It was just before dawn and Elizabeth Keen was still sleeping soundly when her husband slipped from the bed. He moved stealthily to the kitchen like an intruder in his own house, avoiding each of the floorboards that creaked, and listening out for signs that she was waking. He smiled faintly to himself. He was an intruder of sorts, though not the kind that would break into a young woman’s home. No. He was much worse than that. He didn’t need to rape her – she was his wife. She gave it to him willingly.
Grabbing a screwdriver, he undid the bottom of a floor lamp and removed a burner cell, dialling a number he knew off by heart. He knew a lot of numbers off by heart.
“Hi, I’m having a problem with my account. The number is Delta, Sierra, 4-5-1…Get this. Mockingbird wants to have a kid, the natural way. You assured me it would be fine – she wanted to adopt because she was adopted, whatever… Trust me I’m trying but I’m not a fucking miracle worker…I’m a Beta, she’s an Omega, you knew that when you hired me for this” he hissed in a harsh whisper. “Yeah, well I hope I manage to knock her up for all our sakes…”
Tom Keen snapped the cell phone shut and shoved it back under the lamp, patiently doing up the screws. He took a deep breath and went back upstairs, sliding gently back into bed beside his wife. She turned over and groaned.
“Babe, what time is it?”
“I don’t know” he yawned, feigning sleep. “What time you gotta be there?”
“Oh crap, crap! My first day!”
The next few minutes passed in a blur, and Tom watched while his wife hopped around the house with a piece of toast in her mouth, pulling clothes on and grabbing her stuff.
She paused in the kitchen to take a slurp of coffee and he came up behind her. “Don’t forget your doctor’s appointment at 2” he smiled, sliding his arms around her waist.
“What if there’s something wrong with me?” She said quietly. “I mean, it should have happened already.”
She turned to face him and he held her tightly. “It’ll be fine Liz. You haven’t been off your suppressants for that long.” He smiled slyly and put his hand on the back of her neck, mimicking an alpha gesture. “As long as we keep up -ah- regular physical contact you should go into heat anytime now.”
Liz leaned back. “I wonder what it’s going to feel like. Katie says you can’t think about anything except the other person - it’s like your whole body is totally primed for sex” she smiled coquettishly.
“Well that sounds terrible” Tom quipped, smiling. Then his expression turned sober. “You know Liz, this is a serious deal. It could be dangerous for you. If you change your mind we could adopt.”
Liz laughed. “Well I’m lucky I have you to do your part and make sure I’m alright” she said playfully.
Tom smiled and put his hands on her arms. “I’m serious Liz. It’s a lot of pressure on you – your body temperature will rise, if something goes wrong you may not be able to have children. If it’s not consummated you would most likely die. Omegas don’t have it easy.”
She looked back at him reassuringly. “I know, I paid attention in health class Tom. And it will be consummated unless you’re planning on leaving me high and dry, mister. That’s not what I’m afraid of.”
He looked down at her earnestly. “What are you afraid of?”
“I…sometimes I wonder why you married me” she said hesitantly “even though we didn’t know if we would bond. What if… what if I can’t have children? Or I’m not right for you?”
A flash of something indecipherable crossed his face before he smiled. “That’s easy – I had to marry you Liz. And it’s gonna happen, you’ll see. And if not, like I said, we’ll adopt. A lot of people do. You always said how wonderful it was that Sam took you in. We’re gonna be fine.”
“I know we will” she said biting her lip. “Oh my god, the time - I’m going to be late!”
Seven minutes later, Tom and Elizabeth Keen stepped out of their house to be greeted by a helicopter and a fleet of FBI vehicles.
After that moment she was on auto pilot, her brain numb as she accompanied the agents to the black site where she was to be briefed. The smell in the crowded SUV was almost unbearable, awash with a cacophony of alpha pheromones and sweat-infused leather seats that made her feel sick. Her senses were heightened since coming off the suppressants and she wasn’t used to being around so many alpha males. Her old mobile psych team had all been betas – most people were. Tom was a beta too; he was kind and funny and he smelled normal. Nice. She wondered if she should say something, but she was too embarrassed. They would know what she was, anyway. Keep it professional, Keen she breathed to herself.
The ginger agent, Ressler, escorted her down through the old post office which was now a government black site. If she got lost she could just follow him with her nose she thought; he exuded entitlement and superiority and there was something faintly wheaty about the way he smelled, like bread or hay or tradition. He didn’t like her. She could tell that too. She soon found out why.
According to Assistant Director Harold Cooper, a gentle alpha with a distinctly calming presence, Agent Ressler had been trying to track the Raymond Reddington for years. Today, the man had surrendered to the FBI and said that he would only talk to her – not a powerful and high ranking alpha with the FBI who was deserving of the honor, but a lowly omega. On her first day. For a fugitive who had successfully evaded capture for twenty years this was a most unexpected twist, and it had ruffled Agent Ressler’s feathers considerably.
“You’ll forgive me for forgoing the usual paperwork” Cooper continued. “Reddington hasn’t come in on a whim – I’m concerned about what he’s planning. We need to get you in there now, if you’re ready?”
She sat up straight like a good agent (like a good omega, she thought) and answered as calmly as she could. “I’m ready.”
As soon as they reached the detainment floor her skin started to prickle. It was dark down there, her path illuminated only by sporadic spotlights that cast a cold, bluish glow over the scene. Her heels kept catching in the mesh of the metal walkway and she bitterly regretted wearing them, that and not tying her hair up. In her old job she hadn’t worried about her status or sexuality – it hadn’t mattered – but as she walked past the rows of armed guards it suddenly seemed to matter a lot. She loathed feeling weak and vulnerable and the preponderance of Kevlar and masculinity wasn’t helping.
She wasn’t sure what hardened criminal masterminds looked like, but as the containment box beeped and shunted backwards revealing its occupant, what few assumptions she’d made were shattered in an instant. He was calm with a hint of a smile, and exceptionally well dressed in a three piece minus the jacket. She was momentarily shocked when she realised that his wrists and ankles were bound in cuffs and chains, but recovered quickly. He seemed utterly unconcerned, his focus solely on her.
As she took her seat in front of him it occurred to her that even this criminal – the man in restraints in the basement of a clandestine government black site – seemed to have more power than her. She resented him for it.
“Agent Keen, what a pleasure.”
He shifted his head slightly as he spoke and his scent and his voice hit her at the same time, like they were the same thing, rich and deep, sound and scent and sensation wafting around her. The sheer power of it was disarming and it took all she had to stay seated and not retreat back to the safety of the observation room. Unconsciously she rubbed her fingers over the scar on her palm to calm herself, before crossing her legs and positioning herself as closed off to him as she could. She spoke as she imagined an alpha female might, calm and superior.
“Well, I’m here.” How dare you summon me. Waste my time.
If he was amused by her impression of an alpha female he didn’t show it, only continued to speak to her in the soft tones reserved for children and omegas.
“You got rid of your highlights. You look much less…Baltimore.”
She felt her cheeks color in spite of her best efforts. He’d researched her. Why did he have to mention her hair? Her appearance? Her body...Her soft and sensual omega body she was trying to ignore. It was like he knew and was deliberately trying to remind her of what she was under her suit – breasts and slick and beauty and fragility.
She pursed her lips and decided to try a different tack. Humility didn’t come as naturally to her as most omegas, but she had a feeling it would get her somewhere here. “Why involve me? I’m nobody. It’s my first day. Nothing special about me.”
Reddington’s mouth curved into a close-lipped smile, like a wolf eyeing its prey.
“Oh” he drawled. “I think you’re very special.”
His tone had dropped so low that she wasn’t sure if anyone had heard it except her, and that’s just what it felt like - a private message to the creature inside her. She felt a soft, warm sensation in her belly, as though her omega self was stretching luxuriously, preening at the compliment.
“Why are you here?” she said sharply.
Reddington laughed softly, a low, pleasant sound. “How about a trade? You tell me and I’ll tell you. Tell me about the scar on your palm. I’ve noticed how you stroke it.”
She instinctively shielded her hand from his penetrating gaze. She tried to maintain her calm and confident affect but the truth was she felt anything but. This man disgusted her – he was a notorious criminal and traitor who abandoned his family. She hated everything about him, and yet being around him felt strangely like being cradled by a warm hand, like he was reaching out and soothing her body and her mind.
“There was a fire” she said guardedly.
“Someone tried to hurt you.” He tilted his head to the side as he spoke, almost as if it was a test.
“Not exactly, no.”
He nodded leant forward slowly. When he spoke again his voice was like molten lava, vibrating in all her senses and flowing to her core. “May I see it?”
She hesitated and then rose from her seat, approaching him carefully and holding out her wrist to him, palm up.
Afterwards, she would not be able to explain why she allowed him to touch her scar. When asked, she would pass it off as a rookie mistake – she never meant to get close enough for him to touch her. She just wanted to build a rapport with her subject. But the truth was she’d heard the chains clink as he moved his hand. She’d known, but in that moment she’d wanted him to do it, she’d needed him to touch her, and nothing else seemed to matter.
An intensely sweet ache unfurled low inside her and spread through her body like liquid fire – it was so fast that she barely had time to realise what was happening as he brushed his thumb over her wrist. She withdrew her hand sharply and staggered backwards a few steps before her knees buckled and she collapsed to the floor, her heart racing and dizziness clouding her head.
She looked up and saw that Reddington’s confident demeanour had slipped; his mouth hung open and his piercing blue-grey eyes were wide with shock. She heard shouts in the background and the sound of guns being cocked, but could only focus on the man in front of her, the way her breasts ached painfully under his gaze, and the need to fight the bizarre and shameful urge to open her legs for him to inspect her. Agent Ressler reached her first, kneeling beside her and shouting accusingly at Reddington – “what have you done? What did you do to her?!”
Reddington didn’t answer. His mind, once exceptionally calm, was now racing. When he saw her hit the floor in front of him, vulnerable and eyes wide, he felt a sudden, overwhelming urge to pounce on her. And then, when he saw Agent Ressler run to her side, he felt rage like he hadn’t in years – he wanted to rip the younger man apart, and believed he could actually have done it were it not for the chains restraining him.
That was when it hit him, with disturbing and sickening clarity. This was heat.