"I know this is the only way you will stay with me willingly..." Mark muttered. He held Tina in his arms, gently caressing her head and brushing her long soft black hair with his long and slender fingers, as if he was placating a small animal.
Tina closed her eyes, with a spaced-out look on her face. Evidently, the drugs she had taken was starting to take effect, and the illusions had kicked in. She felt like she was walking on clouds, light as a feather, climbing higher and higher until her mind buzzed with pure joy. She let her body lean against Mark's, without any struggle.
"Tap-tap-tap" There was a knock on the door.
Mark carried Tina to the bed, and laid her down gently, then he bent over and kissed her on the forehead. After tucking her in, he turned to open the door and walked out.
The servant, who was knocking on the door, saw Mark coming out. He whispered to him, "Master Mark, the couple are coming again. They are clamouring for seeing Lady Tina.
Should I turn them away as I did before?"
The people he was talking about were Andrew and Debby.
In the past few days, Andrew and Debby came to this house every other day, asking to visit Tina, but each time they were turned away by Mark's people, in accordance with his wishes.
This time, however, Mark changed his mind, as he said, "Let them in."
Andrew and Debby were soon led to Mark's study by the servant. Both of them seemed to be in a nervous state, possibly intimidated by Mark.
When they came in, they saw Mark standing by the window, with his hands behind his back. He cast a glance at them, and sneered, "What on earth do you want to accomplish by coming over to my house?"
"We just want to see our daughter..."
Debby muttered. She met his glance and then quickly lowered her head to avoid his eyes.The feeling of guilt overwhelmed her, as she knew that Mark had seen right through her facade.
Mark sniggered and said, "You want to see Tina? Really? What can you do for her? Don't you know that she is ashamed of the both of you? As her biological parents, you've only brought disgrace to her name."
The couple felt heat rising to their cheeks and prayed it wasn't noticeable. Debby tried to explain, "I was pregnant for nearly ten months before I gave birth to her. We love her! Even if she can't understand our love, we still love her..."
"Love?" Mark asked, as he turned around to glance sharply at them.
His eyes were like two icy knives, preparing to cut through their pretense, as he said in a cold tone, "Do you even have the right to utter that word?"
From his point of view, no one in the world was fit to mention this word to Tina, except him.
Tina was the apple of his eye, the only one he could never live without.
The couple were shocked by the expression in his eyes. Their hearts trembled with fear, rendering them temporarily speechless.
A few moments later, when Mark noticed their vigilance, he said to them, mockingly, "If you really love Tina, I will give you a chance to prove your love for her. Would you like to listen to what I have to say?"
Debby moved her sights away, and said with hesitation, "Yes, of course. But, how can we prove ourselves to Tina? You won't even let us go near her..."
"All of Tina's misfortunes can be attributed to Emily," Mark said, as his lips twisted into a malicious smile, his eyes harbouring hate.
"Whatever Tina is suffering now, Emily needs to suffer as well. She must pay for her transgressions," he added.
Debby was taken aback. She asked in a trembling voice, "What do you mean by that?"
"You claim that Tina is your real daughter and that you love her, so now I'm going to give you a chance to prove your love. Surely you would be willing to avenge her, wouldn't you?" Mark asked, presuming it their natural duty as parents to sacrifice everything for Tina.
"Yes, I am. But... But it would hurt Emily," Debby replied with hesitation.
"Hurt Emily?" A rictus grin pulled Mark's thin lips, and he narrowed his gaze and glared at them with bitterness. He raised his voice and angrily denounced, "Have you seen Tina's face? While Tina rots away in a dark corner, Emily is out there living her life, like nothing had ever happened! She really is the most vicious woman in the world!"
Debby's pallor turned sickly white, but she was still trying to change his mind by saying, "Anyway, she is your real sister... How can you ask me to do such a thing to her?"
"So what? Damn it! Emily hurt Tina. She must pay for what she has done," he said. Mark grinned coldly, as his whole face seemed to be covered with a thick rancorous mist, and he continued, "So, you don't want to do that? Maybe you prefer Emily? Or else you won't hesitate. In that case, why do you come every day to pretend that you love Tina?"
"That's not the truth!" Debby rebutted his words and tried to defend herself. However, she could not think of exactly the right thing to say for a while.
Just because Debby loved Tina more than Emily, it did not mean that she could hurt Emily without hesitation. After all, she raised Emily as her own child. There was no denying the fact that she had done many hurtful things to Emily in the past, but that was all in the past, she no longer felt any animosity towards Emily.
After long consideration, Debby opened her mouth again. "I can't kill her. I can't do it..." she answered, panicking.
"You don't need to kill her. I just want you to get her addicted to drugs, just like Tina," Mark said, as his face was overcast with malice, and he looked at them with contempt. "If you do as I say, I'll give you 50 million; no strings attached," he added.
The couple had never seen that much money in their entire lives.
Andrew, who had his head down the entire time, since he walked into the study, suddenly looked up at Mark, a look of unrestrained greed glistening in his eyes.
"Are you serious? You will give us 50 million?" Andrew immediately asked, trying to verify whether he could take Mark's word for it.
Mark despised them all the more, but he didn't show any of it on his face. Instead, breaking into a smile, he said, "If you agree, I will remit one million first to your bank account in a minute. I will give you the rest, after you complete the job."
Andrew's feeble mind was easily wavered by money, his turbid eyes rolling around, as if he would agree in the next second.
Debby shook her head, as she conducted final struggles against her conscience. "I can't do that..." she said.
"Shut up! Of course, we can. Mr. Tao, we take the job!" Andrew interrupted her abruptly and agreed unequivocally, ignoring Debby's reluctance.
His clear-cut answer satisfied Mark. In last than a minute, he transferred 1 million dollars to Andrew's bank account willingly, and he even sent them out the door, politely.
After he shut the door, he went upstairs and watched the couple slowly disappear into the horizon.
"E-mi-ly," Mark called out her name, syllable by syllable.
The person behind Tina's woes. How did she manage to get away with everything unscathed? How could she still live in peace while Tina was reduced to subhuman levels?
Emily was about to experience true betrayal at the hands of her most trusted and beloved foster parents. Only then would she know the true meaning of living in hell! Meanwhile, elsewhere.
After Andrew and Debby left Mark's villa, they returned to the house where they were staying in temporarily.
"Are you really going to do it?"
Debby asked Andrew, who was lying on the sofa and playing games on his cell phone. She felt unsettled about making a commitment to Mark.
Andrew turned the screen of his mobile phone to Debby. There was a text message showing that 1 million dollars had been wired into his personal bank account. The greed in his soulless eyes, bled out, as he said, excitedly, "Mark said he would give us 50 million! 50 million! If we miss this opportunity, we will never come across 50 million again in our lifetime!"
"But we can't..." Debby said, as she still could not make up her mind.
"Of course we can! Emily is heartless. She doesn't care what happens to us, and we don't need to be kind to her!" he said. Andrew's heart was overflowing with greed, yet, he still pretended to be a person of high morals, in order to persuade Debby. "Just think about how she treated us! She hurt our real daughter. Don't you ever forget that!" he added.
Debby looked at the walls, pensively, recalling what had happened before, then she bit her lips hard.
Andrew continued to add vibrantly coloured details to his sales pitch, "Our daughter, Tina's face was disfigured. On top of that, she has turned into a drug fiend. The person behind it all is Emily! You know that, right?"
"Yes..." Debby replied.
"Moreover, we had sacrificed so much to raise her. We spent money for her food, clothing and education. Did she repay us? No!
Even when she had a rich boyfriend, she refused to give us money! She was even arrogant enough to tell us to move away and not meddle in her matters," Andrew said, adding fuel to the fire.
Debby was gradually convinced by him, as she stood there quietly.
"Do you really believe that she still considers us to be her parents? I don't think so. I don't think she has any respect for us. If I could go back in time, I would have rather raised a dog than her. How could she return our kindness with ingratitude? How could she be so cruel and unscrupulous? How dare she hurt Tina? She's an ungratefulness beast! To hell with her!" Andrew heaped curses at Emily.
Debby was stirred up into anger by his words, and the look in her face hardened, as a merciless expression emerged in her eyes.
"She really has no conscience..." she said and agreed with him.
Andrew took out a box of things Mark had given him, from his pocket. Inside, there were drugs. His mouth twisted into an evil smile, as he said, "We just need to vent to our anger on Emily. She hurt our real daughter. For Tina's sake, we must teach her a lesson. After that, we will gain 50 million in total..."
Debby stared at the box and nodded silently.
'Emily, I never wanted to hurt you, but I cannot forgive what you've done to Tina. It's all your fault! Don't blame us for being ruthless… Since you hurt Tina, you have to pay the price!' thought Debby.
Debby found an excuse to convince herself from committing more heinous acts against Emily. She deluded herself into believing that her reasons were justified as she was just doing what a mother would do to seek retribution on her child's offender. How ridiculous!
Debby was a sorry excuse for a mother, whose lunacy was beyond any reasonable person's understanding...