Chapter 20 - Danica
I can do nothing, but stare straight ahead. My body is sore. I can barely sit up straight. It’s been four days. Whoever this guy is, he is insane. He won’t let me eat. He barely gives me any water. Why did he decide to kidnap me? He thinks I come from some big, rich, American family and is using me for ransom. Apparently, I look just like the eldest daughter in the family he is trying to get the money from.
I rest my head back, against the wall, waiting for my next water rations. I wish I had my phone. Charlie must be freaking out. No, Gram and Gramps must be freaking out right now. I haven’t spoken to any of them. I last spoke to Charlie when he was letting me know about Gramps’ stroke. I wonder if anyone at the hotel has noticed that I haven’t returned. And Aldrich! What if he has been trying to reach me?
“Oh Aldrich,” I whisper, shaking my head as I close my eyes. I have a major headache. It feels like a mammoth. With a mammoth sitting on top of my head. A double whammy of a mammoth. Behind my eyelids, my fantasy version of Aldrich comes into view. Which makes me remember that guy; what was his name? He never even told me what it was, I just remember an older man calling out Dante and he replied. It is still hard to wrap my head around the fact that the image of Aldrich I created in my mind happens to be a real guy.
I hear the door unlock and open, but I don’t look to see who it is. I hear the sound of something glass clinking, as if being set on a flat surface. A couple seconds later, there is a gruff voice and a harsh shake to my shoulders.
“Drink!” he demands, smacking my arm.
I open my eyes with a jolt, sitting forward. I look to the little table next to the mat I have been using. The tiny mug is barely filled halfway. I reach for it and hold the mug in my hands as if it will break. My hands shake from lack of strength. I take a tentative sip, which becomes a gulp. The cool liquid soothes my parched throat. But it is gone too quickly. The mug is snatched from my hands, and the door quickly locked once more.
I can no longer move my limbs. I’m stuck on this mat. I have no idea what time it is, because now the only window in this dinky room has the shades closed. How many days has it been now? Three? Five? In any case, it’s been too long. No food. Not enough water. I can’t stand it anymore. I want out of this mess. Now.
I wake up to a loud banging noise and even louder voices. I try to push myself into a sitting position. Maybe I can even stand. My feeble arms shake beneath my weight and I collapse back on the mat. Nope. No use even trying. I turn my gaze to the door, willing it to open. Tears escape my eyes as I remember that I am stuck here until someone decides to answer my kidnapper’s phony threat. My chest heaves and my dry throat makes a wheezing noise as I breathe.
Suddenly, the knob on the door starts to rattle. Then the entire door shakes, a boom sound comes from the other side. Someone is trying to break the door down. I make an attempt to call to whoever is breaking the door in, but I have no voice. Then, like a miracle, the door breaks open. Smashing in two as an obvious cop enters, followed by several others and . . . in enters the face of what I am prepared to call an angel.
I cry in relief, unable to form a sentence of any kind as Dante rushes passed the officers and is at my side. How . . .
“Hey,” he says in a hushed voice. “It’s okay, you’re safe now.”
I open my mouth to ask the obvious question, but he shakes his head, removing the hair that stick to my forehead from sweat. He places a hand under my legs, and gently shoves his other hand beneath my back, lifting me from the ground. He carries me, like I weigh nothing. Light as a feather. The way he holds me against his chest makes every muscle in my body relax. I start to close my eyes, no longer having the strength to keep them open. I can feel Dante walking. I hear voices and the static feedback of the radios, and a few sirens are blaring somewhere. Eventually, I am lulled to a peaceful sleep, listening to the sound of Dante’s heart beating in his chest.
I moan as I try to roll onto my side. Something is tugging, and poking, my left arm. Or more specifically, the top of my hand and wrist. My eyelids are so heavy. I don’t even bother to open my eyes to look around. But the feeling of the air around me feels . . . safe. Something soft, but strong and cool, touches my forehead. I sigh as sleep starts to evade me. I peek an eye open and find the angel’s face peering down at me.
Dante is touching my forehead, leaning over me in a gentle, but protective stance. I close my eye again, but only briefly. I open both my eyes and carefully turn my head to meet his concerned gaze.
“How?” I manage to croak out.
“Something didn’t feel right,” he replies, kneeling at the side of the bed. “I tried finding you, but you hadn’t returned so . . . I went to see if you were at any of the tourist spots . . .”
I nod as best I can, wincing from the pain and effort it takes to accomplish the gesture.
“He didn’t . . .” Dante goes on, shaking his head with a scowl. “I’m glad he didn’t hurt you. You will have to remain in bed, resting, until your nourishment is restored. The police also found your phone when searching the vehicle. I put it with your things over there.”
He motions to the other side of the room, which I have a good look at now that I can see a little better. The walls are a minty-green color with some pin-up posters of beaches and mountains. There is a computer desk, complete with drawers and other office-like essentials. The bed is a king-size, and boy! Is it spacious! The bedding is very . . . manly-ish. Meant for a grown man, or teenage boy. It is a navy-blue, white, black and orange, square patterned comforter that covers me. It’s so cozy.
“Where am I?” I ask, turning back to Dante.
“My apartment,” he replies, never looking away. “Or rather, my dad’s house. This used to be the second garage. Let me get you some warm tea . . . There is quite a bit to discuss.”
Before I can ask what he means, Dante is up on his feet and walking towards the door. He glances back at me with a gentle smile before disappearing. I smile back and let my eyes flutter closed for a bit. I only open them again when I hear the door. Dante walks towards the bed with a teacup and saucer in his hands.
“Drink slowly,” he tells me, holding the cup to my mouth. “Your stomach might reject it . . . I take it he didn’t feed you anything.”
He helps me to sit up as I shake my head and take a slow sip of the tea. The warmth goes down my throat, coating the parched patches. At first, my stomach grumbles and I feel like retching it back up. But after a few deep breaths, I am able to get another few sips down. Dante sets the cup on the nightstand before sitting on the edge of the bed. He heaves a sigh.
“What I am about to tell you . . .” he says, the corner of his mouth tugs up as he looks at me with those cerulean gems. “It might shock you, Danica . . . moj slatki.”
I gasp softly. I know that phrase. Moj slatki. My sweet . . .
“I don’t know why I never told you who I am or where I lived,” Dante goes on, reaching a hand up to move a hair that has fallen into my eyes. “People here call me Dante, but that is my middle name. My full name is Aldrich Dante Djokovic. The moment you stepped out of that cab, I was ready to tell you everything. That’s why I stopped you before you went up to your room. But then my father called me away, which he shouldn’t have. And then . . . you hadn’t been in the hotel all the rest of that day and I was worried.”
I blink, letting myself fall back in the pillows, overwhelmed. Then, as the realization hits me, I resort to a fit of giggles.
“What?” Aldrich asks, confusion passes through his eyes. “Why do you laugh?”
“I knew it,” I reply softly as my giggles subside. “I just knew it.”