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Born to be Broken (Alpha's Claim #2)(7)

By:Addison Cain

Claire stared down at the COMscreen. Seeing her people locked away like livestock brought a wave of unbearable sadness. The Omegas slept ten to a cell, segregated by age, and there were less than the fifty-six that had been taken. Three Shepherd had hanged, the remainder Claire assumed had either died or been pair-bonded and dragged away. There were hardly even forty, and one was in estrous, isolated and being rutted by a stranger …  the girl only sixteen.

In her heart, Claire had been terrified Shepherd may have allowed his men to inject the Omegas with the same drugs he'd used on her …  to set up a brothel of mindless estrous sex for the taking, and she had to admit she was marginally relieved to find he had yet to stoop so low.

"Looking at them like that isn't going to change anything, sugar pie," Maryanne cooed, crouched at her side.



"Even you must see how sick this is." Frowning, Claire looked away from the COMscreen so her friend might meet her eye. "Don't let me down."

"I'll get you in. Then I'm gone."

Claire nodded. "For your own sake, I suggest you run fast."

As per their agreement, Maryanne tapped into the system and hacked the prison's upper level controls. Handing over the technology, she gave Claire patchy dominion of Purgatory's security systems.

"You need to know, small fry, not every castoff was released when Shepherd staged his coup. There are paths in there you don't want to stumble down. If you get lost …  you let Shepherd find you." With those final, frightening words, Maryanne gave Claire a quick kiss and disappeared.

Claire had to make the next move alone. Holding a device constructed from duct tape and a few stolen circuits, praying to her Goddess that their plan worked, she flipped the switch.

Scattered explosions went off, all four of the handcrafted bombs Maryanne had distributed functioning flawlessly. Right on cue, Claire began phase two. As her friend had promised, the Followers on screen rushed towards the disturbance with alarming precision. When the soldiers were separated and in halls or elevators, she trapped the men with updated overrides to the systems they would have to countermand at each terminal.

Lips a hair's breadth from the screen, Claire took control of the prison's internal communications system. "Omegas, the doors to your cells are unlocked. Anyone who would prefer freedom to Shepherd's slavery, claim it. The guards are scattered, trapped, but I can't hold them for long. Band together, I'll lead you out. Do not forget your sister being held in the room at the end of the corridor." Venom dripped from Claire's voice. "I don't imagine Shanice dreamed her first heat would be spent mounted by a soldier three times her age."

On her small monitor, seven women, Nona included, stood and rushed out of their cells. More stood to watch, afraid but rallying. Over lingering seconds the numbers began to grow, women throwing back the bars and racing out to join their sisters. But Claire's attention was elsewhere; a band of Followers had already overridden control and broken free.

Lacking the skill to manipulate the system with the same finesse as Maryanne, Claire cried, "Four Followers have made it through. You have to stand up for yourselves! If you want out, you must fight back!"

At first sight of an unwelcome Alpha, the Omegas fell upon them like locusts. More Followers tried to grab at the women, only to discover supposedly weak Omegas attacked in packs. Even the strongest male could not stand against forty enraged females. Gunshots were fired, two of Claire's sisters fell-but all four of Shepherd's soldiers were destroyed as the group forced their way forward. By the time they descended on the room where the estrous high Omega was being rutted, the pack had fallen into a frenzy. 

The rutting male was ripped away, torn apart by teeth and claws.

They scooped up their sister, and followed every last direction Claire shouted over the speakers. In less than five minutes, women began to flood the very passages the Castoffs had employed the day they broke free.

Once they had pushed past the final doors, Claire stepped out of the darkness and called out to them. Nona reached her first. Over the sound of shouting, Claire yelled hurried instructions into the woman's ear. One nod of understanding, and Nona took Claire's COMscreen.

Claire pushed her crude trigger's final button.

Blinding flashes preceded cloying green-grey smoke-it filled the prison's access road to the point where Claire could no longer see Nona, she could not smell her, and she would not have the chance to wave goodbye.

The screech of tires and trucks packed with Shepherd's Followers skid to a halt outside the causeway. In moments, armed soldiers had created a perimeter; the only plausible exit blocked.

There was no turning back. This was the end.

Claire recognized the blue-eyed Beta leading the men, watched him squinting when the billowing smoke parted just enough to show who'd dared strike a blow at Thólos' new regime. With a gun held to her temple, Claire walked forward until she was exposed to Shepherd's men.

Eyes sharp, Jules commanded, "Put the gun down, Miss O'Donnell."

Seeing them so close, so organized; the Followers were exactly as Maryanne described-killers; remorseless, walking nightmares-and she was just one woman standing up against far more powerful men.

Raising her chin, defiant, Claire shouted over the fray, "Every Omega here gets to walk away, or I pull the trigger and kill Shepherd's child."

Ignoring the accumulating smoke, Jules marched to the edge of the barricade. "And how far do you think they will they get?"

The Beta was expecting an answer; Claire did not give one. All she did was stare right back into those unsettling baby-blues.

When long minutes of silence continued, when no further move was made by the female, Jules finally seemed to understand.

Claire smiled.

"Now that I think about it," the gun still pointed at her skull, Claire took a deep breath. "Putting the women in the Undercroft was actually an excellent idea. I think we'll stay …  without the debauched visitors and scheduled rape, of course."

"Do you really think a handful of women will be able to hold the prison from us?"


A strange look passed through the man's eyes. He looked about to speak but was silenced by the sound of heavy footfalls approaching from the shadows.

The nightmare was coming.

She felt him before she saw him. Her eyes never left Jules, but it took every ounce of Claire's self-control not to step back into the blanket of smoke and ruin her plan when Shepherd emerged in her periphery.

"Little one," Shepherd's voice was soft and enticing, flowing just like the vapor at her back. "Point the gun at me."

He was so very big. Even with a good fifteen paces between them, Claire had the impression that all he needed to do was reach out to drag her back to hell.

Though she was afraid to look his way, though she kept her attention anchored in the vibrant blue of Jules's stare, Claire's words were for Shepherd. "If I thought I possessed the skill to aim and be certain a bullet blew right through your skull, I would not hesitate to shoot you. But I've told you before, I'm not stupid. Pointed where it is, I don't have to worry about missing."


Shepherd took a step closer; Claire stiffened.

Showing her teeth, she forced herself to look at him. "Your approach is making it very tempting to pull the trigger. If I die, your child dies with me. Stop. Moving."

With her attention on him, Shepherd paused, guiding the conversation as if they were having an afternoon chat. "It is good to see that you are mostly uninjured from the fall, and that you have been eating."

"I didn't fall, I jumped." Claire lifted her chin higher, exposing the bruises blotched across her pale throat for every last Follower to see.

Only with some great effort was Shepherd able to speak levelly. "You have made your point. I will even admit I am impressed with your little coup. But it's over now."

"I don't give a fuck what you think!"

A stifled bark came from the Alpha, his mouth curved into a snarl. "I know you are angry-"

Her voice dropped low, coarse as she hissed through clenched teeth, "Angry does not even begin to describe what I am. I have been defiled, manipulated, betrayed, and broken. I am way past angry."

"Everything that was done was necessary," Shepherd countered, taking another intimidating step closer.

"You may have had me for a moment there, but your woman opened my eyes to what you really are." Fierce, Claire's lip curled in threat. "I should be thanking you, Shepherd. Your horrible lesson of insurrection was an inspiration. You taught me that even the weakest can rise up against tyranny with the right encouragement. Well, I'm rising up against you and the perversion of your ideals."

She had stood there long enough.

Trembling so hard she was certain every last man there could see her fear, ready to do what she did best, Claire took a backwards step into the smoke.

Shepherd countered, struggling to rein in his rage. "Do not make me come and collect you, little one. You may get injured, and I would prefer that not be the case."

"What are a few broken bones and a potential gunshot or two?" She pressed her free hand to her heart, Claire's face the image of anguish. "They wouldn't matter. I feel nothing. Nothing at all."