Ramos always laced the cake with drugs.
Once a year, he threw a celebration marking the day he took me and made me part of his Pack. He called it Shanghai Day. His wives baked a cake at his demand, decorated it, and put tranquilizer in the batter. Detecting the scent was easy, but I ate it without fail.
Previous years he called it fun to watch me wake in terror, unsure of what I'd endured in unconsciousness. Sometimes pain followed waking. Broken bones, cuts, burns. Sometimes, nothing followed but grogginess. He thrived on my vulnerability. He had purpose, but this year, the tenth celebration, was different.
The ingredients in the cake remained consistent, but waking this time took my fear to a new level. A pressure jostled me awake, in a place Ramos deemed too important for pain. A scraping sensation followed the pressure. My sense of smell returned as my vision started to clear, and a pungent string of antiseptic irritated my throat.
Ramos was near, but we weren't alone. A dark head between my thighs sharpened into view, followed by legs on each side of it. I wiggled my fingers, scraping my nails against cold metal. I wiggled my toes, and the toes on either side of the dark head moved.
Were those my toes? My legs? My tranquilized brain tried to comprehend where my body parts were even as the pressure withdrew. The dark head lifted, revealing a torso, and a familiar face.
I blinked to focus. The dark head belonged to a human, not a wolf. Ramos' doctor. Why was Ramos' doctor between my thighs? Was I in the hospital?
Dim light filled the room, casting shadows. Too dark for a hospital, but I couldn't make out much beyond ten feet. My eyes weren't great, especially for a shifter. The antiseptic wasn't as overbearing since the doctor pulled away. Mildew and musty scents took its place. The room reeked of Pack.
Sprawled bare backed across a chilly metal table, I glanced down at myself. Angry red scars on both legs from a childhood accident confirmed those were my body parts in stirrups.
Why were my legs in stirrups?
"Given BBT, cervical position, and the LH surge, ovulation is impending." The doctor stood from his wheeled chair, facing someone out of my view.
"How soon?" Ramos' distorted voice lit with eagerness, and he closed the distance between the doctor and himself. I averted my eyes, my brain catching up to at least the danger of his presence.
"Within five days." The doctor glanced in my direction. "Given her malnourishment, menstruation may not occur."
"Fun without the mess?"
The man cleared his throat. "Essentially."
"But impregnation can occur?"
None of the doctor's words made sense, but Ramos' last question did. Fingers curling on the metal table, my hands balled. Blood rushed to my head even in my position, and after a sharp squeeze in my heart, I bit my tongue to keep in the gasp. My feet jerked in the stirrups, clashing metal against metal.
Ramos' promises hit me one after another. Promises he'd made for years. What would happen when I reached childbearing age—
He treated his wives horridly. Their cries rang from above during the nights, and his laughs. His laughs meant pain.
"Run the statistics by me again, Doc." Ramos' voice filled with greater excitement, either from the news, or my reaction to it. A shudder jolted my body, rapping my knuckles against the table. "Little fox wants to hear them, too. Don't you little fox?"
The doctor cleared his throat again. "Seventy percent chance of conceiving a wolf."
"Those are great odds. Aren't they great odds, Doc?" Ramos slapped the doctor on the shoulder with delight, causing him to bulk at the touch.
"Indeed." The doctor straightened his dislodged glasses with one finger, eyes cast down. "Her, um, situation will need improvement should she be impregnated. Wolf fetuses require a substantial amount of food to survive. She'll need vitamins, as well."
"Yes, yes." Ramos waved him off. "Your life depends on the survival of my pups, Doc. Don't let anymore die." Ramos ascended the stairs, calling for his son.
The doctor moved with a speed unnatural for a human, grabbing at his bag, then came to my side. "We don't have much time," he said. "Inside this syringe is a cocktail." He thrust a needle into my palm, his voice quieter than a whisper. "Injection means death. Understand that. Remember it."
The doctor left without waiting for a reply. My fingers curled around the cool metal, as I tried to lift my legs from the stirrups. Goose bumps prickled over my skin from lack of clothing, but this was nothing new. Another attempt at removing myself from the metal contraptions proved successful. Heavy, both legs thumped against the table. The bite of pain helped clear my thoughts, and I struggled to a sitting position.
I stared at the needle. For years I looked for a way out, and finally, I had it. I wouldn't have to endure baring Ramos' children. Like others before me, I could opt out.