Seduced, Page 22Melody Anne
Without thinking for a minute of her own safety, Lia ran into the alley, joining the two of them. Neither looked in her direction; their gazes were locked together. People were walking by the alley, but no one even glanced in the direction of the two apparent adversaries.
Were such crimes such a common thing that no one was going to help? Or was it that they were too afraid? This was something that Lia wasn’t used to, and she didn’t know what to do at this point.
“You don’t want to do this. Just put the knife down. Let’s have a chat,” Shane said in fluent Italian, his voice low and firm, but not unfriendly.
“You’re just another rich guy. You don’t give a crap about me!” the kid yelled. He couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven years old. His face was hardened, but there was still an innocent light about his eyes, even while he glared daggers at Shane.
“I know a lot, kid. I used to be just like you, stealing tourists’ items to get by, sneaking food whenever and wherever I could, including from garbage cans. I’ve been there, but I got out. Let me help you. This world hasn’t hardened you too much yet. You can turn this around. ”
The kid looked at Shane with distrust, but was unable to hide the flicker of hope in his eyes. He wanted a better life — Lia could see it. She wanted to step in and give him a hug, his dirty clothes, face, and all, but she knew better than to spook a wild animal, and that was how he was acting at this moment — like an animal with everything to lose.
“What could you know? Your clothes alone could feed all of us kids for a month,” he snapped, lowering the knife slightly, but still making sure Shane could see it and that he wasn’t afraid to use it.
“Have you stabbed someone before, kid? Seriously plunged a knife into real human flesh? It’s not as easy as it looks. The flesh resists being stabbed, then makes a sickening sound as the blade goes in, quite possibly piercing a person’s organs. Have you seen the light go out of someone’s eyes? It’s not a pretty sight to behold, especially if you know that you’re the one guilty of taking a life. It’s not easy to live with that knowledge. ”
“How would you know?” the boy screamed, his eyes filling with tears that he refused to let fall as he looked wildly at Shane.
Lia looked again toward the street, at the crowds only twenty yards away. At the screaming a couple of heads turned to look in, but the people didn’t even slow down; they kept on walking, quickly deciding not to get involved. How could they be so oblivious and so callous? Why wouldn’t anyone stop to help Shane?
Shane spoke simply to the boy. “Because I have taken a life. ”
Lia gasped at his words, making his shoulders tense, but he still focused on the kid, didn’t turn in her direction. What was he talking about? He couldn’t have taken a life. She’d known him half her life. He wasn’t a killer.
The boy turned toward her, panic taking over when he perceived himself as being boxed in.
“Lia, this child is frightened. Can you please just back out from the alley and let us talk?”
He was so calm, so focused on the kid. Lia felt as if she didn’t even know this man standing before her. Yes, she’d known he was good with kids, that he helped get them off the streets, but this look in his eyes, this focus was something new to her. He’d seen some things in his life.
Questions were overwhelming her, but she didn’t know where to begin.
“Who is she? Were you planning on attacking me?” the boy shouted.
“She’s just my friend. We were walking together when I saw you take the purse from that woman. Lia followed us here. No one was planning on attacking you,” Shane told him, not moving forward or taking steps back, but making a firm stand, showing the kid he wasn’t afraid, but that he wouldn’t threaten him, either.
“Why should I believe anything you’re saying? You’re just another rich guy trying to lie. Maybe you’re another one of the sick guys who have wives at home but like to find street kids to fulfill your twisted fantasies,” he snarled.
“I know you have no reason to trust me, kid. I get that, but I’ve helped others, and all I want to do is get you to return that purse you stole, and then help you to get off the streets. If the cops get you, they won’t try to help. They’ll just throw you in the system, where things can get a whole lot worse,” Shane warned.
“How do I know you aren’t one of those undercover pigs?”
“If I were a cop, I’d have to tell you, wouldn’t I?”
“I don’t know anything about the law,” the boy said, looking at Shane as if he were an idiot.
“Well, I can’t outright lie to you, kid. I’m not a cop. I guarantee that. I just saw you making a mistake. I watched you take that woman’s purse. Let’s just give it back to her and then have some lunch. ”
“Why should I? She can afford to lose a little bit. I can’t,” he cried.
“How do you know that? Maybe she has a little boy of her own who needs to be fed. Yes, it’s easy to steal from people when you don’t know who they are, but you never really know what you’re taking. What if her last few coins are in that purse and you just robbed her of it? What if she can’t feed her kids now? Do you want to be responsible for another kid who could be even younger than you going hungry? It doesn’t feel good. We both know that. ”
The boy looked at him, obviously fascinated with what he was saying, but he was still so frightened.
“Lia, you need to leave us be,” Shane said quietly as he waited for the kid’s next move.
“But, Shane —”
“Please, Lia? I can’t concentrate with you standing there. I’ll meet you back at the hotel. ”
Lia could feel the stress emanating from him. She knew she was causing more harm than good at this point. She needed to back away. Besides, maybe it was time to get an officer. It didn’t seem that’s what Shane wanted, but she was very concerned with the knife the kid was holding. He might be young, but that didn’t mean he didn’t know how to wield a weapon with deadly force.
“OK,” she finally answered and began to back away. That’s when everything went wrong.
“Get down!” Shane shouted, but it was just a moment too late.
Lia heard a noise like a buzzing sound only seconds before she felt extreme pain in her torso and then her body locked up and she was writhing on the ground. Her last thought before blacking out was to hope that Shane wouldn’t do something foolish and get himself killed.
“The rest of the college is long gone, all students snoring peacefully in their beds, or more likely half drunk by now, and we’ve missed our dinner reservation. Do you think we can leave this library sometime in the near future?”
“You can leave any time you want, Rafe,” Ari said in response to his snarky comment before grabbing the last book she’d been searching for.
“I want to leave with you. I just never imagined finding a certain book would take half a century,” he grumbled.
“Well, aren’t you being pleasant tonight?” she asked as she walked over to the desk and checked out her book.
“I had great plans for us,” he said as he escorted her from the building.
“Well, they have to wait a few more minutes. I promised Professor Owens that I would water his plants. He won’t be back until Monday. ”
“Where’s his office?”
“In the Elson building, sixth floor. ”
Rafe was silent as they made their way across the college campus Ari was attending for her PhD. When they reached the older section, he looked around at the lack of lighting.
“Were you planning on coming here alone?” he asked grimly.
“It’s fine, Rafe,” she said with exasperation. “I’ve been going here for years. ”
“You told me a few months ago that you didn’t like being out late because you were worried about your safe
ty,” he reminded her.
“I was just trying to avoid you then, as I should be doing now,” she grumbled as they entered one of the oldest buildings on campus. She loved the architecture of the hundred-year-old building, with its faded red brick and large turrets. The building reminded her of a medieval castle, and she had princess fantasies of leaning from one of the windows on the top floor and calling down to her Prince Charming.
That wasn’t Rafe.
As they stepped into the elevator, Rafe looked at the old doors with trepidation. “I think the stairs may be a wiser option here,” he said as the doors closed.
“Oh, quit worrying. I’ve used this elevator a million times. ”
The elevator groaned in complaint as it ascended to the sixth floor and she promptly watered the plants before turning to find Professor Owens’s stash of sweets.
“One advantage of watering his plants is that I always get good candy,” she said with a smile as she snagged a few little bags and then a couple of sodas for the two of them.
Rafe reluctantly took his can before following her back out of the room and to the elevator.
They walked in and pushed the button for the ground floor. Too late, a loud screeching of metal alerted them that something was wrong, and the elevator tilted slightly to the side, causing them to lose their balance.
“What the hell?” Rafe shouted as he tugged her against him and grabbed the support bar on the wall.
Ari held on tight to Rafe, not too alarmed yet, but certainly eager to get out of the old contraption as it made its rickety decent.
After what felt like hours, but in reality was only a few seconds, the awful jerking motion stopped, but so did the elevator. There was no sound, no movement, nothing. Ari waited for the doors to open, but it didn’t happen.
Rafe reached for the “open door” button and pressed it several times.
Then he began pushing floor buttons.
Next, he pulled the emergency stop, which confused Ari, as they were already stopped, but if it got them out, she could hardly complain.
“There’s not an emergency phone in this thing?” Rafe asked Ari, as if she would know what was supposed to be in the danged elevator.
“Obviously, if you don’t see one, then that would be a big no,” she replied.
Taking out his cell phone, Rafe cursed. “It’s like we’re in the middle of nowhere. I have no service on my phone. Check yours,” he said, but he obviously didn’t hold out hope that it would be any different for her.
“No. Not even a glimmer of service,” she said.
Ari swore that if he made one little comment about being right, if he noted just once that they should have used the stairs, then she was going to beat him with her soda can. She glared at him as if daring him to do just that.
“OK, we need to assess the situation. There has to be a guard who patrols the floors. Even a cleaning crew. We need to just get the doors open and call out when we hear someone,” he said as he moved toward the steel doors.
Ari nodded and watched him take off his jacket. She certainly shouldn’t feel heat in her stomach as he rolled up his sleeves and then gripped the doors and began prying them apart, but she was mesmerized as his back muscles flexed, making her want to run her fingers over the solid man in front of her.
Though she’d continually tried to resist Rafe, she’d just given up. Since they’d begun ha**ng s*x again, she couldn’t seem to get enough.
All through her class this evening, he’d sent her looks that had her body burning and her stomach quivering. She would think that ha**ng s*x with the man for weeks on end would satisfy her cravings, but it had served only to awaken them in a whole new way.
She was hungry for him, and being trapped wasn’t helping her overheated body one iota.
Ari jumped as his voice echoed through the small box. She noticed he’d managed to get the doors open about six inches, but no matter how much he worked at them, they weren’t going any farther.
“They always make it look so easy in the movies,” she said, making Rafe turn around with a look of exasperation at that comment.
“It’s a safety feature. I was just hoping this contraption was so old that it wouldn’t have it,” he muttered as he gave up. “We’re between floors, too. There’s nothing more we can do at this point but wait. ”
He was resigned, but his frustration had seemed to fade.
“Want some candy?” she offered, pulling a couple of bags of chocolate from her purse.
For a moment she didn’t think Rafe was going to ease up, which would be disappointing, since they were going to be there for an indefinite amount of time, and it would be even worse if he intended to be a bear.
To her great surprise, he grinned and accepted a bag.
“You know this stuff is terrible for you, right?” he said as he opened the package and took out a handful.
“Yep. I know exactly how bad, and I don’t care,” she answered happily as she took her own handful, popping it into her mouth with a satisfied sigh. She was very glad she’d swiped some on her way from the room. Her stomach was beginning to rumble because she hadn’t eaten since lunch.
Ari slid down the wall, deciding she wasn’t going to stand there all night. Rafe joined her as he began munching on his chocolate, making her feel quite smug, especially after his little health comment.
“I guess it’s all right to indulge once in a while,” he conceded.
“Oh, Rafe, it’s OK to indulge all the time — in many things,” she countered, giving him a flirtatious wink.
Looking at her incredulously for a moment, Rafe put down his chocolate and tugged her onto his lap, positioning her so her back was pressed against his chest, her backside cushioned on his thighs.
“You know, chocolate is an aphrodisiac,” she said as she leaned back, content to sit with him with his arms wrapped around her middle, and her fingers full of chocolate gooeyness.
“Don’t tempt me, woman. Hopefully, we’re going to get rescued at any moment and I don’t want anyone except for me to see you naked,” he said and pressed his lips to her neck.
“What if we were really quick?” She wiggled on his lap.
Never before had she been this bold, this daring. Two years ago, the thought of ha**ng s*x in a public place would have horrified her. Now, she was hot and swollen, and she couldn’t think of anything better than to have him sink deep inside her.
Ari forgot all about the fact that they were trapped. It was almost as if she were sitting with Rafe in a quiet, though uncomfortable, room. As his hands made circles on her stomach, she felt only desire and warmth, no fear, no need to be rescued.
In that moment, she realized what she was doing. By focusing on her desire, focusing on her physical need for Rafe, she didn’t have to focus on anything else; she didn’t have to think about them as a couple.
That wasn’t healthy. That’s what got them into so much trouble the first go-round. Yes, she’d fallen in love with him, but it hadn’t been enough. Why had she fallen in love with a man who had forced her into a situation against her will?
That said more about her than him.
She was already sliding back into that pattern, even though two years had passed. The thought of him fading back out of her life was almost unbearable. But why? What was it about him that made her never want to be apart?
“Tell me about South America. ”
Rafe stiffened, his hand stalling for a moment.
“What do you want to know?”
“Everything. Tell me what you did, who you met, why you say it changed you so much. ”
“I don’t think this is the right time,” he hedged.
“This is t
he perfect time, Rafe. We’re trapped in an elevator with no idea when anyone will come around,” she said.
“I can think of other things we can do to occupy ourselves,” he said. His hands rose from her stomach and gripped her br**sts.
“I thought you said we couldn’t fool around,” she reminded him.
“I’ve changed my mind,” he told her, and he nuzzled her neck. His distraction technique was working quite well.
Ari felt herself melting, felt her body clamoring for the feelings he gave it, but she shook her head. They needed to talk — to really talk.
With reluctance, she grabbed his hands and pushed them back down to her stomach, her words a bit breathy when she spoke next.
“Please tell me, Rafe. ”
“I can’t seem to deny you anything, Ari,” he murmured. He pulled her even closer against his body, but his hands remained on her stomach and thighs, with his fingers drifting lazily across her skin, yet making no attempt to ignite her passion.
Of course, whenever he touched her anywhere, her desire was stirred up, but she did her best to repress it, knowing that when they did finally come together, it would be explosive.
Rafe pressed his nose into her hair and inhaled deeply, then exhaled and began, “You were right to leave me. I didn’t think so then, but I know it was the right thing for you to do. After my wife left, I turned into a cold bastard. I think I figured that since she’d hurt me, it was OK for me to do the same to other women, that they were all cold and calculating, and only after what they could get. My ex-wife is that type of woman, but I shouldn’t have lumped together everyone else. You are about as different from her as it gets — a polar opposite. My mother would never treat a man that way, and though my sisters can be brats, they aren’t cruel, deceptive, or out for money and position. I had those examples in front of me, but I still thrust everything but my pain aside. I didn’t want to feel again. I didn’t want to allow a woman to have power over me. ”
Ari was surprised to hear him admit any of this. Rafe didn’t often say he was wrong.
“I went a few years with relationships that were mutually pleasing. I had my needs met, and the women were provided for. Those women were happy. I wasn’t what they were in love with; it was my money, my influence, my power. When I was done, I made sure they were set up for quite some time. I’ve only had a couple of them try to come back. I made it very clear that it wouldn’t happen. ”