No, it was still the best option, and back on familiar ground, I knew where to go. I steered the car in the direction of the Sonora Oaks. The staff was the epitome of discretion, and calling ahead meant I could take Scar in through the service entrance and avoid a spectacle.
She didn’t stir, even when I lifted her and carried her into the hotel and up to the top floor. She moaned softly when I laid her down on the king-size bed, but then she seemed to settle back into her drug-induced sleep. I wanted to climb into the bed next to her, pull her close and never let her go again, but I didn’t. How could I touch her without hurting her? How would she react if she woke up with my arms encompassing her?
I pulled a chair over to the bed and sat down.
And then it hit. The floodgate let loose and the tidal wave that crashed over me left me gasping for breath. The lump in the back of my throat dislodged with a wretched sob that ripped clear out of my chest. It wasn’t a common occurrence. I hadn’t cried since I was a teenage boy. I’d thought I had lost the ability to cry at some point after Marcos had rescued me. It was apparently in fine working order now though. Hot tears stung my eyes. I looked at her through the watery blur as they escaped.
I’d let this happen. I had ripped her away from her safe life and fed her to the wolves. Wolves that had ripped her apart. The horrifying images that filled my head for the past sixteen days were nothing in comparison to seeing her now, in the flesh, with the proof of my colossal failure written on every marred inch of her body.
“Fuck Scar, I’m so fucking sorry,” I choked out. She couldn’t hear me, but it wouldn’t matter if she could. I could say it over and over again for the rest of my life and it wouldn’t do a god damned thing to make this right. There was no making this right. They’d taken everything from her. How the hell could anything fix that?
No. No fucking way was I going to think that way. She was strong. Intermingled with the torment in my head, that one thought kept coming back to me. She’d surprised me at every turn. She would do it again because she was stronger than me; stronger than anyone.
I took hold of her steel-like strength and made it my own as I brushed a fallen lock of hair off her forehead. She would recover. No matter what it took, I wouldn’t give up until every part of her had been restored.
It was completely foreign territory—helping a broken slave recover her former self—but I’d find a way to navigate it. I would. I wouldn’t fail her this time.
I sat back in the chair, feeling the first real flicker of hope since I’d stepped into that wretched basement. The fucking tears hadn’t ebbed. Having found their way out, it seemed there was no stopping them. Grief, guilt, gut-wrenching sorrow—they were all still there. Maybe they always would be. I’d never been able to forget the image of her now. It would haunt me for the rest of my life.
But there was hope too, that maybe one day, sometime in the future, she would be able to forget. Or at least be able to make it through the day without the nightmare she’d lived controlling her every movement, her every thought.
Two hours passed, and then three. She’d need her pain medication before much longer, but I was reluctant to wake her. I could hope that in her morphine-addled sleep, her head was quiet, devoid of memories. Once I woke her up, it would all be there. I couldn’t protect her from it.
Just one more hour. One more hour, and then I’d wake her.
Every minute, I watched her features for any sign her discomfort was increasing, but her brow remained smooth and her lips were relaxed, slightly parted the way they usually were when she slept, like an invitation to sample their softness and warmth. I couldn’t kiss her now though. But one day. I could hope that one day I’d be able to kiss her beautiful lips, and not conjure up memories in her head of the monsters that had tortured her. One day.
I awoke from the deepest sleep I’d ever experienced. I had drifted down so low, I had to will my consciousness upward, away from the dark nothingness that had clung to my mind and held me down in the deepest recesses of slumber. Up, and then up a little more. It was exhausting, so much so that I almost gave up and let it pull me back all the distance I’d come.