Rescuing Moira (Guardian Hostage Rescue Specialists #3) - Ellie Masters

One

Moira

Hard. Cold. Unforgiving.

A concrete floor, damp air, and bone-chilling cold define my existence. The pounding in my skull is unbearable, and the coppery taste in my mouth doesn’t bode well.

Gently, I explore the damage to my head. Dried, matted blood greets my probing fingers. There are lumps, too many to count, but those don’t worry me. Those are survivable.

What I don’t feel are depressions, skull fractures, which point toward damage to my brain.

So yeah, that’s good. Just peachy.

We’re focusing on the positives here. There are far too many negatives, and those scare me to death.

My tongue sweeps the inside of my mouth, finding deep cuts to my inner cheeks. My lips crack as I gently probe, moving my tongue gingerly around, exploring the damage.

I’m alive, not that it’s any surprise. I excel at survival; it’s what I do best—my superpower.

Death would be quieter, less painful than the agony wracking my body. But no. No death for me.

Moira Stone is a goddamn survivor.

The low drone of male voices rumbles somewhere off to my left. The stench of sweat, urine, and blood fills my nostrils. I’m not sure how much of that is mine, and I don’t care. Frankly, I don’t care about much right now.

This isn’t my first time at a shit show.

Been here.

Done that.

Got the scars to prove it.

Whatever this is, I’ll survive it. I’ll survive because I’m too stubborn to give up. I don’t know when to quit, or when to die. I only know how to survive.

Which sucks.

I’m really tired of this shitty life.

Dad walked out when I was five. Mom shot herself into oblivion when I turned ten. Foster Pop ripped my virginity from my prepubescent body at the tender age of eleven. By twelve, I was on the streets peddling my flesh.

The point is, I know how to survive.

At first, I played the innocent little girl routine. Men paid double for that kind of sick, twisted shit, and I got those depraved assholes to feed me the cash I needed to survive one more night on the street.

But here’s the problem with too much cash.

I had money left over to ease the pain. I got hooked on coke, heroine, and basically anything I could ingest, inject, or inhale. My life consisted of one high followed by another desperate low, but through it all, I continued to survive.

I guess I’ve found a new low. Not that it’s unexpected. I was doing pretty well at the Facility, learning to live a new life and believing I could have a good life.

What a joke.

I knew it was too good to be true.

My last big low was when I turned sixteen. Too old to turn the little girl trick, I picked up the wrong John. A veritable old-timer on the streets, I should’ve known better. He was too nice, smelled too good, and told too many lies.

Lies I wanted to believe.

That’s what happens when a moment of weakness hits. It steals your breath and destroys your life. At sixteen, I graduated from prostitute to sex slave.

Yeah, I know. It’s far more glamorous than it sounds. If you haven’t figured it out yet, sarcasm is my thing. It gets me through this hellish life.

The sex slave thing lasted five long years. Then the Guardians freed me. I thought I was done with the whole shit show. Like I could finally be normal and do normal things. At twenty-two, I’m too old for this shit, but evidently, the universe thinks otherwise. I’m right back in the thick of things.

Fear, Confusion, and Hopelessness.

Those are three bastards I know well. They rip through me, suffocate me, drown me, and devour my will to live.

Notice how I said live, not survive. I have no desire to live through this again.

None.

I’ve been here before. If I could end it all now, I would, but the grace of death is not mine. That kind of power lies in the hands of the monsters arguing over their cards.

The universe is one sick prick.

I’ll live, and I’ll endure the vileness to come. I’ll do it because I’m too much of a coward to take my own life.

“Hey, she’s up.” A brusque voice turns my blood to ice.

I pray for death or some kind of reprieve. I won’t get it. This is my fate; to hope where there is nothing to hope for and live when there’s nothing left to live for.

It appears I exist only to feel pain.

“Doesn’t look like she’s up to me.” The second man shifts his attention

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