2 Months ago
Helplessness is my new normal.
If not for the protection of my Deverough name, nothing would separate me from the others trapped in this living hell. I walk around free, the honored guest of Tomas Benefield, a man who makes his living ruining human lives while they endure horror upon horror. It’s been five weeks of living hell, and I don’t think I can survive much more.
“Miss Deverough…” One of the guards pokes his head inside my room.
“Mr. Benefield requests your presence.”
Orders are given and I obey. I’m but one step from a slave. The other girls are slaves. I’m going to say that again because I can’t believe something like this exists.
They are slaves.
Those girls are trained and sold like chattel. They’re nothing more than a commodity moving through the despicable industry of sex trafficking. There’s no humanity in this godforsaken place. There’s no escape.
I tap my foot and my knee bounces with nervousness. Sitting in front of the makeup mirror, I make myself beautiful for a monster.
I make myself beautiful… I give a sharp shake of my head, but it doesn’t help. This isn’t a dream. It’s all too real.
This is my new life, a living horror show. Unlike the girls, however, I’m treated as a guest. Although an uncomfortable shift hangs in the air. It’s been five weeks. Five long weeks waiting for the ransom demand to be met.
“I’m just finishing up.”
The guard kicks his heel against the doorjamb. “Now, Miss Deverough.”
“Of course.” I deliberately set down my makeup brush, making it look like my compliance is my wish rather than Benefield’s demand. “Where will I find him?”
“Thank you.” I glance into the mirror, catching the guard’s eye in the reflective glass.
He holds my eye for a moment, then turns with a derisive snort. None of the guards are allowed to touch me, and it irritates them. It’s a very small freedom, and I cling desperately to it.
For weeks, Tomas Benefield tells me he will let me go, yet here I remain, his special guest.
It’s all an act, me getting dressed like I’m going out for a night on the town.
While the guard waits, I take one last look in the mirror and put on my game face. Turning with a false smile, I rise gracefully and walk out of my room as if it’s my choice to do so.
The guard follows. He’ll trail discreetly behind me, ensuring I don’t make a break for it. Like there’s anywhere to go.
Ignoring him, I begin the long trek to Benefield’s office.
We pass a multitude of girls, all in training, performing their domestic chores: cleaning, polishing, vacuuming, and more. They do it without clothes. Clothing is a reward, which must be earned.
They look at me, or rather through me, with heart-wrenching vacancy in their eyes. Their innocence fled, along with any hope or any dreams they may have had for a life they will never get to lead.
Trafficked for their beauty, they’re among the taken. I am too, but I was kidnapped and am being held for ransom. Those girls come from homes without the resources to buy their freedom. I, on the other hand, come from wealth.
The Deverough name is well known in the shipping industry, and my father commands the resources needed to break me free of this madness.
But something’s not right.
The Retreat, which is now my prison, is beyond extravagant. It’s a massive display of one man’s wealth and the power he wields.
Luscious vegetation spills out of manicured flower beds set in interior courtyards. Fountains cast architecturally designed sprays of water into complex designs. Colorful birds squawk in their lavish cages. They’re prisoners just like me.
Stone archways sit atop intricate columns and line the exterior of the courtyard. Between the columns, frescos of impressive artistic talent draw the eye. There’s even a butterfly and hummingbird enclosure for the guests to enjoy.
So much money.
I thought the Deverough’s commanded wealth, but this is beyond comprehension.
Outside Benefield’s office, I take in a deep breath and brace myself. A knock on the door is initially met with silence, but then his gruff voice calls out.
I push on the door, but the guard behind me places his palm on the rough wood and forces it open. I step under his arm and into Benefield’s domain.
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