Trust your instincts.
It was one of the first lessons he’d ever been taught and he’d obeyed it religiously. Adam knew his instincts were good. He’d been saved by them too often to think otherwise.
Right now, those instincts were blaring, trying to warn him that something was wrong. But what could it be? He wasn’t in danger – heck, he wasn’t even working.
Instead, he was sat in a large, heavily decorated dining room, politely trying to keep the boredom he felt from showing on his face. He had the sneaking suspicion that he wasn’t succeeding, going by the slowly reddening face of the man seated to his right, at the head of the table.
A manicured hand reached across the table to grip his wrist. “Adam, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?” Iman’s mother – Aasia, she’d introduced herself as – suggested. “I’d hope that we could get to know one another before the wedding, but…” she gave a forlorn sigh. “Well, you know what Iman is like. Always in a rush.”
Adam made a non-committal noise which was all the invitation the woman sitting across him needed to keep talking.
“I’ve always said, I don’t know how Iman managed to be so different from me. I’m her mother but you wouldn’t know it by the way she acts!” Aasia laughed, high and grating, making Adam wince at the ugly sound.
He looked at Iman for help but her eyes were glued to her plate and she didn’t seem at all interested in joining the conversation any time soon. Was this revenge for leaving her alone with his mother? It sure as hell felt like it.
Thankfully, his mother in law seemed happy to babble away without any input from anyone else at the table. Aasia talked all the way through their meal about her recent trip, her problems, her friends and her problems.
Adam tuned her out easily enough and judging by the glazed look on her husband’s face, he wasn’t the only one bored by the mindless chatter. Eventually, once she’d exhausted herself, the Mrs. Rahman turned her attention back to him.
Adam felt ice run down his spine and he automatically sat straighter in his seat. For a moment there, the tall, thin woman had almost looked… sinister.
He blinked and the unnerving expression vanished, replaced by a look of avid curiosity. “I’m tired of talking all about myself. Adam, why don’t you entertain us?” Aasia’s tone made it clear that it wasn’t a request.
Adam cleared his throat, still puzzling over what he’d just seen. “What do you suggest?”
“Well,” Aasia drew out the word as she played with her glass, “what do you do?”
“Security,” Iman said succinctly. It was the first thing she’d said all night.
Aasia pounced. “Security? That’s lovely! My husband’s a politician, you know. We’re always looking for more security. Maybe we should be working with you, Adam!”
Iman coloured and opened her mouth to respond but Adam beat her to it. “I don’t think you want the type of security I offer,” he said blandly, finally understanding. Aasia Rahman may have looked like a porcelain doll but she was a viper.
The woman in question blinked. “Oh, what a shame,” she mumbled, disappointed.
‘A shame that you didn’t get to spring your trap,’ Adam thought cynically.
Aasia got to her feet. “Why don’t we go out onto the terrace? It’s such a lovely night.”
Adam was all too happy to agree. The overly rich food they’d been served had sat like a stone in his stomach and the stuffy, overly perfumed room wasn’t helping him keep it down. Fresh air sounded wonderful. He followed Aasia without a second thought.
It took Iman a moment to get up and follow. She hadn’t realized the direction the conversation had turned until she looked up and saw the two figured making their way outside. That moment cost her dearly.
By the time she’d gotten to the doorway, her stepfather was blocking it, that same ugly, filthy smile on his face as the one she’d seen him wearing in her dream.
Iman’s mouth went dry. “Excuse me,” she croaked out, trying to get past him.
Animals don’t smile, Iman remembered. They bare their teeth to show off their fangs.
That wasn’t a smile. It was a threat.
“What’s the rush?” he whispered. “Sit and talk with me for a while. The words themselves were innocuous. But the way he looked at her, running his eyes up and down her body slowly, smugly, like she was his for the taking. It made her ill.
Iman shuddered and jerked her eyes to the floor. “Excuse me,” she said again, licking her lips to try and moisten them.
He reached out a hand and took hold of her chin. Iman’s left cheek, long since healed, began to ache as she remembered the last time she’d been trapped in a hold like this.
He’d spoken up in her defence then. Had tried to get her mother to stop, albeit not very hard. And now… She couldn’t even finish the thought, her mind rebelling in a last ditch effort to shield her.
He saw the panic in her eyes and chuckled. “Are you scared?” he whispered gleefully. “You are!”
She needed to get away. Now. Before…
Her body wouldn’t budge. It was like her feet had grown roots.
Think! You can’t move. What next? What else can you do?
Scream! The thought flashed in the forefront of her mind.
Even as she opened her mouth, a large hand slapped over it, trapping the shriek that had been building.
“None of that,” he murmured irritably. “We don’t want anyone disturbing us, do we?”
‘Yes, they did!’ Iman thought hysterically.
‘Someone,’ she begged silently. ‘Please, someone find me!’
Her eyes were glued to the doorway, praying for someone to walk through it and… And what? Save her? No one had ever saved her from Aasia. The staff was too afraid and well-trained to interfere.
Her chest tightened as the realization sank in.
No one was coming to save her.
Iman gasped, fighting to get air into her lungs and the tips of two of those fat fingers slipped into her mouth.
The taste of tobacco and his revolting cologne made her gag.
Disgust and fury made her heart pound. Enough.
His other hand slid between her legs, yanking up the hem of her dress.
She couldn’t run. She couldn’t scream.
She gagged again and his fingers caught on her teeth.
Viciously, she bit down. Once, then when he swore, again. Blood filled her mouth and he dropped her.
Brutal satisfaction filled her as she heard his scream ring out, the tang of his blood still coating her tongue.