Nicole’s single word echoed in my ear. Briana buckled, her hands shot to her nose. Blood dripped onto her pale pink dress. I couldn’t move; I wanted to obey, but I couldn’t leave my sister.
She, too, turned, searching for a way out. She made for the door they’d arrived by, but Briana grabbed her hand. She yanked Nicole back and aimed an elbow at her temple. Nicole blocked it and struck at Briana’s neck.
Her black hair fell over her face and she buckled. Nicole turned to flee, but men surrounded her. They surged forth as one. They weren’t stupid; they knew they had to work together. Her face lifted and she caught sight of me.
Desperation flooded her eyes and she screamed again. “Go!”
As the single syllable left her lips, one of the men got close enough to wrap his arms around her from behind. His weight restrained her enough for a second to come to his aid.
I stepped forward, intending to disobey Nicole, but Matt stopped me. I tried to tug my arm free but he wouldn’t let go.
“Don’t even think about it.”
“Get off,” I said, my voice deceptively calm.
“There’s no point.”
He was right. My eyes were drawn to the dance floor just in time to see pain race across Nicole’s face. It rippled through my heart.
Her eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed into their waiting arms. One of the men held a needle of some sort. He pocketed it and flung her limp body over his shoulder. Another did the same with Briana.
My lungs didn’t want to work. I couldn’t make myself breath in. The sound faded around me.
What had Briana done?
She’d betrayed us—she had to have. Why else would Nicole have punched her?
The rest of the men spread across the room. Their eyes skimmed the crowded dance floor, searching for us. They sorted through the girls, inspecting each and every wrist.
I crouched out of view, hiding behind everyone else. I tried to regain my breath and focus on getting Nicole back. Where we stood wasn’t going to be safe for long. I spun around, trying to find another exit.
There was no way out except the main entrance and the door through which Briana and Nicole had arrived. Both were blocked.
“Matt, get her out of here now!” Marissa ordered.
Matt sprang into action. His fingers wrapped around my wrist and he tugged me behind the frosted glass of Marissa’s VIP area. Mouse followed close behind. She’d only said me, why not Mouse, too?
The pulsing music fell silent and a harsh voice rang out. “Everyone on your knees!”
Hiccups and whimpers floated on the air. Everyone shuffled to the ground. “Check the VIP area.”
There were no doors. I backed away from the glass.
Heavy boot steps neared, the outline of two men became visible on the other side of the foggy glass. I reached for the blades at my thighs when Matt released my hand.
“Put them away,” Matt muttered, pulling aside an oriental wall-hanging a similar shade of red to the couch.
The embroidered fabric hid a secret door. If one knew what to look for, it would have been the most obvious place, but hidden passageways weren’t exactly expected in a nightclub.
Matt lifted a key from beneath his shirt, fitting it in the lock and twisting it open. The thick metal door creaked as it swung open. He pushed us through and followed after.
As he turned to close the door, two armed men appeared. They couldn’t hide the surprise on their faces but they hastily leveled their weapons. A single shot fired. It hit the reinforced door with a sickening crash. I covered my ears, the noise hurt my head. Screams rose from the captives inside the club.
Someone yanked on the handle, but it didn’t shift an inch.
Matt’s clothes rustled when he moved and his footsteps rang against the metal platform upon which we stood, echoing in the darkness. Not a single pinprick of light pierced the blackness surrounding us.
The seal around the door was tight. Before Matt had closed it, I’d caught sight of the low roof and steps leading down. I tried not to move my feet in case I was closer to them than I thought. I’d been too distracted by the armed men to be paying the attention I should have been. I had noticed one thing though; there had been a rail somewhere. I reached out, feeling around.
I found it, slightly to my left. The fingers of my good hand closed around the metal bar. Cold rust flaked against my palm, the fragments stuck to my skin. I inched my feet closer so I wasn’t so unbalanced, sliding them along the dented metal.
“Come out and we’ll spare your sister.”
I squealed as the words sounded right in my ear, delivered by the radio receiver. Faint laughter rang behind the door.
I steeled myself against their voices. They were playing with me, but I couldn’t help thinking about their offer.
“Don’t do it, Michaela.” Mouse’s voice was serious, punctuated by the fact that she used my full name.
“Do what?” Matt sounded confused.
“They offered a trade,” Mouse said. “Her for her sister.”
Something metallic chinked against the rail. It rang slightly, vibrating against my palm. Light flared from a small flashlight in Matt’s hand, allowing us to see our surroundings again.
“You might as well come out. You have thirty seconds before we come in after you,” the voice in my ear said.
“And how are you planning to do that?” I asked shakily.
I yanked the earpiece out, but I could still hear it.
“We need to get out of here,” I said, turning to Matt. “Now.”
“Follow me.” He hurried down the steep metal stairs with surprising agility. My heart almost missed a beat as I tripped, the heel of my sandal caught on a grate of one of the steps. I caught the railing just before I would have tumbled into Matt.
I dragged myself up and tore the shoes off my feet. I shoved them through the gap between the steps, into the darkness below. As they fell, I cursed myself. I should have left them for the men to trip over.
As I reached the bottom of the stairs, mustiness assailed my nose. A harsh dryness made it difficult to breathe. The air hit the back of my throat, I swallowed and tried to ignore the discomfort.
A low tunnel stretched in front of us as far as I could see. The arched ceiling was low, Matt had to duck his head. The cramped conditions didn’t hinder him in the slightest. He moved well for a human. Support columns extended from the walls on either side, making the corridor seem narrower than it really was.
I accelerated and Mouse’s bare feet slapped against the slippery concrete behind me.
I couldn't block the faint voice from the radio as he reached the end of his countdown. “One…zero.”