Gabriel curls into the fetal position on his cot; his head clamps between his arms. The pain has settled behind his eyes now, blinding him.
“Not again,” he groans. His teeth pierce through his lower lip as searing light rips through his mind. His howl rattles the reinforced walls.
The top of his skull cracks under the pressure. Shifting. Mending. The bridge of his nose raises half an inch, his cheek bones rotate back. His hairline rises slightly as his ears shift into their proper position. Perfection.
Gabriel lurches to the side, vomiting onto the floor. The expanding filth seeps into the cracks under his tiny bed. The rancid scent burns his nostrils, contaminating the stale air.
His windowless room offers only a sliver of fresh air that manages to seep in from under the massive door. He sucks in steadying breaths, grimacing at the foul taste.
The pain begins to recede, if only for the moment. Gabriel falls back onto his cot; sweat clings to him like a second skin. His chest heaves as he slumps, exhausted.
“What is happening to me?” he shouts. No answer. Just like the last time and the forty before that. But he knows he is being watched. He can hear them out there. Talking. Laughing.
A packet of blood, sitting on a nearby table, makes his stomach growl with need. But he resists this obvious trap. Rose would want him to be strong.
Roseline, his mind screams. His chest constricts at the thought of her. Where is she? Is she alright? Was she kidnapped too?
A growl rises in his chest at the thought of anyone touching her. Rage, as he has never known before, curls in his gut. His hands flex, begging for freedom, aching for revenge.
He would gladly pick any of the five heartbeats that live in the space beyond his cage. But he is weakening. His strength wanes with each round of transformations.
Instinctively, he knows that blood will heal him. It is not his brain speaking to him, but the very cells in his body. He should be repulsed by the thought…but he’s not.
Gabriel glares at the small packet of blood. His stomach growls, craving the blood like a junkie searching for his next fix, but he resists.
“No,” he shouts to the voices beyond, “you can’t make me drink it!”
He refuses to give them the satisfaction.
Panting, Gabriel closes his eyes and focuses on Roseline. On her piercing eyes. Her smile, which makes him weak with desire. He can almost imagine the feel of her soothing hands against his feverish skin. Taste her kisses on his lips. Feel her hair draped across his bare chest.
His eyes sting as tears begin to form. Filled with resolve, he swipes them away. He won’t be weak. He can’t be. She needs him.
A strangled groan escapes his lips as burning heat begins to bloom once more. “No, please, not again,” he begs as his pelvis explodes.