Love Bears AllBy: Kian Rhodes
The Omega Auction:
Love Bears All
My head bobbled and jerked, my chin bouncing against my chest when my neck became too rubbery to support its weight. I screwed my eyes closed against the tears, but the salty, warm water leaked through, stinging the raw, abraded skin around my eyes. The pain shooting through my body was worse than usual. Much worse. My large muscle groups convulsed, clenching with every forced movement. My blood was boiling in my veins, cooking me from the inside. At one point I forced my eyes open and was amazed not to see blisters forming on my trembling hands. The burning, searing sensations flooded through me in waves. It was damn near intolerable. Not that I had a choice but to tolerate it. Endure it. Hope that I would survive it.
There was no doubt that my fever had spiked too fast, risen too high. I'd already been on the verge of incoherence when the handlers deemed me ready and came to take me to the dark, dank cage-filled warehouse that my keepers called the Alpha Zoo. After the absurd number of false heat cycles that I’d been forced to abide in the time since I’d been sold at the Omega Auction, it was pretty damned clear to me that the moron who’d injected the synthetic hormones had overdosed me.I tried to ask for help, to explain what was wrong, but these handlers were both new and they were human. They didn't know jack about Omegas, much less about our heat cycles. They didn’t take me seriously.
By the time they’d half walked, half dragged me the short distance from my habitat to the warehouse, I was nearly delirious and hurting so badly that I was sobbing. The screaming, growling, and snarling of the creatures locked in their cages as they caught my scent made my eardrums pulse. The sea of Alpha pheromones would have usually offered some relief from my symptoms, but instead they polluted the air with a dense stench that turned my stomach and made my brain throb.
I’d long since learned not to fight when I was strung up to condition the caged Alphas, but it wouldn’t have even been an option this time. I swayed on my feet and collapsed against the ropes holding me up, every ounce of energy going to simply continuing to breathe.
I heard my name whispered from the cage closest to me, but before I could try and make my lips move in response, everything went black.
I caught a few sounds and impressions after that, but nothing that made sense. Especially not in the context of my last solid memories.
The pressure of my body weight sagging against the ropes suddenly and inexplicably eased, but I couldn’t force my eyes open to see why. I could feel hands on my body – they were ice cold against my superheated skin – and seemed to be shifting me about, tugging me this way and that until I was propped against something cold and comforting. Then I just knew darkness.
“What are all those scars?” A soft, calm voice tickled my ear.
“They look like track marks,” another voice responded, deeper but still gentle.
“You mean like needles?” The first voice sounded shocked. “You think he’s a druggie?”
“Dunno. He seems pretty healthy otherwise, so I doubt it.”
The whispered conversation continued on in the background for several minutes while I struggled to make sense of the weird dream I was having. Colors swirled inside my head as I forced my eyes open. When I finally managed to focus them, I found two other pairs of eyeballs staring back at me. I wasn't dreaming after all and reality, it seemed, was stranger still.
I stared from one silent face to the other and then back before wrenching my gaze away to look around the room. The ceiling was white. The walls were white. The cases on the plump pillows I was reclining against were white. The sheets covering me on the narrow cot were white. The sixteen-inch square commercial tiles on the floor were white. Everything in the place was white. If I'd had any money, I would have wagered it that I was in a hospital room. That led me straight to why.
Sketchy memories of intense pain and an unnaturally high fever teased the edge of my consciousness. Then I remembered trying to beg for help as they strung me up in the center of the cages holding their collection of alphas. After that, not much. Maybe they’d finally realized I was in trouble and taken me for help? I had more than a little difficulty picturing that scenario. To begin with, they would have had to explain how they came to own me. Then there was the fact that the other Omegas that had been there when I arrived had just been tossed out to the vultures when they became too sick to be useful. I may have been the only one left, but it wasn't like they didn't know where to get more.