The Hunted (Sleeping With Monsters Book 2)

BOOK: The Hunted (Sleeping With Monsters Book 2)
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T
HE
H
unted

by C
ASSIE
A
LEXANDER

The Hunted

Copyright © 2014 by Cassie Alexander

www.cassiealexander.com

This ebook is
licensed for personal use only. Please do not participate in or encourage
piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

This is a work of
fiction. Any similarity between characters or events in this story and with any
other person or creature, living or dead, is purely coincidental. 

To Christine Cox, with appreciation.

Chapter One

In my dreams I could
pretend the sounds I heard were fireworks or drums, not gunfire, but when I
woke to Vincent shaking me I knew our life together was through.

“Sammy, get up. Now.”

I sat up instantly. The shots
were closer, faster, matching the doubletime of my heart. The Carmino family was
coming at last.

Vincent shook me again. “Go,”
he demanded, his eyes dark. He was beautiful and stern and muscles in his arms
bunched, bracing for a fight. “Wake up. This is it. You remember what to do.”

I stumbled up and out of bed
and snatched my robe off a chair. “Okay –“ I ran for the bathroom, realized he
wasn’t following me and turned. “I’m not going without you.”

“Yes you are.”

“But –“ This wasn’t how we’d
run the drills. When we’d practiced them, we’d both escaped.

“Things have escalated.” He
stepped onto the bed and then off of it again to reach my side. Why wasn’t he
going for the guns? I knew we had them, under the mattress, and in the closets
-- “They’re not going to let me live. And I don’t want to watch you die.” He
took my shoulders in his hands and held so tight I knew I’d be bruised.  

“This is really it?” I asked,
my voice small. I’d lost so much in my short life – I couldn’t imagine losing
him, too.  

He didn’t answer me, just
pulled me in for one last kiss, lips and teeth and tongue. I kissed him just as
hard back. If this was good-bye, I wanted to take part of him with me, to
always be able to put fingers to my lips and feel the piece of himself he’d
left there. He pulled back before I was ready – I’d never be ready --

“I love you. You know
what to do. Go.”

Leaving would mean never
coming back – and knowing that Vincent was gone. Another round of gunshots
neared.

“Go!” he demanded, his gaze
clouding. I could hear the fear creep into his voice – not for himself, but for
me, that I’d get caught here with him. It was the only thing that made me run.
I wasn’t afraid of dying – but I didn’t want to make his death any worse than
it already would be.

“I love you,” I whispered, and
ran for the bathroom door.

We’d practiced escaping, like
elementary school kids practiced crazy-killer drills – talked about what we
would do, how we would survive, where we’d meet up again in time. I never
thought I’d be running alone though, without him – but he did. I looked under
the bathroom sink, and there was only one backpack there.
Goddamn him.
I
grabbed it and threw the ladder out the window where it would be hidden by the
chimney and took the rungs on it two at a time. Halfway down I heard the shots
get nearer, with shouting – and then everything stopped. I let go of the ladder
without thinking and fell eight feet down, into a bush.

Vincent was dead. I knew it. I
clutched my hands into fists to keep from screaming, and gathered myself to run
for the treeline.

I snuck out the back of our
compound, past men already gloating, and reached the street.

My first stop was blocks away,
a gas station that we’d copied the bathroom key for. I let myself in and sank
to my knees on the dirty tile.

He was gone. He’d always be
gone. They’d killed him, taken him away from me and now I would never see his
face again, feel his touch, lie purring against his chest after sex. All of
that was in my past -- and once again, the only future I had was on my back. I
put my head in my hands and let myself cry.

Get it together,
Sammy.
His voice snapped at me in my
head, and I caught my breath like I always did when he spoke like that.
Sometimes I was bad on purpose to make him have to use that tone – other times,
I’d genuinely screwed up. It’d been followed by a whip’s bite enough times that
it made my world narrow down to just him from habit.
What did he want? How
could I make him happy?

But he wasn’t here
anymore. In my head, or otherwise. I blinked and realized I was curled up on
the bathroom floor. I didn’t know how much time had passed. It could’ve been
minutes – or hours.

Come on, Vincent.
Talk to me again, baby.

I waited, hoping beyond
hope, and nothing answered. I was alone. But – I looked at the backpack by my
knees. I did know what he wanted, and what would please him most. Me, living,
even if my only reason for living was gone.

I bit my lips not to
cry and stood up, putting the backpack into the sink.

My new life. Here we
go.

The clothes, shoes, and wig
I’d packed months ago were still in the bag. I put the clothes on and shoved
the robe in, right beside several thousand dollars in twenties – which wouldn’t
be suspicious at all if I ever got pulled over.
Just leaving the strip club,
officer.
.

Then I opened up the
front pouch of the backpack. There was a charged burner cell phone and an
envelope full of new drivers licenses. The top one said I was Sarah Hartford, and
there were ten more below it, all with different names. Vincent had thought of
everything – except for how I was supposed to live without him.

I pulled the wig out
and tugged it on, going from long blonde hair to shoulder-length brunette,
wishing that looking like a different person would really make me one.  

The last thing to do was the
only one I hadn’t practiced. I reached for the heavy silver chain around my
neck and let my fingers sink down to the locket it held. It’d been a gift from
Vincent. Oval, small, and silver, not ostentatious at all. I’d never taken it
off, not even when it clashed with what I was wearing.  

I fingered the locket and
looked at myself in the mirror. My relationship with Vincent would be hard to
explain to anyone in the outside world. He was a gangster, and I’d been a
whore. Normal people would make assumptions, and say that we were broken. Shit
yes we were, but what we’d had was good and real.

Which was why when he told me
not to open the locket unless he’d died, I’d listened to him and never had. He
trusted me. It was a token of his love, and it’d become a good luck charm. On
some subconscious level I believed peeking would cause Vincent’s demise, and
that not looking could somehow keep him safe.

But that hadn’t worked, had
it.

What was inside? Diamonds to
sell? Cyanide to poison myself with? A picture to remember him by? I carefully
pried it open with a thumbnail. Inside was a small piece of paper. I took it
out, unfolded it, and found a series of numbers – it was a phone number I
didn’t recognize.  

The only thing left to
do was call. I turned on the cellphone and dialed. 

Three rings – six rings – who
the hell was I calling?
Why didn’t you tell me, Vincent?
– and a gruff
voice answered. “Who is this?”

I didn’t recognize the voice.
In the four years since I’d been given the locket, Vincent had never once taken
it back. Maybe whoever had had this number in the past didn’t anymore, maybe
they’d been killed by the Carminos too –

“How’d you get this number?”
the man on the other end of the line asked, sounding annoyed.

“Vincent.” Either his name
would mean something to this stranger or it wouldn’t.

There was a thoughtful pause
at the far end. “Why’d he give it to you?”

I didn’t know – but I thought
fast. It hadn’t been a birthday, Christmas, or an anniversary gift. It was when
things had started to take a dark turn, when he’d been out later, getting his
hands bloody, forced by the family to do things he didn’t want – I bit my lips
and gave an answer I knew to be true.

“He wanted you to keep me
safe.”

The man contemplated Vincent’s
request. Then: “Where are you at?”

I gave him my address.

“You’re way too near eastside.
Can you get to International and 35th?” He named a cross-section on the south
of town. 

I knew about the southside. I
didn’t want to go there, but I could. “Yeah.”

“I’ll be there in thirty.”

“K.” I began to put the phone
down.

“Hey –“ he shouted, getting my
attention again. “Destroy whatever he gave you that had my number on it. I
don’t care how, but don’t throw it away.”

“All right,” I said, but it
was too late, he – whoever he was – had already hung up.

I stood there in the bathroom,
swaying like a losing prizefighter, pummeled by my loss. Vincent was gone. I
would never see him again, never hear his laugh, never know his pleasure. All
of my memories – photos, hard drives, quickly scribbled love notes on pieces of
paper -- with him were back inside our house, and going back would be suicide.
The locket around my neck was the last thing of his I had. I reached for it and
hid it protectively inside my shirt. That – and this – the small piece of paper
I held, that he’d written the stranger’s number down on for me, just in case of
tonight happening.

I stared at the phone number,
memorizing it without meaning to – and then put it in my mouth and swallowed it
to destroy it like I’d been told.

What was one more bitter pill
after a long and bitter night? 

I knew where southside was
because I used to work there. Our city straddled a county line, dry on one
side, wet on the other, creating a mini-Las Vegas along the edge. Along with
the looser liquor laws on the southside came looser women, some in strip clubs,
some standing around outside of them. I’d been both, at different times.
Walking towards the neon lights of the Liquor Barns I’d like to say it wasn’t
so seedy then, but while prostitutes might wear rose colored glasses, none of
us actually saw the world through them.

I walked like I belonged,
tough enough not to be a victim, but not so tough as to be a threat. I could
have jogged to the intersection in fifteen minutes, but the only people who
moved quickly down here were running from the cops.

Vincent had saved me from this
life. Going back felt like admitting defeat.

I passed a group of people,
head bowed, while watching them from the corners of my eyes and listening in
case they followed me.

I know you wanted better
for me than this, baby. You can’t be sending me back here.
I reached up to
touch the locket and caught myself. I didn’t want anyone I was passing to think
I had anything worth stealing.

Vincent always knew what was
best for me – better than I did myself. He’d shown me that, time after time.
And he wouldn’t betray me, even after death. I reached the intersection and
stood in a shadow, putting my back against a wall.

I just had to keep
trusting him, like I always had before.

#

I didn’t know the hotel
and I paced around the room. Ray was trying to move us upscale and I was one of
his only girls who could make the leap. I’d grown up mostly normal, so it was
easier for me to fake it than the girls who only knew the street, but that
didn’t mean I was comfortable. A nice place like this only reminded me of how
far I’d fallen.

Then there was a knock
at the door. I took my place on the bed as if I’d been lounging there all
along, waiting.

“Come in,” I said. The
man outside used a key and stepped in.

He didn’t look like the
kind of guy who had to pay for it – or anything else, for that matter. He was
wearing a black suit, and underneath it he was tall and wiry, angular and
muscled. He had short black hair that wanted to curl, olive skin, a strong
chin, and a nose that looked like it’d been broken once or twice a long time
ago. He took off his suit jacket, folded it, and hung it over a nearby chair.

Ray would’ve already
told him what I charged. All I had to do now was be me – the version of me that
he wanted for the night. I gave him my best casual smile.  “So you’re looking
for a good time?”

BOOK: The Hunted (Sleeping With Monsters Book 2)
5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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