Why am I still here? What am I doing? How the hell do I get out?
I can’t block out the sounds in my head—the noise that deafens me, the feelings that scald me deep inside.
Heavy sweat. Screams.
Tears blinding me.
I jolt awake, panting raggedly, my spine stacked straight. I stare across the large bedroom. The door is still shut and locked. None of the lights are on. I’m still here. In Draco’s bedroom.
My heart thunders, and I swallow the dry, gravelly lump in my throat. I realize I’m clutching the sheets, sticky sweat built up on the back of my neck.
I look toward the alarm clock. 6:02 p.m. He’s still not here. It’s been hours. Where in the hell is he? He said he would be right back.
When my panting ceases, visions of the axe tattoo blind me, and I press the palms of my hands into my eye sockets, rubbing roughly in hopes that it will suppress the memories. My breathing becomes ragged, heavy, a chill shooting down my spine.
My body is filled with anxiety; my stomach has been flipped upside down. Even if I wanted to eat, I wouldn’t be able to. I was ready for revenge before, but now . . . now I’m just out of it. I blame it on whatever pills Draco had Juanita bring me.
They’ve made me groggy. Distant.
I push out of the bed and walk to the window. The sun has set now, half a golden disk perched atop the horizon. The sky is filled with splashes of pink and lavender and a slight trace of orange.
The sapphire water shimmers, and I hear seagulls squawking. I lift my hand and unlock the window, pushing it open so I can take in a draft of the warmth. I inhale the salty air, and then exhale through parted lips.
The sound of the large waves running up to the shore relaxes me.
I keep the window open and walk back to bed, sitting on the edge. The breeze is cool enough to chill the heated parts of me. Looking up, I point my line of sight on the wall to my right.
It caught my attention when I first laid down.
It’s a weapon wall, swathed in burgundy fabric and bordered in black.
There is the machete Draco used on Axe Man, and it makes me cringe inside, seeing it there. It still has blood on the sharp, silver blade, but not much.
There are his gold brass knuckles, a few pocketknives, a butcher knife, and a gun.
The gun is what catches my attention most. I push off the bed again and walk to the wall, picking up the heavy silver gun. It has a wide barrel. It could probably leave a wound the size of a golf ball.
I pull the revolver open and check it. There are no bullets. Damn it.
I run my fingers over the black handle, but that’s when I see the initials carved into it.
I don’t know what the letters stand for. It’s probably another one of his prizes.
Footsteps start up moments later and I stick the gun back in its place, stepping back. The doorknob jiggles, and my eyes stretch wide, sharp fingernails digging into my palms.
It might be Bain . . . or Francesca. He’s not here, but they could be.
“Unlock the door, Gianna,” Draco orders from the other side. His voice sends a signal to my brain. My mind sparks, my heart drumming. Relief.
I rush to the door and unlock it, stepping away just as rapidly as he walks in.
“Where were you?” I snap at him.
“Doing what?” I fold my arms tightly.
“For ten hours? You said you’d be right back.”
“And I am back. I didn’t tell you exactly how long I’d be.”
I sigh, roughly raking my fingers through my hair and then turning. “I want to know what you meant earlier. You said we have stuff to talk about, so tell me. I need to know everything if I’m going to accept you, and this. I don’t want to be left out of the loop anymore.”
He looks me over, taking note of my shaky hands as they fall at my sides. “You need rest, Gianna. Relax.”
“No,” I respond rapidly, and my voice is sharp, strained. “No—I’ve had enough rest. I’m tired of stalling, Draco. I’m a grown woman. Don’t treat me like some clueless child.”
“You’re angry. I get it.” His voice is too calm and hearing it pisses me off. “If you sleep, I will tell you in the morning,” he says, stepping forward. I know he’s lying.
I snatch my gaze away, pointing it at the weapons wall. “I can’t sleep. I—I keep waking up. Having these fucking nightmares. I can’t get rid of them, even if I try to think of something good before falling asleep.”
I don’t look his way, but I feel him watching me. After several silent seconds tick by, he walks to the wide dresser against the wall, pulls out a white pill bottle from the top drawer and then comes back in my direction.