An even more devilish smile slips up on her lips, painted the reddest of reds I’m just now noticing; lipstick is also smeared across her face.
She spits blood onto the floor and rolls her tongue across her teeth as if checking to see if any are loose.
Victor pushes me off to the side, separating us, and he stands between us.
“Who are you?” he asks her in a calm, but demanding voice.
She smiles, her white teeth glistening with blood.
“Oh, one of you knows who I am,” she says cryptically, her eyes passing over all of us, except for Niklas who’s still behind her. “Where’s the interrogator? The sadistic torturer? He’s in on this as much as the rest of you.” Her eyes fall back on Victor. “And that greasy little fucker you hired to do all of your hacking. The information-getter? All of you are in on this.”
“What is ‘this’ exactly?” Victor asks.
The woman cocks her head to one side, almost thoughtfully. “You’ll know that when all six Knights of the Round Table are present.” She smirks. “Oh, and I’ll be needing a bath, a clean outfit, a meal—not any of that fast-food shit—and a glass of wine.”
Niklas and Dorian glance at one another, then at me, lastly at Victor.
Niklas yanks the woman by the back of her hair, exposing her throat.
“Who the fuck are you, you insane bitch?” he demands.
“Oh, love,” she says whimsically, “don’t rough me up too much or I might just fall in love with you.”
He pulls on her hair harder, but she doesn’t even flinch.
“My name is Nora,” she announces, “and for now, since I’m clearly the one in control, that’s all any of you need to know.”
Present time – 9:00 p.m. – Boston Headquarters
A face with a split lip and stained yellow and blue underneath the left eye, stares back at me in the mirror.
“That bitch is crazy,” I tell Victor standing in the room behind me. I dab some ointment onto a cut underneath my eye with the tip of my finger. “She’s playing games, Victor.” I wince when my finger touches the sore bone.
“Yes, she is,” he says, stepping into a clean pair of dress pants, leaving them unbuttoned and loose around the muscled V-shape between his hips. “And for now we have to play along.”
“Who do you think she is?” I ask. “She says that one of us knows her. It’s not me; that much I’m sure of.”
Slipping his arms into the sleeves of a dress shirt he says, “That might not be true”—I turn from the mirror and step into the doorway of the bathroom, looking across at him—“if she was someone obvious, we’d know already who she is—unless it’s Woodard or Fredrik who hasn’t seen her yet. But I think it’s more likely that she’s someone that one of us knows through someone else.”
Curious, I step into the room, dressed in my black panties and bra, my hair still wet from the shower.
“But what concerns me more than who she is,” Victor says while buttoning his shirt, “is how she knew about Mrs. Gregory, Tessa Flynn and James Woodard’s daughters. Or, how she knew that only six of us—and which six—sit in on meetings and run things behind the scenes.”
On the way back to Boston, with ‘Nora’ in the trunk, she told us that Dina and Tessa weren’t the only loved ones she got to—James Woodard, distraught over the disappearance of his daughters, is on his way to Boston as we speak.
“And how did she know that you, Niklas and Fredrik have no one you care for on the outside for her to kidnap?” I point out.
Victor sits on the end of the bed to put on his black dress socks.
He nods once.
“Yes, that’s disconcerting,” he says. “If she knows that much about us, I’m sure she knows a lot more. We need to find out what before I kill her.”
“You mean”—I narrow my eyes at him—“we need to find Dina, Tessa and James’s daughters, and whatever else she knows before you kill her.”
He looks up.
“Come here,” he says.
Reluctantly, I walk over to him and he fits his hands on my hips, pulling me to stand in-between his opened legs. His warm lips fall on my bare stomach.
“I have no intention in letting this woman hurt Mrs. Gregory,” he says and I run my hands through the top of his short brown hair. “We’ll do everything that we can to find her and get her back. Do you not trust me, Izabel?” He looks up into my eyes.
With my fingers still speared through his hair, I carefully tilt his head back on his neck. His hands squeeze my hips.
“Yes, I trust you, Victor, but I also know how you are. I know that you can’t just become someone you’re not simply because you’ve developed feelings for me.” My hands comb through his hair as he looks up at me, his neck arced backward. “And I know—.” I can’t finish.
“You know what?” he asks in a quiet voice.
“Nothing,” I say, shaking my head.
I take a step back, intent on getting dressed, but his hands tighten about my hips, holding me in place.
“Tell me,” he says.
And I won’t. I don’t even know what compelled me to bring it up like that.
“It’s nothing,” I say and finally he lets go, his hands falling away from my hips as I walk over to the closet. “We need to go talk to this bitch. I don’t care if she’s pulling all the strings. She’s going to start talking if I have to beat it out of her”—I shake my finger at him, turning from the closet—“And I couldn’t care less if she’s handcuffed to a chair with no way to fight back—I’ll still beat her to death if she hurt Dina.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less of you,” he says.
Victor stands from the end of the bed and tucks the tail of his white shirt behind the waist of his slacks, tops it off with a thin belt and then steps into his dress shoes.
As I’m slipping a thigh-length black dress over my head, Victor steps up behind me and kisses the back of my neck, his fingers trailing softly down the bare skin of my arms.
“I’ll see you in ten minutes,” he says.
He turns and starts to walk toward the door, but I walk quickly over to him and wrap my arms around his waist from behind, resting the side of my bruised face against his back. His big hands enclose mine.