The steam rising from the cup of hot tea in my hands helped to soothe my unsettled body. It was almost two in the morning and I still couldn’t sleep. Thoughts of the kiss I shared with Luka drifted through my mind like a river that was just beginning to unthaw.
I didn’t regret it.
That much I knew for sure.
Kissing him felt right and pure and I never wanted to stop. He was Luka. The golden boy that always knew how to turn my thoughts away from the dark. I think he became a part of me the moment I meant him.
I just... I couldn’t shake the feeling that Colt, Aidan, and Greyson were meant to be a part of me as well.
Luka said I wouldn’t lose him, but would he still feel that way if he knew I loved his best friends too? The four of them were practically brothers and I couldn’t bear the thought of tearing that apart. Not that the rest of them felt the same way for me that Luka did. Even though I loved all of them, it was highly unlikely they felt the same way for me. At most, I was family to them. Plain and simple.
The candle I had lit cast my studio in a warm glow, making the brick walls and scuffed floors appear worn and cozy instead of old and worn down. Taking another sip of my tea, my thoughts turned back to the previous day.
After our kiss, a sense of comfort emerged between the two of us that I didn’t know could have felt any stronger than what we previously had. We spent the rest of the afternoon finding random places to pick up small bites of food. Letting our stomachs guide the adventure for the rest of the day.
Luka looked slightly sad to drop me off here just before dinner, but I knew he respected my need for alone time.
Respect. Something that had evaded me for a long time felt unnatural now and I had to resist the urge to thank the guys for simply respecting me and my wishes. That was something I told myself I would never do again.
I would never again be thankful for things that I knew I deserved. Respect being at the top of that list.
My vision tunneled and I suddenly felt the urge to hunch into myself as I felt my anxiety peaking. It clawed at my throat in a way that had tears pricking at my eyes. I knew I was about to relive a memory that I had worked to bury.
“Ahh, Emilia! Glad to see you aren’t busy”. Gio’s voice grated against my skull in the same way nails sounded on a chalkboard. Clenching my jaw, I worked to keep the hatred I felt for him out of my voice.
“What do you want?“, I asked. The exhaustion, both physically and mentally, was threatening to bury me. It had only been a day since Gio last sent me out to do his f*cking bidding. The man- no, the monster he had me engage with liked beating up girls more than he liked shoving his d*ck in them. Something I’m sure Gio knew beforehand but chose not to tell me.
By the time he finally decided the information I gave him was suitable for the family’s needs, my left eye was swollen shut and the bruises that had been given to me were so deep it looked like I had gotten them tattooed onto my body.
“Oh come now, love. You aren’t still upset about that last job, are you? I even gave you a whole 24 hours to rest since you did so well,” he spoke drolly. My answering silence seemed to please him as he stalked towards me. Silently, he crouched before me as I sat on my mattress. “The least you could do is thank me, Emilia”.
Back against the wall and head tilted up, I let the anger I felt appear on my face. What I didn’t mean to do, was open my mouth.
“F*ck you, Gio. You can go to hell for all I care”.
I didn’t regret saying it but knew instantly that I would be paying for it.
The crack of his hand against my face registered before the pain did. Funnily enough, I welcomed it. The more damaged I was, the more time I usually got off between he sent me out on assignments.
His hand crushed my jaw as he forced me to look at him. “Talk to me like that again and I will shoot you”. He didn’t need to speak loudly, the basement echoed his whispered words as if they were bullets in their own right. “Are you unhappy, princess? I don’t care. If I tell you to f*ck someone, kill someone, or starve yourself... you. Will. Do. It. And if you don’t start acting more appreciative for the life you currently have I can easily take it away. The second, the f*cking second, you become useless to this family, I will put a bullet between these pretty eyes of yours”.
My chest barely moved as I struggled to keep my breathing under control. I had always thought that Gio hated me...now I knew that wasn’t the case. He didn’t care about me enough to feel anything towards me. Somehow, that frightened me more.
He released my jaw with a hard shove, forcing my skull to thud into the wall behind me. Standing back upright, he adjusted his cuff links. An act so nonchalant you’d never know he had just assaulted and threatened a 15-year-old girl.
His eyes bore down on me as he spoke again. Louder this time, as if he wanted to be sure I was listening. “From now on, I want you to thank me for every single thing I give you. Whether that be an assignment, a piece of clothing, or a day off. And I want you to say it like you mean it. Sound good?“. I knew he didn’t want me to respond.
With a dark laugh, he turned on his heels and made his way towards the stairs that would take him out of this small, cold room.
Letting out a deep breath, I dug my nails into the palm of my hand. Trying to anchor myself in the present. I looked down and realized I had dropped my cup. Luckily it had been empty before my mind chose to play games with me. Bending down to pick it up, I took my time, letting my muscles stretch and release the tension that had crept in from the flashback.
The plush fabric of the rug under my feet tickled the spaces between my toes as I went to place the cup next to my sink. I made my way into bed, appreciating the way my pillows and blankets seemed to wrap around me in soft armor.
At least there was one good thing about having terrifying flashbacks. The exhaustion I usually felt after helped cure any insomnia I was previously experiencing.
I closed my eyes and let myself think of Luka. To our kiss. Those feelings helped chase away any thoughts of that basement and the people who kept me there.