I’ve discovered life again, here with Caleb. Far richer than the one I lived even before the facility. I’m teeming with energy and life and feeling. I can’t let them take it away. And Caleb loves me, but…I knew the moment I met him he wasn’t a man people lie to. What if he’s so betrayed, he lets them take me? I can’t chance it. I can’t.
Shaking, I shove my feet into my sneakers and move quietly as possible to the window, sliding it up and climbing out into the rain. I’m wearing nothing but the gray and white silk nightie Caleb bought me, so I reach back in and grab a blanket. I wrap it around me and run full speed into the woods, out of view of the front of the house. I escaped once and I can do it again, right? The farther I get, the more my heart starts to rebel. Screeching at me to go back.
Sobbing brokenly, I ignore it and keep sprinting.
Caleb, I’m sorry.
* * *
My obsession has a name now.
I want these people to leave so I can get back to her. NOW.
No more waiting to have to truth out. She has to know by now there’s no reason to hide from me. That even if she did belong in an institution, she would be mine. Mind, heart, body, soul. Every part of her is cherished by me.
The cop holds up a picture of my princess and I almost lunge for his throat. Simply for having her likeness in his pocket. Having any part of her. But the picture freezes me in place, turns my blood to ice. It’s Juno in the picture, but the life is missing from her eyes. They’re rimmed in black and she can barely keep them open. Her shoulders are slumped, her hair in disarray. What did they do to you there, princess?
I suddenly want to hold her so badly, I could roar this house down.
They will pay. Whoever hurt her will pay.
“I no longer require your services,” I say to the woman, but my eyes are still on the photograph. “And I haven’t seen the girl.”
He eyes me closely but flinches and averts his eyes when I stare back coldly.
This man was out looking for Juno.
If he found her, I know what would have happened.
He’d covet what’s mine. Take her. Steal her from me.
And yes, I could kill him for something he hasn’t done yet. Does he smell her in the back bedroom? Does he know I’ve got a treasure and want it for himself?
Madness boils in my head, my back teeth grinding.
If he makes a move to get past me, he won’t make it two steps in her direction.
“Don’t need my services?” the woman is screeching. “I just spent three nights—”
“Is that all?” I cut her off, my voice quiet. Lethal.
“Yes,” the officer says wisely, guiding the woman away. “My car is parked down on the main road. Quite a hike, but…I’ll make sure she gets home.”
I close the door and force myself to wait. Wait for them to move out of sight before I go tearing through the house, already unzipping my pants. I want to be inside of her when she tells me everything. Want her to feel my ownership, my love, the way I burn for her, so there isn’t a doubt in her beautiful head that she is safe, in the right place, home.
“Open the door,” I bark, trying the handle. “They’re gone.”
When there’s no answer, no sound of the closet opening, a prickle of terror runs up my arms. I don’t wait. I step back and kick the door in.
Not here. She’s not here.
The closet is empty.
She’s…gone out the fucking window?
“Juno,” I bellow, sprinting to the opening and throwing myself through it, landing on the ground in a crouch, my eyes scanning every direction for some sign of her. Anguish stabs me through the eyes, rips holes in my chest and I stumble in the rain, my breath sawing in and out of my lungs. “Juno, where are you?”
In her size.
Hope seizes my chest and I follow them, picking up speed once I’ve found her trail. The rain is turning the dirt to mud, though, so I have to hurry. I race through the trees, trying to find her roses and sugar scent in the air, croaking her name when I can’t. No, this isn’t happening. I haven’t lost her. I can’t lose her. I need her. I need her. Was I too much? Did I scare her when I explained how deep my obsession ran?
The possibility chokes me, but I carry on, jumping over downed trees and splashing through the stream, calling her name until I’m hoarse—
A flash of gray up ahead.
“Juno!” I shout, crazed, relieved, miserable. “Please. Stop.”