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Chapter 42

I curled up in the corner of the kitchen, pulling my knees to my chest tautly. My sweatshirt sleeves rolled over the palms of my hands, and my underwear stuck to me, blood acting as a glue. My eyes stared vacantly into the other side of the room, past the barriers of the island or chandelier. I was lost in my mind—no longer concerned with the material world, a vagabond in my own mind. I clenched my hands into taut fists, not daring to look at him.

Jude knelt down beside me, his hands resting on his knees. He crumpled his brow as those demonic amber eyes observed me with great concern stressing that wrinkled face. His lips turned down as he noticed the dried, clotted blood streaking down my legs. He rustled his short hair with one hand as he shook his head nonchalantly. “They tore you up, didn’t they?”

I leaned against the wall and buried my face in the corner in response.

His fingers brushed against my shoulder. He apologized, “I’m sorry, Devin; they should have been gentle. They should know not to break my things.”

We sat in silence for a minute, his breathing labored and heavy for some unknown reason. His fingers rested on my shoulder, and I shivered away, curling into a taut ball in the corner of the room.

“Come here.”

His fingers dug into my shoulder deeply, but I shrugged him away. His gnarled fingers released me. And then he pulled himself away from me and stood up.

I turned to him with my bloodied face and observed him with curiosity, not unafraid but not terrified. My blue eyes absorbed the image of him stretching his back, his arms reaching for the ceiling as he rocked onto his toes.

Our eyes locked, and I felt something shift in my stomach.

He snatched my hair and threw me; my side smashed into the floor, my air escaping from my lungs. I gasped and tried to put my arms in front of my abdomen, but I was too late. A leather-clad foot slammed into my stomach, and then he leaned into the wall, his palms flat against the wall. Another kick rocked me into the wall, and then a mighty barrage of kicks ensued. Each impact made me spit, and each hit reverberated through my whole body. I clenched my eyes shut and begged for it to stop, my hands crumpling near my face to at least protect my head.

All of this hate had been stored in my heart for this man, and over time, I never thought I would be rid of it. In this moment, however, I no longer loathed this man. I was terrified of him, scared of what he would and could do next, frozen by just the thought of him.

He grunted, “God, this feels so good.”

He threw his laces into one of my ribs, and a crack ensued. I had run out of tears. I had run out of physical pain, I thought. I lost the capacity to handle any of this anymore, immune to the horrors of this reality.

And then he stopped kicking me, huffing for air, wheezing for it to return like a reflection of his daughter. His wild eyes bulged from the rush, from the surge of endorphins he so constantly craved. He knelt down beside me again and grabbed my forearms. “Come here,” he murmured authoritatively.

I slowly shook my head.

Jude’s ferocity expelled into me through the back of his hand pounding into my cheek. My face snapped into the floor, and then I languidly turned back to him, my eyes pleading for him to stop, for help.

He pulled me to a seated position, and then I lulled back against the wall, my eyes wandering across the room, memorizing the room and its edges, the memories I had in the kitchen with my mother, my sister, Heath, Holden…Ned. The frayed edges of my memories bent and contorted upon even the slight mentioning of him, and a part of my heart imploded thinking of him. I wished he was there to help me; I wished he was there to protect me.

But Ned is not Heath.

“Get up and go to the bathroom.” His hand gripped my neck, his forearm present right next to my face. I counted the pulses of his heart just by glancing at his engorged veins, a light mist across his skin from perspiration. And then an urge fell over me.

My teeth quickly dug into arm, my jaw slackened enough to wrap around his whole wrist. Even though I didn’t manage to put a lot of pressure into the bite, I drew blood.

A fist slammed into the back of my head and then again and again.

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