Beta, p.18
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       Beta, p.18

         Part #2 of Alpha series by Jasinda Wilder
 
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Harris and Kyrie had been lucky when they found me. Gina had been careless, arrogant. She’d assumed sweet, innocent, American Kyrie wouldn’t have a clue about how to find me, much less get me back. She hadn’t counted on Harris. But now…now she would be on high alert. I had to assume she knew where we were, that she was tracking our movements.

  Henri and the ex-Spetsnaz boys conversed for several minutes. Then one of the mercs gestured at me with his cigarette. “You are Roth. I know you. I have heard of you. ”

  I lifted an eyebrow. “Doubtful. ”

  “No. You work for Vitaly. Many years ago. ”

  I sighed. “That I did. ”

  He nods. “I know this. Now he takes your girl? He is not a good enemy to have, I think. ”

  “Not him. His daughter. ”

  “Bitch. ” The man spat on the floor, a gesture of contempt or disgust. “Even worse. ”

  “Agreed. ”

  “My cousin, he meet her at a bar. Athens. She fuck him. Then she kill him. ”

  I nod. “That’s her M. O. ”

  He dragged on his cigarette, exhaled smoke out of his nostrils, and rolled his lips to spew the rest. “Your girl. She is dead, I think. ”

  “Not yet. ” I pointed at him with my glass. “That’s what I want your help with. Get her back alive. ”

  “It won’t be easy. ”

  Another one of them spoke up. “Or cheap. ”

  I glanced at Harris, who very subtly lifted a shoulder. I finished my Scotch. “Name your price. ”

  The four conversed in undertones, and then the one who claimed to know me tapped the table with a middle finger. “Fifty thousand each. U. S. dollars. Up front. ”

  I looked to Harris, who lifted his chin slightly in agreement. “Fine. But half now. Half after I’ve got her back. ”

  “No guarantee of her alive, now or then. ” He shrugged. “With that bitch, there is no guarantee of anything. ”

  I squeezed the glass in my fist, and then forced myself to set it down before I shattered it in my hand. “True. But still. Half now, half after. Regardless of…what happens. ”

  “Da. This is good. ” He lit another cigarette with the cherry of his previous one.

  Henri had his laptop open on the table. He swirled red wine at the bottom of his glass, and then set his reading glasses on the table. “She is back in Greece. One of their little island places. The approach will be difficult. ”

  “Nyet. ” The one who seemed to be the spokesman waved a hand in dismissal. “A little boat. Very fast. No problems. But security? That is the problem. Getting out is the problem. I don’t want Vitaly to come look for me when this is done. ”

  “No witness. ” The man on the end, silent up until now, sought me out with his gaze, watching for a demurral.

  I shook my head. “Whatever you need to do. I don’t give a fuck. But Gina is mine. ”

  “I would not go anywhere near her. Not for any money. ” He shrugged. “Maybe with rifle, from a thousand meters. ”

  The spokesman shook his head. “Still too close. ”

  I tapped the tabletop with my palm. “Enough. What’s the plan?”

  The next few hours were spent coming up with a workable solution. Ingress and egress routes, worst case scenarios. Supplies needed. Calls were made, brief, hushed conversations in half a dozen languages. We separated once plans were in place with an agreement to meet at the same airfield at which we’d landed, at dawn the following day.

  Sleep was impossible.

  I’d managed to avoid worry by keeping my thoughts on the present, on our plans. But with the lights out in a smelly hotel room in Bulgaria, all I could think of was Kyrie. In pain. Afraid. Alone. All I could do was imagine all the ways Gina would find to torture her, just to get back at me. To lure me in. We were walking into a trap. I knew it. Harris knew it. I think Henri knew it. The other four? They were paid enough to not care.

  The mercenary had spoken the truth, though, as had Henri.

  Kyrie was likely as good as dead.

  16

  PAYMENT DUE

  I was in an empty room, naked, my wrists bound in front of me with zip-ties, and my hands bound to my feet, which were zip-tied as well. It was a painfully uncomfortable position, my torso pulled forward so my knees dug into my stomach, leaving me unable to straighten my legs or my back.

  The room was bare stone, big gray flags of stacked and mortared rock. Old. Very old. Subterranean. Lit by a single bare bulb wired to the ceiling. I was gagged, a bitter, foul-tasting sock shoved into my mouth, duct tape across my lips.

  Hours had passed. Or maybe just minutes. Days, perhaps? I had no way of knowing. There was no window, no indication of daylight. The room was cold, so cold I shivered nonstop. Hunger and thirst had long since become familiar aches. But yet, ironically, I had to pee. I’d been holding it for what felt like days. I refused to pee on myself, but I didn’t see much choice. I couldn’t hold it forever. I was lying on my side, the hard cold ground digging into my shoulder, hip, and knee.

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  After tying me up and gagging me, Gina and her silent goon had left me here. I expected immediate torture, rape, and death. But no. They just left me here to shiver and rot.

  Just as that thought entered my head, I heard a key in a lock, and the door creaked open. Gina entered, a thin, cruel smile on her lips. She was dressed for the club, it seemed to me, wearing a short, tight blue dress that revealed more than it covered, clicking over to me on Louboutin high heels. Her hair was bound in a ponytail high on her head, the end hanging over one shoulder. Her nails were long sapphire-blue talons. She held a Christian Dior purse. I noticed all this, registered the high-end brand names as if they mattered. I watched her approach, worked hard to keep the fear from my eyes, my breathing slow and even and regular.

  My knee throbbed. Gina’s goon had wrapped my wounded knee while Gina explained that she wouldn’t want me to bleed out before she’d gotten some fun out of me.

  “Kyrie, darling. ” Gina crouched in front of my face, dragging a finger through my hair, pulling a lock out of my eye and placing it behind my ear. She set her purse on her knees, opened it, and withdrew a black folding knife. “Sorry to leave you for so long. I’ve been monitoring Val’s attempts to reach you. So far all he’s doing is drinking that vile Scotch of his with some friends. He plans to come for you, of course. I’m counting on it. So I’ll have to have my fun with you now, before things get really exciting. ” She turned toward the door and snapped her fingers. The goon came in, dragging a young blonde girl. “She’s going to be part of the fun. Her name is…what was it? Lucy?”

  The girl wasn’t bound or gagged. She was clothed and showed no sign of blood or bruises. She was clearly terrified, though. Rightfully so. “L—Lisa. My name is Lisa. ”

  “Ah, yes. Lisa. ” Gina stood up slowly, unfolding to her full height in a smooth, sinuous motion that reminded me of a spitting cobra rearing back. “Feel free to scream, sweetheart. No one can hear you. ”

  “What? What are you—what are you going to do to me?” Lisa backed away from Gina…right into the chest of the goon.

  “Me? Nothing. ” Gina quirked an eyebrow at the man, and a lecherous grin spread across his ugly face. “Tobias, now…he’s been talking about his plans for you since we picked you up. ”

  “Please…p-please…don’t hurt me. What do you want from me?” Lisa tried to worm out of Tobias’s grip, but in vain.

  His hands were circled around her biceps, and she might as well have been struggling against the bulk of a mountain. He pressed his nose to her ear, latched onto her earlobe with his teeth. Lisa froze, head tilted sideways, clearly wanting to pull her head away but knowing she’d risk ripping her earlobe if she did so. She couldn’t even scream, panic choking her, as he bit down hard enough to draw blood.

  “We only want you, girl. ” He licked his lips after speaking, his voice guttural
and thickly accented. “You are nothing. Only example. ”

  “Oh, shut up, Tobias. Just get on with it. ” Gina moved around behind me, one hand clutching the knife, the other latching into my hair.

  I screamed through the gag as she dragged me upright by my hair, chunks coming out at the root. I had no way to even try to balance myself, but once I was sitting on my haunches, Gina crouched behind me and kept one hand on my hair, making sure I didn’t fall over.

  “This is for you, Kyrie. This is what’s in store for you. ” Her voice slithered against my ear. “I want you to watch. ” The point of her knife touched the hollow behind my ear. “If you close your eyes, I’ll cut off your ear. ”

  I swallowed hard, tasting bile and horror and the bitter gall of the sock in my mouth. I didn’t dare close my eyes, but it took every ounce of willpower to keep them open. Being forced to watch what Tobias did to that poor girl…it was a living nightmare I would never forget.

  I sobbed past the tape.

  Eventually Tobias stood up, buckled his belt and wiped his bloody hands on his pants leg.

  He glanced at me. “You are next, bitch. ”

  He licked his lips, knelt in front of me, reached down between my legs and shoved his fingers hard against me, missing my entrance and gouging hard enough to nearly break the skin. I curled forward, almost fell, and screamed through the gag.

  He laughed. “Just a bit of fun, this little bitch. ” He gestured at the ruin that was Lisa. “You? I’m going to have hours with you. ”

  Gina whispered in my ear. “A little secret about Tobias? He’s really fucked up in the head. He can’t get off until they’re dead. He can go for hours. It’s sick, really. But he’s very useful. ”

  Tobias grabbed Lisa by the ankle, jerked open the door, and dragged her out by the foot. I heard her moaning, protesting, crying, and then the wet impact of a foot on flesh. The moans stopped.

  The door closed, and Gina stood to move in front of me, bending over and ripping the duct tape off in one fast motion. I spat out the sock, gagged, and then vomited all over her Louboutins. She watched dispassionately. There was no warning, just the flash of her hand and the sudden burst of pain as the back of her knuckles cracked across my cheek. And then she was kneeling in front of me, her breath on my face. She had my hair in her hand, gripped tight at the scalp. I held my breath, refused to let myself think or fear or react.

  Her other arm reached around behind me, her nose an inch from mine, her eyes on mine. “These were my favorite heels, you little cunt. Now I have to change. ”

  She moved to stand behind me, and I felt a tugging at my hair, felt her knife hand moving. Gina rocked back on her feet and stood up, the length of my hair clutched in her hand. I stifled a cry at the sight of my hair in her fist, cut raggedly from my head. Opening her hand, Gina let the long blonde strands flutter to the floor at her feet, into the puddle of my vomit.

  She wasn’t done yet, though.

  I ground my teeth together, gritted them against the pain as she grabbed a hunk of hair at the crown of my scalp and scraped it from my head. I choked on my screams, trembled to contain my need to thrash, to fight. It was just hair…it was just hair. It would grow back. But fuck did it hurt, the razor-sharp blade slicing into my scalp as she got the angle wrong, scraping across my head, slicing, cutting. She didn’t stop until every last strand of hair was gone, leaving me shaved as bald as a brand-new military recruit.

  She stepped back, glancing down at her hands, which were coated with smeared blood and hair, and then back to me. “There. Not so beautiful anymore, are you? It’s a start, at least. ” She titled her head to the side, assessing me. “Your features are still too perfect, really. I mean, you are a very beautiful girl. Or at least, you were. You won’t be when I’m done with you. ”

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  I didn’t respond. I just stared at her, chewing on a strand of hair stuck between my front teeth. I wanted to say so many things, curse her out, beg her to stop, tell her she would regret this. But I said nothing. I let my hate and my malice speak for me, gleaming from my eyes.

  Gina leaned forward, slicing between my wrists, hitting skin as she parted the plastic of the zip ties. My feet next, leaving me unbound and bleeding from cuts on my scalp, wrists, and ankles. I wanted to lunge at her, tackle her, but I didn’t. I would bide my time. Find the perfect moment.

  Clearly wary as she cut me free, Gina took three quick steps backward, away from me, watching me. “Too cowardly to attack even now, I see. ” She grinned. “Well, it will still be fun. I had hoped you would go for me. I would have enjoyed cutting you to ribbons. But, oh well. This way I get to enjoy the fun a bit longer. ”

  I stayed in place, chest heaving from the struggle to endure the agony.

  After a moment of staring at me, Gina kicked the base of the door with one foot, holding her hands in front of her daintily, as if she’d merely gotten them dirty. The door opened, and she stepped through, handing her knife to Tobias.

  “Here. Clean this for me. I’m going to change. ” The door slammed closed, and I heard her speaking to Tobias. “Leave her alone for now, Tobias. I mean it. You can have her when I’m done, but not before. If I find you’ve touched her, I will be very displeased. ”

  I still had to pee. And for some reason, I still held it. I wasn’t sure why. It gave me something to focus on besides the fear and the pain, perhaps?

  My bladder was screaming, my knee throbbing, my scalp burning, wrists and ankles aching. Blood streamed down my face, down the back of my neck, the cuts on my head still oozing. I was dizzy from hunger, throat parched, tongue thick and dry.

  I wanted Valentine. But I also hoped he would stay away. If he came for me, she would kill him. She was going to kill me anyway. I knew Valentine would come for me, even though he had to know it would be a trap.

  I sat up eventually and struggled to my feet, testing my knee. I could hobble slowly, but any weight on the leg had me crying and near to collapse. I moved in slow circles around the room, limping, limping, limping. Keeping the rest of my body loose, ignoring the pain, ignoring the increasingly desperate need to pee.

  I was going to die in this room. I was going to be raped, tortured, and then eventually killed. I should just accept it. But I didn’t.

  I couldn’t.

  I would not let them do to me what they’d done to Lisa. I would attack, make them kill me first. That would be better. Better than being raped.

  Valentine. Save me, Valentine, I thought. Please. Please.

  Even raw terror can’t keep you awake for ever. I dozed fitfully, jerking awake and then nodding off again.

  Time passed, whether in hours or minutes or days, I couldn’t tell.

  The door opening jarred me from a daze.

  A bulky shape filled the opening briefly, and then the door quietly closed behind Tobias. I watched him approach me on silent feet. He stood in front of me, staring down at me, black eyes leering, crazy, hungry.

  “I’m not supposed to be here. But she won’t know. It won’t matter. ” Tobias knelt in front of me. Reached out, ran his palm over my scalp. “Nice. ”

  I kept absolutely still. Noticed the butt of a gun in a shoulder holster, visible beneath his suit coat.

  “Lie down,” he ordered.

  I remained sitting.

  He reached into the pocket of his pants, withdrew a small folding knife. Opened it. Touched the blade to my left nipple. “I say, lie…down. ”

  An idea formed in my head. A desperate, doomed idea, but something. It would probably get me killed, but at this point, that was better than enduring what Tobias hand in mind for me. So I moved to my back, keeping my knees pressed together. The aching pressure in my bladder was at critical mass. I couldn’t hold it much longer.

  Tobias set the knife down beside me and unbuckled his pants and let them fall to his knees. I kept my eyes on his, rather than sub
jecting myself to the sight of his dick. He leered at me. Gripped his dick in his hand and stroked himself. Rubbed it against my knee. Shuffled forward, knocked my knees apart, and then slammed the inside of my upper thigh with his fist hard enough to leave a bruise. Did the same to the other side. I stifled a cry, forcing myself to remain still. I forced myself to let him get closer. Forced myself to keep my legs open. I kept my eyes on his ugly, straining face as he bent over me, lips curled into a greedy, anticipatory smile.

  I felt him at my entrance, thick and hot, but not quite hard. Apparently I wasn’t bloody enough to really excite him; he punched me, a fist to my cheek, a brutal blow that rocked me backward, made me dizzy. His dick hardened then, and then he hit me again on the other cheek. A third punch, and I felt my nose break, blood sluice down my face.

  Now he was fully erect and poised at my entrance. His grin was hungry, evil.

  I choked on my tears and breathed through the pain as Tobias prepared to thrust into me.

  “I like it when you scream,” he murmured, his breath hot and fetid on my face. “So scream loud. ”

  * * *

  VALENTINE

  We met at the airstrip and flew from there to Athens, where Henri and his friend split away from the main group without a word. Harris had guided the rest of us to the Marina Zea, to a dock where a rusting fishing vessel bobbed, waiting for us. The captain was a wizened little Greek with skin the color of walnut shells and weathered to a similar texture.

  We waited for an hour, then two. Finally, Henri and his friend returned, and I noticed both of them had changed shirts and now smelled of soap.

  Henri nodded at me. “Gina’s shadows are now ghosts. We go now, she won’t know we are coming. ”

  Bags of weapons and Kevlar vests and boxes of ammo were broken out as soon as we reached open water, each of us gearing up. We detoured, stopping at a little fishing village, where Henri’s nameless friend and Andrei—who was armed with Harris’s MSR rifle—departed in a helicopter. I glanced at Henri, an eyebrow lifted in inquiry.

  “Andrei is an expert sniper. My friend is an experienced pilot. ” Henri gestured at the rising aircraft. “We have a helicopter, a favor from my friend. Now we have support in the sky. ”

  It was a long trip, and I nodded off uneasily as the old fishing vessel plied the waves, traveling east and south, through the lowering darkness and into the night.

 
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