Alex was nowhere to be seen. Her hands were bound behind her back and there was a strip of tape across her mouth, but he’d done nothing else to restrain her, and she assumed he was nearby. Looking around, she studied the room. The bed she lay on, a nightstand, and a straight-backed chair – with her sweatshirt on it – were the main furnishings. No decorations, just a clock on the nightstand. Five-thirty. With the door closed and an absolute lack of windows, Rory had the sense that she was in a closet more than a bedroom.
She wanted a shower, desperately. She wanted to scrub her body until it was raw, to wash away every inch of her that he’d touched. I have to get back to Cade and to Selina. I have too much to live for. Just give me the opening to get out of here, please God, just give me a chance. She had to survive, if for no other reason than to prove Richard innocent of Julie’s murder.
Did my brother rape you? The sudden memory made her want to start laughing hysterically. Richard? No. Not Richard. Clumsy and well-meaning, over-zealous Richard.
Not your brother, Julie. Never your brother. Richard tried to seduce her. He held her down, kissed her with sloppy kisses meant to be passionate, but he had stopped when she begged and cried.
She twisted her hands now. searching for some give in the rope and, amazingly, finding some.
The door creaked open and she froze at the sound of his laughter. He sat on the bed and began to stroke her hair. “Don’t waste your energy trying to get free, princess. You’ll need it for other activities. Here, do you smell the smoke on my clothes? I started a little bonfire just now. I’m going to burn every scrap of your belongings. By tomorrow morning, there won’t be a single trace of you left.” He continued to stroke her hair. For long minutes, he said nothing. Just stared at her, contemplating and gently petting. Rory closed her eyes, unable to take the tender expression on his face.
“I heard from Selina and talked to your mother and made sure that everyone thinks Richard has you. They also think you spent last night at my house. Poor little Rory, no one knows you’re here. Not Selina, not Isadora, and not your lover. Just me. Oh, baby, you look like you want to cry. Don’t. You don’t have to. It won’t be that bad. If you make me happy, I’ll make sure you don’t suffer too much. What do you think, princess? Nod your head if you agree.” She did, her eyes still closed.
“Here you go, this will make things more interesting,” he said, pulling out his smart phone and propping it against the lamp where she could watch the video he’d cued up. He touched the screen to start the recording. “Great picture, isn’t it? CNN picked up on the story and had been broadcasting regularly. Your mother gave a press conference in hope of finding you. I told her to use my name to speed things along. It looks like it worked. I hope you can see it, Aurora. We seem to have lost your glasses along the way.”
Rory didn’t hear him. Her attention was on Isadora, dry eyed but emotional, clutching a lace handkerchief while she spoke, giving the appropriate answers and begging for anyone with information on her daughter to come forward. Next to her sat Aunt Sophia, saying nothing, dabbing her eyes as well.
Rory stared at her own photograph as it appeared on the screen. “Again, Rory DeLuca disappeared sometime after eight this morning after leaving the home of Alex Webster. She was last seen on Grandview Avenue heading toward Maple Terrace. It is believed that she was taken by Richard Daniels, who is also a suspect in the Julie Daniels case,” said the reporter as Richard’s picture replaced Rory’s on the screen. “Richard Daniels disappeared from his studio apartment on the Sarazen estate two nights ago, after attacking Mr. Webster. Anyone seeing Mr. Daniels should consider him dangerous.”
Rory closed her eyes, wishing she could turn the video off. She didn’t want to see his face, didn’t want to see the man who had become a pawn in Alex’s game. The boy who had loved her, who had hurt her out of that love, was dead, and Alex used her to justify his murder. She heard the broadcaster remark that Charles Sarazen had refused to talk to the press and all communication would go through his lawyers. If she could have screamed, she would have. If Alex had his way, her death and Julie’s would fall on Richard and no one would be able to prove otherwise.
She wanted to kill him. She had to kill him. The bastard was trying to break her. He wanted her to give up, to let him rape her and then kill her. He wanted her to want to die.
I didn’t give Paul the satisfaction, and you’re not going to get it either, you son of a bitch.
“I was going to give a press conference myself,” Alex said casually as he sat on the bed. “But I certainly can’t let the world see me with these scratches, you know. Your mother was very agreeable. She said she understood my decision to go into seclusion and that she would handle everything. She can be a very decisive woman when she wants to be. Not that she could control you, but apparently no one can. No wonder Paul beat you.”
He continued petting her hair while the news anchors rehashed Julie’s story. If Rory could have, she would have smashed his phone. She began flexing her hands again, working her way free of the ropes.
“You know, I always wanted a pet. A little dog to play catch with but my mother was allergic. I could have one now, but I’m just not home enough. That would be cruel to a dog, don’t you think?” Rory nodded because he seemed to expect an answer.
“Cats are better pets. They don’t need as much attention as dogs. You’d make an even better pet, wouldn’t you, princess? My very own little pussycat.” His hand ran down her body, her breasts, her waist, between her legs, despite her attempts to shrink away. He licked his fingers, then ripped the tape from her mouth. “Meow for me, princess.” She glared at him, her lips pressed shut.
Stupid bitch. He unsheathed his knife and held it up. Now her eyes widened. Now he had her attention. “Let’s not spill any of your blood right now, princess,” he said, tracing the curve of her throat with the blade. “It’s been a long day for both of us, and I’m not in the mood to deal with bitchy little cunts who think that they matter enough to have choices. Am I clear?” She nodded. “Now fucking meow for me.”
She lowered her eyes and complied.
“Good girl,” he said, patting her on the head. “Looks like you can behave when you want to. Now, stay here while I make you breakfast. Piss me off again, and I’ll put this goddamned knife in your face. Am I clear?”
She nodded. He put the tip of the knife under her chin and forced her to look at him. “I can’t hear you.”
“Yes, you’re clear,” she whispered.
“Good.” He patted her cheek and walked away.
Stay here? Not if I can help it. Her eyes fell on her sweatshirt. She just needed to catch him off guard.