The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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7

Jase was buttering toast for the girls in the kitchen. It helped soak up any alcohol they consumed so that none of them drunkenly broke down during what they called a ‘show night’, where men came to observe the ‘merchandise’. They all knew the house rules, and Madison would receive a proper run down about the evening from Lily. He didn’t particularly care for Lily. He respected her, because she was Adam’s sister, but she’d been so quick to snap up the job and its responsibilities, you had to question her integrity when it came to her moral compass. In his eyes, she was no better than the rest of them.

“You reckon she’ll get herself a customer tonight? The new bird?” Sam asked from behind Jase, sitting at the round dining table as he lit a cigarette. Jase placed the last slice of toast on the fourth plate.

“Maybe. She’s a pretty girl. It wouldn’t surprise me,” he shrugged, but he knew that he wasn’t about to let her have her first customer tonight. Not because he felt sympathetic towards her but because there was still resilience there and none of their punters would appreciate being attacked by the new girl. It was a situation he couldn’t be bothered to handle that evening, not that he’d tell Sam. They had ways of making the girls behave, but Jase was still trying to suss out a balance that would keep her from opening her mouth about him letting her go. He had a feeling that if she figured she was going down; she would say anything to lighten the blow. They had to break her naturally, over time, until she peacefully accepted her fate. There was doubt in his mind of that happening anytime soon.

Adam walked into the kitchen, running his bloody knuckles under the tap. Jase and Sam exchanged a look.

“Is she still alive?” Jase asked. Adam picked up a cloth, drying his hands as he nodded.

“There’s a pulse, but she’s not going to be coming downstairs tonight. Imagine breaking the easiest rule to stick to, and for what?” he turned around and looked at the other two who were not at all disconcerted by any of it. Adam was a nasty fucker with a short temper. They all knew he got kicks out of hurting people. That, Jase supposed, was probably another reason Lily was so quick to snatch up her job. He would cave his own Nan’s skull in to spice up a dull Tuesday. “For that silly little teenage girl because she was thinking about doing a runner?” at that, both of the men looked at him, Jase’s brows furrowed,

“What do you mean?”

Adam shrugged, tossing the towel down and taking out a cigarette. It bobbed up and down between his lips as he spoke,

“She was stood at the top of the stairs, and I heard Annabelle tell her not to be stupid,” he paused to light the cigarette, taking in a deep lungful before continuing, “doesn’t take a genius to work out what she’d been planning. I’ll tell you what, quicker we bin her off, the better. She’s going to be a pain in the neck. I can feel it.”

He wasn’t the only one that thought that but unlike him, Jase didn’t feel the urge to beat the living shit out of her over a ‘feeling’. He knew that for whatever reason, she’d already rubbed Adam the wrong way. It would only be a matter of time before he tried to find an excuse to hurt her.

Adam had a hankering for power that he didn’t get from his position in the house hierarchy. The girls cowering beneath his raised fists made him feel strong. If Madison wasn’t careful, she would be on the receiving end very soon for nothing more than his ego.

Jase ignored his comment; it would be foolish on their part if they didn’t expect the girls to at least consider trying their luck at getting out. The fact that she hadn’t made a genuine break for it was probably down to Annabelle.

He took the toast upstairs, entering Madison’s room last and putting the plate on the desk. She was sitting up when he walked in. Her wet hair soaked through the white t-shirt she’d put on. He recognised it as one of his own from the wardrobe.

“Eat that,” he told her. Her eyes went to the plate, then to him, frowning.

“No.”

Adam would have a field day if she carried on. Jase sighed.

“I’m not asking, I’m telling. There’s a showing later; we don’t want anyone passing out.”

“I don’t care, I’m not eating that,” she replied. Jase nodded slowly, stepping into the room and closing the door. He leaned his lower back up against the desk, and folded his arms. Madison watched his biceps strain against the thin black material of his t-shirt.

“That girl, the one that spoke to you earlier, won’t be around tonight because Adam battered her beyond recognition. One of our rules is no communication with the other girls. You aren’t people in this house. You don’t have rights. We don’t care about your personal comfort or your feelings. Get it into your head before we have to force it into you.” He watched the slight colour that was left drain from her face and then, satisfied with the reaction, stood up. “Now eat your fucking toast.”

He knew she would feel partially responsible because after all, it was her that Annabelle had spoken to. If she wasn’t about to behave to make her own life easier, she would at least get her shit together for the sake of the others. He’d discovered that a long time ago. Girls were always so bitchy and cruel to one another, but they teamed up when it came to them against men. For now, that unspoken feminist alliance would keep her in line.

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