Pennies (Dollar #1) - Pepper Winters Page 0,1

chewed up, snapped in half pencil beneath the bed.

The find had been better than food or freedom; better because my traffickers minutely controlled both those things. I had no power to sway the regimented arrival of breakfast and dinner nor the ability to halt the fact I was being sold like meat to the highest bidder.

I had no control over being alone in a tiny room that had once been a hotel suite before its premises were bought for more unsavoury stays. The towels were threadbare with the sigil of some decade-ago establishment, and the carpet swirled with golds and bronze, hinting the décor hadn’t been updated since the seventies.

Was that how long the pencil had lurked beneath my bed? Were the bite marks on the wood given by a rowdy toddler waiting for its parents to stop fussing so they could explore a new city? Or had a maid lost it while tucking starched white sheets with military precision?

I’d never know.

But I liked to make up fantasies because I had nothing else to do. I spent my achingly boring days going over every nook and cranny of my jail. They’d broken my spirit, washed away my fight, but they couldn’t stop the determined urge inside me. The instinct everyone had—or at least, I thought everyone had.

I’d been alone for so long now I didn’t know what the other girls processed with me would do. Did they lie star-spread on the bed and wait for their future? Did they huddle in the corner and beg for their fathers to stop this nightmare? Or did they accept, because it was easier to accept than to fight?

Me? I ran my rubbed-raw fingertips over every wall, every crack, every painted and locked window frame. I crawled on my hands and knees, searching for something to help me. And by helping me, I didn’t know if I meant as a weapon to fight my way out or something to end my struggle before it truly began.

It’d taken me days to go over every square inch. But all I’d found was this half-mangled pencil. A gift. A treasure. The nub was almost down to the wood, and I wouldn’t have long before I had to find a way to sharpen my precious possession, but I’d worry about that another day. Just like I’d become a master at shoving aside my worries about everything else.

The one thing I didn’t find was any paper. Not in the drawers of the weathered desk or in the cupboard beneath the non-functioning television. The only apparatus I could write on was toilet paper, and the pencil wasn’t too keen on that idea, tearing the soft tissue rather than imprinting its silvery lines.

Nevertheless, I was determined to leave some sort of note behind. Some piece of me that these bastards hadn’t taken and never would.

Taking another deep breath, I shoved aside my current conditions and clutched the pencil harder. Glancing at the door to make sure I was alone, I spread out my square of toilet tissue, making it tight and writable, and continued with my note.

I wish I could say a monster killed me. That a terrible accident caused this. And I can say that…to a degree.

However, the real reason I’m dead and a new toy about to be sold is mainly because of my upbringing.

That poise and confidence my mother drilled into me? It didn’t grant me in good stead for a profitable career or handsome husband. It pissed people off. I came across as stuck-up, a know-it-all, and vain.

It made me a target.

I don’t know if anyone will ever see this but you, No One, but if they do, I hope they forget what I’m about to admit. I’m an only daughter to a single parent. I love my mother. I do.

But if I ever survive what’s about to happen to me, and by some miracle, I find freedom again, I’ll keep this next part to myself when I recount my time in purgatory.

I love my mother, but I hate her.

I miss my mother, but I never want to see her again.

I obeyed my mother, but I want to curse her for eternity.

She’s the only one I can blame.

The one responsible for me becoming nothing more than a whore.

TWO DAYS passed.

In the world I’d been stolen from, two days was nothing. Two alarm clocks, two lessons at university, two evenings of talking on the phone to my friends, and two nights of wonderfully protected sleep where I stupidly