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The arrangement 23, p.9

The Arrangement 23, page 9

 part  #23 of  The Arrangement Series


The Arrangement 23

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  Her gray eyes flash with hope as a false smile falls from my lips. I put pressure on the metal wheel, turning it, gaining the force to flick it down and make the flint ignite.

  Just before I finish flicking it, the last male voice buzzes in my earpiece.

  “S17, secure.” The deep timber, the way his tone is firm and unforgiving—I know that voice. I’ve heard it before, fierce and desperate.

  It’s Sean.


  Sean’s in the house. He’s alive. No, he can’t be. I don’t know if this is another manipulation or if it’s real. I glance at my mother and then back towards the door. The wall shatters. Fragments of wood go flying through the air and burst into the main chamber of the room. Larger pieces travel with such force that they hit the wall and plunge into the plaster. Fragments of shiny black timber fall to the marble floor in a splintery rain. The room fills with large snarling men, their faces livid. Two grab me by the wrist and then secure their grip under my arm. The man to my left rips the lighter out of my hand while the rest of his squad opens the windows and examine the leaking gas fixture.

  Vic strolls in behind them looking impish. His chest is puffed up, and there’s an amused smile toying at his lips. He lightly places his hands behind his back as he approaches me. “And I thought we were going to have a family reunion in Hell today. Me, you, dad, and the bitch.” He shrugs after tipping his head toward Mom.

  The onslaught of incoherent rage is deadly. My field of vision fills with bursts of light that bleed red as I glare at my brother. I don’t move, scream, or cry. No sound could communicate what I feel.

  Vic is utterly calm. “Guess it wasn’t meant to be. Or maybe you didn’t have the balls after all, did you, little sis? Did Mommy here throw you off your game?” He’s close, gloating in my face, preening like a deranged peacock. He grabs me by my neck, and squeezes hard, sneering in my face, “I win.”

  The fury within me explodes. It doesn’t matter that he’s choking me. I still manage to jerk my knee up, hard. The sudden displacement of my weight makes his thugs tighten their grip on the tops of my arms. I swing between the thugs like a toddler, connecting my knees in rapid succession with Vic’s nuts.

  Vic bellows as he folds in half, his hand swiftly flying and connecting with my cheek. The hit is hard enough to make tiny flashes of light twinkle like fireflies. It mingles with the red that was already there. Mom tries to move toward me, but as soon as she stands, she falls to the floor.

  Gasping, I try to twist free. I thrash, kick, and then attempt to drop down, but they don’t let go. Vic rights himself and gingerly places a hand on my shoulder before he buries his fist in my stomach. All the air gets knocked from my lungs, and I rasp, unable to breathe.

  That’s when he whispers, “You’ll pay for that a hundred times over by the time I’m done with you.”

  I’m jerked to my feet. My brother grabs the hair at the base of my neck and pulls hard. I stumble forward. He snaps at his thugs, “Release her!”

  They drop my arms and step back. Vic pulls my hair once more, forcing me to look up at him. His eyes narrow, and his lips twist with malice and lust. His mouth comes crashing down on mine as he paws at my breast and mashes our bodies together. My mother cries out from the floor, her hand outstretched toward me. The more I try to fight Vic off, the more he beats me down. His mouth crushes me, as his tongue slides into my mouth and his hand lifts my skirt, promising to terrorize me in ways I’ll never forget.

  I fight against him, but I’m unable to get away or peel him off. There’s no leverage, no time. While shoving me to the stone wall, his tongue is in my mouth and his hand grips my ass. He pins me in place with one arm across my face while reaching for his zipper with the other. I do the only thing I can think of and bite down. Hard. The coppery taste of blood fills my mouth as Vic screams and jerks back. I can breathe, but the reprieve is short lived. I try to move away. Vic grabs me by the elbow, whirls me around, and tugs my hair, trapping me between his body and the wall. I go limp and drop to the floor and slither on the cold stone, almost crawling, as I try to get away from him.

  Vic screeches, enraged, as he shifts his weight rapidly. Then his foot connects with my side. I’m hurled face-down on a pile of rubble. There’s a sharp pain in my side when I try to breathe. My body is trying to curl into a ball. My fingers are on the pile of crap—fragments of stone and wood—as I attempt to push up. My head falls to the rubble, and a long shard of the wood presses my cheek, cutting my face. It’s the size of a chisel and just as sharp. I try to lift myself off of it, but get slammed back down. Vic’s hand presses against the center of my back, so I can’t breathe. He holds me there like that, laughing. My lungs burn, and my arms flail as I’m prevented from inhaling. A sharp sting fills my chest as my face becomes hot and light. The corners of my vision go dark as blackness tries to overtake me.

  That’s when he removes his hand. “No way am I letting you pass out. You’ll be awake and fully aware of everything I do to you. There’s no escape. No way out, and best of all—you did this to yourself. You should have killed me when you had the chance, you stupid little fuck.”

  His greedy hands are at my hips, tearing the fabric away when the sound of cement rolling across the stone floor catches his ear. He pauses just long enough to turn and see a grenade with purple and green beads tied to the neck.

  Vic freezes. We both stare at the sphere that looks like a bomb without a pin and wait for the explosion. Vic swats at the grenade that looks like it partied at Mardi Gras before the thing hisses. The same sound echoes all around me, filling the entire room with a shroud of smoke.

  Sean’s voice fills the air, but I can’t see him. “Avery! Where are you?” He screams out, but the smoke is too thick.

  The cloud of white obscures my vision and makes my eyes water. I blink rapidly, but it just makes it worse. It’s like I Maced myself. My eyes burn and tear. Mucus fills my sinuses and drains out my nose.

  I choke and try to get free, but Vic won’t let go. He’s still there with one hand on me, waiting for the smoke to disappear out the bay window. That’s when the glass doors close, and three more grenades roll by us. I can hear them scrape across the floor as they come to a stop. The smoke thickens. Voices cry out around me, but I’m blind.

  I knew I heard Sean, but I can’t see him. I open my mouth to call his name, but Vic slams his hand over it. The bastard drags me further back into the room and away from the window. He hides in the slowly dissipating cloud. His men rush toward the smoke bombs when more familiar voices fill the air.

  “Holy mother of hell!” Mel’s voice calls out in one of the lighter fog banks by the door. The sound of metal on metal rings out as she laughs.

  “Let’s take these motherfuckers out!” Henry wails, and then promptly asks someone, “Did I say that correctly? It feels crass.” He shrieks in the smoke, a willowy man lost in the clouds.

  Mel snaps, “You’re such a pansy. Are you sure you’re straight?”

  Henry growls, “You’ll have to find out later, love. I’m busy at the moment.”

  “Promises, promises,” Mel mutters. Sounds sweep around me of bones cracking and the floor becomes slick with blood. As Vic tries to move me, he slips on something and stops abruptly.

  I’ve not heard Sean again, but that doesn’t mean anything. He’ll remain quiet and snake through the crowd. He’ll save me. I lift my head, trying to get off the floor, but Vic slams me down. When my temple connects with the marble, my vision blurs.

  Through the rolling cloud of smoke, I see a single outstretched, mutilated hand. Mom. She’s on the floor, alive. I watch her slender fingers curl and claw at the ground. I look at the nails that are non-existent stumps, peeled away and covered in blood and scars. Someone breaks the glass window and the smoke escapes into the night air. White tendrils swirl through the space, revealing people standing, fighting, around the edges of the room. Mom is across from me, closer to the door, her eyes locked on mine.

/>   Vic shoves my face down again, hard. My cheek scrapes against the wooden plank between me and the floor, cutting my face open further. There’s a sharp sting and warmth.

  Vic hisses by my cheek, his intention very clear. He’ll rape me with everyone present to show them he can, to prove he won. They won’t be able to stop him. The smoke hasn’t cleared, it still lays thickly on the floor.

  The bastard hisses in my ear, his tongue tracing my skin. He’s at my back, pressing me down. “It won’t be as much fun not seeing the fear in your eyes, but I’m willing to make sacrifices. The Ferro’s need to know their place and I intend to make it entirely clear, using you as an example of what happens to people when they fuck with Vic Campone.”

  A gun fires and the sound pierces my eardrum, making it hard to tell what happened, who got shot. There are still noises, but it sounds like they’re talking from the bottom of a well.

  Vic is still above me, his hands crushing my back to the floor with the promise of pain and torture. I can move my arm just enough to slip my hand beneath my face and grab the piece of wood that’s pressing against my skin. I feel for it, wrapping my fingers around it and hold it tight. It’s not long enough. It barely sticks out from my palm, but it’s all I have.

  Vic tugs at me and pulls my face up, screaming, “No one fucks with me, cunt. I’ll make you beg for death, and then, if you’re a very good girl—I might give it to you. But not tonight. I like to play with my toys first. The best part about owning someone is breaking them.”

  The mist obscures and partially hides us. I can barely see Vic since my eyes are still going batshit crazy from the smoke bomb, so I know he can’t see me in any detail. There’s as much tears and snot dripping from Vic as there is from me. He’s a blur of a body.

  I hold tightly onto the shaft of wood. Vic threads his fingers through the hair at the back of my neck and slams my forehead against the stone floor before grabbing my shoulder to flip me over. As he rolls me, the cocky ass is unguarded. Vic doesn’t expect me to fight. I’ve been so docile, resisting just enough that he knows I haven’t passed out. This is my moment, and I take it. I swing my arm wide and hurl the weapon in my hand toward his body.

  The blurred movement doesn’t register—Vic can’t see the stake in my hand. He doesn’t block me. I don’t know if it’s because he can’t see the arc of my arm, or if it’s because he’s too arrogant to think I’d do it. Either way, there’s no mercy in me. My rage has boiled past the point of comprehension. Every bit of strength, every ounce of anger, and every emotion that’s fractured and fucked up my life channels into that hand. I slam the makeshift stake into his side. Vic’s body goes tense as he jerks back and howls.

  Vic releases me and falls to his uninjured side. His hands reach for the weapon lodged in his abdomen, but it’s not there. I didn’t let go, so the stake is still in my hand. Warm blood coats my skin, making my fingers slick. I crawl toward him through the looming smoke, reaching across the cold, slippery floor, and wail the stake into him a second time, not knowing what part of his body that I hit. His shriek turns to gurgling, quickly followed by nothing.


  Silence washes over the room as the sound of fighting ceases. The cloud of smoke that clings to the ground is dissipating. It doesn’t hide everyone the way it had when Sean and Henry first chucked the nasty little orbs into the room. Long coils of white clouds blow out the balcony doors, escaping into the night. Suddenly, I can see what everyone is doing. As I sweep my gaze across the wreckage, I search for Sean.

  Between the fog-like banks of clearing smoke, Mel stands over a prone man. There’s a silver knife in her hand. She’s breathing hard, waiting for him to rise, but he doesn’t. Blood covers her hands and her hair is wet with it. Taut tendons lace her muscles so tightly she could crack.

  Behind her, closer to the half wall that once blocked the door is Henry Thomas. He’s wearing a once-white shirt, on the floor with another man, in a pool of blood. At first glance, it appears to be his. Henry is nearly prone on the man’s chest, his elbows locked, with his forearm pressing hard on the thug’s windpipe. There’s a savage look on the Englishman’s face. Henry’s gaze catches sight of his shirt sleeves momentarily, making him sneer. It appears that Henry is more appalled at the state of his dress than the violence surrounding him. Bodies are littering the floor, twisted in ways that shouldn’t be possible, caught in silent screams.

  Pushing off the floor with one hand, I stagger to my feet and turn my head the other way. My dress is hanging off my body. It’s held in place, lopsided on my body, still clinging by one shoulder strap. The front of the mutilated fabric is wet and warm. I gingerly press my fingers to the dress. Blood comes off on the pads of my fingers. I’m not sure if it’s mine.

  Dazed, I blink slowly and look for him—for Sean. He’s standing over my mother, sweeping her off the floor as he lifts her in his arms. Vic’s men lay in the wake of blood between Sean and the hole in the wall that once contained those massive black doors.

  Everyone is frozen in a pose that reflects whatever they were doing when Vic’s scream fell silent. The remaining men turn slowly to see their boss lying in a pool of blood on the floor at my feet. Their eyes lift to me slowly, shocked. No one speaks. Instead, they turn and flee, rushing through the smashed wall and out of sight.

  Sean stands prone and lifts his dark head. When those blue eyes meet mine, I nearly lose it. There are no words that could possibly encompass the way I feel. Emotions rush through me making me feel like I’m metal in the microwave.

  Sean’s lips part as he watches me. There’s something in his eyes, an emotion that’s rich and pure. Words won’t come, and I’m stuck in place, unable to move, not able to accept that this is over. That we survived.

  My voice warbles when I try to speak, “I saw you die.”

  Sean shakes his head before he sits my mother in the chair. He leans down and says something softly to her. Mom nods once before Sean turns to me.

  Sean’s intense gaze holds mine as he walks through the final traces of the lingering fog before stopping in front of me. He tips his head down and places his hands gently on either side of my face. He rubs my cheeks with his thumbs and coos softly, “It’s all right. It’s over.”

  “I thought you were dead. I didn’t know what happened—” My throat is so tight that my voice cracks.

  He holds me close, presses my head to his chest, and then pulls back a little to look me over and smears his thumb through the blood on my cheek and the makeshift bandage around my head. “I’m all right. It’s all right.”

  “The gas—” I look at the fixtures on the wall, worried it’s still on, not entirely sure why I can’t smell it anymore. Or why we’re not puking on the floor from being poisoned.

  “It’s off, Avery. I shut it off. I couldn’t let you—” he chokes on the words as his eyes sweep over me again and again. Sean cups my face in his hands and stands there, brimming with too many emotions all at once.

  My insides are doing the same dance I see in his eyes. Anger and fear swirl together and scream like a banshee inside my mind. I slam my palms into his chest and demand, “Where were you? The bodies in the pool. I thought that was you!” I want to scream at him, but I’m still shorting out. My emotions turn on a dime and tears form as my anger recedes.

  “I’m sorry,” Sean whispers as he holds me, touches my hair and pulls back to make sure I’m really there. “Plans changed at the last moment. If it weren't necessary, I wouldn’t have done it. I needed to guarantee that I could get to you—that I could pull you out of here. There’s only one other person who could ensure it.”

  There’s a loud thud—the sound of wood on stone—as Constance clears her throat in the former doorway that’s now mostly rubble. She doesn’t step over the threshold. Instead, she glares at me. “You and I need to speak, immediately."

  I stare up at Sean, shocked. “You set her free?”

  He nods. “When Black climbed into the car with
you, I knew things were going to go to hell. Marty got hold of me on my cell before I got here. He said we were fucked, and needed another way out. Justin and Geek Guy, as you called him, were shot. Marty led Vic to believe it was Henry and me to give us more time.”

  “Marty killed Justin?”

  “He deviated from the plan,” Sean’s hands touch my shoulders gently as he looks me over, still explaining, “That meant his loyalty was questionable. Marty knew the stakes and did what he had to do. With things that fucked up, there was only one person who could help.”

  Constance glares at me. “How touching.” Her voice is dripping with anger as she studies her filthy red suit. It’s covered in dirt and soot. Her hair appears as if she put her head in a wind tunnel and is sticking straight out from her scalp.

  Sean glances at his mother, then whispers to me, “I’m still not entirely certain what her motives are, but she was our strongest ally tonight. She knew this place inside out and had access codes that allowed me to overtake the guards doing the perimeter check. Henry was able to disable the rest of the security.”

  Henry stands slowly and puts all his weight on one foot, either weakened or exhausted. He grips his left arm with his right hand and speaks to the room. “I couldn’t go into the security room directly. It wasn’t perfect, which is why Melanie was such an asset this evening. I found her on the way in, and we took care of the rest of the cameras leading up to this room the old-fashioned way while your betrothed hunted that animal.” Henry glances over at Vic’s fallen body.

  Sean nods, then continues, “I found Gabe, and he told me what you were doing. I gave his men the eye drops Henry created, so the smoke bombs didn’t incapacitate him and his men.”

  “I didn’t know you designed those smoke balls.” Mel grins at Henry.

  He nods bashfully. “Nothing major, just a round housing with some natural irritants. I developed the eye drops and nasal spray while configuring the detonation mechanism after a few misfires in the lab.” Mel watches him, practically beaming with pride. Henry smiles and shakes his head. “I like to dabble. It was nothing.” Henry eyes Mel, nearly blushing.

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