Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, profit from this story and all creative rights to the characters belong to Richelle Mead.
The original content, ideas and intellectual property of this story are owned by Ms. Belikov. Please do not copy, reproduce, or translate without express written permission.
I don't remember much of that day, and in a way, I'm glad because I wasn't sure if I could handle it.
It was a warm fall evening, I remember that much because I can still feel the way the wind blew on my skin and the sound of multicolored leaves crunching under my feet. And I was jogging. No, I was sprinting. Yeah, definitely sprinting. Exercise, it was something I did every night at around five. And I had to be outdoors. I absolutely hated being trapped in some gym with a whole bunch of other sweaty people. I had to be free.
I remember running when out of nowhere, I was hit over the head and knocked to the cold, hard ground. The pain in my head was excruciating, like someone had planted dynamite in my skull and were setting them off one by one.
Some sort of cloth was pressed over my mouth, something that smelled sweet, something that took all the pain away and made the world go black. And for that, I was grateful because I knew something terrible was going to happen, something that would forever change me.
"Rose? Rose?" That deep, Turkish accented voice brought me out of my memories.
I dragged my sunglasses off my face, placed them at the top of my head. "Hey daddy," I squinted at the bright light.
Abe took a seat beside me. "Whatcha' doing, Kiz?" He took off his coat. "Excuse my language, but damn, it is hotter than Tabasco sauce and jalapeños out here."
I forced a smile, something that drained all of the energy out of me. "It's summertime daddy, of course it's going to be hot. And I'm just catching some color." I sprayed some more tanning oil on my stomach and legs. Sunbathing was something I did before the whole ordeal happened. I only wanted to feel normal again. "Is everything okay?" I asked.
"Listen here Kiz," Abe put his hands together, clearing his throat harshly. "Since everything happened with the kidnapping and all," I cringed. "Things haven't been running very smoothly with your mother and I. It's just been very, uh, difficult. But, uh, I don't want you to think this is your fault—"
The pit of my stomach dropped in dread. "Dad," I said behind gritted teeth. "Don't treat me like a child, I'm twenty-two. I can handle this."
My father reached for my hand and straightened out my fingers, which had been clenched in fists so tightly that my nails bit into my palm, forming little red crescent moons. I didn't like the way my sweat seeped into my wounds, stinging.
Abe cursed in Turkish. "Your mother and I are getting a divorce."
I felt sicker than I had when my captor stripped me naked and forced me to kneel in uncooked rice for hours, all the while he stood there, watching me, pleasuring himself.
Somehow, I managed to find my voice. "A divorce? Why? I thought you guys were happy, that you were in love."
"I was never in love with Janine," Immediately, Abe looked like he regretted what he'd said.
I tried to fight the tears, but it was like lifting a car off the ground with bare hands—impossible.
"Oh, Kiz," Abe reached over and wiped a tear from my cheek. "I did not want to cause you more pain and heartache than you have already been through these past few months. I'm so sorry—"
I shook my head and pulled back abruptly, not wanting his fingers on me. Physical contact with anyone made me nauseous. "No. Please keep going. I need to know."
"Your mother and I met when I was twenty-seven, right after I started my business. She was my age. Educated. Single. Beautiful. But most importantly, educated. She was the ideal woman. And my parents loved her." Abe paused, looking regretful. "So I asked her to marry me because I knew it would make my father happy, that it would make him shut up for once. I was so sick of hearing him tell me that I needed to find a nice lady and settled down."
I nodded, reminding him that I was listening.
"Well things went okay at first. I bought us a house on a ranch. Janine gave birth to you and that was the best day of my life," Daddy smiled. "Although I loved your mother dearly—still do—I was never in love with her. It was kind of like an arranged marriage, you know, just two strangers living together, playing that perfect all American family."
Abe's rugged yet handsome face went poignant. "Well, that's how it's always been. Normal. Calm. No conflicts. But recently, since…well, you know…everything has gone down hill. All we do is fight and scream at each other. I thought this could work, Kiz, I honestly did, but it can't anymore. Your mother's not happy. I'm not happy. It's not a healthy relationship anymore. It's not working."
My mother and my fathers "perfect" marriage was the only stable thing in my life. And now that was ruined, just like everything else was.
"I'm so sorry, Kiz…"
"It's okay, daddy, really. I forgive you." In spite of my fear of touching people or being touched, I put my hand over his, trying to give him what little comfort I could. "I just want you guys to be happy, and if this is the way, so be it. The two of you deserve it, you've raised me so well and you've been great parents."
"So, uh, you…you don't hate me?" Abe asked.
I shook my head and placed my hand back on my thigh, instantly feeling more relaxed. "I'm sad about it, sure. But it's not your fault, daddy. Sometimes things just happen, you know, get in the way. Real life problems are a bitch."
My father shot me a playful glare. "Kiz, watch that tongue before I wash your mouth out with soap."
"Bitch is a dog." I said innocently.
He rolled his eyes. "You are a handful sometimes, Rose, you really are. But I love you and I wouldn't change you for all the money in the world." Abe stood up and gave me a kiss on the forehead.
I tried to keep my breathing normal, but my heartbeat started hammering in my chest. I tried to keep the panic attack away by reminding myself that he was my father, that he would never harm me, that he would kill anyone that did. But it didn't work. Too much contact always triggered my panic attacks. I'd had one the other day when my nine-year old cousin Bethany ran up and hugged me. It was all part of my post traumatic stress disorder.
A wave of doom came over me, and it was like everything around me went grey. The buzzing in my ears brought me to my knees, and the oxygen escaped my body, like someone had used my chest as a trampoline. I was being squeezed in this little box, trapped. Everything was getting tighter and tighter. It felt like death.
"ROSE! ROSE!" My body started violently shaking. "Take this baby. Take this! It's going to be okay."
A brown paper bag was shoved in front of my face. I grabbed it, brought it to my mouth, and started desperately inhaling.
Moments later, I collapsed against the ground, utterly exhausted. The panic attack was gone, my breathing and heart rate had returned to normal, and that was such a huge relief.
"Oh, dear god. Thank god you are okay, Kiz." Abe said.
"I love you dad, but please, don't come anywhere near me right now. I need a minute."
Hurt flashed across my father's face, but understanding was quick on its heels.
Abe grabbed a chair, took about fifteen steps back, and sat down. "Damn it, Rose. You scared me. But I am so glad you are alright. You had one of those panic things, didn't you?"
My chest constricted and my throat closed a little. "Yes, I did. And please don't say that word again. I'll have another attack."
I stood up and jumped in the pool to cool off. It helped to further release the tension from my body. When I emerged from the water, my father was standing up, looking down on me.
"That's it," he said. "I'm hiring you a bodyguard."
I practically choked on my own saliva. "What?"
"A bodyguard. Someone who will protect you when I'm not there to watch over you. Kiz, what just happened right now," Abe shook his head. "You need someone there at all times. Plus, weren't you saying that you were afraid of someone following you?"
I nodded slowly. "Well, yeah, but it was just a suspicion. But yeah, I think he may be following me." I shuddered as that colorful masquerade mask popped into my brain. It was purple and lime-green, with gold jewels and feathers. What terrified me most was the fact that I never saw his face. My captor could be anyone. And that's why I was constantly looking over my shoulder. I couldn't even sleep without the lights on anymore.
"Well that's all the motivation I need," Abe clapped his hands. He had that tone of voice that meant business, leaving no room for argument. Once my father set his mind to something, he got it done. No questions about it.
"But daddy, I'm fine. I've got pepper spray—"
"Did that save you the first time?" He crossed his arms, challenging me to fight him.
"Well, no, but—"
"Exactly. So it's a done deal. I'll call my men and give them the confirmation. Say Kiz, how many guards do you want? Five, six, seven? Yeah, seven sounds good."
I gasped. "Daddy, no! Please, oh god, no."
"Right," My father shook his head. "Seven is not enough. It should be at least ten."
"One! Only one!" I growled. "I swear to god, if you get anymore than that I will pack my bags, move far away, and never talk to you again."
Abe gritted his teeth. "Three."
"Fine, two." I said. "You're such a hothead!"
He grinned victoriously. "I love you, Kiz."
"Asshole." I muttered, but I was smiling. I climbed out of the pool and wrapped a towel around my body. "I guess…I guess I kind of love you, too."
"You have to, I am your father." He said. "Now, are you going to have dinner with your mother and I?"
My good mood dropped down a few notches. "You guys are getting a divorce. Why would we still have dinner together?"
"Because we are a family, Rose, and we will still act like one." Abe opened the door for me. Inside, the air was cool and smelled like Pine Sol and Comet. "So, are you still going to have dinner or not?"
"Are you still hiring bodyguards for me?"
"Absolutely. They'll be here tomorrow. I just gotta make some calls."
Abe pushed out his bottom lip, giving me puppy dog eyes. "Please, Kiz."
"It's not going to work dad….not this time."
His lips started quivering, tears glossed his brown eyes.
"Oh, you are such a manipulator!" I socked his arm. "Fine, fine! I'll stay. But I'm going straight home after that. No dessert or movies."
Abe's face went normal again, proving that he was a wonderful actor. "My daughter? Missing dessert? Yeah, I'd pay a million dollars to see that."
"Fine, maybe, just maybe I can stay for dessert. No promises though…"
Turns out, I stayed for desert and then some.
"You've cleared the whole pie dish, Rose." Janine laughed as she cleared the dinner table.
I leaned back in my chair, hearing the oak squeak in protest. "You make great banana cream pie, what can I say?"
"Thank you very much, Janine." Lissa chimed in.
"Yeah, thanks. I love your pie, Mrs. Mazur." Christian said, earning a dirty look from my dad. I smiled inwardly. They may be getting a divorce, and they may not be in love, but I could tell from my father's protective nature that he still cared for her deeply, that he still loved her. And that fact gave me just a tiny bit of hope.
"You are very welcome." Janine smiled. She took the dishes to the sink and started rinsing.
"Do you need any help mom?"
"No, honey. I'm fine. You just relax."
"Actually," I brushed the crumbs off my pants and stood up. "I have to get going. I've got work in the morning."
Lissa stood up as Christian yawned, patting his full belly. "Yeah, we better get going too…"
Abe's face grew serious. "I want you here at five o clock tomorrow. Do you hear me, Kiz? Five o clock."
I did a little dance. "I'll be here with bells on," I said in an overly cheerful voice.
"I'm being serious, Rose. You have to meet the guards, they will escort you home."
"Fine. Just know that I am not happy about this and I will most likely make their lives a living hell," My shoulders slumped and I dragged my feet across the floor to add dramatic affect. "I don't like them already. I'm going to be the biggest B-I-T-C-H."
"Whatever you must do, Kiz," Abe sipped on his black coffee. "So long as you are protected and safe, I am happy."
Janine dried her hands off with a paper towel, walked over, and placed her hand on my fathers shoulder. "We will both be happy."
Abe smiled up at her, and I was pleased to see that it was a genuine one.
"Are they hot?" Lissa blurted out. Everyone turned to look at her, well, Christian glared. "I mean, not that it matters," she added hastily, nervously tucking platinum blonde hair behind her left ear. "It's just that I was wondering, ah, never mind…just; just…let's forget that this ever happened." She started backing towards the front door.
"Well," I took a deep breath and faced my parents. "Thank you for dinner. I love you. And I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Damn right you will."
"Ibrahim!" My mother chastised.
He covered his laugh by coughing. "Sorry, my love." His eyes flickered to me. "We love you too, Kiz. See you tomorrow."
"Bye!" I waved.
Outside, I searched for my keys in my over-sized purse.
"Damn, your mom makes a killer stew, Rose." Christian rubbed his belly appreciatively. "I wish my mom could cook like that. Of course, she'd have to be alive to do that, but you get the point."
Lissa wrapped her arm around his waist, looking solemn. Her boyfriend shrugged, seeming to snap out of his reverie. "Anyways…"
I cleared my throat, trying to ease the awkward tension. "Those cheddar baked biscuits weren't too bad either, huh?"
"Absolutely delicious." Lissa said. Christian nodded in agreement.
I found the keys to my blue Toyota Corolla and unlocked the door.
On the way home, Christian had fallen asleep, Lissa climbed up and hopped into the passenger seat.
I laughed. "Props, my lady. I've never seen a girl in a dress and six-inch high heels do that. You've got talent."
"Thanks," Lissa said. "So, uh, how do you feel about this whole bodyguard thing? Are you scared?"
"Not scared, just pissed."
"Why? You're going to be guarded twenty-four seven."
I shrugged. "It just feels unnatural. I didn't have bodyguards before this whole thing happened. I guess, to me, it's like a constant reminder. God might as well have a neon sign flashing in my face, reading: Everything's not the way it used to be! You're not normal! And you know, that captor that held you for six months, he's still after you. Don't forget to be scared of your own shadow!" I fist pumped in fake enthusiasm.
"True," Lissa nodded as I made a sharp right turn. "Or you can look at the bright side. These bodyguards may be hot."
"Or they can be old and total assholes."
"Or…they can be really hot. Like drop-your-panties-on-the-spot-hot."
From the rearview mirror, I saw ice-blue eyes snap open. "Hey! Don't talk about me like that when I'm sleeping….I feel violated."
Lissa and I laughed. "Believe me, we ain't talking about you." I muttered.
Christian narrowed his eyes. "I am drop-your-panties-on-the-spot-hot."
I pulled the car into our apartment building. "Hey Jimmy!" I waved. He returned the gesture, smiled, and opened the gates. I felt a little more secure once they closed behind us.
When I whipped into a parking spot, Lissa ushered Christian inside, telling him that us girls needed a moment alone to talk. He complied, walking away, grumbling under his breath.
"Are you okay, Rose?"
Jade-green eyes narrowed. "Tell me the truth. I don't like to be lied to. How are you feeling, Rose? Right in this moment, how are you feeling?"
I sighed tiredly and closed my eyes. "Afraid."
"Afraid of what?"
"Everything. Yeah, that pretty much covers it."
A pale, elegant, slender hand grabbed mine. Surprisingly, I wasn't frightened by the skin-to-skin contact…it was almost comforting. Almost. "I want you to know that I'm here for you, Rose. Anything you need. I live only four doors down from you. We can talk, I don't care if it's three o clock in the morning or three o clock in the afternoon, I don't care if Christian and I are in the middle of getting it on, if you feel like you need me, you come pounding on that door and I'll be there for you."
I laughed and smiled. "Thank you, Lissa. That makes me feel a lot better. I am so goddamn lucky to have a best friend like you."
"You can say that again," She winked.
"What'd you say?"
Lissa rolled her eyes as she walked me to my apartment door. "See you tomorrow?" she asked.
"For sure. Give me some knuckles." The two of us bumped fists.
"Love you." She called out from her and Christian's apartment.
"Love you too, night. And Lissa…"
She paused as she opened the door, "Yeah?"
Lissa smiled, a brilliant white light in the dark. "You are welcome, my lady." She bowed and disappeared inside.
Inside, I locked all of the doors and windows and made sure to check every inch of my house thoroughly. Once I was sure I was safe, I hopped into a steaming shower and scrubbed my skin raw with hot, scolding water. It was a ritual, the only way I didn't feel dirty after what my captor had done to me. I closed my eyes and shook my head, banishing the memories.
I lay in bed that night, with the covers hiked up to my neck. I jumped when I heard a tap at the window, but then I realized it was just a tree branch being blown around by the howling wind.
As much as I dreaded it, I knew sleep was inevitable; it wasn't like I could stay awake for the rest of my life. Eventually, the night terrors consumed me….
"Please! Stop!" I pulled on the restraints. It was no use. The chains were stainless steel and unless I morphed into Superman, I was staying right where I was. There was no getting away. I was trapped. "What do you want from me?"
The man came to a stop just a few feet away from me, wearing all black from his neck to his toes. The mask on his face was brilliant, with purple and lime-green paints, gold jewels, feathers, and glitter. He wore dark glasses, keeping me from seeing his eyes.
When he spoke, I nearly jumped out of my skin. It was so deep and distorted from a small microphone machine that was attached to his earpiece and extended all the way to his mouth. "You are mine."
"What the hell do you want from me?" I screamed.
"So brave," he mocked. "I know that you are afraid, female. I can smell your fear."
I gathered saliva in my mouth and spit, aiming for his face. It landed on his mask.
A hand clapped against my cheek, so hard that it sent my head flying backwards, black spots clouded my vision.
Still, I fought. I wasn't going to give up without a fight. "You're a sick son of a bitch! Go to hell!"
The man slapped me again. I spit blood on the ground. "Do whatever the fuck you want with me," I grinned behind my searing pain. "I don't care. I won't feel it. Do it! Don't be a fucking coward!"
"I am going to teach you a lesson, female." The man unbuckled his belt, hiked his pants down to his ankles, exposing himself.
I whimpered, clamping my eyes shut.
The man grabbed my hair and yanked my head back. I screamed in pain.
"Please…stop…don't." I begged.
"Oh, you don't want me now, female?" That distorted voice shouted. "Too bad. Because I want you so badly." He rubbed his erection against my leg, and that's when I realized that I was naked. Naked and chained up.
"Please! Stop!" I cried.
I woke up screaming, panting, and drenched in my own sweat. With shaking hands, I fumbled for the lamp and turned on the light.
"It was just a nightmare. It was just a nightmare." I chanted over and over again. The blaring red numbers on the alarm clock read 3:48AM.
I climbed out of bed and stumbled over to the sink. A big glass of water helped me calm down further.
When I lay in bed again, I kept the lights on and grabbed a magazine. There was no use in trying to go back to sleep. It was impossible.
Abe opened the door and frowned. "Damn, Kiz. You look like hell froze over."
"Nice to see you too, daddy." I pulled off my sunglasses and stepped into the air conditioning.
"You didn't get any sleep last night, did you?"
I shrugged. "Few hours. I'm fine. Let's get this over with."
A man stepped out of nowhere, wearing dark jeans and a leather jacket. He was handsome, with messy bronzed hair and emerald-green eyes. "Hello," His carefree smirk made my heart skip a beat. "My name is Adrian Ivashkov. It is a pleasure to be guarding such a beautiful lady like yourself." He stuck out his hand.
Reluctantly, I grabbed it and shook it quickly. "Rose. The name is Rose."
"It is nice to meet you, Rose."
"This is one of your bodyguards, Kiz." Abe informed.
Adrian smiled again. "I am second in command. My boss is in the other room; he is the one that is going to be guarding you twenty-four hours a day, would you like to meet him?"
I shrugged as we made our way to the living room. "I guess I have no choice."
The man in the living room made me stop dead in my tracks. "My god," I gaped. He was beautiful. So incredibly beautiful. Unlike Adrian, he looked more professional and badass in what he was wearing—a black turtle neck and black jeans. His hair was dark brown and tied at the nape of his neck. And he was tall; really tall...I placed him at six-foot-six or six-foot-seven. The raw male power coming from him was a huge turn on.
That's when his eyes flickered to mine. They were extraordinarily dark and intense and…intimidating. I loved the way they flickered up and down my body quickly before meeting my eyes again.
"Hello," Dear god…he had a Russian accent. "My name is Dimitri Belikov."