OVER THE PAST COUPLEof hours, more people have been arriving.
I haven’t met any of them yet, and for that, at least, I’m grateful. Don has been busying himself with his guests downstairs, while I’ve been hiding out up here, waiting for the call that will mean the start of this ugly business.
I place my forehead against the cool, smooth wall tile and force myself to breathe.I count as I do so—one, two, three, four—slowly in and out. These men cannot take anything from me as a person unless I allow them to. They cannot change who I am. They cannot change the person I am destined to become. My body is just a vessel in which I reside. That alone isn’t what makes me human; my spirit and my will are.
Despite my internal mental reassurances, I can’t stop shaking. I’m nervous and jittery and my stomach won’t stop churning. I desperately wish I was somewhere else, but I’m utterly powerless to change my situation. I could scream and kick and bite and claw, but they outnumber me. All that will happen is I end up even more hurt. I might even end up dead.
Don’s voice comes from the top of the stairs. “It’s time, Honor.”
My legs feel weak, and I’m not even sure they’ll move. He might have to carry me down there. I don’t want to be some feeble girl who needs to be carried, though. I want to be strong. I want these assholes to see me as someone they need to be wary of.
I don’t want to be a victim.
Despite their reluctance, my feet finally start to move.
Don puts his hand out to me, but I refuse to take it.
“Remember what I told you,” he says. “Any bad behavior will be punished.”
“Yes,Daddy,” I say, a cut to my tone.
He doesn’t respond to it.
I follow Don down the stairs and into the living room, where I count at least seven men, not including my stepfather.
“Everyone,” Don says, gesturing toward me, “this is my stepdaughter, Honor.”
At the sight of the men, bile rushes up the back of my throat, and I freeze, my hands pinned to my sides.
They assess me, their gazes running over every inch of my body—arms, legs, breasts, face. I hate to think of the evil thoughts that run through their heads. What have these people done? Who have they hurt in the past to sate their sick needs? They range in ages from early twenties to one man who I guess to be in his late sixties. He hangs back, sitting with one leg crossed over the other, staring at me from behind a pair of designer glasses. His eyes are a pale blue, and when I accidentally make eye contact with him, my heart jolts. He is cool and calm, almost preternaturally so. I see no emotion behind those eyes—no, it’s not just no emotion, it’s no humanity.
Who is this man?
“How old did you say she is?” one of the younger men asks.
“Seventeen,” Don lies.
“She looks older.”
Don shrugs. “That’s our society these days, isn’t it? Kids growing up before their times.”
He snorts. “Shame.”
“She’s innocent, though,” Don says. “Untouched. I should know. Sheismy stepdaughter.”
That seems to light a fire in some of their eyes, a spark of new interest straightening spines and lifting chins.
I could tell them the truth. I could say I’m older and that I’m far from untouched, but where will it get me? I’m fully aware that my only value is in them believing I’m something I’m not. Without that, what’s to stop them just killing me?
Though, by the time they’re done with me, I might wish I was dead.