Settings
The Struggle

The Struggle

Page 33

“Of course.” He stepped forward, obviously happy to have something to do. “I will bring up some rice and soup. That should work well.”

“Thank you.”

Basil smiled brightly, bowed, and then he was off. I stood there for a moment and then closed the door. I turned around. The air punched out of my lungs like it had earlier when she woke from a nightmare.

Josie was awake.

Not only that, she was sitting up, clutching the blanket to her chest. Her eyes were wide, and there was a faint flush of pink on her unbruised cheek. Her gaze was on my face and then it dropped to my bare chest and stomach. The pink in her cheeks heightened. This time was nothing like the last time she woke up.

Relief almost cut my knees out from underneath me, and I actually stumbled forward a step. “You’re awake,” I said, realizing how stupid that sounded because she was, in fact, awake. And she had been awake earlier.

Her throat worked. “I was dreaming, and I thought . . . I thought that this was a dream.”

Gods.

That killed me all over again. “You’re really here, Josie. You’re really safe now.”

Her eyes shut for a moment and she clutched the blanket tighter. Pain flickered over her face and when she reopened her eyes, there was a glimmer of tears. I moved to her without thinking. Within a heartbeat, I was sitting on the side of the bed, next to her.

Josie jerked, eyes widening. “That . . . that was fast.”

Fast was an understatement. I remembered that she had no idea what I was now. We hadn’t gotten the chance to talk about any of that. “How are you feeling?”

She hesitated for a moment. “I don’t know.” Her gaze flickered to the curtained windows. “How long have I’ve been asleep?”

“A couple of hours.”

Her forehead creased. “You . . . you haven’t left, have you?”

“No.” I took a deep breath. “I know you’re mad at me. You want me to—”

“I’m not mad at you,” she said so quietly that I thought it was my imagination at first. “I mean, I . . . I want you to try to find Mitchell. I’m not giving up on that. I just . . .” She slowly shook her head. “I’m just not mad.”

I stared at her in disbelief. “How can you not be mad at me? You should be furious. You should—” She should hate me. I couldn’t bring myself to say that out loud. “I don’t know how you can’t be angry.”

“Maybe I will be again later.” A tremor coursed through her as she lowered her hand to the blanket.

My chest hollowed. “Are you in a lot of pain?”

“Not too much,” she said, lowering her gaze to the bedspread. Her fingers tightened around the edge of the blanket.

“I see the bite marks. I can tell you were fed on a lot. You’re bruised.” I paused. “All over.” Anger beat at me, and I worked at keeping my voice level. “Did he—did they—do anything to you I can’t see?”

Her eyes squeezed shut, and I barely had a wisp of restraint left. Outside, there was a flash of intense white light and then thunder boomed. Her eyes flew open. “You mean, was I . . . raped? No,” she said, fingers twisting the blanket. “Hyperion . . . he threatened it, but he didn’t—didn’t get the chance. For the most part, he was disgusted by me.”

I didn’t feel much relief. Some rapists didn’t have to like or even be attracted to someone to rape them. It wasn’t about any of that, and all I could hope was that Josie wasn’t hiding something. It was obvious he’d found other ways to torture her and he had, but some of my violent anger cooled. There’d be no storm outside. “There is a lot we need to talk about.”

Josie stared at me a moment and then her gaze flickered around the room. “I . . . I don’t know what is happening.” She swallowed hard. “When I woke up earlier, I was confused and . . . I just don’t know what is happening.”

All I wanted to do was gather her into my arms, but she didn’t sound right. There was something missing from her voice and she had the look of a cornered, confused animal. I had the suspicion she needed some space right now. Probably would be wise of me to sit in one of the numerous chairs in the room, but I couldn’t make myself move.

So I sat very still. “I’ll fill in as many blanks as I can for you, but I have Basil grabbing some food for you. He’ll be coming up here shortly. I want you to eat this time.”

Her brows rose. “Basil? Like the plant?”

Copyright 2016 - 2021