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Born to be Broken (Alpha's Claim #2)

By:Addison Cain
Chapter 1

By the time she'd found his home, Claire could little more than crawl. Scratching at the portal, fingers numb, she slumped to the floor. When the door cracked and squinting eyes showed in the dark, had she the capacity, Claire would have laughed. Never had a man looked more shocked.

She was filthy; stringy hair wet from snow and sweat, limbs badly scraped from her fall. About her throat, a bruise tellingly shaped in a handprint circled like a sad necklace. That was nothing compared to the state of her feet when he tried to help her stand. Torn and bleeding, more skin had been worn away than was sound. Corday hoisted her from the ground, her freezing body flush to his, and locked the door.

"Claire!" He vigorously rubbed his hands up and down the trembling woman's back. "I have you."

It's a good thing he did; once the door locked her eyes rolled back in her skull, Claire unconscious. Corday rushed her to his shower, cranked on the heat, and stood with her under the spray. Her lips were blue, and no wonder considering that temperatures on this level of the Dome had grown near freezing. The Beta stripped off her ruined dress and washed every rivulet of blood from his friend, finding more bruises, more wounds, more reasons to hate Shepherd.

The gauze at her shoulder he'd left for last, grateful at least something had been tended to. But as it grew saturated, he grew worried by what was hinted at under the bandage. Peeling it back, Corday cursed to see what the beast had done to her. Shepherd's claiming marks, the tissue red and distorted-even after what looked like weeks of healing, her shoulder was a fucking mess.

The monster had mutilated her.

The water turned as cold as Corday's blood. He pulled her out, dried her the best he could, and tucked Claire into the warmth of his bed. There she lay, naked and badly damaged, a little color coming back to her hollowed cheeks. One at a time, he uncovered limbs, tending scraps, bandaging wounds, doing his best to preserve her modesty. That didn't mean he didn't see them, the telling bruises mottling her inner thighs.

She looked almost as bad as the Omegas the resistance had rescued …

It frightened him. Not one of those women was thriving. Even safe, they deteriorated-hardly spoke, hardly ate. More of them had died, and though the Enforcers could not pinpoint the cause, Brigadier Dane was certain with all that they'd suffered-the children and mates that had been taken from them-they had simply lost the will to live.

Claire had to be different.

Left arm, right arm, both elbows sluggishly bled. Salve and bandages was the best Corday could offer. But there was nothing he could do for her throat; the mottled yellow-brown bruises were not fresh. The Omega's injuries grew far more complicated with her legs-both kneecaps were grotesque; one gash deep enough to require stitches. He did his best with butterfly sutures, closing the gap of torn flesh, lining up the skin so that it might stand a chance of mending. Her joints would swell-that was unavoidable-and he hesitated to ice them as she was already shivering and still cold to the touch. 

"You're gonna be okay, Claire," he promised. "You're safe with me."

Claire opened bloodshot eyes; she looked at the Beta whose face she could read like a book. He was scared for her. "It doesn't hurt."

"Shhh." He leaned down, smiling to see her awake. Stroking the wet, tangled hair from her face, he said, "Rest your throat."

She complied, and Corday worked quickly to finish, disinfecting every abrasion on her outer thighs, knees, and shins. Her feet were a different matter. There was little he could do, and she would hardly be able to walk in the days to come. He picked out the detritus, noting how she didn't move or twitch even when a fresh wave of blood followed a large chunk of glass once it was pulled free. He wrapped her feet tight, and said a prayer to all three Gods that the open wounds would not fester.

Once it looked like she was asleep, he rose.

Claire's hand shot out, her bruised fingers clawing into his sleeve. "Don't go!"

"You need medicine," Corday soothed, weaving his fingers with hers.

Claire held tighter, disjointed and afraid. "Don't leave me alone."

Brushing a pile of bandage wrappers to the floor, Corday did as she wished. He slipped under the covers beside her, offering body heat and a safe place to rest. Claire let him hold her, laying her head on his shoulder, still.

Ashamed to ask, beyond pathetic, she whispered, "Will you purr for me?"

Such a thing was an act of intimacy between lovers and family, but there was no hesitation in the Beta. Corday pulled in a deep breath and started the rumbling vibration at once. The sound was a little off-the act being something he was unaccustomed to-and though it lacked the richness of an Alpha purr, it was infinitely comforting in that moment.

"That's nice." Exhausted, Claire sighed. "Please don't stop."

Corday thumbed a spilling tear from her cheek. "I won't, Claire."

In the voice of a broken thing, Claire began to feel more than endless choking malaise; she felt disgust …  for herself. "I hate that name."

Huddled close to her friend, like children whispering secrets, Claire woke. Though her body ached, she was warm, surrounded in a scent of safety, and grateful for the boyish smile Corday offered once she'd pried her sticky lashes apart.

Cautious and gentle, he smoothed her tangled hair. "You look much better."

They were so close she could see the night's stubble on his cheek, smell his breath.

He seemed so real.

Sucking her split lower lip into her mouth, Claire felt the sting. Tasting the scab left when that woman, Svana, had struck her for refusing to spread, made the nightmare real again. It was as if Svana were in the room with her, as if the Alpha's hands remained wrapped around her throat.

Claire struggled to breathe.

Corday broke through her growing terror. "You're okay, Claire. I'll keep you safe."

It wasn't a dream, it was real. Claire grew to understand that the more Corday spoke, the more he touched her, the more she felt the sun on her face.

How had she even come to be there?

She was separated from Shepherd, in a great deal of physical discomfort, naked, and Corday had taken her in, despite the fact that she had drugged him-lied to him.



She had to remind herself out loud; she had to make herself remember. "I jumped off the back terrace of the Citadel …  crashed into snow."

"And you ran here," Corday finished for her.

She had, before air had even returned to her lungs she'd scampered up and fled. "I ran as fast as I could …  right to your door." Voice breaking, trembling something fierce, Claire sobbed, "I'm sorry, Corday."

Seeing her panic, he tried to calm her. "There is nothing to be sorry for."

"I drugged you," she whispered. "I lied. And now he'll find you. He'll hurt you."

"He won't." Corday grew earnest and severe. "You can trust me. There is no need for you to lie to me again. I can't help you if you lie."

"If I had taken you to the Omegas, he would have killed you, just as he killed Lilian and the others." Claire looked to the pillowcase lightly crusted with her blood. "He punished me …  I'm pregnant."

Corday already knew. He'd smelled it almost the instant Claire had been in his arms. There was only one way such a thing could have come to pass. Shepherd had forced another heat cycle.

There was very little he could say, little he could do, but one thing Corday could offer her. He looked her dead in the eye and asked, "Do you want to remain that way?"

What a question …  Claire had to think, recognized she had been clinging to the Beta to the point where it must have made his shoulder ache. Easing her hold, she measured the little bit of human that she still was, and knew she had not wanted a baby yet. More so, she had foolishly allowed herself to develop an attachment to the monster that had filled her womb, a monster that was using her like a broodmare-a beast whose lover had tried to kill her.

Claire pressed her hand to the tiny life growing inside her. She could rid herself of the issue; abortion was a common practice, probably accessible even now. She could have Shepherd carved out of her.

After a shuddering breath she admitted her horrific truth, "I don't feel anything, you know. Inside …  I feel nothing at all."

He gave her space, offering a lopsided smile. "I know it might seem like the world has ended for you, Claire, but you are free now. You're a survivor."

She could not help but sadly smile at a man who would never understand. "Survivor? What kind of future do you see for me? I was pair-bonded to a monster to be his toy, drugged into an unnatural heat cycle, impregnated against my will so I would grow devoted, and then forced to listen to the Alpha who was supposed to be my mate fuck his lover-a very scary Alpha female who wrapped her hands around my throat, who shoved her fingers inside me right in front of him." 

He couldn't stop a grimace. "Shhh. This can be made right."

"It's okay for us both to admit there isn't going to be a happy ending for me." Claire sat up, holding the sheet to her chest, empty. "I have no future, but I can still fight for them."

Brushing back her hair, wanting to pull her nearer, Corday restrained the desire to embrace the sad-eyed woman. "If you step outside that door and try to take on Shepherd, you won't win."