Authors: Marissa Farrar
The Monster Trilogy: Book Two
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Lily cracked open
Light rushed in, blinding her for a moment, but instantly she knew something was wrong. She caught sight of the room, and confusion swept over her. But the weight of her eyelids was too great and they dragged shut again, the room vanishing from view.
She forced herself to focus.
Just open your eyes. It’s not such a big thing. Just make them open.
How could something she’d done every day since she’d been born suddenly feel like such a mammoth task? It was as though someone had attached weights to her lids, and no matter how hard she tried, they refused to budge.
Maybe I should just lie here a while.
It felt good to dream.
Another voice spoke up in her head, jolting her like a slap to the face.
You need to wake up. Something is wrong.
That same certainty soaked into her soul. The last thing she remembered was going to bed with Monster—
no, Merrick, he wants you to call him Merrick now
—so why would she now have sworn on her life that she was back in her apartment?
My apartment. I’m back in my apartment.
For a moment, she wondered if she’d been caught in a long and vivid dream. Had everything she’d experienced—from her abduction, to meeting Monster, to the violence she’d suffered at the hands of the Gonzalez-Larrinaga brothers—been no more than a dream? Had she actually come home from work that Friday evening? The woman with the fake baby and being hit over the head had been no more than her overactive imagination.
With renewed effort born of panic, Lily forced her eyes open. The room swam, and her eyelids slipped shut again. Her head felt thick and groggy, as though she’d spent a night drinking and had blacked out. Was that what had happened? Had she, for some insane reason, left work last night and gone out on a binge? That wasn’t like her at all. She had never been a big drinker, preferring a couple of quiet glasses of wine in front of the television instead.
Or was what she was experiencing now the dream? Was she actually still lying sound asleep in Monster’s—
Merrick, you’re supposed to call him Merrick now
—bed and all of this was a nightmare?
But deep down, she knew it wasn’t. That word echoed in her head.
She needed to open her eyes and keep them open.
Lily put every part of her drowsy, foggy brain into focusing on that one task. If she could just wake up, she’d be able to figure out what was going on, and that was going to be better than this horrible, mid-way state of consciousness she appeared to be in now. Something must have happened—an accident, perhaps. She never normally had this much trouble waking up.
Her eyelids fluttered again, and this time she fought the desire to sink back into sleep and made her eyes open. The view was blurred, smeared lines and colors, but what she could see made her stomach lurch and her heart leap in her chest. In the distance came the once familiar sounds of the city, the rising and falling wail of sirens, the low, constant hum of traffic. Gone was the birdsong of Cuba.
She heard a click, like that of a latch falling into place. Was someone else here? She’d assumed herself to be alone, though she wasn’t sure why, but now she was sure she’d just heard her front door either opening or closing.
She didn’t have any more time to think about it.
The sensation of her stomach crawling up her throat was not only psychological. Before she could choke on her own vomit, she twisted to one side and a stream of sick spewed from between her lips. Coughing and gagging, she emptied the contents of her stomach onto her kitchen floor.
She was awake now.
Lily pushed herself up onto all fours, trying to avoid putting her hands in her vomit, and hung there, panting, her eyes and nose streaming. She recognized the linoleum as being the same she’d picked out herself last summer. When she lifted her head and looked around, she knew she’d see her kitchen cupboards, her belongings surrounding her once more.
He wasn’t here with her, she knew that with certainty. She knew him too well now.
Lily let out a sob. “What have you done, Monster? What have you done?”
She replayed in her head the last time she could remember. Merrick had been trying to get her to return to the States, telling her Cuba wasn’t safe for her, that, with his contacts with his business, things would never be safe. He was worried for her, especially after the incident with the Gonzalez-Larrinaga brothers. In some ways, she understood his concerns, but he’d been the one to bring her into the situation. He should have been the one person who would do everything they could to protect her.
Except Monster’s idea of protecting someone wasn’t necessarily the same as a regular person’s.
Lily wiped her eyes and mouth with the back of her hand and cautiously sat back on her haunches. Her brain still felt thick, the room unsteady around her. She placed her hands on her thighs and lowered her head to try to make the place stop spinning. Gradually, it slowed, though her stomach still sloshed like the contents of a washing machine, and the threat of throwing up again pressed upon her. But though the physical side of things was wreaking havoc with her body, it was her heart that hurt the most.
He’d sent her home.
Monster had known she would never go willingly, so he sent her home in the same way he’d brought her into his life. He’d done it against her wishes, and by force.
Lily lifted her head.
“What did you do?” she yelled into the air, even though she knew he couldn’t hear her. “Drug me? Did you drug me, you son of a bitch?”
Maybe he could hear her? She wouldn’t put it past him to have arranged for cameras to be fitted into her apartment when she’d been dumped here.
“Fuck you, Monster,” she managed, her voice choked, her throat sore, her eyes flooding with tears. “You don’t even deserve to be called Merrick. You are a fucking monster and you’ve just proved it.”
Fueled by her anger, she stumbled to her feet. It felt surreal to be back in her apartment, though it no longer felt like home. The woman she’d been when she’d left for work on that Friday morning wasn’t the same woman who’d returned. Monster might have sent her home, but she’d left a piece of herself behind. And it hadn’t just been the part of her that loved him. She’d had a shred of herself stripped at every experience—her sense of safety, from initially being kidnapped … gone. Her dignity, when she’d been kept in that awful shipping container with the other girls, and forced to urinate where she sat … gone. Her ability to trust, taken from her by Monster’s most recent act … gone. He’d taken her for his own selfish reasons, stripped her of everything she’d worked so hard to build, and then dumped her back here like she was a stray cat he’d decided he no longer wanted to take care of.
That he’d done such a thing after she’d told him the truth about her past, and the reason for her phobia of being touched, hurt more than anything else. She’d confided in him and told him about the loss of her newborn baby daughter—something she hadn’t even discussed with her therapist. She’d finally let him into the conflicting emotions of the worst time in her life, and he acted as though it meant nothing.
Pushing down her nausea, she stared around her apartment, her eyes alighting on the lamps, cornices, picture and mirror frames, anywhere he might have had cameras installed to keep an eye on her. She couldn’t bring herself to think he’d brought her back here and intended to forget about her. Perhaps believing these things was a residual mark of what he’d done to her—the strange relationship that had grown between them, him as Master and her as his slave, and she wanted to believe he wouldn’t be able to let her go as easily as he had. Or perhaps it was simply that she knew him too well now.
Her rage blinded her to all rational thought, and she lunged at the nearest picture frame—a landscape of the beach and ocean—and ripped it from the wall. With a yell, she slammed it to the floor. Glass shattered, but she ignored it. It crunched beneath her foot as she attacked the mirror hung above her fireplace. Next went the standing lamp, and then the shades hanging from the ceiling. Anywhere cameras might be hidden was her focus, though in her anger she swiped glassware, picture frames, and vases from the units and sideboards. Nothing escaped her fury, and she took out all her emotions on the belongings around her, until she fell in a crumpled heap on the floor, and a cry of anguish escaped her throat.
Lily put her face in her hands and gave in to the tears, crying with great, heart-wrenching sobs. How could he do this to her? He’d told her he loved her. Surely if he loved her, he wouldn’t be able to imagine living without her.
A banging at the front door brought her to her senses, and she looked up and wiped away her tears. Stupidly, her traitorous little heart leaped. Could it be him? Had he changed his mind and come to get her?
No, Monster would never knock. He’d be in the room with her before she even saw him coming.
“Hey!” a male voice shouted through the door. “What’s going on in there? I’m calling the police!”
Police! The word jarred through her.
She got back to her feet and stumbled to the door. She’d made too much noise when she’d smashed up her apartment. After spending so much time isolated and alone, she’d forgotten what it was like to have people around her.
“No, it’s okay,” she called back in panic. “Everything’s okay.”
But the banging came again, insistent. Whoever was there didn’t appear to be going away any time soon.
With a resigned sigh, she opened the door to a man in his thirties. His light brown, jaw-length hair was shaggy, and he wore a leather jacket and a concerned expression in his hazel eyes. She recognized him—he lived in her building—but they’d never exchanged anything more than a polite smile. Lily had never been someone to encourage any kind of relationship, even if it was only a neighborly one.
But the man’s mouth fell open at the sight of her. “Holy shit. You’re back.”
“I’m sorry. What?”
“You’ve been missing for weeks. The police have been crawling all over this place, asking questions. They found your car abandoned down by the river. Everyone thought you were dead.”
“Yeah, well, clearly, I’m not.”
His gaze traveled over her shoulder, to the wreckage of her apartment, to the small pile of vomit still in a puddle on the floor.
Embarrassment at her personal hygiene swarmed over her. She didn’t know when she’d last taken a shower, and she must stink of sick. Her cheeks heated and she stepped back. “I’m fine, thank you. I have to go now.”
She moved to push the door shut, but he reached out and stopped it, the palm of his hand flat on the wood.
“Hang on a minute. You’re clearly not fine.”
The concern in his voice caused her emotions to bubble up again, and she struggled to hold on to them. “It was a bad relationship,” she managed to say, though her voice was choked. “I’m out of it now.”
“I’d still like to call the police for you. You need to let them know you are safe. Your disappearance has been all over the papers and everything.”
She shook her head. “I can’t do that. I’m sorry for the trouble.”
His eyes drifted beyond her again, and his brow furrowed, his eyebrows drawing down. “Did he do that to your apartment? Is he still here?”
“No, I did that,” she admitted. “I was angry, and I took it out on my stuff rather than someone else.”
“Are you hurt? Can I take you to the hospital?”
Where his concern had touched something only moments before, it was now starting to rile her. “Look, I’ve already told you, I’m fine. Now would you step out of my doorway so I can close the door? I don’t need anyone’s help, especially not yours.”
His shoulders dropped and he exhaled a sigh, lifting his hand in surrender and removing it from her door at the same time. “Okay, okay. But please, talk to the cops, even if it’s only to stop them wasting any more time looking for you.”
Lily didn’t want to hear any more. She pushed the door shut and then stood with her back against it. Her hand clamped to her mouth to stifle a sob and she slid down the wood, her backside hitting the floor. Guilt rose up inside her like swamp water in a flood.
The police had been searching for her, thinking she was seriously hurt or dead. But she
been kidnapped—it wasn’t as though she’d faked the whole thing. Yet she’d been fine for a while, and she’d given no thought to letting anyone at home know. When she’d been living, caught in a little bubble with Monster, people had been looking for her. She hadn’t even given them a second thought. The police, all her work colleagues, the people who lived around her. Because she wasn’t close to anyone, she’d assumed no one would have missed her, but instead she’d been all over the news and in the papers while people tried to search for her, and in the end decided she must be dead. The police had wasted time looking for her when they could have been helping someone else.
But I was abducted,
she reminded herself.
I had needed their help for a while.