I can’t speak, not because I don’t know what to say, but because I don’t know what to start with.
My heart is breaking into a million pieces.
Fredrik pushes my hands away carefully when I try to cup his face within my palms.
“No pity,” he says. “Is that understood?”
“How can you say that?” I gaze deeply into his eyes filled with absolutely nothing, mine filled with heartbreak. “Fredrik—”
“No,” he says resolutely and rises to his feet, leaving me on the floor. “You have to understand, Cassia, it doesn’t hurt me to talk about it. I don’t cry myself to sleep at night thinking about my childhood. It does something else to me. It puts me in a much darker place.” His beautiful blue eyes peer down into mine with a chilling darkness. “I neither deserve nor want pity.”
I stand from the floor, the chain around my ankle shuffling as I approach him.
“Did that man ever put you in that chair?” I ask quietly from behind now that his back is to me. “Did he pull out your teeth?”
Fredrik’s shoulders rise and fall with a heavy, silent breath.
He turns around to face me, his tall height and gorgeous features as always make my heart flutter and my stomach harden when he looks at me like that, like he’s hungry for something. It’s the darkness within him, the part of him that takes over and compels him to control me, to ravage me in ways that, although I can’t remember, I know that no other man ever has.
“No,” he answers. “It never came to that with me. But many of the other boys, they weren’t so fortunate.” He looks away, his bare arms defined by hard muscles crossed over his hairless chest. “Other things were done to me. I would’ve preferred the teeth pulling.”
“What kinds of things?” My chest clenches uncomfortably just thinking about it. I step a little closer, being careful not to invade his space too quickly because I’m unsure of his mindset.
“Why do you want to know, Cassia?” He turns around fully now so that he can face me. He appears suspicious. “What are you trying to pull?”
Shaking my head repeatedly I say, “Is that what you believe? That I’m trying to manipulate you?” While I can understand why he’d have suspicions, it still troubles me to know that he even remotely believes that.
I step right up to him and close that last bit of space between us, resentment in my eyes. “Is that what you truly believe, Fredrik? That I would use something as horrific as your past against you for my own benefit?”
“If I were in your position,” he says cocking his head to one side, “it’s what I’d do.”
Hurt by his admission, my eyes fall away from his.
“Do you remember anything?” he asks, all too soon going back to the inevitable.
And I don’t have the energy to fight it anymore.
“No.” I shake my head. “I don’t remember anything.”
The chain is dragged noisily across the floor as I walk away from him and go back toward my corner.
“Cassia,” Fredrik calls out softly, “please don’t sit on the floor. I’m asking you.”
I do anyway.
Curling up in the corner with my back pressed against the wall, I pull my knees covered by my long gown toward my chest and wrap my arms around them. And I stare out at nothing, defeat consuming me.
“Why am I not enough?” I ask listlessly.
I feel Fredrik’s eyes on me without having to look up at him.
He says nothing.
“Why do you love that woman so much?” I go on. “I may not know anything about her because you refuse to tell me, but I know in my heart that she must be evil. She’s done something terrible to you, something unforgivable, yet you still love her. I can tell.”
“You aren’t seeing the whole picture, Cassia.”
He walks over and stands above me. I still don’t look up at him. My gaze remains fixed out ahead, something white, probably the dresser, slowly blurring into focus.
“And I’ll never see the whole picture if you won’t tell me.” I choke back my tears. I don’t want him to see me cry anymore. “But why am I not enough? Tell me why you love her, a woman who doesn’t seem to want to be found, yet…I’m here and you refuse me.”
“I love no one,” he says and I know he’s lying. “And neither do you.”
Stung by his accusation, I finally look up at him. But I can’t speak. I’m too hurt to speak. I wonder how any man can be so damaged that he doesn’t see love, real love, when it’s right in front of him.
“I’ll ask you one more time,” he says. “Is there anything you want to tell me about what you remember?”
“No,” I lie. “I remember nothing.” I glare up at him for a long tense moment, the tears finally seeping from my eyes, and then my gaze drops toward the floor and Fredrik leaves me sitting here as he makes his way toward the concrete steps.
“Are you going to kill that man in there?” I ask without looking at him.
He stops for a moment, but then proceeds up the stairs without another word.
Today is the first day in a long time that I’ve left Cassia alone in Greta’s care and am relieved to be away from her. She is dangerous to me and I can’t let her get under my skin. I may be a devil in my own right, but I’m still human, and I feel remorse and compassion for Cassia, among other things, that are a recipe for pain and regret.
Seraphina is my priority. She’s all that should matter to me because in the end—
No, I can’t think about that right now. Not here.
“Fredrik?” Izabel Seyfried says from her seat to my left. Her voice snaps me back into the moment. “Are you still alive in there?” She waves her hand in front of my face, grinning at me with bright green eyes framed by long, auburn hair that lays over both shoulders.
Izabel has become quite an asset—and quite the killer—to our growing organization. She’s like a sister to me, a stubborn, feisty, blood-thirsty vengeance-seeker, but a sister, nonetheless. And I have no room to talk. She and I are more alike than I care to admit.
I let out a heavy sigh and lay both arms against the elongated table. Between them are photos of two targets in Washington State. The same photos are on the table in front of Izabel, Niklas on the other side of the table directly across from her, Dorian across from me, and next to him, of all people who stink of permanent markers and cheese, James Woodard.