Chapter no 26‌ – The Diamond

Hunting Adeline

You bleed so pretty, diamond. Like your body was meant to be cut up by my knife.

I set my trembling hand down, still clutching the knife until my knuckles turn white. Maybe I don’t need to make this salad.

Fuck, I know it hurts so good, doesn’t it, diamond? Look at all that blood.

My favorite color has always been red, and my God, do you look beautiful covered in it.

A hand brushes across my shoulder, and all of those memories come to life. Xavier is standing behind me, ready to take from me again. And I can’t let it happen. I won’t survive it.

“No!” I scream, whipping around and sending the knife flying straight toward his face. Does he like the sight of his own blood? I’ll show him how glorious it looks on him, too.

A hand closes around my wrist, halting my progress, but fuck him. He’s not going to stop me—not this time.

“Little mouse,” he whispers, and that confuses my brain. Enough for Xavier’s face to fade, only for Zade’s to appear.

Heart racing and vision blurred with tears, my hand flies open, the knife clattering loudly against the tile.

Fuck me, I almost just stabbed Zade in the face. Eyes widened with shock; the only thing I’m capable of is to stare, unsure if Zade is an apparition, too. He studies me closely, face carefully blank as he lowers my hand.

“Careful, little mouse, that’s my strongest asset.”

Blinking, I finally choke out, “Don’t ever tell my mother about this.”

Zade’s brows pinch, and his mouth opens, then closes, before finally settling on, “What?”

I extract my wrist from his grip, my blood spiking hot from the lingering adrenaline, and now embarrassment.

“What just happened was entirely dramatic, and if she ever finds out I’m just like her, I’ll die.”

He blinks, amusement filtering in his yin-yang irises. “You’ll die, huh?” I nod once, sharply. “In absolute misery.”

His mouth quirks up. “I wouldn’t dream of it then.”

Sniffing, I nod once more, straighten out my shirt purely just to give my hands something to do other than stabbing people, and then turn, open a drawer, and pull out another knife.


He’s silent for a beat. “Do you want to talk about the attempted murder that just occurred?”

“Not really,” I answer, chopping off another piece of carrot. “But I do.”

I sigh, setting the knife down and pivoting to face him again.

“Zade, I think I’d rather talk about my mother trying to convince me that chastity belts were the latest fashion when I was fourteen than talk about trying to stab you.”

Another pause. “Okay, so there’s a lot to unpack here, and I’m not sure where to start.”

“Exactly, can you believe her? I told her she might as well make the chastity belt into an electric fence, too, so I don’t have to suffer through that.”

He arches a brow, fighting a smile. “Yeah, baby, not dramatic at all.”

I shoot him a droll look. “You’re here. Why are you here? Did you need something?”

“Just you, little mouse.”

Dammit. Why does he have to say all the right things? He knows exactly what he’s doing, too, and how much I secretly enjoy it.

I narrow my eyes, and he forges on, a slight curl to his lip as he speaks.

“While I’m not scared of the Society, we are currently sitting ducks, and I need to handle a few things with Jay. And there are a few things I need to discuss with you, starting with who put a target on your head.”

“Claire, right?” I ask. Surprise flashes across his face. “How did you know?”

“She came to visit me.”

His face smooths into a blank slate, but it’s a mirage. Anger swirls beneath the surface, bubbling out through his hardened tone. “What did she say?”

“Pretty much just bitch-slapped with the knowledge that she’s been the big man behind the screen the entire time. She was there because she knew you were looking for me, and I was going to be handled differently to ensure that you wouldn’t find me.”

He nods slowly. “I’m not going to rush you, but eventually, I’ll need to know if you saw anyth—”

“I want to help,” I cut in. It doesn’t give me anxiety like I thought it would. Instead, it gives me a sense of relief.

When he took me to the sanctuary a few days ago, it changed something in me. Seeing all those survivors getting better, working on healing, and seeing them shrouded in all kinds of happy vapors, it shifted something in my chest.

It made me realize that’s what I really need. A goal—something to work toward that would genuinely make me happy. And now, I know what that is.


“Don’t tell me I’m not capable, or not ready. I’ve had a lot of fucking time to think. And I don’t want to be this insufferable victim, okay? I don’t want to let them win, and more importantly. I want—no, I need to help.”

He crosses his arms. “Okay. How would you like to help?”

I shrug. “I’ll tell you everything I know. And if you go out on missions, I want to come.”

His brow cocks, and his gaze flickers over me before returning to my eyes.

“Okay,” he acquiesces again. I’m almost suspicious of how agreeable he is. I was expecting him to lock me in my proverbial tower like Rapunzel.

Noting the look on my face, he says, “I’ll never treat you like you’re helpless or incapable. I’ve always known how strong you are. So, if you want to help, fine. I’m more than happy to bring you along for the ride, baby, but that comes with stipulations.”

“What stipulations?” I ask, growing wary.

“We start training again. We’ll pick up where we left off, and I’ll teach you not only how to defend yourself but how to fight, too. You need to learn

how to use a weapon properly, and so help me God, Adeline, you will not do stupid shit when we’re working in the field.”

My mouth opens, offended by his accusation. “What makes you think I’d do anything stupid?”

His brow jumps up to his forehead again. “You’re going to tell me that confronting your stalker in the middle of the night wasn’t stupid?”

My teeth click shut. So, maybe he has a point there.

“You’re brave. Incredibly brave, and a goddamn survivor, and it’s admirable as fuck. You have no idea how proud of you I am. But you’re also impulsive, and reactive, and I refuse to lose you again, do you hear me? I won’t. Which means that you have to listen to me, and you cannot go off and do your own thing because you think you’re helping. We’re a team, baby. Got it?”

I chew my lip, mulling that over. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I am underwhelmingly out of my league when it comes to this corner of the world.

“I understand,” I agree. “I’m not going to pretend like I’m the big bad wolf… yet.”

His answering smirk suggests that he is the big bad wolf, and honestly, I’d have to agree.

But I won’t admit it. His head will blow up, and then I will need to jab that knife in his face just to pop his oversized ego.



“Aim for the jugular, not the ear, baby,” Zade instructs patiently. It grinds on my nerves anyway, and I’m a hairsbreadth away from turning the knife on him instead. “Adjust your feet—” He gently kicks one of them back. “You’re unbalanced and not holding the knife correctly.”

Since I started training with Zade three weeks ago, I’ve improved, but it doesn’t feel like enough. It never does.

Before me is a gelatin mannequin with countless stab marks in it, most of them far off from where I’m supposed to be hitting.

A reel of people clicks through my head, picturing each one in place of the mannequin. It helps for the most part, but then I freeze up, remembering Sydney’s lifeless body beneath me, or the feel of my knife cutting through Jerry’s throat.

Claws dipped in guilt have me in a chokehold, and I’m growing frustrated with myself. With him. I’m not like him. I can’t just kill someone and… get over it.

I whip around, shooting daggers at him with my eyes instead of my hands.

“You’re so unapologetic for what you’ve done. For how many people you’ve killed. How are you okay with that?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” he challenges, tilting his head with an amused grin. I’d say he looks like a cute puppy, but that would be a lie. He looks like a vicious beast that’s been locked up too long and is ravenous. For me, in particular.

“I don’t know—morals?” I say, like the answer is obvious. Because it is. “Guilt? Remorse?”

“The very people you want to kill are the founding fathers of society’s morals. I killed their expectations of me, and then I sliced open their throats to show them that they would never control me. They will only ever answer for their crimes, and I have no problem being the executioner. If you don’t want to do this, y—”

I slash my hand in the air, cutting him off. “Don’t do that. Don’t give me an out.”

“It’s not an out, it’s an option. I want you to do whatever you can handle, Addie. If that means staying home, I support you. If that means going on a massive murder spree, I’ll be right by your side, baby. You’re still having nightmares about Sydney and Jerry, and carrying around that guilt for protecting yourself. If you can’t learn to accept that, how will you accept taking anyone else’s life? Because believe me when I say, this won’t be self-defense from here on out.”

“I don’t know how to accept it, Zade. I feel like I’m justifying murder.”

“Just like I ‘justified’ stalking you?” He puts air quotes around the word because we both know Zade was well aware of what he was doing and how wrong it was.

“Forcing a gun into that pussy and making you come all over it? Or all the other times you told me no, and I did it anyway?” he volleys back. The flush in my cheeks deepens, and my face burns from the reminder of that stupid gun. “Did I know it was wrong? Of course, I did. But it clearly didn’t stop me from doing it. You need to figure out your morals, and what you’re okay living with. Not what you’ve been taught, but what you feel in your gut.”

“So, stalking and assaulting me is written in your book of morals?”

“No,” he says, his smile widening. “I was obsessed with you from the moment I saw you. All those dark, twisted emotions I felt were the rawest form of who I am. I made the decision to show you that instead of concealing it. I never claimed to be a good person, little mouse, and that was something I decided I could live with. Just like murdering a bunch of pedophiles and human traffickers.”

“I’m pretty sure the people you kill tell themselves the same thing you do to help them sleep at night,” I comment dryly.

“I’m sure they do,” he agrees easily, taking a step toward me. My breath hitches, but I stand my ground, even as his voice deepens sinfully, “And I’m sure there are many who claim to be good and honest, and that they would be willing to kill me for my crimes against you. But that’s the difference. I’ve never made those claims.”

A flush crawls up my face, warming my cheeks beneath his intense stare. “You make it sound so easy to just be… bad.”

“I’ve had a lot of practice.”

He has, which raises more questions. I roll my lips, my pulse beating erratically, working up the nerve to ask the question on the tip of my tongue. I’m afraid of what might happen once I do.

I’ve explained to Zade before that it was going to take me time to get used to some things about him. And now that I’ve been through what I’ve been through… all those old feelings are resurfacing. Not the hate or the desire to get away but accepting and understanding his contradictions and skewed morals.

“So, what’s been stopping you then?” I rush out.

Cocking his head, he waits. “From fucking me,” I say bluntly. “You didn’t stop before. What’s stopping you now?”

He’s silent for a few beats. “Because I wouldn’t be able to live with myself,” he murmurs, staring at me thoughtfully. “There would be a very different reaction this time around—you already know that.”

I cross my arms, popping out a hip. “Would there?”

“Yes,” he says firmly. “Do you think if I pinned you to the ground, you’d fight me at first only to end up grinding your pussy into my face because I’ve awakened something in you? Or do you think you’d fight like your life depended on it, only to end up mentally checking out from the trauma?”

I swallow, the truth tasting like dirt on my tongue.

“You will never hear me call myself a good man. Or kind. Or even honorable. There is very little left of that in me, and the truth is that it was never really there to begin with. I was born with a blackened soul and good intentions. And there is a difference between those who are needlessly evil and those who do bad things hoping that something good will come out of it. I’ll let you decide for yourself which one I am.”

He doesn’t wait for me to answer—I get the distinct feeling that he wants me to think about it first.

He steps towards me, and my muscles instantly stiffen. That’s when I realize I don’t need to think about it at all. Trauma has a tight hold on me, but all I want him to do is hold me tighter.

“You want the simple answer, too?” he asks, his voice deepening, causing my pulse to skyrocket. “It’s because I love you, Adeline Reilly. And I know you love me back. When I’m inside you, you won’t be thinking of anything else but how to get me deeper. The only fear you’ll taste is from a God sending you to heaven too soon.”

My heart skids and comes to a crashing halt against my rib cage, giving out on me completely. My knees will be next, and that would be fucking embarrassing.

He grins, his gaze turning predatory. “That won’t be the only fear I’ll instill in you.”

Slowly, he begins to circle me while I stand frozen. His heat presses into my back, and his breath warms the side of my neck. My fight or flight instincts are kicking in, and my control over it is slipping.

“You will always be the little mouse, and I will always hunt you. I’ll patiently wait until you’re ready for me to touch you, but make no mistake, Adeline, it’ll still hurt when I do.”

An icy chill washes through me at his ominous words, colder than the ghosts who haunt this manor. Before, that might have scared me. Even more, after being hunted by the cruelest of humankind, I should be tired of it.

Yet I feel nothing but a small thrill and… comfort. Somehow, Zade has managed to warp our cat and mouse game. Now, I find solace in the knowledge that he will always find me. And knowing this… despite me not being quite ready for him yet—it makes me want to run.

Just so he can catch me.

With tension polluting the air, he grabs my hand, spins us around, and points the knife at the mannequin.

“Stop picturing all the people you want to kill and picture the people you have killed. Recreate that night in your head. Replay it over and over until stabbing that knife in their necks feels liberating.”

It takes too long to pull my headspace away from the predator standing behind me, but eventually, I manage it.

The moment that night replays in my head, I want to curl in on myself. Remembering how I plunged that pen into Sydney’s body until the life was snuffed from her eyes. Or slashing my knife across Jerry’s neck and watching his eyes bug from his head.

I was protecting myself. Yet, I still carry their deaths on my shoulders as if they were innocent.

For the next hour, I continue to struggle. I’m growing frustrated with myself and picking myself apart to figure out why I feel guilty, particularly over Sydney. Is it because she was a victim too? She was forced into the same things I was, enduring the brutality of sex trafficking that ultimately sent her into a psychotic break.

Over and over, I turn it in my head until it clicks.

Sydney may have been deranged, but she was broken too. She deserved my sympathy, but that doesn’t excuse her from her actions. It doesn’t give her the right to hurt other people. And it doesn’t mean I was wrong for ending her life.

Though, with Jerry, Claire, Xavier, and all the others who decided I was nothing more than an object—they don’t deserve anything more from me than what they’ve already stolen. Not my sympathy, remorse, or guilt. It

wasn’t my decision to be raped and brutalized, but it is my decision to slit their throats for it.

As I come up to the second hour, going through the movements with Zade becomes natural. Sliding the knife into the dummy’s neck feels just as he said it would. Liberating.

Others may believe it is never okay to take a life under any circumstances. We are not the judge. At one point, I might have even believed that, too. But then I came face-to-face with true evil. People who are not human at all, but vile things that will continue to destroy this world and anything good that inhabits it.

Now, I realize that choosing to look the other way and let God handle it is a fucking cop-out. It’s allowing evil to continue to live because they believe the afterlife is scarier.

If it’s so scary, then why wait to send them there?

Now, I realize it’s selfish. They’re too fucking scared about making it into heaven to condone murder, even if it saves innocent women and children’s lives.

Doesn’t that make them just as evil?

Condemning those who are capable of being the executioner doesn’t make them better people. It makes them compliant.

By the time the third hour passes, I’m panting heavily, sweat pours down my face and back, and I feel invigorated.

When I face Zade again, it feels as if I’m viewing him from a different set of lenses. I wonder if he sees me differently, too, and if he’ll be able to let go of who I used to be and love the person I’ve become.



“Adeline, I feel as if this house is taxing your mental health,” Mom announces with finality, brushing off imaginary lint on her Calvin Klein jeans. It’s not very often I even see her in anything other than a dress, skirt, or pantsuit.

I feel so special.

“Why do you say that?” I ask, voice monotone and un-fucking-interested. I’m rocking in Gigi’s chair, staring out at the gloomy landscape. It’s storming today, and the windows are foggy from the rain. I tilt my head, fairly certain I’m seeing a handprint forming on the window.

Aside from the creepy hand, sitting here brings back a sense of comfort and nostalgia. Where a different version of myself would stare out the window, my shadow lurking in the darkness and watching me. Where I loathed every second of it, yet I would war with the fact of not knowing if I hated it because I was scared or if I hated it because I enjoyed it.

“Honey, have you seen the circles under your eyes? You can hardly miss them. They’re very dark. And on your birthday, no less.”

This is my mother being sweet. Caring. Concerned. And frankly, it’s fucking exhausting. She’s been trying harder to… I don’t know—fix things with me or something—since I’ve come home. Of course, my father has no interest in joining her efforts, but I can’t find it in me to care.

Her daughter getting kidnapped must’ve made her realize a thing or two about the state of our relationship and how utterly in shambles it was—is. Whose fault it is, I’m sure she’d have a different response depending on her mood.

But she’s trying. Therefore, it’s only fair that I try not to kick her out of the house. On my birthday. I’m already exhausted, and it would seem my dark circles are showing now.

Zade woke me up to my bedroom covered in roses and a gorgeous black knife with purple weaved throughout the handle. I’m getting better at handling them, but it’s a work in progress and his present was a testament to his faith in me.

Then, Daya wanted to do brunch, and now Mom is here and I’m ready for a nap. People-ing is still tiring.

“Concealer will fix it.”

“Maybe you should come stay with me again. Get away from that… heathen—” I snort, which then turns into a full-out laugh. Something about my mother calling Zade a heathen is just… well, funny. True, but funny.

My mother is gaping at me as if I’ve told her I’m shaving my head bald and going to live the rest of my life in a van and smoking hookah.

Doesn’t sound so bad, actually. Except maybe the going bald part.

I bite my lip to hold in the laughter, grinning while she only grows more ruffled.

“I don’t see how shacking up with a criminal is funny,” she mutters, turning away with an affronted look on her face.

“What if I’m the criminal?” I question.

She sighs. “Adeline, if he has coerced you to do something…”

I roll my eyes. “He hasn’t made me do anything, Mother, chill. And I’m fine. Really. I went through something traumatic—obviously—and sleeping doesn’t always come easy to me.”

She shifts on the leather couch, gearing up to say something else, but I cut her off. “And I’m good here. In Parsons Manor.”

Her mouth shuts, a frown tugging down her pink-painted lips. I sigh, a stab of guilt hitting me in the chest.

“Mom, I appreciate your concern, I do. But it’s going to take me a while to get readjusted and back to normal.” Normal. Saying the word feels like swallowing a handful of rusty nails. I’ll never be normal. I don’t think I ever was.

And if anyone could attest to that, it would be my mother—the woman who’s called me a freak most of my life.

She’s quiet for a moment, staring down at the checkered tile and lost in whatever hurricane is sifting through her skull and ready to come out of her mouth. I’ve always felt like storms rage through her head since her words were always so fucking destructive.

“Why didn’t you tell me about him?” she asks quietly. She lifts her head to look up at me, her crystal blue eyes swirling with hurt. I can’t decide if the sight of it twists the guilt deeper or if it makes me angry.

“Because you’ve never made me feel safe enough to tell you anything,” I answer bluntly.

Her throat works, swallowing that bitter pill.

“Why… why did you need to feel safe to tell me about him, Addie?” she asks, her sculpted brows pinching. “I mean, if he were… normal, it shouldn’t have been a big deal. If he were someone you met in a bookstore, or at one of your events, or even in a grocery store.” She pauses. “Why did you need to feel safe?”

I roll my lips and turn back towards the window. “Addie, does he hurt you?”

My neck nearly snaps from how quickly I turn back to her. “No,” I say sternly, though that’s not entirely true.

Did he hurt me? Yes, but not how she’s thinking. He would never lay a finger on me out of anger. The type of pain Zade delivers is unorthodox, and

while there’s always been a part of me that enjoys it—it still hurts.

Yet, I crave it anyway. “Then why?”

I sigh, debating on how much I should say. He kills people for a living? Too much. He stalked me? Would never live that one down, no matter how guilty she feels.

So, I just settle with the truth. The part that doesn’t announce him as a psychopath with a bit of an attachment issue.

“He saves women and children from human trafficking, Mom. He’s very deeply involved in that dark corner of the world.”

She sucks in a sharp breath, her spine snapping straight and her eyes widening with outrage. “Is he the reason you were kidnapped?”

“No,” I snap. “He is not why, and you need to remember that he saved

me. I would not be here—be alive—if it wasn’t for him.”

She shakes her head in confusion, and asks, “Then why were you? If he’s involved with the same people?”

I shrug, feigning a nonchalance I don’t feel. “There were many factors, but none of them were his doing. That’s all that’s important.”

She sighs, a sound of both frustration and acceptance. “Is he dangerous?”

“Yes,” I admit. “But not to me. He loves me, and not only that, he loves me for who I am. He’s never wanted to change me.”

She flinches at the dig but refrains from defending herself this time.

“Just because he loves you, that doesn’t mean he’s good for you,” she says with finality.

I purse my lips, considering that for a moment. “What is good for me then, Mom? You know best, right? A real stand-up guy that’s a lawyer or doctor?”

“Don’t be obtuse,” she snips. “How about someone like a police officer, who only carries a gun because they’re—”

“Protecting people,” I cut in. “Because you think they’re protecting people. You really want to get in that debate right now? And wouldn’t you say Zade is doing the same? By rescuing innocent people from being kidnapped and enslaved?”

She tightens her lips, clearly still in disagreement but not willing to keep arguing. That’s a first, but I don’t expect it to last.

This time, I’m the one sighing. I throw myself back in the chair.

“I don’t want to fight about him with you because it’s not going to change anything. I know him better than you ever will, and if you want to hate him, fine. But do it where I don’t have to hear about it,” I say tiredly and resolutely.

I’m too exhausted to keep fighting with her. That’s all we ever do, and it got old over a decade ago.

“Fine,” she huffs, irritated and contrite. “Let me take you to a nice dinner for your birthday, at least. Can we do that? No talk about your boyfriend.”

I stare at her, and the tightness in my chest eases a little. Smiling, I nod my head.

“That sounds good. Let me get ready.”

I stand and head towards the stairs when she calls out, “Don’t forget the concealer, honey. You need it.”

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