She stops.

“What look, Greta?” I lean toward her, eager for her to say it. I place my hand on hers. “Tell me. What look?”

Her lined blue eyes appear conflicted as if she still isn’t quite sure of it herself.

“The one when a man knows he’s going to have to give something up that he doesn’t want to, for something else.”

“I don’t understand.”

And truly I don’t. For a fleeting moment, I thought maybe she meant that Fredrik was falling in love with me, and that he knew he’d have to let me go once he found Seraphina because she is the love of his life. But I quickly realized that I was wrong as something dark and sad appeared in her eyes and has been lingering there since, making me believe that the truth is something far more terrible.

“I’m not sure, but I think that’s why maybe he doesn’t want you to remember,” she goes on. “As if in the beginning, you were just a means to an end, but now things are different. Very different.”

She forces a smile and stands up from the bed.

“Honestly, I don’t know, Cassia. All I do know is that I don’t like it that he keeps you down here. But I’ve never seen him hurt you. It’s very evident to me that he’s protecting you. He knows what Seraphina is capable of and if he didn’t keep you here, you might be dead. But at the same time he needs you to find her. He’s protecting you, but he’s using you, too.”

My hands have been shaking lightly and I’m only now realizing it. I cross my legs Indian-style on the bed strategically so as not to hurt my bound ankle, and I fold my hands together in my lap to steady them.

“She tried to kill me the night Fredrik took me from the shelter,” I say distantly. “I know in my heart she set the building on fire. But I got away by climbing down the fire escape. I vaguely remember falling a short distance and hitting my head. I remember seeing her. She even spoke to me. But she couldn’t kill me there because I was out in the open.” I run my hands through the top of my hair, feeling mentally exhausted by all of this.

I stop. “I hate thinking about this stuff.”

Greta changes the atmosphere in the room with that big smile of hers and a look of excitement in her eyes.

“I’ve got an idea,” she says, holding up a bony index finger.

She leaves me sitting on the bed and moves her way across the room toward the staircase. “I’ll be right back,” she says just before she heads up.

A few minutes later, the giant television on the wall across from me comes to life. I feel the smile flee my face in an instant and a metaphorical fist collapses around my stomach. My breath hitches and my hands begin to shake and all I want to do is curl myself up neatly into my favorite corner. All of this is the initial reaction to whenever that television comes on because of the things that Fredrik sometimes forces me to watch. But reluctantly my body begins to calm, and instead of seeking out the corner, I get up from the bed and walk toward the television instead, the chain around my ankle shuffling nosily on my way.

The screen freezes on what looks like a web page. A few seconds later, light from the hallway on the upper floor spills out on the steps as Greta opens the door and descends them. She’s carrying some kind of flat electronic device on the palm of her hand with a brightly lit screen that illuminates the colors and lines in her face amid the surrounding darkness of the staircase now that the door has been closed.

“Fredrik uses this thing sometimes,” she says looking down at the screen somewhat uncertain about her ability to use it properly. “He told me never to touch it, so let’s keep this between us, OK?”

I bring my hand to my mouth and press my thumb and index finger together making a zipping motion horizontally across my lips. “Not a word,” I say with a smile.

Greta moves her finger over the device and the television screen changes. She types in ‘Connie Francis’ in the YouTube search box and a row of videos appears. Immediately, I know what Greta’s intentions are, and instead of making me nervous like it did before, my chest tingles with excitement and spreads outward through all of my limbs like a rush of heat.

I practically squeal when she clicks on Fallin’, and I have no idea why.

Greta’s smile widens when she looks at me.

“I won’t take no for an answer,” she says and I know exactly what she wants me to do.

“Let’s have some fun for a change,” she adds, setting the device on the bottom step just after hitting play.

And as if I’ve performed this song time and time again like a professional, the second the music starts playing loudly through the speakers in the ceiling, my body and mind fall right into it without hesitation.

Fredrik

Music begins to stream loudly from my pants pocket and every pair of eyes, including Kelly Bennings’, who we apprehended less than an hour ago, turns my way.

Dorian looks at me with a curiously raised brow.

“Really?” he mocks. “That’s your ringtone?” Laughter ensues.

A knot lodges in the center of my throat. That’s not a ringtone, but I can’t tell anyone here that. And all I can think about is what the hell is going on back in Baltimore and how I managed to begin an interrogation without turning my phone to silent beforehand.

Izabel, trying to keep a straight face and doing a horrible job, walks up to me and glances momentarily down at my pocket with the humorous skirting of her eyes.

She cracks a smile and purses her lips. “I knew you were a man of class, Fredrik,” she teases me, “but I didn’t know you were that classy.”

I’m glad Niklas isn’t inside the warehouse to add to their banter.

Dorian bursts into laughter as the song—and Cassia’s stunning voice matching it—carries on like a beacon in my pocket, alerting everyone to my dark secret and precisely where to find it.

“Better answer that, man,” Dorian chimes in. “Might be your boyfriend.”

I really want to torture that guy. Just for fun.

“What the f**k is going on?” Kelly says from the wooden chair we tied her wrists and ankles to just moments ago. “Who are you f**king people?!” she shrieks. “Answer me!”

Everyone ignores her just as we’ve been doing since we kidnapped her from the parking lot of a grocery store and stuffed her in the trunk of our loaner car.

I feel Izabel’s hand rest on my arm and I look over at her. She’s no longer smiling, maybe because even after their jokes, I’ve shown no indication of finding any of it smile-worthy. She tilts her head gently and looks at me in a concerned manner.


Tags: J.A. Redmerski In the Company of Killers Book Series
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