Song Suggestion: The Chainsmokers- "Sick Boy"

A Painful Truth

Coral's cheek throbbed. Tilly was much nicer than Marie. Very young with pretty skin the color of dark amber, dark curly hair, and doe brown eyes. She reminded her of pictures of her late aunt Theodora, but shorter and softer.

Tilly fussed while she sat on her bed, dabbing a cloth to her lip to clean the blood.

"A man should never hit a woman," she said with kind eyes.

Coral found it all a little funny. A man could kidnap a woman, but god forbid he hits her. She didn't say anything though, knowing the girl thought they were on the right side.

The man had hit her so hard she thought her eyeball exploded.

And then Vick snapped his neck.

She'd watched from the doorway in shock. He was a killer like her father, like her uncles. She knew that already, but it was different seeing it, as though he morphed into another person. She'd be foolish to view him like that. The same hand that snapped the neck was the same that pleasured her.

Coral had never seen someone killed before. She assumed that's why she felt so shocked. She'd been sheltered from the horrors of reality, spoiled with material and affection. Not once in her life had she been deprived of what she needed, or even what she wanted.

"Are the people really starving?" She asked Tilly.

Tilly dabbed her lip again.

"Before I worked for Thorn, my baby brother went three days without food. I thought he'd die."

Coral wondered what she would do if her brothers were starving. She'd probably join a rebellion too. Coral reached out and touched Tilly's hand.

"I'm sorry you had to go through that. I promise my father and Lux are doing everything possible to end the crop death."

Her face hardened a little, and then she shook her head.

"Maybe, but they would never make you starve. District 1 and 2 don't have the same shortages, and that's no accident. I don't think they understand the fear."

Coral made a decision.

"Don't bring me food all tomorrow. I want to know how it feels. It won't be the same, I know, but I'd like to know a little how Panem is suffering."

Tilly looked at her with a little smile. Coral liked how it made her feel. Something about her sweet nature reminded Coral of her mother.

"You're not what I expected."

"People keep telling me that." Coral paused, looking her up and down. "How old are you?"

"Almost sixteen."

"My little brothers' age."

She blushed prettily. "Yeah."

Coral saw right through it and grinned.

"Which one do you like?"

The twins were on nearly as many magazines as her. The whole of Panem knew them, and they each had their own group of fan girls. Tilly froze.

"Max," she said and then grimaced. "I can't believe I just told you that."

"It's not like I can call him. Though I should caution you away from him. His ego is too big. Rory is the sweet one."

"All my friends like Rory," she said. "But Max is…" She didn't finish and shrugged. "It's not like it matters. He could get any girl, and I'm a nobody. Just a servant, working for the organization that kidnapped his sister. I doubt your parents would approve of me anyway. Not to mention, he already looked at me once during your video meeting, and I'm pretty sure he hates me."

Coral had the odd desire to soothe her and almost felt protective. Girls tended to suck up to her in a grating way, so she never had any real friends. Tilly was refreshing. Besides, Tilly didn't know it, but Max was terrified of pretty girls like her. He'd never even had a girlfriend.

"My mother lived in a shack most of her life. Poverty isn't your personality or any reason my parents would look down on you." She paused. "You're a lot like my mom, gentle and pretty, and much too good for my brother."

"I'll try to remember that when he finds us and tries to kill me for taking his sister."

"He'd never kill you," Coral said. "He's softer than he pretends. You're so pretty he'd probably forget how to use his weapons. And I wouldn't let him touch you anyway. Not when you're the only person that's been kind to me here. I won't forget that."

She gave a snort of a laugh and was about to say something, but Vick arrived in the doorway.

"Thank you, Tilly. I can take it from here."

Tilly gave her a little wink, handed her the cloth for her lip, and left.

"She's sweet," Coral said. "Almost too sweet."

"I thought you'd like her. Though if you misbehave, I can always send back Marie."

Coral gave a shiver of disgust, which only made Vick grin. And then his grin died when he looked at her face. She assumed the wound looked ugly already. She tended to bruise easy, and the man didn't hold back.

Vick walked over and brushed a light finger over her cheek. Coral recoiled. She still saw him snapping the man's neck. So easily, without flinching. Would he eventually do that to her? Vick drew back his finger with a frown.

"You don't have to be scared," he said. "No one is allowed to touch you but me." He grabbed her chin and twisted it up, so she looked at him, but she still grimaced.

"So you won't punish me when I misbehave?" She tried to tease, but it came out flat. "What if I make you really mad?"

She expected him to grin, but he looked at her with a dark seriousness.

"I'm not sure you understand." He let his thumb trace over her bottom lip, careful over the wound. "There's only one way I wish to torture you."

Something warm curled across her insides. Vick licked his bottom lip as if he wished to dip down and show her.

He sighed and stepped away.

"I'm afraid I have to upset you more today." He snapped his fingers, and a man came in with a television, setting it up on the dresser and plugging it in. "It's come to my attention you've never been told the truth about your family."

"I don't wish to know."

He scowled.

"Ignorance isn't cute, Princess." He snapped his finger again and the man left. "I saw your expression in there when I killed Bart. I won't apologize for it. I'd do it again to anyone dumb enough to touch what's mine."

"Well, I'm not yours, so no need to kill anyone."

His face looked darker than she'd ever seen it before. Almost cruel. As if he dared her to say it again.

"I've spent a year observing you, watching your every move. You don't understand the hours I spent planning, knowing if I held you in my hand, I controlled your father. So I'm going to make one thing clear." He leaned down close again. "You're mine now, princess."

A whole year watching her. The way he emphasized it made her think there was another layer to it besides control over her father. As if he liked watching her.

She'd been playing a game this whole time, but maybe he wasn't. Or at least, maybe his game was different. She doubted his intentions now. Was it just leverage? Obviously, he was attracted to her, but…

Her thoughts cluttered. She glanced up to find his stare hard on hers as she absorbed what he said. His features cut into sharp lines, eyes like flint.

"You looked at me as if I'm a monster," Vick said through clenched teeth. "But you've been surrounded by them your whole life. If you can hug your father with his bloodied hands, then you can manage mine."

"You're Thorn," she said. She wasn't sure why it surprised her. She came to that conclusion when they walked into the video conference, and everyone took a step away.

It made things a little more complicated, since now she had to eventually kill him. It would be mercy compared to what would happen when her father gets ahold of him.

"To them," he admitted. "To everyone that needs to be afraid. But to you, I'm Vick. Now, sit back. It's time you learned who your father is to Panem."


Vick ordered popcorn and sat next to her in bed, tugging his boots and belt off to get comfortable.

"You're hogging all the blankets," he complained.

"If you didn't make it colder than ice, there wouldn't be an issue. As it's your fault, you're the one that needs to suffer."

"I guess we just need to share."

He reached over and tugged her toward him. She almost yelped in surprise, but then he settled her between his legs, so that she laid back against his chest, resting the blanket over their legs while he leaned against the headboard.

Coral stiffened and then relaxed against his hold. One of his hands reached for a piece of popcorn, the other lazily traced up her arm, playing with a curl that tumbled down her shoulder, twisting it in his fingers like her first night here.

It made her wary. Something shifted between them. Coral knew now that if she started something it might lead her deeper into something she didn't prepare for. She knew nothing about the man that held her, not the least, his intentions.

But she was determined to find out.

"Are you ready?" He asked.

Not really, but he made a point. She needed to understand how Panem viewed her father. Why all her boyfriends ran from the room. Why all her friends refused to stay long. Why people walking down the street looked at her father, and sometimes her, with revulsion.

She picked up the remote and pushed play.

The video started at the reaping. She saw Ace's brother volunteer, and then she saw her father do the same, with a fist raised in the air as if in triumph. He looked so much like Max it hurt. She couldn't imagine her brother doing the same.

District 12 came last. They called Primrose Everdeen, and Coral saw a brief glace of her mother's horrified face.

"She's so young," Coral whispered.

"Just a baby," Vick agreed.

But then, like she'd always been told, her older sister volunteered in her place. Katniss. A name her mother whispered when she thought no one heard.

A man that looked a little like Vick picked up a screaming Prim and shoved her over his shoulder.

"You sort of look like him."

"People tell me that." His hand left her curls and went to her bare thigh tracing patterns into her skin. "We were from the same district. I was just a kid when all this happened."

The rest of the video went by in flashes. The chariots, the training, the interviews. Her father, free from scars, looked so handsome and golden under the light.

But that changed when the games began. The blood bath started immediately. Coral wasn't sure what she expected, but it wasn't her father picking up a helpless, screaming child by the hair and sticking a sword through him.

Coral cried out and wished to hide her eyes, but Vick held her chin in place.

"Keep your eyes open. Watch it all, or I'll play it again."

"Why are you doing this to me?" She cried when her father was attempting to kill Katniss. "He didn't have a choice."

"We all have choices."

Vick didn't relent. He made her sit through the first and second games. The blood, the terror. Prim didn't think her soul would ever be clean after this. She didn't think she could ever look at her father the same again. He didn't just endure the games like she thought, killing only when necessary. He was the predator, the one other tributes ran from because there would be no mercy. No matter what he said, a part of her father enjoyed it, ending each kill with a bloody smile.

"Please," she whispered when the second ended with her father raising Enobaria's bloody metal teeth in triumph. "I don't think I can do a third."

In an act of mercy, Vick reached for the remote and clicked it off. Now dark outside, it left the room shadowed only lit by a nightlight in the corner, leaving an orange glow around the room.

Coral hated crying. She rarely ever let herself. Even when waking up after being kidnapped, she'd made the best of it without weeping.

But the cries came from deep within her, a profound grief, a grave horror. The foundation of her life cracked.

"Come here." His strong arms gripped her shoulders and twisted her body so that she faced him on her knees, straddling his waist, head bent into his chest. She whimpered, attempting to suck back her tears, comforted by his heat and heartbeat. Vick brushed his hands down her curls, from her scalp to the bottom of her spine. "I hate you had to watch that, but I think you might understand the rebellion better. Maybe even me better. You were right during the video conference; your father is a tyrant. Do you see now what he's capable of?"

"I still don't understand," Coral said, quieting her cries finally. "I don't know you at all. You've killed people too, just like my father. What makes you any better?"

He grabbed the back of her curls in his fist and tilted her head back. It didn't hurt, but it would if she tried to tug away.

She focused on his strong jaw line, the stubble on his tan skin, the tiny crease in his chin, the bow of his lips. His grey eyes glowed in the low light.

"I'm nothing like your father," he said. "I've never killed an innocent person. I've never killed a fucking child."

She shivered.

His lips pressed against her cheek.

"In time, you'll know why I gladly joined the resistance. It's a good cause. Your father is hoarding the food for people he deems essential. Everyone else is allowed to starve. A slaughter of innocents all over again. Little toddlers are dying of hunger." His lips moved to her jaw. "However, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't revenge. A personal vendetta."

Coral tried to tug back then, but he yanked her into place.

"If you hate my family so much then why are you—" His lips went to her neck, and she gave a small gasp. "Why are you—" His lips went to a spot behind her ear. "Why are you doing this?"

He smiled against her neck.

"Why am I wanting to kiss the illegitimate child of a monster and a whore?" His words felt like ice. She tried to reach back in anger. She didn't know if she wanted to hit him or find a weapon. But he flipped them in a violent turn, and now he hovered above her, heavy body between her legs. "Don't look so hurt. I thought we already went over this."

"You only want me to hurt my father."

His mouth went back to her neck, but this time he used his tongue. Her breath lurched, unable to stop the low keening noise at the back of her throat.

"At first. For years, I planned to take you, use you, and kill you, along with your entire family." He teeth scraped over her collarbone, as he tasted every inch of her skin. "But then I saw your picture, all grown up. Panem magazine's most eligible bachelorette, sitting there so sweetly in your green dress, just tight enough so I'd both see and not see what you would look like without it. Big blue eyes. Hair that made me want to dig my hands in the curls, reminding me of fire. You could burn me, and I'd let you. The most beautiful woman I'd ever seen, and you just had to be a fucking Carthage." His fingers crawled down her curves to end of her dress.

A part of her knew she should fight this, but a larger part didn't want to. Since she'd arrived, she wanted him, and despite nearly hating him now, she was terrible at denying herself what she wanted.

His fingers curled around the hem of her dress and tugged it slowly up, up, up until it pulled from her upper body and over her arms with a static crackle. Vick threw it to the floor. And when he reached behind her to unclip her bra, she didn't fight him. The cloth fell away to rest next to the dress. Her arms were heavy by her side, gripping the sheets in her fingers as his mouth now trailed along her stomach, tongue dipping into her belly button.

His desire could be felt in every dip and curve of his tongue. A solid year of want and imagination. His mouth went slow, achingly slow, as he circled her breast. Until finally his hot mouth captured her breast, looking up at her with wicked eyes, letting his tongue lap against her taut nipple.

"God," she gasped. The sound didn't rush him. He spent his time enjoying her body, first one breast then the other, until she throbbed, so painful she tried moving against him. He only pushed her hip down.

"Not yet, Princess."

In angry frustration, she brought her hand down, trying to relieve some of her own tension, but he grabbed her hand and brought it over her head, tangling their fingers together.

He looked at her, eyes molten silver, serious and intense, as if what he was about to say had gravity.

"I couldn't get you off my mind, spent weeks with my hands on my dick like a fucking teenager, looking at every pictograph and photo of you I could find. I tried to imagine killing you, but the images of me strangling you, twisted into something more… sinful, imagining the sounds you'd make with my dick inside you."

His free hand trailed down over her underwear, letting his nails scrape against the cloth right on her clit. She arched her back into the feeling. He let go of her hand to sit back and slowly take off her underwear, as if unwrapping a present, sliding it down her legs. Again, she gave no resistance. After, he sat back studying her. She was glad for the low light, because she bet she was red all over. She'd never been naked with a man, let alone seen anyone look at her like that, tracing her undressed curves with his eyes, as if he wanted her more than food and water. "Fuck, you don't know how beautiful you are… or you probably do. It makes this more dangerous, knowing the power you have over me."

She began to shiver, maybe from fear. He noticed when his hand brushed along the outside of her thighs.

"I'll be gentle," he promised, as if trying to soothe a frightened colt.

She wanted this. She ran away and got herself into this mess because of it, but she couldn't deny she was also frightened, especially with his intensity. This meant more to him in an obsessive way than it did her.

But Vick wasn't giving her time to change her mind. He ripped off his shirt, leaning down and capturing her mouth in a searing kiss that hurt her injured lip. She'd never seen him without a shirt, and he was as striking as she suspected: wide shoulders, heated muscles, rigid stomach—not thin, but thick. Powerful. Still kissing her, he unbuttoned his pants, shoving them along with his boxers down and then kicking them off.

They were both naked now, hot flesh pressed against hot flesh, and he settled between her thighs, slowly kissing like lovers. It felt exquisite, as if she was meant to do this with him. He placed both hands on the sides of her face, tangling them into her hair like his fantasy.

Coral let herself explore, tracing her fingers down his body, over his shoulders, his chest, his ribs, the V on his lower stomach. Vick ended the kiss and laid his head on her shoulder, trembling as she finally reached his dick. She took it in her hand, wondering at its length, the width. It's not that she'd never seen one before, but she'd never felt one. Never saw the effect it could have on a man to touch. He gave panting breaths against her neck as she stroked him.

Vick caught her wrist after a few minutes.

"I don't want to go like this." He lurched forward letting his dick drag across her clit, back and forth, sending jolts of electricity across her body until she began to pull her legs back in invitation, allowing him to settle further into place. "I want to go inside you."

"I'm not on birth control."

He rocked again over her clit. She was being so fucking stupid. But it felt so good, her whole body burning. By this point, she understood she was terrible at making smart decisions.

He leaned down and grabbed the back of her neck, pulling her close to his face.

"I'm not wearing a condom to fuck you," he said. "So if you want me to stop, then tell me now."

"But the consequences—"

"Fuck the consequences." He rocked against her clit again, letting her head fall back on the pillow. The sensations exploded through her. "You have five seconds to tell me to stop."

Her will power was nonexistent. She'd already jumped in too deep, and she wanted too much. She'd think of the consequences later. She tilted her head to the side, biting her lip, and he knew he won. The five seconds ran out.

"Look at me," he said. She did, wondering at the stare he gave back. It almost scared her. He pressed the tip in before she could back out. It didn't hurt as bad as she thought it would, wet enough she just stretched as he pushed in, only getting a little uncomfortable when fully inside, the skin of their hips touching. "Fuck," He sucked in a breath through clenched teeth, "you feel so tight." He waited for her to get used to it. "Do you hurt?"

"A little, but I'm okay."

It felt odd to be so filled, pleasant, though a little painful.

He gave a wolfish grin, white teeth glinting as bright as his eyes.

"There's no going back now, Princess." He pressed somehow even deeper inside her, and they both groaned at the feeling.

"Why aren't you moving?" She shifted her hips, impatient, but he held her still.

"Because I need you to understand what this is." His hands tightened into the skin on her hips. "The rebellion said they'd give me anything I wanted to be one of their leaders, but I only asked for one thing."

"And what was that?" An odd feeling overcame Coral. That she was in too deep. That it wasn't a game or just a convenient fuck with a rival's daughter. That she didn't know anything about the man inside her.

Vick lifted her hips, pulled back, and slammed into her.