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The creak of the door had Adaline pausing in her dressing. If they were coming back for more, then there was no point in putting on anymore clothing than she already had. Part of her screamed, begged that she endure the pain of the collar to inflict pain upon her tormentors.
But that part was easily silenced by her paralyzing fear of being stuck in isolation for disobeying. That fear of being alone.
Resigning herself to her fate, her shoulders hunched forward and she let the billowy shirt droop from her shoulders again. The last thing she wanted was for harsh hands to rip some of the only comfy clothes she was allowed.
“Don’t,” her head whipped around at the sound of the new voice and her hands came up protectively in front of her. Nothing about the young man behind her screamed scientist, or rapist, and she fought back the relief that flooded her. “Put your clothes on.”
Adaline narrowed her eyes at him, studying him. She knew everyone that was imprisoned in the facility and this one was definitely new. Usually she was the first to meet all of the newcomers with a smile and giving them a shoulder to cry on. This time though, she couldn’t even muster up the energy to pretend. All she wanted to do was to scrub herself clean of men.
His silver hair was odd but so was his behavior. So many of the others looked at her in a mix of pity and disgust, as if she wanted to be touched, but he didn’t show either emotion. In fact, he looked almost angry.
“I am angry.” He crossed his arms and leaned back on the door behind him. “They inflict enough torture here without adding rape to the list.”
They were effectively trapped together but she hadn’t said a word to him yet. So how did he know exactly what she was thinking? Pulling up her shirt, her mouth turned down into a frown.
“Why do you think?” There was cockiness to his tone that made her lips twitch upwards. Oh, he was pushing the envelope if he thought she was going to play a guessing game with him. “No need to get testy Ada; do you mind if I call you that? Anyway, I can read and influence thoughts. Usually I can do a hell of a lot more but that is all restricted by this ugly thing.”
His fingers brushed the steel band around his neck, the blue lights shining in warning. Instinctively, her fingers went to her own collar. Unlike his, the collar around her neck didn’t send bolts of electricity into her as a punishment. Her gift was manipulating electric fields so her collar was specifically tailored to cause pain and cut off her power. Rubber covered needles that stabbed into her skin were perfect for just that.
Luckily, she wasn’t in trouble that often.
“It’s better if you stay out of my head.” It was a haven, a place she could escape to when things got rough. And she wasn’t as welcoming to others as she pretended to be on the surface. “Why are you even here? If you’re volunteering to be a counselor for me to talk to, you’re shit out of luck.”
“Oh, so I get to meet the real Adaline. I think I prefer this to your bubbly personality.” The guy looked so unbelievably smug that an intense need to give him a black eye surfaced. She refrained though. The room didn’t have cameras on the inside but she knew that there was one right outside the door; if this idiot left with a black eye then she’d be the one in trouble.
“I’d prefer if you didn’t hit me. I rather like my face how it is.”
“And I’d prefer if you stayed out of my thoughts. I don’t know you and you never answered my question.”
If it was possible, his grin only widened and her fingers clenched into a fist. There was plenty of pent up rage she could take out on this annoying target.
“Ryker, my name is Ryker.” As if sharing his name suddenly made them friends, he closed some of the distance between them and plopped down in one of the chairs. “And I’m here for two things.”
“I am in no mood for games, Ryker.” He was keeping her from a scalding shower and a bed where she could curl up for a couple hours. “Get to the point or leave me alone.”
For a guy who looked very much the joker, his expression hardened quickly. Her own blue eyes clashed with his and for a moment, she wondered what this guy was like without the collar holding him back.
“It won’t happen again.” Her back stiffened and she drew back again. For a moment, she had forgotten that he knew what had gone on in the very same room they were talking in only a half hour ago. “Not to you or to any of the other girls.”
“You can’t promise that.” Her voice sounded small and childlike even to her. She didn’t even want to know how pathetic she sounded to him. “You’re a prisoner here, just like the rest of us. I’ve been here since I was a child, you don’t kn-…”
“I can and do promise it.” He interrupted her and she was actually glad. She was seconds from breaking down and telling him how foolish he was for even believing things would change just for him. “I may not be able to manipulate minds like I used to right now, but I can influence their thoughts enough that they won’t even think of you in that capacity.”
There was such certainty in his tone that she wanted to believe him. That she wanted to believe the words that he left unsaid and something bad would happen if they did come after her again. But it wasn’t that easy. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
That was all she could promise. If he wasn’t bullshitting her, then the patterns the bastards would change, and she’d go back to a normal schedule of checkups and experiments. But so far, there wasn’t a soul that had been able to challenge the scientists enough to really make them do anything. Other than Tucker that is; the kid had been there just as long as she had and yet she’d only seen him once. That spoke volumes of the danger around him.
“What about your second reason for being here?” He had said there were two. The first was enough of a bombshell that she didn’t think she could be surprised again.
“I think we should live up to our codenames and take flight.” The grin returned to Ryker’s face but this one was full of darkness and a promise of revenge that she could easily get behind. “How would you like to sink this coop down to the bottom of the ocean?”
For once, she didn’t mind the surprise. This was definitely an idea that she could get behind. No one had the balls to come up with a good escape plan but if his collar wasn’t calibrated to fully restrict his power then it was Ryker who had the best chance to free all of the birds trapped on the island. The more she thought about it, the more tempting it sounded. Especially if it destroyed all evidence of the innocence that she had lost.
“What exactly do you have in mind?”