Prologue: A Heartless Betrayal
“Oh! He’s kicking!” Jade cried as she grabbed Carina’s hand, completely ignoring the fact that her friend was driving, and placed it over her swollen pregnant stomach.
“Jesus, Jade!” Carina snapped. She snatched her hand away, straightened the wheel, and ignored the blaring horn of the car she’d almost sideswiped. “Are you trying to get us all killed?”
The brightness in Jade’s green eyes dimmed as she blinked and turned to look out the window. She clasped her hands protectively over her stomach as her lips trembled in the reflection of the dirty glass.
“Sorry, I’m sorry,” Carina apologized softly. “I’m just really nervous. You know I hate driving.”
“No—It’s my fault,” Jade replied. “Getting excited and doing something without thinking—typical me.”
Carina sighed, shook her head, and held out a hand to Jade. “Here—is he still kicking?”
Jade snorted out a laugh, took Carina’s hand, and guided it to her stomach. “There, do you feel—”
“I feel it,” Carina confirmed as her hand absorbed the odd sensation of the baby kicking Jade’s stomach wall. “That’s so fucking weird.” She pulled her hand away and focused on the traffic and GPS in the car panel.
“It’s perfectly normal,” Jade retorted with a satisfied smile. A moment later, she groaned and rubbed her temples.
“Still getting the headaches?” Carina asked sympathetically.
“I thought the morning sickness would be the worst of it,” Jade muttered. “I knew the first trimester was just too easy.”
“We’ll be at the clinic in a couple of minutes. I’m sure your doctor will have something to help.” The sound of a cell phone buzzing distracted Carina as she glanced down at Jade’s purse. “Who is that?”
Jade opened the purse, glanced at the smartphone screen, and sighed. “It’s Rick.”
“I thought you were done talking to him,” Carina replied tensely.
“I—” Jade silenced the phone and put it back in her purse “—I am.”
“Good,” Carina muttered.
“I’m sorry, but if he can’t get behind your decision and protect you and this baby—” Carina shook her head as her grip on the wheel tightened. “You need a real partner, not some selfish prick who wants to tear you down over a decision that was yours to make.”
“That’s not fair, Carina. I made this decision without him. He has a right to be unhappy.”
“You’re defending him?”
“It’s a big decision. Becoming a surrogate mother was one thing—we needed the cash. But deciding to keep the baby and be his mother—a baby that’s not Rick’s.”
Carina exhaled sharply and smacked the horn as a black sedan cut in front of them.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to make,” Jade murmured as she stroked her belly.
Carina snorted. “Which decision? The one to return the $60,000 to the biological parents—”
“I’m his biological mother!” Jade snapped.
“Or the one where Rick made you choose between the baby and his selfish ass.”
“I’m not getting into this with you,” Jade protested wearily, then groaned as she pressed her fingertips against her temple again.
“Do you want the ice pack?” Carina asked softly, her anger evaporating.
“Lunch box under your seat.”
“Christ, Carina, how am I supposed to reach that?” Jade grumbled as she pointed at her stomach.
“Okay, okay, red light up ahead,” Carina replied with a sheepish grin.
The traffic pulled to a stop at the red light, and Carina shifted her car into park. She unclipped her seatbelt and reached over the console, mindful of Jade’s pregnant belly as her fingers brushed over the strap of the lunch box.
“Got it!” Carina pulled the box free just as Jade’s hand tightened painfully around her shoulder.
Glass shattered above her as Jade screamed.
Carina scrambled up, her hand brushing against the broken shards as Jade’s door opened. They stared at the two men, each dressed in dark clothes with black baseball caps and skull bandannas wrapped around the lower half of their faces.
Fear rippled through Carina as the men reached into the car, shoved her back and unbuckled Jade’s seatbelt.
“No—Carina!” Jade wailed as she was yanked from her seat.
The driver’s side window shattered. Glass bit into Carina’s cheek and neck. She flinched—then sprang into action as she flipped open the console and grabbed her 9 mm handgun.
The car door opened behind her. Then a heavy chest pinned Carina down as a firm grip trapped her hand and the gun inside the console.
“Sorry, sweetheart,” the man’s voice growled against her ear as a needle pricked into the side of her neck. “Night, night.”
Lights and sounds faded in and out of focus. The gun was gone. The car was gone. Jade was gone.
Carina struggled to keep her eyes open as the piercing lights above her came into view.
‘Fuck, where am I?’
She couldn’t move. Couldn’t feel anything other than the dull methodical beat of her heart.
“We got lucky,” a deep man’s voice grated through the muffled fog around her. “She was traveling with a runaway surrogate that just came onto our radar.”
“Dr. Bell will be happy. His VIP clients have been quite impatient about a transplant for their daughter. O negative organ donors are difficult to obtain the usual way.”
“Well, fortunately, they subdued her without too much difficulty. The heart is stable and in good condition.”
“Excellent! I will let Dr. Bell know. Have the nurses run the necessary screening tests and set up the operating room for this afternoon. Oh! And have your man pay that surrogate’s boyfriend in person and then eliminate him quietly. No loose ends.”
“Of course. My team knows the drill. Give Dr. Bell my regards.”
A dark shape passed between Carina and the light above her. She could not make out the man’s face, just the edges of his neatly cut hair and the rims of his glasses.
“Looks like she’s waking up.”
“That sometimes happens with the new anesthetic, but don’t worry, she can’t feel any pain, so the heart won’t be affected.”
“You mean she’ll be awake during the surgery?”
“Maybe a bit conscious, not that it matters—it’s not like she’s going to sue us later,” the man replied cynically.
“We’re not taking any risks with this heart—”
“Alright, alright, I got it. I’ll give her another dose.”
Another shadow passed before her vision. The sound of metal clicking against a surface filtered through Carina’s ears. A moment passed, and then she heard the man grunt.
“There. All done.”
“Right, well, let me call Dr. Bell so he can clear his schedule. Get the donor prepped. I’ll confirm when the patient and Dr. Bell are on their way.”
“This many fresh O negative organs—that’s quite a harvest. The bidding is going to be crazy tonight.”
The footsteps and voices faded away, and Carina was helpless to stop them.
They were going to cut her open and sell her organs. Carina was more than familiar with the black market on organ harvesting. The number of people who disappeared every day among the lower class had been enough to convince Carina to go off-grid the moment she found out her blood type was in high demand among the elites.
The only friend from her old life that she had stayed in touch with was Jade.
‘Shit, where was Jade?’
A tear ran down Carina’s cheek as the lights above blurred and faded.
The numb darkness that settled in brought her no comfort, only cold certainty.
Rick had traded Jade and her baby for cash. And the same people that were about to end his worthless existence—were also about to cut out Carina’s heart.