Is it my imagination or does she run faster?
My heart cracks at the possibility. I cry out hoarsely.
Too bad, though. Too bad. Even if she doesn’t want me anymore, I’m still keeping her. Does she think I’m optional? I’m fucking not. I’m permanent, I’m her life now and I’m bringing her home.
It doesn’t take me long to catch up and wrap my arms around her from behind. Our speed causes us to go down, but I turn my body to bear the brunt of the fall. She’s sprawled on top of me, soaked from the rain, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” she sobs, trying to scramble her way out of my hold. “I’m sorry I lied. But please, please don’t let them take me back!”
“Listen to yourself!” I grab to fistfuls of her hair, drag her face to mine and press our foreheads together. “Do you think I’d let anyone take you away from me? Do you think I wouldn’t kill anyone who tried?”
“I’ve known you weren’t Sarah since the beginning,” I growl. “I pretended to believe it so I could keep you with me. I couldn’t stand the idea of you leaving, even after you’d only been in my home for one goddamn minute. We both lied. But that’s over. It’s over. No more lies between us. You’re going to come home and let me fucking love you, Juno. Forever. Longer than forever. Is that clear?”
Face crumpling, she throws herself into my arms, crying into the crook of my neck. “She lied so they would keep me. She told them I attacked her with scissors, that I’d done it before, but she did it to herself. I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t.”
“I know you wouldn’t, princess.” I rock her side to side, my heart squeezing in my chest. “You don’t have to convince me. I know you.”
“And I thought when I turned eighteen, they’d have to let me go. But they didn’t. I fought and fought, but they tuned me out.” She’s trembling in my arms, so I hold her tighter, as tight as I can. “You’re just part of a chorus of shouting and nothing gets through. Oh God, it was awful. Please don’t let them find me, Caleb.”
“Never. We’ll move farther away. We’ll go as far as possible. I won’t have you scared, princess. I wouldn’t be able to stand it.”
She lifts her head, swipes the tears out of her eyes. “I love you, too,” she whispers. “I was so worried I wouldn’t get t-to tell you.”
A sense of completion rocks me to the core. She loves me.
She’s mine. Mine to protect and pleasure and worship.
I’m never ever letting her go. Never letting her out of my sight again.
Desperation snares me in its trap, a ferocious need to possess turns my blood to fire, and I turn, throwing my girl down onto the forest floor, my fingers dragging down my zipper to spring my cock from its prison. “Did I or did I not tell you to be ready to fuck when I came back, girl?”
With a whimper, she opens her thighs.
Five Years Later
I smile lazily at my husband from the hammock.
From where he kneels in the sand building a castle with our daughter, he bares his teeth back at me, letting me know he’s hungry—and not for food.
Five years ago, we left the cabin in the forest. After the cop came to our doorstep and Caleb witnessed my fear, we only spent two more nights in the house. The first night, he left and came back several hours later, not having to explain where he’d gone. The headline in the paper the following morning was explanation enough.
Missing: Asylum Doctor and Nurse.
After that, we packed up and drove until we reached a remote part of Washington State and took refuge there while he finished his book.
He named it Mine.
The New York Times called it, “A terrifying glimpse inside the mind of a deranged lunatic with an unhealthy obsession with his wife.”
It remained on their hardcover bestseller list for forty-nine weeks.
In the fiction section—but we know the truth.
There’s nothing fictional about Caleb’s enduring fixation on me.
Nor mine on him.
With the craze surrounding Mine, Caleb was offered a major movie deal and took it, but we moved to the private island before it ever came out in theatres and neither one of us has seen it. He told me he couldn’t even bear to watch someone touch an actress portraying me. I agreed. “I’d want to kill her,” I leaned down and whispered in his ear as I rode him one morning, my belly swollen with child.
Now we live on the island, just our small family. Our daughter is four years old and our son—who is currently napping beside me in the hammock—is two. We spend our days swimming in the ocean, tending our garden, reading on the beach.