Disguise

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Follow Me Like A Puppy

I’m running out of time.

My breath got heavier as I turned, yet again, into another corridor. I really had to thank the person who designed this place - I had no idea where I was.

I had no idea if they were still following me either but it was likely that they were.

I still couldn’t believe that growl. What was that? Was there some animal in that room that I didn’t notice?

And the door? Could they really have just broken down a door?

They have always been inhumanly strong.

But that strong?

I needed to stop or else my heart would burst. I had no idea where I was. Somewhere still on the lower floors. I needed to change levels so it’d be harder to find me.

What did they want?

Running wasn’t the best solution. What would they even do to me if they caught me? But when I saw them, all the memories came flashing back to me. If they really were sorry then...where did that leave me? I should forgive them? Part ways as strangers? I knew what would happen. I’d let him back in, and after last time - I just couldn’t afford that. I was shattered and nothing hurt more than knowing that the one person who you trusted the most didn’t trust you. I had to look out for myself now. No surrendering to those stupid instincts and that godforsaken bond that I somehow felt only with him.

I would fight.

Noticing a staircase indicator nearby, I begrudgingly made my way to them. I climbed two floors down and then found myself in a basement.

A basement parking, to be precise.

I needed to find someone and get help but after Atticus, I didn’t know who else I could trust.

I walked a little further into the lot. Rows of swanky cars stood quietly, waiting to be driven.

The Wolf was after all, a luxury hotel only a few could afford.

I stopped against a black convertible and tried to contain my wheezing. It was going to be a pain to get out of this hotel without them noticing and talking to me. I was going to kill Xena for choosing this place.

I looked around myself again, the parking lot was a huge rectangle with plenty of cars to hide behind. But could only see one exit - the one from where I had entered.

Either I’ve just locked myself here with no escape, or I’ve hidden really well.

It was odd that there was nobody here. Not even the security personnel or anybody who just happened to walk by. Nobody had just casually strolled in, driven off or driven in?

My internal instincts kicked in.

Something was amiss. Where were all the people?

Move.

Gathering whatever remaining strength I had, I pushed myself off the car and turned in a random direction.

And that’s when I saw him.

He was standing at least ten cars away from me, his expression hard to see. I froze in place. I didn’t even hear him, silent as the night. His simple dark washed jeans and a light shirt made him look so approachable, so charming, like a movie actor. He made even the most boring clothes seem like Gucci. It was his tall stature and the way he held himself that told the real story - he was formidable when he wanted to be.

How’d he find me?

He didn’t move closer, but I knew his eyes were analyzing me. Seeing if I was going to make a break for it. He was always like that, he knew everything I was going to do before I did it. It was uncanny how well he knew me - I’d let it get that far.

We stood like that for a long while, tense and quiet. Calculating.

Behind me I heard a light shuffle and my anxiety doubled.

The rest were here.

How they knew? I had no idea.

But I didn’t have to turn to know that it was them.

A wave of fright coursed through me, making me exhale loudly. I could feel my hands shaking.

“Flora.” His words were soft, soothing. I hated the way my name rolled off his tongue. What his voice did to me.

I knew that even now, I’d succumb so easily, if he wanted.

But he didn’t need to know that.

“Quit following me around like a puppy.” I sassed, showing none of my nervousness in my tone.

“We just want to talk to you.” His words once again reminded me of the company we had.

“I want to hear nothing. The time for talking is long gone.”

Reece took a step closer to me but I stayed rooted in place. What was the point of moving behind? I was caught and cornered.

He looked over my shoulder, and gestured to them. I heard some more shuffling but I didn’t dare turn. Never take your eyes off the boss. Their footsteps faded away.

He sent them out?

Reece stepped closer still, and this time I moved back. It was like a dance.

“They’ve blocked the door, Flo. There’s no way out.” He confessed, but my breath hitched at the nickname.

“Only my friends can call me Flo.” I kept my tone bitter. I was being petty, I knew, but it was so satisfying to hurt him.

‘So much repressed anger’ I could hear the therapist’s voice in my head. ‘it will corrupt your soul completely one day.’

What did she know about the soul?

I’d never gone back to her after that.

Reece let out a huge sigh, he was still walking forward. “Flora you need to, for one second, stop running and listen to me.”

“No thanks.” Another step back.

“Flora I’m trying to apologize!”

Okay now you’ve done it. Pushed him too far.

His pace increased and I moved to the nearest car.

Would he cross over to vandalism?

He might.

Nevertheless I tried the door of the car, hoping that it was unlocked.

If only I could get inside-

The door opened a centimeter before I heard a distinct gush of wind.

And suddenly he was behind me, his one hand extended beside my head, and shut the door closed.

What in the name of God?! How did he do that?!

We were an inch apart, my back facing his chest. His one hand on the side of my head, and his other just placed itself on my shoulder. I could feel his breath on the back of my neck, giving me goosebumps.

The sizzling sparks made me weak and he turned me around as if I wasn’t resisting the movement at all.

Once we were chest to face, he placed that hand on the other side of my head, effectively caging me in.

Too close. Too close. Be calm. Be cold. Don’t give in.

I didn’t dare look up.

I didn’t think my heart could survive the proximity.

His mere presence could throw it into such a frenzy.

After all this while, and he still had such control over me?

“Flora please, look at me.” His voice was so gentle, so comforting.

“Flora, this is not some ridiculous trick. Please, look at me.” He tried yet again.

He was being so patient, so warm.

Like the Reece I had once fallen for.

Where was the brute? The cold-hearted rock I’d eventually seen him turn into?

Could it be that he’s really changed..?

Tingles shot up my chin as his fingers touched it, and then ever so slowly he lifted my head to face his.

His green eyes, so green they reminded me of a forest, were looking right into mine. As if somehow they’d reach deep into my soul. I think they did.

His sharp jawline, pink lips, dark eyebrows, stubble covered chin, every inch of his face was memorized to me.

And right now in his eyes I could see only one thing; pure, unbridled, regret.

I don’t know what he saw in my expression, but something made him step back a little and take his hands away from my sides. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding, but didn’t break eye contact.

My mind was blank, I was numb.

He took an unsteady breath and then said, “I- I know that I have no right to come back, after all this time. I made a mistake that can never be forgiven. I know you don’t want to see me, or even hear about me but I just-” his voice cracked -“I just needed to see you, and tell you that Flora, I am so so sorry.”

Oh god he’s .... He’s telling the truth.

After two years of this agony, I’m finally...free?

“I swear to you, I am not lying. Please try to understand that we made a mistake, I made a mistake. And I now know how grave it was. I know that there is a chance that this is... irreparable but I have to try. I have to fix this.”

Irreparable? Does he mean..

“Flora are you listening to me? Please. Please say something, anything. Shout, fight, yell. Anything is better than silence.” He begged, I could see unshed tears in his eyes.

Inside me, something stirred. A deep rooted feeling, a bond that I had kept down, and that in turn had kept me down. My cold facade had cracks forming, and cracks only led to one thing.

Collapse.

And then I raised my right arm, and slapped him right across his cheek, as hard as I could.

The whip like sound resounded throughout the silent parking lot as I met his shocked eyes with my own, defiant ones.

Daring him to do something about it.

But instead of stepping away, shouting, or hurting me in any way, Reece stepped impossibly close and put his arms around me, engulfing me in a warm, tight hug.

Shock.

No. This is not what I had in mind. How could I hate him when he was behaving this way? Why couldn’t he just make it easier for me by being how he was? I had to get out of this before the inevitable happened - I fell for him again.

And yet I couldn’t move. I just stood there, motionless, as I let his hands roam over me.

Coursing through my hair and pulling me closer and hugging me tighter.

I could feel my resolve weakening with every second we remained dovetail.

Reece was crying, I could hear him. In the one year I had known him, I had never seen him cry. He held onto me like if he didn’t, then I’d disappear forever.

And before I knew it, I was sobbing as well.

I didn’t know why, I should be happy. They finally knew the truth.

They knew that I was innocent and oblivious to whatever they were accusing me of. I was free.

And yet somehow I couldn’t stop crying, like someone had not just opened the floodgates but broken them.

He hugged me tighter now, harder. My tears worsened his expression, his conscience.

I didn’t even feel the satisfaction that I deserved. The satisfaction of seeing him realize his colossal mistake or want to make him regret it.

I had no fight left in me.

These two years of battling had taken it all out of me and I just wanted to take my leave. Go far away and live my life.

Now, maybe, just maybe I’d find it.

My tears only escalated, if that were even possible, and Reece began to panic.

“Flora Flora Flora. Oh Flora. I’m so sorry.” He kept chanting, trying to ease my pain.

I knew that it would, eventually, but until then I cried.

I cried for the amazing time we had, and the time we lost. The friends I’d once share everything with, the boy who made me feel like a princess.

I cried for all the misunderstanding and accusations. All the confusion I’d faced.

And ever so slowly, after what felt like a really long time, the tears began to ebb.

Reece pulled away to look at my face, both his hands on my cheeks.

I stopped crying completely and met his eyes with my own vulnerable ones. His thumb wiped off the remaining tears slowly, lovingly as he cupped my cheek.

How easy it was to melt in his arms. Two years of hatred and I didn’t stand a chance against his touch.

It was almost supernatural...

Embarrassment hit me strong and hard and I stumbled out of his grip, avoiding his eyes. Reece didn’t make a move forward, and I didn’t move any further away.

Had I just bawled my eyes out in front of Reece? Why was it that whenever it was him, I had no sense at all? I just gravitated to him.

He stepped closer after a second, his movements slow and deliberate. His guarded eyes were now replaced with firm determination, “Flora I swear this is not a trap. I made a mistake and I’m going to do whatever it is I can to fix it.”

I should have put as much distance as possible between us but his words caught my attention. I couldn’t help it and I asked,

“Fix it?” The tension began to build.

“I’m never letting you go, ever again.” He was a man of his word.

Oh no.

What have I gotten myself into?

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