Home > Undeserving (Undeniable #5)(9)

Undeserving (Undeniable #5)(9)
Author: Madeline Sheehan

Following behind her, Frank observed the drugged sway of her gait, the way the straps of her dress kept falling down her arms, and wondered how many men had used her tonight. Not that he particularly cared, but he believed himself to be something of a people person. That is, when he could stomach the messy, unpredictable way so many people chose to live their lives, Frank enjoyed observing them. Often times it was his speculation that made what was going to come next all the more enjoyable for him.

For instance, Frank guessed that this whore had been working these same streets for the last decade or so, the last few years of which she’d started shooting junk. He surmised that her prices were cheap for two reasons. One, because she worked alone—there was no pimp holding a gun to her head, wanting his cut. And two, cheaper prices were more appealing to your average schmuck who wanted to get off and get home. Cheaper prices meant more customers, and more customers meant she’d be able to keep herself good and stocked with her daily dose of poison.

Partway down the alley the whore paused and swayed, turning to face him, half eclipsed in darkness, half lit by the moon. Frank approached her and pushed her into total darkness. His thoughts slid to the thick blade strapped to his belt, and a shudder of excitement rippled through him.

She’d had a family once, he supposed as he looked down at her. But whoever and wherever they were, they’d long since forgotten about her. There’d be no one to care, no one to grieve her. Hell, chances were she’d end up unclaimed, left to rot away in a nameless city grave.

Or maybe there was someone left. Maybe a grandmother or a sister. Maybe she’d taken off in the middle of the night, maybe they hadn’t seen or heard from her in years, and once they got word of her death, they’d—

Frank’s thoughts flickered, then dimmed, and then flickered again as an idea began forming in the deepest, darkest regions of his mind. At first he shoved the thoughts away, instantly dismissing them, and then…

He veered back and studied them, wondering…

“Pay up,” the whore said, her hand outstretched. Frank set the bills on her palm, watching as she tucked them swiftly down the front of her dress.

“How you want me—”

He grabbed her neck, cutting off her words and most of her air. While her eyes bulged with surprise and she clawed at his hand, he carried her the remaining several feet toward the alley wall, her shoes dragging noisily along the cement.

As he pushed her back against the wall, her legs flailed and she tore at his hand, gauging thin slices into his skin with her jagged nails. Frank hardly felt it. He was too focused, too ready, too excited for what was to come to care about half-assed scratches made by a dying whore. With his free hand, he gripped the handle of his blade and slid it from its sheath.

Staring down at her, his insides were on fire, his skin twitching, his gut burning with hot anticipation. But it was even more than that. What he was feeling, it was more than just some cheap thrill.

Slowly he dragged the tip of his knife up her side, savoring the precise moment that she realized she was going to die. Frank often wondered what went through their minds at that moment. Regrets, maybe? Did they think of someone they’d be leaving behind? Or were they simply consumed with fear?

One, two, he counted, and when he reached three, he plunged the blade into her side.

With each thrust of the blade, Frank’s breathing quickened. He breathed in through his nose, out through his mouth, watching with rapt delight as the flicker in the woman’s protruding eyes began to dull.

There was something so personal, so intimate, about watching another person die, even more so when you were the one to steal the life from them. Much like birth, death was every bit as beautiful, if not more so. And to be the reason… it was almost as if… almost as if you weren’t just witnessing a miracle, but causing one.

His head clear, his thoughts in perfect order, he released the whore, and her body folded quickly to the ground, her insides spilling out of her. Sheathing his blade, Frank bent down over the body and studied his kill, smiling faintly. Carefully lifting her hand so as not to disturb the rest of her, he yanked the gold chain from her wrist and slipped it into his pocket.

As he exited the alleyway, he began to whistle softly. The noise in his head was all but gone.

Frank had figured out how to bring Preacher home.

Even better, he knew how to keep Preacher home.

Chapter 5

She didn’t care that her lip was throbbing from where the beady-eyed trucker had slapped her. She’d been slapped before… and worse. She didn’t care that she was cold. She’d been cold many, many times before—freezing, even. She didn’t care that she was sopping wet, soaked straight through her clothing. She’d been wet before, too. And she didn’t care that she had only a crumbling, leaky overpass for shelter, which was doing very little to quell the rain-laden wind whipping around her. It wasn’t the first time she’d been stranded in the elements with nowhere else to go and nothing to do except wait it out.

She’d survived much worse than this, something that might seem impossible to those who didn’t live the way she did. Quite often, when her only shelter was the lip of a roof or a tree top, and she was forced to sleep up against a solid wall or a bark-roughened tree trunk, she would close her eyes and pretend she was in a warm bed, cocooned inside thick blankets, a fluffy pillow cradling her head. It didn’t always work, especially in more extreme weather conditions, but it worked enough that, even if it didn’t result in sleep, it served to occupy her mind.

What she did care about was that she’d just lost everything. Every single thing she had in this world—her canteen, her food, her money, her coat, all her clothing. They were all hard-won items to someone like her. Items that were now…just…gone.

Her heart fluttered, her chest filling with panic. What was she going to do?

If only she’d left well enough alone and hadn’t pushed her luck by searching through the rigs in the lot. She’d known this particular truck stop hadn’t been ideal. If only she’d stayed put inside the diner and waited out the night. Eventually she would have hitched a ride, New York City-bound.

She’d still have her bag, too.

She took a shuddering breath, a piss-poor attempt to calm her thundering heart, and began twisting the butterfly on her finger.

If she were a different girl, she guessed that maybe she would be crying right now. But she’d learned at a young age that tears didn’t change anything. Tears didn’t bring back the people you’d lost, they didn’t heal you when you were hurt or wipe away the ugly memories festering inside you. And they certainly didn’t replace bags that had gone missing.

The rainwater dripping from her sopping hair and rolling down her cheeks was as close to tears as she was going to get.

The flick and flash of a lighter drew her attention to the man beside her. Crouched on his heels, smoking a cigarette, he stared out across the dark highway.

He was hurt, too. He’d been favoring his left arm since they’d run from the truck stop, but he hadn’t mentioned it. He’d said very little to her actually, leaving her wondering if he blamed her for his current situation.

As if he could feel her eyes on him, his gaze found hers. He was half hidden in shadows; she stared at the only discernable feature she could see, the whites of his eyes. Brown eyes, she recalled. A dark brown that matched the rich shade of his hair and beard.

“Smoke?” Reaching across the space between them, he held out his cigarette in offering. She considered taking it—she could use a cigarette right now—but made no move to do so.

“I don’t bite,” he said, a hint of amusement in his tone. She didn’t respond and neither did she believe him. Everyone could and would bite. And she didn’t know him. She didn’t know what he was capable of.

A gust of wind blew suddenly through their small hiding space, and as a shiver tore through her, she snatched his cigarette quickly and turned away. Taking a long, hard pull, she closed her eyes, relishing the warm burn in the back of her throat, wishing it would spread to the rest of her.

The wind continued to blow. Above, the rhythm of the rain seemed to intensify and echo against their cement shelter. She wiggled her toes, hating the feel of wet socks against her cold feet. Hating even more that she didn’t have a dry pair to change into.

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