Matt just looked at her from where he sat on the patio.
"You sure it was the same tattoo?"
She nodded as she joined him on the chaise as they both settled down to eat dinner. Not that she'd had much of an appetite after having examined the body of the dead woman. The body had been too decomposed to determine a cause of death without a full autopsy but when she'd seen the tattoo of the jaguar…she'd remembered the one that she'd worn on her own shoulder before the infection.
"Houston…someone's killing these women and it's all related back to him."
Meaning that the man who had used that tattoo to mark his enslaved women like cattle had to be surfacing from his self-imposed exile.
"I thought it might be the chimera. Andre's mark but no…it was definitely the jaguar."
Matt sighed putting his fork down and she knew that her news unnerved him. After all, she had worn that mark herself until it had been removed.
"Did the detective say they were going to run the tattoo through Interpol?"
She nodded again.
"And through all the known databases…Simon's going to send the information that the feds have on this guy but the trail's been cold."
Matt picked up his beer and took a sip.
"Maybe someone will get lucky."
C.J. hoped that would be the case but so far no one even came close to finding out the identity of one of the world's largest human traffickers.
"I remember all those women that Andre killed and then tossed into the sea," she said, "We don't even know if we found all of them."
The sadness in her voice made him turn towards her and stroke her cheek with the fingers of one hand.
"He's gone…at least that's one man who can't hurt women any longer."
She nodded her eyes still stinging. Even with the time that passed, all the work that she'd done, it still got to her. Just like the sight of that unknown woman today had hit her in the gut even before she identified the tattoo.
"I'm thinking about doing the hypnosis Houston…I want to remember more than I do."
His brows lifted as he looked at her.
"You sure…I'll support you in whatever you choose to do but are you sure it's going to help you?"
She leaned back against the chaise closing her eyes because she'd asked herself the same question over and over again. The answer shifted each time and still she didn't feel so sure but these dreams that had surfaced…she wanted to know where they came from. Did they come from parts of her that still hid so much of what had happened?
And she wanted to know why Matt's new client Stefan left her cold, so much so that nothing could warm her. It seemed strange since she'd never met the guy yet something about him seemed so familiar.
In a way that scared her though she didn't share that with Matt.
Not when it seemed silly on the surface. Stefan Kostas was her husband's biggest client yet and his business could really boost the security firm in an exciting direction. But what she had felt at the party…it's been the first time in months she felt that kind of fear that arose from somewhere deep inside her. Yet he'd seemed concerned about her when he'd offered her advice on how to deal with her anxiety.
"I need to do something Houston…I can't keep going like this…with all these holes in my memory. What am I going to do when I testify?"
He started stroking her hair with one of his hands. She loved the way his fingers felt running through the strands, the soothing sensations that filled her when he did that.
"I'll be right with you if you want."
She took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly.
"Thanks…I'll talk to Diana and see what I can do…I just feel so in the dark sometimes and afraid when I don't know why."
His face grew concerned.
"C.J. why didn't you tell me about it?"
She saw how worried he looked and she didn't want to be the cause of it. He'd already had to deal with so much of what she had faced already. Healing and rebuilding her life had come slowly, much more so than she'd hoped but she worked very hard to keep moving forward.
"I didn't want to worry you Houston…it's nothing really just dreams and they're probably resurfacing because we're getting closer to trial."
"Maybe…but if it's something new going on…"
"I don't know that Houston…I just know that I want to figure out what's going on with me," she said, "There's so much of what happened that I don't remember. Like I'm in the middle of a fog bank and I can't see anything around me."
She tried to steel herself against the anxiety that seeped to the surface, damn she didn't want Matt to think she'd never get through what happened to her. He'd been so patient and so loving and it couldn't be easy.
"Some things you might never remember," he said, "I know when I went missing for that month…there's still pieces I don't remember…no matter how hard I tried."
"But hypnosis helped you…at least get the important parts of it back," she said, "so you could clear your name."
He rubbed the bridge of his nose and she knew her words had sent him back to that traumatic time. Not what she'd wanted to do right now. After all, she wasn't the only one who'd been fighting demons.
"I'm sorry Houston I didn't mean…"
He shook his head.
"No, what Andrea did help me a lot but it was so hard…if you hadn't been there…"
She leaned her head against his shoulder.
"I'll always be there," she said, "I just need some answers. If only so I don't feel like I'm going into this trial feeling blind."
His eyes narrowed.
"What do you mean?"
She bit her lip.
"I know that Scott…he remembers things that I don't or he might," she said, "I remember how Piser would taunt me with information that I didn't know but he did…and he used that to try to control me."
Matt remained silent for a long moment.
"I know that if he does know, then his lawyer will too," she said, "and he might use that information to broadside me. I can't let that happen."
"Okay then I think you should do it…but take it easy because it can be very intense."
She knew that already having shed a tear and more when she had watched him wrestle through the trauma he'd buried in his subconscious. But she didn't feel like she had a choice.
She needed to uncloak some of the secrets she kept from herself and she needed help to do that.
Stefan sipped his vodka as Sasha watched from her position on the couch. If it'd been several years ago, they'd had taken it to the bedroom but whatever passion had existed between them had cooled. But he still counted on her to be his right hand man even as he didn't really trust her.
He didn't get where he was alive by trusting anyone. But then neither had the woman sitting across from him. They had that in common.
"So you really think she'll do it?"
He put his glass down and leaned back on the luxury sofa.
"Yes I do. I think right now she's discussing it with Matt and he'll tell her to be careful."
"Not bad advice…the mind can be filled with suppressed memories more like landmines," Sasha said, "Trigger the wrong one…"
"Then we'll find out how much she remembers about us," Stefan said, "whatever she does…is not in her surface memories."
"Because she was high as a kite when you were at the compound," Sasha said, "The drug does have amnesia as a side effect."
"But it's not foolproof. I can't afford to take any chances that any memories of our time together will surface at the trial or before."
"If she did remember, it could blow your cover. Let the whole world know that one of the most successful and high rising business men is also one of the most notorious traffickers."
"It won't happen. I won't let it. As soon as one memory surfaces, I will dispose of her."
"Like those other women…the ones washing up on beaches," she said, "You know you and the recently departed Andre have more than a few things in common."
That made Stefan bristle and he downed some more vodka.
"Andre grew careless and made mistakes I'd never make," he said, "and one of them was letting C.J. slip out of his Washington compound alive."
"Your plant on Sapphire Island didn't stop her from getting away from him."
Stefan arched his brows.
"And who recruited him," he said, "and insisted he was ready for the assignment even though I expressed concerns about his fitness."
"Okay so I misjudged his skills, that won't happen again."
Stefan rubbed his hands together.
"It won't because I'll make all the decisions this time."
Sasha got up to refresh her own glass, pulling the silken robe around her form.
"Well you're going to have your hands full with your client," she said, "Matt is quite a formidable opponent."
Stefan shook his head.
"I'm not worried about him," he said, "if he gets in my way; he'll be dead before he knows it."
Sasha sat back down looking at her boss who seemed so confident that Matt wouldn't be a threat to his plans but she knew better.
"I'm worried about her."
C.J. had fallen asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. But her dreams caught up with her soon enough. Visions of the dead woman filled her, the one she had seen on the beach. The waves breaking over her still form.
Then she felt the world blur around her as she sped back to a familiar place. She found herself lying on the floor, curled up in a fetal position and she knew that he had left her like that.
Andre had left minutes earlier after telling her that someone be arriving. She hadn't really listened; she had closed herself off from him when he first arrived as she always did. He'd run his fingers over her face after he'd finished, looking at her in a way that made her turn her face away.
"You're very beautiful and you belong to me. But you don't do what I tell you unless I show you the photos."
The photos he'd taken of Matt while he traveled around the world to escape from his failed engagement. Snapshots of him in different places, some familiar some not, as he traveled further away from L.A., he grew happier and more relaxed in the photos. Did this mean he'd never be coming back home?
"I'd kill him in a minute if you fought me," Andre said, "but you'll find there are other ways to persuade you to comply with what's expected of you."
She just kept looking away from him, his words barely reaching him. He'd gotten what he wanted and she hadn't really fought much. Matt would remain alive another day and so would she.
"A man will be joining you in a few minutes," Andre said, "I've left it up to him with how he'll get you to obey him."
She furrowed her brow at his words. He'd never mentioned any other men using her. In fact, he had ordered that the other men in the compound including Piser keep their hands off of her. But now the rules had suddenly changed.
The word felt like cotton inside of her mouth. She could barely hear it when it was spoken.
"You're to do what he wants no matter what," Andre said, "as you would with me."
Her mind wanted to work quickly but it wouldn't work at all, everything inside her felt like it had slowed down.
"You are to please him as if your life depended on it because it does…"
She blinked her eyes as he stood up and walked away from her, leaving her on the floor. Still trying to figure out what he had planned.
"I'll see you in the morning."
And like that he had left but the relief that often filled her didn't come, her body shook with the words he had left her with putting the locked door between them.
And then the door opened and she tried to see….the shock hitting her body suddenly, shaking her and then the next thing she felt was a hand which had gripped her shoulder to wake her up. She opened her eyes suddenly and saw Matt looking at her, concern etched on his face.
His hold relaxed and he started stroking her neck as he often did when she felt panicked. She felt her heart stop racing and the next breath seemed easier.
"You were screaming C.J…what kind of dream were you having?"
She frowned, the memories of it already starting to slip away.
"I…I don't know…it was about Andre only it wasn't…there was someone else who came in the room."
She struggled to remember more but she hadn't even seen the man's face. She hadn't seen him at all. She just knew he had been standing over her after the door had closed again. Suddenly a wave of fear filled her again and she tried to stave it.
"It's okay C.J…come here…"
She slid into his warm embrace, felt his breath against her skin as he held her close to him. Her body relaxed against him as it often had before but her mind remained trapped inside her dream.
What the hell was going on with her?