Mud Vein Page 1

Author: Tarryn Fisher

Genres: New Adult , Romance

Part One: Shock and Denial

Chapter One

Day 1

I wrote a novel. I wrote a novel and it was published. I wrote a novel and it cruised onto the New York Times Bestseller List. I wrote that novel and then I watched it play out in a movie theater with a large, buttery bag of popcorn in my lap. My novel. That I wrote. I did it all alone, because that’s how I like it. And if the rest of the world wants to pay for a peek into my discombobulated mind, so be it. Life is too short to hide your wrongs. So I hide myself instead.

It’s my thirty-third birthday. I wake up in a cold sweat. I am hot. No, I am cold. I am freezing. The blankets tangled around my legs feel unfamiliar—too smooth. I pull at them, trying to cover myself. My fingers feel thick and piggy against the silky material. Maybe they’re swollen. I can’t tell because my brain is sluggish, and my eyes are glued shut, and now I’m getting hot again. Or maybe I’m cold. I stop fighting the blankets, letting myself drift … backwards .… backwards…

When I wake up, there is light in the room. I can see it through my eyelids. It is dim—even for a rainy Seattle day. I have floor-to-ceiling windows in my bedroom; I roll in their direction and force open my eyes only to find myself facing a wall. A wall made of logs. There are none of those in my house. I let my eyes travel the length of them, all the way up to the ceiling before I bolt upright, coming fully awake.

I am not in my bedroom. I stare around the room in shock. Whose bedroom? I think back to the night before. Had I—

No way. I haven’t even looked at a man since … there is no way I went home with someone. Besides, last night I had dinner with my editor. We’d had a couple glasses of wine. Chianti doesn’t make you black out. My breathing is shallow as I try to remember what happened after I left the restaurant.

Gas, I’d stopped for gas at the Red Sea Service Station on Magnolia and Queen Anne. What after that? I can’t remember.

I look down at the duvet clutched between my white knuckles. Red … feather … unfamiliar. I swing my legs over the side of the bed and the room wobbles and tilts. I feel sick right away. Day after a huge drinking binge sick. I gasp for air, trying to breathe deeply enough to quell my nausea. Chianti doesn’t do this, I tell myself again.

“I’m dreaming,” I say out loud. But I’m not. I know that. I stand up and I am dizzy for a good ten seconds before I am able to take my first step. I bend over and vomit … right on the wood floor. My stomach is empty, but it heaves anyway. I lift my hand to wipe my mouth and my arm feels wrong—too heavy. This isn’t a hangover. I’ve been drugged. I stay bent over for several more seconds before I straighten up. I feel like I’m on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the fair. I stumble forward, taking in my surroundings. The room is round. It’s freezing. There is a fireplace—with no fire—and a four-poster bed. There is no door. Where is the door? Panic kicks in and I run in a clumsy circle, grabbing onto the bed to steady myself when my legs buckle.

“Where is the door?”

I can see my breath steaming into the air. I focus on that, watch it expand and dissipate. My eyes take a long time to re-focus. I’m not sure how long I stand there, except my feet start to ache. I look down at my toes. I can barely feel them. I have to move. Do something. Get out. On the wall in front of me there is a window. I amble forward and rip aside the flimsy curtain. The first thing I notice is that I’m on the second floor. The second thing I notice—oh God! My brain sends a chill down the rest of my body—a warning. You are done, Senna, it says. Over. Dead. Someone took you. My mouth is slow to respond, but when it does, I hear my intake of breath fill the dead silence around me. I didn’t believe people actually gasped in real life until the moment I hear myself do it. This moment—this gasping, heart-stopping moment, when all that fills my eyes is snow. So much snow. All the snow in the world, piled right below me.

I hear my body crack against the wood, then I fall into darkness. When I wake up, I am on the floor lying in a pool of my vomit. I moan and a sharp pain shoots through my wrist when I try to push myself up. I cry out and shove my hand over my mouth. If someone is here I don’t want them to hear me. Good one, Senna, I think. You should have thought of that before you started fainting all over the room and making a racket.

I grip my wrist with my free hand and slide up the wall for support. It is then that I notice what I am wearing. Not my clothes. A white linen pajama set—expensive. Thin. No wonder I’m so damn cold.

Oh God.

I shut my eyes. Who undressed me? Who brought me here? My hands are stiff as I reach across my body to examine myself. I touch my chest, pull my pants down. No bleeding, no soreness, except I am wearing white cotton panties that someone put on me. Someone had me na**d. Someone touched my body. Closing my eyes at the thought, I start to shiver. Uncontrollably. No, please, no.

“Oh, God,” I hear myself say. I have to breathe—deep and steady.

You’re freezing, Senna. And you’re in shock. Get it together. Think.

Whoever brought me here had more sinister plans than having me freeze to death. I look around. There is wood in the fireplace. If this sick f**k left me wood, perhaps he left me something to light it with. The bed I woke up in is in the center of the room; it is hand carved with four posters. Sheer chiffon is draped across the posts. It’s pretty, which makes me sick. I take inventory of the rest of the room: a heavy wooden dresser, an armoire, a fireplace and one of those thick animal fur rugs. Throwing open the wardrobe, I rifle through clothes … too many clothes. Are they here for me? My hand lingers on a label. The realization that they are all in my size sickens me. No—I tell myself. No, they can’t be mine. This is all a mistake. This can’t be for me, the colors are wrong. Reds … blues … yellows…

But my brain knows it’s not a mistake. My brain is acquainted with grief and so is my body.

Task at hand, Senna.

I find an ornate silver box on the top shelf of the armoire. I pull it down, shake it. It’s heavy. Foreign. Inside is a box of lighters, a key, and a small silver knife. I want to question the contents of the box. Stare at them, touch them—but I need to move fast. I use the knife to cut a strip of material from the bottom of a shirt, then I loop it and tie it into a knot with my teeth and good hand. Slipping my wrist into my makeshift sling, I flinch.

I pocket the knife and fumble for one of the lighters. My hand hovers above the box. Eight pink Zippos. If I didn’t already have chills, I’d get them now. I blow it off. I can’t blow it off. I can and I have to, because I’m freezing. My hand is shaking as I reach for the lighter. It’s a coincidence. I laugh. Can anything tied to a kidnapping be coincidence? I’ll think later. Right now I need to get warm. My fingers are numb. It takes six tries before I can get the wheel on the Zippo to spin. It leaves indentations on my thumb The wood is hard to catch. Damp. Had he put it here recently? I look for something to feed the flames, but there is nothing I can burn that I might not need later.

I am already thinking survival, and it scares me. Kindling. What can I use for kindling? My eyes search the space until I see a white box in the corner of the armoire with a red medical cross on the top. A first-aid kit. I run to it and flip the lid. Bandages, aspirin, needles—God. I finally find single use packages of alcohol prep wipes. I grab a handful and run back to the fireplace. I rip the first one open and hold the lighter to its tip. It catches and flares. I tuck the burning pad against the log and rip open another package, repeating the process. I pray to whoever is in charge of fire and blow gently.

The wood catches. I pull the thick comforter off the bed and wrap myself in it, crouching in front of the meager flames. It is not enough. I am so cold I want to dive into the fire and let it burn this cold off of me. I stay like that, a lump on the floor, until I stop shaking.

Then I move.

Chapter Two

There is a trapdoor under the rug with a heavy, metal handle. It is locked. I yank on it for five minutes with my good hand until my shoulder burns and I want heave up my guts again. I stare at it for a moment before I run to get the key from the silver box. What kind of sick game is this? And why do I take so long to realize the thing about the key? I don’t know what to do. I pace around the trapdoor in my bare feet, smacking the key against my thigh. It is an abnormally large key, old fashioned and bronze. The keyhole in the trapdoor looks large enough to fit it. I get another chill and this time I know it’s not just the cold. I stop my pacing to examine the key more closely. It takes up my entire hand, fingertips to wrist. There is a question mark in the center of the handle, the metal curling around the character in an ornate design. I drop the key. It clanks heavily against the floor not far from where I threw up. I back up until my shoulder blades are pressed against the wall.

“What. Is. This?” There is no one to answer, of course, unless they’re waiting just below that trap door to tell me exactly what this is. I shiver and my fingers automatically close around the knife in my pocket. The blade is sharp. I feel really good about that. I have a penchant for sharp knives and I sure as hell know how to carve skin. If I have a key, they have a key. I can wait here for them to come up, or I can go down. I prefer the second option; it feels like it affords me a little more power.

I walk quickly, sidestepping the vomit and snatch up the key. Before I can think about what I am doing, I crouch over the trapdoor and plunge it into the keyhole.

Metal against metal and then … click.

I use my good hand to heave it open. It’s damn heavy. I’m careful not to make noise when I set it down. I peer into the darkness. There is a ladder. At the bottom of the ladder are a round rug and a hallway. I cannot see past a few feet. I am going to have to go down. I place the knife between my teeth and count the rungs as I climb.

One … two … three … four … five … six. My feet hit the rug. The floor is cold. The cold shoots up my legs. Why hadn’t I thought to look for shoes?

I hold my knife at arm’s length, ready to stab anyone who jumps out at me. I’ll go for the eye socket, and if I can’t reach that—the balls. Just one sharp jab, and when they’re bent over, I’ll run. Now that there is a plan, I take a look around. There is a skylight above me, laser-thin rays of sunlight pierce through it and hit the wood floor. I step through them, my eyes darting around for a hidden attacker.

I am at the end of a corridor: wood floors, wood walls, wood ceiling. There are three doors: two on the left side, one on the right. All of them are closed. There is a wall directly behind me, as well as the ladder I just climbed down. Beyond the hallway I can see a landing. I decide that’s where I’ll go first. If someone jumps out of one of those doors, I’ll be past them and on my way to the front door. Something is whispering in the back of my brain that it won’t be that easy. I walk on my tiptoes past the doors and stop on the landing. The knife is clutched in my hand, though it seems small compared to the situation.

I am obviously in a cabin. I can make out a large, open kitchen down the stairs and to the left. To the right is a living room with thick, cream-colored carpet. Everything is eerily quiet. I creep down the stairs, my back to the wall. If I can make it to the front door, I can run. Get help. My mind goes to the endless snow I saw out the window in the round room. I push the thought away. There will be someone … a house … or a store, maybe. God, why had I not thought to take shoes? I am all action and no brains. I am going to have to run through three feet of snow with nothing on my feet. The front door is directly at the bottom of the staircase. I glance up to the top floor to make sure no one is following me, and then dive for it. It is locked. A keypad sits next to the door. It opens electronically. I am going to have to find another way out. I am shaking again. If someone attacked me now, I wouldn’t be able to hold the knife steady enough to defend myself. I could break a window. The kitchen is in front of me and to my left. I try that first. It is rectangular. Shiny, stainless steel appliances. They look brand new.

God, where am I? A window runs the length of the kitchen, its continuity broken only by the fridge. In the corner there is a heavy circular table with two curved benches on either side. I walk to the drawers and pull them open until I find the one with the knives. I pluck out the largest one, testing its weight in my hand before leaving my baby knife on the counter. I think twice and slip it in my pocket instead.

Now that I have a weapon, a real weapon, I head for the living room. Books line one wall; on the other is the fireplace. A sofa and a loveseat are arranged around the coffee table. There is no way out. I look for something to break a window with. The coffee table is too heavy for me to lift—especially with a sprained wrist. When I look more closely I see that it is bolted to the floor. There are no chairs. I go back to the kitchen, open every cabinet and drawer, my desperation increasing with every second I risk being discovered. There is nothing large enough or heavy enough to break a window. With a sinking feeling, I realize I’m going to have to go back upstairs. This could be a trap. There could be someone hiding behind one of the doors. But, why give me a key to the room I was locked in if they wanted me trapped? Were they playing games? My whole body is shaking as I climb back up the stairs. I haven’t cried in years, but I feel as close to tears as I’ve ever come. One foot in front of the other, Senna, and if someone jumps out at you, you use your knife and cut them in half. I am between the doors. I choose the one to my left, put my hand on the knob and turn. I can hear myself breathing: ragged, cold, terrified breaths.

It opens.

“Oh my God.”

I slap my hand over my mouth and clutch my weapon tighter. I don’t lower my knife, I keep it up and ready. I step onto the carpet, my toes curling around the shag like they need to hold onto something. A canopy bed sits against the far wall, facing me. It looks like a child’s bed in design but it is larger than an adult king. Two of its posters are life-sized carousel horses, their poles disappearing into the wooden beams of the ceiling. There is a fireplace to my left, a window seat to my right. I am having trouble breathing. First the lighters, then the key, then … this.

Next page