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Bloom_Prologue

WARNING!!! The first prologue of Bloom details the aftermath of graphic abuse and gross neglect of a little boy by his parents. As such I felt it best to chronicle the event from a third party's POV rather than the subject. It helped me through writing this chapter, but if this makes you nervous, you can always skip the prologue.

Please note before the transformation, the Blood Hounds club was known as Bloodlets.


8 years ago, Riverton

CROWE


“Oh, fuck.”

Winter, who was standing behind me, stumbled back from the gruesome sight we’d revealed by opening the door to the small shed we’d found on the property. Saint turned and emptied his stomach on the grass. Bile rushed into my mouth, acrid and burning, but I swallowed it down. If I gave in like Saint, I probably wouldn’t be able to stop. 

“Jesus Christ.” 

Another time, I would have laughed at Saint, tough biker that he was, bent over puking his guts out. Winter had gone pale and sweat beaded his forehead. He had his hand over his nostrils to ward against the stench of death that had almost knocked us off our feet.

Over the years, we’d helped our fair share of men into the afterlife. We did what we had to in order to survive, and death was a part of that survival. All of us in the Bloodlets motorcycle club were used to it.

What we weren’t used to was the sign of life packaged as a scrawny child smeared from head to toe in blood. Literally. Blood matted his blond hair, streaked his face, and provided the only covering for his otherwise naked body.

The sudden bright light that filled the shed had the child look up. He stared straight ahead at me with vacant green eyes that were too big in his angular face. Was he blind? He didn’t react at all, just stared for a full minute, then dropped his gaze.

To one of the two mangled bodies that lay next to him on the ground.

A slight sucking noise accompanied the boy’s raised hands to reveal a large knife that he’d just pulled from the body next to him. He held the weapon with two hands awkwardly, as if it weighed a ton. His hands were slick with blood, as was the handle of the knife.

What the...

The boy shoved the knife into the body repeatedly in a rhythm that seemed practiced. My stomach revolted, and I turned my head to the side to spew out the acidic taste of beer—the only thing I’d had to drink today..

“What the fuck, Crowe?” Winter whispered. “That’s not... normal.”

A groan came from Saint, who leaned weakly against the side of the shed. “Yeah, that’s... fuck.” He gulped in air and closed his eyes.

Just what the fuck had we walked into? My father, the president of the Bloodlets, had given us a simple task—to round up Jaws, who’d swindled money from him. We’d searched the property when he didn’t answer the front door, and our noses had led us to the shed in the back.

From the man lying on the ground wearing a bloodied cut similar to mine, my father wouldn’t be getting his money at all. I winced as the boy hit bone with the knife. He pulled with all his might and toppled over onto his back when the blade was finally free.

“We gotta get him out of there,” I said in a low murmur to not startle him.

“He ain’t normal, Crowe. Leave him be.”

Nothing about the situation was normal, but that vacant look in the boy’s eyes was too familiar to a younger version of me. Had I not had Winter as a rock during those times, I could have been him.

There was no way I could leave him there. And the bodies... I could see it now. At best, they would put him in a psychiatric facility for the rest of his life.

“I’m going in,” I said.

“Crowe, listen man, this is bigger than us,” Saint said.

“Your mother’s a damn psychiatrist, Saint. You should know better.”

He dropped his eyes as he should. Out of the lot of us, Saint was the only one who came from a decent home. When the rest of us were jaded, he should have been hopeful for the child. He was so tiny.

Slowly, I moved forward into the shed, my boots crunching on the dirt floor. From the flies and scent coming from the corpses, they had been dead for several hours at least. 

Unable to take the stench, I shook out a bandana and wrapped it around the lower half of my face. I averted my gaze from the bodies full of stab wounds and severed flesh. I concentrated on the boy who’d climbed to his knees. He crawled over to what looked like the body of a plump woman and raised the knife.

Fuck no.

“Hey, there,” I said, calmer than I felt.

His head swung around. He blinked rapidly, his eyes darting from the corner of the room to me. 

“I’m not going to hurt you.” Hands held up so he could see them, I stepped over the corpse closer to me and felt my boot hit something. A severed finger. Oh god. “They were bad people, weren’t they? You did nothing wrong.”

For all I knew, Saint was right, and this child was Lucifer reborn, but I would bet my Harley against it. That dead look in the boy’s eyes had a reason behind it. So did the graphic sight before me.

“My name’s Crowe.” I extended a hand toward him. “Let me take you away from here. Are you hungry?”

I was fully inside the shed now, and it was even worse than I’d thought. The scent of human waste on top of the dead bodies was unbearable. I could feel my eyes burning and my throat clogging up.

I can’t take much more of this. I need to get him out now.

“Let’s get you cleaned up and into some clothes.” I leaped toward him. He was tiny after all and couldn’t ward me off. I reached a hand forward to grab his wrist, which held the knife. A bloodcurdling scream pierced the air. Startled, I jumped back as he slashed at the air with the knife, stumbled and fought like hell to regain my balance.

The boy dashed across the shed with legs the size of twigs and dove into a box. His entire frame fit inside, though he kept a portion of his head visible so he could watch me.

“Saint’s right, man,” Winter said, standing just inside the hut. “The cleaning crew is on their way. We can let them handle him.”

Hell no. I hadn’t come this far to give up now.

“I just need to grab the knife from him and then we can take him away.”

“Take him away? Look at him, Crow. He’s like a wild animal.”

“Then we tame him.”

“I can’t talk you out of this, can I?”

“No. Whatever you do, stay back. The more of us are inside, the more terrified he gets. I’m gonna shut up now. My lungs are revolting from this stench.”

Each step closer I took to the boy, he let out a scream that sounded every bit like the wild animal Winter made him out to be. But this was no wild animal. He was a boy. One who needed our help. For all the misery we’d caused in our lives, we could do one good deed.

The boy’s head disappeared inside the box. Next to it was an iron dog bowl filled with rotten food, tainted by maggots.

That’s it. I can’t spend another second inside this filth.

I kicked the box gently with my foot. Just like I’d expected, he lunged out with the knife. I grabbed his thin wrist, twisted it, and he howled. The knife fell to the ground, and I picked it up.

“Calm down, kid. I’m not—”

A searing pain ran the length of my cheek.

“Crow, he’s got another knife!”

Winter’s words were too fucking late. Blood dripped from the cut on my cheek. Fuck. It wasn’t so much the cut that I minded, but the possible infection. Who knew where the fuck that knife had been before he slashed me with it?

“Give that to me.” I avoided his attempt to stick me with the knife again and knocked it out of his hand. Grabbing him by the shoulders, I lifted him from the box. Shit. He weighed next to nothing. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, given how scrawny he looked with every rib protruding, but I still didn’t expect it. A strong gust of wind could blow him away. Had he really killed those two people? How?

He sank his teeth into my arm and wouldn’t let go, no matter how much I shook him. Not until he bit out a chunk of my flesh. And swallowed it whole.

“Did he just—” Winter cried.

Blood poured from the wound in my arm, but I grabbed him by the hair. For someone who weighed as little as he did, he had an inhuman strength in the way he kicked and ripped at me with his hands. His body, slick from blood, didn’t make it easy to maintain a grip on him either, but eventually I got him out of the shed and into the light.

The boy went stiff, his eyes wild with fright, as if he wasn’t used to being in the open air. His chest rose and fell hard as he sucked in huge gulps of breath, his eyes darting in all directions. I could feel the frantic pulse in his thin wrist.

He was no longer lashing out at me. Instead, his fingers were like relentless hooks fastened in my cut. The sounds coming from him were full of distress—pitiful grunts and moans—but not an intelligible word.

“Listen to me, we’re not going to hurt you,” I said. “You don’t have to be afraid.”

He opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but no word came out. His eyes rolled back into his head and his frame went limp in my arms.

“Shit. Is he dead?” Winter asked.

I laid the boy on the ground and pressed two fingers to his long neck. His pulse fluttered erratically beneath my touch. “He’s alive, but we need to get him medical attention.”

“You’re bleeding too, man. You need to get those looked at, stat,” Winter said.

Taking the shirt Saint handed me, I clenched my teeth, steeled my resolve and slipped the boy’s limbs one by one into the material to cover him up. “Saint, ride my bike. I’ll take him in the van.” Thank fuck we’d anticipated Jaws running when we showed up, so we’d brought the van in case we had to bring him back with us kicking and fighting.

“Why do I have a feeling this kid’s about to turn our lives upside down?” Saint threw me the keys to the van. Cradling the kid in my arms, I ran with him.


***


The screams had finally stopped. Thank fuck. I removed my hands from my ears, which still rang. The bandage on my jaw felt funny, but Saint’s dad had cleaned the wounds and applied antibiotic treatment to both areas. I’d showered in water so hot my skin still felt raw, but there was nothing that could cleanse my eyes from what I’d seen earlier. 

My phone vibrated, and I checked the screen. I cussed beneath my breath when I saw the caller ID.

“Yes, Pop?” I answered.

“Where the fuck are you?” he bellowed.

“Didn’t Winter explain—”

“That fucking junkie never knows if he’s coming or going.”

“Well, it’s true. Jaws won’t be paying you back in this life, so forget about it.”

“Did his own kid really kill him?”

“We don’t know what happened. Did you know he had a kid?”

“I don’t remember him mentioning any kid. Just a dog they kept around.”

My stomach flipped. Jaws couldn’t have been talking about his own son. Could he have? The cardboard box, the dog bowl, the place where we’d found him—they all added up.

“Jaws always referred to the dog as mutt.”

The boy was Mutt.

I clenched my fists and let the anger flow through me. If that bastard wasn’t dead, I would kill him myself. 

“Forget Jaws,” Pop said. “I need you back at the clubhouse right away.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I get the chance.”

“In case it wasn’t clear, I meant to stop whatever the fuck you’re doing and haul your ass back to the clubhouse.”

He hung up before I could tell him to go fuck himself. Over the years, I’d grown to do his bidding to avoid his wrath. There was a reason he and Winter’s father ran the club. Two old-fashioned bikers cut from the same cloth. 

Pop and I would just have to argue it out when I reached the clubhouse. No way in hell was I going to abandon the child after coming this far.

“Crowe.”

I surged to my feet and turned to meet Dr. Silvera, who had entered the living room. 

“How’s he doing?” I asked.

The doctor frowned. “Where exactly did you find him?”

“Dr. Silvera, you know I can’t answer that.”

“To be frank, Crowe, it’s a miracle that boy is alive. He’s severely emaciated. We’ll have to keep him for a few days just to run all the tests we need to on him.”

“Is there anything else?”

“Based on the appearance of some of the tissue scars, this child has suffered abuse for a very long time. Possibly all his life. His back is covered in scars. Two of his fingers have been broken and not reset properly. Malnutrition has stunted his growth, making it difficult to determine his age, but we would say he’s around twelve.”

“Twelve? He looks more like an eight-year-old.”

“Starvation will do that to you.”

His brow furrowed, and he glanced away, as if he had a lot on his mind.

“What is it?” I asked.

“I’m not sure if I should say anything, but this child—it might have been better had he not survived.”

I clenched my teeth. “You’re a doctor. How can you say that?”

“It’s precisely being a doctor that makes me say these things to you. The road to recovery for this child will be a tough one. He’s not verbal, and at this stage we can’t determine if it’s selective mutism or more. All the physical challenges aside, let’s not even mention how this trauma will affect his psychiatric well-being, but that’s my wife’s domain.”

“Can I see him?”

“Of course. He’s sedated right now. Follow me, please.”

I fell into step next to Dr. Silvera. As we walked down a long hall, he explained the different tests that the child would have to go through. “So it’s really best if we let him stay here for a few days.”

“Whatever he needs.”

He stopped at a door and pushed it open to reveal a room, a makeshift hospital space, within the doctor’s house. A single bed with its crisp white sheets occupied the center. Beside it stood a small, metal nightstand, on which lay an array of medical instruments, their stainless steel surfaces gleaming under the bright light overhead. A portable IV stand lingered nearby, its slender pole holding bags of clear fluids. 

We approached the bed, and I took in the child lying on his back. He was no longer covered in grime. I could see his face clearly now. His eyes were sunken and his cheekbones stood out. How was he twelve years old?

The boy’s eyes fluttered open and stared right into mine. I couldn’t look away. His body looked young, but his eyes were that of an old man who had lived through it all.

It’s okay, little fella. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. One day you’ll show them your bloom.





 


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