Authors: Jackie Ashenden
He'd scared her the day before, no question, and she hated being scared. But then when you were kidnapped at gunpoint and casually told that not only was your father a murdering sex trafficker and drug dealer, but also that he'd been killed, fear was a pretty natural response.
Still didn't mean she liked it.
He'd made her feel helpless as he'd towered over her, talking about shutting her up in the darkness in his basement, his black eyes cold, merciless. He was a psycho, that was all there was to it. And all because she'd dared to have a nap on his stupid. goddamn bed.
Not forgetting the part where he told you no one was coming for you. Remember that?
Violet stared down at the congealing eggs on the plate, any remaining appetite well and truly gone.
Yeah, not forgetting that part, or ignoring the sneaky doubt that threaded through her. The wondering about her mother and what she'd do now that her father was dead. Sure, she and her mother had had their run-ins, it was true. Like her husband, Hilary Fitzgerald wasn't exactly the world's warmest personâshe held everyone at a distance, her children included. But stillÂ â¦ she'd want to make sure her daughter was okay, wouldn't she?
A sudden thought struck Violet. Had her mother known what her father was? Had she known what he did? The secret life he'd had?
Oh God. What if she'd even been involved?
Violet shivered, staring around the apartment, a surge of desperation going through her. Jesus, she
to get out of here. Had to get away from Elijah and find out just what the hell was going on with her family. First her brother, then her father. Now her mother might be involved too. It was too much. Way, way too much.
Yeah, sure. Just get up and walk through the front door. That'll work.
She cursed silently and viciously in her head. Okay, so she didn't have a gun and didn't have the physical strength that would enable her to overpower Elijah. But she wasn't stupid. Clearly he wasn't going to hurt her or else he'd have done so already, plus he needed her alive. That gave her a few parameters to work with.
Pity she had no idea what was happening outside the apartment, but since there was no TV and he kept her away from the laptop, that couldn't be helped.
She got up from the couch and paced over to the bookshelf, looking at the books and pretending she was finding one to read.
“Stop.” His hard tone came from behind her.
Violet didn't look at him, studying the spines on the books and trying not to shiver again at the rough sound of his voice. “What?”
“Get away from the bookshelf.”
She threw a glance at him over her shoulder. He was still sitting at the table, but the black ice of his gaze was settled firmly on her over the top of the laptop screen. And there was no mistaking the anger and hostility radiating from him.
“Why?” It was probably stupid to be so demanding, especially given what he'd threatened her with the day before. But shit, she couldn't even read a book now?
“The books are not yours. Don't touch them.”
“What the hell else am I supposed to do then? Just sit around with a pair of handcuffs on?”
The menacing expression on his face didn't soften one iota. “I don't care what you do as long as you sit down on the couch and shut the hell up.”
It was annoying in the extreme to have to give in, but she wasn't stupid enough to push him. Not after yesterday.
Stepping back from the bookshelf, she nevertheless made herself hold his gaze. “Can I walk around at least. Is that okay with you?”
One massive shoulder lifted. “Just don't touch anything.”
“Why not? You think I'm going to break something? I'm not a child, Elijah.”
His scarred mouth twisted. “Of course you're a child, princess. You're a fucking babe in the woods. Now stop whining and don't disturb me again.”
“But I didn'tâ”
“One more word and I'll put you downstairs, I swear.”
Violet bit her lip. Hard.
He looked away, back down at his screen, and she had the impression she'd almost ceased to exist for him.
Oh yeah, she hated him all right. God, she
to find a way out of here.
She paced around the coffee table for a bit, then went over to the little island of gym equipment, then back again, turning over ideas in her head one by one before discarding them.
After a while, Elijah pushed the laptop shut with an abrupt movement and rose from the table. He picked up the computer and disappeared down the hallway with it, then five minutes later, he was back again, tucking something into the pocket of his worn jeans.
“I'm going out,” he said shortly, putting on the leather biker jacket he held in one hand. “Don't do anything stupid.”
Violet stopped in the middle of the room, the heavy slide of the handcuffs on her wrists reminding her for the fifty millionth time she was a prisoner. They were starting to hurt now, not helped by her bracelets, and there were red welts circling her skin.
“Like what?” she said sarcastically. “Accidentally try to escape? Sure, I'll get right on that.”
He stared at her. “Remember what I said about the basement.”
“You're a fucking psycho.”
He didn't even blink. “No, what I am is fucking determined.”
“Why? What is it about this Jericho guy?”
“None of your goddamn business. Nowâ¦” The look he leveled at her froze her to the spot. “Don't touch my books. And stay the fuck away from my bedroom. If I find you've been a bad girl, the next meal you'll be having will be in the basement. In the dark.”
Her heart gave a wild burst of fear at that, but she fought it down. Refused to let it show on her face. “Thank you, but I'd rather starve.”
“That can be arranged.” Without another word, he strode to the door and went out, the sound of it closing behind him as final and heavy as that of a bank vault.
Violet turned and began pacing again.
She had to get out and there was only one way that was going to happen: with him. But how to get him to take her? Obviously asking him wasn't going to work, and she had a feeling pleading and playing the female tears card wouldn't either. He was as hard as obsidian and twice as sharp. He'd probably put her in the basement for even suggesting it.
No, the only way she was going to get him to take her out was an emergency of some kind. LikeÂ â¦ if she was hurt and needed medical attention.
Violet stopped pacing near the entrance to the kitchen, staring sightlessly into space, trying to ignore the cold clutch of fear.
If she managed to hurt herself badly enough, he'd have to take her to the doctor, even a hospital. And she had no doubts he'd do it since he seemed pretty keen on keeping her alive. The only question was whether she had the guts to do something like that.
But then again, what other choice did she have? She had to make a move and soon, take advantage of the fact people would be looking for her, because no matter what he said, people
to be looking for her. They had to.
The only other option was to stay here and wait for the right moment, whenever that was. But then that would risk her being all laid out for Jericho when he decided to come. And who knew what would happen then?
No, she couldn't wait. She needed to make a move and she needed to make it now. With her father dead it was even more important for her to find out what had happened to Theo.
She took a deep, steadying breath.
So. What to do? If she was going to hurt herself, she needed to do it badly enough that Elijah couldn't fix it himself, yet not so badly that she'd die if she didn't get treatment immediately. Tricky.
Turning she went into the kitchen and began looking through the cupboards. There were various different cleaning solutions but downing a bucket of bleach would only end up corroding her insides and she definitely didn't want that, especially not if she wanted to get away from the hospital or medical center quickly.
No, it had to be something like a wound. Painful but if it was stitched up she could still move around.
For a moment she paused, looking down at herself, thinking. Then her gaze went to her reddened wrists. A cut there, yes. If she did it right and timed it correctly, she'd bleed a lot and he'd have to get her to the hospital quickly, but if they stitched her up, she'd probably be okay sooner than if she'd poisoned herself.
What are you? A fucking idiot?
Yes, she probably was. A desperate fucking idiot.
Without letting herself think too deeply about it again, Violet started going through the kitchen drawers. He'd already told her there wasn't anything sharp there, but she searched anyway and sure enough, she turned up nothing.
Undeterred, she started searching the rest of the apartment. If there wasn't a handy knife, she'd find something else to cut herself with. There had to be something, for God's sake. Weren't people always being taken to the hospital for getting injured by seemingly innocuous things? Like tea cozies or chairs or stuff like that?
Yet half an hour later, she still hadn't turned up anything.
Cursing, she went back into the bathroom she'd already searched at least twice, upending the box of medical supplies Elijah had used the day before, and going through them once again. God, she'd even be happy with some nail clippers at this rate.
After pawing awkwardly through a whole lot of bandages and getting a whole lot of nothing, she eventually threw them at the wall in frustration.
A distinctive metallic sound chimed.
She blinked and looked down to see a tiny pair of scissors that must have gotten caught up with the bandages lying next to the shower cubicle.
Her heart thumping, Violet reached down and grabbed them.
Okay, so nail clippers weren't far off. These were nail scissors with small curved blades, and they didn't look sharp enough to do damage to anything. But then again, they were better than nothing.
She straightened, holding them in one hand, trying to figure out how she was going to cut herself while she was handcuffed. It would take some contortions but she thought she'd manage.
Yeah, you'll probably manage to cut your tendons or something. Are you really sure this is a good idea?
No. It was a really stupid idea. But she couldn't keep sitting around waiting to be put in a dark basement or to be handed over like a piece of meat to whoever this Jericho guy was.
“No, princess. No one is coming for you.”
The doubt threading through her abruptly pulled tight. That was another thing she didn't want to wait for, the slow, terrible realization that he was right. That no one was going to come. That she was on her own.
Right, so if she was going to do this, she needed to know when Elijah was going to return. Cutting herself too early could be a very bad thing indeed, yet cutting herself too late would mean nothing but pain, probably a dark basement, and definitely any further chance of escape gone.
She only had one shot at this so she had to get it right.
He'd been gone half an hour already so hopefully he wouldn't be too much longer. Because if she had to wait another half an hour or so, she wasn't going to be able to go through with it. Already the thought of cutting herself with a tiny pair of scissors was making her palms damp and nausea roil in her stomach.
Didn't sometimes people cut their wrists in the bath because warm water numbed the pain? Perhaps she should do that?
Violet turned and went over to the big, white claw-foot marble tub that stood near one of the windows, turning on the faucet.
Then she stood there, breathing deeply and slowly, the way she did when she wanted to annoy her mother with another pretense at meditation. All part of the hippie-chick act that drove Upper East Side Hilary crazy. Funnily enough it worked. After about ten minutes she was feeling better. More determined.
She might be a babe in the woods, but dammit, this babe was not going to let herself be eaten.
When the bath was partly full, she turned off the water and stood there looking down at it for a moment. Then taking one more breath, she stepped into the tub fully clothed.
It was warm, so that helped her relax, but unfortunately it made her palms get even damper, which did
help her grip on the scissors. Dammit, when should she do this?
She sat for a second, just listening. But there was no sound from the outside.
Okay, the longer she sat here, the more likely she'd lose her nerve. Which meant if she didn't do it now, she was screwed.
Violet took one last deep breath and gripped the scissors, angling her hands.
Then she brought the blades down hard across her wrist.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Elijah shook out the paper and stared at the newsprint in front of him. It hadn't made the front page, but there it was on page two. Evelyn Fitzgerald, found dead in his home yesterday, the victim of a professional hit.
People on the sidewalk brushed past him but he ignored them as he stared at the paper. It pretty much said the same thing as all the other stuff he'd gleaned from his media search of the web that morning. Two dead bodyguards, signs of a fight in Fitzgerald's private office, plus other evidence apparently pointed to a paid hit carried out by a business competitor.
Fucking Zac Rutherford must have cleaned everything up, including planting evidence.
Which all in all was extremely good since it meant the heat was off him. All he had to worry about was Violet, and with any luck it would be days before they realized she was missing.
How goddamn weird to think he had Rutherford to thank for that.
Satisfied, Elijah bunched up the paper and dumped it in the nearest trash can. As he did so, the burner phone in his pocket vibrated. He pulled it out, glancing down at the screen.