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The Ganga Shift

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Life hasn’t been easy for Isabella. She spent most of her childhood in the foster care system, and now at twenty-two she has landed herself in prison on drug charges. Her troubled past is what makes her a perfect candidate for the government’s latest scientific endeavor, Operation Gene Re-sequencing. No one will miss her. No one will question her absence. But, when it’s discovered Isabella is immune to their DNA-changing drugs, she is selected to be used as prey for those who aren’t.



Chase and Brayden couldn’t be more opposite; Chase is calm, reserved, and completely insistent that he will control the changes the virus is causing in his body. Brayden, on the other hand, has always been wild and uninhibited. He welcomes the new animalistic nature coming over him. The one thing they have in common? They both have a taste for the cute little Asian inmate who is now sharing their cell.

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Published 10 April 2018
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EAN13 9788827546994
Language English

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THE GANGA SHIFT
MARY BERNSENCopyright © 2018 by The Parliament House
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical
means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from
the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Edited by C.K. Brooke & David Rochelero
Cover Design by Shayne Leighton
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Created with VellumC O N T E N T S
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
About the Author
Isabella Still Needs YouCHAPTER 1
ou’re making this much more difficult than it needs to be, Ms. Baker.”
The warden tightened the dull, fraying leather restraints on Isabella’s“Y wrist, pinching her skin into the armrest of the ice-cold metal chair he had
tethered her to. Despite the sting, she refused to wince.
Instead, she focused on her hatred and glared wordlessly at him. Detestation
burned on her cheeks, and her jaw ached from grinding her teeth.
A flickering lightbulb hovered above their heads on a crude wire, offering a circle of
clarity in an otherwise dark and hidden room. The secrecy was redundant and stupid—
she knew where she was. They had taken her to this room, tucked in a hidden corner of
the infirmary, countless times over the last couple of weeks.
And she knew what was coming.
Right on cue, the jumpy redheaded nurse who had become so familiar to Isabella
knocked on the other side of the door.
“Just a minute,” the warden barked before returning his attention to his prisoner. He
slid a finger across her cheek, then slipped it under her chin before he brought his
mouth a breath away from her face. “This is your last chance, my little dragonet. All you
have to do is submit, just a little, and I can make it stop. This is the last infusion before
your DNA will change permanently. Let me help you.”
Isabella lifted a disgusted lip at him, baring her teeth. Russell Walker had called her
his dragonet from the very first day she stepped foot into the Denver Women’s
Correctional Facility two years ago. A Japanese chick with spunk. The jackass didn’t
even take the time to come up with just a little creativity.
He leaned forward just a bit, as if he had somehow determined she would finally
give in to his advances.
“Walker,” she warned with a stern edge in her voice. “Do I really need to remind you
of the last time you tried to put your filthy mouth on me?”
She clicked her teeth together and he immediately tensed. The warden took a step
back as he rubbed the scar that marred his upper lip. A smug grin swept across her
face as she recalled the way his eyes widened to the size of saucers when she bit
down on him, her teeth sinking completely through his flesh.
Isabella had little doubt that if he were to remember anything about her once she
was gone, it would be that she was the first and only inmate to send the infamous
Richard Walker to the infirmary.
He heaved out a heavy sigh, sinking the weight of his fat stomach even lower.
“You’re going to wish you had decided differently. You have my word on that.”
She lifted her chin, once again offering him the defiant silence she knew infuriated
him. As much as he tried to hide it, his flexing jaw revealed her victory. He turned onhis heels and took long, hurried strides across the room. The metal door clanked and
creaked as he unlatched the lock and swung it open.
The squeaking of Patsy’s sneakers followed. She wore her fiery red hair pulled back
this time. Usually she let the curls fall to frame her chubby face. She wore the standard
blue scrubs along with her familiar plastered on apologetic smile that told Isabella she
wanted nothing more than to tell the girl everything would be all right.
Of course, she wouldn’t. Isabella couldn’t even imagine her telling such a lie with a
straight face.
“How are you feeling today, Isabella?” she asked as she pushed her glasses to the
bridge of her nose.
“Fine,” she answered simply.
“No changes in your sleeping patterns?”
“No.”
Patsy creased her forehead, observing her a moment before tilting Isabella’s head
back to shine a light in her eyes. “What about your appetite? Have you been any
hungrier than usual?”
“Or in my sexual urges,” Isabella announced before it could be asked. “Everything is
the same as the last time I was here, Patsy.”
“Hm.” She tapped her index finger against her lips. “Mr. Walker, I think we should let
Doctor Conley examine her before we—”
“Like hell,” he shouted before she could finish the suggestion.
“Sir, please be reasonable. Every other host has exhibited at least subtle signs of
the mutation after just the first injection, and this will be Isabella’s final dose. She
should be all but changed by this point. Perhaps there’s something unusual in her
genes that’s blocking the change from occurring. If there’s even a small possibility she
is immune, he’s going to want to know.”
“He’s going to get his hands on her soon enough. What difference will it make if it’s
before or after the final shot?”
“Could you imagine the implications? The idea that someone could be immune has
never even been considered. Doctor Conley is going to want to—”
Walker threw is his hand in the air, his face turning crimson with rage. “This is my
prison, Patsy. You work for me, not Doctor Conley. Understood?”
She opened her mouth to protest, but closed it again just as quick. Even his
employees were trained not to provoke the beast. “Yes, Mr. Walker.”
“Then,” he jerked his head in the detained inmate’s direction, “proceed.”
“All right.” Patsy gave a curt nod before she pulled a rolling stool to Isabella’s side
and sat on it. “Isabella, I need to prepare you for what you are about to experience.”
The girl swallowed the lump that had found its way lodged in her throat. Patsy had
probably injected her a dozen times, and each stick was more painful than the last. The
last time, her whole body wracked with burning spasms, sending her into seizure-like
convulsions until she passed out from the pain.
Isabella didn’t know what the serum was supposed to do to her, but whatever it was,
it clearly it wasn’t working. She was going through all this for nothing. Her pride wouldn’t
let her ask to see this Doctor Conley—whoever he was. If she did ask, Walker would
know she was afraid. He wouldn’t get that satisfaction.
Still, a split second of weakness had her considering the warden’s offer; she wassure if she begged him to reconsider, he would stop this whole thing. If she promised to
comply with his rules, if she agreed to show him a little respect in front of the other
inmates, maybe even threw him a wink every now and again . . .
No. She wouldn’t let him win.
She sucked in a deep breath, and paid close attention to what Patsy was telling her,
preparing for the worst.
“You’ll quite likely fall unconscious in a matter of moments once I’ve administered
the shot,” the nurse explained. “The pain will be excruciating.”
Isabella’s face went numb as blood drained from her cheeks. Patsy wasn’t going to
sugarcoat shit for her. As her heart rattled against her ribcage, Isabella fixated on the
reflection of her orange jump suit in Patsy’s glasses. A simple distraction to keep from
shaking.
“When you wake up you can expect to feel some muscle aches and nausea, that’s
normal. If all goes according to plan, there will be some other . . . less familiar side
effects.”
“Such as?”
“You’ll notice some physiological changes. Your heart rate will likely be much higher
than normal, which means you’ll feel hotter. Your vision will be sharper, as will your
sense of smell.”
“Are you trying to tell me I’m going to turn into a dog?”
Patsy leaned back in her chair, trying to create a space of indifferent distance
between them. “I can’t say what you’ll turn into. A beast of some sort, but I don’t know
how your body will morph under this particular strain of the virus. Everyone’s DNA
seems to react differently.”
“A virus?” Isabella’s eyes grew wide. “You’ve been injecting me with a virus?”
The nurse swallowed hard, banishing her guilt down into her gut where it was sure
to bubble up again later. “I can’t go into specifics, but yes. We’re in the beginning
stages of testing—”
“That’s bullshit!” Isabella yanked hard on her restraints. They held tight, barely
keeping her from leaping at the warden. “You can’t do this to me, Walker! I have rights!”
Richard lifted a casual arm and rested it on the wall. A deep, echoing laugh
bounced from his lips and circled her, taunting her fury. “You are a ward of the State of
Colorado,” he reminded her. “You don’t have any rights at all.”
“That isn’t true. You’re full of shit. The DA will—”
“I don’t have the slightest desire to play lawyer with you, Ms. Baker. This is beyond
the District Attorney’s jurisdiction. The fact is, Uncle Sam needs patsies for his latest
military maneuver. The government isn’t about to dose up this nation’s finest with this
stuff until we know if it’s safe. That’s where you come in: the nation’s trash. Nobody
would miss you if you dropped dead today, would they Isabella?”
Tears stung Isabella’s eyes, but she blinked them back. Nobody would miss her.
That was a fact. Nobody cared enough about her to so much as question what
happened. She pressed her thin lips into a hard line. “You’re a bastard, Walker. A cold,
twisted fuck.”
Richard threw a hand over his chest, feigning a heartache. “Oh, come now, Ms.
Baker. I did try to help you, didn’t I?”
“You tried to turn me into a docile little puppet.”“All in the name of order, my little dragonet. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s the
chaos your little prison riots create. You make my life hell in here. It’s my pleasure to
volunteer you for this civic duty.”
“How do you think turning me into some kind of creature is going to help you any?
I’ll just eat the rest of your fucking face off.”
“You won’t be my problem after today, Ms. Baker. You’ll be transported to another
facility, one that specializes in containing whatever it is you will become.”
A swell of dread crashed into her, leaving Isabella’s body feeling limp. “Lucky you,”
she managed with a crack in her voice.
Warden Walker’s expression softened as he took two small steps toward the girl. “It
might be of solace for you to know, Isabella, that despite the troubles you have caused
me here, I’ve always held quite the affection for you.”
He held Isabella’s gaze a moment longer before turning his attention to the nurse.
“Proceed.”
Patsy moved her eyes between the two before nodding. “Yes, sir.” She reached a
hand into the pocket over her breast and pulled out a syringe. “Try to relax, Isabella.”
Relax? This bitch has to be kidding.
Isabella blew out a breath and squeezed her eyes shut. As much as she wanted to
fight, it would be useless. She wasn’t getting free. The only thing she could do was
hope this virus turned her into some kind of badass monster. A dragon, maybe, so she
could fry the warden’s head clean off his sorry neck. His dragonet would get the last
laugh.
The image almost managed to twitch her lips into a smile, but the sudden sting of a
needle piercing the tender skin on the inside of her elbow interrupted her happy
thought.
A surge of nerve-rattling pain rushed through Isabella’s body. She arched her back,
and collapsed against the chair again just as quick. Her muscles twitched, sending her
entire body into convulsions so strong she couldn’t even manage a scream. She
welcomed the darkness as it set in, even if it only offered a veil between her and the
unbearable agony.
Voices echoed in the distance. Her consciousness was muddy and heavy, but she
was just lucid enough to make out Patsy and the warden debating her fate.
“Stupid girl,” Walker shouted over her lifeless shell of a body. “Why couldn’t you
have just taken my deal?”
She wanted to scream back at him. To point out he knew she wouldn’t comply. It
wasn’t in her nature. Isabella was headstrong, unbreakable . . . and she suspected
that’s exactly why he coveted her so. She challenged him and he worshiped her for it—
and she wanted to hurl the truth at him like daggers. But, the words died on her thick,
paralyzed tongue, sinking back down her throat and clogging up her air supply.
The warden cleared his throat. His loud boots paced across the floor as he regained
himself. “Check her vitals, Patsy.”
Pasty shaking head took her wrist, and whispered while she figured the rate of
Isabella’s heartbeat.
“Sixty-two,” she said in disbelief.
“That’s impossible.” Richard waved a dismissive hand at the nurse. “Move away.”
She clamored to her feet and he wedged himself between her and the still-restrained inmate. He bent over the girl and checked her heart rate himself.
“How is this possible?” he asked. “Every other subject’s heart rate was at least triple
this immediately following the final injection.”
“Every other subject showed significant changes well before the final dose.”
“Maybe it’s just delayed.”
Patsy raised a curious eyebrow. “I urge you to consult with Doctor Conley, Mr.
Walker. It’s in the best interest of the experiment.”
A loud crash sounded as Richard threw a heavy fist into the steel door, crushing the
bones. He withdrew quickly, and clutched at his surely broken hand.
“Son of a bitch!”
“Mr. Walker,” Patsy screeched wide-eyed. She hurried to his side, but he pushed
her away.
“Go call the doctor. Wait. Sedate her first. I’d rather him examine her before she
wakes up. God knows what kind of state she’s liable to be in if she comes to while he’s
groping her.”CHAPTER 2
h my God,” Brayden moaned as he took in a long, drawn-out whiff. “What
the hell is that smell?”“O He stuck his nose between the bars of his holding cell, inching
himself as close as possible to whatever sent such an intoxicating scent into the room.
His nostrils flared in approval.
His cellmate, Chase, sat on the other end of their prison, leaning against the
concrete wall. “Control yourself,” he warned. “Remember what happened the last time
you turned during the day?”
Brayden glanced down at his arm. The flesh was still pink and raised from the
change-burn. It still hurt like hell. If the pain wasn’t enough of an incentive,
remembering how his stomach turned at the smell of singed hair and skin was enough
to reign himself in.
Everything smelled so much more intense once the virus changed them. Everything
sounded so much clearer. And the taste of food . . . Oh, Jesus. The chewy, delicious
flavor of a bloody rare steak was enough to get Brayden off.
His prude of a cellmate, on the other hand, had too much self-control to allow
himself to get lost in the new sensations. They were foreign, new, and by Chase’s
experience with them, dangerous. Endless hours Brayden found himself subjected to
the control-freak’s rantings. The guy would go on and on about how they had to find a
way to control this change that was forced on them. As far as Brayden was concerned,
it was a hell of a lot easier to just accept it and make the best of the situation.
Chase ran his hand through his thick, black hair and closed his eyes, struggling to
keep the calm facade up. Catching a glimpse of the man’s trembling hands made
Brayden’s upper lip twitch into a smirk. The smell, wherever it was coming from, was
overwhelmingly inebriating. Impossible to resist, even for the all-mighty Chase, who
had resorted to humming to himself to escape the temptation.
“Not this shit again,” Brayden complained. “You drive me crazy with that bullshit.”
“It’s called meditation,” Chase said dryly. “It could help you control—”
“Oh, shut up. There is no controlling whatever the hell this is, Chase. Face it: they
fucked us up. Just enjoy the perks of it, huh?”
“God, I hate dogs,” Chase mumbled.
“Stop calling me a damn dog!” Brayden lifted his upper lip, exposing his teeth as his
canines morphed into fangs. “I’m a fucking wolf, cat.”
“Put her in cell three.” A voice from down the hall yelled.
“Not yet,” Doctor Conley’s familiar voice countered. “I want to talk to her when she
comes to. Put her in the examination room.”
The enticing fragrance drew nearer, and even Chase made his way next to Braydento check out the source. Their mouths watered as the sound of footsteps closed in.
Two guards dressed in full military camo carried the limp, lifeless body of a girl
down the narrow corridor between their cell and the empty one across from them.
The orange jumpsuit she wore hung off her petite frame like a tent, contrasting with
her dark beige skin tone. Her black hair was tied into a messy bun, but her long bangs
covered her face, barely exposing her almond-shaped eyes. She was conscious, if only
barely, and blinking rapidly as she struggled to take in her surroundings.
The men tasked with transporting her were marines, and part of the few that were
privy to the intentions of this site. They were around often, and this smell had never
accompanied them before. As they passed directly in front their cell it became glaringly
obvious it was the newcomer that smelled so delicious.
“Wait, wait, wait.” Brayden stuck his arm between the bars and grabbed at one of
the guards. Desperate and unashamed, he begged, “Just a minute, please.”
“Get back in your cage,” one of the Marines ordered.
“But, I just want to smell her.”
The jailors looked curiously at one another and shook their heads in unison with
sardonic grins plastered on their faces.
“Sorry boys,” the same one teased. “This one’s defective. I doubt you’ll get to play
with her.”
A growl played on Chase’s lips, kept at bay only by the sight of Doctor Conley
following the men.
“Gentlemen.” The doctor acknowledged them only briefly. As usual, he couldn’t be
bothered to socialize with the lab rats. Unless, apparently, they were of the hot Asian
variety, like the latest recruit.
Out of habit, the boys nodded their respect but remained silent as they watched the
group disappear into another room. The marines entered only long enough to restrain
the girl onto a stainless steel medical table before they took their place just outside the
doorway. Doctor Conley closed the door once they exited, leaving nothing but a trace of
the odor escaping from the bottom crack.
“ARE YOU WITH ME, MS. BAKER?” Doctor Conley leaned over his subject, watching her
close for a sign that she was regaining herself.
Isabella groaned an incoherent response. She attempted to sit up, but the leather
belts across her knees and chest kept her still. Still groggy from the sedatives, she
didn’t have the energy yet to fight against them.
Apparently satisfied with her presence, Doctor Conley opened a manila folder and
began flipping through its contents.
“Five-foot two, one hundred and two pounds, and twenty-two years old,” he read
aloud. “There’s no information readily available on your parents, Isabella. Why is that?”
A fog clouded her mind. She could hear him, but she couldn’t make her mouth
move. The more she came to, the more she realized how cold she was. A bone-chilling
freeze shook her entire body.
Slowly, her mind started to clear, and her first lucid thought sent her heart racing in
panic.She was trapped.
Isabella lurched forward, but the restraints kept her from getting far. She lifted her
head, the only part of her body not tied down, and tried to scream. Terror stole her
voice; nothing but air escaped her lips. She wiggled and writhed, but the more she
struggled the more the realization set in that she was going nowhere.
Finally, she managed to will her eyes open. A piercing light penetrated through her
retinas just before the glow was covered by something coming at her. A hand came
down on her forehead, slamming the back of her skull onto the table before a flattened
palm slapped over her mouth.
Tears stung Isabella’s eyes, and she sobbed against the stranger’s calloused skin.
“Shhh,” Doctor Conley whispered in her ear. “I can’t have you riling up the other
prisoners, Isabella. If you scream, you’ll put them in a feeding frenzy. Now, I’m going to
release you, and you will remain calm. Understood?”
She nodded as a tear ran down the side of her head, disappearing in the shine of
her hair.
“Good.” Doctor Conley took his hands away slowly. From inside his breast pocket,
he pulled out a bottle of hand sanitizer and rubbed himself from fingertips to elbows.
Alcohol mixed with the already present stench of ammonia, making Isabella’s stomach
roil.
“Now, your mother. Let’s start with her.”
“Please . . .” Isabella’s voice cracked and she swallowed hard against the dryness
in her throat. “Some water?”
Conley huffed out an annoyed sigh before he reached down and unlatched the belt
holding Isabella’s chest and arms to the table. As she sat up, he took a specimen cup
from a cupboard and filled it with water from the sink.
“Thank you,” she whispered as she took it from him.
A check around the room revealed nothing as to her whereabouts. Barren concrete
walls interrupted only by the occasional stainless-steel cabinet and a door fitted with a
fingerprint locking mechanism.
So, that’s why he’d given her some wiggle room without any fight. She’d have to kill
him to get out on her own, and as usual she had been judged by her small stature
alone. He deemed her unthreatening because she was petite and pretty. Not the first
man to make such a mistake.
Isabella moved her eyes around the room. Damn. No scalpels, scissors, or any
instruments at all left out. It seemed it was this bastard’s lucky day.
“Ms. Baker.”
Isabella jumped at the gruff tone in Doctor Conley’s voice. After a lifetime of dealing
with the most despicable scum imaginable, it took quite a bit to make her flinch.
Something deep and unexplainable about this creep sent a foreboding jolt through her
limbs.
His grey hair was short, but stood on end. The way his glasses rested on the bridge
of his nose made him look as though he could be Albert Einstein’s twin brother. There
was something completely unrestrained and deviant lurking in his eyes. He could pass
for the evil twin.
She nodded, acknowledging him with a respect that was completely out of
character.“Where am I? This doesn’t look like—” she asked.
“It’s not. We’re in a facility just outside of Colorado Springs.”
“Colorado Springs?”
“Where is your family?” he repeated his request, not hiding his irritation at having to
do so.
“I don’t have one.”
“I see. A lost girl.”
“Isn’t that why I’m here?”
“I don’t ask the wardens why they choose the prisoners they do. I’m simply grateful
for the donation.”
“Donation?” Isabella’s cheeks burned. If what this mad scientist look-alike said was
true, Warden Walker had hand-picked her for this freak show. Heaven help if she ever
laid eyes on that bastard ever again.
An almost child-like smile spread wide across his face. “Genetics are a wonderful
gift. Speaking of which, I do need to know as much as I can about yours. It seems
you’re quite special.”
“There’s nothing special about me, Mr. . . .”
“Conley. Doctor Conley. Looking at you, I might agree. You seem perfectly ordinary
by all accounts, but your reaction to our serum tells a different story.”
Isabella closed her eyes, recalling the conversation between Walker and Conley.
“It’s more of a lack of reaction, isn’t it?”
“That’s right. By now, you should’ve succumbed to the effects of the virus. Yet, here
you are, with zero abnormalities. Peculiar.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, doc. Since I’m not being a good patient, I say you let
me walk out the door and go back to where I came from.”
“The gutter? Don’t be stupid.” He waved a dismissive hand at her before continuing.
“Now about your parents. Their whereabouts?”
“They aren’t that hard to find, Doctor Conley. You might’ve done a little homework
before—”
Conley swung his hand hard, knocking the cup from Isabella’s light grasp. He
lunged at her, closing in until his reddened face was an inch from hers, and he placed
one hand on either side of her waist so that he hovered over her.
“I don’t have the time for banter,” he growled. “Years of research, this entire
operation, all of it is waiting on whatever the fuck is wrong with you. We can’t move
forward until we know what makes your DNA so goddamn different. The cutesy
toughgirl shit might have worked on that dumbass warden, but I warn you Ms. Baker, all it will
do for you here is sentence you to death by hunt.”
Isabella shrunk back. Bits of foam speckled the corner of his mouth. This was the
textbook picture of a madman. Death by hunt. What the hell did that mean?
“They’re in prison,” she admitted. “Both of them. My mother is in Texas, and I don’t
know where my father is. He’s been in the pen since I was born.”
“Right.” He stood straight and pulled on the bottom of his lab coat. “Now we’re
getting somewhere. You’re not the first Asian subject to take part in the experiment, so I
doubt your ethnicity is involved.”
“I’m Japanese,” Isabella corrected the common and all-too-grating generalization.
“It’s all the same thing.”“No. It isn’t.”
“Who raised you? Where did you grow up?” He continued his interrogation as if he
hadn’t heard her protest at all.
“All over Colorado, Doctor Conley. It just depended on where they had an open spot
in foster care.”
“That does nothing for me,” he complained. “You were incarcerated on drug
charges. What was your drug of choice?”
“Cocaine.”
“Not unusual. When was the last time you used?”
Isabella shook her head. She had always thought herself to be detached compared
to other people, but this man took the cake. Nothing seemed to affect him, not even a
sob story about a powder-addicted, parentless reject. Most people instantly wanted to
save her. Conley was too worried about saving his experiment.
“I don’t know. A year ago maybe.”
“Ms. Baker, I don’t care about your disgusting, weak-minded habit. You’re not at the
Denver prison anymore. You’re in my medical facility. You aren’t in danger of going to
confinement. Let’s be clear: I’ve already sent some blood work off. Don’t dare lie to me.
My time is too precious to dance in circles with the likes of you.”
Death by hunt.
Isabella ran her tongue along her dry, chapped lips. “A week. Maybe less.”
“Any other hard drugs?”
“No.”
“And you’ve been using it throughout the injections?”
“More or less.”
“Hm.” He tapped his fingers on the edge of the metal table Isabella still sat on.
“You’re certainly not the first host to be contaminated by that garbage. Which means
we’re no closer to finding an explanation now than I was before. We ran a myriad of
tests on you while we had you sedated. And I wasn’t lying earlier, I’m still waiting on
some blood work. Hopefully we can find a breadcrumb from some of the results.”
Isabella crossed her arms over her chest, covering herself as a sense of violation
came over her. What sort of tests had they performed without her knowledge or
consent?
“You can’t do this,” she insisted. “You can’t take prisoners and use them as lab rats.
You can’t experiment on people just because they’re in your custody.”
“Don’t be so naïve, Ms. Baker. The Tuskegee syphilis study? Project MKULTRA?
Project MKOFTEN? I’m sure none of these ring a bell to your uneducated ears, but trust
me here. The US government has been conducting research on gutter rats long before
you, and they’ll continue to do it after you’ve served your purpose.” He ran his eyes up
and down her body. “You should be proud of yourself. You and your kind are finally as
useful to society as the chimpanzees I keep down the hall. That’s a step up I’d say.”
Isabella clenched her fists into a ball and tried to sling her legs off the table, but was
hit with the stiff reminder that they were still fastened to the table.
“Son of a bitch,” she mumbled.
“I won’t repeat myself, Ms. Baker. You will behave yourself while you’re in my
custody. We don’t tolerate tantrums in my facility.”
She stilled herself at once. Though small-statured and unimpressive, Doctor Conleycarried a dominating presence. It was as if she were his pet. He left Isabella with a
strange, foreign desire to comply with his demands.
His expression softened, and he patted her on the shoulder. “You’ve cooperated
well enough, considering the conditions you’re used to. We’ll talk again once I’ve
reviewed the results.”
“Are you sending me back to Denver?” Hope hinged on her voice. The Denver
Correctional Facility certainly wasn’t paradise, but it was preferable to this place by far.
She had no control here.
“Absolutely not,” he said with finality. “That stupid warden took much too long to
bring this anomaly to my attention to begin with. I need you here where I can run
followup exams at my leisure.”
“And once those are done? If everything comes back okay, I mean. Maybe I’m just
a one in a million freak who got a diluted dose of your stuff.”
Conley shook his head without a hint of regret or remorse. “You’ve been exposed to
far too much to mingle with the general population. You will remain here. I’ll have my
men escort you to the showers and then your cell.”CHAPTER 3
small, perky girl dressed in scrubs, which were of course embossed with
kittens, held out her hand for Isabella to shake. Her brunette hair was perfectlyA sleek and styled, coming just to her shoulders. She reminded Isabella of a
sorority girl, the resemblance annoying the hell out of her.
“I’m Shannon,” the girl announced, glancing down at her still extended hand. “Don’t
let the outfit fool you. I’m as much of soldier as the guys that drug you in here. I just
hate that god-awful camo gear.”
Isabella couldn’t help but sneak a condescending smile. Somehow, she couldn’t
quite imagine this girl on any battlefield. Conley had trusted this her, who judging by her
fresh face had to be a recent of nursing school grad, to keep his prisoners in line?
Good God. Maybe he wasn’t as smart as he looked.
On the way to the showers, Isabella had passed by two men in particular who
looked like they were dying for some female companionship. Practically foaming at the
mouth. This pretty little thing would be like fresh meat to them.
“And you are?” She beamed.
“I’m Isabella.” Now that her adrenaline had calmed to a simmer, she could smell the
ripe odor coming off her own body. No way was she shaking anybody’s hand. Instead,
she swiped her sweaty palm along her jumpsuit. “And I stink, I’m sorry.”
Shannon snorted, her eyes flashing in amusement. “Oh please. Have you seen the
other inmates? You smell like roses compared to them.”
“I haven’t met anybody really, except you and Doctor Conley. Oh, and some
roughlooking GI Joes.”
“They’re harmless,” the nurse promised before clasping her hands together. “I have
to admit, I’m excited to finally have another girl around. It’s been just me for so long I
was starting to OD on the testosterone.”
“None of the other inmates are girls?”
“Well . . . not anymore.”
“So there were? Well, where’d they go?”
Shannon’s brows stitched together before she replaced her sudden grimace with a
fake, plastic smile. “They served their purpose. Doctor Conley didn’t need them around
anymore. So! I bet you’re dying for a shower, huh?”
Isabella stared back in silence. It had taken her a long time to get used to showering
with a group of other women, but she managed. One of the many drawbacks of getting
yourself incarcerated—no privacy at all. But, standing there naked in front of a bunch of
strange men? The thought sent heat tickling up the back of her neck.
“Oh, no.” Shannon blushed, as if she had read the prisoner’s mind. “There’s no one
else in there. You’ll be alone. Well, except for me. And I’ll wait out here.”