Imbalance: (New Adult Paranormal Romance) (Heart Lines Series Book 4), page 1
Table of Contents
Hey Love Bird!
About the Author
Table of Contents
Hey Love Bird!
About the Author
Heart Lines Series #4
©2017 Heather Hildenbrand
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written consent of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are a product of the authors’ imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, either living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Cover by Wit & Whimsy Cover Design
Heart Lines Series Reading Order:
Book 6 TBA
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My own blood boiled in my veins. I was furiously angry, breathless from the adrenaline of my own temper, and sweaty from the effort of holding it back until I could unleash it on those deserving. As I stomped away from our metered parking, my palms were hot; the furthest from clammy they’d been in months, and yet fur prickled my skin as it appeared and fell away in small clumps onto the sidewalk at my feet.
I glanced furtively at the people around me to see if anyone had noticed I was essentially molting. But no one looked over. I quickened my pace anyway just to be safe. The last thing I needed was to be stopped by a passer-by who thought I had a small, shedding dog wrapped in each fist or something.
Just before I could duck into the cool lobby, Brittany caught up and tugged my wrist until I came to an abrupt halt on the sidewalk outside the skyscrapers surrounding us. Pedestrians continued to stream around us, breaking left and right as if we were rocks in a river. Brittany’s expression was aptly hardened, the sun glinting off her yellow-blonde hair and white teeth. If cheerleaders could be serial killers…
“Whoa, tiger,” she said, not loosening her grip on me even though her tone of voice was an attempt at soothing. “Ease up on the death march. We are not going in guns blazing.”
“We’re not?” RJ asked, coming up beside us. He sighed in clear disappointment. “Damn. I love blazing my guns.”
Brittany shot him a look that could have withered steel, and I felt my mouth twitch and then reluctantly curve upward.
“That’s better,” Brittany said, brightening with a smile of her own when she spotted mine.
“Nuh-uh, don’t smile now, boss. It ruins the murderous vibe,” RJ said, but I knew he was just poking at me too.
“Guys, how can you not be furious? What they’re doing isn’t right.” When neither of them spoke up to agree with me, I sighed again and felt my temper returning. “Fine. You guys are pissed at Alex. I get that, but if you can’t find compassion for what they’re doing to him, what about Mason? Surely, you can agree that Mason doesn’t deserve this.”
“We’re not saying either one deserves it, but Sam, you don’t know the details,” RJ said. “He was probably just brought here to give his statement and then returned to the hospital. It’s not like they’re in there roughing him up or something.”
I cocked my head at him. “You really think that’s all it is?”
He shrugged. “They wouldn’t incarcerate him if he wasn’t cleared medically.”
“And Alex?” I pressed. “They’re clearly incarcerating him.”
RJ looked away, shoving his hands into his pockets. “He broke the law, Sam.”
“He was under Indra’s influence. It wasn’t his choice,” I said.
They exchanged a look that made it clear where they stood and it wasn’t with me. In an instant, my tenuous hold on any sort of good mood vanished. My temper returned full force.
“Fine.” I yanked my wrist free from Brittany’s hand. “I’ll see you inside.”
Behind me, I heard Brittany hiss a rebuke at RJ about taking this more seriously and being more forgiving, and then I shoved through the door of the mammoth-sized office building and a gust from the air conditioning hit me, the walls around me muting the sounds from outside.
I didn’t wait for my friends.
I was safe inside this lobby. They’d catch up. And I had no interest in listening to their logic and reasoning about protocol and how no one was being hurt or treated unlawfully.
According to them, werewolves and Hunters abided by a different set of laws. Fine. I could accept that. But justice was something every creature deserved. That and fair treatment, due process, and a slew of other basic rights. I was sick of seeing all of those violated and it wasn’t even lunchtime yet. Brittany and RJ weren’t the enemy exactly, but they were part of a system I was currently bent on strangling if given a chance.
My two BFFs-turned-bodyguards caught up to me at the bank of elevators, but I didn’t acknowledge them. RJ shot me a look, his mouth half-open as if about to say something, but when Brittany poked him in the ribs, he closed his mouth without a word.
We rode up in silence.
When the doors opened, my eyes caught on the small sign mounted beside the glass doors in front of me. It read: Chase Services,
I glared at it and yanked the door open by its fancy brass handle, stomping into the tastefully decorated lobby of the San Francisco branch of CHAS. Priscilla, the secretary, was at her desk. She looked up at me as I approached, the polite smile falling off her face when she caught sight of my expression.
“Where is he?” I asked, skipping the pleasantries.
“Who?” she asked, her brows knitting in confusion. To be fair, it wasn’t a clear question.
“Either of your prisoners,” I said.
“Um.” She looked terrified.
“Fine. Where is Simon?” I tried again.
“He’s busy in Interview with—”
I cut her off. “Take me to him, please.”
She opened her mouth and her jaw moved but no words came out. She stuttered, looking from me to where Brittany and RJ had joined me, flanking my sides. “Sam, she can’t just take you into Interview if Simon has someone in there,” RJ said quietly.
“Why not?” I asked, not sparing him a look. “And please don’t say the word protocol again.” RJ shut his mouth. I turned back to Priscilla. “They’re important to me. It’s been days since you took them, and no one will tell me anything. I just want to see that they’re all right and then I’ll let you all do your job. Two minutes. Please?”
I felt RJ and Brittany tense beside me but they didn’t offer another word. Priscilla swallowed and then nodded curtly. “All right. I can take you back, but you can’t go in while the interview is being conducting. You can observe.”
“Thank you,” I managed before she turned on her low heel and led the way into the maze of halls that only looked like a subdued corporate office for a large financial company. Most of the open offices we passed were actually empty or being used for wooden storage containers that housed who knew what. Probably weapons to be distributed to field agents. Or us.
I seemed to be attracting more werewolves than any alleged full moon ever had. Although, that last part was a myth. Werewolves didn’t give two shits about full moons, apparently. They did, however, want to rip out my throat. Well, the sick ones did anyway—an infection of sorts that was plaguing more and more of them over the last few months thanks to Ea, the ocean god. He was the father of all werewolves and the poster child for deadbeat dads. Not only had he abandoned his own offspring, he was bent on destroying them. And he was currently using the evil sorceress Indra to do it.
Priscilla stopped outside an unmarked door and ran a small card over the reader mounted to the wall beside it. It was the first of its kind I’d seen so far here and I wondered what sort of interviews Simon was conducting that required that level of security.
“This way,” Priscilla said quietly and slipped inside, holding the door open for the rest of us.
When we’d all filed through, she closed it again with a soft click and then led the way down another hall. This wing wasn’t one I’d visited and every door here had the same card reader mounted on the wall beside it.
Priscilla walked to the second door and ran her card over it. When it unlocked, she opened it and gestured for us to file inside. “What’s behind the rest of the doors?” I asked, hesitating as I pointed to the doors further down.
“Holding cells,” Priscilla said.
I catalogued that and then moved to follow Brittany and RJ through the narrow door Priscilla had opened. “You might not like what you find,” she cautioned me before I could pass by. Her gaze was sharp, meaningful, and cautionary.
“What do you mean?” I asked, hesitating.
“Simon—Mr. Brooks—is … old school when it comes to interrogation.” She shifted her weight and glanced over my shoulder at the others. “He’s frustrated and feeling the pressure from the board for results here. I… Well, I don’t always agree with his methods. But it’s not my place.” Her cheeks flushed and she seemed to withdraw as if she’d said too much already.
“What methods?” I asked but she just shook her head.
“If anyone asks, the door was open and you let yourselves in,” she said quietly and closed the door.
I let it go and followed Brittany and RJ into the darkened room, blinking rapidly and waiting for my eyes to adjust.
The room was empty except for a couple of hard metal chairs that didn’t encourage one to get comfortable. For a moment, I waited, fully expecting someone to hit the lights, but then I realized the illumination from the far wall was the light. Brittany had already wandered that way and I started to follow, trying to move around RJ to get a better look at where the glow came from.
“Uh-oh,” Brittany said and suddenly RJ was moving with me to keep me from getting by him.
“RJ, move,” I said, shoving at him impatiently. “What is it?” I called to Brittany.
“You’re not going to like it,” RJ warned.
“She’s going to find out eventually,” Brittany said but there was defeat in her words and, more than that, sympathy.
“Let me see,” I insisted, shoving RJ out of the way so that I could get a full view of the far wall where Brittany stood staring.
“Just… take a breath,” RJ said as I dodged him and came to stand beside Brittany.
Her hand slipped into mine but I barely felt it. She said something but I didn’t understand the words. I was lost, staring at the wall with wide eyes, rooted in place. Because the wall wasn’t a wall at all.
It was one-way glass. And sitting on the other side of it in the small room were two people separated by a metal table.
Simon Brooks III and Alex.
Simon’s hands were busy with the pen as he scribbled something on a yellow legal pad in front of him. Alex’s hands were in his lap and restrained in cuffs that even from here looked too tight.
A table sat between them and on it was only the single pad of paper Simon was currently using and the pen. No other equipment was visible and I could only assume the room was wired somehow to record it all.
“Apologies,” Simon said, his voice a little tinny as it filtered into the room where I stood listening.
I couldn’t see any speakers but then the room was too dark and my gaze too focused on Alex. His profile was stoic, unyielding and completely still as he sat with his hands in his lap and stared back at Simon.
“You should apologize for that B.O., man. It’s pretty brutal.”
“It’s nice to know Alex hasn’t lost his good humor in all this,” Brittany said. RJ snorted.
Simon didn’t react to the insult except for the narrowing of his eyes. “Are you ready to resume or do we need another round of incentives?” Simon asked, and I jerked at the strangely sharp sound of his voice. I’d never heard him talk that way. So cruel. Apparently, there were much more sides to Simon Brooks III than I’d realized.
Alex took a deep breath then let it out loud enough for me to hear the static of it through the speakers hidden inside the room where I stood. “Let’s get on with it,” he said finally, his words casual and somehow still managing to sound dangerous. His head turned slightly, just enough for me to catch the swollen eye he sported and trickle of blood leaking from his nostril.
Brittany’s hand on mine tightened. RJ came up beside me, his breath coming out of his nose in a hot burst. They weren’t as hardened against Alex as I’d thought. It would have made me feel better if I weren’t so horrified at the sight of Alex beaten and bruised.
My own heart ached and I shot forward, placing a hand on the glass that separated us. The thud of my hand wasn’t hard enough to make a sound against the thick barrier, but still, I pulled it away as soon as the cool glass hit my skin.
Suddenly, I was very grateful to Priscilla for sneaking us in here. And judging from her cryptic words, I had a feeling that whatever we heard and saw next wasn’t meant for our eyes and ears. Nor would I come out of this room the same way I’d gone in.
Priscilla had called it “old school,” this method of interrogation, but one glance at the expression Si
Hours. Maybe days.
That explained why we hadn’t gotten a call back from the man.
What I couldn’t understand is why he’d felt the need to have Alex beaten. These were simple questions he was asking. With straightforward answers … Right?
“Priscilla wasn’t lying,” Brittany muttered, disgust lacing her words. “I thought we stopped doing this to our own when the board changed hands.”
RJ didn’t answer.
I stood, riveted and anxious, my own heart pounding as Alex’s interview continued.
The interview room smelled like wet laundry. Or maybe that was Simon. I hadn’t slept well the last few nights nor eaten breakfast this morning and the overpowering aroma was almost too much to bear on top of the onslaught of feelings I was currently being beaten down with. Fuck me. All that time numb; it was like my body and brain had saved it up and set it aside. And now, it was hell bent on putting me through each and every sting one at a time. I couldn’t stop it and I’d only barely finish processing one memory and the feelings that came with it before another came crashing down over me, stabbing me in the gut with the guilt that inevitably followed on its heels.
I’d fucked up. A lot.
And I had a long way to go before I could even attempt to fix things.
The beating I’d just taken from Simon’s little minion didn’t even compare. I’d gladly take a few punches over the gut-wrenching pain of knowing I’d betrayed Sam. Unfortunately, I was apparently fated to deal with both at once. And on top of that, Brooks wanted to know things. Things I wasn’t ready to talk about or deal with on my own, let alone divulge it to CHAS.
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