The Ocean s calling



Preface 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. I spoke too soon Mr. Lucians The dreadful dinner Real story Paranoia Tension Notes Malakaih Chance My Protector The Cave Nightmare Distrust The Right Choice Road Trip A new place Prison Hold Friends The Inevitable Crashing Waves Traitor Engagement The Chase Jerrod Juliet Marie Friend or Foe Interrogation Craig Calm Returned Tortured


32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52.

Gifts December Craze Morning After Terror Countdown Wedding Day Rescued Florida Honeymoon Set up A new challenge Unexpected Explanations Another Road Trip Lifein Virginia Underestimated The Plan Waiting Desire to Kill Gift of Life End of Life

Epilogue: Padded Room


The Preface

Everyone around me seems to be so happy yet who knows what secrets and lies they have hidden inside them. Again I look towards the oceans waters. Hidden underneath such darkness and yet such calm. I walk further away from the noisy laughter of the guests. I wish to be within the deep waters of the ocean. I realize this is the chance I was waiting for. My dreams and my hopes are now shattered by such ignorant rules of society. I have nothing or no one to live for. Softly I walk past the many doors and windows of cabins. My hands glide over the shiny silver balustrade dividing me between life and death. The sounds of music and laughter are now distant. No one is around me. My heart trembles inside me as I realize what I¶m about to do. I can see my reflection on the balustrade. My flowing long dark raven hair and deep violet blue eyes. How I hate this face that has brought me nothing but loss and pain. The eagerness inside to get away encourages me and in one quick move I am on the other side. Holding on looking downwards the ocean calls out for me, µJulia, Julia!¶ I notice the wedding bands on my left hand. They mean nothing to me but slavery of society in a modern day world. I can feel the strong wind and the salt in the air. I can hear my name being called out. It is dark on this side of the balustrade and the calm is greater. With thoughts of all the events that have brought me upon this ship I start to let go one finger at a time. My eyes focused on the water. Softly I count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10« I¶ve let go of life and calmly my body begins to be pulled by the force of gravity . . . I have no fear and for once in a long time a smile comes across my face«


Chapter 1 I spoke too soon

The sun strokes my face softly through the curtains. The aroma of coffee, like an invisible force, raises me to my feet. The fragrant sweet smell of bread and syrup makes my mouth water. I stretch my arms and body. I always wake up to the feeling that someone was watching me. I remembered that today is my parent s 21th anniversary and ignored my paranoia. I bought their gifts yesterday and they are all wrapped up and ready for this evening. My mother should be in a good mood today. My father always gets her daisies and cheese on their anniversary. She always bakes his favorite breakfast, sweet bread and syrup. What a beautiful couple I think out loud as I stare at their wedding picture on my dresser. Quickly I turn to my closet and think what I will wear today. Hmm, maybe I should wear my fuchsia t-shirt and my nicest pair of jeans. I take the clothes off the hanger and throw them onto the bed. I shuffle through my jewelry box to see what I have that matches. I find the perfect pair of silver heart earrings and the necklace to match. My father gave me these when I graduated with honors from high school. I think I should wear these today. Julia wake up! my mother yells from the kitchen. I m up! I yell back as I walk through the hallway to the bathroom clothes in hand. The shower was too quick. I put on a bit of makeup and then I comb my long black hair into a ponytail. I take a quick glance at my body; all my hard work has paid off. Looking good, Julia I tell myself. As I put on my earrings I can feel and hear my stomach growling. I skip to the kitchen. The table is all set with the creamy white tableware and a vase filled with white daisies and in a small plate,


cheese of different types. The sweet bread is in a wicker basket with a red cloth. A lace tablecloth covers the old wooden table underneath. Good morning and happy anniversary! I say cheerfully as I hug my father. Good morning to you, my sweetie my father replies. It s about time you woke up sleepy head my mother says as she hugs me. I take my place at the side of the table, in front of my mother. My parents are old-fashioned. They keep many family traditions. Keeping one s word is a big deal in this house. My father says a quick prayer and we begin to eat. Another perfect day I think to myself as the phone rings. I wonder if that s your grandmother my mother says, as she stands up to pick up the phone Duran residence . Suddenly my mother s flesh went pale. There is something in her deep black eyes, something like fear and pain. Something I had only seen once before. My father stood up and took the phone from her hands. This is Eduardo, please give me a minute while I go to the other phone he said sternly. He walked by me and softly kissed my forehead, then retreated to his office. Mom, what s going on? You look pale. Did something happen to Grandma? I didn t know what else to ask. We won t be going out this evening, Julia. Mr. Lucians and his family have invited themselves over for dinner today . Her eyes filled with tears. As soon as I heard that name my heart started pounding heavily. I hugged my mother and prayed that it was all a mistake. My father walked out of his office. His jaws were clenched tightly. There was sweat on his forehead and his hands were in a tight fist. Dad, I thought you didn t want anything to do with that man? I managed to say without yelling. Julia, I m afraid he lowered his head your mother is correct Mr. Lucians will be coming over today with his family. Please, be on your best behavior.


Yes, father I didn t like that man and I knew he was dangerous. If you want to go out anywhere, do so now, be home before 7pm and remember that I love you. He turned around and went back into his office. This was new. My father never talked to me like that before. Much less give me a curfew. What in the world is happening? I gazed at my mother, not knowing what questions I should ask. Julia, do as your father says. Weren t you going to see a movie today with Rebecca and the kids? You can take the car and don t forget to take the cell phone with you she said trying to ignore what just happened. Mom, but I stuttered

Juliana Annabelle Duran, do as your father said! She snapped piercing me with those dark eyes. I had no choice but to obey.


Chapter 2 Mr. Lucians
It s 6:30pm and I m dreading getting home. I couldn t concentrate on the movie and the kids noticed I wasn t myself. That strange feeling of being watched was very evident now. I ve had that feeling since I was about eleven years old and when I d confessed it to my mother; she said it was probably just my imagination. I called my mother today about ten times, she said she was okay but still sounded sad. As I pulled up to the driveway to park the car, there were no other cars either than my father s old VW bug. I sighed in relief maybe Mr. Lucians is not coming after all. Quietly I entered the house through the garage door; it leads directly to the kitchen. The table was still set with the daisies but there were three more plates set on the table. Great, I thought, he s still coming. The smell of cinnamon and hazelnuts embraced the entire house. The house was spotless and everything was placed perfectly were it belonged. My mother must have been extremely busy today. Yet I can feel tension in the air. Soft music played as though awaiting an intense ending. Mom, I m home! I called out. It s about time young lady, take a shower and look your best. He will be here any minute she yelled from some other part of the house. What s up with that? Why are they trying to impress this man? He shouldn t be receiving such a wonderful greeting. But like a child I obeyed. Walking through the hall to my room I can hear my mother and father talking, but I couldn t make out what they were saying. They had their best outfits on, the ones they were wearing for their date this evening. Yet their faces looked washed out as if they were crying. I continued on to my room, chose whatever sun dress I had and went to take a shower. I wasn t bothering in wearing anything nice that would impress that man. So I took my shower, got dressed, put my hair into a ponytail and didn t bother in putting on any makeup except for a bit of lip gloss. I didn t even bother at looking at myself in the mirror. They were no longer in the bedroom when I came out. I can hear a man s deep voice in the living room. I felt nervous, tense. It has to be him. Instead of walking to the living room, I started heading to my bedroom.


Juliana, what are you doing? my mother said quietly from behind me. Nothing, I was just about Nothing, our lives are in the hands of that man so behave and look your best she started to say as she let my hair down and arranged it softly over my shoulders. Then she whispered, I m sorry. Please find it in your heart to forgive us. Not only was I scared of this man but what my mother had just finished saying was like a dagger to my heart. What did she mean when she said that our lives were in the hands of that man? I was left in total shock. The thoughts and questions were running through my mind. I can feel my chest heavy with fear. My mother took my hand and started to pull me softly to the living room. I followed. There standing by the front door was a tall, fair skinned man in a costly black suit, with dark brown hair and lust filled fiery green eyes. He was about his mid 40 s with a strong build. He had a large scar on his right cheek. Beside him were two young men, about my age. They also wore black and had similar features as that of the man. One of them had a very stern face, very strong build and stood silent. He seemed to be the eldest of the two. The other one seemed younger. He had slightly light brown hair slicked back and dark skin with softer facial features. They were probably his sons. None had noticed that I had entered the living room with my mother. My father did notice but did not smile like he always did and just continued on with his conversation. Still the questions running through my mind were making me feel sick. My mother held on tightly to my hand and sighed as though telling me to breathe. I wished I were invisible. Then my mother spoke Mr. Lucians, please have a seat Yes, I sure will have a seat, and please serve me some of that good cognac that you always have around for Mr. Duran . They all turned around to face us. His eyes lit up as he gaped at me. I can feel him examining my entire body. I wish I had worn something more conservative. A smile came upon his face which sent chills up my spine. Oh my, Mariella, I asked for cognac not a beautiful young woman He extended his hand towards me, Hello, you must be Juliana? I could never forget those beautiful violet-blue eyes and dark hair that I saw a few years ago. I felt sick of the thought of having to touch him. I looked away in disgust and


didn t even bother in responding. My mother squeezed my hand even tighter almost to the point it hurt. Please, forgive her, she is not feeling very well today my mother said almost instantly noticing I was not at all about to bow down to Mr. Lucians. She was right I was about to throw up just by looking at him. It s okay my precious pet, that will all change soon he said sarcastically. We are not your pet I snapped. Who do you think you are intruding into our lives like you own them? I couldn t hold it in much longer. Juliana, what s gotten into you? Apologize to Mr. Lucians, immediately my father yelled, grabbing my arm tightly. Oh, so you think you don t owe me your life he replied. It seems as though your father, Eduardo, has kept you living a lie he laughed. Tell me Juliana, did you really think that your father can provide you with such luxuries? He moved his hands outwards as if showing off the house we lived in, I should be asking you, who you think you are? He got closer to me and started to talk in my face slowly. I can smell the chewing tobacco with every word. You aren t anything but a little girl living a lie. This house, this life that you are living, you OWE to me he snarled in my face. I turned to look at my father s face all I could see was regret. Mr. Lucians grabbed my chin and made me face him. YOU OWE YOUR LIFE TO ME, DO YOU UNDERSTAND JULIANA? He said in a low but harsh voice. At an instance my nails were around his wrist piercing it with my long nails. He immediately let go of my face. I could still feel the stinging and burning from his tight grip on my chin, but kept my eyes focused on his. He did not back down, and I wasn t either. But my father realized my intention; he stepped between Mr. Lucians and me. I m sorry Mr. Lucians, please would you mind having a seat while my wife and daughter set the table? He said in a humble voice. What? He apologized? My father was backing down to this man. Where were my father s honor, respect and dignity? I felt ashamed, humiliated and lost. Well, that s more like it. I have no reason to rush home. After all I would love to spend more time in the company of this beautiful young woman Mr. Lucians said with a crooked smile. My mother pulled me passed the kitchen and -9-

through the door that led to the garage. She grabbed both my arms and shook me very hard. What in the world are you doing? I told you to behave. If you just stop doing your own thinking and realize that your father is trying all he can to avoid a confrontation with this man . Her eyes started to fill with tears, and she let her head down but still held on to my arms. Please, please, just let this evening go on without any more interruptions. Please Juliana, this man is way more dangerous than he seems. Just a few more hours and this will be over with. she pleaded. I m sorry, Mom. I can t stand that man I cried. Just be calm and quiet my mother said as she wiped my tears. I in return wiped her tears and smiled trying to find a way to make us both feel happy. That s all I need, my daughter, a smile . We returned to the kitchen. As I started to arrange dinner on the table I noticed that the daisies were no longer there. When all was ready my mother quietly motioned to my father that dinner was served. Mr. Lucians, please make yourself comfortable at the dining table my father said as though he were a servant. I don t know how much I can take of this evening. But my mother said only a few more hours and it was almost 8 o clock. The intensity of time and unanswered questions was burning me up inside. I followed my mother s every move. I tried to smile but no smile came to my face. The two young men sat one on each side of me. Of course Mr. Lucians decided he would sit directly in front of me where he could instigate me to death. My mother and father sat one on each side of him. I wondered if my father would say a prayer, but he didn t. I guess I will dig in first Mr. Lucians chuckled I love your mother s cooking . He acted as if nothing was happening. As if he was a part of the family. Mr. Lucians kept pouring food on his plate, serving himself like a pig. His sons were more graceful and less interested in eating. They were like two puppets moving to and fro but without saying a word. My mother and father waited until the two puppet men decided they had enough on their plate. Then they put nothing but a bit from here and there on theirs and I decided water and bread was enough for me. I acted as if I were eating. Silence was the main conversation at the table.

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Chapter 3 The dreadful dinner
The sound of silverware slightly hitting the china plates, continued on for the first hour of the meal. My father ate slowly and my mother played with her food. Not one word came out from their lips. The puppet men continued on with their show of silence. They kept their eyes low and never mentioned a single word. Mr. Lucians broke the silence. Ah, this was delicious like always, Mariella! He padded his stomach and started to wipe his face. Thank you, Mr. Lucians my mother replied vaguely. Well, tell me now, Juliana, what is your favorite flower? Is it the same as your mother s? He asked. I wasn t going to answer his question so, he looked at my mother. Daisies, that's what you like, right Mariella? Now turning to my father, Mr. Duran, or should I say, Edward, why don t you entertain me and Juliana, with a story of how you really maintain this household. That s a story I m dying to hear about My father looked up from his plate, pale as a ghost. My, I guess you don t really want to say it right now. I know it would mess up this wonderful quiet evening. Again returning to face my mother and resting his hand over hers. Why don t you bring dessert out for us and some of that cognac I m still waiting for My mother quickly removed her hand from under his and jumped up from the table. Come, Juliana, I could use some of your help in the kitchen she said. I started to stand up relieved but Mr. Lucians would have none of this. Don t bother in getting up Juliana he demanded. Your mother can handle it all by herself I sat back down wondering if this night would ever end. Again silence. I could feel as he looked at me with lascivious eyes. He thought of me not as someone that could be his child but as a woman. This made me feel uncomfortable and again I wished I had worn something more conservative. My mother broke the silence calling out for my father. My father immediately stood up and almost ran to the kitchen. Suddenly I could feel Mr. Lucian s leg brush - 11 -

against mine. I felt terrified at the sheer thought of me being alone with this man. My breathing got heavier and my stomach churned with disgust. I moved my legs so he could not reach them, but I couldn t stand it much longer. This man knew he was getting on my last nerve. He knew that he made me feel sick to my stomach. I decided to stand my ground. Excuse me, Mr. Lucians; I don t know what you are doing here or what you want with me or my family. We do not belong to you and I will not allow you to do as you please with me I can tell by the look on his face he was not at all happy with what I had just took the courage to say. He leaned forward on the table and put his hands together swirling his thumbs. His lips pressed hard as if holding something in. He looked at me sternly and gave me that crooked smile as if he had the last laugh. Then he stretched his arms out to the point where I could see the silver metal he had hanging from the side of his gun harness. Slowly he lowered his arms back on the table with his hands cupped together, again twirling his thumbs. I sat in silence, scared, I had seen that gun before. You know, beautiful, this little world you are living in will perish if you continue to pursue this little game of yours. Your father hasn t told you yet because he is a coward. He works for me. All of this that you have is because of me. I am not afraid to burst your near perfect world. You belong to me because your father owes me. He thought he can come to my town and do as he pleases. Your father is an idiot! Right about the time when I was about to show your father a lesson you came along to brighten up my day. I remember just like it was yesterday. You came running when you heard your mother crying and I had your dad with a gun to his head. You were so scared and fragile! How could I forget those big violet blue eyes and long curly hair up with two pony tails? He closed his eyes as if reminiscing I made your father promise that he would take good care of you for me. That would be his payment for all his worthlessness. I ve watched you grow up from a distance and I know your every move He started to laugh out loud. You know what the best part of this is... he gave me his word. And everybody knows the Duran never turn back on their word He laughed even harder and leaned back on the chair. So like I said before, if you want to continue LIVING, you better jump off your high horse and realize that coming your 20th birthday you will be my wife, whether you like it or not .

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I sat in total shock not knowing what to say. The memory of that dreadful day came like a blow of cold water on a hot day. I could remember how he was holding my mother around her neck and how the gun was pointing at my father s forehead. How she pleaded for him to let go of my father and yelled at me to run. But just before I could take off someone grabbed me from behind, covered my mouth with a rag and everything went dark. I suffered from nightmares for two whole years afterwards. I did not want to relive the insanity so I stood up quickly, but the room started to spin. I kept thinking, Run, run but I couldn t feel my legs. My hands and arms felt heavy. My mind was racing with bits and pieces of that dreadful day with images of the man sitting so calmly in our dining room. I tried to call out my father s name but I could not speak. The room kept spinning faster and faster. I felt someone hold me to keep me from falling. My nostrils filled with the fresh scent of the ocean, it was sweet but manly. Words like a slight wind blew into my ear, Don t worry I m here with you and then complete silence and darkness.

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Chapter 4 The real story

I can see from a distance ocean waves playing a game of tag along the shore line. The moonlit night blows soft kisses making my hair flow gently. The sweet but manly ocean scent was potent. The calm of night was interrupted by the roar of a lion. My heart started pounding and I stood motionless. I looked toward the ocean and thought I have nowhere to hide. I notice a shadow rising from the water. It calls out my name Julia, Julia, come to me The voice belonged to that of a man and was comforting and tranquil. A slightly stronger breeze raises sand around my feet and helps me glide gently towards the shadow in the water. As a draw closer, it s as if the water itself had turned into a man. Julia, please don t be afraid. I am here for you his arms inviting towards his embrace. My hand reached out to his as if it had a mind all of its own. As soon as my hand touched the water, the form of a man became clearer and it embraced me, protecting me. The lion could not follow us and I felt no fear. Come he whispered as he embraced me and pulled me deeper into the ocean. When I raised my eyes to look around me, we were in the ocean depths. Yet I could breathe. I could hear the lions roar of anger YOU WILL BE MINE . Suddenly, the man which embraced me disappeared and there was darkness all around me. I started to panic and call out Please don t leave me here, please don t go . His voice replied I will always be around, please sleep . My eyes felt heavy, and I closed them. Julia, Julia, wake up I can hear my mother call at a distance. I could feel a strong light on my face. I slowly opened my eyes, hoping to find myself again in the hands of my protector. Julia, please wake up my mother s voice called out again. I opened my eyes completely and looked around me. I was in my room. My mother was sitting on the bed beside me. How are you feeling? she asked worried. I m okay I replied softly. My mother sighed with relief. Did I faint? Yes, you did. Mr. Lucians said you had asked to be excused from the table and that you fell to the ground when you got up. She explained. Just the sheer name of that man made me feel sick inside. Are they gone? I asked. Mr. Lucians left, but he left one of his boys here to make sure you were alright. He told - 14 -

me you were waking up. I ll go tell him that you are okay that he can leave now . She stood up and took my hand. I love you, my daughter then gave me a tight squeeze and left. If she only knew what really happened. I looked at the alarm clock on my dresser. It said 1:26 a.m. Wow, I was out that long. If I would have known that Mr. Lucians would leave with that, I would have fainted earlier, I laughed to myself. The window was open and a small breeze came through sending chills up my body. I heard the front door open and then my mother talking. Please, make sure you give this letter to your father I stood up from the bed and looked out of the window. She was talking to the younger son. Not a word came from his mouth; he took the letter from her hand. He noticed I was looking out the window and nodded at me. I quickly tried to hide behind the wall. I m so stupid, I thought. Why I m I hiding? I looked out the window again and all I could see where the tail lights of the car turning around the corner. A slight wind came again through the window. It was the fresh scent of the ocean, the same I had smelled before I fell. Come to think of it, Mr. Lucians said that I had fallen on the ground, but I remember that someone held me before I fell. It had to be one of his sons. They were the only ones beside me. A slight knock at the door and my father came in. Hello, my sweetie. How are you feeling? As soon as he spoke I remembered everything Mr. Lucians had told me. I m fine I said with a bit of rage. Why did you give him your word? I had to ask. What do you mean? He looked perplexed. I can t believe he couldn t remember. You gave Mr. Lucians your word that you would take care of me for him. That I would be his wife when I turned 20 I explained frustrated, feeling more sadness and pain inside. How dare you negotiate with my life I closed the window hard and sat on the bed. You have a lot of explaining to do Yes, I do have a lot of explaining to do. I imagined Mr. Lucians left out a lot of what happened he said calmly. My father walked up to the bed and sat beside me. Look, Julia, I m sorry about all this. I have looked for many ways to protect you. Do you think that I could let such a disgusting man have one of my greatest treasures? He tried to read my expression

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Julia, you know how Mr. Lucians has very high influences on this island. When your mother and I married, we were looking for a new place to move to. Then we met Mr. Lucians at a coffee shop in Virginia. He spoke of this island paradise and we were young so we took the chance. At first everything went well. Your mother got her small restaurant and I finished off my course on marine biology. Everything was so accessible. We had no idea that Mr. Lucians was behind our success. He moved the situation around for his own sick desires. He was in obsessed with your mother and I had no idea. Your mother of course would have none of that. So, she told me what was going on. He would go to the restaurant everyday to watch her. I confronted Mr. Lucians about it...And so our battle began. But he went so far as to hurt those that tried to get us off the island. Until the day you came into the picture. He was about to have us killed when he saw you and even though I tried as much as I could to spare our lives without involving you. He would not budge, so I...I...accepted thinking this would buy us more time and that he would probably forget. Fifteen years is a long time. But...the time is here and My father almost begged on his knees. Please forgive us, for not telling you this before. We hoped that he would forget There were still questions running around in my head but I couldn t fight against my fathers pleas. Of course I forgive you. But I won t let Mr. Lucians have his way either I said as I hugged my father. The hatred I had for the man that has caused all of this was flourishing as thoughts of vengeance. There was nothing I could do right now. I needed time to think. Dad, it s okay. I won t do anything hasty. I m tired. Why don t we go to sleep and if I have any questions I will make sure I ask you tomorrow. Okay? I hugged him. He left the room quietly. I felt as if there were more to the story but then I wondered how it is that Mr. Lucians knew so much about me and where I was. I could sense a new feeling of strength and determination inside me. I would not let this sick bastard take over our lives like this. I opened my bedroom window again. The cool wind made my body relax. Tomorrow I will go to the beach like usual and think it all out. Calmly I lay in bed and closed my eyes and just as I fell asleep the familiar scent filled the air. I thought again of my protector. Where is he now?

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Chapter 5 Paranoia
I was up by 5:50 am, ten minutes before my alarm sounded and quickly washed up and gracefully tip toed around the house to find my bag, leave a note on the fridge that I would be at the beach and head out on foot. The sun was peeking above the clouds and I was happy to be out of the house for awhile. The air smelled fresh and exuberant. Walking briskly past the Cape Cod looking homes and the small food stands that lined the sidewalks in town I felt strange and out of place. I continued my stroll past the fruit stands and onto a smaller path that cut through the park. The dense forest hid the entrance to the beach behind it. It was dark and cool through the forest. Little bits of sun shined through the canopy exposing multicolored flower beds. Instead of green and mossy it glowed with pinks and yellows and oranges; a feel almost mystical. I stood motionless amazed at how beautiful it all seemed. I could hear the sound of the breaking waves that were awaiting my arrival. I heard the snap of a twig behind me and decided that I should continue my brisk pace. I climbed over a few large rocks and fallen trees. The forest became less thick and the sun shined brighter through the leaves. I was getting closer. Somehow I felt safe and relaxed. Finally I could see the big ocean waves hitting against the large boulders that edged the far side of the beach. I took off my sneakers and tied them to my beach bag. Stepped into the warm sand and walked to one of the rocks that were shaded by a large cypress tree. Again the sound of rustling leaves startled me. I remembered what Mr. Lucians had said. That he always knew where I was and what I was doing. The thought made my muscles tighten. What if someone was always following me? I lost all feeling of being relaxed and safe. I walked closer to the water ahead of me. The sun was now exposing more of the ground cover below the dense forest. I gazed into the forest searchingly, but didn t see anything. Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me. A feeling of paranoia invading my body, I took a deep breath and decided to walk along the shoreline. I kept looking out of the corner of my eye to see if someone was in the forest watching me. I looked forward noticing that the beach ended near the bottom of a high cliff. There was no way I would be able

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to climb and I would be stuck. I turned around to walk in the opposite direction. The shore line disappeared behind large boulders with large waves crashing behind them. There was no way I could get passed them. Again I looked towards the forest; I felt lost as I walked so far away from my usual spot. My heart started pounding and my breath was quickening. I couldn t get this paranoia get the best of me. I stopped dead in my tracks and sat on the warm sand, inhaling and exhaling trying to control my heart beat. I closed my eyes facing the forest, if someone wanted to hurt me, now would be the time. As soon as my heart returned to normal speed I opened my eyes and was stunned to see a young man walking towards me carrying a surf board. I sighed in relief knowing that it wasn t Mr. Lucians. He was still pretty far away that I couldn t make out his face. His bronze muscular body exposed by the bright sun. As he came closer his facial features somehow seemed familiar, but I couldn t remember where I had seen him. His short light brown hair was in carefully arranged spikes. I couldn t make out his eyes through the tight sunglasses, but his smile seemed sociable. Hi, eh, you alright? his voice was deep and showed a bit more concern than it should for a stranger. The white t-shirt tight around his body and his swimming trunks with spirals and shapes with browns, blues, whites and blacks made him seem like a model in a commercial. I couldn t get the thought out of my head that I had seen him before. Yeah, I m alright, I was just bit startled. I thought I was being stalked or something His smile faded for an instance, maybe I d given too much information. So, when you feel like you are being stalked you sit down in a meditating position? Isn t that kind of the opposite thing to do? He seemed slightly amused by my reaction, but I still felt relieved that it wasn t Mr. Lucians. I stood up and cleaned the sand off my shorts. I was small compared to his size; my head barely reached the top of his chest. I tried looking past his sunglasses but they fit snuggly against his face. I decided to change the subject. Do I know you from somewhere? Curiosity was getting the best of me. I still had plans to make and any information I could get would be helpful. He shifted his gaze out into the ocean and moved his surf board a bit. His jaw tightened slightly showing that he was uncomfortable with what I had just finished asking. Maybe I should rephrase the question. Did

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we go to school together? You seem very familiar I said as I picked up my bag and sneakers from the sand. He twirled his surfboard and relaxed his jaws. Actually, I ve been in every class you have since middle school No wonder he felt awkward with the question. I had probably seen him almost every day of my life and never bothered in talking to him or anybody for that matter. I was deemed beautiful but highly unsociable. I stared in disbelief All the way up to high school? He nodded but kept looking at his surf board and spinning it around softly stroking each side. I couldn t imagine not noticing him at school, maybe I just never talked to him. I decided to explain, Oh, I m sorry; I guess I never talked to anyone at school. My parents have always been overly protective I know I was stunned by his answer even more. I could feel the heat on my face whether it was from embarrassment or because the sun was now high in the sky. How do you know that? My mother was the same way too? I wished I could see his eyes but his voice was convincing. Hi, my name is . He interrupted me by lifting his hand in a stop position. Your name is Juliana Annabelle Duran he smiled as he said my name slowly. Okay, now I m really thinking you are stalking me My heart skipped a beat. He lifted one eyebrow and he pressed his lips as he were mad at something, No, I m sorry I just umm never mind. I m Malakaih . Oh, it s a pleasure to finally meet you! I said cheerfully, but I was curious about his last name. So, umm , Malakaih, since you know my full name and all, what s your last name? He scowled and I knew he didn t want to answer.

- 20 -

How about we leave it there His tone was demanding and I guess he noticed my frown because he smiled at me and started to point at the waves. Look at those waves. Aren t they beautiful? The waves lifted slightly, the sun filtering through them bringing out blues and greens and purples. Want to ride with me? His question took me off guard and before I could tell him I couldn t swim, his strong hands were pulling me towards the water s edge. I flung my bags and sneakers to the sand. I felt powerless in his grip. The water felt cold and the waves were strong, almost to the point of pulling me away but he didn t let go. When the water was up to my waist he lifted me onto the surfboard. The feeling was awkward but fun. Malakaih s smile was brighter and his wet shirt exposing ever more muscular features. He pulled the surfboard deeper into the ocean. When we reached an area where the waves were gentle he raised himself onto the other end of the surfboard. I turned around to see how far we had gone and was suddenly scared that I couldn t see the beach. I clutched my hands around the edge of the surfboard as if holding on for dear life. Juliana, please don t be afraid. I won t let you fall into the water His voice was calming and so very familiar. I lowered my head gazing at the colors of the surfboard. Blues and greens swirled around a pattern of white and purple. They seemed to make out his name. My muscles were tight again in fear I would flip over and fall into the water. His hand rose my chin softly Juliana, look at me. Please, look at me. As soon as I lifted my eyes he assured me I will be okay. But I wasn t okay and the events from the day before began to display its very true colors. Inescapable emotions of fear for my family began to overpower me. My eyes filled with tears and I started to weep. Malakaih began to loosen my grip on the surfboard and cautiously scooted closer to me. Gently he wrapped his arms around me. Speechless I allowed him to. Whatever it is it will be okay, I m here for you he whispered softly. Please, don t cry. I didn t mean to make you cry. I m sorry. I ll take you back to shore right away his voice was soothing and meaningful. Please, don t let me go I was embarrassed of what I had just finished saying to this stranger but returning to the shore would mean returning to the very thing I was afraid of and that s precisely what I didn t want. I won t let you go, until you ask me too his embrace was tighter and I felt safe in his arms. Soon my tears had stopped and the fear that filled me was taken - 21 -

in by Malakaih s embrace. Even then he didn t let go of me and waited patiently for me to calm down. I put my hands on his chest and pushed him away softly. I m sorry, Malakaih. You must think I m psycho I managed to smile. Not at all, sometimes that s all we need. A moment to let go and someone there to comfort us at that precise moment He smiled back and splashed a bit water my way. Would you like for me to take you to shore now? It s almost lunch time and I m ravenous Sure, my parents might be worried that am not home yet. Oh, my mother owns that restaurant out in Middle Brook. You want to stop by with me and have bite? I wonder what my mother thought if I showed up soaking wet with Malakaih at my side. The expression on her face would be priceless. I don t think that would be possible today. I have a couple a things I have to do before I go to work. His jaw tightened again. Malakaih towed the surf board back to the beach. I wondered if I would ever see him again. I walked to where I had dropped my bag but it was gone, but whoever took the bag, left the sneakers. My arms fell heavily to my sides. Malakaih was quick to notice. What happened? Someone stole my bag I protested. At least I didn t bring along my ID s Don t worry I ll find it He said reassuringly. He said it like a matter-offact. I didn t want to give it much thought so I sighed and dropped the subject. I looked over my shoulder like I always did wondering if there had been someone on the beach watching me. What s wrong? You waiting for someone? he asked as he shook his head as trying to get water out of his ears. Naw, I do that out of habit! I wished he wouldn t have seen me do that but even though I couldn t see his eyes his brow furrowed like he was confused and needed an explanation. I took my gaze off his face and looked towards the forest again Well, I guess you think I m psycho either way, but it s kind of a long story. I hoped his hunger was stronger than his curiosity because I really didn t need psychoanalysis right now. His hands clenched the rim of the surfboard and he bit his lip. Maybe he was hungry enough that he wouldn t ask any further questions. I caught myself staring at his musculature and felt as the heat rose to my face. It was kind of an - 22 -

awkward moment and neither of us said anything for a few moments. I sat down on rock and wiped my feet free of the sand to put on my shoes. I guess I ll see you around Malakaih I said as I jumped to my feet. He stared at the sand as if looking for words. I couldn t help it but I wished he would take off the sunglasses so I could peek at his eyes. I bit my tongue and started to head out into the forest. He followed me towards the park and then waved goodbye as he put the surfboard on his black Mitsubishi Eclipse. It suited him perfectly Bye I waved as he turned on the car and drove away.

- 23 -

Chapter 6 Tension
I hesitated a moment before entering the small restaurant in town. It wasn t fancy but it was always full especially at lunch time. Some tourist and the usual customers mingled casually talking about their adventures on the island. My mother wouldn t like it if I entered all wet but I had sat awhile at the swings waiting to dry off a bit. Like always she was sitting quietly looking over today s newspaper on one of the stool s near the bar. Hey mom I called out for her. She looked up and gave me a half smile but she couldn t hide the worry in her dark eyes. She stood up quickly and gave me a hug. We walked towards one of the booths. I was under age still and couldn t be caught sitting anywhere near the bar. So, umm, what have you been up to this morning? She asked as she eyed me suspiciously. Not much. Just went to the beach to think things out a bit . Think things was just an understatement. It was more like relieving the tension. She kept eyeing me like there was more but I know that she wouldn t want to hear the entire story. That would just make things worse. She shrugged her shoulders and just looked out of the window. Then she looked up at me with a wry smile. Wait here she said as she stood up and headed out to the office in the back. It wasn t like I was planning on going anywhere. I was hungry and mom did make good Cuban sandwiches. A few minutes later she showed up with a sandwich wrapped in aluminum foil and my beach bag. How did that show up here? She eyed me suspiciously again and I turned my stare at the sandwich. You sure that was all you were doing? she asked as she set the sandwich in front of me and placed the bag on the seat beside me. I don t know why she distrusted me. After all, I had always been the perfect child even in my adolescence. I had never been a rebel. The accusations in her words were a bit painful. I sighed and removed the wrapper from the sandwich. It was still warm and I couldn t wait to sink my teeth into the first half.

- 24 -

So who found my bag? I asked with my mouth full. She smirked at my less than feminine way of eating. I hoped that if Mr. Lucians was looking he would hate me and just leave us alone. Well, it was one of Mr. Lucians sons who found it. He said he found it out on the beach and he looked around for you but he didn t see you anywhere. She crossed her arms across her chest like she was waiting for an explanation. I guess someone was watching me but at least they didn t mention me getting a surfboard with a stranger. I hated to lie to her so I was looking for a happy medium where I wouldn t have to. I puckered my lips at the thought that came to me. How did he know it was mine? She looked away like she knew the answer but was also looking for her happy medium. Well, I saw him come in with it and recognized it she wasn t going to say much else I could see it in her eyes. She was waiting for an explanation. I swallowed the last piece of sandwich and balled the wrapper in my fist. Mom, I was at the beach. That s why my clothes are still wet. I was in the water and well kind of liked being there. Maybe he didn t see me because I was pretty far away from where I set them down. Yeah like in the middle of the ocean on a cute strangers surfboard. I smiled to myself but she knew I couldn t swim and she was not happy with my answer. Julia, you know you can t swim. Why would you risk yourself like that? We don t need any more tension than what we have to deal with right now. She whispered so as not to call attention to ourselves but she could have been yelling I m going to tell your father, be prepared when he gets home . Her voice was sharp and that wasn t her usual self. The guilt was starting to build inside me but I knew that she would prefer this version over the other. I m sorry, mom. I promise I won t go into the water by myself anymore I sighed. What if he found me again at the beach and wanted me to ride again? That would be a promise I could keep if he was around. No! I shouldn t be thinking like that. I had to be careful. What if they saw me with Malakaih and he would get into trouble for even looking at me. I couldn t forgive myself for that. Mr. Lucians was sure to find out and it would affect my entire family. I pressed my lips together as I slipped out of the booth. This wasn t something I could handle right here.

- 25 -

I wasn t going to be able to fall in love, not now and not ever. If I didn t get off this stupid island I was going to end up being Mr. Lucians wife by my 20th birthday. November was only a seven months away. What could happen in seven months that would change everything? If my parents hadn t been able to do anything in 15 years, what could I do in seven months? When I got home I went directly to my room. I was being watched and the disgusting bastard would have his way with me no matter what I did. I breathed in as deeply as I could and exhaled. I looked for my stuff inside the beach bag. Everything was there, my journal of poems, my digital camera, my towel and something that wasn t mine. A napkin was folded neatly inside of the journal but sticking out where I could see it. I pulled it out and unfolded it. The words were written in black ink Please trust me. Don·t go to the beach tomorrow. I didn t know if this was a joke or a warning. How did anyone know I was planning on going to the beach again? I wasn t planning on going; well maybe subconsciously I was planning on it. Or maybe that s precisely what the sick bastard wanted. He wanted for me to obey his rules. What was the word he used to describe me? Ah pet . Yeah right! I started to laugh out loud.

After that I took a shower and just laid back listening to music and just not thinking about anything in particular. I was going to the beach but I wasn t going to let myself be seen. After all, whoever wrote the note took the time not to let my mother know about it. I dozed off dreamlessly.

- 26 -

Chapter7 Notes
There was no doubt in my mind as I grabbed my beach bag and sneakers that I would go to the beach. But I wasn t stupid either. I knew that there were new dangers that I would have to face and fears that I would need to overcome. I sat quietly at the foot of my bed. My parents were going about their business like usual. I guess they knew all too well that we had no chance of escaping. We would let life take its course just the way we were doing before that dreadful visit. I slipped my foot into the right sneaker first pressing down hard and then tying the shoelace. Then I lifted the left sneaker and a small piece of paper shaped into a star fell out onto my lap. I picked it up curiously. I didn t have the habit of stuffing paper in my shoes. ´Please! Please don·t go out today. It·s for your safetyµ The handwriting and ink were the same as the one on the napkin. I had to recheck unfolding the napkin putting it side by side. Okay, now I was starting to panic. How did they get into the house to put the note in my shoe? This was freaking me out. So the habit of looking out of my shoulder was not my imagination. Someone was watching me and they knew me very well. I stared at my closet door. It was closed. I got up slowly trying not to make a sound. My heart was racing and my breath was quickening. I approached the door with slow cautious steps and put my hand around the door knob. I took in one deep breath and opened it quickly jumping back at the same time. My shoulders slumped to my sides. I felt stupid facing the empty closet. It was small and there was no room for a person to hide. This was getting my nerves on end and I was getting carried away with my paranoia. I guess I should be locked up in a padded cell. Hmm, maybe that would work. If I just acted like I was crazy I think Mr. Lucians would feel disgusted about me and then he wouldn t bother me anymore. Then again knowing his sick intentions he d probably lock me up at his house. It was useless to fabricate ways to escape with so little time.

- 27 -

I hated that my parents kept this from me until now but what s done is done. I took off my sneakers and through myself back into the bed. This time whoever it was wasn t just telling me. I read the little note again and again. It sounded like they were pleading. As if they really were worried about my protection. I guess I could go somewhere else. Somewhere that would be public. But the note said no begged for me not to go out. I debated it over breakfast. My mother had left some pancakes covered over the stove but I grabbed cereal instead and sliced bananas. The golden flakes reminded me of the sun and I played with the milk using an elongated flake as a surfboard. As soon as I saw what I was subconsciously headed to I took one big spoonful of flakes and stuck into my mouth. The crunchiness and sweetness of the flakes made the thought vanish. After much debating, I decided I would go out. I was bored out of my mind and I knew that if I stayed inside any longer my sanity would shatter into pieces like glass falling over a stone floor. I ran to the bedroom and started to look for my handbag. I could probably go to the mall and watch a movie or something, if I could find my handbag. I looked for over twenty minutes in my room and headed out to look for it around the house. It was nowhere to be found. I called my mother and my father and they didn t remember seeing it either. They didn t judge me, which was good. They knew I was very organized with my belongings. When I headed back into my room I stopped short. It looked like a tornado had run loose inside it. I pouted at the mess I had left and started to organize everything all over again. Maybe it was better that I stayed inside today. It took me over two hours to organize the mess I had left in twenty minutes. When I looked at the watch it was almost dinnertime. I started to prepare dinner before my parents got home and my mother would be glad to see the house was spotless. When they arrived they were surprised but then we sat quietly over dinner. No one was in the mood for talking. My father and mother shared bizarre glares and it looked like they were using telepathy to talk to each other. I excused myself from the table and headed back to my room so they could talk. I opened the door slowly expecting to find someone rummaging through my closet but everything was exactly how I left it, except for one single thing. - 28 -

There was one thing that stuck out like a black stain on a white shirt. It shined like a mirror in the sun on top of my bed. I gasped for air but I couldn t breathe. Someone had been in my room and my handbag was on top of the bed, resting over a small envelope. I held my hand over the door knob tightly and when I started to lose the blood flow I released it. I didn t want to overreact in front of my parents so I walked quietly into my room and closed the door behind me. I never locked my bedroom door but today was one of those days. Obviously no one was in the room now. The window was closed and the curtains were drawn. I sat beside the handbag and took deep breaths until my heart returned to its normal speed. I reached first towards the handbag and checked to see that my ID s and the little money I had were inside. To my surprise it had everything and a few extra twenties. So, the person was no thief. Just the contrary, the person was generous too. But was this a joke? Or was it true that someone did worry about me? I didn t have any friends. Those that did shied away from me from day one. Maybe Mr. Lucians was keeping tabs on me making sure I didn t have any friends or maybe, just maybe, he didn t want any competition. I analyzed this thought for a minute and picked up the small square pearl pink envelope. It was thick and lustrous. It looked almost expensive. I slid my finger under flap and opened it carefully. I pulled the card out slowly. The greeting card had a picture of two children playing by the ocean. The little boy had huge sunglasses and the little girl sat beside him with a play shovel in the sand. It looked as if they were building a sand castle. It was cute and the card smelled exquisite. It was somehow familiar, like the smell of the ocean just sweeter. It was fresh and very manly. I opened the card to find just two words and one letter underneath them. I was shocked. I was hoping for an explanation. But these words were just enough to keep me curious. Thank you! K At least this time I had a letter to the name of my mystery protector. I took in the fragrance that it expelled and hid the card through a slit beside the mirror and the wooded frame of my dresser. I didn t know if I had to hide it but seeing that the notes only appeared to me I guess it was sort of like a secret.

- 29 -

I showered and went to bed early but I was restless. My body was tired but I kept looking out of the window hoping to catch the supposed intruder. I wondered what it was that he was protecting me from. My room felt unusually warm and I took the covers off me but I was afraid to open the window. I started to relax my muscles by tightening and loosening them one by one. This helped and I quickly fell asleep. A gentle breeze awakened me. I lifted myself resting on my elbow and looked around my room. My eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness. Another breeze came in making the curtains dance softly. A familiar scent caught my attention. I sat up looking around for changes. Did he come in again? Was he here now in my room? Or did he just leave? My heart started to flutter. The room was so quiet and still except for the swaying of the curtains. I flung my legs to the side of the bed and quickly turned on the light. Everything was exactly how I left it. I checked my handbag again and my shoes. They were in the same place and no extra notes. I checked to see if the envelope had been removed but it was still there secretly wedged between the mirror and the frame. I stretched face down on the bed, but with the light on. I wasn t going to get any sleep tonight. The room was filled with the familiar scent and I knew that he had been here. What would my parents think if they came in at this very minute? I knew exactly what they would think. They would jump into conclusions that I was sneaking some guy inside my room, which wouldn t be entirely incorrect. There was some guy sneaking into my room but I wasn t the one sneaking him in. There was no way I was going to let them notice. This person hadn t done me any harm yet, and he was protecting me from something. What it was, I had no idea but if he felt the need to remind me, it should be important. I got up off the bed and sprayed some of my favorite perfume around the room. I inhaled taking in the scent of vanilla and coconut. It mixed in very well with the sweet manly ocean scent. I turned off the light and went to back to sleep. The laughter of playing children woke me abruptly. The light shone differently into my room. What time was it? I looked at the digital clock on my dresser. It read 11:28 am. It was almost noon and I was still in bed. I jumped out and started to adjust the sheets like I did every morning. I moved the pillow to one side so I could - 30 -

fit the comforter under the pillow. I jumped like two feet away from the bed as if I had seen a bug, but it wasn t a bug, it was a flower shaped paper, the size of my palm. This time the ink was silver but the handwriting was the same. It·s safe for you today. I hope you enjoyed the gift. I·m sorry about my cologne in your room, I thought you liked it. But the smell mixed in nicely with Vanilla and coconut K I burst into laughter as I read about the cologne. I felt tempted to right my own note:

I·m glad I·m safe I was about to lose my sanity Thank You for the gift I love the cologne but my father would not be Happy to find out that his daughters· room smells Like men·s cologne. J
I cut the edges of the plain paper in a funny rounded shape and set it by the window ledge. I hoped he would find it. I took my clothes to the bathroom and changed quickly. It was a habit that I had since I started to have the feeling of being watched since I was eleven. Malakaih would have laughed in my face if I had explained that to him when I met him at the beach. I wondered if he was there

- 31 -

today. No, I couldn t think about him. He seemed like a nice guy and he would end up getting hurt if I were to get involved. I returned to my room and quickly retrieved my handbag and the hidden envelope. I headed out the door but looked anxiously around the neighborhood before stepping out. A few kids played a game of football along the sidewalk. I stepped out and made my way towards the nearest bus stop. Soon I was at a small book store looking through home decorating magazines and cook books. I bought one of each and headed out to window shop along the malls wide hallways. There weren t many stores but it was nice and calm. Shopping wasn t my forte but how else should I spend my gift. There was a small shop in the middle of the hallway. The shelves were filled with different types of fragrances. I couldn t help but wonder which one was the fragrance that belonged to my mystery man. A woman about my mother s age was watching me intently. Is there anything I could help you find? She stood in front of me with a wide grin on her face. I hesitated for a second but decided it would be nice to know. Just in case he never showed again. Actually, I was in search of a specific scent I pulled the small card from my handbag and handed it to the woman. She opened a small glass jar filled with coffee beans and smelled it first, and then she took the card and inhaled softly. Another grin came to her face but her eyes were closed. After a few seconds she looked at me with wide eyes. This cologne is very expensive and is only sold in the European market I eyed her with suspicion. How could she tell? I guess she read my mind because she pulled a few magazines from beneath the counter. She flipped through the magazines one by one and pulled one with French writing. There was a small flap on the side and it looked like it was smelled a million times before. She showed it to me and almost obligated me to sniff it. I did. It was the exact same one. The price in dollars was incredible. I frowned. I could get it for you if you were really interested the woman said as she pulled out a pair of scissors. There was no way I could afford not even a fraction of what it cost. I guess I would have to do with just the card.

- 32 -

Naw, it s okay. I was just curious I shrugged my shoulders and she began to cut the flap with the name of the cologne. Here, you can have this for reference if you decide that curiosity isn t enough she smiled and handed me the small piece of paper. I thanked her gregariously and she waved at me as I walked away. I made my way towards the food stands and debated over chocolate chip or cherry cheesecake flavored ice cream. I stepped into the line still debating. A little girl with two golden blonde ponytails and a cute pink outfit started to tug at my shirt. Maybe she thought I was someone else. Hi, are you looking for someone? She smiled and handed me a small red notepad. It was shaped like a cherry. This is for you she said and then before I could ask anything else she ran away. I stared at the little notepad and the customer behind me cleared their throat so that I could step closer to the counter. I turned around quickly but kept looking at the notepad. Soon I was at the counter. Small cherry cheesecake on a waffle cone, thanks I said just before the clerk could ask. The notepad had something to do with my decision. I waited patiently for my treat and then sat at a table nearby. I took a few licks of the ice cream and examined the little gift I received. It was new and no pages were missing. I shoved it into my purse and decided that I would think about it later.

- 33 -

Chapter 8 Malakaih
My ride home on the bus was less than pleasant. The bus was full because it began to rain outside. I knew I would get soaked walking from the bus stop to my house. My mother and father were already home. Mom had brought extra food from the restaurant. I joined them at the table. It s about time you came home. We ve been waiting for you my father said as he picked up the newspaper and put it in front of me. I picked it up reading the headline. MAN FOUND DEAD NEAR CREASENT BEACH I didn t know what to say. This island was pretty safe and news like that one only showed once or twice a year. But the fact that it was at my beach was the worst part. It was my safe haven where I could just sit down and watch the waves while I gathered my thoughts. Not even my parents knew that I went there. So, umm why have you been waiting for me? I asked. My mother and father shared glances and looked at me like I had missed something. It s not the headline, Juliana he pointed further down at the corner towards the announcements. It s this that I m worried about and the reason why we are waiting for you . I looked at the announcement. I couldn t believe it. This couldn t be happening so soon. JULIANA ANABELLE DURAN AND GREGORIO MIGUEL LUCIANS ARE PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THEIR ENGAGEMENT No date has been set for the blessed union. I read the words over and over again and pinched myself to make sure this wasn t a bad dream. My blood started to boil like lava. My parents looked calm as if they were expecting this to happen. How could they be so calm about it?

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Juliana my mother began to say This is hard for us too. I m surprised he isn t here trying to take you away already I realized the truth in her words. He wasn t going to forget. This was like a warning. Not only to us but to whomever decided to help us. We had no escape. The tears started to blur my vision and the lump in my throat was making it difficult to swallow. I stood up and ran to my room. I threw myself onto the bed as the tears began to flow down my cheeks. I had spent such a wonderful afternoon and those thirteen words just destroyed whatever sanity I had left. Julia my father called tapping lightly on the door. Go away! I yelled. There was nothing they could say to make it better, not now, not ever. I wanted to get out of house. To run as far as my legs would take me. I d leave everything behind to find the protector in my dreams, the one that had embraced me and hid me from all this insanity underneath the depths of the ocean. My father opened the door and stepped inside Juliana he said as he closed the door. I told you to go away. I don t want to talk about it. My voice quivered and I sat on the bed. I wiped my tears and stared at him fiercely. He had the newspaper in his hands and set it on my dresser. Juliana, I m sorry. My hands are tied right now. There is nothing I can do to stop him. He s too powerful. His tear stained face was a signal that he wasn t lying to me. He stopped by earlier today and noticed that you were gone. Then he ended up at the lab to ask about you. I couldn t help it and I started to argue with him. He got furious and two of his men were about to restrain me when one of his sons came in to let him know that you were okay and that you had gone out to the mall. I was secretly happy that you were okay and that you had gone out. It was better that you weren t alone with him we both shuddered at that thought. Dad, I understand, you don t have to worry. I ll find a way out of this I dug up the courage to say that. There was no way that I would give up. I couldn t give up. I won t give up. I wondered what Malakaih would say if I ran into him again at the beach. There is no doubt that he would think I m psychotic. That s exactly what I needed. - 35 -

I needed to be away to find a place where none of this existed. I would wait until my father went to bed and then sneak out. Dad, I don t want to talk about this anymore. I m locking the door and going to sleep. Please just give me time alone. I wouldn t dare to look at him as I said the words. He would notice instantly that something was up. Okay Juliana, but please don t do anything hasty and remember that we do love you. He paused before closing the door and then turned the lock himself as he closed the door behind him. I stood up and rechecked the lock and turned off the light. In the darkness I changed my shirt to a dry one and sat on the floor near the window. At least I didn t have to jump more than two feet. The whole house was one level. It would be easy to come in and out. Nobody would notice I m gone. This is something I never did. I was always so trusting and I never was a rebel but drastic time s calls for drastic measures. I sat quietly hugging my knees as I dozed off for a few minutes. The sound of a scratch on the window scared me. I was on my bed within two seconds. It was the wind pushing the small bushes against the window. This was my cue. I grabbed my handbag and started to open the window slowly. The note I had left this morning was gone but there was nothing for me this time. I made my way through the window and left it open a few inches. It felt good to be outside. There was a slight breeze coming from the east and the crickets sang away into the cool night. I walked quietly along the sidewalk. The stars would be more visible once I made it towards the park. The plaza streets were so empty without all the fruit stands and people going about their business. Everything seemed so calm at night. Soon I was at the park. It wasn t as dark as I thought. The moon shined brightly in the heavens exposing the forest floor. I knew there was a murderer on the loose and if he wanted my life he could have it. It was my last resort. I didn t give it much thought but I knew that I couldn t stand having that sick man touch me. But I kept my feet going further until I could hear the soft waves. I took off my shoes as soon as I felt the soft sand. The scene was picturesque, with the dark blues and soft whites. The moon reflected over the ocean with soft ripples. The palms swayed with the breeze and

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made a soft sound of its own. This was my safe haven. I sat near the water my back towards the forest. The water barely touching my feet. Juliana? someone called from behind me. I jumped up at the sound and turned around to see who it was. The face was dark in the night. I squinted trying to make out this large figure walking towards me. Who are you? I asked. My heart was racing and I was ready to run. The person approached me cautiously with their hands raised in a calming manner. It s me, Malakaih! What are you doing out here alone, at night? His tone was scolding. I didn t care. I sighed in relief that it wasn t someone else. I needed fresh air and this is the only place to find it. What are you doing here? I replied. His figure was more visible as he approached but it was still too dark to define his image. He stepped closer avoiding my eyes and watching the ocean s waves. Pretty much the same thing you are doing but now I m not alone. Feels nice The moon light reflected softly against his pearly whites, but he avoided facing me directly. So umm why isn t your fiancée with you? I mean no offense but I saw the announcement in the paper. You don t have to answer if you don t want to. His smile disappeared and he was facing away from me almost completely. That s why I m here. Would you believe me if I told you that I wasn t really engaged and that he is a psychopath with an obsession? I couldn t believe how comfortable I was talking to this stranger. It s the second time he shows up when I m vulnerable. He fidgeted with his hair and stared at something in the sky. I wished it was daytime so I could fully appreciate his appearance. He didn t have his tight sunglasses on now and I was curious to see the color of his eyes. Actually, I believe you. You aren t the first person to say that. But how are you planning on dealing with it. I mean if you don t love him then are you still going to marry him? His question caught me off guard. I wasn t expecting for him to understand, but something else caught my attention. The cool breeze brought along a scent I was way too familiar with. I inhaled almost closing my eyes. It was comforting and sweet. It was unmistakable. It couldn t be him, could it? I side - 37 -

stepped a bit closer to where he was standing. It was coming from him. My heart started to race and my stomach was filled with butterflies as I analyzed my thoughts. Do you like it? he asked interrupting my thoughts. Do I like what? Do you like the cologne I m wearing? the smile was back on his face. I couldn t believe he noticed. Was I that obvious? Well, actually, not to sound corny but it is very umm exquisite I did sound corny. My face felt hot with embarrassment. Oh, wow, exquisite. That s a rather intriguing word he laughed but that doesn t tell me if you like it he nudged me with his elbow which sent electrical pulses straight through my body. I knew this was already going too far. I couldn t let myself get involved. These feelings of warmth and comfort were wrong. If Mr. Lucians found out he would kill him. I like it no wait I take that back. I love it and I found out recently that it was only sold in the European market for half of my life s savings. Are you like rich or something? My strength faltered as I nudged him back. How could I tell him that I couldn t be seen with him? My smile disappeared. I could feel him looking at me from the corner of his eyes. What s wrong, Juliana? Don t be afraid you can tell me if you want Malakaih I stopped to think of how to tell him. He kept quiet and stared out over the water. Look, Mr. Lucians is a very dangerous man. I thank you for comforting me the other day when I broke down into hysterics but I don t know if it would be a good idea that you hung around me. And? he interrupted somewhat annoyed. Well, it s just that I have a feeling that he isn t going to be happy if he finds out that I m friends with some guy. Oops, I really didn t want it to sound that harsh, but he didn t even wince. Is that what I am to you, some guy? his hands turned to fist at his sides.

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No, I m sorry. Do you really want me to answer that? I could tell where this conversation was heading but I didn t want to stop it. Of course, I do! If it helps I could start by telling you what mean to me His hands were more relaxed. A smile came across his face. You know, Juliana, I see you as my friend or maybe even more. I think you and I have some things in common like how we were raised and we both like the ocean. He paused and kind of laughed at some thought that occurred to him. I bet you even debate over ice cream the same way I do Is this man for real? I mean how much could he know about me? We ve only met once before and he already started to point out similarities between us. He was too observant and I was too obvious. I guess it wouldn t hurt if I told him. Okay, if you put it like that, well, I guess I don t really have a choice. I really would like to know more about you. I ve been thinking about you since the first day we ve met. How I feel so safe around you and how I don t mind sharing my thoughts with you. Even now, when I know that I m putting both our lives in danger, I stand beside you wondering if things could be different. Think about it. If I really thought of you as just some guy I don t think I would worry so much about your safety I guess that summed it up well. I didn t want to look at his expression. If he smiled hopefully, then I would be more worried and if he didn t smile then I guess that I was making a fool of myself. He kept quiet at my answer and unexpectedly put one of his arms around my shoulders. That just sent a flush of different emotions through my body. He pressed me to his side without looking at me. Thank you, but you didn t answer my first question either. Will you still marry him, even though you don t love him? he whispered. I struggled to catch my breath. My answer was as clear as glass but he wanted for me to say it. Not if I can help it. He is powerful and I m well I m just me. I will try with all my strength to avoid him, even if that means that I have to give up my life to protect my family, but I won t let him touch one cell of my body. I was taken by surprise as he pressed me against his chest. This man had no sense of personal space when it involved me. I tried to break free but he just held me tightly with both his arms. Our hearts were beating at face pace. I gave up trying to break myself from his hold. I put my forehead on his chest and wrapped my arms around his waist. - 39 -

He kissed my hair and pulled me away still trying to avoid looking at me directly. The night was coming to an end. Juliana, I have to go. I m here for you whenever you need me. He walked backward a few steps and then turned around walking into the forest. His exquisite smell lingered in the air around me. I couldn t help but wonder if he and my mystery K where the same. I put on my shoes and ran into the forest. I wanted to see him one more time, especially now that the sun was coming up. I searched for him but he was nowhere to be found. My shoulders slumped to my sides and I dragged myself home. My sleepless night was taking a toll on me. I crawled into the bedroom and searched for clean clothes. The shower didn t help much except to remind me of his warmth. I walked back to my room sluggishly and just when I was about to throw myself onto the bed. I noticed another note in between the comforter and the pillow. I·m glad you like it! I will be more careful next time K

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Chapter 9 Chance
A few hours turned into four days. I didn t want to leave my room for fear that this was all but a nightmare. My parents respected my time alone, but when I didn t want to come out they would knock on my door just to make sure that I was still there. They put post-it notes on the refrigerator door to let me know that they loved me. K slipped notes through my window. Most of the notes were asking me if I was okay or reassuring me that it was safe for me to leave the house, but leaving the house meant that I would go directly to find Malakaih. I wanted to give him a chance, to give love a chance before it was too late. But could I forgive myself if something happened to him? I knew I was being selfish to want to love when it involved so much danger. Would my heart rip to shreds and would I lose all my sanity if the one person I loved was taken from me? Maybe this is just what I needed, to fall in love, to give myself hope and determination. I decided I would go to the beach after all. Naturally I went to the bathroom and changed my clothes into shorts and a tang top. I put all my stuff into the beach bag including my handbag and slipped on my sandals. I went to the kitchen and organize the beach bag to fit two bottled waters, two sodas, a box of donuts and a bag of Doritos. I made two sandwiches and wrapped them in aluminum foil and added them to the top along with all my other stuff. I had food and entertainment for at least most of the day. If I wanted to stay outside as much as possible, this preparation was necessary. My feet almost floated towards the beach. It was a sad sight when I was alone. I set the towel under the shade of a cypress tree. I took out my journal and the magazines I had bought and started to cut out pictures of different colors and weird shaped vases with tall bamboo reeds. I taped them in different angles and wrote beside them or underneath them what I liked about the picture or the color. Soon I was bored and put everything away. Would he be coming today? He answered my question as he tickled my toes. He wore his sunglasses again. They were too tight and too dark for me to see through them. His sun brightened hair was combed into soft spikes. It looked almost artificially highlighted. His skin glowed almost to a perfect gold. You could tell through his - 41 -

white t-shirt that he had a perfectly contoured body and the cologne was tantalizing. I took a deep breath as I allowed for his presence to overtake me. I was speechless. Long times no see my queen of the night he said as he tickled my feet again, his uncontrollable urge to invade my personal space was inevitable. He sure was happy to see me. And since when was I his queen of the night? Looks like you ve been waiting for me It sounded almost like a question. He smiled absentmindedly and it almost took me two heartbeats to control myself. I have been waiting for you. I couldn t get you off my mind. I came here every day for the past four days at different hours to see if you were here. I was starting to think about buying a tent and just camping out till you came to my rescue he mocked. He put his surfboard on the sand and sat on the towel beside me. Oh really, and how was your queen of the night going to rescue you when she can t rescue herself? I teased. Easy, if you think about it. The queen of the night is the moon. What would the night be like without the moon? It wouldn t be the same and the ocean wouldn t be as beautiful. You, Juliana, are my moon. I feel happy to have you beside me and I love who I am when I am with you His answer took my breath away. It flowed from his lips like honey, sweet and subtle. I didn t have an answer to that either. Malakaih stood up and offered me his hand. I put my hand into his and he lifted me to my feet. Would you like to join me? He asked as he looked towards the ocean. I was suddenly scared. He still didn t know that I couldn t swim. If I told him now he would just laugh at me. I nodded still feeling scared. He picked up his surfboard and we walked towards the soft waves. I held on to his arm until I was almost chest high into the water. He lifted me onto the surfboard and pulled me deeper out into the ocean. I bit my lip as he lifted himself onto the surfboard. His wet shirt exposed more of the contours of his chest and abdomen. Well, at least you aren t holding on to the surf board like the first time he giggled.

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Don t be so sure about that I looked behind me to see how far we had gone out. We were further out than the first time. I turned to look at him. He was staring towards the towering cliff in the distance. Okay, so, what do we do now? I asked innocently. He smiled and splashed water at me. I surrendered at once. I was still too scared to move to defend myself. Anything you want, silly. How about you start by telling me where you ve been these past few days. I ve missed you. His half smile was even more glorious than his full smile; it should be a crime to smile like that. Honestly, I haven t been doing anything. I just sat in my room waiting to wake up from the nightmare. I stuttered. Oh, am I part of your nightmare? he turned his face away from me. No, losing the opportunity to be happy and loved at least once in my life and to have someone taken away from me is my true nightmare I took a deep breath waiting for him to laugh, but he didn t. He traced his fingers along the designs on the surfboard. Wow, that would be a nightmare! he agreed. I was stunned at his expression. Did he feel the same way I did? My stomach growled. Could it be noon already? He looked around him as if he was looking for something in the water. What? I asked suddenly scared. Did you hear that? I think we have the Loch Ness monster on our beach! he laughed and teased splashing water again. This time I tried to let go of my fear and splashed him back but only for a few seconds. I think I should take you back to shore. There might be two hungry monsters out here he taunted. Well, umm. Before we go back to shore, can I ask you for something? I had an intense burning desire to see his eyes. He couldn t run away from me here. Yeah, anything you want. he half smiled. Anything, are you sure? I knew he wouldn t be expecting it. I got closer to him You promise?

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Yeah, anything you want! he leaned closer as if we were sharing secrets, What is it? Do you mind if I remove your sunglasses? He just about jumped off the surfboard and almost flipped us over, but quickly regained his balance. Why do you want to do that? his tone sounded annoyed. Well, first I get scared because someone is stalking me. Then it turns out that you know me but I don t know you. You take me out into the water not knowing that I can t swim. Then you flash smiles at me that should be illegal. Comfort me when I breakdown into hysterics. On top of that you have no sense of personal space and hug me at will and I let you. To make matters worse, I have a psychopath obsessing over me and I m risking falling in love with you knowing that he can take you away from me with the snap of finger. I sighed getting all that off my chest. So, I think it s only fair I get a full picture of this person called Malakaih I crossed my arms and pouted like a child. He thought about it for a moment a half smile on his face. Are you sure you want to do that? What if by getting a full picture of me, you don t like what you see? What if it s best that you don t know who I am? In that case wouldn t it be worse if I found out later? I reasoned. He looked down at his surfboard. Okay, but before I show you, will you promise that you will keep talking to me and that no matter what, you ll trust me? His words gave a hint of concern. I had just finished declaring my feelings for him he thinks I won t trust him! That was interesting. I guess that s fair too! I leaned closer and I put my hands around the band that held the sunglasses tightly around his head. You promise Juliana? He asked worried, jaws tightened. I promise I said with smile. We both took a deep breath and he leaned closer. I started to remove the band from around his light brown hair and as removed the sunglasses he closed his eyes. Hey, that s not fair I complained. As soon as he opened his eyes I knew exactly what he meant. I stared shocked wordless. Those piercing green eyes with golden flecks belong to the very man

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that instilled fear in me. Yet these eyes were softer, younger and not filled with lust. You are upset; I can tell he sighed softly You won t keep your promise . Seeing his full expression of pain and sadness, I remembered what Mr. Lucians said about the Duran family. I put one finger softly on his cheek, he flinched as if waiting for blow, but I couldn t do that. His eyes stared into mine and my heart skipped another two beats. The Duran always keep their word I whispered. Here I was trying to find a place away from all this craziness and I just swam right into the sharks mouth. He took my hand and kissed it lightly. Thanks, I couldn t stand it if you never wanted to see me again. We got to the beach faster than we had left it. There was a new sensation in the air. My entire world was spinning wildly, like a new galaxy in the making. He picked up the surf board and held my hand with the other as we walked back to the towel. So, are we going over to your mothers to eat? No, I brought snacks for the both of us. For once I had done something right. He looked impressed almost smug about my diligence. I sat down on the towel and he put his surfboard nearby for me to set the snacks down. Cooool he said with beaming smile. He was delighted. So, does this count as our first date? I thought about what to answer. I was still in shock with my new discovery and he was already creating dates. Hmm I guess so. I mean I don t know what to say. I m still in shock that you are who you are. That s not what I was expecting Tell me, what were you expecting, another note? he took a big bite out of his sandwich. Malakaih stared at me with a mocking smile. Everything that happened in the past two weeks struck me like lightning. Everything was falling and clicking together like a puzzle. Finally, everything made sense. Well, there were still a few pieces missing. Humph, so you re my mystery man? You were trying to tell me all along and I couldn t fit the pieces together. When I fell the day that your father came - 45 -

over, you held me before I fell to the ground. You were the one that stayed with me, comforting me while dreamed. It was the scent of the ocean, I remembered. How you ve been protecting me. You are the one who climbs through my window and has been leaving me notes, the perfume and the cherry notebook at the ice cream shop those were you too. Weren t they? Yes he said plainly. We finished our meal quietly. And then I started to pack up. There was another storm brewing and I had to get home. I put everything in my beach bag including the trash. I stood up and bent down to pick it up. He put his hand over mine and stared at me, our faces only inches away. I m sorry. I guess I should have gone about this differently Now that I could see his eyes so clearly. There was so much I was missing. He was nothing like his father. This was a side of him that only I knew. There is nothing to be sorry about Malakaih I couldn t hold his gaze for very long and I turned away. This complicated things even further. Now there were more pieces to the puzzle, questions that rose like the waves endlessly. I lifted the beach bag and started to make my way through the forest. He followed soon after. I didn t turn around to say goodbye. The rain started to come down

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Chapter 10 My Protector
Juliana, you shouldn t walk in this rain. I ll give you a ride home. He pointed to a black Mitsubishi Eclipse that was only a few feet away from us. Okay He was right and I headed towards the passenger side. Malakaih opened the door for me and closed it as soon as I got in. I buckled my seat belt and noticed that he was looking around before stepping in. Maybe he was worried someone was watching him, but I made a promise that I would trust him. So, I tried not to think much about it. After waiting for about a minute he opened the door, got in and turned on the car. The stereo played Headstrong from the Trapt CD. I started to sing and he looked at me curious that I would know the song. I have a question to ask. I blurted out. Oh, don t you think there are enough surprises for today? he complained. No, actually there is a lot I want to ask you. I quivered at the cold air that came through the vents. He turned off the AC as soon as he saw that I had goose bumps. Are you always so aware of what I m feeling? Yeah, that s my job he chuckled. There was something in his voice that made me believe it. Within minutes we reached the driveway of my house and I felt relieved that my parents weren t home. His expression had changed and his lips were pressed together. It s really my job to watch you and to know everything I can about you, but... frustration filled his voice I realized that day that we were at your house that I wouldn t be able to keep on watching you without failing miserably at not showing my father, the feelings I have for you. It hurt me to watch him torment you and to treat you with such disrespect. You deserve much more, a happy life with someone that loves you he passed his fingers along my cheek. Was he someone that loved me? I unbuckled my seat belt slowly taking in what he had just finished confessing. It was true; there were too many surprises for one day.

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I looked at the dash board in front of me and started to get out of the car. He rolled down the window as I closed the door. See you around? His eyes sparkled. I half smiled and continued up the drive way and into the garage. The sound of his engine speeding away made my heart sink. I ran inside through the kitchen, past the dining and living room and into my room. I threw myself onto the bed faced down as the tears began flowing like a broken water pipe. I hadn t cried yesterday but today my emotions were shambles. Why, why, why me? I sobbed. My eyes wouldn t stop shedding tears and my heart was heavy. The sensation of screaming to let it all out was throbbing inside me. I jumped from the bed and turned on the CD player. A string of high pitched guitar sounds and the melodic shriek of Skillet singing to Whispers in the Dark was the perfect sound. I raised the volume as high as I could and started to yell into my pillow as far as my voice could go. After the song finished and my throat had no more voice in it, the song repeated. He had been in my room. There was no doubt in that. So I decided to listen to the words of the song carefully.
I ll be the one that s going to hold you; I ll be the one that you run to. my love is a burning consuming fire. No you will never be alone, when darkness comes, I ll light the night with stars, hear the whispers in the dark, No you will never be alone, when darkness comes you know I ll never fall, hear the whispers in the dark I ll be the one that s gonna to find you; I ll be the one that s gonna to guide you, my love is a burning consuming fire

The words were comforting and precisely the medicine I needed for my insanity. I didn t know if this was the right choice, or if it was a decision of secrecy. I tried remembering all the weird things that happened through the years. Many of them now taking shape in my mind. He had been there all along; I just decided to veil his presence with this imaginary perfect world. Nineteen years of my life slipping away in nothing. How does Malakaih manage to keep up with this? How much does he know about me and my family? I don t know anything about him; he is so different than his father. Should I let myself get involved or was I already involved? I closed my eyes; all I could see was his smile bright against his tanned glistening wet skin, the way he spoke to me and the way he expressed his feelings. I sat up on the bed as I felt a new awareness of emotions running through my body. I got up and turned the volume down a bit. I had to take a shower and get these wet clothes off before my parents came home. I took my white bath robe knowing no one was in the house and walked to the bathroom sluggishly. As soon - 48 -

as I felt the hot water flowing over my skin my muscles completely relaxed. I shampooed my hair and washed up removing all the traces of sand from my body. I stood there under the hot shower wrapping my arms around me tightly remembering his strong embrace. I heard the sound of the garage door opening and stepped out of the shower quickly. Dried off and put on my robe. Dad is that you? I called out from the hallway, but there was no answer. I guess he couldn t hear me because the CD player was still a bit loud. I started to walk past my bedroom door and towards the living room. All of a sudden, someone grabbed me from behind covering my mouth. His grip was strong as I tried to pull away. The smell of the strangers hand was familiar. He pulled me into my bedroom and locked the door behind him. I thought this would be the last of me. Shh, shh, be quiet. It s me Malakaih! he whispered softly into my ear. At the sound of his voice I immediately stopped fighting. He slowly let go of me. He put a finger over my lips indicating for me to keep quiet. I stood motionless as I watched him pull clothes out of my drawers, knowing exactly where everything was. He set them on the bed and motioned for me to put them on and then turned around covering his eyes. I obeyed silently. I slipped on my undergarments and put on the jeans and pink t-shirt he pulled from the drawer. I touched his shoulder to let him know I was done. Carefully looking through the window, he motioned me to follow him. It wasn t raining anymore and I was glad we lived in a one story house. With one quick move he was out of the window and was waving at me to come through. I took his hand and he helped me out. We crouched down so we wouldn t be seen by the intruder and slowly made our way around the house. I could see a shadow of a large man moving about and thrashing things inside. I could smell gasoline and knew exactly what was happening. Come on, let s go! We don t have time to be looking around! he urged. In next to no time, we were around the corner and running down the street. The pavement felt hot. My wet hair was sticking to my face. We passed the four little shops that lined the market place and we stopped at George s Fruit Market. The sign was painted yellow with bizarre fruit like shapes painted in green, red and orange. The stand had different tropical fruits all lined nicely on an angled stand. Flowers and textiles hung loosely from the wooden roof. A light bulb hung above a

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makeshift table with chairs and an old cash register. The old man smiled as we approached. Is there anything I can help you find? his voice was coarse but friendly. The old path Malakaih responded. The man quickly stood up and signaled, This way he grumbled as he made way through to the back of the little fruit stand. Malakaih held my hand and we followed the old man through small brick paved corridors. Poor two- story wooden houses were arranged in almost a zigzag pattern. Plants and clothes hung high above us lining the corridors with many colors. The smell of salt penetrated the air. We were close to the ocean. The old man stopped at a stone wall with a wrought iron gate. Pulled a key from his pocket and opened it. Malakaih thanked the man, which rushed him through the gate in return. The old man locked the gate again and walked back to his stand briskly. Towering walls of stone lined a passageway behind the gate that only led to more stone walls and another passageway. We followed the path to an arch opening that led to grassland. Large boulders rising from the ground like legends. You can hear the oceans waves and we were overlooking the cliff that looked out to where we had met. Malakaih kept silent but didn t let go of my hand. My breathing was heavy and my heart was racing from all the running around. I didn t know if I could keep up with him much longer. Finally we walked around a few large boulders and Malakaih stopped. His bright eyes gazed at me, a huge smile on his face. Come on, you will be safe here . I was surprised to see a cave hidden between the rocks. He let go of my hand and started to head into the cave. I stood hesitantly thinking about all the insects or snakes that could be in there. Malakaih turned around and extended his hand to me. You promised that you would trust me . I sighed heavily and put my hand in his. We entered the cave and to my surprise only a few feet into the cave were lights and more winding paths. The walls were roughly painted white. We squeezed through some tight spots and it seemed were going into the cavern. Malakaih stopped and flipped a switch that was nailed to a wooden post. The lights turned off and I jumped closer to him. He gave out a soft laugh and started to make his way in the darkness. I followed closely holding on to his strong arm. Within a few minutes I could see light coming from a tunnel up ahead. The light got brighter and brighter as we neared it. Soon - 50 -

we were at an opening on the side of the cliff. The ceiling of the caverns entrance was about twenty feet high. The waves were crashing against sharp rocks about 100 feet below. We stood there facing the ocean for a few minutes. I was leaning my head against Malakaih s muscular arm. His eyes were examining my expression. I blushed at his attentive eyes and moved about two feet away from him. My smile turned to worry as I wondered what had happened at home and if my parents would be safe. I started to pace unknowingly. Questions began to clutter my thoughts. The tears started to fill my eyes again. Julia Malakaih called out. He gently wrapped me in his arms. It s okay. You re safe now. It s not me I m worried about, Malakaih I managed to say faintly. It s my parent s. I m safe but what about them? Malakaih rested his head over mine I made sure they were okay before I came for you. Don t worry. His calm deep voice set my mind at ease. But how did you know ? He interrupted me pulling me tightly around his chest. Does it really matter? His green eyes narrowed and I was suddenly under his spell.

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Chapter 11 The Cave
While I permitted myself to be comforted by Malakaih, I rested my head on Malakaih s chest and I felt my legs give way from under me. Julia, what s wrong? Are you okay? He quickly responded to my weakness and lifted me into his arms. He walked a few steps and he sat me gently on one of the boxes that were neatly piled against the stone wall. What seemed like minutes were actually hours. Malakaih I said as I looked out at the wide opening of the cave, How much longer do you we have to wait here? I crossed my fingers hoping that it wouldn t be long till I was safely home. Well, his brow furrowed I ll head out in a bit and check up on things. If everything is well-controlled then we can head back this evening What if things are not well-controlled? the thought of being alone in this cave sent chills up my spine. I ll keep you informed of what s going on. I won t leave you alone for long. How he knew exactly how I felt was a mystery to be solved. He began shuffling around the boxes and pulled out a can of peaches. Are you sure that s safe to eat? I asked wondering how long these boxes had been lying in here. Yeah, it s safe to eat. His tone sounded aggravated at my distrust. He pulled open the top of the can and handed me a plastic spoon. The peaches melted as soon as they touched my tongue. The tartness made my face pucker and Malakaih laughed at my expression. It felt good to finally have something in my stomach, but I still felt uneasy not knowing exactly how my parents were doing. Don t worry I m prepared he smiled. I guess my face showed concern. He continued to open boxes as I enjoyed the rest of my peaches. Do you need me to help you with anything? I asked as I examined the empty can.

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I found what I was looking for. He pulled out two sleeping bags. My eyes grew wide. Well, you seem surprised. He laughed as he threw one of them at me. I caught it despite the lightheadedness I still felt. Good catch! He seemed excited and his eyes were a lighter shade of green. He moved from box to box quickly, pulling out flashlights, matches, more canned food, a small radio, batteries and new unpacked toothbrushes. I wasn t surprised when he also pulled out a hair brush and toothpaste. He was too prepared. Why do you have all this stuff in here? I said as I nibbled on the spoon. Well, you aren t the first family that needs to get off the island. Do you remember, Geoffrey, from high school? He said replacing the batteries on the flashlights. I smiled vaguely remembering the bucktoothed redheaded boy that stalked me every day for two months, begging me to go to prom with him. Yeah, I remember him. Did you throw him off the cliff? I tried to sound funny but to no avail. The look on his face showed anger. No, I didn t throw him off the cliff! But my father almost did his tone had changed as he paused remembering the incident. From here? I asked pointing to the edge of the opening of the cave. Nope, from up there he said mimicking me but pointing to the ceiling. Oh I tried to picture it But, did they make it safely off the island? Yes his whole family made it out he grinned. I wondered how they managed to escape, but somehow my family couldn t get out. I raised my legs and wrapped my arms around them. I lingered on that thought for awhile. Maybe they didn t want to leave Malakaih continued to put away the boxes he had opened. Making sure that each one was arranged exactly how he had placed them before. Are you always so organized? I asked as I moved the hair out of my face. He lifted one brow and half smiled, I have to be organized . He sat down beside me. His sweet, but manly scent of cologne began to take effect over my emotions. I wrapped my arms tighter around my legs resisting the urge to touch - 53 -

him. Julia he said softly. I raised my head to face him. Our faces were only inches apart, the shape of his lips were tempting. Yes I whispered. He quickly stood up and started to walk toward the exit of the cave. I m sorry; umm he brushed his hair back with his left hand I ll come back soon. I ve left a few more cans of food out for you to eat. The flashlights have new batteries in them... Oh and there are saltine crackers in the box you are sitting on he turned to walk away but turned around on his heels and walked up to me. He bent down and gently kissed my forehead. I ll be back before night fall He took of his watch and placed it beside me The warmth of his gentle kiss on my forehead lingered. I sat motionless for a few minutes feeling scared of moving anything around. My body felt exhausted as I stood to stretch out. Maybe I should take a nap. I would need the rest if we were going to head out into the night. I picked up the sleeping bag he threw at me, unfolded it and laid it near the center of the cold floor. I unzipped it making sure it had no insects inside. I looked down at my aching feet and remembered I had no sneakers. I had been barefoot the whole time. I cleaned off my feet and stepped into the sleeping bag. It was cozy and it smelled like Malakaih s cologne. I closed my eyes and dozed off to sleep.

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Chapter 12 Nightmare
The sound of running water woke me. The haze around the kitchen gave the indication I was dreaming. The sun coming through the window was inviting. My mother was washing dishes and my father sat at the table looking at the newspaper. There was a knock at the door. I ran to answer it. I opened the door. Mr. Lucians was standing there with a smile. There you are His eyes lascivious. I tried to close the door but he opened it with one strong push. I called out for my mother and father but they didn t listen. Mr. Lucians grabbed me by my arms and started to drag me out of the house. You are mine. You are mine he repeated over and over again. I struggled to break free from his hold but he was holding me tightly. He flung me around like a rag doll. The tears rolled down my cheeks out of anger. Let go of me I yelled as I tried hitting him with all my strength. Suddenly, we were at the beach. Mr. Lucians tossed me to the ground. The sand felt hard as I fell. His laughter was ringing in my ears. The tears that rolled down my face stung. You owe your life to me he yelled as he pulled the gun from his harness and pointed it at me. I raised my hands pleading to let me go. I started to scream as he pulled my hair and pointed the gun to my head. My heart was racing. I started to call out Malakaih, Malakaih! You left me alone I was sobbing. I supplicated for Mr. Lucians to let me go, but he would just pull harder. I continued to call out for Malakaih. Soon his voice sounded off from a distance. Julia, Julia, I m here. Please calm down! Mr. Lucians started to fade away like dust. I felt a sensation of warmth around me. His voice ever so clearer. Julia, calm down. I m here. I won t let him hurt you. I started to drift back to consciousness. .. I opened my eyes but all I could see was darkness, but I wasn t alone. Malakaih was rocking me softly on his lap. His hands were stroking my face ever so gently, wiping the tears from my eyes. I still felt as if I were running, it was the adrenaline rushing through my veins. Julia, calm down. I m here . It was now that I realized that his love for me was like he had said, like a burning fire. I didn t know if it would consume me but a flame began to burn inside me. He wanted to protect me, but was torn between honoring his father and his love for me. I sunk deeper into his chest, not wanting for him to let go of me. Please don t leave me. I begged clinging tightly to his shirt. I felt a drop of water over my lip. Malakaih was crying with me. I returned his embrace wrapping my fragile arms around his waist. He was holding back trying to be - 55 -

strong for me, but the sadness taking over, he started to cry profusely. He held me in his arms and raised me delicately putting my head on his shoulder and leaned against mine, wiping his tears in my hair. I will never leave you, again he promised between his tears. He kissed my hair softly and moved my long black hair from my neck. He began to kiss me just below my ear arousing new sensations through my body. He breathed heavily against my skin, the warmth erasing the fear and sadness that we shared. I love you, Juliana he whispered. His lips continued on their journey towards my jaw line, then closely towards the corner of my mouth. Soon his lips were over mine. I inhaled taking in all these new feelings. I had never been kissed. His lips parted mine and I responded wrapping my arms around his neck. The arousal of his body took me by surprise. I let go of him instantly. He sighed pulling me off of his lap. I m sorry. I shouldn t have let myself go I wished I could see his eyes. No need to be sorry, I m also at fault . .. I felt glad that we couldn t see each other in the darkness as I started to blush. How are my parents? I asked breaking the intensity of the moment. Well, everyone is safe from Jerrod, the man you saw inside your house His voice broke off. I knew there was more, but it seemed he didn t want to tell me. I wasn t going to let him go off so easily. And why are we still here? I said as I tried to make out his figure. The moonlit night brought a soft iridescence into the cave. My eyes were finally adjusting to the darkness. Because...Umm, I don t know now how to tell you. But your parents are fine. They are at Becca s house . I was surprised at his answer but he was only giving me fragments of what was truly happening. Becca s house? Malakaih, I need to know what s going on. I trust you and you promised that you would keep me informed I reminded him. I know, but ... But what? What s really going on Malakaih? Frustration was starting to get the best of me. There was more to the story than what I was being told. I was feeling annoyed Spit it out already! I demanded. A muffled sound came from

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under his breath. He found my hands in the now, moon illuminated cave. He pulled me again closer to him, but kept a few inches away. Is there anything valuable that you would miss if it were gone? There was a slight hint in his question that only provoked me even more. Is there anything, anything you know material? I m not attached to material possessions if that is what you are asking me, but what does that have to do with anything? I wished he would hurry up and get to the point. It seemed as if he were trying to analyze my emotions before giving me any insight on what he had found when he left our safe haven. But shouldn t he already know enough of me to know that. I could barely make out his eyes in the iridescence. That s right I should ve known that by now. Somehow he always knew what I was thinking. Well, in that case, I guess I have no choice but to tell you. The silence dragged on for a few seconds with the sound of crashing waves in the distance. Julia His fingers now intertwined between mine tightened, Julia you no longer have a home to return to. Do you understand what I m saying? There s nothing there at the place you called home his voice trailed off into the silence. I knew what I should have felt but the emotion was not there. I d never feel at home again, with all the now very real danger that I had been hidden from all these years. This felt like an indication that I had to face whatever was thrown my way. Maybe, just maybe with Malakaih around I would be able to make it through all this. I understand was all I was able to say amongst all the possibilities I calculated I had to survive through all this. Well, I managed to salvage one thing he sounded hopeful and tried so very hard to sound uplifting. You left your beach bag in my car. We can head out as soon as day breaks, okay? He knew I was pleased to hear that. Not once did he let my hands go and I felt as he pulled on me to get up. I want to show you something . He helped me onto my feet and walked closer to the caves opening that overlooked the beach. The chill of the night was now creeping up on me. I shivered. His arms were almost instantly wrapped around me. Look at the sky I raised my head to find a clear sky illuminated with millions and

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millions of stars. The moon sent flecks of radiance over the endless waves. It was as beautiful at night as it was during the day. I wish I could have showed you this under different circumstances his voice grew deep and sorrowful. I wished that I could have too. Well, if we are to head out early we d better get some rest he said in a fatherly tone. I let him drag me back to the cozy sleeping bag. He pulled his sleeping bag closer to mine and we huddled closely. Malakaih? I wanted to hear his voice one last time before sleep would invade me. Promise me again that you won t leave me I promise that I won t leave you again, Julia. Goodnight, we need the rest With that I fell asleep dreamlessly. My protector was with me. * * *

The soft sound of an alarm went off. Tick, Tiiii, Tick Tiiii, It was the wristwatch that Malakaih had entrusted me. It was 4:30 am. I turned around quickly to see if he was still beside me. But the sleeping bag was folded neatly and on top one of the boxes. He left again. I pressed my lips repressing negative thoughts. Good morning! I heard him say cheerfully from the dark passageway. I exhaled in relief. He was carrying a gallon of water. This is for washing up Oh no! I thought morning breath. He had obviously washed up. His clothes were changed. He wore blue jeans, sneakers and an olive green polo shirt. His hair was slicked back the way I had seen him the very first time in my living room. The colors made his eyes an intense green. I thought of my hair and how I still wore the clothes he handed me before last night s event. Good morning! I replied sheepishly. I started to fold the sleeping bag but gave up trying to fold it as neatly as he did. I headed for the toothbrush and paste and combed the knots out of my long black hair. Malakaih watched my every move out of the corner of his eyes. The sun started peeking from the shoreline bringing me one last time to the opening of the cave. It was beautiful and I hoped that I would be able to come back soon. I turned around trying to memorize every detail. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, summoning the courage to leave this safe haven. I opened my

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eyes again and searched for my sandals. They were on one of the boxes near the exit of the cave. I washed my feet and put them on. Okay, I m ready to leave I murmured. I was ready to leave but not to face whatever was happening out there. I wanted to see my parents but I didn t feel the same about them. Something was different.

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Chapter 13 Distrust
Let s head out Malakaih extended his hand and in an automatic reaction I held on to his as we started to make our way out of the cave. It seemed as if we weren t in such a rush to leave. There were many things I wanted to ask him but it wasn t about me. I wanted to know more about him. After all, he knew me so well, almost to the point of reading my mind. Malakaih came to an abrupt stop before we stepped out to the grassland. Julia, remember that once I m out there I am Mr. Lucians son. I have to pretend a lot And you have to be smart and take chances. Do you understand? The look on his face was almost like pain and anger. I understand It hurt to breathe. The light that entered through brought out the golden specks in his eyes. I felt dizzy and let go of his hand to rest my back against the cave wall. I was mad at myself for being so weak. He put his hands up against the wall creating some sort of barrier, on either side of me. Breathe he said softly. You can do this He lifted my head with his right hand and stared into my violet eyes. His spell overpowered me again. You are beautiful . He spoke softly as he looked at me, taking in every curve, every freckle. His thumb traced my lips and it sent an electrifying current through my body. He had no sense in personal space when it came to being near me. He was confidant and strong. The essence that was released from his body filled my lungs making my heart race. I probably smelled like dirt but it didn t bother him one bit. He was so close now that we were sharing our breaths. I wanted to lean ever closer closing the hairline space that was between us. As if reading my mind our lips met in a gushing rush of passion I felt the flame flickering inside me as hope persevered. I was flushed and dizzy from the intensity of our kiss. He kissed me not only for pleasure but as a way of saying this could be the last time we could be so close. I didn t know why I never had the courage to fight against my protector. Soon we were out of breath and our lips departed as if we never wanted to detach. I felt heat rise to my face as I knew very well that he was still a bit of a stranger to me, but I couldn t resist his enchantment. He kept ever so close and so - 60 -

tempting. We were taking in every moment. Our eyes glued on one another. As he approached to kiss me again the sound of the wrist watch went off and it made me jump. He started to laugh and I smiled shyly. Oh, I guess it would look weird if I had your watch on, wouldn t it? I laughed as I took it off. I guess that would he smiled still catching his breath, We can never be too careful . That was the one thing I was sure of. If this was going to work out we had to be extremely sneaky. He slipped the watch on and took my hand again. As we stepped out of the cave the sun was now a bit higher in the sky. We started to walk through the tall grass but turned left when if I recalled correctly we had to turn right. From a distance I could see the stone wall and beside it a large boulder with stairs carved onto its side. First he climbed making sure it was safe on the other side, and then he motioned for me to follow. I began to climb clumsily. He smiled patiently. Finally I made it to the top and we were at a large crevice in the stone wall. I had heard about these passageways at school but never really believed they existed till now. We entered the crevice and it was dark briefly. It had led us into the forest near the park. We walked a few more minutes as I was relieved to find his black Eclipse in the parking lot. It seemed different somehow. It wasn t until I got inside that I noticed that the windows were tinted limousine black. As always he was wary before stepping inside of the car. We drove in silence. I didn t know what to expect when we got to Rebecca s house. But we weren t headed directly to her house. He had turned on my street. Malakaih, are you taking me home? Didn t you say there was nothing there? Yes, I know what I said but since you didn t say much afterwards. I thought maybe you didn t believe me. So I brought you so you can see for yourself. I didn t want you running over here to investigate on your own . I understood his reasoning and sat quietly until we reached the driveway. I gasped at the sight. The house had been burned down to a crisp. Only the brick foundation remained. I was glad I didn t come here alone, but even though I was shocked to see it all gone. I wasn t sad or teary. This felt like it was inevitable. We left quickly - 61 -

and headed to Rebecca s house. She was my mother s best friend and she was like family to me. Malakaih parked in front of the house but kept the engine running. My mother and father were waiting for me anxiously on the porch. I was looking at them but not with the same eyes as before. I still couldn t make out what emotion it was. Malakaih stepped out of the car as they approached us. He signaled for me to wait. He closed the door and started to talk with them. His face was serious and my parents were smiling, but I couldn t make out what they were saying. Malakaih walked over to the passenger side and opened the door for me. He kept a straight face like the puppet I had seen two weeks before. He was pretending again. He helped me out of the car, and my parents were soon hugging me and giving me kisses. Questions followed soon after. Where were you? What happened? Are you hurt? I just nodded at their answers and said no at the appropriate moment. Malakaih was standing at a distance watching us. As soon as their backs were to him he winked and smiled at me, then returned to his show . We started to walk inside and I resisted the urge to look back as Malakaih stayed behind. Remember, Mr. Duran, you have 24 hours to decide. Malakaih called out before jumping into his car and driving off. The sound of the thundering engine made my heart race. I wondered what he meant. What was it that my father had to decide? Why didn t Malakaih tell me about this decision that my father had to make? I walked inside the front door and two kids were running up to me hugging my legs. Jules we missed you! They cried. Jonas was 7 and his little brother, Kevin, was 4. Tears came to my eyes as they told me how much they missed me. Rebecca hugged me lightly but didn t smile much. I felt that weird feeling inside again. Something wasn t right. My father and mother walked to the family room and signaled for me to follow. We sat on the couch and my father tried hiding an envelope placing it under some books on the coffee table. I m glad you are back, Julia. I thought we would never see you again. Mr. Lucians had received a message that you were seeing some surfer guy and sent a man to check it out. I was shocked at his story and tried to correct him, but he didn t even let me begin. Daughter what were you thinking? You promised that you wouldn t do anything hasty? I sat quietly interested in listening to what was it that I had done that was so hasty. - 62 -

One thing is for you to have a secret boyfriend and would want to tell him what s going on but to burn the house down to make Mr. Lucians angry. Well that s a whole different ball game, daughter. You really made Mr. Lucians mad and he came at us just about to kill us, thinking maybe you had committed suicide. Now he gave me 24 hours to decide if... His voice sounded sincere but I wondered how could my father believe anything Mr. Lucians said. It s as if they were brain washed somehow. Well, Julia, he gave us two options his brow furrowed and he frowned heavily. What two options? I couldn t imagine what options Mr. Lucian s sick mind would come up with. I knew now exactly what I was feeling. Looking at my parent s faces and how Rebecca didn t smile at me. How they believed Mr. Lucians story and how others had found a way to leave the island but they couldn t. I was feeling distrust. Something I had never felt with my parents. I remembered my mother giving Malakaih the letter and now I really wondered what was in it. Well, I think it should be your choice Oh, now they wanted my opinion, You see Mr. Lucians said Rebecca s house was unacceptable for his future wife . So either you had to stay at his house or under supervision at a house at Keya Cove. He said he couldn t count on us to protect his most valuable possession . This was infuriating to hear. And worse was to see how they accepted whatever he said. They were giving up again. Are you listening to what I m saying? he raised his tone. Yeah, I m listening. Do you really believe what Mr. Lucians said about me seeing some guy behind your backs and that I had burned down the house trying to kill myself? My voice was harsh. Julia, it was one of his sons that informed him my mother interrupted. Her face showed anxiety and her dark eyes were piercing. And how the hell do they know? I got up and yelled at them, my small hands balled into fist at my sides. How can you even trust them? My father wouldn t tolerate me being disrespectful and quickly got up to settle me down. Watch your tone of voice young lady! It has to be true. Look at how you are reacting to the situation. You are yelling at us and using fowl language. You never reacted this way before! My father was truly furious. His nostrils flared and

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his face was red with anger. Now sit down and don t make this harder. He demanded pointing down at the couch. Yes sir I said quietly and plunged myself down crossing my arms around my chest in a childish position. I had made my decision already; Just the thought of Mr. Lucians and the nasty smell of his breath made me want to hurl. You know I would rather die than be in the same house with that sick bastard The words came out effortlessly. Julia, watch your words, there are children in the house my mother warned. My father shook his head, Look Julia, you haven t heard all of the pros and cons of each decision So, spit them out! I snapped. My father took a deep breath and held my mother s hand. If you decide Keya Cove... If anything were to happen We can t help you... his voice was breaking up. And I questioned whether I was right to doubt them. The other option is a little bit tricky. You would be at Mr. Lucian s mansion, something we could have never afforded to give you and you would be close by in case anything happened. He promised that you could come over. You would be supervised, of course, either way. The expression of his face was bright as if he didn t realize how much I despised that man. So, let me get this right. If I left to another island you worry that you couldn t help me. Yet you don t realize maybe it s a way that I can escape somewhere and you would rather I stay in the house with that pervert, just so that I could be close by. I don t get you guys. It seems as if you want me to be with him. Is that what you guys want? Are you sick and tired of trying to stop him? I wasn t pretending anymore. The words flowed easily because it was what I felt. No wonder I couldn t trust them. I was catching on and they knew it. I was astonished at how gullible my parents were. They had so many years to work something out and now they want to do something about it. I was staring at the envelope that my father had hidden. And what s with the envelope? They sat there speechless not knowing what to answer. I knew I had hit right on the mark. They wanted to stay here. They had everything they dreamed of. My mother had her restaurant and my father had finished his major in marine - 64 -

biology. I wondered what it was that Mr. Lucian had really said to them and if he promised them something for me in return. Maybe Mr. Lucians was right when he said that my parents owed them their lives. He had provided everything for them no matter what sick reasons he had for doing it. My distrust in them was now evident. I had followed everything they had said to a letter since I was a child. I had been the perfect child. I never disobeyed or talked back. Came home on time when I went out even though I never had a curfew. My grades in school were perfect. I put off having any friends in or out of school because they didn t trust anybody. I listened when they said I couldn t go to prom because bad things happened during prom. I was only allowed to call grandma and to go out with Rebecca. They didn t want me to live a life that I would miss because if and when I became his wife I would live as I did right now, alone, childlike and with restrictions. Even now as I remembered my father s story of how they ended up here, it sounded absurd. Nothing was making sense. My decision was made I prefer to live far away from all this I said between my teeth. I stood up and walked out to the terrace.

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Chapter 14 The right choice
I sat down on a wooden lawn chair furious at Malakaih for not telling me about this earlier. I felt dizzy again and like I couldn t breathe. If I knew that this is what it would have come to I would have stayed in the cave. But my parent s decision was made and so was mine. I had to get away from here no matter what. I didn t care now if I had made the right choice or not. I would have to find a way out of this myself. Mr. Lucians would not get his way. I sat back on the chair looking up at the clouds in the sky. A storm was brewing and it wasn t in the heavens. I wasn t going to give up. I closed my eyes and napped for a few minutes. I woke up startled to find Jonas was tapping my shoulder. What s up Jonas? his green eyes, brown hair reminded me of Malakaih. But Malakaih was lacking on the cuteness of Jonas s freckles. Can I show you something? he was whispering and I knew that he was up to something. Yeah, show me? You pinky swear that you won t say anything? He put up his pinky and I wrapped mine around his. I pinky swear that I won t say anything I assured him. Come on, follow me he smiled as he pulled me by my hand. It was like déjà vu. He giggled as he took me to the shed in the back yard. He was hiding something and I wasn t surprised when I saw what it was. The yelping sounds were suddenly quiet when we came in. He lifted the rag that covered a shoe size box. A white furry puppy was curled up in a little corner. It was no bigger than my hand. Jonas s light green eyes lit up as he lifted the fur ball out of the box. It was really cute. Do you think mom will let me keep it? his smile turned to a frown. Maybe I knew she didn t like dogs but if I wash it up and make it look all cute it could work Finally I had something to do to get my mind off of things and I didn t feel angry anymore. He smiled and ran off. I closed the shed s door so that

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we wouldn t raise suspicions. I turned on a lantern and played with the puppy for awhile and I wondered how Jonas would pull off bringing me liquid soap and a rag. The minutes passed and the door shed opened slightly and closed again. Wow, Jonas, you are good. How did you ? when I turned around it wasn t Jonas. Malakaih was standing there. I got up and hugged him even though deep inside I knew I was mad at him for not telling me everything that was going on. He wrapped his arms around me and the puppy and kissed my cheek lightly. Wow, I leave you for one minute and you are the accomplice of a stowaway! he was mocking me. But I wasn t smiling. I m sorry, Julia, I didn t know anything about what my father had said till I got home. My job was to find you and to take you back to your parents. My brother saw us at the beach but he didn t recognize me. He probably thought I was watching you from somewhere out in the distance. I was glad I left the surfboard somewhere else because he was checking out my car when I got home. He wasn t sure. He is the more devious of us both and the hardest to fool. Do you forgive me? No I said as I pulled away from him and put the puppy back in the box Come on, what do you want me to do? I can t be at two places at once His voice was distressing. He pulled me against him in one swift move. My heart started to race as he lifted me to his lips. Now do you forgive me? No I said softly as I started to melt in his arms. We were breathing harmoniously and the shed door started to open. Malakaih quickly put me down. Jonas was standing there staring at us with an old rag and a bottle of dish detergent in hand. Wow, Jules, you must be a princess, cause the puppy turned into a prince! He sounded so sincere that we both started to laugh. Malakaih pulled him in and closed the door shed behind him. Hey Jonas, what you got here, huh? I was surprised that Malakaih knew him on a personal level. Now why didn t you tell me about your little secret? Uncle Kaih, you never pick up your phone when I call you! he frowned and I stood with my mouth open. The resemblance was astonishing. But, how in the world were those two related? I glanced at Malakaih and he smiled at me sheepishly. Jonas answered my question. - 67 -

Jules, did you know that uncle Kaih is my mother s step brother, cause you are staring at us funny? No wonder I had déjà vu. This was something I had to talk about later with Malakaih. No, I didn t know that Jonas, but I m glad that I know that now I patted his head and took the rag and soap from his hands. The shed had a basin so I began washing up the puppy. I wondered if this was going to mess up everything. I kept washing the puppy and removing all the knots. Maybe he would let the cat or I should say puppy out of the bag. When I finished bathing the puppy I wrapped the towel around it. I looked at Malakaih; he was sitting on the floor and was telling Jonas a secret . Jonas looked at me and started to giggle covering his mouth. Now what are you two sharing secrets about? I asked as I sat down beside them. I m not telling Jonas said in a very manly tone. Yeah, but you have to because you didn t pinky swear I guess I had convinced him because he was leaning towards my ear. Uncle Kaih said that you were really a princess and that I couldn t tell anybody he whispered. I busted out laughing and Jonas hushed me because we couldn t get caught in the shed. I held down my laughter and began drying up the puppy. I leaned toward Jonas which was now taking the puppy from my hands and whispered into his ear. I need a prince to be a princess . He started to laugh and leaned over to Malakaih and whispered what I had said into his ear. Malakaih whispered something back to Jonas and he covered his mouth like it was a big gossip and giggled again. This was fun for all of us. Jonas leaned over to me and whispered Jonas said that he wanted to be your prince. Oh you have to be his princess, Jules! He looked at me with wish full eyes and I couldn t break his heart if I said no. This time I didn t whisper. Okay, but only on one condition. Jonas was all excited and Malakaih stared at me with loving eyes. Jonas, you have to pinky swear that you won t say anything. You promise? I lifted my pinky and he wrapped his little pinky around mine and swore that he wouldn t tell anybody. I knew that this was true. He always kept his promises no matter what. - 68 -

Malakaih wrapped his pinky too around ours and swore that he would also keep the secret. Jonas let go and threw himself back onto the floor rolling his eyes and gave out a heavy sigh and they lived happily ever after . Malakaih and I looked at Jonas and then shared glances. Both of us smiled and hoped that someday that would come true. Jonas it s lunch time! Rebecca called out. We looked at each other and Jonas put the puppy into the box, covered it with the rag. Malakaih picked up a soccer ball, handed it to Jonas and winked at him. Okay, Mom, he replied. He winked back at Malakaih and opened the door. Malakaih quickly turned off the lantern and we both stepped back into the darkest parts of the shed. What are you doing in there? Didn t I tell you not to be in the shed alone? Where s Julia? Rebecca asked. I know, Mom. But I was playing soccer and the ball went into the shed. So I had to go get it. I didn t see Julia when I came out. His story sounded convincing and they went inside. I exhaled relieved that we didn t get caught. Malakaih closed the shed door tightly and we were in complete darkness. In two seconds he was standing beside me, embracing me. So where were we? he asked as he nuzzled me behind the ear. I started to melt again. I think I was telling you that I didn t forgive you for not being at two places at the same time I said softly as the spell took over. Well, do you forgive me now? He asked as he lined my neck with gentle kisses. It was driving me crazy. Yes I forgive you I said the words as he kissed my lips, put a paper in my hand and started to let go of me. Okay, that s all I wanted to hear . He smiled and walked away from me and started to open the shed door. The light was blinding and he left without a sound. I started to look for the puppy but it was gone. He had taken it. I walked quietly out of the shed and closed the door behind me. Made my way around the house and started to walk on the sidewalk toward the front of the house as if I had taken a walk. My shirt was still wet from the bath I had given the puppy and I walked up to the stairs on the porch and waited for my shirt to dry off a bit before heading inside. I started to unfold the paper that Malakaih had given me. You made the right choice, K - 69 -

Chapter 15 Road Trip
I stuck the paper into my pocket when I heard the front door open. It was my mother. She had two hot dogs wrapped in paper towels in her hand and offered it to me. I thanked her and started to eat. They were the best hot dogs I had ever had. Maybe because all I had eaten in the past 24 hours was a can of peaches. She sat down beside me and looked out into the yard. Thanks mom, those were good . You re welcome. She answered still looking out into the yard. Julia your dad wanted to send you to Mr. Lucian s house but decided that maybe it was better for you to get off the island and to be away from that man. After considering what you said, we debated and we think this is for the best. If you can find a way out then go for it. We are willing to accept whatever consequences might come from it. As long as you are out of harm s way that would be best. Oh, and I know that you don t have a boyfriend but your father still seems to think so. Her words were sincere and I knew that she really meant them. So, when do I leave? Well, Mr. Lucians gave us 24 hours from the hour that you got here. You were here by seven so I guess 7 am tomorrow. Did you tell him already? Yes, we did. His son came by about an hour ago, to find out if we had decided what we were going to do. He just nodded and left. He seems pretty harmless. Do you think he s cute? I was shocked at her choice of words. Cute was hardly the word to describe him, maybe charming, endearing, adorable and highly volatile. He was volatile in the sense that his burning love was not consuming him, but me. I regained my composure Yeah I was surprised at my answer. He is not much older than you, is he? she asked inquisitively Nope, I don t think so. He seems kind shy though I lied. He didn t have an inch of shyness in him. - 70 -

Well, maybe that s where you can start I raised one eyebrow at her and shrugged my shoulders, Mom, what are you trying to get at? Oh, don t mind me, I m just talking nonsense. She got up and went inside. I knew what she was getting at but I was way ahead of her. I smiled and jumped up and followed her inside. My father was reading the newspaper like always and didn t even bother at acknowledging my presence as I passed him. I stood behind him hugged him and kissed the top of his head. He put the newspaper down and patted my arm. I love you my daughter. I know you will do what s right . I love you too, dad! I knew that we wanted to say much more but this was all we could say for now. The rest of the day went by fast. I searched for the manila folder, but ended empty handed. I played with the kids and let Jonas know that Malakaih had taken the puppy. He was sad for a moment and then smiled because he knew that his uncle would bring him back. Before they settled into bed they wanted for me to read them a story and Jonas smiled as he chose Shrek. I smiled back and winked. I read them the story and they fell asleep quickly. I tucked them in and kissed their foreheads. Rebecca came by to check on them and to tell me that the sofa bed was ready. For some weird reason she gave me a hug and left crying. I was too tired to even ask. I dozed into a dreamless sleep remembering the crashing waves that I had seen at the cavern. My mother woke me up by five am and gave me one of Rebecca s dresses to wear. I dragged myself to the bathroom. My black hair was a mess and I smelled like dog. I freshened up and put on the white sundress that Rebecca had let me borrow. I would look funny these old sandals and a sundress. When I walked to the kitchen with my old sandals on, my mother laughed out loud and we traded shoes. She had the perfect pair of wrap sandals to match. I sat down at the kitchen table to eat breakfast and she started to French braid my hair with a white ribbon she had found in her room. She looked at me and smiled. She started to search in Rebecca s bag for something.

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I was about to scold her when she pulled out a lip gloss from the purse. I smiled and let her gloss my lips. She was really enjoying this. I took in every moment as if it were that last time I would see her. All of this was done in silence. The digital clock on the microwave read 6:42 am by the time she had finished with me. I had my hair braided, my lips glossed and she had taken off the gold necklace that my grandmother had given her and put it on me. I felt like I was getting married. Her eyes were teary when she looked to inspect me. I could tell she was trying very hard not to cry. I gave her a big hug and there was a soft knock at the door. My heart skipped a beat and that feeling like I couldn t breathe came back. I stood up from the kitchen table and followed my mother to the front door. I wished it were Malakaih standing there waiting to take me away. But when she opened the door it was his brother. My heart sank deeper into my chest and I was almost afraid to move. Good morning, I imagined you were all set Was all he said as he motioned for me to follow him to the car. His face was inexpressive. My mother held my hand all the way up to the passenger side door. She gave me one last hug and ran inside the house. I stood there watching as she closed the door. Mr. Puppet cleared his throat and I wondered if he was pretending too. The car felt chilly as I stepped inside. He turned on the engine and I looked out the window. Jonas was waving from the window on the second floor. I tried to hold back my tears and waved at him. Mr. Puppet waited for a few seconds as I waved and then reversed onto the street. The ride was quiet for the first hour. He kept his eyes on the road and didn t bother in turning the AC off as I got goose bumps. He wore a black dress shirt and chinos. A lot less formal than the first time I had seen him. His hair was slicked back and he wore an expensive looking watch. There was a tattoo insignia on his left wrist, but noticed I was watching and put his hand down so I couldn t stare at it. I had never been but a few miles from home and the tears started to pour as the image of Jonas came to mind. Mr. Puppet scared me when he reached into the glove compartment and pulled out some tissues. At least he wasn t made of stone. As he handed them to me he gave me a quick glance and returned his eyes back to the road. I wondered how much longer the trip would last. Are you allowed to talk to me? I took the courage to ask. His face showed a bit of surprise but he kept quiet. What s your name? I had to get something out of him. I waited for a few minutes to see if he would answer but he

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still kept his eyes on the road. Are you deaf? I finally asked. This got his attention and a smile slipped under the expressionless face. Ah so you aren t deaf. That s good a thing , I smiled. His smile was even bigger now. But he realized he had relaxed a bit and his face turned unreadable again. Great now you are serious again! I sighed. Hey, can I turn on the radio? He looked at me again and then nodded. So I started to flip through the radio stations and stopped when I heard the song that Malakaih had left for me on repeat. I started to sing to it and he raised the volume on the stereo. So whether it was because of my bad singing or because he really likes the song, he had reacted. Now you are turning into a real boy , I giggled to myself. If I pushed a little more I know the transformation would become complete. Who sings this? I knew the answer but I wanted him to speak. He lowered the volume. I don t know he answered. I knew that he would break. So I pushed a little further. Oh that s right, I knew that! I tried to sound cheerful. So can I call you Don t know since I can t know your name? Now that really pushed a button. He started to laugh so hard we almost crashed. You don t give up do you? he asked. Nope I answered making a popping sound on the p'. I was watching the clock and it took me an hour and ten minutes to transform the puppet into a real boy . My name is Alexander, but you can call me Alex . Nice name, it suits you I replied. His shoulders were now more relaxed and his face less stern. Why do you think it suits me? He asked now actually looking at me. Well, you look very strong and it reminds me of Alexander the Great I lifted my arms as if I were flexing my muscles. I wondered if he would buy it. You sure are silly. With that last comment the conversation continued until we reached our destination. He was five years older than Malakaih. He liked metal but enjoyed classical on occasions. He enjoyed watching martial art movies and some comedy. He hated the color brown but loved chocolate ice cream. He carefully avoided any questions that involved his family but kept a smile on his face the entire time. We finally left the main road. After twenty minutes I could see the harbor. It was lined with boats of all sizes. I guess one of these boats would take me to my final destination. He stopped at the port masters office and then returned to the car. He drove onto a platform on the ferry. And we stayed inside the car. There were no other cars on the ferry, just us. I became quiet and was - 73 -

watching as we approached what looked like another dock. We were almost there. My breath was escaping me again and I didn t know if I could keep holding on to the façade. Hey, are you alright? You look pale Unfortunately he had noticed. Yeah, it s just I kind of feel out of breath. I ve never been so far away from home I held tightly to the seatbelt that kept me from running out of the car. He turned on the car as soon as one of the crew members said it was okay. Soon we were off the ferry again and we were on a winding road. There weren t many houses and they were small. I laid the seat back till the feeling could pass. Alex kept taking glances at me asking me occasionally if he needed to stop the car. I would close my eyes and think about Malakaih. I now knew more about his brother Alex than him. I fell asleep with that thought. When the car came to a halt Alex tapped my shoulder and used the control on his panels to lift up the seat. I smiled and thanked him for such a wonderful ride. He smiled back and tuned off the car. When I looked out of the window there were walls all around us. We were in the garage. Alex stepped out of the car and opened the door for me. I thought for an instance that the lightheadedness had disappeared but I was wrong. I plopped back down into the seat. Alex helped me out of the car carefully. I remembered the same feeling from when I hadn t eaten anything. Malakaih would have known that, but Alex was slow to realize it was late and that I hadn t eaten anything since really early morning.

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Chapter 16 A new place
Alex helped me make my way up a flight of steps. Everything seemed like it was cement and glass. Different shades of gray lined the small corridor. We arrived at a foyer. It had cathedral ceilings with chandeliers. Modern art adorned the walls. Weird shaped glass vases filled with tall bamboo reeds. It was like something out of a magazine that I had clipped. Circles and triangles in lime green and purple decorated the living room wall. Black leather seats and a white shag rug filled the middle of the room facing that wall. To the left, glass windows that looked out into the patio. Tropical plants of all sorts brought color into the dullness of the house. It must really look nice from outside. I loved it. Follow me. I ll show you around. The house isn t very large but it will do for the moment He gave me a half smile. I still felt lightheaded and my stomach was signaling me to feed it. Alex, do you mind if I take a look around in the kitchen. I m starving I said as hugged my stomach. His expression became firm. My father said that you weren t allowed to cook. You have to push this here button There was a panel on the wall behind him with all sorts of different colored push buttons on it. He was pointing to one that was square and red. Then you tell the maid what you want and she will make it for you. But no cooking is allowed for you. Look I ll show you He must of noticed I didn t like the idea. Obviously for a guy it was cool but for me it was too much. What do you want to eat, pizza, Chinese, French, Italian, or Mexican? Anything you want? The chef will make it and the maid will bring it up for you. Tell me! His eyes were bright like a child with a new toy. Let s try a veggie burger I said mocking him. He raised one eyebrow and shook his head in disapproval. Boy do you have a way with things. A veggie burger won t do. How about we get pepperoni and cheese pizza with barbecue chicken wings? He really looked like a teenager when he said that. I sighed and I guess I couldn t compete with that childish face. I nodded that it was okay. Yes! he said and moved his rather large arm in a winning motion. He pressed the red square button and it made a weird noise. - 75 -

Yes, Mr. Lucians a lady said from the other side. Hello Patrice, the lady of the house would like a pepperoni and cheese pizza with barbecue chicken wings. Oh! Some Coke, please. His voice was strong and deep when he said it and I was surprised she knew who it was. It will be ready within an hour. Would you like some snacks while you wait? The ladies voice said. That will do He stopped pressing the button and signaled me to follow him. We passed the living room and into another hallway. Large columns lined the way. It was a big house compared to mine. Behind tall cement arches the dining room was elegant. Black and silver draperies hung on windows as large as the wall. More chandelier over the table and a sort of bar toward the right wall. The left wall was spectacular. It wasn t cement. It was wood. There was a fish tank centered in the middle of it and it was huge. You could see through the fish tank to another room on the other side. The different exotic fishes swam to and from. Different lights brought out the colors of the coral and fish that it contained. I gasped at the beauty of it. Excuse me, Miss Duran Alex said from behind me. I hadn t noticed that I had walked up to the fish tank and was staring like a child. When he called me Miss Duran it sounded awkward and somewhat wrong. Oh, I m sorry I said as I followed him out of the dining room. I would have to inspect it later. The room behind the fish tank was like a family room. Expensive electronics and another but more comfortable looking leather couch filled the room. Tall racks of videos and CD s lined one wall. It seemed a bit cozier. There was some wear on the couch. I wondered who lived here before I came. I kept following Alex when he turned left at the end of the hallway. A set of cement steps led to another floor. He showed me the first room to the left and it was quite decent not so modern as the first floor, almost teenage like. At the next door Alex made sure I heard when he said it was the guest bathroom. I was not allowed to use it or the first bedroom. We passed a few more doors. There was a gym room and an office, both I was allowed to use. At the end of the hall we entered the master bedroom. It was enormous, extremely modern and almost sinful to enter. A large unframed bed stood in the middle. It seemed as if it were hanging in thin air. I had to take a second look to - 76 -

notice large cables hanging from the ceiling that were hidden behind linen fabric. These were actually holding the bed up in the air. Purple flowered ivy vines kept the fabric in place. All the walls were pure white, including the ceiling. Actually almost everything was white. It seemed as if you were in the clouds. Another large window that looked out into the ocean covered one whole wall. Different shades of purple popped out here and there from the decorations. It was as if someone had decorated just for me. There was a bouquet of orchids on top of the bed with a note. I decided to ignore them. Alex I don t see any closets or dressers. I inquired. Are there more buttons? Alex nodded and pointed to a decoration on the wall. It had a flower shaped handle and he smoothly pressed it in a downward motion. A door opened on one of the walls. The doors were almost invisible and I hadn t noticed till now. Wow I was impressed A whole room only for clothes . Alex was staring at me a huge smile on his face. Mal Mr. Lucians made sure that we completely accommodated you He made his way to the opened door. I followed curious to what he meant. My head spun in disbelief. The closet was almost as large as the bedroom. Shelves, racks and drawers filled the space and they actually had clothes and shoes in them. A separate glassed enclosed shelf with drawers was filled with jewelry of all sorts. Everything had tags still attached. No prices just the tags and expensive brands, too. They had bought clothes that were my size. There was another door and of course no master bedroom was complete without its own bathroom, a bit smaller than the walk in closet, but just as beautiful. Everything seemed almost overdone. I really felt out of place. I wouldn t use half the stuff that was here. It was all a total waste. Miss Duran, the dinner is ready and is set at the dining room table I was startled to hear the ladies voice from some speaker hidden somewhere. Alex laughed his head off and we headed back downstairs to the dining room. Just as the lady had said the pizza was at the table with the wings, coke, and napkins. There was three placemats all made up in some stylish way. Forks, spoons and knives carefully arranged around square glassed plates. The snacks were also at the table, but we were busy with our tour. The smell was enticing and I was already looking at what I should eat first. Alex pulled a chair from the side of the table in front of the middle placemat and motioned for me to sit down.

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At first I didn t think anything of it. There were three placemats set and not two. I was suddenly afraid with the thought that Mr. Lucians would join us. My forehead and palms where sweaty. Alex stared at me not knowing what to say. I guess it would be good to ask and not let paranoia take over. I inhaled deeply and cleared my mind. Alex, why are there three placemats when we are only two Oops, maybe I shouldn t have said we that way. It sounded weird. Well Miss Duran, this is not my home. It belongs to Malakaih, my brother. He was the one who found you yesterday. He gave me a cautious look as if awaiting a secret response in return. Oh, I didn t know that was his name. He didn t say anything yesterday I lied. I hoped he wouldn t ask where he found me because I hadn t talked about that yet with Malakaih. He definitely has good taste I tried to change the subject. Alex nodded and looked away repressing his thoughts. I tried discerning what he was thinking but his face turned expressionless at my stare. Do you like how everything has been decorated, Miss Duran? He suddenly asked. Yeah, it s really pretty. I had seen something like this in a magazine and I had clipped it and put it in my scrapbook I frowned remembering the hours I had spent putting it together and what happened afterwards. When I looked up, Alex was searching my expression. Miss Duran, every little corner of this place screams YOU I liked how he said that and it made my face smile, but there was more to his words than what I was listening to. Alex grinned, his face smug as if he had accomplished something. Was he testing me? I had to be more careful. Malakaih did say that Alex was more devious. Julia chose your words more carefully , the voice inside my head warned. So, who decorated this place? Ah, composure regained. Malakaih was all he said. He was testing me. The look on his face was more obvious than it should have. Maybe it was my turn to be smart and smug. I wanted to throw something at him that I know he wouldn t answer. If he wanted to pry then let the game begin.

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Hey, Alex, what do you guys do for a living? I rested my chin on my hand and I batted my eyelids a bit faster. Maybe he ll spill the beans. But his face became hard and inexpressive He was devious. Miss Duran, there are questions better left unanswered He lifted his lip a bit as he grumbled something underneath his breath. He shoved the last piece of pizza into his mouth. I had won this time around. I started to clean up the table and at an instant Alex grabbed my hand and removed the napkin I was holding. You aren t allowed to clean . He pressed something underneath the table. Another button! Geez, Malakaih was lazy. Maybe these are his father s rules and not his. About half a minute passed when a young woman about the age of Alex showed up at the dining room. She narrowed her eyes as she looked at me. I got the suspicion she didn t like me. She was very pretty, with strawberry blonde hair, big blue eyes and a smile from ear to ear when she looked up at Alex. He was particularly happy to see her too, but he tried to keep a straight face. This was something I had to remember. You called Miss Duran? her voice was soft, but her eyes flashed red when she looked at me. I took a look at Alex to see his reaction as she spoke. This was funny. He was now standing up and about two feet away from me. I held my laughter. No, Patrice, I was showing Miss Duran what to do when w... she finished dinner. He also corrected the we part. I knew for sure that there was much more to their relationship than just a crush. This was a card I had up my sleeve. She nodded to Alex and left quietly. I could have sworn that he wanted to run by her side. He looked at me with a poker face. He was upset. I tried my hardest to pretend I didn t understand what was going on. I knew all too well that I would have felt the same way with Malakaih. I yawned pretending I needed some sleep. I got up and left everything on the table. I didn t need Alex to grab my hands anymore than necessary. Alex, I think I m retiring for the evening . I tried to sound as tired as possible. Also I felt sad for the both of them. I wondered what Mr. Lucian would think about his son being with the maid. If I went to sleep he could go chase after her and they could spend the rest of the evening together. I got up not thinking about it twice and headed to the hallway and up the cement stairs. Alex didn t follow just as I anticipated. I came up to the door and

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took a deep breath before I opened it. As I opened the door the paleness of the room took my breath away. It was beautiful in here. Even now as the sun set behind the ocean s shore, the sun s rays produced a calming effect. I closed the door behind me and sat at the edge of the bed. The orchids were still there followed by the note. I was afraid of opening it, but I knew I had to start facing my fears. The orchids were deep purple in the middle and lightened to almost white at the edges. I took the note and held it for awhile. Passed my fingers under the flap and slowly split it open. I took out the card and examined the picture on the front, a starry night above the ocean waves, little bits of glitter shined as if they were stars. Inside the note read: Juliana No words can express the decision that you have made. You are the light behind my darkness You are the moon that illuminates me at night. I will be your ocean. What will the ocean be like without the moon? No wave would form and the earth could not contain life. Listen to the ocean·s calling. It depends on you to survive. I love you Kaih My heart raced as I read the words. I could be his moon and now I wanted it more than ever.

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Chapter 17 Prison Hold
I had fallen asleep to the sound of the waves that came through the large window. I still had the small card in my hand. The orchids lay beside me. I wondered what time it was. I looked around but there was no digital clock. It was dark and only the moon that came through the window made it visible for me to see around. I hid the note between the folds of the linen holding up the bed. I pressed softly on a similar decoration as the one that opened the closet door. The invisible door to the right of the bed opened and the light turned on automatically. I went inside and started to shuffle through the clothes. I wanted something more comfortable to sleep in. There were plenty of nightgowns but a tshirt and short pants were more convenient and I had to be careful that maybe someone would show up unexpected. I took a quick shower still feeling awkward in this new place. . My skin almost glowed, the essences where quite subtle and delicate. I stared at myself for a minute in the mirror and wondered what would have happened to me, if instead of my long black raven hair I would have brown dull hair, and instead violet eyes, big black ones like my mother s. Would I still be alive? I pressed my hands against the temples on my head at the thought of never getting to know Jonas or Malakaih. I turned away from the mirror disgusted at myself. I stepped out of the bathroom quickly and into the closet. I had left everything out of place looking around for my comfy clothes. So I started to organize everything I had misplaced. I had broken a rule and I was proud of it. I smiled at my insanity. There was a clicking sound that came from the bedroom. I was suddenly scared and picked up one of the high heel shoes. I didn t know how much I would be able to defend myself with a shoe but I at least had to do some damage. Who s there? I called out, but no one replied. Who s there? I called out again, demanding. If it s you Alexander, this isn t funny . My breaths were short and my heart was pounding. Someone started to laugh in the bedroom. Malakaih I thought, but no. Wait. The laughter wasn t familiar. Was it Mr. Lucians? There was no doubt in my mind that it was him. My entire body stopped functioning at the deep tone of - 81 -

his laughter and suddenly the smell of chewing tobacco. My eyes started to get blurry but I fought against it. I couldn t faint now that there was no one to protect me. Mr. Lucians I had said his name with a tone of anger. Yes that s me, my sweetness. The sound of my name in your voice is almost angelic he replied with a bit of sarcasm. Please come out of hiding . I started to move forward still my hand raised with the heel of the shoe pointing outward. He turned on the light in the bedroom and I felt less scared to proceed. Step by cautious step I headed into the bedroom. I could see his dark clothes now against the paleness of the room. He was standing near the window. The room no longer seemed heavenly with such a dark presence. Don t worry I won t hurt you today He chuckled as if that were really a joke or maybe a warning. I just wanted to see you. These past few days have been a pain. Since you burned down the house and all, I thought of it as a way of saying that you weren t satisfied with your living arrangements. Maybe you wanted to live a bit more comfortably. He moved his head slightly when he spoke and it gave me chills. He started to move towards me and I raised my hand a little bit more. My hand was starting to hurt as I clenched the shoe. Get away from me I warned. Again he started to laugh. Do you think you can harm me, my precious pet? His laughter now resonated in my ear. My adrenaline was rushing thorough my body and I wanted to run. The door to the bedroom was open. As I took a step further, someone grabbed me by my waist and took hold of my hand. The fingers pressed the insides of my wrist like a button and I let go of the shoe instantly. I noticed the tattoo on the left wrist of the person that was clutching me from behind. Alex , I exhaled. His show had begun. You see, Juliana, I m not alone. I couldn t be seen in a compromising situation with my fiancée. So, I got my son here to chaperone us for the moment. Besides I wanted for him to be a witness of our happy engagement. His words were like hot blades into my heart. I swallowed hard and clenched my teeth. I tried to break free but Alex just held me tighter against his huge muscular body. His grip on my left hand was stronger. He extended my hand and pressed again on my wrist. My hand opened with my fingers spread apart. It was painful and I

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gasped at the pain. Mr. Lucians began laughing hysterically and turned around with his back facing us. Alex whispered something into my ear. It sounded like I m sorry . The breath was nearly being squished out of me. I started to see everything blurry again. I shook my head trying as much as possible to stay conscious. Mr. Lucians walked closer. Keep her still, Alexander! he demanded. His body stiffened holding me even tighter. Mr. Lucians reached into his pocket and pulled out a small velvety red box. He bent down on one knee and lifted the box open. Juliana Annabelle Duran, will you marry me? he proposed. The anger inside me was intense. The adrenaline was no longer wanting for me to run, but to fight. NO! I yelled as I used Alex s body as a catapult and I flung my legs up and hit Mr. Lucian s mouth. The velvet box flew somewhere into the room. You are stupid boy, Alexander! I told you to hold her tight! Mr. Lucian s voice was menacing. Alex struggled to hold me tighter and repositioned me like before but spread my legs twisting his foot around my ankle so that I wouldn t be able to move at all. Mr. Lucians lip was bloody and I was relieved I had done some damage. He touched his lips and saw that he was bleeding. Stupid boy he said under his breath. He got up from the floor and raised his bloodied hand to hit me. I flinched expecting the pain. Father, No! Someone called out but the sound of the strike was clear. I didn t feel the pain. When I opened my eyes, Malakaih was standing between his father and me. His face turned to one side. He had received the strike but held his ground. From behind you could see his jaw was clenched. His hands were into fist at his sides. His short sleeved polo shirt exposed the veins on his arms. The intensity in the air was strong. Move out of the way son Mr. Lucians voice was filled with anger Move he yelled. Malakaih didn t move a single muscle. Move I said he tried pushing past him. But Malakaih thrust him towards the door. Pick up the damn ring and get out of my house Malakaih demanded. It s enough that this woman is invading the privacy of my home, just because you can t control yourself. I don t need her blood in my hands. Now get OUT! he yelled.

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Mr. Lucians smiled and retrieved the ring. You are right, son! I should wait until she is ready. Now what would I do without my smart son? He took one look at Alex and grimaced. Come on stupid boy, you and I have to talk . Alex released me from his prison and I plummeted to the ground. He turned to face Malakaih before closing the door and following his father out. Words were spoken with their eyes and the door closed behind him. Malakaih stood there for a few minutes until the sound of car left squealing. I was trying my best to get up, but the pain in my wrist and in my body was unbearable. Julia, I m so sorry. I should have arrived earlier. I m so sorry. He picked me up and my body felt limp. I m sorry he whispered as he laid me on the bed. Let me see he took my hand and I pushed him away. The tears started to pour and the adrenaline turned to anguish. The pain was not only in my hand but in my heart. I didn t know if I was strong enough to stand this. I m s-sorry Malakaih pleaded. Let me see your hand . I heard the pain in his voice but couldn t bear to look at him. He examined my hand and pulled a cell phone from his pocket. May I speak with Dr. Getty please? he stood up and walked out of the bedroom. I managed to get up but my body ached all over. I gave a few steps and was relieved to see that the note that Malakaih had given me was still hidden within the folds of the linen that covered the metal cables. Malakaih walked in as I fell to the ground again. Jules, what are you doing? he picked me up and put me back on the bed. I pointed to the cable and he took a look at it. What? he was looking straight at it and I was proud that he couldn t see it. Malakaih, look I mumbled. He squinted and passed his hand over the linen. He half smiled and pulled out the card. It was bent a bit but it hadn t been discovered. He took it out and put it into his back pocket. I thought you would have thrown it away thinking it was from my father . His green eyes were dark and I could see that he hated to see me like this. I m sorry Jules. I knew my father was here because Patrice called me when he was pulling up to the driveway. The ferry was full and I almost didn t make it on time. I don t know what got into him. He promised that he would keep away till Well, you know. I hate him so much. The temples on the side of his head flashed deep veins and his eyes grew ever so darker. His hands clenched into

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fist. You aren t safe even in my house. I ve failed miserably at my promise Tears came down his cheeks as he stood up. No, don t say that. You came in just in time. I remembered the raised bloodied hand and goose bumps rose on my arms and in my hair. I put my good hand over his fist. He automatically opened his hand. When he turned to face me, I could see the marks of his father s hand on his face. I gasped. That would have been me if he hadn t come in just in time. Malakaih, you kept your promise. I would have been engaged and unconscious right now if it weren t for you he let go of my hand. I hadn t chosen the right words. There was a knock on the door and a small strangely man came in with a large black bag. Hello, my I come in? Yes, you may. Was all he replied to the, whom I presume, was Dr. Getty. Malakaih walked out. Hello, Miss Duran. Let me see your wrist. His voice was hoarse but he seemed like he knew what he was doing. I was surprised he already knew my last name. He examined not only my wrist, but all over. He shook his head like something was wrong. How are you feeling right now? he asked looking at me behind his glasses. Awful I answered. Then the tears started to pour again. He took a napkin out of his bag and handed it to me. Now, now, everything is going to be okay. Well, make sure that you eat healthy every two hours and try not to be so upset. In regards to your wrist, it will be okay within a few days. The tendons are a bit strained. It looks like you put up quite a fight. He smiled Can I ask you something? Yeah, go ahead He looked very curious. How did it feel to hit that son of dog in the mouth? his eyes were wide behind the thick glasses. I laughed out loud. I wasn t expecting a question like that one.

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Good, very good I emphasized. He patted my knee and smiled even more. Well done, young lady He got up and called Malakaih back into the room. She will be okay, her wrist was strained a bit but it will be okay in a few days. If you want I could give her some medicine for pain. Malakaih looked at me and nodded to Mr. Getty. I probably did need it for the pain I was feeling all over. She also needs to eat every two hours, healthy meals on time, every time. She might have a little problem with her blood sugar, but can t be positive till I run some test. Do you understand that Malakaih? He nodded and walked out with him closing the door behind them. They laughed a bit then Malakaih walked back in. Did he tell you what he asked me? I smiled remembering the look on his face. Yep, he sure did. You really did give him a good kick in the mouth. He pointed to floor where blood was spattered. Looking at his smile made me feel safe again, but I wondered why he didn t hug me or kiss me like he did before. My question was answered as soon as I thought it. Another maid had come in with detergents to clean up. She moved quickly and left the floor spotless. Before she left she gave me a quick smile and hurried off. Malakaih was at my side as soon as she walked out. You are going to have to deal with the pain until I can send for the meds tomorrow He tucked me in and turned off the light with a snap of his finger. That was cool. I wish I had known that. Okay, but will you, umm... Stay tonight Yes, I m not moving from your side. I m staying here with you until we can figure out what we are going to do I wondered what that meant as I dozed off to sleep between his arms.

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Chapter 18 Friends

Malakaih kept his promise and never left my side. When I woke he was sleeping like a baby beside me. I was surprised that I was the one to wake up first. I stepped out of the bed slowly trying not to wake him up. My muscles still ached and it hurt to breathe just a tad bit. I walked slowly and pulled the lever that opened the door directly to the bathroom. I showered and rummaged through the clothes to find what to wear. This time I was careful not to make a mess. The sundress I wore yesterday was already washed and hanging on one of the racks. My wrist had turned blue over night and I wondered how Alex would feel when he saw it. So I opted to wear long sleeved lavender colored blouse. You could see a strapless white shirt underneath. The lavender color blended away the color on my wrist. I picked a white jean skirt and some dressy sandals. I touched the gold necklace that my mother had given me and I wondered how they were holding up. I tied my hair into a ponytail with the ribbon my mother had put into my hair. The white reminded me of Jonas s secret puppy. I tiptoed out of the bathroom but to no avail. Malakaih was sitting up on the bed waiting for me. Wow you look very nice. My turn to change The marks on his face looked as if they were painted, but I tried not to look at them. I held my wrist to calm the pain. Good morning, my ocean I blushed under his seductive stare. Good morning, my moon he answered as he put his arms around me as if not awakening the pain that I would feel if he squeezed me too tightly. I ll see you downstairs for breakfast. Wait up for me. Ask Patrice for anything you want. She likes you more than you think he murmured. Hey, how did you know I was worried about that? I complained and faked a frown. It s my job to know He kissed me lightly on my forehead and scrambled out of the room.

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He entered the first room. The one I wasn t allowed to enter. I passed it resisting the urge to go in. I descended the stairs slowly. My right leg was a bit sorer from the prison hold, but I managed. I walked into the dining room and pressed the red button that Alex had showed me. Patrice answered. Good morning, what would you like for breakfast Mr. Lucians? Ugh, that last name again. Good morning, Patrice, it s me Juliana I corrected. Oh! Good morning! What would you like for breakfast? I remembered what the doctor said. Well, cereal and a banana will do for me. But bring Malakaih his usual I could get used to this but I liked the kitchen. I was completely capable of burning my own toast but made very good lasagna. It will be right up she said cheerfully. I wondered where the stairs were to the bottom floor. I really wanted to see the kitchen. I stared at the fishes in the colossal fish tank as I waited for Malakaih. I was startled as he made a face at me from the other side. He laughed and came around. Scared you ! I gawked at him. He looked so hot in jeans and a t-shirt. Somehow I felt overly dressed. Patrice came in with a cart and started to set the table. She was throwing glances at us. Patrice do I look overly dressed? I pointed to Malakaih and myself. She smiled and shook her head. No, you look very pretty, Miss Duran, but Mr. Lucians on the other hand looks underdressed. She gave Malakaih one sharp look. I wondered if she was the one that got the clothes for me. I know Malakaih had no sense for women s clothes. She was about to leave but there was something I wanted to say. Patrice Yes, Miss Duran, did I miss something? she stopped and looked at her cart. No, I just wanted to say thank you for everything I gave her a reassuring smile. I wanted for her to trust me like a friend.

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You are very welcome Then she walked off towards the foyer. Hmm! The kitchen was in that direction. Malakaih put his hands around my waist and walked me to the table. I guess you and I are descendants of monkeys he laughed softly. Why do you say that? I looked at the table and we both were having the same thing for breakfast. You sure are silly in the morning I said as I wrapped my arms tighter around him. We ate breakfast quietly stealing glances at each other. Then we sat out on the patio that overlooked the pool. Malakaih had explained that he liked architecture and how he had looked through my scrapbook and gotten the idea of this place. He worked selling the blueprints of his designs. He showed me a few of them and they were gorgeous. He was very talented. I spent the entire day asking questions about him since he already knew so much about me. Patrice brought out snacks regularly. Lunch and dinner went well. In the evening Alex arrived. This set the mood to a different level. Hello, Malakaih. Miss Duran, I see that you have taken a liking to my brother I blushed at his comment and wondered if we had crossed the line. I was sitting snuggly in Malakaih s arms. He was caressing my face when Alex walked in and he did not seem happy at all, but he wasn t at all surprised. Hi, Alex Malakaih murmured rolling his eyes. Malakaih, our father will be furious with you if he finds out about this he seemed stiff somehow. He will have to face it sooner or later Malakaih said as he stood up. They exchanged glances again, but they were menacing. Watch yourself. This could get out of hand and someone can get hurt Alex warned as he looked at me. Malakaih eyes darkened and a shadow overcame him. I had to say something before they would get into a fight. Alex I knew you were coming so I asked Patrice if she could bring us some chocolate ice cream for dessert. Alex broke his brother s stare to face me. He half smiled and shook his head. I knew I had gotten on his good side. There was a worried look when he saw that I couldn t move very fast towards him. I slipped on

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one of the CD cases and held on to the couch with my bad hand. Each one ran to my rescue. Malakaih grabbed me by my elbow and Alex fell short and held my bad wrist. OW I cried out in pain. Malakaih gave his brother an evil stare. When Ales saw my wrist he gave me a pained look. I m sorry Julia, I-I m sorry I didn t mean to hurt you like that. I-I m r-really sorry. The words just came out like an explosion. Malakaih helped me to my feet. I m really so sorry for that Alex looked down at his hands. He was angry but not at us. He was angry at himself. He turned around and walked towards the foyer. I followed. Where do you think you are going? Malakaih asked with a hint of jealousy. Don t worry I ll be back. Make sure Patrice is the one that brings out the ice cream. I gave him a wink and chased after Alex. Alex, please don t go . He just about reached the garage when I caught up to him. Hey don t go. He spun around with tears of anger in his eyes. Why are you doing this? I can t be near you. Seeing what I ve done to you, I don t know how you can stand being beside me. You aren t mad at me? he said as he wiped his face. No, how could I be mad at Alexander the Great? I asked as I patted his back. He winced like he was in pain too. What s wrong? Are you hurt, Alex? A bit of blood stained his light blue shirt. No, it s nothing he shrugged. What do you mean nothing? I made him turn around and I lifted his shirt without removing it. I gasped as I saw the marks on his back. He had been beaten with a whip. The lacerations were fresh. And only some of them had been cared for, the only wounds that he could reach. I took him by the hand and back to the family room. Malakaih look at your brother s back I demanded. He got up from the sofa and examined his brother. Alex tried to move away, but Malakaih held him steadily. His expression grew concerning and he called Mr. Getty again. Patrice had come in too and ran to inspect her beloved. Within minutes the doctor

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arrived and was taking care of Alex. Patrice lingered around waiting for him to come down from the bedroom. Kaih, can we invite her to join us when Alex is all finished up? he looked up at me his eyes were no longer dark. You sure are something else, Jules he exclaimed. He kissed my bruised wrist lightly. It s interesting how you just forgave the one person that held you against your will, while a mad man proposed to you. He just about broke you in half and you just out of nothing forgave him. Just like that? he snapped his finger. Just like that! I mimicked. I didn t know why I wasn t mad at him. I should be, but I m not. I thought about it momentarily, but Malakaih started to kiss my fingers and I started to melt. I could still hear Patrice pacing in the hallway. So, umm... Did you know that they liked each other? I still wanted for her to join us for dessert. No, I didn t know that! He stopped kissing my fingers and raised one eyebrow at me. That just melted me completely. They really do. You should see how she s pacing. The floor has a dent in it. I sighed. He laughed at my expression. Patrice, can you come here a second, Miss Duran wants to ask you something? He called out while he took my hand and pressed it against his cheek. Her face was pale and she hugged her waist as if holding herself in. Yes, Miss Duran . Would you like to join us for ice cream when Alex gets back? Her eyes grew wide and looked at Malakaih for approval. He nodded and sent her to go get the ice cream. When Alex came into the family room, he had an appreciative grin on his face. Mr. Getty took one look at us. Wow, well isn t this an interesting turn of events. He walked away in a hurry. Alex sat down on a backless stool. So, how did it turn out? he looked like he was still in pain. Well, I would say that I was the quickest set of stitching I have ever had in my entire life he made a motion with his hands that I couldn t comprehend. - 91 -

Malakaih laughed and Patrice entered the living room with a tempered cart full of different flavored ice creams. She beamed with excitement. So which do you prefer, sugar cone or waffle cone? She asked with two boxes in her hands. Malakaih shot me glance and understood what I had seen. Patrice, we will dig in ourselves. Just sit down over there and make Alex a happy camper. Alex didn t expect that coming. Patrice giggled like a little girl and sat down on one of the stools beside Alex. Malakaih searched through the cart and sent a chocolate pint flying towards Alex. Two spoons followed. I wasn t surprised when he pulled two different pints for me. So which one is it Jules, chocolate chip or cherry cheesecake? The look on his face was unforgettable. He almost looked like Jonas. Something hit me deep inside. For the first time I was hanging out with friends. Malakaih let go of the ice cream and ran to hug me. The tears had started to flow again. What s wrong? He felt confused at this new burst of emotions. Nothing is wrong. I just realized I m hanging out with friends for the first time ever. I cried into his shoulder. He pulled me out from his shoulder and lifted my chin. I m glad I could share this moment with you. He kissed my lips gently and Alex gave a big Woo in the background. We all started to laugh and I regained my composure. Finally, friends

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Chapter 19 The Inevitable
The hours turned to days and the days into weeks. Malakaih kept watch over me and I learned as much as I could about him. Alex and Patrice were also very involved with each other. Mr. Lucians called in every two weeks. Making sure that his bride was doing well. On occasions he would send me flowers and gifts. They were the perfect items for bonfires. My parents never called even though I had tried reaching them many times. I spoke to Jonas twice and he was ecstatic with the new puppy uncle Kaih had given him. We were having too much fun and forgot about what we should have been doing. Oh, Kaih, I m so excited. Cool, my first swimming lessons. I felt a bit shy in my bathing suit, but was anxious to start on my new challenge. Patrice had invited Alex to meet her parents and we had the house to ourselves for once. The pool looked so warm and inviting at night. Hurry up and get in. The water is good. Malakaih stretched his hand out as I walked down the steps. He guided me through opening my eyes underwater and floating. These I managed fairly easy. Then I tried paddling unsuccessfully. Malakaih laughed but never let me go. I started to lose interest when I went under and breathed in some water. He quickly lifted me out and sat me down on the edge of the pool. I coughed up the chlorine water and my lungs started to clear. Did you want to keep trying or is this enough for one night? He was worried but I didn t want to mess up this evening. How about we just sit in the water for awhile I started to shiver and yearned for his warmth. Okay he smiled. I slipped into his arms and he pulled me towards him. I didn t want him to let me go, but I remembered our agreement to limit our affections. We hadn t kissed in what seemed like forever. Malakaih, can you let me go now? I asked unconvincingly. No, I can t let you go now his arms wrapped tighter around my waist. The bright lights of the water reflected off his green eyes and I was overtaken by his spell. I want to kiss you he whispered into my ear as he pressed his lips over - 93 -

the hollow on my neck. This sent wild emotions running through me and I couldn t resist his temptation. He traced my lips with his tongue and our lips met. We were entranced in our embrace. Our lips were moving together frantically. I wrapped my arms around his neck and he held the small of my back. He pulled me onto his lap. His body felt strong and desirable. I pulled away knowing that I wouldn t resist if we went any further. I m sorry, I can t do this, right now I turned away and stood silent in the water. Someone was leaning up against the wall of the house where the light did not reach him. He started to clap. Well done my wife, well done. Mr. Lucians was watching us. His smile wasn t sincere. There was a flash of anger in his eyes. Father, what are you doing here? Malakaih yelled in astonishment. What? Can t a father visit his son? Mr. Lucians asked sarcastically. I was about to make my way out of the water when Malakaih pulled me back. Stay in the water Jules No, Juliana, come to me he said as he reached out his arms. Get away from her you sick man Malakaih warned. Don t press your luck, son! Mr. Lucians growled She rejected you. She belongs to me. I held on to Malakaih shivering with fear. From behind Mr. Lucians you could see into the house. Alex and Patrice were soon by the pool. Mr. Lucians turned around in a whirl. Their faces turned to stone. What s this? My eldest son with my second choice his words stunned us. This was something none of them had imagined, but somehow Patrice wasn t surprised. Malakaih started to walk slowly towards the steps in the pool while his father was turned around cursing at Alex. Malakaih signaled to Alex and he started to step closer to his father. His nostrils flared as his father lashed at him with degrading words. Mr. Lucians noticed that his words were having no effect. The young men surrounded their father. It was the first time I had seen Mr. Lucians so scared. He lunged towards Alex but Malakaih was quick to respond to his movement and grabbed his arms. Soon they were dragging him into the house. - 94 -

I am your father you will never get away with this! he yelled at the top of his lungs. He was a fairly large man and they struggled to keep him under control. Juliana you will pay for this . His admonition was not to be taken lightly. I started to make my way out of the water and Patrice hurried to cover me with a towel. We stood there holding on to each other in shock. Mr. Lucians was forced to leave. There was no way that he could deal with both of them at the same time. He was so accustomed to preying on the small fry that he knew that he was no match for both his sons. I thought about Jerrod, maybe he had been watching us, too. Malakaih and Alex didn t return quickly. I went upstairs to change and Patrice and I waited patiently for them to arrive in the living room. It seemed like forever when they came in. We were about to run up to them when Alex held out his hand to stop us. Dead in our tracks we stared at them not knowing what else would be happening. Something was absolutely wrong. They stood there motionless. Their faces were deep in thought. What s going on Alex? Patrice was holding on to his hand and searching his face for answers, but Alex didn t respond to her like he always did. Malakaih I think you should wait until tomorrow. Alex s voice was low as if pain had been inflicted. Malakaih looked up at his brother. His eyes filled with the darkness. Something was really wrong and they weren t going to tell us. Well, not today at least. Malakaih make sure first His tone know more controlling. He gave his brother a hug and walked off with Patrice. The veins on Malakaih s temples were raised and his eyes revealed agony. There was something wrong and I was certain it had to do with me. He wouldn t look directly at me. He just stared out into nothing. I stepped closer to him. His nostrils flared. Was he mad at me? What did I do? I stepped back and didn t know if I should approach him or run. His breathing was uneven and the silence was excruciating. I couldn t run away from him. I took the chance and stepped forward but kept to one side. He didn t move or even look at me. I took a few more steps and stood by his side. His muscular body still wet from the pool, but he just stood there unresponsive. My hands trembled as I reached for his balled fist.

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Kaih, you don t have to tell me anything until you are ready. I wanted to comfort him. He was unresponsive to my voice and that hurt me deeply. I let go of his fist and started to walk away, my eyes were filling with tears and I couldn t comfort him when I was in shambles. No, no I can t leave him now. This was one of those moments that he needed me to comfort him. I remembered when he said Sometimes that s all we need, a moment to let go and someone there to comfort us at that precise moment . I spoke the words softly as I put my forehead on his chest and wrapped my arms around his tense body. Sometimes that s all we need. A moment to let go and someone there to comfort us at that precise moment I spoke the words louder. This time his fist turned to open hands and I was waiting for him to push me away. He put his hands on my shoulders and slowly caressed my back pulling me closer to him. I sighed relieved that my ocean was creating waves.

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Chapter 20 Crashing waves
After a few hours of our silent embrace, Malakaih decided that he would be spending the rest of his evening alone in the office. I let him be and retreated to my bedroom. The night was sleepless and I tossed and turned on the bed. I got up and sat on the floor beside the window looking out into the dark night. The moon was peeking from behind the clouds and a soft wind made the branches sway across the window making screeching sounds. I rested my head on the glass feeling the coldness along my forehead. What was it that he had to verify? What had happened? The sky started to turn colors as the sun started to rise. It was now morning and you could see the ocean now. The waves were crashing against the rocks. The water seemed dangerous as clouds were dense and purple. It felt as if nature was letting me in on a secret. A storm was brewing. I got up and dressed quickly. I walked out into the hallway and looked towards the office door. It was slightly open. Should I go in? I stepped closer to peek inside. He was reading something on the computer. Like some news article. With a few clicks he was printing out the article. He put his head into his hands and sighed heavily. It looked like he couldn t accept whatever it was he was reading. I stepped back. Whatever it was he would let me know sooner or later. Patrice came up quickly when I called her. She gave me a hug when she brought up coffee for us. I could tell in her eyes that she was nervous. Alex could have already let her know but she kept silent. I took the cups from her hands and sighed as I approached the office door again. Ahem , I cleared my throat to let him know that I would be entering. He looked at me in surprise. I brought you some coffee my voice faint. He had covered the article with a folder. Thanks he replied in a soft but shaky tone. You re up early he grinned and then took a sip from his cup. I couldn t sleep at all last night. I rose with the sun today I took a sip from my cup and stared at it. Patrice had given me white tea instead of coffee. I

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made a face. She was trying to keep me healthy, just like the doc had ordered. I looked up at Malakaih; he was studying my reaction to the tea. I put the cup down and wrapped my arms around his neck. I love you I whispered into his ear. The smell of his skin was so enticing. I restrained from kissing him. He moved me onto his lap and stared into my eyes. Not seductively, but inquisitive, searching for something. What it was I didn t know? But the closeness was driving me insane. Jules he put his hands on my face stared at my lips. Yes I replied almost a whisper. When was the last time you spoke to your parents? The question caught me off guard. It had been awhile. Whatever was bothering Malakaih last night, had to do with my parents. I shuddered at what could happen to them. Actually I haven t been able to talk to them at all since I moved. I was worried but Jonas had mentioned that they were happy because they found new a place to move to. Why? Well, let s try calling everybody you know. Don t fret it s just precautionary. He kept looking at my lips. My fingers twisted his hair and he smiled. Why do you have to be so tempting? I knew he didn t want me to worry. His distraction was spellbinding. Am I tempting you? I put my lips closer to his just barely touching them. I think that s as close as you will get and I jumped off his lap and ran to the hallway. He ran after me. I felt silly but my heart was racing. We chased each other down the stairs and into the family room. Laughing and joking as we played a game of cat and mouse. Alex was looking at us through the fish tank and started laughing too. Malakaih was having a hard time catching me. Julia, look! he pointed at Alex. What? I knew the instance I turned to face Alex that I had been caught. When I turned around Malakaih was already inches from my face. He pressed his lips onto mine. Gotcha he laughed. I giggled at his excitement. Okay, I think that s enough distraction for one day I said as I headed for the phone. Malakaih gave Alex a quick glance. Alex left us alone. Malakaih leaned against a column, his arms crossed against his chest. I dialed the first few numbers

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and every time a recording came on that the number was disconnected. I began to worry. I called Rebecca and she hadn t seen them in awhile. I called Grandma and she hadn t heard from them either. I tried my mother s restaurant and a lady said that it was under new management. When I asked who was the new restaurant owner she said it was Mr. Lucians. I dropped the cordless phone on the floor. My heart started to race again but I kept telling myself to relax. What happened, Julia? He picked up the phone from the floor to talk to the lady but she had hung up. He wrapped his arms around me as I started to tremble. Is it my father? I looked at him wondering if he already knew about it. I nodded and put my face into his chest. His breathing was uneven again. He had gotten his confirmation. He walked me to the couch and we sat down. I rested my head in his lap. What do we do now? I asked looking up at his face. Malakaih played with my hair as he thought of what to answer. I don t know. I have to leave, but I m afraid that he will show up when we are gone his brow furrowed. My brother is big, but compared to Jerrod he s a teddy bear I remembered the large shadow inside the house, throwing things around. It was probably Jerrod that held Alex down while his father lashed at his back. I winced at the thought. What about George? He had helped us escape maybe he had some information. Malakaih looked down at me and smiled. That s a very good idea. Let me see if I can reach him I lifted myself out of his lap. He called from his cell phone and vanished to some part of the house. I played with my hair and waited patiently on the couch. Within minutes he showed up again. His face was as white as ghost. What s wrong? I asked as I jumped up. Malakaih, what s wrong? He wouldn t answer and he dropped down on the sofa his face between his hands. They re gone, Jules. Your parents they re gone

No, that can t be possible. The chocking feeling in my throat as the impossible suddenly became reality. NO! I yelled at him. I fell to my knees crying the pain in my throat deep within my chest. No, no, no. This can t be. Tell me it s not true I cried. - 99 -

Alex and Patrice came running to see what all the yelling was about and found us holding on to each other crying hysterically. What s wrong Malakaih? Alex s face turned hard, cold as stone. His eyes were teary and he whispered something in Patrice s ears. It sounded like It was true . Patrice looked perplexed but it didn t show emotion and bent down to comfort me. Soon three of us embraced, sobbing. I couldn t stand the pain that I felt deep inside. I would never see them again. Couldn t hear my father say I love you, sweetie . Or the look my mother gave me when she put the necklace around my neck. I had to know exactly what happened and when. I tried regaining my composure, by lifting my head and I felt nauseated. I ran to the guest bathroom as the full force of my gut struck out. I made it just in time. My stomach convulsed violently over the toilet. The tears kept pouring out of my eyes. Patrice was at my side with a towel and a glass of water almost instantly. I couldn t stop crying. I rolled onto the floor into a fetal position, trying to control the pain and anger I was feeling. Patrice yelled for Malakaih and he picked me up in his arms. I put my face into his chest as he took me into his room. He sat me on his lap and rocked me back and forth, stroking my face, just like in the cavern. I could feel his body trembling; the wetness of his tears over my hair. We wept for hours. Nature did have a secret for me and when it came to light it was like a crashing wave against the sharp edges of a rock. Broken, splattered and gone, forever.

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Chapter 21 Traitor

The days flew by quietly, mixing up in array of night and day. I stayed in my room not wanting to face the hell that awaited me out of the safeness of my pale heaven. Malakaih slept beside me every night consoling me when the nightmares would arrive. I cradled in his arms like a child. Alex occasionally came in to see how I was doing and bought me all sorts of flowers and teddy bears with sympathy cards. A somber expression was in his face every time he came in to check on me. There were moments I was left alone and one of the other maids would bring food and snacks up to my room. I would eat even though I wasn t hungry. I knew that eventually I would have to leave my safe haven. There were questions I needed answered like how and when. Questions I didn t want to face. Good afternoon the maid said as she brought in a tray of food and put in on the bed. She was always so pleasant. The red-brown haired woman smiled as I started to eat the cereal and strawberries she had brought up for me. Usually she left pretty quickly but today she stayed a bit longer. She wanted to talk to me but wouldn t say a word unless I spoke first. I had never asked her name and I felt guilty. Good afternoon I replied after I finished eating. Her eyes were tender and she seemed almost motherly. What s your name? Margaret, but Maggie will do, if you don t mind. Her reply was sweet, a voice almost too perfect for her age, even for a Spanish accent. Thank you Maggie was all I could think of for the moment. She picked up the tray satisfied I had eaten everything. She left as silently as she appeared. Alex came in with an orchid in his hand and another card for me. The hot pink orchid was in a terracotta flower pot. It was something that needed my care and attention. I got up to receive it. His usual somber expression transformed into light when he saw that I was in a better mood today. He gave me a brotherly hug. I m glad you ve decided to come back . - 101 -

I almost smiled but didn t feel the need to reply. I took the hot pink orchid from his hand and read the instructions carefully. The note was interesting. It wasn t from Alex, it was from Malakaih. My Moon Cried endlessly for nights Hidden behind the clouds The ocean began to lose its waves The life it contained started to dwindle The ocean is calling for its moon The only source of its survival Kaih

The words were beautiful. I knew he yearned for me as much as I did for him. We desired our fairytale ending. I inhaled deeply and put the flower pot in a shady spot near the window. Malakaih had given me a journal and I put the note with all the other ones I had received from Alex. Alex had changed a lot these days too. I wondered if it was only because of what was going on. I knew there was more behind his blue grey eyes. See you downstairs? he asked softly. I nodded. I washed up and headed downstairs in jeans and a t-shirt. Malakaih was leaning against the fish tank. His visage was tear-stained and he had lost weight. I felt guilty that I couldn t comfort him. I wanted to run up to him. But I moved cautiously not wanting to break his train of thought. Ahem Alex was standing behind me and cleared his throat so that Malakaih would look up. Malakaih almost jumped, precisely what I didn t want to do. Jules he cried as he approached me with his arms wide open. I almost ran to meet him. He hugged me tightly and kissed my forehead. My moon has - 102 -

arrived his eyes brightened and the smile in his face brought a bit more color to the tear stained face. I half smiled and my heart started to beat. He held onto me tightly and then we walked together to the living room near the foyer. The leather couch was cold in comparison to the warmth around me. What day is it? I asked as we cuddled. It s Friday, July 24th. He whispered as he caressed my cheek with his warm hand. It s been a little over a month now he answered my question before I had a chance to think it. A little over a month was a long time. Many things could have happened in single day, much alone a month. I realized there was something missing. No not something, someone. I hadn t seen Patrice in awhile. Kaih, where s Patrice? Malakaih inhaled deeply and thought of how to answer. Had something happened to her too? I sat up pulling myself from his embrace. Did something happen to her? I was suddenly afraid for her. Malakaih bit his lip and his forehead wrinkled as his brows creased together. He positioned me back into his arms and wrapped his arms around me tightly. She s okay. Nothing is going to happen to her. The last words were almost forced. What do you mean? Julia, Patrice left and she s not coming back, ever. Hidden behind his words were anger and frustration. Did she leave because she was scared? No wonder Alex had changed too. No Malakaih s voice quivered. Jules, this is kind of hard to explain. She s not coming back because... his voice trailed off and Alex answered in just one word from behind us. Traitor the word was hard to hear between what seemed like a growl. I knew exactly what he meant and I covered my mouth to hold in my gasp. The word was stabbing. Alex sat beside me on the leather couch. He put his head into his hands and almost scrubbed the tears from his face. I sat up and patted his wide back. He was weeping too like he had lost someone in death. Malakaih reached across me and gave him a punch on the shoulder.

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Don t weep for traitors he scowled. He was angry at his brother s feeling of loss. How did that happen? I asked Malakaih. He looked at his brother and he nodded that it was okay to tell me. Well, to make a long story short. She s been in on everything all along. That s why she had taken Alex to meet her parents that day. My father wanted us, hurt me, and to take you away. But when he found us at the pool he wanted to see if you were going to let me go any further. If you did then he would hurt us both. But Alex was worried about us and headed out early even though she begged him to spend the night. He smiled at his brother and was glad that in some way he was devious. The morning after, she woke up extra early and called Jerrod to inform him about our suspicions. Alex pretended he was asleep and overheard the conversation. She said words like my love and I miss you . The last words were the hardest to hear. He shook his head as he remembered how Alex had told him, but he didn t say them out loud. I sat in total shock. She seemed so nice. I guess I should have read further into her expression when she looked at me for the first time. I couldn t believe it. Patrice was a traitor. I felt bad for Alex because she meant so much for him. I wondered how much she was getting paid for her act and how did she feel as she sided with the enemy. Alex, I m sorry I said as I held back my tears remembering Malakaih s warning. She didn t deserve the tears. No, don t be sorry. Sooner or later she will realize her mistake as she traded love for money. His voice was deep and comforting. It s okay Jules, I ll be fine. I m really happy you re back. I wanted to tell you that I will be leaving tonight. I have some things I have to settle and it s going to take awhile. She doesn t know that I m not going to be here. So we aren t expecting any visitors. Malakaih will take good care of you and get you far away from here as possible. He shot up a glance at Malakaih and half smiled. Yep, I ll make sure of that Malakaih hugged me with his left arm. His right hand gently lifted my chin to face him. Our lips met momentarily. I sighed taking in his aroma. He always had a way to distract me, but there were two questions left unanswered. The how and when s of my loss. Malakaih noticed this

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and lowered his stare to my lips. He pressed his lips tightly and his jaw flexed. That was very well planned. Julia, you sure you want to know? His face showed concerned. He didn t want to see me cry again, but I was prepared for the blow. Yes, I want to know I was prepared. Malakaih almost held his breath. He pulled out a folded piece of paper from his wallet and handed it to me. He held on tightly to my shoulders as I unfolded it. I took a deep breath before reading it. It was the article that Malakaih had printed out. The headline read

Couple found dead in Middle Brook Harbor
I almost gave out a cry as I saw the picture of a VW being pulled out of the harbor. The article continued... Eduardo and Mariella Duran a married couple of 21 years were found dead at the bottom of Middle Brook Harbor by deep sea divers yesterday. Their daughter, Juliana Annabelle Duran, has been missing for over two weeks. The police suspect foul play but have come up empty handed as to whom would end the lives of such a beautiful family. According to forensics the bodies had multiple bruises and broken bones. The cars brakes had been tampered with. If you have information pertaining to this incident, please contact your local police agency or call 1-800-555-1717. They had suffered and it was my entire fault. I hated my existence but held on to my composure. I refolded the paper and handed it to Malakaih. We sat embraced for what seemed like hours. No tears.

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Chapter 22 Proposal
Every day that passed I felt less and less willing to fight. I know we had to find a way out and with my 20th birthday just a few months away the tension was intensifying. Alex and Malakaih headed out to find who could provide us with passports and maybe a boat that we could use to get off this small island. At least it wasn t the main island. That would have made it nearly impossible. The house was quiet and empty. Malakaih had dismissed the maids and the cook, so that their lives wouldn t be in any danger. I kept myself busy cleaning and finally cooking for myself. The kitchen was beautiful with cedar cabinets with stainless steel appliances. The floor was brick the color of sand. In a corner of the kitchen there was a small window facing out towards the forest. A small square table with a small vase of flowers stood there as if waiting for company. I started to prepare a grilled cheese sandwich when the phone rang. I quickly picked it up wanting to know what was going on with Malakaih. Lucian s residence I answered as I flipped the sandwich over. Hello, my beautiful. I It was the disgusting sound of Mr. Lucians voice. Ugh! It made my stomach sick and I turned off the stove. He insisted on calling every day for the past week. I slammed the phone down as an instant reaction to the sound of his voice. I started to worry about Malakaih and Alex. I picked up the phone again and started to dial Malakaih s cell. Hey Jules, is everything okay? Malakaih answered. The sound of his voice was almost a whisper. Yeah, I m okay I would tell him that his father called, but I didn t want to worry him. I was making a grilled cheese sandwich a There was a slight chuckle and then he said something I couldn t comprehend to Alex. Alex wants three grilled sandwiches. I want two. Malakaih laughed. Oh, He thought I was calling to find out if they wanted grilled cheese sandwiches. I hadn t thought of an excuse to why I had called but that was a good

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one. Yeah, that s what I thought. Will you be home soon? I wanted to hide the worry in my voice. Yeah, I ll be home in about twenty minutes. Talk to later, Jules. I have a few more things to finish up. There was a sort of funny edge to his voice and then he hung up. I guess I wouldn t find out whatever they were up to till they got home. I made six more grilled sandwiches and stacked them on a plate like a pyramid. I found the cart they used to bring up the food and I put the sandwiches on it along with soda and some other snacks. Coffee wasn t a good breakfast and they were probably too busy to eat lunch. As I pushed the cart up the ramp that led to the second floor, the sound of the garage door scared me. The laughter that came after it calmed me down. I kept pushing the cart to the dining room. Jules, you brought them up just in time. I m starving! Alex clenched his stomach as if he were in pain. That seemed almost impossible considering how buffed he was. I guess he was working out again, because his shirts seemed tighter, especially where he held an envelope under his arm. Malakaih walked in after him and almost ran up to me, picked me up by the waist and twirled me around. I missed you so much today Malakaih smiled as our eyes met. I hugged him in return and kissed his cheek, Me too . When Malakaih decided to put me down, Alex was already sitting at the table inhaling his sandwiches. I didn t have to wait much until Alex was already done and laughing at how he scared the port master when they walked in to his office. You should have seen him, Jules. At first when he saw little bro here he just smiled, but when he saw me come in he just bout had a freaking heart attack he mocked punched his brother on the rib. Yeah, that s true Malakaih admitted But that wasn t the best part . He leaned over to the side of the table and picked up an envelope and poured the contents onto the table. Three passports, plane tickets and a few other legal

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looking papers laid there in front of us. I was surprised that they got all the paper stuff done. This is the best part Malakaih looked through the passports, handed one to Alex then put his in front of him and lastly handed me mine. I opened it slowly. Name: D O B: Sex: Marital Status: Juliana Annabelle Lucians Duran November 20, 1991 Female Married

I stared at my name and then at the marital status. Malakaih slid a stack of papers on the table in front of me. I carefully examined the stack and looked up at Malakaih. He was standing now. He turned my seat around and searched inside his pocket. He held it against his palm as he bent down on one knee. I gasped as I saw what he was doing. Jules I wanted to do this very differently but He shook his head as if erasing some negative thought. Juliana Annabelle Duran, you have created waves of love in my vast ocean. You brightened my darkest nights with the stars in your eyes. Juliana, queen of my night, will you marry? He bit his lip and the golden specks in his eyes sparkled. The ring was held between his forefinger and thumb. The ring wasn t gold it was more similar to silver and had what seemed like a shape of a flower with a diamond centered in the middle. Little diamonds shaped the leaves. It was beautiful but not as much as the expression on his face. My throat was all chocked up but I managed a clear Yes with a smile that hadn t shown in days. He slipped the ring on my finger and kissed my hand gently. He stood up and hugged me tightly. I love you, my moon. He leaned his forehead on mine and closed his eyes. Ahem Alex cleared his throat and pushed Malakaih out of our embrace. Let me be the first to congratulate my sister-in-law He gave me bear hug lifting me off the floor and almost squishing the breath out of me. That s a bit too tight, Alex I managed to say between his strong hold.

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Oh, I m sorry. He let go of me and settled me softly on the floor. Malakaih punched him playfully on the shoulder. Alex patted him on the back and smiled showing all his teeth. This was a moment of happiness through all the pain. I looked at the papers again; they had little pieces of post it notes with sign here written on them. Malakaih s signatures were all over the place and all that were missing were mine. I didn t doubt that I was signing a marriage certificate. But it had a whole bunch of other papers attached to it. I signed the marriage certificate and looked over the rest. Not knowing what they were. Malakaih, what are the other documents about? I stared at them confused. He started to laugh as he explained them to me. These are, putting it in plain English, that what s mine is yours he gave me a crooked smile that sent little butterflies fluttering in my stomach. Jules, if anything happens to me I want you to be safe and that you won t be in any need physically He said it like it hurt. Like he knew that it was very probable that it would end that way. I brushed my tears and started to sign the papers. I didn t look at the numbers or what he had. He smiled at my determination and made sure I had signed everything. Okay, it s all done. Alex, all we have to do now is take them over to George. He ll make sure that they make it to the right hands. Malakaih put the papers into the envelope. It seemed very similar to the one my parents tried to hide from me when I last saw them. Maybe they were trying too to get off the island by using other names, but they didn t make it out in time. Alex took the envelope from his hand and put his hands on Malakaih s shoulders. Bro, I m going to make sure I take the papers myself and then once they are notarized put them he gave one glace at me No offense, Jules, put them in a safe place . It was obvious they wanted to keep that safe place a secret so that I wouldn t get pushed to telling where they were if I got caught. I trust you, Alex. This was your idea Malakaih slipped his fingers between mine. Are you leaving now?

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Yep, the sooner we get this done, the better chance we have that my umm. That s one move he won t have. His eyes went dark at the thought of his father. He left quickly and waved goodbye. See you later, Jules Malakaih lifted my left hand a kissed my finger tips sending little shocks through my body. He put my hands around his waist and caressed my face with his lips. Whispering into my ear My wife, I love you. I thought of what could happen tonight since I was now his wife, but he had already thought about that. Don t worry Jules, not tonight. I want that night to be extra special

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Chapter 23 The chase
I was worried about Alex. He hadn t returned in two days since he left and he didn t return our phone calls. Malakaih kept reassuring me that he was okay, but I wouldn t buy it until I saw him or heard of him. Kaih, call him again I pleaded. No, I m not going to call him again, until he calls me he didn t even let me near the phone. He put his hands on my face and kissed my lips gently. He s going to be okay he reassured me. Okay I sighed. I couldn t fight against that. I inhaled deeply and moved my shoulders around to ease the tension. I sat in front of the sound system and started to listen to classical music and then some nature sounds. I closed my eyes and dozed off. RINNGGG the phone went off waking me abruptly. Malakaih rushed to the phone. I knew he was as worried as I was. What s up? he almost yelled It can t be Okay, thanks, bro If you want I ll head out She s fine, but she s extremely worried about you You sure you don t need my help No Don t do anything stupid. You know she loves you too Okay, I ll see you in a bit Give me a ring at my cell, if you get into any trouble Nope, she s asleep Okay He hung up the phone quietly and I kept faking I was asleep. I was glad that Malakaih knew that I really had a great appreciation for his brother. I stopped faking I was asleep when Malakaih lay on the floor beside me. He passed his fingers along the curves of my face and neck. This sent shivers through my body. I opened my eyes to look at his expression. He seemed a bit worried but was happy that I was awake. Hey sleepyhead, Alex called. He said he s okay. He ll be home soon he said as he breathed heavily around the nape of my neck. I knew he wanted to distract me from asking any questions. Are you sure? I sighed as I closed my eyes when he nibbled on my ear lobe.

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Yep, I m sure. Don t worry. Alex is a big man; he can take care of himself. Don t you think this is the wrong conversation to be having right now? he seemed a bit frustrated that I wasn t being completely distracted. Yeah, you re right you are doing I warned. But if we are going to wait you d better stop what

He chuckled and rolled onto his elbow. There was no way to deny that we wanted more and that we could but he insisted that we do this when there were no dangers on the horizon. He made me promise that I would remind him, when things got to be a bit too much. We heard footsteps in the hallway and got up surprised to see Alex bleeding from his lip. His shirt was ripped and he was breathing heavily, bloody scratches on his face and arms. Alex we both yelled as we ran to him. We have to leave. he demanded still trying to catch his breath. We hurried to gather everything we had already packed and helped Alex to the garage. Malakaih didn t ask any questions as we left. We jumped into Alex s Hummer. I sat with Alex in the back seat cleaning up his scratches with the first aid kit he kept in the car. Hurry up Alex yelled at Malakaih he will be here at any minute . I couldn t help it I had to find out what was happening. Who s he, Alex? He was stunned that I didn t know and glanced at Malakaih s reflection in the rearview mirror. Jerrod he said as he winced when I dabbed one of the deep cuts on his arm with alcohol. I kept quiet and just kept cleaning the wounds. If Jerrod was here to find us and he did this much damage. He was really strong and he could break me in half in no time. I clenched my jaws at the thought of him doing the same to Malakaih. I couldn t stand it if they kept getting hurt to protect me. Alex, do you think he got to the papers? Malakaih said as he turned onto a small paved road. Trees lined either side of us making it grey and dull. No, I made sure those were safe. He winked at me and smiled.

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Thanks bro He squinted looking farther into the rearview mirror. He s on us bro try to get him off our tail I wasn t sure what was going on until I heard the first gunshot. It hit the windshield missing my head by inches. I started to scream and put my head down covering my ears. Hurry up, up Bro Malakaih yelled. Alex pushed me a bit to the side telling me to keep down. He opened a compartment behind the seat and took out a long plastic box. I imagined what it was. The rifle was intricate. Alex pulled it out and pushed what looked like a cartridge underneath it. BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! The rifle shot multiple bullets one right after the other. I felt just like I was in the middle of an action film. It was horrible. At any given moment we could die. I started to cry I was useless in a situation like this. The car kept swerving and I was glad I had my seatbelt on. Way to go Alex Malakaih shouted Keep it up. They weren t expecting that . I was surprised Malakaih seemed like he was accomplishing something. Jules keep your head down I was almost into a fetal position. My face was completely wet with my tears and I struggled not to scream as the bullets kept flowing from both cars. ALEX! Malakaih bellowed. I felt Alex s heavy body over mine. He was cursing and holding on to his shoulder. He had been shot. The blood was almost gushing through his fingers. I pushed on him considerably and leaned him across the seat. The men from the other car were yelling that they got one. I was angry at how they enjoyed hurting someone. I ripped Alex s shirt and pressed the rag against his shoulder. Alex, how can I help? I cried. He handed me the rifle and put his hands over mine showing me what to do. The metal felt hot in my hands. I had seen how he did it but didn t know if I could. Don t Alex! Malakaih yelled again Don t do it Jules. Keep your head down. I ll try to get away from here. Just keep your head down! I couldn t heed his warnings I had to help him one way or another. I inhaled and nodded at Alex. He was cringing at the pain. I love you he made out with his lips, and then closed his eyes. NOOO I shrieked Alex, Alex don t go I cried. I held on to the rifle and put my head up slowly trying to make out where I had to shoot. The tears clouded my eyes. My ears were ringing. I could barely hear Malakaih s screaming from the

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front seat. Bullets were flying almost instantly making holes through the dark windows of the Hummer. I inhaled and pointed the gun just barely looking out the back at the bullet punctured window. I put my finger around the trigger and pressed it lightly. BANG! BANG! BANG! The rifle pushed back on my arm almost breaking it off. I realized I had to put it against my shoulder to hold it in place. When I tried lifting my head above the seat another round of shots went off. I bent down trying to avoid them. Malakaih kept yelling for me to stop but I couldn t. The rage inside me pushed me forward diminishing my fears. I counted to five and then lifted my head quickly holding the rifle as I had seen Alex do it. BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! This time I kept it in place and managed to hit the jeep behind us on the hood and it began to stall. I ducked down as another round of bullets flew near the car. Get down, Jules. Malakaih yelled again. Get . I turned around to look at his expression through the rearview mirror. His eyes were in total shock. I looked forward he was headed towards a large cypress tree. I dropped the rifle and covered my face in an automatic reaction. A huge white bag came out from the front of the steering wheel thrusting Malakaih s body against the driver s seat. Alex s body almost crushed me against the back of the drivers and passenger seat, keeping me from flying out. Julia, I love you was all I heard before the darkness took over.

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Chapter 24 Jerrod

I woke to the sudden flashes of light. My body ached as someone tried to move me. My eyes wondered around me searching for Malakaih. His face was still leaning against the now red stained bag. I tried calling his name but no sound came out. She s still alive. Well done boys Someone said as they kept pulling on my arms. Suddenly I could feel the coolness of the ground on my back. I had been pulled from the car. I squinted to see the image before me. The car s front end was in a half moon shape around the tree. I managed to get on my knees and tried crawling towards Malakaih. At an instance an unrecognizable man jumped in front of me. Hey, where do you think you are going? he pulled me away dragging me by my already painful arms. Malakaih, wake up, Malakaih I could barely make a sound but I tried with what little strength I had left to loosen the grip the man had over my arms. She s a feisty one another man scoffed. I tried so hard to get away, but they wouldn t let me anywhere near him. Hey she s still bleeding Another man said. I didn t have the strength to keep fighting. My body ached all over. I lay still on the ground facing the car. The tears flowed as I watched my beloved ocean unconscious or dead against the white airbag. This couldn t be happening. I called Mr. Lucians. He said to leave Alex and Malakaih here and to take the girl, but to make sure that she doesn t get any more damage. Jerrod, I think she s in a lot of pain. We should use the morphine on her the voice of younger man said as he stood above me patting my head with a rag. Okay, let s do as Mr. Lucians said. I ll carry her. No morphine. Let her suffer just a bit longer Jerrod said as he picked me up. He was much taller and

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stronger than Alex. I felt some part of me crack as he positioned me on his lap. I cringed at the pain I felt on my hip. She is a beauty. Isn t she Craig? Yes, she sure is The voice was elegant. Jerrod held me tightly against his body. The movements of the Jeep were abrupt constantly sending sharp pains through my entire body. I cried silently not only because of the pain but my heart ached as well. I had lost everyone I loved. I was totally alone. Darkness returned after one last sharp pain ran through my shoulder. * * *

Malakaih I screamed as images of him reappeared constantly in this never ending nightmare. I tried opening my eyes but they felt heavy and I couldn t move. I could hear a fast beeping sound coming from a machine nearby. A small hand unwrapped bandages that held my eyes shut. Finally I was free to open my eyes. I slowly searched the room around me. Hi! a small tanned woman dressed in a flowery scrub said as she checked my forehead with her hand. I m glad you are feeling much better, Juliana How did she know who I was? Where am I? I said softly. My throat felt parched. You are at Mr. Lucians home. I am your nurse. My name is Stephanie the nurse answered as she wrote something on a tablet. The sound of his name sent a sharp pain through my chest. Hey now, calm down. You still have a few injuries that haven t cured. the nurse pushed me back onto the bed as I tried moving my legs. The nurse left the room and I removed the blankets from my legs. I wasn t surprised to find my right ankle chained to the foot of the bed. Where do you think you re going? A very large bald man, with a black tshirt and blue jeans said as he entered the room. His wide neck and arms almost covered the entire width of the door frame. He made Alex look like a teddy bear. I recognized his voice to the one that held me in the car. Jerrod was all I managed to say as I grimaced. His eyes were a dull brown. They seemed to be screaming FEAR ME . I could feel his sick gaze over my uncovered legs. I threw the blanket over them. He sat down in one of the chairs

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that almost were too small for his enormous body and stretched out his arms. His cold stare on my face made my stomach just as sick as when I saw Mr. Lucians. I can see why Mr. Lucians is so in love with you. You are very beautiful. Humph! You are even more beautiful than Patrice. He crossed his arms as he shook his head. If she heard what he just finished saying then maybe she would try to kill me herself. Well, the thought isn t so bad. Maybe that was a good thing, not to be alive. Not to feel the pain inside me, to free myself from the nightmares. My family was gone, my husband and my friends were also gone. There is no one to live for, no one to love. I covered myself completely with the blanket as the pain became stronger in my chest. The beeping sound started to race. The small hand of the nurse started to remove the blanket over my face. Juliana, are you okay? She stared at my face and looked at her watch. Maybe you should eat something. Feeding you intravenously is not a good thing for long. Eating was the last thing in my mind. I wanted to die. Not eating would just speed up the process. Jerrod was still staring at me. His eyes narrowed. Your intentions are written all over your face. If you don t eat we will feed you through a tube in your throat. So don t get any funny ideas He was reading my thoughts. Was I so vulnerable now that even my thoughts weren t private? I held on to myself trying to hold in the pain I felt. If you behave I ll let you go. He said as he pulled a key from his pocket. There is no where I could run to. After all I was already in the hands of the enemy. Jerrod started to lift the blanket from my foot to my knee brushing his rough skin against me. I swallowed as the bile started to rise to my throat. He put the key into the shackle that held my ankle so tightly and opened it. I retreated my foot quickly from where his fingers brushed my skin and curled my legs under me. He was just as sick as Mr. Lucians. His cell phone started to ring and he smiled as he left the room. I flung my legs to the side of the bed and just sat there. Stephanie was still in the room. She seemed just as disgusted as I was at the bald mans reaction towards me. We stared at each other for an instant. Look that was probably Mr. Lucians calling to see if you were awake already. He ll probably be here in about an hour. I m supposed to take care of

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you. Make sure you get healthy. We can help each other. You aren t the only one that s being held against your will. She looked down and suppressed her tears. I could care less. What if she was a traitor just like Patrice? There was no way I trusted anyone who worked for Mr. Lucians. I looked towards the window near the chair Jerrod had sat in. Stephanie, how long have I been out? I wanted to look out of the window but I was still connected to all the machines. You have been in and out of consciousness for almost a month. Her answer was so direct like she was counting the days. My birthday was more like my death sentence. I hated my sheer existence. I should have died that day I murmured the words under my breath remembering the first time I saw Mr. Lucians. When I looked up Stephanie had left the room and came back with a tray of food. As I reached to pick it up I realized my engagement ring was missing. I pressed my hand against my stomach and curled into the bed. My breathing got heavy and the pain in my chest returned fiercely. I started to scream as I remembered that day, alongside his face against the steering wheel. The pain was unbearable. Jerrod ran into the room What happened, woman? Why is she screaming? What did you do to her? He pushed Stephanie out of the way, crashing the tray of food to the ground. I don t know. She was about to grab the tray and then she stopped and started to scream and she tried to explain but Jerrod turned and slapped her in the face. She fell to the ground, shocked at his reaction. I m sorry was all she said as she started to clean up the food from the floor. You should know better than to upset her now. Mr. Lucians is on his way. He took me by my arms and shook me really hard. GET OVER IT! he shouted in my face. I couldn t stand the heat of his skin against my body. Your tantrums will not bring HIM back . I started to cry silently inside me as I realized his words were true. He wasn t coming back, none of them were. Jerrod took a few tissues and put them in my hand Clean up! Mr. Lucians will be here in any minute . I took the tissues but didn t even bother in cleaning my face. My body still trembled with pain.

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Jerrod Mr. Lucians said as he came into the room What s going on? Jerrod immediately stepped away from me and stood like statue beside Stephanie. She s having a tantrum, Sir his voice almost trembled, like he feared Mr. Lucians. Mr. Lucians put his hands around my chin. I noticed the scar above his lip. He looked angrily into my eyes. His lust filled eyes started to look down towards my chest. He breathed in and wicked smile came to his face. I will make you forget him he whispered. The stench of tobacco in his breath made my stomach queasy. I will never forget him I snapped in defiance. He tightened his grip around my chin. His nostrils flared. He knew I could never forget Malakaih. In an abrupt move he pressed his lips against mine. The bile rose to my mouth. He let go of me as my stomach started to convulse. Jerrod picked up the trash can and what little I had in my stomach started to come out. Mr. Lucians started to laugh as he wiped his lips. This is going to take practice, my Juliana I barely heard his words through the convulsions. I should have thrown up in his face. My body started to calm down. The acidity removed all the stench and taste from my mouth. Jerrod, Stephanie, make sure she s ready for this special evening They looked up in disbelief he was still going along with his plan after what had just happened. Yes, Sir they said in unison. There was a small release of tension as he closed the door behind him. Jerrod almost started to puke too when he pulled the trash can away from me. He wasn t as strong as he looked. Stephanie started to remove the needles from my hand and detached me from the machinery. Then she took a robe that was folded neatly in a small brown dresser near the bed. We walked passed a few doors and then entered a room almost the size of house. It was antique looking with intricate golden designs, velvet cushioned seats, armoires with flowered edges. A huge imperial canopy bed with velour

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covers stood majestically to the left of the room. The windows were tall and covered by heavy red and gold drapery. Everything looked so expensive and old. Stephanie pulled me towards the bathroom. She never left my side as I showered and stood patiently as I cried with towel in hand. Her face was stern, the red mark on her cheek were Jerrod struck her glowed. She was holding back tears.

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Chapter 25 Juliet Marie
Stephanie was done with her job as soon as I left the shower. There were two other maids waiting for me as I entered the room. I stood motionless as they fitted the long dark blue velvet dress around my body. Then they sat me down in front of a makeup station that coordinated with the room. The intricate gold vines divided the three mirrors in front of me. They started to arrange my hair into curls along my face and did my makeup. They stared in awe as they finished painting my lips with a soft small brush. I didn t even look at myself. Que hermosa se ve! One of the maids whispered. Con una sonrisa se vería mucho más bonita The other maid whispered back as she slipped high heeled shoes on my feet. I didn t try to understand their words and I tried my best to keep my mind as blank as possible. I didn t know what hurt more, whether the thought that everyone that I loved had ceased to exist or that I had to spend the rest of my life with the person that took them away from me. One of the maids put earrings on me and then an expensive silver necklace with sapphires and diamonds. The other just stood admiringly. A slight knock at the door took us by surprise. It is time the manly voice announced. The shortest maid took my hand and pulled me towards the door with a smile. The other opened it. There was a handsome young man with a tuxedo and gloves standing outside of the door. His hair was blond and his eyes were a deep blue. He had an ancient feel to him. Miss Duran, I am Craig. I will accompany you this evening until Mr. Lucians commences you. He turned his back to me and raised his elbow so that I put my arm through his. I remembered his name and the divine sound of his voice from the accident. He was so handsome and divine and yet so deadly. I inhaled deeply as the lump in my throat started to rise; I quickly dismissed my thoughts

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and continued to follow Craig as he walked me towards the top of the steps that led to what seemed like a ball room. There was music and dancing. Laughter filled the crowded room. As we approached the very top of the stairs the music stopped abruptly. The crowd moved to the sides. The sounds of awe and whispers took over the silence. They stared approvingly as Craig walked me down the stairs. With every step I took the hatred I felt towards myself was more intense. I inhaled deeply trying to maintain my composure, staring directly in front of me at sheer nothing. Craig squeezed my hand as we approached the last step and then wrapped my hand around his arm again. We walked in the middle of the room where Mr. Lucians waited for me to arrive. Craig disappeared. Finally, she has arrived He said with a large smile. His lustful eyes gazed at my body as he walked around me. Welcome, my beloved, Juliana he whispered as he kissed my hand lightly. I cringed at the feel of his lips against my skin. He looked around towards the crowd. I welcome you all to my home on this blessed evening he said as he moved his free hand towards his stomach and bowed. The crowd applauded. I didn t recognize any of the faces. These people weren t from the island. They wore expensive clothes and jewelry. I tried not to stare very long at any particular face. My father s words came to mind Julia, you know how Mr. Lucians has very high influences No wonder it was so easy for him to do as he pleased. Mr. Lucians was a total act of graciousness amongst the wealthy. He probably helped them deal with the pebbles in their shoes. He did their clean up job. A room full of actors, all of them living lies, and paying for their secrets to be kept. This was a façade to all the insanity. Mr. Lucians pulled my hand towards the front. I would like to introduce you all to my future wife, Juliet Marie. She is the light in my eyes and the reason for my existence. I stared in shock as he mentioned my supposed name. I flinched as he squeezed my hand and everyone started to applaud. Smile he said almost annoyed as he kissed my cheek. I did not smile and just nodded at the closest faces. Maybe, just maybe, if I remembered Malakaih s face I would be able to keep my composure through all this. Let the dancing begin Mr. Lucians babbled on.

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Mr. Lucians began to wrap his arm around my waist and lifted my right hand to begin dancing. I moved slowly letting him move me around like, like a puppet. Just like Malakaih and Alex pretended. The only difference was that being around Mr. Lucians felt like being around a dumpster filled with rotten food. I kept trying to hold my insides where they belonged. Mr. Lucians noticed right away that I wasn t feeling well and motioned to someone in the crowd with his fingers. Craig reappeared and took his place. Are you feeling okay? Craig asked You look green Mr. Lucians has that effect in me I said as inhaled taking in the sweet smell of woods from Craig s cologne. I can see that. Well, you don t seem very surprised that he called you Juliet his manly tone drained the music and laughter into the background. I am surprised; then again, what s important is that I remember who I am. Craig turned me around in a circle and started to dance with me another song. Doesn t it bother Mr. Lucians that you are dancing with me? He stared into my eyes searching as to why I had asked. He knows that I don t repulse you as much as he does. That is why I m allowed to dance with you and to be by your side when he is around you. His answer was confusing. He is a sick and disgusting man my voice showed a bit of anger. Craig s lips pursed together as he stopped dancing and pulled me away from the crowd. He motioned for me to sit down at a very large table at the head of the ball room. Daisies were integrated into the arrangements. Mr. Lucians still thought that I liked daisies just like my mother. I smiled inside remembering the purple orchids that Malakaih had given me. What are you thinking about? Craig asked as he sat down beside me. Nothing I replied without a hint of emotion. It had to be something important, because even though, your face is expressionless, your eyes give you away he asserted. I kept remembering that I couldn t trust anyone. My thoughts were mine to keep especially in regards to Malakaih. I didn t answer and kept looking forward towards the dancing couples. - 123 -

Suddenly I saw a face I recognized slipping through the crowd. Her strawberry blond hair and big blue eyes caught my attention. She avoided looking directly at me. There was no doubt in my mind as to who she was as she stood beside Jerrod. My heart started to race as I remembered what happened at the pool. How she faked that she was in love and how she faked she cared for us. I smacked my lips as I said Traitor under my breath. Craig noticed and immediately followed my glare. You aren t the first person she s fooled he said as he looked away from her. I guess this entire room is filled with actors and traitors I kept staring at her hoping she could listen to my words. Craig understood that my comment included him and he squirmed around in his chair. Not everyone He was looking towards the daisies in the arrangements. I glanced at him in disbelief. Yes everyone, including me. It was true that I was pretending. I wanted to run away from here and eliminate my existence. Craig stood as Mr. Lucians approached us. He whispered something in Craig s ear and then pulled me from my seat. I stood like the strings had tightened around my hands and legs. Come, my precious Juliet Marie. I have a gift for you he took my hand and we withdrew from the crowd. I followed him through the tall columns and through archways that lead to another room. It was smaller and had a fountain in the middle. I had heard of rooms like these in magazines. They were called indoor gardens. Mr. Lucians picked up the small red velvet box that was placed on the edge of the fountain. I knew exactly what he wanted to do, but this time it was different. He had eliminated all my hopes, my dreams and my desires to live. He bent down on one knee, opened the box and lifted it so that I could see the ring. It was the same ring as the first time. My Juliet, will you marry me? My insides started to rise and my head began to spin. I swallowed deeply and nodded. I couldn t make myself to say the word. He jumped up in excitement and slipped the ring on my finger. It felt cold and heavy on my hand. Now that wasn t so hard was it? He said as he hugged me. That almost brought all my gut to my throat and he pushed me away from him as I held my mouth. - 124 -

Craig he called as he stepped a few feet away from me. Craig reappeared out of thin air. Yes sir Take care of my Juliet Marie, for the rest of this event He started to head out through the arch way when he turned around to face us. No, wait. I would rather you spend the night in her room. She might try something dangerous or hazardous to her health and then he pranced away like a mad man.

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Chapter 26 Friend or Foe
Craig you can come in now I said as I finished putting on a t-shirt I found in one of the dressers. I can t believe he s making you stay here. Only in the mind of psycho path Even though there was a very real possibility that I would do something stupid before I got re-married. Stephanie had said I had few months till my birthday which marked my deadline. The word deadline seemed very suitable. Craig walked in; he had changed into jeans and a t-shirt. What a difference! I exclaimed as he turned around. Yep, I surprise myself sometimes he teased. Well, I guess you could put the two sofa chairs together and sleep on those I motioned towards the two chairs that were near the window. He quickly put them together and sat in one of the chairs leaning his legs on the other. I pulled a pillow and one of the covers off of the bed and handed it to him. I sat down on the floor against the foot of the bed and inhaled and exhaled deeply like I had done at the beach. I closed my eyes and remembered the smells of the ocean and the heat of the sun against my skin. Remembering the conversation Malakaih and I had while we sat on the surfboard. How he comforted me when I had broken down into hysterics. I missed his smile, his embrace and the sincerity in his green eyes. Malakaih wore no façade. He truly loved me, not because I had rare violet eyes and a slender body. He loved me for who I was inside. These were memories I wanted to keep. I lingered on Malakaih s smile as I tried unsuccessfully to fall asleep. I stood up and looked around the dark room. I wondered what was behind the large draperies. Craig was snoring lightly and I tiptoed around him towards the window. I slipped behind the heavy draperies and was amazed at what I saw. There was a half moon space between the drapery and the very large door to a balcony. The latch was tight and I struggled to open it but I couldn t. It hadn t been opened in a very long time. I started to pull again on the latch and was startled when a hand wrapped gently around mine.

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Craig I gasped thinking maybe I would get into trouble again and they would chain me to the bed. What are you doing? he whispered. It depends It depends on what? he was amused and lifted my hand off of the latch. It depends if you are an actor or a traitor I had to choose my words wisely. I couldn t trust anyone. What if I m neither an actor nor a traitor? What if I am a spectator? he turned me around to face him. What do you mean a spectator? What could be worse than watching someone suffer? Then again I hadn t seen him when I started to shoot at the jeep and Mr. Lucians trusted him around me. No, I couldn t trust anyone. To me they were all actors and traitors. People filled with hate. You don t believe me, do you? I understand that you have been through a lot. If I had arrived earlier maybe I could have done something to avoid it, but never mind. It doesn t matter anymore. I was too late. His voice trailed off as he pushed the latch open in one smooth move. A strong breeze gushed in taking my breath away. The scent of salt was strong. The sounds of the waves were dream like. I stepped into the balcony which completed the semi circle of the floor. The sight was beautiful. A moonlit night with millions of stars just as I had seen from the opening by the cliff made my heart skip a beat. I couldn t believe that they were covering such a beautiful view behind dark and heavy draperies. I hadn t seen Mr. Lucians house from the outside. House, wasn t the appropriate word to describe it. It was a fortress, a castle. The walls on the outside were of stone, like the walls that towered above the passageways. He had bought the Brookfield castle. No wonder he thought of himself as the king. This story was looking more and more like Shakespeare s Romeo and Juliet with a wicked twist at the end. I leaned over the balcony looking down at the cypress trees. We could be about fifty feet above the ground. Craig was as amazed looking out into the ocean. The moon reflected into his blue eyes. I looked away. There was no way I would

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get caught up in his beauty. To me he was just another one of Mr. Lucians puppets. You love Malakaih, very much, don t you? he asked as he stared at me. This was a conversation I was not about to be dragged into. It s none of your business who I love I flashed a wicked look towards him. Of course not, I just wanted to let you know why Mr. Lucians changed your name. he pushed his fingers through his short blond hair in a nervous reaction. Well, do you want to know? he insisted. I fidgeted with the ring on my finger. Might as well. It s going to be a long night. Mr. Lucians can t marry someone that already has his last name, legally his smile caught me off guard. I didn t know what to say. This was true I was already a Lucians. I belonged to Malakaih and that was one card he couldn t play. I almost smiled but it faded as the last images of him returned making tears flow down my cheeks. I brushed them away. I swore to myself that I wouldn t show my emotions to others. Do you want me to keep going? Craig asked as he shifted from one leg to the other. I nodded but kept my eyes towards the moon. While you were unconscious Mr. Lucians saw the ring you were wearing and immediately started to worry. You should have seen his face. He cursed the ground he walked on at the thought that you weren t a virgin. He almost made the nurse check you out but he murmured something about the pool or something like that and his face lit like a child receiving a present. So he started to get all the paper work ready, you know, legally, to my surprise. That s when all hell broke loose. He was furious that you were already married. What made matters worse was that you were married to his son, Malakaih. That was a sight to see. You would have enjoyed every minute of it. First he threw a tantrum, then he sobbed uncontrollably for hours Craig laughed as he remembered. That s when he started doing things illegally again. He just doesn t give up on you. He shook his head and shifted his feet again. I would have loved to see Mr. Lucian s theatrical trailer, only that this story would have a tragic ending unless I put a stop to it. What role do you play in all this? I was curious to know how he became the spectator . His eyes glanced - 128 -

quickly at mine and he brushed his hair again with his fingers. The wind stroked my face and goose bumps rose on my arms. The sky was starting to brighten on the horizon. It was almost morning. I can t tell you right now. You will find out sooner or later. He started to walk towards me and took my hand. It s cold out. We should go inside. I let him walk me towards the balcony door but I stopped and looked at the ring on my hand. Wait I slipped my hand out of his and took off the ring. I inhaled and smiled internally. Then in one quick move I threw the ring as far as my strength would permit. No one would be able to find it through the forest ground. Then I turned around and walked back into the room. Craig was laughing. Mr. Lucians is going to be really mad at you! He shook his head. You d better have a good excuse as to why you don t have the ring on your hand I m worried about something different I pressed my lips together wondering. What s that? The question I asked you before, whether you were an actor or a traitor. Maybe I should rephrase it. The question should be whether you are a friend or a foe I stared at him waiting for his reply.

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Chapter 27 Preparation or interrogation
Three days had passed and Craig never did answer my question. He completely disappeared after that evening. My nights were filled with nightmares and I constantly awoke to Malakaih s bloodied face or Alex s last words. The maids came in every morning to dress me. I couldn t believe all the fuss they made when they saw me with jeans and t-shirt. They dressed me into something that looked like it had been taken out of a magazine. I hated every minute of it. I ate breakfast in my room and was only allowed into certain parts of the house. Dinner was served at very large table. Mr. Lucians sat at the head and I sat at the foot of the table. This was the best seating arrangement if he didn t want me to throw up all over him again. I never spoke to him or acknowledged his questions about the wedding. This day was different. There was only one maid and she dressed me quietly. You could feel the tension in the air. She made me follow her to what looked like a library with tables and book filled shelves covered the walls. There were magazines and books all over the tables. Mr. Lucians was leaning against one of the shelves with a magazine in his hand. My precious Juliet, you look quite stunning today he smiled and I could feel my intestines turn. I do think you re going to have to take some medicine for your stomach before the wedding. His lips curled up as if he were making a joke about my reaction. I think I would feel much better if I did have a negative reaction from him, but he was very pleasant. He didn t even flinch when I told him that I had thrown the ring out of the balcony. He sat quietly with his hands cupped and his thumbs twirling like he did that dreadful day, but he didn t even get angry. In fact he smiled and promised that the next ring would be much better. He was accustomed to my silence and he motioned for me to sit at one of the tables. Bride magazines covered the table. Different gowns were marked with arrows. They were all hideous, princess style wedding gowns with long trains and veils. I know that you haven t been interested in the preparations for the wedding, but there are a few things that I need your help on. He was pleased with - 130 -

what he had already accomplished. Ms. Elizabeth is requesting your opinion and she wanted to see you for the first time. To know exactly what she was dealing with. I know that you didn t want to do anything but she keeps insisting. The maid entered followed by a woman in her thirties. She had reddish brown hair in an up do. Her eyes were blue and she had a sort of apathetic expression on her face. A short grey skirt covered half of her legs and she wore a white top that revealed a lot more than it should. Her half smile wasn t for me but for Mr. Lucians. She looked like she had more than a just a business relationship with him. He walked up to her almost immediately taking her hand and kissing it lightly. It s always a pleasure working with you Ms. Elizabeth The double meaning in his words made the acidity rise to my throat. Gross! How can she stand it? I looked away before I would vomit. Miss Juliet Marie, it s a pleasure to meet you! her hand extended as I turned around to face her. Her eyes narrowed when she saw me and I could feel her envy. She eyed every corner of my face and hair. Then she made me stand. My body was much more voluptuous than hers and I could feel as the tension intensified between us. I see why Mr. Lucians is so in love with you but I treated her just like I did everyone else. Foe I said under my breath. Excuse me, did you say something? she gave me fierce stare. I shook my head and returned her glare. She turned around to face Mr. Lucians and smiled. Mr. Lucians, I can handle it from here. I think she and I will get along very well He retreated and I was glad he had left. The maid was also motioned away and we shared glances. The interrogation began. Juliet, Why don t you have an engagement ring? she took my hand and studied my long finger nails. I threw it out of the balcony Juliet, are you in love with Mr. Lucians? No, and my name is not Juliet Marie she was stunned with that answer and her expression changed slightly. She thought about what to ask.

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What is your name? She crossed one of her arms and put her other hand to her chin. My name is Mrs. Juliana Annabelle Lucians Duran The answer was unexpected. She gasped holding on to her chest and she swallowed. You are already married to Mr. Lucians The comment sounded like a question. Not to Mr. Lucians but to a Mr. Lucians Oh, you are married to one of his dead sons. Her tone was mocking. It felt like being kicked while I was still on the ground. I swallowed the anger that was building inside me. Foe I thought again. Well, let s get on with it. I guess you have no worries as to my relationship with Mr. Lucians she guessed right on that. I could care less if he killed me and kept her. That would be almost instant gratification. What colors do you prefer for the arrangements? Black, I will forever morn my loss She wrote down my answer. I could deal with that, but what color do you prefer for your gown, silk white or pure white Black This is not a funeral, Juliet. I mean Juliana. Even though that would be an interesting wedding to see the bride dressed in black. She kept writing down scribbles in her notebook. Mr. Lucians walked in and stared at the both of us. Give her whatever she wants! He demanded and stared lustfully into my eyes. Ms. Elizabeth gave Mr. Lucians a surprised glare. She s spoken to you much more than I thought she would. I longed to listen to that voice and Ms. Elizabeth you were right in insisting to speak with her. He was being pleasant again. I hated him. I hated myself. As much as I tried to make him angry and to hurt him, he would repel all of my blows. The torture was psychological. Ms. Elizabeth held her breath as he picked up my hand and kissed my fingers just like Malakaih did. I yanked my hands out of his hold.

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As you wish my beloved, but when our honeymoon arrives you WILL do as I say his tone was menacing YOU WILL BE MINE! I couldn t believe he was still going on with this. Ms. Elizabeth exhaled as he walked out. She wanted him and he disgusted me. I thought about it, maybe she could have him. You can have him for the honeymoon. Make your own plans I said through my teeth. She started to laugh out load. Maybe I will help you just a little bit He did say to give me whatever I wanted I reminded her. She half smiled at my comment and the light in her eyes were hopeful. He did, didn t he? I guess I will take that as a command then she started to look through the books and found a flowing long black gown. It covered almost every part of the model wearing it. The black lace covered her arms and the short veil covered her face. It was perfect gown to wear for my death sentence. I m curious to what other preparations have been made I said as I looked over the gown. Well, your wedding will take place on a cruise ship. Exclusivity is important. Only the richest, will attend. And there won t be any one to interfere with the wedding. Mr. Lucian s guest will all be there. The main hall will serve as the meeting place. A banquet will be held. The color you have chosen will go well with the setting. Ice carvings and fancy sculptures go well against black velvet. Your honey moon suite is very large. I guess I would be spending the first night there, so I will make sure that it suits me her voice faded away as she kept chatting away at all the wedding preparations. My mind trailed off to the day that Malakaih had proposed and married me all at the same time. How we kept our promise to wait and the bear hug Alex gave me. Something that Ms. Elizabeth said caught my attention. Excuse me, what did you just finish saying? Did I hear her say Jonas? There is a little eight year old boy by the name of Jonas that will be your ring bearer. She answered and kept talking about the wedding plans. My heart raced and tears came to my eyes. Not everyone was gone. How did he manage to end up in all this? I hoped that Rebecca wasn t hurt.

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Chapter 28 Craig
I tried as much as I could to find out about Jonas, but no one had an answer for me. The days went by slowly and the wedding date was creeping ever closer. The ocean was beautiful this morning. I had brought out one of the chairs from the room and put it on the balcony. I spent the past 13 nights staring out into the ocean. I slept mainly throughout the day. Mr. Lucians said that he didn t want to see his dark bride until the day of the wedding so he kept out of my way. Jerrod on the other hand was always standing outside the bedroom door. Julia someone called from the bedroom. It sounded like Malakaih s voice. I stood shocked and waited to hear it again. Julia Malakaih s voice called again. I gasped and ran inside. I looked around the room but it was empty. I opened the door that led to the hallway and Jerrod stared at me like I was crazy. What s wrong, freak? his voice was harsh. Nothing, I never mind I walked back into the room and sat on the bed my knees to my chest. I wrapped my arms around my knees and rocked myself. I was going insane. Once I thought I saw Malakaih running through the cypress trees below the canopy. One of the maids came in Ven, ya es tiempo and she pulled my hands for me to follow her. It was time for me leave the house and go to some other place Mr. Lucians had prepared for me. She looked me over and shook her head. No, todavia pareces un cadaver I understood cadaver. I guess that s what I looked like through all the restless nights and my almost none existent appetite. She took some blush from the makeup station and powdered my cheeks. Mira she said as she pointed for me to look at the mirror. I detested looking at myself. The face that only brought pain and death to the ones I loved. I glanced once at my reflection and looked away in disgust. She shook her head again and frowned. Jerrod opened the door. Hurry up, freak! The driver is waiting for you His tone was even harsher this time. I wondered what Mr. Lucians would say to Jerrod s name calling. That would be interesting. The maid waved goodbye and started to cry as Jerrod pulled - 134 -

me to the front entrance of the house. There was a limousine waiting for me outside. The driver was already inside the car. Jerrod opened the door for me. Have fun! he said as he closed the door almost in my face. He hated me as much as I hated him. Patrice had left him too and his mood was the worst ever. It served him right. I took a deep breath as the driver lowered a black window that divided the front seat from the rather large back section. Hello, Juliana the voice was divine. Craig I answered in surprise. Happy to see me? His question was a bit much. I really wasn t happy to see anyone, unless it was Malakaih or Alex. Never mind. You haven t changed your expressionless face, but your eyes give you away . I could care less. There was only one thing that came to mind when I thought about Craig. Friend or foe? I asked with a hint of irritation in my voice. He had never answered my question. His eyes stared in disbelief at my question. Friend or foe? I asked again annoyed. Friend he said as his beautiful smile swept across his face. I couldn t help feeling a bit attracted to that. Are you here again to keep me from throwing up during my wedding vows? my question was sincere but that just made him laugh hysterically almost swerving off the road. You sure are something else, Juliana! he closed the window and turned into a driveway. The limousine stopped in the middle of nowhere. Was he letting me go? My escape couldn t be this easy. He opened the door and jumped into the seat beside me. My heart started to race. What was he doing? Don t be scared Juliana. I will never hurt you. He put his hands up and started to wave a white napkin. I wasn t impressed. I just want to tell you why I left or at least to show you. I shrugged my shoulders in annoyance. He got closer to me and hugged me. He hugged me like Malakaih did. His strong arms held me tightly against his warm body. I felt slightly uncomfortable at - 135 -

the proximity. What was he trying to tell me? I wanted to push him away but I couldn t. It was the closest remembrance I had of Malakaih. He put his hand around the nape of my neck and tilted my head slightly to face him. Do you understand why I left? the deep blue gaze of his eyes took my breath away. I couldn t answer. He breathed in pulling me closer to his body. His lips barely touched mine. I inhaled the sweetness of his breath and our lips met passionately. His tongue traced my lips and moved inside my mouth. His hand moved from my neck to the small of my back. Our breathing intensified. I wanted to continue. To let him do as he pleased, but this wasn t my Malakaih. No, stop and I tried pushing him away from me, but he just held on tighter. Stop it Craig, right now! I pushed against his chest with all my strength but he didn t budge. There had to be something I could say or do before this went any further. You aren t Malakaih! I yelled and pierced his arm with my nails. OW! he yelled as he jumped back away from me and hit his head on the roof of the limousine. I m sorry, I m sorry he pleaded. This is precisely why I couldn t be in your room at night for a few weeks. I can t trust myself around you. Juliana you are as beautiful inside as you are outside. That s not something you see every day. You aren t selfish or proud. Mr. Lucians is offering you his world and yet you have managed to keep your love alive for what is right. The thing is I can t keep you from from giving up on your life. I see it in your eyes, the strong desire to non-existent. That s not right! You deserve another chance at life and I don t care if you belong to Mr. Lucians. I would give up anything to be by your side He pressed the white napkin to where my nails had dug in. I m sorry, Craig, but this wouldn t work out. Mr. Lucians would surely find out and kill you too. I can t let anyone else get hurt because of me. I looked away from the reddened napkin. I understand. I m not Malakaih he said softly. Then he hugged me again, kissing my forehead. Then he returned to the driver s seat. The rest of the trip was completely silent. Within minutes we were at the harbor. Craig gave the keys to another driver and we walked together towards a yacht. It stood out from all the smaller boats. Craig took my luggage and escorted me to my quarters. I didn t bother

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looking around. I rested my body on the soft bed and stayed inside the room crying myself to sleep. * * *

Juliana? someone called at the door. I didn t move or answer. My stomach growled and I knew that I needed to eat. I didn t have any pushy maids here to force me so I ignored the pain in my stomach for what seemed like days. Juliana I m coming in, whether you want me to or not! by the sound of the divine voice, it must be Craig. He opened the door with force. Probably thinking it was locked and barged in. I had no strength to lift my head to look at him. Juliana he exclaimed. He ran to the bed and pressed his hand to my forehead. He pressed his fingers to my wrist and looked at his watch. He shook his head after a minute and ran out the door. Within a few minutes a lady came in. She was older, maybe in her sixties. I sort of remembered her face. I tried lifting my head to look at her but my eyes blurred. I blinked severely trying to gain back my vision. I felt her lift me to her shoulder and press something warm to my lips. It smelled like soup. Eat she said softly in a Spanish accent. She kept repeating it in Spanish every time she pressed the spoon to my lips. I swallowed the warm broth and it felt good as it crept slowly down my throat. I stared at the wall helplessly trying to put a name to her face. Suddenly, I remembered. Maggie? I asked as I lifted my head slightly to see her expression. She started to smile and hugged me gently as if not to break me. Si, mi querida she said softly almost motherly, I miss him, too . Those words sounded like music to my ears. Friend I said as I tried hugging her back. I finished the soup quickly and she put me back into bed covering me with a thin blanket. Craig sat quietly near a small table leaning his head against his hands. He was not happy and he wore a painful look on his face. Maggie took a brush and began combing my hair gently. She kissed my forehead like my mother did and whispered into my ear He s good , and then she walked out of the room. Craig sat on the bed facing me. He brought a pillow up to his head and stared quietly at me. He didn t touch me and he didn t talk, he just stared. I closed my eyes and drifted to sleep again. - 137 -

When I opened my eyes again, Craig was still there staring silently. He looked pleased that I was awake. I lifted myself onto my elbow and looked around. We were still in the same room, it was just darker, like it was nighttime. Small lights that edged the walls lighted the room softly. The walls were wood and were shined with a thick gloss. There was a plasma television against one wall and also what seemed like a small bar to one side. The surface was like black ice. The texture was smooth and shiny. The wall behind the bed had two large round windows looking out into the pitch darkness of the ocean. Craig watched me as I examined my surroundings. Do you like it? he asked with a slight smile. I nodded but didn t smile. I m glad because we are going to be on this boat for about two weeks and I don t want you to feel uncomfortable the whole time. I looked at him in surprise. Two weeks? That was a long time to be on a boat. Why would Mr. Lucians send me out for two weeks on a boat? Was he here, too? That would make my two weeks extremely uncomfortable. Is he here? I asked feebly. Mr. Lucians? No, this was my idea. This is my boat. He said proudly pointing to himself. I sighed in relief. No Mr. Lucians for two weeks was a good idea. Why? I knew you would ask. I convinced him that if he didn t want a zombie for a bride, you would need some distraction from everything including him. He laughed as he remembered. Why did he listen to you? I was emotionless. Well, in theory I m his accountant and I ve done a pretty good darn job at it. Managing millions is not an easy task. I ve helped him create his legal empire by investments. His other investments lie in the hands of Jerrod and a few others. I ll tell him wrong from right, even if he doesn t want to hear it. That s why he trusts me I m his financial advisor and counselor when it comes to money and I ve made it a full time job making sure he confides in me in every way possible which includes you he touched the tip of my nose softly. Wow, so you are like his right hand? - 138 -

Nope, Jerrod is his right hand. It used to be Alexander. But he noticed that he never wanted to make decision that involved hurting others, especially the Duran family. He was totally opposed. But Alexander wasn t very bright and he worked into him using reverse psychology and beatings. He even had him trained to kill, even thought he personally has never killed anyone He winced as he said the word. His second son was a bit more like the good side of his brain. Do you want me to continue? he stood crossed legged on the bed. Yes continue This was something Malakaih never talked about and I was really curious. He was smart even when he was little. His mother protected him from the very beginning. She didn t want him to become a killer like Alexander, so she taught him differently till she fell ill and passed. Mr. Lucians tried his reverse psychology on him at the age of eleven, but it didn t work. M his second son was much smarter and much too quick for him to get his hands on. So he gave him a job It was the only thing he had to do. That was to know you like he knew himself to protect you to defend you. His father didn t give him a reason why he had to do it; the only condition was that he couldn t get caught. What Mr. Lucians didn t know was that the both of you were one of a kind. One for the other, you could say. He did his job and he did it exceptionally well, because he enjoyed observing you. His father gave him time off and that s when he took to surfing. He knew you couldn t swim so he said that he had to be good at it to be able to protect you. He studied architecture as he watched you grow and he earned his money. He never let his father buy him anything. He was smart. He didn t need a financial advisor like his father. He did everything on his own and he had everyone fooled when it concerned his feelings for you, until that day he paused long and hard. His face was different. Juliana, I saw you through his eyes. When, Mr. Lucians said that it was time to pay your parents a visit to remind him that it was time to prepare you to become his wife, Malakaih s face went pale. I remember like it was yesterday, I was sitting in the office doing my job, but I was always listening and watching. He held his ground as much as possible listening to the plans his father made. Mr. Lucians didn t leave out anything. He explained how he desired you and what he wanted to do with you in detail. M...his son clutched his fist and his eyes grew dark with hatred. Craig s expression changed as if he felt the same anger.

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He changed completely. He moved out of the house and kept his distance as much as possible. He still kept his job informing his father about you. He wanted to protect you because he loved you, even if that meant to protect you from his father. And so your beloved husband unleashed a new crazed Gregorio Lucians. He became mad psychotic. But something else happened as the years passed, I saw you like Malakaih saw you I have no sick intentions or psychotic feelings for you. I didn t want to see you hurt so when Mr. Lucians sent for Jerrod to get you and the chase began. I excused myself from Mr. Lucians presence. I wanted to warn him but when I started to hear the gunfire I knew I was too late. I showed up when you were pulled from the car and from there you know the rest. Now I m in the same place as as Malakaih was. He stopped there biting the inside of his lip. His deep blue eyes filled with tears I hadn t noticed. My arms flew around Craig s neck so fast he didn t see it coming. I felt like crying but I had no more tears left in me. He put his arms around me and burrowed his face in my hair. I could feel his wet sobs. It was painful for him to see me hurting day after day. It made him feel helpless as I let my life slip past me. He pulled me away from him and got off the bed. Juliana, I m no Malakaih. I am completely aware of that especially when I look at my wrist. He smiled, but if you let me. I ll be by your side for as long as you let me. I ll be whatever you need, a guide, a friend, a lover, whatever you need whenever you need it. I m here for you always and forever. Craig sat on the side of the bed his back to me and wiped his tears. I sat quietly pondering over this new information. I could see he wasn t lying but I felt like there was much more to his story. There were pieces of information that he left out. Like how did he become his financial advisor? Why has he stayed knowing everything that was going on? And why was he taking me back to Mr. Lucians if we had the chance to escape now? Craig turned around to face me. His eyes were red from crying and his face was a bit swollen but he smiled. I patted his shoulder. That was as much as I could give him. I couldn t make a smile come to my face not even if I wanted to. Juliana, I ll wait for you outside. soundlessly out of the door. He patted my knee and strode

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Chapter 29 Calm
I stood up and searched for clean clothes. There was a small bathroom to one corner of the room. How they managed to have fresh water on a boat was beyond my comprehension. I searched through my luggage for jeans or shorts or something comfortable but to no avail. There were plenty of bathing suits, underwear, night gowns. I sat frustrated and wrapped in a towel on the bed. How could anyone live like this? Maggie came into the room quietly holding a glass of water and what looked like a bottle of vitamins. She sat them down on the counter and stared at the mess I had made. Her smile was automatic, like it was glued in place. She still shook her head letting me know she disagreed with the mess. I looked away from her. I have no jeans and no shorts, what I m I going to wear Maggie? I asked not expecting her to understand but she surprised me. A dress and she turned a small black knob on the wall. It was a closet. The closet wasn t very large maybe about two or three feet wide but it was filled with clothes. I sighed in disbelief. She pulled out a long floral dress. It had an adjustable halter top and shirred in solid pink; from the waist down it was pink floral chiffon. It was beautiful but I eyed her suspiciously. She completely ignored me as she pulled out from the bottom of the closet a light tan open-toed style sandal in gleaming satin, with pleated detailing on the front panel. The heel was about four inches tall. Maggie was not one for talking but she was a hard worker. By the time I slipped into the clothes she had picked up the room and was closing the zipper on the luggage I had left open on the bed. She pulled me to the chair that Craig had sat in and started to comb my long black hair into a twist and pinned it into place. She rummaged through the rest of the luggage and found a necklace and earrings to match. I swallowed hard remembering the last time I saw my mother. She took my hand to make me stand up and pointed to the sandals. I started to put them on as she found makeup. I groaned audibly and she gave me a look that could kill. She was having fun so I let her as she applied the make-up - 141 -

lightly on my face. It was much better than the way the maids at Mr. Lucians house did it. She used soft strokes as she applied color to my pale face. When she was done, her face was smug. She was proud of what she saw and hugged me. I hugged her back. She looked at her watch and her eyes almost bulged. You are late! she exclaimed. I m late for what? Dinner she said as she almost pushed me out of the door. The coolness of the night was breathtaking. The boat was anchored and there was water around us in every direction. The moon was large over the emptiness of the ocean. The waves splashed gently against the yacht. We had to climb a few steps to get to our destination. I followed Maggie and almost froze mid stairs when she spoke to Craig in Spanish. He was as fluent as she was and even though I couldn t see him I could hear his smile. She turned around to look at me and motioned me with her hands to come up the stairs. I walked slowly lifting the front of the dress so I wouldn t trip. Craig stood with his hand extended towards me. We were on a balcony looking over the front of the yacht. The lights were dimmed down to a soft glow. Jazz music played softly in the background. A table was set for two with candles and what looked like champagne. His sapphire eyes were soft and inviting as he walked towards me. You look stunning. He said as he pulled me towards him letting go of my hand and putting it against my bare back. His hands were warm and soft. Thank you I replied as I walked towards the chair he had pulled for me. Craig s attire was a bit simpler but fashionable. He wore a light blue long sleeved dress shirt and light tan tailored pants. I made an extreme effort not to notice the build of his body or to stare at his beauty. I m glad you decided to join me. It s been a lonely two nights on the boat he chuckled Has it been two nights? I m sorry about that. I apologized. Two days was a long time. But alone was the part that took me by surprise. Why alone, aren t there others here with you?

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His eyes were illuminated by the fire of the candle. No, it s just you, Maggie and me . By the look on his face he felt proud that he had managed to arrange this. I felt relieved that it was only us three. The evening progressed slowly and I only lifted my eyes from the plate to stare at the reflections of the moon over the water. Craig was an excellent cook. He made fettuccini with a white subtle cheese sauce and shrimp. I couldn t eat very much but I enjoyed it greatly. The champagne was strawberry flavored. He said wine would be best to accompany the meal but it was too strong for me right now. I had to work up to the more elaborate meals. He asked me questions about the things I liked and disliked and what I thought about music. He asked me if I wanted to go to college or a university if I had the chance or would I prefer to settle down and have children. These last few questions took me by surprise. I was never given a choice. My parents never mentioned anything after high school. They never pressed me to work outside of the home or even to take up a hobby. They never, ever spoke of grandchildren. Craig waited patiently for me to answer. Was he giving me a choice? Was he trying to tell me that these were things I could do if I stayed with him? I looked up from my plate to find him looking at me intently. His eyes were thoughtful and curious. Juliana, you ve never thought about those things have you? He was perceptive and his brow creased in the middle as he thought about it. My parents never mentioned college or university and never did they even mention the word grandchildren in the house. I don t think it even formed part of our vocabulary unless we were talking about my grandmother I bit my lip in confusion. What did I want from life? Not even Malakaih asked me these questions. Craig grinned as if he knew he had offered me something no one else had. Juliana, what would you like for dessert? I have cheesecake, pudding or gelatin. Or if you want, there s ice cream, too No! I mean no ice cream I almost yelled. I didn t want anything that would make me vulnerable again. Ice cream would just bring back memories that would haunt me all night. Dessert was just a distraction. He was giving me time to analyze what I wanted out of life.

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Okay, no ice cream, and then how about banana pudding? He was surprised at my reaction to ice cream. I nodded. He called Maggie and talked to her in Spanish again, she left quickly. The music changed in tempo. It was rhythmic, not like jazz but more like a soft salsa. Craig stood and offered me to dance. I don t know Craig; I ve never danced in my life he took my hand ignoring my excuse and lifted me gently from the seat. I ll show you. There s a first time for everything. It s like this He showed me how counting in 1, 2, 3, 4 s and he would move his feet and twirl around. I stood beside him, mimicking his moves and I was surprised I picked it up quickly. He spun around in front of me putting one arm around my back and his other hand in mine. The grip wasn t tight just soft enough for us to move around the make shift dance floor. I felt excited but I couldn t make my facial expressions show how I felt. Something deep inside me kept me from smiling or laughing. He wasn t at all surprised at my expression and by his closeness he could probably feel my heart racing and my face flushing. We danced through a two songs and then I was breathless. He spun me around the last few seconds of the last song and he spun me into him. Pressing his lips tenderly against mine as the song finished. His lips departed from mine as swiftly as they had met our eyes meeting in surprise and our hands together pressed against his chest. I want to make you happy and to see you smile again he whispered into my ear. I pushed him away from me when I heard Maggie clear her throat. Her lips were extended from one side of her face to the other with excitement. Her eyes sparkled as she watched us and she nodded in approval. She had cleared the table already and put two parfait glasses on the table with long spoons. Then she disappeared through the cabin door. We sat down at the table again and Craig waited for me to eat first. I looked at him in disbelief. Did you have her make this while we danced? the look on his face gave him away. Craig you didn t have to do that I felt somewhat irritated with that thought and I didn t know why. Don t fret about it Juliana, this is her specialty and she loves making it. Mine doesn t even compare to hers and when I said to bring out the one I had

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prepared she said that I would ruin our dinner. I wasn t going to argue with her a corner of his lip moved up into a half smile, but it wasn t as sinful as Malakaih s. On Craig it looked like he was a bit upset but he was trying to hide it. I m sorry I passed my finger over the vein of his exposed hand and I regretted it immediately when I saw how this sent shivers through his body. His expression changed and he flipped his hand to grab mine. I knew where this was going and I had to stop it before it turned sour. It wasn t fair to him that he loved me like he did and I couldn t reciprocate. I took my hand out of his and held my parfait glass. * * *

After that, I volunteered for chores and making breakfast or lunch. Those were the only two times all three of us ate together. Craig mended to his tasks, the ones we women couldn t handle or didn t know anything about. Maggie and Craig were pleased that I was keeping busy. Dinners belonged to Craig. Every night Maggie would pull another fancy dress and she would do my hair and makeup. Craig and I ate alone and danced to different music. Everything he taught me sunk in quickly. I would retreat to my room so tired I couldn t even dream. I had no idea where Craig or Maggie slept. Neither would tell me. I searched the other cabins but there were no signs of beds or cots or even hammocks. There was only one full day left till we had to return. The time flew by quickly. Craig s mood changed too. He seemed worried, confused and almost to the point of breaking into pieces. He kept to the kitchen for hours. Maggie seemed upset too. She took me by my hands and pushed me through the kitchen doors. Craig was leaning against the counter his head in his hands. Craig, what s wrong? I asked as I lifted his head to face me. He stared at me red eyed and face swollen just like he did after our conversation that one day. His hands were wet with tears and I couldn t help but to put my arms around him. What s wrong? I kept asking him but he didn t answer. He tried looking away from me almost ashamed for me to see him crying. I sighed. I could try a bit of humor but it took a few minutes for me to gather what to say. Craig, you don t have to break down when you don t know what to cook for dinner. According to my mother my lasagna is a killer my intent at humor was - 145 -

all he needed. He looked up at me with a twisted smile and the sparkle returned to his sapphire eyes. He put his arms around me tightly. He inhaled deeply and let it go as he stared back at me. Our eyes were like magnets, almost inseparable. His arms were around mine pinning me to his body so I couldn t push him back. He kissed my forehead, my eyes and the tip of my nose. He moved his lips to my chin, my jaw, to just under my ear, then to the front of my neck and to the other side. This made my heart race to almost a flutter. He returned to the front of my neck and up my chin till he found my lips. His kiss was so passionate I had no choice but to give in. I kissed him back wildly. He put my hands around his neck and I could feel his fingers pulling at my back. He lifted me onto the counter still kissing me wrapping my legs around his waist. My sanity returned when I heard his belt unbuckle. This was not going to happen. How could I let myself go? I removed my hands from his neck and put both his hands in mine pushing him away from me. It wasn t like the first time, he didn t fight against me. Before he could say anything I jumped off the counter with his hands still in mine and kissed his lips lightly. I m sorry. I can t do that with you, but will you stay while I make dinner? I whispered. Our breathing settled and our eyes felt a magnetic pull towards each other. He laughed I don t think I can stay, but will you make dinner while I shower? His laughter brought one of the corners of my mouth to twitch almost to a smile. I saw that he said as he kissed my lips again. What? You almost smiled and that makes me happy. He hugged me gently. You should start dinner I ll be back in a few and I ll help you finish up. I nodded in agreement and started dinner. Craig sat at the table waiting for me as usual. This time I wore a fitted black long tank dress with a multi-chain belt decorated with a rhinestone-rosette accent. You look beautiful but sad this evening he said as he pulled the chair for me.

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Thanks, and yes I am sad. Two weeks of calm before the storm. I sighed. We were sharing a plate this time and I let Craig have the first bite out of the lasagna. His eyes widened and he took another bite. Wow, this is really good, Juliana. Your mother is right. This is very good. He was really excited about the lasagna. He couldn t stop eating and well I took a few bites of my own. I didn t know when it would be the next time I ate. Being around Mr. Lucians had a nauseating effect on me. When we were done eating, Maggie brought out chocolate chip ice cream for dessert. Craig stared at me in surprise when I just took it and started eating. So, you aren t completely biased about ice cream? No, and if you want a logical explanation for that I don t have one I said as I melted a piece of chocolate in my mouth. Hmm, interesting. he rubbed his chin and then dug into his ice cream bowl. Craig, can I ask you something? The alcohol from my drink was having its effect on me. Sure anything you want! Actually it s two questions. First, if you love me so much, why are you taking me back? And why haven t you told me the truth about why you are working for Mr. Lucians? I stuck another spoonful in my mouth. Craig stared at me in shock, the spoon still in his mouth. Hadn t he thought about it? Did he think I was that naïve? Craig pushed the ice cream away from him. Wow, those are really good questions and the funny thing is that they have the same answer. The sad part about it is that I can t tell you why. That s why I was a mess in the kitchen. I want to tell you, but I can t. If I did I would be putting the both of us in great danger. Then I really couldn t help you at all. Hmm, interesting I repeated. He smiled at my less than enthusiastic response and he finished up his ice cream and what I had left of mine. Maggie changed the music to a more romantic tempo just making things difficult. She really approved of us being together and she was trying for us to stay - 147 -

that way. Craig asked me to dance; like he did every night for the past twelve days. This time it was a different. Craig swung me around gracefully and just took every opportunity he had to kiss me. He caressed my face, my arms and my thigh, once. I pinched him as a warning. If he kept it up I would slap him. I could hear Maggie laughing from some corner of the yacht and then fell silent when the music had finished. I didn t leave like I usually did. I wasn t tired but anxious. Tomorrow would be a long day and I wasn t ready for it. Maggie brought out two water glasses filled with what she called pineapple coladas and you could smell the liquor in them. Craig thanked her and put his on the table. I took a sip from the straw of mine and it was deliciously smooth and tart. The coldness that flowed to my stomach made me shiver. Craig stepped behind me, wrapping his arms around me. He put his chin on my shoulder. Are you cold? he whispered. I nodded but continued to sip. It felt warm after awhile. I didn t know if it was because of the embrace or because of the alcoholic content in my beverage. The beverage never seemed to end. My body felt relaxed like I could say anything and it didn t matter. I turned around but felt dizzy and he caught me before I fell. Wow was all I could manage to say. I stared at him but it wasn t Craig, it was Malakaih s face I saw. The golden flecks of his green eyes were bright like that day we were at the beach. The contours of his body so perfectly created. He lifted me into his arms. Juliana I before he could finish my arms were around his neck and my lips were all over him. I love you, Malakaih. Don t ever leave me again. Did I tell you I love Craig too? Oh, hell, take me now before you disappear and leave me a virgin widow again I demanded kissing him were it made him crazy. For a split second I was at the balcony and the next I was on something soft with Malakaih in my arms. Our passion running wild and suddenly darkness

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Chapter 30 Returned
The pain in my head was throbbing. I looked around me looking for Malakaih but found Craig sleeping beside me comfortably. I gave out an earsplitting scream that made him jump about five feet in the air. He landed with his feet on the ground like a cat and he was half naked from the waist up which made me scream even louder. What are you d ? Oh no, no, no, no, this can t be happening! I started to yell and then ended up crying. Craig ran up to me. Get away from me! I yelled pulling the covers over me and jumping to the floor on other side of the bed. I didn t know what to think. My clothes were on the floor and I was in a night gown I picked up a shoe ready to inflict pain. Craig s hands were in the air like he was surrendering. Calm down, nothing happened! Craig s voice was quivering. Was he lying? In that moment Maggie came barging in. She looked around us scrutinizing the scene. She started to laugh so loud it made me angry. What are you laughing about Maggie? Spit it out! I wasn t in the mood for games. Before she said anything she made Craig leave, which helped me relax a bit. Julia, calm down! she said with her cute Spanish accent No sex, no sex, I change you she swayed her hands over her head and took the shoe from my hand. Hot last night, you drink too much she accused. How ? I asked. This was incredible. You three piña coladas, and champagne. Remember? The blood rushed to my face with embarrassment as she laughed and explained everything else that happened. Apparently I had too much to drink and was seeing Malakaih instead of Craig. I almost fell and Craig lifted me to take me to my room. I was so drunk I thought it was Malakaih and started doing and saying things I shouldn t have. She noticed and followed Craig to the room. He left and she changed me because I was sweating. End of story she said in Spanish.

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I showered and headed out to ask Craig one last question. Her story didn t explain why he was half naked in my bedroom sleeping soundly beside me. He was steering the boat when I found him. Obviously he had already showered and he was entirely smug too. I stood beside him looking out into the rising sun. Sorry about that! he said it so blasé. I knew he didn t mean it. Yeah right, you enjoyed every minute of it didn t you my tone was aggravated. Of course he enjoyed me flinging myself on him like that. Why are you so smug? I added. You sure you want to know? his tone mocking. So, help me Craig. I ll tell Mr. Lucians myself to hurt you if you don t answer my questions! I warned, even though I really wouldn t ever do that. Craig laughed he knew that too. Well, I have to remember to tell Mr. Lucians to not let you have any alcoholic beverages while I m around Craig! Okay, okay. I ll tell you. I m quoting you here, so don t get mad at me he turned towards me and repeated what I said to him I love you, Malakaih. Don t ever leave me again. Did I tell you I love Craig too? Oh, hell, take me now before you disappear and leave me a virgin widow again That s what you said and yes I did love every minute of it. What are you going to do about it? The blood rushed to my head again with embarrassment. I couldn t argue with that. That sounded like something I would say and I had thought about it and there was nothing I could do to take it back. This just complicated everything. So, that doesn t explain why you were in my room without a shirt laying so snug and comfortable beside me I pouted. Juliana, I would never take advantage of you like that. I would want you to be lucid and to tell me you love me and to call out my name not someone else s. I ve been sleeping on the floor in your bedroom since the third day. A man could only stand so much. Maggie would come to get me, before you woke up. She sleeps in a bed hidden into the wall in the other cabin.

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Oh, no wonder I couldn t find it I said under my breath. He stared at me with one eyebrow raised. Oh so you were wondering where I slept. Hmm, that s interesting he rubbed his chin again. I stopped talking because he would twist everything I said to his favor. He stopped smiling when he looked up. Middle Brook Harbor was within site now and I could feel my stomach lurching. Ugh! He slowed the boat down to a complete stand still. Go to your room. I think they will be watching for us. His tone changed completely. I did as he said and went to my room and sat on the chair. Maggie was crying I didn t know when I would see her again. But I decided now wasn t the time to cry I let the puppet strings attach again. Craig came into the room and told Maggie to take the luggage out. He knelt in front of me on the floor. Juliana, I love you, but I know you love Malakaih more than me. Look, I won t be around for awhile but I will be on the boat the day you marry Mr. Lucians. I have to let that happen. If not I won t be able to do anything for you. Do you understand? he swallowed and blinked hard holding back his tears. I put my arms around his neck and kissed his cheek tenderly. I did love Craig but Malakaih was my ocean and that s all that mattered. I belonged to Malakaih. When Craig left the room I could feel the movement of the boat again and from the window I could see us getting closer and closer to the island. My heart raced as I sank into the chair. In next to no time we were docked at the harbor. I could see Jerrod standing beside Mr. Lucians. They looked as evil as ever. Some people already had my luggage on the deck and Maggie came to get me. Slowly we made our way through the boat and onto the deck. Mr. Lucians face looked almost surprised to see me. Craig was waiting on the deck too. Maggie put his hand into mine and we walked towards the evil presence. Craig Mr. Lucians said as a greeting when we approached.

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Mr. Lucians, Jerrod Craig answered politely. He pulled me towards Mr. Lucians and handed me to him. I inhaled and bit my tongue. I could feel the anger inside me again. Mr. Lucians turned me around examining me as if I were merchandise. Craig, I really do admit that you have a special gift. You ve returned her a hundred times better. She even has a tan. There is color in her cheeks and her eyes are as radiant as ever. He pulled me under his arm pressing me against his body. I held my arms around my stomach. He pushed me away from him and into Jerrod s side. Jerrod only touched me to pull me away from Mr. Lucians. Too bad she still has that stomach problem. Did she have it on the yacht? Mr. Lucians question was almost out of line. He knew that it was he that disgusted me so much. You know I don t lie to you Mr. Lucians, she only has that feeling when she s around you Craig answered smoothly. He met Mr. Lucians stare head on with no fear. I could see why Craig was respected. Mr. Lucians looked at me and laughed I see, well, I ll have to get her something to take for the wedding. Here is your money He pulled an envelope from his suit and handed it to Craig. No thank you Mr. Lucians. I did this because I wanted to help you maybe as a wedding gift. Paying me for this is totally unnecessary Craig s voice was firm and didn t even look at the envelope. You sure are a good man and a man of your word. Well, so be it. I won t hold you here any longer. You deserve your vacation. Have fun out there and hurry back before the wedding. Yes. Mr. Lucians, Jerrod, Juliet Marie Craig nodded at all of us but didn t even smile. He headed back to the boat and Maggie followed behind him. Mr. Lucians turned around and we followed along with a few others that carried my luggage. We stepped quietly into the limousine and I sat beside Jerrod. Mr. Lucians kept quiet, his lascivious eyes on me during the entire trip. I wasn t happy until I was in my prison I fell into routine all too quickly, sleeping during the day, eating at night and sitting out in the balcony for hours. Days, weeks and eventually November arrived. - 152 -

Chapter 31 Tortured
I sat at the breakfast table expecting to find Mr. Lucians at the other end, but to my relief he wasn t at the table. All of the maids had gloomy faces today. I ate quickly. It seemed as no one was watching over me today. When I was totally alone I walked away from the table following the corridors that lead to my room. There were areas that I had never entered. Today was my birthday and I was expecting wedding preparation to be done, but Ms. Elizabeth decided it would be best if we waited till January after hurricane season to have the wedding. Mr. Lucians agreed quickly. He had no rush since he already had me in his house. I was curious to what they were hiding towards the east corridors. I tiptoed around the columns and hid when the two guards were passing by. I inspected almost every room. The doors were open and you could peek inside. The halls were empty and dark like no one ever used them. I heard Mr. Lucians muffled laugh coming from a few doors down. I approached the door quietly. It was a metal door and it had a window to look inside. Mr. Lucians voice wasn t laughing he was arguing like he was asking questions. I stood on my toes to peek through the window. It was very dark in the hallway so I knew I wasn t going to be seen. I gasped at the sight and sank towards the wall to catch my breath. I lifted myself to see again. There was a man hanging from his hands, his feet barely touching the ground. His shirtless torso was bruised with lacerations coming from his back down to his ribs. He had a strong build but he looked like he was almost unconscious. Speak you stupid boy! Mr. Lucians yelled at him. Another man who I presumed was Jerrod because of his build and shiny head punched him on the side. The man cringed with pain. You know this could go on for days Jerrod yelled in his face.

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He s dead the man cried in return. Where are the papers? Where did you send them too? Mr. Lucians asked again. I don t know what you are talking about. What papers? the man replied unconvincingly, but they didn t hit him again. Mr. Lucians and Jerrod spoke secretively and when they were about to turn around. I shifted to the other side and hid in a corner. They walked out quietly, straightening out their clothes. Let s clean up. We have a birthday party to attend to this evening. Mr. Lucians said as he patted Jerrod on the back. Yep, I think that would be nice. Maybe you should take her tonight. Why are you waiting for the wedding? It doesn t make any difference. I recoiled at Jerrod s suggestion. Patience is a virtue, Jerrod. I can wait. I want her to be ready for me. Ms. Elizabeth even has some sort of plan but she doesn t want to tell me what it is. Hmm. Ms. Elizabeth on the other hand would be a good way to celebrate. Take the rest of the day off Jerrod. You don t need to watch her or him today. She s sleeping like always and he isn t going anywhere. Mr. Lucians laughs and pats Jerrod again on the back. Their voices trail off into the distant hall. I waited until I couldn t hear the echo of their voices and stepped into the room where the man was being held. I examined him from a distance. Not knowing who he was. He let his shoulders slump trying to find a way to feel comfortable this allowed him a few extra inches to stand. I know you are there, I can hear you breathing. Please don t hurt me anymore. I don t know what you are talking about He said trying to lift his head. I kept quiet taking in the sight of the man. His hair was brown and his skin was a bit tanned. He tried relaxing his hands by moving his wrist. I couldn t believe what I was looking at. The insignia on his left wrist and the scar on his shoulder were unmistakable. I put my hand to my mouth trying to hold my cry. Alex, is that you? I whispered. I was afraid to come close to him.

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He lifted his head to the sound of my voice. His lips were bloody and purple. His eyes were swollen but he tried to squint to see me. I stepped into the light and his lips twitched into a smile. Jules he exclaimed. I couldn t help but run to him but I was afraid that by touching him I would hurt him further. I let the rope go as much as I could, so that he could rest his arms. I untied him. He put his arms around me and held me tightly. We started to cry momentarily and we remembered where we were. Jules, you look horrible. Are you eating? he muffled. Look who s talking. Me, well I don t eat much and if I m near you know who I end up vomiting everything I ate. I replied. He gave off a slight chuckle and winced at the pain on his side. I miss him, Jules. He whispered. I miss him, too. I motioned to a chair and I helped him sit down. He held down his groans as he moved about. Look, there really isn t much I can do for you. I m on a constant watch. I have a plan of my own. Mr. Lucians won t hurt me. I could barely make his eyes through the swelling. I overheard them talking. They re going to celebrate my birthday and Jerrod has the entire day off. Mr. Lucians plans on spending the evening with the wedding planner so he will be busy. I ll bring down some things for you to clean up and I want you to get away from here as far as you can. Do you understand? I asked putting my hand softly against his swollen cheek. He nodded with a bloody smile and I kissed his forehead. My brother knew you always had it in you. He mumbled. I am his moon and he is my ocean. Just remember that I am nothing without him. My ocean is calling me and I will answer I said into his ear. He looked at me perplexed. Think about it. You ll understand in due time I turned off the lights as I left. I tiptoed quietly through the dark hall and returned to my normal pace through the dining room, there was no one in sight. I guess the preparations were being made in the kitchen and in the ballroom. I almost ran to my room and into the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw that my clothes were stained with blood. I washed them with soap until - 155 -

not one stain was found and extended them on the balcony floor where the sun hit so they could dry. Then I washed up and dressed into flowing dress pants and an oversized v-neck sweater. The room beside mine belonged to Jerrod and he was going to be out today. I slipped into his room and searched for clothes, towels and pain killers. He had a mess in his room and he wouldn t miss a thing. I searched for a first aid kit I had heard the nurse say each bathroom had one and I found it under the bathroom sink tossed into one corner. He wouldn t miss it either. I wrapped the clothes into small rolls and tucked them under my oversized sweater and carried the small first aid kit in my hand. Before I knew it I was down the dark hall and almost ran into the darkened room. Alex, it s me. I whispered before entering. Jules, hurry up. Come inside I listened and hurried inside. He turned on the light blinding me momentarily. Jules you sure are a sneaky little thing I unrolled the clothes and towels from under my shirt and he undressed sluggishly. I helped him along where he couldn t move his arms much. Before putting on his shirt, I cleaned his wounds with the towels. He was ready to go. Okay, Alex. I m leaving because this could put us into further danger and possibly your death. He agreed but before he pressed his swollen lip over my forehead. Thank you for loving us so much he whispered. He turned off the light. You are welcome, Alex. Remember to wait until dark. I imagine you know your way around. Yep, sure do. I will come back for you when I am strong again. I owe it to my brother. No you will not come back for me. Your brother and I will meet again I reassured him. He still didn t understand, but I remembered what Craig said about him being slow about certain things. He ll catch on sooner or later. I kissed his forehead again and left him in the dark room. This was all I could do to help him. * * *

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The birthday party started around five o clock. I could hear the crowds arriving and the music from the ball room. I was in a long navy blue gown. My back was exposed almost two inches below my waist. It made me a bit uncomfortable, but my hair had grown out almost to my waist which helped cover some of the exposed back. The maids where ecstatic with their work and I just waited for Jerrod to let me know it was time. There was a slight knock and I answered indifferently. But it wasn t Jerrod waiting for me it was Craig. His beauty was stunning as always. Happy to see me? he asked as he lifted his elbow for me to hold on to him. I didn t answer. I was worried for Alex. Would he make it out in time? At some point I would have to check. I made sure I didn t leave any evidence behind me. I shoved all the blood stained clothes underneath the second heavy mattress in Jerrod s room. Never mind you have a permanent poker face but your eyes give you away. I glowered at his enthusiasm. I hadn t seen or heard anything from him in forever and he expected me to be happy to see him. I put my arm around his and he escorted me to the steps. Like the first time everyone moved to the sides and Mr. Lucians stood waiting for me at the bottom of the steps. It was an almost repeat of the first time. Mr. Lucians didn t spend much time with me which was good. I danced a few times with Craig, but my mind was not here. I looked around searching for Jerrod and I couldn t find him. My heart was racing and I didn t know how I would escape from all the curious eyes. What s wrong, Juliana? Are you mad at me? Craig asked when we sat at the large table facing the dancing couples. Nothing is wrong; and no I m not mad at you. I just want to walk a bit away from the crowd. This was my chance. Okay, I ll inform Mr. Lucians you are feeling a bit sick and that you need to be away from the crowd a bit. He stood up quickly and I waited impatiently tapping my fingers on the table. He returned with a smile on his face. Whatever you ask Mr. Lucians tonight he will give it to you. He s so drunk he doesn t remember his first name he chuckled.

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That was good news I stood up quickly and started to make my way discreetly towards the dining room, through the foyer and towards the east corridors. Craig didn t seem to mind. He just went along with me where ever I started to walk. Soon we were going towards the dark hall and now he was curious. Where are you going? You know this side is off limits for you. He warned. I know I ve already been down this way and I just wanted to see something I hoped that he would understand. He hesitated but still followed. I stopped near the metal door and twisted the knob slowly. I opened the door quickly before Craig could stop me. I had to know if Alex was okay. Craig held his breathe. My heart was racing as I searched for the light switch. I flipped the lights on and was relieved to find that the room was empty. I could hear Craig exhale loudly in the hallway. Are you satisfied? I don t like being here. Do you even know what that room is for? his frowned heavily. I looked around making sure everything was gone and that no evidence was left behind. I turned off the light switch and closed the door behind me. Craig was extremely upset. Yeah my curiosity is satisfied I didn t face him for fear I would give away my true intentions. Let s get out of here. This place gives me the creeps Craig pulled on my elbow and we walked briskly down the dark hallway. I felt relieved that Alex was gone. I guess I would find out sooner or later if he made it all the way out. Juliana, do you know what that room is for? Craig asked me again as we made it back towards the ballroom tables. Yes, it s where people get tortured I tried hiding the anger in my voice as I remembered what I had seen just a few hours earlier. I turned to face Craig, his warm tan now flushed from his face. How do you know that? You ve never been in that room, right? his expression changed from shocked to worried. His eyes turned from sapphire to cobalt.

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No, I have not been tortured if that s what you are implying. I think just being alive right now is enough torture. To have what I love be taken away from me piece by piece is torture enough . We both pondered over that thought in silence. The guest dwindled slowly until the only ones left were Craig and I. The music continued softly. Craig stood and spoke to the lead player in the band. They played the last song we had danced on the boat. Craig lifted his hand facing up towards me, May I have this dance, Juliana? Yes, you may I couldn t believe I was doing this. I looked around before standing. Mr. Lucians was nowhere in sight and Jerrod was also gone for the evening. I stood slowly and put my hand into his. He twirled me around and we started to dance. We danced gracefully twirling and moving from side to side with swift steps. Everything began to fade around us. We danced in silence neither one speaking, our eyes attracted like magnets. Our bodies flowed elegantly, moving harmoniously around the large ballroom. When the song was coming to a close Craig s hand pressed me against him, his hand felt warm against the small of my back. He leaned closer to me his cheek brushing against mine. May all your wishes come true he whispered into my ear. His lips brushed mine softly and he twirled me around. Taking one step away from me but with his hand still in mine he bowed. The corner of my lip twitched into a half smile and he beamed with enthusiasm. He let go of my hand as soon as we heard Mr. Lucians yelling from the east hall. Craig thanked the band and escorted me quickly to my room. Juliana, stay here. I m going to check what s going on. He said as he closed the door behind him.

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Chapter 32 Gifts
My room was filled with gift bags and boxes. Flower vases were lined orderly over the dressers. There were so many that some were arranged around the bed and even the corners. They were pretty but none compared to the orchids Malakaih had given me. I showered and changed into shorts and a t-shirt. There was no intention on my behalf to open the gifts so I sat out in the balcony. I held on to my knees as I watched the moon s reflection dance over the dark ocean waves. My mind drifted to the first time I had seen Malakaih. The tears trailed along my cheeks when I remembered how he comforted me. I wished to be there now. To be in his arms taking in the scent of his skin, and to feel his hand brush my tears away. I would give anything to hear his heart beating one more time. I wrapped myself tighter as I heard Mr. Lucians voice echo through the castle. He was truly angry and I could here as he entered my room. Where is she? he bellowed. My heart began to race but I clutched my knees tighter expecting for him come out into the balcony. She is probably in the bathroom. It was a long evening after all. Craig answered. Mr. Lucians seemed to be crying. I know, I know, I left her alone all night. Good thing you are here. I was just worried that good for nothing man ran away with her Mr. Lucians voice was slurred. He was very drunk. I guess he realized that Alex was no longer here. Craig I demand you stay with her at all times until I can find that dim-witted child of mine. Mr. Lucians I will stay with her but I do have other obligations and you are a jealous man. I don t want you to become suspicious of me and try to kill me without justification. Craig was absolutely brave. I didn t know if I could ever have such audacity. You are the only person I trust with her. Forget about your other obligations. I wished my son could have been more like you his voice seemed

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different and almost like he meant it. I cringed. No one could replace Malakaih not even Craig. Let s go Mr. Lucians; I think that Ms. Elizabeth is waiting for you. Craig s divine voice became harsh and demanding. Mr. Lucians laughed and I heard the door close hard against the frame. It was Craig s way of letting me know that he was out of the room. Craig was probably happy with this arrangement but I could see where this could go absolutely wrong. If Craig slipped just one time it would mean death for either of us. Leaning against the stone balcony I looked up to the sky. A few translucent clouds appeared in the vastness of the heavens but you could still make out the stars. I closed my eyes and let my mind wander. The sweet familiar scent caught my senses. I could never forget it. It was Malakaih s cologne. It was absolutely breathtaking. I inhaled imagining the card he had left on my bed. These were things I would always treasure. I sat on the chair again raising my knees to my chest and wrapping my arms around them. My head rested against the velvet cushion and I closed my eyes I felt a light brush against my cheek which sent shivers through my body. I opened my eyes to see two sapphires only inches from my face. His lips wore a smile and his golden locks were in an array. He pressed his lips gently against mine. Good morning! I hope you don t mind me putting you on the bed because you seemed awfully uncomfortable in the chair he said cheerfully. This wasn t the face in my dreams but it was beautiful in its own way. I shook my head. It was more comfortable here, especially with such an angelic figure beside me. What time is it? the room was always dark and gloomy with the draperies drawn. He looked at his watch. It s five in the morning. Are you hungry? I could have the maids bring you breakfast if you like he caressed my face with the tips of his fingers. I analyzed my feelings for this angelic figure above me. He was, after all, a gentle but brave man, a man that loves me for who I am inside. Should I permit for

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my love to intensify? Or a more fitting question would be could I cope if I lost him too? Is discerning if you are hungry really that hard of a task that you have to frown so unpleasantly? his tone sounded confused but almost mocking. Oh! I m sorry. I had other things on my mind but breakfast would be nice I said sheepishly. I didn t know I had taken so long to answer. He stood from the bed and pulled the draperies back. I had taken the task not to notice before but his skin glowed against the few rays of light filtering through the thin curtains. His muscles were lean and sculptured perfectly against his body. His jeans hugged his lower torso in a loose but interesting way. I bit my lip and looked away as soon as he noticed I was staring at him. He put on what seemed like a sports t-shirt. Something I hadn t seen in awhile. He walked elated towards the door and threw one wink at me before leaving the room. I stood quickly and examined my overly flowered and gift bagged room. I turned towards the bathroom to wash up. It took me a couple of minutes before I could sum up sufficient courage to look at my towel wrapped reflection in the mirror. My hair was pin straight against my fragile body. The hollows in my cheeks and collar bone were deep. My eyes seemed almost dull from undernourishment. I didn t look anything like I did before. A complete stranger stood before me staring at me. I combed my long raven hair and braided it loosely. I found the make-up bag and powdered my face so that the deep sets under my eyes were no longer visible. I brushed my cheeks with something called bronzer and glossed my lips in pink and stood again to look at the stranger called Juliet Marie. She was no longer young, nor innocent. This Juliet Marie is an expressionless, pale figure with a past so miserable that it remained her present and a present so unsettling that made her future evaporate. There was only one thing I shared in common with this young woman, hopeless love and inevitable death. A love so strong that lingered in the past reviving the dead and a love so fragile that could only end in a foreseeable death. I turned away from the strangers face and made my way out to the bedroom. I stood motionless as a thoughtful Craig was sitting crossed legged on the floor, a tray of food in front him. He stood as he noticed my presence. By the look in his eyes you could tell that he was delighted to see me. - 162 -

Hmm, interesting he said as he rubbed his chin and swallowed hard. I blushed when I realized I was still wrapped in my towel. He stared for a moment and looked away turning his back to me. I m sorry, I shouldn t have stared . No need to worry, I guess I m just used to having the maids here dressing me. I searched for my undergarments and pulled a light tan cotton sundress from the armoire. I slipped into them silently but quickly and tapped on his shoulder. I inhaled as remembered this similar seen from my past. Then I exhaled slowly letting it drift to the corners of my memory. Craig turned around to face me. Oh, I thought I was going to wait for an hour before you found what to wear. He laughed. No, if you leave it to me I would dress in jeans and a t-shirt. Actually, I m feeling envious of you as we speak. I took the tray of food he had set for me on the dresser and settled it beside his on the floor. He looked at me in surprise. I d rather make these undisturbed moments happy ones. I said as I sat on the floor. He sat beside me. He lifted his glass full of orange juice, To undisturbed happy moments he repeated. I took my glass and softly hit it against his. I managed to shape both the corners of my mouth into an almost visible smile. Juliana, was that a smile coming from your lips? he gasped. His eyes sparkled like blue diamonds. I nodded and he kissed me energetically. Here you are surrounded by expensive wrapped gifts and flowers which you even haven t even made the slightest commotion to open and here I am receiving the most priceless gift of all. I can t believe it. Pinch me, l want to make sure I m not dreaming! He extended his arm towards me. I pinched him joyfully. Ouch he cried. I m really not dreaming . He was all smiles during breakfast. We didn t resist sharing glances and a few smiles. He lay on the floor when he was done. His arms folded behind his head like a pillow. I pushed the trays away and rested my head against his chest. His breathing accelerated and I could listen to his heart beat flutter in unison to mine. Did you know that I don t celebrate birthdays? I asked almost a whisper. No, why don t you?

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First because my birthday was planned cunningly to deceive I said matter-of-factly. It was a method my parents used to avoid Mr. Lucians. And secondly? Craig asked. Because it s a pagan celebration my father said. None of the first Christians celebrated their birthdays I had done some research and was pleased that I knew something besides this life. Oh, I didn t know. That s interesting. What will you do with all the gifts in your room? he asked. I thought about what to answer. Well, I ll open the gifts and you help me decide what we can give to charity? What do you think? He took my hands and examined my fingernails. Sounds great, I m in. I lifted myself from the warmth of his chest. He stood and then helped me up. Okay we ll start from left to right. He pointed to the wall beside the bed and started searching for the cards in the flowers. I started gathering the gift bags and setting them on the bed. Total I received almost five thousand dollars in gift cards from the flowers, four Juicy Couture handbags, various expensive looking pieces of jewelry, and one Swarovski flower. The handbags and jewelry were distributed evenly a maid at a time. According to Craig the flower could be a good investment and the gift cards could be given to charity. He kept those and set them together in one of the gift bags. Ah, Juliana, there is one more flower and a card. Do you want me to open it? he turned around to face me with a hot pink orchid in a terracotta flower pot. I almost snatched it from his hands and sat on the bed. I smelled the small luxurious pearl pink envelope. Do you know who it s from? he asked. He didn t seem excited about my reaction. I hugged the flower pot and started to open the card. That enticing sweet ocean scent filled the room. The card had two children playing in the sand I opened the card slowly and read the two words and the letter out loud: Thank you! K

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The tears ran down my face as I read the last four words. Craig cradled me in his arms until I had no more tears. This wonderful gift could only mean one thing. That Alex had managed to escape and he had made it home safely. I had never received such a magnificent gift.

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Chapter 33 December Craze
December had arrived and the wedding was only one month away. Craig tended to his other obligations and was missing in action since our day of opening gifts. The wedding preparations progressed and so were endless Christmas parties. Mr. Lucians didn t want me involved in these parties he said the company that attended were not proper for a young woman . The room I slept in became my prison. I never went out but the maids came in bringing me food and treats at regular intervals. My appetite dwindled. I sat out on the balcony for hours. The weather went down at night but the day was comfortable enough with just a sweater. Sometimes I would bring out the down feathered comforter with me at night as I gazed out into the ocean. I repeated conversations that Malakaih and I shared. I tried counting the stars when the night was clear. I even counted waves as they crashed against the sand. My sanity was escaping when I began to speak to the orchid. She became my friend and I named her Kyra. It was December 26th when I examined the flower pot I cradled in my arms. Kyra, you look different today. Are you losing weight? I asked shamelessly and waited for an answer. I guess you don t want to tell me. Is it me? I m I giving you too much water? I set her on the edge of the balcony and stared at her. The long thin leaves where a dark shade of green and the long vine was starting to turn brown. I pressed my hand against my chest and gasped. Kyra you lost your flower! I m so sorry. I know it s hard to lose someone you love. I patted the side of the pot in a motherly fashion. I took the pot again into my arms. My eyes filled with tears as I remembered that I was no different than Kyra. We were both prisoners in a way. I was Mr. Lucians prisoner and she was mine. I tried to think comforting thoughts. Kyra don t worry, you will grow new flowers and you won t be alone for long Unlike me she could keep on living. I had no desire to live; nothing I loved would come back. The wedding day was set for January 15th. Only a few weeks left. I was fitted and measured over and over.

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Jeez, Juliet, if you lose one more pound. I don t think you re going to be alive for the wedding. The seamstress complained. I looked expressionless at her olive complexion. All the faces had disappeared from the people that surrounded me. Mr. Lucians could stand right next to me and I wouldn t notice until the stench from his mouth made it obvious. I slept soundly after the seamstress left. Someone entered my room again. I opened my eyes but I couldn t tell if it was night or day. My neck muscles began to quiver when I lifted my head and I had no strength to keep it up. I tried registering a familiar scent that caught my attention but I couldn t make it out. I could feel as someone slipped under the covers with me, their skin bare against mine. Julia, I m here now. The person held my forehead against their neck. Tears fell on my face. I felt small, almost felt lost within their embrace. Whispered words of a song I recognized were sung into my ears. Soft kisses caressed my face. The scent of the persons skin was enticing and elevating. I was falling asleep again when the person whispered I love you into my ear. DECEMBER 27TH I woke to shuffling sounds in my prison. I was uncovered and the small people began to lift me. They took me to the bathroom, showered me and dressed me. I was put back in bed and I felt hungry. The smell of food was making my stomach ache. I closed my eyes and leaned my head back onto the velvety headboard. She s like something out of night of the living dead a voice of a lady said. The other hushed her and I felt a warm spoon come to my mouth. I sipped the warm broth and another spoon came soon after. My stomach ached but it felt warm and full. I fell asleep again soon after. The warmth of bare skin woke me from my dreamless sleep. It was warmer than the broth I had been given twice. Julia, I heard you were eating. Keep up the good work. I need you to be healthy again. I miss you, I love you. Eat, please for me. The warmth whispered softly into my ear. Soft kisses caressed my face. I was falling asleep again when the person whispered I love you into my ear. DECEMBER 28TH

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I could make the faces of the maids that helped me out of bed. They showered and dressed me again. They fed me chicken noodle soup this time. It was delicious. My body still struggled to keep awake and I drifted again into sleep, only to be awakened again to be fed. Sleep invaded me again. Kisses along my fingers and my arms sent small electrical pulses through me. The darkness felt cold but the warmth of bare skin against my own felt comfortable. I love you my moon. I am here for you. I love you! the voice was caring and somewhat familiar. The persons tears rolled onto my cheeks again. I felt sad for this person. I didn t want them to cry anymore. The person hummed a lullaby for me and I fell asleep quickly. DECEMBER 29TH I was awake before the maids entered the room. This time they helped me walk to the bathroom and they helped me shower and dress. My appetite grew and I was able to feed myself. Today I ate an inch of bread together with my soup. For the second meal I was given two spoonfuls of white rice and one cup of beef broth I was somewhat awake when I felt the covers shifting beside me. It was completely dark and cold. The hairs rose where my skin was exposed. I recognized the familiar scent of sweet, fresh ocean water. Heat radiated through the body that lay beside me. The strong arms embraced me pulling me towards the muscular contours of their chest. My fingers were cold and I pressed my hands against his abdomen. The body shivered at my touch but didn t speak. Lips met the top of my head and my forehead. Julia, you are doing much better! I m proud of you. I love you. Keep it up. The voice belonged to someone that I loved dearly but had lost many months ago. I wondered if I was so insane now that I was hallucinating. I didn t care as long as he was beside me. DECEMBER 30TH Before the maids arrived I took a shower and dressed in a long tiered empire waist dress. It was cool cotton gauze with shirred tiers and ruffled edges. The color was a sunny yellow. I missed the sun, the beach and Kyra. The maids were surprised to see me awake and showered. They left quickly to retrieve breakfast. I ate one toasted slice of bread and tea and for lunch - 168 -

I ate chicken noodle soup. My body still felt weak so I took regular naps during the day. It was raining outside and I wasn t allowed to sit out on the balcony. At night, my hallucinations began again. I felt my nightly visitor cuddle beside me. I wanted to see him but the room was so pitch black my eyes couldn t adjust. He sang again to me, his voice so wonderfully sweet made my eyes heavy but I forced them open. I could feel his tears roll down my cheek. He cried for me again. Julia, I m sorry for all this. If I would have taken action sooner you wouldn t be suffering as you are now. I m sorry. He whispered. I didn t want him to cry for me or to feel sorry. I knew he did all he could to protect me, to love me. I turned around to face him. He was so real I had to be insane. I searched for his lips and touched them tracing their contours. I moved my fingers along to his closed eyes, they were wet with tears. His eyebrows furrowed and I tried smoothing them out. His hair was a bit longer than I remembered. Don t cry for me. I will find a way to be with you without putting anyone in danger. I whispered as I kissed his jaw. I could feel a smile come to his face. This was a smile that I remembered. He kissed my lips gently and pressed my head against his chest. Sleep, you are doing very well. Eat dinner tomorrow, for me, please! he begged. I nodded and fell asleep to his soothing whispers. DECEMBER 31st I didn t wait for the maids today. I showered and dressed into a striped halter shirt and stretch sateen wide-leg pants. Mr. Lucians froze when he saw me at the table eating breakfast. He sat quietly observing me. I tried my best not to look at him. The queasiness I felt in my stomach every time he was around didn t settle. He sat quietly, his food undisturbed before him. His gaze felt heavy against my shoulders. I m glad you are feeling much better. Which maid should I present with a gift for treating you so well? It s of my own accord I said still eating my food. Well, that s even better. Is there anything you desire that I may get for you? There is nothing money can t buy and I have plenty.

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I don t desire your expensive gifts, Mr. Lucians. You could be the wealthiest and most powerful man on the planet, and you could never give me the two things I desire. I lifted my head to glare at him. Try me he challenged with a smile. I desire my family including your son Malakaih, and a life without you involved my voice was almost demanding and I stared at him in defiance. He cupped his hands together, twirling his thumbs. He did this when he was mad and I was glad I had learned to be courageous from Craig. He looked away from me staring at his hands. He knew I was right. He could never give me what I desired. Mr. Lucians stood and walked towards me. My heart began to race and I balled my hands into fist as he stood behind me. He leaned towards me pressing his lips against my bare shoulder. I swallowed trying to keep my food inside me where it belonged. He rested his arms over mine. Juliet Marie, if family is what you desire, I will allow you to have all the children you want and you can even call your first son Alexander and your second son Malakaih. He whispered. He knew this angered me but I held my ground. He let go of my hands and put his hand gently around my neck lifting my head. I grabbed the fork in one hand and the sharp knife in the other as he kissed my neck and then my cheek. His breath quickened as I let him indulge. I twisted quickly in the chair and put the knife against his neck and pointed the fork below his abdomen. He stared in surprise at my response. I pushed them in slightly. I will never give you that pleasure I hissed. Jerrod walked in at that moment and stared astonished at the scene. Mr. Lucians He yelled as he took a step closer. I pressed both instruments harder against Mr. Lucians; he motioned for Jerrod to stop. There was blood starting to drip down the knife. It took all the strength I had in me to pull the knife away from his neck. I wanted to kill him. I wanted to see him die slowly and painfully for everything he has done to me and to the ones I loved. Mr. Lucians stepped away from me, still shocked at my behavior. I held on tightly to the weapons in my hands. I started to walk away from the table and Jerrod took another step closer. Let her be, Jerrod! Mr. Lucians commanded. - 170 -

But Mr. Lucians, you can t let her get away with that! Jerrod warned. Mr. Lucians looked at him fiercely. Are you questioning my authority, Jerrod? No sir! Jerrod answered squaring his shoulders. I walked past Mr. Lucians and Jerrod staring angrily at both. When I was at a safe distance I ran to my room and locked the door behind me. I walked towards the bathroom and washed both instruments free of any evidence. Then I soaked them both in alcohol. I didn t know what I was doing but some sort of instinct kicked in. I waited for lunch time and asked the maids to bring lunch and dinner for me. I had to control the adrenaline rushing through my body so I paced about the room waiting for the maids to come. They arrived within a few hours without the trays of food like I had requested. The maids walked in looking behind them and closed the door. I m sorry Miss Juliet, but I hope you don t tell on us. Mr. Lucians commanded for us not to bring you food for the next 24 hours the maid with blond hair said softly. The other smiled shyly and started to pull food from under her clothes. I would never do that to either of you, but could I request something in return of you I replied. They exhaled in relief and nodded. Wait here I ran to the bathroom and dried of the utensils with toilet paper and flushed the papers down the toilet. I handled the knife and fork with a clean towel and walked out see the maids still standing waiting for me. Does Mr. Lucians use the same utensils? I asked as I showed them to the maids. They nodded. Put these on his placemat when he eats dinner tonight and don t wash the handle afterwards. I ordered. They smiled at each other and nodded in agreement. Each one took a utensil and hid them under their clothes. They looked out into the hallway before leaving and left quietly when it was safe. I ate the fruits and treats they brought and showered to relax my body. I relaxed in bed for the rest of the evening

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Chapter 34 Morning after

I tossed and turned waiting for my hallucinations to arrive but they didn t. My body felt hot and I tossed the comforter away from me. I started to sweat and took off the nightgown. I felt sick to my stomach as I recalled Mr. Lucians dry lips over my skin. I ran to the bathroom and my stomach convulsed throwing out whatever food I had ingested. I washed my mouth and showered scrubbing my skin as hard as I could. I felt relieved and made my way out to the dark room. The room was scorching with heat. I made my way through the pitch black room almost crashing into the bed. I rested my bare body against the soft satin sheets. My hair was wet and it stuck to my face. I thought about why it was so hot and thought about the possibilities. First, I thought fire, but I discarded that one because it would be pretty obvious. The second possibility would be that I was sick, but I felt much better after I threw up, so that was discarded too. I thought for awhile wondering what else it could be. I laughed at myself. It could be only so obvious; Mr. Lucians had turned off the air conditioning to my prison and turned the heater on. I thought about opening the door to the balcony but I was too tired to get up. I closed my eyes and dozed lightly. My eyes opened surprised as I felt the extra heat beside me. I smiled as I found the key to my hallucinations. I had to fall asleep. So it wasn t a hallucination after all it was a dream. A dream so pleasant it was real. He touched my shoulder and ran his fingers down my arm and stopped when he realized I was naked. Why are you naked? he asked softly. I could hear the smile in his voice. Mr. Lucians turned on the heat to my room and I guess you can t feel it, but I can I answered shamelessly. He chuckled and caressed my side down to my thigh and back which sent shivers through my body. I like it he said as he brushed my wet hair away from my neck. He kept a few inches away from me like he always did when it was too much for him to

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resist. There was something in his voice that wasn t quite right, he seemed annoyed a bit. Is there a reason why he would do that, Julia? I was shocked at his question, but I guessed since he was a pigment of my imagination he would know. Yes, I almost stabbed him today, but it took all my strength not to shove the knife completely into his neck I said it proudly. I didn t want to be like Mr. Lucians. Yes, I heard about that. You shouldn t challenge him like that. Don t get involved in his game. He doesn t play fair and you will lose either way. Most importantly Jerrod could have killed you that instant and think about how I would feel if he did. He lectured. I thought about that for awhile. I knew he was right I shouldn t have let Mr. Lucians get to me that way. I m sorry. Will you forgive me? No he laughed. I searched for his lips in the darkness and put my lips as closely as I could without kissing him. Do you forgive me now? I asked again. Ah, I don t know his breathing intensified. I pressed my lips against his quickly and then kissed his chin and his neck, and then I nibbled on his ear. Okay, okay, I forgive you. Now sleep, soundly if not I will disappear! he pushed me away slightly and I was pleased with his answer. My thoughts dissipated * * *

The bed was soaking wet from my hair and my sweaty skin. The maids had brought breakfast and waited for me to wake up. I covered myself as I remembered I was naked. Sorry I apologized as wrapped myself with the thin sheet. No need to apologize, you don t have anything we haven t seen already. Besides you are all skin and bones right now. The blonde giggled. The other maid was a brunette and she walked towards me skipping and jumping on the bed. Do you want to know what happened yesterday after the umm incident? she whispered. I nodded yes.

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They went through all the story sharing details that were left out. Mr. Lucians was upset that Jerrod would even think about hurting me in any way and chewed him out. Mr. Lucians showed off the wound that I had left on his chin like a trophy. He said that I was the perfect wife for him. I was strong and that meant that I could bare his children. Everyone ignored him, obviously the blonde added. The brunette said that they put the knife and the fork on his placemat and he didn t even know the difference. He was really drunk during dinner it was New Year s Eve after all, and they did as I said and didn t clean the handle leaving his fingerprints over the knife and fork. I was surprised at how much they shared with me, including the heater part. They turned it down this morning when Mr. Lucians and Jerrod were asleep. They seemed smug about their mischief, maybe a distraction from their routine. Craig barged into the room. All three of us looked shocked as he entered with an angry stare. How dare you! he yelled and pointed a finger at me. The maids stood and looked down towards the floor. Get out! he yelled at them. They hurried along throwing glances at me. I waved at them as they hurried out of the room. Craig what are you doing here? I asked annoyed. He sat on the bed and took my face into his hands and kissed my lips. Juliana, how dare you put your life in jeopardy? I was going insane while I worked over numbers thinking about you. I received messages that you weren t eating again and that when you did start eating again you challenged Mr. Lucians and almost stabbed him. How dare you do such a thing? Don t you even think about how that would make me feel? his eyes filled with tears. I pushed his hands away from my face. I was angry. Out of all people, Craig, you should be the last person to be angry! I yelled back at him pulling the covers tighter around me and standing away from the bed. Why? you left me without even saying goodbye. You just took up and left me here alone. Do you know how I ve lost my sanity being alone trapped in this this prison? I was even talking to Kyra, my orchid friend and then if it wasn t for my vivid hallucinations at night I think I would have been dead by now. I was - 174 -

going insane and I just finished admitting it. I felt sad that this realization was the last of my nights with Malakaih. I started to cry. Craig wiped his tears and sat quietly. He was thoughtful for a moment. I started to look for something to put on and went to the bathroom to shower, leaving him alone to think. Inside the shower my tears flowed profusely. I didn t know how long a stood under the running water. Craig called me from behind the door. Juliana, I m sorry. He said through the door. I got out, dried and slipped into the white jersey tang top dress. I wrapped the towel around my hair and opened the door. Craig was sitting on the floor against the wall. for what? I snapped. I was still feeling angry at him. He stood and put my face in his hands. I m sorry for leaving you alone without an explanation. I put your life in danger. I should have been more sensitive to your physical and emotional needs. I was a coward to run off to hide my emotions. The tears ran down his face as he apologized, he didn t look me in the eyes. He just held my face staring at my lips. What do you mean by being a coward and running off to hide your emotions ? I asked softly removing his hands from my face and lifting his chin to face me. What I mean is that I m not as brave as I thought I was. I thought I was braver than Malakaih, but I m not. He didn t fear his father when he had to show his emotions for you. The morning I left, Mr. Lucians had asked me if I had fallen in love with you and I coward. I never lied to Mr. Lucians, but I lied the first time telling him that I didn t love you and that you meant nothing to me. That was the worst lie I have ever said in my entire life. I was a coward then and I am coward now. I m not the man I thought I was. I m sorry, Juliana. You deserve someone better than me. his explanation felt like a low blow. He wasn t a coward and he was brave to be here day by day facing Mr. Lucians. I don t think you are a coward. I see how just like Malakaih and Alex, you protect yourself to be able to protect me. I understand completely. I will never think of you as a coward . Even saying the word sounded wrong. To me,

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Malakaih, Alex and Craig, are brave, loving and caring persons. To me they are brothers in arms fighting for what is righteous. What more could I ask from them? Even so, Juliana, you deserve much better than me. Like Alex for example, he put his life on the line coming around here checking up on you. Please, don t be angry at me, I searched and searched for why you wanted to go to that room. Well, when Alex got caught he denied even his own existence. Jerrod and Mr. Lucians tried to get him to talk about where they hid your marriage certificate and whom they paid so it was undisclosed even if it were public files. Alex was tortured for two days straight without even budging. How much braver can you get than that? I don t even want to know who helped him get out that evening. I have an idea but I think it s absurd. He looked at me and raised his eyebrow. I looked away and sat on the bed. Craig, I don t feel like that for Alex and he doesn t feel like that for me. He is my brother and I am his sister, nothing more. I, too, have a good idea who helped him escape and I m grateful that they learned to be brave . I stared at the floor remembering how I took the courage to help him. At least I had been able to help one person. Juliana, I know I shouldn t be asking you this now, but I don t know want to miss the opportunity to ask. He sat beside me on the floor resting his head against my knees. If Malakaih was alive right now and you ah, never mind. That s not fair to either of us. Please, forget it. He tickled my toes trying to distract me. We both knew the answer to that question. Malakaih was my ocean and he couldn t live without me as much as I can t stand being without him. Nothing that Craig did for me now could ever change that. I played with his soft golden locks. Craig, I do love you but it s just like you said, Malakaih and I were meant for each other and I don t know how to live without him. Even when I feel that my life is reaching its limit like it was this past month, my memories revolved around him. When my mind was drifting I was imagining him cuddling against me at night. I could even feel the warmth of his bare skin against mine, the scent he wore especially for me, and even his kisses sent electric pulses through my body. I even imagined him scolding me for challenging Mr. Lucians. I shook my head as I remembered our conversation last night.

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So does that mean that I m not allowed to fight for your love? I m I not allowed to try with all my strength for us to be more than just friends? Do you not have any attraction towards me? by the tone of his voice I could tell his questions were heartfelt. Craig, if fighting for love is what you want to do I can t stop you, but I I don t want to hurt your feelings I pulled on his hair just a bit for him to reason. The third question was tricky. I am attracted to him in many ways that I shouldn t. He was very attractive. I couldn t deny that. He looked up from my knees to face me. His eyes sparkled like blue diamonds. What about my third question? I bit my lip and he was going to keep asking me until I told him. What about your third question? Don t hold out on me now, Juliana. We never know what could happen from one moment to the next so I think I deserve a straight answer. Do you not have any attraction towards me? he was so darn cute when he seemed annoyed. He lifted his eyebrows expecting an answer from me. I inhaled and let the air out in a sigh. Yes I said sounding diplomatic. Yes, you do or yes you don t? he asked again. Argh! He wasn t giving in was he? Yes, I do find you attractive I pressed my lips together and looked away from his blue diamonds. In what ways ? Craig I complained. Why was he being so pushy about this? I have nowhere to go today and Mr. Lucians demanded for me to stay with you until the wedding day, two weeks from now. So, I will keep asking you until you answer my question. he moved to face me and crossed his arms around his chest with a pout in his lips. Oh man! Why did he have to do that? I let my body fall back and I groaned. He jumped from the floor and onto the bed beside me. I m waiting he smiled. - 177 -

Okay, I covered my eyes with my arm I love your honesty. I enjoy talking with you about music and literature and I especially love how you gave me a choice, a choice to decide what I wanted from life. You asked me questions about my future, questions that Malakaih hadn t asked me but that eventually he might. Well, I attract you mentally and that s super important, but what about physically? he lifted himself onto his elbow and relaxed his head on his hand. He pushed my arm away from my face. I closed my eyes. That s not fair, Juliana, I want to see your face. You could be a completely pokerfaced but I want to see your eyes. I bit my lip again as our eyes met. I find you I swallowed hard umm very, very attractive physically. Why couldn t I have the courage now to slap him? This was just going to make things worse for the both of us. Ah, the sound of triumph He sighed. I knew it. You love me to your very core, admit it! Obviously not as much as Malakaih, but there is hope. he said as he leaned closer to me. Craig, it s imperative to your health that you don t kiss me right now! I warned. I felt annoyed having to admit my feelings for him like this. I felt like I was betraying Malakaih, even if he was non-existent right now.

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Chapter 35 Terror
Like I had predicted my nights with Malakaih ended. Craig had disappeared, too. I felt abandoned. As much as I tried I couldn t take my mind off Malakaih. I wanted to see him again, to touch his bronze skin. I cried at night as I remembered our times together. I woke screaming when I would see Malakaih s face against the reddened airbag. I relived the chase over and over again, night after night. Hey, freak, can you shut your mouth? I m trying to sleep over here. Jerrod had said one night. I m sorry I lied. I could care less if he slept or not. But his reaction caught me off guard. Look, don t think about him or anything else. Just sleep, okay. If you can t I can give you something that will help he actually seemed concerned or maybe he was in desperate need of sleep. No thanks. Besides Mr. Lucians would kill you if he found out you were giving me narcotics. I replied with a fake yawn. That s true. Then I don t know, tell one of the maids to make you some tea or something. I haven t slept for a week he complained. It sounds like someone else needs the tea I mocked. He laughed at my joke and closed the door. I pushed the draperies exposing the balcony door. I wrapped the comforter around me and sat out on the balcony. My body shivered as I felt the cool breeze against my face. These were my last nights. I yearned desperately to be with Malakaih The maid woke me. I was still out on the balcony wrapped in the comforter. Mr. Lucians wants to see you this morning was all she said and then I followed her into the room. I was surprised to see Mr. Lucians with his pajamas leaning against the post of the bed. His arms were crossed in front of his chest.

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Good morning my Juliet he sighed. I clutched the comforter tighter against me. Leave us alone Grace. I would like a word with her alone. The maid shot me a concerned look and left swiftly. Since when do you sleep out there on the balcony? he asked sitting on the bed and motioning for me to come closer. I took two small steps. Since I arrived I answered vaguely.

Oh, I see, obviously it hasn t been every night. He sighed. Well, come closer his sneered. I didn t take a single step. What do you want to speak to me about? I snapped. Well, if you are going to put up a fight I might hurt you today, after all. He stood and took four long steps towards me and in seconds his arms were around me yanking the comforter from my hands. This is what I wanted. I can t take it much longer. He was about to put his hands around my waist when I slipped through his hands and ran towards the door. He laughed when I tried opening the door and it was locked. My heart started to race and my breath quickened. I took in a deep breath ready to scream. He walked towards me slowly, removing his shirt. I looked around me for anything I could use as a weapon. You will be mine. There is no use in fighting. It won t hurt if you just keep still he warned. A lump rose to my throat and I spotted a flower vase with glass spikes. I moved slowly in that direction. He followed me. When I thought I was close enough I sprinted towards it. Oh no, you don t he yelled as he lunged towards me grabbing my leg and throwing me to floor. The flower vase fell and broke into large pieces. He pulled me towards him, laughing. He twisted me around to face him, pinning me to ground with his body. He sat against my abdomen knocking the breath out of me. He laughed as he began to kiss me angrily. Keep still he yelled. He bit at my neck and my shoulders. Not hard as if to draw blood, but enough to inflict pain. I groaned at the pain it caused. He tore through the silk nightgown with ease exposing my chest. I pushed my arms toward

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him in a direction he wasn t expecting making him fall to the floor and lifting some of his weight off of me. I buckled under him throwing him off. I picked up one of the largest pieces of glass and thrust it into the back of his knee as hard as I could. The sharp glass sunk two or three inches deep. Mr. Lucians yelled in pain and called for Jerrod. I ran towards the balcony. If Jerrod was going to help Mr. Lucians, I would surely be raped by both. I covered my chest with my hands looking towards the forest floor below. I would prefer to die than be violated by this sick bastard. Jerrod almost broke the door down with two good kicks. His face was pale at the sight. Jerrod, my leg Mr. Lucians cried. Jerrod ran to him and examined his leg. He flipped the cell phone and demanded for the doctor to come. When he was done he threw one glance at me. Mr. Lucians what do you want me to do with her? he pointed in my direction. Mr. Lucians lifted his face towards me a pained look in his eyes. Take her to the east hall he bellowed. I almost froze with terror. The east hall would be a slow and torturous death. This couldn t be happening. Mr. Lucians cried out again in pain as he moved. Jerrod stood and started walking slowly towards me. I walked backwards towards the edge of the balcony. He shook his head and his brow furrowed with some internal conflict. He was confused. He didn t want to do this; I could see it in his eyes. He lifted both his hands out towards me. Don t do it, freak he cautioned. It s best if you just calm down . He was a good six feet away from me when I jumped to the ledge of the stone. Just when Jerrod was about to lunge towards me, someone yelled NO! from the room. Jerrod turned around in shock. The stranger lunged at him first. The two men collided and crashed to the ground exchanging blows. I got off the ledge and shrunk to a corner of the balcony putting the large chair as a barrier. Jerrod was pinned to the ground almost instantly. Get off me you Jerrod cried in pain as the stranger pinned his arms tighter against his back. He pulled what looked like a plastic string from his pocket

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and tightened them around Jerrod s hands like handcuffs. Jerrod cursed even louder and the stranger silenced him with one harsh blow to the back of the head. The stranger stood and ran towards the room. Mr. Lucians was yelling in pain. I tried shielding my face and body with my arms. The tears rolled down my face like a broken water pipe. My breathing was heavy, and my whole body shuddered in terror. I heard someone yell Morphine and then Mr. Lucians gradually fell silent. The chair was pulled away from me and I recoiled further into the corner. I felt a sting inside my hand as I balled my fist. Please, don t hurt me. I begged. I flinched when the strangers hand touched my shoulder. Juliana, I m not here to hurt you The voice was divine, a voice I knew all too well, but I couldn t bring myself to stop trembling with fear. Juliana, it s me Craig! I could feel him wrapping a towel around me. Please, let me help you! I won t hurt you. He moved me slightly away from the corner covering me completely with the towel. Juliana, I m going to put my arm underneath you to lift you up, okay? he waited for me to answer. I nodded without looking at him. I felt his arm against my thighs and another against my back. He pressed me against his chest and lifted me with ease. My body still trembled. He walked for a few minutes. I felt him going down steps and someone opening a door and then closing again. I shook violently as the door locked. He sat and cradled me in his arms. Shh, I m here, now. I won t let anyone harm you. I promise. He rocked me softly on his lap like a baby. He pressed his cheek against my head. The warmth of his skin and the beating of his heart gradually made the trembling go away. The pain in my hand got worse. He lowered my legs over his. My feet dangled a few feet from the floor. Juliana, you re bleeding, I need to see your injuries he whispered. I nodded and he pulled me away from him and made me face him. Juliana, I know this is hard for you but I need for you to answer me. Did he...Did he...Hurt you? he stuttered a bit of anger as he said the word hurt.

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I shook my head slightly. No . He sighed relaxed. I know this is hard for you. I need to see your injuries. I know you are bleeding from somewhere. I can t help if you won t let me see. I nodded and I tried standing but my legs gave way from under me. Whoa he caught me before I fell. He sat me on the small bed, keeping the towel wrapped around my shoulders. I took it off so he could examine me. He turned on the light to make the room brighter. He gasped as he saw my neck and shoulder. His nostrils flared with anger. I winced at the pain as I opened the hand that held glass just minutes earlier. They were stained with blood; I had thin slits in my palms and along my fingers. He closed his eyes momentarily as he examined my hand. My abdomen ached where Mr. Lucians had sat. I let Craig examine my entire body. He seemed to know what he was doing. He took down notes but kept quiet. You could see the anger in his eyes. They were no longer the blue diamond s I had seen last. The color had changed to a deep dull blue. I looked at his arms and at his face. He was unscathed from the fight with Jerrod. I would have never thought that he would be so strong to take on Jerrod that way. He caught me staring at him. Is there something you would like to tell me? he asked politely. How are you feeling? he was surprised that I was worried about him. I feel just fine, but I ll be a bit sore tomorrow he smiled. I told you weren t a coward I mumbled. He gave out a small laugh. There was a slight knock at the door and Craig stood to answer. Who is it? he said before opening. Dr. Getty The man answered. I was relieved to know it was this doctor. Craig opened the door slowly and the doctor walked in. Craig greeted the doctor and closed the door, but he didn t step out. Well, well, look who we have here? Dr. Getty smiled.

- 183 -

Do you know him, Juliana? Craig looked at me confused. The doctor answered. I believe we have met on one occasion, not so different than this one he shook his head as he remembered. This isn t the first time she inflicts pain on Mr. Lucians he laughed. Oh, I didn t know I could see Craig s head fill with questions. He sat facing the window, his back to me as the doctor examined me. The doctor was as thorough as Craig, but the doctor went one step further checking the areas that Craig didn t. The doctor was relieved to find everything intact. Dr. Getty asked all the same questions and wrote down my answers. He cleaned and bandaged my hand and then he covered me with the bed sheets. He said the cuts weren t deep and they would heal quickly. He gave me a bottle of painkillers and another of vitamins. Juliana, you are unnaturally thin. The undernourishment will weaken your teeth and your bones. This is not good he warned. I wasn t planning on living no more than a few days but I promised I would heed his warning. One more thing before I leave he patted his mouth with his finger How did it feel to stab that son of dog under the knee? You did a lot of damage. He smiled. It felt good I replied boldly. Well, next time aim for the heart he joked. If there was a next time I probably would. He patted my knee and Craig narrowed his eyes at Dr. Getty s joke. This was our inside joke. Before Dr. Getty left he handed Craig some papers to sign. My stomach growled and I felt ashamed having my body exposed like it was today. I wanted to shower. Craig, I m hungry and I need a shower. I almost begged. Craig smiled and searched through his dresser. He pulled out an old sport t-shirt and he ripped through a new package of undershorts. Are you serious? I protested.

- 184 -

Julia, I m not going to let you out of my sight just to get underwear. He argued and then he pointed to an opened door in his room. The bathroom isn t as large as in your bedroom but it will do for now. I nodded and headed for the bathroom. It was small but it felt cozy. Everything about Craig felt cozy. I washed quickly and took one of the pain killers. My body was sore and I wanted to sleep peacefully. I wanted to feel calm and normal. The shirt that Craig let me borrow was huge on me and it felt good against my aching bones. The shorts were also big but the elastic waist band held it softly against my hips. Craig smiled when I walked out. He had sent for some food and the tray was sitting on his dresser. I took it to the bed and started to eat. Julia, where you planning on jumping the balcony? he asked curiously as I took a bite of the toast. I nodded. There were more questions so I waited for them. Julia, were you the one who gave Mr. Lucians the scar on his lip? I nodded again taking a large gulp of juice. I wasn t prepared for his next comment. I love you, Julia. I won t leave your side even if you are Mr. Lucians wife. When he said you are Mr. Lucians he wasn t referring to the sick bastard that I had stabbed, he was talking about Malakaih. It almost felt like there was something he wasn t telling me. He looked away from the window. Juliana, could you tell me more about your hallucinations? He moved away from the window and sat beside me on the bed. Did you see him during the day? No, I only saw him at night and I don t want to talk about it anymore Craig. Talking about him hurts more than the injuries I suffered today. You can talk to me about anything you want except him my heart ached as I thought about him. I put the tray of food back on the dresser and curled into the only comfortable position on the bed. Craig laid down facing me. I m sorry. You should rest. I won t go anywhere but I can t promise you anything. After today many things could happen. He kissed my hand and I closed my eyes trying my best to keep my mind clear of everything around me.

- 185 -

Chapter 36 Countdown
Day3 It was three days before the wedding and I was anxious. I wanted to get this over with already. I was expecting to find Craig sleeping on the bed beside me but there was only a small rectangular envelope. I knew what this meant. Craig had disappeared again. At least this time he was giving me a heads up. I opened the envelope and pulled a small note folded over, twice. Small delicate butterflies were drawn in pencil fluttering around what seemed liked dragon-fly orchids. It was delicate and this was something he had kept from me. His handwriting was as elegant as his drawing:

Juliana, my love, Mr. Lucians asked me again today about my love for you. I didn·t lie, but he gave me a choice I wasn·t expecting. I·m sorry that I have to leave you alone again. Please forgive me. I hate leaving you like this. I know what you have planned I heard it while you slept. Please don·t do it. I love you. I need you. I will fight against the ocean itself for your love. Like you said, I·m no coward. I love you forever, Craig PS: We will see each other again soon, I promise.
My eyes filled with tears as I read the letter. Mr. Lucians kept taking from me what I loved. I knew this would happen and if I continued letting him love me the way he did. He would surely die. I couldn t let anyone else die for loving me. I felt selfish. I couldn t keep doing this and I wouldn t. I sobbed for hours. Day2 I had been moved from Craig s cozy room back to my prison. The maid entered the room with the large bag that I presumed was my gown. The seamstress followed behind her. - 186 -

Juliet, the seamstress is here to see you. I stood from the chair expressionless and started to undress. I stood like a puppet waiting for them to play dress up. They opened the bag and took out the long dark gown. Ms. Elizabeth kept her promise and so would I. The seamstress motioned for the maid to leave. When the maid closed the door the seamstress pulled the gown over my head. She lifted my arm to close the zipper on my side. The dark haired seamstress smiled at how it fit snugly. Good thing you are eating again, Juliet. With only one more day for the wedding I don t think I have enough time to alter it. How are you feeling? she asked. I was probably the worse bride she had ever had. I had never answered her questions and I wouldn t start now. She frowned. The seamstress looked for the high heeled black satin shoes and slipped them onto my feet. She measured the inches from the ground to the edge of the gown and smiled. Perfect . I m sorry to say this, Juliet, but I feel like I m dressing a corpse. I do admit that you are the easiest bride to please but you are also the most miserable I have ever seen in my thirty-two years of being a seamstress. When I did the first wedding for Mr. Lucians, the bride wasn t as miserable as you were but she sure was sad. This really caught my attention. Really I gasped. The seamstress smiled at my reaction. Yes, do you want to hear about it? she gossiped. I nodded. Well, she was a sad bride and a very pregnant bride too. I remember like it was yesterday. Just like you I had to fit her every so often but unlike you she was gaining weight, especially around her lower abdomen. I arrived early one morning to find her curled over the toilet. Her face was pale and she seemed scared. She didn t have a clue to what was happening to her. To think of it we were in this same bedroom, too . I was amazed; I couldn t believe Malakaih s mother was Mr. Lucians prisoner too. Well, I helped her shower and I asked her if she was having a sexual relationship with Mr. Lucians. She looked at me surprised, she had no idea what I had asked her. I explained to her what it meant and it was the strongest way two people showed their love for one another. She looked away from me with tears in her eyes. The words that came out of her mouth were like scissors to my heart. - 187 -

She said: If love is supposed to hurt so much I don t want to know what hate should feel like . It only took me two seconds to understand her response and it crushed me. I asked her if she had been taken by force and if she had told anyone about it. She nodded and started to cry. She paused for a moment. What was her name? I was curious, Malakaih never mentioned her name. The seamstress smiled. Her name was Hyacinth. Like the flower, but he called her Cynthia. Like your name is Juliana but he calls you Juliet. I guess it s a pattern. Well, Cynthia explained that Mr. Lucians had met her in school. She was about 16 or 17 years old. He fell in love with her but she hated him. She said that he was egotistical, greedy and a bully, too. Every teenage boy shook to the bones if Mr. Lucians found out that they were after his beloved. Well, soon enough the prom came along and Cynthia really wanted to go but she didn t have anyone to ask her. Her mother had made her dress and they cried together because she couldn t wear it. Gregorio showed up at her door about two hours before. It was almost planned. He asked her parents and then asked her. She was ecstatic but that feeling didn t last long. That night, after all the dancing and giggling among friends, Gregorio lured Cynthia to one of the classrooms. He said that he had a surprise for her and he covered her eyes. When they were alone he locked the door and well, I guess you have an idea of what happened. When she woke up the next morning she was half naked lying on the floor. One of the teachers found her and called her father. When the police asked around no one knew anything, but her father knew exactly who it was. He went after him and they fought. That s how Mr. Lucians got the scar on his face. Cynthia s dad beat him to a pulp and was forcing him to marry her. That s how she ended up being one of my brides. She sighed and took the veil out of the bag to place on my head. I thought about Cynthia s sad story. No wonder my mother didn t want me to go to prom. She was protecting me from him. Everything was in a pattern, like a serial killer. The seamstress let me take in the story but I had another question I needed answered. Excuse me, would you mind telling me where does Alexander s half sister fit in to the story?

- 188 -

Of course, well, I kept in touch with Cynthia for a few years and helped her out for as long as I could. I wished that she would let me take her away from this wretched place, but she said that she didn t want to leave her family behind. Mr. Lucians was very promiscuous and even bragged about it. He spoke of one of his latest conquest and he wanted her as she wanted him. They were sort of in love I guess I could say. The young woman wanted something that would attach her inseparably from Mr. Lucians and she begged him for a child. He said no, but she was smarter than him. When he found out that she was pregnant, his love turned to hatred. He won t recognize Rebecca as his daughter. Oh, wow, that is an interesting story. Thank you very much for your kindness and for sharing with me such interesting stories I nodded once without a smile. You are very welcome. I won t do any more weddings for Mr. Lucians and I m leaving today. You are smarter than all of those other women. Don t give him the pleasure. I m sure that you will find a way out of this. If you need anything here is my card. I ll be more than willing to testify against him in court even if I have to serve a few years for keeping quiet. Oh, and I know a few other people who have worked here for years that would be happy to do the same. She hugged me and then helped me out of the dress and veil. I would never see her again. When I was sure I was alone I started to write my letter. Mr. Lucians had sealed the balcony doors shut and I wasn t allowed out of the room. This gave me something to do. Day before the wedding My neck and shoulders ached with tension. I watched the maids gather my clothes and packed them into the luggage. There were also new clothes with tags still attached. I looked around the gloomy room. My knees were at my chest and I was counting the hours in my head. Soon the three maids I didn t know walked out of the room and another two sneaked in. Hey, Juliana, do you remember us? The blond and brunette walked towards me carefully. I would never forget them.

- 189 -

I nodded and stood to hug them as a goodbye. They hugged me back. The brunette looked like she had something to say. Well, spit it out. The blonde nudged her ribs. The brunette giggled. Okay, well, here is the thing. We found out that Mr. Lucians is going to give you some pill to take for the wedding night. Heidi and I took the liberty of finding out what it looked like. Whatever you do don t drink anything or eat anything that he gives you. If someone gives you a small pink pill telling you it s for your stomach, say yes and tell them to set somewhere and when they leave flush it down the toilet or throw it under the bed. Why what does it do? I couldn t help but smile internally at their mischief. The blonde answered. It s supposed to knock you senseless for twentyfor hours, straight. Heather thinks that with your health, you will be out for fortyeight hours and then in and out of consciousness for the next week. She assured me. Mr. Lucians could do a lot of damage in twenty-four hours the brunette added. I guess they knew more about Mr. Lucians than I did. Thanks for telling me ladies. I will be careful around him. I might not get a chance to see you ladies again. Thanks for everything Heidi and Heather. I hugged them again and we shared a few tears. They snuck out again waving goodbye at the door. I sunk back into my chair for another few hours and waited. Jerrod opened the door. Hey, freak of nature. They are waiting for us at the dock. You ready to leave? he didn t look at me directly when he spoke. I guess he was ashamed of what happened the other day. It served him right. I wished Craig would have hit him a few more times but I knew something that would hurt him more. I followed him to the car that was in front of the castle. I would never return to this place. I was almost shoved into the back seat and Jerrod turned to the driver s side. I let a few minutes pass by until we were close to the harbor. Jerrod, I m sorry. I said weakly. - 190 -

What for? he stared confused through the rearview mirror. For all the nights that I wouldn t let you sleep and for the other day when I put you in a tight spot and also for Craig beating you to the ground like that I kept my eyes focused on his and tried to look like I really meant it. It worked, his eyes grew wide and then narrowed. I could see his jaw flex. I had hit a nerve. His hands clenched the steering wheel until his knuckles were white. Juliana, I accept your apologies for the first one, but his eyes looked away from the rearview mirror. Please forgive me; I should have kept a better eye on Mr. Lucians. I knew he would snap at any given moment and I ve grown fond of you. I don t want him to hurt you that way. He swallowed hard and his voice quivered. I forgive you, Jerrod. I hope you have lots of fun on the cruise and I hope you find someone you will love like I love Malakaih. I really meant the words that came out of my mouth. Everyone deserved to be given a second chance at love. We arrived at the harbor just as I expected. Jerrod held the door open holding one hand out. I put my hand in his. He was gentle this time. He called someone on the cell phone and a few crew members came to get our luggage. The ship s name was Orchid of the Seas. What a beautiful name I thought. I was escorted to my sleeping quarters. The gentleman explained that I was going to sleep in the room next to the honeymoon suite and that my belongings would be moved after the wedding. I nodded in approval. I sat on the bed as a few crew members arranged the clothes into compartments. My gown hung from a hook on the ceiling. There was a balcony but it was locked. I wasn t allowed out in the balcony one of the maids informed. I groaned in disbelief. He was taking all the precautions necessary to keep me alive. Finally, when I was alone, I pulled the letter out from under my shirt and added Heidi and Heather s name to the list of friends. I hoped this letter would bring down Mr. Lucians when I was gone. The card that the seamstress had given me was also attached. Now my goal was to find someone, that I could trust, who would put it in the right hands.

- 191 -

It was almost night time and I could feel the commotion of departure. I slipped the letter into the envelope and wrote on the front:

Juliana·s gift!!
I put the letter on the dresser in plain sight. Usually the obvious wasn t expected. I cried myself to sleep.

- 192 -

Chapter 37 Wedding day

I awoke to the sound of a soft voice. Miss Juliet, Miss Juliet the young lady said softly as she tapped my shoulder. I opened my eyes refusing to let go of Malakaih s image. Miss Juliet it s time to take your medicine What medicine? I looked at her hand. It had a plastic cup with two pills, one white and one pink. I remembered that Mr. Lucians wanted me to take medicine for my stomach but I also remembered the warning that Heather had given me. Oh, okay I said as I yawned and motioned for her to put them on the dresser. There was thump at the door and a ladies voice followed. I told you to hold still, boy. I don t have patience for this. You re going to stay with the bride until it s time for the wedding, you little brat. Her voice was angry. Witch! the little boy yelled back. Could it be Jonas? I got to the door before the maid did. The lady had Jonas by the arm and his face was puckered with anger. Jonas? I cried. Jules his eyes lit up and he yanked himself from the ladies grip. I could have stabbed the woman with my eyes because she turned as white as ghost. If you ever put one hand on him again I will personally throw you out of the boat. I snatched the small tux out of her hand, pushed the one maid out of the room and slammed the door in their faces. Jonas I cried the tears flowing down my cheeks. I hugged and kissed him like he was the last ray of hope I ever had. He hugged me back and he put his hands on my face.

- 193 -

Jules, I thought you were gone. Everyone was gone he cried as he buried himself in my chest. I hugged him and started to sob with him. I m here at least for a little awhile I rocked him softly in my arms until he stopped crying. Jules, are you going away too? The answer to his question depended if he was going to be safe or not. Jonas, what happened? Why do you say that everybody was gone? Where are Rebecca and Kevin? I sniffled. He lowered his gaze and stepped out from my arms. Mom got into a car accident and she hadn t woken up yet. The doctor said she was in recovery. Kevin and I had to stay with foster parents until they found out about Gramps. Kevin got sick and is in the hospital too. Grandpa said that he was going to send me back home when mom got better. But then I heard him talking about uncle Kaih and Alex and and how he was happy that they were gone. He started to cry again but like a little man he tried to be tough and wiped his tears. Jules, they said that you had died with Mariella and Eduardo in the car accident. I ve missed you so much since Alex took you away . A few tears escaped his eyes. I held him tightly, he was my little Malakaih. Jonas, have you seen your mother, recently? I had to be positive. He stared at me for a second. Yeah, I saw her two days ago. Ms. Elizabeth came to pick me up at the hospital. And how is your mother doing? She was doing much better and Kevin was getting better too he smiled as he remembered his brother. Jonas, would you be mad at me if I left like uncle Kaih? my heart ached as I remembered the red stained airbag. He pondered about my question. I would miss you a lot, but I wouldn t be mad at you. Uncle Kaih and you will live happily ever after when you find him again. I m sure about that he smiled again and then frowned. Jules, don t you ever smile anymore and why are you marrying Grandpa?

- 194 -

I m sorry, Jonas, it s just that I miss my prince so much. Smiling is for princesses, and I m not a princess without my prince. In regards to me marrying your grandpa well think of him as the wicked witch I could hardly explain exactly how I felt and much less explain to an eight year old why I had to marry his grandfather. He nodded understandingly and looked at the digital clock on the dresser. Miss Juliet there is still so much to do before the wedding? The maid reminded me from behind the door. I opened the door. Both ladies were still standing by the door. I swear that if I open the door again and find you both standing here I m telling Mr. Lucians I said gritting my teeth. The color flushed from their faces. We re sorry; we will be back in about fifteen minutes. We don t have much time. The younger one apologized and they hurried off. Jonas was giggling in the background and I saw him stick his tongue out at them. Jonas, that s not necessary I scolded. You scared them silly, Jules. Did you see the look on their faces? he laughed harder now. I know. I couldn t stand anyone hurting my little man. I mocked punched his chin and he stood triumphant. Jonas. Now that you are here and that you are the only one I can trust, can you do me a huge favor and you pinky swear on it? I knelt on the floor in front of him and held my pinky out. He wrapped his around mine, I pinky swear to whatever you want, Jules I stood and took the letter from the dresser and folded it in half. Can you hide this someplace safe and when you see Alex or your mother, can you give them this? I put the folded envelope in his hand. I sure can and I know just the place to hide it. I m not even telling you.

- 195 -

Okay, oh, one more question. Do you know who Craig is? He s got golden hair and blue eyes that sparkle like diamonds. He s almost as big as your uncle Alex. He thought about it for a moment. Yeah, actually, I saw him talking to my mother one day. He works at Grandpa s house. Did you know he can sing and draw and do all sorts of cool things? He was excited about Craig and that pleased me. That s him. If you see him first, give him the letter. Don t let anyone see you, okay? He hugged me and stuck his pinky out again. I wrapped mine against his and we moved are hands in a downward motion as if everything was set. I sighed and headed towards the bathroom to shower. When I came out Jonas was all dressed up in his tux sitting quietly on the bed. He was so much like his uncle and I knew he would do well without me around. * * *

The wedding march began and Jonas was standing beside me smiling at my choice of colors. He picked up quickly that I had chosen black because I was so sad. The music started to play. The guest stood as Jonas walked passed them with a small velvety black pillow. Two gold rings were tied together in the center with a red ribbon. The music changed when it was my turn to walk down the red carpet. The decorations consisted of black and red roses just like Ms. Elizabeth had planned. The ice sculptures were in place and everything looked just like I had expected, more like a funeral than a wedding. As I came in to view the guest started to murmur and Mr. Lucians face brightened. If I wore a tutu he would be happy. The black satin that flowed against my skin was soft. I lifted my head as Ms. Elizabeth pulled the black lace over my tear stained face. Your eyes stand out even behind the lace. You look beautiful. I just hope that you are keeping your side of the bargain for this evening she whispered. Of course, you can do with Mr. Lucians whatever you want. He is all yours for as long as you want. She smiled as I reassured her. I looked at the guest

- 196 -

and I could have sworn I saw Malakaih s face. I stopped dead in my tracks trying to find him. I was still insane. That was a good sign. Someone cleared their throat and I continued to walk until I reached Mr. Lucians. His smile was triumphant but I was happy to see a cane by his side. The doctor did say I did a lot of damage. I barely heard the ceremony. My mind filled with everything that had happened up to this moment. Most of them were bad. I said I do when the time came to it and waited for Mr. Lucians to lift my veil. The white pill was working. My body was numb to his touch and he smiled away as we turned around to walk passed the guest. Everyone cheered as white rose petals fell from the ceiling. The strings were attached again. I didn t smile I just moved along nodding when required. The reception started and the dancing began. The strings moved my body helplessly through most of the event. Cutting the cake was the hardest. I hated cake and much more disgusted at having to share a spoon with Mr. Lucians. It would have been nice for it to have been a fork so I could jam it through his throat. But I let the strings pull me through the rest of the evening. Soon it was all over. Mr. Lucians said his goodbyes and he took me by the hand and pulled me away from the crowd. The medicine started to wear off. Mr. Lucians I cleared my throat. Yes my dark bride, Juliet he wrapped one arm around me and rested against his cane. I have a gift for you before we commence our life together. The words hadn t come out the way I planned. You shouldn t have. He was flabbergasted. Come I ll show you I took his hand and walked with him towards the honeymoon suite. I peeked into the room first to make sure that Ms. Elizabeth hadn t forgotten. Then I opened the door completely. His mouth dropped open as he saw Ms. Elizabeth in very sensual clothing. She growled and he looked at me confused. This is your gift. You didn t have a bachelor s party and I wanted to make it up to you, since I did hurt your leg and all. I wanted to be sure you enjoyed every minute of this event I lied.

- 197 -

Oh, my precious pet, you were born for me. I should have given more credit to your parents he took the bait effortlessly. He almost ran into the room and growled back at Ms. Elizabeth. They were born for each other. I walked quietly to the next room where my luggage was. I changed quickly into a white cotton dress, walked barefoot out of the room and walked undetected by the guest and towards another part of the ship In this seemingly romantic evening I now pursued a much more difficult role. I could see how the water was strongly being driven behind the cruise ship. I had heard that if someone were to jump into the water they might certainly die. The full force of water would drag you under. Oh Malakaih, how I long to be so far away from this place! Everyone around me seems to be so happy yet who knows what secrets and lies they have hidden inside them. Again I look towards the oceans waters. Hidden underneath such darkness and yet such calm. I walk further away from the noisy laughter of the guests. My goal was clear. I wish to be within the deep waters of the ocean. I realize this is the chance I was waiting for. My dreams and my hopes are now shattered by such ignorant rules of society. I have nothing or no one to live for. Softly I walk past the many doors and windows of cabins. My hand glides over the shiny silver balustrade dividing me between life and death. The sounds of music and laughter are now distant. No one is around me. My heart trembles inside me as I realize what I m about to do. I can see my reflection on the balustrade. My flowing long dark raven hair and deep violet blue eyes. How I hate this face that has brought me nothing but loss and pain. The eagerness inside to get away encourages me and in one quick move I am on the other side. Holding on looking downwards, the ocean calls out for me, Julia, Julia! I notice the wedding bands on my left hand. They mean nothing to me but slavery of society in a modern day world. I can feel the strong wind and the salt in the air. I can hear my name being called out. It is dark on this side of the balustrade and the calm is greater. With thoughts of all the events that have brought me upon this ship I start to let go one finger at a time. My eyes focused on the water. Softly I count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 I ve let go of life and calmly my body begins to be pulled by the force of gravity . . . I have no fear and for once in a long time a smile comes across my face

- 198 -

Chapter 38 Rescued

NO! someone yelled as I fell gracefully towards the water. The water embraced me quickly and the sheer force began to drag me under. I closed my eyes and thought of Malakaih. The darkness felt wonderful. The coolness of the water relieved the pain I had inside. I could hear Malakaih s voice calling me. Julia, Julia I inhaled inviting the salt water into my lungs. It burned my sinuses and my lungs but it was nothing compared to the ache in my heart. No longer would I have to feel pain or disgust. My ocean was calling and now we were together. .. My mind wondered and then darkness started to cloud my thoughts. Malakaih, I love you . Silence... No Julia, Julia, breathe I felt a strong pressure against my chest. Breathe, no, don t go. Breathe, don t go. I m still here . The water spit out of my lungs making me cough strongly. The burning sensation returned and it felt like breathing fire. Julia, you made it. I opened my eyes to see Malakaih leaning over me. He lifted my head slightly which made me cough up more water from my lungs. He smiled and held me against his chest. Malakaih my voice was coarse but I was stunned to see him. He started to wave at somebody. Over here he yelled. He lifted me and put me on a sort of bed. Emergency medical technicians started to surround me and wrapped me in blankets. I m going with her he said to one of the technicians. I love you Julia he took my hand as I returned to darkness. * MALAKAIH I told you I m going with her I had to yell over the roaring of the chopper s engines. Okay, just keep out of the way. Her condition isn t stable, do you understand? the technician yelled as he and the others pushed the bed into the - 199 * *

helicopter. I nodded. There was nothing I could do to help her now. I followed them into the chopper and sat where I could see her. She drifted in and out of consciousness and would call out my name. All I could do was to take her hand and tell her I was here. That I wouldn t leave her side and that I would take care of her. Before I knew it we were over land. The palm trees swayed as we approached the hospitals landing pad. They opened the door while the chopper was still in full flight and there were medical staff waiting for our arrival. I followed until they took her into the emergency room. One of the male nurses held me back as she was pushed through double doors. You can t go in there. You re going to have to wait until the doc comes out to get you. You should also change. You re soaked and you can get sick. the nurse said as he pushed me back. I could care less about my wet clothes and my jaw clenched as she started to call out my name again. I knew she wanted me near her but the nurse was right. I had done everything that I could do. The nurse showed me towards the waiting room. I sat down in a chair near a window. I put head in my hands fighting back the tears, but it was useless. The tears started to flow as the agony of losing her again kicked in. The minutes crept slowly into hours. My pacing started to annoy a few other people who waited anxiously. A doctor appeared occasionally and the number of people in the waiting room dwindled down to just two. A gentleman about five or six years older than me with blond hair had sat quietly his back to me in one of the corners reading a newspaper. He had a gun harness and I tried walking around him to see his face or to get a glimpse of his badge. I could have sworn I d seen him before but this was Miami and a lot of people probably looked alike. Finally the doctor came to the waiting room with a smile on his face Hello, Malakaih! I stared in disdain at his cheerfulness. What was he so happy about? I stood up and waited for the news. I will never forget your name. I ve heard it almost fifty times since she came in. She s doing much better, but she s going to need a lot of your attention. We cleared her body of the salt water that she swallowed but there is something else that s more important. She s extremely thin for her size and she s weak. Once she puts on a few pounds we can let her go home. I think that well, I m guessing her recovery would go much faster with you around, since she calls out for you so much he smiled again and shook his head in disbelief. He patted my shoulder and told me to follow him. - 200 -

We passed the double doors and down the large hallway. We entered room 468 and I stood breathless. She looked so fragile and sickly as she slept. The doctor left the room as I walked up to the bed. Her hand felt so cool under mine. The tears rolled down my face as she smiled in her sleep. I knew the danger was far from over. My father would notice her disappearance and he would start to look for her. There was a slight knock at the door and I stood protectively ready to pounce. Alex! Brother! I cried throwing my arms him. I missed him. He kissed her forehead Hey Bro, how she doing? She s okay for now. Doc says she s weak and that she needs to gain weight before she goes home. His face changed as he examined the contours on her face and how her hands were so thin. But he noticed something I didn t, the wedding band on her finger. Do you think I should take it off or should I let her do it? he asked as he tried to read my expression. I didn t know what to say. Hey, I found the one you gave her and the necklace, too. That was wonderful news. My brother was always one step ahead of me. Where d you find it? Let s just say I ran into Patrice while she was running her last errands for dad. His lips pressed together as he remembered his encounter. It was hard for him to even mention her name. I have them with me he pulled them out of his pocket in a tangled mess of titanium and gold. I took them from his hand and started to untangle them. You want to talk about it? he looked like he did. Not really, I took her to Cr to the feds. You know the guy I was telling you that was undercover at dad s place for a few years until maybe a few days ago. Oh, yeah, I remember. Could he be the one that was in the emergency room? Have I seen him before? Yeah, actually he was downstairs waiting for me. That s how I knew you were here with Jules So it was the man that was downstairs. Why didn t he say - 201 -

anything to me? Alex started to take the rings off her fingers and put them into a small white envelope I need these for evidence. Do you want me to get some clothes and food? Alex wasn t wasting any time. He knew exactly what he had to do and I was a total mess. Yeah, I guess I should change. The salt is starting to itch I smiled and he took off. Miami was our safe place. We had everything we needed here and Julia would be safe for awhile. I sat in a cozy bench near the window. The beeping sounds of the heart monitor made me sleepy and I dozed off.

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Chapter 39 Florida

Someone s gentle kiss lifted my senses back to life. The burning from my chest was gone. I felt like I had slept a hundred years and my stomach agreed. It growled violently. My eyes adjusted to the light and Malakaih sat at the edge of the bed. Good morning, sleepyhead he giggled. Malakaih ! I held him tightly. He kissed my forehead and held me so snugly against his white t-shirt. This was my Malakaih, the one no one could replace. I love you, my husband! I love you, too, my wife! He cradled me in his arms. You must be hungry. I already told the nurse to bring you breakfast I couldn t take the smile away from my face. All the emptiness I felt inside, all the agony I felt was gone. The nurse brought in a tray of food and set it on a cart nearby and hurried off. Malakaih brought the cart closer and positioned it over the bed. Breakfast in bed, that sure is nice he said as he uncovered the tray. The tray was empty except for a small white box and a single white orchid flower lay beside it. Oh, Malakaih, you shouldn t have spent anything on me I didn t want for him to propose again. I had enough with proposals for a lifetime. I didn t spend anything. This is just a little gift. Go ahead open it The expression on his face was priceless. His eyes were that deep green, the golden specks flickered, and the fullness of his lips sent electricity through my body. He seemed more beautiful now than the first day I met him. I picked up the little white box and opened it. I struggled to catch my breath at the ring inside of the box. It was the one he had given me originally. He took the ring out of the box and slipped it on my finger. He kissed my fingers and I couldn t help but turning my hand around and pulling his face closer to mine. This is what I want I got closer kissing him gently on the lips. He returned my affection with the same intensity.

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Wahoo! Alex yelled from the door a food tray in hand. He startled us for a moment. Alex I cried. He removed the empty tray and placed a tray full of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and butter. How s my shotgun? he asked as he put the orchid behind my ear. Malakaih gave him an ugly look. What? he asked jokingly. It s okay Kaih I kissed his cheek lightly and started to eat. Malakaih sat at the foot of the bed massaging my toes. Alex sat beside me on the bed. Oh, by the way Alex I leaned towards his ear I love you, too. Thanks for the card . Alex blushed and gave me one of his bear hugs. Okay, too tight I coughed. He laughed and let me go and then sat by the chair near the window. So, how long have I been out this time? Malakaih looked surprised at my question. It s only been about two days he said as he massaged my feet. Oh, by the way, Rebecca is doing fine and the kids are with her at the house. Jonas especially misses you and he sent you a little box. It s at home The sound of the word home gave me shivers. Where was home? That s wonderful news. I miss him too. So, umm, what happened after I ? Malakaih was about to answer when the nurse came in to check on my vitals. Jules, it s a bit of a long story. How about you eat up and we talk about it later. Or do you want me to beg like I did when we were in the shed? He took away my breath as our lips neared each other. That felt like a plea to me and I couldn t resist. Okay! I said as I pushed myself away from him. I blushed at Alex s stare. So Alex, this isn t hospital food, is it? I said as I ate the last bit of scrambled eggs. He started to laugh. Of course not, it s from one of the fast food restaurants from downstairs. You are going to be eating a lot in the next few days. Doc says you have to gain weight he said it with a smile but I could see he was concerned.

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I guess I didn t have much of an appetite for a few weeks I couldn t look at him. Looking back at how I last saw them, made a lump rise in my throat. Malakaih removed the tray from the bed and sat down beside me. You alright? he asked putting his arm around me. I snuggled into his chest and tried my best to smile. Yeah, I m okay. I just really couldn t see my world without the ones I love so much, you, Alex, Jonas mom and dad and Cr... I paused before I could say the name. That was something I had to attend to later. and crab cakes. Nice save I thought. My life went to smithereens and seeing you guys here, makes me feel complete. I played with the ring on my finger and smiled. I couldn t be more complete. . . Nine days went by quickly at the hospital. I started to feel a lot better and I wanted to leave already. The nurse weighed me one more time and she said that the doc would be happy. I could probably go home today. That was good news for all of us. Malakaih stepped out and the doctor came in a few minutes after he left and said that I could go home. I looked through the window as I waited for Malakaih to come back. It was really nice outside. The sun was out and there were people everywhere. The palm trees swayed from the wind and you could see the beach from here. This place seemed very cheerful compared to the island. Alex came in with a bunch of department store bags. Good morning, Julia. Ready to go to your new home? he asked as he put the bags on the bed. His grey-blue eyes glowed. Yep, I can t wait to leave. Well, look through the bags. Malakaih and I did the best we could to buy you some clothes that would fit you. Please don t be harsh at Malakaih s choice of underwear He started to blush but I guess they did have hard time choosing underwear. I started to laugh out loud at the image of Alex and Malakaih at a department store looking through women s underwear. What s so funny? Malakaih asked as he stepped into the room. Alex shot me a mean look and I knew I had to compose myself. This was something serious for him. This was part of Malakaih s role as a husband. I took the bags into - 205 -

the bathroom ignoring Malakaih s question. I looked through the clothes and found the little culprits that Alex was talking about. I started to laugh out loud again and was surprised to see the pink bra and thong were my size. I took a quick shower with the Victoria s Secret bath set Malakaih had given me. I put on the black jeans and a white dress shirt that was a bit revealing but that looked spectacular on me. I slipped into the high heeled sandals, combed my wet hair and inhaled deeply before walking out of the bathroom. They both stood speechless as I walked out. The looks on their faces were obvious. Oh brother, you re gonna have to hire a few bodyguards before she heads out Alex teased. Malakaih scooped me into his arms and kissed me. You look beautiful Well, I m ready. Let s go home! this situation was a bit embarrassing for all of us. The nurses waved goodbye as we left and Alex was waiting for us in a light metallic blue Toyota Camry. The air outside was sticky but there was a slight breeze and that familiar scent of salt filled my nostrils. We hurried off and within a few minutes we were on a highway. The city was full of people. I had never seen so many different stores and so many people and buildings. I stared out of the window in awe. Soon we were out of the city limits and passing marshlands. I was shocked to see the huge reptiles resting by the road or near a lake. We turned off the highway and into what looked like orange groves. We are almost home Malakaih assured me. They had kept silent for the entirety of the trip. We arrived at a cement house that was painted a light sand color and the accents where white and a deep olive green. Tall columns held the roof into an A-shape. Azalea bushes adorned the outside. It was beautiful and every corner of it screamed tropical. We parked the car in front of the house. Do you like it? Malakaih asked as he stepped out of the car. It s really nice. Is it one of your designs? I thought I had seen this one before. Malakaih s smile grew bigger. Yep, it sure is. I thought you wouldn t remember he was surprised. I remembered everything. The only thing was that when I didn t want to remember I shoved into little corners where I couldn t find them for awhile.

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We walked into the house. It had wooden floors and it looked extremely cozy with off white walls and crown molding. We walked into the foyer a few steps and arrived at the living room. The kitchen was only a few steps away to my right and a skylight illuminated the hallway to the bedrooms. The house only had three bedrooms. The slightly larger room had its own bathroom and walk-in closet. It had king size canopy bed and matching dressers and mirror. The rug felt good to walk on. It was comfortable unlike cold stone floors and the dull walls of my prison. Kaih, I love this place. It s so comfy and homey. I hugged him around the waist. He put the bags on the floor and wrapped his arms around me. This house belongs to you. You could do whatever you want. There is a pool in the back and there s plenty of space for an orchid garden or whatever you want. He kissed me gently on the lips and took me by the hands towards the living room. Alex was lounging on a leather sofa in front of the large plasma television on the wall. We sat separately from him at the dining room table. Well, I wanted to take you shopping and out for dinner tonight but it s up to you. We could stay here and order pizza. Malakaih said as he stroked my hands with his fingers. Let s go out. It would be our first real date I giggled. Yeah, it would be he realized. He pushed the hair from my face behind my ear. I want you to be happy with me. I m not going to stop our life just because of what s still going on. Do you know what I mean? His face showed concern. I knew exactly what he meant. Yeah, I guess I struggled to find the words I guess he s still coming for me but that s not going to stop us from living a normal life. Is that what you mean? He kissed my hands and pulled me towards him. Slowly he put his hand around my neck and pulled me even closer. He kissed my cheek and breathed softly into my ear. Everything included he whispered and it took me a few seconds to realize what he meant. I blushed at the thought and just sat quietly taking in the moment. Malakaih lifted my chin and stared into my eyes. I began to melt at his warmth and struggle to keep the urge to kiss him. Alex was still in the room and I didn t want him to feel uncomfortable - 207 -

I made three grilled cheese sandwiches for Alex and then headed out with Malakaih for our first real date.

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Chapter 40 Honeymoon

We drove to what Malakaih called the mall. It was enormous. We visited almost every store. I had never been to a place like it. Malakaih bought everything I looked at for more than five minutes. By dinner time we were filled with more bags than we could carry. I could feel he was proud as we passed the staring crowds. He insisted I stop at a beauty salon while he carried the bags to the car. After ten minutes of intense persuasion I agreed. I just want you relax a bit before we go to dinner. You ve been on your feet all day long. Please! Malakaih begged on his knees. I blushed as he stared at me with child like eyes and pouting lips. People stopped to stare and I couldn t resist as he kissed my hands. Okay, okay, just get up off the floor. I pulled up on his hands and he gleamed with excitement. Thanks. I ll be back by the time you re done. He turned away after he whispered something to the lady at the counter. My hair was trimmed into long layers against my back. After the manicure and pedicure one of the ladies started to apply makeup. I remembered how the maids would dress me and I felt a bit uncomfortable. I tried my best to relax. When the cosmetologist turned me around to face the mirror I closed my eyes in an automatic reaction. I swallowed the memories that would ruin the moment and opened my eyes. I gasped at my reflection in the mirror. You look beautiful The lady said as she rearranged a few hairs to line my face Did you ever think of being a model? I never given my beauty that much thought and I never would. This face had brought me enough suffering for a lifetime. Malakaih came in just in time. He had an orchid bouquet in his hands and was staring at me like it was the first time he had seen me. What? I asked as I started to get up.

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Wow, you look very stunning and umm very sexy He was almost speechless and I could feel as my face turned red. He sighed and stood speechless for a few more seconds. Umm, we should go now I said as I walked up to him and took the flowers from his hands. The flowers are beautiful Not as beautiful as you he kissed my cheek. After paying the lady at the counter we left the mall, and headed to a restaurant a few blocks down. The night was beautiful with all the city lights and traffic. We ate dinner at Japanese restaurant. They cooked the food right in front of us. Malakaih kept really close as the chef prepared the meal. It was quite a show all by itself as the flames flew up and he cut the food with such precision and speed, throwing the knife at different angles. The rest of the meal time was quiet. So, how do you like our date so far? he asked as I cuddle into the seat beside him. I love it. We should do this more often I hoped it would never stop. Being with him and the feeling of contentment that he made me feel was all I wanted. To see the expression on his face as he shared stories with me about different places he had visited. I couldn t believe that we were here and that we were together. Malakaih started to caress my arms with his fingers and it sent butterflies to my stomach. I bit my lip as he stared at me with loving eyes. My moon, he whispered as he kissed my hand. I felt a bit lightheaded as we stood up to leave. I smiled when I remembered my reaction to alcohol and Craig s warning. We walked out of the restaurant hand in hand. I walked to the passenger side of the car but Malakaih didn t open the door. He rested me against the car door and leaned against me. His eyes were a passionate green. He put his hands gently around my neck and caressed my lips with his thumbs. He leaned closer pressing our lips together. He parted my lips and his tongue brushed along my upper teeth. I gasped at the electricity this sent through my body. Wow he said as he stopped to look at me and started to open the car door. I stepped into the car speechless. He came around and stepped into the

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driver s seat. Everything seemed to flow so naturally and yet I felt a bit of nervousness. To find Alex at home right now would be a bit awkward. Malakaih seemed to have no rush in getting home. He would kiss my hand gently at the stop lights and just smile at me. Occasionally he would lean over to kiss me before the light turned green. It took us longer to get home than it did to get into town. The orange grooves were dark against the moonlit night. Away from the city lights you could see some of the stars and you could listen to the sounds of crickets and frogs as we stepped out of the car. We left our bags in the car and we walked towards the door. Malakaih s fingers were intertwined through mine and he spun me around to face him. He scooped me up in his arms. I dreamed of this day, but my dreams were nothing in comparison to this he kissed me gently and opened the door. Was it already unlocked? I worried about Alex. Don t worry, Alex isn t here he said as he walked past the threshold with me in his arms. The house had been decorated with purple roses and candles. You could smell the roses, jasmine, and almonds in the air. It was beautiful. The floor was full of rose petals spread out evenly throughout the living room. The soft piano sounds of Norah Jones played distant into the background. The double doors that led towards the pool were open. When we walked in, the water was covered in orchids of different colors. Very large pillar candles threw soft reflections of light against the water. There were towels neatly folded on one of the lounge chairs. Malakaih put his hands around my waist and pressed me closer towards his body. His kissed my forehead, my eyes, and then the tip of my nose. His lips caressed my cheeks and I wrapped my arms around his neck. Slowly he drew lines with his lips leading towards the nape of my neck. I inhaled the sweetness of his breath and I returned his caresses. My moon, you are everything I ever wanted, you are everything I will ever need. Will you shine over your ocean tonight? his breaths were uneven as he spoke the words. Yes. The moon will only shine against you, my ocean I whispered in return. His lips met mine again in a gushing rush of passion. His hands were around my waist, gently his fingers slipped under my shirt lifting it off of me. I did - 211 -

the same for him... Our affections intensified and soon we were slipping into the warm water of the pool with only the heavens as a witness of our love.

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Chapter 41 Set up
It was a good thing Alex had decided to spend two weeks at his friend s house. Malakaih and I were inseparable. If we weren t rearranging furniture or putting decorations on the walls, we were engaged with each other. Some days we could barely get anything done around the house. How do you feel today? he asked as he poured coffee into his cup. Blissful. I replied. I missed making my own breakfast and dressing myself. I will never take for granted doing my own bed and cleaning my own house. I missed these activities. But having you here alive and beside me is essential to my mental and physical health. I have never felt so happy and content. He took a sip from his cup and I watched him as he rounded the counter. His hair was in messy spikes. He had on a black jersey robe opened, revealing his muscular chest and striped undershorts. I turned around on the stool to face him. He pressed his hands along my cheek and kissed my forehead. Well, I think our childless days have come to an end Malakaih chuckled. Why, are we adopting? I mocked. Nope, our son Alexander has arrived from his vacation he laughed hard and I ran to the room to put on something less revealing. Was our two weeks up so fast? I could hear Alex s laughter in the living room. I was a bit embarrassed to head out, but I took a deep breath and smiled as I headed out the door. I walked down the hallway slowly and caught a glimpse of him sitting on the living room sofa, talking cheerfully to his brother. Malakaih threw a wink at me as I walked towards them. Hey Sis, I ve missed you? he exclaimed jumping out of the sofa and giving me one of those crushing bear hugs. He was so happy.

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Okay, Al, too tight! I couldn t breathe. He felt stronger somehow. He chuckled and set me gently on the floor. Malakaih shook his head in amusement. I leaned against Malakaih and he wrapped his arms around me. Jules, I wanted to ask you something. Alex s face was worried for a moment but the smile never left his lips. He was almost mischievous. Yeah, what s up? Well, I wanted to invite my friend over for dinner. He was going to be in town today and If it s a guy, then I think you should ask the head of house here, don t you think? It was something my mother used to say when she didn t know what to answer. Oh, no, don t throw the decision on me. You re the one playing hostess for an evening you have to decide if you have the energy for it or if you d rather leave it for another day. Malakaih complained. He kissed my cheek trying to persuade me. He couldn t get more fatherly than that. Alex watched us silently but his smile was still in place. I cleared my throat. I wasn t planning anything this evening and it would be nice to have a guest in my home for the first time. Okay, but he ll have to wait till about six this evening. That will give me enough time to make dinner. Does he eat a lot like you? I poked. Yep, he sure does. So, you d better make enough for us teenage boys. He was ecstatic. Malakaih smiled approvingly. Wow, you sure are a good mom! he whispered into my ear. I liked the sound of that. I turned around to face him. Malakaih you d better get dressed I have some grocery shopping to do. I kissed his lips. Why don t you come and dress me he teased. I couldn t say no to that. Alex seemed amused with the sports channel as we headed off to the bedroom. * * *

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I was pleased when we got home and everything was spotless. Alex had cleaned the house. He looked so funny with a half apron wrapped around his waist and yellow latex gloves. I had to take a picture. Malakaih stood beside him and they posed into a funny contortion. I had gotten the family I yearned for. Alex went to shower and I started to put away the groceries. While the lasagna and rolls were baking I made a salad and set the table for the four of us. The desert was already made and ready in the fridge. I had set the wine on the table like Craig had taught me and Malakaih was impressed with how everything was looking. Of course, I didn t mention where I had learned these things. I turned off the oven and had Malakaih pull everything out. He was very pleased with this task. I told Alex to pull potato chips and dips and to set them on the counter and I headed to the shower. I was the only one left. It was 5:30 pm and I didn t know what to expect since this was my first time entertaining. I was a bit nervous and I joined Alex at the sofa. He started to scream something about a foul play . Malakaih disagreed immediately as they repeated the move. I sat quietly not knowing this alien language. I was never into sports but it looked interesting. Maybe I would have Alex explain it to me another day.

The door bell rang and we jumped to our feet laughing. Malakaih put his arm around my waist and Alex went for the door. Hey Craig, I m glad you made it! he mocked punch Craig in the stomach and Craig faked a blow to his chest. I stood motionless. My mouth hung to the floor. My heart fluttered and my heartbeat raced like a wild stallion. The flow of blood to my head felt like boiling water. It s just one person don t worry. Malakaih whispered in my ear. Alex walked him towards us. Bro, meet Craig, he s the agent I was telling you about, at Dad s place. He s also the one to take care of our Jules when we weren t around. Malakaih extended his hand and they shook each other s hand.

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It s a pleasure, to finally meet you, Craig. I imagine you ve already made your acquaintance with my wife Juliana. Around here we call her Jules. Malakaih kissed my cheek and I could see Craig s eyes narrow slightly. I extended my hand towards him. Nice to see you again, Craig. The pleasure is all mine, Jules he said as he lifted my hand gently to his lips and kissed it. My face grew hotter and my heart fluttered. Malakaih s body tensed, his arm felt tighter around my waist. Okay, I guess that s enough for introductions. Who s ready for lasagna? I m starving. Alex interceded. He patted Craig s shoulder, Jules lasagna is wickedly delicious he said as he motioned Craig towards the table. Actually, it had that effect on me too. Let s eat Craig said as he winked at me. I shifted from Malakaih s tight grip before he could ask me anything and headed for the kitchen. I cut out three big even pieces and one small piece and garnished them like I had seen on the food channel. Malakaih helped with the bread and the salad. He was silent and thoughtful. My mind drifted to when Alex mentioned that Craig was an agent. Before Malakaih headed towards the dining room I whispered into his ear. Does he mean undercover agent? Malakaih leaned towards my ear. Yep, how did you end up making dinner for him? I ll explain later I said as I picked up two of the plates and Malakaih helped with the other two. Alex was joking and laughing when Malakaih set the plates in front of him. I set the plate on Craig s placemat and he breathed in slightly taking in the vanilla and coconut perfume I wore. Malakaih didn t notice. Their eyes grew wide at the large even portions I served. I knew Craig didn t eat this much when we were at his yacht but I guess he did when he was alone. Wow, Jules, this looks delicious. Alex exclaimed in delight. Craig followed soon after with new and old praises I had heard before. - 216 -

Dinner went smoothly and almost all the lasagna was gone. Craig shared stories about places he s been on and off the job. So, Craig, Malakaih started to ask curiously. Why have you stayed so long with this case? Malakaih, I can t give you all the details because the case is still open he took another roll of bread and chewed off half as he stared at me. Oh, I see Malakaih looked disappointed but he didn t notice Craig s diamond blue eyes staring directly at me, but Alex did. Craig, have you ever fallen in love with someone on the job? Those female FBI agents are so hot in uniform Alex teased. Ah! Ugh, Alex! Leave those guy conversations for when you two are alone. I protested. Actually, I have fallen in love but not with one of my fellow co-workers. I fell in love with the one person I had to protect. It s the greatest of taboos on our FBI list, but it happens more than you think Craig s stare was even more intense. I blushed and looked away. Malakaih lifted his head to his comment. Oh, really ? Alex looked at me. Okay, I think this conversation has gotten out of hand. Who s up for dessert? I said as I stood from the table. Everyone raised their hands like children. I laughed at their expressions. I love listening to her laugh. I can t get over it. She s so happy here. I m sure glad I came. Seeing her so healthy and full of life has been exceptionally motivating. Craig said as I rummaged through the refrigerator. Alex agreed. Malakaih was silent. The parfait glasses I had bought at the mall were filled with Maggie s specialty. There was one white layer, one yellow layer and wafers and bananas all in between. All I had to do was cover the top with whipped cream and a cherry and place the long spoons into the glasses like Maggie had told me to do. I started to finish off the parfaits and their conversation continued. Yeah, haven t you Alex? Craig reasoned. - 217 -

Who is she? Do we know her? Malakaih s train of thought drifted to his prior question. The two teenagers in men s bodies fell silent. I guess this was my cue. I walked towards them carrying all four parfait glasses securely like my mother had taught me. Waitressing was a nightmare and I pitied the maids that helped through the long dinners and parties at Mr. Lucians place. They stared in awe at their dessert but Craig s face was the most outstanding. He was the first to start. Mmmm! This is delicious. It even beats the one person whom I thought could make banana pudding so special. Craig said with his mouth full. Who your mother? Alex teased. Alex! I shook my head, Thanks, Craig. I m glad you enjoy it. I m calling it Maggie s special. I was almost smug. That s a wonderful name for it. He agreed taking in another two spoonfuls. So, do we know her? Malakaih asked for the third time as he motioned with his spoon. There was a tiny bit of annoyance in his voice. Alex cleared his throat and moved his shoulders and his neck like he was stretching them ready to move on the first sign of violence. I remembered Craig s letter. I knew he wasn t going to lie again about what he felt for me. The words I remember the most were:

I will fight against the ocean itself for your love. Like you said, I·m no coward. ´
I took in a deep breath and stared at my parfait glass. Malakaih, that s a very good question. Do you remember what I did when I worked at your father s place? Craig was going to lay it on him smoothly. Yes, I think you were my father s financial advisor and sometimes counselor. Why did your father trust me? Craig asked again. - 218 -

Malakaih crossed his arms and rubbed his chin. Because you never lied to him even if it what you said would cause you trouble. Your honesty he finished off saying. Malakaih gave Craig a hard stare. What are you getting at? he said coldly. Malakaih, I would never lie to you and I respect you not only because you chose to be different than your father. I respect you because you hold in your hands the one thing I love the most on the face of this planet. I made the mistake once of lying to your father when he asked me the first time, for fear of losing that one thing I loved but when he asked me for the second time, I knew I was no coward and I said the truth even if it would kill me. This question that you ask is no different than what your father asked me Craig eyes were cobalt when he spoke to Malakaih. Malakaih s eyes were deep green and the specks in his eyes had turned to flames. What was the question my father asked? I took Malakaih s hand and intertwined my fingers through his. He looked at me and smiled pressing his lips against my hand. Craig continued. He asked me if I loved your wife, Juliana Craig s voice was calm but firm. Malakaih s grip on my hand grew tight. And what did you say? Malakaih inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. I said, Yes, I love Juliana with my very life and swore that I would protect her no matter what Craig looked at me as he spoke. Why is Craig doing this? Malakaih turned to face me completely he put his other hand to my face and caressed me gently. I closed my eyes at his tender touch. It sent butterflies to my stomach and made my heart skip a beat. Jules, did you know that Craig felt this way for you? I opened my eyes and kissed his hand. At first I didn t know, he hid it well and I didn t believe him. But then he proved his words with actions Malakaih interrupted me. That s all I wanted to know, Jules. Thank you he leaned to kiss my lips gently. He turned towards Craig. Malakaih let go of my hand and extended it to him. Craig hesitated momentarily but then took his hand and shook it hard. Thank you, I am eternally indebted to you. I could only do so much, and like Alex had said - 219 -

you were there when we weren t. Thank you for your honesty and for taking care of her, but I have one question for you? Malakaih added. Go, ahead Well, why did you leave her alone before the wedding if you knew that she was planning on jumping? Malakaih asked a very good question. Craig raised one eyebrow and responded with a question of his own Why did you make her believe that she was hallucinating when you visited her at night? That took me by surprise. My eyes widened and I stared at Malakaih blankly. Malakaih s face looked perplexed. The tension between them shifted the mood in the air. Alex was enjoying every minute of this conversation. I glared at Alex for setting me up like this. He smiled and winked making me angrier. This wasn t going to help at all and I wanted this evening to end on a happy note. None of them where going to take that away from me. I hit my hands against the table and stood staring at all three. I had three pairs of shocked eyes on me. Why don t you both shut up? I demanded angrily. Alex started to laugh, Alex you re sleeping outside with the crocks tonight I said scolding but trying to set the mood to a different tone. I smiled at my determination and they busted out laughing. You are right, Jules. I m sorry. Malakaih stood from the chair and took me in his arms kissing me like no one was watching. I wished everyone disappeared. Yuck, come on guys, there s children in the room. Alex complained as he walked towards the living room. For what I see you are the only teenager Craig protested in self defense and he followed Alex to the couch. I could tell by the sound of Craig s voice he was a bit annoyed at Malakaih s expression of love. Each one took an extreme of the couch. Malakaih and I stared at each other. There was no room for the both of us. I headed to the kitchen and opened - 220 -

the bags of chips and other goodies and poured them into bowls. Malakaih opened the three different jars of dip and set them on the coffee table. Then he sat between them pushing the table with his feet. I set the chips and goodies down and sat on the floor between Malakaih s legs. I could hear Craig exhale loudly. This was torture for him and I thought that s what he gets for trying to mess up my evening. The television was large and I had the best seat in the house. The three men seemed surprised when the movie I wanted to watch was an action film. The rest of the evening was uneventful.

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Chapter 42 A new challenge
I didn t speak to Alex for one whole day. I was mad at him for setting up that confrontation between Malakaih and Craig. It wasn t fair for the both of them. I waited for Malakaih to head out on an errand to speak with Alex. He was pulling the trimmer from the shed when I found him. Alex I called out. Yeah, Jules he was sad. I want to talk to you I kept my voice calm. He looked at the trimmer in his hand Now? Yes, now, silly? I laughed and pulled on his arm. He put it down and walked with me to the stairs. We sat down looking out to the trees that outlined the acreage. Jules, I m really sorry about the other day. I didn t think you would get mad at me. I thought you would want to see him again. Yes, I was mad at you but not for inviting him. I sighed. I really want Alex to understand that I didn t want them fighting or arguing. I knew my place and Craig did too. Then, why are you mad at me? I don t want them to feel provoked around my presence. It s not fair for either of them to feel like that and that s precisely what you were doing. Think about Malakaih for instance. He knows what it means to love in silence. You know how hard it was for him to control himself every time your father explained in details what he wanted to do with me? Alex s eyebrows creased in the middle and his lips pressed together. He was analyzing what I was saying. Alex, I know that Craig is your true friend, something you probably never had and I don t mind that. He is my friend too. But he means something different for Malakaih. Craig is like a new challenge. He s never going to see Craig the same way you do. Do you understand what I m saying? I leaned against his shoulder. - 222 -

Yeah, I wasn t thinking about Malakaih when Craig asked me if he could come over. I knew he wanted to see you and that you probably wanted to see him too he paused for a moment and turned to look at me. What does Craig mean to you? I swallowed hard. This was going to be tricky and I remembered how devious Alex could get when he wanted to. Craig is important. When I lost Malakaih, I thought that maybe I could give myself another chance at love but I couldn t. Malakaih is tattooed to my heart. I bleed Malakaih and when I cried I cried for Malakaih. Craig tried really hard to distract me. He did everything possible for me to love him, but I was constantly comparing him to Kaih. That s not fair to Craig and I ve already told him on more than one occasion that I choose Malakaih over him. So, I think that if you want to be a true friend and a true brother and if you really do love me, you won t put them into that situation again and you won t ever provoke them. I exhaled. I hoped I had nipped this in the bud. Okay, He smiled mischievously. So when you say that Craig distracted you does that mean that he kissed you and stuff? Alex! I pinched him on the arm and he yelped. You re impossible. I stood to go into the house. He caught me from behind and gave me one of his bear hugs. I m sorry Jules, please don t be mad. I know what you mean. I won t put them or you on the spot again. Okay? he held me tightly until I agreed. Thanks, Alex I said calmly with a smile on my face. He let go of me and headed back to the trimmer. Lunch was served on the table. My famous grilled cheese sandwiches were stacked into a pyramid. A large pitcher filled with strawberry lemonade and a lot of ice for this hot weather. Florida was scorching. I sat on the couch waiting for Malakaih to arrive. I ran outside when I saw the Toyota Camry pull up to the house, but I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw another car pull up behind him. Malakaih turned off the car and hurried out to greet me. He caught me in his arms twirling me around and kissing me passionately. I missed you today and you don t know how good it feels to see you so happy to - 223 -

see me. He kissed me again. I didn t care who was in the other car. I kissed him back ardently wrapping my arms around his neck and lingering on his lips. His scent was so arousing. Our visitor cleared his throat and Malakaih let me down gently still kissing me on the cheek. I felt dizzy either from the scorching heat or the intensity of our greeting. We turned to face him and I wasn t surprised when it was Craig. Hi Craig! I said waving. I didn t want him to touch me. Malakaih was pleased with my reaction and we headed inside to the coolness of the air conditioning. Awesome, grilled cheese sandwiches Malakaih eyes were bright and he reminded me of Jonas. I felt sad I hadn t had the chance to talk to him and I didn t want to open the box he sent me for fear that I would start crying. Help yourself! I said as I went to get Alex. I smiled at the sight; he was totally covered in pieces of grass. He turned off the noisy trimmer when he saw me. Come inside for lunch. I made grilled cheese sandwiches and strawberry lemonade and if you don t hurry up Kaih and Craig will finish them off I warned. Thanks, Jules, but they aren t going to finish them off without a fight! He dropped the trimmer and headed for the back door taking his shoes off before he ran inside. I shook my head, he was such a kid. I waited a minute before I would go in to the chaos. When I came inside they were eyeballing the last grilled cheese sandwich. Alex already had two in his hands and I imagined Craig and Kaih both ate three. When Alex stuck one in his mouth and all three were ready to battle over it I smoothly slipped passed their hands and grabbed the sandwich. I guess this one s for me. I smiled and lifted my chin in victory. Alex and Craig grunted but Malakaih enjoyed it. That s my wife he said proudly. Alex finished his lunch and headed outside to finish the yard. Craig followed him and Malakaih sat at the table sipping the strawberry-lemonade.

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How was your day my love? I asked sitting on his lap. To be honest, it didn t go very well today he frowned and looked away. Why? I put one hand on his cheek and made him face me. Tell me about it I went to run errands and Craig called me and told me that he had some new information for me. That s how we met up. My father is still searching for you. He knows Alex is still alive and he thinks you left with him that night or with Craig I didn t like the way that last part sounded. Oh, I see. Well, has he found out where we are? No, he sent Jerrod and hired a few others of his acquaintances to search. The more people there are in a search party the faster the find. That worries us. Craig is probably talking with Alex about it now. Alex and Craig are more in tuned to what my father might be thinking. I m worried about you too. He pushed a strand of my hair behind my ear. Worried about me? I didn t understand the way he said it. I don t want us to move again but if we have to... This is our home. I want to stay here with you for as long as we both shall live. I want you to be happy and for you to live a normal life. I don t want him or anyone else to come and tarnish our happy home. This is a place of peace and joy. Humph! I even told Craig that if he couldn t behave himself around you, he wasn t allowed in my home. The look on Malakaih s face was mixed between worried and proud. Way to go, Kaih! I cheered. He laughed and raised his hand for a high five. I smacked his hand but slipped my fingers through his. How about we celebrate this under a cool shower? he instantly let go of my hand and put his arm under my legs to lift me. He carried me to our bathroom and the world disappeared around us

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Chapter 43 Unexpected
A few months passed by and our home was starting to feel more like heaven. Craig visited off and on and I wasn t surprised that he kept true to his promise. Alex was also very busy; when he wasn t sleeping he was working out in the yard or taking some night courses that Craig had suggested. Since, Malakaih worked at home, we had more time for each other. I hadn t been sleeping for a few nights and Malakaih decided that I should spend my sleepless nights doing something I would enjoy, like a past time. When he stepped out to run errands he bought me a gift . It was wrapped in silver lining and tied with a purple ribbon. Kaih, you shouldn t have! I said when he held out the box for me. He smiled with enthusiasm. I took the gift from his hands it was a bit heavy. I hope you like it. He said as I opened the packaging carefully. I looked at it puzzled it was another box and inside, it had two very thick books. I examined it carefully. The cover said My Perfect Stranger by Lunna S. I read the prelude and was suddenly thrilled. I couldn t wait to start. Malakaih loved how I received the gift. So is that the way you are always going to receive gifts? he asked as I served dinner. What do you mean? I was confused. Well, he laughed. You opened the gift carefully and folded the wrapper neatly and put it to one side. Then you examined the gift with cautious and perplexed eyes. I could have sworn your eyes changed colors. You eyed it and studied it over and over and out of the blue your excitement burst. It was like a finale with fireworks. He explained moving his hands like bursting fireworks. I had to set the casserole dish down before I laughed hysterically. I guess that s how I react to books, especially this one. I had read about it on the internet and its super popular I giggled.

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We enjoyed our little candlelight dinner since Alex was having a school night. We talked about the books we had read in high school, like Shakespeare s Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and a few others. Malakaih especially liked the Count of Monte Cristo, but he preferred mystery and scientific books. He loved math and science and I was all about the arts, and just like my mother I enjoyed cooking. We cuddled on the living room floor listening to a few CD s that Malakaih had bought when he was out searching for my gift, when a thought occurred to me. Kaih ? I asked softly Yeah, babe He was reading the lyrics to a song he liked. Will I ever be able to be out and about on my own someday? You know like running errands or doing last minute groceries or something like that? I realized I was never alone. Is there a reason why you and Alex coordinate so that I m never left alone? Jules, isn t it kind of obvious, why we don t leave you alone? It s still not entirely safe for you. What if you were to run into Jerrod, for example? What would you do? he tried reasoning with me. I m not that worried about Jerrod. I rolled my eyes remembering our last conversation. You are too trusting. Remember that he can be cruel if he has too. Alex s scars are proof of that. I shuddered remembering Alex s bloodied body hanging from his arms in the torture room. Malakaih was right and I couldn t argue with him, but there was something else I had in mind. I understand but sooner or later I m going to have to go the gynecologist and I don t think either of you want to be there with me. This was just a hunch. I didn t ever think about going to a doctor s but television was having its effect on me. He was totally silent for two whole songs. When they finished he lifted my head from his chest and sat crossed legged to face me. I mimicked him. You know something, I ve been observing you since I was eleven and I thought I had everything covered, but can you believe me when I say that I never - 227 -

thought of that? he gave me one of his spellbinding half smiles. I wanted to forget the conversation and head to a more biological topic. I threw my arms around his neck and kissed the tip of his nose So does that mean that you will go with me to see a gynecologist? Yep, your health is important to me. I m there to support you emotionally too. Wow I was impressed. He lifted both eyebrows at my expression. You are a perfectionist when it comes to your husbandly duties. I teased. Oh, yes I am. But there are some things that need constant practice. Oh, really, and what are those things ? I was serious. If there was something I could help him with I would. He put his hand on my neck and pulled me closer to him. His lips were only a hairline distance from mine. I was mush when he did that. Let me show you he whispered. I blushed at my innocence. * * *

Malakaih leaned over the kitchen counter watching as I ate my breakfast. He was wearing a permanent smile for the past few days. He just stood there watching me. When he was working in his office over the sketches and I would take him coffee or juice he would do the exact same thing. I felt like he wanted to tell me something but he didn t. It was driving me insane. I felt moody and after eating my cereal I ranted about my jeans not fitting. Kaih, I m starting my diet today! I confessed. He put down his coffee cup and standing behind me, he wrapped his arms around my waist. He leaned his chin on my shoulder. Why? You look wonderfully and deliciously healthy it s almost a crime he whispered into my ear.

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I don t know. I think I ve better get a docs opinion and maybe a nutritionist too. I don t want to get chubby I worked hard to get the body I had. My jeans are a bit too tight. I argued. He swayed me from side to side. Oh, Jules, you sure are silly. But I m a step ahead of you today. I remembered what you said about the doc and I already made an appointment. he kissed my jaw and nipped at my ear lobe sending hot flashes through my body. It took me a second to compose myself. For when? For today at three o clock. He turned me around pressing me against him. But there is one thing and I know you re probably going to get annoyed about it. His eyebrows furrowed. What? I asked curious. I can t go with you today. he pressed his lips. Why? I inhaled holding back my annoyance. I had to be patient.

Craig wants me to stop by at his office. Alex is going with you and he s excited about it too. It s like you re his mother and your taking him out for ice cream. He chuckled. Okay I sighed. * * *

Alex its cold in here I complained. He threw his arm around me. We arrived an hour early since it was my first time here. I filled out the paperwork and handed to the receptionist. The doctor s office was cozy but cold. There was no one left except Alex and me waiting to see the doc. A nurse opened the door that led to a hallway; she was very pretty with black hair and pitch black eyes like my mothers. Mrs. Lucians, the doctor is ready to see you she called out. We stood up together. Alex winked at her and the nurse glared at Alex... No wonder he wanted to come.

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I will only be in a moment. He said with a smile. His grey-blue eyes glowed but the nurse ignored him. Malakaih had warned me that Alex would go in to make sure everything was okay. So, I was expecting it. The nurse nodded and motioned for us to follow her through the hallway. We passed several rooms which the nurse opened for Alex to check. When all was done, I entered alone to the doctor s office. He was an older oriental looking gentleman, maybe in his late sixties. His hair was almost all white. He smiled and motioned for me to sit on the bed. The paper crackled under my weight. Hello, Mrs. Lucians. I m Dr. Sung. I m happy to finally meet you. Your husband has been calling me and telling me about his concerns and yours of course. I ll get to those in a moment He said warmly. Hello, you can call me Juliana I said. I was very nervous. Dr. Sung asked a lot of questions that I answered yes or no to. Then he went through the physical exam. I was pleased when he didn t go anywhere near my abdomen. He sent for the nurse to get me so I could give him a urine and blood sample. I went through that even without wincing. The nurse took me back to the waiting room and Alex stood when I entered the room. The nurse completely ignored him. I took the seat next to where he stood. Woo, someone s got a crush! I teased. Alex face turned a beet red. N-no, I d-don t even k-know her n-name! he stuttered. I laughed hysterically and the receptionist shushed me. He sat down on the chair beside me and wrapped his arm around me. S-so, how did it g-go? he asked. It went well. I m still nervous. Doc said he will see me in a few. Alex s hand rubbed my cold arm. I felt so tiny beside him. Remind me next time to bring a sweater. He nodded and stared at the television set on the corner. He looked a lot like his father except that his hair was a bit darker and his eyes were grayish-blue. I remembered the story the seamstress had told me. He was the product of something horrific, but here he was before me, a trained killing - 230 -

machine turned into a teddy bear. I was watching his expressions as the news came on. The camera man was focusing on a long line that waited to enter a building. The news lady spoke about unemployment and how it was increasing steadily. Alex s eyes squinted at the screen and then he stood and walked closer to the television. His eyes narrowed and he clenched his fist. His jaw flexed at whatever he saw on the flat screen. The door to the hallway opened, just when I was about to ask him what he saw. The nurse looked at Alex standing near the television almost scared. Alex eased his tension and managed a smile. She didn t smile back and turned to face me. Mrs. Lucians, the doctor is ready for you again. I followed her to the doctor s office. The doctor sat at his desk and asked me to have a seat in a chair. I obeyed. Juliana, you are in perfect health. Your husband said that you were worried that you were gaining weight. I m I correct? he asked. Yes, that s correct. I was wondering if I should see a nutritionist, too. Dr. Sung put down his pen and smiled at me. Juliana, a nutritionist s expertise is essential when you will be eating for two. I guess you should expect to gain another 25 pounds within the next seven to eight months. I will give you a prescription for a very good prenatal vitamin. My heart started racing. I could feel as the blood rushed through my body. My throat was suddenly dry but my palms and forehead were wet. I could barely swallow the lump in my throat. I felt cold and hot and everything in between. I was happy and sad at the same time. I couldn t think and I couldn t speak. Yes, Juliana, I guess I should say it officially. You are pregnant. By the information you gave me I think you are about two to three months along. I m surprised you haven t had morning sickness, but some women are lucky that way. We have a wonderful obstetrician here and I know you will like her. Everyone He blabbered on. Oh, I-I d-don t k-know w-what to s-say I was stuttering worse than Alex.

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Will you be carrying the child to full-term? You do understand my question? he asked. I was almost insulted by it. Y-y-yes, t-that is n-never an o-option! I said a tad bit louder than I wanted to. The doctor smiled and wrote the prescription down for the prenatal vitamins. He was blabbering again and I could barely make out his words T-thank you . I said softly and shook his hand. The nurse was walking me down the hallway and I wanted to get the information that Alex needed. E-excuse me n-nurse she stopped before opening the door. W-what was your n-name again? I held my breath to stop the fluttering and the stuttering. I wanted to tell my husband of how wonderful I was treated today. Isn t that your husband outside? She looked at me confused. No, actually, that s Alexander, my brother in-law, but we call him Alex. We re just close like that. I guess I should say he s almost like my son. I smiled. Her dark eyes glistened. Her pale complexion exposed her blushed cheeks. My name is Xiondra. It s spelled X-I-O-N-D-R-A. The X sounds like Z where I come from. But I prefer to be called Xion. I smiled at her explanation. It was more than enough. It s a pleasure to meet you Xion. Could I get your phone number? I would like for you to be here on my visits to the ob. Oh, thanks. Sure, that would be awesome. I don t think the doctor would mind either. Here it is. She took out a small notebook and wrote down her name and her number. I thanked her and we walked out to the waiting room and Alex stood immediately. With the mix-up corrected, Xion blushed at Alex s stare. He was pleased with her reaction. Have a nice afternoon. See you again soon, Mrs. Lucians. She waved as we walked out. I almost dragged Alex out of the waiting room and out into the scorching hot parking lot. We were both quiet the whole way home. Alex sighed lost in his thoughts. I was worried about how to give Malakaih the news. But then again, by the way he

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had been staring at me the past couple of weeks, he already knew and I just needed to confirm it. I let my shoulders fall and my stomach growled. An extra twenty-five pounds. I thought out loud. Alex looked at me from the corner of his eye but kept his face towards the road...

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Chapter 44 Explanations
Alex and I sat in the car before heading inside. Jules, why are we so quiet, today? he asked innocently. I thought about it for a minute. I don t know Alex, maybe it s because you have something to tell me and I have something to tell you, but neither of us know how to say it. I puckered my brow. Yeah, that sounds like it. He nodded looking towards the front of the house. Do you have bad news or good news? I guess my news is good news, what s yours? I rested my head against the seat and turned to face him. I guess my news is bad news. You want me to go first? he pouted. I nodded yes and he took my hand. Jules, when I stood to look at the television. Jerrod stuck out like a sore thumb. He actually wasn t in the line he was looking around and talking to people. I m really worried and probably Craig has already noticed and that s why he wanted Kaih to meet with him today. I really hate this, but we might need to move, again. You know how Kaih feels about our home and he doesn t want anyone to change that. I frowned heavily. That was bad news, especially with a little one on the way. I touched my belly in an automatic reaction. I squeezed his hand and he smiled trying not to look sad, but I knew what would cheer him up. Do you want to hear the good news or should I wait to get the whole story from Kaih? I asked. Uh uh, I told you the bad news and I know I shouldn t have. So know you re going to have to spit it out! he teased. First, the doctor said that I was going to gain twenty-five more pounds I smiled. Wow but why? he blinked in confusion.

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and that I would have to see a nutritionist because I was going to have to eat for TWO I said the last word slowly and lifted two fingers. His eyes filled with excitement. YES! he said moving his arms in a winning motion. I m going to be an uncle again. I got to get out of the car! he exclaimed happily. He practically jumped out of the car and starting making a ruckus, screaming Yahoo at the top of his lungs and moving his hands frantically above his head. If that really made him happy I wonder what he will do when I give him the second news. Alex, that s not everything! I yelled jumping out of the car too and slamming the door. What, there s more? he grabbed my arms gently but he meant it like in surprise. His eyes were almost silver against the sun s brightness. Yeah, if you let me go I can show you. He crossed his arms across his chest and was almost impatient. I fumbled through my purse and took out the little piece of paper and handed it to him. He opened it carefully and examined the name and the number. Xiondra he said out loud. He got the name right on the first try. If I had a heart monitor, he would be going into cardiac arrest. No, you didn t! He said not in a bad way but like in disbelief. You are the greatest sister-in-law on the planet! He shouted. Alex grabbed my face and kissed me, not gently, but in an emotional outburst. Thank you, thank you, thank you! he said and kissed me again. I stood motionless. The next time I give him news like this I ll make sure I m twenty feet away. What happened next was totally unexpected. Malakaih pushed on Alex s shoulder and gave him one good hard whack on the face. Alex fell to the ground his face in disbelief. He touched his bloodied lip and then started to laugh, again. Malakaih was livid standing in front of me like a shield. I could only imagine the flames coming from his eyes. What the hell are you doing kissing my wife? He shouted at Alex shoving his fist in the air. Alex stood and before Malakaih could react. He bear hugged his

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brother and set him on the floor, again. Malakaih was in shock with his brother s reaction. Bro, I can t tell you! You re going to have to hear it from her. This is so exciting! he exclaimed kissing the paper I had given him and running into the house. Malakaih turned to face me, a confused expression on his face. I could see where his mind was going. So I pulled the paper work that the doctor had given me and I handed it to him. He took it, without looking at it and shoved it under his arm. He closed the car door and stood with his arms crossed like waiting for an explanation. My stomach growled again, and I was a bit annoyed that he reacted like this. I took in a deep breath and exhaled. Kaih, could we talk about this inside? It s really, really hot out here and I m starving. I reasoned. He nodded and walked in front of me up the steps and opened the door. His brow was puckered with concern, but he didn t even look at the papers. I put my things down on the side of the door and took off my shoes. Ah Air conditioning. I sighed. I walked to the kitchen and poured myself a big glass of milk and started to prepare a ham and cheese sandwich. Malakaih leaned against the counter tapping his fingers with impatience. I took a big gulp of milk and then broke a piece of the sandwich with my fingers and shoved it in my mouth. His pressed lips twitched in amusement but he tried keeping a straight face while I finished my snack. He waited the whole time in the same position. I was still hungry I headed towards the cupboard again and pulled out the peanut butter. For some weird reason I wanted a peanut butter pickle. I rummaged through the refrigerator for the crunchy pickles and smiled when I found them. I stuck a spoon in the peanut butter and spread it on the sliced pickle. Malakaih lifted one eyebrow and made a disgusted look but held his position. I wasn t hungry anymore and I threw the rest away. He followed me patiently to the couch and I sat down and motioned for him to sit beside me patting the soft leather couch.

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Okay, you aren t under the scorching sun anymore and you aren t hungry anymore. I m still waiting for an explanation as to why my brother was kissing you like that. He was monotone. I took in a deep breath and took the papers from under his arm. You probably already know and you have been keeping your suspicions from me. And if you are going to act like this then I might as well tell you. I don t want you bust a vein. I took in another deep breath and he half smiled melting my insides. Your brother is happy because because you are going to be a father There I said it. I took in a deep breath and waited for him to go mad. Malakaih s face went flushed. All the bronze skin on his face and lips turned to white. He gasped and tried breathing. His lips trembled and he couldn t even blink. He caught his breath but it quickened. Malakaih are you alright? I asked touching his forehead and tracing his white lips with my fingers. Tears filled his green eyes and he suddenly pressed me against his chest. His body quivered with emotion. His arms were wrapped around me tightly. I couldn t tell if he was happy or if he was sad. All he did was cry. I pulled him away to look at his face. Are you mad? I asked softly putting my hands on his cheeks. His eyes were red from crying and he sniffled lightly. I brushed my fingers wiping his tears. I couldn t see the answer in his eyes. Malakaih, are you mad that I m pregnant? I asked again. No, I m so happy. I don t know what to say. I don t know where to begin. He kissed me softly. The color gradually returned to his face and lips. He started to get up and plopped back down on the couch. Whoa, I m dizzy he said. Put your head between your knees. It helps. I demanded. He was swaying a bit, but he did as I said and he started to cry again. I patted his back and crooned softly until he regained his composure. The doorbell rang and Alex shouted from his bedroom I ll get it . He walked towards the door and saw Malakaih s tear stained face. It s alright bro, I m not mad at you he said reassuringly. Half his face was swollen and his lip was a wine red. I covered my mouth as I gasped in shock at the damage Malakaih could do in one angry blow. What would our visitor think?

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The doorbell rang again and someone yelled Pizza from behind the door. Malakaih and I both stared at each other in shock. Alex opened the door and Craig was standing there in his sport t-shirt and jeans. Three large boxes of pizza and two medium ones were balancing on one hand and under his arm where two Cokes. I wondered how he touched the doorbell. Hey, Alex, I brought dinner! he said as Alex started to help him out. Ah, what happen to you? he asked as he looked at Alex s face. Ah, thanks man. I don t think that Jules was up for cooking today. Alex ignored his question. I wondered why and suddenly understood. If Craig found out that Alex kissed me, he would probably react the same way Malakaih did. What? Jules punched you? I doubt that! Craig joked. No, he s right! I did hit him but I didn t punch him. It was more like a hit with a metal baseball bat. I lied. I know you could get violent at times, Jules, but this time you jumped the gun. He laughed. Malakaih stood from the couch trying to hide his tears to no avail. Hello Kaih. How are you doing? Craig nodded at Malakaih and looked at me again What you hit him, too? Nope, he s just overwhelmed with excitement I said as put my arms around my husband. Craig s bodied tensed a tad bit when Malakaih smiled and pulled on my chin to kiss my lips. Craig put his hand on his mouth and pressed downward towards his chin trying to cover his annoyance. I noticed he was letting a bit of his mustache and beard grow out. Well, why don t we talk about today s event over dinner? He volunteered. Craig was already like part of the family and he helped me pull dishes from the kitchen. This reminded me of the two weeks I spent on his yacht. He smiled I guess he remembered too. I blushed and tried refreshing myself by getting ice cubes from the freezer. Malakaih was putting some sort of concoction on Alex s face. It almost looked like a form of apology. We set the plates and ice filled glasses on the table and everyone including me started to dig in.

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When everyone was entertained eating. I started the conversation. I wasn t going to put Alex on the spot. He had already told me his side I wanted to hear what Craig had told Malakaih. So, why doesn t someone start by telling me what s going on? I said abruptly. They shared glances and I felt sad that I was the only girl. She would probably be as worried as me. Craig started first. Juliana, have you ever seen pictures of the Blue Ridge mountains? I knew he was going to try to throw me the bad news like a soft ball but I was beyond that now. There was something much more precious to take care of. I touched my belly. Craig, I don t want to sound rude but spit it out! I tried to make my voice come out smoothly but firm. Okay, if that s what you want, then I ll tell you. His brow furrowed. He wasn t used to me being like this. Alex was sitting beside me and he nudged my leg and shot me a side glance. Craig and Malakaih were so into how to tell me what s going on that they didn t notice. Jerrod is in Florida and we think that you are in danger because he isn t alone Malakaih said through his teeth. And who is he with? He s with the same bunch of guys that you saw when you shot at the Jeep. Craig answered. He scratched his chest and fidgeted in the chair. This was something that was uncomfortable for all of us. Oh, I see. So they are armed and dangerous and I m about two months pregnant which makes it worse and now we have to move to Virginia because our lives are all in danger and we don t want them to find our little piece of heaven. I m I understanding correctly, agent Craig? I felt the anger boiling inside me but I held my breath and started to count. I didn t think that was healthy for a baby. Craig swallowed at my answer and he was speechless. I guess this wasn t the best way for him to know I was carrying a child inside me. He glared angrily at Malakaih. Like this was something really bad. Malakaih ignored his stare and turned his attention to me.

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Yep, you re right, my love and I m not going to make the same mistake again and let time slide. I we have to be prepared and keep on our toes. Craig has a nice place in Virginia, he showed me a few pictures today and I think you ll like it. At least it isn t as hot as here, but you ll have to deal with something else, the snow. Malakaih was sure of what he said. I really didn t want to move again, but I guess that this arrangement would be best. I could care less about snow, something I had never seen. Alex, I guess you are staying, right? I turned to face him. He looked up at me and smiled. Yep, I guess I am. Someone has to stay behind and keep an eye out on things. He nudged me again under the table. I smiled at our little secret. Jules, when did you find out you were pregnant? Craig finally snapped out of it. I found out today! I answered cheerfully. Wow, a baby! he sighed. He bit his lip and his eyes got all watery. Oh, man! Why out of all people did Craig have to cry too? He squared his shoulders and cleared his throat. Malakaih, mind of I step out a minute? he didn t wait for his answer and almost ran outside. Well, that was interesting! I said as I started for the bathroom. They nodded in agreement. When I returned Craig was shaking Malakaih s hand and congratulating him. Do you mind if I hug your wife? Craig asked Malakaih plainly. He hesitated for a moment Only if she wants to . Craig didn t even ask. He wrapped his arms around my waist. I could feel him slipping something in between my shirt and my jeans. I m so happy for you! he released me quickly. Alex and Malakaih helped clean up and Craig left soon after.

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Chapter 45 Another road trip
I went to my bedroom and searched for my night gown and headed to the bathroom. I wondered what was so important that Craig would break his promise. I slipped off my pants and grabbed the small note when it fell to the floor. I locked the door.

Juliana, my love, I know that I·m breaking my promise. Please don·t be mad. I am truly happy for you and for Malakaih. I will treasure your child like I treasure you. This is the family you deserve and I swear to protect it. Love you, always and forever. Craig PS: I·m sorry for breaking my promise, but I wish the child were mine.
I knew this would compromise the unity that held Malakaih and Craig together like brothers in arms. I ripped the note into little tiny pieces and flushed them down the toilet. I flushed twice to make sure that nothing was left... Within a few days we were lightly packed and ready to go. The road trip would last almost eighteen hours. I took the books that Malakaih had given me and stuffed them into my backpack. This was the perfect time to read. Alex would drive up with us and then fly down. I was worried about him but I tried my best to sound uplifting. The mood wasn t the best. Craig s Mercedes was comfortable and exceptionally clean. We drove off by 1am and Craig was the first to drive and Alex was co-pilot. I leaned my head against the pillow I had brought and rested my bare feet over Malakaih s legs. He smiled and massaged my toes until I fell asleep. I woke up and the clock on the dash said it was 5am. I couldn t believe I slept that long. Malakaih was asleep too. Craig was still at the wheel and Alex was looking at his laptop. Good morning! they said softly at the same time. - 241 -

Good morning, knuckle heads. How s the road? I asked putting a stick of gum in my mouth. Alex looked up from his laptop to face me. Craig is a very good driver and the roads are good till we hit South and North Carolina. Georgia and Florida keep their highways somewhat decent. He smiled. Oh, I have something for you. Do you want to know what your baby looks like right about now? Sure, that sounds awesome. I leaned towards the passenger seat and he showed me pictures from a website he found online. I was surprised at how little and vulnerable my baby was at this moment. Malakaih woke up I guess I was too excited. He leaned over to look at the pictures too. Alex showed them to him quickly and then changed the subject to breakfast. We stopped at a fast food restaurant and I was glad to stretch my legs and empty my bladder. I almost showered while I was in the restroom. I dried my hair with the machine and put on a bit of makeup. I looked at my complexion in the mirror. I looked full of life like I did that morning a year ago but I had gained so much more than what I had. I still missed my parents and I would have loved to have my mother with me. Their first grandchild I said out loud touching my belly. That reminded me of my own grandmother. I wondered how she was doing. I walked out of the bathroom before I got emotional and headed towards their table. They were chatting quietly until they saw me. Alex was reading the newspaper, Craig s mouth fell open and Malakaih stood to pull out the chair for me. The young couple next to us stared in my direction. The look on the woman s face was one of envy and the young man held an expression similar to Craig s. The woman nudged the young man in the ribs fiercely. He looked away. Why do you have to be so tempting? Malakaih whispered in my ear. I giggled and started on my breakfast. The time flew by quickly and Alex, punctual as ever, was rushing us. It was Malakaih s turn to drive and I was in the back with Alex. Craig explained the route we would be taking and dozed off quickly as Malakaih drove. I started to read and occasionally I would nibble on Malakaih s ear or pinch his elbow. He positioned the rearview mirror to face me. I would catch him looking at me and when I did he would blow kisses. I blew them back and kept

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reading. I was on my second book, but I couldn t concentrate. So, I decided I would sleep. It was a bit uncomfortable with Alex in the back. He was everywhere. I gave up trying not to bother him and started to poke his nose with a rolled napkin when he started to snore. Malakaih would laugh quietly trying not to wake up Craig. Then I was tired again and took a long nap. Malakaih had driven six hours stopping for a bathroom break at hour three. I woke up when the car stopped at a restaurant. We rushed through dinner, stretched out a bit and we were on the road again with Alex at the wheel, Malakaih riding shotgun and Craig with me in the back seat. The greenery was changing constantly and it was nighttime again. Malakaih was so tired he fell asleep quickly. Alex was listening to the radio with headphones. This was the longest stretch we had. We were on I-77 and it was straight and boring. Craig didn t feel tired being with me in the back. I opened my notebook and wrote:

Thanks for the note. Don·t do it again.
He smiled and rolled his eyes. He took the notebook from my hand and wrote:

Don·t count on it! Would you nibble on my ear?
After I read what he wrote, I hit him with the notebook on the head. It sounded hard and Malakaih shifted in the front seat. I pretended I was writing something and scribbled over the letters. Craig had a smirk on his face and I could tell he wanted to laugh. Occasionally I would glance at him to make sure he hadn t shifted closer to me. He respected my space and I dozed off again. We exited onto I-81 and Craig announced that we were only a few hours away. This got us excited and we were all babbling about nothing in particular. We stopped at a rest area to stretch out. Malakaih waited for me outside the bathroom. When I came out he pulled me towards a dark corner and kissed me passionately. I struggled to catch my breath.

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Get a room! I heard Alex complain. That was our cue and we laughed and ran to the car. Malakaih got to the backseat before Craig did and I was glad. Craig didn t look happy but he kept his mouth shut and faked a smile as he slipped into the driver s seat. Malakaih and I snuggled and Craig moved the rearview mirror so he couldn t watch us. Alex was entertained looking at the map. Malakaih covered us with a blanket and kissed me tenderly. I giggled and dozed off in his arms. I didn t sleep much when we started up the mountains. Our ears were adjusting to the elevation and we could barely hear each other. Craig drove silently his eyes on the winding road in front of him. We passed a small town and headed up another road. Soon we were at a driveway, and into a garage. Finally, we made it. I said as I stretched. The house was made out of wood and it was antique looking. The garage was filled with gadgets and mechanical equipment. We walked up about seven steps to reach the front door. Craig pulled keys out of his pocket. He entered first and then turned on the lights. The house was Victorian style and it was beautiful. It had hardwood floors throughout the first floor. The house had five rooms and three bathrooms. I asked Craig if he had someone to clean it and all he did was smile. I wondered. He showed us the room we would be sleeping in. It was literally the entire third floor. Everything looked so antique and feminine. I preferred the modern look but this was really nice. I would have to take the time to learn about the Victorian style homes. I examined the old pictures on the dresser. It seemed that it was Craig s parents. He looked like a younger version of the handsome man in the picture. Malakaih headed down the stairs to help with the luggage and I followed. When everyone was settled Craig offered hot chocolate and we agreed. Within half an hour everyone was heading to their bedrooms. Malakaih and I spent the first evening preoccupied with each other.

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Chapter 46 Life in Virginia

I woke up midday to the smell of chicken soup. I could never forget that smell. I looked around me to examine my surroundings. The house was even more beautiful during the day. The walls were papered with light cream and pink flowers. I looked out the round window facing the back yard. It was small and surrounded by very large trees but you could see a stable behind the trees and grazing grounds. The window to the other extreme was facing the front of the house. The driveway looked shorter during the day. Everything was different shades of green, unlike the dryness of Florida. The mountains were spectacular. I dressed in my new pair of stretch jeans and a light blue tang top. I slipped on my sneakers and head for the restroom. Everything looked like it had been restored. I took a few pictures of the room and the bathroom before I headed down the stairs. The stairs were going to be a pain. Malakaih was sitting at the breakfast table in the kitchen. He was talking to someone but I couldn t see who it was. It felt awkward being here. I stepped in and was totally surprised. Maggie! I couldn t believe she was here. Ahí, mi hija, qué bueno que estas aquí! she hugged me tightly and motioned for me to sit down. Then she put a bowl of her chicken soup on table in front of me and buttered bread rolls. It smelled delicious. Jules, isn t it nice to know that we get to have Maggie again? Malakaih said stealing one of my bread rolls. Maggie hit his hand with the wooden spoon and Malakaih grimaced dropping it into the breadbasket. Baby need to eat she scolded him. She smiled at me patted my hand and off she went to her chores, unstoppable as always. Where s Alex and Craig? I asked sipping on the soup. Malakaih rest his head on his hand. - 245 -

They went to get some things that we need. He was quiet about it. I wondered what those things were. I finished off lunch and washed the dishes before Maggie would come to get them. She would have a fit every time I tried to help her. Malakaih wanted to show me the horses at the stable and I followed him out. We walked a few minutes through a trail in the woods behind the house. We arrived at the stable. It was painted white and just like Craig s car it was spotless. Maybe he had an obsession with cleanliness and order like both Malakaih and I had. Alex was totally the contrary. There were five horses. I couldn t tell what kind. I just knew that they were horses. They shifted and snorted in their stables as we greeted them. I especially liked one that was a chestnut color. His mane and tail were black and he was really friendly. Craig had caught up with us when we were just about to head back. Hey, Jules how are you and the baby feeling today? he said as he patted the chestnut horse. We feel wonderful and I am really happy that Maggie is here too! I couldn t stop smiling about that. She was the closest thing I had to a mother right now. I m really glad you found her Craig. Did you know that she used to be a maid at my house? Malakaih added. Craig shook his head and looked at me confused. Did I not tell him that she did? I couldn t remember. No, I didn t know. I found her handing out business cards near the shops at Keya Cove. She looked really cheerful and I thought I could use her help. She s been much more than just help she s been a blessing. She helped put a bit of color on Jules cheeks when we were out on my yacht for two weeks. Jules was a mess but I was glad we could help. You haven t told him yet, Jules? Craig wasn t fighting on Malakaih s terms now. We were on his turf. Malakaih cleared his throat and stretched his neck muscles. I guess that s a story I want Jules to tell when she feels like it is necessary Craig. No need to bring it up! Malakaih wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed me. Craig

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almost growled and the horse snickered. Malakaih laughed and we turned towards the trail. Craig stayed behind talking soothingly to the horse. I think he called him Gateway to Heaven or something like that. I sat in the living room reading the second book when Malakaih walked in. Hey, got a minute to chat? he asked softly sitting down beside me and pressing his ear over my belly. I always have time for you, my love. What s on your mind? I hoped it had nothing to do with the conversation near the stables. But by the look on his face I was wrong. Jules, I know that I said that I would let you tell me when you felt like it but it s eating me inside. I don t like feeling like that. Would you mind sharing with me the story? he practically begged. I couldn t say no to that. Sure thing, soon to be dad. I guess H the baby could listen to it too I almost goofed up. I didn t want Malakaih to know the name I wanted for my child and I hoped it was a girl. I bit my lip and played with his hair. I started telling him the condition I was in and how Craig convinced Mr. Lucians to let me go out for two weeks. Malakaih agreed with me when I said Craig was really smart. I explained about my chores for breakfast and lunch, but how Craig always made dinner. I laughed when I told him about Maggie s energy and her banana parfait. I hesitated a bit before telling him about the dancing lessons and I managed to skip around some parts, especially the last night on the yacht. That was something I would never share with Malakaih. He was satisfied with the story and thanked me kissing my hands and then he dozed off while I read. I was reading about a character called Mr. Morgan and the story that revolved around him. I couldn t help but let the tears trail down my cheek. I felt someone touch my hair. I opened my eyes to find Alex staring down at me with a hand behind his back. His eyes were teary. Malakaih and I had taken a long nap. Hey, Alex what s up? Is something wrong? I whispered trying not to wake up Malakaih. Alex smiled and shook his head.

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Nope, I was about to head out to the airport and I didn t want to leave without letting you know first. He pressed on Malakaih s shoulder to wake him. I knew he was torn in between staying with us or returning to an empty house. Thanks, Alex! I said as I stood. Before I could give him a hug he pulled out a gift bag decorated with blue and pink bows. The bag was white with different colored teddy bears sitting on building blocks. Malakaih and I stared at each other in surprise. Oh, Alex, you didn t have to do that right now! I took the bag from his hand and wrapped my hands around his waist to hug him. He lifted me into one of those bear hugs and he set me down gently. Then he hugged his brother and patted his back like he always did. This gift is for all three of you. I don t know how long I will be away but I don t want to miss out on a chance to give you something for your baby shower. Oh, and Malakaih remember she s got to visit the obstetrician again. So, get Craig to find a good doc for her. Alex hugged me again and made me face him. Jules, thanks for everything you ve done for me. You re the greatest sis-in-law on the entire planet and if Craig and Malakaih start grabbing at their throats give me a call and I ll straighten them out for you. Or you could always pull out a gun from the shed and I promise you that they WILL behave. Alex shot one glance at Malakaih and kissed me on the cheek. I promise I ll keep you informed of everything that goes on with the baby. I whispered teary eyed. He nudged me on the chin and smiled. I know you will. I want a make a bet before I leave. He gave me that mischievous smile. What bet? Malakaih was curious. I bet fifty bucks it s a girl! Alex pointed to my belly. I was overjoyed with Alex. We had the same opinion. Bet s on Craig said from behind us. I bet it s a boy I m in Malakaih laughed. Mom had two boys and I bet it s a boy

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I looked at all three of them. So far it s two against two, bet s on. It s a girl! I stated firmly. Maggie crept from behind Craig and stared at us. What s happen? she asked in her Spanish accent. Malakaih and Craig are betting fifty bucks each that the baby is boy and Alex and I are betting it s a girl. What do you think Maggie? I giggled. This was fun. She eyed me and started to laugh. Cincuenta pesos que es una niña! she said in Spanish. I understood the word girl and I smiled. Craig obviously understood everything she said and laughed at her shaking his head. She s betting fifty bucks it s a girl, too! Craig chuckled. It s two against three With that being said I hugged Alex one last time. I ll miss you so much. Make sure you tell Xion I said Hi! I whispered in his ear. He winked and he and Craig left for the airport. * * *

Four months went by quickly in Virginia. I enjoyed the autumn scene from a lookout point Craig had taken us to. From the scenic route of Skyline Drive I enjoyed what Florida was lacking. There was only one thing I didn t like and it was to bundle up for the cold weather. Malakaih was right about that. But I managed trying to fit my soccer ball sized belly into an oversized coat. Malakaih laughed at my ranting. I had the normal aches and pains of any pregnant mother and we had to move to Craig s room on the first floor. Maggie said that it was better that way. I didn t want to take his room and neither did Malakaih. I guess each of us had our reasons but Craig and Maggie both insisted. Malakaih spent most nights reading to the baby. Today I was totally bored. Malakaih was out running errands for Craig and I read My Perfect Stranger for the third time. I could almost tell you the story word for word. I stared out into the openness of the woods. It seemed gloomy and I missed the sun. I sighed remembering the soft sand under my feet and the warmth of the sun.

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Maggie caught on quickly to my melancholy. She started baking something delicious in the kitchen and I could smell the chocolate in the air. I got up to see what she was up to. Hey Mags, what are you cooking? It smells delicious! I said as I walked into the kitchen. She looked up from the chocolate she was crushing. She had chocolate all over her frowning face. She shrugged her shoulders in defeat and threw the bowl into the sink. Chocolate mousse, no make good. Never, never, never she fumed. I guessed what she meant and laughed. I saved the bowl of crushed chocolate from the sink before she turned on the water faucet. I m going to make the chocolate mousse! I said firmly. If I didn t say it like that she would throw me out of the kitchen. She sighed and sat to watch. I pulled out the ingredients I needed from the refrigerator. She took in everything I did from melting the chocolate to whipping the heavy cream. Occasionally she would Ah or Oh at something I did and she would smile in approval. Before I put it in the fridge I let her taste it. Oh! Very good, Juliana! You and me, restaurant she said with wide eyes. She was thoroughly enthusiastic about the idea. I smiled at her and yawned. I was always tired. She motioned for me to go to sleep and she continued to watch the cake she had in the oven. I went to the room and found Craig searching for something in the closet. Hey, Craig, did you lose something? I joked. I stood by the door without entering. Yeah, I think I did. You didn t see a shoe box that had G-L752 written on a label. He asked with his face still stuck in the closet. The baby moved towards the sound of his voice. I tried to recollect where I had seen that box. I believe that it s in the first room to the left when you go up the stairs. You re going to find it on the second shelf of the closet beside another box that had G-L758 written on the label. Hmm! Maybe about four inches from the left wall I guess I was so bored I had memorized everything in the house. He stared at me in disbelief. You got to be kidding me! Four inches from the left wall? he sneered.

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Yes, I am serious. I bet on half of my dessert if you don t find it there. If you do find it, half of your dessert is mine I challenged. I was bored and I really needed something challenging. Craig laughed. He walked towards me and stopped only inches from me. My heart started to race and the baby started moving around at the sound of his laugh. He leaned his face closer to mine and I tried moving my head away from his but it stopped against the frame of the door. With his lips only inches from mine, he whispered Juliana, you don t have to bet on anything. Everything I have is already yours but I will accept your challenge he laughed and kissed me quickly before I could duck away from him. The baby gave one good kick in excitement. I bit my lip at the pain I felt when she moved. He ran up the stairs laughing before I could say anything. I sat on the bed to relax my legs propped up on the pillows. The baby kept moving around and I tried singing to calm her down. I could barely sleep when she was hyper. I crooned her rocking myself and touching at the little bumps she created. The smaller bumps were here elbows the larger ones would be her knees or her foot. My little Hyacinth Marie I said softly touching my belly. She was quiet again. I closed my eyes trying to doze off into sleep. Unbelievable! Craig yelled laughing from the top of the steps. My eyes opened in a flash and the baby starting moving again at the sound of his voice. I was starting to get irritated with Craig. Craig! I shouted in annoyance. He ran to the room, a smile on his face and shoe box under his arm. Jules, you are unbelievable! he grinned. If I were to ask you right now where are my fishing rods, would you have an answer to that? I had to think about that one. Anything that was in the shed was off limits but when everyone was busy I sneaked in to see what they were hiding. They are in the shed to the left, beside the large metal cabinet with the guns. Oh, the yellow raincoat is covering them. I could almost see the inside of the shed in my head. How many inches from the cabinet and how do you know about the guns he was serious. - 251 -

Two and half I answered almost positively. Give or take. I was looking around because I was bored I added so as not to sound brainy. Or maybe I knew because Alex tipped me off but I wasn t saying. Wow, wait here. I m going to go check! he ran off again. I didn t have a chance to stop him. The baby was excited again at the sound of his voice and I was super tired. I scolded her for feeling like that. I needed my rest and so did she. Craig came back with his sapphire eyes gleaming with excitement. You are awesome! he exclaimed again. You have a photographic memory. You should put that brain of yours into good use. Hyacinth was all over and it was painful when she moved like that. He was about to leave when I called out to him angrily Craig you aren t leaving. You sit down right now. I commanded pointing to the floor beside the bed. Ah, man. What did I do now? he protested. You woke the baby twice now and she s moving about in there giving me pain. It s your entire fault. So you sit down on the floor and sing something while we try to relax and catch some Z s and don t try anything funny! I was truly frustrated. I didn t care if Malakaih would have a fit because Craig was in the room. The door was open anyways and Craig would be on the floor beside the bed. Craig smiled. He would please me with anything I wanted. He sat down on the floor his head resting against the bed and his hand on my belly. She was moving and thrashing about in there and I tried putting myself in a more comfortable position. Where ever he touched the baby would kick. So, I told him not to touch and just to sing. He started first to hum and then to sing lightly a lullaby in Spanish. His divine voice made us both relax and my eyes started to feel heavy until I couldn t fight with them much longer. I could feel his fingers touching my belly again but I was too lost in sleep for me to stop him.

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Chapter 47 Underestimated

Malakaih was sitting on the bed beside me, when I woke up. He was worried again. I looked to the floor. Craig was soundly asleep his head was resting the side of the bed. His hand was still on my belly. I shook my head at him and turned to face Malakaih. Sorry, I made him do it. I whispered. Why? he kissed me smiling. Because he woke us up twice with his overjoyed excitement of my photographic memory and I demanded he sits on the floor and sings us to sleep. Oh, he didn t know you had that, did he? he was smug about this new discovery. I didn t know I had that. How did Malakaih know I had that? I didn t want to know right now. My stomach was craving some food. I m hungry could you help me up? I lifted my hands to him. Yeah, I m hungry too. For the looks of it Maggie is cooking up a storm. He held my hands and Craig s hand plopped to the bed. That woke him up instantly and he jumped to his feet. She made me do it! he said automatically pointing to the empty bed. Malakaih and I started laughing hysterically. I had to run to the bathroom to pee. Craig started to laugh too once he realized that no one was mad at him. Sorry, man! I heard him say when I closed the door to the bathroom. Everyone was waiting in the dining room for me to arrive. Malakaih stood like always to pull a chair for me. He scooted me in and sat beside me. I said a small prayer in my head and began to eat like everyone else. There was something peculiar in the air as Maggie and I shared glances. Malakaih and Craig were serious while they ate. I wondered if they had any news from Alex. I tried to be cheerful. I would find out sooner or later what was going. Maggie stood to bring out dessert. She walked excitedly to the kitchen and came - 253 -

out just as quickly with the torte she prepared with the chocolate mousse. I was impressed. She was amazing! She gave Malakaih a large piece and then she served me a small slice. Then she started to serve Craig a larger piece of the torte. She usually never did that. His eyes widened, when she put the plate down in front of him. Before he could stick his fork into it, she took the knife and cut out half of it and put it on my plate, leaving a small slice on his plate. I started to laugh with Maggie and Craig understood almost immediately. He had lost his bet and Maggie was in on it. Malakaih stared in annoyance. I m sorry Kaih. Craig lost a bet, and I get half of his share of dessert I apologized. Malakaih was not in the mood today. He just stared and helped me finish off with mine There was a hard knock at the door and both men jumped to it. Malakaih headed towards the closet in the hallway, where three rifles were hidden. I was surprised to see Malakaih cock the rifle and head towards the side of the door. Where he couldn t be seen when they opened it. I swallowed hard. Maggie jumped to her feet and motioned for me to follow her. I didn t want to leave them behind put she kept pointing to my belly and shaking her head. We went in to her bedroom which was past the kitchen and she closed the wooden door and slid another metal door in front of it locking it tightly. I realized the room didn t have any windows and it was like a studio apartment. It even had a tiny bathroom. The walls were cool and they were made of another material than the house. She looked at me and noticed I was starting to panic. She pulled me to a chair and sat me down. Juliana, here she moved her hands pointing around her safe house, panic room she struggled to find the words. I understood what she meant but couldn t help but wonder who was at the door and why hadn t they said anything if they were expecting someone to show up. I tried being brave for Hyacinth and I vowed to protect her once more. We waited quietly until there was a loud noise behind the metal door that sent us to our feet. Maggie ran to a chest that was against the foot of the bed. She was armed too. She readied both a handgun and rifle. She held the handgun out

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to me pointing at to the security switch on the side. Then she motioned for me to get behind her and we walked towards the back wall. There was another loud banging noise but this time it sounded more like a pattern. Maggie took the weapons from our hands and put them back into the chest. Please, keep secret. No tell Malakaih o Alex she pointed towards the chest. I nodded and before she opened the metal door she played another pattern of her own. I guessed it was Craig that was answering her from the other side. She smiled and opened the metal door slowly then the wooden one. I started to cry when I saw Craig, Malakaih and Alex at the door. Craig nodded at Maggie and Malakaih and Alex ran to my side. I was sobbing. Its okay, Jules, it s just us. Malakaih tried comforting me. Through my sobs I felt happy to see Alex again. I looked up at him and he was giving me that wonderful smile of his. He was bronzed from being out in the sun and his hair had grown out to where he could put it into a ponytail. I stood to look at him more closely. I stared into his grey eyes. I wanted to make sure it was him. He smiled and gave me a hug but not tightly. He was very aware of my belly. He pressed my head against his chest. I missed you too! he whispered. I rubbed my face against his shirt cleaning my tears. We walked out of Maggie s room and sat in the living room. I was an emotional mess. Maggie stayed in the kitchen and made me some tea. How s my little niece doing? Alex said sitting on the floor in front of me. She s doing very well, and she missed you a lot I assured him. He turned around and knelt in front of me looking at my belly. May I? he said lifting his hands. I nodded and I lifted my shirt to expose my belly completely, shoving the shirt in between my breast and my belly. I had a faint dark line running straight down the middle. My belly button was stretched to indefinite proportions. I felt around to find the baby but she seemed to be sleeping through the entire ordeal. Malakaih leaned over and started talking to her. He put his hands on one side and she kicked. His hands were hot against my skin and I blushed at the

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feeling I felt inside making my heart race. Malakaih took his brother s hand and put it over my belly where she had kicked. She kicked again and Alex was ecstatic. Wow he exclaimed. I have read so much about pregnancy these past few months but it s not the same till you see it in action. He started giving insightful detail that I had read from a book that I received from the doctors. Craig and Malakaih had also received a book since the both of them accompanied me to the visits, but little did they know that I was planning a 3-D ultrasound where the baby s gender would be given. I would make it like a party. I felt relaxed with my family beside me. Craig was sitting to my left with his hands clenched resisting the urge to touch. Malakaih was on my right leaned over my belly talking and giving me light kisses. Alex was at my feet talking up a storm. Maggie came in with the cup of tea and chocolate chip cookies. I would never underestimate Maggie. She was soldier, a fighter, someone I could learn from. After drinking my tea and enjoying the cookies I retired to the bedroom and sat on the bed. The guys sat at the kitchen table catching up on whatever information they received from Alex. I slept for a few hours and had to go to the bathroom. I put the robe on but didn t tie it. All the lights were off except for in a little room Craig called the office. I sat quietly at the dining room table just at hearing distance. So, according to your sources, it s no longer a search. They know where we are and Mr. Lucians wants her dead and out of the way. Her disappearance has caused him a lot of trouble and he has lost a lot of clients Craig was assuring. Yeah, and a lot of his staff is gone too. Nobody wants to work for him. The house is almost completely empty Alex added. He s losing ground! Malakaih affirmed. What? Craig and Alex asked in unison. He s losing ground which means that his influence over Middle Brook is loosening. No money, no power. He could be forced off the island. He owns half of it, there is no way they will force him to leave. Alex was positive.

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Craig do you think his legal investments could also dwindle. You know, pay off a people so that all his money is down to zero. Malakaih was concocting a plan. Craig was sharper I can do better than that. I could get the IRS to audit him. I made sure I left a couple of loose ends before I left. They will freeze his accounts. That was our original plan. Then he would do something really stupid and we would have a reason to arrest him. I could start as early as today. Well, at least half of that problem is settled, but there is still another problem to solve and it s right here in Virginia Ales voice seemed angry. Jerrod is getting paid a hefty sum to find and kill. He won t stop until he finds her. Does he know she s pregnant? Malakaih was worried. Nope, I ve got someone covering that part! Alex was smug and I knew he meant Xion. I was making my own plans as I heard them talking and I wanted to share it. I stood up trying not to make a sound. It was difficult with the belly but I managed. Slowly I made my way to the frame of the door and cleared my throat. They turned around in shock. Jules, everything okay? Malakaih stood to check on me. I smiled at him cradling my belly. I knew he was more worried than he looked. His eyes were that deep green, but he smiled and kissed me lightly. I m fine for now at least. I think I might be able to help with the other half of the problem. Malakaih looked at me in shock. He swallowed hard. They didn t know I was listening. How long have you been listening? Craig was surprised he hadn t heard me. I smiled at him too while I took a chair beside Alex. Just enough time to know that Mr. Lucians wants me dead and that Jerrod is after me. I answered plainly. The surprised look on their faces made me chuckle. Malakaih scratched his head and his chest. Alex looked towards the ground and Craig covered his mouth pressing in a downward motion towards his chin. I had learned a lot from them watching their emotions. I knew they were nervous or annoyed. - 257 -

Okay, so what s your plan? Alex started. It depends on how s Jerrod s record I said matter-of-fact. His records are about two boxes thick and if he slips up the cops will be all over him Craig was serious. Perfect, my plan involves moving into town, there would be more witnesses and I would be closer to the hospital if something were to happen. Let Jerrod see me in town. He s probably going to start by stalking me. I will report him to the police and since he has a record they will be all over him. He s bound to slip up and you guys will be ready for him. I m pretty positive Maggie wouldn t mind being closer to town . I like my idea. I couldn t be of much help here and I was bored. Being in town would be much better. Malakaih was all smiles his eyes were those deep green and the golden specks were sparkling. We ve been underestimating you, agent Lucians he winked at me You are absolutely right! I think you deserve a promotion I don t see any flaws in your plan captain Lucians Craig mimicked Malakaih s expression. Whatever you say, Captain! Alex affirmed. The baby was waking up with all the excitement around me. I took Alex s hand and put it to where I knew she always kicked. Once she felt his warm hand she kicked hard twice. Alex s was thrilled. Malakaih laughed and Craig looked envious. I started to yawn I wanted to sleep some more. Malakaih stood and helped me back to the bedroom. He had a plan of his own. He pressed me gently against the wall kissing me passionately. All my sleepiness and boredom evaporated...

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Chapter 48 The Plan
We rented a small suburban home only minute from town. I was happy to be here. We settled in quickly but didn t bother in decorations. Maggie wasn t pleased with the small kitchen but this would have to do for now. Maggie didn t leave her wooden chest behind and the guys made a ruckus over the weight it contained. I wouldn t be surprised it was filled to the top with weapons of mass destruction. I laughed imagining Maggie as a female Rambo. I marked month seven on my baby calendar. My belly was growing even more and my ankles would swell occasionally. Maggie made sure I was drinking a lot of water and eating extremely healthy. Alex had given me a special rocking chair that I never wanted to get off of because it was so comfortable. Malakaih had seen a small bookstore nearby and we planned to walk there. Maggie said that walking was good for me so she didn t object to Malakaih s plan. Besides this was part of the plan. Alex had spotted Jerrod in town and today would be our first day to head out. We were all nervous about it, except Hyacinth. She was sleeping more often. Okay, my two celestial beings, you ready to head out? Malakaih asked as he slipped on my hat. December was very cold but there was no ice out so it was safe for me to be out. You couldn t tell I was pregnant with the over sized coat. Yes, your moon is very nervous but your sun is sleeping as soundly as night I said trying to fight against my rapid heartbeat. I love you, Juliana he said kissing me so intensely that I forgot what planet I was on. Craig cleared his throat. Hey guys, everything is set. Alex is driving the car around town. He called to tell me that Jerrod was eating lunch at Chinese restaurant. You ready for this Juliana? Craig announced. No, I m not. Let s go! I said pulling on Malakaih s hand. They followed me out the door.

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Craig walked at a safe distance behind us. I felt the sun on my face and I missed the beach. Malakaih looked around discreetly when we were around the small shops. There was one in particular that we were headed to and it was directly across the restaurant where Jerrod was eating. I squeezed Malakaih s hand when I spotted him. Malakaih looked in the same direction I was facing and his brow creased. He had spotted him too. Just like Alex had said once before. Jerrod stuck out like a sore thumb. I have an idea. I said looking at Malakaih. We should cross the road. Craig can wait at that corner and you could stop before you get to the window. I ll stroll passed the window so he can see me, towards Craig. You watch from behind, just in case he walks out. Malakaih called Craig on the cell phone to explain. It seemed like he agreed because he crossed the road and waited in front of a small café beside the restaurant. Malakaih and I walked past the bookstore and made a loop crossing the street. Malakaih kissed me on my cheek before we reached the restaurant window. Be careful and don t look at him. Walk slowly and smile like you always do he said taking off my hat and letting my hair fall to my waist. It was growing faster and healthier because of the vitamins. My raven black strands highlighted the color blue against the sun s rays. Argh! You are so sexy! he said softly from behind me. I giggled as I walked towards Craig. Jerrod entered slowly into my peripheral view. I believed he had an eggroll in his hand and my mouth watered. I shifted my hair to the side and looked at the sign so that he could see my face. I concentrated hard at not looking at him. I smiled when I saw that I could see his reflection on a mirror that was hanging inside of the restaurant. He was almost in shock. His eyes were wide and he had dropped the eggroll on his plate. When he stood, I walked briskly towards Craig. Craig was talking on the cell phone and he held his hand out to me. I took it gladly. I heard the restaurant door open and my heart was racing. Hyacinth was excited at Craig s voice. You did very well. He whispered into my ear as he kissed my cheek. I hoped Malakaih wouldn t ruin it out of anger. But I understood why Craig did it. Mr. Lucians and Jerrod believed that Malakaih was dead. This could only help us.

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Juliet, is that you? Juliet! Jerrod called from behind us. Craig only looked towards the front and he let my hand go. He motioned slightly for me to answer him. I turned around to face Jerrod. I could see Malakaih and Alex standing in a far corner observing us. Jerrod was clueless. I m sorry you must have me confused, my name is Juliana. I said bluntly. He smiled wryly. His eyes no longer seemed confused. The look in his eyes only confirmed his desire to kill me. I breathed in slowly clenching my fist when he took two steps towards me. Craig turned around that instant and stood beside me. He took my hand and lifted my face towards him, kissing my lips barely. Is this man bothering you, my love? He asked, his tone was menacing. Craig shot one heated look at Jerrod. Craig! Jerrod said through his teeth. I suppose that she belongs to you now, since Malakaih is no longer around . I smiled internally; it was just as I thought. I suppose I do belong to him, since I no longer belong to any member of the Lucians family I lied with a smile. Are you taking me back to the east hall, Jerrod? I was provoking him. Jerrod looked appalled at my tone. Not today, beautiful. I guess that we will see each other around. I m happy that you are doing well. Seems like you ve gained some weight and you have color in your cheeks. Mr. Lucians will be happy to know that you are still as beautiful as ever. If you get tired of Craig, and this poor town, you are always welcome at my castle. He answered smoothly. I thought about his answer for a moment. I don t think that will ever happen, Jerrod. Juliana and I are happy together. You tell Mr. Lucians to mind his own business and to find a wife his own age Craig mocked. Jerrod was furious. His nostrils flared. He was turning green. He stuck his hand into his coat. I gasped. Craig saw his intention quickly. I don t think you want to do that here, Jerrod. There are plenty of witnesses around us and we are not alone. Craig warned. Alex was walking past Jerrod and rammed into his shoulder passing him and then turned to face him.

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Oh, I m sorry. Oh, well look, who we have here! Alex faked a smile. He was only a two steps away from Jerrod. Jerrod gnashed his teeth at Alex. I see what you mean, Craig. I guess I d better leave. I have so much to tell Mr. Lucians. Jerrod turned his back on us and headed towards the restaurant. Sitting at his table like before. I shot him a smile and Craig and I walked across the street towards the bookstore, where Malakaih was now waiting for me. You can let her go now! Malakaih said as he stood beside me. Craig was holding my hand tightly. I frowned at Malakaih. Oh, I m sorry! Craig apologized. Jules is a natural. Did you see how she caught Jerrod s attention flinging her hair to one side and looking at the sign? She was even relaxed as she spoke to him. Jules you sure are awesome. Craig was enthusiastic. I think your plan is going to work perfectly. Jerrod took the bait like a fish. Malakaih laughed. Just reel him in nice and easy Jules Alex added making like he had a fishing pole in his hand. I laughed at their imagination. After that, we searched for a few books and headed out of the bookstore. Malakaih, could we get some eggrolls. I saw Jerrod was eating one and my mouth started to water. Now I can t stop thinking about it. I pouted my lips. His smile widened and shot a glance towards Alex. Alex darted across the street. Craig, Malakaih and I walked home. * * *

The plan worked with finesse. Jerrod was always around when we were in town and we caught a glimpse of him cruising down our street. Malakaih was annoyed that he couldn t be seen but he knew that this was an advantage. I proceeded with my plan and called the police on several occasions to inform that Jerrod was stalking me. The police came to the house and asked questions of what he looked like and what his name was. Craig and I answered all their questions and we acted surprise that they already had him on file.

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I woke up to the invigorating smell of coffee. Today was a happy day. I promised myself I wouldn t think of anything else except for the baby. My other plan was working as nicely. I told the guys that they couldn t leave and that I had a special date with my family at a certain address. They looked surprised when I announced it. Maggie was in on the secret and she was making all sorts of goodies for the past week. We were a bit cramped in the car with all five of us, but Craig followed the directions I had written out for him. We stepped out of the car and they stared at the building with the white sign. Is this a doctor s office? Craig asked. Malakaih was no more enthusiastic but Alex knew exactly what it was. He winked at me and pulled on his brother. Come on guys, don t be sissies Alex teased. Yeah, no sissies Maggie repeated happily. She was such a trip. I loved her more every day. She wrapped her arm around mine and the guys followed us inside. Good morning Juliana, I m so happy. You made just in time for your appointment. I see you have your family with you She was staring intently on Craig but he didn t even seem to notice her. I frowned. He was never giving up on me. The nurse headed towards the side hall and then motioned for me to follow. She took me to a very large room with a bed and a 3-D ultrasound machine to one side. There was a large white screen along the front wall. The back wall had a sofa large enough for my family to sit comfortably. I took off my coat and shoes and sat at the bed. I pulled my shirt up to expose my belly and she lowered the waist of my pant and covered it with a large napkin. Then she put a blue gel over my belly. It was warm and the baby kicked it. She laughed and called for the other nurse who brought my family into the room. They came in slowly unsure of what was happening. Maggie was all smiles and the faces on the guys were worried. Go on ahead and sit on the couch. I ll bring refreshments in a minute. The other nurse was just as pretty. She was all over Alex but he ignored her too. I wondered how his relationship with Xiondra was going. The nurse beside me shot glances at Craig but he absolutely disregarded her. She was a bit frustrated and continued intently at the task before her. - 263 -

Well, is everyone ready? the nurse asked. She motioned for the lights to turn off. And the screen was showing images of my insides. They awed at what they were seeing. Alex was almost in tears. Malakaih sat on the floor closer to the images. Is that my baby? he asked pointing and staring emotionally at the screen. The nurse asserted and she kept explaining what they were seeing on the screen. I could see the tears in his eyes as he looked in awe at his child on the screen. He wanted to touch it and he would close his hands into loose fists at his sides. Okay, so do you want to know if it s a boy or a girl? the nurse asked. The guys made a commotion over this question, talking about their bets. The nurse started to search and then held her hand still. She pointed with a laser towards a section of the screen. Congratulations! It s a girl! she exclaimed happily. Alex jumped up like he did that one day when I told him I was pregnant. Malakaih started crying and Craig smiled biting his lip, his eyes started to tear. Dame cincuenta pesos! Maggie turned towards Craig and lifted her palm up to him moving her fingers like she was saying fork it over . I laughed to see my family so happy. Malakaih stood and walked towards me. He kissed my forehead and then my lips cheerfully. Look the nurse said as she had a perfect shot at Hyacinth s face on the screen. Everyone including me gasped at how cute she was. Looks like her father the nurse said smiling. The tears ran down my face as I took in her sight. She was beautiful and she did look like her father. The lips and eyebrows were a given. Her cute little fingers and toes were tempting to touch. You are beautiful Hyacinth Marie! I said out loud. Malakaih turned to face me in surprise. He swallowed hard. Alex walked towards the bed too. What did you call her? They asked in unison. I called her Hyacinth Marie. Hyacinth like you mother and I shorted Mariella to Marie like my mother. Do you like it? I bit my lip. I hoped they wouldn t make a fuss over the name I had so carefully chosen.

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If I like it? I love it! Malakaih said kissing my fingers. Alex was still in shock. I know he wouldn t say anything until we got home. Malakaih and Alex returned to their seats. I felt bad for Craig. I know this was hard for him, but he was such a masochist. I called him over and he jumped to his feet. Talk to her I said softly. He smiled and leaned towards my belly. Hello, Hyacinth. It s your uncle Craig he said politely. I guess he wasn t planning on being far away if he considered himself an uncle. She moved around joyfully at the sound of his voice. The nurse was amused and stared at Craig. She really liked him, but again he didn t even look at her. I wanted to help her. What was your name again? I asked the nurse while she pushed a few buttons on the machine. Daisy she answered softly. Could I get your number? I m sure that I have a couple of friends that would like to know about this place and I want to make sure you get an announcement when Hyacinth is born. I hoped she would give it to me. Alex knew what I was planning and he seemed amused with my plan. Sure, I ll clean you right up and I ll give it to you with your video and pictures. She was nice. After about five minutes I met up with Malakaih in front of the office. She handed me a small bag with a few more books and the video and pictures she d promised. Then she handed me a small card with her name and her number on the back. I put it in my bag and thanked her. Malakaih held my hand as we walked out. The trip home was noisy with laughter and jokes. We paused at a green light when we heard the sirens of fire trucks, turning towards our street. Craig frowned and followed them. There were three fire trucks, one ambulance and one police officer in front of the burning home we had rented . The cop motioned for Craig to lower the window. He looked inside at our faces. I remembered him from the time he had come to question us.

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Hello Officer Wills Craig said in a calm tone. Agent Craig, the officer nodded as a form of salutation. Craig clutched the wheel tightly. His veins lifted slightly from his hands Everyone is with me. Was it arson? he asked through his teeth. The officer looked around and motioned another car to pass us, and then he leaned towards us again. Yep, there are signs of accelerant and we have a couple of witnesses who saw your man thrashing about. We will be on his tail and we ll catch the son of the gun he affirmed. Malakaih put his arm around me and held me tightly against him. I tried swallowing the lump that was forming in my throat. Maggie patted my hand and I remembered the old trunk she carried around. I hoped he didn t find it. That meant that Jerrod would have a few more weapons on hand. Thanks officer Wills, I know we can count you. I m taking my family to a safe place. Is there a number where I can reach you personally? There are a few other things I have to explain. All righty then! You can reach me at this number. Heck, I ll give you a card for each just in case he shows up unexpected. You give me a call as soon as you can. He gave Craig a few cards and we headed off to an unknown destination.

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Chapter 49 Waiting

We drove for about an hour, before Craig stopped at a fast food restaurant for lunch. I had lost my appetite but Maggie kept insisting that I had to eat for the baby. Malakaih ordered hamburgers and fries for the guys and a milkshake and a chicken salad for Maggie and me. Everyone seemed to be lost into thought at the table. I crooned Hyacinth as she woke up to the coolness of the milkshake. Okay, we ve got a problem. Craig started. Everyone agreed. Look, he s been following us for the past hour. I was planning on going home but when I realized he was following me, I decided we would drive until we come up with another plan. Alex started to get up. Jeez, Craig, why didn t you say something? I should have stayed with the car. Who knows if he d rigged it while we sat in here? Craig motioned for him to sit I already thought of that. That s why I have the car sitting in plain view in front of me, Alex . So, what do we do? Malakaih was sitting with his head resting on his hands. We can drive home or a hotel and just wait for him to make his move. Craig glanced at me and smiled. Unless our captain has any other ideas . Actually, we can t be too far from a hospital and if we need the help of Officer Wills then we need to be close by. That s my suggestion. I couldn t believe how fast I thought of that. Maggie looked at her hands. I wondered if she understood any of this. I took her hand and she looked at me and smiled. Craig sighed, You are right! There is a hotel back in town we should head there until he makes his move. Everyone agreed and we drove back. Craig kept looking through his rearview mirror.

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We were only twenty minutes from town when I saw Craig squinting into the rearview mirror. Oh, crap! he shouted. He s not alone I turned around to see what he meant. A few cars back was a large Hummer. I had seen one like it at the castle. Jerrod was in the car in front of them. I could make out a few faces. Craig sped up until we reached the city limits. He headed directly towards the police station and Craig smiled in triumph. The cars sped by and Jerrod looked furious at us. Let s go inside. Craig demanded. Malakaih was serious the whole time. I tried controlling my emotions but I still had the lump in my throat. I didn t want this to end like it had that one day. We waited for Craig in another office. He left totally upset. It seemed as if something had gone totally awry. He mumbled words under his breath. Something was really wrong. Let s go. We are in this alone he demanded. We followed his orders and walked to the car. No one seemed to be following and we drove directly to our Victorian home. I went to shower and put in the living room my hospital bag together with the unwrapped gift bag Alex had given me, the unopened little box that Jonas had sent and the books that Malakaih had given me, just in case we had to leave suddenly. Those were the only things material that I treasured. It was night time and the guys were nowhere in sight. I had heard them scuffling through the shed and rummaging through the closets. I guess they were getting prepared. I hated this. I knew we were in danger but having my family put at risk like this was beyond my comprehension. I hated Mr. Lucians for his obsession with females and I hated Jerrod for his obsession with money. I pressed my lips hard as I felt like screaming at myself for looking the way I did. I was glad my daughter looked like her father. She was totally blessed. I had a doctor s appointment the next day and I wondered how we would handle it. I slept restlessly the entire night. I couldn t believe the nightmares I was having. Malakaih comforted me as I cried. This couldn t be happening again. He cried with me and read to Hyacinth. I dozed off momentarily. Malakaih jumped from the bed when we heard two loud shots outside. I heard someone running down the stairs and Maggie barged into the room.

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Vámonos she said helping me to my feet. Malakaih kissed me passionately until Maggie pushed him off. Go she ordered pointing towards the door. I knew we would hide in Maggie s room. I couldn t stand having them fight like this, but Jerrod was not going to concede defeat. I heard men shouting outside and gun shots fired into the house. Maggie pushed me along ducking lower and we hurried to the room. She turned on the light before closing the door and made sure that no one was in the bathroom. Then she closed the wooden door and then the metal one, locking it into place with a large bolt of some sort and another rectangular shaped piece of metal that was wedge to hold the door in place just in case someone tried to ram into it. Maggie sat me on the bed. I thought of the things I had left in the living room. Mags, I left my stuff out in the living room. I cried. She slapped my arm and pointed to the far wall. She had brought them into the room. I knew that Maggie would not let me falter for one instance. There were more shots and we could hear men s voices saying bad words. Maggie turned off the light and sat with me on the bed when we heard shuffling on the floor above us. I noticed the ceiling wasn t wood. It was cement. There were small shafts that allowed air to come through. There was hard banging against the door and I felt something cold against my arm. Maggie hadn t taken her rifle to the other house. I felt along the barrel. She was handing me something in the dark. I took it instantly. It was the small handgun. She made me feel where the safety lock was and I held it in my hand like it was poison. I didn t want to take anyone s life. There was more pounding against the door. But it wouldn t budge. I could feel the adrenaline rushing through me. Hyacinth was moving unsteadily inside me. I touched my belly and tried humming to calm her. Something smashed hard against the door and we could hear the men shouting on the other side. The shouting changed to knocking. They tried different patterns but Maggie stayed beside me. She knew it wasn t Craig. If they had come inside the house, where was Malakaih, Alex or Craig? Were they hurt or dead? I wiped the tears from my eyes. I cradled myself to the silence that came afterward. There was a patterned knock on the far wall. Maggie recognized it instantly. She stood up from

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the bed. The room was so dark I couldn t see my hand. She probably had this room memorized and I tried remembering how it looked during the day. I closed my eyes and thought. I could see the image coming to me, the small door that was on the right wall of the door, was the first image. Then I could see the three wooden frames that held pictures of flowers. To the far left was dresser with four different bottled perfumes. There were two pictures hanging from the dresser mirror and so on until I could see the room completely in my head. The only thing missing would be the wooden chest. Maggie listened to the knock again and she replied twice. I felt her hand against my arm. She was pulling me towards the bathroom. I heard the slide of a door and she was pulling me, again. I felt the size of the frame. I didn t know if I could fit in there with this belly, but she urged me to try. I could barely fit on all fours. We crawled through the small space quietly. I felt it turn to the left first and then downwards and then up into a curve. I bumped into Maggie and she scolded me. I could see a light filtering through a slit on the wall ahead of us. It seemed to be flashlights. There was a distinct and heavy smell of horse manure. We were at the stable. The door in front of us opened when Maggie knocked. Craig was the first face I saw and relief washed over me. He helped Maggie out and then both he and Maggie helped me to my feet. My back was aching tremendously when I was vertical again. Craig didn t waste any time putting his arms around me and caressing my face. Are you okay, Jules? he asked pushing the hair away from my face. Yeah, I guess. Where are Malakaih and Alex? I pushed his hands away and started to look around him. The stables were empty. They are still at the house. He said furrowing his brow. What? You left them alone? I said pounding on his chest. No, Jules, hold on. They are okay. Malakaih and Alex are fine. They are going to meet us here. Can you trust me, please? he begged taking my hands and pressing me against his body. I started to cry. There was a small swish and the stable door came open slightly. Malakaih and Alex both stepped in. I ran to

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Malakaih and if it weren t for my belly I would have jumped to him. He wrapped his arms gently around my chest. He kissed my face and checked that I was okay. I love you He whispered. Alex patted my head but didn t interfere in our embrace. What s happening out there? Craig asked. The night was clear and you could see just as clear as day. Not much. Humph! Jerrod lost a few. We aren t outnumbered. It s just Jerrod and one other guy, a blonde with brown eyes and a tattoo on his neck. It s the same one I have on my wrist. He looked displeased with this fact. I guessed it was the mark they wore for what they had learned to do. This was no amateur. I see. Well, you would be his only opponent. I think I can handle Jerrod. Craig sounded smug about that. I remembered when he fought him the first time. Jerrod was no match for Craig. Malakaih you are going to have to stay with Maggie, Jules and Hyacinth. Maggie was a rebel in her time. She will be plenty of help. Jules has good instinct and Hyacinth will keep you sane. Everything is in your favor. Craig smiled and poked at my belly. You behave now; don t give your pops any trouble I hugged Craig and Alex before they headed out again.

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Chapter 50 Desire to kill
Maggie handed me her coat. She was bundled up in a lot of clothes. The night was getting colder by the second. I huddled near the straw in Malakaih s arms and he cradled me soothingly. The night was extra silent this far away from the house. I wondered how they were holding up. Maggie was looking towards the house and pacing with the rifle ready in her hand. She was as worried as I was. Malakaih had stopped humming once the baby stopped moving around. Maggie looked at her watch and sat beside me in the straw. Malakaih stood up and took her position. He was armed too. I couldn t tell what it was, but he was just as uncomfortable as I was with it. He looked steadily towards the trail. Daytime was creeping up slowly. I tried dosing but I kept seeing blood in my dreams and I decided I would have to stay awake. BANG, BANG, BANG! Three shots went off and Malakaih and Maggie jumped at the sound. Maggie started to head out but Malakaih grabbed her by the arm. No, you stay with Jules, Maggie! I ll go to check it out. She didn t argue with him but I started to. Malakaih what are you doing? Craig said to wait here no matter what. You shouldn t go. Just wait a bit longer. I begged. Jules, I have to go. Please just stay here with Maggie. Something isn t right. It shouldn t have taken so long. He walked towards me and helped me to my feet. I love you and I promise that I ll be back for the both of you. You promise that you will stay here and wait for me? his fiery green eyes melted my composure. I hated being so weak in his arms. I nodded yes and he kissed my lips tracing them with his tongue. I breathed in taking his unique scent. He squeezed my hand and leaned towards my belly. Dad s going to get Uncle Alex and Uncle Craig. You behave. He smiled, kissed me one more time and gave Maggie a good hug. I sat on a stack of hay. She sat down beside me and pulled the handgun from under her thick sweater. You take this, hide in pocket. Keep out of sight! If problems come, you hide. I take care okay? she said with her cute Spanish accent. I agreed and put the gun inside the coat pocket. I rested my head against - 272 -

the wooden half wall and dozed momentarily. My stomach growled but I ignored it. There was nothing I could do about it now. Maggie started tapping on my shoulder furiously and she almost pulled me to my feet. I felt sluggish but I followed her instructions. I didn t realize what was happening until I heard Jerrod s voice coming in our direction. I hid in the corner behind a large hay stack. Maggie suddenly disappeared. Juliana, my freak, where are you? Jerrod called out. I was terrified. I couldn t even breathe. This was a different Jerrod. He was truly horrific. Like a monster in your dreams. He kept walking along I could feel him moving in and out of the stables. I know you are here. I could smell you. That sweet vanilla and coconut scent you wear is so delicious . I knew he was lying. I hadn t worn that scent in awhile. The stable door where I was slid opened and I could hear his footsteps. He peeked behind the hay stack but Maggie made sure I wasn t visible. I know where you are at. I can see your coat. Why don t you come out! he shouted and when I thought he was reaching for me. I heard Maggie gasp. I held my hand to my mouth to keep from making a noise. Who are you? he asked Maggie. There was a small opening in between the haystacks that I could see where he was standing. He had Maggie by the hair, but she wasn t even wincing. Margarita de Luna she answered. What are you doing here and where is Juliana? I work here. Juliana no here Oh, I see. Where did you take her? Tell me or I will kill you. He pulled on her hair and threw her to the ground. That was a mistake. She reached for the rifle behind a few logs. Click! Click! And I heard the gun go off. I covered my ears and heard a hard thud on the ground. I looked to see who it was. Jerrod had been shot and was cowering on the ground. Maggie was still on the floor facing up with the rifle in her hand pointed at Jerrod. Jerrod looked at her in surprise, but he seemed only to be annoyed. Maggie tried shooting again when Jerrod reached for her feet. The gun was stuck and it wouldn t shoot. She hit him with it but he just kept coming. My heart was

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racing. The adrenaline was rushing through my veins and I was enraged when he took the rifle from her hand and lifted it to hit her. I pulled the handgun from my pocket and switched off the lock. I was so furious I didn t even shake. Let her go! I yelled pointing the gun in his direction. He started to laugh but didn t look at me. He hit her once and I cocked the gun like she had showed me. The small noise it made caught his attention and he dropped the rifle on her chest and kept his hands up in the air. Let her go! I demanded. He turned to look at me. His eyes were filled with a desire to kill. I moved away from the haystack. Maggie get up! I yelled without even looking at her. I could hear moaning in pain, but she moved and took the rifle with her. Jerrod was about eight feet away from me. Jules, it s a pleasure to see you again. You look fat. You better stop eating. He smiled with his hands still up in the air. Jerrod I m not fat. I m seven months pregnant, you idiot! I snapped. He looked at me in shock. His jaw muscles twitched and his brow furrowed in discontent. Oh, boy is Mr. Lucians is going to be mad when he finds out . He was trying to make me angry but I was already beyond that point. I was absolutely deranged. I could care less what that sick bastard thinks or feels. Keep your hands up; put them behind your head. I ordered. He did what he was told but I could see where this was heading. There was a gun on a harness only two feet away from him. Don t even think about it. I said. He started to laugh. You ve learned so much Juliana, but it s not that I m after. I want to be able to touch you one more time. I couldn t get the feelings I felt for you out of my head, especially that day when you were tied to the bed. I could have taken you there, but I get the feeling I can take you now. He smacked his lips like he tasted me.

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You re as sick as the man you work for. I don t even know why you are doing this. Mr. Lucians will lose his castle and you won t have any share in this. When he goes down so will you! I tried reasoning with him. Everything happened in a split second. The sounds of sirens got our attention. I shot one glance at Maggie but she was almost unconscious. Jerrod started to lunge at me. YOU WILL BE MINE! he growled through his teeth. He headed straight towards me like a lion towards his prey. His arms wide open in an attack. The blood rushed through my veins. I could feel the adrenaline pulsing through me. My finger pressed hard on the trigger. BANG! I closed my eyes when Jerrod s body shifted against the force of the bullet in his chest. His arms reached me pushing me against the haystack but I didn t fall. He was moaning. I opened my eyes again and Maggie was standing beside him. She hit the back of his head with the butt of the rifle and he fell to the ground unconscious. Officer Wills and Malakaih had just seen what had happened. I stood with the gun in my hand. The policeman stood with his facing the both of us. Drop the guns! Everything is going to be alright, we won t hurt you he said persuasively. Malakaih s face was filled with worry. Maggie dropped the rifle to the floor and put her hands to her head. Her face was red from where Jerrod had hit her. I couldn t let go of the gun in my hand. I looked down at Jerrod, the back of his shirt stained with blood. There was blood everywhere. Malakaih started to walk passed the officer and towards me, with his hands up in the air. My head felt dizzy and I could see Malakaih talking to me, but I couldn t hear him. I blinked trying to see him better. The warmth of his hands was over my hand where I gripped the gun for dear life. Slowly he moved towards me his body pressing against mine. He slipped his finger undermine making my finger move away from the trigger. My hand still clenched the cold metal. I felt a slight pressure on my wrist. Its okay, Jules. You can let go now he whispered softly into my ear. Malakaih s arm pulled me tighter against him. Please, my moon, trust me he said again. He kissed my cheek. His lips were warm against my skin and sent electrical pulses flying through my body. I turned to face him. His green eyes

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flickered against the light of day. He was my ocean and could hear him calling for me. Jules, I love you he whispered once more. With that my hand released the cold metal onto his. He let it drop to the ground. The officer relaxed letting down his guard. Then as swiftly as it had begun it ended. The desire to kill ceased. My body buckled underneath me as I drained from exhaustion. Malakaih held steadily and the officer helped raise me into his arms. You are going to be alright Jules. Just hang in there .

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Chapter 51 Gift of Life
Fifty-eight days passed slowly. Malakaih, Maggie and me moved into another suburban home near town. Craig had returned to his home and Alex was traveling back and forth between Virginia and Florida. We would stay here until the baby was born. My belly was now the size of a basketball. I still couldn t believe I was a mother. I slipped into my nicest maternity clothes. I wanted to look pretty again. My face and lips were swollen, and my shoes barely fit. I painted my lips and combed my hair into a braid. Everything seemed quiet in the house. I guess everyone was busy. I had taken a four hour nap. I looked around before stepping out. All the lights were turned off. I walked past the baby s room and it was locked. Malakaih called me from his office. I walked holding on to my aching belly. Hello beautiful he said when he saw me. How was your nap? It went well, I feel a bit rejuvenated Good, I have something I want to show you, but no peeking, so I m covering your eyes. Okay? he was excited. I let him cover my eyes with his hands. We walked towards the living room, slowly. I heard when the light switch turned on, followed by giggles and Malakaih uncovered my eyes. Surprise! the group of friends and family yelled in unison. I didn t know what to say. The tears ran down my cheeks. They were all here, Craig and Daisy, Alex and Xion, Maggie, Rebecca and the kids. Even Jonas little white fluffy dog was here in my living room. Happy baby shower! Jonas shouted. He had grown four inches since I had last seen him. Kevin was taller and slender. Thank you, Jonas I gave everyone a hug. Maggie came around with chips and dip and there was plenty of pizza for all of us on the table. We laughed and joked happily. Malakaih and I cut the ice cream cake and we took a lot of pictures.

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The time came to open presents and Malakaih and I sat together on the sofa. Jonas and Kevin took turns handing us the gifts. There were a lot of clothes and gadgets, bottles and diapers and teddy bears and dolls. The last present was the one that Alex had given me. I didn t want to open it until this moment. Alex was all smiles. I removed the tissue wrapping and pulled out three small white boxes. They were labeled, one for Malakaih, one for me, and one for baby girl . He knew it was going to be a girl from the very beginning. I handed Malakaih his box. He opened it slowly. There was a men s titanium bracelet inside engraved with our names and our wedding date . My gift was the same except it was more delicate and it had a pair of amethyst earrings. Hyacinth s little box contained her first earrings, small replicas of mine but with little screws on the back and a tiny bracelet that matched ours, but it wasn t engraved yet. I pulled out the handmade card. It read:

To my brother Malakaih, his wonderful wife Jules and the baby girl inside her: I love you and I wish you all the blessings that Life could give. Family and friends united by Love. I personally made these for you. I hope you like them. Your brother, Alexander the Great!
Malakaih and I were in shock. This is what he was going to school for at night. Xion stared lovingly at him. You could tell she loved him as I loved Malakaih. We slipped on the bracelets and I put on the earrings. I held on to the little white box that belonged to Hyacinth. My eyes were covered again for another surprise. I was taken to the baby s room. I cried again when I saw the room. It had been fully decorated in lime greens, purples and whites. There was a bouquet of orchid sitting on the dresser that matched together with the sleigh crib and the changing table. This was Malakaih s gift

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Four days went by quickly and my contractions were getting closer and closer. I sat in bed once more. I had the urge to go to the bathroom, but when I stood a warm poll of water fell down soaking my clothes. Malakaih! I yelled to make him wake up. At first he looked in surprise but then he knew exactly what to do. He helped me change calmly into clean clothes and grabbed my hospital bag. Maggie was awake and trailing behind us to the car. On our way to the hospital and the nurse was waiting for us at the entrance. I was taken quickly to the third floor. Labor was slow and painful, until I heard that precious sound, the cry of our baby girl. The put her in my arms and she was the most beautiful face on the planet. A gift only the Creator could give. Malakaih kissed my sweaty skin I love you he whispered. I watched as they cleaned her and handed her to Malakaih. He spoke to her gently and cradled her in his arms. I fell asleep * * *

When I arrived home, my family was waiting to receive our new addition. Kaih introduced Hyacinth Marie Lucians Duran to our family and friends Craig was waiting anxiously to speak to us. I knew he had news that concerned us. By dinner time, I had said goodbye to all those that lived either in Florida or in Middle Brook Isle. Daisy hugged Craig to say goodbye, but I noticed that their relationship was different. Craig was distant and respectful. I frowned; their relationship would not last long. I wondered if he could ever let go of the love he felt for me. Only time could tell. Maggie left us alone with Craig in the living room. I cradled Hyacinth in my arms. Craig sat next to me to look at her when she cried. I turned to face Malakaih and he read my expression and nodded in approval. I lifted her and Craig was surprised as a set her in his arms. The tears flowed down his cheeks as he held her, singing a Spanish lullaby. When she was asleep he turned to tell us the news. I guess this is an experience I will never forget. I have good news, Mr. Lucians was arrested.

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Wow, when and how did that happen? Malakaih was thrilled. Craig stared at me with his sapphire eyes. I received a letter the night of January 15th. Well it was more like a statement. The person had written down the names of people. They were separated into two groups, friends and foes. Some had question marks beside them. The list was very thorough and it was the greatest break we have ever received in the Lucians case. We investigated every person and every detail that it contained. Every single one of the Friends list are willing to testify against his crimes and his fraudulent transactions. The IRS had him audited and all his accounts were frozen, like you had said Malakaih, no money, no power. He was detained on four counts of murder, three attempted murders and numerous felonies. There is only one problem in all this Craig looked worried. He is claiming insanity. If the jury believes his story Mr. Lucians could be in padded room but not for long. We all know that his is not entirely insane. That s interesting. How did the person manage to get all that information? That was really clever of them Malakaih was impressed with Craig s story. I was too. I didn t actually believe it would work out so well. You could say she was working as an undercover agent. She was the best of the best. Craig answered; his eyes were still on me. Malakaih didn t notice Craig s gaze, but I blushed and looked away. Craig handed the baby to Maggie who was waiting impatiently for him to finish. Kaih thanked Craig for all he had done to help us and followed Maggie to the Hyacinth s room. I had the impression that he did this on purpose. Thank you Craig, for everything. Especially for giving me life when I was dead inside. You can come to see Hyacinth when you want. We are planning on moving back to Florida soon. We miss the beach and the sun. We will always appreciate everything you have done and sacrificed for us and for Hyacinth. I extended my hand out to him and he took it pulling towards him. He held me in his arms for awhile. Our lips pressed together lightly. I love you, and no one else. I m sorry for breaking my promise again, but it will never happen again He kissed me passionately and we struggled to catch our breath. He stared deeply into my eyes, kissed my cheek and hurried off. I didn t see him again.

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Chapter 52 End of life
It was March 24th, 2012. Hyacinth Marie was a year and three months old. Her bronze locks where tied into a pink ribbon, and she wore a white and pink ruffled dress along with the earrings and bracelet her Uncle Alex had given her. Alex played peek-a-boo while Xion read My Perfect Stranger. She couldn t put it down for an instant. I sat reading over my recipe notes on the park bench. We waited outside for Malakaih to return from the doctor s office. My cell phone rang Hello, my Love I answered cheerfully. Hello, my moon he replied can you come up? The doctor wants to speak to the both of us. Ah, leave Yaci behind with Alex Okay, be right up I snapped the cell phone shut and put it in my handbag. Alex, can you stay with Yaci? Doc wants to talk to us I stood to ask. Yeah, sure. Do you mind if you go out for ice cream? Alex started to put Yaci in the stroller. Xion was pleased. Yeah, sure. I mimicked but don t give her too much. If she s too hyper, she s sleeping in your room. I warned. I kissed her nose and she giggled extending her hands out to me. Her grey eyes were like diamonds. Mommy will be right back. You behave and don t let Uncle Alex give you too much ice cream I headed towards the doctor s office. It was nice and cool inside. The nurse escorted me to Dr. Sung s office. The doctor was looking over paperwork and Kaih stood as I entered. He kissed me lightly and waited till I sat before he took his seat beside me. Hello, Juliana. I m glad you came. How s Hyacinth doing? She s doing very well Dr. Sung. She s fifteen months old and she seems to be growing quickly I smiled.

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Well, that s good to hear. I would like for you to bring her in sometime I have a little something for her He was always lavishing her with gifts. I was not uncomfortable with this, but I was cautious. He sighed. The reason I wanted you both here is because I received the test results and I wanted you both to listen as I explained them he continued. Malakaih s eyes grew deep and he held my hand tightly. Malakaih you have leukemia. Do you know what that is? The doctor patted the sweat from his forehead. My heart sank as I heard the word. It was the same thing his mother had before she passed. I bit my tongue until it bled. Malakaih was serious as he listened to the doctor s explanation. The doctor seemed optimistic as he explained the treatments. When he finished he gave us both a hug and assured us that he would do everything in his power to help us. We walked hand in hand silently to the waiting room. We entered the bathroom together and began to sob profusely. We held on to each other, sharing tears of agony. I love you, my ocean I said as I sank deeper into his chest. I love you, my moon he whispered as he held me tighter against him. Malakaih s cell phone went off twice before he picked it up. Yeah he sniffled. No, I m okay I ll tell you later. How s Yaci? That s wonderful. I ll make sure I tell her Okay, Bro, be right out . He slid his phone off. I guess we better head out they are waiting for us in the car I nodded and we washed our faces. I reapplied a bit of makeup and we hurried out to the car. Malakaih and I agreed to sit in the back with Hyacinth. Kaih and Yaci played peek-a-boo and I counted fingers until arrived at our Florida home. Alex had expanded the house by adding a few extra rooms. We were surprised to see Malakaih s extra large fish tank against one wall. He was always busy around the house while we were in Virginia. Xion had been a great help both physically and mentally for Alex. They bonded very well. Craig never spoke to Daisy again since that last day we saw her. He had called twice in the past year. He spoke about Mr. Lucians' trial and asked about Hyacinth, but nothing else.

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When Xion left for the evening, I watched as Malakaih explained in detail everything the doctor had said. Alex wept as we did. He held on to his brother but tried to sound cheerful. We can do this together, Bro he said as he mocked punched him.




Two years went by quickly and Malakaih s health did not improve. We had done something to cheer him up. Alex shaved off all his hair and I cut mine to a bob. The only one who kept her curls was Hyacinth. At age three she was talking up a storm. Every day that passed Malakaih would cradle her and show her as much as he could. He was constantly tired and moody, but he fought against it. When he had too much he would fall asleep with her in his arms. One morning she woke up before he did. I watched her get up and sit on his lap looking at him. She would kiss his cheek and the tip of his nose like I did time and again. She smiled when I caught her but she motioned for me to keep quiet by putting her finger to her mouth. I smiled back What are you doing? I asked softly. She was one smart cookie and she reminded me of Jonas. Mommy, I like to give papi mucho kisses she said. Maggie was showing her Spanish and she used it so much we understood her. I do too, but come here, let me get you breakfast I said as I picked her up. I pulled out her cereal and milk and we ate breakfast quietly as Malakaih slept. * * *

By age five Hyacinth understood her father was ill. Kaih took every opportunity he had to show her how to count and she even learned elementary math. She would be as good as her father. I was teaching her how to read and she practiced continually at her father s side. It was March 28th, 2015. The fourth year since Malakaih was diagnosed with cancer. Alex, Xion and I took turns at the hospital. Today was a bit different. - 283 -

Yaci was throwing a tantrum for the first time because she didn t want to go to school. Mommy, please she begged. I want to go to the hospital to see Daddy . The tears in her eyes were too much to bear. I hugged her and we went to see Daddy together. When we entered the room Kaih was awake. The pale skin, fragile structure and dull green eyes were only smoke to the flame they once were. He turned to face us and struggled to smile. Yaci crawled into his side. She snuggled under his arm carefully. He seemed to be in pain. I kissed his lips and the tip of his nose. I love you, my ocean I whispered. I love you, my moon he struggled to say and closed his eyes. When the nurse came in she informed me that Dr. Sung wanted to speak to me. Yaci, the doc wants to speak to me. Will you take care of papi for me, until I come back? She nodded and kissed her father s cheek, waking him up to tell him about the tantrum she threw this morning. He smiled and listened to her carefully. I walked out into the hallway where Dr. Sung was waiting. Hello Juliana, he said frowning I m not going to prolong this conversation into formalities. You need to know right away he said with tears in his eyes. I knew exactly what he was going to say, but I waited for him to continue. Juliana, this will be the last morning for your husband. I suggest you call your family or if you would like I can call Xiondra and she will call them for you. I nodded at the last part trying to avoid his eyes. I ran back into the room. In fifteen minutes Alex had arrived with Xion and Maggie. He called Rebecca and before I could ask about Craig, he nodded at my expression. I smiled and we huddled around Malakaih. The hours passed slowly and Malakaih drifted with the time. He glanced at me and then at the book Yaci was holding in her hands. I managed to smile Do you want her read? I asked pointing to the book. He nodded yes slightly. Yaci, honey I said softly waking her up. She was still snuggled beside him on the bed.

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Yes, mommy she replied sleepy eyed. Daddy wants you to read him the story one last time I said struggling to hold back my tears. She looked up at her father. She seemed to understand what was going on. She kissed his forehead and his eyes and the tip of his nose and his cheeks. He twitched a half smile. I snuggled on the other side of him. My ears pressed against his lightly beating heart. Alex, Xiondra and Maggie sat around to listen as Hyacinth began to read: Once upon a time there was a girl named Annabelle like mommy she added. She continued with the story and I could barely listen to his heart beat. My ocean closed his eyes once more listening to his five year old daughter at his side reading one last time to him. Annabelle was happy because she heard the Ocean s calling to her and they lived together as long as life permitted I felt his heart give one last thump and he exhaled one last time

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Epilogue: Padded Room PATRICE Gregorio, there s a young lady here to see you the nurse said through a microphone. Who is she? What does she want? he asked in guttural voice. Her name is Juliet. She has something for you. Would you like to speak with her? Yes, I will speak with her. Send her in. He demanded. Will you behave? Or would you like more medicine? The nurse was predicting that he would attack me. But I knew he wouldn t. After all, he did say that I was his second choice. With Juliana out of the way I can help him get back on his feet, and then all of his money will be mine. I don t need the medicine to see my wife he scolded the nurse. She rolled her eyes and motioned for me to follow her. You are entering at your own risk. If he hurts you, you are on your own. I didn t have anything to do with this. Do you understand? She stuck her hand out and waited for me to give her the money I promised, before opening the door. I shoved my hand inside the handbag and pulled out two fifty dollar bills and gave them to her. Thank you she turned around and pushed the number 7658 into the keypad. She was quick, but I was quicker. She opened the door and stepped to the side for me to go in. I jumped when she closed the door behind me. Juliet? Gregorio said as he stood from the floor. The room was completely white and the walls had something like pillows attached to it. He was a sad sight, being locked in here four years. No, Mr. Lucians, but do I look like her? I asked. I wanted him to see me like her, to want me, to desire me. I had died my hair and eyebrows black and I had violet contacts on. I was similar to her height but I hadn t the money to work on my body. That was something Mr. Lucians would have to provide.

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Yes, you do, very much like her, but you aren t her and you are lacking on breast he said plainly. I sighed annoyed. If someone would notice the difference it would be him. Yes, you are right, but I was hoping you could change that for me I walked closer to him. He had black thick bracelets on his wrists and ankles with two lights on them, one green and one red. I had read about these. When the light was green it meant he was calm. When the lights were red it meant he was angry and it activated a strong magnetic current that would paralyze his arms and legs instantly. These were hard to get by. I stepped closer to him but he recoiled. I won t hurt you I said softly. I want you to love me, like you love her. I lied. I could care less if he loved me. All I want is his money and his power. I imagine you do, risking yourself like this. I could kill you right now if I wanted to. Here you are standing before me looking like something delicious he said mockingly. I accepted his train of thought. I guess both of us belonged in this padded cell. I bit my lip to entice him further. I walked around him staring at him. Well, I guess I just have to take that risk. I got closer to him, whispering in his ear. Do you think they will give us privacy if you behaved like a good little boy? He was a sucker for seduction and I knew that I would get my way if I allowed him to do what pleased him. He lunged for me suddenly. There was a slight noise coming from his bracelets and he fell to the ground instantly. He moaned in anger. I hate these things he growled. Did you just try to attack me? I asked I knew how these things worked but I didn t think I would ever see them in action. No, I didn t want to attack you. I wanted to kiss you, but these things react to my body. I hate them he sounded reassuring. Why didn t you ask? I would have kissed you if that s what you wanted. I threw him a wicked smile and as he tried sitting up when the light returned to green. Don t even breathe I said moving closer to him. He did as I said. I took his face in my hands and pressed my lips against his. I felt disgusted but this was a

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sacrifice I had to make. He tried keeping himself calm but received my lips willingly. I stepped away from him. He was flabbergasted. He smacked his lips in delight. I had to remind myself to wash my mouth when I got home. I missed feeling that he said almost sad. Will you do it again? Not today, it depends if you are going to behave. I could probably pull a few strings, but you will have to give me what I want in return. I wasn t going to tell him anything else. I wanted to keep him guessing. If I gave it all to him now, he would just use me and never give me anything in return. I was much smarter than that. Please don t go. I feel lonely. He fell to his knees and begged. I smiled at him, but didn t give in. Nurse! I called out. I heard the numbers again on the key pad and the door unlocked. He moaned in delight as I caressed his face and then his lips, before I left the room. The nurse looked at me in disgust. She closed the door behind me and Gregorio s shriek went silent as the door locked into place. This was going to be easier than I thought. I followed the nurse through the long corridor. Before she pressed the other keypad she stopped to face me. Will you be visiting often? she asked. It depends if you listened to our conversation? This was going to be the nurse I would have to deal with. She looked like she was all about easy money. Yes, I did listen. I could help you with those strings but it will cost you she lifted her eyebrow and motioned for me to follow her. She pressed on the keypad 8126. She didn t know she was already helping me. She spoke to the guard at the gate before we entered the family room. We walked briskly past the other visitors and into the nurse s office. I sat in the chair in front of the desk. She sat on the other side facing me. She folded her hands together over the desk. So how much is involved? she flung her reddish brown hair to one side and stared at me with piercing brown eyes. She was smarter than I had imagined.

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Millions and half an island I answered vaguely. I guess we could settle all the details over dinner she started writing an address on her card. I will be expecting you at exactly 7pm . I took the card from her hand and stood. See you at seven I smiled and left before she could say anything else. It was exactly seven o clock sharp when I approached Sarah s table at the Italian restaurant. You are punctual, that s good! she smiled and motioned towards the chair in front of her. The waiter approached us. I ordered wine but skipped the meal. This was a business meeting not a casual affair. So, tell me what is you plan Patrice? She was taking this very seriously. I didn t like her tone. Do you know the history behind the Lucians family? I started. I ve done my research. They have quite a history book of their own. But I m more interested in their investments. They are carrying a generous amount of luggage, if you know what I mean. Tell me do you know what happened to his last wife? I think her name was Juliet Marie or something like that. My parents attended that wedding. It was quite the gossip around here. The dark gowned bride with the violet eyes and her mysterious disappearance She laughed. I shifted in my seat. She knew more than I thought and if her parents were on that boat, which meant that they were filthy, rich and dangerous. I could use that to my advantage. I was surely not the bride. I just want Mr. Lucians to feel comfortable around me. She was so stupid. Mr. Lucians would give her the world if she asked for it. Her name was not Juliet, but Juliana Wait a minute, do mean Juliana Annabelle? she was at the edge of her seat with excitement. Yes I wondered what more she knew.

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She bit the inside of her lip. The waiter approached the table again filling our wine glasses. He was very handsome. I winked at him and he blushed, but hurried away. Patrice, have you heard of her, lately? She has got her name written on every coin in Mr. Lucians investments. There is nothing we can do if she is alive. She sounded frustrated. I have heard of her and she won t be a problem. Especially now being truly widowed, her husband passed on March 28th of last year. They held a funeral for him, but they cremated his body and the ashes were spread over the ocean at Crescent Moon Beach, where he loved to surf. I doubt she even knows that she s loaded with millions on both sides. Her husband was Mr. Lucian s son, Malakaih. He was as prosperous as his father, but they have never lived ostentatiously. I see. Does she have any children? Sarah was concocting her own brew as I spoke. I didn t like where this was headed to. Yes, one child, a girl by the name of Hyacinth Marie. She will be seven this year on December 28th. What are you getting at? If we were to eliminate our rival and take her child we don t have to split anything evenly. I would get the child and that would be my compensation for helping you with Mr. Lucians. What do you think? Aren t I the greatest treasure you have found? she mocked. Her idea was very good. I would have to admit that it was better than mine. That sounds like a wonderful plan. She s perfectly alone with no one to protect her and she s vulnerable at this moment still mourning over her loss. I believe Mr. Lucians will be just that much harder to deal with. He could be a total pain if he wanted to, but maybe if I promised that I would retrieve his missing bride he would be enthused about me wearing his last name and eventually in his will. Well, do we have an agreement? she extended her hand out to me. Yes, we do. We will start tomorrow with Mr. Lucians. I suspect that you have a private area where we could meet. Just that thought disgusted me. Ah, yes. I guess your sacrifice is greater than mine, but I guess I can do much more than that. He is under my custody and I could provide him with special out

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of hospital amenities. If that is what you would like? She smiled wryly and sat back in her chair in smugly. No, not right now, I would prefer to be positive that he is willing to negotiate with me. He will probably need constant reinforcements before he accepts. Let s give him some time. I didn t want to rush into things. I needed to see if this Sarah was someone I could trust. I motioned for the waiter to bring the check and I tipped him greatly including my home number. He blushed and helped me out of my chair. Men were so obvious. Will you be visit the hospital tomorrow, Patrice? Yes, after visitors hours I mocked and headed out. I could hear her laughing. I felt triumphant today and I wanted to celebrate with someone. I hoped the waiter would call me tonight

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