Blinking, Rayne glanced around. She was in the underground parking space in her apartment building and didn’t even remember the drive. Her chest hurt, hands were vibrating and reality felt far away. Three times, she tried to extract the keys from the ignition, finally after fumbling she managed. Come on, Rayne, get it together. Think!
Her mind didn’t want to accept the words that had come from Aiden’s mouth, her fiancé. In all the years she’d known him, never had he used that tone. Scared her enough to send chills through her spine. She believed he meant every word. I am not an idiot, I’ve always known he was a hard man, but the words turned my blood to ice and a part of me knows I’ll never feel the same for him again.
Taking a shaky breath, she groped around for her purse, feeling like she was moving through mud. Somehow, she managed to move and get out of the car. Her legs still felt like rubber, but she couldn’t stay in the parking garage all day. Turning, she forced herself to move to the door.
What am I going to do? I can’t marry a man like that. I’m not even sure if I can look at him now.
Stopping, she looked at the elevator door. Just the thought of stepping inside left her feeling suffocated and trapped. Hugging the purse again, she turned toward the stairwell. Keep moving—she had to.
Trapped, I am, aren’t I? Trapped in a relationship. Just that one word showed her the next move. She had to get out of this relationship. Aiden was not her dream man, if such a thing existed, but he had been comfortable. Admitting that, she now accepted that the relationship was too comfortable to be real.
When she reached her third-floor apartment, she wasn’t out of breath. But, as numb as she felt, she wasn’t sure if she was breathing. Maybe this was just a dream and she’d wake up any second now. Giving herself a small reprieve, she let that thought marinate for a few seconds before reality came crashing back.
It took her two tries to get the key into the lock. What had his associate said just before my world darkened? “We haven’t found a body or any sign of him, Aiden.” Him, who? A body? A body!
As Rayne stepped inside her apartment the dreamlike veil lifted away, revealing reality. A reality I’m not sure how I can live with. She quickly locked the door, all three locks. Not it would protect her, Aiden had keys. Leaning back against the door she tried to calm down and think.
Aiden was some sort of mob, mafia…whatever? Standing there she waited to feel her doubts were unsubstantiated, but it didn’t happen. Her fear was the truth. This explained the dangerous looking misfits he had in his employ. They had never quite fit she thought. Aiden wasn’t a boy scout—she knew that. He was a powerful man, as his father had been, but what kind of power was now very clear to her. Closing her eyes, Rayne held a trembling hand over her heart, it was still beating too heavily. I can’t look at him again. Ever. This only meant one thing...
She looked around the pretty apartment for a moment, taking two steps towards the kitchen before stopping. She had to leave, now. Everything was his. He paid for everything in this apartment, she worked in his gallery. Her whole world was controlled by him…
Moving in a slow circle, Rayne studied everything in sight.
Every. Single. Thing.
Bought by him, in one way or another. Taking a deep breath, she tried to exhale slowly. Failing, her breath huffed out in one loud whoosh. There was no alternative, she had to get out of here.
Kicking off her shoes, she bent down, scooped them up, and headed towards the bedroom.
Faster than she ever changed before, the skirt was stripped off and tossed on the bed. Barely having both legs in her jeans, Rayne began pulling open drawers and cabinets, dumping the contests all over the bed. All she really owned were clothes, her beloved camera, laptop and a few mementos to remind her of her parents. All of it was going in her car. A thought made her freeze as she held the empty drawer over the bed— her car was in his name. Dropping the drawer on the pile, Rayne sat on the bed, defeated. In the mirror, a frightened woman stared back. Seeing herself was enough to jolt her back into action. Giving the frail looking reflection a determined nod, she made a solid decision. To hell with him. She was taking the car. He hated it, called it girlie, and complained it wasn’t comfortable. The car is now mine.
Forty-five minutes later Rayne surveyed the bedroom. There was nothing left that she wanted. Leaning down and picking up the last bag, she went to set it with the rest. “This is pathetic, Rayne Andrews. Your entire life fits in six cases and a couple of purses.”
She walked through the apartment for the last time, working out how to get all of the cases downstairs to the car without causing suspicion, when the ring of her cell phone pierced the silence. She looked over at her purse, the ringtone was Aiden’s. A few seconds after it stopped, the phone on the table began to ring. Can I do this? Taking a deep breath, “Buy some time,” she whispered aloud just before answering it.
“There you are. You didn’t answer your cell.”
He may be using that soft tone, but she now knew what he was. “Oh, I was taking the garbage to the garbage room.” Her hand shook as she held the phone and prayed that her voice didn’t give anything away.
“Where the hell is that girl I pay to do that?”
Just the way he said it made her tremble. “I-it’s Wednesday, Aiden. She doesn’t come in today.”
“Right. Listen baby, I may be here awhile. Could be most of the night...”
“That’s–fine. I was heading to the spa shortly.” Closing her eyes, she waited to see if he questioned that.
“Do you want me to come by in the morning to pick you up?”
For what? “Pick me up?”
He chuckled. “We have a brunch with Donny and his wife.”
Letting out the silent breath she’d been holding. “Oh, yes please.” Please let me sound normal.
“Okay baby. You go get all beautiful for me and I’ll see you in the morning. Ten o’clock.”
“Love ya, baby.”
“Me too.” She hung up quickly. Suddenly gasping for air, Rayne tried to settle her nerves again. Ten o’clock. Looking over at the clock and doing the math, she had seventeen hours to disappear.