The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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The others had managed to get two more girls to come back to the house. They were sisters, runaways that had been trying to start a new life and had inevitably fallen into the loop of whoring and drug use. Jase pulled his mask down, ordering for them to be taken upstairs. Everyone soon stopped in their tracks within seconds of being in the house.

“Get all the fucking girls down here, now!” Benny shouted. Jase felt his blood run cold.

“What’s happened?” he asked Adam as he stepped out of the kitchen.

“Window’s been broken.”

Madison was dead if they found out it was her and he was as good as when they discovered he’d brought her back and said nothing. It seemed to be an endless drama where she was concerned. He took the stairs two at a time.

“Madison.” When she didn’t move, he rolled her over, waking her up. It was evident she had been crying and there was blood all over her hand. “Shit.” He mumbled, “get up, Benny wants all the girls downstairs.” Panic set in her eyes and he shook his head, “don’t look at me like that, you caused this.”

Now it dawned on her that Jase had been going easy. She had received no real punishments, no customers, he’d even gone out and got her gluten-free bread. Her ill-timed attempt to escape had truly isolated her from the aid of the one person that would have been handy to have somewhat on her side. Albeit she knew that it was for his own wellbeing but now she really was on her own. And it was clear that it didn’t take much for the girls to get a beating. Now she had nothing and the small upper hand she did have would prove a useless piece of information now.

Madison had backed herself into a corner. The cut on her hand would soon be a dead giveaway that no one else was to blame for the broken window. Even Jase was out of his depths on this one. He almost looked apologetic, still annoyed but like he pitied her. She’d made her bed and would be forced to lie in it and there was no excuse he could use this time.

She let him take her by the arm, though his grip wasn’t tight, it was more to show he had control. Benny was sat in his battered chair, waiting for the girls to be lined up. His suspicious eyes immediately zeroed in on Madison’s hand and the dry blood crusted over in her palm.

A chink of a switchblade being opened sliced through the silence. Jase was sat at the table now, slouching, seeming relaxed with his arms folded as if this bored him. But he looked at the knife in Benny’s hand, observing it carefully from the corner of his eyes. Madison didn’t look over to him. She was already trying to piece together a plan in her head that restored the half-arsed protection he had supplied.

Then it clicked.

“There was no trouble in this house until you arrived,” Benny said lowly. The calmness in his voice disturbed her more than he had the night she arrived. “Sit down.” Without taking her eyes off of him, out of fear if she let her guard down, he would attack, she felt behind her for the cushioning of the sofa and lowered herself. “Take the rest of the girls upstairs.” The four boys that were in the living room, not including Jase and Sam, each guided the other women out of the room and closed the door behind them. Jase sat up, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees, everyone waited. “You’ve been here all of around two weeks and already I’ve had you break someone’s nose, make me no money and try to escape.” No one said anything, contributing to the icy atmosphere. “How did you get out of your room?” Madison moistened her lips. Her mouth was dry and her heart was pounding as she watched him toy with the switchblade.

“I picked the lock... with bobby pins,” she replied, her voice cracking slightly towards the end. No one moved. It was like they were all holding their breath. Benny sat forward, the blade swinging menacingly between his open knees. He was shaking his head.

“If you managed to get out of your room and break the kitchen window, why are you still here?” Jase raised his hands to his lips, placing a knuckle between them. She was going to throw him under the bus, and he couldn’t blame her, at the end of the day, she was only telling the truth. The implication of her getting hurt was loud and clear if she annoyed Benny right now. This time, he really had done it to himself.

“I heard you all coming back and went back to the bedroom. It took me too long to open the door,” Madison lied. Jase’s eyes flared ever so slightly, taking him by surprise. She’d covered for him. He looked at Benny who was smiling.

“You’re not the luckiest, are you, pet?” he teased. Madison didn’t wince or cower as he stood up out of his chair and walked over, crouching down in front of her. “What do I need to do to you to get it into your defiant fucking head that you aren’t getting out of here?” Her eyes focused on the knife that was now being pressed into her cheek.

“Easy, Benny,” Jase interrupted, Benny stopped applying pressure, “remember what I said about marking her up.” The speed at which the knife was drawn back into the handle was just enough to nick her cheek.

“What do you suggest we do with her then, Jase?” he snapped, standing up straight and glaring down at Madison, “because quite frankly, you’re both testing my fucking patience.” Jase made eye contact with Madison, unsure if he was about to make the right decision or not.

“I’ll deal with her until she’s eighteen,” he said conclusively. Sam’s head snapped round to Jase, unable to believe what he’d heard. Benny looked down his nose at him, unsure.

“So, whenever she acts up, you’ll be the one to deal with it all?” he asked. Jase continued to stare at Madison before finally breaking eye contact and turning to Benny.

“Until she’s eighteen, yes.” Madison let out a breath and Benny just shrugged, slipping the switchblade back into his pocket and frowning.

“It’s your funeral. I don’t mind washing my hands of the little bitch. Get her upstairs and out of my sight.” Madison got to her feet and Jase silently took her upstairs.

“What happens now?” she asked as she walked past him, into the bedroom.

“Why didn’t you tell him the truth?” he questioned, standing in the doorway.

“Why didn’t you?” Madison replied, though she knew the answer. Jase watched her silently, tilting his head back slightly before nodding slowly and leaving her.

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