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Prologue (Bangladesh, current day)
Neena shrank back but Shazari stood firm. “Get away from us,” she hissed.
Ahmad continued toward them, laughing off Shazari’s fury. “Your husband is dead. You have no income. Soon you will have no food.”
His grin was sly, evil. “You know you have no other choice.”
Neena backed against a large tree, trembling. “I will never marry you!” she shrieked. She flung an arm up to shield her face from his sight. “How could you even think I would want to marry you?”
“Want to?”Ahmad shoved Shazari aside. She pummeled him with uselessly small fists as he drew closer to Neena, close enough for Neena to feel his hot breath against her.
“It is completely unimportant to me what you want.”
Neena was shaking violently. Her voice came out in a desperate whisper. “Then . . . why?”
He gripped a handful of her long, silky hair. “I want to own you,” he said. His chest heaved. “I want your husband’s daughter to know that I won.”
His voice rose. “I will exact my vengeance on her by destroying your future.”
Neena slumped down against the tree. Where had Shazari gone? Where had God gone?
“Let her go.”
Neena’s head shot up. Rashid stood behind Ahmad, feet planted, a weapon in his hand.
Shazari stood directly behind him. Her chin was up. Her eyes shot sparks. “We are not as helpless as you think.”
Ahmad burst into laughter. “You think my weak little brother, who has never stood up for anything in his life, is going to help you?”
Rashid pointed the gun at his brother. “Let her go, Ahmad. You have made my life miserable since I was a boy, but I will not let you do that to them. I’ve had enough.”
Ahmad’s eyes blazed, but his gaze failed to force Rashid’s submission.
Very slowly,Ahmad’s hand released Neena. She rushed around him to Shazari’s side. Both women huddled behind Rashid, taking small steps backward toward the path that led away from the village.
Rashid backed away with them. “I will take you away from here,” he said. “I will stay with you until I am certain you are safe.”
Neena, Shazari and Rashid fled the village. “We’ll go to Asha,” Shazari whispered to Neena.“She rescues women in danger. She will have a place for us.”
“You will never be safe,” Ahmad called after them. “Do you hear me, Rashid? I will find you!”
He slammed his palm into the tree, shouting words raw with hate. “No matter where you go, or how far, you will never get away from me.”
Ahmad clenched his hand into a fist, closing fingers around a piece of bark and crumbling it into dust. “I will have my revenge.”
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Last weeks contributor was Lisa Fowler. Be watching for more about Lisa as she develops her 'Platform'.