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Locked In (No Way Out Series Book 1) by Shari J. Ryan (1)

2

Chapter Two

REESE

FIVE DAYS AGO

The cracks in the wall are only good for letting in the cold during the winter, and the heat in the summer—precisely the opposite of what I always seem to need. I believe it is currently the middle of summer, but the weather here in Chipley seems to be variable. Sometimes when I think it's the middle of winter, we'll have a warm day, and when it's summer, I sometimes swear it feels like hell is freezing over. Where I lived before, we had two seasons: hot and warm. I don't like the cold.

When I look through the cracks, I see gravel, rocks, and red dirt. I see sprigs of brown grass and large insects. There's one crack on the back wall with a small hole in the middle, and when Snatcher's old, rusty, red pick-up isn't sitting there, I can see the sky. I usually stare at for as long as I can. I'm always hoping the image will burn into my mind and allow me to dream of the color blue rather than the color brown—the color of everything around me. I have been wondering if I might forget what other people look like, but this time as I look through the small hole, a pair of smoky, grey eyes stare back at me. A bit startled, I pull my face away from the hole, allowing myself to see a little more, but I can only see his eyes and his dark shadow-casting brows. They're beautiful, and they aren't Snatcher's. I wonder if this man has looked in through the cracks before.

"Who are you?" I ask quietly. Seconds go by without an answer, and now he's gone from my view. Please, come back. The door rattles from behind me—the door that hasn't opened in three years. It flies open, carrying in the most beautiful gust of wind. The sensory overload forces me backwards, and I land firmly on my butt. Now staring up at this unfamiliar man, I have the urge to jump up and hug him, purely for the reason of seeing another human being. I don't know why he is there, but I also don't think I care.

I pull myself up to my feet, feeling quite small in his large presence. His face is covered in thick, black stubble, accenting the light grey color in his eyes. His hair is messy, short, and everywhere. Black smudges cover his white shirt, and his jeans match. As I take in every inch of his appearance, my focus finally meets with his boots. It looks like they may have been brown at one point, but now they are covered in a rusty, reddish-brown color. I hate to think it resembles blood, but it does. I also hate to think that this amazingly attractive man may only be here to finally do what I had been fearful of Snatcher doing to me over these past three years. Why are they dragging this out?

"I'm Sin," he says, the deep and hollow sound of his voice pierces through my chest. He looks worn and emotionless with a sort of emptiness behind his eyes—probably the same way I look.

"Why are you here?" I ask. Bravery has never been my strongest quality, but at this moment, the words just come out. I need to know.

He takes the few steps that are between us and looks down at me. He must be at least a foot taller. He smells like wood and dirt—maybe just the outdoors. I don't recall such a scent. "You're here and alive because of me, but don't confuse that with me wanting you in here." Has he been watching me? He dips his hand into his pocket, retrieving something that he clutches tightly within his grip. "Happy Birthday, Reese." He reaches his closed hand out to me, waiting for me to take what he's trying to give me. What is it? He knows my name. No one has spoken my name in three years. My birthday. I was taken when I was fifteen, which means today must be my eighteenth birthday. How does he know? I only know three years have past because of the scratch marks I've left on one of the wooden panels beneath my mattress

"What is it?" I ask before reaching my hand out.

"An apology on behalf of my father," he says. "I can't let you out, but I can offer you this…"

My forehead aches as I stare confusingly into his eyes. I unclench my fist and open my hand, cupping it out in front of me. "Please, just help me," I beg.

"This will help," he says. He places the object into the center of my palm, but I can only feel the contact of his fingertips sweep across my skin. His touch—a touch—it's warm and magnetizing. I don't want him to move. He gently curls my fingers down over the object. "I'm sorry."

His touch instantly becomes absent; the warmth goes with him. He turns his back toward me and opens the door, allowing in another gust of fresh air. "Will I see you again?" I ask as the door slams shut. The locks click and the gravel beneath his boots crunch until there is nothing more than silence surrounding me. I look down at my hand and uncurl my fingers, revealing what he has given me.

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