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Branded Sanctuary, Page 30

Joey W. Hill

Page 30


  Whens the last time you rode a Ferris wheel? he asked as she got within hearing distance. He nodded toward it, the multi-colored lights bathing her unsure face.


  He took her hand. Cmon. Dont think. Lets just go do it.

  Chapter Twelve

  A s the wheel hitched upward one click at a time while people were loaded into the cars, Chloe watched the world below become a tapestry of colorful tent tops. The moving people looked like they belonged in a macabre version of the glittering carnival world, with all the sensual trappings, manacles and leather straps. She saw the silver sparkle of Mistress Lydas embellished corset.

  Brendans arm slid around her shoulders. You wont fall out if you stay really close, he said somberly, the twinkle in the hazel eyes giving him away.

  In answer, she laid a hand on his bare chest, pressing her ear to his heartbeat. He did pull her closer, so her hand fell on his thigh. This is weird, she said with a strained smile. Youre half naked, you know.

  Well, if you want to join me so you wont feel self-conscious

  Instead, she traced the attractive thigh muscle under denim. Youre a very strange man, Brendan. You let me dowhat I almost did to you. Youre part of this world, but you ask me to ride the Ferris wheel like were fourteen. You like to hold hands and bring me stuffed puppies. A nd have phone sex with me at three a. m.

  You wear pink Save the Whale sleep shirts, make great cupcakes and debate whether or not youd like to push a six-inch dildo up my ass. His eyes laughed down at her, though his mouth remained in a serious line. Were all a mix. We see things through the eyes of the child we once were and the adults we become. This place, this way of thinking, brings that out.

  He covered her hand with his own, lacing with her fingers. For instance, if I could have what I want most right now, I might pull you onto my lap, sink my cock deep inside you, and then hold you as you lay back against my hands and let the wind blow through your hair. He leaned down, but instead of going for her mouth, his lips found her neck below her ear again, that erogenous zone which made her teeth sink down on her bottom lip. Your body would be arched back by the gravity of the ride, he continued in a sensual murmur. Id listen to your breathless laugh, see the sparkle in your eyes from the wonder of it, making love on a Ferris wheel, keeping the best of child- and adulthood together.

  He straightened then, after a quick nuzzle of her hair. But I also like being here with you like this, pressed hip to hip, holding hands. Getting the chance to put my nose into your hair, smell you, feel you. Its as good, in a different way. I want both.

  A s he met her gaze, he let her see that he meant what he said, that he was holding onto nothing bad about the evening, choosing to immerse himself in the simple pleasure of being here. With her. It lessened the humiliation of the platform, the pain of Mistress Lydas words, the discomfort of Marguerites. Her anger had dissipated, and some of the awkwardness shed been feeling as a result began to do the same, because of him.

  Plus, for right now, he was all hers. Up here, floating up into the sky, where the only stimulus was each other, the word had a different, more poignant and wondrous quality to it. Her own prince of the fairy tales. Being hers in all ways, handsome and attentive. When he leaned over to glance over the side, she studied his profile in the magically lit darkness, the flutter of his hair over his brow and across his throat from the breeze.

  A s they ticked up another car, she saw an even more elevated view of the carnival, details lost and everything becoming a flirtation between shadows and light. Just like hed said. The best of both worlds.

  Her gaze drifted further, to the darkness beyond the carnival grounds. That darkness covered the inlet and the large spread of oaks that surrounded and buffered Tylers property, and yet there was always an extra component to darkness, a weight to it that suggested it was a living thing, not just a curtain.

  It reminded her of Marguerites words, what would wait for her on the ground, what would continue to follow her. When Brendan had been holding her earlier, shed been so close to letting it spill out of her soul. What if she could let some of it go up here? Would it float away and lose her, not be able to find her again? Would the rest lose some of its ability to cling to her so hard? Could she release a portion of it, just to see? Hell, it could be no worse than some of the other things shed done tonight.

  Trust and surrender. She bit her lip.

  Chloe. It was a soft murmur, and he laid his hand on her temple, letting her drop her head to his chest, tucking herself under his jaw. Her hands rested on his lap naturally, one finger worrying the inseam accessible from his casually splayed thighs. You can trust me with anything, you know.

  Maybe it was his timing. Or what had happened a little while ago. The knowledge in Marguerites eyes that had hurt and yet not been wrong. Or maybe it was as simple as this Ferris wheel going up, one click at a time, like a clock face going toward the top of the hour, when all things started over, or began. Maybe it was the fact she wasnt looking into his face that made her finally decide to open her mouth.

  The thing with Marguerites dad More happened that day.

  He remained silent, but he curved one finger over her unoccupied hand, lying limply along the same thigh.

  He When he pulled Natalie away from me, and I was fighting him, trying to get her back, he shoved her and she fell down. She was too frightened to run, even though I screamed at her, told her to. Then he started hitting me She drew a deep breath. When he broke my leg, had me on the ground, hefell down on top of me. Pushed himself against me, from behind. Through my clothes. He grabbed my hair. It hurt so much, because hed hit me in the face, but he whispered, Im back. You thought Id gone, but Im never gone.


  Please dont say anything. Not until Im done. She stared out into that darkness. He didnt do anything else. Just picked her up and left. I was I mean, I know I couldnt have stopped him then, but I would have tried, would have tried to get up and go after them, but that single moment, it held me frozen. I know what he said was a message for Marguerite. He was delusional, imagining I was her for that second, when he did that horrible thing. She closed her eyes. Oh Marguerite.

  She still didnt know all of it, but she didnt need to do so. Shed cared about Marguerite from the beginning. Even when the reticent tea shop owner had held her and Gen at such arms distance, shed still seemed to be yearning for a closeness she wouldnt allow herself to have. With that intuition Marguerite had praised so highly, Chloe had responded to it, trying to offer it to her in every way she could. Shed wanted M as a friend, as much as she wanted Marguerite to view her as a friend, as much or little as she could handle.

  A nyhow, she continued. When he said that, he opened this door in my head that Ive kept closed for a really, really long time. Ive always known its there, but I thought Id figured out a permanent lock for it.

  She stopped. I dont know if I can do this. I really, really feel like I should, but I dont know Both arms closed over her, and he drew her upper body further across his bare chest, as close to being in his lap as the restraining bar would allow. She could flatten herself against him as he held her head tucked under his with one of those long fingered, large hands that covered almost the entire side of her face. He stroked her hair. The cars ticked up again. One from the top. They were so high up, above everything. His thigh pressed against hers, her hands gripping that anchor of solid flesh and bone. His heart beat under her ear. Then he said just the right thing.

  Im here, Chloe. I wont let it have you.

  The monster in the darkness. She closed her eyes, gave herself to a darkness that was all Brendans scent and closeness, his heat in the middle of the night, a ward against all fear. A nd she said what she hadnt said since she was nine years old.

  When I was in grade school, I usually walked home from school with two other girls. But every Friday, I liked to take a different route. Id go to the railr
oad tracks, and walk home along them, because of the wildflowers that grew along them, because of how quiet it was. Id see rabbits and deer, raccoons. A ngela and Tina didnt go with me, because it was a longer walk, and our parents had told us not to do that. They were worried about a train coming, hurting us. But I knew if I was old enough to cross the street, I didnt have to worry about being hit by a train. She couldnt summon a smile, didnt even try. To be honest, I kind of liked going alone, because if I was really quiet too, the animals would come close to me.

  Brendan had tensed, because of course it was obvious where this could go, but he kept petting her, kept being silent. Just there.

  I guess I got into a pattern of it, and someone was watching. He scared me at first, coming up out of the trees, but he said, I like watching the deer too. Did you knowtheres a mother with twin fawns? A nd I did know that. Id seen her, always along that section of track. He sat down on the gravel bank, took out a sandwich, asked me if I wanted to share. He started talking about the deer and he wasit was like he understood about the quiet, and the animals, and how happy it made me sometimes, just to be there with them, by myself. So I sat down with him.

  Her voice trembled then. We were sitting there, and the mother deer came out with her fawns, a little ways down the track. He put his hand on mine, it was so big, and squeezed, showing me, and we were both so silent, watching her, and then she went away. Then he turned around and kissed me. Forced my mouth open and pushed me back against the gravel.

  She shuddered at the memory, but it was not a rejection of Brendan. She was so grateful he realized that, keeping her close. Even though a soft oath came from his lips, and his arms tightened as if he could keep her from that long-ago harm, he didnt interrupt her, didnt keep her from saying what she needed to say. One more tick and they were at the top. Top of the world, everything above and below clear. Just the two of them.

  I struggled of course, tried to get away, and he dragged me into the trees. There was a little shack deep in the woods. He was so big, and he kept telling me it was okay, that it was going to be fine, that I was a good girl, and I understood about things. That he couldnt help himself, I was just so beautiful and perfect, and he knew I was going to be his heart, his treasure. He got me into the shack. There was a dirty cot there, but also all sorts of things, like what I collected in my room. Rocks, twigs with empty cocoon pods. Different shaped leaves.