Chapter 17 - Closer
Unknown Island in Greece
“Tell me about yourself,” Nikos told Cassia after they were silent for what felt like hours.
A day may have passed, and they were still stuck here. She was bored out of her mind, but she also did not want to talk to Nikos. They needed to stick together to survive but she still couldn’t get over what happened between them in the past. She could be civil to him but that was still a far cry from being friends.
“Why should I?” she replied.
“We don’t have anything better to do, and I know you are bored.”
She sighed and finally relented. For the next hour, she told him all about her shop and her passion for design. He was a great listener. He never interrupted her but gave his opinions and inputs when needed. He also commended her for being able to go far.
Over time, she found herself relaxing and telling him more. At first it was just general facts but after a while, she told him the problems of her shop. She was surprised when he gave her excellent solutions based on his business expertise.
“Where do you live? Is your permanent residence your apartment in New York?”
“Yes. It is the most accessible one. I fell in love with that apartment the first time I saw it.”
“What I am thinking is that your apartment, even though it’s one of the most expensive apartments in New York, is still nothing compared to the other eight estates that you bought. Yet you chose not to live in one of those.”
She rolled her eyes and huffed in irritation.
“Nikos, those estates were donated to charity. Seven of them are now orphanages and one of them is a safe haven for stray cats and dogs. I bought all of them with the money I got from my shares to the company.”
She could have slapped him and he wouldn’t have been more shocked than how he was feeling right now.
“You bought those with your own money? Then what about the yearly allowance I gave you?”
“Still sitting in the bank account you opened for me. I never touched them. Well, I did once when I needed money to start my shop and pay off my college tuition, but I repaid it in double plus the interest when I started earning.”
“Why?” he asked incredulously.
“I never wanted your money. Contrary to what you believed all these years, I am not a gold-digger.”
He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. His wife was an irritating woman, but he was also finding out that she was a complex one. He was right with his assessment of her the first time they met: she was different than the women of the elite circle, including all the gold-diggers and social climbers that he dated.
At first he wasn’t that jaded when it came to women but after dating several with the same attitude and inclination, he just grew tired. Another factor that influenced him was what happened to Antonio and his ex-fiancee, Mara.
Nikos took her hand and linked his fingers with hers. Then, he frowned.
“I remember at the party I asked you about rings. Where are yours?”
Cassia raised an eyebrow. “Where’s yours?”
“It’s in my safe in Greece.”
“Then that’s also where mine is. Along with all the baubles you asked your assistant to send me for my birthdays and our anniversaries for the past ten years.” She shrugged.
He was close to losing his mind at this point. He wanted to reach up and pull at his hair in his frustration.
“I mailed them back to your assistant the day after our wedding when I flew back to America. I mail whatever your assistant sends me back the very same day I receive it.”
She glared at him and retorted, “The same reason you aren’t wearing yours, Nikos. Our wedding is a sham. It’s nothing. I want nothing from you.”
“Don’t say that.”
“It’s true,” she snapped.
“During the period after our engagement when we were supposed to get to know each other, I found out that we had nothing in common. I told myself our marriage was doomed from the start. But during our wedding night when you showed me your passion and told me about your life, my view changed. I actually believed it could work out. But you and your grandfather ruined that with all your lies.”
Cassia laughed hysterically.
“I thought you were the sun and the moon. I was so infatuated that I was blinded. I couldn’t wait for the day that we were going to be married! I only realized I was wrong right after Antonio told us you were drunk on our wedding day. My grandfather told me that he just forced you to marry me so you wouldn’t lose your company. Unlike you, I believed in us right from the start. That changed when you showed me what kind of man you were the next day.”
Nikos sighed. They were back to that story, again. What’s more, she was blaming him!
His first reaction to everything she said was to scoff and call out her lies but he remembered that he promised to bury their past and move forward. Maybe he could give her the benefit of the doubt for now and see where her story was going?
It was hard but it wasn’t impossible.
He looked at her hazel eyes to see if there was any trace of a lie.
There was none.
“What would Costas gain from lying to you?”
“I don’t know. He hated me ever since. Maybe because my father ran away with my mother? They say that I look like my mother and maybe he sees her in me. For that, maybe he wanted to punish me.” Her tone was indifferent but he could see the pain and anger in her eyes.
“Your grandfather told me that you wanted me, and since he loved you, he offered a merger in return for marriage instead of ruining my company.”
She snorted. “He doesn’t love anyone but himself. He planned everything from the start. Maybe he told you that he bought you for me so you will hate me even at the start of our marriage. Which you did, by the way. I think he made sure we will never be happy.” She leaned her head against the stone wall. “Maybe he was hoping that you’d treat me badly because of his lies. Then it would follow that I’d grow unhappy and file for a divorce.”
Nikos exhaled slowly. If everything she said was true then Costas Andrade truly was the devil incarnate.
“Or maybe I was right about what I thought the day after our wedding. Maybe Costas told me that you didn’t care if I went to my mistress because he hoped that one day you’ll catch me and file for divorce. If that happened, then I would be at fault in the courts and as per our contract, I would lose the company.”
“I guess you’re right about that too,” she sighed.
“Cassia...I am turning my back on everything negative I’ve known regarding you. I am willing to give this marriage a chance. I am willing to put my full trust in you and believe everything you tell me. Please do not lie to me.
“I never lied to you, Nikos. Ever. You chose to believe my grandfather but not me. Tell me why everything is my fault?” His mouth opened to reply but she continued, “I fancied myself in love with you, remember? You were my whole world...” She looked straight into his eyes.
“...why would I lie to the man I thought I loved?”
The lights were switched on and the boy who brought their meals came in.
He opened the door slightly and pushed the tray of their food inside. Cassia gasped when she saw that his left eye was purple and swollen shut. His cheek was also bruised and his lip was cut.
“What happened to you?” she asked.
“None of your business, lady.”
Nikos accepted the tray and sat near the bars of the cell. “You can tell us anything. If you need to vent your anger or talk about it, you can tell me. I have nothing better to do with my time,” Nikos whispered.
The boy sighed and Cassia was surprised when he sat down.
“I failed them. They ordered me to go to a bar with them and deliver cocaine to a buyer. I did everything they told me except checking the money. All of it was fake.” He sighed and banged his head against the bars.
“I really needed that money,” the boy added.
“How much was the cocaine?”
“About twenty thousand euros.”
Cassia’s gasped at the amount and her eyes widened when Nikos took off his gold, diamond-studded Rolex watch and handed it to the boy.
“Sell that and you’ll be able to repay them. There will still be extra for whatever you need the money for.”
The boy’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened as Nikos’ closed his hand over the watch. “No! I can’t take this!”
“You can and you will. Use it for what you need. I only hope that it’s for a good cause.” Then, Nikos stood up and returned to the corner of the cell. Cassia watched as the boy sat there stunned. He never took his eyes off the watch even as tears filled his eyes. After a few minutes, he hastily wiped away his tears and got up and left without another word.
The next morning, Nikos woke up screaming again.
Cassia shook him frantically and he saw the relief in her eyes once he finally became alert. He then realized that something was different. The lights were on and he was able to see everything in the cell.
He felt as though something bad was going to happen.
That was when he saw them.
The men were in front of their cell and they were looking at him with evil gleams in their eyes. Without thinking, he shoved Cassia behind him again just as the men opened the door to their cell.
“Trying to cause a disturbance, were you? Trying to scream for help? No one can hear you in this island,” the leader leered.
“No! He was having a nightmare! That’s all it was!” Cassia answered.
The men laughed and looked at Nikos like he was too weak and beneath their notice.
“Usually, in situations like this, it’s the lady that screams and the guy acts all brave,” one of the other men said.
The other howled with laughter and Cassia realized that they were drunk. Her fear for their safety increased. She knew drunk men tended to do impulsive and stupid things. She was proved correct when the men entered their cell and hauled Nikos to his feet. She was yanked along with him for they were chained together.
One of them retrieved the keys to their handcuffs and removed it. She rubbed at her sore wrist as she glared at them.
“Where are you taking him?!”
“We’re just going to teach him how to be quiet. Maybe pound some sense into him. Maybe even discipline him for disturbing us,” their leader answered.
Nikos struggled and tried to kick those who were holding him but one of them punched him hard in the stomach. He uttered a groan of pain and then fell limp.
“No! Please don’t hurt him!” Cassia recalled Nikos’ nightmares and her heart ached for him.
But there was nothing she could do. The men closed the door and switched off the lights.
“I hate rich men. Don’t you, Kristoff? I hate how they just had to be born and the world was already laid at their feet,” one of the men told their leader.
Cassia memorized every inch of his face and his name.
“Nikos! No! Please let him go!”
“Shut up, lady or we’ll take you too. I know the boss instructed us not to touch you but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him right?” Kristoff, told her. Then he added to the men, “I want my turn with her first,”
“Sure. Then we can pass her around. That would be one hell of a night.”
She heard their captors’ lewd jokes along with their footsteps getting louder.
“No!” she shouted and ran to the corner of her cell.
“Don’t touch her!” Nikos shouted.
He rammed his shoulder into the man on his left, whose head hit the wall. When he had space to move Nikos extended his leg and aimed a powerful kick to the one on his right. He hit the man’s stomach who then doubled over with pain.
“Son of a bitch!” Kristoff shouted.
He pulled his gun out and aimed it at Nikos’ head. “One more move and you’re dead.”
“Nikos!” she called out after him but the only response she got was the men’s laughter.
Nikos stilled. When he was held at gunpoint before, his life flashed before his eyes. Now, all he felt was sheer determination to live. He couldn’t leave Cassia defenseless at the mercy of these men.
Cassia moved towards the bars of her cell when she heard the sudden silence. She trembled in fear when she saw Nikos kneeling on the ground with a gun pointed directly at his head.
“No! Please! Don’t hurt him!” she shouted.
Cassia kept on shouting in the hope that she would be able to distract them from hurting Nikos. Or that maybe she could plead enough. They ignored her and picked Nikos up. They dragged him away from her, and with every step they took, her fear for him increased.
She couldn’t see anything anymore and the only thing she heard were their footsteps. It was followed by grunts and the sound of rattling chains.
After a few more minutes, the torture ensued. Nikos grunts of pain along with their captor’s maniacal laughter rang across the empty corridors. She recalled his nightmares and bile rose in her throat. There was just something different now, though. He didn’t scream for mercy. He didn’t beg. He shouted out in pain and cursed but he never gave in.
Tears fell from Cassia’s eyes as she was forced to listen. She huddled in the corner of their cell and covered her ears with her hands for she couldn’t take it anymore. After a few hours, she fell asleep still crying.
Cassia woke up when she heard the doors to their cell being opened. She stood, just in time to catch Nikos as they threw him inside. He groaned in pain as she dragged him to their pallet. Their handcuffs were placed back and the leader aimed another kick at Nikos before he left. It hit him on the back of his leg and his knees crumbled.
She knelt beside him and looked at him before the lights were switched off.
Nikos’ left eye was swollen shut, his face marred with bruises and there was a cut across his left brow that still bled. He was also taking shallow breaths which meant that there could also be an injury to his ribs. Cassia lifted the shirt he wore and ran her fingers down his chest gently.
Nothing seemed to be broken but there were several large bruises and small cuts. She cringed when she saw one bruise that was in the shape of a foot. When they escaped from this place, she would make sure that those who were responsible for this would suffer for what they did.
She continued her examination until she ran across a large scar in his side. The skin there looked whiter and shiny. It was raised and smooth and Cassia knew this was a scar caused by a burn. She had several small cigarette burns from one of her foster families who punished her by turning her into an ash tray when she did something wrong.
She had nightmares as a child because of that. But looking at Nikos’ scar, it was bigger therefore it was more painful than what she experienced.
Could this be the one that caused all his nightmares?
This was not the time to think about those things. She stood up and reached as far as the handcuffs would allow without disturbing Nikos. He was unconscious, and that was a welcome relief from his pain.
She gathered water using one of their drinking cups and tore a strip from their thin blanket. She washed it clean to the best of her abilities using only one hand. She used that to clean Nikos’ wounds. He groaned and flinched but did not wake up and Cassia thanked all her lucky stars for that. She did her best to clean him and wipe away all blood and dirt.
When she was finished, she sighed and sat back against the wall beside her husband.
She wished that their escape would come soon. She couldn’t take it if anything more happened to Nikos.
And one of these days, she could be next.
During the last two days, both of them spoke to the boy who brought their food. Nikos spoke to him more and threw out subtle hints about several injustices. He also made the boy feel as if he truly understood him. He agreed with whatever the boy shared with them about his life here and Nikos made him feel as if he mattered.
She waited for the next time their meals would be brought. Since their cell was dark and windowless, that was the only thing she could use to tell the time. The next meal that would be brought to them would be their breakfast and Cassia would make sure that their plans to escape would already be fulfilled.
She almost dozed back to sleep when the door opened and their food was pushed inside. She stood up to move towards the boy but was surprised when he knelt beside her.
“It was unfair what they did to him. You must get out of here, lady. I heard them say they are planning to do something to you tonight.”
Cassia’s jaw dropped open in shock. Then her muscles locked with fear. The boy shook her.
“You must take him and leave! There’s no more time to waste! They’re not here. The ferry which brings supplies to the island is here, and there are only a minimum number of guards. I can help you escape! But we must hurry!” the boy whispered.
The heavens truly had been watching over her.
“Where are we escaping to? How do we get off this island?” she asked
“I can lead you outside this facility. Once you’re outside, follow the trail to the woods. You’ll come across a cabin. That belonged to the boss’ daughter before. They do not know of that. You can hide there. I believe there’s a satellite phone you can use.”
“I can never thank you enough...wait! How do I know this is not a trap? Why are you helping us?”
“I thought this was all for money. We are poor and we really need the money. I need it for my mother to buy her food and medicine. Turns out that wasn’t the case. They kidnapped you for some kind of revenge. They never wanted money. I overheard them talking about ways they could torture and use both of you. That wasn’t what I signed up for. Besides, you two seem to be good people.”
Cassia opened her mouth to thank the boy but he lifted his hand to stop her. He took a key from his pocket and unlocked their handcuffs.
“We could sit here discussing this or we could go. Now. They will be back anytime soon.”
Cassia shook Nikos awake. He opened his eyes and the first thing she saw in them was terror and panic.
“Shh...it’s me. We’re getting out of here.”
Nikos nodded and tried hard not to make any noise as he stood up.
His body hurt all over and it cost all of his effort not to cry out in pain. As stealthily as they could, they followed the boy through a maze of corridors. Relief flooded Cassia when there were not many guards around.
The main trouble came in the form of the guards from the entrance doors. There were two of them and they were wide awake, alert and heavily armed. The boy motioned for them to go inside a small cabinet to the side.
“What are we supposed to do now?”
The boy thought hard and looked at Nikos from head to toe.
“He can’t fight at that state so it’s going to be you and me, lady. We can sneak behind them and hit them with something...” he trailed off and looked around the cabinet for something they could use.
The boy grabbed two wooden mops and handed one to Cassia.
“Use this and hit them on the back of the head. Swing hard for we only have one strike with this. Do not hesitate,” the boy told her.
Cassia nodded but her mouth ran dry with fear. What would happen if they got caught? They would only beat Nikos further and then they would carry out their threat of raping her.
She shuddered at the thought and gripped the mop tighter. She could do this. This was the last hurdle and then they’d be free.
“On my signal, we walk towards the wall. Don’t make any noise. Wait again for my signal. Then, we strike. After that, you take him and run as fast as you can before they get the chance to alert the others.”
The boy moved towards the door but Cassia stopped him.
“I don’t think you belong with this kind of life,” she told him as she removed her diamond earrings, her necklace and her watch. She handed all those to the boy who again seemed stunned.
Her action made a memory flash through her mind. She recalled doing the same thing for Hector and her heart ached when she realized she missed him so much.
“Take this and start a new life somewhere. Go to America. Or find us in Athens. I’ll give you more if you need it. Go to the Andrade-Demakis Corporation and look for Cassia Demakis. I’ll give you whatever you need.”
The boy looked shell-shocked for a moment and then tears misted his eyes. Cassia wiped them away and smiled at him in encouragement.
“Thank you for this,” she whispered as she held his hand.
“I hope you make it home. Let’s go, lady,” the boy replied.
He motioned for her to follow him. The boy looked left and right and then silently walked towards the wall. Cassia squeezed Nikos’ hand and he nodded to her before she followed the boy. She tried to mimic his movements as best as she could to avoid creating any noise.
They sneaked up to the two guards who, luckily, were busy having a conversation about a hooker they both shared last night. The boy positioned himself behind one of the guards and Cassia did the same. She gripped the wooden mop as tightly as she could and prepared herself to swing.
She prayed that they would succeed as she waited for the boy’s signal.
He nodded to her, and without wasting any more time, the two of them reared back and then swung the mops with as much force as they could. It hit the back of the guard’s skull with a sickening thud. The impact jarred her wrists and she watched as the guard went down with a grunt, their blood staining the floor.
“Go!” the boy hissed.
Nikos stood up and limped towards them as fast as he could. Cassia met him halfway and supported him by placing his arm on her shoulders.
“Will you be okay?” she asked the boy as they passed him by.
“Yes! I’ll hit my head on the wall and pretend to be knocked out near your cell. They will believe that you overpowered me and escaped. Once they are busy searching for you, I’ll escape.”
“At least tell me your name before we go.”
“Jason,” the boy whispered.
Cassia and Nikos followed the barely visible trail deep in the woods. There was another, well-worn path that they were sure would’ve led to the beach but that would be where most of their captors were. The beach would also be the first logical place they would look. The wisest course would be to trust the boy’s word and look for the cabin.
Nikos still groaned in pain and limped as they trekked through the dense forest, but no complaint escaped his lips. They stopped as often as they could for rest. Nikos was still bruised and battered all over, and he could only take a mile or two before he collapsed.
After a few more minutes, his steps slowed and his eyes drooped.
“Just a bit more, Nikos. I think we’re nearly there,”
“Leave me here. It’ll be faster that way,” he panted.
Cassia resisted the impulse to punch him.
“Stop that! What if they catch you again? You’ll be in a much worse state than you are in now!” she lectured. She tugged on his good arm until he stood up again. Truth be told, her shoulders ached from carrying much of his weight already but she, too, never complained. “Come on. Once we’re there, you can rest all you want.”
“I don’t have the energy to walk anymore.”
“I’ll talk to keep you awake.”
“Good idea. Tell me why you hate me so much.”
Cassia laughed at the absurdity of his demand.
“Boy, where do I start?” she mused as she walked forward and kept Nikos’ arm around her.
She stared at her hand and started ticking off things.
“One, you came to your own wedding drunk. Two, you believed all my grandfather’s lies but not me. Three, you spent our wedding night in my bed, making love to me but when the next day came, you were back in your mistress’ bed.”
“Go on,” he said tersely.
“Four, you humiliated me in front of your friends and family. Five, you’re an arrogant and selfish jerk.”
She looked at him and asked, “Should I continue?”
“I think the arrogant and selfish jerk part pretty much covers everything. How about I give you some advice for the future? You gave me business advice after all. I think I should return the favor.”
“Alright then,” he replied.
“Just a piece of advice after we’re divorced and you’re courting another woman: pick a gift yourself. Don’t let someone else do it for you. The flowers, the jewelry you sent, it’s all him. It’s irritating and insulting how picking a gift for someone in your life is too much of a chore for you.”
“Noted. Anything else?” he asked through clenched teeth.
“I’ve got a lot more.”
He was silent for a long time as they continued to walk through the dense forest. Maybe he was thinking about all the things she said?
“I’m sorry, Cassia,” he whispered.
She was stunned when she heard those words. Her steps faltered before she was able to right herself. Did she hear him right? Did the almighty Nikos Demakis just apologize?
Yes. Ravens also just turned white and pigs flew.
“I’m sorry...I know how much you hate me and it must be hard to help me all the way. Thank you for not leaving me,” Nikos told her.
“I can never leave someone behind no matter how much I hate him. Besides, once we get out of here, we’ll go our separate ways again and we’ll never have to bother each other. Especially if you grant me that divorce.”
“Oh well, a woman can dream,” she laughed as they started to make their way towards the cabin once more.
The sun had nearly set when they found the cabin. When they approached, Nikos stilled.
“This place looks familiar,” he told her as he released her. He limped ahead of her towards the door and tried to push it open. It was locked. He lifted the flower pots beside the door and lifted the key. He held it up and smiled at Cassia.
“I was right. Antonio and I were held in the same place before. This was Elise’s cabin. And she still kept the key in the same place.”
“Antonio’s wife. She was the daughter of one of the higher bosses of the drug cartel. But she helped us. When I was wounded, she tended to my injuries without anyone’s knowledge.”
Nikos slid the key inside the lock and cautiously turned the handle. When they were sure no one was inside, they went in and Nikos barred the door. He flopped down on the bed and dust flew everywhere.
“Everything is as I remember it. I really think no one was here during the past two years.”
“Okay then. Where can we find a lamp or something? We need to have some light before the sun sets. Hmm...there’s a fireplace here. Maybe something to start a fire?”
“Ochi.” He shook his head. “The smoke will be visible from afar. I think there’s a lamp by the table and a set of matches.”
He pointed at another small, dusty table that seemed to be some sort of writing desk.
Cassia lit the candle and placed it inside the lamp. She raised it high so she could see the inside of the cabin.
“How about water?”
“Elise and Antonio got water from a well behind this cabin.”
“Alrighty then. Now for some food,” Cassia muttered to herself as she opened the cabinets near the stove.
What she found inside were several canned goods. She lifted the light so she could read the expiration date. The fates must have been on their side right now for it had around three months more before it expired.
“Hungry for some pork and beans?” Cassia joked as she faced Nikos who just raised an eyebrow at her. “Well, beggars can’t be choosers, Mr. Demakis,” she chastised.
Cassia opened another cabinet and there were medical supplies inside.
“Well, we are very lucky indeed. I’ll go get us some water and we can cleanse those wounds. But I’m afraid we’ll eat our dinner cold because we can’t build a fire.” She shrugged.
Before Nikos could offer to help, Cassia was already out the door carrying a small wooden bucket with her. She went to the well and tied the bucket to the rope. She laid it down carefully and gathered a small amount of water. She sniffed carefully to check if it was safe. She deemed it safe enough so she gathered more. Humming to herself, she went back to the cabin and poured it on the larger bucket by the fireplace.
It took six more trips before she filled it.
Nikos watched her as she worked. She rolled her sleeves up and took the bucket back and forth. He marveled at her strength and felt frustrated that he couldn’t do anything to help her. He was so useless just like two years ago when he couldn’t have survived without Antonio and Elise.
Now, history repeated itself, and it was Cassia, his own wife, who he depended on for his survival.
Something clenched inside his chest at the thought of how weak he was. But as he looked at her, another totally different feeling assailed him. She was dirty and her shirt was torn and filled with blood. She had dark circles under her eyes and her skin was pale.
Yet no one seemed more beautiful.
“Please tell me there’s something I can do to help you,” Nikos told her after her sixth trip. His pride also couldn’t take any more beating.
“No. The water is filled now and I think this should last us through the night,” she replied.
She looked for a wash cloth and cleaned it by the sink. Then, she took the smaller bucket and knelt beside him by the pallet.
“Let’s get your wounds cleaned.” She dabbed at his wounds with the cloth then placed some antiseptic over it.
He flinched every time but almost shot off the bed when she grabbed his hand. She examined his wrist and Nikos watched her closely. Her eyes were still the most beautiful and vibrant he’s ever seen. Right now, they were filled with concern and curiosity. Her lips were still a temptation. It invited him to lean forward and capture it with his own.
She gently twisted his hand and pain shot up his arm. He couldn’t help the groan of pain that escaped his lips.
“This looks broken, Nikos. We would have to set this before the bone heals all wrong. You would have to bear with the pain for a while.”
“Wait. How about you? Have you cleaned your wound?” He pointed to her arm.
“Yes. I have already cleaned and re-bandaged it while I was gathering water from the well.”
Nikos looked at her incredulously. “Are you sure you know how to do this?”
“Wait! At least tell me how you know so that I can be sure.”
“I told you that when I was younger, I was passed from one foster home to another. Not all of them were nice. Some were physically abusive. I learned to do what needed to be done.” She left it at that and Nikos felt his rage climbing. His jaw clenched and he made a mental note to find those who hurt her and make them pay.
“Trust me on this, Nikos. I have a splint here and we can tie it up afterwards.”
She looked at him with so much concern in her eyes that he just gave in.
“Please don’t scream,” Cassia said as held his hand. “On the count of three. One, two—“
She didn’t finish the count and tugged on his hand to reset the bone. He bit on his knuckles to prevent himself from crying out and then cursed continuously after.
“I thought you said on the count of three!” he hissed.
“Well, if I counted until three, you’d be all tense because you’re bracing yourself for the pain. It would be harder that way. On a positive note, the worst pain is over,” she told him as she carefully splinted his wrist and then taped it.
“If you can stand for a moment, I’d like to dust that bed before you suffocate in it.”
He obeyed. She dragged the mattress outside and pounded on it. Then, she took the blankets and shook them too. Nikos tried to help her fix the bed but she just swatted his hand away.
“Rest now. Dinner’s coming right up.”
Again, Nikos watched as his heiress wife hummed as she tidied the kitchen. When she deemed everything was clean, she set the table and opened the can of pork and beans.
Nikos marveled at how domestic everything seemed.
Cassia looked like she belonged in the kitchen and she wasn’t even squeamish about all the dirt. This was no behavior of an heiress, of someone used to living in luxury. Besides, she even tended to his wounds and placed a splint on his wrist. How had she known how to do all this?
He started to rethink his views about her being a spoiled heiress.
As they said, actions spoke louder than words.
Cassia went to the bed and sat on the edge. She handed him his plate along with a spoon.
“Yum,” she said sarcastically as she took her first bite.
Nikos laughed and started eating too.
“Look on the bright side. You opened that yourself. At least you can be sure that it isn’t poisoned,” he told her.
“Well, I think some of my optimism is rubbing off on you. It’s nicer than you frowning and sulking all the time.”
“I do not frown nor do I sulk,” he contradicted.
“You’re doing it now,” Cassia pointed out and then she laughed once more.
Nikos couldn’t help but laugh too. Her laughter was so infectious and her acceptance of their situation humbled him.
“You’re more handsome when you smile,” Cassia blurted out before she could stop herself. She blushed and just finished the rest of her food to avoid saying more stupid things.
“Handsome, huh? Well, let me just say that you’ve also grown more beautiful over the years. Forgive me for not recognizing my own wife at the fashion show.”
Cassia blinked. At his words, the easy companionship she had with him faded. Instantly, she was reminded about their anniversary dinner wherein he callously declared that he now wanted them to live together and start a family to fulfill the terms of their contract.
It was like her happiness bubble was popped and doused with cold water. Abruptly, she got up and deposited her plate in the sink. She started scrubbing it like everything about it offended her.
“Did I say something wrong?”
“What? No. I was just thinking about something else. I found the phone by the way. But it’s solar powered and there are panels on the roof. Right now, there’s no charge and I think something’s wrong with the panels. So I guess we wait until tomorrow before we can make that call.”
“All right, then. But it’s weird that there’s solar panels and even a phone in a cabin like this,” she laughed.
“Elise was always prepared. This was her cabin and that phone was what she used to help me and Antonio. I also noticed the facility we were in. There’s no electricity on this island. It’s all solar powered and maybe Elise got hold of a panel or two.”
“She seems like a great woman,” Cassia said with a smile.
“She is,” he agreed.
Nikos looked at his wife with curiosity. What was going on in her mind right now that all the laughter suddenly died from her face? Was it him? Did he do something wrong?
He tried to recall his last words to her and found nothing. Still, she didn’t talk to him and the silence stretched on and on. There came a point that he couldn’t take it anymore. He racked his brain for topics for a good conversation.
“How did you get so handy with things? How do you know all this?” he gestured at the now clean room.
She sighed heavily. They have been through for what felt like a hundred times already. He never believed her once.
“I wasn’t really born into riches, Nikos. I already told you this. I was with my parents in America when they were alive. When they died and no one claimed me, not even Costas, I was sent to the foster system. I lived in different homes where I learned how to do housework so I could earn my keep.”
This was one of the lies she told him before. But was it really a lie?
“And about my wrist?”
“Mine’s been broken twice.”
She sighed. “I was pushed down the stairs twice,” she replied in a dead tone.
Then, she turned towards him.
“Why are you asking me all this, Nikos? I know you won’t believe me. I told you this before and you called me a liar. What’s changed?”
Nikos was at a loss for words.
When he was through thinking of all the things happening in his life recently, he found Cassia to be asleep on the moldy couch. He was too weak to carry her to the bed so he just covered her with a blanket.
He took a few more minutes just looking at her. Her features were relaxed and she was even more beautiful when she wasn’t glaring at him. He suddenly found himself smiling and before he knew it, he bent and placed a kiss on her forehead.
Nikos shook his head at his sudden burst of tenderness and returned to the bed. He was reluctant to close his eyes for he didn’t want to scream from his nightmares and alert their kidnappers to their location. So he just lay there and listened to her even breathing as she slept, watching for any signs of their captors.
Dawn came and the silence was interrupted with the chattering of Cassia’s teeth. Nikos immediately stood up and brought his blanket to her and covered her with it. It was cold but they couldn’t build a fire for it would easily be seen by their enemies.
He tucked the blanket edges securely around Cassia but she still shook with the cold. Nikos muttered a string of curses when he felt that her skin was like ice.
He sat beside her on the sofa and gathered her in his arms. Her eyes immediately opened and panic set in.
“Shh...it’s me.” he whispered as he rocked her.
“N-n-nikos...can- we l-light that f-fire now?” she stammered.
“I’m so sorry. We can’t. They’d find us.”
“It’s s-s-o c-cold-d.”
“I know. Trust me on this?”
She frowned but nodded. He lifted the covers and heard her gasp of outrage as he slid in beside her.
Nikos pulled her to his chest and placed her cold hands on his neck. He gasped from feeling her icy fingers on his skin. He rubbed her arms and her back with his uninjured hand and then wrapped the blankets more securely around them.
Her entire body stiffened against him in protest but after a few minutes, she relaxed and sighed.
“That’s nice,” she whispered.
“Radiant warmer at your service,” he teased.
After that, both of them fell asleep; warm and comfortable. Nikos didn’t plan on sleeping but with the feel of his wife in his arms and her exquisite vanilla scent he loved so much, the moment he closed his eyes, he was a goner.
Daylight streamed through the windows making Cassia groan.
She didn’t want to get up yet as every part of her ached. Her shoulder felt as though it had been hit by a sledgehammer. Her legs felt like dead weight from walking around all day and her other arm ached from hauling water from the well.
But she really had to get her day started if she wanted to survive on this island and not get caught by their kidnappers.
With another groan, she opened her eyes and got up from bed.
“Good. You’re already awake. Breakfast is ready,” Nikos told her.
He gestured to the table which was already set with two plates filled with pork and beans. Cassia winced and Nikos laughed.
“Beggars can’t be choosers, remember?”
She laughed when he threw her own words back at her.
She was also glad that he could already stand, even though he was still limping. The swelling in his eye had already lessened and his bruises were turning a darker shade of purple. Overall, he looked better today.
Suddenly, the events in the early parts of daybreak came crashing back to her and she averted her gaze. She just spent the night cuddling with none other than her estranged husband! Well, maybe that could be excused because she was really, really cold and they could not start a fire for fear of their kidnappers finding them.
Besides, there was no other way to keep warm so it’s fine. Right?
Her conscience chose that moment to intrude on her thoughts and she groaned.
You liked it even when you weren’t cold anymore. You liked feeling his arms around you. You liked his smell and the feel of his hard chest against your palms. You liked feeling his soft breaths against your cheek. His closeness reminded you of that one night you spent together.
She cringed at her thoughts. This was wrong. Being near him evoked a lot of memories and emotions in her. Those were things that she buried a long, long time ago. She wasn’t the naive girl who fell in love with him anymore.
But everything now chipped at the ice that she surrounded her heart with. Her armor was weakening and he hadn’t even so much as kissed her! He just held her and she was nearly insane with desire for him!
Cassia mentally shook herself.
Her life was much better now and she couldn’t throw everything away just because of lust.
“Is something wrong?” Nikos asked her.
She glanced up from her plate of pork and beans and shook her head.
“Nothing’s wrong but you haven’t eaten anything. I’ve been watching you push your food around your plate.”
“Umm...guess I’m not that hungry.”
“You’ll need your strength, Cassia. Eat up.”
He was right. Danger still held them by their throats and she would need every ounce of strength she possessed. She also needed to eat to keep her brain shipshape.
Cassia sighed and started to eat without really tasting the food. Her thoughts were still on the complex man sitting before her.
“Do you think we should leave?” Cassia asked after a long period of silence.
“I think we’re safe here for now. First, they would comb the shore area. They think that’s where we’ll go and they’ll tighten the security on ferries and boats with access to this island. I think that will take them a day. While you were asleep, I tried to circle the area. If by any chance, the kidnappers can find this cabin, they would be coming from that direction.” Nikos pointed towards the trail they came from. “The other side only contains a denser portion of the woods. So I doubt they’d be coming there. If we hear them coming, we can go out the back door of this cabin and lose them in the forest.”
“Sounds like a great plan. What about the phone? Is it already charging?”
“I’m afraid the solar panels have been damaged. Only one is working and the wires have also been damaged. I can repair those wires but it may take some time. The soonest we can make that call may be by tomorrow.”
“Great,” she muttered.
Nikos ignored her. He cleared the table and began to lay out several tools and wires. He placed the solar panel on one side and inspected every inch of it.
“I’m going to refill our water supply and then maybe go around for a walk.”
Nikos looked up and she was pierced by his green eyes.
“Be careful,” he warned.
Cassia returned a little past noon. She was breathless from the long hike she took. She wanted to get a lay of the land. Unfortunately, she was not able to do that but she found something else.
“Good news or bad news?” she asked Nikos.
His brows were furrowed as he concentrated on repairing the solar panels. Also, there were several dirt streaks on his cheeks but he couldn’t look any more handsome if he tried.
Cassia cringed at her thoughts. Don’t go there, Cassia.
“Okay then. We only have two cans of pork and beans left. I guess that’s for lunch. Then no more.”
Nikos raised an eyebrow.
“I found a stream nearby and we can bathe there and also get fish. Assuming one of us knows how to fish.”
Nikos’ green eyes glittered with amusement. “Well, we’ll have to learn if we want to eat tonight, right?”
“But how’re we going to cook it?”
“Ever eaten sushi?” Nikos asked with a huge smile.
“Yes. I hate sushi,” Cassia answered. She wrinkled her nose.
Nikos’ smile turned into a bark of laughter.
“Maybe we can cook the fish when it’s already dark so that the smoke won’t be that visible. We’d have to do it quickly, though.”
“Can we risk it?” she asked.
“This is a dense forest. I doubt they’d see a little bit of smoke at night. Hmm. Better yet, let’s cook it from afar where there’s a thick canopy of trees. Let’s cook near this stream you found.”
“Great idea,” she replied and they grinned at each other.
Why was it so easy to be with him like this when ten years ago he was always stiff and formal beside her? She’d never seen this side of him and it made it all the more difficult to guard her heart against him.
But she had to.
This was all a trick. He was just nice to her because they were thrown together in this disaster. They needed each other to survive and he’d gain nothing by alienating her. But when they were rescued and when they went back to their lives, they’d be like they were before – strangers.
She repeated those thoughts to herself over and over as she tried to refreeze her heart and rebuild her armor.
She mustn’t repeat her mistakes from ten years ago.
A few hours later, Nikos was waist-deep in the water trying to catch fish with his bucket while she was perched on top of a rock, laughing at him.
“Stop! You’re scaring the fish away!”
“Stop laughing at me! Do you know how hard this is?” Nikos hissed.
Cassia already caught two large fish while Nikos still had nothing. He was wet from head to toe and failing miserably.
“Damn it!” he cursed as he slipped and fell in the water.
He rose from it, cursing and sputtering. Cassia continued laughing as he turned to her.
“You think this is funny?” he asked through clenched teeth.
“It really is,” and she howled with laughter once more.
Cassia clutched her stomach and laughed as Nikos tried over and over again. After an hour and he still had nothing, he finally conceded.
“You didn’t catch anything. But look on the bright side: you are clean now since you’ve had a bath,” she teased.
Her laughter was cut short when she was suddenly doused with cold water. When she opened her eyes, Nikos held his bucket over her head with a smirk on his arrogant face.
“Why you—you—“ she never got to finish the sentence as she decided to pounce.
She fell from the rock and into the water taking Nikos with her. When they resurfaced, they began splashing each other like two rowdy children.
Cassia gave it all she had and didn’t relent. Nikos did the same and soon enough, both of them were tired and dripping wet. And they were both laughing.
“Okay. Stop. I call truce,” Cassia surrendered. Her arm throbbed from her exertions and she knew Nikos’ aches and pains were punishing him as well.
“Truce,” he agreed as he breathlessly waded towards her rock and sat beside her. He looked around and listened carefully for the kidnappers might have been alerted by the noise of their childishness.
“If catching fish was a competition, I won today,” Cassia gloated.
Nikos scoffed. Then he leaned back and lay down across the rock.
“I haven’t had that much fun for as long as I can remember,” he sighed.
Cassia’s heart immediately went out to him. She remembered his nightmares, the night he was tortured and the scars she saw when she cleaned his wounds.
She also lay down on the rock and looked at the sky.
“What happened two years ago, Nikos?”
He stilled and the mask he always wore slid back into place.
He never spoke to anyone about his kidnapping, except for the doctors he consulted to help him. Even they had difficulty in having him open up about what he experienced. But right now, only one question from her and he ached to spill everything. Something in her called out to the pain he carried inside him. He turned to his side and looked into her hazel eyes.
He saw concern there. No judgment. No pity. No curiosity. Only concern.
He started recounting his tale.
“Antonio and I were on our way to a business conference. Suddenly, there was an explosion and the car I was in swerved to the side. Then, they fired on us. I felt a pain in my side and realized I was shot.”
Her eyes widened. Now she knew where the scar on his side came from. But why did it look like the skin was burnt?
“From there on, I drifted in and out of consciousness. Maybe it was from blood loss. I would have died if they didn’t do anything about it.”
Nikos gritted his teeth as he flashed back to the scene. He recalled how they dug out the bullet and then seared his skin to close the wound. Shame washed over him as he heard his own voice crying and begging for them to end his torture.
He looked at Cassia to gauge her reaction. She reached for his hand and squeezed.
“They will pay, Nikos. We will make them pay for all they did to you two years ago. And for what they did now,” she vowed.
Her eyes were bright with unshed tears. They were not of pity or judgment. She cried for him because she shared his pain. His heart ached at those words.
“How did you manage to get off the island?”
“First I’ll tell you about Elise.”
“She was the daughter of one of the leaders of those who kidnapped us. But she was not like them. At first, Antonio and I thought she was sent in to torture us. She came to our cell carrying her knives and a whip.”
He breathed in deep and summoned the courage to continue.
“She asked for a bucket of water and threw it over me. She laughed and so did all the guards. She asked them to leave and then told us she was not the enemy. She’d help us but we had to scream as loud as we could.”
Nikos gave a bark of laughter. He remembered the look of confusion on Antonio’s face when she told them she’d help but they had to shout as though they were being beaten within an inch of their lives.
“She laid down those knives and retrieved medical supplies from under her dress. The water she threw over me was so she could clean my wounds and avoid an infection. She really did help me while Antonio and I screamed. We didn’t trust her at first but she came back night after night.”
“I guess that’s when Antonio fell in love with her?” Cassia said with a small smile.
“Yes. I was still too weak then but when I wake up during the night, I saw her sitting outside our cell and the two of them were talking. Before the sun rose, she was gone.”
“She helped you leave the island?”
“Yes and no. She wasn’t allowed to leave the island either so she couldn’t smuggle us out, if that’s what you’re asking. But she found a way to help. We were about to be transferred to another place where they would keep us. Elise overheard them and she told us. Antonio asked her to contact Alex and she did. When we were transferred to the place, Alex and his team were there waiting.”
“What about Elise?”
“Antonio grabbed her and carried her to the helicopter himself. He refused to let her go. He didn’t want her to go back to what she did in the island. He told her she deserved a better life and that he would give it to her.” Nikos smiled. “They were married a few months later.”
When he finished with his story he saw Cassia dash away her tears with her hands. Then, she smiled at him and he felt as if a huge burden was lifted off his chest.
The doctors were right after all. Speaking about what happened in the past truly did help. Maybe the problem was that he never really opened up about everything. He chose the bits and pieces that he shared. And when he spoke, he always believed that people would look down on him with pity. He hated that.
Now, he felt free.
Before he could think further, he dipped his head lower and his lips met hers. She gasped as he deepened the kiss and he used that opportunity to dart his tongue inside and taste her.
It was exquisite.
It was exactly how he remembered it ten years ago. Maybe even better.
Cassia’s first thought when Nikos kissed her was that she should punch him in the face but there was another part of her that wanted this. He kissed her just how she remembered in her dreams of their wedding night and it set her blood on fire.
She sighed against his lips and threw her uninjured arm around his neck to pull him closer. She returned his kisses with a passion of her own as she ran her fingers through his hair. Nikos groaned and she truly became lost.
Nothing else existed but him and her and the pleasure they felt in each other’s arms.
Just like their wedding night ten years ago.
Cassia felt as if she was doused with another bucket of cold water when she remembered that night. She gave herself to him fully, asking for nothing in return. She just wanted to make memories with him that she could take with her when she left.
That night was perfect.
But the next morning, Nikos showed her his true colors. She then realized it was true what they said that the devil wore the face of an angel.
She pulled back and scrambled away from him.
“We have to go. We still have to find somewhere we can cook the fish without being seen before the sun sets.”
She took the bucket and placed the fish inside. Without waiting for Nikos, she sprinted towards the opposite side of the stream.
Nikos pushed himself off the rock.
He also ran a hand through his hair in frustration. What was the matter with Cassia? One moment she was very sweet and tender and the next she was back to being a spitfire. He had her in his arms and was kissing the hell out of her one minute and the next she pushed him away and disappeared.
He shook his head and set off to follow her.
“Women. The day that men understand them is the day of the apocalypse,” he muttered to himself.
He also gave himself a mental shake but no matter what he did, he could not forget the events that recently transpired. Now, he was even more convinced that he wanted his wife back. Her passion for him was still like it was ten years ago.
Maybe, no matter how small, she still felt something for him. She could deny it all she wanted but it was clearly there.
For the first time in a long time, he felt a spark of hope. Maybe Antonio was right and that he was not really living his life anymore. Now, he felt truly alive for he had a purpose. He’d win back his wife whatever it took.
He was ready to forget his biases in order for both of them to move on. Also, something happened in the past which wasn’t their fault and he would discover that.
This time, nothing else would come between the two of them.
Nikos sat quietly in the dark as he and Cassia ate their fish.
Earlier, they cooked the fish over the fire then took it back to the cabin to eat. Since that event by the stream, Cassia still hasn’t talked to him. When he tried to ask her a question, she simply replied with a yes or a no.
Even when he teased her, she ignored him. He found himself missing the easy camaraderie they shared these last few days.
“Cassia, if this is about what happened earlier...I’m sorry.”
She only grunted in reply and went back to eating her dinner.
“I don’t want to talk about it Nikos, okay? I’d also appreciate it if it won’t happen again.”
“You know why! Everything between us is over! I’ve moved on with my life and you’ve moved on with yours. We are getting a divorce! It’s best that we don’t complicate things further.”
“Cassia, you know how I feel about the divorce. I won’t allow it.”
“Well that’s just tough then.”
“We have to talk about this,” he implored.
“I don’t have anything more to say, Nikos.”
“I want another chance, Cassia. I know you wanted me ten years ago. I want that back.”
“Damned arrogant, aren’t you? Whatever I had for you ten years ago, you already killed it. Nothing’s left, Nikos. You don’t even deserve anything from me.”
“We already spoke about what happened in the past, Cassia. We could discuss it more and you’d know what happened was all a misunderstanding.”
“I explained that ten years ago but you did not believe me. And talking about things doesn’t set them right, Nikos. It’s over between us.”
“You say that yet I know you still want me. Your lips say one thing but your body says another.”
“Don’t mistake lust for something else.”
“Lust? Lust is two people scratching an itch, Cassia. But when I kiss you, you melt. You sigh against my lips just like you did ten years ago.”
“Don’t turn nothing into something, Nikos. It’s over between us. I have Hector now. I am happy with him. I’ve agreed to marry him that’s why I need a divorce from you. Now.”
Nikos’ patience ran out after hearing Hector’s name together with the word marriage.
His blood pounded in his ears and his heart thundered in his chest. How dare she mention another man’s name? His blood heated and his entire body roared with possessiveness. He’ll show her who she really belonged to.
She just had to forget about Petrides for he was never letting her go.
“Marriage is for life, Cassia. No divorce. I won’t let you go to Hector Petrides. You’re mine.”
He tugged her to his chest and then claimed her lips once more. But this was unlike any other kiss before. This one was a brand of possession, a stamp of ownership. It was fierce and demanding. He kissed her as though he was never letting go.
Nikos placed his hand on her nape and held her steady as he deepened the kiss. His other arm wrapped around her and brought her into contact with his hard body.
Cassia’s senses reeled at the onslaught. She knew she should be fighting this. She knew she should push him away. But even to save her life, she could not do it.
This felt so perfect that she just couldn’t let it end.
Deep in her subconscious, this was what she’s been dreaming of for ten years now.
As Nikos kissed her, she also realized what she thought was missing in her relationship with Hector.
When Hector kissed her, it was nice but it didn’t set her body on fire for him the way Nikos’ kisses did. He made her melt with even just one glance the way Hector never did.
He backed her up against the wooden table and lifted her against it without breaking their kiss. He separated her legs and stepped between them. She moaned again when she felt the evidence of his desire against her.
Nikos unbuttoned the blouse she wore and slid it gently off her injured shoulder. Somehow, she also found herself lifting her hands to unbutton his shirt. She sighed with bliss and ran her palms down the hard ridges of his muscles.
Nikos flinched when she touched his scar.
He didn’t like anyone to see or touch it for it reminded him of the horrors he experienced. This was why, after he was kidnapped, he never let another woman get close. For over two years, his bed was empty. For more than two long years, he hadn’t felt another’s touch.
This was also why he was ravening for her.
Nikos took his time admiring the creamy swell of her skin that he uncovered. Before she had any chance to be self-conscious, he stepped closer again and covered it with his hands. She moaned against his lips and her grip on his arm tightened.
He removed her bra and placed his hand on the middle of her back. She arched her back against him to make herself more accessible for his mouth. When his lips touched her heated skin, pleasure shot down her spine and pooled low in her belly. He moved to the other nipple and she moaned his name.
“You’re mine, Cassia,” he whispered against her ear after he gave one tentative lick.
She shivered in his arms but this time, it wasn’t from the cold.
Her head spun and she opened her lips to contradict his statement but what came out was only a breathless gasp for he slipped his hand inside the waistband of her jeans. Finally, he touched her where she craved him the most. She was so wet for him that he almost came right then and there.
He prayed for control.. He wanted to make this night last and he wanted to savor her. This wasn’t a dream. She was really here in the flesh and he wanted to make it special.
“Tell me you’re mine,” Nikos whispered as he kissed a path down her neck. “Tell me.”
Her only reply was a sharp intake of breath.
He unzipped her pants and drew them down her legs. Her underwear soon followed. He knelt by the table and parted her legs. Then, he used his fingers and his mouth to drive her wild and make her soar.
He knew she was nearly there and he lifted his head.
“Don’t stop. Nikos...” she pleaded.
“Tell me you’re mine,” he repeated.
She was silent for a long time. She merely closed her eyes and lay down on the table.
Telling him that she was his was like admitting what her greatest fear was: that she never really moved on. That somehow she still wanted him and that she still had feelings for him no matter how deeply buried they were inside of her. That she was just in denial all this time.
Telling him would be admitting what she’s known but feared and kept a secret for ten years of her life...
“I’m yours,” she whispered in defeat.
He stood up, removed all his clothing. She felt him pressing against her.
“Tell me this is what you want.”
Nikos forced down his desire and wrestled with control. He had to make sure she wanted this too. He’d waited for this for ten years and he didn’t want her to have any regrets. It would be hard to pull away but he would do that for her if that was what she wanted.
“I want you...”
Without wasting another moment, he pushed inside her. This time, it was he who moaned her name. She heard him whisper endearments in Greek and she held on to him tightly.
“...like I’ve always wanted you.”
He started to move. His breathing deepened as pleasure assailed him. He cupped her jaw and forced her to look at him. He wanted to see her face as he made love to her. He saw her desire mirrored in his eyes and he knew she wanted him as badly as he wanted her.
She bucked her hips and heard his quick intake of breath. Once more, she opened her lips to his and the sensation of their tongues twining almost sent him to his knees. He pulled back to look at her and the way her features were twisted with pleasure would forever be in his memory.
She drew him back to her by wrapping her arms around him and moving her hips against his. He couldn’t take more of this wicked temptation and he succumbed to it. He moved against her faster and harder, and she returned his passion equally.
He bent his head and flicked his tongue against her nipple. Then he sucked and it was just too much. Cassia held on to him tightly as she shattered in his arms as while she moaned his name.
Her climax triggered his.
“Cassia!” he writhed against her as ecstasy consumed him.
Afterwards, he carried her carefully to the bed. He was much stronger now and he also made sure that he was careful of her shoulder and his broken wrist.
He didn’t give her time to think, for he didn’t want her to have any regrets. The moment that she was settled on the bed, he pulled her against his chest and laid her head on his arm. He placed one last sweet, lingering kiss against her swollen lips and pulled the covers over them.
“Sleep...” he whispered.