Taken By Terror - Lolita Lopez

Chapter One

I have to get out of here.

Shivering wet, Maisie ignored the constant spatter of raindrops and the muddy water swirling around her bare, cold feet. Intent on finishing her makeshift weapon before sunrise, she let the numb fingers of her left hand guide the work of her trembling right hand. The storm raging overhead had blocked out any moonlight. More than once, she had cut or smashed her fingers with the rock she was using to chip away at the animal bone she had uncovered in the muck of the outdoor cell. The pain kept her awake and alert, and she welcomed it.

The metal shackles around her wrists had started to rub nasty wounds into her skin. She feared they would grow infected if she spent much more time in this part of the prison camp, ankle deep in filth. After her fourth escape attempt, she had been chained to a tall metal pole in the center of the yard. The small uncovered area was surrounded by metal fencing at least three times her height topped with razor wire. Even if she could scale the fence, she wouldn’t get over it without inflicting a great deal of damage to her body, damage that would slow her down and make an escape impossible.

She glanced through the darkness to the other poles. All four of the others were empty now. The prisoners who had shared the space with her had either been sold or had finally succumbed to starvation and beatings. Alone and painfully aware of her situation, Maisie knew that her days were numbered. She either escaped, or she died.

Her next—and hopefully final—escape had to be soon. She wasn’t sure she had another attempt left in her. The constant exposure to the elements and the lack of nutritious and filling food had weakened her. Hunger gnawed at her belly. The rash that had erupted on her feet and lower legs itched mercilessly. She couldn’t sleep so her head throbbed relentlessly.

Her hands maintained their steady pace, sliding and scraping, but her thoughts ran wild. She had lost track of time at least nine, maybe ten, days ago. When they moved her between camps, from the larger prison camp to this smaller, more isolated one, she had been burning up with a fever. Her memories from that time were so fuzzy, and she wasn’t entirely sure how long she had been deliriously ill.

Her thoughts turned somber as she wondered what was happening back at the secret Splinter base her stepfather commanded. After that terrible night when Devious had been uncovered as a double agent and she had been taken into custody, the clock had started ticking down on the next midnight move. The mine had probably been cleared out by now, their illicit organization whisking away everything and everyone inside under the cover of darkness. She had seen it numerous times. Her entire childhood was nothing more than a series of frantic moves, dangerous firefights and temporary quarters in dingy closets or damp basements.

It wasn’t the life her mother had wanted for her. Of that, she was certain. Her mother’s death had been slow and agonizing as the cancer in her womb destroyed her from within. In those last few weeks, when she had still been able to lift her hands, she had assured Maisie that everything would be all right. She had promised Maisie that her stepfather would look after her and keep her safe.

Begrudgingly, she could admit that her stepfather had done that. He hadn’t loved or cared for her, but she was still alive. Somehow, through all the danger and risk of being part of a Splinter sympathizer’s family, she had survived. While he may have smacked her around a few times and let others treat her roughly, he had never allowed anyone to molest her. Not exactly praiseworthy behavior, but she supposed it was something.

Of course, her stepfather’s connections were the reason she was here, fighting to survive and escape before she was raped or killed or sold off to the highest bidder. Once he had seen the proof of her duplicity and her work with Devious, he had handed her over to the government thugs for safekeeping. Until he got word from higher up on the chain of Splinter command, he had wanted her miserable and suffering and far away from his base of operations.

Why Randy had decided to throw their family’s considerable wealth and power behind the Splinter movement was still a mystery to her. Communicating with