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Tormentor Mine(8)

By:Anna Zaires

In the next instant, the cloth is gone, and I’m convulsively dragging in air.

“Tell me where he is, and I’ll stop.” His voice is a dark whisper above me.

“I don’t know! Please!” I can taste the vomit in my throat, and the knowledge that he’ll do it again turns my blood into acid. It was easy to be brave with the knife, but not this. I can’t handle dying like this.

“Last chance,” my tormentor says softly, and the wet cloth drops over my face.

The faucet begins to squeak.

“Stop! Please!” The scream is wrenched out of me. “I’ll tell you! I’ll tell you.”

The water turns off, and the cloth is pulled off my face. “Speak.”

I’m sobbing and coughing too hard to form a coherent sentence, so he pulls me off the counter to the floor and crouches to encircle me in his arms. To someone looking in, it might’ve seemed like a consoling embrace or a lover’s protective hold. Adding to the illusion, my torturer’s voice is soft and gentle as he croons in my ear, “Tell me, Sara. Tell me what I want to know, and I’ll leave.”

“He’s—” I stop a second from blurting out the truth. The panicked animal inside me demands survival at all costs, but I can’t do this. I can’t lead this monster to George. “He’s in Advocate Christ Hospital,” I choke out. “The long-term care unit.”

It’s a lie, and apparently not a good one, because the arms around me tighten, nearly crushing my bones. “Don’t fucking bullshit me.” The soft croon in his voice is gone, replaced by biting rage. “He’s gone from there—has been gone for months. Where is he hiding?”

I’m sobbing harder. “I… I don’t—”

My assailant rises to his feet, pulling me up with him, and I scream and struggle as he drags me toward the sink. “No! Please, no!” I’m hysterical as he lifts me onto the counter, my bound hands swinging as I try to claw at his face. My heels drum on the granite as he straddles me, pinning me in place again, and bile rises in my throat as he grips my hair, arching my head back into the sink. “Stop!”

“Tell me the truth, and I’ll stop.”

“I—I can’t. Please, I can’t!” I can’t do this to George, not after everything. “Stop, please!”

The wet cloth slaps over my face, and my throat seizes in panic. The water is still off, but I’m already drowning; I can’t breathe, can’t breathe…


I’m abruptly yanked off the counter and onto the floor, where I collapse in a sobbing, shaking heap. Only this time, there are no arms to restrain me, and I dimly realize he stepped away.

I should get up and run, but I can’t make my legs function. All I can manage is a pathetic roll to the side, followed by an attempt at a crawl. The fear is blinding, disorienting, and I can’t see anything in the darkness.

I can’t see him.

Run, I will my limp, shaking muscles. Get up and run.

Sucking in air, I grab at something—a countertop corner—and pull myself up to my feet. Only it’s too late; he’s already on me, the hard band of his arm wrapping around my ribcage as he grabs me from behind.

“Let’s see if this works better,” he whispers, and something cold and sharp stabs me in the neck.

A needle, I realize with a jolt of terror, and my consciousness fades away.

* * *

A face swims in front of my eyes. It’s a handsome face, beautiful even, despite the scar that bisects the left eyebrow. High, slanted cheekbones, steel-gray eyes framed by black lashes, a strong jaw darkened by five-o’clock shadow—a man’s face, my mind supplies fuzzily. His hair is thick and dark, longer on the top than the sides. Not an old man, then, but not a teenager either. A man in his prime.

The face is wearing a frown, its features set in harsh, grim lines. “George Cobakis,” the hard, sculpted mouth says. It’s a sexy mouth, well shaped, but I hear the words as though from a megaphone in the distance. “Do you know where he is?”

I nod, or at least I attempt to. My head feels heavy, my neck strangely sore. “Yes, I know where he is. I thought I knew him too, but I didn’t, not really. Do you ever really know someone? I don’t think so, or at least I didn’t know him. I thought I knew, but I didn’t. All those years together, and everyone thought we were so perfect. The perfect couple, they called us. Can you believe it? The perfect couple. We were the cream of the crop, the young doctor and the rising star journalist. They said he’d win a Pulitzer prize one day.” I’m vaguely aware I’m babbling, but I can’t stop. The words pour out of me, all the pent-up bitterness and pain. “My parents were so proud, so happy on our wedding day. They had no idea, no idea at all about what was come, what would happen—”