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Tormentor Mine(92)

By:Anna Zaires

I’m home.



* * *

I’m shaking as I enter the house from the garage, my throat tight with anxiety and my heart pounding in sync with the throbbing in my head. It’s well past midnight and all the lights are off, but I can smell the appetizing aromas of whatever Peter made earlier. My stomach rumbles, my body demanding fuel despite the adrenaline shredding my nerves. I’ll have to eat something soon, but first, I need to figure out where Peter is and whether he knows what’s happening.


The familiar deep voice startles me so much I jump, a panicked squeak escaping my throat.

A light comes on, illuminating Peter’s figure on the couch in the family room. Despite the comfortable temperature, he’s wearing his leather jacket, his tall, powerful body arranged in a casual pose that reminds me of a predator’s lazy sprawl.

“Um, yeah.” Oh God, does he know? Why is he sitting here in the dark? “One of my patients went into labor, and I missed dinner.”

“You did?” Peter rises to his feet in a fluid motion. “That’s not good. Come, let’s feed you before you pass out.”

I follow him into the kitchen on unsteady legs. The fact that he’s here—and heating up food for me—must mean that his men didn’t spot my FBI tail. Does that mean the reverse is true as well? Could the FBI agents assigned to my protective detail have missed whoever Peter has following me?

My hands and feet are icy from stress, and I know I must look like death warmed over as I wash my hands and sit down at the table. I’m hoping Peter will ascribe my paleness to exhaustion rather than the fact that the FBI might storm my house at any moment.

He puts a bowl of hearty vegetable soup and a slice of crusty sourdough bread in front of me, then sits down across the table at his usual place, his face expressionless as he watches me pick up my spoon and dip it into the soup. My hands are trembling slightly—a fact he can’t miss, but hopefully chalks up to my tiredness as well. If not—if he suspects something—then things could go south, quickly. He could have me trussed up and on the way to some international hideout faster than my FBI watchdogs could call for reinforcements.

Fuck, why am I taking this kind of risk? Why didn’t I just tell Karen everything?

Yet even as I kick myself, I know the answer to that question. It’s sitting in front of me, his gray eyes trained on me with an intensity that both chills and warms me inside. I should want to be free of my tormentor, should do everything in my power to have him disappear from my life, but I can’t. I’m not insane enough to warn him and risk getting kidnapped, but I can’t bring myself to accelerate the moment when justice catches up with him, and he’ll have to either run or fight.

It will happen anyway; all I have to do is survive it.

“You work too much,” Peter murmurs, tilting his head as he studies me, and I exhale a shaky breath.

Thank God. He is ascribing my anxiety to tiredness.

“You should ease up, ptichka, take it easy on occasion,” he continues, and I nod, looking down at my bowl to escape the intensity of his gaze.

“Yeah, I guess.” I take a bite of the bread and swallow a spoonful of soup, focusing on the savory flavors to quiet the mental clamor in my head. I’m only partially successful, but it’s enough to enable me to eat another spoonful and then another.

I’m done with my slice of bread and almost halfway through my bowl by the time I work up the courage to look up again. “Why were you waiting here for me?” I ask, recalling how dark the house was when I walked in. “I thought you’d be in bed or taking a shower or something.”

“Because I’ve barely seen you in recent days, ptichka, and I’ve missed you.” His eyes gleam with that peculiar softness I’ve been seeing all week.

My stomach flips, a knot forming in my throat. “You… you have?” He’s never told me this before; though we both know he’s obsessed with me, he’s never admitted to any kind of real feelings.

“Hmm-mm. Here, have some more.” He pushes another slice of bread toward me. “You still look much too pale.”

I pick up the bread and bite into it, looking down again to conceal my expression. The knot in my throat is expanding, my eyes prickling with irrational tears. Why does he have to choose today, of all days, to say these things to me? I need him to be awful to me, not nice. I need to remember that he’s a monster, a killer, a man who’s done things that would make Ted Bundy blanch.

I need him to jolt me out of the fantasy so I don’t miss him when he’s gone.