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“She’s not smoking them.” I took the pack from Zola and slung them over my shoulder. They fell to the floor.

“Hey!” Alexander ran back to get the cigarettes. “What’s up with him?”

Only the gods knew Zola’s response.

As soon as we entered, music boomed around us, and there was no more time to think about what would happen to us. I had to stand guard and make sure I kept her safe.

10

Walking Through Hell

Hunter

The album release party was an odd spectacle to behold.

The thudding rhythm and the sour-sweet smell rocked me as I pushed through the heavy curtains inside the swinging door. In the dim red lighting, the eyes of the coat-check girls glowed and summoned.

I sniffed.

Do we have enough weed in here? Jesus.

I looked round. The music boomed from a four-piece band—clarinet, double-bass, electric guitar, and drums. Dozens of couples danced under the crimson lighting. The walls had been varnished black and mirrored the dancers on the polished surface.

Discomfort set in. The lighting made it impossible to distinguish features unless I was a few feet away. Plus, the red glow made it all macabre, like blood covered everyone.

We continued forward.

Alexander took us to another set of double doors in the back labeled VIP. He opened the doors as he held the pack of cigarettes I’d thrown on the ground.

We walked through.

The room was no more than a sixty-foot square. Around twenty tables packed this place. They called the club Lake of Fire, and it was hot like hell and thick with weed smoke and perfume.

Sweat beaded on my forehead. I wiped it away as we walked toward the center where a man sat on a throne.

This must be Trigger.

Lake of Fire was an odd name for a club. The words were symbolic for hell. That was what it was called in the Bible. Mom had recited two lines from revelations more times than I could remember.

“Do you hear me?” Mom whispered in my ear.

“Yes, ma’am.”

She cleared her throat and read from a book that didn’t exist in her hands. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.” She turned an invisible page. “Where the beast and the false prophet are and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

I nodded.

“Be careful. The devil comes for even little boys like you.”

“Yes ma’am.” I pulled down my pants and bent over to take my whipping.

It didn’t matter what that women had said about the Lake of Fire or even God. In fact, I was getting annoyed that I was getting flashbacks of my mom more and more since being around Zola.

She’s bringing back these memories.

Either way, this club wasn’t what Mom yelled about.

Perhaps the club owner was a Nirvana fan. The band had talked about their own idea of hell in the song named Lake of Fire.

Regardless if it was the bible or Nirvana that inspired the owner, he’d created hell. It was Lucifer’s den. Satan’s playground. Hades’ hopping palace of fun. Almost every woman in there was nude—not half naked or barely dressed, but only wearing heels and smiles. Many of them lined the walls, holding t-shirts with Trigger’s ugly face on them. Some held hats and other Trigger merchandise. Every part of their body was exposed, nipples to the unshaved folds between their legs. Almost all were too young. Barely legal.

I couldn’t help myself as I whispered to Zola, “It looks like a lot of girls in here just celebrated their eighteenth birthday.”

Zola rolled her eyes at the craze. “Trigger took the idea of sex sells and ran too fast with it.”

“He sure did.”

The nudity gave the place an immoral feel, like a raunchy strip club filled with pregnant strippers strung out on heroine with purplish marks on their arms. Something a moral person wouldn’t want to fuck with. There damn sure would be no merchandise purchasing from me this evening.

The crowd thickened as we moved further into the place. I had no idea from looking on the outside, but the inside was separated into three levels. The dressed guests represented the uber-wealthy and celebrities. Many faces I recognized from tv or movies.

Three glass elevators stood at the back.

We followed Alexander and stepped on one. He had the pack of cigarettes in his hand. His gaze flickered back and forth to the pack and Zola’s free hand. I caught his attention and shook my head. I didn’t care how much the company had paid her to sell the cancer sticks, they wouldn’t force them down her lungs.

York and I need to have a serious talk.

We passed the second floor and didn’t stop. I checked out that level for a few quick moments. It had the things one would assume—velvet couches, two bars, and a DJ.

We stopped at the third level and left the elevator.