“That’s not a bad idea,” I remark, not hiding the exhaustion from my voice.
The huff that leaves her lips is humorless. She tries to get comfortable, but she’s cuffed herself too high on the post. The cuff is between the middle and top rung, instead of at the bottom. She can reach the nightstand, where a bottle of wine and a glass from earlier lay, along with her cell phone. At least she can reach those, but nothing else is at her disposal.
Agitation quickly shows in her pursed lips as she props a pillow under her arm. Letting out a sigh, I lean forward, resting my elbows on my knees and stare her down. I wait for her to look at me to ask her, “Why lie?”
Fire smolders in her gaze as she pushes out the words, “It wasn’t me.”
Tick, tick. It’s not the clock, it’s the steady beat of my heart, on edge and wanting to know why she’d try to hurt me like she is.
“I have all the time in the world,” I tell her and lean back. As I swallow, I realize how much it kills me, the very idea that it was someone else. “It was you,” I say, hardening my voice, refusing to entertain the thought the voice that saved me belonged to another. I know it was Aria. Deep in my bones, I know it was her.
“I’m sorry, Carter.” Aria’s whisper is pained. She scoots closer to me on the bed and I watch as the cuff keeps her away from me. Fuck, I’m a goddamn wreck and she can see.
She could always see me though. Something about her simply knows who I am. Her soul knows mine.
“I didn’t want to tell you,” she whispers and I’m taken back to that night, to the pain, to the desperation to die.
“I wanted to die and you saved me,” I tell her, knowing how true it is. It was her voice that called out to me as I felt the cold hand of death pull me closer to the ground. Not to a white light and salvation, but down to the dirty concrete floor. And I prayed for it to happen. I coveted nothing less than death to come to me and take the pain away. The torture I endured had destroyed any chance of peace and happiness a boy like me could ever have.
“I’m sorry,” is again all she can say as emotion wells in my chest and then higher, up my throat.
“You’re not,” I speak through clenched teeth and hold on to the fact that she’s lying. I know the voice that saved me. “You’re a liar.”
As Aria tries to wipe away her tears that have slid down her flushed cheeks, she brings her left hand up, only to have it held back by the cuff.
“And you’ll stay right there until I’m done doing what I have to do.” Standing abruptly, I watch her eyes widen. “You can stay there. Right there where you belong.” My words are hollow, but the threat is real. I won’t give her up so easily. If she thought lying to me would give her freedom from me, she thought wrong.
“Carter,” Aria calls out and moves on the bed, the sheets falling around her body in a messy puddle, but her left arm is restrained behind her. Frustration joins the desperation in her eyes.
Her right hand moves to her left as if she could pry it free as I stalk to the door. “Carter!” She yells out my name to get me to stop as I stand in the doorway. I stare back at my songbird, naked on her knees in my bed, and chained to it willingly. A dull pink mark still shows on her breast from where I touched her earlier, right beneath the pearls that sway slightly down her front. She’s a beautiful fucking vision. Beautiful, but wretched with sadness.
“Don’t leave me here,” she demands, as if she could, and then swallows visibly.
“You’re not in a position to give the commands,” is all I give her. I’m only able to take half a step out of the room before the shattering sound of glass at my right is accompanied by wetness along the right side of my cheek, my jaw, my neck and down my shirt. The dark red liquid seeps into my white dress shirt and I stare at the blotches, watching them spread over the fabric before looking back at Aria. The cracked bottle is in pieces at my feet, and there’s a small dent in the drywall. It’s surrounded by streaks of burgundy that are dripping down to the floor.
My heart races in my chest from shock, but also anger.
“Now you can’t hide at the bottom of it.” My words are spit with venom as control slips from me.