Chapter 2

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The fat man with the whip narrows his eyes. "Excuse me?"

The laughter and chatter gradually dies down from the balcony. The captive women still crying grow quiet. And all eyes slowly turn toward me.

My nervous throat fights the urge to swallow, and I raise my left arm and point to where I want to go. Where my sister is. "I want to go with them."

The fat man's eyes narrow even more to two seedy slits, and then he laughs, deep and evil, as he unravels his whip and snaps it above his head.

I dig my nails into my palms and concentrate on not flinching when the whip's crack reverberates in the air around me and vibrates through my skull.

The fat man turns and looks up to those on the balcony, like he's waiting to be told what to do. No one does or says anything for a good solid few seconds. And then the red-haired lady starts to raise that golden rod again.

Determination replaces any lingering fear. "No!" I repeat and jab my finger over to the left. "I said I want to go with them." I lock my jaw muscles and keep my eyes fastened on the lady while all around her people start to whisper.

She smiles, but nothing pleasant comes across in the curve of her lips. And though nearly twenty five feet separate us, her wickedness curls around me.

I scowl. No, I definitely don't want to go with her.

She nods, ever so slightly, and the fat man slings his whip through the air. I register its lash a second's fraction before I back flip off the platform and drop and roll across the dirt.

I come up on all fours, staring, concentrating on keeping my loud breaths steady, like my father taught me. The crowd on the balcony laughs like they think it's the funniest thing in the world to see a little woman about to get beat.

Blood rushes through the fat man's face, spreading red all the way to his hairline. He nods to two soldiers who each grab one of my arms.

They're enormous and I'm nothing next to them, but I still fight their hold. I yank at it. Jab the heel of my foot into one of their legs. And sink my teeth into the other one's bicep.

The fat man stalks toward me, his eyes clinging to me as he slowly winds his whip and makes a show of fastening it back onto his hip. Blood pounds in my ears, echoing in my head, muting the lingering laughter and whispers from the balcony.

He steps right up to my face. "You're a little bitch. And I will break you," he promises.

I hike my chin. "Give it your best."

He rears his meaty hand high in the air. I catch a glimpse of a gaudy silver ring right before he backhands me across the face.

Blood flies through the air. From my mouth, my nose, I can't tell, but I snap my head up and spit right in his face.

I won't go down easily.

The fat man brings his fist back and punches me straight in the gut, lifting me off the sand. A grunt escapes my lips and I wish more than anything I could draw it back in. I don't want him to know he's causing me pain.

I kick out with my sandaled foot and my heel connects with his shin. I concentrate on the most defiant look I have. Little does this fat man know the training I used to do with my dad. My pain tolerance is high.

"That all you got?" I sneer in full on provoking mode, which earns me another backhanded slap.

This time his ring catches on my cheek and I feel a sliver of skin peel away.

"Fifty thousand!" someone yells from the balcony and I look up to the short skinny man.

I smile. Yes.

Everyone just stares at him, like fifty thousand is a ridiculous amount to spend in this twisted marketplace.

"Fifty thousand," he says again, staring right at me.

The fat man gazes up to the red-haired lady, who gives me a long menacing look but doesn't raise her rod. Relief washes through me as the soldiers sling me over to the clump of women going to where my sister is. My sister.

The bald fierce man roughly slides my tunic back on me, and after he shackles my ankles he stands and looks down at me. His gray-eyed gaze traces the cut on my cheek and the blood seeping from my nose. But his stoic expression gives no clue as to what he is thinking.

In our shackles, we're led from the marketplace into a back alley and loaded into a wooden cart attached to horses.

"Are you insane?" Camille whispers as she slides in beside me.

"Wherever we're going, my sister's there." I don't want to think about what they may have already done to her.

The bald fierce man closes the hatch, climbs up beside the driver, and we're off.

No one talks as our cart rolls down a dirt alley and out into the countryside, and it's like I've literally stepped back in time. Stone villas dot the hillside, encircled by lush lawns, gardens, and fountains. Small cottages are scattered here and there and attached to farms. Horses and cows graze within corrals.

People dressed in cream and white gowns tend the animals and gardens. Others like the ones on the balcony in the marketplace lounge on terraces. Yet others dressed like me, like a slave, scurry about carrying stuff. I wonder if they were bought and sold in the same marketplace.

An elaborate carriage passes us going in the opposite direction. Inside of it I catch sight of two beautiful women, laughing and eating grapes. Neither of them even glances our way.

We peak the hillside and I take in more of the same. Villas. Cottages. Gardens. Farms. A round structure that seems to be some sort of small arena, and thick woods off to the left surrounded by a tall wall. I wonder what that wall's about.

We're definitely on an island. A very large island. I can barely make out where it starts and stops. Dark ocean surrounds us, spanning all the way in every direction to the horizon. I catch a glimpse of a galleon with all sails hoisted going away from land. Is that how I got here? On that galleon?

But more importantly, where in the hell am I? And what is going on?

CHAPTER THREE COMING NEXT WEEK!



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