Cruel Punishment


She felt the wind and snow whip against her skin as she lay on the freshly blanketed ground. She shivered as the wind blew the crystalline flakes across her body as if to bury her beneath its icy surface. She was cold, frightened, and alone. She didn't want to be alone. She didn't want to die alone.

"Hey, wake up! Can you hear me!?"

She heard a familiar voice and felt someone's hands wrapped around her shoulders.

"Are you okay!? Open your eyes!"

She heard the voice again. The young red-headed girl eyes fluttered open. Her vision was hazy. She looked up and squinted at the blurry silhouette that stood above her. She tried her best to distinguish their features as her vision slowly recovered. It was a pale-skinned teenage girl with blonde hair and vibrant blue eyes. She knew who this person was.

The blonde-haired girl seemed frightened at first, but then her expression changed to that of disappointment.

"How is she?"

The red-haired girl heard a different voice. It was masculine. A middle aged man with short, red hair came into view. She knew this person as well.

"She's awake." The blonde haired girl said feeling displeased.

"Good." The man said frankly.

"Good!?" The blonde girl said incredulously. "Her mistake almost got us killed! We should just leave her behind!"

"Hey! Don't you dare say that!" The man yelled angrily. "We're going to get through this together!"

The blonde girl looked away angrily. "She's such a disappointment." She muttered under her breath.

"We have to make a run for it." The man said as he surveyed the icy landscape. When I give the signal, we are going to run to safety."

The blonde girl nodded in agreement then she looked at the red haired girl angrily. "Don't mess up this time." She said threateningly.

"Alright, get ready." The man whispered. "Go!" He yelled and they all ran, leaving their footprints in the deep snow.

The red haired girl ran beside them. She tried her best to keep up but she was quickly getting exhausted. Her breathing was labored and her muscles burned with each stride she took. The man and the blonde girl ran ahead of her, the gap between them was quickly increasing.

The red haired girl tripped and tumbled in the snow. "Wait!" Her cry was desperate. "Please come back!" She screamed fearfully, but her words did not reach their ears.

The man and the blonde girl ran, totally unaware that they have left her behind. Or perhaps they didn't care.

The red haired girl watched horrified as their forms shrank and disappeared behind the blustery snow. She stretched out her arm as is to reach out and grab them.

"Don't leave me behind!" She shrieked. "Dad! Nina! Come back!"

Anna hastily sat up, gasping for air. She was in shock. She quickly glanced around her surroundings and realized that she was in her bed at Lee's estate. What she had just experience was only a dream. Even though it was a dream, they played on her worst fears. And what Anna feared most was being alone and isolated. She couldn't stand it.

Anna eyes suddenly darted at a chair that rested next to her bed. "He left?" She murmured to herself, feeling slightly disheartened.

"Oh, you're awake."

Anna turned in the direction where the voice was coming from. She saw Lee strode into the bedroom. He was fully dressed and ready for work. Anna furiously glared at him as he walked in.

"I wanted to check on you before I go." He said simply and smiled as he stood near the bed.

"You were going to leave without saying a word to me?" Anna muttered angrily.

"I heard what happened last night, so I didn't want to disturb your sleep." Lee said calmly.

Anna crossed her arms and grunted in anger. Lee looked at her feeling somewhat concerned.

Lee sighed. He really didn't want to have this argument right now but, he knew it was inevitable. His work schedule was already very stressful and hectic. The last thing he needed was a clingy woman starving for his attention. Is she really worth this drama? Lee thought to himself. Normally, he would have discarded women like these in a heartbeat. But, Anna… there was something different about her that he couldn't quite put his finger on.

"Look… I apologize for last night but you have to realize that I am busy man that does a lot of work to provide you with this extravagant lifestyle." Lee tried to reason. "And quite frankly I believe that I deserve an apology for having my office completely ruined. That was absolutely uncalled for. I missed a date, so what? There will be others." He shrugged.

"So what!?" Anna yelled in disbelief. "Don't you realize how important last night was for me? For us!?"

"No." Lee said flatly. He was quickly growing tired of the argument. "What is so special about it?"

"That's for you to figure out." Anna said heatedly.

Lee let out a tired sigh as he passed a hand through his hair. "Look dear, I'm going to work… I think you should stay home and get some rest." Lee said resignedly. "We'll discuss this more when I return." He said as he exited the room.

Anna angrily punched a pillow as she heard the door close behind him. She lay down in her bed and pulled the sheets over her head. She suddenly felt depressed upon the realization that she is totally alone.

She thought that nobody cared or respected her. Even though Lee constantly showered her with compliments and praises, Anna was convinced that his words were empty and meaningless. He merely says such things in order to woo and manipulate her to do what he wants.

In matter of fact, Anna believed most people resented her. She came from a family of renowned assassins. She was born and raised to be one however, she failed to live up to her father's expectations and her sister hated her for her shortcomings. No matter how hard she tried, it was never good enough to deserve their respect and adoration. She felt like she could never catch up and will always be left behind and forgotten.

Even though Anna was successful at becoming an assassin, her skills were poor in comparison to her sister's. Nina was the talented one. Nina relied purely on her superior skills and abilities which were similar to that of a hardened, war-torn soldier. Anna, on the other hand, relied on her beauty and sex appeal to get the job done. Her tactics wasn't as respectable as her sister's and she believe it was part of the reason why Nina hates and disowns her. From Nina's perspective, she was nothing more than a whore, relying on cheap tricks to gain big money.

Anna sighed solemnly beneath the sheets. She wished Nina would acknowledge her. She wanted to have the relationship they shared when they were little girls; before her father indoctrinated them into the family trade. Back then they were sister's not rivals.

Anna wished she had someone to talk to. She desperately wanted to feel better. Anna peeked through the sheets and stared at the empty chair that that rested near her bed. She wondered how long Bryan stayed before he left. Even though she was very drunk last night, she still remembered everything that happened.

It was very interesting to say the least. Her shopping expedition was very awkward and weird however, she did manage to see a part of Bryan that she never imagined existed. It was very small and subtle and easily overlooked but, it was there and she had spotted it.

Bryan was actually …concerned about her? She thought to herself. It was the best way she could describe it. To say that he cared would be too strong of a word to use to describe Bryan's actions last night. He is often labeled being rude, vulgar and downright evil. 'Caring' was an absolutely strange word to use to describe one of Bryan's attributes, she thought.

It was hard for her to believe but, Bryan actually tried to make her feel better when she was having an emotional breakdown. He also helped her walk to the front door of the mansion without her commanding him to do so. His actions were baffling considering the fact that she had given him such a hard time yesterday. Anna was intrigued to say the least. She was curious to learn who the real Bryan Fury was and wondered if Nina had seen this other side of him.

Anna sighed resignedly. Both Lee and Bryan were gone, she had no one there to help her feel better. She picked up the remote and turned on the television. Perhaps watching a few talk shows would distract her from thinking about her own problems.

A few hours passed. Anna fell asleep with the TV on however, she was suddenly awakened by the ringing of her cellphone. Anna slowly picked up the phone that lay beside her. She looked to see who was calling her but, the number was blocked. Anna thought it was strange and hesitated for a moment before answering the phone.

"Hello?" she said tentatively.

"Is this Miss Anna Williams?" A man responded back. She didn't recognize the voice but, judging by the sound and cadence, Anna determined that it was an older man, probably in his fifties or sixties.

"Who is this?" Anna asked suspiciously.

The man recited his name and Anna eyes immediately widened. She couldn't believe who she was speaking with. Anna exchanged a few words with the man before hanging up.

She immediately got out of bed and dressed. The man she spoke with wanted to meet her in person and she definitely did not want to be late. She quickly put on a pair of jeans, a blouse, and a fancy mink coat. Anna called for a taxi to pick her up then she grabbed her purse and exited the room.

She cautiously observed her surroundings and made sure the coast was clear. She didn't want the maid to see her leave. If she did, she would insist that Anna be escorted by one of Lee's bodyguards and she did not want that to happen. She didn't want anyone to know where she was going. She needed to meet this man alone.

She quietly climbed down the stairs to the first floor of the mansion. She spotted the maid in the dining room. She was busy wiping a large dinner table. Anna silently sneak passed the room and exited through the back entrance of the mansion. She quickly ran as fast as her high heels will allow, down a long driveway that led to the front gates of the estate.

The taxi was already waiting for her. Anna quickly exited the estate and entered the car. She told the driver where she needed to go and the driver sped off towards her destination.

Lee was very busy answering calls and filling out paperwork. He was somewhat happy that Anna stayed home. He couldn't imagine how the day would have gone if she was there, he surmised that it wouldn't have been pleasant. Her absence provided him with the space he needed to get his work done.

He wasn't sure what to do about Anna and he couldn't figure out what was so special about the date they were supposed to have last night. It bothered him and he actually felt a little guilty about the way he treated her. A part of him wanted to amend the situation, another part was still angry that she destroyed his office.

It took a crew of five men to clean up the mess she made. They have worked feverously through the night in order to make his office look professional and presentable again. Albeit, it was a little sparse since some of his décor was destroyed during Anna's rampage. But soon he will restore it to its former glory.

Lee was a little surprise when he heard his cellphone rang. Very few people had his personal number and it was very rare that someone would contact him through his cellphone. He picked up the device and realized it was Anna calling him. Lee sighed wearily. He still had a lot of work to do, however he couldn't afford to miss this call. He imagined it would anger the woman if he did. He cleared his throat and answered the phone with the most charming and charismatic voice he could muster.

"Well, hello my darling!" Lee said nervously. He hoped that Anna was in a good mood.

"Hello Lee." He grew concerned after hearing the sadness of her voice.

"Is everything alright?" Lee asked cheerfully; hoping to lighten the mood.

"Is it okay if I come to your office?" she asked softly.

"S-sure." Lee said hesitantly. Judging by Anna's mood he thought that it would be a terrible idea. "I'll have one of my bodyguards pick you up at the mansion."

"I would like someone to pick me up but, I'm not at the mansion, I'm in the city." Anna said flatly.

"What!?" Lee quickly stood up from his chair. "You're in the city all by yourself!?" He yelled incredulously. He shouted so loud that Anna had to pull the phone away from her ear.

"Yes, I am a big girl after all." Anna said mockingly.

"I've already explained to you why you shouldn't travel alone!"

"Don't worry. I can take care of myself." She said irritably.

Lee sighed resignedly as he sat back down in his chair. "Very well Anna, I'll send one of my men to pick you up."

"I want Bryan to pick me up." Anna quietly demanded.

Lee was baffled. "Bryan? Why?"

He waited for her answer but received none. It was completely odd that she would request Bryan to pick her up. As far as he knew, Anna hated, despised and feared the scarred man. He should have been last on the long list of people who were allowed to escort her anywhere.

Lee conceded to the woman's demand. "Alright, I will have Bryan pick you up."

Their conversation quickly ended after Anna told him her location. Lee placed the phone on his desk and quietly wondered what exactly happened yesterday when he wasn't around.

Bryan pulled up in front of a small café. He honked the horn irritably to announce his arrival. He couldn't believe that this woman wanted to torment him again. Bryan believed that she was mad at Lee but plan to vent her rage out on him. He was an easy and suitable target. It will be a classic case of 'displaced anger,' he thought.

He wondered what she would demand of him this time. Will she request that they go shopping again? Watch a romantic movie together? Or perhaps it will be something more sinister, like purchase a box of tampons? Bryan immediately shuddered at the thought. He planned to drive the car as fast as he could back to Violet Systems, before Anna can make any crazy demands. "To hell with the speed limit!" He thought.

He saw Anna exit the café. He expected her to request that he come out and open the door for her. However, he was surprised when she opened the door herself and entered the car.

Anna said nothing. She quietly buckled her seatbelt and gazed out the window. She looked unhappy and depressed. Bryan watched at her curiously it looked like she was lost in thought. He wondered what exactly had her in this mood but he didn't dare to ask. He put the car in gear and drove.

They were driving good for a while but, soon they were stuck in traffic. The traffic was thick and all the cars slowly inched forward on the highway. Bryan grunted angrily as he took out a cigarette and began to smoke.

Minutes passed before Anna decided to break the silence.

"What kind of relationship did you have with my sister." She asked quietly as she turned to look at Bryan.

Bryan nearly choked on his cigarette. "W-what?" He said disbelievingly as he hastily exhaled the smoke.

The question was unexpected and it took him by surprise. Bryan wondered if there was hidden mockery behind her words, as if she had some snide or rude remark to make dependent on his answer. He looked at her. Her expression was solemn and serious as if she honestly wanted to know.

"Why do you ask?" He questioned suspiciously.

"Do you love her?" Anna pressed. Her tone was quiet and serious.

Bryan swallowed uneasily. He didn't know where this conversation was headed or how to handle. There was clearly something on her mind and she wanted some answers.

"Love…. is a very strong word…. I'd say I respect her." Bryan slowly clarified as he kept his eyes on the road.

"Respect, huh?" Anna said with slight humor in her voice. "And did she 'respect' you back?"

Bryan glanced at her feeling mildly amused by her questioned. However, he was still baffled by Anna's strange behavior and inquiries. "Yeah… in her own, unique way." He said simply.

"Her own unique way?" Anna repeated as she carefully examined his words. "I'm guessing that her demeanor was icy, cold, and direct." She said dismissively as she turned to look out the window. "I remember when Nina used to be more open, friendly and kind."

"What do you expect?" Bryan smirked. "Nobody stays the same. People change all the time." He said matter-of-factly as he looked at her.

Anna gave him a curious look as if to urge him to explain his thought.

"We are molded and shaped through the experiences and choices we make throughout life. It's how we adapt and learn how to survive." Bryan explained. "Everyone does it." He shrugged. "Nina did it, and so have you."

"Care to explain?" Anna said mockingly. She wasn't fully convinced by his logic.

Bryan flicked the butt of his cigarette out the window as he chuckled and gave her a sly look. "Well… Nina adapted her best skills to become and expert assassin while you adapt yours to become an expert whore."

Bryan laughed loudly. Anna frowned and shoved him as he drove. She was getting tired of being labeled a 'whore' and a 'gold-digger.' Her assault caused Bryan swerve the car on the road. He quickly regained control.

"I'm only giving you a fuckin' example." He said mockingly and chuckled. "Seriously, think about it. Both of you adapted and exploited your skills the best way possible in order to make money and to take care of yourselves."

Anna carefully thought about his explanation. Even though what he said made sense she still thought it was only partially true.

"Well, I think it's impossible for a person to completely change." Anna tried to reason. "Like Nina. There is no reason why she cannot be a professional assassin and keep some of her humanity."

Bryan gave a short laugh. "That's impossible. It's best to get rid of feelings such as 'caring' and 'empathy.' They are for the weak who don't mind being stepped on." Bryan said with disgust.

Anna perked an eyebrow. "You used to be a cop right?"

"Yeah, what about it?" He asked curiously.

"It was your duty to help, protect and care for the innocent-"

"That was the 'old' me." Bryan interjected. "I ain't that person anymore." He said gruffly.

"The 'old' you?" Anna giggled.

Bryan glanced at her feeling partially confused but mostly annoyed. "what's so funny?"

"Nothing…" Anna smiled coyly. "But I really want to thank you for helping me last night. I know it was a small gesture but it really meant a lot." Anna said mockingly.

Bryan grunted angrily as he kept his eyes on the road. He totally understood what she was implying and it bothered him.

"See?" Anna said triumphantly. "It's impossible for people to completely change." She smiled for a moment. "Maybe, just maybe… A part of my sister - the part that knew as a little girl - is still buried somewhere within her." Anna said quietly.

Bryan was confused. He wondered why she would wish for such a thing. "I thought you two hate each other?" He questioned.

Anna giggled. "Is that what she told you?" She questioned back.

Bryan sighed resignedly. He was tired hearing the woman speak in riddles and he was totally puzzled as to why she was suddenly interested in Nina's 'humanity' as she so put it. She was acting odd. She wasn't her usual bitchy self.

The traffic was finally picking up. Bryan quickly glanced at Anna as he drove. She was smiling happily as she stared out the window. It was strange. Bryan quietly wondered if he had unintentionally brightened Anna's mood.

Anna quietly entered Lee's office. Lee was busy typing something on his laptop. He was lost in his work and didn't notice that she had entered the room.

"Good evening Lee." Anna said in order to gain his attention.

Lee looked at her and frowned. "Hello Anna, I see you've finally made it." He said as he closed the laptop.

"We were stuck in traffic." Anna explained.

"Really?" He said in disbelief.

Lee was angry and he didn't know how to proceed with the conversation. He wondered why Anna decided to roam about the city alone. More importantly, why have she requested Bryan to pick her up? What happened last night when he wasn't present? His mind swirled with different thoughts, ideas, and scenarios and not one of them were good. He ultimately wanted to make amends with Anna, but he didn't know how to do it gracefully while getting all his questions answered. He decided to be direct and to the point.

"What happened last night?" He asked sternly.

Anna was surprised by his blunt question.

"What do you mean? You know exactly what happened!?" Anna felt dumbfounded.

"The maid told me that Bryan stayed in our bedroom with you alone for over an hour before he left…"

Anna was shocked. She didn't like where this conversation was headed.

"I was willing to overlook that questionable event, but then today, you request that he should be the one to pick you up!" Lee yelled.

Anna suddenly felt uncomfortable. She never seen Lee this mad before. He never once raised his voice at her let alone yelled.

"Lee…" Anna said softly.

"And now you were conveniently stuck in traffic!"

"It's nothing like that, honest." Anna pleaded.

Lee was furious. He was convinced Anna was taking advantage of his kind nature.

"Really!? And you expect me to believe that!? I'm not incompetent, Anna." Lee screamed. "You're busy fucking me over and fucking around and I'm not going to put up with it anymore!"

Anna was surprised by his vulgar language and sudden change in persona. She never heard Lee curse before. He was always the gentleman. However, she was quickly enraged by his false and hasty accusation.

"Why would I do anything like that!?" She yelled angrily. "Did you figure out why last night was so important to me?" She questioned heatedly.

"No. What does it matter?" Lee said flippantly.

Anna was speechless at his lack of concern. He only cared about himself and what mattered to him. Her eyes quickly began to water. "Yesterday was our anniversary!" She screamed. "We've been together for a year and you didn't even realize it… You didn't even care." She said more somberly.

Lee's face softened. He shamefully looked down at the marbled floor. His expression was full of regret. He was at a loss for words. He had wrongfully accused her of infidelity. As he closely went over his claims, he realized how ridiculous it all sounded. He wished he could go back in time and take it all back.

Anna frowned and quickly exited the office. She was furious. She no longer wanted to be there. She entered an elevator and took it to the ground floor. She angrily stormed out of Violet Systems.

She took out her phone and dialed the number as she walked down the street. The number belonged to the man she had met earlier that day. She wasn't sure before, but after having conversations with both Bryan and Lee she knew what she needed to do.

The phone rang a few times before a man picked up and answered.

"Hello, Miss Willams?"

"Yes, this is she." Anna said sternly and smiled. "I wanted to let you know that I accept your offer."

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