Harlan

Book Cover for Harlan

Harlan

Rise of Faust, Book 2

CHAPTER ONE

Celia

Kristoff turns, his attention focused directly on me. “I know it’s a lot to ask,” he says calmly. “Can you start cleaning this up?”

The question strikes me like a physical blow. I swallow hard. Does he realize what he’s asking? I stare down at the blood covered bits littering the hall. A few seconds ago all of this was part of a man. Now it’s little more than a bloody mess along the floor and walls. Can I do this?

My mind races to life before Kristoff and Harlan arrived. To Harlan dragging me back here. To being given a job instead of being forced to submit. To years of meals together and finally seeing true hunger in his eyes when I stood naked in front of him. And finally, to the moment I ran to Harlan’s arms, relieved to have him alive.

I face Kristoff and swallow hard before I nod an acknowledgment. I’ll do anything for these two brothers.

“Thank you,” he says, his shoulders loosening.

I’m not sure how or where to start. My hands are trembling as I pull the kitchen towel from my apron. I crouch, putting a hand down to steady myself then I reach out to wipe the wall. I cup my hand, pushing the towel along. The thin fabric is the only thing between me and remnants left on the old wooden planks.

I should start higher and work my way down, but my legs aren’t cooperating. I don’t know if I can manage to stand right now, much less to fetch the mop and take care of the floor.

The truck’s engine turns over which means this nightmare is nearly over. Brianna and Kristoff move down the hall. Footsteps echo behind us as Harlan heads back inside the building.

“Aha!”

My back stiffens and my blood runs cold, freezing me in place. Kristoff swings around, furious, while Brianna’s hands fly to her chest. All I can do is squeeze my eyes shut as realization sinks in. It’s not Harlan coming into the bar.

“I knew it,” Gerald’s voice rings out with a note of triumph.

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