Order of The Red Gate
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McKenna has one goal in mind - to grab the next flight to Washington and disappear from her abusive parents, the drug treatment center they locked her in to torment her, and the police. And there is only one person who could help her - her childhood friend and first love - Jude. When she enters the private university grounds where he studies, a sinister cult kidnaps her and forces her into servitude to their supervisor. Torn between trusting her new master Etienne's desire to help her escape and running away on her own, McKenna faces even a harder truth - Jude is the leader of the Order of the Red Gate and he wants her to stay against a small price. She has to pledge her loyalty to the cult. McKenna has no other choice but to rely on him, but is everything as simple as he says? Grim truths evoke gut-wrenching questions, and McKenna is pulled into an ocean of evil and death where one small mistake could cost her either her sanity or her life.
I gritted my teeth and lifted myself on the high wall. Sharp wind brushed through my body, but the view in front of me made me forget all about the cold. The stupid barbed wire was laughing at me, taunting me for trying to escape a well-guarded facility. But it didn’t know I was a well-trained escapee. This was one of my specialties that had gotten me out of my house for years. Ha, suck it, Mom and Dad! Not even rehab was going to imprison me!
A smirk twisted my lips up, and I glanced at the nearby road where a dark Chevrolet stood. It turned on its brights for a short second, and right at the same moment, the alarm behind me went off.
“Shit!” I hissed, realizing my plan to cut through the barbed wire was going into the trash bin, and stood on my feet. My hand grabbed the scissors from my pants pocket and tossed them at the bush behind me. I’d stolen them for nothing. Taking a huge step over the shiny metal, my white trousers got stuck on few of the wires and tore a bit. I ignored the sharp spikes that scratched my legs and stepped on the other side of the wall. The available space was so small that a whole foot couldn’t fit, even side-wise. I was just a second away from falling, but I wasn’t going to give up on my freedom.
When a shout behind me knocked me out of my thoughts, I jerked in fear, and my foot slid off the tiny space, causing me to stagger forward. The next thing I knew was the hard ground and sharp pain that made me grunt. I grabbed my elbow and clenched my jaw. My eyes shot imaginary bombs at the barbed wire that seemed miles away from me now, but when the horn of the Chevrolet squeaked at me, I leaped up.
How many times had you used it to sound like that, Danna?
I dashed to it and, with every step that I took, cursed at the burning ache all over my body. At least, I hadn’t broken anything. Hopefully.
“Come on, come on, come on!” Danna urged panicky as I opened the door and got into the car.
“I’m here, don’t go all crazy on me!” I shoved the door closed, and her black eyes shot me a glare. “What?!” I lifted my hands in the air. “Go if you really don’t want them to catch us!”
She revved the car, and we sped down the way just as I noticed one of the guards running through the gate of the brick fence.
I cackled and showed him a middle finger, even though he couldn’t see it. “Get that, you douche! I was never into drugs anyway!”
“Yeah, but everybody around us believes you are! Oh, Mack, I don’t know what will happen if my parents catch me helping you!” Danna started rambling as I lifted the torn left pants leg and examined my scratches.
“Hold your tits, Dann,” I grumbled, now studying my left shoulder. My fall had been rough. It hurt like a bitch to the touch, and I could tell it was going to bruise. I had a trail of cuts all over my arm. “You won’t get caught. Everybody thinks you’re a goody two-shoes. Besides, even if you weren’t my ride, I would’ve still escaped. You know I easily make friends, and one of the girls on the floor promised me she’d help if I had no one to rely on. So, your parents can’t really blame it on you.”
“Well, be grateful you have someone to rely on, McKenna!” Danna snapped, and I cocked an eyebrow. She was getting in one of her episodes again. “I’m not sure that chick would’ve helped you, or would’ve been of any use, for that matter. Her parents might be rich, but she has no access to her funds. Didn’t you say that yourself?”
I huffed. I did, but that didn’t mean she didn’t have any tricks up her sleeve.
“Yeah, whatever.” I waved a hand and turned to look at the backseats. “Where’s the makeup?”
Danna groaned, her blonde curls jumping with the jerk of her head. “Is that what you’re really thinking about now? You just ran away from a—”
“I have to look presentable.” I shrugged and pushed between the seats, going to the back of the car.
“McKenna! Be careful, you insane wattle tattle!” Danna shrieked, and I laughed at her way of censoring curse words.
“I’ve been doing this for years, don’t shit your pants!” I intentionally swore, and she gasped like a shocked child. God, her parents were so strict. It was such a big problem if she cussed once.
“You did it in Amberly’s car, not mine! You know she was—” She cut off her words, and I stared as her shoulders tensed, and her uncertain hands on the steering wheel shook for a moment. The air filled with her pain.
My heart did too. Amberly… only if you were alive.
After a stiff moment of silence, I reached out for the duffel bag between the back and front seats and opened it. Yes! My favorite shadow palette’s galaxy box shone in my eyes, and I swiped it out, grinning like a madwoman.
“I knew you’d be happy!” Danna chuckled from the front seat, and I nodded, ignoring the slight pain in my shoulder as I did that.
“You know the red color in this palette makes my blue eyes pop.”
“Yeah, yeah. You’ve been saying that ever since seventh grade.”
We locked gazes through the rearview mirror, reminiscing for a short second, and I started applying the makeup. When my vision caught the bloody scratch under my left eye, I frowned. Really?! This was the first night I needed to look well in the last two months, and this was what happened? Great!
I wiped it off with the back of my sleeve and finished putting the makeup on, completing the look with dark red lipstick. It always went well with my pale eyes and black dye that covered my otherwise blonde locks.
“Let’s see what clothes you brought!” I grinned and dug in the duffel bag, hoping she would’ve bought something that fit my taste. We’d known each other for almost ten years, she had to know what I liked.
“Your favorite—black torn skinny jeans, a black sweater, and a grunge necklace.”
“Perfect!” I gasped and removed the dirty tunic from my body.
Danna’s eyes glanced back at me.
“Are you sure about this?” she asked, doubt creeping up her voice.
“About what exactly? You know there is a lot of stuff on my mind right now.”
“I know why you ran away,” she explained, “I wouldn’t have been able to stand being locked up with druggies, either.”
Wow. She and Amberly had been the ones to always take a pill and make me hide the rest of them in my toilet cistern. And now, I was eating shit for that.
I gave her a look, and she glared. “I’m not addicted, Mack.”
“And so wasn’t Amberly, but look where she is now!” I bellowed, and silence stretched between us.
As I finished putting my clothes on, I cleared my throat. “I’m sure, Dann. I believe Jude would be able to help me. He’s always—”
“Been your first and only crush? Mack, that’s not reason enough.”
“He’s always been supportive of me. And when Amberly—” I held my breath, the words not wanting to get out. It was traumatizing to talk about it. “left us, he told me I could turn to him, no matter what happened.”
Danna snorted, taking a right turn. We were finally leaving town. The trees around us became denser, and their leaves shook with the grim mood of the night. They reminded me of the fall that was glaring at us with its outbursts of regular rains and sour winds. It was already the end of October. October 31st. Halloween. What a perfect night to escape a guarded facility. Was I one of the band now? One of the werewolves and the paranormal night creatures that were about to go wild tonight? As if. I wished. My lips twisted up at my thoughts, but my friend quickly pulled me out of them.
“And what can Jude do, Mack? Buy you your freedom? Get your parents to believe you? Or fill the blanks in your missing sexual experiences?” Her eyes clashed with mine through the rearview mirror, and I glowered.
“My missing sexual experiences are not the point here! And for god’s sake, I’m not a fucking virgin!”
Danna sucked in a breath. “Don’t use God’s name in the same sentence as a curse! You know he listens all the time!”
I rolled my eyes and leaned back on my seat, crossing my arms. Ever since Amberly passed away, the communication between us two kept getting worse. Amby had been the bridge between us and our incompatible personalities.
I pushed my fingers through my wavy mid-back long hair and sighed at the ceiling. If I had to be honest, the question wasn’t what he could do for me, it was what I could finally do. Jude, that tough blond-haired neighbor who had turned into my closest male friend over the years… The man who regularly visited my wet dreams. My first love that I never got the guts to confess my feelings to before he left for college… I loved him with all my heart.
And I trusted him.
Jude was much more independent than me.
My heart tightened, just thinking about it. His family’s influence was all over Crimson Valley. But the most important thing they had in my eyes was Pinewood Prestige University. A nearly unreachable place; one only for the high class. The dream school I could’ve gone to if my parents had let me. My guts knotted in that familiar anger, and I heaved a breath, struggling to throw the darkness out of me.
Of course, with so much power, Jude’s family also had tight connections with the police. So, if he could make them turn a blind eye to my disappearance… There wouldn’t be anything else I’d need for my new life.
I was going to disappear from the suffocating gaze of my parents. And I wasn’t going to spare another glance at them ever again. Screw them and their money. They destroyed my future just to keep their flawless image. It was pretty clear which one was more important. And that was not me. My heart stung with the sense of neglect I’d received from them all my life.
There was still a huge chance things wouldn’t go my way, and Jude wouldn’t be able to help me. If that happened, I was going to at least confess my feelings to him and disappear like a flea between the fingers of a human.
“You got me some money, didn’t you?” I leaned forward between the seats, and Danna gasped. She was such a prima donna.
“Do you know the effort it took me to get into your house and talk to your parents without you there?” she hissed, and I chuckled. There was one thing we both shared—the dislike for my parents.
She shot me a hard look, her jaw tightening, and continued, “The mission impossible would’ve been nothing, compared to my effort going to your room on the third floor.” My mom had probably flooded her with two-faced attention and her oh-so-amazing cookies, while in reality, it was the only thing she could cook. Everything else was taken care of by the maids. “When I finally got there under the pretext I had to go to the restroom for an emergency,”—I watched as her cheeks flushed by that. But if she cared so much for her perfect image, why did she start taking drugs? Because of the pressure. I pursed my lips and tuned into her words—“They had even removed
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