In Blood We Trust by Elodie Colt

Prologue

Branches and thorns whipped my skin as I raced through the dark forest, the blanket wrapped around my half-naked body more of a hindrance than protection. Though it still smelled of him, and I desperately wanted to get rid of it—it was the only cover I had.

My heart beat so loudly, I thought I might choke on it, and my lungs screamed in protest from the ice-cold air rushing into them. Only the instinct to survive kept me moving. I didn’t dare glance back for fear of losing precious seconds, afraid I’d see him chasing me. I just needed to make it to my apartment and lock the door behind me. Then I’d be safe.

For the moment.

But it seemed it was taking me forever to get there. The harsh undergrowth shredded my bare feet. Numb from the cold, it was a wonder I could still move them. I shivered uncontrollably from the unrelenting wind, and my teeth chattered so hard, I feared they might shatter.

Keep moving, just keep moving, I repeated over and over in my head as I dashed around trees, bushes, and fallen tree trunks. How much time did I have left? Was he still unconscious, or was he already running after me? I couldn’t let him catch me again. I wouldn’t survive it…

The brutal gash in my neck trickled blood, pooling into the leather bra he’d forced me to wear. The blood loss deprived my already frozen limbs of any sensation, slowing me down, but the adrenaline flooding my veins kept me on my feet.

His horrible, ugly face, its wicked grin flashing metallic teeth coated with my blood, invaded my mind. I never wanted to see his face again, wanted to erase it from my memories, but it would always haunt me. Would I ever sleep again? Every time I walked the streets alone, would I worry that someone was hunting me?

Would I even live to see the morning light, or was my fate already sealed?

I wouldn’t mind dying right now. At least, this never-ending nightmare would finally come to an end. Dying at his hands was a fate I refused to succumb to. I’d rather freeze to death out here in the woods than let his brutal hands touch me again.

Cold. So cold...

The frozen ground sent one agonizing sting after another through my feet. Tears blurred my vision, making it impossible to see anything other than the contours of trees in the eerily dark forest.

A gnarly branch slashed my already shredded neck, whipping the wound that hurt so much, it felt like I might die from the pain. A choked scream escaped me, and I stumbled, losing my grip on the blanket. As it fell to the ground, a rush of unbearable coldness hit me, but I didn’t dare stop to pick it up. I was so close to home. So close…

The thought of my apartment and the safety within its walls gave me a boost of energy. I pushed myself harder and raced through the thinning forest with every ounce of strength I had left.

There! A light. Safety.

I clung to my Key, the device shaking in my hands. Thank God, I’d been clearheaded enough to snatch it as I fled his house.

Finally reaching my apartment, I swiped the Key over the scanner with my fingers numb and trembling, unlocking the entrance door. I whimpered in relief when it clicked open. Shutting the door behind me, I quickly relocked it with the device. Taking a few hasty steps back, I eyed the door anxiously. Despite the electronic security system installed in my apartment, I couldn’t shake off the notion he might storm in any second, ending what he had started once and for all.

But nothing moved besides my trembling limbs and heaving chest. Still, I stood there, fear rooting me to the spot as I panted heavily. My body and mind begged to collapse to the floor and cry until sleep overcame me, but I could still smell him on my skin, and my torn neck needed tending.

Somehow, I managed to climb the stairs to the bathroom.

As the adrenaline drained out of me, so did my composure. Heavy sobs broke free, and tears streamed down my cheeks. I ripped open the leather bra, tore off the panties, and dumped them as if they were poisoned.

I stepped into the shower with shaking limbs. The hot water soothed my body but did nothing to soothe my tormented mind. My wounds stung as the water cleansed them, but I was desperate to wash his sticky saliva from my neck. I watched the blood and dirt mingle with the water and willed my memories to run down the drain with it, but they came back.

I could still feel the shackles around my wrists bearing slashes from the sharp metal. I could feel his breath on my breasts, where he’d sucked on my nipples over and over until they bled. I could feel his unrelenting grip on my hips leaving angry bruises. I could feel his manhood pounding into me despite my pleas to stop, but he’d continued abusing the soft flesh until it was red and raw.

Still, that was nothing compared to what he’d done to me tonight when his teeth sank into my neck. Once, twice—sucking until he was full. I’d felt my essence drain away with the blood, each pull so painful I choked on my screams. However, no one would have heard them down there in the cellar. No one would have rushed to my aid to save me from this torture, freeing me from the monster abusing me in the worst way imaginable.

I gnashed my teeth in newfound determination. I needed to call the police and tell them everything. Tonight. My body bore enough evidence of what he’d done to rid him of this world forever.

Stepping out of the shower, I tentatively approached the mirror. I dreaded looking at my reflection, but I couldn’t tend to my wound blindly. So, I lifted my eyes, causing the next breath to hitch in my throat.

The creature staring back at me was more dead than alive. My body was littered in bruises, my breasts swollen and blue from the abuse, my lips cracked, and my throat torn, fleshy, and bloody. The four puncture wounds from his teeth were clearly visible.

But what really froze me in my tracks was catching sight of my left eye. The usual green color had faded away around the pupil, leaving a misshapen, gray speck in its place. I knew with absolute certainty that no gray shades were part of my eye color.

What the hell happened to me?

As silly as it sounded, there was only one explanation I could come up with—that monster had literally sucked the life out of me. Apart from the scars on my neck I’d bear my whole life, this was another reminder that would always haunt me from now on when looking into the mirror.

My body finally reached its breaking point. Bile rose in my throat, and I heaved roughly into the basin, fighting for consciousness. When it finally stopped, and I could straighten again, my fist flew through the air, breaking the glass in a moment of overwhelming rage. Cracks spread like spider webs over the surface, shattering my reflection in a way I felt myself crumbling inside. I didn’t even feel the pain in my knuckles because there was pain much worse consuming me.

Cleaning the slash on my neck sloppily with some disinfectant, I put a padding on it and bandaged it, hiding it from view. I couldn’t look at it again. Not tonight. Not ever.

I got dressed, moaning as my battered body protested against the movement. A few minutes later, I sat on the bed waiting for the police to arrive. The woman on the phone had told me the officers were to arrive at any moment.

Drawing my knees to my chest and wrapping my arms around them, I rocked my body back and forth. I pressed my eyes shut, willing to make the haunting images disappear. Every sound from outside made me flinch, every headlight swerving in my room made me panic.

The police took forever to arrive, and I watched as two officers clad in dark uniforms got out of the car and approached my apartment. Despite me being safe now, I didn’t really feel at ease. They would ask questions, and questions meant reliving everything again.

Just as I was about to stand up and go downstairs to open the door, something strange happened. One of the officers started to sway, slumping to the ground like a dead weight, and the other soon followed suit.

My Key vibrated with an incoming message, making me jump in the air. It was in the middle of the night, and an inner voice told me there was only one person who’d have reason to text me at this time. I eyed the device with another wave of fear rising in my throat and reached for it with shaking hands, activating the home screen.

“Did you really think the police could stop me?”

The device slid through my fingers, clattering to the floor. I slowly rose to stop in front of the window when someone exited the shadows. Slowly. Predatory. A hooded figure outlined by the light of the streetlamps.

I was doomed.

Not wasting another second, I dashed down the stairs. There was only enough time for me to grab a coat and a pair of shoes before storming through the backdoor.

Later, I’d question if it would have been safer to stay inside. And that’s the thing about fear—it tends to disable rational thinking. I realized I’d made the wrong decision as soon as I crossed the open clearing, leaving me exposed on all sides.

I had experience in fighting, and maybe there was a chance I could take him down, but I’d never needed to use my skills for actual self-defense before. Fighting in the gym where nothing was at stake was easy, but now, I was facing something else entirely. I had one shot, and my opponent was an unpredictable psychopath. Chances were slim I had enough strength left to fight or outrun him. I was exhausted and injured, more stumbling over the ground rather than running. I didn’t know how much more I could take.

The sound of snapping twigs behind me made my heart skip a beat. He was charging me just as I whipped around. I automatically swung my arm upward, hitting his nose with my elbow. His head jerked back from the impact, and I used the time to drive my knee in between his thighs. A grunt escaped him as I hit his already wounded parts, but he countered quickly.

His fingers grabbed a chunk of my hair, roughly pulling until I stumbled into him with my back against his chest. I stomped a foot down on his, but my feeble kick did nothing to penetrate his thick biker boots.

Just as I was about to scream, a hand clamped around my throat, cutting off my air supply and enhancing the pain of my injury. I clawed at his hands, desperate to get them off me, but even scratching my nails over his skin didn’t loosen his grip.

He spun me around and smashed me against a tree trunk, his body pressing against mine hard enough to nearly squish my ribs. I opened my mouth to beg for mercy, but he merely tightened his grip, and I felt the blood vessels in my eyes bursting from the pressure.

“You know, I’m not as evil as you think,” he crooned into my ear, his fake, metal canines grazing my earlobe. “You’re such a beautiful girl, and your pussy felt so damn good around my cock. And this delicious blood…” he drawled, licking his lips as if recalling my taste. I prayed for God in heaven above to just let me drop dead. It was the only way to put an end to this eternal misery. “But I can’t let you live. None of my girls get away from me alive.”

The bandage was brutally ripped away, and his teeth sank into my neck once again, drawing blood from the same spot as before.

This time, God answered my prayers. I felt a second of pain before the world turned black.