Chapter no 22‌ – The Diamond

Hunting Adeline

The tip of my toe catches on a rock, and I stumble forward, managing to right myself before I eat dirt. The cold has settled deep in my bones, and all feeling in my hands and feet have depleted.

I don’t know how long I’ve been running now, but I’ve counted the trailers I’ve passed.

Twelve. Only twelve.

It’s pitch-black outside still, and an owl is hooting somewhere in the distance, easily drowned out by my namesake.


I heard Rocco’s friends calling for me right as I reached the train, and I’m seconds away from bending over and puking, which would lead them straight to me. If not by the sound of my retching, then by the puddle of vomit I would be leaving behind.

It took me a while to find the train again, being so unfamiliar with these woods. I’ve only run through them twice, and both times was through a large maze filled with traps. Considering I’m not thinking clearly at the moment, I didn’t want to risk tripping over a wire, so I went around it.

“Diiiiiiamoonddd!” a man calls again, and I gag, the adrenaline too powerful.

Their voices are still relatively far off, but I haven’t covered any of my tracks. Haven’t had the time to. I’ve no idea if they know how to follow them—probably not—but it doesn’t matter. Francesca will, since she hunted me when we practiced for the Culling.

I’m on the twentieth trailer when I stumble again, and this time, I’m unable to catch myself. I topple forward, landing awkwardly on my hands and knees, agony flaring from the impact. My bag goes flying, and another fucking water bottle tumbles out. Dropping my head low between my shoulders, I work on breathing.

In, and out. In—fuck, I can’t breathe.

My numb face contorts, and a sob crawls up my throat like the itsy-bitsy spider.

Keep fighting, baby. Keep fighting.

I don’t know how to anymore, Zade. I don’t fucking know how.

I shake my head, sucking in sharply, working on getting it fucking together. Another inhale, and I force myself up, bits of rock, leaves, and sticks embedded into my palms.

Brushing them off, I scan my eyes over the trailer next to me. It doesn’t look much different than the others—white, rusted, and corroded—but there is a ladder anchored to the side of it.

If I stay out much longer, they’ll find me, so I need to find a place to hide and regain my strength. I’m still deep in shock, and my body is beginning to shut down from it and the adrenaline.

Wiping the snot from my nose, I gather my meager belongings again, cradle them in one arm and grab onto the cold metal with the other, and start climbing.

“The itsy-bitsy spider climbs up the waterspout,” I croak, missing a rung and slipping again. My knee hits the metal, sending waves of pain up my leg. Hissing, I finish my climb and clamber toward the middle of the trailer. Once I reach the hatch door, I turn the lever and yank it open, the last threads of my energy expended.

“Down came the rain and washed the spider out.” I peek into the trailer, seeing nothing but plant life snaking through the crevices. I may very well be climbing into my grave, but I’d much rather die here.

Yeah, I think this is a good place to die.



I awake to the feeling of something skittering across my leg. I’m instantly gripped in panic and shoot forward, a sharp yelp on the tip of my tongue.

For a moment, I’m convinced I’m back in that house, straddling Sydney with that pen in my hand.

It takes several moments of taking deep breaths for the panic to subside, and my surroundings to bleed back into my vision.

Panting, I look down, noting that my hands are still covered in blood. It’s soaked through my clothing on my arms and legs, too. My skin is itchy and irritated, and I can feel it flaking off me.

Groggy, freezing, and uncomfortable, I look around the inside of the trailer I’m in. Vines grow up through the cracks, and it’s dirty and stifling in here but otherwise empty. I left the top hatch cracked, and a strand of morning light filters in, providing enough illumination to see clearly.

A groan rumbles from my throat, my back aching from my stiff position. Just as I readjust, I pause, noticing a brown squirrel sitting several feet away, sniffing the ground and keeping a close eye on me.

“Hey, cutie,” I whisper, my voice hoarse with sleep. I titter, and with absolute fascination, watch it slowly come closer until it’s within inches from me. It darts out of the way when I try to pet it, so I back off.

“What’s your name?” I whisper, smiling when it hops on my leg, its tiny claws digging past the fabric of my joggers.

For several minutes, the curious squirrel and I observe each other, and for the first time in months, I feel a little lighter. This little creature is so small and insignificant to most, yet watching it clean its little face has my eyes filling with tears. I’ve been surrounded by hollow corpses for so long that it’s shocking to see something so alive.

I sniffle, wiping away the wet trails from my cheeks, only for them to be replaced with more.

“My Nana loved watching the squirrels from the bay window, ya know?” I say aloud. “So, I’m going to call you May. Her birthday was in May, and I think she’d love you.”

The squirrel titters, crawling down my leg towards my foot. I laugh when it nibbles at the tip of my shoe, tugging on the material slightly.

I gasp when I see another squirrel come rushing toward us out of the corner of my eye.

“Oh my God, there’s two of you!” I squeak, keeping my voice quiet. May hops off my leg and meets up with her companion. The couple chases after each other, pulling another laugh from my chest. Several vines cling up the side of the trailer, directly up towards the hatch.

With both fondness and sadness, I watch the couple climb up the vines and squeeze their fluffy little bodies out of the crack.

“Bye, May,” I whisper, loneliness settling in.

Instead of letting it sink its claws into me too deep, I force myself to stand, my back and legs aching painfully.

I don’t remember much after dropping down in the trailer except that I nearly twisted my ankle, but I must’ve fallen asleep soon after. Considering there’s a blue tint to the light peeking through, it’s still early morning, and no more than a few hours could’ve passed.

There’s no doubt that they’re still looking for me, and I battle with the decision of whether I should keep moving or wait it out and hope they give up on searching the forest. I’m terrified to reach the point where I no longer have the protection of the abandoned train.

After that, I’ll be out in the open, with only two kitchen knives to keep me safe.

Deciding to forge ahead, I take a moment to gobble down a granola bar and chug half a bottle of water, determined to eat and drink sparingly. I want to throw these stupid water bottles for nearly getting me caught, but I have no idea how long I’m going to be stranded for, so I need them.

When I dropped in here, I hadn’t really given much consideration on how I was going to get out. And now, I really regret that decision.

I look around, hoping to find something that will give me a boost, but there’s nothing in here.


God? Can we barter or something? If you help me get out of here, you have my permission to knock off ten years of my life. That’ll leave me with like five years left with all this stress, and I’m content with that.

Now that my head is clearer, I can say with absolute certainty that I don’t, in fact, want to die here.

But it looks like I’m going to.

Another bout of tears floods my eyes, and my throat tightens.

Just as I’m about to start hyperventilating, I hear voices outside of the trailer. Inhaling sharply, I’m paralyzed with terror as I listen to two people speaking.

I can’t hear what they’re saying, but I do hear the distinct noise of a radio.

Oh, my fuck, that’s them.

Hyperventilating commence.

I slap a hand over my mouth, suddenly paranoid that they can hear me breathe through thick steel. Glancing up at the hatch door, my heart drops when I hear a muffled voice say, “The hatch looks open.”

Absolute terror consumes me, and the only thing I can think to do is quietly grab both of my knives, fisting one in each hand, and head towards the far corner of the trailer where most of the shadows are converged.

Obviously, that’s going to accomplish absolutely nothing when they open the door and look inside, but there’s literally nothing else I can do. Not until they come down here.

The sound of someone jumping on the side of the trailer reverberates throughout the metal and along my body, sending my heart flying into my throat.

I grip the knives tightly, shaking violently as I hear the man crawl up the trailer.

“Hey!” a voice calls loudly. The man pauses, and with him much closer to the door, I can hear him better.

“Who the fuck are you?”

I can’t hear what the person’s response is, but whatever it is, the guy doesn’t like it.

“The fuck did you just say, asshole? You have no business being here.”

The other person is closer now, though I still can’t make out what they’re saying.

“I don’t give a fuck if it’s not private property. Who the fuck are you to question me?”

Confused and relieved, I hear the man climb back down the trailer, assumingly standing off with the intruder.

I try to listen past the loud heartbeat in my ears, but I can’t make out a damn word.

Their shouting increases, though most of it seems to derive from the man who came very close to finding me.

Just when it seems it’s about to get physical, it goes deadly silent for a beat, followed by a sharp sound of metal pinging off of metal. A bullet? I didn’t hear a gunshot, but it’s so hard to hear past my roaring heartbeat.

It sounds like a man says, “Fucker,” though I can’t be sure.

Eyes wide, I stare up at the hatch, my nerves in tatters as I hear someone jump back up on the ladder of the trailer.

Oh, no.

No, no, no, no.

He’s back.

A sob rackets up my throat, muffled by my hand as I hear the man loudly approach the hatch.

If he wants me to come out, he’s going to have to come get me, and there’s no way I’m going without a fight.

I would sooner slit my throat than go back to that house. Go back to Xavier.

The hatch creaks open, and vomit rises up my throat. I’m on the verge of fainting, until I see his face.

My eyes widen further, the fear quickly replaced with disbelief.

One blue eye so light, it’s nearly white, with a wicked scar slashing straight down through it. And one brown eye so dark, it appears obsidian. I can still see his features clearly, even with the black hood drawn over his head. And right now, utter relief is staring right back at me.


Fuck, baby, stay right there. Don’t you fucking move.”

“She’s in there?” a female calls out urgently, her footsteps climbing the trailer now as well. But I’m too blinded by shock to pay attention. Zade drops down into the trailer a second later, his weight reverberating throughout the heavy metal.

A whimper bursts from my throat, nearly choking on relief as I stumble towards him, colliding in a tangle of limbs.

He immediately lifts me into his arms, my legs circling his waist before he collapses to his knees, holding me so tightly that I can hardly draw in a breath.

Total disbelief has me in a chokehold and I’m heaving around the sobs pouring from my throat. They rack my body so profoundly that my bones rattle from the force.

“I’m here, little mouse, I’m here,” he chants. “Fuck, you’re so cold.” His voice breaks, and he rocks us both, vibrations rolling through him as he fights to keep it together.

Piece by piece, we both crumble, the chips falling around us in a waterfall of anguish. And I just know that when Zade picks up our scattered pieces and stitches us back together, we’ll be forever entwined.

He places soft but urgent kisses on any surface of my body within range. My head, cheeks, neck, and across my shoulders, while his hands roam mindlessly, heating my chilled skin, though it feels more like he’s worshiping.

I don’t know how long we stay there, but eventually, my weeping dies down, yet Zade never stops holding me.

“Addie?” a voice calls softly. My eyes widen, and my head snaps up, seeing Daya’s face peering down in the hatch. Her smooth dark brown skin is wet with tears, and her sage green eyes are flooded.

“Oh my God, Daya,” I croak, once more overcome with disbelief.

“Let’s get you up, baby,” Zade urges. “It’s cold, and the place is still swarming with people looking for you.”

I sniff, wipe my nose, and nod. He boosts me up, and Daya grabs onto my hands, helping me out of the trailer. When I climb out, she immediately embraces me in a hug; her hold is nearly as tight as Zade’s.

“Don’t you ever leave me again,” she cries, voice shaky and tight. I nod, on the verge of breaking down all over again.

But then a woman screeches from behind us, erupting in jumbled words that sound a lot like oh my God, you found her, she must be freezing. Or something like that.

Daya and I pull apart to watch a red-headed woman and another man I don’t recognize rush toward us. A moment later, Zade jumps up, dangling onto the hatch and lifting himself up with ease.

“You found her!” the woman shouts again.

“Jesus, Ruby, don’t announce it to the world. There are still people around searching for her,” Zade snaps.

She waves a hand, unconcerned. “You’ll get ‘em.”

And he will. On the ground are two dead bodies, bleeding from what looks like their chests.

“How did you…?”

“Literally took two steps to the side and shot them both through the chest with one damn bullet,” Daya answers for him, glancing at me with a look that says, he’s fucking crazy but also kind of cool.

Approaching the trailer, Ruby pinches her hands, indicating for me to climb down to her. “Come on, honey. I’ll get you warmed up.”

I just stare at her, my brain submerged in a pool of gelatin, slow to process what’s happening. After Daya softly nudges me, I shakily descend the ladder, my feet nearly slipping on the rungs. The woman, who must be Ruby, wraps an arm around me the moment my feet hit the dirt.

“You’re safe now, honey,” she croons, rubbing my bicep to warm me up as she walks me along the abandoned train.

I glance over my shoulder and spot Zade a few feet behind; his eyes laser-focused on me as if he’s convinced I’ll disappear if he looks away for even a second.

I’m safe now. Yet it still feels like I’m in Hell.

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