Finding finn, p.1
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       Finding Finn, p.1

           Lynn Crandall
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Finding Finn

  By Lynn Crandall

  FINN MONROE PULLED NISSA BELLO behind him, swiftly removing her from the group of young men gathering around her. Tension hardened his muscles. “Back off, jerks!” He made himself a wall between his friend and the four menacing guys staring him down. “Mind your own business.”

  Students gathered to catch the warm afternoon rays of sun in early May dappled the university quad, all of them tightly focused on their own little space in the grass, so much so Finn and his predicament didn’t penetrate their attention. He didn’t budge from the spot under the sprawling limbs of an old oak tree near the Genetics and Complex Diseases building where he worked every day in his research lab. Most days with Nissa, a fellow researcher.

  The largest guy in the group stepped closer. “She is our business. Get out of our way or we’ll remove you, and you won’t like our method.”

  “Yeah, we’re warning you. Once.” Another hulk shook his finger in Finn’s face. “It’s your choice to go easy or go hard. Either way, this little stand of yours won’t matter. We’re taking the girl.”

  “Finn,” Nissa whispered in his ear, “stop this. Just let me go.”

  The trembling in her voice gave away her fear. His heart clenched at the same time bile burned in his gut. No way he was backing down. Yes, the four of them were built like athletes, but he was no slouch. In a physical fight against them, though, probably he had zero chance of winning.

  His mind whirled with possibilities. Thoughts of what these overgrown students had in mind for Nissa twisted his lips. Size doesn’t matter. Not to him. Confidence in his ability to talk his way out of this filled him. He knew from an IQ perspective, he was on the high side and them, cumulatively, he’d bet not so much. “I can see you’re determined, but she doesn’t want to go with you.” He tried for nonchalant. “So we’re at an impasse. I’m not going to let you take Nissa anywhere, especially since she clearly doesn’t want to go. And in the United States, it’s her inalienable right to choose. You understand that word, don’t you. It means indisputable, undeniable. So you go on your way before I call the police and we’ll all just chalk up this little fiasco of yours to, oh, I don’t know. A case of brainless syndrome? Finn took hold of Nissa’s arm and made to walk around the group on his way into the building, not taking his glare off the men.

  Instantly, two of the four muscled him back around the corner toward the side of the brick building and shoved him to the ground. Finn kicked his feet at the one holding him down and rolled his head from side to side in an attempt to avoid hits. The punches from the other guy hit soundly, one after another. Blood trickled in his eye, but for a split second, he caught a glimpse of the other two men marching Nissa farther down the side of the building.

  From deep inside, he drew up all his strength and raised his head. Before the next hit came, he pulled up from the other man’s grip and slammed his forehead hard against the hitter’s.

  While the man toppled back, Finn wrenched free from the second man’s hold and took a stumbling step toward Nissa. “Let her go,” he hollered.

  Nissa looked over her shoulder at him. His breath caught at the sorrow in her lovely brown eyes. Realization dawned in his mind. She wasn’t afraid for herself, she was afraid for him.

  If only he had the abilities of his brother Asher, the were-lynx. Asher could stop these thugs in their tracks with his nudging, his special mind control ability. But as the only member of his family not to express the were-lynx gene, Finn had no preternatural abilities or superior strength. Just his brains, and right now that wasn’t counting for much.

  He stretched his stride to catch up with the men holding Nissa, his heart pumping with determination.

  It wasn’t enough. Without breaking a sweat, the two chasing him caught up and slammed him against the stone wall. “Hold him still,” one demanded.

  “What is wrong with you?” Finn yelled. He imagined the men were on some kind of drug to display such strength and wild tempers.

  One man holding him still laughed. “There’s nothing wrong with us. We’re just better than you. The girl belongs to us, and we’re taking her. You should never have butt in.”

  Finn could have sworn he heard a barely perceptual growl in the guy’s voice. A chill ran through him, suspecting this group of Neanderthals was like his brother—were-cats—but unlike his brother in that their brand of cat was vicious and violent. “I know what you are.” He tried to yank away from the hold. He held his breath as he nearly slipped free.

  But another one of them pressed him down to the ground and held tighter. The man narrowed his eyes and grimaced. “You couldn’t possibly imagine who you’re up against here.”

  “Oooh, I’m really scared.” Finn rolled his eyes. “Let me guess, you’re the boogey man? Well, that would explain your face.”

  One of the men holding Nissa motioned one of the others. “Help him hold the girl.” He stared at Finn. “Keep him still,” he commanded while striding closer. He squatted to the ground beside him and shoved Finn’s shirtsleeve up above his elbow. “You’re such a smart guy? We’ll show you another world you’ve never imagined.”

  Finn fought back the terror igniting in his gut. “You can’t do this?” he hollered.

  “Just watch us. It’s not going to be so fun for you, but we’ll enjoy it.”

  Finn knew, just knew what they were threatening to do to him. They were going to initiate in him something that would destroy him. He would no longer be the person he’d always been, the non-were-lynx member of his family. He’d always been proud to be different from his brothers Asher and Kendall and his sister Lara. He was proud to be simply human.

  “Finn!” Nissa screamed, wild and hysterical. “Stop it, just stop it.” She pulled free of the other two men and raised her fists.

  Finn startled, watching her first drive a punch into one man, then roundhouse kick the other. Wow! She’s got quite a punch. His brain was going fuzzy, he was certain. From the corner of his eye he saw one of the men shimmer as he’d seen his brother shimmer, shifting into a were-lynx.

  The were-lynx growled low, then sank his fangs into Finn’s arm. The bite burned. Shock roared through him. This couldn’t be happening. He knew what being bitten meant and he wanted no part of it. He willed his body to reject the serum in the were-lynx saliva. A cloud of sensations and images exploded in his mind.

  No one held him down any more, but he lay on the ground, still, removed from the reality he was caught in. Removed from the whooping Nissa was raining down on the four men, essentially taking them out of commission simultaneously.

  He attempted to get to his feet, but the sounds of tree limbs blowing in the late spring breeze and people’s voices from around the quad blared in his brain. He rolled back and forth on the ground as everything possible slammed into his senses. He put his hands over his ears, trying to block the onslaught of sounds. Scents assaulted him, strong and demanding attention. He had to close his eyes to an overwhelming tsunami of images his vision was picking up.

  “Finn. We’ve got to get out of here.” Nissa’s soothing voice tamped down the earnestness lacing her words. “Can you stand? I’ll help you.”

  Her long brown hair fell forward, blocking her face and raising her fragrance to his nose. In one whiff, her melon and seawater scent filled his head and he was rendered speechless. How had he missed this intensely beautiful scent before? They’d been collaborating on a research study for six months and he’d never thought of Nissa in a romantic way. She was all about the work and that was something he’d respected. He didn’t have time for romantic diversions, not when his brother’s life depended on him finishing his work. He hadn’t told her that he had a personal stake in finding the cure for the newly discovered disease they were research
ing. Giving her too many details would have potentially revealed his secret; his brother was sick with the disease that was only affecting individuals carrying were-lynx genes.

  She tugged on his arm. “Finn, did you hear me? We’ve got to leave. Now.”

  With her help, he stood and leaned on her shoulders as they sped to his car parked behind the GCD. The overwhelming intensity of scents and sounds and sights thundering in his brain wouldn’t let up, but he slipped into the passenger seat of his late-model Elantra and handed his keys to Nissa. She sprinted around to the driver’s side and pulled out of the parking lot. She glanced at him, her eyes stern.

  “Hang on, Finn. We have to get away before those morons wake up. We can’t go to my apartment and it’s probably not safe to go to yours.”

  His head lolled back against the seat. Muscles clenched and unclenched independent of his will, and pain screaming from clear down to his bones tortured his body. His skin burned hot and his mouth changed in and out of different shapes. He had to get control of himself. He knew only one way to do that in this moment, and began gulping in breaths, trying to settle his mind at least with meditative deep breathing.

  Slowly, the passing landscape settled into a soothing blur. With each full breath in and out he came closer to acclimating to this amazing yet
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