It had been a long day at work and I wanted to unwind.
I threw back another shot of vodka and my hazy eyes swept across the crowded bar. None of my friends had been available to go out so I was stuck going alone. We all worked in a small office building in our own cubicles and it was maddening sometimes. I ran a hand through my short blonde locks and gestured for the bartender to give me another shot of booze.
My cell phone vibrated in my jacket pocket. I'd gone straight from work to the bar and was still in my skirt and boots, probably on the brink of becoming a full-blown alcoholic. I downed my shot and fumbled with the phone to squint at the screen.
Of course it was the ex, Mike. He kept repeating my name over and over in the text: Heather, Heather, Heather; as if I gave a shit. I angrily stuffed my phone back in my pocket and paid my tab, more than ready to leave the bar. He wouldn't knock it off and stop contacting me. I'd caught him having sex with my old friend in our bed, for Christ's sakes. Why did he think I'd ever second guess my decision?
The seat beside me was suddenly occupied with the scent of cologne.
I glanced up from my clutch and did a double take. An absolutely gorgeous man had decided to take the seat instead of one of the others that were further away. He was tall with bright blue eyes that took in the whole bar, from the dancing patrons to the bartender getting his drink. He had pitch black hair and a bit of a beard trimmed neatly across his sharp jawline. I couldn't help it—I gawked.
His eyes shifted to me as he took a drink and I shrank back, blushing. What the hell was I doing?! Someone like him had to be married or taken by another woman. Maybe a man. I didn't know; I was kind of tipsy and struggling to think straight.
"Hi," I said stupidly. "I'm Heather."
The Beautiful Man smirked and set down his glass. "My name is Luke," he drawled with a strange Southern twang I hadn't heard before.
Oh god, he was talking to me! I smoothed down my hair and fingered my clutch. I didn't have to leave quite yet. We could chat for a little while.
"So um… do you come here often?" I asked.
I'd always been sort of bad with social situations. That was the only reason I stayed with Mike. Moving on and trying to meet someone new seemed to scary, especially after a five year relationship. But this Luke guy seemed pretty straight and narrow and I was pretty drunk. If I turned on the fifty megawatt smile and tried to charm him I might end up being happy with someone new.
We talked. I was inexorably drawn to him and only listened for the majority of the time and he told me about how he worked in construction. It didn't fit him that well. His arms were visible and he was strong from what I could tell but I couldn't imagine him in a hardhat.
One thing quickly led to another and he was crushing me into the bathroom wall an hour later, lips ravaging my neck. His hand held my wrists above my head and I found it kind of annoying. What, was I not allowed to touch him? But I dealt with it and eagerly moaned each time he rocked against me. Mike was the only guy I'd ever had sex with and I was hoping Luke would be the second.
He pulled away and pressed his forehead to mine. His blue eyes glowed. "Let's go to my place."
"Sure," I panted without a second thought.
We left the bar. I turned off my cell phone so Mike wouldn't bother me. Holy shit, I was going to hook up with a guy I just met! Elated, I practically skipped out of the place and followed Luke down the block to his black Mercedes. My heart soared. He had a fucking Mercedes!
The interior was all leather. I looked around in awe as he shifted it into first gear and pulled away from the sidewalk. Okay, this was too awesome. Everyone was going to be so jealous. I considered turning my phone back on to text a few people but Luke started talking and I became entirely distracted. The way his mouth moved was… pleasant, somehow. I could've watched him talk forever.
Luke's house was a ritzy place way in the rolling hills of Vermont. We didn't have a huge night scene in the state but all the rowdy young people made it happen. I looked at the ominous house as Luke pulled to a stop—we'd been driving for a good half hour. There was a wooden fence all around it but no neighbors in sight so I assumed he liked his privacy. The woods surrounded the whole property.
I laughed when we got out of the car.
"Quaint house you have," I said sarcastically.
Luke emerged and shrugged. "I suppose. Come."
The tone of his voice had changed. I frowned but scurried after him when he walked away along the cobblestone path leading to the front door. He unlocked it and politely pushed it open to allow me to walk inside first. What a gentleman. I smiled at him and was surprised to see he was no longer doing the same. Had I done something to offend him?
It was quiet and dark and the only sound was a clock ticking. Luke shut the door behind me and I heard a lock click into place. No big deal. He didn't want people breaking in.
I swallowed. "How long have you lived in Vermont?"
He completely ignored me and walked over to the stairs. After standing there for a few seconds he walked up two of them, scowling deeply. I folded my arms uncomfortably.
"Natalie?" he called in a soft voice. "Are you awake, princesse?"
No one replied. Luke ground his jaw and stepped off the stairs to approach me while I tried to figure out who the hell Natalie was. I bit my lower lip, expecting him to kiss me, and was shocked when he abruptly tangled his fingers in my hair and yanked back. A squeal left my mouth before I could stop it and he turned, dragging me along the floor toward the other side of the house. What was he doing?!
"W-what's going on?" I stammered. "You're hurting me!"
Luke wordlessly flung open a door and pulled me down a lot of stairs to the cold basement, which was enough to elicit a reaction from me. I screamed and struggled but he was ridiculously strong. He threw me down on the floor and promptly slapped handcuffs around my wrists so I was bound to the wall. What was happening?! Oh no. Was he going to…
He seized my chin in his long fingers, smiling plainly. "You'll have to excuse for me a bit, Heather. My wife is a bit… disturbed and I have reason to believe she is trying to leave me. This happens from time to time—but I need to collect her before she gets too far. Afterwards I will dispatch you."
I shrieked in terror and thrashed in the handcuffs, berserk with fear. He was going to kill me. Another woman had escaped and he was probably going to kill her, too. Luke watched indifferently while I screamed like a banshee until the sound of the door opening caught our attentions. Light lanced through the darkness and spilled across my trembling legs. Was it the wife?
"I should have known she'd leave you," Luke murmured. "Come here, mon chou."
He definitely wasn't from the South. Now he sounded French; a vast difference. I wriggled my wrists in the cuffs as feet pattered down the stairs and a small child appeared in the shadows.
She was tiny, with short black hair framing a round face. Her thumb was in her mouth and the same electric blue eyes that Luke had watched me warily through the darkness. A frilly pink nightgown hung from her frame and slippers with frog faces on them protected her feet from the cold cement. She looked healthy and I would've said happy, but her expression was flatter than stone.
Luke took her small hand in his own and smiled. "Why don't you watch papa's new friend, Maeva? I don't want you getting into any trouble while I'm gone. Oui?"
"…Oui," she said in a small voice.
"You have a kid?!" I shrieked, yanking on the cuffs.
Maeva's eyes widened and she pressed closer to her father's leg. He knelt down to be at her eye level and gently held her face between his hands. Her eyes glazed over.
"When did maman leave?" he asked.
The girl held up two fingers and Luke scowled. He leaned forward to press his lips to her forehead, lingering a bit longer than was necessary, and rose to his feet. Maeva played with the frills on her nightgown and obediently sat a few feet in front of me. Holy shit. Was she a captive, too?
Luke smiled again and it didn't reach his eyes. "My real name is Dr. Pierre Holt, if you were wondering. I will return within two hours to kill you, Heather."
When he turned and walked up the stairs, again ignoring my protests completely, Maeva didn't bat an eye. She sat silently in front of me and began wringing her hands. Her eyes were blank. The door to the basement slammed shut and we were left alone in the silence.
I jerked forward to startle her like I had before. "Hey, honey, could you help me out of here? Your daddy is about to do something really bad to me."
She looked to be about three. I wasn't sure if she even understood what I was asking.
"…The pretty girls stay," she said tonelessly. "…Maman stays."
Oh, fuck. I took a steadying breath. I was staring death in the face. I'd been tricked by a crazy murderer into coming into his house and now he was going to kill me while his daughter sat idly by. What the hell was wrong with her, anyway? She had the personality of a block of ice.
I tried to smile. "You think I'm pretty? I don't. You could let me go."
Maeva squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. "…The pretty girls stay. Maman stays. Papa asked for my help because… if they go… he will go."
"Please help me. Your father is going to kill me!"
The little girl was shivering but I didn't think it was from the cold. She was wringing her hands hard and hid her head in her knees, mumbling to herself…
"…The pretty girls stay."