Exclusive Excerpt from His Fake Prison Daddy
by Thursday Euclid and Clancy Nacht
Elias sat on his bunk, deciding he should at least try to seem relaxed. “Guess that’s why they put me with you. We’re both readers.”
“Oh no, Mr. Stuyvesant. That’s not why they put you with me.” The smile vanished, leaving scars and those intense, charred-ember eyes gleaming in the cramped shadows of the small cell. His brow quirked, and he whispered almost flirtatiously, “You match my ‘victim profile’ beautifully. Someone up there doesn’t like you very much, little hacker.”
Elias dropped the book on his lap in shock at the sudden mood shift. Victim profile was hardly what anyone wanted to hear, but especially not in a tiny cell.
“Oh.” Keep it together.
Breath became scarce. Elias’s fingers tingled as adrenaline rose and his vision narrowed.
He’d known his sentence was unusually punitive. He’d assumed that was because the juvie warden had put him in such a privileged position, handling much of the IT and paperwork at the detention center.
Simple revenge for what the warden had called a betrayal.
What Elias hadn’t considered was that someone might want him dead.
Suddenly, he couldn’t breathe.
Was there poison on the book? What was happening to him?
As Elias struggled, Hughes swooped in and dropped to a crouch in front of him, hands hovering just above Elias’s body, not quite touching, as he looked up into his face. If Elias didn’t know better, he’d think Hughes was worried.
When he spoke, it was low and soothing, almost paternal. “Breathe with me, Stuyvesant. In two-three-four-five. Out…” Hughes modeled the breathing, coaxing Elias to mimic him.
Should he do it? Maybe this was all part of the scheme.
Terror spiked adrenaline in Elias’s veins, and he leaned against the wall, slowly sliding down onto his side.
What was the point of fighting? If Hughes wanted him dead like apparently the system did, what could Elias possibly do about it?
Elias closed his eyes. He could barely see anything anymore anyway. He breathed as Hughes instructed, curled up on his side in the fetal position. To his great surprise, he started to feel better.
Hughes came no closer, but he kept counting off Elias’s breaths, steady and slow and oddly comforting. “There you are, little hacker. You’re pulling through. A panic attack, I think. Hm.”
Sounding thoughtful, Hughes shifted away, still counting, and a moment later, what had to be Hughes’s own blanket settled over Elias. It smelled like clean soap and spice with a hint of acrid bleach, a weird mixture of industrial and personal.
Elias clutched the blanket and the book to him as he continued to take the long, slow breaths, watching Hughes more directly than he might’ve dared before.
A panic attack? He’d never had one before, but he supposed the situation could merit such a reaction. As Elias caught his breath, he felt able to speak again.
“Thought I was dying. Don’t eat me, not dead yet.” He tried a weak smile to show he was joking, but he was exhausted now.
Had he really been sent to this cell to die? That guard—Garcia?—had to have known.
But why? Was a little hacking really that bad?
“Mm I lack the facilities to properly prepare your flesh. I wouldn’t waste you that way.” Hughes’s expression might’ve been a smirk.
Then he pulled away and stood, walking around the tiny cell with the air of a king surveying his castle. “You’ll discover time moves differently with no natural light. You’ll sleep more than you ever imagined, and your dreams will feel more real than this cell. The emotions you once felt will slip away, replaced by a different sense of yourself.”
He seemed lost in thought for a moment, faraway. Then he looked back toward Elias. “Are you an introvert or an extrovert, Mr. Stuyvesant?”
Elias squirmed forward so he could more easily watch Hughes from his bottom bunk. Weirdly, he felt comforted that Hughes had said he wouldn’t waste Elias.
“Introvert, I guess. Being in juvie, I had to figure out how to deal with people around so much. Guess I’ve always become what I needed to be in the moment.”
“A chameleon then.” Hughes sounded like he approved. He gestured toward himself and said, “I am much the same. Please do honor my desire for quiet and solitude when I’m…in a mood, and I will attempt to make suitable conversation when you’re of a mind to.”