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Chapter 22

Amanda woke up confused, her heart hammered on her chest. She wanted to bolt and run but every inch of her body hurt like hell.

She slumped back to bed and recognized her own bedroom. She looked around with horror— the memory of Richard’s face covered in blood flashed before her— she screamed.

The sound of shuffling outside her door terrified her. She expected Brandon’s head to pop in and do the terrible things he did to her again, she trembled. She wanted to hide under her bed, but couldn’t move.

Then the door opened and Valerie walked in, her face filled with tenderness and compassion. “Amanda, I’m glad you’re awake.” She forced a smile.

Amanda sighed in relief. “Val…” she uttered, her voice devoid of energy. Her throat was dry. “Is Alex here?”

Val sat on the bed beside her and stroked her head. “Alex is in the kitchen making soup for you. He’ll be here in a bit.”

“Thank you for coming, Val.”

“I felt really bad about what happened to you. I should get you a round-the-clock security if needed. This should never have happened.”

“I’m sorry, it was my fault. I should have told you… but he threatened me…” she sobbed.

“It’s all right now, Amanda. You have to relax and try to forget it. He’s not coming back.”

“I’ll try…”

“I’m leaving for Paris in two days, but you can call me any time you need me. Alex said he’ll be with you and take care of you.”

“Are you meeting with our French suppliers again?”

“No, it’s just a pleasure trip with someone I’ve been dating. You’ll meet him when we get back from the trip.”

“I’m happy for you, Val. I hope you have an enjoyable one.” She smiled.

Alex walked in with a tray on his hands, a bowl nestled on top. “Hey… I made soup. You must be starving.” He said, his voice sweet, almost a whisper.

Amanda didn’t say anything. She smiled when she saw him and immediately felt calm. She sat up as Alex spooned the soup to her lips with care.

When she finished half the bowl, she gestured she had enough. Then Alex gave her a drink of water. She drank the whole glass, surprised at how thirsty she was.

“I feel better already. Thanks, Val… Alex.” She said. “How long had I been sleeping?”

“Couple of days, actually. The doctors gave you meds to help you rest.” Val said.

“I was at the hospital?”

“No, Alex took you back here right away. I sent for private doctors to see you.” Val said. “We wanted to keep the incident under wraps to protect you and the company.”

“I’m sorry, Val. I know what I did was crazy stupid, but I wanted to save the company and Alex from that… that…”

“Save Alex? Did that asshole threaten to hurt Alex too?” Val said, bewildered.

“He said he will kill Alex. He knew what I feared most…” she teared up.

“He’s dead.” Alex said. “He cannot cause you any more trouble. The videos were found on his computer and was entirely deleted. No copy was ever uploaded or sent to anybody. He was just playing with you, Iris.”

“You shot him, didn’t you?” she asked Alex, her eyes wild.

“I wish I did, honestly. But I came with the police and they did the job when they saw him in the act of…” Alex said, his hands balled into fists.

“The two accomplices are now in jail. They didn’t know who you really were— they thought you were some prostitute paid by Richard.” Valerie chuckled. “I even thought maybe Agatha had something to do with it, but the police said they found no connections to her. Besides, Agatha is now in Switzerland. She joined a cosmetic company that will rival Aglow.”

“Thank you. I just wish I can forget about the whole thing already.”

Alex bent down and kissed her cheek. “You will… I’ll help you recover from this. I will protect you with my life, my love.” He whispered in her ear.

There, he said it again… my love. He’d said the word ‘love’ so many times before, but all in a different context— he loved to see her naked, he loved the way she looked, or that he loved to play with her— but never meant the same as how he said it moments ago. It stirred something inside her— it scared her.

Valerie stood up. “I think it’s time for me to leave you two. Give me a call if there’s anything you need, okay?” She kissed Amanda on the nose and walked out of the room.

“I couldn’t help it, I felt so guilty about what I did, I just had to go and see you. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have found the note you left at your apartment. I was so angry, I can never forgive myself for what happened to you. Forgive me.” Tears cascaded down his cheeks.

“Stop blaming yourself. I was hurt, but it was my fault. I got curious and jealous of your models… I know that’s crazy.” She laughed.

“You were jealous?”

She nodded and bit her lip.

Alex kissed her like he never did before. It was slow and tender, like he was savoring every fiber of an exotic fruit.

“I will never ever hurt you like that again, I promise. The only pain I will give you are the ones that will give you pleasure.” He teased, but stared at her with doleful eyes.

“There’s nothing to forgive, Alex. But I’m really looking forward to that kind of pain.” She laughed.

“I want to bring you to my apartment, there’s something I want to show you. Are you feeling better now?”

“I think I’m strong enough to walk around, yes.”

“I’d like to check if you’ve healed enough, may I?”

“How would you know?”

He raised her skirt and pulled down her underwear. His fingers fondled her ever so gently, she giggled.

“It tickles, stop it.” She giggled.

“I think she’s healed perfectly.”

“How did you know?”

“She’s smiling.”

“You’re full of shit, Alex. Okay, let’s go to your apartment now, I can’t wait to see what the hell you’ve been up to.”

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