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Confessed (Vargas Cartel #3)

By:Lisa Cardiff

Chapter One


Hattie

My eyes fluttered open.

A maze of fuzzy shadows greeted me.

The pungent smell of ammonia flooded my senses.

My arms and legs prickled.

A film of humidity coated my skin.

My head throbbed in time with the rest of my body.

Hunger clawed at my stomach.

Thirst shredded my throat, making it nearly impossible to swallow.

I reached for my skull, and my arms shook with the effort. Metal shackles decorated my wrists like rusted bangles. Chains secured to the cement block wall dangled from metal rings on my shackles, clattering against the concrete floor every time I moved.

I traced my hairline with my fingers. Blood crusted on the side of my face and hair. My cheek felt puffy and sore to the touch.

I remembered fighting with that man on the street in Playa del Carmen. I remembered him striking the side of my head with his gun, but after that, everything was blurry like a fragmented nightmare. Non-distinct memories flashed through my mind like photographs.

A long car ride with a musty pillowcase over my head.

Arguments about where to take me.

Being pulled out of the car as my knees scraped across the dirt.

A phone call to Ryker.

Then, nothing…until now.

Keys rattled outside the metal door at the far side of the room. Seconds later, the deadbolt clicked, and the hinges squealed as the door sprung open. A fluorescent light overhead flickered to life with a slight hum. I squeezed my eyes closed, protecting them from the sudden burst of illumination. I heard the faint tapping of cockroaches scattering away from the light.

“Buenas tardes, Miss Covington.” The gravelly voice echoed off the walls, and I pried my eyes open.

“Hello,” I said, my voice scraping like sandpaper across my vocal cords.

“Do you remember me?”

I nodded, and pain shot through my head. “You’re Juan Alvarez.”

“Good.” He flipped open a silver colored folding chair propped against the wall and settled into it, his ankle crossed over the opposite knee. His stomach hung over his wide black belt. “We had to sedate you, so I didn’t know how much you’d recall from our first meeting.”

My lips parted as images flitted through my brain one after another. Juan Alvarez had threatened to rip off my fingernails and deliver them to Ryker along with other body parts if he didn’t return Anna Alvarez back to her family. Then, I lost it. I screamed. I kicked. I bit. I tore out his hair, and I ended up here—chained and caged like an animal.

My lips curved upward into something resembling a smile when I noticed the scratches carved into his cheek. I did that. I curled my hands into fists like a professional boxer. I narrowed my eyes into predator-like slits. If I weren’t chained to the wall, I’d attack him again. “I remember enough.”

“Right.” He stroked the side of his face, then stood. He paced back and forth in front of me without saying a single word. Dirt crunched under the weight of his black loafers. The tassels on the tops of his shoes swung back and forth like a hypnotic pendulum.

Without warning, he stopped moving, and his hands threaded into my hair. He yanked my head backward, and it collided with a dull thud against the wall. I chomped on my lower lip to stifle a whimper. It fucking hurt. My brain scrambled, and the corners of my eyes stung with dehydrated tears, but I refused to cry. I refused to show weakness. It wouldn’t help me. I’d melt into a blubbering puddle of fear, and I needed be coherent in order to survive.

“I don’t tolerate disobedience. You try that shit again, and I’ll fucking kill you. I don’t give a shit who your family is or who your boyfriend is. You’ll be nobody after I chop you into a million unrecognizable pieces and feed you to the coyotes. ¿Entiendes?” His sour breath wafted across the side of my face, and I gagged. A lopsided smirk split his bloated face. The gold crown on his front tooth winked at me, taunting me.

I nodded, clenching my teeth to stop them from clacking together as full body tremors possessed me.

“Enrique,” Juan spat as he glanced over his shoulder. “She’s ready for you.”

“Ready?” I whispered with my stare glued to the door.

A man with wavy dark hair that brushed the top of his shoulders strolled into the room. He wore faded baggy jeans and a black muscle shirt. Colorful tattoos of cartoon-inspired naked women and phrases in Spanish decorated his forearms. A bandage circled his right bicep. He couldn’t have been more than five years older than me, but something about him scared the shit out of me.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said as his eyes traveled the length of my body. He pulled a cigar out of his pocket, snipped the end and lit it, his inky eyes never leaving mine.

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