Disclaimer — Fabiola, Bruno, and La madrastra are the property of Televisa. I make no monetary profit from this story.


"Ay," Fabiola moans, gingerly pressing her palm to her sore cheek. She mentally curses her husband — the blow he dealt her will doubtlessly leave a mark, and they have to leave shortly to visit Ángel in the hospital. She slowly crawls out of bed, leaving the softness and warmth of her covers behind, and pads over to her dresser. Her fingers linger briefly on the pale, painted wood as she remembers how hard and cold it felt against her back with Bruno's weight pressing her in to it.

She examines her face in the mirror, wincing as she removes her hand from her cheek. Sure enough, her skin is tinted red where Bruno's hand struck it. She prods her face gently with her fingertips and immediately hisses in pain; Bruno hit her so hard that a bruise is already blossoming.

As she pulls out her concealer, Fabiola considers, for the briefest of moments, going to the hospital as she is, with the evidence of her husband's violence visible for all to see. Esteban is an honorable man; she knows that, despite their recent skirmishes, he would not hesitate to come to her rescue. Esteban would use all of his wealth and power to destroy Bruno and to make sure that Fabiola was safe and cared for, and she could then easily take advantage of the situation and finally win Esteban back.

She smears the concealer across her cheek instead, careful not to apply too much pressure to her sore flesh. Fabiola wants desperately to be with Esteban, but she is far too proud to ever let anyone, even Esteban, see her weak and battered. She feels a surge of hatred for her husband and finds herself wishing that she had driven the knife straight through his heart. She wonders if the blade would have punctured his chest easily, or if she would have had to put all of her strength behind the hilt in order to deliver a fatal wound.

It would have been so easy to do it, to end Bruno's life once and for all, Fabiola knows. But in that instant after she had broken free from her husband's grasp and readied the knife just a few inches from the tender flesh of his neck, she had seen surrender in Bruno's eyes. She had won, and he'd had no choice but to accept defeat and await her decision: life or death.

Fabiola can recall no greater thrill in her life than that moment.

Lost in thought, Fabiola finishes concealing her burgeoning bruise and begins to ring her eyelids with eyeliner. She doesn't love Bruno; he himself made that impossible so many years ago, when he teamed up with Esteban and her father and trapped her in this marriage. For your own good, they'd said, and at eighteen she'd had no other recourse but to submit to their wishes. They may get along well most of the time, but Fabiola will never allow herself to love Bruno; to do so would be to admit defeat, and this battle of wills is all that she has. She cannot lose it, too.

Fabiola is languidly applying her foundation when Bruno reappears in the doorway, his breathing now returned to normal and his expression all smiles. "Belleza," he intones, snaking one arm around her waist as he presses his lips against her bare neck. Fabiola's breathing hitches, and as their eyes meet in the reflection of their mirror, it strikes her how normal they look together, with all of their wounds so neatly hidden from view.

Then Bruno breaks the magic of the moment; he pulls away, and with a smack of her ass says, "You need to hurry up, Fabiola. We need to get to the hospital as soon as possible."

The anger that Bruno's kiss had quelled flares back to life. "Really?" she hisses. "Perhaps you should have thought of that before you hit me hard enough to leave a bruise, you—"

"Shh, shh, shh," Bruno commands softly. He presses his finger to Fabiola's lips and his body against hers, trapping her against her dresser. "Remember, belleza, you hit me first. You provoked me." She can feel his hot breath grazing her neck and the evidence of his arousal against her thigh, and she's still so angry with him, but at the same time she needs him. Her body craves his touch, craves the union of their flesh, and when she feels his lips brush against hers she kisses him back without even thinking. Her thighs part involuntarily, allowing Bruno to push a leg between her own and grind it against her groin. Desire settles warm and heavy in her pelvis, distracting her brain from all other thoughts, and she just needs

With a start, Fabiola remembers herself. She shoves Bruno away with a breathless laugh, ignoring the painful ache between her legs. "I'll be ready when I'm ready, hermoso."

Bruno flashes her a grin that thinly veils his frustration. "Ten minutes," he growls before licking the side of her face; she can hear him laughing down the hallway even as she furiously wipes at her cheek.

When Fabiola looks back in the mirror, she can barely meet her own eyes. She may not love Bruno, but she needs him. She needs him to hate her as much as she hates him, so that she can share in his hatred and feel connected to at least one other person on the planet. She needs him to need her, to validate her existence through his desire. She needs him to touch her, either tenderly or brusquely, so that she can feel something, so that she can remember that she's still alive, that she didn't die when she was eighteen and the man that she loved married another woman.

There is a difference, Fabiola knows, between need and love, but as she stares into the mirror at her flushed and bruised face, her perfectly applied makeup ruined, she finds it hard to remember what that difference is.