Twisted Kingdom (Royal Elite #3) - Rina Kent
We will always be together. You’re the reason I’m alive, Aiden.
My mother’s voice drifts in my head like warmth in the middle of the cold.
The shackle rattles and protests as I pull my legs to my chest. The freezing floor sends icy bursts through my entire body, but I don’t have the energy to stand up.
My toes are numb. The welts on my back burn. The red marks left by my ankle cuff have deepened to purple.
I think that’s bad.
What seems like hours pass, and I still don’t have the energy to stand up, let alone take a closer look at my wound. My upper body slumps to the cold floor. The ground smells like the stables at my father’s friend’s house.
My teeth chatter and I bite my lip several times, trying to stop it.
“Mum…” I whisper in the pitch-black room.
She said we have a special mother-son bond, and she can feel my pain. My mother knows the day I’ll fall sick before I even wake up. She must be feeling my pain now. She must be crying.
I don’t like it when Mum cries, but I want her to find me.
This place isn’t like any I’ve been in before. This place hurts.
My stomach growls like an animal.
I press my hand to it, but that doesn’t quiet the sound. If anything, it turns louder and higher as if taunting me.
I lick my dry, cracked lips and stare at the empty bottle of water at my feet. It’s the only thing I’ve had since being separated from Xander and Cole.
Are they hungry as well? Were they also hurt by the red woman?
I don’t know how much time I’ve spent in this dark, dirty place, but it’s been long enough that my stomach has been growling non-stop for what feels like hours.
If I don’t eat soon, I won't have the strength to open my eyes, let alone stand up and search for a way out.
Mum is waiting for me.
She becomes sad when I'm not with her, and I hate it when Mum is sad.
The door squeaks as it cracks open. I jerk up and flinch when the hard stone wall cuts into my bruised back, but that’s the least of my worries.
The red woman is back.
The chain lies all around me. I grasp the cuff and pull with the little energy I have left. I know it won’t come off. I know I’m just scraping my skin, but it’s all I can do.
If I don’t get out of this, the red woman will hurt me again.
She’ll beat me.
She’ll make my skin burn.
Soft light appears in the otherwise dark room, blinding me. I squint as the echo of footsteps comes closer.
There’s no clicking of the red woman's high heels.
My breathing slows down a notch and my grip loosens from around the cuff.
With the light between us, a peaceful face comes into view. A white halo surrounds her, complete with her white cotton dress and bunny shoes.
She’s like the angel statue Mum has in our garden.
She’s the same girl from the other time. I think it was yesterday.
Since she’s wearing sleeping clothes, it must be night time again.
She drops the light on the floor and crouches in front of me. Her little hands are dragging a heavy bag behind her, but I don’t focus on the sound or her bag.
I focus on her.
The girl who looks exactly like one of Silver and Kimberly’s dolls. The girl with golden blonde hair and sparkly blue eyes watching me with a frown.
The girl with milky white skin and flushed red cheeks.
Do they make Silver and Kimberly’s dolls into real people who can move and drag things?
She waves a hand in front of my face, the two lines between her brows deepening. “Can you hear me?”
“Are you real?” My voice sounds far away as if I’m speaking from another room.
I touched her yesterday. I grabbed her hand and asked her to help me, but maybe I’m seeing ghosts.
Maybe I’m becoming like my mother when she can’t sleep at night.
Maybe the red woman is trying to torture me again.
“Of course I’m real, silly.” She grins, showcasing a missing tooth.
Okay, Silver and Kimberly’s dolls don’t have missing teeth.
She retrieves a smaller bag and unveils a napkin. The scent of bread and Marmite hits me straight in the stomach. The growling sound can be heard from another continent.
“I brought you —”
I snatch the piece of bread from between her fingers before she has the chance to finish the sentence.
If my father saw