Beyond Ransom (The Ransom Series) (10 page)

BOOK: Beyond Ransom (The Ransom Series)
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14

 

Comfort

 

I sit there in the blistering heat and
sunshine for hours, sweat beading down my face under Leo’s shirt while my almost
completely exposed body is scorched by the sun.  Dehydration drains me of all
energy.  The life seems to be baked right out of me.

I can barely think straight by the time
the vicious sun start
s
to set, its rays not as
powerful as they were in the hours before.  It takes all the willpower I have
left and the comfort of Leo’s scent
o
n his shirt over
my head to keep me going.

Footsteps approach from behind me,
quick steps.  I don’t care if they belong to Leo or Mark or Quinn or whoever so
long as they get me the hell out of this oven and back inside.

“Jesus Christ.”  It’s Leo’s voice, and
I immediately burst into tears.

“Leo.”  My voice is shaky.  A sob
escapes me.  “Please get me back inside.  Please.”

He removes the shirt from my head. 
When I see his shocked and horrified face
,
my hands
naturally want to reach out to him even though I know I’m still held back by
the restraints.  He can’t get me detached from this chair fast enough.

“You can’t react to me,” Leo warns.  “I
know you want to, but you have to wait until we get back
in
the cell.  I don’t know who’s watching.”

I nod for him, tears still streaming
down my face.  He’s working at a panicked rate to set me free.  When I’m
finally out of the restraints
,
he scoops me up in his
arms and carries me.

I should feel relief and happiness at
being rescued from th
is
hell, but instead I’m consumed
with the fiery pain that overtakes my senses in every aspect of his touch
against my
skin
.  An involuntary yelp escapes me, and
I continue to cry.

Leo tenses but doesn’t stop moving. 
“I’ll try not to touch you any more than I have to.  I know it hurts, but you’ll
get through this.  We’ll make it better soon.”

I try to take comfort in his words
,
but it’s hard when my body feels like it’s actually on fire.

“I’m so sorry,” Leo says to me quietly
as he moves us.  “I caused this.  I stormed out of there without taking the
empty bottle with me last night.  I did this to you.”  His voice sounds ready
to crack.

I shake my head in his arms.  “Not your
fault.”  I’m speaking through gritted teeth at this point just to get those few
words out.  I need Leo to distract me.  I need anything to take my mind off
this pain.  “Don’t run again.  I need you.”

We’re near the side of the prison now. 
It’
s
an imposing
,
wide
expanse of a building with
barred,
cloudy windows.

Leo looks down at me briefly before
turning us toward a nearby door.  “I won’t run.”

“Promise me.”

He stops us at the door
and
looks into my eyes
.  “I promise.  Pinky swear.”

A slight smile curves up his lips,
piercing through the pain in my burning skin to trigger a  
similar
grin on my face.

It’s the greatest relief to be back
inside my literal prison.  I missed the unnatural fluorescent lighting and
thick cement roof over my head.  My cell and that uncomfortable cot are calling
for me.  I need to leave the conscious world for a
while.  I’m ready to shut down and give my body a break.

“Leo,” I whisper.

“Shh.  Not yet.”

I close my eyes as he carries me,
trying desperately to relax and take comfort in his hold of me while I push
through the pain.  My tears have stopped by the time I hear the familiar creak
in the opening of the door to my cell.  I open my eyes just in time for him to set
me down carefully in a sitting position on the cot.

Leo sits next to me, taking the sides
of my face in his hands.  I can feel the residual tears on my cheek
s
absorb into the warmth of his skin.  I love that this touch
doesn’t hurt.  It negates the rest of the pain.  It calms me and makes me feel
safe, and I can’t stop the hint of a smile that forms on my lips.
 
“Thank you for the T-shirt.  You saved my face.”

Leo’s look of worry eases into his own
smile.  “I had to.  Your face is too beautiful to ruin.”  He runs his thumbs
over the scab that remains from the cut he made on my cheek, and his smile
falters.  “I need to leave you for just a minute.  We need to get something on
these burns.”

“Okay,” I say automatically, even
though internally I know it’s not okay.  I don’t want him to leave me,
not
even for a few minutes.

Leo leans in to place his lips on mine
briefly before he gets up to leave the room.  In the few minutes he’s gone
,
I’m left with nothing to focus on but the pain, and it just about
drives me mad.  I feel like to rip at my skin to claw the burning away and
release the tension in my body.

When I see Leo reappear at the door
,
I feel some relief.  I try to focus on his movements as he sits
down next to me again with a bottle of aloe.  I can almost feel the green gel
soothing my skin just by looking at it.

Leo pauses a moment to observe me, his
fingers moving to the straps of my bra.  “I think we should take this off.”

“Admit it.  You just want another
peek.”

I don’t know how I’m managing an
attempt at humor given the exhaustion and pain that overwhelms me
, but m
y comment elicits the most wonderful knowing smile from Leo as he
reaches around me to unclasp my bra.

“Extra bonus,” he teases.  He doesn’t
try to hide the fact that he’s watching every movement of my breasts coming
free as he carefully pulls the straps down my arms.  “I really wish I was
undressing you under other circumstances.”  He removes the bra from me
completely and squeezes a generous amount of aloe into his palm.  “I’ll try to
be gentle.”

I involuntarily flinch a
t the first
touch of his fingers to my bright red shoulder
,
but
with each soft sweep of his fingers across the skin I recognize just how much
better it feels.  The aloe has an instant cooling effect that is enhanced by
Leo blowing air across the wet gel.  His fingers move slowly and with only the
amount of pressure necessary to accomplish their task.  He is just as gentle as
he said he would be.

When my shoulders and arms are covered
with aloe, Leo moves on to the areas of my chest that weren’t protected by my
bra.  In the proximity of his hands caressing the skin so close to my breasts
,
I feel the need and desire for his intimate touch peak within me.

“I used to get sunburns a lot,” I blurt
out in an attempt to distract myself.  “When I was a kid
,
I was notorious for going outside without putting on sunscreen.  I
don’t
k
now if I was really that forgetful or if I was
just being stubborn trying to find something to go against my parents’ wishes.”

Leo’s working his hands over the red
skin on my belly and hips now, and it’s driving me absolutely fucking crazy.  I
feel like my skin might burst from the sexual energy he’s causing within me.

“I, um…” I say stupidly.  “God, you’re
killing me here, Leo.”

A laugh escapes him, and it’s such a
beautiful sound.  “You think I’m doing any better over here?”

I glance down to see an obvious bulge
under Leo’s jeans.  “You make a good point,” I concede.

“Tell me about your life before,” he
offers, clearly trying to help distract us both.  “What was it like to be
Morgan Whitford before all this?”

“I was boring,” I say immediately.  Leo
gives me a skeptical look as he squeezes more aloe into his hands and starts
working it over my burned thighs.  “I’m serious.  I was your typical good girl
at school and at home.  Always.  Everything was safe: my friends, my
boyfriends, my after school activities.  It’s like I was in this stupid bubble
that my dad created around me, and there was no escaping it.  No deviation from
it.  Ever.”

I’m surprised at myself for ranting
this long.  It’s a good distraction from the pain and Leo’s touch, so I
continue.

“I can’t even remember a time when I
felt like I was living my own life and making my own decisions.  My parents
dictated everything.  They were tricky about it, too, using reverse psychology
and all that shit to make me think I was making my own choices when in reality
they were pushing me toward what they wanted me to choose.  It was really
fucked
-
up, honestly.”

“Maybe they just cared about you,” Leo
suggests.  “A cop’s family is naturally more
at
risk. 
It sounds like he was just trying to protect you.”

“But he didn’t let me live.”  I look to
the cement wall behind Leo as I search for the right words.  “I know it sounds
crazy, but since the moment I was taken
,
I’ve finally
felt alive and free.  Despite where I am
right now,
it’s almost a relief to be out from under that oppressive protection.”

“I think you’re looking at this the wrong–”

“The things I’ve done with you, Leo,” I
interrupt, “the way we’ve kissed and you’ve touched me and I’ve touched you… my
parents never allowed any of those things.  I wasn’t allowed to feel those
feelings.  I think that’s why this is all so intense for me
and
why I feel this way with you.”

“I get it.  I do.”  We’re both silent a
moment as Leo
turns me to
pull my lower legs gently
across his lap.  He continues his application of the soothing aloe on my skin. 
“Don’t you miss it, though?  Your life before and your family?”

I stare at him for a few seconds before
what he’s
saying
finally clicks with me.  “Oh my God. 
I’m so thoughtless.”

Leo looks up from what he’s doing with concern,
and our eyes lock.  My hands move to his face, my fingers feeling his skin from
his hairline down his cheeks. 

“You never had that,” I realize. 
“Well, you did, and it was taken away from you.  Having a true family.  Feeling
protected.  It was all taken away from you when you were young.”  I feel the
full weight of my words
,
and it all hits me at once,
tears instantly forming behind my eyes.  “And I’m sitting here ready to throw
it all away in my own life.  What am I thinking?  God, my parents must be
worried sick.  Oh, God.”

My breathing becomes ragged and my arms
begin to shake as the feelings consume me, overwhelming me with guilt and shame
and heartache at the thought that I could even possibly
believe
that being taken from my parents and tortured while captive
is
a better life than what I had before.  I was fortunate.  I was
lucky to have what I did.  Others can’t say the same.  Leo can’t even say the
same.

When the first tears fall
,
Leo abandons the aloe to pull me against him, rocking me back and
forth while being careful not to squeeze me too much.  The tightness in my
chest at the emotions overwhelming me hit a peak before his soothing actions
finally help to calm
me
down.

“I’m sorry.  I’m so stupid to think
these things, Leo.  I’m really sorry.”

He takes deep, even breaths as my tears
absorb into his shirt.  “Don’t apologize.  You don’t need to.”

I try to match my breathing to Leo’s as
he holds me there.  “I do miss them,” I whisper, leaning into his hold just a
little more.  “I miss meals with them and the conversations we’d have.  I miss
the beaming smile on Mom’s face when she got back from the gym every day.  I
miss the feeling of relief every time Dad came home safe from work.  I miss
how
they’d find a way to hug me any chance they g
o
t and hold me a couple seconds too long just because they could.”

“Your life wasn’t all that bad,” Leo comments.

“No
,
I guess
it wasn’t.”  I pull back slightly from Leo’s embrace so I can look up at him. 
“It’s not that bad at this moment, either.  With you.”

Leo shakes his head and winces at my
words.  “Today I tortured you then let the sun bake you alive.”

“You didn’t have a choice.”

Leo remains silent.  He knows I’m
right.

He grabs the aloe again and finishes
applying it to my legs and feet in silence.

“I’m worried,” he says when he’s done. 
He lifts my legs carefully off him to place my feet on the floor.

“More than before?”

He nods.  “Mark’s unpredictable, and he
seems to be escalating this.  You need to do what you can to obey him.  You and
I both need to be more careful.  We can’t give him a reason to do something
extreme like this again.”

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to
do much of anything, honestly.”  I look down my almost naked body and take in
the blistering that is already starting to occur in portions of my skin.  “I
just need to keep my tongue in check.  I’ll try.”

BOOK: Beyond Ransom (The Ransom Series)
13.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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