AGAINST HER WILL

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Chapter 26

IT WAS DARK WHEN SHE WOKE SOME TIME LATER. Close by she saw a fire flickering. Looking down, she found she was lying in a sleeping bag. Cole had his back to her and was sitting on a large boulder. He must have heard her moving behind him, because he turned his face towards her smiling and said, ‘Aah, my sleeping beauty awakens. How are you?’

‘Tired, weak and very thirsty and hungry.’

He moved across to her, picked up a water bottle, and handed it to her. Then watched as she gulped down the precious liquid, spilling some down the sides of her mouth. She coughed and spluttered, before drinking more, wiping her face with the sleeve of her top.

‘So what were you doing out in the open on a day like today?’

‘You don’t want to know.’

‘Ah, I’ve got an idea already, Donna. It’s Evan, isn’t it? You’ve found out I was telling the truth about him – haven’t you?’

She felt embarrassed. ‘He... well, he’d had too much to drink for a start, and was shouting at me. After I’d smelt his aftershave, I had to get away from him. I still have nightmares about that horrible pungent smell.’

‘What do you mean, that smell?’

‘Well, I haven’t told anyone this before but someone attacked me a while ago, and that man had that same distinctive odour on him.’

For a few seconds an eerie silence ensued as Cole appeared to deliberate over what she’d said.

‘So you’re realized this guy who attacked you and Evan are one and the same. Well, I did warn you darling, but you wouldn’t listen. I wouldn’t lie to you, Donna. And that’s why I decided I had to come after you, to save you from him.’

‘What am I going to do?’

‘Don’t worry. Now I’m here, there’s no need for you to do anything. I’ll protect you, and believe me once he sees you’re with me, he won’t touch you; because if he does he’ll have me to deal with. In the morning, we’ll move out of here and get you back to civilisation.’

‘That would be great.’

‘Like I said, that’s not a problem. Ever since I found out you were going with him, I’ve feared for you. And as soon as he told me what he’d done, I knew I had no choice but to come over to help you.’

‘What are you talking about Cole?’

‘On his stag night, he had too much to drink, and boasted over how he’d lusted after this girl. This was only several months ago, long after he’d been forced to stop playing football. He said he had to have her even if she said no, because she was so beautiful. He used to get these urges he had no control over. When he told me all the graphic details, it sounded like he was gloating. That’s why I didn’t want the same to happen to you.’

‘Oh my God…no,’ Donna began, her heart beating fiercely against her chest.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you and stop him from hurting you.’

She smiled at him, suddenly feeling she owed him a great debt. ‘That’s good to know. I still can’t believe you’re here, Cole. How did you manage to get away?’

He put his hand on her arm. ‘Pure luck love. By a strange but wonderful coincidence, my unit are over here on manoeuvres. We use this place to play at what we’re doing for real over in Afghanistan. The area here is very similar to what we encounter over there. As soon as I got back, I slipped away from my mates and was trying to get to the Villa, when I saw you. It’s almost like I was meant to save you. Your guardian angel so to speak.’

‘I can’t tell you how relieved I am to see you.’

He glanced at his watch and gave her a little smile. ‘When did you last eat?’

‘I can’t remember exactly, except it was before I escaped from Evan.’

‘No wonder you’re starving. I’ll heat you something on the fire. It’s only out of a tin, but that’s better than staying hungry.’

After opening a can of stewed beef, he tipped the contents into a saucepan, and stirred it while holding the pan over the flames. Before long it was bubbling away. Half he poured into a metal dish for Donna, the remains he ate from the pan himself.

She ate slowly, enjoying this as much as a meal at a top restaurant. When she’d finished he handed her a flask containing ice-cold water. She drank greedily and soon quenched her thirst.

‘That better?’ he asked her smiling.

‘Much.’

‘You’ve done well to get away from him. That must have been difficult.’

‘Very difficult,’ she said, her hand shaking as she gave the flask back to him.

Then she told him what had happened.

‘This is incredible. I never dreamed the girl he told me about was you. You’ve had an extremely lucky escape. I can’t tell you how much I’ve worried over what he might do to you.’

She put her hand on top of his. ‘I’m so sorry Cole – but it seemed so out of character for him after how good he’s been to me. If it hadn’t been for that aftershave I wouldn’t have believed it.’

‘No worries – at least you found out before it was too late. So what did he try to do?’

‘Nothing. I never gave him the chance. As I’ve said as soon as I smelt his aftershave I knew the truth. That horrible aroma will stay with me as long as I live. I had no choice but to make a run for it.’

‘I don’t blame you. Do you remember much about the original attack?’ he said looking suddenly interested and concerned.

‘When I said I was attacked…actually I...I was raped and nearly killed. I’d left work late one night and it was getting dark, and took a shortcut to the station when someone grabbed hold of me. I pictured him more heavily built than Evan, but I could easily have been wrong. I’m…I’m sorry but I can’t talk about it. Except to say I now know he’s the one.’

‘Jesus, I had my suspicions, but when he got that job as a nurse I thought he’d changed,’ Cole exclaimed. ‘Yet I remember even before his injury, he was always so full of himself being a footballer. In fact he once he beat up a girl when she cheated on him with another player from the same club. Luckily, that day I was there to get him out of a hole. I should have known he’d been up to something else, and that he was still the same as before. If only I could have kept an eye on him, but being in the army made that impossible. I wanted to tell mum, but she’s been through so much with dad and Theresa... especially when he said the attack was more recent. My God, how ironic and bizarre - you’ve married the man who raped you!’

‘We need to call the police Cole – make sure he’s arrested before it’s too late.’

‘I agree, but first I have to get you out of here and back home. While he’s out on the loose, there’s still danger. Even though I’m with you, there’s a chance he could still surprise us.’

‘Oh no!’

‘Don’t worry, I’ll look after you. My army training has made me an expert in defending myself. But no one’s infallible - that’s why I don’t want to hang around waiting for something to happen.’

‘So what are we going to do?’

‘I’ve had an idea. It’s what he’ll least expect. I won’t tell you the exact details yet, but when the time comes, believe me, you’ll be surprised. Trust me, that’s all I ask.’

She smiled, squeezed the back of his hand. Felt relief now after all the anxiety of the past two days. If only she’d met Cole before Evan, her life might have been so different. He was twice the man Evan would ever be, despite Evan saving her that one time.

A few hours later at dawn, Cole woke her, and gave her tinned fruit to eat and a drink of tea with powdered milk. He explained they had to make an early start before the sun got too powerful.

Cole hurriedly packed everything up, reassuring Donna she’d be all right. The atmosphere was already hot, and she didn’t relish a long walk, but she had to go along with what he said, after all he was the expert, and would take good care of her.

‘Are you ready Donna?’

She nodded with a sad smile.

They walked the best part of the morning, stopping when possible for a drink and something to eat. He seemed to know where he was going, but to Donna, all the countryside appeared much the same, scorched and with very little vegetation save for the odd clump of bushes.

At last, she could make out the blueness of the sea in the distance. It looked strangely familiar and then she realised exactly where they were.

She glanced across at him; saw the grin on his unshaven face.

‘You’re taking us back to the Villa.’ There was a worried tone to her voice, and a lump formed in her throat, as she suddenly feared Cole might be Evan’s accomplice. Various terrifying images went through her mind, and she almost decided to run away again, but in her present state, there was nowhere to go.

‘Relax Donna, this isn’t what you think. Believe me, we’re taking the best option. You’d never make it back to civilisation – it’s much too far to walk. For all I know, he’ll be out searching for you – shitting himself, in case you get away. I’m almost sure the Villa’s empty. There has to be a phone; so we can call the police and get some help - mobiles don’t work around here unfortunately. We might even strike lucky and find the car, although, knowing him I doubt it. But it’s the last place he’ll ever think of looking for you. And if he comes back, boy will he get the shock of his life - cos I’ll be waiting for him. And, darling, that’s where brotherly love ends.’ The corners of his mouth turned up into a crude smile.

She was puzzled by the look on his face as if he really enjoying this. ‘Well, if you’re sure that’s the right thing to do?’

‘Of course I’m sure.’

‘But what if he’s here already?’

‘Come on now, he won’t be. He’ll be going crazy looking for you, and won’t come back until he’s searched everywhere. But even if he is there,’ he nodded in the direction of the Villa. ‘We’ll have the element of surprise on our side. And we won’t go over there until dark.’

Before long she saw the Villa clearly in the distance. He told her to keep down. They crawled across to some large rocks to hide behind, and remained there until dusk approached. During this time, Cole kept a constant lookout for his elusive brother, finally using binoculars to home in on the road leading to the Villa.

‘The car has gone, here look for yourself.’ He handed the binoculars to her. ‘But we can keep an eye out for him from here.’

It seemed he was right, and indeed the Villa did look empty. Maybe they ought to go straight over, she thought, getting up from behind the rocks.

‘No, get down. If he’s hiding somewhere, we’ll be an easy target. I have a pair of night goggles, which will help me see a way to the Villa when it’s dark. When the time comes, grab hold of me and stay close.’

The wait was long and monotonous, but there was no other way. At last complete darkness enveloped them, except for short periods when the moon kept coming in and out from behind scudding clouds. Cole tapped her on the shoulder, indicating they should make a move, and keep their heads low; so for the most part they crawled their way across. When they got there, he told Donna to wait by the side of an outbuilding to the right of the main house, while he checked the property over. After peering into every window to make sure no one was inside, he went back round to the front and tried the front door, but as expected, it was locked. As Donna went over to him, she saw he had a long thin metal rod, presumably to pick the lock. For several minutes, he messed about with it until at last there was a click. The door opened and hurriedly they went inside, shutting it behind them. Adrenaline pumped through Donna veins. She glanced at Cole, who squeezed her arm to reassure her.

‘All right darling, you stay here while I have a look around. If I’m not back in five minutes, or you hear any noises, get the hell out of here.’

She nodded, allowing him to go, but felt extremely nervous at being left alone. So tense, she kept her hand on the front door handle just in case. Hopefully he’d hurry back. Then she had a terrible dread that Evan was waiting in the shadows, or hiding behind the furniture ready to attack her, the first chance he got. But everywhere seemed quiet and within five minutes, Cole returned.

‘The place is as clean as a whistle, Donna.’

‘Thank God for that.’

‘Best keep the lights off though and lock the front door, or he’ll smell a rat for sure. Then I need to get down to business. Know where there’s a phone?’

She had to think for a minute. ‘In the living room by the television.’ Donna pointed in that direction.

Wearing his goggles, Cole went into the living room, finding the phone exactly where she’d told him. Donna stayed where she was, by the window to keep a look out for Evan.

‘Excuse me while I make a call. This should only take a few minutes, I promise you.’

She nodded, not taking too much notice of what he was saying - wishing instead that the full moon would come out so that if Evan did turn up she would see him. At present it was almost impossible to see anything. In the quietness she her heart pounded and for a second she wondered if it could be heard in the room.

Finally, Cole put the phone back on its cradle, then sat down on the sofa opposite the front door, and told her to do the same.

‘Right, I’ve phoned the police. I explained what’s happened and they’re sending someone up here as soon as they can. The only problem is the distance involved. Although it’s a relatively small island, the roads aren’t good, and the visibility is poor at night, so it could take over an hour to get here. In the meantime all we can do is to sit tight and wait. And if Evan comes back, so much the better.’

As she squirmed in her seat, and bit her fingernails, she sensed Cole could tell how she was feeling because he squeezed her arm. Looking up in his direction, shaking, she wished the police would come now, so that an ugly confrontation could be avoided.

Then suddenly he got up and prowled around the room like a lion waiting for his prey. He kept looking out of the window too, breathing in and out deeply, sniffing and flexing his muscles as if readying himself for any eventuality.

Before long she couldn’t stand it any longer. ‘Why doesn’t that police car hurry up?’

‘It’ll be here soon enough. Don’t worry everything is under control. Remember even if he does come back now, he has no chance. We’ll hear him coming. Can’t wait to see the look on his smug face.’

‘Yes, but I’m still scared.’

‘I’m nervous myself, darling. But that helps me keep in tune with anything that might happen, and I assure you my reflexes are razor sharp. The fact that he’s my brother doesn’t come into it. He’ll get what he deserves, I promise you.’

‘Why does it have to be him?’

‘Who can say? I’m as saddened as you are. I can’t understand why he turned out like he did. When you think he could have had it all with you, yet he blew it before you even met.’

She shrugged her shoulders. Really, how could this have happened to her? She was glad Cole was around to protect her.

As he came back towards her, she was aware of him pulling something out of the inside pocket of his jacket. Donna could barely see it, but knew instinctively it was a gun. Then when she heard him unclip the safety catch, she had this confirmed, and got very frightened again.

‘Don’t worry it’s just a precaution. If he does show his face, it’ll keep him quiet until the police arrive.’

‘But is that really necessary?’ She commented, thinking not for the first time that Cole was viewing the whole situation through different eyes. After all she wanted to stop Evan and for him to pay for what he’d done, but to die wasn’t the answer.

‘It is if you want to stay alive. The man’s desperate – he’ll do anything to cover his tracks, now he knows you’ve probably recognised him.’

As Cole sat back down beside her, Donna was so tensed up, she felt she might pee herself.

He put a reassuring hand on her knee, saying, ‘Stop worrying – it won’t be long now – very soon it’ll all be over, and you can start living a normal life again.’

As she pondered over what ‘a normal life’ might be, she heard the sound of a car. It had to be the police. Or Evan. She made to rush to the window but Cole restrained her with his hand.

‘We’ll find out who it is soon enough,’ he whispered.

Her nerves were jangling, her breathing quick and deep. If it was the police, they’d knock on the door. If it was Evan, he’d try to unlock the door.

She quivered all over, her legs like jelly, willing it to be the police. But then to her horror came a sound, a click, and the door opened. A scream almost left her mouth. Evan.

The jangle of car keys being put down, and then the walk to where they were sitting. The light was switched on.

‘Donna!’ Evan shouted, his eyes widening with shock and then revulsion at the sight of her and Cole sitting on the settee, Cole with his gun pointing straight at him. Evan’s eyes bulged with hate at his brother. ‘What the hell is going on here? What’s with the gun, brother? Why, you… – no wonder you didn’t want me to touch you, Donna. And with my big brother too. That really is the pits.’

‘He’s over here on manoeuvres – thank God!’ Donna said.

‘And you believe that? Well, there’s one born every minute, babe,’ Evan laughed.

‘It’s true. Why else would he be wearing his uniform?’

Evan shook his head. ‘Come on, Donna, think about it rationally, is that really feasible?’ He came towards her, and for a second she feared even the threat of Cole’s gun wouldn’t stop him.

‘Stay where you are Evan, or so help me God, I’ll shoot you, you fucking rapist.’

Evan stopped dead in his tracks. ‘You what? You’re off your head, mate. There you are shagging my missus, and you’re calling me a rapist. What’s that all about? It’s the biggest load of crap I’ve heard in my life. I’ve never raped anyone. And you Donna after all we’ve been through together. Maybe I should have let you jump off that bloody roof.’

Donna shook her head. ‘I’m not sleeping with him – I... I can’t after what you did.’

‘Eh, after what I did to you. All I’ve ever done is to kiss you – even now we’re married I’ve never so much as touched a hair on your sweet head. How can you say that to me? You’re no better than him – you bastard.’ He screamed, and without warning he dived for his brother. Donna had quickly managed to dive out of the way, just before the settee toppled over and Evan landed on top of him.

She got up from the floor, and watched in horror as the two of them grappled with each other. Evan tried to prise the gun away from Cole, but he resisted. The gun went off. Donna’s heart jumped. A hole appeared in the ceiling, bits of plaster dropped down and then the gun flew out of Cole’s hand.

Donna shivered like a frightened rabbit, as Cole pushed Evan off, hit him in the face, then in the stomach, and on the chin.

Evan fell to the ground, half got up before Cole punched him down again. Blood spurted down Evan’s nose. He coughed and spat out blood, then went for Cole, his head down straight into Cole’s midriff. Cole gasped, fell back against the wall, then bounced forward, and hit Evan hard on the cheek. Evan went down again, and before he could get up, Cole began to kick him repeatedly in the stomach, the legs, his arms, and his head.

‘Stop it, both of you,’ Donna shouted. She had the gun in both hands, and was pointing it at both of them, although it wavered alarmingly. She released a shot that whizzed over Cole’s head, forcing him to stop and duck, and look directly at her, his eyes ablaze with anger.

‘Come on Donna, you saw how he went for me. If he’d got the gun off me, he’d have killed us both. I was only defending myself. Give me the gun, so I can hold him here until the police arrive.’ He held out his hand for her.

‘Don’t fall for it Donna –’ Evan coughed.

‘Come any closer, either of you and I’ll shoot you both.’ She pointed the gun at the two of them.

‘Donna, he’s the one that raped you, the man who almost ruined your life - and he’ll be a murderer as well, if you give him half a chance. We’ve got to stop him before it’s too late,’ Cole said. ‘Come on, hand me the gun before somebody gets hurt.’

She shook her head. Fired another shot that just missed the top of Cole’s head. He looked stunned. ‘Have you gone mad? For God’s sake, don’t let him fool you again.’

Behind him, Donna saw Evan get to his feet.

‘We’ll wait for the police to arrive, let them sort this out.’ Her eyes moved one to the other, as terrified as she’d ever been in her life.

‘Well, if you’ve phoned them from here you’ll have a long wait,’ Evan said wiping blood from his mouth onto his sleeve. ‘The landline’s dead, and there’s no signal for mobiles around this place.’

She narrowed her eyes for a few seconds, stared at both of them, then went across to the phone, picked it up and put it to her ear. No sound indicated that the line was indeed dead. She threw it down in a panic as if it was contaminated. She didn’t know what to think anymore. But the police weren’t coming, that was for sure.

‘You cut the line,’ Cole shouted.

‘No, I didn’t, but it was dead when I tried it earlier. Sounds to me as if you’ve been telling Donna a few porkies – haven’t you? And that’s not the only fib you’ve told, is it Cole?’

‘Well, I didn’t want to worry her, with you out on the prowl.’

Donna winced. Unable to decide who was telling the truth as tears streamed down her cheeks. She trembled with fright, the gun shaking in her hand. She was on her own, and feared she’d have to shoot them both, but could she kill someone in cold blood?

‘Please Donna, before you do something stupid.’ Cole started to step a little closer to her.

‘Don’t listen to him,’ Evan shouted. ‘He’s lying through his teeth – can’t you see that, babe?’

Cole shook his head. ‘Let me have the gun Donna, and I’ll keep him covered while you drive us into town. It’s the only choice you have. You can still send him to jail for what he did, darling – if only you have the courage.’ He edged ever closer.

‘I didn’t do anything to her, you bastard. I’d never hurt a hair on her head – I love her for God’s sake,’ Evan pleaded.

‘You admitted you forced yourself on someone – well that someone was her. You know it was. That’s why you bought her here, to kill her and pretend it was an accident.’

‘You’re talking rubbish, and lying through your teeth, Cole. Why you’re doing this? Unless it’s because you want her for yourself. Is that what it is?’

‘No, that’s not true. You remember what you told me Donna, about the one thing that made you absolutely certain it was him.’

‘Yes...but I...I’m not sure what to think any more. I’ll have to take you both in.’ And as she hesitated, Cole moved a shade nearer. She panicked, and accidently fired a shot which just clipped the side of Cole’s cheek.

A piercing giggle came from the back of Cole’s throat ‘Nearly got me there darling. Try and shoot a bit straighter next time.’ He wiped the blood off the side of his face with the back of his hand.

Donna gasped for a second. It was his high-pitched snigger, his eyes widening, his mouth opening, that seemed to accentuate the gap in his teeth. The events of that awful night came rushing back into her mind in flashbacks. And then it suddenly came to her – and she realised who the rapist actually was.

As she hesitated, Cole suddenly made a mad dash for her, in a desperate effort to get the gun. Another shot rang out and a penetrating scream came from the back of Donna’s throat.

Cole stood motionless for a few seconds, before gazing down at his left thigh, now saturated with blood.

’You bitch...’he mouthed, slipping down to the floor.

Donna released the gun, allowing it to fall from her grasp. She began to cry, and somehow Evan got to her, and held her in his weakened arms.

Finally, they parted; both staring down at Cole motionless on the ground. Clearly in a state of shock, she allowed Evan to move her chin up with his thumb. As they stared at each other, she bit her lip feeling shame and guilt at judging Evan wrongly.

‘I’m so sorry Evan – can you ever forgive me for doubting you?’

He smiled. ‘Of course. I know how persuasive Cole can be – don’t forget I’m his brother.’

‘I should have known it was him…how could I have been so stupid?’ she began, spilling out the whole grisly details.

Evan listened, open-mouthed, shocked it seemed, by these revelations that she’d never found the courage to tell him before.

‘It was that smell that made me think it was you, Evan. The aftershave you wore was the same one I smelt the day he raped me. I’ll never forget it. But then when I saw the rage in him just now, the manic giggle, those creepy eyes of his and the gap in his teeth - it suddenly dawned on me, and I realised he was the one for sure.’

‘He bought the aftershave back from the Far East for me. Said it was some kind of aphrodisiac. I thought because… you know… you couldn’t. I was willing to try anything even though the aroma was a bit over the top.’

‘Oh Evan, I don’t need anything like that. As long as you love me for who I am, and don’t try to push me, everything will turn out just fine.’ She rested her head on his shoulder.

As they parted Evan looked down at his brother. ‘I’d like to leave him here, after what he’s done, he should be made to suffer, like he made you suffer. But we have to get him to hospital – so he’ll stand trial for his crimes.’

‘Good, I hope he gets put away for a very long time.’

‘Don’t worry he will be, and if he ever gets released he won’t dare show his face around us again.’

Donna hugged him tightly and instinctively knew in her heart she was safe at last and that everything between them would come right. Perhaps happiness wasn’t as elusive as she thought.

THE END

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