Home > Dollars (Dollar #2)(3)

Dollars (Dollar #2)(3)
Author: Pepper Winters


He thought whatever drugs he pumped into the IV piercing the back of my hand muted the agony?

He’s obviously never had a partially severed tongue before.

The sensation was worse than any boot or fist. Stranger than any abuse I’d suffered. The muscle was swollen and thick and so different to what a tongue should feel like.

Inhaling through my nose, I instructed the damaged thing to move. I winced in agony as pulls of pressure from the sharp knots of stitches hit me hard.

Will it ever be more than a useless lump in my mouth?

Am I a bona fide mute, after all?

He stood watching, shifting uncomfortably as the silence lingered. Once again, my power over quietness prevailed. I found sanctuary in the pause; I could live in its peace forever.

The only man who turned silence against me was Mr. Prest.

And he’s not here.

I didn’t know why my pulse quickened with anticipation then slowed with a thread of disappointment.

Why is he not here?

The doctor cleared his throat. “My name is Andrew Michaels. I’m the onboard surgeon. I oversee the small medical team here on the Phantom.”

Onboard? So I’m not at a hospital? Not…free?

Instead of worrying about my captivity, I focused on the name that’d sprung up before.

What is Phantom?

I stared harder into his eyes, ignoring the padding wedged beneath my chin to catch any drool and the awful steady throb in my mouth.

Not noticing my mute request for more information, Michaels stepped around my recovery bed and pulled open a drawer to my right by the IV.

His hand disappeared inside, yanking free a pad of paper with the crest of some smoky ghostly design. His fingers vanished again; rustling sounded, followed by the appearance of a pen. Holding both, he turned to me then awkwardly tried to place them in my possession.

I didn’t move.

Not because my body ached and cried for all the abuse it’d suffered, but because I honestly didn’t remember how to accept a gift that wasn’t going to hurt me the moment I reached for it.

“This is so you can talk. I’m sure you have questions.” He tried again to pass me the notepad and pen.

I gritted my teeth, amplifying my swollen tongue. The sensation was foreign and so, so wrong. The tickle of stitches itched my palate as I swallowed a rank metallic taste of old blood.

I shuddered.

A panic attack billowed just out of calming distance…a tempest growing with forked lightning and gales.

My soul grew claustrophobic, as if it could shed this old carcass and find a newer, less broken one. I felt dirty and used and useless and not just because I hadn’t showered in forever. The past few years clung to me even though Master A was dead.

The memory jolted me.

He’s dead.

I killed him.

The quickly forming panic attack paused, swirling with knowledge that I’d finally won. I hadn’t had to die to be free of him.

He died.

Goosebumps careened down my spine as I remembered the heavy squeeze of the trigger and the splash of red. If I was strong enough to kill the man who’d done this to me, then I was strong enough to remain brave and figure out what this new future meant.


A new memory superseded the murder—something about an ocean and a boat and him. Mr. Prest.

Well, that answers that question.

I wasn’t free. I was still in the custody of the man who held my life in his palm.

Elder Prest was a lot of things, but he’d taken care of me, given me medical support, and left me in the care of a normal human being who didn’t expect sex or screams.

That was enough for now.

I’m lucky to be where I am.

If a half-severed tongue was the price I had to pay for it, then fine.

I reached out and took the notepad and pen. The needle in the back of my hand stung as I curled my fingers around the first ordinary things I’d been allowed in so long.

There was no strike or fist. No laugh or threat. Just a kind smile and nod of encouragement.

The moment the welcoming papyrus filled my touch, I had an unbearable desire to write to No One. To reveal what’d happened and why my future notes would be on paper and not toilet tissue.

He still has my other letters.

My eyes flew around the small, nondescript room with no windows and artificial light feathering up the walls to make it seem day rather than luminescent bulbs. Where had Mr. Prest put his blazer with my stolen stories?


He told you to call him Elder.

But why?

He’d been so adamant about Master A not using his first name, yet he’d given me carte blanche to use it how I wanted.

I didn’t understand.

“You do know how to write, don’t you?” Andrew Michaels cleared his throat. “Judging by your injuries, you’ve been mistreated for a long time. Did anyone teach you to read? To use a pen?” He cocked his head at the door. “I can get a female to help if you’d prefer? Just occurred to me you might not want a man around.”

I let him prattle on all while my fingers stroked my pen and paper gift.

“I was the surgeon who worked on you. I ensured your tongue was repositioned correctly and sutured with internal and external stitches—don’t worry, they’ll dissolve on their own in a week or so.”

A week?

That wasn’t long enough, was it?

“Tongues are the fastest part of our bodies to heal. You should have full mobility back very soon. The pain and swelling will decrease every day. However, I can’t guarantee you’ll have full use of your taste buds and heat sensitivity. That is out of the realms of my expertise, I’m afraid.”

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