Installment No. 22
Like her dreams before, Sofia stood mesmerized, swaying as if she was the mirror image of the amber-eyed woman before her. The woman lifted her hand, the fingers seeming long because of the placement of the thumb, which was closer to the wrist than a human’s hand. As the woman did in every dream, she unfurled her fist and held her hand out toward Sofia, palm up to the night sky.
Following the pattern of her previous dreams, Sofia’s knees buckled to the forest floor and she threw her hands out to catch herself. Now she was closer to the earth, on her hands and knees. She lifted her face to the woman at the tree, who smiled beatifically, her lids heavy with thick, long lashes.
Sofia’s heart swelled under the strange woman’s pride, filling her chest until she thought it would splinter and shift to accommodate the thumping. Her skin burned, but she kept her eyes locked on the amber ones above her, as though they held the secret of her boiling blood.
The woman at the tree smiled, her teeth sharp, luminescent. The tips of her fangs were pressed against her bottom lip.
Sofia trembled, her frightened body sweating.
The woman began to sway once again, her arms rising sensuously above her head like the tree’s branches. She threw her head back, her red hair tumbling like hundreds of autumn leaves down her back. A wail rose from her, the keening winding out of her mouth like roots stretching for the sky.
A nugget of weight, small as an acorn, burned like a brand in Sofia’s stomach. She felt its first tentative scratchings, as though a tendril searched to take hold in the fertility of her womb. Spreading her bent legs wider, she dug her fingers into the rich loam as her back arched, pressing her stomach closer the ground. Sofia threw her head back to balance her snaking body.
The effort squeezed a moan from her throat.
“Beautiful, child.” The woman’s hips undulated. The leaves above shivered violently, their rubbing a million verdant voices whispering upon Sofia’s ears. “Sing.”
As if compelled, Sofia let the pressure ease forth, her vocal chords squeezing her breath.
The eerie sound emanating from her throat scraped resonant like the strings of a cello. Blackness descended.
When Sofia woke to morning light, her oddly comforting dream was instantly crushed under the humiliation of German’s retreat. But she didn’t have time to wallow. Her gaze drifted toward the very dick who’d eviscerated her the night before. Instantly she was on her feet, all but kicking the charred bird into the smolder that had once been the campfire. She jacked her fist to the small of her back and whipped out the pistol, aiming it dead center at his forehead.
She inhaled to lessen the startled thump of her heartbeats. She’d been sleeping like a stone again and hadn’t even heard him approach. Which didn’t settle well at all. Daylight had done nothing to absolve her fears because she was still gauging his stance, readying herself for the lies that were about to come pouring out of his mouth.
She didn’t have the patience to wait. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing here?” Sofia kept the muzzle of the .22 on the penny-sized site between his green eyes; which he lifted when she spoke.
“Sofia.” Her name was a raspy whisper as he dropped his head between his broad shoulders. He remained as he had the previous two mornings: on his ass with his elbows on his knees.
Damn his posture! Already she felt her own body soften toward him with forgiveness. She stiffened her knees and readjusted her grip on the hilt of the pistol. “I asked you a question.”
“Sofia, I am so sorry.” The bass of his voice rubbed across her skin, warming it.
“Yeah, I figured that out last night.” She’d run around that barn of shame one too many times already and didn’t need to limp out another lap. Especially when her body was doing its best to give her emotions the finger. “Get out of here and leave me alone.”
German didn’t budge, but raised his face to the gray morning sky: exposing his throat. Sofia held her breath when his Adam’s apple slid and lifted as he swallowed. Her eyes traced the movement like they were stuck on it.
Enough. Mentally, she gave her head a hard shake. If he wasn’t going to move, she’d make him. She strode toward him and shoved steel under the bone of his uplifted chin.
“Leave, asshole. You know I’ll shoot you.”
The words dropped from her mouth like heavy stones. But then her wrist exploded in a burst of pain and the gun went sailing through the air. Before she opened her mouth, German had her left wrist clamped in his fist and her legs kicked out from underneath her. She caught a glimpse of the tops of the trees just before her face made an impression against the pungent ground.
Vaguely she was aware that it was his knee in her back, and then her ears filled with the ripping of fabric and her arms were wrenched out straight in front of her. German bound her wrists with his flannel shirt like a cowboy roped the fetlocks of a calf. He was done in seconds, too. Bully for him: when he stepped away he didn’t throw his arms up in the air to signal the stopping of the clock.
He stammered back and punched a tree.
Never one to stay down long, Sofia leapt off the ground and swung her shitkicker at the back of his knee.
“Motherfucker,” she cursed between her clenched teeth, glorying in the buckling of his legs as she lunged for the .22.
Like a piston he recovered, and figured out what she was doing in the scant time it took for her to grab at her gun. He swiped it out of reach, scaling it off into the bushes.
Sofia watched its flying arc with a sinking gut.
“Enough,” he growled, his strong teeth exposed in a sharp grimace.
“Leave me!” The scream tore from her throat as she fell to her knees, her head dropping between her shoulders like the weight of her disgrace dragged it down. Her bound wrists lay between her thighs. “You’ve done enough, goddamn you.” She lifted her chin and glared with the fire churning inside her. “Goddamn you!”
German stood before her, his bare chest heaving and his head shaking denials.
While he stood there all apologetic for being an asshole, Sofia squirmed against the bonds holding her wrists, the flannel slicing deeper into her skin the more she rotated them. The twisting only tightening the knots, and she willed herself to stop.
Think, think, think.
“You did this to yourself.”
“Oh, yeah. I’m real good at tying my hands together.” Keep thiink-iing.
He squatted in front of her, dropping to her level. Or not. He wasn’t humiliated. She was.
“You gave me no choice.”
Was it possible someone could be that thick-headed? No choice? She had never asked him to follow her, had never begged him to stay. Oh no. The jackass kept coming back of his own free will, and she’d be damned if she was taking the blame for it.
But that was the problem here, wasn’t it? He’d hung around long enough to build her trust and had waited for his moment to rape and kill her.
All right. Reality check. In spite of German’s tying her up, that was so not what was really going on here. She’d given herself willingly the night before, so he hadn’t needed to rape her. Besides, he’d just proven he could take her down like she was a hissing kitten—all fluff and spit. He could have already taken her and killed her. Several times over.
The thought rose unbidden, but its truth was the stripping of her skin. She’d let her guard down around him, which was something she’d never done with a stranger in her life. Ever. And that left the blaring question: Who the hell was this guy and what did he want with her?
Maybe if she kept her mouth shut she’d find out. Okay. She could work with that. She had a plan, and her courage returned like the relief of urinating in the morning. She lifted her head and locked her hard stare on her captor. She’d wait him out and let him fill the silence. She settled into a comfortable crouch with her elbows bent and her bound wrists pushed under her chin.
Waiting was a trick she’d picked up years ago. Patience and sealed lips made the other person jumpy enough to chatter like a little bird just to fill the void. She’d gleaned a load of information from that tactic, had gotten the inside scoop on why she never lasted long in any of the foster homes.
There was something about her, they’d said. She didn’t fit with the others, they’d explained. Well, no shit. She’d seen and been on the receiving end of how people treated others and she’d been happy to remove herself from them, thank you very much. She’d even felt a bit of pride blossom in her chest when they had considered her other.
And here she was again having to use her skills. She kind of liked it, if she didn’t think about her tied wrists. She could play the Patience game with the pros, so she sat back on her heels and bided her time, waiting for German to grow impatient with her silence and start spilling his guts.
In a situation like this, every scrap of information she could get would help her to free herself.
Because herself was all she had.
Installment No. 23 coming soon.