I bite my lip and, without thinking, look at Kai and then back at Nero before speaking again. “I got a weird feeling, so I stood by the door while he looked around for his phone. I was watching him when the door was shoved open and I stumbled back. I thought it was a customer, but that’s when I looked up and saw my brother, Thad.” I shudder as bile crawls up my throat and nausea rolls in my stomach.
“Are you okay?” Nero asks as I pull in a deep breath.
“Fine,” I whisper, putting my feet on the floor while sliding away from Kai’s touch. “I was taken aback when I realized who it was. I had not seen him since I was eighteen and moved away from home. He pushed his way past me and then let in a few other men,” I say, and I feel Kai’s hand on my lower back as he lifts my shirt slightly. Then his fingers begin to move over my skin. I wonder if he is trying to remind me of the things I’m not supposed to talk about.
“Then what happened?” Nero questions softly, and I lean back slightly into Kai’s hand, who pauses his movement before resuming.
“He forced me into the back room. My brother said he owed some men money and that I needed to give it to him. I don’t know if he was on drugs or what, but he seemed really afraid. I told him I didn’t have the kind of money he was asking for, and he proceeded to tie me to a chair.”
“I don’t know,” I say faintly. “I was hit over the head, and when I woke up, Kai was pulling me out of the burning building,” I look over at Kai, and even if I never tell anyone every detail of what really occurred, I do know that that part is not a lie, and I will forever be indebted to him.
“Then you went to Vegas and got married?”
I pull my eyes from Kai to look at Nero. “Yes. Well…we had been planning on getting married,” I lie.
Kai’s hand pauses on my back. We never discussed what exactly happened to me or what we would say if someone asked me about this, so I was trying to think on my toes.
“After what occurred, I realized how short life is, and I told Kai I didn’t want to live another day without him and that I was tired of putting off our relationship. So we stopped in Vegas on the way here and got married,” I tell him.
Nero searches my face. Then his eyes drop to the pad in front of him, where he begins to write again.
I bite my lip, feeling like I have done something wrong. I have no idea what I should have said. I don’t think, “I met him for the first time yesterday, and I married him because he told me that was the only way he could keep me safe at this time,” would have gone over so well.
“And you don’t remember anything else?” he asks, lifting his head to look at me.
I shake my head and pull my feet back up under me. “Nothing,” I mutter, pressing my lips together.
“Can you tell me a little about your brother?”
My body stills and I feel all the blood drain out of my face. “There is nothing to tell,” I whisper, hating myself a little bit for being so weak when it comes to him.
“Are you okay?” Nero asks, reading my face.
“Fine. Just tired.” I sit up, putting my elbows on the table, holding my hair back from my face as images from my past flash through my head.
Being taken from my parents when I was little and told that they were dead.
Moving in with Modesto and Ida Akskvo and their two sons, Thad and Royce.
Being told that, if I ever spoke of where I really came from, I would die.
Having happy memories of my life with my new family.
Working in my dad Modesto’s bakery. Shopping with my mom Ida.
Hanging out with my brother Royce.
But then everything changed when I turned sixteen and Thad started sneaking into my room at night, showing me that Hell can exist on Earth.
The memories alone of the things he did to me, the things he took from me, cause me to gag. I stand from the chair and run out of the dining room. I have no idea where I’m going and begin opening and closing doors along the way until I finally find one that leads to a bathroom. I slam the door behind me, fumble with the lock on the door until I hear it click, and then feel along the wall, finding the switch and turning it on.
The moment my eyes adjust to the light, I see my refection looking back at me. My face is pale, my dirty-blond hair looks stringy, and my lips are a darker pink than normal. Another wave of nausea hits me, and I lunge for the toilet. It takes a few minutes to get myself under control, and when I do, I realize someone is pounding on the door so hard that the painting on the wall is shaking.
“I’m kicking it in!” Kai yells from the other side.
I’m about to tell him that I’m opening it when the door crashes in, banging against the wall, and wood flies everywhere. Kai appears in the bathroom doorway. Our gazes lock, and I see something flash within his eyes as he storms towards me.
“I’m going to carry you so you don’t get anything stuck in your feet,” he says softly, picking me up. “Aye, tell Detective Nero we’re going to have to reschedule. My wife isn’t feeling well,” Kai mutters, carrying me into the room I was in this morning and shutting the door with his foot before carrying me to the bed, where he gently lays me down. “Let me get a washcloth for you,” he says, walking into the bathroom.
I hear the water turn on, and a moment later, he comes back carrying a rag.
“You need to tell me what happened at the bakery before I showed up.”
He sits on the side of the bed and holds the wet cloth out for me. I take it from his hand, trying to control how badly I’m shaking. What happened begins to play in my head like an old movie.
“Myla, I’ve missed you,” Thad said, wrapping an arm around my waist, walking me backwards into the shop.
His body bent, his face went to my neck, and I felt his tongue touch my skin. My body froze and I instantly hated myself for not screaming, for not fighting, but like all those years ago, my body had stiffened in fear.
“What are you doing here?” I whispered as two more men walked in. My stomach dropped as I watched one of the men close the door and turn the lock.
“It’s your birthday,” he said as he began to pull me with him towards the back of the shop.
I cried out and tried to pull away, and he smiled evilly and started to laugh. His fingers dug into my skin so hard that I knew I would be bruised.
“Please let me go.” I tried to pull away again, but his grip tightened, and he dragged me to the back room, shoving me into a chair.