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.I don't know what I'll find down here, but there's no way I'm giving up the chance to explore a little.What do eccentric billionaires keep in their sub-basements? Vaults of jewels? Stashes of the latest designer drugs? Dead bodies of people who defied them?My hand brushes against a door, and I fumble for the handle in the dark.It's locked.About ten steps later, I find another door, but this one's locked, too.And then another, and another—this entire basement is stone walls and locked doors.I'm screwed if Calder catches me down here.There's nowhere to hide.My body is tense, my skin alive with nerves.The thought that Calder is somewhere above me, hunting me down, incites a feral excitement in me.If he catches me down here, what will he do?My heart almost leaps out of my chest when I find the next door unlocked.I slowly push it open then raise my cell phone to try and light the darkness beyond.There's nothing here.No storage boxes, no cases of jewels, no dead bodies.I wander around the room, inspecting every corner, but I'm in an empty stone cube.A small one, at that.It really does feel like a dungeon cell—all that's missing are a few chains on the walls.I flip my cell phone closed and sit down in one of the corners, trying to catch my breath.I'm not sure why this place flusters me so much, but I'm already too far gone to fight the fluttering in my stomach.There's no point in denying that a part of me wants him to catch me, but I won't willingly lose this contest.After the time is up, however, then all bets are off.I glance down at the time on my phone.Twenty-eight minutes left.Halfway done.I can do this.The minutes tick by slowly, all the more because I can’t see anything around me.I can only focus on the excitement running beneath my skin.When I close my eyes, I can only imagine the things Calder has planned for me upon my capture.I should feel bad for indulging my imagination, but I don't.I'm not ashamed of the fantasies playing in my mind, nor am I ashamed of the anticipation coursing through me.I feel alive and wild and free.I feel like this place, this mansion, is entirely removed from my old reality.My normal life and all its stress and responsibilities are far away.In here I can be reckless.In here I can be shameless and unrestrained.In here I can explore every dark, wicked corner of myself.When I finally grow impatient and look down at my phone again, there are only seven minutes left.I draw my knees up to my chest and rock gently.I don't want to admit it, but I'm a little disappointed Calder hasn't come for me yet.After our close encounter in the passageway upstairs, I thought I'd spend the entire game on my toes, just steps ahead of him, breathlessly out of reach.Just when I’m about to resign myself to the letdown, I hear a sound out in the hallway.I hold my breath.For a moment, I hear nothing but silence.I’m beginning to think I might have imagined the noise when suddenly it comes again.There, down the hall—is that the sound of a door closing? Has Calder stumbled down here at last?For a solid minute I don't hear anything more, and then there's a footstep, light but distinct.Yes, there's no denying it—someone's walking down the hallway.Toward the room where I wait.I press myself further against the wall and flip my cell phone open for one last look.Three minutes until the alarm goes off.Three minutes, and I'll have the money the Center needs to survive.I hear the jiggle of a door handle.Not mine, no—three doors down, maybe four.This level is so quiet that I can practically hear my heart pumping.Outside my cell, Calder moves a few more steps and tries the next door.I shouldn't have chosen the first room I found unlocked, I realize suddenly.He'll move on from the locked doors quickly, but he'll stop and search this room, and there's nowhere in here I can hide.I'm tempted to pull out my phone and check the time again, but it's too risky.Instead I remain curled up on the floor, afraid to move, and I wait.Calder tries the handle of the room next to mine.One jiggle, two.And then his footsteps approach my door.I'm lightheaded.There can't be more than two minutes left.If I can escape him for just two minutes…The handle of my cell turns, and the door opens with a click that seems to echo throughout the room.I stay perfectly still.A single breath or the tiniest shift of my foot might alert him to my presence.He steps into the room.He moves slowly, as if he's unaware that his time is about to expire.Or maybe he does know—maybe he already knows I'm in here, and it's all part of his game.Every nerve on my body is afire.My muscles tighten, urging me to jump, move, run—but I can't.I won't.I ignore the knots twisting in my belly, the desire growing between my legs, and I wait, frozen, for the end.Calder's footsteps move forward, toward the far wall.He pauses only briefly when he reaches the corner adjacent to mine.He's no more than twelve feet away from me now.How much time is left? It can't be more than a minute.His steps turn, and now he's moving along the wall.I can hear his fingers graze against the stone.His steps are slow, deliberate.He's only ten feet away from me now.I should run.Or better yet, crawl.Maybe I can stay beneath his arms.If he doesn't touch me, then he doesn’t win.Even if my shoe squeaks against the stone, I might be able to evade his hands in the darkness.It’s risky, and I’m too close to winning.There can't be more than thirty seconds left.But Calder can't be more than five or six steps away.I lift myself off the ground, only just enough to slide myself a couple feet to the left.Calder doesn't break his step.He doesn't appear to notice my presence at all.I shift another couple of feet.Why haven't our phone alarms gone off yet? How much time is left?Calder has reached the corner where I was hiding just a moment ago.If he could see through the darkness, he could grab me easily.Are there ten seconds left? Twenty? I'm so close.Just a little longer…My phone starts to vibrate in my pocket.Relief sweeps over me, but dread follows just a quickly.It's not my alarm going off—it's my normal ring tone.Someone's calling me.Calder reacts before I have time to recover from the shock.He dives toward me, and his hands grab me in the dark.“Caught you,” he says, his fingers digging into my skin.Then, only then, do our respective alarms go off in unison.CHAPTER THIRTEENIt’s not right.I was so close—so close.To lose like this, with only second left—to lose because my phone went off… no.No.I won't go down like this.“You can't—” I start, but Calder surprises me by yanking me to my feet.He doesn't say anything.He just pushes me up against the wall.I try to argue again, but his fingers close across my lips.I reach up and grab his shirt.I intend to push him away, to explain to him why his victory shouldn’t count, but instead I find myself pulling him closer.After an hour fantasizing about this moment of capture, I realize I don't have the will to refuse him.His warm breath sweeps across my nose, my cheek, my ear.In the darkness like this, robbed of my sight, I feel like all of my other senses have exploded [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]