Song Suggestion: Emmit Fenn- "Painting Greys"



It took three more violent thrusts, each jolting something carnal and instinctive, until she comprehended what he just said.

"What the fu—"

His lips cut her off, distracting her. It caused her body to bloom under him, softening to his touch. She whimpered against his mouth, feeling all of him pressed inside her. He pulled back and rested his forehead against her.

"Stop thinking."


This time his mouth went back to her breast. Everything faded—her worries, her concerns. The fire grew in her belly again, expanding until she met his thrusts.

"That's right," he said, pushing the bottom of her thigh up a little at a new angle that almost made her cross her eyes. "Just feel."

She should push him away, but instead her hands went to his shoulders, her heels against his lower back, feeling the muscles roll as he rocked into her. She arched into each feeling, no longer consciously in control of her actions. She wasn't sure how long they stayed in the suspension of bliss.

"Please, just…" she gasped. "Keep…just like that."

She was close, tensing with each thrust. The tingling branched out.


"Good girl," he panted, giving a hard thrust.

His words shot through her, escalating into an orgasm. She shook against him with the intensity, arching her lower back, hands clinging tight to his shoulders, fingernails digging into his skin.

He hissed a breath through his teeth.

"Coral," he said. "Fuck, I can't." And then, as if it pained him, he pulled out and came on her stomach. It felt sticky and warm, but not for long. Vick reached over and grabbed some napkins on the tray next to their popcorn and then cleaned it off carefully.

"I thought you'd go inside me," she said.

He sighed.

"I almost did. As much as I wanted to, I don't think either of us are ready for the consequences." He leaned down and kissed her lower stomach. "One day I will though."

She leaned back, exhausted. Her muscles felt heavy, as if her brain had trouble moving them. She'd never felt so relaxed, satisfied.

Was it worth it to have sex with her kidnapper? At the moment, every inch of her body screamed yes. However, she was sure once the high went away, she'd hate herself a little. At the very least because she didn't use protection like a fucking idiot.

She wondered if she should feel different, losing her virginity. But all she felt was relaxed and a little sore, though she didn't think she'd ever be the type to be emotional or sentimental about it. Sex was a biological need just like any other. And what Vick just gave her was everything she planned to have the night she ran away.

In reward for a job well done, she'd let him live another day. Maybe a few more if he kept it up.

"I wish I could stay right here forever," Vick said. "With you looking thoroughly fucked. It felt even better than I imagined."

He stayed hovered over her, looking victorious. His hand went to the side of her head, tangling in her curls—a position he seemed to enjoy.

She tried not to admire his form, leaning so casually while encasing her in powerful arms. But she failed. He was a beautiful specimen of male physiology.

"I hope you understood what I meant." He looked serious. "This will not be a one-night stand. This will not be for a week or a few months. You're mine now. I might even marry you."

The cobwebs in Coral's mind cleared instantly.

"It most certainly is a one-night stand. You just wasted a request if you only asked the rebellion for me… which is slightly deranged, by the way. I'm only twenty. Way too young for marriage." Coral noted that she needed to apologize to Lorcan. She could see his smug expression now. "And even if I were old enough, I certainly wouldn't be marrying you."

He looked amused, leaning down and gently nipping the skin of her shoulder.

"Why not?"

"Because you kidnapped me. In case you forgot that little fact."

"You fucked me."

"Yes," Coral said, exasperated. "And it was a poor, spontaneous decision. Something I can think about in my old age, remembering wild youthful adventures."

"Oh, really." He looked far too playful. "It's hard taking you seriously while you're still naked."

She blushed.

"How old are you even?"

"Twenty-eight," he answered.

"So I just fucked an old man?"

"Hey now," he said with a smile. "That would hurt my feelings if I was sensitive."

"Well," Coral said. "You can just forget about marriage. If you're lucky, you'll get a second night."

"Maybe I won't give you a choice." He leaned down and gave another playful nip of her skin, sucking on one spot until it would leave a mark. "What did your district call it? Manato code? The right for the victor to take whatever and whoever they desired."

"I have no clue what you're talking about."

His mouth went back to her neck, as if he couldn't stop tasting her, giving another love bite, until he pulled back.

"I'm surprised you don't know what a manato is, at least through gossip, since it's your legacy. Though I guess your father wouldn't dare tell you since your mother was one."

"My mother?"

"Your mother, your aunt, and your late aunt too. Possibly your grandmother too. Your family is built on it."

A horrible feeling overtook her. Of course, she'd heard the rumors— that Cato Carthage stole Primrose Everdeen, raped her, and forced her into marriage. The rumors followed that the Mockingjay was too sick in the head to leave when she could.

"I don't believe you."

"That doesn't make it any less true." He looked at her with an intense expression. "Your father and uncles stole the women they wanted, fucked them, and kept them. Honestly, they shouldn't be mad I'm doing the same thing, though, unlike them, I'd never really force you."

Coral had enough. He needed to understand every touch of his she allowed because she wanted it. She stayed here by choice. Allowed him to fuck her by choice. And at any moment, she could revoke that right.

She reached to her nails, the middle one on her right hand, pressed on it hard, until a fake nail slipped off.

It grew to the size of a button.

"Get off me," she said, holding it millimeters from his neck. It buzzed, showing it worked just fine.

"There she is," he said with an infuriating grin. "I wondered when you'd attempt to kill me again. Though you should know it makes me hard every time, and I'm not sure you have the energy for a second round."

"This won't kill you, but it'll shock you so bad you'll pass out."

"Shock me?" He gave a snort. "How ironic. The past really does repeat itself. Maybe you're more like the Mockingjay than I thought. Alright, princess. You probably need to go clean up anyway."

Vick stayed put for a moment longer before groaning and rolling off. He reached down to grab his boxers and slipped them on and then sat in the chair eyes on her, following every movement as she made her way to the bathroom.

She closed the door on him before he could say anything else.


When she got out of the bathroom, she found Vick fully dressed in black, lacing up his boots.

He looked up when she exited, still naked. By this point, she felt no shame. Why should she? He'd already seen everything.

He finished lacing his boot, and then leaned back in the chair with a groan.

"Please get dressed," he begged. "Or I may never leave this room."

She pulled on the dress from earlier, not even bothering with her bra or underwear. Her nipples pebbled through the thin material.

"Somehow, that's not any better." He stood up as if it pained him. "Regrettably, I must go." He walked over and held both the sides of her face, tangling his fingers in her hair, staring at her a moment. "Go to sleep. I might be gone until late tomorrow. It depends on how fast we can finish. Tilly will give you anything you need, including company if you wish. And then I promise you, I'll come home to ravish you again." He gave her a kiss on the forehead and then on the lips. Coral allowed it because it felt pleasant. Vick pulled back with a warning expression. "And behave."

"You don't trust me?" She fluttered her lashes.

"As much as a fox," he answered. "There's guards outside your window now. Escape won't be easy, no matter what toys you use."

"That sounds like a challenge."

He rolled his eyes as he let her go and left.


After several stiff drinks, Cato, along with Brutus and Hannibal, sat around the dining room table. Between them were maps of both Districts 11 and 9.

"I don't think they are in either District," Cato said in frustration, narrowing his eyes. "The audits have led nowhere. I'm not sure what to do. We can fight off the skirmishes, but they're growing in number. Unless we cut off the head of the snake, they'll keep coming. Until we know where the fuck they are, we can't do anything."

Brutus grunted in agreement. He'd looked pensive since the video conference, in a different way than Hannibal or him. Not a single word had passed his lips, eyebrows scrunched.

"I'd like to know your thoughts," he asked his old mentor.

Brutus picked up his whiskey and downed it in one gulp.

"No, you wouldn't."

A chill traveled up his spine. Brutus had good instincts.

"I'm in no mood for silence. Say what you're thinking."

"I've been alive long enough to see repetition," he said. "But each time it manages to surprise me." He sighed. "Though this time it might come to our advantage."

"Are you going senile?" Cato asked seriously.

"That would be pleasant," Brutus said. "But sadly, I can still recognize budding love when I see it."

Cato choked on his drink, spewing it out all over the table. Hannibal thumped him on the back.

"What the fuck did you just say?"

Brutus raised one eyebrow.

"I called it with Prim," he said. "And I'll call it again. You saw the way Thorn responded when that fucker struck her. Concerned. Tender. Then he snapped the bastard's neck. He covered his ass for his followers by saying it was for disobeying, but it was for Coral. It's not real love yet, but he's on the path."

They fell into silence. Cato felt itchy under his skin, the trapped violence wishing to burst, but having nowhere to exit.

"I hate to say it, Cato," Hannibal said carefully. "But I had a funny feeling from the beginning of the video. She was flirting. He was as well, and he looked at her in a way… well, you saw it too."

Cato's stomach rumbled. He wished to lean over and vomit all his bad feelings up. He lowered his head in his hands, pulling on the ends of his hair.

"She can be so naïve," he said. "She's just going after the first boy she's been around. I should have let her date the boy that came here the other day. He wasn't worthy, but he wasn't Thorn." He gave an audible groan. "What am I going to do?"

Brutus looked thoughtful.

"We wait," he said. "And we prepare. Either Coral finds a way out on her own, which is entirely possible. Or…" he gives a frown. "Or she'll convince the boy to change direction."

Cato scoffed out loud at that.

"You're a romantic old fool. He'll probably just kill her."

"Killing her isn't in his plans. Not with the way he looked at her."

"He has a point," Hannibal said. Something was clicking along in his mind. "There's three leaders, from our sources. Thorn is just more visible. Probably the least threat. The other two are more violent, leading most of the skirmishes. I believe all three have been trained in our battle schools. I'm starting to believe one was closer than we expected. They have information they shouldn't have… unless there's a rat in our midst. If Coral gains the man's affection, it could turn the tide."

"My daughter is not a sacrificial lamb."

"Look," Hannibal held up two hands. "I don't like her there either, but there's nothing I can do about that. They either end up together like Brutus predicts, or they don't. Either way, I don't plan to let Thorn live long. But I certainly won't stop him if he turncoats."

"So what is your plan?"

Hannibal looked a little apologetic.

"Once we figure out their location, we need Manniola."

"No fucking way," Cato said. "She always asks for too much."

"Well, this time it would be worth it. Those girls of hers are unmatched. They can get into anywhere. I'm not sure how she trained them so well, but they're our only option."

Since the war, Manniola went off into the sunset. He'd almost forgotten about her until ten years later. She'd trained Snow's granddaughters into unmatched spies. They could sneak, blend, camouflage into almost anywhere.

But she cost a lot, which is why he tended to avoid hiring her. She was last of the last resort.

"Alright," he said. "But when she asks for your left kidney and first-born child, don't come crying to me. And we still need to find the location before we hire—"

The door creaked open, and the men snapped into silence. A man stood in the entrance of the dining room with brown hair and pale skin. He had no middle finger on his right hand. If Cato remembered right, the man was a top of his class in battle school, shattering several records. Now he worked for Ace in District 1.

"Come in Felix," he said. The man did as he asked, taking up most the doorway. He stepped near the table with a stack of papers in the hand without a finger.

"Sorry to interrupt," the man's face was unreadable. "But I have Ace's reports. He told me to get them to you as soon as possible."

"Put it on the table and give Ace our thanks." Cato waved his hand for the man to exit. A clear dismissal. He waited until Felix left the room before he dragged the stack of papers towards him.

The room went silent and pensive as he rifled through the papers, first at top speed and a second time slower. Towards the end, Cato stilled, and a little gasp escaped his lips.

"What?" Hannibal said.

Cato looked up.

"I think I know where they are."


Coral obeyed the first part of his orders, only because her body really was exhausted. She put on some pajamas and slid into bed and didn't wake until Tilly entered with a tray of breakfast.

"Thank you." She grabbed the plate and almost took a bite before she remembered her promise. "Here," she pushed it to Tilly. "I want you to have it. I'm supposed to starve today."

Tilly hesitated before she took the plate and ate it carefully. By the reverent way she savored it, Coral knew she must be very hungry.

"Are they feeding you enough?"

Tilly's eyes widened.

"As much as they can." She sighed. "I give most my rations to my family."

"Oh… well, after today, you can always eat half of mine. I don't need all that anyway, and it wouldn't feel right to waste."

She shook he head. "Thorn would never allow me."

"I dare him to tell me no. Even my father hesitates to do that." She gave Tilly a wink. "He wouldn't have the guts to cross me."

"I suspect not, but not because he's scared. I don't think I've seen a man more in love."

Coral gave a snort.

"I think you're mistaking love for desire. Maybe obsession if you want to stretch it. He doesn't even know anything about me besides my family history and what I look like."

Tilly pursed her lips, as if she disagreed.

"He knows a lot about you. More than you think. Though I don't think it clicked into place until he spent time with you. Now he likes you even more. It's you who doesn't know anything about him."

That made her pause. Not all the ramblings about love. That was just absurd, but the last sentence stuck with her.

"You know what Tilly, you're very wise." The girl almost swayed with the compliment. "I don't know much about him."

That ended now.

It was time she misbehaved.