Page 23 of Corrupt Kingdom

When I’m done in the greenhouse, I make my way back into the main part of the house. On the first day, I had noticed stairs, and today, I’m finally prepared to search. There’s no light, so I leave the door open and head down. The dog follows me, and when I get down there, you can smell the dank air.

It’s an old storage room, maybe for wine. When I look around, I notice old metal chains on the floor. A shiver runs down my spine as I realize this didn’t hold wine; it holds prisoners. They’re too old for Cyrus to have put them there. My curiosity piques. What was this place, and how did he come to purchase it?

Is this his family’s house? Is kidnapping in his blood?

No. I refuse to believe that. If that was the case, why hasn’t he come back?

He muttered it was for my protection.

From whom or what, I don’t know.

But why is the better question. It’s the question that has plagued me for days. I need to find out.

I wake the next day to a sound in the house. The sound of something that sounds a lot like the door opening. This could be my chance to escape . . . I look out the window, but I don’t see any boats.

It doesn’t matter, though. Even if there is no boat, and I can’t escape, I don’t care. No, but what it does mean is that maybe someone is here.

Someone who can help me.

Or even just someone to talk to.

Never in my life have I been much of a talker. Often, I have chosen to be alone, but I still miss the companionship. Even before I came here, after my mom had succumbed to her depression and stopped talking to me, I at least had her presence. Here, I have no one. Well, that’s not true. Here, I have a dog, but he doesn’t answer me. Though that doesn’t stop me from talking to him.

The idea of not being alone has me quickly putting on my clothes, and then I find myself running down the stairs.

As soon as I reach the landing, I realize no one has come to save me.

It’s Cyrus in the foyer, and Cerberus is beside him.

A strange feeling works its way down my spine as I take him in. It’s terrifying because it doesn’t feel like fear. It feels like something entirely different.

Excitement.

It feels a lot like excitement as butterflies start to swarm in my belly.

Shit.

I’m actually happy to see him. I hate how happy I am.

No. It’s not him. This isn’t about him, in particular. It could be anyone, and I would be internally jumping for joy. That’s what happens when you have no one to talk to for days. Hell, the Grim Reaper could walk in this door right now, and I’d probably ask him to join me for dinner. Or in this case, make it Hades. I tone down my thought. No matter how starved for attention I am, I won’t let him know.

“You’re here.”

His expression darkens when our gaze meets. “I am.”

“Do you ever speak in full sentences?”

“Didn’t I just now? I am. That’s a full sentence.”

“Yes. But not really.” The man drives me crazy. I take a deep breath and try again. “Why are you here?” It’s really a dumb question, but I ask anyway. I know why he’s here, to make sure I eat.

“Have you forgotten our deal? I’m here to fulfill my promise, Sun.” I’m perplexed by why he keeps calling me that, but by the time I open my mouth to ask, he’s already heading toward the kitchen.

Like Hansel and Gretel looking for breadcrumbs, I follow him and then take my seat at the table.

He’s already pulling out whatever he brought for me. Bare bones. That’s what he does. He gives me just enough to live, and then like the asshole he is, he takes days to return.

I’m not an idiot, but I still play the game. He knows he doesn’t have to answer any questions in order for me to eat, but he likes wielding the power.

I grab the fork out of his hand and scoop a bite of the rice in the bowl. He walks over to the fridge and places the rest of the containers to last me until he returns in a few days.

I take a bite, swallow, and then place my fork down. “What is this place?” I ask, gesturing my hands around the space.

He turns from the fridge, directing his attention on me now.

“I thought a girl as smart as you would know what a house is.” Deep, smooth, and laced with sarcasm, his voice washes over me, making me clench my fist and try my hardest not to punch him.

I could try, but something tells me it wouldn’t end well for me.

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