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Slaughter by Shantel Tessier (1)

PROLOGUE

PRESLEIGH

Fifteen years old . . .

 

“FIVE …”

I run down the stairs, looking over my shoulder to see if he’s following me. With every step I take, my loud feet give my location away in the large and silent house.

When I hit the landing, I grip the brown wooden banister and use it to spin myself around. I drop to my knees, my jeans allowing me to slide on the tile and yank open the little door that isn’t visible to the naked eye. You have to know it’s there.

“Four …”

I quickly crawl inside the small space and pull the door closed. Placing my back against the interior wall, I pull my knees to my chest. It’s dark in the small, confined space. I clamp my hand over my mouth to quiet my heavy breathing as my heart races.

He’ll find me. The question is how long before he does?

“Three …”

His voice booms through the thick walls, and I have a moment of panic. I should have run outside. At least then I could have kept running. Now I’m trapped.

“Two …”

My knees start to shake, and my heart pounds. My head snaps up when I hear his footsteps on the stairs I’m hiding underneath. His aren’t rushed like mine were, though. He’s taking his time, drawing it out.

He chuckles. “You’re terrible at hiding, Bunny. You know I always find you.”

He’s right. You would think after years of practice, I’d be a little better. Smarter. But then again, maybe I want to be found.

I hear his shoes hit the tile and then silence. I look straight ahead at where I know the trap door is. I can’t see it, but I can almost hear him breathing on the other side.

“One …” The door is yanked open, and a set of blue eyes stare into mine as he kneels in front of my hideout. “I found you, Bunny.”

I drop my hands and stretch out my legs. “That’s not fair,” I whine.

“What’s not fair? You always hide in the same spot.” He gives me his winning smile. The one I’m in love with.

When he reaches his hand in, I take it, and Avery pulls me out. “Plus, you’re getting a little too big to fit in there.”

I gasp at that statement and shove him. He grabs my wrists and pulls me against his chest. His right hand caresses my cheek, and it makes me blush. “I found you, Bunny. You know what that means?”

I smile shyly and drop my head. My heart pounds just as hard as it did when I was hiding from him. Only for a different reason now.

His fingers grip my chin gently, and he raises my head, forcing me to look up at him. “You’re not playing fair,” I say, nervousness starting to bubble up in my stomach.

“I never do.”

His lips come down on mine and give me a sweet kiss. I open my lips for him to deepen it when he pulls away from me quickly, leaving me disappointed.

“Get out of here, Vaughn!” he barks.

I look over to see his older brother standing at the other end of the hall. He’s holding a video camera, recording us.

“Go ahead, Avery,” he taunts. “Show me what you were going to do to her.” He pulls the camera away from his face and winks at me.

Avery stiffens. “Go upstairs, Bunny. I’ll be there in a minute.”

“But—”

“Go!” he orders, interrupting me.

Vaughn lifts his chin and puckers his lips to blow me a kiss. “Yeah, go wait upstairs for me, Bunny. Make sure to undress before you crawl into my bed.”

Avery runs straight for him. He clocks him in the face, making Vaughn fall back onto his ass. The video camera hits the tile with a clank.

“I’ve warned you, asshole!” Avery growls.

“Come on, bro. I’ll share any of my women with you,” Vaughn continues.

“Keep your hands off her!”

“ENOUGH!”

I take a step back, hitting the wall I was just hiding in, when their father enters the hallway and yanks Avery off Vaughn. “You two knock it off,” he orders.

My father chooses that time to join us, and I pull my shoulders back when he glares at me with his dark brown eyes. There’s only one reason he’s here. And it’s not good. “What did you do?” he demands.

I open my mouth to answer, but Vaughn beats me to it. “We were just playing around.”

I say nothing, and Avery glares at him.

“Well, knock it off,” their father orders. Then he turns to Avery. “Meet me in the cellar in ten.”

I swallow nervously, and my stomach knots up at his words. The cellar? We all know what he does down there. That’s why my father is here. They are in business together. They sell anything and everything. Drugs, guns, people. Well, more like girls. I was born into a world where anything can be for sale for the right price. No matter what. They will strip you of the life you know and bind you to an eternity of servitude.

Slavery.

“Yes, sir,” Avery says with a nod and then he walks over to me, grabs my hand, and drags me up the stairs I had just run down.

Shoving me into his room at the end of the hall, he slams the door shut behind us. “You should go home,” he says with a sigh.

My chest tightens at his words. I hate it there. “But I wanna stay here with you. We were gonna watch a movie,” I remind him.

He runs a hand through his dark hair nervously and takes a step back from me. “That was before my father wanted me to join him.”

Placing my hands on his forearms, I lick my lips. “Just don’t go …”

“You know I can’t do that, Bunny!” he snaps, pulling away from me.

I wrap my arms around myself. “Do you enjoy it?” I ask, my voice barely over a whisper.

He reaches out and pulls me to him. “Look at me,” he orders. I slowly lift my eyes to meet his, and they look down at me with concern. “I’m not like them,” he tells me. “And you know that.”

I bite my bottom lip. “But you—”

“Play my part,” he interrupts me. “I do what I need to do. Just a few more years. Once you graduate, we are out of here. Together.” He wraps his arms around my waist. “It’ll be me and you, Bunny.” He lowers his forehead to mine, and whispers, “All I need is you.” Then he seals that promise with a kiss.