Story Excerpt

flame div


"I'm innocent!" he raged. "You can't punish me without evidence."

"We have all of the evidence we need, Julian Gallagher," Elder Belikov replied, shaking his head as if displeased by Julian's protest. "You have been found guilty of one of the worst crimes a clan member can commit, the crime of betrayal."

"I didn't betray anyone!" Julian shouted.

"The evidence says otherwise."

"The evidence is wrong. I am innocent of the charges brought against me. I would never do anything that brought harm to my clan, no matter what the evidence says." Julian had to make these men see reason. He didn't betray his clan. He would never betray his clan. "If you'd just listen to me—"

"Enough!" Elder Belikov shouted as he held up his hand.  

Julian felt the ominous silence that fell over the small area like a lead weight around his neck. He glanced from one man to the next until he had looked into the faces of all five and knew he was doomed. They weren't ready to listen to reason.

"This is wrong!" Julian shouted. He could see another man pull something from the fire pit and walk toward him. He started to struggle between the two large council enforcers that held him.

"Maybe you should have thought of that before you betrayed your clan, Julian."

"I didn't betray my clan."

"That is not the decision of this council.

"Council?" Julian sneered. "This isn't a council, it's a joke."

Julian grunted as Elder Belikov stepped forward and backhanded him across the face. He licked at the trail of blood the dribble from his split lip and looked up to glare at the man. "Like I said, a joke."

"You, Julian Gallagher, have been found guilty by this council. You will be taken from this place, stripped of your position as Alpha of your clan, punished as befitting your crime and status."

"Punished?" Julian's struggles stopped as he swallowed hard. "Don't you mean attacked?"

"It is the decision of this council that you be punished, Julian Gallagher. You're name will be stricken from all recorded records. No clan will accept you into their midst or acknowledge your existence from this day forward."

"You can't do this," Julian whispered. "I have a mate. What's to become of him?"

The frown that covered the man's face sent a chill of foreboding down Julian's spine. He wasn't going to like what he elder had to say and he knew it.

"Where is this mate, Julian?" the elder asked as he waved his hand around the small area. "Why does he not stand by your side to defend you?"

Julian didn't have an answer for that. He knew his mate was deep in the closet and having a hard time coming to terms with their mating. But they were mated, destined to be together. Rogan should have been here.

"What is the name of this supposed mate?"

Julian pressed his lips firmly together. If he was to be punished and banished, he refused to drag his mate down with him. Rogan was everything in the world to him, more precious to him than even the clan he governed. He would no more betray his mate then he would betray his clan.

"That’s what I thought," the man said after several minutes of silence. "No clan member would leave his mate to face the council all alone. As the mate you say you have is not standing here then I can only assume he does not exist or he believes you to be as guilty as we do."

Julian inhaled sharply and struggled to back away when the man from the fire held out a small metal bowl to Elder Belikov. The liquid inside splashed around and Julian got his first good look at the torture he was about to endure.

"This is wrong," Julian cried out desperately. "I can't be found guilty without a trial."

"You lost your right to a trial when you betrayed your clan."

"I didn't betray my clan!" Julian shouted but his words seem to fall on deaf ears. The men holding his arms forced him down to his knees. Julian grunted when someone grabbed a handful of his hair and jerked his head back.

"Julian Gallagher, you have been found guilty of the crime of betrayal." Elder Belikov spoke the formal words of the council but Julian knew he was just doing it for the men surrounding them. Elder Belikov never cared a wit about the rules of the council. He cared about power, his power.

"The council will punish you for this."

"Dear boy." Elder Belikov chuckled. "I am the council."

Julian felt the first cut before Elder Belikov's words had even left his ears. He jerked and tried to pull away, refusing to utter a sound. He wouldn't give Elder Belikov the satisfaction of hearing him beg. As the second and then the third cuts were made across his skin, Julian wondered how long he could keep that promise to himself, especially when he saw the evil grin on Elder Belikov's face.

Julian's eyes widened when the bowl of liquid silver was brought closer to him. He felt true fear for the first time since he had been kidnapped from his bed in the middle of the night. Shifters didn't heal from silver.

White hot agony filled Julian as liquid silver was poured over the cuts made in his skin moments before. He gritted his teeth and stiffened, trying to ride out the pain. But the agony continued, growing worse with each passing moment. The kicks and punches added to his torture between cuts only increased his pain.

Julian's mind began to wander as one ache melted into another. He didn't understand why he had been picked by Elder Belikov to be tortured and he'd never have a chance to ask. Julian doubted he'd survive his injuries.

Julian was saddened by that knowledge. He'd never get to see his mate again, to hold the man in his arms or feel his sweet kiss. He'd never get to convince his mate to come out of the closet and live side by side with him.

Julian could only hope that Elder Belikov never learned the name of his mate. Julian had no doubt that the elder was evil enough to go after him. As much as he regretted it, Julian could die happy knowing his mate was safe.

Julian looked up through glossy eyes when he heard Elder Belikov's low laugh. The man really was just too happy. He had a right to be. There wasn't an inch of Julian's body that didn't scream in agony.

"You will pay for this, Belikov," Julian whispered.

"You might be right, dear boy, but not before your mate does." Belikov chuckled then leaned in close to Julian's hear. "Rogan, isn't that his name?"