“Love the witch outfit.” Jackson said over the loud music. “Some tricks you got up your sleeves?”
“What are you doing here, Jackson?” I asked, practically screaming over the loud music. Now that I knew it was him beneath all that skeletal makeup, I wondered how I hadn’t recognized him before.
“Following you of course.” He joked.
The way he said it, I suspected if he really did follow me here. How had he known I was here? Or was it perhaps a coincidence?
“You need to come back to the asylum, re-admit yourself.” I said.
“Do you miss me that much?” He pulled on his cocky grin. “I love how you’re bossy the second you see me.”
I rolled my eyes.
“I didn’t escape to go back to that hellhole again.” He got hold of my wrist and started dragging me away from the dance floor.
“Where are you trying to take me?” I said, resisting his grip on my wrist.
He let it go at once. “Just want to talk, nothing else. The music is too loud here, let’s go underground.”
I folded my arms across my chest. “You’re stupid if you think I’m going anywhere with you.”
The DJ changed the song to a slower one. Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud. Jackson grinned. “Looks like the DJ can read my mind.” He slid his arm around my waist and pulled me taut against his chest, bringing his mouth close to my ear, he whispered. “Dance with me.”
My body moved along with his in a slow dance. It was just a dance nothing else. He wouldn’t try anything in public. Right?
Unless he was desperate to go to prison again. I didn’t even carry a weapon with me that I could use should the time arise.
I felt his nose bury in my hair, my head fitting perfectly in the crook of his neck. He smelled different, not like the hospital soap or the detergent. He smelled musky and male. I moved with the flow of the slow beats, at this point I wondered if all the logic had left my body.
I tried to pull away from him, but his grip tightened around my waist. “A little while longer, Riley, please.” His voice was husky and pure silk.
If the devil was a human, he’d look just like Jackson.
I let him waltz me around for a while. “Is Dr. Shaw truly pissed with the prospect of his pet nurse teaming up with the enemy?”
I gave out a laugh. “You have no idea.”
“Well, I can only imagine.” He said.
I had a ball of rage bubbling inside me ready to surface. I tried to get out of his grasp. “Let me go!” I let out a frustrated yelp that only he could hear over the music.
To the onlookers we probably looked like a couple having a small argument.
That only made Jackson dig his fingers deeper into my waist, possessively. “Ouch!”
I placed my palms on his chest and tried to push away from him but he wouldn’t budge. He was smiling, that smug smile again, and his eyes were blazing with something that I wasn’t aware of. “Fight me, sweetheart. Fight me all you want.”
“You threatened to kill my brother. I almost lost my job because of you! Aaron won’t even look at me now.” I said with gritted teeth. “It’s your entire fault, Jackson!” And then the tears began falling without me even realizing.
Jackson’s stare turned daunting, and if I wasn’t terrified before, I was now. “Why does it even matter to you if Aaron looks at you or not?” He caught my jaw in his fingers. “Do you have some feelings for him, Riley? Why is it always Aaron this, Aaron that!" He loosened his grip on my chin. And I thought I saw hurt flash in his toffee-colored eyes, like I was a cheating girlfriend.
“Are you jealous, Jackson?”
Why was he acting like a jealous boyfriend all of a sudden? Did he ever ask me out in a different dimension and I possibly said yes because I’d lost my mind?
“Jealous?” He laughed. “I’d be jealous if there was any reason to be. I’ll never be threatened by the likes of Shaw or Bennet or anyone for that matter.”
“Don’t you think you’re too full of yourself? Besides, why do you think I would have feelings for a killer?”
“You’re drawn to the bad guys, Cotton-Candy. You may try to find someone like Shaw, always the sweet, helping doctor that the nurses adore, the type of guy who would give flowers. But deep down, you seek the darkness. You don’t need flowers; all you need is a man who’d kill for you. Isn’t that right, Riley?”
I was rendered speechless. It frightened me how Jackson saw right through my mind. He voiced the thought that I was too ashamed to admit.
A few minutes later I said, “Aaron is my mentor. He’s like a brother to me and you have a sick mind, Jack!” I said trying to turn away from him but Jackson was faster, he brought his lips crashing against mine, it was a slow kiss at first and then it got deeper. His tongue seeking entrance, I parted my mouth just a little and his tongue delved into the contours of my mouth. I moaned as the sparks of pleasure went down to my toes. Without being conscious of my actions, my fingers bunched up in his fine dark hair.
He broke the kiss to trail his tongue down my jaw and neck. Sensual and sloppy kisses. My heart stopped beating for a minute and I froze when he reached my collar bone. I pulled away from him and as if he could read my mind, he whispered. “I would never hurt you. Believe me.”
“I don’t trust you.” I said and started walking away.
He seized my hand. “Come with me.”
I spun around to face him, confused by what he’d just said. He repeated. “Come with me, Riley.”
“Where?” I asked.
“Wherever that I’m going.” He pauses and continued a beat later. “Just come with me.” He insisted as I stared at him in disbelief. He traced my lower lip with her thumb. “I will protect you, Cotton-Candy. I promise. I won’t let anyone lay a finger on you.” He touched his forehead to mine. “It would just be us. Together. Forever.”
“I don’t want to go anywhere with you.” I snapped, pulling my hand out of his grasp for the hundredth time tonight.
“Because you’re crazy Jack, and I’d rather be away from you than with you.”
“Those are lies and you know it.” He said.
“I’d be damned if I was lying about that.”
“The kiss didn’t exactly say that. You responded to me. You liked it as much I did.”
“I don’t have time for your games!”
His eyes were focused somewhere behind me, he said. “There’s a reason why I’m here. I wanted to tell you something; to warn you.”
I raised my hand to stop him. “I don’t want to listen to anything that you have to say. I can’t trust someone who deceived me to get away from there, much less a killer.”
“Riley, please...just listen to me once. Just once.” He pleaded, gaze darted behind me again.
“I don’t want to! Just leave me alone, Jackson!” I said firmly, trying hard to not be lost in those smoldering eyes.
I was going insane.
Thankfully, he took that as a sign of my disapproval and didn’t follow me as I threaded through the crowd of people and towards the parking lot. I decided to text Maddy to tell her I was going home so I opened my bag and rummaged through it for my phone and came empty. I’d become careless and absent minded in a very short time, I’d never been this way. I pinned the blame on Jack. He was one reason I’d been concentrating less and less on my work, he was the reason for the growing distance between Aaron and me.
I didn’t want to admit it but I’d liked the way Jackson’s lips felt against mine. There had been nothing in his kiss that felt even remotely revolting, it was like he was trying to prove me something. Maybe I was just as crazy as he was, or maybe I was worse.
I walked back into the club and searched every corner of the bar, even looked under the seat but it wasn’t there. There was a possibility I’d left my phone in my car so I walked back to the parking lot, keeping a close eye behind me. The parking lot was almost empty with only a few people huddled in groups by their respective cars, too intoxicated to even think straight.
I spotted my car a few rows down and started walking towards it. I had an eerie feeling of someone following behind me. I stopped and looked back.
There was absolutely no one.
I turned forward and resumed walking towards the car, my feet picking up speed. I heard the footsteps behind me.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
I stopped again, this time my eyes were blurring with tears. “Jackson, if it’s you, please stop! It’s not funny anymore.” I didn’t want to sound so weak but I knew I’d sounded just that.
I hugged myself as if that could be enough as self-defense and “frightened” wasn’t even a close word to describe how I was feeling right now. I was terrified. I’d never seen the pictures of Jackson’s victims but I knew the gory details enough to realize I was in danger should Jackson decide to put me on his victim’s list. A chill ran down my body.
Maybe this was how Jackson murdered his victims; sweet-talking to them first, before brutally murdering and cutting them into pieces, and then taking home one of their belongings as a trophy.
In a few hasty strides, I managed to reach my car and fumbled inside my bag for the keys. My hands shook fiercely as I searched through it, finally finding the key within the depths of the bag.
I was so clumsy that I dropped the keys on the floor; cursing to myself I dropped down to my knees and looked for them, spotting it beneath the car parked next to mine. I picked them up and stood up.
That’s when a phone started ringing.
The familiar ring tone. That was undoubtedly my phone.
I glanced towards where the device was humming.
Jackson was leaning against a car, two rows down with my phone in his hand. The skeletal makeup looked even more alluring as he grinned. His voice echoed when he said. “Perhaps, I have something that you lost, Cotton-Candy.”
Phone, be damned!
I pressed the auto-locking remote of my car and pulled at the handle but the car wouldn’t open.
The bastard had did something.
I tried to open the drivers side of the door one more time before I took off, running through parking lot.
Until an arm snaked around my waist and pulled me into a corner. I was face to face with him.
“I asked you to come with me nicely, but you didn’t, so I have to do this the hard way.” He said.
“You can’t kill me. The police will...the police will find out and...”
“Shhh...it’s okay. Everything is going to be fine now.”
Just then I felt something like a needle pierce into my neck and I knew then that I was going to be nothing but another name in the list of his victims.
“Rise and Shine.” I heard the familiar voice, and suddenly a suffocating amount of sunlight poured into the room almost blinding me.
I sat straight up and looked around.
Where was I?
The events of last night came back to flashes. Meeting Jackson. Talking briefly to him. Kissing him. Having the quarrel and lastly, getting drugged.
That’s right. I’d been drugged before I was brought here.
I looked around to find him seated a few feet away. Clad in a tailored black suit, matched with a red tie, his dark hair ruffled. His long legs crossed in front of him, eyes assessing me. For a minute I didn’t recognize him. His entire demeanor had changed to that of a powerful man.
His lips pulled back in a slow sensuous smile. “Welcome to my home, Cotton-Candy.”