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Authors: Sherri Hayes

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance

Trust (3 page)

BOOK: Trust
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I hadn’t argued with him, although I didn’t completely agree. Stephan had bought me those things when I’d been his, and I wasn’t any longer.

Gripping the silver band of metal around my neck, I began to rock back and forth. I wanted his arms around me. I wanted to hear him whispering in my ear, telling me that everything would be okay. I just didn’t know if that was true in this case.

Emma said things weren’t looking good for Stephan. She and I had a long talk the first time she’d come over to see me. We’d sat in Cal’s living room for most of the day, me huddled in a chair in the corner, her on Cal’s couch. It had been sunny that day as well, the sun streaming in through the large windows, giving the illusion of warmth. All I’d felt was cold—cold and empty. Emma had explained, as Oscar had, that he and Stephan had felt it best for me to have my own legal counsel . . . just in case. Emma did most of the talking that day, until she’d asked me what I wanted. My answer had been simple—I wanted whatever was best for Stephan.

Since then, she had stopped by every Saturday morning and updated me on what was going on with the FBI investigation. The man in charge, Agent Rick Marco, seemed to want to see Stephan punished. Agent Marco didn’t appear to care what the truth was. He only cared that Stephan had given Ian a large sum of money without any explanation. With John’s ranting, it seemed at the very least Agent Marco was trying to pin kidnapping on Stephan. I’d only met Agent Marco once, and I didn’t like him.

The only thing that had kept Stephan from being charged up to this point was that, other than the money exchange, they couldn’t find any connection between Stephan and Ian. We’d thought that Oscar and Michael James, The Coleman Foundation’s new CFO, turning in the evidence they’d put together against Ian and a man named Jean Dumas, along with about twenty others, would change Agent Marco’s focus. According to Emma, what they’d accumulated could not only put Ian away for a long time, it also had the potential of dismantling a large underground black market. Instead of keeping Agent Marco at bay, though, it had done the exact opposite. I knew I had to do something.

A knock on my bedroom door caused me to jump. I turned my head toward the door, watching . . . waiting. It was most likely Jade . . . or Cal. Either way, they’d let themselves in eventually. They always did.

Sure enough, the door slowly opened, and Cal poked his head inside the room. “Hey.”

I didn’t answer. Cal meant well, and he was nice enough to let me stay in his house, but we didn’t talk much. He wanted me to be normal, and that wasn’t something I would ever be again. I also knew he blamed Stephan, at least in part, for the way I was. I wish he could understand, but it wasn’t something I could explain. I loved Stephan. I missed him. But he wasn’t the reason I was messed up.

“Can I come in?”

“Okay.”

He hesitated and then walked into the room. Cal kept the door open behind him, having learned from experience that closing it would cause me to feel trapped. He crossed to the chair in the corner by the window, and I sat back against the headboard, tapping my fingers absentmindedly against my leg.

As soon as I began the rhythmic motion, I could hear Stephan’s voice in my head telling me to stop fidgeting. I immediately sat on my hands to stop the mindless action.

Movement at the door drew my attention away from Cal. Jade appeared and stood in the doorway. They were both here. In my room. Had something happened?

I quickly turned my gaze back on Cal. “What . . . what’s happened? Is Stephan—”

“Coleman’s fine.” The sharp edge in Cal’s tone reminded me, yet again, of his feelings regarding Stephan.

No one spoke for several minutes while I tried to calm myself. If Cal said Stephan was fine, I had to believe him. I didn’t think he would lie to me. Not about that.

“Anna, I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“Okay.”

When Cal didn’t continue, I started to worry. What if something had happened and he wasn’t sure
how
to tell me?

Just as I felt the air in my lungs constrict with anxiety, Cal leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. I tried to brace myself as best I could, but I could already feel the pressure in my chest increasing, tightening.

“I asked Emma to have lunch with me today.”

“Wha-wh-why?”

“Anna, I want you to hear me out, okay?”

I didn’t respond, and after a minute he continued.

“I don’t like the idea of you testifying against that man.” I opened my mouth to say something, but he cut me off. “No. He . . . Anna, you have trouble talking to regular people. You have trouble talking to me—someone you’ve known nearly all your life. How do you think it’s going to be for you to sit up there in a room full of strangers and confront the man who
owned
you for ten months? I don’t want to see you go through that, Anna. I don’t.”

To be honest, I didn’t want that either. I didn’t know if I could do it. If it prevented Stephan from being put in prison because of me, then I would have to. He’d saved me. He’d given me my freedom, my life. I’d been told about that girl—the one Ian had before me. That could have been me. It probably would have, if not for Stephan. I would do anything for him. Even stand up in front of a room full of strangers and face the man who had not only raped and tortured me for ten months but who’d also made me think I was no longer a person, only a thing to be used and abused in any way he or his friends saw fit. A chill settled in my bones, and I hugged myself tighter.

Cal appeared oblivious to the war being waged inside me. He was too focused on what he wanted to say. Sighing, he stood and walked to stand in front of the window. “I want to offer you a deal.”

I looked over at Jade. Her face wasn’t giving anything away, which made me think she wasn’t thrilled with whatever this deal was.

“Emma’s going to talk to Oscar and see if they can come up with a solution to get Coleman off the hook without requiring you to testify. You’d still have to give an official statement against Ian Pierce but hopefully not have to make an appearance in court. As a family friend, and as an upstanding member of the community, I’d publicly go on record that what Coleman did to get you away from Ian Pierce should be commended, not punished. I have friends in the media. So does my dad. I can use them if I have to. And it’s not a secret that I’m not a big fan of Coleman’s personally. My coming out in support of what he did would make an impression. Especially if I emphasize that fact in any statements I make to the press.”

“I don’t . . . understand.” He’d said a deal, and he didn’t like Stephan. Why would he do this?

He took a deep breath and met my gaze. His eyes were almost pleading. It was so unlike him that it had me concerned about what would come out of his mouth next.

“In exchange for me doing this, defending Coleman, doing what I can to keep him out of prison, I want you to get counseling, Anna. I want you to talk to someone who can help you . . . help you get through what . . . whatever it is you went through.” He clenched his teeth when he spoke his next words. “Someone who doesn’t have a hidden agenda to try and get you into his bed.”

Before I could say anything—defend Stephan—Jade was across the room and standing between Cal and me. She didn’t say anything. At least, not anything I could hear. She just laid her hand flat on his chest, until he closed his eyes and stepped away.

Cal walked toward the door, leaving Jade standing on the far side of the room alone. He reached the door and stopped. Without turning around, he lifted his head as if he were looking at something in the other room. “Think about it, Anna. Please.”

Before I could even consider answering him, he was gone.

I could feel Jade watching me, but all I wanted to do was hide in my bed, so that’s what I did. Burrowing under the covers, I rolled over and closed my eyes. Several minutes later, I heard her leave the room, closing the door behind her. It was only then that I let myself think about what Cal had said. He wanted me to talk to someone. Talk to them about what had happened to me.

A shiver ran through my body from head to foot, and I curled up into a tight ball, clutching the sheets around me. I just wanted the world to go away.

Somewhere along the line I must have fallen asleep, because when I opened my eyes, it was dark outside. Pushing the sheets aside, I walked into the small bathroom connected to my room. My bathroom at Cal’s was nothing like the one I’d had at Stephan’s. This one was nice, but it was less than half the size. I turned on the light and got a drink of water using the cup I kept next to the sink.

A part of me registered that my hair was sticking out in various places and that I was wearing the same clothes I’d put on two days ago. Usually I didn’t change unless Jade or Cal said something. Most of the time it was Jade. She would come in with food or under the pretense of wanting to talk to me and mention that maybe a nice shower would make me feel better. It didn’t, but both of them seemed to be happier after I emerged showered and in clean clothes.

I don’t know how long I was in the bathroom, but when I walked back into my room, Jade was sitting on the end of my bed. “Hi.”

“Hi.”

She had a serious expression on her face, so I knew she had something to say. “Cal went into town to get a pizza for dinner. He should be back soon.”

I nodded, climbing back into my bed.

“I talked to Cal about this afternoon. I know you don’t like what he had to say, but I think his heart is in the right place.” She reached out and touched the tips of my fingers before retracting her hand. “He’s worried about you.”

“I’m fine.” It was the same phrase I repeated almost daily. I was fine. Or as fine as I was going to ever be. There was no magic cure. Nothing that would make my past go away. This was my life now. I would survive, just as I had before.

“I know you’re doing the best you can. After what you’ve been through, I can’t imagine it’s easy.” She paused. “I also know leaving Stephan was really hard for you to do.”

Jade was the only one who understood about Stephan. “I miss him.”

She reached out again. This time, her fingers lingered over mine. “Of course you do. You love him.”

We both sat in silence for a long time. I could hear the crickets outside playing their mating song. When I’d first moved in, the sound had kept me up at night. Now it was a reminder that there was a world outside my small room.

“Jade?” She glanced up at me and waited. It was one of the things I liked about her. She wasn’t impatient. “Do you think Cal speaking up for Stephan . . . would help him?”

“Honestly? I have no idea. Cal said Emma was going to talk to Oscar and see what he thinks. I can’t see where it would hurt, though. Your man needs all the people in his corner he can get right now, and Cal’s right about one thing. With him being an old family friend, his endorsement could turn the media to Stephan’s side. That might put some pressure on Agent Marco and get him to back off.” She gave my hand a small squeeze before releasing it.

I looked down, picking at the fabric of my pants. “He’s not . . .” I took a deep breath and tried once more. “He’s not my . . . man anymore.”

“Of course he is. You still love him, right?”

I glanced up, meeting her gaze. “Always.”

She smiled. “That’s what I thought.”

The sound of a car pulling up outside caused us both to look toward the door.

“Cal’s back with the pizza. You gonna come join us in the living room? We can put in a movie.”

The mention of pizza and a movie instantly reminded me of Stephan. My hand went to my neck, and I pressed back more firmly against the headboard. “I’m not hungry.”

“You sure? I can bring some pizza in here for you if you want?”

“I’m sure.”

Jade stared at me for a long minute before getting up and going to the door. She stopped and turned, her hand on the doorknob. “We’ll be out here if you change your mind.”

I didn’t respond. Instead, I rolled over on my side and stared out into the darkness, allowing the pain in my chest to grow until tears welled up in my eyes. Just as every other night since I’d left Stephan’s home, I cried myself to sleep.

Chapter 3

Stephan

I unlocked the bottom right-hand drawer of my desk and retrieved the
picture I had hidden away under a stack of financial reports. It was the one of Brianna I used to keep on my desk. That first week after Brianna left was one of the hardest of my life. Every reminder I found of her around my house caused me some level of pain. It was hard to believe so much time had already gone by. August was drawing to a close. She’d been gone for sixty-five days. It felt like years, and since neither the press nor Agent Marco appeared to be letting up, it was hard to tell how long we would have to be apart.

To be safe, and completely without Oscar’s prompting or knowledge, I’d enlisted Logan’s, Lily’s, and even Daren’s help in dismantling my playroom and removing all my toys. If a warrant was issued to search my home, discovering my kinky side would only work against me. Logan arranged to store everything with a fellow Dom he trusted, someone I had no connection with. It was better that way.

When I’d sat down at my desk on my first day back to work after Brianna left, my gaze had fallen on the picture of her in her beautiful gown. I’d known I would have to remove it, had known I should give it to Lily to put with the rest of my things, but I couldn’t do it. I needed to have something of her, so I kept it tucked out of sight. It was the only way I had hope of getting any work done. At least I knew it was nearby if I needed it, like I did today.

BOOK: Trust
3.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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