Lane BrothersBy: Kristina Weaver
5 Billionaire Mafia Romance Books
My morning started just like any other morning for the last four years. I woke up at six, showered, styled my hair, did my makeup, and dressed in my very plain uniform consisting of a pencil skirt, silk blouse, and low heels.
Breakfast was the same, as well—granola and herbal tea (half a teaspoon of sugar). Then I fed Goofball, my cat and the only living creature I allow into my inner space.
Routine. Routine. Routine. That’s how I live my life and I never waver from it. I walk out of my apartment every morning at exactly six forty-five, and then I hustled myself the three and a half blocks to the little accounting firm where I’m a lower-level flunky.
I usually get there in fifteen minutes after stopping in at Susie’s Diner for a cup of coffee that I never drink but has become one of my habits, and then I’m at my desk, ready to do my job for the next eight hours before going home and doing the same things I do every night.
I’m a homebody now, who knits, bakes, and does anything that won’t require leaving my apartment but for the midweek grocery-shopping trip.
I have no friends. No family. Above all, I never allow myself to wish I did, because then I risk going back to that dark time when I’d almost not made it through.
Four years of this and I’ve been successful at becoming a ghost, just the way I planned it. Just the way I want it.
That’s all I’ve striven for in four years. To become so invisible that the people around me would reply “who?” when asked about Eloise Carver.
I’m alive and healthy and whole, mostly, but I don’t want to be memorable to a single soul, not since I survived and realized that I got hurt because I made myself too visible to that sicko.
You would think that after all my hard work, after following my routine so that the moment an anomaly popped up I would recognize it, I’d be safe and aware that danger was near.
I would know and have the chance to run.
I didn’t see a thing, or notice the fact that I was being followed and watched for weeks. All I knew was that I bought coffee I never drank because I used those five minutes in the diner to surreptitiously scan the street outside for any strangers I don’t recognize, people who never walk that stretch of the quiet street in the small town of Banes, Mississippi.
That’s why I’m so pissed at myself right now and why the fear hasn’t crippled me yet.
More importantly, that is why when I wake up tied to a bed, my body bare and open, defenceless, I don’t do the stupid thing and scream my head off.
No, I do what my therapist back in Philly taught me to do; I breathe and center myself before twisting my head and scanning the room.
I’m alone, but I knew that the minute my brain switched back on and I came fully awake. I have the uncanny ability to feel when someone is near after four years of self-imposed solitude, and I know immediately that no one is near.
Besides the faint lingering scent of expensive aftershave, the room is empty except for a huge king-size bed that I’m strapped to and a glass of water on the bedside table.
Nothing stands out. In fact, the room looks similar to my own. It’s bare, stark white, and spotlessly clean.
My perusal lasts a matter of maybe two minutes, the place is so empty, and I start focusing on my bindings, testing the strength and give in the silken ties around my wrists and ankles.
While they’re soft and designed not to cut into my skin, they’re strong and tied tight enough that no amount of pulling makes a difference. Even twisting onto my stomach I can’t reach anything but the dark wood of the headboard and the chains attached to the restraints.
A test of my ankle bindings proves just as futile, and I flop back down after several minutes of struggling against them, exhausted and for the first time unable to stem the flood of fear that’s had me in its grip since waking.
I want to scream now and allow the tears free reign. Instead, I lie still, regulate my breathing as I’ve been taught, and try to recall the moment I slipped up.
Okay, Ellie, think. What did you do?
That’s the problem, I realize a moment later. I did everything just as usual. I hit the pavement at six forty-five and walked three feet behind Joe, the mechanic, as I always do. Susie’s Diner had been the same, the usual patrons dropping in for their morning orders, and I’d even scanned the street like I usually do and seen only little old Moseby shuffling along with her dog.
Work was the same as any other day, and I hadn’t even left to grab a sandwich like I usually do, thanks to my workload doubling when that Janine girl across from my cubicle called in sick.
No lunch, no stopping till five, on the dot, and then I’d walked home and locked myself in my apartment at exactly five thirty. The only variation I’d allowed was to give Goofball a tin of tuna for dinner instead of her usual cat food.
A dinner of grilled chicken breast, steamed broccoli, and carrots, and then I’d done some yoga before retiring at eight thirty.
Another few minutes pass and I eventually crack, giving in to the temptation that’s been dogging me.
I get nothing but silence and that weird, eerie sensation as goose bumps erupt all over my body and the hairs on my neck and arms stand up.
I’m being watched. I know I am.
Whoever this is may not be on the same scale as that animal, Bolton Conrad, but I did not get here, naked and tied to a bed without any recollection of getting here, without someone with nefarious intent.
That tells me one thing. I’m in trouble, big trouble, and with the way I’m bound and at whoever’s mercy, being at ease about this event is not safe.
But what to do? There’s no escape unless I chew through my own arms, and then what? I don’t know where I am. This place could be in the middle of nowhere, with no way to get to civilization and the authorities.
The kicker, though, is that I have no idea how long I’ve been here. I could have been unconscious for hours while this person transported me out of state or into the freaking wilderness.
Don’t snort. I have been here before, albeit in much worse circumstances and conditions. I did manage to escape, only to find myself in the middle of desert country with nothing for miles but dirt and dehydration.
I almost died that time while trying to run before collapsing. Then I was dragged back by my tormentor.
“Hello! I need to pee! My arms are starting to go dead! Hello! Let me the hell out of here, you freak!”
The scrape of a key in the lock comes not five minutes later, and I crane my neck up to peer at it, my breathing trying to accelerate, though I’m still keeping a tight rein on that.
When the door opens I feel my blood chill and heat at the same time. I almost gag because standing in the doorway is one of the most beautiful human beings I’ve ever seen.
One word comes to mind. Angel. Dark brown hair, cut short at the sides and longer at the top, crowns a head that holds a masterpiece of a face, and by that I mean he’s exceptionally masculine and just…magnificent.
He walks closer when all I do is stare, and I see that his eyes are a deep, sapphire blue that shouldn’t be natural but obviously are. And Jesus, his mouth. Full bottom lip, slightly thinner top, but that’s not what gets me. It’s the curve at the top that lets me know that they’re soft and probably kiss like a dream.
And then I take in the rest and feel my hopes shatter. He’s big, at least six-four or six-five, and muscular.
I can see that even through his jeans and what looks to be one of those designer henley shirts that are meant to look worn but cost more than my rent.
Snap out of it, Ellie! Remember the last goon? Remember what he looked like?!
Yes, I do, it’s not something I will ever forget, not ever. Even now, four years later, I remember that face, can call it up in detail and crystal clarity just by closing my eyes.
The dreams still come, too, and it’s in those nightmarish scenes that I remember how devastatingly handsome and innocent-looking Bolton Conrad had been.
Even serial killers can be cute.
“Who are you? Why am I here?”
Stay focused. Do not start hyperventilating. He comes closer to the bed, not stopping till his knees hit the mattress. Once there, he just stands over me, staring.
I become aware once again of my nakedness, and it shames me anew when my nipples tighten at the way his eyes land there and flare slightly.
“Hey perv, eyes up top! Is this your deal, then? You steal women, tie them up, and perv over them? Stop looking! Goddammit, if you’re into rape and torture, just do it and get it over with!” I scream, fighting against the bonds.
I will endure anything this guy has to throw at me, even death, but waiting…that’s the worst and I won’t handle that. Not again.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Ellie.”
His voice is a soft, outraged rasp that settles over me like a caress. He sounds almost insulted that I think poorly of him, but what the hell? He’s kidnapped me, stripped me, and tied me up. What else can I think?
“No? Then untie me and let me go.”
“I’ll untie you if you promise not to do anything to hurt yourself. You can’t get off the estate even if you tried, but I won’t have you running and getting hurt in the process.”
“So you’d like…what? You want me to sit here meekly and wait for you to hurt me?” I snarl, attempting to close my legs.