"Please, please, please," I begged for what seemed like the millionth time. That one word played like a broken record in my head as if that was the only word I knew.
For the past three days, I pleaded with anyone who came near me. I wasn't begging for my life. That was the last thing I wanted. Death was much better than the torture I'd endured. All I wanted was for someone to kill me.
I felt foolish now for spending so much of my life concerned about death. Death was not the worst thing that could happen to someone. Living a life full of pain and fear was much more agonizing.
Since I'd been yanked from the prison, near drowning and beatings were all my life consisted of. I couldn't figure out why they didn't just kill me, but I didn't ask. Every time I opened my mouth, pain followed. I quickly learned to keep quiet.
Even after the days of torture, I thought they would at some point end my misery. Of course, Dr. Grant wasn't kind enough for that.
"The Elders and I had a meeting last night. Since you've already established a bond with the criminals, we've decided you will get us the information we want," Dr. Grant told me after having me pulled from the pit for the third time that day. "But this time, we're giving you a little more incentive."
I flinched. What more motivation was there? They weren't about to offer me my life again. If I wasn't successful with my own life on the line, why would I do it knowing they were going to kill me?
Horror and comprehension hit like a bolder. My breath came quick and unsteady. My hands trembled.
Dr. Grant chuckled. "I see you're catching on. After all you've put me through in the last few days, I'm not stupid enough to offer you your life again. Besides, that clearly doesn't mean much to you. But, you might be willing to work harder if Page's life is at risk."
Tears sprang to the tiny slits that were the remains of my beaten eyes. I shook my head and ignored the pain the action caused. "No," I mumbled through swollen lips.
His chuckle turned into a booming laugh. "You're actually willing to let your twin sister die for you? Are you really that selfish?"
Sobs rumbled through my chest. "No," I said again, forcing more anger into my tone. "Leave her alone." My words were so indistinct I wondered if he even understood.
When a twig snapped and a blurred figure moved toward me, I cringed away.
"Let me make this very clear, Addaline," he said from so close I could feel the heat radiating off his body. "This is not a request. You will do as you're told or Page will die."
"Please," I begged again, the broken record spun out of control now. Once again, that was the only word that my mind could conjure up through the thick haze in my head. It angered me. I wanted to scream at him, but I couldn't. All I could do was beg pathetically.
Dr. Grant didn't even acknowledge my pleading. He simply said, "Take her back. I'm done with her."
For a second, I thought he meant the pit, and my body stiffened. I was tired of this game--physically and emotionally exhausted. I just wanted it all to end. It seemed like a cruel joke that he would continue to suck every last bit of emotion out of me before he finally let me rest in peace.
Once again, Mac tossed me up on his shoulder, but before he could get too far, Dr. Grant said, "You have one day."
I knew at that moment I was not going back to the pit.
Water dripped off my saturated skin, hair, and dress, leaving a muddy trail behind us to the prison. Not that anyone needed the trail to follow us. I moaned loud enough for anyone in a mile radius to hear.
The first gust of cold air came when Joe opened the prison door for Mac.
"Whoa, that's cold. I'm definitely going to have to change after this," Mac said, and we both shivered.
Joe laughed. "Why do you think I had you carry her?"
"Thanks," Mac said, and shuddered again. "Remind me to return the favor later."
Mac walked in ahead of Joe. The silence in the prison was more profound than it had been before. I didn't want to think of all the helpless teens that had been drug out of here while I was being tortured.
"You two get to the corner over there and turn around," Joe ordered once we were standing outside the Forgotten's cell. He must have realized there was no quick way to drop me off since they couldn't shove me from behind.
The cell door creaked open and Mac took two quick steps in, dumped me on the ground, and darted out.
My breath hissed between my teeth as I choked back the shriek that crept up my throat.
"We'll be back," Mac warned with a chuckle.
"One day," Joe said.
Because even the slightest movement would have tipped me over the edge to unconsciousness, I didn't acknowledge them.
Despite his aversion to me before, Xander was at my side in an instant. "What did you do to her?" he asked, concern thick in his tone.
The guards merely chuckled and sauntered away.
"She's soaked," Xander said. "I need your coat, Grandfather."
"That won't do any good. We'll need to get that dress off of her."
I tried to shake my head. "N...no," I stuttered already trembling from the frigid air. But, dark or not, I wasn't about to let them strip me down. Dr. Grant and the Elders hadn't managed to take all my dignity, and I wasn't losing what little I had left here in the prison to the Forgotten.
A warm hand clutched the fabric clinging to my thigh. I flinched away automatically then moaned.
"Shhh, Addaline," Xander soothed. "I'm not going to hurt you. I just have to get this dress off." He didn't wait for my reaction before yanking my dress above my hips. Surprisingly, I wasn't jostled much at all.
"Please don't," I muttered, trying to pull the dress back down. Tears streamed down my cheeks.
He ignored me. "Do you think you can hold her while I pull the dress off?" he asked Julius. "I don't think she'll put up much of a fight. They beat her pretty bad."
"Of course. Whatever I can do to help," Julius said.
Four hands gripped me as lightly as possible. "We'll try not to move you too much," Xander assured.
Slowly, they sat me upright. Air hissed through my teeth and more tears streamed down my cheeks. The pain was excruciating. "Please stop," I whimpered.
"It'll all be over in a minute, I promise," Xander said. "Do you have her?"
"Yes," Julius said.
"I'm sorry," Xander whispered. Then without warning, he gripped my wrists in one of his hands and wrenched them over my head.
A bloodcurdling scream escaped my lips, but they didn't stop. More torture, I thought. No, I couldn't handle anymore. "Kill me," I tried to tell them, but my words were lost in the sobs.
Sasha took her revolver from Alvin, fished her spray out of her pocket and finally took a deep slow breath. "I really hope it's not a vampire overlord," she said with a strained smile and opened her door.