TABLE OF CONTENTS!
- Chapter One
- Chapter Two
- Chapter Three
- Chapter Four
- Chapter Five
- Chapter Six
- Chapter Seven
- Chapter Eight
It was impossible to get Eli to sit still on her best days. It was almost impossible when she was in pain, especially after having been bound to a bedroom for the last three days. Over the years, she had become conditioned to get up and move. To pace, like an animal in a cage.
Back in Vegas, she could at least wear grooves in the floor of her lavish apartment. Here, she only had the four paper-thin walls that separated her and Aria. And, of course, her live-in girlfriend, who always seemed to be home.
The apartment was always unnaturally quiet. It was like the two residents were ghosts. They didn’t live in this space so much as they haunted it.
She could occasionally hear drawers opening or the jangling of keys. Sometimes, the door would open, and someone would plod heavy-footed down the stairs. Eli had yet to be left alone. She tried to convince herself that it was because Aria was worried, but something deeper down told her that it wasn’t the case. She was just as much a captive here as she was under the Devil’s thumb.
Eli had repeatedly asked for her phone and was consistently denied. “I’m worried there’s a tracker on your phone,” Aria explained, her face making the perfect impression of an apology. “When you’re well enough, we’ll go somewhere far away from the apartment, and you can get a hold of whoever you need to.”
It had made sense. Enough that she didn’t want to argue the point. Eli wanted to plead with Aria to get a hold of Yui, but her wariness stood in the way. Eli wanted to protect Yui. She didn’t want to bring her into the crosshairs of whatever this was.
If this was anything at all.
Eli froze at the sound of muffled voices. Then, holding her breath, she moved cautiously to the door to press her ear to the cheap plywood. It was the first time she had heard the couple say more than a few words to each other.
It was clear they were taking great pains to keep their conversation unheard, but courtesy of Eli’s preternatural hearing, nothing was sacred.
“I still can’t believe you brought her here,” Salena hissed. “You have no idea who you even brought home!”
“I know her,” Aria countered. “I’ve known her for a very long time.”
“And you haven’t seen her in a very long time,” Salena argued. “A lot can change over the years.”
Aria sighed. Eli could hear what sounded like a beer bottle being uncapped. Her mouth began to water. “I trust her.”
“I don’t,” the girlfriend hissed. “I don’t know her to trust her. And here she is, in our guest room, making the place wreak like cigarettes!”
Again, Aria sighed. “It’s not like I can drag her outside, now, can I?”
“You can.” Eli could practically hear Salena crossing her arms. “You can kick her out at any time.”
Silence spread between them. Too long. Too pregnant. Eli imagined a thousand different mannerisms in the interim. Perhaps, Aria shook her head and drowned her sorrows in the mouth of her beer bottle. Perhaps, they remained locked in a staring contest, both refusing to back down.
It was strange to hear Aria fighting for her, given that she hadn’t cared enough to when it still mattered. Yet, it warmed something inside of her—long-forgotten and long-frozen.
“I’m not going to kick her out,” Aria said at long last. “She was fucking shot. And it’s our fault.”
Eli’s blood turned to ice in her veins. She flattened herself to the door, pressing her ear harder to the surface. Surely, she had heard her wrong.
“You can’t seriously believe that she didn’t deserve it.”
Aria snarled. Eli nearly did, too.
Salena continued, unperturbed. “She’s one of them. They saw her near the gate.”
“Being near it doesn’t mean anything! We go near it all the time!”
“Yes,” Salena hissed. “To make sure the monsters stay on their side of the line.”
Her heart hammered in her ears. Her head filled with a distant ringing, and her vision blurred.
Eli’s palms were coated in sweat as she pulled herself away from the door. But not quickly enough, as she still heard Salena hiss, “she’s one of them, and you invited her into our home!”
Shock was what she felt first. Then, fingertips digging into her heart space to squeeze something in her chest until she couldn’t breathe. Next, panic, licking like flames up the back of her spine, causing cold sweat to chase its path.
It didn’t hurt to hear someone call her a monster. Landyn had called her far worse, and he had known her better. Never mind that, to a certain extent, their assessment of her was true. She was, in fact, a monster. She just hoped that Aria would never have to see that side of her. For her own safety.
“Shit,” she hissed, resuming her pacing until curiosity got the best of her. Finally, she returned to the door and pressed her cheek against the rough surface.
“I love you,” Salena whispered.
Eli nearly retched.
“I’m just worried,” she continued. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. I understand that she meant something to you. But that’s in the past. You don’t know who this person is. This person doesn’t mean anything to you.”
Aria didn’t argue. Instead, she heaved a resigned sigh.
The sound did something hideous to Eli’s insides.
“Let’s go to bed,” Aria suggested, her voice almost too quiet for Eli to hear.
She heard their footsteps leading them down the hall to the room straight across from hers. Eli had been trying to get the lay of the land since she arrived. Her only real look at the apartment had been the day Aria brought her home, but she was barely aware of her surroundings as she was rushed to this guest bedroom. Ever since she came here, she’s been confined. It was easy to pretend that it was all in the name of “taking it easy” and “healing.” After all, she had everything she needed in this scarily too-decorated room. A bathroom, clothes. Food was delivered to her regularly.
But now, she saw it for what it was—her prison cell.
Eli sat on the edge of the bed, praying that the old springs wouldn’t protest her weight too much. For once, her prayers were answered. If either were to peer in, they would think she’d been sitting there for a while, simply staring at the wall ahead.
But neither peered in. Instead, the door across the hall opened and closed.
Soon after, she heard muffled sounds. But not muffled enough. She knew them immediately—breathless and wanting. Salena’s were louder as if meant to be heard.
Eli gritted her teeth and flopped onto her side, burying her cheek in the pillow.
It was a special brand of torture to be forced to listen to her ex-lover pleasure her new one. If she were human, she might not have heard anything. But the curse of being what she was meant that she heard it all in excruciating detail. Down to the breathless instructions Salena provided.
Eli did her best to think about anything else. It was hard to focus on escape. Even as she focused on Yui and the worry she must be feeling. Aria’s name fell like a prayer from Salena’s mouth, and Eli had to fight the baser instinct not to storm across the hall and slap her name from her lips.
Their bed springs squeaked as Aria’s turn came. Despite it all, Eli felt a fluttering in her belly as she heard those well-loved, well-remembered panted sounds. Her eyes fell closed, her tongue darting over her lip as if she was the one who was about to taste her.
Those weren’t her sounds.
Aria was faking it.
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