Hearing a door open, I still, then feel something thud against the floor at my feet. Oh, God, wake up, I beg, digging my nails into the palms of my hands, feeling the crescent moon shape of my nails imprint into my skin.

“Please.”

I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to open my eyes and have reality crash down around me, but that plea was full of fear and desperation. Opening my eyes again, I blink, trying to clear the haze, then feel bile crawl up the back of my throat as I look into Kim’s pain-filled eyes staring back at me. Please, she mouths, and I notice blood at the corner of her lips then move my gaze down her naked body. Fear like I have never felt in my life rips through me as I take in the bruises, welts and stab wounds covering her torso.

“Oh, God, please no,” I choke, closing my eyes, wishing I’d wake up but knowing that will never happen because this isn’t a dream. I’m awake in a living nightmare. “I’ll get help,” I promise as she reaches out toward me, and her eyes slide shut. Watching her chest heave unnaturally, my hands start to shake and my mouth dries up. “Stay awake,” I beg, moving my hands back and forth, trying to get the rope around my wrist to loosen enough for me to slide free. “Please stay awake,” I sob.

“Nuh-uh-uh.”

Jumping, my head flies up and a new wave of fear washes over me as I watch the guy from the coffee shop step into the room and close the door behind himself.

“I can tell you recognize me.” He grins, shoving his hands in the front pockets of his jeans. “Do you know how badly I wanted to take you the day we met face to face? Do you know how hard it was to let you go?” he asks as I lean back, trying to avoid his touch as his blood-covered fingers slide down my cheek.

“Please don’t do this, please, just let me go.”

“Now why would I do that?”

“You don’t want to do this,” I plea, trying to get my hands free.

“You’re wrong. I very much want to do this.” He smiles, grabbing a fistful of my hair and jerking my head back so hard I cry out. “I thought you wanted to be dominated? I thought you wanted someone to stalk and rape you.”

“That wasn’t me, I swear it wasn’t me,” I cry as his fist in my hair tightens and pulls harder, forcing my head over the back of the chair, and pain from my recently removed stitches to shoot through my scalp.

“Do you know what I did to my fiancée when I found out she was asking men to beat her? When I found out she was letting men take her like a whore?” he shouts, and I flinch, shaking my head again while tears fall silently down my cheeks. “I gave her what she wanted. She wanted to be beaten, so I beat her until she couldn’t open her eyes. She wanted to be fucked like a slut, so I fucked her like the slut she was, until she was bleeding from every hole in her body.” He pets my hair, almost gently, and softens his voice. “You were the first profile I saw after her, the first one I responded to. At first, I wasn’t going to hurt you. At first, I was going to save you like I couldn’t save her. But then I saw you with him, saw what you were doing to him without him knowing. I saw that you were just like her,” he roars, and I squeeze my eyes as tight as they will go.

“Oh, God.” Dillon, where are you? Please be okay.

“God isn’t on your side.” He grins an evil grin, and then bites my neck so hard I feel my flesh tear while his hand circles my throat.

“Please! Stop,” I rasp, and he squeezes harder. Struggling for breath, my body shakes and stars dance before my eyes, then everything goes black.

Coming awake suddenly, my hands fly to my throat and I gasp for air. “Oh, God.” I look around, feeling fear consume me once more as tears fill my eyes. I’m still in my nightmare. I cover my mouth then realize my hands are free, and I sob.

I don’t give myself time to think. I quickly untie my ankles and move to Kim, seeing the rope that was around my wrists is in her hand. “Kim.” I roll her to her back, press my hand to her chest, and shake her. “Kim,” I repeat, but she doesn’t move; she doesn’t even take a breath. Swallowing through the realization that she’s dead, I drop my head to her chest and fight the urge to gather her against me.

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