Numbers Page 47

’’Where did you get the girl?’’ Tad tapped the monitor by the door after they entered the hallway. ’’She\s a cute little thing.’’

The black-and-white screen came to life and pulled Christopher from his memories of an hour before. He looked up at the feed. The pup moved cautiously toward his daughter. His spine stiffed. He would kill the little bastard if it tore into Candi\s throat, but it just sniffed at her and then reached out, touching her cheek with a finger. It explored her honey-colored hair next, sniffed at it and began playing with the strands.

’’What?’’ He hadn\ paid attention to what Tad had said.

’’The little girl. Where\d you get her?’’

’’Mind your own business. Keep watch. Stun the little bastard and chain it up if it attacks her. I want to see if it\ll accept her as one of its own. She\s important to our research. Make sure she gets medical attention if she needs it.’’

’’You gave a pup a pet?’’ The guard laughed. ’’That\s hilarious.’’

Christopher wasn\ amused. He had things to do. The police would contact him soon. He\d swear he never left work. The company would back him after he talked to his supervisor. Mercile Industries needed to make sure they produced bogus proof to give him an airtight alibi. Evelyn would salivate once she realized the kind of research they could do with Candi. Candace, he corrected. He had to distance himself from her.

He spun away and stormed down the hallway. He wasn\ going to prison. His own daughter would put him there if she ever told the police what he\d done. No way did he plan to go down because his wife had been a whore. It was unfortunate but he needed to save his own ass. Evelyn would agree. She\d hired him herself, and believed in his research. He\d be protected.

Chapter One

Four days ago

Candi sat calmly in the chair, her fingers curled around the arms. It was never good when Penny wanted to have a conversation. Did someone notice I faked taking my pills again? She\d mastered the pretext of being still and emotionless. Patience had been learned since the last time she\d tried to escape.

The door opened and the woman who walked in took a seat at the empty desk. There were no pens, mementos or even a paper clip on the surface. The room had been stripped of anything a patient could steal. Sunlight glinted off the bars through the clean windows of the office but Candi ignored it. It would not attract her attention if she was as drugged as she wanted them to believe.

’’Look at me.’’

Candi lifted her gaze and stared into what most would consider to be kind amber eyes, framed by a pair of matronly glasses. She knew better. Penny had no heart and the morals of a brick. The two of them had a long history. She\d believed once that the truth would set her free. Instead it had gotten her more heavily medicated and they had locked her in solitary confinement.

’’I have some sad news. Your father passed away a few days ago of a pulmonary embolism. I was just informed.’’

Christopher is dead. Candi had dreamed of hearing that news for too long. It didn\ bring a sense of relief the way she had once believed it would. That had been back when she\d been naïve, thinking her prison sentence would end once his life did. She knew better now, being older and smarter. They were never going to let her out, not even after she\d seen those news stories on the television. Penny would have seen them too. Nothing had changed.

Movement by the door registered at the edge of Candi\s vision, but she didn\ turn her head to look. She could just make out two big shapes. Orderlies had just arrived. Shit. She kept her emotions hidden, aware that the director watched her closely.

Penny turned her head. ’’Give us a few minutes.’’

The door closed and Candi verified that the two figures had left their footsteps were soft in the hallway. She remained still, just blinking a few times.

’’Did you hear me, Candace? Your father died.’’

She nodded slightly after calculating how long ago she\d been given her pills. Twenty minutes had passed, tops. She\d be pretty out of it, but not entirely.

’’How do you feel?’’

’’Sleepy.’’ She purposely slurred the word.

’’I knew the truth,’’ the other woman admitted, keeping her voice low. ’’I did a little side work for Mercile Industries. The money was too good to resist. I counseled some of the staff who had issues dealing with the important work they did.’’

It pissed Candi off. She\d suspected something was fishy when she\d seen those news stories with Justice North but no one had released her. She\d thought at first that Penny might have been afraid to admit she\d helped keep Candi under wraps, but time had proven that she didn\ have the balls to do the right thing. Now she knew she\d never stood a chance of that happening. Her grip tightened on the plastic padding of the chair, but she relaxed before it was noticed. She\d worked too hard to give herself away in a fit of anger.

’’Christopher and I were close.’’ Penny reached up and adjusted her glasses. ’’Lovers. It ended a few years ago when he had to leave the country after the facilities were raided, but no one could tie me to that mess. He paid well for me to keep you here. I\ve felt guilty about that more than a few times. You know I looked out for you though, don\ you? I made sure none of the orderlies or staff messed with you.’’

Candi yawned, blinking a few more times.

’’You\ e a pretty girl,’’ the director went on. ’’You were never beaten or se*ually abused. It happens in these places, but not to you. I only assigned the people I trusted and made damn sure they knew your father was a rich, powerful man who would see them in hell if anyone ever laid a finger on you.’’

Penny paused for a few seconds. ’’That wasn\ true. I mean, he had money, but he pretty much went off the grid once your mother died in that fire. He became paranoid that he\d be arrested. The thing is, now he\s dead, and he won\ be able to make the payments for your care anymore.’’

And here it comes, Candi surmised. The death sentence. She had to give the other woman some credit for at least finally telling her the truth, even if her reasons were selfish. It was a guilt dump in some sorry attempt to make herself feel better.

’’I can\ let you walk out of here. You\d tell them what I did. I never documented the things you told me from the therapy sessions about your childhood, and that would look suspicious. I never allowed anyone else to work with you, and they\d pore over your medical records if anyone actually believed your story. I\d go to prison.’’

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