When I hear his moan in the middle of the night, I know the night terrors are back. He won’t say what makes his face distort in such fear, what makes him sweat and clench his teeth as if he is in agony but I can’t bear to see him like that again.
I get up slowly and I go to the couch he has slept on. Like I did the last time, I stay there for a few seconds to look at him. Even torn by pain, he is so handsome. And not only on the outside. It’s his soul, I can see it bare under that torment. A bad man, an evil man sleeps soundly at night. Nothing burdens him with guilt. A good man like him has a weight on his shoulders.
“Wood,” I try softly but he doesn’t hear me.
“I’m coming. I can’t be late, not late, not again,” he whimpers and then a painful wail leaves his mouth. “My fault, my fault. Dead. My fault.”
My tears run down and they fall on his cheek and when that happens, his eyes snap open. At first, he is alert, ready to kill with those rough hands of his. But when he sees it’s me, his body relaxes.
He says nothing, just raises a shaking hand and wipes the tears off my face. How many times has he done that? I lost count.
“Shh, kitten. It’s OK. I am sorry to wake you. Go back to sleep,” he tries to push me away.
“Come to bed with me,” I say timidly.
He frowns and I see him get angry. He got angry the last time I gave myself to him. But now all I want is to be by his side, sleep with his warmth near. He needs me and I need him. Maybe tonight, I won’t pretend to sleep but I will truly let go.
“Go to bed, Tamie.”
I say nothing, just get up and take his hand. I tug gently and I take one step to the bed. There is no way to manipulate that huge man but he obeys and gets up. The thin blanket he has covered himself with slips and I see that he is in nothing but his briefs. I take in all his body, the sculpted muscles, the tattoos, the tags hanging from his neck. That man is simply breathtaking. I want to touch him and caress all that body but it's not what he needs right now.
Without a word uttered, I guide him to the bed and push him gently on the mattress before climbing on myself. I lay on my side to watch him but he just lies there, looking at the ceiling, his body stiff. Maybe he doesn’t want to be near me.
The thought plunges a knife into my heart. How many men have come for me, touched me, taken me? All of their touches unwanted, vile. But this man, the one I long to feel, is discarding me. My life can get even crueler it seems.
So, I give up. I drift to the very end of my side, turn my back to him and put my hand under my pillow, forcing my eyes to close. I guess tonight too I will pretend to be asleep.
Then he shifts and I am sure he will get up and fall back to his couch, preferring that than to be close to a used woman. But his strong arms wrap around my waist. He draws me to him, my back to his front as he lays on his side and he enfolds me completely. He gets comfortable spooning me, drives one hand under my neck and the other over my waist and he nuzzles in my neck.
“We sleep, kitten. Tonight we sleep,” he says and his breath makes me shiver, his voice so low and tender.
I dare put my arm over the one he has wrapped around me and I finally drift into a blissful sleep with a smile on my lips.
I open my eyes because of the light shining on them through the window and I instantly know I am alone. I sit up and look at the couch but it is empty as well. I don’t know what to do but go to the bathroom till Wood comes back.
I have a quick shower and clean myself before I wear some of my new clothes. Clothes I picked, clothes I want to wear because I feel like it and not because some fuck sick wants me to be a schoolgirl! I look at myself in the mirror and I look more decisive. I survived.
“Kitten?” I hear Wood’s voice in the room and a smile comes to my lips.
I get out and he has set the coffee table with the most extravagant breakfast ever. Pancakes, French toasts, fruit salad, bacon and eggs, juice, milk and coffee, honey, marmalade. I glance at it all and my jaw drops.
“I didn’t know what you wanted so...”
“You did all this?” I look up to him.
“Well,” he rubs the back of his neck, “I like to cook.”
I study him and I see that he too slept well last night. No thin lines under his eyes and he has a constant – though faint - smile on his lips.
“Wow!” I say. “I don’t know where to begin,” I sit down and he hands me a towel, a plate and utensils.
I feel like a princess all of a sudden. Even if I was given the chance to be in the most expensive hotel in the world and enjoy breakfast, I wouldn’t change that with this. I take some of the bacon and eggs and I look up at him when I taste them.
“They taste soooo good,” I say with my mouth half-filled.
“Butter,” he winks.
We eat like that for a while, not talking a lot but I can tell he enjoys my appetite. I always liked food and I have missed eating really good food. My mother never cooked for me and Iris and I had to make do with whatever we had in the house. Then... Then I was forced to eat whatever they served me.
“So?” Wood wipes his mouth and has a sip from his black coffee. “You ready?”
“Ready for what?”
“I was thinking of waking you up early and we could go by Iris house before she left for work. But you were sleeping so soundly...”
I smile at his smile.
“By now, Iris should be across the street at the garage,” he says.
My head spins. My sister. My baby sister, across the street. After all these years I am finally so close to her. My hands start shaking and I feel weak inside. Oh, god!
“I...” My throat has gone dry. “I am scared.”
He will laugh in my face at my irrational self. Here I am, close to what my heart was hoping for, the one thing to keep me alive all these years, to keep me from tying a noose like Geraldine did and I am scared. He must think I am crazy.
“I know, kitten. But you got nothing to be afraid of. Of all the people I met in my life, Iris is the best one,” he puts his hand on my shoulder.
I nod and I get up. I am going to see my sister, my baby sister! My sweet Iris. Wood stands by my side and he goes for the door. He opens it for me and steps outside, giving me his hand.
“Will you be there with me?” I plead.
“Always, kitten,” he smiles and I feel warm.
I give him my hand and he guides me through the corridor, to the back door we came in through. We go round the bar and we are back on the street he told me they own. My eyes are fixed on the garage. It’s open.
“Come on, Tamie,” Wood squeezes my hand and I take courage.
We go to the garage and the first one to greet us is a huge, gigantic man, with a thick beard and his long hair in a man-bun. He looks up from a race car he is working on and he raises his chin to Wood giving him a smile. Then he sees me.
“Fuck,” he breathes and I halt.
Wood holds my hand and pushes me to him lightly. He stands before the giant that is looking at me with his green eyes wide.
“Bjorn, this is Tamie,” Wood says. “Tamie, this is Bjorn, he works with Iris.”
I say nothing. The man still holds a wrench in his hand and looks at me as if he can’t believe I am there.
“By Tyr, Tamie. You look so much like your sister.”
I blush and I look down. Wood lets my hand and rubs my back, feeling how tense I am.
“Iris?” Wood asks.
“She is in the back to get some-”
“Found it!” A voice fills the garage.
I still. It has changed but only slightly. I know that voice, that sweet, melodic voice of an angel. Iris!
I turn to look and I instinctively hide behind Wood. My heart is racing and my knees go weak. My Iris! How she has grown. She is wearing a blue uniform and her hands are in gloves. Her long hair are in a bun and her face smudged with oil but she looks so beautiful.
But the most beautiful thing on her is her smile. Wide, open, genuine. Happy. My Iris is happy. Her smile gets even wider when she sees Wood. She comes our way and I drift even closer to his sturdy body to hide.
“You are back! I was worried when Rage came back without you,” she walks to us taking off her gloves. “What took you-? Oh,” she stops as she seems to notice someone by Wood. “Who do you have there, Wood?”
Iris has a playful smile on her lips and she has cocked her waist ready to tease him. Wood stiffens and turns to look at me, asking me with his eyes if I am ready. No, I shake my head. Then Wood gives me soft smile and caresses my cheek with his knuckles.
“I got someone I want you to meet,” Wood says and takes my hand.
“OK,” Iris chuckles.
Wood pulls me lightly in front of him and makes me stand before her. I have my eyes pinned on the floor but I can’t resist. I want to look upon her so I raise my head. When our eyes meet, Iris drops the smile she has on her lips and takes one step back. She knows.
Her hands go to her mouth and her breaths come in short and shallow. Her eyes go wide as she takes in all my face and she starts shaking.
“T...” she struggles. “Tamie?”
I can’t hold back anymore. I let the tears run down my face and I take in a deep breath.
“It’s me, little flower,” I stammer.