Tricking Astrid

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Chapter 42

* The limit *

Astrid dozed, waking to find the effects of the drug had waned. Tears of frustration and pain fell from her eyes and she tensed from unknown noises outside. Jay remained silent and when she peered skyward, she found it too dark to see if he still hid in the rafters. She rolled onto her sore knees, hoping he couldn’t tell she intended to slip off the putrid mattress.

A crash came from the front of the house and in a panic rubbed her wrist together to undo the bindings. Everything was out of focus in the darkness and she could not loosen the ties before, like a reoccurring nightmare, another man called her name.

“Astrid?”

Remy? His deep voice sent tremors of joy through her beaten body. She tried to dig her fingernails around the cloth in her mouth, inwardly cursing she didn’t already think to do so.

The shadows shifted as the door opened. Remy didn’t have a flashlight. She pleaded through the gag, telling him not to come inside. With outstretched fingers, she crawled forward to stop Remy from entering. Flashes of how Jay murdered Detective Laramy flew through her mind, and it terrified her he might meet the same demise.

Remy was not responsible for what Jay did to either of them. She wanted desperately to comfort him even though Jay beat and slashed her flesh as if she were a poor imitation of a canvas; he wasn’t to blame. No one was because Jay broke a long time ago and kept his crazy on the down-low. Plotting and planning against people who never realized what twisted and evil deeds awaited them because in his sick mind they deserved to suffer. The maniac probably started the fire that killed his parents.

“Hey,” Calder hissed from the other side of the hallway, “I found a light.”

NO! Not both! Astrid issued more frantic outcries and at last, she reached Remy’s legs when he tentatively stepped through the doorway. He startled at her touch, but recognizing her faint shouts, bent down to pat her swollen face. Calder turned on an electric lantern, holding it up. She flinched away from the light and the looks of horror on their faces when they witnessed the damage she’d sustained. She frantically pointed upward as a warning.

Too late.

Jay sprung down, ascending on Remy’s tall frame in a tangle of arms and legs. Astrid pushed herself to the left just before they sank. Complete and utter rage took over Remy, igniting hope inside of Astrid’s soul as Calder stood in shock watching the fight.

Remy somehow knocked the knife out of Jay’s hand and the lunatic was unprepared for Remy’s wrath without his blades. He threw punch after punch, but Jay wriggled out of reach, neither of them landing solid blows.

Astrid caught sight of the knife by the mattress. Calder snapped out his stupor, realizing he needed to do something, so set the lantern down and reached for Jay to pull him off of Remy. Astrid scrambled over the bed, feeling safe already. The men she loved would stop this psycho and everything would be all right.

The instant Astrid moved towards the knife it gained Jay’s awareness and with a roar of untapped strength threw Remy and Calder off. Kicking Remy in the balls to keep him down, Jay lunged for the blade. He caught the handle a second before she did and then went after her with a cruel smirk on his crazed face.

“No!” Calder shouted, moving to protect her.

Astrid couldn’t believe it when Jay’s knife sunk into Calder’s stomach and the psycho laughed, keeping her gaze the entire time. “Guts like his pansy ass won’t take but minutes to bleed out. Come here, bitch!”

Remy’s balls ached but internalized the strain into fury. He was too late to help Calder, but it was her calm stare down with Jay that made his heart stutter. She was giving up! Her face and body looked as if he tried to pulverize her into nothing. Astrid’s hands were tightly bound and clasped to her naked chest, mouth stuffed with a cloth, but it was her clear look of acceptance of death that froze his veins.

“Hold it!” Jay bellowed, grabbing Astrid as a shield after Calder fell to his knees, holding his middle, “Don’t fucking move! Back up!”

Remy licked his lips, assessing his options. He saw Detective Laramy’s motionless figure in one corner and swept his eyes over the red coating the walls and ground, grasping the finality of Jay’s design to kill anyone that came between him and Astrid. “Okay. Okay!”

Calder leaned forward as his blood drained onto the floor, “Fucking bastard!”

Jay brought the blade to Astrid’s throat, standing behind her. The lack of movement or noise made time seem to stand still as they stared at each other. Calder blinked up at Astrid and Jay, pain radiating throughout his frame on every inhale and exhale.

Jay yanked her further away from the men, to the left side of the room. Astrid stoically locked eyes with Remy, showing no fear. She didn’t want either of them to get hurt and now Calder required medical attention because she wasn’t fast enough. No matter what happened to her, they had to leave this horrible place alive.

Remy’s hazel orbs travel to where Jay pressed his weapon against her neck, understanding why he would never allow his former friend to live. Vengeance seethed from his entire being, looking for an opening to avenge the deaths of his past lovers and for what he did to her.

Jay shoved three fingers into her mouth, scraping the tender flesh inside until she tasted copper, ripping the gag out. “I’ll be generous and let you listen to her screams,” he cackled, “She looks good, huh? Is it up to your standards, assholes? I think you should thank me for not getting around to cutting her tits off. Alice enjoyed that.”

Remy clenched his jaw, slowly inching his hand upward to palm the snub nose revolver he bought a year ago.

“Tell Remy how I made you squeal,” Jay moved the blade to her collarbone, “Tell Calder before he bleeds to death how you planned to ditch him for Remy. Admit you’re a selfish lying whore who got what you deserved!”

Calder had grown pale from blood loss but shouted, “No matter what you do or say, you die tonight! It will be okay, Astrid.”

Jay jerked her closer, screaming, “Tell them, bitch!”

Astrid’s voice was so faint they strained to hear it. She sounded so worn out, so fragile and hoarse, but her words were everything at that moment, “I love you both.”

Jay laughed like a maniac, “Smartass. Alright, Remy, go to Calder right now! Now! I will cut her open from end to end if you don’t move!”

Remy called his bluff, “Jay, what did I do to make you hate me? You hurt those girls for nothing! We were friends!”

Jay lowered the knife to Astrid’s chest, “I don’t know anymore, to be honest. But you’re correct, Alice and Joyce were nothing! Nothing compared to Astrid and how she makes me feel!” his laugh became shrill and cracked, “But you better fucking move!”

“Fuck you!” She shouted, throwing her head back, crushing Jay’s nose. The knife sliced down her torso sideways, from breast to hip bone, before Jay lurched aside. The pain didn’t register, slipping out of his reach.

Remy pulled out his gun.

Jay cursed, touching his face. “Well, I broke your nose so turnabouts fair fucking play I suppose. I’m still not done with you, bitch.”

Astrid ran to Remy, who wrapped his arm gingerly around her waist. Calder stumbled to his feet, although it caused more blood to seep through his fingers. The entire room rank of iron and gore, coating the walls and floor like someone forgot paintbrushes and slopped it at will.

“Astrid,” Calder weakly mumbled, “I’ll untie you.”

Her doe eyes glittered with unshed tears, turning from Remy to seek Calder’s embrace. He took the rope with shaky hands, not meeting her gaze because he couldn’t stand how terrible she looked. There wasn’t an inch of her body that didn’t drip crimson or appear black and blue.

You want to play?!” Jay’s delirious tone unnerved them, “We can play, fucker. Is a gun supposed to scare me into surrendering? My conviction’s a lot stronger than yours. How do you think I tricked you all these years? Astrid’s gonna meet me in hell and none of you will come between us!”

“You are truly insane,” Remy stated without compassion, “And I’ll make sure you’ll never harm anyone again.”

Calder finished untying the severe knot on her wrists when a charge went off. She twirled, seeing Jay unharmed, lunging forward with a knife headed for Remy’s throat. Astrid and Calder stood behind Remy so he didn’t have space to step back. She snagged Calder’s shirt, tugging him towards the hallway out of harm’s way.

Remy blocked Jay’s attack, seizing the hand with the knife tightly, “Run Astrid!”

She glanced to where Calder slid down the wall, bleeding out. She couldn’t abandon them! The urge to flee was strong, but she refused to cower any longer. She had to help Remy end this once and for all.

“Let go!” Jay shouted like a petulant child, wrestling Remy’s grip on the gun while trying to stab him with the other, neither willing to surrender.

“Run,” Calder ordered, “I-I can’t. Go, princess. Help is on the way. I love you.”

Astrid sobbed in distress, watching Calder’s blood pooling on the ground. “I won’t leave you.”

The handgun misfired as Remy continued to hold on, and she ducked when it came close to hitting Calder. She let out a scream of fear and frustration, wondering if Jay would actually beat them. The blade slipped from his grasp, then he shoved Remy as hard as he could. Remy grunted then somehow angled the barrel low, popping off a bullet into his right leg.

With a howl of pain, Jay lost his concentration. Remy pushed, sending him backward onto the floor. Remy drew a deep breath, scanning Astrid’s bloody form and saw Calder nod once before his eyes closed, his body giving up.

He pointed the compact pistol at Jay’s smug face, “You wanted to test my limits? That’s what you said, right? Here it is.”

Jay reached behind his back and Remy shot him.

Astrid screamed in horror as blood and bone exploded from the top of Jay’s head. She flinched away from the carnage, seeing Calder lost consciousness and had turned deathly white. She didn’t know what to do but slumped to her knees to make sure he was still breathing. His chest rose and fell in shallow burst and she kissed his clammy forehead, whispering she loved him.

The silence after the gunshot left no room for accolades.

She suddenly felt woozy, realizing the cut along her torso steadily gushed the entire time the men fought. Remy dropped his weapon, running to catch Astrid when she collapsed sideways.

“You’re all right,” Remy cried, “I’ve got you, baby. Stay with me, Astrid. It’s over. It’s going to be okay now. We’re all fine. Okay? Please, just hang on. Calder? You hear me, man?” He pulled a phone out to call for assistance, blubbering on and on as Calder and Astrid laid unconscious and dying.

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