Chapter no 20 – The Diamond

Hunting Adeline


“Shit,” Rio mutters after Francesca leaves, his movements quickening.

My brows plunge, and my heart picks up speed from his obvious concern. “Claire?” Who’s Claire?”

He glances at me, and I watch him visibly shut down, like pulling a string and the blinds slamming over his eyes. Whoever Claire is, she’s to be feared.

Ignoring me, Rio finishes bandaging me up, and then grabs my arm and forces me into an upright position. He walks to my dresser and opens the drawers, throwing random articles of clothes at me.

“What—Rio, what the fuck is wrong with you?” I snap, a shirt smacking me directly in the face.

“Claire is the one who put the target on your head,” he says, keeping his voice an octave above a whisper. Then, he walks to me and helps me slip into my clothing like I’m a toddler, but I’m too scatter-brained to stop him. My heart thuds heavily, panic circulating throughout my system.

I’ve no idea who the fuck this woman is, but it’s clear she has some type of connection with Zade. That’s the only reason a random woman would put a target on my head, right?

However, I swear I’ve met a Claire before… but my brain is too muddled to recall where and what she looked like. Or her significance to me or Zade.

He grabs me by the shoulders, his face severe. “Be very careful with that mouth of yours, princesa. Matter of fact, keep it shut.”

I tighten my lips and nod my head. Lately, I’ve been too tired—too weak

—to fight back. I walked into this house with my fire lit, and within two months, the proverbial fingers have pinched the flame, leaving only a trail of smoke behind.

All I need is a spark, and maybe… maybe it can be reignited.

My stomach twists with anxiety as I follow Rio down the hallway. A dull ache throbs between my thighs, reminding me with every step of what I’m desperately trying to forget. Something Xavier aims explicitly for. It’s also a reminder that Zade may not want me anymore—something I’ve come to terms with already. I never thought I’d want to lose his obsession… but how could I not? I’m filthy now.

Rio walks ahead of me without a glance, tightening the knot forming in my stomach. There’s an ice-cold fortress shrouded around him, as solid as the tension in his shoulders. It feels as if he’s distancing himself from me because I’m about to be sent off to war, and he’s never going to see me again.

Some days, I still hate him for what he’s done to me, but I won’t lie to myself and say that we haven’t built a bond, either. He’s been an emotional crutch for me these last two months, and I’ve begun to figure him out by now. If he’s acting this way, it’s for a reason.

And that makes me really fucking nervous.

I pad down the stairs, quiet voices rising from the living room. Rocco stands in the kitchen, drinking a glass of water and staring at me with his beady little eyes.

I keep my head down, watching my bare feet travel across the dirty floor. I just cleaned it two days ago, but Rocco and his friends act like there’s glass on the floor and insist on wearing their muddy boots around the house.

My eyes focus on a perfect set of footprints that trail into the living room, leading right to two sets of heels. The new incomer has mud caked on her shoes, too. How fucking rude.

A throat softly clears, and I finally lift my stare. Immediately, I regret it. The shock of who I’m looking at nearly knocks me right onto the dirty footprints.

Claire… I’ve definitely met her before. She’s Mark’s wife. The senator who had tried to abduct me before, and the one Zade viciously murdered the night of Satan’s Affair.

I remember meeting her the night Mark invited us to a charity event at his house. She was frail, subdued, and seemed so nice.

Why did she put a target on my head? Out of revenge for her husband? That has to be it. Zade murdered Mark, so now she’s taking her anger out

on him by getting me kidnapped and sold.

But Jesus, what’s there to be mad about? The man obviously abused her. “Hello, Adeline,” Claire greets, smiling at me behind her red lipstick.

She looks significantly different than the first time I met her. Not because of her appearance—she still has bright red hair curled perfectly around her face and a beautiful, albeit aging, appearance.

It’s because she looks… happy. Like she’s thriving. She doesn’t look upset or distraught over the death of her husband.

I’m muddled with surprise and confusion, so it takes me a moment to say, “Hi, Claire.”

She clasps her black-gloved hands together and takes a step towards me. “I know you’re probably very confused, my dear,” she starts. “And I’m terribly sorry you were brought into the middle of all this.” She waves a

hand, indicating ‘all this’ as the house I’m currently being held captive in.

Let’s not pretend that I wouldn’t have been taken anyway.

But I keep quiet, not sure how exactly I’m supposed to respond to that.

Wave a hand and say aw, shucks, it’s all right. I’m having the time of my life.

“It’s very unfortunate you got involved with someone such as Z. He came in and wrecked your life like a bull in a china shop, didn’t he?”

Yes. Yes, he did.

“I suppose so,” I admit.

“He’s caused a lot of trouble for me as of late. Most recently, gratuitously murdering several important buyers at an auction house, then stealing the girls.”

My heart drops into my stomach, sending the butterflies inside scattering. Tears burn behind my eyes, but I force them down. Hearing about Zade, and the havoc he’s wreaking is… God, it’s almost comforting. In a way, the people in my life before I was taken have begun to feel like ghosts rather than real, living people. Zade, Daya, my mom… none of them feel absolute anymore.

But Claire telling me about the trouble Zade is causing makes him feel real again. And I didn’t realize how much I needed that.

“He took Jillian and Gloria?” I ask, my voice raspy with unshed tears. My chest is cracking wide open with countless emotions, and at the forefront of it all is relief.

“That he did. And I’m not going to allow that to happen with you. There’s been a change in plans, so I figured I’d take this opportunity to see the precious diamond in the flesh once more before you’re shipped off. Whatever luck Jillian and Gloria have on their side—is not on yours.”

My throat dries. “I’m not being auctioned off?”

“Of course not, dear. You were never going to be.”

Did Francesca know this? Since I arrived, she’s been telling me that I’d be auctioned, yet she doesn’t appear surprised by the news.

When I just stare at Claire blankly, she continues, “A very intelligent and resourceful man has attached himself to you. Which means that he will have the capabilities to find you once you step foot outside of this property.”

That knowledge kicks my heart up a notch, swirling with a burst of excitement. Obviously, Zade knows how to find people. I assume it’s only taken him this long because I’ve been locked inside a house in the middle of nowhere for over two months. Finding a lead on me is probably next to impossible, but the second they take me out of here, they’ll no longer have that advantage.

“Francesca has informed me that a very high-profile buyer has set his eyes on you. So, in order to keep you hidden, we will be conducting a direct sale.”

My mouth parts, and I’m honestly unsure of how to feel. A direct sale will give them plenty of opportunity to conceal me, but I’ve never had any intention of hiding.

Heart thudding, I nod my head. “Okay,” I say.

She smiles condescendingly, as if I’m a child agreeing to go to bed when I never really had a choice anyway. I suppose that wouldn’t be wrong.

“Xavier has already paid for you and will collect you in three days. Francesca will continue to prepare you for your new life, providing you with all the knowledge you need to ensure you and Xavier live happy lives together.”

Ah. Claire is just as psychotic as Mark.

Maybe she’s a byproduct of Mark’s abuse, maybe not. Regardless, she’s no better than her husband. Her pain does not justify inflicting pain on others. Not like this.

“Francesca and I will go over the details. Nothing for you to concern yourself with. I just wanted to deliver the good news to you myself,” she

goes on, her eyes glittering with delight. They are what stars look like when they die. No life left in them yet blazing with a light that ensures everything in its path will die, too.

I had hoped with being auctioned that I’d be able to make a run for it, or ensure my face was seen on a camera, at the very least. Maybe steal a phone and send a text—anything to give Zade a location. Those options won’t be as easy now, but still not impossible.

I lick my dry, cracked lips and meet the twin dead stars in her skull. “Can I ask one thing?” I ask softly.

Her red lips flatten, but she nods her head. “Can I ask why?”

Francesca hisses, but Claire holds up a hand, silencing her. That alone is satisfying to watch. She takes a few steps toward me.

“When someone as beautiful as you catches our attention, it’s hard to look away. Normally, I prefer to plant someone in your life. A boyfriend, if you will. Someone you would fall in love with and trust. They would’ve handled you, and you would’ve been able to have some sort of freedom, while also bringing in money. However, you got someone else’s attention first, and suddenly, you became so much more valuable.”

My brows knit, and it’s hard to swallow. It’s not hard to conclude that Claire is just like Mark. Someone who finds women and children and brings them to the Society. But the way she speaks…

“This trade, this world—I own it. I own it all,” Claire supplies. “I am the Society, dear. Me and my two associates. Mark thought he was the man in our marriage, but he never knew that I was the one pulling the strings all along. Zade did me a favor by getting rid of that scumbag, despite how fun it was to hang my husband by the balls. I’m not angry because your boyfriend killed my husband. I’m angry because he’s attempting to ruin what I’ve worked hard to build. The sad, little lives you all live are my empire. I’ll be damned if tries to take that from me.” She spits out his name like it’s a bug that flew into her mouth, ire and disgust twisting her features.

All I can do is stare at her in utter disbelief. Confounded that Claire is the ultimate puppeteer. The president—shit, all of the world leaders— they’re guppies compared to her.

Taking advantage of my speechlessness, she turns to Francesca. “Let’s have a chat, Franny. We have some things to discuss.”

Francesca smiles graciously at Claire. “Of course!” She turns to me, her smile dropping long enough to say, “Go back to your room and don’t come out until dinner.” And then she’s back to smiling at Claire again.

Her face must hurt from all that exercise it’s getting.

Nodding, I pivot on my heels and hurry towards the stairs. Rio stands at the doorway to the kitchen, hands threaded behind his back. Briefly, we make eye contact, but for the life of me, I can’t decipher the emotion swirling in his dark irises. He stays behind, but I’m glad for it. Being confined to my room is exactly what I need right now so I can adequately plan my escape.

Xavier was right about one thing—the Culling is a double-edged sword.

It taught me how to run, and that’s precisely what I plan on doing.



Hot breath fans across my face, disturbing the deep sleep I’ve fallen into.

I twitch, feeling strands of hair tickle my nose.

It takes me several seconds to pull myself out of the weird dream I was having. With reality setting in, so does a sense of animosity and danger, and it takes another few seconds to realize someone is breathing in my face.

Immediately, my instincts blare on red alert, adrenaline and fear flooding my system.

Slowly, I crack open my eyes, then choke on a startled scream, my eyes rounding into discs when I see Sydney standing above me, her face mere inches away from mine.

Her eyes are wide, a psychotic glimmer in them as she stares down at me with a crazed smile. She’s breathing heavily, little sounds of excitement bubbling out of her throat with each exhale.

I press myself deeper into the bed, my heart tearing through my chest as I struggle to find my breath.

“What the fuck, Sydney?” I gasp, attempting to keep my voice down but failing.

I’m seconds away from releasing my bladder all over the bed, my horror growing as she climbs on top of me, her blonde strands brushing across my face and blocking my vision.

My body moves on instinct, I kick my feet on the bed, attempting to gain traction and slide myself upright, but her hands wrap around my throat, holding me in place. She’s not cutting off my air supply yet, but I panic anyway, all of those moves I learned from Zade evading me.

“I know what you’re going to do,” she whispers. I almost miss what she says, with my heart thudding loudly in my ears.

“You’re going to try to escape, and I’m going to tell them,” she breathes, giggling maniacally when I flail against her. “And hopefully they fucking kill you for it.”

Her hands begin to tighten further, and finally—fucking finally—my training kicks in. I shoot my arm up between hers and twist my body with all my strength, sending her flying off the side of the bed.

The impact is loud, and we both freeze, waiting to hear if anyone woke. Francesca stays on the bottom floor on the opposite side of the house, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be heard.

There are also always two or three men standing guard outside of the house, ensuring none of us try to run.

Sydney’s eyes narrow, and I know she’s about to attack again. My legs are tangled in the blankets, so I react first, freeing my legs and then diving towards the end of the bed.

She charges at me, wrapping a hand around my ankle and attempting to drag me back. I kick out hard, and her grip loosens enough for me to break free and scramble off the other side of the bed.

Slowly, she stands, her chin dipped low as she stares up at me with pure evil as we face off on either side of the bed.

“What the fuck is your problem?” I whisper-shout.

“I know what you have planned, and I’m not going to let it happen.”

It takes effort to keep my eyes from widening, and the stricken look off my face.

“I don’t have anything planned,” I vehemently deny.

She ignores me. “You don’t get to be treated better than the rest of us, then escape your fate,” she growls.

“Treated better?” I echo on a bewildered laugh. “You’ve been getting me in trouble since I got here!”

“And yet she still loves you more,” she hisses back. I shake my head, absolutely astonished that she believes that. Francesca sees me as a dollar sign—a substantial one. She doesn’t love anyone more than herself.

“Maybe she would love you if you didn’t act like a fucking psycho bitch,” I clip, growing angry. She begins to circle the bed toward me, and I realize belatedly that I’m cornered.

“I’m telling Francesca about your plans,” she says, ignoring my jab.

“What plans?” I ask, playing stupid and hoping she doesn’t actually know a damn thing. For the past two months, I’ve been working out different ways to escape once I’m taken out of here, and after Claire blindsided me last night, I came up with a few ideas that could work now that I’m no longer being auctioned. But Sydney is about to fucking ruin them.

She points to my floor, and my face drops in horror. My head snaps back to her in shock.

“How did you know about that?”

She shrugs, a joyous grin curling her lips. Gradually, a sick realization sets in.

She was the person standing inside the wall, watching me sleep that night. She must’ve hid when I spotted her, then resumed watching me when I found the journal.

Jesus, how long has she been reading it? And how often has she watched me fucking sleep?

“How did you get behind the wall?”

She shrugs, grinning wildly. “There’s a lot of things you don’t know about this house, diamond. I know everyone’s secrets, including Francesca’s. Why do you think she’s allowed me to stay for so long?”

“What secrets?”

“Like I’d ever tell you,” she scoffs.

I’ve no idea what she could possibly have on Francesca, but I don’t care. What I do know is that one of us is not walking out of this room alive tonight.

If Francesca finds out I’m planning to escape and how, they’ll do everything in their power to make sure I never get away

Not going to fucking happen.

They’ll have to lock me in a submarine in the middle of the goddamn ocean to keep me away from Zade.

I stand in the corner of the room, while she lingers at the edge of my bed, possibly sensing the conclusion I’ve come to. Whether it’s because she notes the determination that must be etched into my expression, or the fact that I’m not leaping over the bed to escape.

Time slows for a few seconds, both of us still. And then we’re springing into action simultaneously. She charges for me while I dart toward my nightstand. I hoarded a couple of pens in the drawer in the case I ran out of ink, and now, they’re the only things that may save my life. Not from Sydney—but from Xavier.

She grabs ahold of my hair just as I rip open the drawer and locate one of them, my fingers curling around it while she swings me towards the wall. I crash into it painfully, the back of my fist swinging out sightlessly to dislodge her from my hair.

Teeth sink into my shoulder, clamping down with all her strength. A high-pitched yelp escapes past my lips. I bite back the scream threatening to rip from my throat, feeling blood spurting from around her teeth.

Blinded with pain, I raise my hand and stab the pen anywhere I can reach, feeling the pen sink past flesh and sinew. She releases me with a strangled yelp, but before she can move away, I grab ahold of her and send us both careening to the ground, no longer caring if we’re caught.

Fuck this bitch.

We roll for a few seconds, fighting for control. I manage to gain purchase and twist on top of her, using one hand to slap away her claws, and the other to plunge the pen into her neck. My hand slips, the pen slick from her blood as I impale it into flesh.

Her nails rake across my face, leaving stinging trails, but they fade into the background as I keep stabbing her blindly, managing to hold on to the slippery pen only by sheer determination. Over and over, I stab her, exhaustion sinking into my bones quickly, but pure adrenaline and panic keep me going. Finally, she goes limp, blood pooling around us.

I’m panting heavily, soaked in blood, and delirious from the adrenaline. My body is going into shock, and all five of my senses are on lockdown, nothing penetrating past the shroud of numbness.

I just gaze down at her body, now riddled with holes. She stares sightlessly up at the ceiling, and I find that her eyes don’t look any different than when she was alive.

My door creaks open, and Rio rushes in. He stops in his tracks when he sees Sydney on the ground and me straddling her, painted in crimson. It’s… warm. I think I feel warm.

“Fuck, princesa. What did you do?”

I barely hear him, only interpreting his words from the way his lips move. I point at her, and croak, “I killed her.”

He quietly steps in and shuts the door, but not before peeking out to see if anyone else is coming.

The soft click is inaudible to the typhoon raging in my ears. He keeps his steps light as he comes around the other side of the bed to get a better look. His lips form a circle, and he must whistle, but I don’t hear that either.

All I can do is stare.

“Come here,” he mouths, waving me towards him. Blinking, I stand on quaking knees and manage a single step before slipping on the blood, barely catching myself on the bed. Rio’s hand grips my arm and pulls me up and away from the growing pool.

He grips my face in his palms, his dark eyes searching mine. And then he slaps me hard enough to knock my head to the side. The white noise bleeds into a sharp ring, and then all my senses come rushing back in. I hear, see, feel, taste, and smell everything.

Copper. That’s the first thing my senses notice. And then Rio is gripping my face again, forcing my concentration back to him.

“Look at me, mamá. What the fuck are you going to do now, huh?” I open my mouth, at a loss for words. Finally, I just say, “Escape.”

He shakes his head, drops his hands, and steps away. He stares at me, but as usual, I can’t decipher the emotion churning in his irises.

“I shouldn’t have said that,” I whisper, realization dawning that he’s not going to let me. Fuck. The situation catches up to me all at once, and I enter into panic mode.

I killed Sydney because she was going to out my escape plan, and now I’m going to be locked in a submarine somewhere, forced to live out my life alongside the fish.

With Rio catching me in the act—any chance of escape just went to complete shit and now I’m never going to get the fuck out of here. Rio isn’t going to let me go. There’s no fucking way. His sister is on the line.

“Shit,” I mutter, uncaring of my bloody hands and sliding them through my hair, pulling tight as I try to come to terms with being caught before I’ve even stepped foot out of the fucking house. “I can’t live with the fish, Rio. I don’t like sharks.”

Rio’s brows plunge. “The fuck are you talking about?” “Shit, shit, shit. Fuck—”

Muttering something Spanish beneath his breath, he grabs my arms and brings me in close.

“As much as I appreciate the vocabulary lesson, I’m going to need you to shut the hell up,” he cuts in. “Look at me.”

I do, but my thoughts are elsewhere.

“You need to tell me how the hell you would even escape. Your two options are acres of forest that you will get lost and probably die in or walk a road that you can be easily found on.”

I drop my hands and clench them into fists in an attempt to abate the shaking. The volcano has fucking erupted, and I’m still vibrating from the aftershocks.

“There’s an abandoned train somewhere out there. I found it the night of the Culling. I was going to follow that out,” I say. In the back of my brain, my logical side is screaming at me to stop telling him my plans in case he betrays me. But the larger side of me wants to trust Rio. So fucking badly, just this once.

“And the guards outside?” he questions, voice low.

I shake my head, a tear wiggling free. “I don’t know,” I cry. “I don’t— there’s no way—”

“Shut up, stúpido,” he barks again, keeping his voice quiet. “I’m going to go downstairs, and I’ll take care of the guards. I’ll leave the front door unlocked. Whatever you decide to do, and wherever you go, that’s your decision.”

A knot forms between my brow, and it takes several seconds to wrangle my scattered thoughts back into one direction.

“Rio, you can’t,” I protest. “You can’t risk your sister’s life for me.”

The muscle in his jaw pulsates, and his dark eyes bore into mine. I’ve no idea what the hell he’s thinking.

He swallows. “I’ll figure something out with her. I think I know where she is.”

Then, it clicks.

“Let’s make a deal,” I rush out. “You help me get out of here, Z will save your sister. Tell me her name and where she is, and he will get her out.”

His mouth opens and closes, and for the first time, I’ve made Rio speechless.

“You have yourself a deal.”

“Wait, my tracking device. I-I can’t leave with it in me.”

“Turn around,” he demands, swirling his finger. Biting my lip, I do as he says, shivering when he roughly sweeps my hair to the side.

“How are—” A sharp gasp cuts off my question when I feel something sharp slice and dig into the back of my neck.

Jesus, a fucking warning next time,” I spit, cringing as the tip of the blade digs into my skin.

“He’s not here, mamá, but I am. And I need you to stop wiggling.”

I huff, feeling warm liquid trailing down my back from the wound, and after several painful seconds, the metal pops out. He flicks the device onto my bed and then leans in, his breath brushing across the shell of my ear.

“Katerina Sanchez, she’s fifteen years old. I believe she’s with a groomer by the name of Lillian Berez. Last time I saw a picture of her was three months ago, and she was standing in front of a sunflower field.”

He releases me, and steps away while I turn to face him. “Thank you,” I say quietly. “I’ll make sure she’s safe.”

He gives me a look that tells me he’ll figure out a way to haunt me if I don’t. Maybe he’ll come to Parsons and join the rest of the ghosts in my house.

“One of Rocco’s friends is sleeping on the couch. Be quiet, and it should be fine. He’s out cold from the drugs.”

“Okay,” I nod, feeling a burst of gratitude that I’ve no idea how the fuck to express. He’ll probably smack me if I try. Rio hates any type of appreciation as much as he does attention. And maybe that’s more because he hates himself.

“Tell your man to give me a head start, yeah?” he says, backing away.

I frown. “Run fast.”

Slowly, his tongue swipes along his bottom lip, and his gaze drifts over me one last time as if committing me to memory.

“Bye, princesa.”

“Bye, Rio,” I whisper.

And then he leaves, his footsteps silent.

I don’t waste another second. I rush over to my dresser—which happens to be right by Sydney’s body—slipping and sliding in the blood coating my feet. I tear through the drawers and hastily pull on a long-sleeved shirt and then a sweatshirt. I grab a pair of socks next, round the bed, and start wiping the bottoms of my feet as best as I can on the thin blanket.

I pull my socks and shoes on next, grab my journal from the floorboard, and quietly make my way down the steps.

Fear has kept me in my bedroom at night. It prevented me from going down the steps and out the front door, knowing that there was going to be someone outside waiting for me.

It’s controlled me for over two months, kept me compliant, and now I no longer have that option. I’ve killed someone, and if I don’t leave, I’ll be next. No, I’ll be praying for it, but I know they wouldn’t let death embrace me so easily.

I snag a grocery bag under the sink, cringing every time it crinkles. Then, I find a few bottles of water in the cabinet and a box of granola bars. It’ll have to be enough. I can’t afford any more weight than that. Next, I slide open the drawer and grab two large knives for protection.

My plan is to make it to the tracks and then follow them out of here. Hopefully, I’ll find shelter in one of the trailers when I need to take a break. I’m anticipating that they’ll assume I took the road and focus their search party in that direction when they find me missing.

They see me as a diamond because I have Zade’s love, but they fail to remember that’s what forged me into a stone so unbreakable. He’s taught me a lot about myself and who I really am. But most importantly, he’s taught me how to persevere.

Just as I’m leaving the kitchen, I hear a loud snore, and I pause, my heart picking up speed. Rocco’s friends tend to stay the night when they get too fucked up, and I imagine it’d take a stampede of elephants to wake them.

But I can’t be too sure—it just depends on the amount of drugs that are running through their systems.

Peeking around past the entryway, I see a grungy man laid out on the couch, mouth half-open. It’s Jerry. He’s one of the regulars here and also one of the more vindictive ones when Sydney and I receive punishments.

There’s a small part of me tempted to walk over and stab one of my knives into his throat, yet I can’t bring myself to do it. Despite how badly I want to murder every single person in this house, I’m not a ruthless killer like Zade.

At least, I didn’t use to be. I guess I’m not so sure anymore.

Heart in my throat, I slowly and silently make my way towards the door, jumping when one of his snores is particularly loud and obnoxious.

I’m halfway through the room when I hear my plastic bag give out, and one of the water bottles breaks right through, loudly smacking off the floor and rolling several feet.

Just barely, I bite back a gasp, trapping it on the tip of my tongue right alongside my erratic heartbeat. My wide eyes snap to Jerry. His snores have cut off, but he appears to be sleeping still.

A dangerous amount of adrenaline is coursing through my bloodstream, and my vision goes spotty from how hard my heart is pounding.

I cup the bottom of the bag and tiptoe to the water bottle, cringing when the sack crinkles in my hand. Then I crouch down and grab the water bottle, keeping my movements slow.

Screwing my eyes shut, it takes several seconds to try and calm my heartbeat. My hands are clammy, and sweat is breaking out alongside my hairline and lower back. I don’t think I’ve ever been this fucking terrified, and I’m too consumed in it to feel any type of thrill. It’s just that… pure terror.

Breathing out softly, I stand again and try to recover the bottom of the bag, but before I can, another water bottle slips through, once more crashing to the floor.

I choke, and as if moving through molasses, I lift my head to look at Jerry.

His eyes are wide open and pinned directly on me.

For several beats, we just stare at one another, suspended in time.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he asks, sitting up and swinging his legs over the edge of the couch.

I can barely hear past the thrum of my pulse, and my vision tunnels, on the verge of blacking out from the fear. If he calls out for Rocco or Francesca, I’m done for. Rio’s done for if they find out he was involved. Then, his sister will be sold, and I’ll never get out of here—

Focus, little mouse.

Swallowing, I straighten, deciding that keeping my mouth shut for now is the best option. I have no explanation.

“You trying to escape, diamond?”

I shake my head, eyes widening further as he stands, and starts walking toward me. Instinctively, I take a step back, kicking the fallen water bottle.

“Then you want to explain what the fuck you’re doing?”

Once more, I shake my head. The only excuse that comes to mind is that I was bringing snacks to the guards. Which is honestly laughable, and the last thing I want this man to do is fucking laugh. He certainly wouldn’t be quiet about it considering he’s always been the loudest one in the group.

He pauses, scanning over my form, and the moment I see the spark in his dark eyes, I know precisely what the fucker has planned. A slow, insidious smile grows on his face.

“Come here,” he directs.

All I can do is shake my head again, like a broken toy that can only perform one trick.

He snarls, snapping his hand out and seizing me by the arm. I wince as he tugs me into him, my senses overwhelmed by body odor, stale cigarettes, and rank breath.

“You fucking listen to what I tell you to do, diamond, or I’ll have Rocco come out and join in on the fun. Which do you prefer, huh? Me, or both of us?” he spits harshly, though keeping his tone hushed. It would seem he wants me to himself, so he’ll stay quiet for now.

Tears burn the backs of my eyes, and I nod my head quickly, hoping to assuage him. The drugs tend to get them riled up, and their tempers are unpredictable.

“Good girl,” he croons, loosening his grip. “I want you to turn around, push down those pants, and touch your toes. I want to fuck you from behind.”

My mind races as I pivot, keeping my movements slow as I try to figure out what the hell I’m going to do. There’s no way I’m just going to let this asshole rape me again.

He nudges me firmly, “Hurry up.”

“Let me set my bag down first,” I whisper, voice shaky. He harrumphs but doesn’t protest, so I bend down, deftly grab the knife and slide it out, hoping my body is concealing what I’m doing.

“Fucking slow-ass bitch,” he curses, growing impatient and tugging at my waistband, attempting to slide them down for me.

I straighten, which allows him to get them halfway down my ass before I’m twisting at the waist and slashing out my knife. The blade cuts through his throat, and his eyes widen, nearly silent from the shock.

And I spring into action, pulling up my pants, quickly grabbing the sack, the stupid fucking water bottles, and booking it out of the door, leaving Jerry to choke on his blood.

The muscle in my chest pounds so hard that it hurts as I skitter across the porch and down the rickety steps, barely pausing when I spot the two dead bodies piled next to the stairs. The guards—their throats are slit open.

Panting, I round the house towards the back. Rio is nowhere to be found, and I pray to god he got the hell away already.

Because he may be the only one to get out of here alive.

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