Wren felt a shiver of something awful wriggle in her gut. It was something terribly like glee. The thought of Cervantes bleeding for what he’d done to her…it made a part of her happy to consider. And that scared her witless. What was happening to her? She shouldn’t wish pain on anyone, not even her worst enemy. She should pray for Cervantes. Turn the other cheek. Trust God to have a plan, even in the midst of this terror.
But…she just couldn’t. Not any of that.
She wanted Cervantes to hurt. She wanted him to hurt like she hurt. She wanted him to feel the kind of fear she felt.
She wanted him to pay for the need she felt in her veins, the horrible, itching, crawling, hot and then cold need she felt in her skin and in her blood and in her belly.
Need for the needle to pierce her vein and send the evil chemicals into her.
Need for the needle. Perhaps that was where the term needle came from. Need. The word need was buried inside needle, after all.
She felt herself dragged, her heels scrabbling on the threadbare carpeting. She smelled Stone, faint cologne, sweat, and blood. She managed to meet his eyes briefly, saw the hate there, saw the rage and the sadness and the determination. She tried to comfort him with a single glance. She tried to pour all of her heart into that fleeting meeting of eyes.
And then she was out of sight of Stone, and she missed him so much, needed him. She knew he wouldn’t stop until he had her safe. All she had to do was stay alive.
But Cervantes wasn’t taking any chances. He dragged her down the stairwell, her feet slipping on the concrete, his iron-hard forearm cutting off her air as she missed a stair or two at a time, off-balance and gasping for breath. The gun barrel wasn’t pressed against her anymore, but she still had no chance to break free. Not yet, she knew. Not yet.
Then they were out on the street and his arm was gone but the gun was pressed against her back. His arm was draped casually over her chest, cradling her almost tenderly, like a man with his girlfriend out for a stroll on a hot afternoon. Into the mall, into the wild and bustling crowds, the ceiling high, high overhead, bright lights and sunshine streaming, voices chattering in Filipino and a smattering of other languages, even English…found a purse…only a hundred pesos…Daddy please…
A purse. A girl begging her father for money to buy a purse. She had been that girl before. Now she just wanted to be free, to survive this hell.
Wren sucked air into her lungs, trotted to keep up with Cervantes as he wended through the crowd, angling across the cavernous space as if he knew exactly where he was going. Wren scanned the signs, looking for one in English that would give her some kind of clue. She saw a sign pointing the way toward a train station, and realized then what his plan was.
If she got on a train with Cervantes, she’d never be free. Stone would never be able to find her again. She wasn’t even sure how he had in the first place, but if Cervantes got them onto a train, she was as good as dead. Or worse.
It wasn’t time to fight, yet. She had to wait until he was distracted.
They left the mall and entered the train station.
This was her chance; the crowds in the station—which the signs announced to be the Shaw Boulevard MRT station—were thick and chaotic, jostling elbow to elbow. She waited, waited, let Cervantes push her through the crowd. She felt her pulse pounding, readying her for action. She tried to breathe slowly and evenly, tried to take in everything. A door, there. A bathroom? No, no way out except the way in. A security guard? Perhaps. Her best bet was to simply get away and try to lose herself in the chaos.
They approached the ticketing counter. Cervantes kept the pistol between their bodies, shielding it from view while digging in his pocket for money. Once he had the tickets he wanted, his arm went back around her and guided her through the jostling crowds and down to the platform level. The bustle of people was worse here, barely room to breathe or move without bumping into half a dozen people. An elderly man was in front of them, moving glacially slowly, and Wren could feel Cervantes growing impatient, trying to push around him, but the thickness of the crowd wouldn’t allow it.
And then the moment came. A woman stumbled, her three-inch heel catching on the floor and sending her into Cervantes. He cursed angrily, shoving the woman away. In that moment, a split second, the barrel of the pistol wasn’t pressed into her flesh. Wren whirled, holding the thick glass ashtray in her fist with the edge leading. She bashed Cervantes in the skull, near the temple, and felt bone crunch, give. He stumbled, blood immediately masking his face.
People screamed, pointed. Wren ignored it all.
She struck again, aiming for the same place, and was nearly accurate. Cervantes fell to his knees, his gun slipping from his fingers to skitter on the floor. Wren kicked it away and ran, pushing through the crowd. She was in full panic, now, adrenaline bursting through her, putting speed into her movement, strength in her tired, pain-ridden body. She elbowed people away, pushed and kicked and shoved, striving for as much distance as possible. She found the escalator, made her way back up to L3, where the bridge to the Pavilion Mall was.
She thanked God that she’d been paying attention to where they had been, so she knew exactly where to go. Run. Run. Run.
Ex-Navy SEAL Stone Pressfield has a bad feeling about the proposed church missions trip to Manila, Philippines. The college-age church group plans to go to Manila and help victims of the sex-trafficking industry. Stone's lingering nightmare memories about the sex-trafficking industry have him warning church leaders that the trip is a bad idea. He knows all too well that it could end in violence, and those involved aren't to be trifled with.
When beautiful Wren Morgan goes missing, he has a sick feeling that he knows exactly who took her, and for what purpose. The problem is, Wren isn't just any other student. She's someone he's close to, someone he cares about. Now she's in the hands of cruel, evil men, and Stone is the only one who can rescue her before the unthinkable happens.