What if he doesn’t want me anymore?

Is he even planning to keep me on after I give birth, or will I be the next Beth?

These are the things that keep me up tonight.

Also the fact that I’m alone in his bed. He was supposed to be mine tonight—not that I’m in the least bit amorous, and if he is after what he just did, that would worry me—but he doesn’t come in. The girls are already in bed, since we were on a date night and it’s late, but he doesn’t even come in to shower or change out of his bloody clothes.

I’m terrified to imagine he’s with Mia. I know she doesn’t want him right now. She wouldn’t even let him lay a hand on her in the car, and he obviously wanted to. Once they’re alone in that bedroom, Mia has no protection from him. Even with all of us around, she only has a semblance of it. We’re all practically his minions, bending the world in whichever way we’re able to suit his ever-evolving needs and desires.

I’ve already had to come to terms with that fact that my intended husband is a homicidal maniac, but the possibility that he uses sexual violence against Mia has always floated just outside the realm of things I can accept as real. Lying in bed alone, though, it’s all I can think about. I didn’t see whatever she saw inside that house, but she’s traumatized to the point of lashing out at him. Mateo hits back—not physically, but if she lashes out at him in pain and says the wrong thing, he’ll retaliate. He has hot buttons, and I don’t know if she knows that. I don’t really know anything about their relationship. I didn’t mind before, but now it scares me.

He already punished her in grand fashion for the crime of trying to leave him, doling out a death sentence to the man she tried to stay with. In that way, he’s already forcing himself on her.

I can’t handle the prospect of him doing it physically, too.

I don’t need anything else to be horrified by right now.

Chapter Fifteen


Maria brings in breakfast.

I don’t eat it.

I roll over and smell Mateo on my bedding, and I can’t find my appetite. There’s an ache inside me, a pit in my stomach, but it’s not from lack of food.

Everything hurts.

Being conscious hurts.

I ask for more of whatever they gave me last night to make me sleep.

Maria leaves, hopefully to get it for me.

I have the hangover from hell, only I didn’t drink. Well, I guess I did. I drank from the devil’s cup, and now here I am.

And Vince is gone.

It’s all my fault.

Be careful what you wish for, sweetheart.

Remembering Mateo’s words, one of his many warnings, slices new lacerations across my already gaping wounds. It’s so easy to forget he’s legitimately dangerous. It’s so easy to get swept up in the romance of him, to see the soft side and forget the dark side is always there, it’s just not always at the forefront.

It’s so easy to love him, when you should hate him with everything you have.

Well, not so much now.

It’s a foreign feeling, but it’s easy not to love him right now.

He’s sucked me dry. He’s drained me. I need energy to heal, to try to find my way back from this, and I don’t have any. Where I had feelings of love, memories of tender touches and sensual smiles, now I have helpless fear, memories of him saying horrible things and doing worse. Memories of Vince’s blood on the hands that once brought me such pleasure.

Today is Sunday, but there’s no dinner. Maria tells me that when she comes back and sits on the edge of my bed, watching me. I don’t expect it, because Maria’s not especially warm, but she places a steadying hand on my arm and tells me, “You’ll heal. You’re strong, Mia. You’ll be okay.”

Her words trigger new tears and I shake my head as much as I can without lifting it from the pillow. “I’m not strong.”

“Yes, you are. You’ve survived everything they’ve thrown at you and kept your spirit. You’re just sad now. That’s okay. But don’t let them win. Don’t let them drain you. You rest and mourn and you come back stronger.”

I don’t tell her that’s impossible, because I don’t want to be mean. I didn’t even think Maria particularly liked me, and here she is offering me comfort. I nod my heavy head. “Thank you, Maria.”

With a heavy sigh, she gets up and goes back to her tasks.

But when she leaves, I cry.

When the door opens and closes again, I know it’s Mateo before he comes into my line of sight.

He came in here last night, too. He went into my bathroom, stripped off his soiled suit, and showered. Then he came out and climbed into bed beside me. He didn’t touch me. We didn’t speak. I don’t know why he couldn’t have just left me alone to cry in peace. I didn’t hide my pain to protect him. I made him lie there beside me, unable to touch me, and I sobbed until I couldn’t breathe. Until there was nothing left, and I finally drifted off to sleep.

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