J O H N
That night, he dreamt of her. Her delicate smile. Her light giggle. The youth that shouldn’t have had him begging for her but sent him begging all the same. He dreamt of the events that would follow once he delivered her to Alessandro and a pang of jealousy shot through him.
She was engaged to someone else. To a monster who would only treat her with contempt. And the innocent girl he knew didn’t deserve that. She deserved so much more than that.
She didn’t belong in this world at all. He was sure of it now. But she was born into it. It was woven into her from the moment she was conceived. And as much as she wanted to escape it, even she knew she couldn’t. Running was just biding her time. If it weren’t him who got her back, someone else would. And she would end up trapped. The inevitable was coming to eat her alive.
He dreamed of the little girl punished for the time she had spent in the outside world, for the time she had spent with John. It was on him as much as it was on her. The longer she was away from her father, the greater the punishment would be. And he wondered whether he could deliver her to such a thing.
He had never failed to complete a job. That was what made him so renown in his profession. Could he give that all up just for her freedom?
He woke in a cold sweat, grunting as he caught his breath. His eyes searched around until they settled on the girl wrapped in a towel in the bathroom through the mirror. She was specifically told to keep the door open, so that he could see her at all times. The door to the halls was locked, and the key safely hidden where she couldn’t find it. He knew, for the time being, she would obey his orders. She was content. They weren’t moving any closer to her father at the moment.
“Mari?” he called out. She exited the bathroom in that unreasonably short towel and looked at him in question. Even for her petite form, the towel left little to the imagination. She didn’t seem to even notice his gaze or the effect that she would have on any man looking like that. “What are you doing?” He found himself at a loss for words, forgetting what he brought her out of here for. He gulped as he watched her body shift. She leaned up against the door and her eyebrows furrowed.
“What does it look like? I had a shower. Do you have something I can wear?” she asked. They were in very short supply so yesterday, John tied Mari up securely and went shopping. He bought clothes for himself first, along with food and extra supplies he might need. When it came to women’s clothes, he knew nothing. He knew she was small, but not how small in terms of measurements. He figured plain clothing would do just fine, nothing that would draw any attention to her.
He gestured towards the bags by the locked door and laid back on the bed, watching her.
“You should have taken me shopping,” she said, crouching down to rummage through her new things. “And you shouldn’t have bought so much.” She picked out some things and headed back into the bathroom, the door slightly ajar. He shouldn’t have been watching but his eyes were commanded by his desire, not his conscience.
The towel pooled to the floor as her back was to the mirror. Her wet hair cascaded over her shoulders and the tips met her waist. He couldn’t see much, which, in a way, he was thankful for. He wouldn’t be crossing too much of a boundary by staring. He could only see the slimness of her waist, the way her body followed an hourglass shape.
She threw the clothes over herself and exited.
“What I don’t understand is how you paid for all of it. Didn’t the feds freeze your bank accounts or something?” Her question snapped him out of his lustful gaze and into a narrowed one. What did she just say? How the fuck did she- “I heard you. When we were at Marcus’ place. You were on the phone and you mentioned the feds and the bikers and Manuel. You have a lot of enemies.” He watched as she took a seat on the chair at the dresser. She had never appeared so adult to him until this moment. She held herself with poise and elegance, like she knew she already held dominion over his attention. She spoke like she knew every one of his secrets, like he was the easiest man in the world to decipher.
“You’re quite the eavesdropper,” he deadpanned.
“I was looking for something to use against you,” she confessed. “Listening in on your conversations might have been useful.” Fascination flooded into his mind. She appeared calculated in her speech. As young and foolish as she was, she was smart enough to know what secrets to keep and what she shouldn’t. And she knew every single thing she said would be analyzed by John.
“I see,” John replied, eyeing her carefully.
“So? How did you pay for it?” she asked again.
“My bank accounts aren’t in my name,” he said. “What do you really want to know, princess? Come on, best ask now when I’m in a good mood.” He stood and walked over to her. He towered over her, staring down like she should fear him. But there wasn’t an ounce of fear left in her.
“I don’t want to know anything.”
“Of course you do. You want to know what you can use for your next little plan.”
“Do I?” she retorted, fluttering her lashes ever so slightly. “Maybe I already have a plan.”
“I doubt that you do.”
“Because you’re fishing,” he responded. “People who fish want something. They’re desperate to find something out. Ask me something and we’ll see if I give you an answer.”
“You’re wrong. You think you’re so smart, but you’re wrong. However you know what, since you want me to ask you something, I’ll ask you. How did you meet my father?” John gulped at her question and simply stared at her. The question was like a bullet right into his conscience. He hadn’t expected her to ask that question, but it clearly was the most important one on Mari’s mind to ask him.
“It’s not an interesting story,” he stated curtly.
“I never said I would tell the truth.” She rolled her eyes and scoffed at his response.
“What could it be that you are so afraid to tell me?” she mused, standing up and walking towards the bed. She laid back and tilted her head towards him.
“I’m not afraid,” he countered. How could she tell? What was she doing? How did this demeanor come about all of a sudden? She seemed so much surer of herself, so much more confident.
“Yes, you are. You’ve been avoiding the question ever since I met you, and I want to know why. Not so I can use it against you but because I know it’s something you don’t want me to know. What happened?” she questioned. She was shaping up to be a lot more observant than he anticipated. Again, she was surprising and confusing him at every turn. What was going on?
She was completely right. And he feared that. He couldn’t tell her. Not now. It wouldn’t do her any good if she knew. It wouldn’t help her. It would just make her despise him and their journey back would be hellish.
“You’re not gonna tell me, are you? So, there’s nothing else to say,” she declared.
“What’s with the change in attitude?” he asked, finally wanting to know what had changed.
“You’re only asking me that to avoid my questions. Are you really going to keep this a secret? What’s so bad that you won’t tell me?” He remained silent, not knowing what else to say. “Fine. That’s fine. Don’t tell me. I don’t need to know.” She crawled along the bed, right to the edge, right up in front of him. “Is it something I should know, John?” The way she said his name sent shivers down his spine. He was unsure of why, but he was nervous. She couldn’t know. He didn’t want her to know. She… she was important to him. He had to admit that. And if she found out, she would want nothing to do with him. Ever. And he detested that idea more than anything.
“No,” he answered, looking down into her big doe eyes.
“Is that the truth?” she asked. Silence filled the air and the space between them felt heavy and intense. “Don’t bother answering. I think I already know.”
His head twitched slightly, and his eyes narrowed. His lips parted, about to speak, but she beat him to it.
“You want to know this change in attitude. I had a dream last night.” He didn’t know where this was going but the feeling of dread hit him like a whirlwind. “Only, it wasn’t a dream. It was a memory. When I was younger. Years ago, now. I really was a little girl then. My mother had been gone for a few days, a week maybe. Alessandro told me she just took a trip, and I believed it. But that night, I was playing downstairs, in the basement when I heard my father. He stormed in with a handful of men, a furious look on his face. And then… in you walked, with my mother. You pushed her towards my father, you collected your money, and he shook your hand. You were about to walk away, my mother crying on the floor at the feet of my father, when my father raised his gun. And he shot her. His wife, my mother. And you were the man who delivered her to her fate.”