Read Matthew's Chance Online

Authors: Odessa Lynne

Tags: #Gay Romance Fiction

Matthew's Chance (2 page)

BOOK: Matthew's Chance
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But she had kept him anyway, and never once treated him as less than her own sons and daughter, even when food got scarce, halfgas started costing more than the mortgage, and no one could tell them when things might get better.

He hoped to see her again soon, and Marcus, Mason, Gillie, and Brecken.

Maybe he would head that way after he learned what he could about those bullets, before he found another group of renegades to join up with.

He was ready for a change after nearly four months with these assholes.

Things had already changed here in the last three days and Matthew knew he wouldn’t be able to stick around for more than another day or two anyway.

Gage was bringing in someone from the east and that meant Matthew’s chances of being recognized would go up significantly. The moment someone recognized him, his connection to Brendan Greer would immediately bring his loyalty to the renegades into question.

Put together some of the innocent-seeming incidents of the last few months and Matthew would probably end up dead.

As far as the renegades were concerned, Brendan was a traitor who had destroyed the entire southeastern faction of renegades. What he’d done was convince a significant number of them to stop fighting with the wolves.

The renegades’ presence in the southeast was still weak, but growing stronger now that heat season was almost on top of them again.

Gage’s group had been easing that way over the last six months, getting bolder and braver as he led his group into the outer edges of the protectorate’s boundaries. Matthew had caught Gage doing a lot of planning with some of the guys who’d been with him the longest, and Matthew couldn’t fault Gage for sticking his oldest friends in positions of authority. That didn’t help Matthew but he at least understood it.

The last screw snapped as the head broke in place and Matthew flattened his hand on the door to keep it in place. He tried to be quiet as he dropped the pry bar to the concrete floor, but it clanged anyway, a short, sharp echo in the silence.

He manhandled the heavy door until he got the latch to release and then, muscles straining under the weight, he shifted the door to rest on an angle alongside the wall beside the opening.

He picked up the solar lantern he’d brought and slipped into the room beyond.

He found the ammo quick enough, four crates of it spread out along a waist-high shelf to his side. Only one crate contained the special bullets, the ones that had arrived a few days ago and that Gage had been so secretive about.

Matthew eased the lid off the crate with one hand, raised the lantern with the other, and stared. The bullets looked ordinary, packed tightly, filling the crate. Metal glinted, but nothing else distinguished them from any other bullet Matthew had ever seen.

He debated the wisdom of stealing one of them.

“Fuck it,” he muttered, and he took one off the top. He shoved the bullet into his pocket. The bullet would be missed, no doubt, but maybe not before Matthew was gone.

It was as he was easing the crate closed again that he heard the clack and whoosh of the double doors down the hallway swinging open.

He had about five seconds to get out the way he’d come in, and he took off down the hall, opposite the sound of approaching footsteps, and slung himself around the corner at the end of the hallway, leaving behind everything except himself and the bullet he’d tucked in his pocket. He hunkered down and peered around the concrete blocks, watching for the moment when whoever it was walking the hall noticed the missing door.

Someone thin, wearing pants that were a couple inches too short—Tim, and someone else, someone Matthew didn’t recognize, maybe one of the guys from the east, arrived early.


Matthew didn’t wait to see their reaction, he slipped away, hoping to get back upstairs and grab his things and get out before anyone realized he was missing.

His phone vibrated silently against his hip as he took the back stairs that would lead up from the basement to the unoccupied wing of the school.

Water dripped from the wide crack in the ceiling overhead. Somewhere above the roof had been damaged in the old earthquake, but although the rain made it in, daylight didn’t. Without the solar lantern, Matthew found it hard to see in the heavy gloom.

Matthew pulled his phone out of his pocket and took a quick look.

Where are you? Got a situation. Get your ass to headquarters.

Shit. It could be a trap.

Matthew rubbed water off his nose and looked back the way he’d come. He didn’t hear anything that sounded like pursuers so likely no one knew he was on the run.

If it wasn’t a trap, his chances were better if he showed up and played dumb. He could claim he’d been wandering around in the classrooms. He did it often enough when he was bored.

But somebody would have to take the blame for breaking into the room with the bullets. His story wouldn’t hold up long, no matter how much outrage he put into it if someone outright accused him of being the one who’d done it.

He would never buy himself more time than he had right now to get away. And he had that bullet in his pocket. He’d have to leave it behind if he went back.

On my way
, he answered.

Then, because he knew he wasn’t going back if he could help it, he used the emergency contact information he had for Ash and sent a short message, then immediately erased the message, dropped his phone to the tiled floor, and crushed the small device beneath his boot heel.

He had a hiding place not far from the school where he’d stashed a spare.

If he knew anything about Gage and his boys—and he’d been here for nearly four months, so he ought to know enough—this was going to get ugly.



Chapter 2

Matthew spit blood out of his mouth and stood his ground in front of the man he knew only as Jay. “You fucking asshole, I can’t believe you’re not dead.”

Last time Matthew had seen Jay had been three years ago, as Jay was being tossed across the floor of an old factory by a wolf.

Jay stood beside Gage, the wiry muscle of one arm cut across with several slashing scars Matthew didn’t remember from before. Otherwise, Jay hadn’t changed much, still thin and lean, with rough tanned skin and several puckered scars along his neck, and eyes that said he had no qualms about anything he was going to do, or had done, whatever his purpose.

They’d caught up to Matthew a mile away from the elementary school, and Matthew had never been so surprised as he was when he saw Jay leap out of Gage’s AUV and come running after him.

Sal was the one who’d tackled Matthew to the ground, though, and when Matthew had punched him, Sal had looked shocked, as if he hadn’t really believed Matthew was trying to get away, that he might have a reason to.

A few weeks ago, Matthew had been thinking about trying to convince Sal to leave with him. He’d thought if he got Sal away from the rest of them, he might be able to talk him around to cutting his ties to the renegades. If he’d agreed, Matthew would’ve eventually introduced him to Brendan.

Matthew had changed his mind when he’d realized he was going to have to cut out sooner than he’d planned.

“He’s with the wolves,” Matthew said, looking to Jay’s side where Gage stood. Gage was the one who mattered at the moment. “He shot me three years ago, tried to kill me. I still have the goddamn scar. He’s working with the wolves, I tell you.”

Behind Gage, Tim and Sal hung back, along with a guy that shared the same name as Matthew’s cousin Marcus, and two others who’d followed in the second vehicle.

The other two flanked Matthew, ready to grab him if he tried to run again.

Matthew didn’t see the point. They’d already taken his guns and his knives. If he ran, he was dead that much faster.

Sal kept watching him, his gaze unhappy and his mouth pinched. He’d always been the friendly one; more than friendly. Matthew had fucked Sal a few times, when he’d been especially lonely. Sal had thought it was more. Maybe it would’ve been if Matthew had been who he pretended to be.

“His name’s Matthew,” Jay said. “Not Paul.”

Sal flinched.

“God, Paul, I think I love you,”
Sal had said the last time. Matthew hadn’t touched Sal since that night.

Jay looked to Gage again. “He was with Greer when he turned traitor. I should’ve known he’s the one I’ve been looking for. It fits.”

“Don’t know what the hell he’s talking about,” Matthew said, eyes on Gage. “My name’s Paul and this guy’s the traitor who gave Greer up to the wolves. Once they got their hands on Greer, well, we’ve all heard what happened to him after that.”

As far as most of the renegades Matthew had talked to lately were concerned, the story was that Brendan had sold them all out to the wolves in exchange for some kind of amnesty after he’d been captured.

Matthew wasn’t sure who’d started that rumor, but now that he knew Jay was alive, he could easily believe it might have been him.

“You ran,” Gage said, and the look on his face said he’d already made up his mind and it wasn’t in Matthew’s favor. “Seems you’ve had several names over the last two years. John. Trevor. Paul.”

“If that’s what he told you, he fucking lied,” Matthew said. “That’s all there is to it. My name’s Paul. Swear to God.”

“Drop the act. Nobody believes you,” Jay said. “I’ve been looking for a traitor ever since I ran across what was left of Cam Lujan’s people.”

Matthew tried not to react to the Lujan name. From the look on Gage’s face, he didn’t think he’d succeeded. Cam Lujan had been a suspicious asshole who’d asked far too many questions. Matthew didn’t like how he’d handled Lujan, but in the end, he’d gotten a piece of intel to Ash just in time for a pack of wolves to thwart an attack and capture over half of Lujan’s group of renegades. Lujan had escaped.

“I owe you a bullet,” Jay said, staring at Matthew with that cold-eyed gaze he still remembered from three years ago.

Matthew rubbed his palm on his thigh and stared right back. He might heal quickly now that he had the wolves’ biotech in his body, but a shot to the head was still likely to kill him on the spot, and that was what Jay had promised him three years ago.

“Put him on his knees,” Jay said, already reaching for the holstered gun under the edge of his tight-fitting gray t-shirt.

Gage grabbed Jay’s arm. “I give the fucking orders around here.”

Jay turned to look at him, as coldly confident as Matthew remembered him. “Okay, then, give the goddamn order. He needs to die.”

Sal took a step forward. “What if he’s not—”

“Shut the hell up, Salvadore,” Gage said. “Tim.”

Tim seemed to understand. He grabbed Sal’s arm and pulled him back. Sal looked at Matthew, eyes wide, lip puffy and jaw still red where Matthew’s fist had hit him.

Matthew glared at him, then deliberately looked back to Jay.

Sal would get himself killed if he put up a fuss and Matthew didn’t want that to happen. Sal shouldn’t die because of him. He wasn’t like most of Gage’s group. In fact, he reminded Matthew of himself three years ago, gullible but convinced he was doing the right thing because someone else had told him so.

Jay watched Gage with a look on his face that said he wasn’t going to put up with Gage’s attitude for long.

The group needed a better leader, and Jay—goddamn Jay was probably planning an outright takeover and Gage wouldn’t even see it coming.

If Jay took over, this group would become something else altogether, more than a nuisance—a serious threat to the peace between humans and wolves.

Gage stepped up in front of Matthew.

The two guys flanking Matthew grabbed hold of his arms. Matthew didn’t struggle. His mouth had gone dry, but at least they hadn’t put him on his knees—not yet anyway.

“I trusted you,” Gage said. He slapped Matthew across the cheek, a sharp, insulting blow that stung like hell.

Matthew grimaced, holding the expression of pain past the point where the stinging faded to nothing. “He’s lying. What do you know about him? What the hell makes him so trustworthy?”

“That’s none of your business, cunt.”

Matthew clenched his jaw.

Gage slapped him again, this time busting open Matthew’s bottom lip and drawing blood.

Jay shifted his weight, his thumb flicking the edge of his holster, once, twice, and then again. “Get on with it.”

Matthew licked the blood off his lip and eyed Jay.

“I have questions,” Gage said, giving Jay a look that reminded Matthew how nasty Gage could be when he thought someone was challenging his authority.

“Then ask them. You think he hasn’t had time to get a message off to somebody? We don’t have time for this. They’ll come for him.”

Fact was, Gage was the only thing standing between Matthew and a bullet from Jay’s gun.

“Come on, Gage.” Matthew hated the whine he put in his voice, but he had no choice. “You know I’ve been loyal. I’ve done anything you asked me to do. I’m not the traitor here. If you kill me without proof that I’ve done something wrong, the rest of the guys are going to get nervous, you know that. He’s probably counting on it, maybe even gonna use it to get rid of you later.”

Gage gripped Matthew’s chin in a bruising pinch. “I’m not a fool, so shut your fucking mouth unless you’re answering one of my questions.”

Matthew pulled back but Gage didn’t let go. He stared mutinously at Gage and imagined breaking the asshole’s nose.

“A bullet’s too easy for you. I don’t like it when people try to make a fool out of me.”

He wasn’t prepared when Gage punched him in the stomach.

His breath seemed to explode out of his lungs. He bent double, his weight pulling heavy on the two men holding his arms, and he couldn’t breathe, unable to drag even a short gasp into his lungs as his muscles seized.

The two guys dragged him upright again.

Gage stared at him. “You’re not going to leave these woods alive, but if you answer my questions, I’ll have the guys go easier on you. A bullet instead of a beating.”

Goddamn, but Matthew had known Gage was a mean son of a bitch.

But he had no choice, even if he was afraid of the answer he had to give. A bullet would kill him too easy. With a beating, if Ash and the wolves didn’t arrive in time, he might still heal.

BOOK: Matthew's Chance
7.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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