Authors: Nina G. Jones
Copyright © 2014 NINA G. JONES
All rights reserved.
To everyone who supported STRAPPED, this one is for you! I hope you continue to enjoy this wild adventure.
Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Breathe
. Taylor chants the words over and over again in his thoughts as his body carves through the cool water of his pool. Swimming has served as a great distraction for him as long as he could remember, but this time it only works for a few minutes. He rests his forearms on the edge of the pool as he wonders what he should do next.
I should let her go.
He has known this from the beginning. He should never have pursued Shyla when she scampered out of the coffee shop on that fateful day. He should never have offered her that ride, or the job, or all of the gifts.
He has always had control; in fact, that was the only thing Taylor had been certain of, his ability to control every aspect of his life. But this woman, who looks like an innocent doll, has somehow managed to turn all of the meticulously planned order of his life into chaos. And yet, he cannot stay away. There is a pull, something beyond either of their comprehensions that continues to bring them back to each other.
I thought I was broken.
Ever since Taylor could remember he has never felt warmth or affection towards anyone in his life. He often wondered if he was defective. After a while he came to terms with the fact that he would never have those moments of passion; those moments of pure emotion that he
occasionally observed in other
people. He often mocked those who were newly in love.
A form of insanity
, he told himself. And now,
to his disgust, he
cannot will logic or rationality over his feelings for Shyla. When he is sitting in a meeting or being driven in his Bentley, his mind often wanders to thoughts of her and he has to hide his grin. He tries to stifle his emotions in hopes that she will walk away and save herself from a terrible fate, but just the slightest hint of sadness in her eyes
He feels that he must guard her, protect her in a way that he has never felt towards his subs. Yes, he took care of some of his subs, but this is more than that, this is not just about control.
I am in love. Fuck.
There is nothing he can do to stop it. He is now one of those hysterical, irrational, pathetic people he once looked down upon.
Taylor pulls himself out of the pool and wraps a towel over his wet body as he heads back into his house. He let her walk away after the incident because there was nothing left for them to say to each other. The experience they shared said it all, and it was now up to Shyla if she wanted to stay. Beneath all the lazy Sundays, extravagant gifts, and cute texts: this is who he really is. The right thing for them to do was part ways and let the flames cool. But really, he let her walk away because he knows she’ll come back. She’ll come back because she feels it too. And while it was ugly, while it was demented and pathological, it was also real. And if—when—she returns, he knows he can have all of her. She’ll put up a fight
that’s one of his favorite things about her, she makes him work for it
, but she won’t run away for good. He grabs his phone and sends her a message.
I meant what I said to you in the darkroom.
He knows the rational thing to do is to tell her to leave, save herself before it is too late, but Taylor’s love is greedy. Taylor’s love is selfish. His love doesn’t want to see her with someone else. His love does not want her to live a life without him. His love will consume Shyla whole until there is nothing left. There is no other way; there is no happy medium.
Taylor stares impatiently at his phone. Maybe this is the time she comes to her senses after all. He paces in his bedroom, resisting the urge to call her. This has to be her decision. This will only work if it is her call. He tries to think about anything else, but all his thoughts come back to her. The way her soft flesh turned red under the crop like a sweet apple. The way she winced and bit her lip to stifle the screams and instead let out a faint yelp. He didn’t want to be aroused, but there was nothing he could do to stop it. Taylor thought he could have lived a vanilla life with her. He was happy to do so, but then she asked. She asked to try the lifestyle and now that he has seen her tied and gagged and begging for mercy, he can never erase that.
He wants it all. He can finally have it all. There is no going back. There is no one else, but Shyla.
The phone rings.
He knew she would call because despite their many differences, in many ways they are the same. He lets it ring once, then twice, to remind her this is what she wants. Taylor accepts the call.
“Shyla?” His voice is a whisper.
There is a thud. Then silence. Finally, the faint voice of a man in the distance:
“You have no idea who you’re dealing with.”
I grab the knot on my towel and slide away from Eric, slipping off the bed and onto the floor, hitting the wardrobe behind me.
“I’m not gonna hurt you.” Eric’s voice is muddled under his swollen upper lip.
“Please leave,” I am so frightened and confused, it’s all I can muster.
“I just want to talk.”
“Please leave. If you don’t leave, I’ll scream. I swear it.”
“No one will hear you; you know that. Taylor has a taste for isolation. I don’t want to subdue you, but if you scream, you will leave me no other choice.”
“What do you want?”
“I’m not the type of person Taylor is making me out to be.”
“And you prove this by breaking into my apartment?”
“I had no other choice. You don’t know my brother. He is a master manipulator. We’re just pawns to him.”
“No, you don’t know your brother and you know nothing about our relationship.” Inside I tremble
my boldness is only a mask to cover my terror.
Eric laughs, then grabs his jaw, wincing in pain. “Do you see what he did to me? Is this your sweet Taylor?”
“I wasn’t there to make a judgement.” His injuries seem to be far greater than what I expected from the punch Taylor inflicted after the car chase.
Eric sighs and pauses to think of a way to appeal to me. “Shyla, really be honest with yourself. Are you the same person you were when you first met him?”
“Yes,” I say through clenched teeth, but it’s a lie.
“You know you don’t mean that. You know you’re slowly changing, to be the person who can fix him, but you can’t…you may think the person you are becoming is by choice, but nothing around Taylor happens by choice.”
“You don’t know me. Just because you may be spying on me, or whatever it is you’re doing, you don’t know me.”
“I know more about you then you think,” His tone is not threatening
it’s assured, almost seductive. Eric slowly motions towards me as I debate whether to attempt to flee
to stay put, but he has me cornered. I know
attempting to escape
will only end in failure and potentially anger Eric. He stands above me and offers me his hand. My eyes dart to it, then his eyes, then his hand again.
Where he is going with this?
I hesitantly take it and he helps me up. We stand face to face, my back pressed against the wardrobe, his body just an inch away from mine. My entire body vibrates with nervous energy. He leans in so that we are eye to eye. My chest touches his with each inhale and while I am breathing deeply, I cannot seem to find air. “I know you like me despite what you tell yourself. That’s why you talked to me at the bar.” He pauses to wait for a response.
“I talked to you because I was being polite.” I try to sound confident, but my vocal chords quiver.
“I don’t think you have a problem being impolite.”
“That was before I knew anything about who you are.”
“Was it?” He leans in closer, his voice calmer than ever.
“I don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish here.”
“After that day at the bar, I understood why my brother had taken a liking to you. And I think you liked me too, and I need you to think back to that day at the bar and realize that I am that same guy and you can trust me.”
“But you’re not and I barely knew you even then.”
“But I am…” his lips graze mine and I freeze. I still can’t gauge if I should be defiant, or if I should play along. I remain still. “You can’t tell me that if you weren’t already with Taylor when we met at the bar —“
“Yes.” And he kisses me so softly, his lips gently tugging on mine as he pulls away. I’m not sure if I kiss back, and only after I open my eyes do I realize I had closed them in acceptance. The kiss is dangerously sweet and familiar.
I catch my breath
these Holdens have a way with the ladies, but he is not Taylor.
He does not seek permission; he does not ask me what I want; he does not want me to want it. He simply takes, he takes without permission and I cannot let him for a second think he has consent to touch me ever again. I shove him away.
“You and I are nothing. Nothing. What do you want from me?”
He backs away and looks me over, shaking his head. “Look at you: cuts, bruises…a busted lip. The picture of mental health. You honestly don’t see what’s wrong with this picture? How am I the dangerous one?”
“How dare you pretend to be concerned about my mental health? You, of all people! Taylor has been honest with me from the very beginning. You’re the one who has played a twisted game of hide and seek.”
“Have you stopped a moment to think about the fact that your precious Taylor might be fucking with you? He’s done it to me my entire life. He drove me out of my home, away from our family…and now he’s doing it again! If he felt at all threatened by my presence, he would do anything to keep you close to him.”
“That’s ridiculous. You act as if you being exiled from your home had nothing to do with your actions.You have been scheming ever since you arrived! You’re not even supposed to be here. Taylor said you left town. If he knew you were here…”
“But, no, he let you leave, didn’t he? What does that say about him?”
“Stop trying to analyze me.”
“You should do a little background research on his all of his old girlfriends. I bet you’ll see there is stuff you don’t know about your saint Taylor.”
“I know about his past,” I say defiantly. Immediately, I almost wished I hadn’t confessed that as Eric would think me a fool for staying with Taylor.
“Do you know about Emily?”
“Emily Brown?” Eric’s face registers surprise, as if he expected this to be a bombshell.
“Yes. He told you about her?”
“Ye…yes.” It makes me wonder if there is something I don’t know, but if I ask, it will appear that he is somehow winning me over. Before Eric can say anything else, the sounds of a muffled voice grab my attention. Instinctively, my eyes dart to it, and so do Eric’s.
“Shit!” Eric grabs the phone and sees it’s Taylor on the other line. He throws the phone across the room, and it fractures against the wall. He looks around nervously and runs over to one of my bedroom windows and peers out past the curtain. “Fuck. I have to go.” He points at me. “You need to look into Emily Brown. Do you understand?”
I nod, relieved that he is finally leaving. He runs out of the front door, leaving it ajar. As soon as I am certain he is gone,
I grab the phone
which is cracked but still working.
“Shy, are you okay? What the hell is going on?”
“No…no. I’m fine. I wasn’t sure if you would pick up.”
“What was all that commotion? I couldn’t make out what was going on.”
“It was Eric.” Tears begin to pour out of me.
“He broke in somehow. He’s gone now. You scared him off. I’m okay. He didn’t touch me.” I know no good would come of telling Taylor about the kiss.
“I’m already on my way. Lock your doors. Do not open to anyone. I have a key.”
The elevator can only be accessed using a key, and then I check on the stairwell exit, which is ajar. It was locked, but Eric must have found a way to jimmy it. I sit on my bed, shaking from the aftereffects of the nerves, and stare at my phone anxiously awaiting Taylor’s arrival.
He makes me feel safe even though one might suppose
after last night,
should be the last thing I feel around him. I don’t know why, but in that moment, even though I was wailing in pain, I felt the most secure in my place with him than ever before.
Maybe it’s because he was finally being honest.
It is almost 10 minutes before the elevator door opens. Taylor bursts through, shouting my name. I call out to him from the bedroom and he rushes over to
me. I melt in his arms, shaking uncontrollably. The events of the past 24 hours finally begin to settle in.
“You’re safe now,” he
opens his mouth to ask me a question but then his eyes catch one of my forearms. I had forgotten about the cuts in the midst of the chaos. He grabs my wrist and pulls my arm towards him to get a better look. “Shy, what is this? Did he…?”
“No! He didn’t touch me. He pretty much stood over there the entire time.”
“That wasn’t me? Was it?”
“No. It wasn’t,” I say hesitantly.
Taylor’s facial expression morphs from a state of confusion to one of realization. “Did you-”
I look down in shame. How can I explain this to him? All this time he thought he was the only damaged one.
“Yes. I’m sorry.”
He guides my face up by my chin. “What are you doing to yourself? You’re cutting?”
Taylor runs his hands through his hair and shakes his head in dismay. “Shyla…is this because of me?” He asks as if he is afraid to hear the answer.
“No, this is not your fault. I used to do this a long time ago. It’s just a relapse…It’s because of the other thing.”
“I just feel like I am hurting you. It’s not you, I swear. I used to do it in high school…” Really, it’s not any one thing, it’s everything all at once.
“What? No! Don’t blame yourself. This is all Eric. I know this. Even yesterday, I knew it. I was just jealous and angry and I needed to work it out. Why did you do it in high school?”
“I don’t know. It just made me feel when I couldn’t or distracted me when I was stressed or depressed. I don’t know. Those were tough years for me.”
“I know exactly what you mean.”
“I am better now. I swear.”
Taylor nods, but his eyes tell me that he is thinking much more than a simple nod can reveal.
“What are we going to do about him?” I ask. We can’t go on like this much longer.
“He should have been gone, I had him escorted to the airport yesterday evening. I’ll have to find out what the hell happened with Harrison. This is inexcusable.”
“Don’t blame Harrison.”
“You are so protective of him.”
“I trust him. Eric looked like he was in bad shape. He said it was you.”
“Shyla, I don’t care if you think less of me. He deserves much worse than what he got.”
“I never said I did. It’s just that I am in the dark about what happened…”
“Let me take care of the dirty work.”
“I don’t like not knowing, Taylor.” Taylor maintains eye contact, but remains silent and I know this is his kind way of telling me to shut the fuck up about it. “So what do we do now? Do we call the police?”
“We can call the police, but…” Taylor hesitates.
“You’re covered in cuts and bruises. They’ll ask where it’s all from. They’ll also ask why you think he was here. Are you okay with revealing that?” What he is really trying to ask me is if I am okay with revealing all of that about
I shake my head. I already made the decision that I would not share that hotel room story with anyone ever. “I’m not, but there has to be something we can do.”
“He’s a fucking coward, sneaking around like a weasel.”
“I just want this all to stop.”
“Me too, and it will, I promise. He’s not slipping through the cracks this time. Let’s get you dressed while we think about this.” I
to stand up, but he gently presses his hand on my shoulder to keep me seated. “I’ll take care of it.”
Taylor walks over to one of my dressers where I keep my pajamas and pulls out a three-quarter sleeve, heather blue henley nightshirt. He scrunches it up and asks me to remove my towel. I do, and he slides the neck opening over my head, then guides each arm into the appropriate sleeve. He brushes stands of wet hair away from my face.
“That was me too, with you though.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you bruised so easily
ou’re like a peach. The crop usually leaves red marks that fade.”
“That’s what my mom used to say when I was a kid. I would just be covered in mysterious bruises all the time.”
“I can be gentler.”
“It’s on me. I didn’t tell you to stop.”
“Let me grab some hydrogen peroxide, I’ll be back.”
While Taylor is in the bathroom, my wheels turn. There has to be a way to solve all of this: to make Eric pay for what he did to me while not revealing any details about my secret life with Taylor. Taylor returns with some cotton balls and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. He gently swabs the cuts, paying very close attention to each one. It’s hard to reconcile that this was the same man choking me the night before. He opens his mouth as if to say something, but then he hesitates and stops.
“What is it?” I ask.