her.
Her hand had a mind of its own again as she brushed her palm against his chest, moving to his arm and trailing her fingers reverently down his bicep. I shouldn’t be touching him, she thought. She had never been this close to a naked man before and she found it strangely exhilarating. Riana felt mesmerized as she slid her hand slowly up over his shoulder and lightly touched his neck. As her finger grazed his cheek, she looked up to find him watching her intently and froze. He pushed himself up to lean over her and reached up to where she still touched him stroking his hand down her arm.
“If you wanted to sleep in here you needed only to ask.” He shifted slightly and brushed his thumb across her lips.
“I-I didn’t mean to-” He touched his mouth to her throat and she found she was unable to breathe. “Please…,” she whispered and felt a laugh rumble in his chest.
“I intend to.” She shook her head and forced herself to push him away.
“No. I didn’t come in here for-” She realized she had the passkey in her hand and quickly moved away from him. “I came for the key.” He rolled onto his back and she vaulted over him, heading for the door. Luke smiled, leaning up to rest on his arms as he awaited her return. It wasn’t long before he heard her kick the door in frustration, but it was ten long minutes before she crept back into his room. She took in his relaxed pose and expectant look, her voice flat as she ground out,
“This isn’t the key.” He shook his head and her expression grew stormy as his smile grew wider.
“Do you think I can’t tell when someone is feigning sleep? That it was luck that you found the key to your shackles?” He smiled. “Do you think the location of the false passkey was a coincidence?”
“You were awake the whole time?”
“No, I had actually fallen asleep, but you couldn’t have gotten the key without waking me. I must admit I enjoyed waking to your touch against my skin.” Her face flamed in embarrassment.
“That was an accident.”
“Oh? What did you mean to touch?” He watched in amusement as she struggled for words. “Now. Do you want to pick up where we left off or do you want to settle in for the night and get some sleep?” She watched him uncertainly.
“Are you going to chain me up again?” He shook his head.
“I doubt that’s necessary. You’ll never find the key and I doubt you’d manage to kill me in my sleep.” He smiled as she continued to stand there. “So are you going back to your room or are you waiting for an invitation to join me? Because if it’s the latter, consider yourself invited.” She shot him a dirty look and slammed his door behind her as she returned to her room.