Girl Behind The Veil, Chap One
It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve been writing this story. The good news is that the first draft is finally done! I’ve been going through the manuscript and editing away. Next step will be the beta readers, then the editor, then more revisions. So, there’s still lots of work left. For now, though, I’m going to share the first chapter with you all. Remember, it’s not professionally edited yet. Nevertheless, I think you’ll enjoy this sneak peek. I really love the way the story has developed 🙂
My assignment was simple. Buy the girl and get out. It shouldn’t be too difficult since I’d been in much more dangerous missions than this. Piece of cake.
Besides, being in the Special Forces for the United States government had trained me well to perform under pressure. At the age of twenty-five, I was one of the younger soldiers in my unit. But I had more than proved my worth. Not only was I picked for this assignment because of my age, but I was one of the top combat and weaponry agents, as well as being fluent in four different languages.
I was disguised as Pier Silvani, a wealthy son of a very successful Italian businessman. Pier had a reputation of getting what he wanted, even if he had to break the rules to get it. It made me sick how many human trafficking operations existed in the world. These evil men found ways to get the innocent girls in their possession and sell them to the highest bidders.
I rode in the back of the Jeep while the two Pakistani men, with their guns in their hands, sat in the front. They had picked me up from my hotel couple of hours ago and were bringing me to check the girls out in person. I was well aware that I was at a complete disadvantage with no weapons of my own. I wasn’t even allowed to bring a cell phone with me.
Typically, I wasn’t assigned to such missions, but this one was different. Apparently, they had kidnapped the wrong girl. It looked like this girl I was to save was somebody very important. I was never informed of her father’s identity, but was told he was somebody very big in the political world. As soon as he found out his daughter was missing, he contacted the right connections with enough influence to have my team be brought in to find her.
Once it was determined that this human trafficking organization had kidnapped her three weeks ago while she was shopping in a bazaar, we were given strict instructions to keep it all very simple. I would act as a client, buy her from the organization, and get her out. We would then see her safe to her father, and the mission would be completed.
I only hoped that she never told her kidnappers her true identity. If they realized they had a goldmine in their hands, God only knew what they’d do to her. Even I wasn’t notified of much information about her. I was merely shown a picture of her and was told she was only nineteen years old. My unit hadn’t even told me her name.
Luckily, we had enough contacts to get me in as one of the potential clients. At first, I was given photographs of girls to choose from by the kidnappers. I wasn’t interested in any of the other girls, though. Sure, it would be pretty awesome to be able to save them all, but their fate was out of my hands. I was after the one and only—the girl with the beautiful, gray eyes.
Since my team had already shown me numerous photos of her, I recognized her picture immediately when it was presented to me. She had a hijab around her face, so her hair was completely covered, but her gray eyes were unmistakable. Whereas the other girls had kept their eyes casted down, this girl had stared straight into the camera with a look of defiance.
To keep it believable, I’d chosen four different girls out of the twenty pictures they’d shown me, one being the subject. Now, as we approached the compound—which appeared to be in the middle of nowhere in northern parts of Pakistan—my senses were on high alert. Already driving for two hours, there was nothing around us but vast land.
As we got closer, I noticed five different Jeeps parked, and two large tents were set up. I was guided into one of the tents by the driver and was ordered to stay there until further instructions. Knowing I was with no weapons in the middle of nowhere and responsible for saving somebody very important made my adrenaline pump even faster. But, the fact that they believed I was very wealthy who liked to live on the edge helped me get this close to the subject.
When they brought the four girls into the tent, each was covered from head to toe in her traditional attire. Five men with guns were accompanying them. One of the men, who appeared to be their leader, approached me and shook my hand. He smiled as he pointed to the girls behind him. I smiled back, showing him I was looking forward to the business transaction.
“Welcome, Pier Silvani. I think you’ll be pleased with these girls, yes?” The man spoke in Hindi.
“Yes, very pleased,” I replied in Hindi. I wasn’t very good in the language, but was able to wing it if needed.
“Shall we speak in English to make it easier on both of us?” he asked in a very heavy accent.
“I would prefer it,” I agreed. “Thank you.”
With a swift move, he approached each of the girls and pulled their garments off them. Four completely naked girls stood before me, and it took everything out of me not to react at their humiliation. As much as I wanted to cover the girls, I pretended to inspect each of them by circling around them. Some of the girls whimpered, some trembled out of fear, and all but one kept their gaze down to the ground.
I knew who the girl I was searching for immediately. She was the one who kept staring straight ahead, her lips drawn into a thin line, showing insubordination. Her skin was as clear as a porcelain doll, and the contrast of her jet-black hair cascading against her snow-white body took my breath away. Her almond-shaped eyes were the most unusual color of gray, and the depth in them could pierce one’s soul.
Whereas the other girls stood with their shoulders stooped forward, she remained erect with her shoulders and head held high. There was not a sound coming from her while she stood strong and held onto her pride. Even though her hands were rolled into tight fists and she maintained her chin up, I could tell she was hanging on by a thin thread, holding onto any little dignity that remained.
An overwhelming urge to cover her with my own jacket from the prying eyes of the disgusting pigs snuck up on me. I wanted to protect this girl—a complete stranger—and whisk her away.
“Don’t worry, they’re all virgins. We inspected them.” The man laughed as if he was sharing some inside joke with me.
I forced myself to laugh with him, and pointed to the girl I was after. “I want her.”
“Ah, yes, she is special, yes? We call her Azmia. A beautiful girl, yes?” He approached her and smacked her on her bare bottom.
I saw Azmia close her eyes and clench her jaw, trying to keep herself together.
I stepped right in front of her and cupped her chin in my hand, forcing her to look at me. She stared deep into my eyes, daring me to make the next move. Leaning forward, I brushed my lips against hers ever so softly, causing the men to laugh and whistle. She, however, kept her lips tight, maintaining indifference to my kiss.
“Azmia,” I repeated the name. How fitting since Azmia meant brave. “Yes, very beautiful. I want her. Here’s the money you asked for.” I held out the briefcase containing $50,000 in cash.
The man grabbed the briefcase from my hand and opened it. Once satisfied of the content, he nodded. “Yes, you’ll enjoy this one. We have her papers and her new ID’s for you. You should have no problems getting her out of the country.” He then turned toward his men and spoke in Hindi. “Cover the girls up and get this one ready to go. And keep your hands off her!”
I wasn’t surprised that he had to remind his men to keep their hands to themselves since it appeared they wouldn’t hesitate one bit to fulfill their wildest fantasies with her.
Within ten minutes, the girl named Azmia was sitting next to me in the back seat of the Jeep, covered from head to toe in her black garment. This time, the man who spoke English was riding in the front as a passenger, but the driver remained the same. They were supposed to take us to the airport in Islamabad where they believed my private jet was waiting for us. It was a three-hour drive, and if everything went as planned, we should be at the airport before sunset.
My goal was to just keep us safe for the next three hours, and then my assignment would be done. My team was already waiting for us at the airport, and they’d take over. They were supposed to check us in through the gates as if we were any other passengers to avoid any suspicion. All I had to do was to get Azmia to that point. Once there, they’d get her to her father.
As we drove through a completely deserted road, I kept my eyes on the men in front of me. I was well aware that both of them had handguns attached to their waists. We had been driving for nearly half an hour, and I knew the nearest sign of any civilization was probably another hour away.
The men were talking amongst themselves and would occasionally say a couple of things to me. They were mostly making jokes about my time with my new girl. I humored them and laughed at their silly jokes. But when I heard a sudden pop from the side of the Jeep, I had a sinking feeling that we had a flat tire.
“What happened?” I asked.
The driver got out and answered to his boss in Hindi. “Flat tire, Sahib.”
I showed my irritation. “I don’t have all day. I need to get to my destination while it’s still daylight.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” The leader said to me in English. “The rest of my men are not far behind us. We’ll use one of those Jeeps to get you to the airport.” He grabbed the radio and spoke in Hindi to explain the situation. He then turned toward me again and said, “See, they’ll be here in twenty minutes.”
The driver entered his seat again while we all waited. My senses were so focused on the men that I didn’t notice when Azmia suddenly lunged toward me. Caught off-guard, she was instantly on top of me, punching and scratching.
Before I could take control of the situation, the leader jumped out of the Jeep and pulled her off me. Snatching her hijab off, he grabbed her hair and dragged her out of the vehicle. I leaped out as well, trying to calm everybody down. The driver had remained in the Jeep, waiting on the leader to handle the girl.
“I told you to learn your manners! He’s your master now!” The man screamed at Azmia in Hindi while shaking her like a rag doll. He pulled his gun out and held it to her face.
“Stop!” I ordered. “I can handle her. She’s mine now.”
“She has to be taught a lesson for her behavior,” the man replied back to me, shoving her to the ground.
Azmia landed hard, but only a soft whimper escaped her lips.
“I said, I’m her master now. She’s mine! I’ll handle her!” I kept my voice stern.
The man turned to me, taking in heavy breaths as if to calm himself down. “Fine! But I warn you, girls like this one must be controlled.” He then bent down to pull her up to standing. To my horror, he punched her on the side of her face.
As Azmia toppled down again, I could no longer hold back my fury. I lunged forward, tackling him down. The impact caused him to drop his gun, and I took the opportunity to grab him in a chokehold. When I saw the driver stepping out of the Jeep, instincts took over. Without hesitating, I snapped the lead guy’s neck, and he lay limp in my arms.
I knew I had to act quickly as the driver ran toward us with the gun pointed at me. Everything happened all at once. The gunshot echoed into the deathly silence of the isolated road. The driver went down, and I realized Azmia had just shot him. She was standing there with the leader’s gun in her hand, her eyes wide with shock.
I stood up very slowly, stepping toward her. When she pointed the gun at me, I raised my arms up, showing her I was harmless.
“It’s okay,” I said in English. “Do you understand English at all?”
She remained quiet, but continued pointing the gun at me
“I’m here to help you.” I then spoke in my broken Hindi while I kept taking small steps toward her. “Your father sent me.
A look of confusion crossed her face, and I took the opportunity to grab her wrist and snatch the gun out of her hand.
“It’s okay. I won’t hurt you.” I placed the gun on the waist of my pants and continued, “We have to go. The rest of the men will be here in no time.”
When I saw her trying to weigh her options, I moved quickly. I grabbed the driver’s gun and checked the back of the Jeep. Seeing the backpack, I breathed a sigh of relief when I noted the content in there. It had a few water bottles, first aid kit, a knife, a military blanket, and some military rations.
“Bingo,” I whispered to myself. Placing my arms through the backpack, I turned to her. “Let’s go! We have to get out of here before the rest of them arrive. We have to go through the woods where they can’t follow us with their Jeeps.”
I was speaking in English because there simply was no time for me to try to figure out how to translate everything into Hindi. I grabbed her arm and began running toward the tree lines.
Although Azmia still seemed to be in a state of shock, she ran alongside of me. I held onto her arm to help set her pace. We needed to get as much distance as possible before the rest of them found their men dead.