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Hunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton

Hunting Adeline

by H.D. Carlton


Book 2 in the Cat and Mouse Duology

The Diamond

Death walks alongside me,

But the reaper is no match for me.

I'm trapped in a world full of monsters dressed as men, and those who aren't as they seem.

They won't keep me forever.

I no longer recognize the person I've become,

And I'm fighting to find my way back to the beast who hunts me in the night.

They call me a diamond,

But they've only created an angel of death.

The Hunter

I was born a predator,

With ruthlessness ingrained in my bones.

When what's mine is stolen from me in the night,

Like a diamond hidden within a fortress,

I find that I can no longer contain the beast.

Blood will paint the ground as I tear apart this world to find her.

And bring her back to where she belongs.

No one will escape my wrath,

Especially not those who have betrayed me.



(copied from the book)

As some of you may know, the first book in this duet, Haunting Adeline, was banned due to the warnings. But it is necessary to have one. These are also available on my website.

This book contains very dark triggering situation such as graphic rape (these scenes are detailed, so please proceed with caution.) There is also graphic violence, gore, torture, sexual assault, kidnapping, psychological abuse, mental abuse, explicit sexual situations, human trafficking, slave trade, grooming, severe PTSD, and very particular kinks such as blood play, knife play, degradation, and somnophilia.

This book is significantly darker than the first. Please take these warnings seriously.

Your mental health matters.




When she warns you and says this book is significantly darker than the first, she is not trying to hype it up.

It's a true warning.

Hunting Adeline is the darkest book I have ever read.

There are parts of this story that absolutely disgusted me.

That were difficult to read.

Scenes that made my brain feel like it was cringing.

So why did I continue to read it?

Well, first, I was invested in the story. As dark as it is, as questionable as the characters are, I needed to know what happened to Adeline. I was genuinely interested in Zane's hunt, and after reading those difficult parts of the story, I wanted justice. I wanted a happily ever after. I wanted healing. I don't like detailed rape scenes in books, but I can get over it if it's essential to the story, which it is in this case.

There is another reason though. A darker reason.

Human trafficking is real.

It happens everyday.

In your town. In your country.

Thousands of people, women, children, and men, are stolen every. Single. Day.

Most die horrible deaths, after horrific abuses are inflicted on them.

While H.D. Carlton's books are fictional, these horrific things happen.

Take that in.

These horrific scenes are real life for other human beings.

The things Adeline goes through in this book will forever stay with me, because they are that traumatizing and detailed.

And it happens in real life.

I felt like I needed to expose myself to that pain. To acknowledge that this is a truly horrific world problem we have. It's easy to say "I'm aware of sex trafficking", and another to read what happens to the victims.

And yes, Hunting Adeline is fictional.

This isn't a real victims account.

But the brutality of rape, the psychological and physical abuse, of being stolen from your life and treated as less than ... that is real.

As for the overall story, I enjoyed it.

It will stay with me for a long time.

The things that I read in this book ... take the warning seriously.

I enjoyed that H.D. Carlton managed to weave romance into the book without it overpowering the overall story. Half the book, Zade and Adeline are separated, and yet, you feel the romance aspect of it. In Zade's determination to find her. In Adeline's thoughts of Zade. The last half of the book, Zade's respect to Adeline's healing is romantic. Until it gets a little twisted.

I don't think Adeline's healing journey is realistic, or healthy, but what do I know? If I think of it as Adeline taking control of her sexuality after her trauma, I can see it that way, but there were some things that she does that just doesn't make a lot of sense.

The writing is better in this one compared to Haunting Adeline, but she still uses wrong words to describe things. If I had a nickel for every time she uses the word orb for the shape of eyes, or describing Zane's eyes as Ying yang ... I would have a whole freaking dollar.

Just no.

Lemur's and owls have orb like eyes.

People don't!

There is also a scene where he rubs a rose along her vulva and pulls back and it's described as "dripping" with her arousal.

What did she do, pee on it? You would have to dip it in a cup full of ... that ... to get it to drip.

I just gagged a little.

I'm so sorry.

Welcome to my brain.

Despite the darkness of these books, I enjoyed them. I definitely will read Satan's Affair (a novella H.D. Carlton suggests you read BEFORE these books, which I didn't know until recently. Oops), and the future books that she intends to write involving the side characters of these books.

H.D. Carlton needs to work on some things - like word choice - but all in all, she is a go to author when I'm in the mood for something dark and twisted.

Patrick: “Sure is,”

he pants, sweat pouring down his pale face.

Zade: “Good,”

I mutter before gripping Patrick’s head and snapping it to the side, breaking his neck and killing him instantly.

Zade: “That’s for my grandma, dick.”

Jay: “Bro, none of your grandparents are still alive.” Adeline: “Don’t call me sexy,”

I snap, only because he’s right, and I have nothing better to say.

Rio: “Z gonna kill me for it?”

he challenges airily, feigning indifference. Although, that’s not how he sounded when I awoke in that van and overheard Rick and him discussing if the Society will offer them protection from Zade’s wrath. I shrug.

Adeline: “He’s going to kill you anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter.”

He’s quiet, and just when I’m convinced that he’s not going to say anything at all, I hear him whisper under his breath,

Rio: “I know.” Right as I exit the building, I inhale fresh air and meet a frantic Jay. I cough a few times, clearing my lungs as best I can before I take another puff on my cigarette.

Jay: “Seriously, dude? You’re smoking while burning down a building? You literally just inhaled a shit ton from the fire.” Jay: “Before you get growly and go on a killing spree, Tony the Tiger, there’s been some talk that they are not actually as bad as they’re making themselves out to be.”

I shoot Jay a look, but he ignores me. I’m scarier than Tony the Tiger, and he knows it. The second her hands drop, I calmly stand and turn to face her. And then I take a page out of Zade’s handbook of being a psychopath, grab her by the neck, whip her around and slam her against the vanity. Bottles of perfume and makeup brushes topple to the floor, and I hear a gasp from one of the girls behind me. Surprise widens her dark eyes as I come nose-to-nose with her.

Adeline: “Keep pushing my buttons, Sydney. If you perceived me as weak, then you’re going to get quite the fucking reality check. I put up with your shit this long because I’m sympathetic that Mommy and Daddy don’t love you, nor does Francesca. But I will not be bullied by you and continue to stay quiet.” Zade: “I’m a man of many talents. I’ll write an IOU on a piece of paper, and you can tuck that in your pocket for when you need it. One-time admission. Can’t be reused. Like a coupon.” What the fuck does he expect me to say to that? Yes, pedo master, I would forget all about Zade and only think of you and your small, puny cock. Fuck out of here, dickhead. Adeline: “Try not to miss me when I’m gone,”

I murmur, staring up sightlessly at the ceiling. I feel him glance up at me before focusing back on a particularly deep wound. He'll need a butterfly bandage for that one.

Rio: “I’ll pray your life is short,”

he responds finally. I smile, the first real one in months. Turns out I didn’t need that red lipstick after all. That was sweet of him to say. Daire: “You hover worse than a wife checking over her cheating husband’s shoulder,”

Zade: “I would say the scorned wife and I both have valid reasons.” Jillian: “Yeah?”

What a fluffy, warm person she is.

Zade: “You mentioned before that Francesca had a brother,”

Jillian: “Yeah, he’s one of the people I’d love for you to murder,”

Zade: “Well, what’s his fucking name?”

Jillian: “Rocco. Don’t know his last name.”

My world tilts on its axis. The possibility that we just found Addie is almost too much.

Jillian: “Helloooo?”

her voice rings out.

Zade: “Were you kept in a three-story colonial home?”

I name off a few more attributes of the property that might be recognizable, and when she doesn’t answer right away, I almost crack the phone in half.

Jillian: “That’s it,”

she says finally. Fuck.

Zade: “Jillian?”

Jillian: “Yeah?”

Zade: “I’m going to murder so many fucking people for you.”

The last thing I hear is her snorting before I hang up the phone, and I look up to meet Daire’s rounded eyes.

Daire: “We found her?”

Zade: “We fucking found her,” Adeline: "I need to shower,”

she admits, wrinkling her nose.

Zade: “You do stink,”

I say, my grin widening when she shoots me a glare. More often, I’ve been seeing her old self poke through. Sometimes it’s a jab at something I said, other times it’s a little smile, and then there are moments like now—where she looks like she wants to give me the one-two to my eyeballs. I eat it all up.

Adeline: “You’re supposed to say I smell like flowers.”

Zade: “Baby, there are flowers out there that smell like straight ass. So sure, you smell like those flowers.” Zade: “At least you’ll end up marrying a rich man,”

I comment. She pins me with a dry look.

Adeline: “Now I can never marry you. It’s my life’s purpose to disappoint her in every decision I make.”

I arch a brow.

Zade: “Don’t underestimate me, Addie. I’ll become a poor man for you.” Zade: “Meadows, baby. Our last name is Meadows.”

Adeline: “Yours. Don’t get ahead of yourself. You’ll be expected to beg.”

There’s no stopping the savage grin from gracing my lips.

Zade: “I love to beg.” Zane: “Are you saying I need to refine my food palette?”

Adeline: “Obviously,”

He leans in close, the leather groaning beneath his weight, and my breath hitches, all my senses invaded by the pure intensity that shrouds this man. His scent envelopes me, causing me to stiffen as his lips scarcely brush the side of my jaw.

Zade: “Your pussy is a delicacy, baby, and I could eat it forever and never grow tired of the taste of you. Is that refined enough?” Adeline: “I want to get a tattoo.”

He smiles.

Zade: “Of my name?”

I snort.

Adeline: “Keep dreaming, buddy.” Zade: "Do you want to talk about the attempted murder that just occurred?"

Adeline: "Not really,"

I answer, chopping off another piece of carrot.

Zade: "But I do."

I sigh, setting the knife down and pivoting to face him again.

Adeline: "Zade, I think I'd rather talk about my mother trying to convince me that chastity belts were the latest fashion when I was fourteen than talk about trying to stab you."

Another pause.

Zade: "Okay, so there's a lot to unpack here, and I'm not sure where to start."

Adeline: "Exactly, can you believe her? I told her she might as well make the chastity belt into an electric fence, too, so I don't have to suffer through that."

He arches a brow, fighting a smile.

Zade: "Yeah, baby, not dramatic at all." Zade: "I want you to do whatever you can handle, Addie. If that means staying home, I support you. If that means going on a massive murder spree, I’ll be right by your side, baby. You’re still having nightmares about Sydney and Jerry, and carrying around that guilt for protecting yourself. If you can’t learn to accept that, how will you accept taking anyone else’s life? Because believe me when I say, this won’t be self-defense from here on out.”

Adeline: “I don’t know how to accept it, Zade. I feel like I’m justifying murder.”

Zade: “Just like I ‘justified’ stalking you?”

He puts air quotes around the word because we both know Zade was well aware of what he was doing and how wrong it was.

Zade: “Forcing a gun into that pussy and making you come all over it? Or all the other times you told me no, and I did it anyway?”

he volleys back. The flush in my cheeks deepens, and my face burns from the reminder of that stupid gun.

Zade: “Did I know it was wrong? Of course, I did. But it clearly didn’t stop me from doing it. You need to figure out your morals, and what you’re okay living with. Not what you’ve been taught, but what you feel in your gut.”

Adeline: “So, stalking and assaulting me is written in your book of morals?”

Zade: “No,”

he says, his smile widening.

Zade: “I was obsessed with you from the moment I saw you. All those dark, twisted emotions I felt were the rawest form of who I am. I made the decision to show you that instead of concealing it. I never claimed to be a good person, little mouse, and that was something I decided I could live with. Just like murdering a bunch of pedophiles and human traffickers.” Adeline: “So, what’s been stopping you then?”

I rush out. Cocking his head, he waits.

Adeline: “From fucking me. You didn’t stop before. What’s stopping you now?”

He’s silent for a few beats.

Zade: “Because I wouldn’t be able to live with myself,”

he murmurs, staring at me thoughtfully.

Zade: “There would be a very different reaction this time around—you already know that.”

I cross my arms, popping out a hip.

Adeline: “Would there?”

Zade: “Yes. Do you think if I pinned you to the ground, you’d fight me at first only to end up grinding your pussy into my face because I’ve awakened something in you? Or do you think you’d fight like your life depended on it, only to end up mentally checking out from the trauma?”

I swallow, the truth tasting like dirt on my tongue.

Zade: “You will never hear me call myself a good man. Or kind. Or even honorable. There is very little left of that in me, and the truth is that it was never really there to begin with. I was born with a blackened soul and good intentions. And there is a difference between those who are needlessly evil and those who do bad things hoping that something good will come out of it. I'll let you decide for yourself which one I am.” Zade: “It’s because I love you, Adeline Reilly. And I know you love me back. When I’m inside you, you won’t be thinking of anything else but how to get me deeper. The only fear you’ll taste is from a God sending you to heaven too soon.”

My heart skids and comes to a crashing halt against my rib cage, giving out on me completely. My knees will be next, and that would be fucking embarrassing. He grins, his gaze turning predatory.

Zade: “That won’t be the only fear I’ll instill in you.”

Slowly, he begins to circle me while I stand frozen. His heat presses into my back, and his breath warms the side of my neck. My fight or flight instincts are kicking in, and my control over it is slipping.

Zade: “You will always be the little mouse, and I will always hunt you. I’ll patiently wait until you’re ready for me to touch you, but make no mistake, Adeline, it’ll still hurt when I do.” Adeline: “Uh, wait a second, took matters into her own hands how?”

she questions, sending Sibel a suspicious look.

Sibel: “I killed my therapist,”

she answers, her smile dropping.

Sibel: “I didn’t want to kill her. She smelled like pine trees, so she wasn’t a demon. The first and last person I’ve ever hurt who wasn’t deserving, I promise.”

My mouth drops.

Adeline: “Zade,”

I whisper, my discomfort growing. Sibel looks to me, noting my deepening fear.

Sibel: “Please don’t be scared of me. You smell like the most wonderful flowers. I would never hurt you.”

Zade: “She’s not going to hurt you, baby,” Sibel holds up a wicked, pink knife.

Sibel: “And he got my knife back! The police had it as a murder weapon, and Zade got it out for me.”

Zade: “She was literally losing her mind over it, and didn’t give me much choice,” Adeline: “How about just stalker,”

I cut in dryly.

Zade: “Come on, baby, that’s not what you were calling me when you were screa—”

Adeline: “Shut up, or I’ll start screaming other men’s names and I promise I don’t need your dick anywhere near me to do it.”

Challenge sparks in his eyes, signaling that this conversation is quickly taking a nosedive.

Zade: “You really want to cause mass extinction for those names? Moan them, little mouse, I dare you. Whichever ones you choose, not a single man by that name will fucking exist anymore. How about we start with Chad? We can definitely live without the Chads in the world.” Oh my God. I’m living with nothing but psychopaths. I knew this but fuck me.

Hey, God? Do ya mind sending down some medication to correct your gross mishandling of these two demented souls? Zade: "Money is an illusion, and a powerful one. It turns men into spineless assholes with no real regard for human life except their own. Xavier will use his money to protect himself. Especially because he’s a little bitch and, well…”

he peers up at me with a savage smile.

Zade: “I’m pretty fucking scary.”

He serves dinner, saving me for last. The hairs on the back of my neck rise as he approaches me; my body warming as he draws near. He crowds over me when he sets my plate down, the heat radiating from him sinking beneath my skin. Then, he leans down, and my brain short-circuits. I can’t decide if I want to embrace the darkness or run from it. Hot breath fans across my ear as he whispers,

Zade: “Not only am I scary, baby, but I’m really, really angry. And when I’m angry, I’ll make them pray for Hell.” Daya: “I hate to cut into this beautiful moment, but Sibby is taking her clothes off.”

Daya’s voice snaps me out of whatever trance Zade has pulled me into, and almost violently, my head whips towards Sibby. Sure as shit, she’s in the process of slipping off her neon green tights.

Adeline: “Sibby!”

I shout exasperatedly.

Adeline: “Stop taking your clothes off, we are not having a fucking orgy!” I pinch the bridge of my nose and wonder how much Tylenol it’s going to take to kill a Sibby-induced headache. She’s currently in a fucking argument. With her goddamn self.

Sibby: “Mortis, I told you, the police are looking for me everywhere. We can’t go outside for a walk, or to get some alone time—we’re trapped!”

She quietens, listening to whatever her imaginary boyfriend is telling her. A disgruntled sound leaves her throat.

Sibby: “I miss those things, too, but this is the way things have to be. Timmy—stop trying to take my clothes off in front of Zade!”

Zade: “If you do that, I will literally lose my shit,”

I snap, shooting her a murderous look. I’m already two seconds away from losing it anyway. Her eyes snap to mine, wide with innocence.

Sibby: “It’s not my fault!”

she screeches. She points her finger to a random spot, assumingly where she thinks the culprit is.

Sibby: “It’s his.” Adeline: “Quit being inappropriate,”

she snaps, her caramel eyes wide. She’s so goddamn beautiful, it hurts. Especially when she’s angry.

Zade: “Impossible,”

I murmur, but I leave her be for now, turning my attention back to the screen. Within minutes, several officers are coming at me from all directions. I call out to Jay several times, but he doesn’t answer. Just as I’m getting ready to lead the cops straight to his house, he comes onto the speaker.

Jay: “I go take a shit for five minutes, and you’re in a high-speed car chase when I come back,”

he says with exasperation. Sibby pops her head through the seats, swiveling her head back and forth between us.

Sibby: "My henchmen are already uncomfortable back here as it is,"

she says, giving us an evil eye.

Sibby: "If you're going to be doing dirty things, make sure all of us can join in."

Addie covers her red face.

Adeline: "Oh, my God, Sibby. First off, we're not doing anything. Secondly, even if we were, you would not be joining us."

Sibby appears affronted by that news as I take another sharp turn. Jay tells me to turn left a second later, sending the car careening to the side again.

Sibby: "Well, that's not very nice,"

Sibby remarks.

Zade: "Sibby, not everyone likes to have group sex like you,"

I bite out, in disbelief that we're even having this conversation right now. Her head whips to me, her brown eyes wide.

Sibby: "Really? Why? It's so much fun!" She huffs, but ultimately sits back down in her seat. I still hear her whisper,

Sibby: "He's such a possessive dickhead. I'm glad you guys like to share me."

Addie muffles a smile by biting her lip, almost distracting me enough to go flying into a ditch. That's it. I'm doing this shit by myself from now on. I have my writhing girlfriend next to me, and a horndog in the backseat who’s testing my patience. I swear to God, if she makes a move on Addie, I'll kick her little ass. Adeline: “Our mouths are touching the same spot,”

she says shakily.

Adeline: “Does that count as kissing?”

Zade: “You tell me, little mouse. When I make you cry out for God, does that count as praying?” There are probably several people who heard him scream, but no one is going to help him. Not when they’ve got their own criminal activities taking place and their noses or veins clogged with whatever drug they could find. Pretty sure a dead guy is lying on the side of the street up the road, and several people stepped over him and kept it moving. It’s a very mind your own fucking business type of neighborhood. Perfect place to commit homicide.

Weather’s nice, too. Rick: “You’re going to burn in fucking Hell with me,”

the sad little man spits, saliva shooting from his mouth.

Rick: “Just you fucking wait.”

I sigh wistfully, rolling up each of my sleeves.

Zade: “I sure hope so, Rick. That way I can torture you there, too.” When Sibby spots our new arrivals, she jumps up and down excitedly.

Sibby: “They smell positively rotten,”

she shouts, curling her lip in disgust. Pointing to Rocco, she says,

Sibby: “That one smells like rotten eggs. And the other smells like a rotten pumpkin.”

Mine and Zade’s eyes clash, a what the fuck look on both of our faces.

Zade: “Pumpkin?”

he mouths silently with confusion. I shrug, too exhausted to give a shit. Most of this day has been spent traveling, and I'm ready for bed.

Adeline: “Sibby, get her legs. We’ll carry her down together,”

I direct. She turns around and speaks to one of her henchmen.

Sibby: “You guys are bathing their stench off me later.”

Adeline: “Oh my God,”

I say, turning my gaze back to Zade’s.

Adeline: “I’m going to have to give the tub a bath tomorrow.”

He shakes his head, appearing disturbed.

Zade: “Use holy water. Lots of holy water.” Adeline: “Do you want to lick me, Zade?”

I ask, eyes threatening to cross.

Adeline: “I’m so ready to come.”

He drops his gaze to our hands, baring his teeth from the restraint.

Zade: “Yes,”

he chokes out.

Adeline: “Say please.”

A flick of his dangerous gaze and savage curl to his lips that promise retribution, but he doesn’t hesitate.

Zade: “Please, little mouse.”

Adeline: “One lick,”

I allow.

Adeline: “Make it count.” Zade: “One day, you’re going to feel safe with me again,”

he whispers, his voice dangerously soft.

Zade: “And when that day comes, you better pray I’m feeling generous.” Zade: "See, that's what we're not going to do, Adeline,"

he barks, baring his teeth.

Zade: "We're not going to act like you're so tough that you don't need me anymore. Because you want to know something, baby? There are very few men in this world capable of killing me. And I fucking need you. Do you understand me?"

I grit my teeth, refusing to answer.

Zade: "Do you think needing me somehow makes you weak?"

Adeline: "Doesn't it?"

I snap.

Zade: "No, baby, it makes you strong.”

He bends down, putting his face directly into mine.

Zade: "I may own every breath in your body, but make no mistake, Adeline, you own mine, too. I am yours to command. To bend and break. To mold and manipulate. Do you think that makes me weak? Or do you think I'm strong enough to admit that even though my body can physically live on without you, I would never get my fucking soul back?”

His hand slides into my hair and fists the strands tightly.

Zade: "Without you, I will shatter. But with you, I am indestructible." Zade: “What you’ve forgotten is that the heart beating inside your chest isn’t fucking yours,”

he snarls.

Zade: “It’s mine. And if my heart has stopped working, then pull that trigger, little mouse. Kill the rest of me. I’m nothing if I’m not the reason you breathe.” Zade: “I’ve seen the woman who could hardly stand to be in her own skin, and the woman comfortable in a gothic mansion, at home with herself and the ghosts that haunt her. I loved both versions of you, and I love who you are now—someone full of both strength and vulnerability. Yet still, you carry fire in your heart, and that will never fucking change. They will never take that from you, Adeline.” Zade: “Crawl to me,”

he orders, his voice as rough as lava rock, yet as enticing as the spiced whiskey he swallowed.

Zade: “Show me how pretty you are begging on your knees for my cock.” Zade: “I don’t care if I need to set this world on fire until there’s no one left but you and me. The world will burn around us, and I’ll gladly live in chaos with you as long as the only person that is a danger to you is me.” Adeline: "I may have cracked, but they did not shatter me. My rose still has fucking thorns, Zade. Do you understand me?” Zade: “A good man would be sorry that he corrupted something so pure.”

Adeline: “You’ve never been a good man,”

I whisper, reiterating the exact words he’s told me so many times before.

Zade: “No. But I have always been yours.” Zade: “Are you angry because she never moaned your name?”

Zade challenges. He’s right—I never did, despite how hard Xavier tried.

Zade: “Did she cry out for God?”

Xavier: “Yes,”

Xavier spits, and fuck, I’m falling apart. I thrust against Zade’s hand, rolling my hips mindlessly, the bliss eroding my entire being.

Zade: “Good,”

he says, a grin in his voice.

Zade: “That means she was crying out for me.”

Adeline: “Oh my God, Zade,”

I sob, the orgasm building, forming into a sharp point right where his fingers are rubbing.

Zade: “That’s it, baby. Show him who you’re really praying to.”

Zade: “I’ve followed you through lifetimes, Adeline. My soul needs you so badly that I’ve become a shadow, destined to hunt you for eternity.” Zade: “Does anything about the way I love you feel tragic?”

I ask, brushing my lips across her jaw.

Adeline: “Yes,”

she whimpers.

Adeline: “But only because one day it will end.”

A growl rips from my throat, and I fist her hair, tipping her head back and forcing her to see the truth.

Zade: “You and I will never end, little mouse. Even when we’re six feet under, and our bones are dust, I will haunt your soul until it aches to be free of me. And then, I will hold you tighter.” There will never be another that looks like him—never another that will be anything like him. And there’s a small part of me terrified to see the day Zade dies. Though I’ll have a lot to fucking say if he croaks before he turns ninety. Asshole jumped through hoops to get me, now he has to suffer through a long life of having me. Adeline: “I love you, Zade. Sometimes I can’t fucking stand it,”

I say, my voice raspy and uneven.

Adeline: “But it was the only thing that kept me alive. You saved me. Even when we were apart, you saved me. And I hope to God you never stop hunting me.”

Adeline: “Oh my God, please, I can’t anymore!”

I feel his fist slam into the mattress beside my head with a guttural growl, and his tongue slides along my cheekbone, lapping up the teardrops.

Zade: “Eyes on me when you’re praying to me,” Every day, we come a little closer to death—our bodies deteriorating just a little more. And if this is what dying feels like, then I never want to feel anything else. Sibby: “Give us two seconds!”

she shouts from the depths, but Addie is already tapping her little feet down the stairs like a roadrunner on crack.

Zade: “Don’t forget your knives and guns, mouse. And, Sibby… limit your knives and guns.” Before I can land another punch, this one to his throat, his head kicks back, a hole now in the center of his forehead. I turn with wide eyes, finding Zade tucking away his weapon.

Zade: “Sorry, baby. He touched your ass, therefore, I needed to kill him.” Adeline: "You’re going to ask me to stop. And you’re going to tell me you want the old Addie back. But she’s gone, Mom. And I know Dad disapproves of the new version of me, but I hope one day, you both will relearn to love who I’ve become.”

A single tear breaks free, and I curse the drop for betraying me. I quickly wipe it away, sniffling again.

Adeline: “I’ll understand if you can’t. Sometimes I struggle with loving myself, too. But you know the one person who will? Who will always love me unconditionally? It’s my criminal boyfriend. And don’t you think that’s just fucking admirable?”

I smile without humor.

Adeline: “I think it’s only fair if we try, though. You decided that when I came home, I was worth loving as a broken shell of a person. I think you can learn to love me as someone who is fierce and strong, right? So now, I want you to come home, and whatever version of yourself you wake up to be, and whatever version you grow into—I’ll love you, too.” Zade: “Do you want me to go kidnap her?”

he offers. I snap my head to him, my rage deepening.

Adeline: “He’s not letting me see her because we’re criminals. And your solution is to… commit another crime?”

Zade: “Well, when you put it like that.” Adeline: “You will never be able to live without me, Zade,”

I breathe.

Adeline: “If you’re my death, then I’m your fucking lifeline.” Adeline: “You’re always going to be a creep, aren’t you?”

Zade: “And my being a creep is always going to make your pussy wet. My hands land on her hips and squeeze while she leans forward.

Zade: “Don’t mistake my submission for weakness, baby,”

she breathes into my ear, voice husky with desire.

Zade: “All the ways I’m going to hurt you will be intentional.” A sharp pain pierces my bottom lip, her teeth sinking into the tender flesh and drawing blood. Before I can snap back, she pulls away and looks over my face with pride. It’s only then I notice the rope is tightly secured around my wrists. If I wasn’t seconds away from ripping her throat out and fucking her blind, I’d be impressed.

Adeline: “Black eye and a bloody lip. I think that’s enough kicking your ass for now.”

She firmly slaps my cheek in a good job, sport type of way before lifting off of me and settling in the chair beside me. Zade: “You have a spectacular forehead, my friend,”

Zade says, a cloud of smoke swirling from the depths of his mouth. Jeff is strapped to a metal chair, and Zade is sitting across from him, puffing on a cigarette with one hand, and bouncing a little bouncy ball off his forehead with the other.

Adeline: “Where the hell did you even get the ball from?”

I ask, shaking my head as it rebounds off Jeff’s very red face again and back into Zade’s awaiting hand. Our captive is not a happy camper. He’s seething at Zade, his entire body shaking from how heated he is. He shrugs noncommittally.

Zade: “I found it.”

Okay. Whatever. Adeline: “Oh my God, Zade, please,”

she pleads breathlessly. Releasing her jaw, I slide my hand down the planes of her stomach to her drenched pussy, the tips of my fingers teasing her clit.

Zade: “You pray so pretty, little mouse,”

I murmur.

Zade: “But I want to hear you screaming for mercy.” Zade: “Your body was fucking made for me. So you’re going to be a good girl and fucking take it.” Adeline: “Are you proposing because you’re in love with me or because I gave you anal?”

I tip my head back, a laugh working from my throat. And when I drop my head down again, a smile still on my face, she’s sliding the ring onto her finger.

Adeline: “Don’t answer that. You’ll make me change my mind if you say it’s because you’re in love with me. I want to be rewarded for the anal.”

My grin widens, and I roll her over to me, kissing her bare shoulder.

Zade: “I do love you, you know?”

Adeline: “I know,”

she whispers.

Adeline: “And I’ll marry you anyway because I love you, too.” I was wrong. Heaven isn’t a place you go to when you die, it’s inside the person that’s worth dying for.


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