Prologue

"Hush, little baby, don't say a word; Mama's gonna buy you a mocking bird," the young mother quietly cooed to her whining baby girl. She held her baby close to her to protect her from the harsh winds of the night. Her raven curls blew behind her as she walked up the dimly lit suburban street. "If that mockingbird don't sing, Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring." She glanced around the dark street. She pushed her daughter's head closer to her chest. "If that diamond ring don't shine, Mama's gonna buy you a looking glass." A loud wail left the infant's mouth as a sharp wind tore at them. "Shh, niña, we'll be warm soon." She adjusted the thick purple blanket her daughter was bundled up in. "Only a couple more blocks to go," the woman murmured to herself. She picked up the pace, the creaking of her boots against the concrete following her.

The tension in the mother's shoulders began to fall at the sight of the dimly lit twenty-four hour diner a few feet ahead. She glanced over her shoulder one last time before jogging up to the small building. A soft bell chimed as she entered through the door. The diner was a quaint place with red booths, checkered floor, and glossy brown counter. There were usually no other occupants besides the workers at this time of night. Two waitresses, dressed in plain white dresses, and the cook hovered over steaming cups of hot chocolate in one of the corner booths. All three of their heads turned in the young woman's direction at the sound of the soft bell. "Elizabeth," the blonde waitress exclaimed. "What are you doing here in the middle of the night? We thought you weren't scheduled until the morning." The blonde stood as she spoke. The smile she'd offered to the raven-haired woman slowly fell as she noticed the tear stains on her friend's face and the whining baby in her arms.

"Lisa," Elizabeth murmured almost inaudibly. "I need your help. I need to get out of here – preferably by morning." The other waitress, a middle aged brunette, stood from the booth. Without a word, she approached the young woman. Elizabeth took a step back, holding her baby even closer to her.

"It's alright, dear," the older woman said with a kind smile. "You know there's nothing to fear here." Elizabeth released the breath she didn't know she was holding. She nodded and reluctantly handed her daughter off to the woman. The baby whined from the movement, but giggled at the sight of the brunette's warm smile. Elizabeth watched the woman take the baby back to the corner booth where the elder cook remained. The blonde waitress, Lisa, took hold of her slender arm and guided her behind the brown counter. She poured some hot chocolate into a mug and pushed it into her friend's hands.

"Drink," Lisa commanded softly. "Relax."

"I can't relax," Elizabeth said as she shook her head. "I need to get out of town. I just need a ride to the airport; I've already brought tickets for a one-way flight to New York City."

"New York City? Elizabeth, what are you going to do in New York City?"

"Can you drive me there or not," Elizabeth snapped. Her brown eyes that had been trained on her daughter flicked to the blonde. The warmth Lisa was so used to seeing in her friend had been replaced by a tension and hardness she'd never seen before. Even her always smiling lips were pulled into a deep frown. Though the blonde didn't know what was going on, she knew it couldn't have been good. It took a lot to bring down her cheerful friend.

"Liz," Lisa murmured as she took a step towards her friend. "You know I'm gonna help you, but first you've gotta tell me what's going on."

"We'll talk on the way. For right now, I really just need to get Jasmine far away from here." Her brown eyes went back to her daughter who was smiling up at the woman holding her. Lisa followed her gaze to the small caramel toned baby. "It's not safe here for her," Elizabeth murmured.

"Okay. Just let me get my purse from the back." Elizabeth nodded.

"Please hurry." Lisa shot her friend a small smile before darting into the kitchen. Elizabeth set her untouched hot chocolate down on the counter. She slowly made her way to the corner booth where the brunette held her daughter. Her brown eyes were fixed on the outside world the glass windows permitted her to see. Only about three cars passed by the diner in the short minute it took for her to walk to the booth; all of them awakening anxious butterflies in Elizabeth's stomach.

"Got yourself in some trouble," the cook, Raul, asked her. Elizabeth held the older man's curious gaze for a moment before she averted her eyes. "You don't have to explain yourself to me; just be sure you're doing right by the sake of your daughter."

"Of course," she replied. She took her daughter back into her own arms. "You know everything I do, I do for her." The cook offered her a small smile. Before he could respond, the soft chiming of the bell echoed through the empty diner. The three of them turned their heads towards the door. Elizabeth stiffened as her chocolate eyes met emerald ones. The nerves in her body rattled as two men filed in behind the smiling green eyed man.

"Elizabeth, my love," the man exclaimed as he opened his arms. "Why'd you leave without telling anyone? You had me worried sick!" Elizabeth's hold on her baby tightened as the man took a small step towards her. "I thought you didn't work until the morning." The dark-haired woman was at a loss for words. The blood had visibly disappeared from her face, and her rattling nerves expressed themselves in her shaky knees. The brunette and the cook knew the petrified expression all too well – though never had they seen it on Elizabeth. The younger woman was always the sunshine in everyone's rainy days. How couldn't they have known she was experiencing her own silent storm?

Elizabeth flinched at the soft touch of the cook's large hands on her small shoulders. "Go to the kitchen," he whispered as he got in front of her. "You three – leave now or I'll call the police."

"The police," the auburn haired man spoke. His unnaturally dark eyes flicked to the youngest man standing beside him. "I don't think that's in your best interest." The cook glanced down at the brunette woman who had quietly slid down under the table with her phone glued to her ear. "Tsk, tsk, tsk," the man clicked as he shook his head. "Have your fun, Damien." Within the blink of an eye, the dark haired young man vanished from the man's side. Elizabeth scurried away from the booth as the boy dragged the brunette from under the table. Despite the woman's writhing and screaming, the boy easily pinned her down to the ground and slammed his palm into her chest. All of them heard the loud crack of her chest at the impact. The boy had only hit the woman once – one time was all it took.

"Holy shit," the cook murmured as he stared at the waitress' lifeless eyes. "Liz, run!" The young mother barely heard him. She'd already taken off into the kitchen. She glanced around the various pots and pans, searching for her blonde friend. Tears inhibited her vision as she continued around the counters and ovens. She fell down to her knees at the sound of another loud cracking of what she could only assume was the cook's neck. She kissed her baby's head as she crawled to the back door. Perhaps her friend was starting her car or something. The winter was awfully harsh in Atlanta, and Lisa probably didn't want Jasmine to freeze. Elizabeth tried to force positive thoughts into her head as the back door came in sight. She was almost there. When she'd get out, her friend would be right there in a warm car ready to take off into the night. They'd get to the airport safely, they'd get to New York safely – or at least her daughter would. Elizabeth didn't care much about herself anymore; she'd made her choices. Now it was time for her daughter to be able to have her own.

Elizabeth was only a foot away from the door before she felt a sharp pain ripple through her head. The impact sent her flying into the nearby cabinet. Luckily her back had slammed into the cabinet, leaving her baby crying but unharmed. "Tsk, tsk, tsk," the auburn haired man's velvet voice pierced through her ears. "What are we going to do with you?" Elizabeth pulled her knees up and leaned her head down to shield her precious baby.

"Don't worry, love, she won't be harmed," the silk voice she once adored rang. "Give her to us and perhaps you won't be either."

"No," Elizabeth growled. "I'd rather die than give her up to the likes of you."

"That can easily be arranged," the velvet voice murmured bitterly. "Damien…do your worst."

"No, no, no," Elizabeth murmured. "Mommy's sorry, mommy's so sorry." She kissed her crying baby's head. "Mommy's truly sorry."

Before Damien could touch the young mother, the back door swung open. The three men turned their attention to the blonde haired girl and the gleaming sword in her hand. Lisa's usual blue eyes were now a fierce gold and her waitress uniform had been replaced with a long white dress. "Get away from her," Lisa growled. The men smiled in amusement.

"And if we don't," the youngest man asked. Lisa didn't have time to respond before he lunged at her. He tackled her to the ground and pinned her arms underneath his knees. She writhed under him as he held her own sword against her throat. A sadistic smile appeared on his face as he ran a slow cut against her throat. Gold blood trickled over her porcelain skin. Through the pain, Lisa managed to free her arms and throw her off of him. He collided into the other two men, buying Elizabeth a chance to run. She stared hesitantly at her friend who only offered her a small smile and a nod. Once again she took off towards the back door and into the cold weather. She entered into Lisa's car to see a blonde man with striking cerulean eyes and biceps sitting in the front seat.

"Don't run," the man said as Elizabeth pushed herself against the locked door. "My name's Michael; I'm here to help." The man pulled the car away from the diner and out onto the dark streets. Elizabeth hugged her baby as she watched the town disappear behind her. "Don't worry now," he said as he set a warm hand on her shoulder. "The two of you will be safe with me."