Later, as Anna lay in bed, she couldn’t get the idea out of her head to going to the house. She turned to look at Peter who was snoring softly next to her. He was a sound sleeper. Would he hear her if she got up?
Without trying to over think the situation, she slipped out of bed and went to her dresser. She pulled out clothes and then went to the bathroom. She dressed and brushed her hair and then snuck to the closet to look for the keys that were in an old purse. She glanced back at Peter. He hadn’t moved. She grabbed her shoes and snuck out into the living room, picked up her purse and silently left the apartment. She put her shoes on and then hurried to the elevator, looking up the bus information on the way down. There was a bus that was leaving in ten minutes two blocks away. She stopped briefly and purchased a bus pass at a kiosk, then hurried to the bus stop.
The bus was pulling up as she arrived and she got on and found a seat. As it pulled away from the curb, she began to doubt her plan. But what was wrong with going to see her old house? She wasn’t trying to run away…really. She just…wanted to see it. She needed a happy memory to overwrite the horrible ones that were plaguing her.
The bus ride was about a half hour. She kept expecting to hear her phone ring…that Peter had noticed she was gone. As soon as she was at the house, she would turn the phone off. Somehow she could be tracked through it, but she needed it to find her way. Her heart was pounding so hard, she wouldn’t have been surprised if the lady sitting a few rows in front of her heard it.
Three men in their mid-twenties got on halfway through her ride and sat across the aisle from her. They didn’t look particularly nice and eyed her with a look that frightened her. She kept her head down and tried to ignore their comments.
“Hey, Sweetheart. You going somewhere special? Someone as pretty as you shouldn’t be out alone on a Saturday night.”
It went against everything in her training to ignore them, but she bit her lip and stared at her hands.
“Why don’t you come out with us? We’ll show you a good time.”
Oh, this was a mistake. She shouldn’t have left the apartment, especially not alone. She should have known better. But the longing to see the house had robbed her of sleep and made her thinking illogical. She closed her eyes and hoped they would leave her alone. It was almost midnight, and once she got off the bus she had a half mile to walk. What had she been thinking?
She kept hoping that the men would get off before she did, but they didn’t, and when she stood to get off at her stop, she was terrified when they followed her off. She didn’t know how to get away from men. On the other hand, maybe they would kill her and then she would be rid of this life. The thought was tempting, but when they started to try and talk to her, she crossed the street and walked away from them quickly.
“Oh, C’mon baby. Don’t run away. We won’t hurt you.”
She walked faster, but they stayed right behind her. The streetlights were on, but they weren’t very bright and there seemed to be countless shadows everywhere. She walked even faster, but as she passed under a tree, an arm snaked around her waist and a hand across her mouth.
She yelped in surprise and pushed against the hand around her waist, but nothing budged.
“C’mon. In here.” One of the men said and she was pushed through a gate into a building that was under construction. The man holding her slid his hand up under her shirt and grabbed her breast.
“Fuck, she’s not wearing a bra,” he groaned.
“Show us her tits.” A square light shone in her face suddenly as the man holding her lifted her shirt. “Nice nipple rings, Hon,”
The light came closer and a hand reached out to take hold of a ring and pulled. She whimpered as he pulled hard enough to hurt but not enough to rip it out.
“Alright, enough. I get her first.” The man who was holding her turned her away from the other men and pushed her up against a brick wall. She didn’t bother to fight. It wouldn’t do any good. He held her hands over her head against the wall and pulled her sweat pants down with the other. “No panties either? You just wanted to get fucked tonight, didn’t you?”
She shook her head but he didn’t pay any attention. She just wanted to go home. To the one place she felt safe.
Something hard and hot pressed between her legs and a moment later the man was inside her. The brick wall was cool and rough and her belly and cheek scraped against it as he fucked her. She kept quiet and closed her eyes and waited for him to finish.
“Oh, yeah. Oh, fuck yeah. Fuck.” The man thrust harder and harder until he came with a curse. He released her hands and brought his hands down to her breasts. “You like that, hon? I didn’t hear you protesting.”
Anna didn’t respond. Two more to go, then maybe they’d let her go. She closed her eyes and waited for the next one. She was grabbed around her waist and pulled to lay back on some sort of hard surface. The surface was covered with sharp objects that dug into her back.
The man pushed her knees into her chest and rammed himself inside her. She cried out and tried to keep her weight off the sharp objects, but couldn’t.
“Cover her mouth, she’s making too much noise,” the man fucking her growled.
A hand covered her mouth and pushed her down. She squeaked as the sharp objects dug deeper into her back and cut her as her back moved back and forth over them. The man moved faster and faster until he came with a curse.
She tried to get up when the man moved away, but the man who was holding her mouth pressed down on her chest. Tears welled up in her eyes as he took the second man’s place. The first man covered her mouth, muffling her cries.
When the third man finished, she rolled to the floor and huddled on her knees. Her back hurt so much! She heard the men speaking and then the room quieted. When she looked up, the men were gone.
Anna sighed in relief. She had been afraid that they would take her with them. She slowly stood, wincing at the pain in her back. Now what should she do? Go back to the apartment?
She walked to the entrance of the building, tripping over things on the floor, and stopped at the entrance. She looked both ways before stepping out onto the empty sidewalk.
Her back burned as she started walking in the direction of her house. It took her much longer than she expected when she set out, but eventually the entrance to the neighborhood came into view. The gates were closed, but she was able to unlock them and walked to the circular road. Her heart pounded as the side of the big white house came into view. The house was dark. She walked to the front door and stopped. Was it still her house? Would the key work? Did she really want to go inside?
Part of her wanted to run away. But she wanted…something of Alex. She needed his comfort, even if he was dead. Would the house still smell like him?
She bit her lip and put the key in the lock and turned it. She opened the door and heard a beeping sound. The alarm? Did she remember the code? She walked to the glowing panel and stared at the numbers. She winced and pressed five numbers into the panel and sighed in relief when the beeping stopped.
She flipped the switch and stared at the marble entryway where she last saw Alex. The table and rug were there but the vase that sat in the middle and held flowers was gone. She wandered slowly through the house, basking in the memories of Alex for the first time in two and a half years. An unexpected peace descended over her, even as her back burned. She stopped in the great room and stared at their wedding pictures.
Anna hardly recognized herself. She looked so happy. And Alex looked so handsome. She pulled the picture of Alex off the wall and held it to her chest as tears fell down her face. Her heart ached for him. It felt as raw now as it had the day she found out he was dead.
She ran up the stairs and into the master bedroom. The bed was made and the room was clean. So many memories of being with Alex here. What she wouldn’t give for one more chance for him to hold her and kiss her and tell her that everything would be ok.
She walked through the room and into Alex’s closet where his familiar scent filled her lungs and memory. She inhaled deeply of Alex’s essence. A fury overcame her and she suddenly started pulling at Alex’s clothes. She didn’t stop until there was a large pile on the floor in front of her and then stared at it for a long moment before burrowing herself into the pile. She clutched the picture of Alex to her chest and fell sound asleep.
Distant shouting dragged Anna out of her peaceful sleep. She opened her eyes in the dark room and once again inhaled Alex. His clothes were so soft and warm and big. She never wanted to leave.
But her name was being shouted and footsteps pounded nearby. Light suddenly invaded her eyes. “She’s in here!” someone shouted.
Anna blinked several times before her eyes focused on Aaron coming to squat down next to her. “What are you doing, Anna?” he asked.
“How did you find me?”
Aaron held up her arm with the gold bracelet. “GPS tracker. Peter could track you on his phone.”
“Peter’s here?” Anna looked around frantically. Oh, he would be so angry! He would take her back to Devin. She would get the injections again. What had she been thinking, coming here?
She heard footsteps again and then Peter was in the doorway. She backed away on her hands and feet and huddled next to the wall, still cradling the picture of Alex to her chest. She looked up at him, terrified of going back to the Manor.
“Anna, why didn’t you ask me to bring you here? Why did you sneak out?” He came to kneel next to her and tried to cradle her, but she hissed as he touched her back. “What happened?” He turned her around and inhaled sharply when he looked at her back. “God, Anna, what happened?”
Anna’s jaw trembled. “I…some men followed me off the bus. They took me into a building…” She started crying.
“Oh, Anna!” Peter exclaimed softly and pulled her to him as gently as he could.
“I’ll get a wash cloth,” Aaron said, standing and leaving the closet.
Peter began to rock Anna as she cried. “Why didn’t you ask me to bring you?” he whispered imploringly.
Anna didn’t know what to say. Why was he being nice? “I thought I was a bother. I’m sorry I snuck out. Please don’t take me to the Manor,” she begged.
“Anna, you’re not a bother. Why would you think that?”
“Because of what you said to Devin this afternoon.”
Aaron returned with a washcloth. “Will you come lie on the bed? There’s better light.”
Anna nodded reluctantly and Peter helped her to her feet and out to the bed. She removed her shirt and lay down on the bed and Aaron gently cleaned her back. “It’s all scratched up and bloody, Anna. What did you do?”
“They put me on some sort of table or something. I don’t know what was on it.”
“If you were a normal woman, I’d tell you to go get a tetanus shot, but I don’t think you have to worry about that.” He sighed. “Let me see if I can find a first aid kit.” He lay the cool cloth on her back and left the room.
Peter lay down on the bed facing her with a concerned expression in his brown eyes. “Anna, are you talking about when Devin was telling me about your morning sickness and such?”
He closed his eyes and sighed. “I was hoping you were asleep. Anna…I…I couldn’t let Devin know that I was disgusted by what he did to you.” He rolled onto his back, but took her hand in his. “That night, after that guy came and tore you up, I went to see Aaron and he told me your story. It was very, very different than what Devin had told me. And, honestly, more explanatory of how you acted. Devin had told me that you were a pain in the ass and needed watching at all times and that he didn’t have the time to do so. That…you were a bitchy Elder-Mistress that had gotten too arrogant and needed to be brought down a notch. I could do what I liked to you and just needed to accommodate his need for you.” He looked back at her. “I’m sorry I believed him, Anna.”
“I wasn’t very nice when you came.”
Peter smiled. “No, but there was still something sad about you. And Aaron defended you to the teeth. He didn’t seem like the type of guy that would have been beguiled by you. At least not that much.” He paused. “I heard you tell him backstage that you wouldn’t date him because you were afraid that something would happen to him. I’ve never seen an Elder-Mistress feel as deep emotions as I have you, Anna, and I’ve met them all.”
He turned back on his side and stroked her cheek. When he spoke again it was with a soft and gentle voice. “I said those things to Devin so he wouldn’t think that I disbelieved him about you. I hate to imagine what he would do if he didn’t trust me anymore. You’re not a bother, Anna. I’ve become quite fond of you.” He slid his hand around the back of her head and leaned in to kiss her gently, his lips enveloping hers and his thumb stroking her cheek. “Very fond,” he repeated in a whisper.
They gazed at each other and Anna saw that he was telling the truth. She gave him a timid smile. “I’m sorry I snuck out.”
“I was scared to death when I woke up and found you gone. Fortunately, Devin told me about your bracelet when I first got here so I didn’t have to call him. I can’t imagine what he would have done had I had to do that.”
Anna swallowed nervously. “You’re not going to tell him?”
“Absolutely not. I have no desire to see you punished.” He shuddered as if he knew what all it entailed.
“Thank you,” Anna said sincerely. She was glad she had been wrong about him.
Aaron returned a few minutes later with a first aid kit and the two of them cleaned her back. Anna tried to not react, but the stuff they put on it stung.
“When I tracked you, I got to the gate and couldn’t figure out how to get in here,” Peter said. “I drove around for a half hour trying to figure out how to get in. So I called Aaron and hoped he might know.”
“Alex gave me all the information to get in before he left,” Aaron said. “Even a remote to open the gate. I’m glad nothing had been changed.”
“What time is it?” Anna asked, yawning.
“A little after three in the…” Aaron’s phone rang. “Who the hell is calling?” He pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Oh.” He stood and walked out of the room.
Anna glanced at Peter, confused.
“My guess would be Wilhelm. I believe he gets notified if the house codes are used.” Peter looked pointedly at her. “He gets notifications about a lot of things around here.”
Anna thought for a minute. “So, he knows I’m here?”
Peter shrugged. “I would guess so. I would also guess that he likes it when he sees receipts from credit cards and knows what his family members are purchasing. I think he would be able to see what they are doing by the things that they buy.”
Anna stared at Peter. “You mean by using the cards, I can tell Wilhelm that I’m ok and what I’m doing?”
Peter shrugged again, but his expression said yes.
“You’re not allowed to tell me?”
So Anna could send coded messages to Wilhelm through her purchases. And Devin wouldn’t know? “Maybe I should buy more ribbons for my pointe shoes.” Since she was a “Ribbon Dancer” for Nutcracker, he might understand the code.
Peter grinned. “I think it would be a good idea.”
“Thank you,” she said reaching for his hand.
“It wasn’t my idea,” he responded, looking up as Aaron walked back in. “Everything OK?”
Aaron nodded. “Yeah, there was a call from the alarm company about unusual activity here at the house.”
“Anna thinks she needs to buy new ribbons for her pointe shoes.”
Aaron grinned. “Appropriate.”
Anna yawned again and Peter stood and pulled the covers back from the bed. “We’ll stay here tonight, if that’s ok?”
She nodded. The two men got on either side of her in bed and she was asleep within minutes.