**** If you haven't read Blood & Thunder yet, you might want to wait to read this excerpt as it brings up Sloane's past which is revealed at the end of Blood & Thunder.****
Warning: Contains abuse themes.
I promised folks during my Facebook chat today that I would share an excerpt from Rack & Ruin (book 3). I picked this scene because it gives you a little inside look into Sloane and Ash's relationship, why their bond is so strong. It also gives you a deeper look into why Sloane is the way he is, why he's still trying to heal those very deep wounds. This is a tough scene, I won't lie, and while I was writing it, it made me cry. Here, Sloane is in bed with Dex and he's having another nightmare about his past, but this time it's about his childhood. This scene is important for many reasons and it's tied into the plot of the third book, along with what's going on with Ash.
What were they going to do to him now?
Sloane was strapped to the chair. His ankles, wrists, waist, and head restrained. It always hurt. He’d wanted to hide when they came to his room, but he didn’t want to look like a wimp in front of Ash. Ash never looked scared when the nurses came for him. Now Sloane wished he had hidden. Not that they wouldn’t have found him. There were only the two beds in their room. It wasn’t that he wasn’t grateful. Dr. Shultzon was nice and he brought them toys and ice cream, let them paint their room how they wanted. Sometimes when Sloane was playing with Ash, he would forget where they were, what they were. Until it was time for the tests.
This time he’d been stripped down to his underwear. The sticky little white pads were fixed to his skin all over his body, wires coming out of their centers. The pads were cold and sometimes sent little shocks through him. The wires lead to different machines and monitors. One machine monitored his heartbeat, one his brain, and the others—He didn’t know what they did. They looked like the machines in those Sci-Fi movies Doctor Shultzon rented for them from the video store. If only Ash were here. Sloane might not feel so scared then.
“All right, Sloane. Like I instructed. Ready?”
“Okay. You may begin.”
Sloane closed his eyes, called upon the wild animal inside him. The Felid woke from its slumber and answered Sloane’s call. The transformation started and Sloane gritted his teeth against the pain. The moment the first bone slipped out of place, Sloane pushed it back. His Felid side cried out, confused about why he was being shoved back when Sloane had called for him. The machines around them beeped wildly and Sloane cried out, his body telling him he shouldn’t try to stop the transformation so suddenly once it started. Doctor Shultzon pressed a button and the pads stuck to Sloane’s body sent pulses through him.
“It hurts! Please, stop. Please,” Sloane begged. The pulses hurt. They curdled his blood and angered his Felid half. Sloane hissed, his fangs starting to elongate. He fought desperately, pushing the Felid back.
“It’s okay, Sloane. You’re a very brave boy. You can do this.”
“I can’t,” Sloane cried, tears streaming down his cheeks. “It hurts so bad.” Whatever they were doing to him, it made his other half very angry. It wanted to come out and hurt them. Sloane arched up violently, his whole body convulsing as the Felid tore through him. His vision sharpened and his claws started to pierce the tips of his fingers. Sloane couldn’t stop crying.
“I know it hurts. Just a little longer.”
“I can’t hold him back!”
“You can. Your Human side is the dominant species, Sloane. You tell him what to do, not the other way around.”
They didn’t understand. Sloane shook his head, his body slammed down against the chair as if by some unknown force. “It’s not like that,” Sloane blubbered, his nose running and sweat dripping down his face. Sloane didn’t know what he was but he did know he wasn’t Human. Dr. Shultzon had told him he was a Therian when he’d first brought Sloane here from the hospital where they’d locked him up for being a freak.
Shultzon put his hand to Sloane’s head, tenderly stroking his hair. “It’s all right. Tell him you’re okay. It’s over.”
Sloane did. He tried to soothe the beast inside him. Told him it was okay. The worst was over, even if only for today. The Felid protested but slinked back into the shadows. Sloane clenched his jaw, his eyes shut tight against the sting and pain of his claws and fangs retracting. A few heartbeats later and the Felid slumbered once again. Shultzon wiped Sloane’s nose with a tissue then ran a damp cloth tenderly over Sloane’s face before he undid the straps restraining him. Sloane’s bottom lip trembled and big fat tears rolled down his flushed cheeks.
“I know what you’re thinking.” Shultzon put a hand under his chin and tilted his face up so he could look into Sloane’s eyes. “You’re not a monster. Just a regular thirteen-year-old boy like any other. Maybe a little different but that’s not a bad thing.”
Sloane nodded even if he didn’t agree. Maybe he wasn’t a monster, but he was a freak and a killer. He’d killed his mom. His dad hurt him and then killed himself. They’d thrown him away. Locked him up and told him he was… an abomination. Sometimes he felt so alone, he wished….
“Sloane, that’s enough!”
The harsh tone startled Sloane and a sudden sharp pain drew his gaze down to his wrist where he’d dug his nails. Eyes wide, he shook his head frantically. “I didn’t mean to!” He didn’t want to go back into observation. What if they tied him to the bed again? “I swear!”
“Hush. It’s okay.” Shultzon sat next to him and drew him into his arms, rocking him gently like his mother used to do when there was a bad thunderstorm and the lightning scared him. “I know you didn’t mean to. But you have to be more careful or I won’t have a choice.”
Sloane nodded. “I promise.” He didn’t want to hurt anymore. Everything always hurt. His head, his body, his heart. A shuddered breath escaped him, and his voice sounded so small when he spoke. “I want to go back to my room.”
Shultzon led him down the bright white halls and into the elevator where they soon stepped out into another white hall. Every floor looked the same, always white and far too bright. The door to his room opened and Ash stepped out. As if he’d known Sloane was near. Without waiting for the doctor’s okay, Sloane took off down the hall and threw himself into Ash’s arms. Despite being the same age, Ash was bigger, and when his strong arms squeezed Sloane, the tears started once again. He hated crying so much, but he couldn’t seem to stop.
“It’s okay,” Ash said gruffly, leading Sloane inside and shutting the door behind him. He walked Sloane over to his bed and sat down with him, holding him while he cried. When Sloane’s eyes and head hurt from crying so much, his nose stuffed, and his throat sore, he pulled back and wiped his face with his sleeve.
“I’m sorry. I’m such a wuss.”
“You’re not a wuss.”
“I am. They do the same to you and you never cry.”
“It’s good you cry,” Ash said somberly. He turned to look at Sloane and for the first time in two years, he looked… sad. “It means you’re not broken.”
Sloane frowned at him. “You’re not broken.”
“Yes I am. I only ever feel angry.”
“That’s not true!” Sloane took Ash’s hand in his. “You smile and laugh. If you were broken you wouldn’t do that.”
Ash seemed to think about that then shrugged as if giving in. Sloane pushed on.
“You’re my best friend in the whole world, Ash.”
“I’m your only friend.”
Sloane laughed. “Okay, but if you weren’t my only friend, you’d still be my best friend. We’re going to always be best friends, right?”
Ash smiled broadly. “You bet.”
The door to their room opened and two doctors stood by. “Ash. It’s time.”
“Okay.” Ash breathed in deep, puffing up his chest. It was as if he weren’t afraid of anything.
Ash walked to the door and Sloane looked on worriedly. He crawled onto his bed, grabbed his favorite stuffed toy, and drew his knees up. Ash stopped to look over his shoulder at Sloane, a grin on his face. “If you touch my stuff I’ll kick your butt.”
“Got it.” Sloane couldn’t help his smile. Then the door closed and he was alone again.
Ash would be back soon. He had to be. It was the only thing Sloane had to hang on to. Shutting his eyes tight, Sloane dreamed of the day they’d be free. He even dared to hope he’d have a normal life with someone who cared about him, who wasn’t afraid of him. Maybe even… love him.