I’m pleading with him. I can hear it in my voice and he can, too. I don’t want to believe it of him. And I know that he can hear that, as well.
He lets my arm fall back to my side and he closes his eyes for just a moment before he opens them again and looks me in the eye.
“Evangeline, you don’t know me at all. There are many things about me that you don’t know. But there’s one thing about me that you should. I owe that to you.”
I nod. “Okay. Tell me. I won’t judge you.”
He almost smiles, the corners of his mouth curving ever so slightly. But it isn’t a smile of humor. It’s a dark, cryptic smile. As though he knows far better than I do that I am wrong.
“I’m sorry I hurt you,” he tells me again. “Very, very sorry. I wish it hadn’t happened.”
I smile now. “I’m not sorry that it happened,” I tell him honestly. “A twisted side of me enjoyed it.”
His head snaps up now, his surprised gaze locked with mine.
“You enjoyed it?” he croaks. I have to smile at his expression. I shrug.
“It’s been a long time for me,” I admit. “And you’re a very handsome man, Luca. In all honesty, I’ve been attracted to you since the moment we met. Was it an ideal encounter? No. But I can’t lie and say that I’m sorry it happened.”
He’s quiet now as he assesses me. He’s probably trying to determine just how much of a freak I am. Clearly, only a freak would enjoy what happened last night. Right?
“I’m drawn to you, too,” he tells me quietly, finally. “You’re refreshingly honest. You’re such a light in the world and I am exactly the opposite. I shouldn’t be near you, I should stay far away. But I haven’t. And for that, I’m truly sorry.”
I roll my eyes.
“Oh, God. Please tell me that you’re not going to say that you’re dangerous for me and that you need to stay away from me for my own good. Please tell me those words aren’t going to come from your mouth. That’s the stuff that movies are made from. That’s not reality.”
Luca is silent, every muscle still.
“It’s my reality,” he tells me soberly and I can see that he is completely serious. “I’m dangerous, Evangeline. I really am. And while I would like nothing more than to explore this attraction that I feel for you, I simply can’t. And after I’m finished explaining everything, you will understand why.”
I’m uncertain now, hesitant.
“Okay,” I answer slowly. “Explain. Do you have a drug problem? Is that why you can’t remember last night?”
“Jesus, Evangeline!” he snaps. “Of course I don’t have a drug problem. Although I wish that was the case. It would be such an easy fix.”
I’m taken aback by the brusque tone to his voice, then dumbfounded to hear that he thinks drugs would be easier to overcome than whatever his problem actually is.
“I’m sorry. But a spotty memory and out of control actions can signal a drug problem. Tell me what it is, Luca. Maybe I can help.”
“You can’t help,” he says quietly, his expression dark. “No one can. And I don’t want to discuss it here. Do you trust me enough to come with me? I need to show you something so that you will believe me.”
I ponder that for a moment and to my surprise, I do find that I trust him. He might have secrets, but I can see in his eyes that he would never knowingly hurt me. Whatever last night was, it wasn’t something that he purposely did. He was out of control. He wasn’t himself.
He wasn’t himself.
I nod. “Yes. I trust you.”
He stares at me, long and hard and regretful. “I hope you don’t live to regret that.”
He stands and offers me his hand, and to my surprise, I take it. His fingers are long and strong and warm as they wrap around mine. I expect him to release it after he helps me from the bed, but he doesn’t. He holds my hand tucked inside of his as we make our way through the house, out the back doors and into the English Maze.
I lead Evangeline down the secret steps into my cave. Her expression is contained and guarded. She meant what she said. She is desperately trying to withhold judgment. I respect that about her even though I know that after I am finished explaining, she will contact the authorities and I will be arrested. Surprisingly, I am numb to that. I don’t dread it at all.
I almost welcome it.
As we round the corner into the suite, Evangeline’s eyes widen.
“What the hell?” she murmurs as she takes everything in. When her gaze passes over the bed with the chains protruding from the wall, her eyes narrow.
“What the hell, Luca? You’re into kinky shit and you thought you would bring me here because you think I’m kinky, too? I’ve got news for you. I’m not. I enjoyed last night, but I’m not a sexual freak.”
She spins on her heel and starts to walk for the door, but I grab her elbow gently.
“Please wait,” I ask her. “You don’t understand. This place is for me, those chains are for me. I needed for you to see it before I tell you my story. See how elaborate this hideout is? Do you see the expense that has gone into making it safe and secluded from the rest of the world?”
Eva keeps her eyes narrowed as she nods. “I do. But I don’t see how it is relevant, Luca.”
I take a deep breath. “Can we sit? I want to explain. Would you like a glass of wine?”
She rolls her eyes. “It’s 9:00 a.m., Luca.”
I shrug. “Do you?”
She levels her gaze at me. “Yes.”
I have to laugh and I get a bottle of wine and two glasses, and we sit on the couch facing each other.
“You need to talk now,” she instructs me as I hand her a glass.
I nod. I’m not sure where to begin, but I decide to just start speaking. The words begin pouring from my mouth, beginning with when I was small and first realized that I was different.
“My mother would lock me in my room,” I remember aloud. “She would bind my hands and lock me in my room until the darkness passed.”