“Why?” I’m starting to feel like a four-year-old, asking all these questions. Underneath it all, there are too many emotions that are all but child-like. I’m not ready to face them.
She lays her hands on me again, on my sides, barely above my hips. There doesn’t seem to be enough air in the room for both of us to breathe.
“What if, after some time, you don’t want to leave?” she asks, her lips almost brushing my cheek. “What if you like it here so much you realize this is what you want?”
“Being your guest?” I find the sarcasm hard to muster for a reason, but…I had someone get your passport. That means we’re not even in the country anymore. No one is going to come looking for me, and she knows it. She arranged for it.
“Being mine,” she says. “Breathe.” Her arms come around me, and it’s a wild tug of war, body and mind. How can I trust her? My body turns out to be a traitor, overriding the instinctual fight/flight reaction. When you can do neither, I’ve learned in class, you play dead. The warmth traveling to various places of my body as she holds me against her tells me without a doubt that I’m very much alive.
“You said I could study.” The words come out in a series of gasps, and it’s not for panicking. If I am, it’s for a different reason. “Show me.”
With regret in her expression, she lets go. “You should put on some clothes then.”
“Why do you care?”
A wry smile curves her lips. “I don’t, but we might run into someone. I don’t want them to get the wrong impression.”
“What is the right impression? What do you want them to think—or me?”
Carter answers my question, this time leaving no doubt as she steps into my personal place again and kisses me, spiraling me even deeper into confusion. Her lips are warm and soft, mine opening to her instinctively, a split-second, before I tear myself away.
She was right. There’s nothing of much worth in my apartment, or my life for that matter. Detours, stories that ended or stalled before they began for real. An uncertain future. Would it be any better if I just give in?
I avoid her gaze as I grab a shirt and pants and slip into a pair of flat sandals. “Okay. I’m ready. Now where’s that library?”
My cheeks are still burning. I need to see this through though—the more I learn about the layout of the house, the better. It will serve me sometime soon.
* * * *
The surprises never end. This time, she leads me deeper into the maze of rooms, and after a few minutes, I give up every hope I could remember the way. In fact if I tried to escape in here, I’d probably get lost and die.
The library is a thing of stunning beauty, something, under normal circumstances, I would have drooled over. Dark wood, floor to ceiling shelves with ladders, a spiral staircase leading to the upper level.
“The sociology section is up to date,” she explains. “There’s some psychology, women’s studies, literature. I know you’re interested in those. There’s a bit of everything. If you’d like some fiction, I can give you an e-reader on which you’ll find classics, contemporary and all kinds of genre fiction. Please understand I can’t allow any internet access.”
I can’t even find a sarcastic comeback, staring in awe at the many shelves going up to the ceiling, some leather-bound collections. This is only the non-fiction section? If I’d known this she wouldn’t have had to go to all this trouble to get me here. Why, a ticket to a private retreat on the beach, complete with a library, I’m there! This is not how it happened. I drank a glass of wine on my couch and woke up in an unfamiliar bedroom.
It’s not romantic.
It’s a crime.
I turn to her, see her watching me with a proud gaze. No doubt it takes someone clever—and crazy rich—to come up with all of this. I’m sure she’s proud of herself, and the way I nearly caved a moment earlier.
“What if I say no to all of this? I mean…It’s great. You have a beautiful home and obviously, lots of money to spend. It’s a dream, but what if it’s not my dream?”
“Give me time,” she says, “I’ll show you.”
The warm inviting tone sends a shiver down my spine. I want to leave this disturbing fantasy, and I don’t. My mind is not my own anymore, and it’s the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced.
“Maybe you will.” I can’t believe those words came out of my mouth. Her smile tells me that in her world, maybe is not an option. It’s the world I’m living in now—if I don’t find my way out of this castle. Enchanted or cursed, I have yet to determine.
“It’s been a long day,” Carter amends. “We’ll talk some more tomorrow. You need to rest now.”
What I need is to memorize every step we are taking between this room and “my” bedroom. It might come in handy sometime soon. My lips still tingle.