“I can’t, Kyrie. I can’t.”
I followed him. “Why?”
He didn’t answer, just turned and strode past me, clutching the towel around his waist. “I can’t, I just—I just can’t. Okay? I can’t.”
I let him go. I stayed on the deck alone for several minutes, gathering myself. Should I pursue it? Keep after him until he told me? Or was I supposed to let it go?
I had an inkling as to what had happened to him. A sinking feeling in my stomach. A knot of fear. The handcuffs around his wrists and ankles. The fact that he had been handcuffed naked to a bed, unable to escape. The fact that she’d given him an illegal, experimental drug to force his libido into overdrive….
The facts added up to a horror I wasn’t sure I knew how to handle.
But I had to find out. I had to know what she’d done to him. The anger I felt within me was bubbling to the surface, becoming ever more potent and frightening in its intensity. Pushing the rage away, I descended to the staterooms, found Roth in the shower. His huge, powerful frame was too big for the tiny space, and he was slumped to the floor; hunched over, head between his knees. The water was running cold, and his skin was reddened from being scrubbed.
I shut off the spray, unfolded a towel. “Valentine. I’m here. It’s okay. Come on out.”
His blond hair was wet and plastered to his skull, his arms wrapped around his knees, hands fisted in front of him. “I need a moment, Kyrie.”
I crouched beside him. Touched his shoulder and felt my heart crack when he flinched away from me. “Roth, please. It’s me. Okay? Just come out of the shower at least.”
He unfolded himself slowly, gingerly, shakily. I wrapped the towel around him, gently rubbing his skin dry, shoulders, arms, chest, waist, legs…. I hesitated, and then dried off his backside and then his front, realizing in a general sort of way what he’d be feeling if he’d been subjected to what I feared he had. I finished drying his hair, and then wrapped a clean, dry towel around his waist. He stood still through it all, not reacting even slightly. I wanted to cry at his limp lethargy.
We’d showered together dozens of times, and we always dried each other off. He loved watching me rub his body with the towel, all over, and I always did it the way I just had, and usually by the time I got to his hair, he’d be aroused, even if we’d just had sex. The fact that he wasn’t even looking at me…my stomach revolted, my chest tightened, my heart ached.
Harris always seemed to know exactly what needed to be done and he’d left a pile of new clothes on the bed, boxers, jeans, a T-shirt, a zip-up hoodie, thick socks, and sturdy hiking boots. I helped Valentine dress, feeling sicker and sicker with each passing moment. When he had the jeans and T-shirt on, he slumped to the bed, sitting on the edge and staring at the floor between his bare feet.
“What do you want, Kyrie?” His voice was low, distant.
I sat beside him. “Tell me what happened. Tell me—tell me what happened, Valentine. Everything.”
“I have to know.”
He didn’t answer for a long, long time. I sat in silence, waiting, not touching him. Eventually, he heaved in a deep breath, let it out, and began. “I know for a fact I locked the doors before we went to bed that night. I set the alarm. I remember doing it. You fell asleep, after we…after. I put you in bed, but I wasn’t tired yet. I stayed up for a while, answering some emails from Robert. When I finally felt tired enough to sleep, I shut everything down. Put our phones on the chargers, locked up, turned on the alarm. I remember…I woke up for a split second. I felt a pinch in my neck. I managed to open my eyes long enough to see a man I didn’t recognize standing over me, a syringe in his hand. Then I felt this coldness rushing through me. I fought it, Kyrie. I fought it so hard, but I couldn’t do a damned thing. I went under. Everything went black. And when I woke up, I was cuffed to the bed where you found me.” He swallowed hard, held his head in his hands, palms at his temples, fingers curled into his hair. “As soon as I opened my eyes and looked around, I knew where I was. I knew who had me.”
“Yes. Gina Karahalios. I’m assuming Harris filled you in on what he knew?” He glanced at me, and I nodded. “Well, I’m guessing by now you understand me well enough to know I’m not precisely forthcoming with information about my past. I only told Harris enough to allow him to keep tabs on the situation. Enough time had passed that I had grown complacent, I suppose. I should have known better.”
“How long what?”
“How much time had passed?”
He tilted his head, resting his elbows on his knees. “Ten years. Almost to the day, actually. It’s what, late September now? I made my move to get away from Vitaly’s operation on August twenty-eighth. I remember the date exactly. It was a Tuesday. I had everything planned out. Money saved in a dozen banks around the world. A boat ready. I was going to sail to Istanbul, and go overland from there to France, and then take a train to London, fly from there to New York. They’d never find me. No one would ever find me. Only…I didn’t count on Gina. She knew somehow. Not the details, but she’d sniffed out the fact that I was planning on leaving. And she wasn’t about to let that happen. She was possessive of me. Insanely so, actually. I knew that, but I thought if I slipped away, she’d eventually get over me.” He paused, breathing slowly and deeply, staring at the wall as if seeing the events of ten years ago. “I knew how crazy she was. I’d seen it. It was part of why I was leaving. We were at a club one night, Gina and I. I’d just closed a big deal. Sold a dozen crates of AKs worth maybe half a mil to this small-time Israeli coke dealer for over two million. We were celebrating. Gina went to the bathroom, and I stayed behind at the bar, drinking. This girl came up to get some drinks, saw me, and started chatting me up. Innocent enough. Wasn’t even really flirting. I made sure to seem uninterested, but not rudely so. I said maybe half a dozen words to her. Barely looked at her. We talked about the damn weather, for god’s sake.
“Well, Gina returned and saw us talking, assuming the worst, I suppose. I don’t know. She came up, took her seat beside me, and the girl left. I thought that was it. Didn’t think about it again. I fell asleep late. Or early, I guess. Gina was always an early riser, no matter what time we went to bed. So I woke up midmorning, and she was gone. No big deal, right? I made some coffee, had a bagel and lox. Went to take a shower, and—Jesus, I can still see it. The girl from the club. Her hands were tied to the shower head, and she’d been…tortured. Fuck, it was horrible. She’d had her throat cut eventually, but not before Gina had done a lot of other…things, to her. It was fucking horrible, Kyrie. Just for talking to me. And no one could do a damn thing about it. I went to find Gina and confront her, and she acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about. By the time I got back to our room, the body was gone, no sign that she’d ever even been there. There was no police report, no missing persons report, no obituary. Nothing. For all intents and purposes, the girl had just vanished. People knew, though.”