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Excerpt from

The Cellar  

- Natasha Preston


He whispered "Lily" over and over while he dragged me toward a white van. I watched trees pass me by and birds fly over us, landing on branches. Everything carried on as normal.

Oh God, I needed to get away now. I dug my feet into the ground and screamed so hard that my throat instantly started to hurt. It was useless, though; no one was around to hear me but the birds.

He tugged his arm back, pressing it into my stomach. I cried out in pain. As soon as he let go to open the van's back door, I screamed for help. "Shut up!" he shouted as he pushed me inside the vehicle. My head smashed into the side of the van while I struggled.

"Please let me go. Please. I'm not Lily. Please," I begged and gripped the side of my throbbing head. My whole body shook with fear and I gasped for breath, desperate to get some air into my lungs.

His nostrils flared and his eyes widened. "You're bleeding. Clean it. Now," he growled in a menacing tone that made me tremble. He handed me a tissue and sanitizer. What? I was so scared and confused that I could barely move. "Clean it now!" he screamed, making me flinch.

I lifted the tissue to my head and wiped away the blood. My hands shook so much that I almost spilled the sanitizer as I squirted it onto my palm and rubbed it into the cut. The stinging caused me to clench my jaw. I winced at how much it hurt. The man watched me carefully, breathing heavily and appearing repulsed. What the heck was wrong with him? My vision quickly blurred as fresh tears spilled over and rolled down my cheeks.

He grabbed the tissue, careful not to touch the bloody part, threw it into a plastic bag, and shoved it into his pocket. He then cleaned his hands with the sanitizer. I watched in horror. My heart slamming against my chest. Was this really happening?

"Give me your phone, Lily," he said calmly, holding his hand out. I cried harder as I reached into my own pocket, took my phone out, and handed it to him. "Good girl." He slammed the back door shut, immersing me in darkness.

No! I screamed and banged against the door. A moment later, I heard the unmistakable roar of the engine and felt a rocking sensation as the van began moving. He was driving. Driving me somewhere. To do what?

"Please help me!" I shouted and repeatedly slammed my fists down on the back door. It was useless; there was no way the door was going to move, but I had to try.

Every time he turned a corner, I fell against the side of the van, but I got up and continued shouting for help and banging on the door. My breathing turned to panting, and I gasped for breath. I didn't feel as if air was getting into my lungs.

He continued driving, and with every passing second, I started to give up hope. I was going to die. The van finally came to a stop and my body froze. This is it. This is where he kills me.

After a few painful seconds of waiting and listening to his footsteps crunch on the ground outside, the door flew open and I whimpered. I wanted to say something, but I couldn't find my voice. He smiled and reached in, grabbing my arm before I had the chance to jump back. We were in the middle of nowhere.

There was a large redbrick house sitting at the end of a stone path; tall bushes and trees surrounded the house. Who could ever find me here? There was nothing around I recognized; it looked the same as every other country lane surrounding my town. I had no idea where he'd brought me.

I tried to resist as he pulled me from the van and pushed me toward the house, but

he was too strong. I screamed loudly in one final attempt to get help, and this time he allowed it, which was so much scarier--it meant that he didn't think anyone would be able to hear me.

I repeated over and over in my head I love you, Lewis as I prepared to die--and for whatever he had planned for me before that.

My heart sunk. What did he plan?

He pushed me through the front door and along a long hallway. I tried to take it all in, the color of the walls, where the doors were, in the hope I could escape, but the shock of what was happening stopped anything sticking. From what I could tell the hall was bright, and it was warm, not what I expected at all.

My blood turned to ice in my veins, and the pinch in my arms as his fingers dug into my skin stung. I looked down and saw his finger tips sink into my arm, making four craters in my skin.

My body came into sharp, hard contact with a mint-green wall as he shoved me forward. I pressed myself into the corner of the room, shaking violently and praying he would miraculously have a change of heart and let me go.

Just do what he says, I told myself. If I stayed calm and maybe got talking to him, I could convince him to let me go, or I could somehow escape. With a small grunt, he pushed a shoulder-height bookcase out of the way, revealing a door handle. He pushed the hidden door open and I gasped as my eyes landed on a wooden staircase inside. My head swam. Down there was where he was going to do whatever he planned on doing to me.

I pictured a dirty, dingy room with a wooden operating table, trays of sharp equipment, and a mold-covered sink. I found my voice and screamed again, this time not stopping when my throat burned. "No, no," I shouted over and over at the top of my lungs. My chest heaved as I gasped for air.

I'm dreaming. I'm dreaming. I'm dreaming. I'm dreaming.

With his strong grip, he dragged me with ease even though I thrashed around as hard as I could. It was like I weighed nothing to him. I was pushed to the narrow, exposed-brick wall opposite the door. He gripped my arm again, harder, and pushed me halfway down the stairs. I stood still, frozen in shock and not fully registering what was happening.

My eyes widened as I looked around. I was in a large room painted in a surprisingly pretty light blue--too pretty for a crazy man's torture cellar. There was a small kitchen along one end, two brown leather sofas, and a chair in the corner that faced a small television in the middle of the room, and three wooden doors opposite the kitchen. I was almost as shocked by what was actually down here than I was relieved. It didn't look like a cellar. It was too clean and tidy, everything tucked away neatly. The smell of lemon hit me, making my nose tingle. Four vases sat proudly on the side table behind the dining table and chairs; one held roses, one violets, one poppies. The fourth was empty.

I collapsed on the step, grasping the wall to stop myself from falling down the stairs. The door slammed shut, sending a shiver down my spine. Now I was trapped. I let out a startled cry and jumped into the hard wall as three women stepped into view at the bottom of the stairs. One of them, a pretty brunette who reminded me a little of my mum in her early twenties, smiled warmly but sadly and held her hand out. "Come, Lily."

She took a few steps up toward me, still holding out her hand as if she honestly expected me to take it. "Come on, Lily, it's okay." I didn't move. I couldn't. She took another step. My heart raced in panic, and I pressed my back farther into the wall, trying to get away from her. What did they want from me?

"I-I'm not Lily. Please tell him, please? I'm not Lily. I need to get out. Please help me," I begged, backing up the rest of the stairs until I came to the door. Turning, I slammed my fists against the metal, ignoring the pain that shot through my wrists. "Lily, stop! Let me explain," she said and held her hand out again.

Couldn't she see I wasn't going to take it? She was fucking delusional if she thought I was going to trust her. I turned back and gasped at how close to me she was. She held her hands up, surrendering, and took another step. "It's okay. We're not going to hurt you."

Tears streamed down my cheeks and I shook my head. "Please, come and sit down, and we'll explain everything." She motioned toward the leather sofa. I looked at it for a minute while I thought through my options-- which were seriously limited. I had to know what was happening and who they were, so I raised my shaking hand and placed it in hers.

My body tensed, muscles hurt from trying to control my shaking. Why didn't I just go with Kerri? I should have never walked through the park on my own at night. I should have listened to Lewis when he lectured me on going out alone. I thought he was just being overprotective. He was overprotective, but I never thought he had a point. Long Thorpe was a boring town. Was.

"Okay, Lily--"

"Stop calling me Lily. My name is Summer," I snapped. I couldn't have cared less who Lily was; I just wanted them to realize it wasn't me and let me go.

"Sweetheart," the girl who had pulled me downstairs said softly, as if she was talking to a child. "You are Lily now. Don't ever let him hear you say you're not." I gulped.

"What's going on? What do you mean? Please just tell him to let me go." I gulped down oxygen as my lungs seemed to shrink. "Why won't you listen to me?"

"I'm sorry, you can't go. None of us can. I've been here the longest--almost three years now. My name is Rose," she said and shrugged. "It used to be Shannen. This is Poppy, was Rebecca, and over there is Violet; she was Jennifer before." What the heck? This was bloody insane. She had been locked up down here for three years?

"B-before what?" I croaked.

"Before Clover," she replied.

I shook my head, trying to make sense of what was going on. "Who's Clover? Him?" The sick Lily bastard man? "Please just tell me what's going on. What's he going to do to me?"

"We're to call him Clover. You do everything we tell you, and you'll be fine, okay? Never disagree with him and do not tell him your real name. You're Lily now. Summer doesn't exist anymore."

About the book:

When sixteen-year-old Summer Robinson goes missing one night, her family, friends and boyfriend are devastated. Nothing ever happens in Long Thorpe, so the disappearance of a school girl shocks the whole community. The police waste no time in launching a search and investigation, but with nothing to go on and no trace of Summer, hopes of finding her quickly fade.

Colin Brown, is a thirty-year-old solicitor living alone after the death of his mother. He suffered a traumatic and abusive childhood, and is left with no sense of right or wrong. Desperate for the perfect family, Colin, referring to himself as Clover, turns to drastic measures to get what he wants.

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