I turned at the sound of his voice, a surge of hatred pulsing through me as the little vixen made her way to his side. The scum of the earth incarnate.
“Hey, babe!” she answered, her voice breathy, relieved. I narrowed my eyes at him, wondering what it was she found attractive about this fucker. Her glacial eyes found mine, widening a bit, before my officer gave shove to my shoulder and urged me forward, back into the pits of my own personal hell. I only had about two weeks left, and I constantly reminded myself of that fact. If I spent anymore time in here, I’d fully turn myself over to the beast inside of me, and there would be no coming back from that. I was in a precarious balance as it was.
Released back into my pod, I checked my surroundings for Tyler, but I knew where they’d taken him. Solitary. For something that wan’t his fault—for something officer Dickwad had done. Poor kid was autistic, quiet, kind. Everyone in here stuck up for him if trouble arose, and for Beck and his buddies to torment him as they had this morning, it only served as testament to their character. My jaw popped in quiet fury as I thought on it.
Already pissed off for how my day was shaping up, I stalked to my bunk in search of one man in particular. Everyone here called him Duke, even though we were positive that wasn’t his real name. Someone had challenged him on it once about four months ago, and after Duke had bashed his face in, he was shipped off to solitary as well, only having just returned a few weeks ago.
I leaned against the doorway, eyes adjusting to the darkness. Two bunks were crowded together in the cramped, smelly space, and Duke was occupying the one below mine, leafing through a book. Our paranoid cell mate’s things were gone, much to my relief. Sleeping with one eye open was wearing on me. Two more weeks, de Luca, that’s all.
“What do you want?” he huffed, not bothering to look up at me. He was older, grizzly in appearance—a bear of a man, with a thick, greying beard and long hair to match. I snorted, glancing to the ceiling before dropping my eyes back to his.
“I need information on someone.”
“Who?” he growled, pale eyes shooting up to glare at me in suspicion. He knew who I really was, and he therefore extended a substantial amount of respect my way. It was not something I’d forget, once I was back out.
“Eira von Waldeck.”
Her name was answered with a dark chuckle as he let his book slump open on his broad chest, a glint entering his eyes. He was a sinister man with no conscience. No wonder we got on well.
“I forget you’re a foreigner, de Luca,” he said with a shake of his head. I narrowed my eyes.
“She’s dating that—”
“Officer Cocksucker, I know.”
I became impatient.
“Just get me what I want,” I said, setting my jaw.
“I can tell you she’s loaded. Father was a big time investor, before he died last year. Heart attack, they said. Doesn’t fool me,” he answered, picking his book back up. My ears perked at this.
“Interesting,” I nodded, chewing my cheek in thought. “She’s a psych student—”
“And the brightest cryptographer of her age, or so I’ve heard.”
My heart thumped hard in my chest as I pushed off the wall, staring him down.
“How do you know that?”
He chuckled again, giving me a smirk.
“She was in the paper a while back. I never forget a name. Especially one like that. Did a whole interview on how she helped solve a decade’s old cypher, how she wanted to go to school for that but step-mommy dearest put her foot down and forced her to choose a real profession.”
I snorted, nodding, deep in thought.
“Don’t do anything stupid, Dante,” he warned, my eyes flashing back to his. I leveled him with a malicious smirk.
I craned my neck in the booth, searching for any sign of Joan or Beck’s older brother, Chris, my glass of wine nearly gone already. Beck sipped at his beer, on his phone, his arm slung casually around me. I leaned into him, feeling a slight buzz as I pecked his cheek. He frowned, seeming annoyed as he removed his arm. My heart fell a bit.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, trying to keep the peace. Whenever he had a tough day at work—which was often—it was easy for him to fly off the handle.
“Chris isn’t coming,” he said, pocketing his phone as Joan sauntered to our table.
“Sorry, traffic was awful,” she said with a roll of her eyes, her short dark hair smoothed to perfection. I reached for my wine, my anxiety beginning to simmer as she scooted in next to Beck, leaning around him to say hello to me. It was easy for me to pick up on people’s moods, empathetic as I was—a gift and a curse. It made some days more difficult than others, and I already itched to be home, where I could recharge in solitude.
“Hey Joan, sorry about traffic,” I said, grimacing. After moving into the city, I understood why everyone complained. She waved her hand, flashing me her wide smile, leaning further across Beck to talk to me.
“How was work?”
“Eh, interesting, to say the least,” I said with a roll of my eyes, sipping at my wine. Beck huffed above me, turning his attention to her.
“Sorry, Chris cancelled last minute,” he said, not sounding sorry at all. What was with his surly attitude? I frowned at him, disappointed.
Joan gazed at him, small smile twitching at the corners of her mouth.
“Not a problem at all,” she drawled, clearly already a few drinks in. They held one another’s gaze for a few beats more before being interrupted by the waitress. I sat back, gripping the stem of my glass, my heart hammering, my stomach aching. Anxiety was a cruel bitch, and it had started up after my father’s death. Being a psych student didn’t always help, either.
That, coupled with my other health issues, often meant I had little energy to spare. My best friend Britt always told me I was spread way too thin, but I’d already set my mind to eventually obtaining my PhD. There was no stopping me now.
My phone dinged in my purse, and seeing as Joan and Beck were engulfed in conversation, I answered. I rolled my eyes, glaring up at him.
He could be such a perv.
No, we’re here for friends, I shot back. They paused conversation as the waitress came back, and my phone dinged again.
Come on baby. Meet me in the bathroom?
I caught his eye this time, turning off my phone and shoving it into my purse, politely turning to the waitress and asking for a refill. I felt isolated as they chatted, finishing my second glass, my eyes drooping. I needed sleep.
“Can we head out soon? I have class in the morning,” I hedged with a small smile.
“Oh, shit, sorry Eira!” Joan said, jumping out of their conversation on how Beck’s grouping at the gun range was getting better. I smirked to myself, feeling bitter toward him at the moment for his whole demeanor this evening. I had a better grouping than he did, and I’d only ever shot a gun a handful of times. Beck had called it beginner’s luck while him and his buddies made snide remarks about my being a woman. Women shouldn’t have guns unsupervised. Imagine the damage when they’re on the rag being irrational bitches. I hated his friends, to say the least.
Beck sat up, patting his pockets for his wallet before groaning.
“Fuck, left it on the counter,” he said, throwing me a sheepish grin.
“I got it,” I said, waving dismissively. I just wanted to leave.
“Thanks,” he leaned in, pecking me on the cheek, scooting to get out.
“I gotta piss.”
“Ugh, me too! Damn alcohol makes my bladder shrink,” Joan sighed. I sat alone in the booth, waiting for the check and paying, eyeing Joan’s tab and debating paying for hers as well. I didn’t want to, but I also wanted to be nice. This was the third time we’d tried to get Chris to come along and he’d cancelled.
I paid with a flourish, gathering my things and waiting like a bump on a log. After five more minutes, I had to pee, too, but wondered how long the line to the bathrooms were for them not to be back yet. Annoyed, I staggered out of the booth and to the back of the dimly lit space, dishes clattering and low indie music playing. My eyes narrowed as I reached the hall. There was no line, two bathrooms open, both showing vacant in the little green squares.
My hand fell to the first knob, giving a twist as I pushed in, my world crumbling in that span of two seconds. Beck’s back was to me, Joan pinned against the wall, her skirt up around her hips as he thrust into her. She swatted at his back as her eyes fell to me, a strangled noise issuing from her throat.
Face burning, I let the door slip from my grasp and close on the scene before me, turning, mind whirling. I felt numb, in utter shock as I made my way outside into the softly falling snow and hailed a cab. As soon as I was in, the tears came, sliding down my cheeks. I pressed my forehead to the cool glass, pinching them shut, the words from a certain inmate somehow circling in my mind.
What all have you dealt with, really?
I wanted to rescind my answer to him in that moment, for I had a new one, now.
Everything. I’ve been through everything.
It was the day of my release, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. Every day I spent staring at those yellowish cinderblock walls was chipping away at my sanity. I had more work to do now—a substantial amount more, but that was fine with me. Staying busy helped keep the monsters of my past at bay, just how I liked it. This prison stint had been successful, as it had been designed. I smirked to myself at the thought, still chained and in my orange jumpsuit, seated in the processing center.
I leaned my head back, my eyes slipping closed as the taste of freedom drew nearer. Freedom and home. And hopefully a woman or two. My smile grew at the thought. With nothing but my imagination and right hand, I’d become increasingly bored and aggravated. That was one thing Gabriel had failed to mention about the shitty parts of prison. Fucker.
My eyes sprang open, narrowing in on Officer Beck. He’d been a real treat these past few weeks. He stood not far away, my ears perking, my eyes widening. There she was, her round ass squeezed into a grey pencil skirt, her calves muscled and tense as she stood in her high black heels. Her arms were crossed, her raven black hair falling in a long, thick curtain across her slender shoulders, her lips red as blood. She took a stuttering step back as he leaned in, a flicker of fear in her icy eyes.
I sat up, feeling my shoulders tense.
“Beck, leave me alone, please—”
He gripped her arm, giving it a slight shake, his knuckles white. My jaw ticked.
“It was…it was an accident!” he pleaded, everything about his appearance disheveled, from the bags under his eyes to his patchy, prepubescent beard.
“I’m not sure how putting your dick in some other woman is an accident, Beck!” she hissed, tugging her arm. He tightened his grasp. I watched on as she winced, my anger beginning to simmer.
“Fuck, Eira! I love you…we just…we gotta get past this!”
“There’s no getting past this!” she said, her voice rising more, her eyes darting around for an escape. Aside from my officer, who was across the wide space filing my paperwork in a separate office, we were alone. I pulled against my chains, wondering what way was best to slip out if this argument of theirs got out of hand. My rage boiled over as my head snapped in their direction at his next words.
“If you…if you would just have sex with me more, try new things, I wouldn’t have felt the need to—”
“You’re sick,” she hissed. She stumbled back another step, shoulders hitting the wall as he towered above her. I felt my nostrils flare as he gripped her shoulders now, pressing her into the wall, desperation overcoming him.
“Beck, stop, please, you’re hurting me—”
“Just shut the fuck up for once!” he roared, face turning a livid red, spittle flying from his mouth. I hadn’t realized I’d sprang up until my chains tugged me back, but both their eyes found mine at the noise. He sneered at me, releasing her to stand to his full height.
“What are you looking at, motherfucker?”
I smirked, eyes conveying to him that if I was out of these cuffs, he’d be on the floor with broken ribs and a bashed in skull. I shrugged.
“Just here to corroborate Miss von Waldeck’s story, should she need a witness to…oh…sexual harassment? Domestic violence?” I said, quirking my brow. Her lips parted, cheeks wet with tears, her eyes stuck wide on my face.
“Fuck off,” he growled, turning back to her.
“Get away from me,” she seethed, slipping under his grasp, taking a few steps closer to me. I felt awash with pride, standing a bit taller as he gave her a look of perplexed rage. She was close enough now that I could smell her delicate perfume, could see her pulse throbbing in her neck, her skin pale as snow. Her back to me, she faced Beck with a newfound confidence. I smirked over her shoulder at him.
He shook his head, wiping his mouth before pointing at her.
“We aren’t done, Eira,” he seethed before turning and stalking off. As soon as he left, her shoulders slumped, her hands covering her face as she steadied herself. I frowned.
“Need a seat?”
She turned, giving me a slight grimace of a smile before nodding, her eyes exhausted, purple circles adorning each one, the whites an odd, pale yellow color. In fact, the closer she came to me, the more I realized she wasn’t just pale, but sickly, yellowish.
I stepped out of her way, seating myself once more and leaning back as she sat, perched on the edge of the fading orange plastic, keeping her knees together like the polite socialite lady I knew she’d been raised to be.
I frowned as I studied her, forlorn that after today, I’d never see her ethereal face again. There would be many more women, but not ones that sparked my interest and desire as she had from the moment I’d met her. I sighed, resting my head against the cool wall.
“Thank you,” came her small voice. I turned my gaze to hers. She stared at me, seeming stumped. I only nodded in response. Getting any more involved with her would only bring trouble to my already complicated life. She shook her head, trembling all of a sudden and huffing out a breath as she stood. My brows furrowed as she teetered, eyes rolling back in her skull.
“Oh,” she gasped, my arms shooting out to catch her as she fainted. I lowered her to the ground, propping her up with my knee, calling for my officer, a sturdy, no nonsense woman that I actually didn’t mind too much.
“Oh lord, what happened?” she gasped.
“She just stood up and passed out,” I growled, holding her neck with one hand, checking for her pulse.
“Hold her, I’ll get help!” she said, waddling away as fast as she was able. I gave her a subtle shake, her pulse weak beneath my fingertips.
“Wake up, bellissima,” I urged. She came to slowly, eyes roving around, body tensing, before she stared up at me in confusion.
“You passed out. What the fuck is wrong with you? You barely have a pulse,” I said, somehow pissed at her. She pressed a hand to her forehead as I sat her up more.
“Just…” she trembled in my grasp. “Blood…disorder…” she grit out, tugging at her skirt. I rolled my eyes. I heard the rush of bodies before I saw them, and she held my gaze for a peaceful span of time, brows furrowing as she studied me. I glared down at her, jaw ticking.
“Miss von Waldeck?” her boss called, worry in his voice. I stood, sweeping her up into my arms. She was light. Everyone paused, staring at me with gaping mouths and wide eyes as I held her like a bride on a wedding day.
With a deep glare, I shoved her into her boss’ arms.
“She needs a hospital,” I demanded to his surprised face. I leaned in a bit, lowering my voice as I gave him a look that meant he needed to listen. Out of all the people who worked here, this man was probably the most trustworthy.
“And keep that fucking ex of hers away.”