Beyond Ransom (The Ransom Series) (2 page)

BOOK: Beyond Ransom (The Ransom Series)
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2

 

Wrong

 

I awaken with a gasp.  It takes only a
second for my senses to realize that the hum of male voices that previously
enveloped the room around me has gone silent with my sudden announcement that
I’m awake.

Something covers my eyes, a bandana or
cloth of some sort.  Something similar holds my bite open and pulls tightly
against the corners of my mouth.  My heart races as this information really
starts to penetrate my brain.

I’ve been blindfolded and gagged.

I try to wiggle my hands free
,
but they

re secured tightly behind my
back.  I try to move my feet
,
but they won’t budge.

I’m tied to a fucking chair.

Footsteps approach me.  I can hear each
movement of them in the deafening silence of the room.  The steps are heavy, weighted
with purpose and intent, and I dread what’s going to happen next.

Fear.  Absolute fear takes over me.  My
breathing quickens.  My eyes burn with the sting of tears.

The footsteps stop
,
and silence surrounds me once again.  I can feel how close the
person is next to me
in the body
heat
radiating
through the small distance between us
.  A hand or face has to
be within inches of my skin.  I can feel it even with the pieces of cloth
strapped around my eyes and mouth.

“Good evening, Morgan,” a man’s voice
says as hot breath washes over my sweating forehead.  I shiver involuntarily,
tiny goose bumps of terror prickling over my entire body from head to toe.

I can’t reply.  I can’t move or do
anything to acknowledge what this man just said.  I don’t know what he expects
of me, so I wait in the darkness behind my blindfold and focus on the rapid
thud of my heart within my chest.

The man is moving again.  I can hear
his footsteps circling around me, stalking me like an animal closing in on
its
prey.

He’s going to devour me.  He’s going to
end me.

Panic surges
through my body
as hands grasp my shoulders.  It’s a vicious hold at first before
softening in touch.  Nausea creeps up within me as the hands begin to massage
my skin, slowly moving from my shoulders up under my hair to my neck.  The
sensuality of it scares the shit out of me.  If this is
the
starting point of my nightmare, where will this end?

The hands slowly enclose themselves
around my neck and squeeze slightly
,
as if practicing
to choke me.  Their grip then softens, and he releases his hold.  The fear and
panic rising within me at his touch only increases as his cheek and nose press
against my hair.  My body cringes away in the slightest movement as he inhales,
taking in the scent of me.

“God, you smell good.”  The man is
practically growling his words.  “Let’s get a better look at you.”

The cloth is lifted from my eyes, and I
am immediately blinded by a
spot
light trained directly
on me.  I divert my gaze away from it and let my vision clear up before raising
my head to take in my surroundings.

Cement is all around me: cold, hard,
solid cement on the floor and walls and ceiling.  Beyond the spotlight there is
limited light
ing
in the corners of the large room from
single exposed light bulbs hanging from the ceiling.  Men are scattered
throughout, well over ten of them, all with hardened faces, scruff on their jaw
lines, broad chests, and arms built with muscle.  They’re intimidating–no,
they’re absolutely frightening to me.  In one look at them I can tell I don’t
stand a chance.

I drop my head and close my eyes.  I
don’t want to look at them anymore.  I wish the blindfold was back over my face
to keep me
in visual denial of my surroundings.

I want to be back at home, sitting
across from Mom and Dad at the dining room table, watching a movie with them in
the living room, just talking with them, doing anything with them.

I was so wrong about my life.  I had it
pretty good, and I took it completely for granted.  All my dad ever wanted was
to keep me safe.  I should have understood that.  I shouldn’t have gone against
his wishes and left the house, especially without him knowing when I was
going.  What I did went against every single thing my dad has taught me since I
was old enough to understand his words.

I was so wrong
.

“You are a beautiful thing.”  The voice
is back
, demanding my attention
.  The footsteps
approach from behind until the
y come to a stop
directly
in front of me.
  I reluctantly open my eyes.

In my first glance at him
,
he seems perfectly normal
:
a middle-aged
,
balding man with worn features on his face.  He’s imposing in the
sense that he’s tall and towers over me where I’m sitting, but he otherwise
seems completely harmless.  In the two minutes I’ve been conscious in his
presence
, though,
I already know his appearance is
deceiving.

This man is evil.  This man will take
everything from me.  This man will end me.

The gag is still in my mouth,
preventing me from responding or doing anything to participate in this
one-sided conversation.  The way he looks at me, like some prize to be claimed
or object to be conquered, makes me uneasy and only adds to the panic swirling
inside me.

The moment I look away from him his
hands are on me, holding my face between them and forcing me to look toward him
once again.  When my eyes connect with his deep brown irises, his hands move to
the back of the gag tied around my head and he unties it.  As the cloth falls
into my lap, he runs his hands up through my freed hair, pulling the strands
between his fingers from root to tip before coming back to cup the sides of my
face.

“Beautiful,” he whispers, holding my
gaze.

“What do you want
from
me?” I ask with an unavoidable tremor in my voice.  I’ll do
anything to get his hands off my face.

His grasp of my skin tightens
slightly.  He’s tensing as if agitated that I’ve ruined his moment of
admiration
for
me.  “Everything.  I want everything
from
you.”

I try again.  “Why am I here?  Where am
I?”

The man’s hands finally leave my face
as he stands up to tower over me once again.  “You’re here because I want you
to be here, and here is nowhere.”

I’m getting frustrated.  I’m becoming
angry.  The only thing I want more than getting the hell out of here is
answers, some kind of understanding for my current situation.

The man turns to walk away from me.  I
try one more time.  “Who are you?”

He stops abruptly before looking over
his shoulder at me.  “I’m your worst fucking nightmare,
k
id.”

“Fuck you.”

The reply out of my mouth is swift and
spoken with bite.  When he turns around completely to look at me, I immediately
regret my outburst.  I’m poking a goddamn vicious dog.

He starts moving closer to me.  “What
did you say?”

I should be scared.  I should back off
and shut the hell up in my situation, but I don’t.  I’m stubborn, as I always
have been, and I say it again, repeating my words slowly and with emphasis.  “I
said
fuck you.

In three quick strides he’s directly in
front of me, kneeling down to eye-level with me as he grasps my shirt and yanks
me and the chair I’m attached to toward him.  My face is within inches of his,
and I can see he’s fuming.

“You insolent little bitch.”  His
breathing becomes ragged.  Control is quickly working itself away from
this
man
.  I’ve really pissed him the hell off.  “You’ll learn not
to be so disrespectful.”

I brace myself for whatever he’s going
to do to me, but it never comes.  He releases his hold of me and stands up to
walk away toward the group of men standing and sitting around on the other side
of the room.

He grabs something from one of the
tables
there
.  As he steps over next to the
spot
light focused on me and holds the object in front of him, I realize
it’s a cell phone.  With a couple swipes across the screen
,
he holds the device up toward me and a flash goes off.  He’s taken
a picture of me.

He sets the phone back down on the
table and starts rolling up his sleeves.  He slowly walks back toward me with
just a glance over his shoulder.  “Leo, get over here.”

From the back corner, someone I hadn’t
seen in my previous scans of the room emerges from between two other men. 
While the assailants I’ve seen up until this point all appear in their thirties
or forties, this man is definitely younger, perhaps in his mid-twenties.

I get a better look at him as he walks
past the spotlight.  His dark, tousled hair is slicked to the side
s
behind his ears.  His skin has a slightly darker complexion. 
Whether it’s natural or just a tan, I can’t tell. 
Multiple
tattoos cover his arms.  His chest appears broad under the black
T-shirt he’s wearing.

I hate to admit that he’s attractive,
and I’m instantly embarrassed to be in this position in the presence of someone
as good
-
looking as this man.

Leo

The first and only answer I’ve been given since waking up in this predicament.

Leo and the creepy man are coming for
me.

“Hold the chair from behind,” the man
in charge instructs from in front of me.  I glance back at Leo as he positions
himself with his hands on the top of the chair behind me.  Our eyes connect for
only a moment before fingers pull my gaze forward by my chin.

The strike across my face is hard and
swift, temporarily knocking out my vision and causing a small yelp to escape my
mouth.  I’m only given a moment to recover before the next hit comes at me,
higher on my forehead this time but just as hard.  My head is instantly
spinning, my insides churning, and there’s nothing I can do to stop this.

The third hit is to my cheek and draws
blood from my inner lip cutting on my tooth.  A salty, metallic taste fills my
mouth at the same time that I feel the warmth of blood trickling down my face.

I close my eyes and brace myself for
the next blow but am met instead with hands in my hair, tearing at the roots
and pulling my head
forward
.  A scream escapes me at
the vicious move.  Tears fall hopelessly down my cheek.

He holds me there by my hair and grips
my neck with his other hand, pressing harder against my trachea until I can no
longer breathe.  My arms and legs fight against the restraints in desperation,
but it’s no use.

My vision starts to go blurry, and I
wonder if this is it. 
H
e’s going to choke me right
here until I’m unconscious or dead and then ravage my body before cutting me up
into little pieces and disposing of me.

He is in control.  He wants me to know
it.  He wants me to feel it.

And I do.  Very much so.

With one final bout of pressure against
my neck, he releases me.  My lungs gasp for air.  I’ve never been so happy to
be breathing in my entire life.

I lean forward and close my eyes,
concentrating on each slow draw of oxygen I’m taking from the air.  By the time
I’ve somewhat caught my breath and look up, my attacker is back at the table
grabbing the cell phone.  He moves next to the spotlight again and pauses to
simply look at me.  Leo steps out from behind me and joins
him
.

“We need more blood,” the man notes, “for
dramatic effect.”  I feel the blood drain from my face at his words, as if it’s
escaping to some hidden part of me to avoid facing whatever this man has in
mind for my body next.  He pulls a large pocket knife from behind him and hands
it to Leo.  “You can do the honors.”

Leo seems to hesitate for a moment
before taking the knife.  As he approaches me, I wonder how my fucked
-
up brain could have ever thought he was attractive.  He’s just as
bad as the rest of them.  He may even be worse.

I’m about to find out.

He comes to a stop in front of me,
towering above my body as the other man had, before bending down close to my
face.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers.

My mind barely has a moment to process
this when a sharp pain assails my cheek.  He slices the superficial skin open
along the top of my cheekbone with a slow and steady movement of the knife, and
it takes all the control I have not to flinch or turn away.

By the time he’s done, warm blood is
already seeping out of the wound and down my face.  As he draws the knife away
from me and wipes it gently on my shirt, his shadowed blue eyes lock with mine.

It’s strange.  He’s looking at me almost
like he knows me.  His eyes are apologetic and uneasy.  He seems sad and
regretful of what he just did.  I don’t understand it at all.

BOOK: Beyond Ransom (The Ransom Series)
4.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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