Tempting Little Thief
Girls of Greyson, Book One
Prologue – Four Years Ago
The deepest, darkest shade of red runs in a steady stream, filling in the cracks of the concrete, not stopping until it meets the burnt grass, soaking into the roots and panning out like a flame with no fire.
So why the fuck is there a man in yellow trench pants standing ten feet from me, eyes wide and hands raised in the air? His mouth is moving, but if he’s speaking, I don’t hear shit.
No, that’s not right.
I hear something, deep in the back of my mind.
Cries of pain.
Cries for help.
Cries for mercy.
My vision blurs, and it’s as if time rewinds, my fucked-up head forcing me to relive what led me right here, right now…
“Please, no. Please, don’t. I’ll be good. I’ll be quiet.”
The scream that tears from me is damn near unrecognizable as I wrench my hands free of the zip ties, a few layers of skin tearing as I do. The electrical cable he used to tie me to this chair holds strong around my middle, but the brutal sounds coming from downstairs tells me there’s no time to find something to cut the thick covered copper digging into my ribs, so I lurch awkwardly to my feet, and spin so my front is facing the bed.
Pulling in as much air as the position allows, I run backward with all the speed I can manage, slamming the cheap wood into the wall. A guttural shout rips from my throat as my shoulder crunches against the wall, but I do it again.
“Fuck,” I hiss. “Come on, come on, come on…”
Wood splinters my bare back, digging into the fresh welts there and tearing open half healed ones. I do it again. And again, my back teeth at risk of cracking from clenching them so hard.
I gasp, my entire body shaking with rage, as the screams from the first floor grow even louder.
Warm liquid trickles down the entire right side of my body now, and my chest heaves, but I don’t stop. I draw on as much adrenaline as I can, and with one last crash, the back bars of the chair split, snapping from the base and left arm enough for me to wiggle my body and crawl out of the restraints.
“You want to cry?!” he screams. “I’ll shut you up!”
“No!” She weeps.
My heart pounds wildly as I run toward the voices, the cuts on the bottom of my feet tearing open more and more with every step, but I don’t care. I can hardly feel the pain anymore.
I can hardly feel anything. A new, darker form of rage bleeding into my bones, numbing me from the inside out.
“Get back here, you little bitch!” he demands, the front door slamming against the hinge.
“Fuck!” I hurry down the stairs.
She ran outside.
We never run outside when he’s like this – or after – but then again, it’s never lasted this long before.
My stomach leaps into my throat as the living room comes into view.
The broken glass littering the floor mocks me, the blood stains on the shitty shag carpet a constant reminder, as if I fucking need one, of what he’s capable of doing to her, to me.
My mother hugs the now broken frame of the door, cowering against it, and the moment she hears me coming, she attempts to keep me from stepping through, but I shove her away, breaking free when her hand darts out, attempting to latch onto my wrist.
Horror slams into me and I jerk to a stop on the porch.
My sister’s face is even more swollen now, blood seeping from the side of her head where he pistol-whipped her before tying me up, the bullet meant for her still buried in my flesh. She struggles to keep her eyes open, her body growing limp at our father’s side as he drags her back toward the house by the hair.
I have to get to her.
I have to free her.
I will save her.
He spots me and comes to a halt, eyes flicking over my shoulder.
And then my mother’s body is crashing into me from behind, knocking me unsteady. She’s hysterical, afraid for the man she loves more than her children, and stumbles. With a slight nudge of my elbow, she tumbles into the dirt, scrambling back and hiding behind a flower pot when my father pulls the trigger of the gun gripped in his left hand. The harsh ‘pap’ rattles in the trees, the bullet burying itself into the dirt near his feet.
“Son, stop this right now! You’re bleeding everywhere! Get back inside before someone sees!” she cries, begging, yet again, for us, the victims, to ‘be good’ and take the fucking beating we ‘deserve.’
Of course I’m fucking bleeding. I came home to chaos, saw a gun pointed at my sister’s head, and with the look of acceptance in her eyes, I jumped in front of her just before he pulled the trigger.
My mistake was turning to see if my sister was okay and trying to check the wound on the side of her head from his beating. He capitalized on my rookie mistake, tackling me from behind when I wasn’t looking.
I won’t make that slip-up now.
But my mother is as dumb as she is pathetic. My dad just shot that same gun in the front fucking yard, while my sister is bleeding and trembling in his hold, her body practically fucking hanging at his feet as if she’s a peasant and he’s a king.
There’s no more ‘hiding in the house.’
No more ‘swallowing our screams.’
No more ‘covering the bruises under our clothes.’
This right here…this is it.
This is the day we dreaded but waited for.
The moment we feared but wished for.
This is the end. His…or ours.
The fist in my sister’s hair tightens, and I bite on the inside of my cheek, trying to think of a way to turn this around. To take her place.
She thrashes in his hold, crying, begging, but he keeps dragging her forward, toward me.
I step out, curving a bit, so I’m no longer in the path of the door, but off to its right, my feet now nearly in the center of the yard.
My mom begs me to go inside as she does exactly that, waving all of us in with urgency, but I don’t even look at her. I keep my eyes on the bloodshot ones staring right at me.
“You think you’re tough, kid?” He waves the gun at his side. “Get in the goddamn house. Now.”
“Let her go.”
You’d think snakes grew from my ears the way the man’s eyes bulge at my defiance, shock rooting him in his place.
“Don’t!” My sister pleads, her strangled words stealing her last ounce of energy. “Just stop. It’s o-okay.”
She trembles, fear for what he’ll do to me wracking through her body, just like it is mine for what he might do to her.
I reposition myself, making sure I’m parallel with the front windows rather than leaving my back exposed to my mom and any stupid idea she might come up with to help her husband. I stop moving once the edge of the neighbor’s bushes cut along the backs of my legs, both my parents now in my line of sight.
Like I knew he would, my dad follows my movement, shifting his feet sideways to face me once again.
He’s antsy, head whipping around as sirens sound somewhere in the distance, and his nostrils flare, knowing we can’t stand out here much longer, that if he gets us back inside, he can at least try and hide us, manufacture an excuse of some sort – like when I had a ‘bike accident’ that broke bones when, really, he’d shoved me out the upstairs window, sending me sailing into the bed of his El Camino in the driveway because he thought I’d been outside with the fresh black eye he served me the day before. I wasn’t outside, but my sister was, and I knew one of us would face his wrath for it, so I made sure it was me.
His hold must loosen, because in the next second, my sister’s piercing scream fills the air and she tears herself from his brutal grip, ripping the hair straight from her scalp as she crawls to me.
I dart forward, grabbing her torso with my arms as gently as I can, and yank her back to me. She goes limp the second she’s in my arms, eyes flickering as she mumbles incoherently.
We tumble to the ground, and my dad screeches into the air, charging at us.
My eyes widen when he raises the gun, pointing it at my sister, and then something cold presses into my palm.
I look down in what feels like slow motion but must be no more than a fraction of a second, frowning at the matte black pistol, my eyes briefly flicking to the split knuckles of the hand passing it to me through the bush.
Hayze Garrett, my one and only friend because I don’t have to hide from him. He lives in hell too.
A branch snaps, and I face forward, lift my left arm, and grin.
Dad’s eyes shoot wide, and a cold, dead laugh leaves me. I pull the trigger at the same moment he does.
My body jerks, and his gives up on him.
He crashes to the ground with a loud crack that sends a satisfying shiver down my spine.
My pulse pounds heavy in my ears, my mother’s cries loud and bellowing, my sister’s whimpers of pain deafening and then…nothing.
I don’t feel the bullet he sent through my shoulder earlier, or the gashes his belt left in my back afterward. I can’t feel the sting of the foxtails embedded in dead grass from the cuts he drew across the bottoms of my feet with his hunting knife to, ‘keep me in the chair,’ he had said. I don’t feel worry or anxiousness or dread.
I don’t feel helpless or stuck.
I don’t feel shit.
I walk over to my father’s lifeless body and stare down at the pathetic excuse of a human, the complete waste of flesh and blood.
I blink, my vision clearing, coming back to the present.
My eyes are still on the ground, tracing the path of red backward, from the grass to the cracks, to the cement slab…up to his ear and temple, to the dead center of his beaded brows, where the blood gushes from.
A perfect fucking shot.
My head cocks to the side as I stare into crystal-colored eyes, the same ones I see in the mirror every morning.
The man the movies say you should trust and love most in the world.
The man who showed us you can trust no man. Or woman for that matter.
The abusive drunk.
The dead drunk.
A slow smirk spreads along my lips.
Muffled shouts fight their way into my conscious, and slowly, the echoes in my ears calm, the real-time noises hitting me all at once.
Sirens, shouts, demands.
“You’ve been shot…”
My shot was better.
“Son, it’s over...”
I’m no one’s son anymore.
“Put the gun down…”
I will when I’m ready.
“We’re here to help…”
No one ever helped us.
I point the gun at my dear old dad’s cold, dead heart, and pull the fucking trigger.
After that, everything goes black.
By the time my mind decides to tap back into reality, I realize I’m sitting on shiny leather seats in a fancy town car, not cuffed in the back of a dirty cop car or belted to a bed in a mental institution. My body feels like it was hit by a truck, and then I remember, it wasn’t a truck.
It was a custom, stolen, steel-bodied Glock, shot by my dad. My dead dad.
My hand shoots for the door handle, and I hiss as pain explodes across every inch of my flesh. Before I can move another muscle, the door flies open, and a man slips inside. He’s a big fucker, built like a linebacker, and dressed like I interrupted his fucking wedding or something. He’s wearing a suit. An actual suit, suit, with a tie, shiny shoes, and a watch I’d swipe right off his wrist without him realizing if my limbs weren’t so fucking heavy.
“Who the fuck are you and where’s my sister?” I growl, searching for a weapon in case I, somehow, landed myself in the presence of another twisted fuck.
“She’ll be okay.” He speaks calmly, like he didn’t just climb in the back seat with a murderer. “The doctor is with her now, waiting to see if she will need surgery or not.”
“I want to see her.”
“I’m afraid you can’t. Not yet.” The man studies me. He can’t be much older than the dead man I called Dad, maybe early forties. “Not until you make a decision.”
I don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about, so I cut the bullshit out and wait, and he doesn’t hold out long.
“There’s a place for someone like you not far from here. They find kids in your position and offer them an out.”
My position. Right. Like there’s just a gang of people out there, looking around for beat-on punks who get pushed to the edge and kill so they don’t fall over it.
Or maybe killing is falling?
“Oh yeah?” I cock my head, ignoring the sharp sting it causes. “Sounds like some shit slick bastards tell young, broken girls, seconds before they stick a needle in their arm and drop them into rotation at some run-down hourly motel.” Panic roars in my chest at the thought. “Where is my sister?”
He watches me a minute, then says, “She’s safe. In the hospital, getting the care she needs, but the longer this takes, the less chance I have at keeping social services away.”
My brows dig in the center, and the man dips his chin.
Yeah, fucker, you got my attention.
He sits back, screaming money and power as he adjusts the slight crookedness of his suit jackets sleeve. I’ve never even tried on a suit, let alone worn one.
He speaks again. “You have five minutes to decide if you want to step from inside this car and let the badges outside of it take you downtown, where some random person on a set salary will decide if you’re a murderer or not – that ends with you behind bars or tossed in foster care – or you can sit back in that seat, I’ll take you somewhere new, and all this goes away.”
My eyes narrow. “Where? How?”
“You’ll see if you agree, but coming with me means you have a job, a bed, and food in a place free of heavy-handed adults.”
When neither of us says a word for several seconds, I lick my lips. “How do I know you’re not playin’ me?” He’s definitely playin’ me.
“Who are you?”
“Someone you might never see again, no matter what you choose. Three minutes.”
I glare at the guy, trying to make sense of his words, but how the fuck can I? I killed my dad, then shot him in the heart for the fuck of it, in front of who knows how many people, and for some fucked-up reason, I’m not in a jail cell, but in the back of a fucking fancy car with champagne flutes and LED lights on the floorboard.
I’ve never even seen a ride like this in my entire life, let alone sat in the back of one.
This is a trip. Wild as fuck. Some real-life, other world type shit.
A thousand questions are going through my mind, but right now, I only need the answer to two.
One. “It keeps me out of jail?”
Two. “My sister stays out of whatever this is?”
“She does.” He nods, looking to his watch then back to me. “So, what do you say, kid?”
“Don’t call me kid.”
His lips twitch and he cocks his head like a prick. “What should I call you then?”
I think about that a minute, then fall back against the seat, letting go of part of the name I was given and claiming a new one. “Name’s Bishop. Bass Bishop.”
And then we’re on our fucking way.