Devoted (Lace Underground Trilogy Book 3), p.1Tess Oliver
Lace Underground #3
Copyright © 2018 by Tess Oliver
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I'm only vaguely aware of footsteps as they enter the bedroom. "Don't bother to leave the plate," I say without pulling the blanket from my head.
"I've got something I think will help." Kane's rich, deep voice, a voice that used to send a glow of warmth through me, sends an icy chill around my heart.
I pull down the covers but turn away from him on the bed. "I don't want anything from you except freedom or death. Whatever will make it so I never have to see your face or hear your voice again."
"This will help with the withdrawals," he continues unabated. The dead calm in his tone makes me want to scream.
Just his mention of withdrawal sends a painful shiver through me. Every part of me hurts. In between armies of invisible ants crawling up my arms and legs, there are shooting, stabbing pains. It's truly hell but it's nothing compared to the horrible image in my head of Maddox, the man I love, left alone in the ocean, feet and hands bound, struggling to stay alive, knowing full well death by drowning was imminent.
"Get out. Please. Leave me the hell alone. I deserve to suffer. Just like you deserve to burn in hell."
His footsteps near. "I think you should take the injection. They'll be here soon."
Kane's last statement makes me turn to look at him. His face is drawn and dark circles punctuate the blueness of his eyes.
"Who will be here?"
He holds up the syringe. It's filled with a clear liquid, not nectar. God, how I wish it were nectar.
"So, you're not going to answer? You're just going to go all broody and quiet. Get out. I can't stand the sight of you." I pull the covers up to my chin.
His head nods weakly. "I'm well aware of that. I just thought this might relieve some of your suffering."
My sharp laugh shoots through the room. "You actually think that stupid shot is going to relieve my suffering? You're not even human at all, are you?"
"Not really." Kane turns and walks out the door. As he opens and shuts it something seems off. The usual sounds, the heating and cooling systems, the electricity, distant voices, all the sounds that normally buzz through the hallway are gone, leaving behind an ominous silence.
I wait to make sure Kane has left and climb out of the bed. I grab the bedpost to steady myself. I'm still wearing the same stupid, horrible dress from that awful day. By my calculations, it's been three days since the nightmarish scene that will never be erased from my soul. After they threw Maddox over, I scrambled to throw myself overboard but I was too weak. Oscar carried me screaming and kicking below deck. I was so crazed with despair, I crumbled into a ball on the bedroom floor and wished for death. Kane drugged me up good on the yacht. The next thing I knew I was in the limo heading back to the complex.
I yank the dress off, ripping at its straps and zipper to make sure it is destroyed. I ball it up and heave it across the room. Every footstep hurts my head, but my emotional despair outweighs the pain so much, I find it easy to ignore.
The hot shower relieves the physical misery a little, but it does nothing for my shredded soul. For days and days, I paced the underground bedroom, anxiously waiting for Kane's next visit. He became the reason for me to rise out of bed in the morning. That thought makes me want to throw up. I push my face under the water hoping to relieve the nausea.
I have to stop myself from rubbing my skin raw. I turn the water off, climb out and grab the towel. My head feels as if it's filled with air while my body is filled with lead. I make my way to the closet and pull out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. My hair drips down the back of my shirt as I finish dressing. I've been in a haze and my lack of appetite has returned, but it occurs to me that it's been more than a day since I was brought a plate of food. Maybe that is my fate—to die in this bedroom. Kane can no longer let me go because I have witnessed him actually murder someone, a police officer, no less. He had covered his tracks well before that incident. He kept a tight seal around his secret club and complex. But now there is an eyewitness to murder. He can't let me go.
I stand still in the center of the room and listen. Silence. I look up at the camera in the corner of the ceiling. The tiny red light is off. It seems the security system is down.
I walk to the door, trying not to get my hopes up and at the same time having to tamp down the rush of adrenaline. I reach for the handle and it clicks. The door is unlocked.
My hand shakes as I open it. I've been in the room for several months but I've never opened the door and walked out on my own. That fact becomes an even starker reality when I step into the empty, quiet hallway and realize I don't know my way around. What stands out the most as I walk down the dimly lit hallway is the silence. My room is one of many in a long corridor. Blake mentioned more than once that the other women lived in the same halls.
I walk to the first room next to mine. The keypad is turned off. I knock once. No answer. I knock again and this time give the door a little nudge. "Hello?" I poke my head into the room. There is a bed and a vanity like in my bedroom but it's empty of makeup and brushes. The room looks vacant. I step inside. "Anybody here?" No answer.
I walk out and give the next room a try. It's empty too. A good dose of fear grips me as I consider the possibility that I'm alone in Kane's vast underground complex. It's a frightening enough notion that I make my way back to my bedroom. I use it as a starting point and try to retrace the path to Kane's office. I've been there twice. I grow cold thinking about the things Kane did to me in his office, against his desk. I reveled in the attention. I craved every minute of it. I craved a cold-blooded murderer. That is a sentiment that will follow me to the grave.
The notion takes hold that I might very well be standing in my grave. I have no idea what Kane has planned for me, but with the sudden morgue-like atmosphere surrounding me, I'm sure it's something grim.
Every corridor looks similar but I continue on through the passages. The air temperature seems to be dropping especially fast solidifying my conclusion that the heating and cooling system has been shut down. Pin pricks of panic start in my fingers and run up my arms at the thought of suffocating in the maze of hallways. It would be a long torturous death. Lack of nectar is taking me to the darkest corners of my mind. I have to consciously shake off the horrid notions or they'll overwhelm me.
Determined to face Kane and find out just what he has planned for me, I head down a hallway that looks vaguely familiar because it is shorter than most of the passages. A thi
I walk to the door and hear a shuffling sound. I take a deep steadying breath and push open the door. Kane is sitting behind his desk. It's been cleared of paperwork. The computer is gone.
He leans back and rests his arms on the armrests. There was a time when I could picture his handsome face even in my sleep. I'm working hard to vanish it from my memory for good. I'm looking at a murderous stranger.
"Didn't think you'd find the office," he says.
"I don't understand. Where is everyone?"
"Gone. I think it was right here in this office when I told you, you would be my downfall, Sweet Sin." He tilts his head and gazes at me as if we're still friends instead of enemies. "Just so you know, you were worth it."
"No, don't talk to me like that. Pretend that I'm a stranger because I'm going to make sure I forget everything about you. Even if they have to plug me into an electric shock machine to wipe this head clean. I don't want one thread of memory that connects back to you." I'm so far past tears that I'm at the next level bordering on hysteria.
Kane gets up and walks to the front of his desk. He leans against it and crosses his arms. His shirt sleeves are rolled up, exposing the scars and the tattoo that says 'reality is merely an illusion'.
"You believe that, don't you?" I ask. "The quote on your arm about reality. That's it. To you, life is just one big illusion. That's how you allow yourself to get away with being a monster. You're sitting there right now with that smug look that I just want to smear off your face with my fists because in your mind you haven't done anything wrong. In fact you consider yourself infallible. You've even helped a bunch of homeless people live comfortable existences down here in your imaginary world. But reality isn't an illusion. You committed murder and that is real. For you, this illusion is going to end with a very real prison sentence." It aggravates me that he doesn't even flinch at the mention of prison, as if he already knows in that genius brain of his that he'll get away with killing Maddox.
"I think, soon enough, you'll find that this Einstein quote is truer than you realize."
"You're insane. Where is everyone? Or did you have Oscar and Jason round them up and dump them in the desert like you did to me?"
"I didn't dump you. I followed you every step of the way."
"I spent hours visualizing my death being torn up by a predator, or worse, dying of thirst. You let me feel that." I take a deep, shuddering breath. "You made we witness the murder of a man I love."
There is no look of apology or regret in his face. "Some people react to heartbreak through despair and others through monstrous cruelty. I'm genetically wired for the latter, it seems."
"And there you are talking in puzzle pieces again. Genetically wired? Sure, blame it on your parents. That's a coward's way out. Where did you send Georgia and Oscar, the others? What happens to Blake when this whole thing crashes down?"
"Don't tell me you care about their fate now? After all, you came to me. You came here with the sole purpose of bringing me down. You had to know it would affect more than just me. And they are all fine. I supplied them with everything they need to start new lives."
"How could you send those poor women out on their own when you know they're addicted to your insidious nectar?" He flinches slightly at my adjective for his beloved drug, but it's just that, a flinch.
"The injection I tried to give you earlier but you refused—it's somewhat of an antidote. I created it back when I realized how addictive the nectar was. It helps neutralize whatever is left in the bloodstream. They'll still suffer some withdrawal, but it won't be anything like dropping the drug cold turkey."
I stare at him in disbelief. "So, they all left here without the addiction?"
He shrugs. "I guess even a monster has his limits."
"After what happened on the yacht, I'm not sure I believe anything you say."
"Guess I won't waste my breath answering then. But if you'd like to give the antidote a try—" Kane's weak smile is the last thing I see before the lights go out. The darkness is so rich, so void of light, it's suffocating.
My heart races and panic starts to consume me. It feels as if the walls are closing in on me. "Kane," I call frantically.
"It's all right, my sweet." I startle at the closeness of his voice. He is right next to me. His hand grazes my arm. "They're here to take you home."
A long stretch of horrifying, pitch dark silence is interrupted as thunderous footsteps and yells fill the underground tunnels. Flashes of light sweep through the darkness. A blinding light shines into the room. I lift my arm to shield my eyes from the harsh brightness.
"Police! On your knees. Hands on your head," an unfamiliar voice shouts. It takes a second for the shock to wear off and bring me to the realization they're talking to me. The room fills with heavily equipped officers.
I drop to my knees and put my hands on my head. "I'm Detective Angie Tennyson," I repeat several times as an armed team pours into the small office. My thin voice is lost in the clamor.
My eyes adjust some to the light. I scan the room but don't see Kane in the chaos. Did they pull him out of the room? My arm is suddenly wrenched from my head to my back.
"I'm Detective Angie Tennyson of the Mountain View Division. My badge number—"
"Stop. That's her," a familiar voice drifts through the clamor. I can't place the face with the voice until Captain Clark peeks around a large SWAT officer. "That's Detective Tennyson. Help her up."
I don't wait for a hand up. I push to my feet and land hard against Clark's bullet proof vest. I'm sobbing uncontrollably by the time his arms go around me.
"Thank God, Tennyson. I thought we'd lost you."
I'm crying, making it hard to catch my breath. I pull my face from his chest. "Captain—" I start. I can't even say the painful sentence out loud. Another round of shoulder wracking sobs shudder through me. I'm so overcome with grief and relief, I can barely stand on my own.
A voice comes through the radio on his shoulder. "Captain, no sign of Freestone yet."
I glance quickly around the room. "He was just here. Then the lights went out. He was right next to me."
Clark's protective arm goes around my shoulders. "Let's get you out of here. I'm sure you've had enough of this place."
I peer back into the office as Clark walks me into the hallway. There is no sign of Kane, just the empty office and the desk. Streams of light crisscross the corridors as officers traverse the passages looking for others. The last few months have been so bizarre, I can almost convince myself they were just an illusion. But the solid rock that sits in my chest where my heart used to be assures me it all happened.
I hold tightly onto Clark's arm working up the courage to tell him. Everything is a blur, including that past few months, as he whisks me through the maze of passages. Lights from the search team lead the way, and we make it easily through to the incline that leads to the garage and the exit. We are leaving Kane's complex. I'm leaving Lace Underground for good.
Daylight pours through the opening at the front of the giant garage. The vans and limo are being searched. Every part of Kane's secret world is being torn open and scrutinized. Where is he hiding? How did he get out of the office unseen?
My legs are weak and shaky as we climb toward the surface. "Captain Clark," my frail voice echoes off the tunnel like passage. "He's gone," I sob. "They threw him in the ocean." I draw in a deep breath. "Maddox is dead."
Clark doesn't seem to be paying attention. It seems he thinks I'm delusional or drugged. And I might very well be both but of one thing I'm sure. I stop him just before we step out into the fresh air. "Clark," I say sharply, "did you hear me? They killed Maddox."
Clark gives me that fatherly, protective smile he's thrown at me many times. "I think Maddox might have something to say about that."
I blink at him, confused, diz
Clark motions with his head toward a group of law enforcement vehicles. The sun is still high in the sky, showering its warmth and light over the chaotic scene and the surrounding desert landscape. I squint toward the activity. There, standing in the middle of the circle of people and vehicles is Detective James Maddox.
Clark catches me as my knees give way. Another sob, this one from joy, burbles from my lips. I release my hold on Clark and will my feet forward. It's only a hundred yards but it feels like a hundred miles. My feet move faster.
"Ten," Maddox says on a breath.
"I thought you were—" I cry as I jump into his arms.
Maddox squeezes me tightly against him. "Not that easy to take down James Maddox."
I hold onto him for a long time, afraid that if I let go he'll vanish and the last few minutes will evaporate as a dream. But he's there, solid in my arms.
I finally find the courage to release him. He doesn't disappear. It's all real.
Maddox wipes the tears from my cheeks with his finger. My eyes are bleary from crying and the harsh sunlight, but every feature on his face is so clearly etched in my mind I can see him perfectly.
"But there was no island or land nearby. How on earth did you survive?"
"Strangest thing happened. I was treading water, thinking I had about ten minutes before I finally sank below the surface to my watery grave. Then a boat motor sounded in the distance. It was a small motor boat and guess who was driving it?"
Devoted (Lace Underground Trilogy Book 3) by Tess Oliver / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes