Opal, GEM, Book 1

GEM: a privately-funded organization operating independently in the search for—and the rescue and recovery of—missing and exploited children. Although, at times  working in conjunction with law enforcement, GEM aims to ensure the victims receive justice…by whatever means necessary. 
GEM Operator Opal; multifaceted, versatile, a chameleon.
She hides in plain sight, adapts, and infiltrates.
When Opal goes undercover in a youth center several teenagers have disappeared from, she’s shocked to find a ghost of her own traumatic past at the helm. However, her worry for the missing kids is greater than her concern being recognized and she risks her own safety to discover the truth. 
To complicate matters, a familiar FBI agent shows up conducting his own investigation and almost blows the whistle on her. It takes some doing to convince him to join forces with her but as it turns out, they work well together. 
In the course of uncovering an organized group of child molesters, they find themselves falling—for each other.

Janey and I get dressed for bed quietly.

Mostly because we know we’re being watched. 

Compliance comes easy when even at only seventeen you’ve been made to believe you have no rights, no importance, no voice.

Yesterday we were told it was time for more ‘personal development.’ Like Pavlov’s dogs, we immediately fell silent as we climbed into the van taking us from the group home to our destination, our minds automatically detaching from our bodies. It’s how we protect ourselves, knowing the next however many hours our bodies are no longer ours to command. 


I barely get into my bottom bunk after turning off the lights when Janey’s whisper sounds over my head. 


“Do you think Raj will come back?”

I glance over at the single bed on the other side of the room, barely visible in the dark. Up until two months ago, Raj would sleep there. The three of us arrived here at Transition House within a few months of each other and shared this room for the past three years. 

Raj was a year older than Janey and me, but the three of us became close. As close as sisters, something none of us had ever known. As the eldest, she’d looked after us as best she could, comforting us with the promise of better times ahead. 

I miss her soft voice in the dark room as she would talk to distract us from the dark thoughts that inevitably crept in with nightfall. Especially on nights like these, when I could still feel unwanted hands on my skin. 

She was simply gone one day, without so much as a goodbye. It was the day after she turned eighteen and was of legal age.

“I don’t know,” I lie, secretly convinced we’ll never see Raj again. “Anything’s possible, I guess.”

“I can’t do this anymore…” I can barely hear Janey’s voice, but the desperation is clear and it scares me.

“Yes, you can. You will. Just like I will.”  

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