****Soooooo this isn't just some random bump. It's just another one of my revamps. I've changed a lot of the story's components (a character has been scraped and replaced with a much better one, events have changed, dialogue improved, chapters rewritten etc). Although the plot is essentially the same, it's definitely not the same fic, so it's worth the reread. Well, it's taken me a while to correct it so i hope you enjoy this version. PS, although i've "blurred" them out, there is a bit more cursing in this version. Nothing that's cringe-worthy though.... at least i hope not. This is sequel to BB: A New Beginning **** -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- “Terry?” Jazz calls out in a small voice that could barely be heard. “Terry?” She tries again, the name dissolving into the dark expanse surrounding her. Her heart begins to pound; the silence slowly creates a panic that engulfs her. “Terry!” She frantically cries again, trying to move her legs forward but failing. A sob chokes out another attempt to call the name before fear steals the strength of her legs. She desperately hugs herself, hoping that her emaciated arms will keep imaginary trolls from ripping her soul to shreds; but she knows she’s losing the battle. Every minute that passes, she feels herself shrink and break, slowly turning into a hollow shell. The growing emptiness makes her feel vulnerable, knowing all it’ll take is a light gust of wind to scatter that shell apart. She tries one last time to call out for Terry, but no sound comes out. “He isn’t coming,” a voice suddenly says, forcing Jazz’s eyes to look up. Her jaw drops with surprise, but the woman’s face staring back maintains a dull expression. “He isn’t coming,” the brunette repeats, her gray eyes suddenly twinkly. “And he never will, not for you.” Jazz tries to cover he ears against those words, but she’s paralyzed by shock. “He’d never come for you,” the older woman sneers, relishing the fear in Jazz’s wide eyes. “No,” she gasps. “Face it,” the woman crouches to Jazz’s level. “You’re not worth helping. You’re just a liar…” “No.” “A coward…” “No.” “A mistake,” she hisses into her ear. “No!” Jazz suddenly cries out, shooting up as her eyes fly open. Panting, Jazz looks around to find herself sitting up in bed, her sweaty bangs sticking to her brow. She frantically studies her arms and hands, relieved to find the emaciation was also part of the dream. She tries to control the sharpness of her breath in an attempt to calm her beating heart. It’s been a while since nightmares evaded her sleep, but they’ve been getting worse the last few days. Once composed, Jazz rests her head back on her pillow, but her eyes remain wide open for fear of picturing that woman’s face again. -----*****----- Nothing beats a real Cuban cigar, a truth Martin Cooney is very much aware of as he relishes the feel of the rolled tobacco between his stubby fingers. He leans back in his plush desk chair with a satisfied sigh and admires the cigar’s dry yet supple feel. Reaching for his cutter, he places the rounded tip between the blades; but before he could squeeze the handles, a knock on the door interrupts his routine. “What?” He irritably asks, turning his chair away from the door and facing the window behind him. “Mr. Cooney,” a tall, burly man greets as he steps in. He takes his signature fedora in his hands as he approaches the desk. “We got a problem.” “Which is?” The lackey hears the clip of the cutter and cringes when he realizes he interrupted his boss’ smoke break, but the issue is too pressing to push aside. “Franco, he ain’t talkin’.” Cooney swivels his leather chair just enough to raise a brow at the man nervously twirling his hat in his fingers. A tense moment of silence passes before he turns away, the back of the chair replacing his grimace. “Call Thorn. Twenty grand; twenty-five if he tries for more,” he finally orders, taking out a zippo lighter and flipping it open. “Yes, sir,” the occupant replies before spinning on his heel and hurrying away. Unless he wants Thorn to practice on him, he knows he has to get out of there before the smokes starts rising. -----*****----- Thorn takes his time sliding the plastic cards through the cred reader as he counts the payment agreed upon. He bites down on the toothpick sitting in the corner of his mouth when the total comes to twenty-five thousand and looks up at the burly man, no longer nervous now that he’s away from his employer. “His name’s Franco,” he starts, crossing overly muscular arms over his chiseled chest. “We need to know--” “I don’t care,” Thorn interrupts with a gravely whisper, setting the creds aside as he rises to a height equal to Cooney’s lackey. His green eyes twinkle with excitement when he continues to say, “just let me know when to stop.” He moves past him and enters the room where Franco is tied up and gagged. Franco, however, doesn’t look like the typical victim; the bored glance he gives Thorn displays an uncommon confidence instead of the expected fear, but it doesn’t discourage Thorn. Bending over so their faces are level, Thorn pulls the gag off of Franco’s mouth. “If you expect me to talk,” Franco jeers, “ you’re going to be disappointed.” “Actually, I pulled that off so I can hear you scream,” Thorn replies with cold, smiling eyes that snuff his victim’s confidence. Pulling the toothpick out of his mouth, Thorn holds up the half he hadn’t chewed on, studying the sharp, wooden tip with his eyes before his gaze drifts down to Franco’s hand restrained on the armrest. He takes hold of Franco’s index finger, lifting it slightly so he could gently wedge the toothpick end between the nail and skin. His cold eyes drift up to Franco’s petrified face, and with a pathological grin, violently shoves the sharpened wood into the quick, relishing Franco’s agonized scream. “Let’s get started,” Thorn grins as he straightens and pulls out a full box of toothpicks from his pocket.