The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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There was a sea of heads at the bottom of the stairs. Madison stood on the landing, looking down at the daunting array of people. Jase was leaning on the small table by the coat hooks opposite the stairs, a tumbler glass in his hand full of a golden liquid. The bass from the music vibrated in Madison’s chest. She felt like a different person. The determination to survive was eating her alive. It was like she had been born again. Lifting her chin, a wave of confidence rushed through her veins. This was not an environment for the weak to thrive in and she would be in her grave before she was ever considered weak.

When she got halfway down the stairs, Jase looked over after seeing something had caught his friends’ eye. He started at her boots, slowly making his way up her legs, the fishnets visible through the rips in the jeans. Then his focus lingered on her cleavage. Madison refrained from shuddering, letting him take her in as she made her way over, standing a few feet in front of him. She folded her arms.

“Nice enough for you?” she questioned. Jase raised his glass to his lips, taking Madison by surprise when he used his other hand to tug her closer to him by the sleeves tied around her waist. He yanked her with enough force that she held her hands up in case she lost her balance, ending with them pressing against his chest. A chest that felt solid beneath her fingers, reminding her how much bigger and stronger he was in comparison to her. But she was testing his mental capacity, not his physical power.

“Kieran, you haven’t met Madison yet, have you?” he said, looking down into Madison’s eyes. “She was a special order in, it’s no question why is it?” He turned to his friend for confirmation but didn’t wait for an answer. Madison pushed herself off of his chest and he raised a hand, brushing her cheek with his knuckles. “She has such a pretty face.” Madison thought about everything Janine had said about talking back.

“Bite me,” she snapped. Jase smirked but he didn’t retaliate with one of his sarcastic comments like she had expected. Her eyes flickered to Kieran; his brows were raised in surprise. Finding it hard to play the role of pet sober, she reached behind Jase, picking up the half-full bottle of brandy and turning on her heel. Jase watched her sashay into the living room, the small smirk still well and truly cemented on his face.

“Since when did you let the girls talk to you like that?” Kieran asked. Jase looked at him.

“If any other girl spoke to me like that, I’d lock them in a room with Adam but not Madison. Never Madison.” He turned his attention back to the direction she’d walked in. Now that his anger had subsided, he found it in himself to admire her. She was nothing like the others, even if he did tell her she was. And she’d been in the house more than long enough to become like them. But here she was, a live wire challenging him. He decided that until she was handed over to Peter, no one was getting their hands on her and he wouldn’t hesitate to make a point. It would be shooting himself in the foot to dull her down when this was the most fun he’d had in years. He may as well make the most of it.

Madison’s heart was beating so hard it felt as though it would burst through her rib cage. The look Kieran had given her told her that she was probably in for it later. But for now, she would keep up with her act of defiance and play along with his twisted fantasies because beneath all the fear, she felt exhilarated. It was no longer him being nice because she hadn’t thrown him under the bus, they were on an even playing field now with all the cards on the table. They were aware of each other’s capabilities and thought processes.

It made sense now why people committed crimes and played with fire.

Madison felt alive.

Alive and dangerous.

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