ESCAPE Part Three
EVERYONE HAS A BREAKING POINT. WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU FOUND YOURS?
The worst of Shane’s fears have been realized. Just when he thought they could finally settle down and figure out what this undeniable attraction between them means, Rowan has vanished. Is she running from her future, or has her past finally caught up with her?
With nothing but an empty apartment to guide him, Shane is left wondering if she even wants to be found. But now, he is a man with a mission; he’ll have to muster all his resources, use all of his skills and experience to solve the most important mystery of his life. Where is Rowan, and is it too late to save her? Does she even want to be saved, or is a hero the last thing she needs?
Her head throbbed as she tried opening her eyes; the small amount of light shining under the door was enough to bring her to tears. Hoping to shield them, she endeavored to lift her too heavy arm as far as she could, only to have it come crashing back down to the floor with a loud slap. With the drugs lingering in her system, her limbs were still too laden to lift above her head. She swallowed, hoping to get rid of the cotton residing in her mouth.
Blinking a few times, she tried stretching out along the floor, brushing up against the walls with both her toes and her hands––Damn it. She knew exactly where she was: The Box. Having spent untold weeks in this very box, Rowan was all too familiar with the feel of the place, its dimensions, its purpose.
Rolling over and pushing up on her hands and knees, she groped around the small space. She was disheartened to discover only one thin blanket, no mat, no pillow, no bucket, no water. That would explain why her body felt so sore. She hated to think what she would feel like after the drugs wore off completely. Sliding around on the cold floor one more time, she felt her heart sink as she leaned back against the wall: None of the usual comforts—as she liked to call them—were in here with her.
Waiting for the panic to take over, she was surprised when laughter bubbled up instead. Her head hurt with the effort, but laughing felt almost cathartic. Stupid. Negative. Asleep. She couldn’t believe she let herself get in this situation. Struggling to get herself back under control, she wiped the tears from her eyes and drew in a shaky breath.
The last thing she remembered was demanding to see her son. She’d known, even while starting to lose control, that something like this would happen, but she didn’t care just then. She needed her son. They’d held her in isolation for too many days without allowing her to see him and she’d snapped. It really wasn’t until Jolly laughed at her that she launched herself at him, clawing at his eyes. The rat bastard screamed like a pathetic old man, calling in his most protective followers. All she knew was blind rage and rough hands all over her. She fought until she felt the needle stab under her skin. Now this.
The last time she was in The Box, Jolly had kept her for a full month. At first she didn’t mind; she’d been recovering from surgery and wondering how she was going to keep up on her crews, but after that first week, she’d been ready to get back to work. Her crew had needed her and she had been anxious to get back to it and do her part of the hard labor required.
With no freedom in sight, she’d started practicing some yoga poses she and Lina had picked up from a recruit. Still recovering from her tubal ligation, she’d worked slowly at first, but with nothing to do but recover and practice, she was able to perfect some of the poses before being let out. She never forgot how much joy her practice gave her – without her serendipitous introduction to the art she might not have fared so well.
Every day Jolly had come to her, wanting to discuss her “rash decision” to get her tubes tied. She never let on that, other than boredom, she was doing just fine. What he really wanted to know was how on earth she pulled off getting the surgery without him knowing. Her second major act of defiance. She would not birth his babies. Ever.
After a month Jolly had let her out, thinking she had learned her lesson about defying him, when really what she had learned was just how crazy and controlling he was. She’d become more determined than ever to get out. Too bad it took her over ten years to do it. Maybe if she had left earlier, he would have forgotten all about her, and she would be back with Shane.
The door opened, cutting off her thoughts and spilling more light into the small space. Her stomach lurched as she squinted at the assaulting light. Renewed pounding in her head killed all the laughter immediately.
“I’m glad to hear you find your situation so amusing.” Jolly’s deep voice made her skin crawl.
She didn’t speak. She tried opening her eyes but couldn’t overcome the light beating her eyelids into submission.
“Rowena, Rowena, Rowena. You have a lot to learn, my child,” Jolly clucked at her.
She wanted to tell him off, to yell at him to get the hell out of here, to demand to see her son, but none of that was happening. Her throat was too dry to speak, her head throbbed with just the thought of shouting at him, and her eyes leaked. Her body was not cooperating in the least and she felt defeated. With no other option, she turned away from him and groped for the thin blanket to hide under.
“I can see you’re not quite ready yet. I’ll just leave you with this, then,” he told her.
Rowan heard his footsteps back out and the door close. When darkness settled back over her prison, she sat up and felt for what he had left behind. After her eyes readjusted to the slim beam of light making its way under the door, she saw a tray with a water jug and a glass on it. Sliding across the floor, she sat up and gulped the water, drinking the entire glass before registering the aftertaste.
With her heart racing, she leaned back and took several deep breaths. Fighting to stay awake, knowing that the drug would eventually take hold of her body, sweat poured down her face as the poison worked its way into her system. At first she just felt light headed. Her limbs became heavy, filling with lead with each passing moment. Soon she had to remember to breathe. Panic filled her as she wondered if maybe he was going to kill her this time. God damn it, Jolly. You will not win. She held on to those words as if they were a life raft, fighting the drug’s effects as long as she could, before blackness filled her mind, chasing out every thought.
* * *
Shane glanced sideways at the clock, wiping the sleep out of his eyes. The blue hue of his laptop cast an ominous glow over the dark room. It was well after two in the morning and he knew he needed to sleep, but damned if he knew how. Downing the rest of his beer, he hoped like hell sleep would just knock him over the head and leave him to slumber right there in his office. Every damn time he got into that bed, it was if it was swarming with ants or spiders. No way he could sleep in it.
Attempting his search one more time, he felt the regret sitting like a stone in his stomach. If only. If only he’d been there. If only he hadn’t been so pissy about her questions. If only he hadn’t been so wrapped up in his work. If only he’d been more vigilant, more protective. He had let her down and she was gone.
He didn’t know where she’d run off to, but he knew she’d left him. He’d given her his heart and she bolted. And she was damn good at hiding, that was for sure. He’d been searching for days and nothing. No Rowan, no Justin, no Lina, no Talia. As if the entire family had just vanished into thin air.
His head smacked the table hard, waking him up. Fuck! Rising unsteadily from his chair, he stumbled down the hall. Maybe the couch would be a better venue for sleep. The walls felt like they were closing in on him. He desperately needed sleep and hoped the beer would help.
He knew he needed to get his shit together, but that voice was weak and muffled in his current state. What he really needed was Rowan. Without her, nothing else mattered. He’d had her––she was his Rowan––and he had fucked it up.
Finally making it to the couch, he fell back on it, rubbing his head where he had hit it as the smell of stale beer wafted up at him. He must have kicked over some old beer cans along the way. Shit, one more thing he’d have to deal with in the morning.
Just a few hours of good, solid sleep and then he’d be able to focus and clean this shit up. He needed to find her and fix this. He knew, if only he could find her, he could fix it. If only.