**CW: Mentions of torture and anxiety**
Darkness always hid from the light. The luminescence chased the shadows away where they remained hidden, waiting for an unsuspecting person to stumble into the blackness. Or they waited for the light to retreat so they could slither along once again to cover the beauty. As I stared out the window into the night, I wished the light would chase away my shadows. Shadows I held deep within. Shadows that caused an ache so painful it hurt to breathe sometimes. Shadows where I discovered the truth concealed in the darkness.
Stars winked out of existence as clouds gathered, bringing victory to the darkness. Rain peppered the window, distorting the view into a blurry mess, much like the weird paintings at those art shows Andre sometimes took me to.
Thunder rolled in the distance, rattling the frame, and flashes of light spread across the sky, determined to pierce the dark, if only for a few seconds. I needed the lightning to slay the ghosts haunting me.
The wind picked up, and the trees swayed in an eerie rhythm to a tune only they knew. Their beautiful dance mesmerized me and lulled me into a false sense of security. An occasional branch scraped the window, adding to the music played outside. Its willowy fingers beckoned me. “Come into the darkness.” But I’m already here.
Even as the storm died down, I stood rooted to the spot, staring into the night. The pall once again claimed its place in the world as the light retreated. Like my life.
Who had I become?
How could I have been deceived so? How could I have fallen so deep into the darkness, what I used to think was wrong became right? Where did it leave me now?
The rustle of sheets behind me reminded me why I stared out the window in the middle of the night like it was the mirror to my soul. Andre.
He swept me off my feet and whisked me away, introducing me to a life I never knew existed. Showered me with gifts, attention, fun. Love. Now I wondered whether I was better off to have not known of it at all. No.
“Amore Mio, come back to bed. It's early yet.” His sleep-laden voice washed over me as it always did and sent a shiver down my spine. How could someone like him wring such a visceral reaction out of me?
I should loathe him and what he stood for. I should want to escape. To run as far away as possible, never looking back at what my life had become. I should not want him.
But as he stretched out a hand to me, I found myself pulled by an invisible string in his direction. My heart cried out for him even as my brain sent warning signs to flee. One look at him and the world knew he wasn’t a man to be trifled with. But when he looked at me...
His dark hair spread across the red silk pillow. Red. The color of love and passion. Of rage and anger. Blood. Blood spilled in my name.
He held the sheet up, and I climbed in. Strong tattooed arms wrapped around my body. Every one of his tattoos had meaning. He’d once said everything should have a purpose. Yet I struggled with my own.
He pulled me back until I fit snugly against his chest. His warmth seeped into my body and chased the demons away, if only for a few minutes. Cradled in his arms, I found the strength and security I lacked before meeting him.
“Yes,” I whispered. Not a dream. A nightmare. An involuntary shiver ran down my spine, and he tightened his arms.
“I’m sorry.” Even as I struggled with my choices between good and evil, he fought his own demons for bringing this upon me. But I can’t let you go.
I turned in his arms and rested a finger against his warm lips. “Shh..I’m okay. Well, I’ll be okay. I promise.” I rubbed my lips along his once and turned back around, nestling in his embrace to face the window.
Our room brightened as the sun rose, and I watched the shadows of the world fade away outside. The darkness retreated as the world once again coveted the light. The longer summer days meant less time in the darkness.
The remnants of my dream crept back into the box I kept the memories stored in. At night, the box cracked open and spilled into my subconscious, but the daylight chased them away and I felt more like myself.
Birds woke from their nests, singing their joy to the light. Animals scurried from their dens in search of food. I had neither the energy nor the inclination to move. Nothing else existed for me at the moment as I watched life move forward.
Staff bustled through the house, preparing breakfast or cleaning. Andre’s soft snores sounded in my ear. A bird perched on the branch outside the window. It all soothed my inner turmoil. At least until the nightmares returned.
Andre stirred behind me, tightening his arms for a moment. “Good morning, love.” He placed a gentle kiss on my head. “I wish I didn’t have to leave today. I would change this meeting if I could.” His regret was a palpable thing in the room. He’d done everything he could to avoid leaving me right now. He knew as well as I did what happened when he was here, and we both could imagine what would happen when he wasn’t.
“I’ll be fine,” I promised. Though my nerves wanted to send me into another panic attack, I willed myself to be strong. I could break down when he was gone.
“It’s only one night. I’ll be back on Sunday.” He squeezed me a little tighter, as though he tried to reassure himself as well as me.
“I know. Everything will be okay. I can make it through one night without you.” Now it was my turn to convince him, even if I felt no confidence in my words.
He placed a lingering kiss on my lips and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. “I’ve got to get moving. I’m already behind.” His words belied his actions as he continued sitting there.
His reluctance pushed me into action, and I threw back the covers. “Come on. You get in the shower and I’ll see if Marie has coffee ready. I’ll fix you one to take to the airport.”
A private jet waited for him. It allowed him to travel and be back home with only one overnight stay. One night on my own. I can do it.
I glanced out the window again before hurrying to the kitchen.
My eyes drifted close, though I willed them to stay open. When Andre left, I mustered up every bit of courage I had to show him I would be okay while he was gone. I’d plastered a smile on my face and shooed him out the door. He’d set guards to patrol around the perimeter of the property. While I appreciated his efforts to reassure me I was safe, he couldn’t save me from what lay deep in my mind.
When I finally lost the battle and sleep claimed me, that box I tried to keep shut cracked open and my worst nightmare played out again.
Cold. Water dripped nearby. The fluorescent light overhead sent shards of pain through my skull when I cracked open the one eye that still worked. I tried to stifle the involuntary groan that left my cracked and bleeding lips. He liked my cries of pain.
“You’re finally awake.”
A shudder ran through me, causing pain to spread through my bruised body. “Please,” I whispered, while my mind screamed for Andre.
He strode toward me. “Let’s send Andre a little message. This is what happens when you don’t do as you're told.”
He brought the knife to my hand, strapped down on the chair.
I jerked awake. My heart thundered in my chest, and my lungs seized as I tried to draw in a breath. Another storm brewed outside, much like the inner one tormenting my soul.
Once again I stood in front of the window—my new nightly routine—only this time, Andre wasn’t here to soothe me. I grabbed a blanket from the end of the bed and wrapped it around me. Shivers wracked my body as memories played through, like a reel on a movie projector.
Lights raced down the road toward the house, and a car pulled in the driveway. Adrenaline shot through me. What if it’s him? What if he’s not dead?
I backed away from the window until my knees hit the bed. I couldn’t breathe. The front door slammed and footsteps crept up the stairs. The bedroom door opened, and I screamed.
“Daniel!” Warm arms embraced me and Andre’s smell enveloped me as he pulled me into his chest.
“I’m here.” His gruff voice soothed my inner turmoil. “I’m here,” he whispered again.
I gripped the lapel of his jacket until my knuckles turned white. “I-I thought he’d come back.”
Andre ran a hand up and down my back. “No Amour. You can’t come back from the dead.”
I stared at our reflection in the window. The blackness outside beat against it, trying to break us apart, but the light inside, his love, kept it at bay.