“No one will ever hurt you again,” he whispers against my lips. “Not while I’m alive and breathing.”
I nod, sinking my teeth into my bottom lip.
“Do you trust what I say?”
At first I hesitate, but I know that’s not what he wants. So I nod. “Yes, I trust what you say.”
He studies every feature of my face. “Good.” Pulling away, he straightens his tie and clears his throat. “It’s almost 7:30. Get cleaned up and meet me on the terrace for breakfast. We’re eating alone today. Much to discuss.”
My eyebrows dip. “The terrace?”
“Patanza knows where it is. She’ll be at the door to escort you.” He walks to the door and pulls it open.
“Where will you be in the meantime?” I call.
He huffs a breath, flaring his nostrils. “Handling my damn cousin,” he mutters, and then he takes off, shutting the door behind him.
I’ve brushed my hair back into a sleek, lower bun. I get dressed in one of the white dresses Mrs. Molina bought for me. It’s beautiful. No sleeves, a large V cut between the cleavage. Slim at the waist and snug around my breasts and hips.
It almost reminds me of a wedding dress—a really cheap one, but for someone with only pennies to rub together, it would be perfect.
As I stare at my reflection in the mirror, I feel my eyes burn, remembering my old wedding gown, wondering where it must be. One of the maids must have tossed it after that very first shower I took here. I haven’t seen it since.
I quickly blink the tears away and step out of the bathroom. It’s the past. I won’t dwell. I walk to the door, and when I open it, Patanza is waiting across the hallway with her arms folded.
“He’s waiting for you,” she murmurs.
I nod. “I know. I couldn’t decide what to wear.”
She looks me up and down. “I say that dress is a little too clean for today.”
“What do you mean?”
She puts on a light smile. “I think you already know.”
Right. The cells. Bain. Francesca. Death.
Instead of walking down the steps, she continues forward and I follow closely behind.
“Patanza, can I ask you a question?”
She glances sideways but doesn’t meet my eyes. I notice hers are really light. Hazel. “Depends on what you’re asking.”
“How did you learn English, if you’ve been here your whole life?”
I catch up at her side, and she finally looks over at me. She stops in front of a set of French doors, where we can both see Draco standing near the railing with his cellphone glued to his ear. His back is to us, the wind tousling loose strands of his thick, black hair.
She watches him carefully before speaking. “He taught me. I knew Jefe young. If I couldn’t be stronger, he wanted me to be smarter than the men. The guys like Bain and Guillermo and . . . Pico, they learned on their own because they took trips to the United States often.”
“Have you ever been there before?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “No.” And then she smiles. “But it would be nice to go.”
I half-shrug. “There are a lot of fun things to do there.”
“Jefe says he’ll let me go one day. But he said that three years ago. I’m sure he thinks I’m safer here, and honestly, he might be right.”
We both look over as Draco turns around and glances at the door. He flicks his fingers, gesturing for us to come out.
“Maybe I can talk him into taking you one day.” I grin. “Taking us.”
She smiles back, but barely. I can tell she wants to grin just as hard as I do, but she’s too accustomed to looking and being hard. She has to seem as if her heart has been carved from stone. “Jefe isn’t as lenient with his guards as you think. We have to earn rewards like that. Going to the U.S. is pretty much a vacation.” She grips the doorknob and opens the door.
“Well, I personally think you’ve more than earned it.”
She doesn’t respond to that. I don’t expect her to.
As soon as she opens the door, the humid beach air brushes past me, making the loose tendrils of my hair twist with the wind. Draco hears us, and when he peers over his shoulder again, he locks those hard eyes right on me.
He continues talking on the phone, but he doesn’t dare pull his gaze away. His eyes travel up and down, his face solid, eyes blazing. I’m not sure what he’s thinking.
Maybe it’s about the shower last night.
Or perhaps he really likes this dress on me.
Or maybe he simply disapproves of it for what I know is going to happen today.
He says something in Spanish on the phone and then he hangs up. He finally looks away from me and tosses the phone to Patanza.