I woke up, yet I was afraid to open my eyes. Pain made me wince, and I inhaled, then exhaled, trying to calm my drumming heart and the pounding ache in the back of my head, where I was probably hit.
I nestled in the duvet that covered my body, and that was when I realized it was strange to be sleeping in a soft, big bed, wrapped up in an expensive duvet. I should’ve been put in a cell, right? After all, I’d seen the crime unfolding in front of my own dark brown eyes. I’d seen those guys kill Mr. Moore. I’d seen it all. So why treat me as though I were someone important, lying in this queen-size bed? Shouldn’t they put me in a cell and guard me to reassure I wouldn’t run away or something?
Be that as it may, I was lying in some expensive bed. That was when I decided to open my eyes, and when I did, I gasped a little. I was lying in a canopy bed in some princess-like room.
I sat up, and the pounding in my head was stronger, but I needed to see the rest of the room. The room was big, like the size of my whole apartment, and looked like it was part of a royal mansion or something. The ceiling was tall, there was a big window that was the door of a small balcony, and there were wooden desk and closet. In the middle of the room, from the ceiling, a chandelier was hanging.
The lack of light from the window told me it was nighttime now. Glancing at the door on the other side of the room, I wondered if it was locked. Probably was, but it wouldn’t hurt to check. So I pushed the duvet off, and then was completely stunned to realize I wore a soft, cotton pjs that were exactly my size. My curly red hair was also washed and braided, and my whole body was clean. Someone bathed me and dressed me up, as if I were a three-year-old.
Taking a deep breath to keep myself from panicking, I stood up, ignoring the pain in my head, and went to the door, which was as locked as I feared it would be. Then I decided to check the balcony, to see how high the floor my room was in. I opened the window and stepped outside into the small balcony, and the landscape made me gasp. Not only I was probably on a forth or fifth floor, but I was in a the big mansion that everyone stayed away from. It was located on a small hill at the north part of the city, on the border with the woods. No one knew who lived here, and everyone was afraid of coming near this mansion, me and my friends included of course. And now I was here.
But the landscape from this mansion was heart-stopping. The whole city was spread out below me, the city lights made it look so ethereal, so beautiful, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was probably close to midnight by now, and I could see all the way from here the downtown part blazing with activity. It was mesmerizing, a view I didn’t see every day. The cold October air made me shiver a little, but I didn’t want to go back inside, not when that landscape was here before me.
The breeze made my braid fly, and I unbraided my hair so my whole hair could fly in the wind. It felt so nice I had to close my eyes and hold the railing so I wouldn’t lost my balance. Never had I felt such an amazing feeling. Such relaxation, such peacefulness... it wasn’t my everyday-thing. I was always stressed, whether consciously or not. Studies, work, friends, Gran... all of that made me worry on a daily basis. Would Taryn bully Echo and me? Would Marcus and Isobel fight? Would Chase notice Echo? Would Gran be alright? All those thoughts were part of my need-to-contemplate-about agenda. But right now...
Right now, ironically, I felt free. As if the whole world was open in front of me. As if I could do anything and everything I wanted. Sure, I knew it was only a feeling of the moment, because I wasn’t really free – quite the opposite – and I knew I would start worry about Echo and where she was now, or what she was going to do now that her father... Or did Gran know where I was? Was she worried-sick about me?
But right now I couldn’t think about it, not with this view in sight and my feelings so uplifted.
Suddenly I could hear a piano being played. I closed my eyes and listened as someone played the piano flawlessly. I realized the piece as one of Richard Clayderman’s. The pianist was great, and I knew it because I had used to play the piano once. I’d taken lessons since I was four, just after my parents’ death, and after ten years, when I was fourteen, I stopped the lessons and tried to focus on other things, like friends and school and such. But the piano was always part of me and I was pretty good at it. I hadn’t played for a while, though.
So hearing that piano was like coming home. I closed my eyes and found myself humming along the notes. It was beatific piece, and humming it felt like I was humming with angels.
That was when I felt a hand on my shoulder and the magic dissipated. I turned around in panic, but found myself in front of the most handsome guy I’ve ever seen. He was taller than my five feet four, way taller, probably over six feet, and muscular. His biceps and obvious six-pack were covered by his long-sleeved shirt, and his long legs were covered in denim. His hair was tousled, messy, slightly-long and jet-black, his nose Roman-like straight, his strong jaw covered with faded bristles, his eyes... Oh God his eyes... They were the color of the sea, green and blue mingled with each other.
Those eyes were the last thing I remembered before passing out. He was one of the two killers who killed Mr. Moore. He was a god-looking killer.
And he was looking down at me with luminous eyes. Despite my knowledge of him being one of the assailants, I blushed, but couldn’t look away from those stunning, unusual eyes.
His expression was serious and flat but his eyes twinkled with barely-hidden curiosity and... amusement. He was amused by me, and I could guess why. I probably looked to him like some naïve fangirl, with my ludicrous red hair and slim body and the blush on my face.
I chastised myself for being so goo-goo-eyes with this... this murderer. I hardened myself and forced my blush away, so I could glare at him accusingly.
My glare, apparently, only amused him further. His lips were lifted into a cold smirk, that didn’t lessen his handsomeness. “So you remember what happened,” he said dryly, his deep, low voice making my toes curl unwittingly. “That’s a shame. I almost hoped you would have some sort of amnesia, for you own sake.”
I fisted my hands and kept on glaring at him. “You killed him,” I blurted out, my voice rough with misuse. “You killed Mr. Moore.” a shiver went through my body as I remembered the puddle of blood, the shot, his death...
The guy arched a brow. “You know Calvin?” He asked, not in surprise but in curiosity, like I was something abnormal. It unnerved me.
“O-Of course I know him!” I stuttered out. “He is... he was my friend’s father!” I felt my eyes tear up, and was too focused on not crying in front of this god-like guy to realize I’d made a big mistake.
He stilled, his muscles tensed, and his voice was even lower than normal when he said flatly, “You know Echo Moore.” It sounded like his brain was considering strategies of dealing with me and my so-called knowledge.
I didn’t answer, couldn’t fathom what the hell was going to happen. I was speechless, stupefied in my place, and hoped I didn’t enter some mess I shouldn’t have known about to begin with. And Echo... what did Echo have to do with all of that? Was she in trouble? Danger? Was her life at risk because of what I’d just admitted? Was she the reason her father was killed? Did those killers want her for some reason?
God, I thought, Please don’t do this to Echo, or to me. I beg you.
The guy searched my face with those vivid eyes of his, and I tensed and inhaled to calm myself, found he had a delicious smell. Some expensive cologne with the scent of a male in his prime. I exhaled quickly and inhaled once more. Such a good scent... coming of a murderer. What the hell was wrong with me? This man... This man was a killer! I shouldn’t admire him!
But I remembered that time at the promenade, when I saw him working out. I’d seen only his back then, but still found myself attracted to him like I wasn’t attracted to anyone before. Not even to Chase, whom I thought I was crushing on. And now, standing a few inches from this guy... my motors were running on full-volume like never before.
And not for just anybody. For a killer whom I saw in the act. I should be scared to death, to want to stir clear from him. Yet instead I found myself drawn to his god-like looks. Way to go, Rae Marie.
It was probably hormones. I was supposed to get my monthly visit from Mama Nature any day now, after all.
“I guess we can’t let you off with a small threat after all,” the guy suddenly said and I jumped a little, returning back to reality. He stepped away a bit and looked me up and down in concentration, as if contemplating what to do with me. When his eyes finally came back to my face, he ordered, “Tell me your name.”
Gulping, I knew there was no harm in telling him my first name. Besides, it’s not like I could do anything to protest. “Rae.” I said, trying to look away from those amazing eyes but could not.
“Rae,” he said, as if tasting the name in his mouth, and I blushed at the thought of his perfectly-shaped mouth tasting other things.
After a few moment of silence when he seemed to be debating something, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I wasn’t really good with silences. “What’s your name?” I asked, finding myself really curious to know his own name.
The guy sent me an odd look. “Why do you want to know?” He asked. “I’m only your jailer, the man who killed someone you know. My name should mean nothing to you.”
He was right, of course; it shouldn’t have meant anything for me. But it did, for better or worse, and I found that I really wanted to know his name. “I just do,” I replied in a small voice, planting my gaze on the ground. “What, are you afraid of giving me your name? I gave you mine. It’s only fair.”
I gasped, astounded at myself. Why the heck did I have to provoke him? Do I have a death wish?!
When he said nothing, I raised my eyes, slowly and hesitantly, and found him looking at me with an unreadable expression on his perfect face. Reaching to a decision, apparently, he offered, “My name’s Gunner.”
I couldn’t help myself. “A fitting name,” I snorted, and then covered my lips in horror. What the fuck is wrong with me?!
For my astonishment, the murdered – Gunner – smirked with a wicked glint in his eyes. “Ah,” he said as if concluding, “a snarky one, aren’t you?”
Wondering if I should kill myself now and save him the trouble or to answer him with another snarky remark that would probably reward me of another smirk I shouldn’t want to see again, I looked away and toward the landscape, trying to find the same comfort in it I found before. But with this drop-dead-gorgeous, sexy-god-looking guy, it was hard to find any peace with me being all hot and bothered.
Dammit, I was fucked up. How could I be attracted this intensively to this murderer?
“A beautiful sight, isn’t it?” Gunner was suddenly next to me, viewing the landscape as well, leaning on the railing. The cold breeze blew his black hair, and he looked unreachable, unapproachable. It was like watching Chase Montgomery walking in the hallway, surrounded by boys and girls, and knowing you could never, ever, have him even looking your way. Only Gunner wasn’t Chase; he was way hotter, way sexier and way more handsome than any other guy.
I couldn’t believe this god was standing right here next to me. I wondered if this all evening, the whole Mr. Moore thing, was a dream. Unfortunately, it was too real to be unreal. “It sure is lovely,” I found myself answering his statement, looking away from him and to the view. “I never knew there was a place where I can see the whole city from it.”
Gunner smirked a little. “More people could know about this place if they only came over.” His sea-eyes were uplifted a bit with amusement.
“Yeah, like someone would’ve wanted to come over to a lair of killers,” I mumbled and leaned my head on my hands and closed my eyes. It was almost surreal, standing there on the balcony with a killer and talk as casually as if we were talking about the weather. For the thousandth time I wondered what was wrong with me.
“You know, it’s not very nice to judge people like that,” he said in a lecturing voice that rubbed me the wrong way.
I glanced at him and without considering my words first I just blurted, “I kinda saw you kill a person, a human I know, and you tell me not to judge you?” I couldn’t keep the disbelief and hint of cynicism off my tone.
I thought he would want to shoot me just for daring to say this thing to him, but he stunned me with his reaction. He looked haughtily at me, a hint of something like wonder in his eyes. “Well why, Rae, won’t you consider that there’s more than meets the eye to everything?” He asked, arching an eyebrow sexily. No matter what he did, he did it sexily. He probably didn’t even realize he was being basically a sex-god none-stop. Inwardly I sighed, and then mentally slapped myself into rationalism.
“Because I know what I saw,” I said softly, for some reason not cowering as I should be. When he gazed at me as if testing me, I suddenly felt the sense of recognition I hadn’t sensed since the second time I saw him, back in Taryn’s party. Something in his thoughtfulness, in his analytic expression... it stirred the knowingness I hadn’t felt since he came into the balcony. And that sense, as if I knew him from somewhere – which I didn’t, because the first time I saw him was at the promenade – made me blush slightly.
“There are reasons for finishing one’s life,” he finally said, after a few minutes of silence. “I wouldn’t just go around killing people off because I want to.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ve got your reasons,” I said, narrowing my eyes at him, fighting my blushing and attraction. “But no matter what the reasons are, fact is, you killed Calvin Moore, my friend’s father.”
He folded his arms and turned to me, leaning with his waist on the railing. His greenish-blue eyes searched me, almost like he was fascinated. But it was stupid, because why would he be fascinated with me? I was practically sassing him, and in my situation, it was as though I brought a death sentence upon myself. Gunner didn’t look like the kind of guy who let people just sass him. It would come as no surprise if he decided I wasn’t worth his time of the day.
Which reminded me I should be peeing myself from fear, standing here on a balcony with an expert killer. But I wasn’t. Instead, in some Stockholm-Syndrome way, I found myself wanting those beautiful eyes gazing at me forever.
Oh God, I should stop thinking stuff like that about this killer, who probably ruined my friend’s life.
Gunner opened his mouth to say something but then a phone buzzed from his jeans’ pocket. He pulled it out and looked at the screen for a few moments, reading a text message probably, and then closed his phone and looked at me. “We will talk about you knowing Echo Moore later,” he said. “Right now, you should dress up in something more... formal.” His eyes gazed over my body pointedly and a blush blossomed on my face. In all this conversation of us, I forgot I wore that cotton pjs. Oh God, my first conversation with Mr. Sexiest Man Alive was with my pjs. Damn it!
He smirked slightly at my blush. “There’re clothes in the closet,” he said in an obvious amusement that made me blush harder. “Get dressed and when you finish come out. I’ll be outside.”
Moments later he was gone, his manly scent lingering still in the balcony and the room. All I could think about at the moment, though, was how fucked up this all situation was.
What the hell would happen to me? Or worse, what would happen to Echo? There was only one way to find out.