Chapter no 38 – The Hunter

Hunting Adeline

It’s quiet. Too quiet.

The clock ticks in the background, and a methodic pair of footsteps creaks above me. Back and forth.

Tick, tick, tick, tick.

Yet, it’s silent. Claire is silent.

She took precautions after my television appearance four days ago and crashed all her devices the same night.

I knew it was a possibility that Claire would take my threat to that level

—it was a variable I would be stupid not to consider. But if it meant keeping Addie from being charged with murder, which could’ve led to another kidnapping attempt once in police custody, it was a risk I was willing to take. I could’ve taken her somewhere no one would find her, but that would be ripping her away from any semblance of a normal life. Not that she has much of one now, but at least we have a chance at getting it back once Claire is taken care of.

I had hoped the red-headed bitch would be too prideful to consider disposing of her devices, but I suppose Claire wouldn’t be where she is if she was an idiot.

We tripled down on security around Parsons, ensuring not a goddamn bird gets past the perimeters without me knowing about it. In the meantime, we’re working on getting a signal back on Claire. Now that we know exactly where she is, I can have one of my men get as close to her island as possible. Then, we’ll fly out a drone that can send a viral EMP to her location. That’ll send a virus to any technology within her area, and then we can decipher which devices are valuable from there. It will take a couple of days to get someone out there and within range, and there’s plenty she can cook up in the time that she’s off-grid.

Tick, tick, tick, tick.

I roll my neck, the muscles popping and groaning.

She hasn’t made any moves yet. But that’s not fucking right. The bitch is reactive. Her head is the size of this manor, and just as dark as the inside of it.

The footsteps halt, as if hearing my thoughts and offended by the notion. I take a sip of my whiskey, daring the asshole to try me. I’m on edge enough to fight air, and I’ll fucking win, too.

After a few moments, the footsteps resume, and I huff out a humorless laugh.

Whichever ghost it is, it’s as restless as the bones in my body. Maybe it’s a direct reflection of how I feel. A manifestation or some shit. Parsons Manor is full of energy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it could be so easily manipulated.

I gulp down the rest of the contents in my glass, hissing at the burn. The clock continues to tick, drawing near the three AM mark.

I got home a few hours ago from taking down a ring. This one has victims as young as newborns, and I haven’t been able to sleep yet. I’m too full of rage and with the knowledge that Claire has something planned.

Phantom fingers of dread are inching up my spine like a spider, tightening my shoulders with each jab. Whatever it is, it’s going to piss me the hell off. Call me fucking psychic, I guess.

Tick, tick, tick, tick.

Pulling out my phone, I dial Jay, bouncing my leg as it rings. “You hate me,” is his groggy answer.

“Something is wrong,” I say, digging in my pocket to pull out my cigarettes.

“What happened?” he asks, sounding more alert. I shake my head, struggling to put it into words.

“I don’t know yet. It’s quiet around Parsons. No sign of anyone. But that’s too obvious.”

Jay’s silent for a moment. “I assume this is about Claire. What could she possibly do?”

“Who fucking knows,” I grumble, irritated with myself, and angrily sticking the tip between my lips. “The cunt will think of something creative, I’m sure.”

He yawns. “Did you talk to Addie about it? You couldn’t have woken her to talk about your feelings and then call me when you know something

is actually wrong?” Shithead.

“She’s sleeping.” “was sleeping.”

“She also went to bed angry because she got in an argument with her mom about getting on medication or some shit. I didn’t want to disturb her.” I’m pretty sure her mom was trying to convince Addie to get me on medication. Antipsychotics, to be exact. I laughed, and Addie then

promptly agreed with her mother.

In response, I rolled her onto my face and ate her pussy until she was riding my tongue into oblivion. The little liar loves me just the way I am.

He sighs. “You’re lucky I understand the wrath of a scorned woman.” He pauses. “And a man, if I’m being totally transparent.”

I roll my eyes. Idiot. He understands it so well because his booty calls are just that, and they don’t like it. But does he stop fucking them? Of course not.

“I’m sure they’ll both get over it,” Jay placates. “From what I’ve heard, they love each other. They just have a funky way of showing it. Or acknowledging it.”

I flick the lighter, about to light my damn cigarette, and just as the flame ignites, so does the proverbial light bulb in my head. My heart drops.

“Shit, Jay, check Addie’s parents’ house,” I clip, finally singeing the tip and inhaling deeply.

He pauses. “You don’t think Claire would try something with them, do you?”

“Who else would she go after? I have no family, but Addie does, and it wouldn’t be hard to find out that her mother has been visiting frequently.”

I hear bed sheets rustling and then the whir of his computer turning on. That dread now has me in a chokehold, and I feel with every fiber of my being that something will be amiss.

Where’s my fucking laptop?

Not anywhere close to me.

“Jay,” I prompt, growing impatient as I take another drag, my knee bouncing restlessly.

“I’m looking,” he mumbles. A few seconds later, he curses, “Shit, they have a Nest camera. Someone busted in about thirty minutes ago.”

Fuck. I fly off the stool, nearly sending it toppling to the checkered floor. “Her parents don’t have cameras inside the house, so I can’t see what’s

happening,” he says, voice tight.

I’ve already stubbed out my cigarette in the sink, and am rushing toward the stairs, mouthing a few choice words on the way.

“Send a drone out to keep an eye on the outside. I’m on my way there,” I direct, swinging around the railing and taking the steps two at a time.

“Sending one now.”

“Thank you,” I say, clicking off the call as I fly down the hallway and through Addie’s bedroom door. She’s facing away, curled in a ball, and sleeping soundly. The balcony doors are cracked open, allowing in a cool breeze. She tends to get overheated from her nightmares, so those doors are always open.

I rush to her, not bothering to stay silent.

“Addie,” I call, nudging her softly. I hate to wake her when she seems to be getting a moment’s peace while sleeping—but she’d murder me if she discovered something was wrong with her parents, and I left to handle it without telling her.

Her eyes crack open, brows knitting as she comes to.

“What?” she croaks, gearing up to throw the sheets over her head. I grab her wrist, squeezing tightly so she understands the severity.

She freezes, her eyes now flying open to stare up at me. “What happened?” she asks, panicked as she sits up.

Fuck. She’s completely naked, and the fact that it hardly distracts me is how strongly my inner alarm bells are blaring.

“Get dressed. We’re going to your parents’,” I order, stepping away from her and heading toward her dresser.

“What? Why? What’s going on?”

I shake my head. “I had a bad feeling Claire was up to something, so I had Jay check their house. Someone broke in about a half-hour ago.”

She’s scrambling from the bed and beside me in seconds, slapping away my hands and grabbing the clothes she needs.

“Why would she go after my parents?” she asks, frantically pulling on clothes.

“Because outside of myself and Daya, it’s the only other way to get to you. There’s been no communication, which means they might not have

done anything drastic yet.”

She shakes her head, panic pulling her brows into a tight knot. “I don’t get it. I don’t understand why she’s after me like this.”

I grab one of my guns from her dresser, check the clip, and tuck it into the back of my jeans. The knife I gave her for her birthday is downstairs, but I’ll be grabbing extra guns for her.

“At this point, it’s just personal, baby. I’m the biggest threat to her organization, and you’re the biggest payday she’ll ever see in her lifetime. You will simultaneously make her richer than any human has a right to be and bring me to my knees.”

“Xavier already paid for me, and now he’s dead. So she’s trying to make double the money on me,” she snipes.

She rushes over to her sneakers lying haphazardly at the foot of her bed. “She can’t possibly think this will work. Does she think I’m that fucking stupid to run into the same situation twice?”

“It’s not about how smart you are, it’s about how desperate you are. And if she gets ahold of your parents and uses them as collateral, you will be desperate enough to do anything.”

Addie huffs, stomping her foot to get the shoe past her heel.

“I’ll be damned if I become like Rio,” she mutters under her breath. I’ll sooner make it into heaven before that happens.

“What the hell is she going to do anyway?” she asks aloud, though it sounds rhetorical. She turns to me, her light brown eyes sharp. “The stupid bitch is going to try to get me to trade my life for theirs, am I right?”

“Most likely,” I concede, following her out of her bedroom door. The moment we step out, it feels as if the walls open their eyes, watching us rush through the dark hallway. Addie cuts through the shadow figures creeping across the floor, paying them no mind.

“Should we wake Sibby?”

I open my mouth, but then as if conjured straight out of a Rob Zombie film, she steps out of her bedroom door near the staircase, covering her mouth as she yawns. Her pigtails are skewed, and her purple nightgown hangs off one shoulder.

She squints her eyes, staring at us with confusion. Addie stops short, gives Sibby one look, and then clips, “Get dressed quickly. You may get to have some fun tonight.”

Whatever fatigue was clinging onto her wisps away in a matter of seconds. Her eyes widen with excitement.

“Can my henchmen come, too?”

I sigh. “Only two can fit, and only if they don’t get in the way.” They’re imaginary, yet the assholes somehow still cause problems. She takes off back into the room, squealing.

“Give us two seconds!” she shouts from the depths, but Addie is already tapping her little feet down the stairs like a roadrunner on crack.

“Don’t forget your knives and guns, mouse,” I call after her. “And, Sibby… limit your knives and guns.”

I hear a dramatic sigh from the room, but I ignore her, sticking my Bluetooth in my ear.

Within two minutes, we’re piled into my car and taking off towards her parents’ house. It’s an hour away, but I’m determined to get there in half the time.



Ten minutes into the drive, the men were dragging Addie’s parents out of the house. Jay made a split-second decision and gunned down their truck. The drone he’s using is special grade, equipped with bullets, and highly illegal.

The men took her parents right back inside and will be waiting for our arrival. There’s a slight risk that they’ll kill her parents before we get there, but that would be entirely stupid.

If her parents are dead, there’s no leverage. And if they tried to escape, Jay would shoot them down. Either way, they lose.

“They know we’re here,” I remind Addie as I pull into the driveway.

Despite Serena’s disapproval of Parsons Manor, living in a secluded house is in her blood. She doesn’t live in the burbs like I’d imagine, but a beautiful home behind a thicket of trees, and far from the road. It isn’t removed from civilization like the manor is, but it’s not easy to find, either.

“You don’t think they killed them, do you?”

“No, baby,” I tell her truthfully. “If they did, they know that if I don’t kill them, Claire sure as hell would. She’d lose her leverage.”

Addie rolls her bottom lip between her teeth as I come to a stop. The house is dark, and the surrounding trees sway in the wind, the branches casting crooked shadows across the home, exuding an ominous feel. It’s a large white three-story house with a massive window on the top center, showcasing the silhouette of a chandelier.

I call Jay, and he answers immediately.

“Keep an eye on the house and make sure no one else comes in,” I order. “Already on it, boss man,” he says, the tapping of his keyboard

following his confirmation.

I turn to Addie and ask, “You ready?”

She spares me a single glance before opening the door and stepping out, silently answering my question. Sibby scrambles out after her while I shut the car off and follow after them.

Addie’s hips sway angrily as she half-runs toward the front door.

I eat up the distance in a few long strides, grabbing her arm and hauling her back. Her neck nearly cracks from how hard she whips her head to glare at me.

“Don’t go charging in mindlessly.”

Ripping her arm from my grip, she scoffs at me.

“I’m not an idiot,” she snaps. I smirk and raise my hands in surrender. If this weren’t her mother in danger, I’d bend her over and fuck her until she does go stupid.

“Sorry, baby. Proceed.”

Leaving me behind, she charges up to the entrance, then as if hitting slow motion on a movie, her movements become gradual and smooth as she reaches for the front door.

Turning the knob, she quietly opens the door, the darkness bleeding out from the depths of the foyer while her other hand grips the knife strapped to her thigh, readying for someone to jump out and attack. No one does, the silence deafening. Stepping farther inside, her eyes scan every direction. When it’s deemed clear, she nods Sibby and me in after her.

I bite my lip, fucking relishing the sight of her in charge. My girl is strong and capable, and I’ll gladly follow her lead.

The blackness swallows us whole as I soundlessly shut the door behind me. It’s so quiet, you could hear a mouse fart. Addie disappears into the darkness as she moves deeper into the house. I can’t see much, but I can feel everything.

The chill coercing the goosebumps across my flesh to rise, the heat moving throughout the pipes, and the eyes watching my every move. They come from all directions and nowhere at all. Yet, they’re as real as the ghostly fingers I feel brushing across my skin in Parsons Manor.

Thankfully, Sibby understands the situation perfectly and contains her giddiness. She’s used to creeping through houses, but she always had the protection of the walls. In Satan’s Affair, she was the creeping eyes.

Maybe now she’ll understand that gut feeling of knowing someone is watching you that wants to cause you harm but never knowing where they are until they’re right in your face.

We travel down a long hallway, passing portraits of Addie gradually aging until she was a teenager. Normally, I’d stop and stare at her childhood pictures, fantasizing about the kid versions of myself falling in love with her had I seen her then. Something tells me that I’d be enraptured by her no matter how young we were.

Now, it’s so eerie in here that those smiling eyes in the pictures appear sinister. As if the different versions of Addie are laughing at us because they know the danger awaiting us. I want to laugh right back because was the danger awaiting her.

We emerge into a kitchen, finding the expansive area clear. She starts to head to the left, but a slight shuffling sound arises from our right. She freezes and glances back at me. I nod towards the noise. As much as she wants to find her mom, we can’t leave dangerous men behind.

Nodding, she turns and veers toward the noise.

“Watch your step,” Addie whispers a moment later. Keeping an eye on Sibby’s feet, I see her step down, her boots sinking into the soft carpet.

It’s a large living room, with a massive TV screen mounted on the wall to our right and plush couches surrounding it, along with a recliner. I imagine that’s where her dad sits, yelling at whatever football team plays on the screen.

His image fades as a different person replaces it, a body emerging from the darkness like a demon called forth by its master.

Addie and Sibby spot him the same time I do, their bodies briefly bristling from the creepiness before we all spring into action. Addie rushes toward the dude, but I feel another person creeping behind me, and I glimpse metal right before I grab Sibby by one of her pigtails and yank, jerking her out of the way of a flying knife that was centimeters from impaling her in the head.

A breath of hot air fans across the back of my neck a mere second before I turn around, sliding my gun from the back of my jeans and taking aim at the culprit who threw the knife. I fire off a shot, hitting the person in the throat and scarcely dodging another knife to the face, catching his wrist right before it could connect. My scars get Addie hot and bothered, so I wouldn’t have minded if he succeeded.

The silencer attachment produces the smallest of sounds, quieter than the man now convulsing on the floor, choking on his own blood. Whipping back around, I find Addie scuffling with the first person. Just as I step in to help, she uppercuts the guy, her blade plunging up through his mouth and into his brain.

After she rips the knife from his head, he flops to the ground, dead before he hits the ruined carpet.

Fuck, that’s my good girl.

Sibby peers around, and from what I can see, she’s pouting. Her lips are pursed, disappointed she didn’t get to partake in the action.

“There will be more,” I assure quietly, my heart pounding from the adrenaline in my system. It’s like morphine pumping through my veins, giving me a high that drugs could never emulate.

Addie faces me with rounded eyes and her hand dripping with blood.

Her chest heaves, and from here, I can smell her excitement.

An animalistic urge is beginning to take over. I want to take her to the ground and fuck her in the pool of blood. But her mother is somewhere in this house, most likely hurt and being held hostage.

Stepping back, I dip my chin in approval, feeling just how feral my stare is. She works to swallow, turning and scanning the room to distract herself from the energy thickening between us.

Pulling myself away from my murderous little mouse, I walk ahead and check every corner of the room, finding a small staircase in the back corner. I peer up the steps, seeing nothing but endless black.

“That’s my room,” she whispers from behind me. Turning my head, I peek at her over my shoulder.

“I think I’ll stay out of it for now,” I answer, my voice hoarse. “Go check to make sure no one is up there. Quickly.”

“We need to find—”

“Addie,” I growl. “If we don’t clear the house, they could be lying in wait until you’re distracted and kill you. So please just check the fucking room, baby.”

Snapping her mouth shut, she does as I say, keeping a wide berth as she walks past me. It takes her only a minute before she’s making her way back down the stairs.

“Clear,” she breathes. “Let’s check their room now, please. It’s on the other side of the kitchen.”

“After you,” I drawl. She rushes past me, leading us back through the bloody living room, then towards the stairs on the backside of the kitchen, right before the dining room.

Light on her feet, she quickly climbs the steps, Sibby and I close behind. They’re all aware of our presence but stomping around like elephants will only help conceal where they’re hiding.

The upper floor is a large circle surrounding the stairs, the monstrous chandelier hanging directly above. The diamonds hanging from the gaudy fixture glint in the moonlight spearing through the massive window.

The air is thicker up here, weighing heavily on my shoulders like God himself is trying to hold me down.

Someone is up here, but they’re not visible. Not yet, at least. An ominous feeling races through my bones, enough for me to step forward and push Addie behind me. I’ll slap duct tape over her mouth if she tries to argue. I don’t care how capable she is, I’ll always protect her.

But she doesn’t argue, indicating she feels it, too. My chest tightens as I look around, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It only takes a few more seconds. A bright red laser spears through the window, landing directly on my chest.

“Zade, get down!” Jay shouts through my earpiece.

“Shit,” I curse before I dive directly into Addie and Sibby, tackling them both to the ground and nearly sending us right back down the stairs. The

window shatters, and I feel the heat of the bullet slide past my arm, taking a chunk out of my bicep with it.

Sharp glass rains down on us, little slices stinging my cheeks and hands. Addie and Sibby cover their heads, attempting to protect themselves from the barrage of tiny knives.

“Fuck, is everyone okay?” I ask through gritted teeth.

“All’s good,” Addie groans, followed by Sibby’s irate confirmation.

“The motherfucker was shielding his body with something, wasn’t picking up on the infrared sensors in the drone until he repositioned,” Jay explains hurriedly, then muttering under his breath, “Probably used fucking Styrofoam.”

Before I can tell him to, a blast of fire lights up the sky, then quickly fizzles out.

Sniper dude just got sniped.

“He’s dead,” he announces in my ear, breathing out a sigh, but then immediately starts panicking again, “Please tell me everyone is alive. You’re all alive, right?” he asks repeatedly.

“We’re all good. But there could be more,” I say. “We’ll stay away from windows as best as we can. Keep me updated on any more movement.”

Another sigh of relief. “Will do.”

Sibby growls, wiggling beneath Addie, who is gripping my injured arm and looking over it, her fingers coated in my blood. I quickly check it over. It’s superficial.

“You okay, baby?” she asks quietly, her voice shaky. It’d take nothing short of an incinerator to melt me, except when it comes to Addie. Then I’m fucking slush.

I place a kiss on her forehead. “I’m fine, mouse. Let’s get moving,” I say.

“I really want to stab someone right now,” Sibby snips, finally sliding out from beneath Addie. Glass has to be cutting into her, but she doesn’t seem to notice when she’s too busy yelling at herself.

“Mortis, move! Quit clinging to me like a leech, I’m fine. Zade’s the one that took the bullet, stupid.” In her attempt to detach herself from her imaginary friend, she ends up kicking me in the head.

See? The assholes always cause problems. “Sibby,” I hiss through gritted teeth.

“What? It’s not my fault,” she sasses, not the least bit sorry. Groaning, I roll off of Addie and sit up.

“Get up. We need to get away from the window.” I stand and help the girls up, one of them now in a seriously foul mood. Her temper is only going to continue to rise until she stabs someone, and my headache is only going to worsen until that happens.

They gently brush the glass from their bodies, and with the moonlight spilling into the room, I note tiny cuts all over their faces.

“Which one is your mom’s room?” I ask, keeping my voice low and swiping a few shards from Addie’s backside that she missed. Sibby is sticking out her ass and wiping her butt off, but in her head, one of her henchmen is helping her.

“First door on the left,” she responds.

“Sibby, I want you to go and check the other rooms,” I tell her. Surprisingly, she doesn’t complain and takes off, probably praying for someone to try her. I’m praying for someone to try her.

Glass crunches beneath my boots as I hug the wall, sliding along it until I reach the door with Addie following my lead.

I crack open the door, tucking myself back around the corner in case more bullets come flying.

“Stay here for now,” I order, not giving her time to argue. Holding my gun up, I slip into the room. It’s pitch-black in here, and I wish I had thought to bring my night vision goggles.

Straining my ears, I listen for any noise, but I don’t hear anything. Not even the sound of breathing.

As my eyes adjust, the bed becomes clearer. Empty, save for the rumpled bed sheets and skewed pillows. A lamp is knocked off the end table, upside down with the cord ripped from the wall. There must’ve been a struggle getting them out of bed.

I let out a slow breath, continuing to scan my eyes over every inch of the room, trying to pick out any figures standing in the shadows or lying on the ground.

“They’re not in here,” I call out quietly.

Addie sneaks into the room behind me, her footfalls light and her body poised for threat. She’s come so far from the girl who ran headfirst into

situations without properly thinking it through. She’s a trained killer now, and fuck if it doesn’t make my chest tight with pride.

I never wanted to change Addie. Despite how dangerous her impulsiveness and stupidly brave tendencies were, it’s what made her so fascinating. But her circumstances took that out of my hands, and while I still needed my brave girl, there wasn’t any room for thoughtless actions anymore.

There’s nothing thoughtless about how Addie moves now, and my fascination with her has only amplified. All those idle threats she used to make about killing or hurting me—she could make those come true now.

Fuck. Yes.

“Where do you think they could be?” she whispers, bringing me back to the situation at hand. I’d berate myself for getting distracted by her if I knew it would change anything, but it won’t. Dying with Addie on my mind is the only way I want to go out anyway.

I shake my head. “I don’t know. But if there are people in the house, that means they’re most likely still in the house, too.”

Addie walks to the bed, pressing her hand into the sheets. “It’s cold, so they’ve been gone for a minute.” Turning to me, she decides with resignation and dread, “I think we need to check the basement.” Her body is stiff, and her shoulders tense.

“What’s wrong with the basement?”

She shrugs a shoulder. “It’s creepy down there?” she says, though it sounds like a question.

“You like creepy.”

She seems to pause on that thought, and then relaxes, nodding her head. “Yeah, you’re right. I do like creepy. Let’s go.”

Sibby emerges from one of the rooms just as we exit her parents’ bedroom, appearing more frustrated.

“No one is up here. I busted in every room,” she says with disappointment.

“Basement,” I clip. “They might be down there.”

Addie leads us back down the stairs and towards the basement door in the dining room.

“If they are down there, they’ll hear our footsteps and know we’re coming,” I murmur, once more pushing Addie behind me. It’s better if I’m

the one getting shot at so she can handle her parents.

The door creaks open, and it’s like looking into a massive black hole in the ground.

“How big is the basement?”

“Pretty big. It’s not finished,” she answers on a whisper. “There are rooms down there, too.”

Slowly, I descend the stairs, and my sight is completely robbed. There’s a cold chill and another heavy weight of dread down here, like an evil goddess beckoning me into her lair. Such a warm fucking welcome.

In the far back corner of the basement, a tiny sliver of light shines from the depths of what looks to be a hallway.

That pit of dread yawns, consuming my insides until all I feel is doom.

Addie and Sibby flank either side of me, and though I can’t see their faces, I can feel their restlessness.

“We’re in the family room, down that hallway is the unfinished side,” Addie informs me, her voice barely above a whisper.

Just as I take a step, the glow extinguishes as if they cut the lights out. I freeze, my eyes beginning to adjust.

They didn’t cut the lights out. Someone is standing at the entrance of the hallway. They’re unmoving, but I feel their eyes boring into where we stand. My hand tightens around my gun, and I slowly raise it, preparing for them to attack. Then, they slowly step back and disappear down the hallway again, the glow taking their place once more.

My heart pumps wildly in my chest. Shit, that’s freaky. Even I can admit that.

Sibby scoffs. “I spent too much time in haunted houses—no one is creepier than me. Let me go first.”

I shrug, deciding Sibby fucking with them wouldn’t hurt.

“Have fun,” I mumble, dropping my weapon an inch, though I refuse to relax. There could be more lurking around down here.

She giggles loudly, the sound sinister, before she softly sings a lullaby as she heads for the hallway. I can’t be sure, but if I know Sibby, then I’m positive she’s skipping there.

I grab Addie’s hand, leading her to where the little doll now stands in the entrance, her tiny body highlighted by the light.

Her pink knife is in her hand, and she stabs the tip into the wall beside her. Then, with her lullaby growing louder, she slowly walks down the hallway, dragging her knife as she goes.

Addie cringes, but I can’t tell if it’s because Serena is going to be pissed about that or if it’s because Sibby is just as creepy as she promised.

Both are daunting.

Voices arise from the room they’re in, sounding nervous and slightly angry.

“Don’t come any closer,” a deep voice barks. Sibby pauses, abruptly cutting off her lullaby, and cocks her head.

“That’s not very nice,” she whispers, her childlike tone sending chills down my spine. “I just want to play.”

“I will blow your fucking head off, bitch,” he spits. A large man fills the doorway at the end of the hallway, and I quickly usher Addie out of sight before he spots us at the mouth. I flatten myself against the wall and peek around the corner.

If he tries anything, I’ll be the one blowing heads off.

He’s burly and tall, with a bald head, black tattoos covering his pale skin, and a bushy beard surrounding his thinned lips. A gun is in his hand, aimed directly at Sibby. But she doesn’t seem the least bit frightened.

Muffled whimpers emit from the room, both masculine and feminine, and the sounds relax me a bit. They may be hurt, and definitely scared, but they’re also alive. That’s all that matters right now.

“My henchmen won’t let that happen,” she says. I’ve no idea where she imagines her harem to be, but the only one intimidating the armed man right now is her.

Which is admirable when she’s five foot nothing.

“Drop the knife,” he orders her. Sighing, Sibby listens, her knife clanging down the wall.

“You might as well tell me to undress next if you’re going to strip me of things,” she pouts. Gripping the bottom of her shirt, she starts to pull it up, doing just that.

The man’s eyes widen, and his gun drops as he watches Sibby take off her shirt. Thank fuck she’s wearing a bra.

I shake my head. Her methods are really fucking weird but still effective. She throws her shirt at the man, causing him to flinch back. Within that

small increment of time, she grabs another knife strapped to her thigh and whips it at the man, the tip of the knife lodging in his eye straight through.

The whimpers rise to full-fledged screams of horror as the man tips face first, dropping like a bag of sand. His weight lands on the knife, driving it completely through his skull.

Quickly grabbing her knife and shirt from the floor, she pulls it on and skips the rest of the way into the room, stepping over her convulsing victim. “Let’s go,” I say, grabbing Addie’s hand and rushing into the room

behind Sibby, attempting to avoid the mess.

Serena and her husband, William, are bound to two chairs in the center of the room, duct tape slapped over their mouths. A single light bulb dangles above them, illuminating the two men on either side, each holding a gun to their head.

The intruders are tense, on edge now that Sibby flung a knife into their very dead partner’s eye.

“Mom… Dad…,” Addie breathes, and I feel her body bristling with the need to run to them.

Serena’s eyes are wet and bloodshot, smudged with black mascara. Her blonde hair is mussed, and her silk pajamas are torn at the collar. William squirms beside her, profusely sweating. His graying hair is matted to his head, and his white t-shirt is soaked. A cut mars his cheekbone, and a bruise is already beginning to form around his eye.

“You got here quicker than I expected after your friend fucked with our truck,” the intruder to my left says, his gun digging into Serena’s temple. He has deep black hair that hangs down around his ears, tangled and greasy, and a massive, hooked nose with a scar cutting across it. The other is a short, blond man with a baby face, who appears to be way out of his element.

“I was looking forward to having fun with them just a little bit longer. Maybe see if Mommy has a golden pussy too.” His finger curls around a strand of Serena’s hair, and she jerks away with a muffled scream.

“Don’t fucking touch her,” Addie snaps. The man only smiles.

“I wanted to turn them into a nice display for you, too,” he continues, ignoring her. He shrugs a shoulder, attempting to appear nonchalant. “I suppose you’d make a better exhibit. Z hanging out of that big window in

the front of the house, just like you did with the doctor. How poetic that’d be.”

“I’d love to play arts and crafts with you,” I murmur, drawing my switchblade from my hoodie and opening it, the zip of metal lost in Serena’s suppressed cries.

The man cocks the gun in response, his threat clear.

“You kill her, you kill the only thing keeping my bullet out of your brain,” I warn.

“Oh, Mommy’s the favorite, I see. Well, then we can do without the father, can’t we?”

His gun pivots to Addie’s father, who now has two guns pressed against his head. The man’s intentions are clear: killing one will only cement Addie’s need to trade herself to save the only living parent she has left.

“You do that, then there will be no diamond at all.” My gaze snaps to Addie, my heart coming to a screeching halt when I see her holding her knife to her own throat.

Oh, hell no.

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