The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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Jase’s heart beat steadily underneath Madison. She listened to it, her eyes grazing over the bed as the autumn sun cast shadows across the sheets. She wished she could stay in those first five seconds when she woke up. The five seconds when everything was hazy and soft with a sepia filter. The five seconds when her reality was out of reach. Those first five seconds when emotions didn’t exist, fear was unheard of and everything was delicate on the eyes. In those five seconds, her consciousness lagged and everything that was going on around her felt like a distant dream.

But five seconds was all she ever got.

The gunshot rang in her ears, and the room was no longer painted in pastel watercolours, instead, it was bright and it stung her eyes. She closed them again. Jase’s breathing pattern changed as he woke up. His fingers traced her shoulder with the arm he had around her. They hadn’t fallen asleep like that; Madison couldn’t even recall Jase getting back.

He reached for his cigarettes, careful not to move Madison, unsure whether she was awake or not. The only sound that came from him was the zipping sound of the lighter and the hiss when he inhaled from the cigarette.

“Is Tia okay?” she asked, her voice disturbing the atmosphere. Jase moved his hand, brushing her temple with his knuckles. She looked up, he was watching her through his lashes and when he didn’t say anything, Madison knew. She knew Tia was dead.

It felt as though her lungs collapsed and it was difficult to swallow the tension in her throat. The gunshot repeatedly going off in her mind.

“Did you...?” she couldn’t finish the sentence, but he shook his head.

“No, it wasn’t me.” She let out a shaky breath. No more questions needed to be answered. All Madison could think about was Gabby. As if she didn’t already feel lost and scared. Now she was alone, too. Madison tightened her hold on Jase out of human reaction mostly. You held onto things when something discomforted you; a pillow, yourself or in her case, her captor. Even she wasn’t quite alone in the house, not anymore. Jase finished his cigarette and closed his eyes, his fingers still running over her smooth skin.

“When I do have to start working... can you make sure whoever it was isn’t one of my customers?” Madison asked, an unfamiliar undertone to her voice that sounded like the acceptance of her fate. Jase was quiet for a moment before responding.

“You don’t need to worry about him.”

She wasn’t sure what she had expected. A part of her had hoped that maybe after how he had been with her over the last few days there would be the reassurance that she wouldn’t start working. That he’d stop that from happening. But there was no reassurance and Madison felt like a sitting duck. A lamb waiting to be led to the slaughter and there was nothing she could do about it.

It seemed her window was closing.

Though, Jase wasn’t sure that the fact the guy she was speaking about was now sitting in a barrel of lye solution was the only reason she wouldn’t have to worry about him.

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