Chapter no 17‌ – The Diamond

Hunting Adeline

If it weren’t for the collar wrapped around my throat, I’d consider swiping one of the guest’s pocketknives and slipping out the back door, disappearing into the night. I’d cut the tracking device out of my neck, and take off, uncaring if I’m wearing nothing to protect me from the elements. I’d rather die alone in the middle of the woods than at the hands of a sex trafficker.

And Francesca knows that. She knows all of us would risk that. That’s why simple black metal collars with a ruby pendant in the middle are currently dressing our throats. Something she made very clear houses another tracking device—one that can’t be removed without a key.

The house is engulfed in distraction and glamor. So many men, dressed to the nines with hundreds of thousands of dollars dripping from their icy wrists. So many opportunities to slip away unnoticed while eyes are turned.

I never understood why the sickest of humanity go out of their way to appear the prettiest. You can throw glitter on a snake, but the bitch still bites.

“You look beautiful,” a deep voice whispers in my ear from behind me. I startle, turning to find Xavier, a salacious grin on his face.

Francesca ordered us to mingle with the men, so I’ve been camping out in the living room. Even with all the cleaning we did, the house still reeks of despair. Too much horror is caked into the crevices, and no amount of scrubbing will ever free this place of it.

I force a smile, stepping away from him an inch and dipping my chin. Heat washes throughout my body, but not the kind that feels good. It feels like when you’ve got a stomach bug and are stuck in a car—the cold sweat is sickening.

“Thank you,” I say, loosening my voice. His stare is intense as he sweeps my curves slowly, taking his time. Naturally, I want to dropkick him in the balls and run. I can only stand there and take it, though. Straight and tall, refusing to curl in on myself like he wants. It’s the only defiance I can

muster other than grabbing the champagne flute in his hand and breaking it across his face.

Relax, little mouse.

He didn’t catch me tonight, so he doesn’t get to punish me. However, I have a dreadful feeling that Francesca will gladly allow this man to touch me, regardless.

Which means I need to play nice.

“You were incredible today, despite the little distraction that vile girl caused,” he says pleasantly. I can tell that he’s trying to insert warmth into his presence, but it feels like sticking my hand into a fireplace that hasn’t been used in centuries.

“Though I must admit, the Culling always seemed counterproductive to me,” he continues. “Even if it is fun.”

Clearing my throat softly, I ask, “May I ask why?”

He grins as if he sees straight through the thin façade. “It teaches you how to run away from us. It’s been a tradition for centuries, but if you ask me, I’d prefer my women to be incapable of getting away.”

I nod my head slowly. “That makes sense,” I admit. And really, it does.

The Culling is designed to test our endurance. I get that. If we’re too weak and broken, we’ll be lifeless little things, resulting in them constantly having to replace us. It’s designed to break us mentally—spiritually. Induce terror and hope of escape, just to be dragged back again.

Nonetheless, Xavier is right, too. It does teach us how to run.

He takes a step closer to me, his woodsy cologne burning my sinuses as he invades my space. I want to tell him to get the fuck out of my no-no square, but I can’t imagine that going over well.

Try as I might, I can’t stop my limbs from stiffening, and my shoulders from hiking up an inch. My fingers twitch with the need to curl into fists, but I refrain.

“Tell me, Adeline, would you run from me if I made you mine?”

God, yes. I’d run until my feet were worn down to the bone. Even then, I’d still run.

“Of course not,” I answer, keeping my voice quiet.

He chuckles, a mixture of amusement and condescension. Hot breath fans across the side of my face as he leans in close, his coarse beard

scraping against the shell of my ear.

“You wouldn’t be able to, even if you wanted to,” he whispers. “You wouldn’t be able to stand. Your legs would be shaking too badly from how hard I fuck you.”

A hand drifting across my backside accompanies his words. I close my eyes, searching for the strength to not tremble beneath his touch. To not run the hell away from him and pray to the She-Devil above that he never finds me.

“Does that sound good, diamond? Do you think you’d even remember Z after I’m done with you?”

My eyes snap open, and red clouds my vision. This time, I do tremble, but only from rage.

God? I need you right now. I need you to bestow whatever voodoo shit you got up your sleeve, so I don’t fucking murder this man.

He leans back, his cold gaze searching my face for a reaction. I look away, incapable of keeping the fire from my eyes, and firmly keep my mouth shut.

What the fuck does he expect me to say to that? Yes, pedo master, I would forget all about Zade and only think of you and your small, puny cock.

Fuck out of here, dickhead.

He grunts out another sound of amusement, and I bite the inside of my cheek until the taste of copper fills my mouth. And then I bite harder.

“Answer me,” he clips.

“No,” I whisper, casting my gaze down to conceal the lie. “I think it would be very difficult to think of anything else but you.”

And how much I want to kill you.

“Yeah?” he asks, his voice hitching with excitement.

“Yeah,” I squeak, right as his hand roughly grips my ass, jerking me deeper into his broad chest. My muscles tighten impossibly further, feeling his length digging into my stomach. Revulsion twists my insides, and I swear it’ll be some form of justice if I just allow the vomit to spew right in his face.

He rolls his hips into me, and just as I’m reaching my snapping point, someone clears their throat loudly from behind me.

Xavier releases me, and I take a few steps away, immediately correcting my disheveled dress from his groping. When I risk a glance up, I find Rio standing beside me, hands linked behind his back and a neutral expression on his face.

“Excuse my intrusion,” he says, bowing his head for a moment. “I’m required to change the dressings on her back before the event. It’s also time for you to head into the red room,” he informs, his tone clinical but pleasant.

Xavier straightens his jacket, casting me a look I refuse to meet. It burns the side of my face as he dips his chin in acknowledgment, before taking off. Flicking my eyes to Rio again, he nods his head towards the kitchen entryway, which leads back toward a bathroom.

Still shaking, I follow in step, hoping I’m not too unsteady and roll my ankles in these heels. Francesca would probably reopen my stitches herself from a stupid mistake like that.

Even after we enter the bathroom, we keep quiet, and he shuts the door behind us. My shoulders relax a smidge now that we’re alone.

I wonder when Rio started feeling safe.

But I’ll admit, I’m grateful. He’s not an ally by any means, but he’s the least of my enemies in this fucking house.

“What the hell is the red room?” I question.

Rio glances at me. “A room in the back of the house full of tarp and torture devices. I’m sure you can conclude why they’ve dubbed it the red room,” he answers dryly.

I swallow. “Are they… taking Phoebe and Bethany back there?” I ask. “Yes. It’s only used for those who fail the Culling.”

My chest clenches and my stomach twists. They’re doing unspeakable things to them right now, and that makes me fucking sick.

“Turn around,” he demands.

I narrow my eyes, not appreciating the way he’s ordering me around.

Noting the look on my face, he sighs, and says, “Por favor.” Flattening my lips, I turn.

“Why did you save me anyway?” I ask quietly, peeking over my shoulder to watch him dig out the first aid kit from beneath the sink and set it on the yellowed countertop. I’m sure they were white back in their heyday.

“What makes you think I saved you?” he counters, glancing at me as he digs out bandages and Neosporin. “You’re going to have to lift up your dress.”

I sigh, doing as he asks. I know the drill with him, and this isn’t the first time I’ve had to expose my body so he can change the bandages. I hike the dress up underneath my armpits, and it makes me sad how desensitized I’ve become to baring myself to men.

I’m wearing a thong, but that might as well be nothing with how scrappy it is. Slowly, he unlaces the corset, and with each loop undone, I can breathe a little easier. When it falls from my torso, I suck in a deep breath, the bliss almost painful. My stomach is red and indented from how tightly Francesca laced it.

“You have to re-lace that, you know,” I tell him.

He grunts. “Then you better be nice. I can make that tighter than she did.”

A shiver rolls down my spine when his fingers brush against me, picking at the tape until he catches the edge and peels the old bandages from my skin.

“So, you’re going to act like needing to change these wasn’t intentional?” I prod. “You just changed them before the party.” Which was only two hours ago.

“Would you like me to leave you next time?” he volleys back, his tone tight and a tad impatient.

“No,” I whisper.

“Then accept it for what it is and shut the fuck up about it.”

I snap my mouth closed. This time, I have no problem listening to his demands. Regardless of him wanting to admit it, he saw Xavier getting handsy, and stepped in. Something that is very unlike a human trafficker to do. I’d rather just be grateful for the intrusion than question him, and then he never does it again.

Lord fucking knows this won’t be the last time a man will get too handsy.

And that knowledge makes my skin crawl.

Rio is the reason I’m in this situation to begin with. Or at least one of the reasons. He played a massive role in it, and that’s something I’ll never forget. But I also won’t forget the little bits of kindness he showed me when he’ll soon be facing the barrel of Zade’s gun.

I don’t know if I can spare his life, but I’ll try to make sure his death is quick.

Clearing my throat, I wet my dry lips. “Are you going to help Phoebe and Bethany, too?”

He sighs. “I can’t help them.”

I snarl. “So, that’s it? You’re going to stand by and do nothing while two innocent girls are being raped and tortured?”

He doesn’t answer immediately, and it seems I’ve managed to strike a nerve.

“That’s who I am, baby. A bad, bad man with no remorse.”

Liar. If he felt no remorse, we wouldn’t be in this bathroom right now, cleaning a wound that didn’t need it.

“Why do you do it?” I ask in a whisper, hissing when the alcohol hits a sore spot. “Is it for the money?”

He scoffs. “I don’t give a shit about money. Can’t take it with me when I’m dead, so what good is it to me?”

“Then, why?” I push. He sighs, ripping open a fresh package of gauze.

“You’re not the only one who’s enslaved to powerful people,” he clips shortly, his tone signaling the end of this conversation. But I don’t listen.

“Zade is going to kill you, and you know this. So, if you know you’re going to die anyway, then why continue?”

He slaps a strip of tape on me a bit harshly, growing frustrated with my needling.

Puñeta. How about you use that pretty little head of yours, and figure it out,” he snaps, his accent deepening with anger. “If someone doesn’t stay for their own life, what else could make them stay?”

My face drops as realization dawns. “They’re using someone against you,” I breathe. “Family?”

“My little sister,” he grumbles. “As long as I’m a good boy, she won’t be sold.”

A knot forms between my brows. “Why not just take off with her and run?”

“Because I can’t take her. They have her and I can’t get to her, comprende? You done playing twenty questions, or should I tell you about how I lost my virginity, too?”

I clamp my mouth shut. He’s given me more than enough. It’s not fair of me to keep pushing.

Rio finishes up, placing fresh gauze over my stitches.

“These are about ready to come out,” he says, stepping back to discard the trash and put away the kit. Then, he bends and grabs the corset, fashioning it back around my waist and quickly tying it up, leaving it considerably looser than Francesca did.

Once he’s finished, I release my dress, fixing it as an awkward silence compresses the air around us.

“Thank you,” I say quickly, the words burning my tongue on the way out.

He glances at me. “Don’t thank me yet, princesa.”

He opens the door and exits the bathroom without another word, leaving me to my own devices. My heart pounds, not liking how fucking ominous that sounded. Then, his excuse to Xavier smacks me over the side of the head.

I need to change her dressings before the event.

What fucking event? Didn’t we already have one? Isn’t this the afterparty

to the event?

Dread replaces the marrow in my bones, and as I walk out of the bathroom and back toward the living room, I realize the Culling was only a preliminary event. A few men linger in the corners of the living room, drinking and laughing, looking every bit unconcerned with life. And the girls are gathered in the center, shoulders high and eyes cast down.

With the exception of Sydney, of course. She wears her defiance on her sleeves. Directly meeting the gazes of all the onlookers and even going as far as to smile at them.

I stand beside Jillian and keep my voice as low as possible as I ask, “What’s happening?”

Her eyes flicker to me, and I note how ashen her skin is.

“The worst part of the entire night,” she whispers back. Anxiety mingles with the dread, merging in my system until I’m nothing but a ball of frayed nerves. Is this what she was trying to tell me to prepare for in the woods?

Just as I open my mouth to ask more questions, loud screaming reaches my ears. My teeth click and then grind when the sound gradually increases.

My heart pounds and my palms slicken. That’s Phoebe and Bethany, and whatever is about to happen, it’s bad.

Really fucking bad.

I grow nervous and fidgety, confused about what’s happening, but still desperate to never find out.

Yet their screeching heads straight for us, almost painful to the ears. Two men are dragging them in by their hair, completely naked and bloodied beyond recognition. Since Ben is dead, the one handling Phoebe has thick black hair and a beard, appearing just as ruthless as his partners. And the one handling Bethany is a skinny, older man with thin lips and glasses.

I barely manage to stifle a gasp, incapable of feeling anything outside of horror and panic. Jillian and Gloria shift uncomfortably, both on the verge of tears. Sydney watches them with cool detachment, even as they’re tossed at our feet.

Phoebe and Bethany lay there, nearly lifeless. Vomit climbs further up my throat, glimpsing the mutilation they’ve suffered. I have to look away, physically unable to stomach it. Limbs and skin are missing. Pieces of their body have been cut and completely removed. Blood steadily pools beneath them, the puddle growing larger until it begins to seep beneath our feet.

“They’re all yours, girls!” the black-haired man announces proudly, heaving from the exertion and excitement. Blood paints their clothing, and while everyone’s eyes are alit with excitement, these two, in particular, look like they’re riding a high. Most likely from torturing two young girls.

Their slacks are still undone, shirts unbuttoned, and hair ruffled. Sweat drips from the tip of the black-haired man’s nose, while the other has pit stains marring his white shirt.

I take in all these details with wide eyes, my brain slow to process what’s going on.

Francesca walks in a moment later, staring down at the girls with her lip curled. Then she trains her gaze on us, appearing calm and collected. She’s seen so much—done so much. Does nothing faze her anymore?

“Thank you, gentlemen, for bringing them in here,” Francesca says kindly.

Gloria breaks first, turning and slapping a hand over her mouth. Tears stream from her eyes as she gags beneath her palm. A fire lights in Francesca’s eyes, her head whipping towards the mousy girl.

“Don’t you dare vomit on my floor, little girl. I will cut your tongue from your mouth,” she hisses, her makeup cracking from the tension in her face.

Gloria nods her head, though her face is green and she’s still on the precipice of losing it altogether. All I can do is chant to myself over and over not to puke and completely lose my shit.

Francesca approaches, making sure to keep her precious heels out of the blood. She stares at us with an unreadable expression.

“You will take them outside, and you will put them out of their misery.”

My eyes widen, and Sydney giggles from beside me. It takes effort not to whip my hand out and slap her in the mouth.

“What do you mean?” The question slips out before I can stop it, and I feel instant regret when all eyes turn to me.

“It means,” Francesca snarls through gritted teeth, “that you will end their miserable existence. And then you will dig their graves and hope to God that you aren’t next.”

You'll Also Like