Seduced in the Dark, Page 2C. J. Roberts
I don’t reach for the photo again, but I can’t keep from looking at it. Caleb is younger in the photo, but not by much. He’s still my Caleb. His blond hair is being blown up in the back and his Caribbean-blue eyes are glorious as they scowl at the camera. His mouth, so full and perfect for kissing is set in an annoyed line across his perfect face. He wears a buttoned up shirt, in white, the obviously billowing wind offers tantalizing glimpses of his sun-kissed throat. It’s my Caleb. I want my Caleb. I glare at Agent Reed. With my rage in every syllable, I break my vow of silence. “Give. Me. That.”
Agent Reed’s eyes go wide for a fraction of a second. Smug satisfaction is there, then gone. . Round one goes to the Agent. “So you do know him?” he mocks.
I glare at him.
He steps closer, picture held out.
I go for it and he pulls it back.
Each time I crawled closer and closer, until I was pressed between his legs, my hands on either side of his body.
Caleb taught me a few things about starting fights I can’t win. He would want me to use my head and exploit anything I have to offer to get what I want. I force myself to portray calmness and sorrow. The sadness comes easy.
“I…I knew him.” I purposely stare at my lap and let my tears fall.
“Knew him?” Agent Reed says curiously. I nod and let sobs fill the room.
“What happened to him?” he asks. I want him curious.
“Give me the picture,” I whisper.
“Tell me what I want to know,” he counters. I know I have him where I want him.
“He….” I am overcome by grief. I don’t have to manufacture my pain…I am my pain. “He died in my fucking arms.” My mind immediately recalls seeing Caleb, expression blank, his body covered in dirt, and blood. It was the moment I lost him. Only hours before, he’d held me in his arms and I had thought everything was finally going to be okay. One knock on the door…and everything changed.
Agent Reed takes a tentative step forward, “This isn’t easy for you, I can tell, but I need to know how, Miss Ruiz.”
“Give me the picture,” I sob. He takes another step.
“Tell me how,” he whispers. He’s played this game before.
I look up and glower at him from under my tear-soaked lashes, “Protecting me.”
“From what?” He steps closer, so close, and so eager.
Without another word, Agent Reed turns away to remove another photo from the file and turns it toward me, “This man?”
I hiss. Actually, fucking hiss. We’re both shocked by my reaction. I never knew I could be so feral. I rather like it. I feel capable of anything.
Suddenly I threw my arms up around his hand, wrapped my mouth around his fingers to get the food away from him. Oh my god, so good.
Agent Reed is close and he isn’t prepared when I grab him by the collar of his suit and crush his fucking mouth with mine. He drops the folder.
Despite his shock, Agent Reed is able to wrestle me onto the bed. He snaps his cuffs on my wrist and secures me to the bed. Before I can reach for the folder, he snaps it away.
He moved quickly, his fingers found my tongue and pinched viciously while his other hand dug into the sides of my neck.
Confusion and anger twist his features. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he whispers and wipes his lips slowly, looking at his fingers as though the answer is somehow written across them.
The food fell from between my lips to the floor and I howled around his fingers at the loss.
When I try to speak, instead, I scream my frustration, tears of anger filling my eyes.
“You’re very proud and very spoiled and I’m going to beat it out of you twice.”
When the nurse scrambles in, bewildered and a hand to her heart, Agent Reed politely tells her to get lost.
“Better?” he asks me, raising a brow.
I stare at my cuffed hands. “Not even close…”
Vivisected. On-off-buzz-buzz-on-off. Caleb, I miss you.
“Help me catch him, Olivia.” He pauses; his expression is calculated but he needs something too. “I know I’m not a nice guy, but maybe you need someone like me in your corner.”
Go away, go away, go away.
My heart aches. “Please…give me the picture,” I plead.
Agent Reed steps within my line of sight, but I only stare at his tie. “If I give you the picture, will you tell me what happened? Will you answer my questions?”
I suck my bottom lip, running my tongue across it as I hold it between my teeth. It’s now or never and never isn’t truly an option. The inevitable is upon me. “Uncuff me.”
The agent’s eyes flicker over me. I know his mind must be racing with ideas on how to make me talk. Trust is a two way street. Show me yours, and I’ll show you mine. He steps toward me, slowly, and cautiously removes the cuff from my wrist. “Well?” he says.
“I’ll tell you. Only, you. In exchange, you’ll give me any pictures you have of him and get me out of here.” My heart is beating a frantic tattoo in my chest, but I gather my courage. I’m a survivor. I hold my hand out. “Give me the picture.”
Agent Reed’s mouth twists with disappointment at the knowledge he cannot win this point from me. Reluctantly, he gathers his folder and hands me the photo of Caleb. “You’ll have to tell me what you know first, and then I can talk to my superiors and make a deal. I promise I’ll do whatever I can to protect you, but you have to start talking. You have to tell me why it looks like you’re more involved in this than any eighteen-year-old-girl has any right to be.”
No one else exists as I stare at Caleb’s face. I sob and trace the familiar lines of his face. I love you, Caleb.
“I’m gonna go get some coffee,” says Agent Reed, his voice resigned but still determined, “but when I come back, I expect answers.” I don’t notice when he leaves, or care. But I know he’s giving me time to grieve in peace.
He walked out of the room and shut the door. This time I heard the lock.
For the first time in five days, I am left alone. I suspect it will be the last time, for a while, Caleb and I will have to spend together. With trembling lips, I kiss him.
It seemed to Caleb, the nature of human beings revolved around one empirical truth: we want what we cannot have. For Eve, it was the fruit of the forbidden tree. For Caleb, it was Livvie.
The night had been a fitful one. Livvie whimpered and trembled in her sleep and Caleb’s chest seemed to contract with every sound. He had given her more morphine and after some time, her body seemed to quiet down though there still seemed to be frenzied movement behind her eyelids. Nightmares, he assumed. Without fear of awkwardness or reproach, he felt a compulsion to touch her. He held her close and comforted them both, but he could not get Rafiq’s text out of his mind:
How soon would he land in Mexico?
How would he react to Livvie and her broken condition?
How long did he have with Livvie before she was taken away from him?
Taken. Away. Strange, horrible, and foreign words. He closed his eyes and set his mind to reality. You’re giving her away. He opened his eyes. And the sooner, the better.
He couldn’t argue with logic. It had kept him alive for longer than he could remember. He was cold and efficient. He did not dally with questions of morality. Still, he wanted to argue with logic. He wanted to find reason in what he felt to pacify the hardened man inside his head. But he couldn’t. The truth was – he wanted her. The truth was also, it was never meant to be. He pulled Livvie even closer, careful not to crush her ribs or injured shoulder and buried his nose in her long hair, trying to smell her scent.
He had told her he wasn’t her Prince Charming, but what he hadn’t said, was he wished he could be. Once upon a time, he may have been…normal. Before he had been stolen, before the beatings and the rapes and the
killing – he could have been something different than what he was. He had never thought like this, never wondered about the roads taken or not taken. His life was lived in the present and without the angst of fantasies. But he fantasized now. He fantasized about being the sort of man who could give, Livvie, all she ever wanted. The kind of man she could….
But you’re not that man, are you?
Caleb sighed, knowing the answer. The fantasies of others had never confused him, but his own, left him dissatisfied with the life he’d accepted and even enjoyed from time to time. He wanted it to go away, the longing, and the feelings of regret. He wanted to live for the hunt and kill – it had been the only thing to make sense to him for so very long. Even in those moments of darkness, when his drive had flagged and he questioned the possibility of ever finding Vladek – he had never thought to be anything other than what he was.
Yet, in just three and a half weeks with Livvie, most of which, she spent locked in a dark room, it all seemed to be evaporating. It was stupid, naïve, and dangerous. A person was incapable of changing fundamentally in such a short period of time. He wasn’t different. And yet, he felt different and not even logic could alter that. If it hadn’t been for the memories, those awful, fucking memories of Narweh, beating and raping him. If he hadn’t seen Livvie, covered in blood, bruised and shuddering in that biker’s arms – he wouldn’t feel like his entire world was caving in on him.
God! What he’d done to make them pay. It had been the kind of rage he hadn’t felt in a very long time. He didn’t regret it either. He’d savored the look on those biker’s faces as he’d plunged his knife deep into Tiny, and his blood sprayed Caleb, the walls, everything.
Revenge! That was his purpose.
It felt good to have a purpose. He was certain he’d feel the rush again. He’d feel it the second Vladek’s eyes dawned with realization and it would carry through until Vladek took his last, gasping breath. Caleb shivered. He wanted to feel the satisfaction of that moment. He wanted to feel it more than anything. He wanted it more than he wanted the girl.
She’ll hate you. Forever. She’ll want vengeance.
“I know,” Caleb whispered into the darkness of the room. Unable to resist the numbness sleep offered, he let himself be carried into the dark.
The boy refused to bathe.
“Caleb, I will not tell you again! You stink! You stink, horribly. It’s been days and you’re still covered in blood. Someone will see you and then you will have real trouble on your hands, boy.”
“I am Kéleb. Dog! I’ve ripped my master to pieces. I’ve tasted blood and I like it! I will not wash it off. I want to wear it forever, as a badge of honor.”
Rafiq’s dark face became drawn, eyes narrowed. “Bathe. Now.”
The boy squared his young shoulders and glowered at his new master. Rafiq was handsome, much, much, more so than Narweh, the trained whore in him was stirred by this. Rafiq was also much stronger than Narweh, capable of more damage, but the boy would not allow himself to be afraid, to cower before a man set on being his new master. He was a man now, a man! He could make his own damn decisions about when he’d wash the blood from his face.
Rafiq stood. His eyes were hard and menacing. The boy swallowed deep and hard, and despite his best efforts, he could not deny the fear he felt. As Rafiq approached, the boy quelled his desire to shrink away. Rafiq’s calloused hand landed firmly on the back of the boy’s neck and squeezed with enough force to make him wince, but not enough to trigger his fight or flight instinct.
Rafiq leaned and growled into the boy’s ear, “Wash yourself now, or I will strip you down and scour your skin until you would never dream of defying me again.”
Tears stung the boy’s eyes. Not because he was in pain, but because he was suddenly very afraid and wished Rafiq was not angry with him. He had no one else. He was still young, unable to truly fend for himself. His race and appearance put him at a sharp disadvantage with the locals. Unless he wanted to be a whore again, Rafiq was all he had.
“I don’t want to.” He pleaded with a whisper. The hand at the back of his neck loosened a little and the boy screwed his eyes shut to stave off the threat of tears. He refused to cry.
“I want to know he’s dead. It was over so fast, Rafiq. It was over so fast and he…he deserved to suffer! I wanted him to suffer, Rafiq. All the pain he put me through, all those things…I wanted him to feel all those things. If I wash away the blood…” The boy’s eyes pleaded with Rafiq.
“It will be like it never happened?” Rafiq said, softly.
“Yes.” It was a choked sound.
Rafiq sighed. “No one knows how you feel more than I do, Caleb. But you cannot continue to defy me; you cannot continue to act like a petulant boy! You are not Kéleb any longer. Wash. I promise you, Narweh will still be dead when you are finished.”
The boy pushed away from the grip on the back of his neck. “No! No! No! I won’t do it.”
Rafiq’s face went from cautiously warm to stone cold. “Have it your way, Kéleb.” His grip on the boy’s neck intensified and as he winced with pain and tried to struggle away from Rafiq, his other hand came down with a meaty thud across the boy’s face.
Caleb was not new to pain, he could easily take a harsh slap to his face, but he was stunned nonetheless. He tried to stagger away from Rafiq, but he was held firmly in the older man’s grip.
“Bathe!” Rafiq growled with enough force to vibrate Caleb’s head.
“No!” Caleb cried, tears falling down his face.
Rafiq bent his body and threw his shoulder into Caleb’s stomach and hoisted him over his shoulder. Ignoring the pounding fists on his back, he strode purposefully into the bathroom and all but tossed the boy inside. He ignored the angry screaming and invective curses coming from Caleb’s twisted mouth and turned the knob to release cold water into the tub.
Caleb’s body jolted at the feeling of cold water soaking his clothes and touching his skin. Unable to resist and full of anger, he managed to punch Rafiq in the face and scramble halfway out of the tub. He had only ignited more of Rafiq’s rage. He felt Rafiq’s hand fisting in his hair, then the pain on his scalp and in his neck as he was wrenched backward. The bathtub filled around him as Rafiq pressed him to the bottom of the tub.
Fear and dread gripped him.
“You will obey me, boy! You will! Or I will drown you, here and now. You belong to me. Understand?”
Caleb’s mouth and nose filled with water. He could not make out words clearly and he heard only the angry shouting of the man holding him prisoner in the water. The feeling of impending death held him paralyzed with fear. Anything. He would give anything to never feel this brand of fear again.
Caleb gasped and heaved as he was pulled up, his arms scrambling for purchase and finding Rafiq’s shoulders. He pulled himself toward the warmth and safety of Rafiq’s body. He fought the arms trying to shrug him off. Caleb thought nothing of his panicked cries, he only wanted out of the tub. He wanted only to breathe and to be warm.
Strong arms gripped his shoulders and shook.
“Calm, Caleb. Calm. Breathe,” Rafiq said. His tone was soothing despite its intensity. “Be calm, Caleb. I will not put you in the water again if you’re prepared to listen. Still!”
Caleb worked hard to do as Rafiq asked. He held firm to Rafiq’s shoulders, telling himself over and again he could not be thrown into the water so long as he held on. Caleb stilled and shuddered, taking his first calm breath. He took another and another, until at last, only his anger remained. Slowly, he released Rafiq’s shoulders and slumped into the tub. He shivered at the cold, his lip trembling, but he wouldn’t ask Rafiq for hot water.
“I hate you,” Caleb spat, teeth chattering.
Rafiq’s eyes were calm and collected. With a smirk, he stood and left the room.
Caleb’s eyes stung with angry tears and because he
was alone, he let them fall. Sure Rafiq would not return, he turned the tap for the hot water and huddled close to it, hoping it would warm him all the faster. He dragged his sopping wet clothes over his head and threw them in a heap on the bathroom floor with a sense of satisfaction over the mess he was making.
Pure, unfettered, anger rolled through his body like a physical thing. Pulling his knees to his chin he bit into the flesh of his knees, scraping them with his teeth. The tears would not abate! They continued to leak from his eyes. He felt weak and pitiful. He could not stop Rafiq from doing this to him. He bit harder, longing for the physical pain to release him from his suffering.
He wanted to scream.
He wanted to hit things.
He wanted to kill again.