Authors: Molle McGregor
Tags: #Paranormal Romance
The Shadow Warder Series: Book One
Also in The Shadow Warder Series:
Book Three: Shadow’s Discovery (April 2015)
For B – Thanks for all the notes. You don’t just make me a happy woman, you make me a better storyteller. Without you, parts of this book would have been a little…unsatisfying. (You know what I’m talking about.)
Hannah’s pillow was flat. Not surprising. She’d been using it since high school. She shifted her head restlessly, trying to nudge the hard foam into a more comfortable position. No use—the pillow was a loss. Too bad she wasn’t getting a new one anytime soon. Or ever. If she managed to survive her current situation, Hannah was buying a whole new bed. Something big, a queen at least, with five hundred thread count sheets and fluffy down pillows. Tons of them. She sighed.
Her wish list got longer every day. A new bed. Clothes that weren’t dirty and threadbare. Food. Some days she’d give almost anything if they’d feed her something other than PB&Js and frozen dinners. If she knew what they wanted from her, maybe she could figure out what to offer in trade. After close to six months of captivity, all they seemed to want was her pain. Hannah would have preferred not to give them any more of that.
As if Glenn read her mind, a thin line of burning agony sliced into her forearm. There were all kinds of ways to cause a human being pain. By now, Hannah thought she knew most of them. When it came to physical pain, some of them liked their fists. Some liked to improvise with whatever they had on hand. Glenn was partial to a blade.
“Tell me how that feels,” he said. His tone was mild. Almost gentle. Hannah had learned to fear his calm more than his rages. “Does it burn? Is it a sharp pain or dull? I’d like you to be more specific than the last time. All your screaming was distracting.”
His round, pale face was genial. Absurd when paired with the long knife in his doughy hand. Shiny and razor-edged, it dripped Hannah’s blood from the tip in a steady plip, plip on the hardwood floor of her room. Idly, Hannah wondered how much blood she’d lost if there was enough to drip from the knife. Had to be a lot. The pain in her arms was a warm haze through the fuzzy static in her head. Hannah knew she would have to pretend it hurt more if she didn’t want Glenn to get creative. He always knew when she was numbing out. And she was just getting used to the knife.
Glenn changed his grip on the knife handle, pressing the sharp tip into the sensitive nerves of her elbow. A rage of fire shot up her arm. Hannah couldn’t hold back the jerk and thrust of her body as she screamed. Glenn removed the knife and leaned back, a replete smile on his broad face. He stroked her sweaty hair from her face as he watched Hannah’s struggle to calm herself.
“That’s all I wanted, girl. An honest reaction,” he said.
Hannah made no reply. She still shuddered from the echoes of pain in her arm. The sheets beneath her hips were damp. With a flush of shame she realized that she’d lost control of her bladder. Every time she thought there was no further humiliation Glenn could visit on her, he found a way. Her head throbbed with pain and the static that had been her companion for the past three years.
Even before her world imploded and her kindly stepfather became a sadistic monster, her body had begun to fail her. She fought to think through the mess in her head. It wasn’t the pain that debilitated her. Pain she could handle. It was the static, the insistent buzz of a radio that wouldn’t tune in. Like drops of water from a slowly leaking faucet, it had been nothing to start; a fuzzy noise that made it harder to concentrate. Whispers, murmurs that never clarified into comprehensible sounds. Like eavesdropping on a conversation she couldn’t quite hear. Hannah had been able to work around it, the same way she could ignore someone interrupting her when she was on the phone.
Over the space of a few short months the whispering, static buzz became a sensation as well as a sound. Unrelenting, interfering in the simplest of thought processes, the fuzzy noise and pain turned a four-way stop sign into a decision of monumental proportions. She wanted to believe that she would have found a way to escape Glenn if she could think clearly. If only the buzzing murmurs would just shut up.
Hannah felt Glenn’s eyes crawling over her, waiting for a reaction. Between the thick, fuzzy interference in her head and the fire of knife slices in her arms, Hannah was drowning in sensation, buffered from Glenn by the overwhelming pain and confusion. She sank deep into herself, allowing the agony to wrap her in a cocoon. Dangerous. A lack of response would make him dig harder to get to her.
Her flinch when he touched her cheek was involuntary, but it seemed to please him. Glenn stroked his thick fingers down her sweaty face, tracing her cheekbone like a lover. As his fingers slid over her cracked lips, Hannah longed to bite him. Hard. To the bone. Her stomach flipped at the thought of his blood filling her mouth. She wanted nothing of Glenn inside her. Not even if it would cause him pain. She felt his hot fingers graze her collarbone. Muscles tensed as the fingers moved to the scoop neck of her t-shirt and slipped over the tops of her breasts. She wasn’t given much in the way of clothes. Old jeans and t-shirts, a few pairs of underwear she washed out in the sink between loads of clean laundry. No bra. Hannah was acutely aware of the worn t-shirt between Glenn’s hand and her breasts, the fabric so thin as to be nonexistent. All of Hannah’s attention focused on the hand on her chest.
No one had touched her body this way since the first few weeks. The only one who tried hadn’t survived the attempt. He’d been a tall, wiry man. Strong and easily able to subdue her. Hannah hadn’t known his name. She didn’t know any of their names aside from Glenn. The one who touched her held her down, stripping her clothes with silent efficiency. Hannah struggled and fought, but his hands had been everywhere and she’d only succeeded in angering him. He struck her across the face and told her he was tired of risking his life to keep her and not getting any of the good stuff. If she wasn’t going to break, he was at least going to get some fun out of her.
Hannah still didn’t understand what had happened. One moment she’d been trying to push him off of her, turning her face from his stinking breath, twisting away from his rough, seeking hands. Revulsion, shame and horror had grown inside her, rising in a sick swell so huge Hannah could no longer contain the roiling emotions. She’d opened her mouth to scream and found her voice silenced. Instead, a loud, wet pop hit the room with a concussive bang and the hands touching her were gone. When Hannah opened her eyes, her assailant had disappeared and her small bedroom was washed in blood, dripping with it, bits of his flesh sprinkled like confetti on every available surface. That was the last time one of them touched her with any sexual intent.
As if he saw her memory, Glenn withdrew his hand from the tops of her breasts.
“I’d like to, but it wouldn’t be right. You’re my stepdaughter. Your mother would want me to keep you pure,” he said with a benign smile.
“You’re batshit crazy,” Hannah whispered.
Glenn chuckled. “I’m not the one who got kicked out of school for mental problems,” he said. “Almost finished your first year of grad school. Such a good little student with your perfect GPA and the internship already lined up for summer. And the irony, mmmm—what was your major?”
Hannah turned her head away and tried to ignore him. He knew all her soft places. He knew where to make it hurt. The crack of his hand on her cheek barely intruded on the static in her head or the pain in her heart. Dissatisfied with her silence, Glenn brought the handle of the knife down hard on her jaw. A small crack accompanied the flare of pain. He’d broken something. Didn’t matter. She’d heal. She always did.
“Answer me, you little bitch. What was your major?” he asked again.
Hannah knew Glenn had run out of patience. Sometimes it was just easier to play his game. She spoke softly through the new pain in her jaw.
“Psychology,” she whispered. Glenn laughed in glee.
“That’s right, the psychology student got kicked out for being…what did you call me? Batshit crazy. And the best part—my favorite part—is that you still don’t even know why. Mmmmmm.”
Glenn hummed to himself as he drew the knife down the side of her neck. Hannah didn’t even think he was looking at her any more. Warm blood dripped down her skin, soaking the sheets.
“The day I stumbled across your little family was the best in a long time. Years and years,” he sing-songed, leaning close. He sounded drunk, but Hannah didn’t smell alcohol on his breath. “I’m going to have to give you up soon. It’s getting too dangerous to keep you here. I wanted to squeeze you dry and take it all. But he’s too close and it’s not worth being caught with you.”
“Let me go,” Hannah whispered, without any hope.