Wylie’s fingers itched to turn into claws. He was ready to maul someone for a cigarette. His first burglary was already off to a shit start, and given how their luck was going, he suspected they’d all be dead or in prison before the night was out.
They were a small crew—four in total—but Wylie felt like the van was filled to the brim with potential disaster. He was in the back with his boyfriend, Beck, while the other two guys sat up front. Wylie was stationed on top of the wheel well, which gave him a clear view of the windshield and the gate blocking their way. His head brushed the roof and his back was cold against the wall, but he refused to move unless absolutely necessary. Every scrape of his sneakers on the grit covered metal floor made his teeth buzz and body tense.
What the fuck was taking so long? He wanted out of this damn tin can. Hell, he just wanted out. Out of this night, out of this initiation. The only thing keeping him from snapping was the dark he was cloaked in. It was easier to keep it together when no one could see how close he was to losing his shit.
“Damn it. No,” Adam hissed quietly from the passenger-side seat in front of Wylie. The self-proclaimed hacker clattered away on his mini keyboard while muttering at a small, burning blue screen. The teen was so short his head barely cleared the back of the seat, and he hummed a caustic, nervous tune that did nothing to disguise his growing panic.
Wylie took a steadying breath and tried to block out the electric scent of fear filling the small, confined space. The little tech-wiz was taking too long. Adam reeked of anxiety and showed no sign he was even close to breaking through the security system. For all they knew, the kid had turned chickenshit and was trying to wait out the clock.
Ten minutes. Wylie’s eyes darted to the display on the dashboard when it flashed. Twelve minutes. The air grew heated the longer each second ticked and nothing changed. Wylie could smell the lingering scents of oil and stale blood beneath the annoying, fang twitching flood of testosterone in the enclosed space. Diego was flipping. Their asshole leader for the night hadn’t said a word since they parked, but Wylie’s nose revealed the rage building in the silent gangster.
This was a bad idea. A monumentally dumb fuck idea. He seriously should have taken that last smoke before they left.
“Is this happening?” A warm hand grasped his arm, and Wylie held still as Beck pressed his chest up against his back. Hair tickled his cheek when Beck leaned over his shoulder and peered at the clock on the dash. “Shit, our timetable is going out the fucking window.”
Beck turned toward him, but his gaze failed to find Wylie in the absolute black of the back of the van. Wylie’s pupils expanded, and shapes and colors began to reveal out of the darkness. He focused on Beck and his gaze traced his boyfriend’s familiar, handsome features and slipped down to the smooth line of his throat.
This was a mistake. Beck was too idealistic, too sweet for this gang bullshit. He had never spent a day out on his own and didn’t know shit about the real world.
Wylie bent forward and his lips brushed Beck’s ear. “We can still back out. No one needs to know we came out here.”
Beck shuddered, but it was only from the heat of Wylie’s breath on his skin. He turned his head and their noses bumped. It was surreal, and Wylie felt half a predator as he watched Beck’s limited human eyes blink uselessly in the dark. Beck fumbled and his palm found Wylie’s neck and moved up to his face. He rubbed along the peach fuzz of Wylie’s crew cut to the back of his head and pressed forward so they wouldn’t be overheard.
“Don’t be dumb, baby. This is our ticket out of this bullshit. Once we make this score, we’re in.”
“B, getting into the gang is only going to lead to more…” Wylie trailed off when an angry growl tore from the driver’s seat.
“Come on, you little fuck. Hurry up!” Diego slammed his fist on the dashboard, and everyone jumped.
Adam’s incessant humming silenced with his yelp, as did the clicking of keys as he tried to steady his shaking hands. His voice was timid and weak once he finally spoke. “I’m almost…”
“You said you were a genius, that this would be done in five minutes, tops,” Diego snarled accusingly. He turned in his seat and towered aggressively over Adam’s diminutive form. “Hurry the fuck up, you little shit, or I’m dumping you dead in some back alley where the freaks like the guy in the back will eat your fucking flesh. Crack the gate!”
Wylie gritted his teeth. He wasn’t a freak, and he sure as fuck wasn’t a cannibal.
“It’s not the same system Roth gave me the plans for,” Adam whispered from his cowering hunch. “There’s another element I’ve never seen before. I think I’ve almost hacked it.” His narrow shoulders scrunched tighter as he bent over his small computer. Adam ducked beneath his mouse brown hair to hide from Diego’s glare and refocused on the screen.
“Hey, freak, you paying attention back there?” Diego threw his heavily tattooed arm over the seat and turned his aggressive stare to the back of the van. “You’re going to break us through the gate if the kid fucks this up. You might also need to beat the shit out of the little bitch if it turns out he’s screwing us over.”
Wylie tensed as he fixed on Diego’s brutal expression and unfocused eyes. The gangster was as mean as a junkyard dog and twice as foul, and Wylie was ready to smash his face in. Wylie might be the only one in the crew who could transform, but Diego was all human and still managed to be as despicable as it got. Everything about this situation was setting him on edge, and it started all the way back when Diego showed up half an hour late to the heist and nicknamed him freak.
“Yeah, none of that’s happening,” Wylie said with far more apathy than he felt. “Unless the alarms are down, we’re not leaving this van. We signed up for a robbery, not a fucking suicide mission.”
“You little shit.” Red flushed across Diego’s tanned features, and his chest puffed like a jacked up frog about to explode. His hand gripped the top of the dividing seat and the vinyl creaked in his powerful grip.
Wylie carefully unwound from Beck and nudged him behind his powerful form just in case Diego lost his shit and started punching. Being saddled with three nervous, untested teenagers for a gang initiation probably wasn’t Diego’s highpoint of the week either, but Wylie wasn’t about to throw his life away over the gangster’s explosive temper. He’d rather fuck it up in the driveway before a crime was committed, than have it turn to shit when they were balls deep in the mansion.
“Listen here, you fucking freakshow.” Diego stabbed a finger in Wylie’s direction, but he kept enough self control to stop from reaching into the dark and risk losing an arm. “If you don’t want to end up dead tonight, you do as I fucking say. That goes for all of you. This isn’t some pussy high school playtime, and I’m not going back to prison over you dumb fuck kids. If any of you…”
There was a sudden rattle of metal, and Diego whirled in his seat to peer out the windshield. Adam beamed when the wrought iron gate blocking the driveway shuddered and opened smoothly on motorized tracks.
“Halle-fucking-lujah,” Diego growled in relief and slammed his hand on the key. The van sputtered, then roared to life. Diego showed thin restraint as he put the vehicle in gear, hit the gas, and they glided through the gate opening.
Wylie took a steadying breath as his gut clenched. There was no backing out now. Whatever happened, they were locked in.
“We’re in,” Beck gasped in excitement. He fell against Wylie’s shoulder to peer ahead through the windshield. The sprawling mansion came into view, and Beck’s breath heated his cheek when he sought out his mouth. If Wylie’s response was more tepid than usual, Beck didn’t mention it.
“This is it, baby. This is our fucking future,” Beck whispered between quick, hungry kisses. “We’re finally going to be free.”
Wylie sealed their lips together just to silence Beck’s optimistic spewing. Running with Roth wasn’t going to be freedom the way his idealistic boyfriend envisioned. It was just another bunch of fucked up, hypocritical adults who used kids while calling it family. Doing illegal shit at the same time didn’t make it any better than all the other bullshit families Wylie had gone through. It would be money, though, serious money that could buy him the future his fucked up arms stole.
Beck’s hand drifted down, and Wylie jolted when fingers fumbled for his zipper. “B.” He pulled Beck’s arm up and shot his boyfriend a smoldering look he couldn’t see in the dark. “Quit being a pervy kink. Focus.”
Beck rolled his eyes and with a wicked grin, threw himself into Wylie’s lap. He wrapped around his boyfriend’s muscular form and kissed roughly up his neck and jaw. “Don’t be that way, baby. We’re going to fuck tonight. We’re going to ace this shit, and you’re going to come over to my place and fuck me with those studly arms out.”
Beck rocked his hips against him seductively, and Wylie growled. Damn it, his dick definitely dragged him into all kinds of trouble when it involved a tight piece of ass like Beck.
“B, you gotta take this seriously.” Wylie peeked an eye to the front of the van as Beck’s lips slid a hot path along his throat. “You know my arms are dangerous. One wrong move, and my scales could slice the flesh from your bones.”
“I don’t care. You’re arms are crazy hot, and we’re totally doing it,” Beck whispered breathlessly. “Tomorrow morning, I’m telling my parents to go fuck themselves. No more evangelical school, no more sick fuck Reverend Clark, and no more pretending I hate dick. You’re going to move out of that shitty group home where they treat you like a monster, and life is going to be fucking perfect.” Beck’s lips found Wylie’s in the dark and crushed him in a desperate kiss.
Beck was totally fucked up and Wylie wasn’t complaining. He wrapped his arms tight around Beck’s narrow hips, squeezed his ass hard, and pulled him up into a deep kiss. Sneakers scraped the metal floor as Beck straddled his thighs and his palms slid hot paths over Wylie’s chest and back.
Wylie broke from the kiss and grabbed the hand trying to get under his sweatshirt. He pulled Beck tight against him and pressed his mouth to his ear. “Just promise me you’ll watch your back tonight. If you get even a whiff of the cops, you run.”
Beck glanced toward the front of the van and turned back to whisper against Wylie’s cheek. “Dude, I’m the freaking lookout. I can’t just run.”
He was so fucking naive.
“B, you don’t owe these crazy fucks any…” Wylie fell silent as the darkness flashed and light dazzled his night vision. He hissed and covered his face with his arms. “Shit.”
Wylie stayed hunched until the blinding pain throbbing behind his eyes began to fade. An outdoor lamp illuminated the driveway where the van rolled to a stop in front of a garage. Diego cut the engine and silence descended. Wylie squinted up to the front once his eyes adjusted, and he met Diego’s dark glare.
Wylie bristled and pushed back from Beck. He didn’t like Diego, he didn’t trust him, and he sure as fuck didn’t want his eyes on him when he was sucking face with his boyfriend.
Diego didn’t say anything as he pulled a packet from his pocket and jammed a piece of gum into his mouth. Wylie gritted his teeth when he realized it was Nicorette. The fucker.
“Alright, kiddies,” Diego drawled as his gaze moved from Adam’s pale, anxious face, to Beck’s excited smile, to Wylie’s defensive glare. “Remember, the owner flew south to some fucking island, and we’re the professionals called in to check on a busted pipe. Easy.”
Wylie pursed his lips. They didn’t have a toolbox or even a sign on the side of the rusted out van painted in matte black finish. Anyone who saw them would see three wannabe thug teenagers and a career criminal, not fucking plumbers.
Diego didn’t look particularly concerned about the logistics of his plan as he jabbed his thumb at Beck. “B, you’re on lookout. I want you at the door with your ear on the scanner for signs of cops. No matter what we’re lugging, you don’t leave that post until it’s time to go. As for you, you stupid shit.” He grabbed Adam roughly by the head and shoved him toward the door. “Get your scrawny ass out. We need someone to tag the stuff worth grabbing. Don’t fuck it up.”
Adam scrambled to keep his computer from falling while avoiding Diego’s touch. He didn’t dare look up as he shouldered the door open and slid down the seat until his sneakers reached the pavement.
Diego’s dark eyes burned with hostility when he turned to Wylie, who hadn’t moved yet. “Freakshow, you’re with me. Alright, you stupid fucks, let’s rob this shit.”