The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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The lamp was on in the bedroom when Jase returned. Madison stirred, opening her eyes slightly as he climbed into bed.

“You smell of fire,” she mumbled. He nodded, staring ahead and taking a long drag on the cigarette. Now, they waited for McKinney’s response. He would either retaliate or crumble.

“We just burned a pub down,” Jase replied nonchalantly. Madison chuckled, and he looked down at her. When he didn’t say anything else, her brows furrowed and she pulled the sheets down from covering the lower half of her face.

“You’re being serious?” He shrugged,

“Why would I lie?” He had a point. This version of Jase leaned closer to how Janine had described him. Madison stared at him for a second, her eyes flickering over his face to detect any sign of a joke. He looked straight ahead again, taking another drag on his cigarette.

“Were there people in the building?” she asked cautiously. There was something different about him tonight. He was menacing, adding a certain unease to the atmosphere. Jase rolled his shoulders,

“I don’t know.” Madison sat up slowly.

“There could have been kids in there, Jase.” He didn’t so much as flinch at the thought as he observed her from the corner of his eyes. The worry was visible on her face. The possibility that he could have just burned children alive exposed her internal morality.

He let her squirm for a little longer before her eyes welled up and he decided having her think he was a total monster wasn’t the best idea. She would no longer cooperate if she didn’t think he had a slither of humanity to be played on. No, he would stick to his initial plan of making her soften towards him. So far, it was working.

Jase didn’t get the same kicks as Adam from scaring the girls with a violent personality. Madison panicking caused his shoulders to sink, the tension he’d had in his muscles subsided. He got no joy out of torturing her with the impression he’d murdered kids, even for him, it was too far.

“There was no one inside,” he said, tapping ash in the tray. Madison looked at him, her expression a mix of anger and distress as she wiped at her eyes.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, we checked.” She hugged her knees to her chest.

“How?” she pushed. Jase poked his tongue in his cheek, wondering how much he was willing comfort her. Tears were still running down her face. She didn’t trust him, and to an extent, he needed her to.

“There’s a bin outside the window, Sam climbed in, it was empty.” Madison bobbed her head, the tears ceasing as she wiped the last few with the sleeves of his hoodie.

“Promise?” Her question caught Jase off guard, she sounded so vulnerable. His stomach tightened, a small crease between his brows as his own taste of distress consumed him. Why had he even alluded to there being kids there? Why had he felt the need to upset her? As she sat before him, cheeks and nose reddened, he felt a pang of guilt.

“Promise,” he replied sincerely. Madison let out a shaky breath, nodding and sucking her lips in. “Bunny, I’ve done some fucked up shit in my time but I’m above killing kids.” His voice was quiet, delicate. As if she were suddenly fragile.

“Okay. Good.” She looked at the door. “Can I go splash my face?” she asked.

“It’s unlocked.” Jase watched as she crawled off the bed. His hoodie drowned her, the sleeves flopping over her hands. He didn’t particularly like how seeing her cry had made him feel. Stubbing the cigarette out, he pulled the duvet up to his chest, switching the lamp off. It didn’t take long for Madison to fall asleep but Jase sat up until the sky lightened, toying with the unfamiliar guilt that continued to constrict in his chest.

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