Saturday, February 11, 2012

Into Thin Air (Excerpt) by Valerie Maarten

(Freedom Fighters Series Bk. 1)

“Cute kid,” Paolo said as he watched Maia clutch the small child protectively to her bosom.
“What do you want?” Maia asked.
Paolo’s eyebrow went up fractionally at Maia’s tone.  But it was followed by a slow smile that belied the anger he felt at her continued refusal to submit to his authority.  It was a little game they played when they were together.  Deep down Paolo admired her courage.  She reminded him of himself when he was younger.  She would have made a great partner if he’d have met her under different circumstances.
He waved his hand in a sweeping motion, gesturing for her to have a seat, as if they were having a social chit-chat over lunch.  “Please…sit.”
Maia took a quick glance over at the chair he offered and shook her head.  “No thank you.  I’ll stand.”
Never releasing his pleasant smile, his tone changed and became more insistent.  It was a tone Maia could not mistake that she didn’t have a choice.  “Sit…I insist.”
Maia sat in the chair, but remained at the edge of the seat as she cradled a now, fully awake India in her lap.  India seemed to be oblivious to the danger they were in and began playing with Maia’s hair.  Maia didn’t seem to notice or mind, glad India did something to occupy her time instead of cry.  Because at this moment, Maia needed to keep her wits about her and remain vigilant and alert for what Paolo had planned for them both.
“Okay…I’m sitting.  Now, are you going to tell me why I was dragged out of my bed in the middle of the night?” Maia knew she was pushing her luck, but she felt she had nothing else to lose.  This very scene had been played out for her six years ago, only it was Gina sitting in this chair and she was standing next to her, oblivious to what was transpiring.
“Good news,” Paolo said to Gina as she sat nervously in the chair waiting for him to reveal why he’d summoned her and Maia to come to his office in the middle of the night.
“Wh…what?” Gina asked nervously.
Maia noted the quiver in Gina’s voice, but she didn’t understand the cause.  Good news could mean they would finally be allowed to go home.  Maia had prayed for this moment.  She and Gina had discussed leaving this place for good.
“You finally get what you’ve begged for…with one caveat,” Paolo said.
His tone was pleasant and he was smiling at Gina…then he’d smile at Maia.  The gesture was so kind, Maia smiled back.  Inside Maia felt her stomach flutter with butterflies, she was so nervous at the prospect of going home.  Would her mother still be angry that she disobeyed her?  Maia vowed she would never do it again.  This taught her one thing, her mother wasn’t as lame as she believed her to be.
“What caveat?” Gina asked.  She looked over at an anxious Maia and gave her a tentative smile.  It was meant to reassure Maia, but that one gesture changed everything Maia had been feeling inside.  There was something revealing in her eyes that told Maia she was not going home and the news was not good.
“Before I allow you to retire, you have to teach her some of the tricks of the trade,” Paolo said as he nodded his head in Maia’s direction.
“No…no.  I can’t.  Please…don’t ask me to do that,” Gina began to plead.  “She’s too young.”
“She’s got breasts, granted they’re small, but she’ll do for some of my more…eccentric clientele,” Paolo said.
Maia didn’t know what they were talking about, but she knew she had been insulted.  Subconsciously Maia looked down at her newly budding breasts and folded her arms over her chest.  Another thing she knew, she didn’t like being talked about when she was fully capable of deciding if she wanted to do something or not.
“What tricks?” Maia asked innocently.
Gina placed her hand on Maia’s leg, silencing anything else Maia would have said.  It was much like a mother would have done to a child that spoke out of turn when adults were talking.
Gina stood from the chair and held Maia’s hand tightly.  “I can’t do it.  I won’t do it.”
Paolo’s black eyes seemed to darken with Gina’s declaration.  It was an evil Maia had never seen before this moment.  Up until this point, Paolo had been fairly nice to her, though he continued to refuse her requests to be allowed to go home.  Still, to this point she had no reason to fear him until she saw that brief glimpse into the blackness inside his soul through his eyes.
Paolo gave his head a brief nod.  That was the first time Maia noticed the two men standing at the door behind them.  She didn’t know how long they had been there, but she couldn’t remember hearing them come in, so she surmised they had been there all along.  Funny, they were as huge as buildings, but managed to disappear into the background until they were summoned.  Maia watched as the one man walked up to the desk…pulled out his gun and pointed it at the back of Gina’s head.
One shot was fired behind her ear and she dropped to the ground, still clutching Maia’s hand.  The warm spray of blood splattered across the room, covering the left side of Maia’s hair, face and shirt.  But the shock of seeing Gina lay in a pool of blood prevented Maia from screaming or crying or running out of the room.
Instead, she watched as Gina’s baby blue eyes darkened as death slowly began to claim her.  Her chest heaved up…then down…then in a sudden whoosh of air it stopped.  In that moment, Maia remembered she was still gripping Gina’s hand, secretly willing the life back into the one person who cared for her from the moment she arrived to this side of hell.  Now Maia was all alone, abandoned to figure her way through the new life she was doomed to live.
“Take her to my room,” Paolo ordered the other man who stood in the corner.  “Make sure she’s ready for me when I get there.  I’ll just have to show her the tricks she needs to know myself.”
“You know my answer to your question,” Maia said to Paolo as he replayed the single, most devastating time of her life.  Now the tables were turned and she would be shot in the back of the head like Gina had been six years ago, while India is prepared by one of the guards to unceremoniously lose her virginity to a tyrant and a brutal child rapist…Paolo.
The memory prompted Maia to stand.  She no longer felt comfortable sitting.  She felt too vulnerable and at a disadvantage.  Would she wait for the moment to happen and fade into oblivion as Gina had done or would she defy death and fight?  I want to live Maia heard the little voice inside her head say.  Fight!

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