Unexpected Secrets, page 12part #1 of Hard Limits Suspense Romance Series
I texted Hugh:
Not yet. Politics.
Fuck politics. I want Thea out of there ASAP.
Cox glanced at my screen. “They’ll need to save face.”
“It complicates things.”
“I know, but I swear to God if anything happens to her…”
“We won’t let it. You have to remember, Gabriel, this could be a lot worse. It could be an unknown entity, or they could have taken her someplace where we wouldn’t have found her.”
“I have to go pee.”
“You’ll have to wait.”
“I can’t, so let me go now or be prepared to clean up a mess.” I decided to try to push some buttons. The silence was killing me, and I wasn’t sure how many people were in the room with me.
I felt rough hands untying the knots at my feet, then the one behind my waist and then my wrists. He pulled me up off the chair, and I stumbled, but he didn’t slow down. He dragged me, still blindfolded to the end of the room.
“Don’t try anything or you’ll regret it. I’ll be standing right here.”
“I want privacy.”
He ignored me.
“How am I supposed to see with this blindfold on?”
“Not my problem.”
He roughly grabbed my arm and pushed me forward.
“This is the bathroom stall. It’s just like every other bathroom stall. Grope around if you need to, but leave the blindfold on.”
I pulled my arm out of his hands, reaching to feel for the stall door like I could imagine a blind person would. It moved when I pushed it. I felt for the edge of the door and moved around it.
“Keep it open.”
“Fuck you,” I said, closing it behind me.
“I said, keep it open.”
His voice was just outside the stall door.
“I didn’t lock it,” I defended. “Just give me a minute.”
My kidneys ached from holding it so long, and my hands shook as I pulled my running pants down to my knees. It was humiliating to pee with him just outside the door, but at least I was alive.
“I am,” I growled, groping for something, anything that I could use to defend myself—but he was clearly smarter than that.
The second I finished, I pulled my pants up as fast as I could, groping to find the flush handle.
“Leave it,” he insisted, grabbing my arm and dragging me back toward the chair.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“What do you want with me? I’m no one. You’ve made a mistake.”
Silence. He only gripped my arm harder, then shoved me into the chair.
“Please, no. I won’t run away. There’s no need to tie me,” I pleaded.
“Shut up or I’ll gag you, too.”
He wrenched my arms around the back of the chair, tying them tighter than they’d been before. He pulled the rope around my waist and I could feel him threading it through the ropes on my hands. My shoulders sagged. There would be no way for me to escape.
My stomach growled. “Could I have some water?”
“I said, shut up.”
I decided to try nice. “Thank you—for letting me use the restroom.”
I could feel his gaze on me and my breath hitched. My skin prickled, and fear started to climb up my chest.
“W—why won’t you tell me what you want from me?” I whispered.
His phone rang. It startled me and when he moved away, I realized just how close he’d been. My skin crawled, and I shivered.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I heard him swear, then his voice became muffled. Then I heard a door close. Then nothing. Absolutely nothing.
“Hello?” I called out, anxiety snaking through my body.
Suddenly, I knew I was alone, but why? Would they leave me here? What if no one found me?
I was nothing if not a survivor. I started to work at the knots at my wrists. My efforts began rubbing the skin on my wrists raw, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to die here, not if I could help it.
Panic fueled my efforts and pain became my friend, a sign of hope, a sign of freedom. All that mattered was getting free.
Tears streamed down my face, and I chocked on a sob. My breathing was labored, and I knew I risked hyperventilating—that wasn’t going to help.
What if I broke the chair? But how could I do that without risking injury, or potentially impaling myself on a piece of wood?
I tried to work the blindfold off my eyes, but my arms were pulled too tightly behind me. I could tell there was concrete beneath my bare feet, and I knew the bathroom was at least fifty feet in front of me.
The goon hadn’t tied my feet, so I tried to stand, taking mini-hops in the direction of the bathroom. If I could reach the wall, maybe I could figure out a way to break the chair against it.
It was awkward and difficult, but I was making progress when I heard the heavy metal door open. I froze, then lowered the chair, tears streaming down my face.
My head jerked toward the voice. “Y—yes?”
“We’re with SOS Security ma’am.”
“Ohmygod!” I began crying uncontrollably.
The first man who reached my side pulled the blindfold off and I looked into concerned brown eyes. There were four men. One of the other men started working on the knots at my hands.
“Doc, I’m going to need you back here.”
The man who pulled my blindfold off moved behind my chair. “Cut them off, I’ll bandage her hands when we get her outside.”
Suddenly my hands were free, and I groaned, stiffly moving them into my lap. They were stiff and sore, but they were free. I looked at my hands, “jeez,” I said. My wrists were raw and bloody.
The man they called doc pulled a penlight out of his pocket.
“Please don’t,” I begged him. “I’m fine. Can we just get the hell out of here?”
I stood, then stumbled. The man called doc swept me up into his arms and strode toward the door.
“Are they gone?” I asked him.
“They’re gone,” he assured me, his eyes assessing, but kind.
I started to cry, and he pulled me a little closer into his chest.
All eyes turned toward me. “I’m sitting right here you know, and in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m in full control of my faculties. So please stop discussing me as if I weren’t.”
I looked at Doc. “I appreciate you saving me, and you’re welcome to patch up my wrists, but that is where it ends.”
I looked at Gabriel. “I love you, but I’m fine. I’m not going to the hospital, and I’m not being checked out by a doctor. I’m fine. I wasn’t harmed by those… goons, and apart from rope burns, there’s nothing wrong with me.”
I looked at Cox. Tears filled my eyes. “I don’t even know what to say…”
“No words are needed, Thea. We’re just glad you’re okay.”
“Me, too,” I whispered, wiping the tears away. I nodded my thanks to each of the men on the SOS team. They nodded back.
“Thea,” Gabriel interrupted.
“Don’t. Don’t even.” I glared at him. “I just spent the last several hours of my life completely at the mercy of the men who kidnapped me, not even knowing if I would live beyond today, but now I’m free. I’ll decide what happens next.” My eyes were brimming with tears, but they were also filled with determination.
I turned to Doc, holding my wrists out toward him. “Please patch them.”
He smiled at me, a sparkle of admiration in his brown eyes, and I smiled back.
Gabriel narrowed his eyes, bu
“Where should I meet you when he’s done?” I looked at Gabriel and Cox.
“The white Explorer.”
I looked toward the cars. “I see three.”
Cox chuckled. “The lead car.”
“Okay, thanks. I’ll meet you there when I’m done,” and then I turned my back, dismissing them.
Doc pointed to the back of a black Suburban. “Hop up.”
He tilted my chin up so my eyes met his. “You sure you’re okay? They didn’t hurt you? It would only take a few minutes for me to—.”
“I’m sure. Just my wrists, please.”
He nodded, but held my eyes for several seconds. “Why do I have the feeling you would say that you’re fine, regardless?”
I smiled, a small snort escaping my nose. “Busted,” I agreed, “except in this case I really am okay. The one guy I had contact with was rough, but he didn’t hurt me. I promise.”
He took my hands into his and turned them over. His hands were big, just like the rest of him. I hissed when he touched the skin around the abrasions.
He sighed. “You’ll need to be careful of infection. A few of these look nasty.” He looked into my eyes. “You did this?”
“Yea, not intentionally. I just knew I had to escape.” My voice hitched, and I closed my eyes then opened them back to his. “I figured raw wrists were better than a dead body.”
“Do they know why they kidnapped me?” I whispered.
“I’ll let Gabriel and Cox handle that.”
I nodded, hissing again when he started to clean my wounds. “Shit. Is that necessary?”
“If you don’t want an infection it is.”
“I can probably do this myself,” I decided, pulling my hands back from his.
He raised his eyebrows at me and pulled them back. “Don’t press your luck. It’s rare that we don’t require clients be examined after an op like this, and I relented, but I can just as easily change my mind.”
“I thought you were nice.” I raised one eyebrow back at him.
“I am nice, but I’m not a pushover.”
“Fair enough,” I breathed.
Thea argued for the back seat. She looked exhausted and I knew she wanted some space, but I needed to be close to her.
I helped her into the back of the Explorer, snapping the seatbelt across her body, and then walked around the truck and jumped in beside her.
I put my hand on her knee, but then she unclicked the seatbelt. I started to argue, but she snuggled up next to me, swinging her legs over the top of mine.
I felt the pressure of tears behind my eyes. God, I could have lost her. My throat thickened as I reached my arm behind her and drew her into the safety of my body, wrapping my arms around her, softly stroking her hair.
Drops of water hit my arms, and then I heard sniffles. I pulled her closer. She grasped my shirt in her hands and didn’t let go.
There were so many questions, but I knew this wasn’t the time. She’d assured me they hadn’t hurt her. The doctor on the SOS team felt certain she was being honest, and I had to accept that she was okay, at least physically.
But the emotional scars from what she’d endured? Only time would tell.
I felt her relax in my arms. Grateful to be holding her, not sure that I’d ever be able to let her out of my sight again.
I kissed the top of her head and then she lifted her lips to mine. This is not a good idea, my head acknowledged, but Thea wiggled on my lap and my cock disagreed with my head.
She dragged her fingernail against my nipple and I chuckled at the role reversal. She’s a quick learner, and I realized we’d need to have a conversation about those hard limits I’d suggested to her the other night—after I’d made sure she’d orgasmed four times.
I don’t think she has any idea what hard limits means, but so far the signs all lead toward acceptance of my dominant approach to relationships and sex.
She placed her lips on mine then opened her mouth, allowing me inside.
I bit her lower lip, and she moaned.
Suddenly I realized that if for any reason she wasn’t comfortable with my lifestyle, I’d fucking change it just for her.
I walked through the door and Mackenzie was sitting on the floor of the entry with big tears dropping from her eyes. Fran was sitting beside her.
I rushed to Mackenzie’s side. “It’s okay, sweet girl, I just hurt my wrists a bit, but they will heal.”
“Thea, I was so scared when you didn’t pick me up from school.”
I knelt in front of my daughter-to-be, fighting the fatigue that made me light-headed. I reached out for the built-in-bench to stabilize me.
“Zee?” Her wide blue-green eyes borrowed into mine. “It’s okay to be scared, and I’m okay… except I might need your help with getting better, Doctor Zee,” I assured her.
She smiled through her tears and wrapped her little arms around me.
I hugged her to me, tight. A few hours ago I didn’t know if I would see her again, and now that I was holding her, I knew that I wouldn’t take even one moment for granted.
“Can you help me up?” I asked.
Gabriel quickly rushed to my side, and together, he and Zee helped me stand.
I looked at him, but he was blurry. “Gabriel, I might need help to get to the couch,” I admitted.
I heard him mutter, “sure you’re fine and don’t need to be checked out by a doctor,” then he swept me up into his arms and carried me up the stairs—straight to his bedroom.
Mackenzie padded after us. “Daddy, why is Thea in your room?”
“Because I have to keep my eye on her tonight, Zee.” He set me on the bed and turned to her. “I have to run downstairs to grab some water. Can you watch her for me?”
“Of course, Daddy.”
Zee jumped on the bed beside me, taking my wrist in her hand. She lifted it next to her cheek and pressed it there.
Tears filled my eyes. How did I get so lucky?
She snuggled in next to me and I wrapped my arm around her, pulling her tight.
Gabriel walked through the door, but she didn’t budge. She stayed next to me, pressed close.
Gabriel’s eyes grew wide when he looked at us, and I watched them fill with tears. He stood there—frozen—with tears streaming down his face.
I moaned when I saw he actually had what I could only imagine was his medical bag in his hand and a glass of water.
Really? I mouthed to him.
He nodded, but I forgave him. Because the realization that this family was priceless hit me with a sucker punch, and I knew if it was him in this bed, injured, I’d have done the same thing.
He set his bag off to the side; I think he knew I couldn’t handle the two of them fussing over me right then. Instead, the three of us simply laid on the bed together, joined by a Goldendoodle bundle, who also seemed to understand that his humans were having a moment, even though he was only twelve weeks old.
“Did she finally fall asleep?” I asked Gabriel when he came back to our room.
He nodded. He’d said few words since we’d been home. I was worried about him.
“Are you okay?” I asked him, reaching for him.
“I can’t believe you’re asking me that after everything you’ve been through.” He stayed at the foot of the bed, his eyes moving toward his bag.
“Gabriel?” His eyes came back to mine. “Please forget that for tonight. I’m just exhausted, and it really is that simple. If it will make you feel better, you can listen to my heart and put your little pen light in my eyes, but it won’t change the diagnosis. Come to me.” My eyes filled with tears and he moved immediately to my side.
I sat up on the bed and reac
“It’s okay, Thea. Let go.”
I did. I sobbed into his shoulder and he held me tightly against him. “I—I thought I was going to die… I—I thought I might never see you or Zee again,” I admitted.
“I know, baby,” he kissed my head.
I started to hiccup, but he just held on strong and tight.
“I’ve made a mess of your shirt,” I admitted when I could finally speak.
“My shirt can be replaced.” He said simply.
I smiled. “Wow,” I let my head drop back, my eyes moving to his. “That was exhausting and freeing all at the same time.” Truth be told, I felt a little drunk.
His eyes were filled with concern. They never left mine.
“I’m okay, Gabriel. I’m stronger than you think.” My hand moved to his chest, and I wanted him, but the exhaustion was stronger.
“I need to sleep,” I admitted.
“Drink some water and take this antibiotic.”
“I love you, Gabriel Mills, smart ass doctor-psychiatrist and consultant for the FBI—an organization I’m more than a little angry with right now.”
I yawned, and he slowly lowered me onto the pillow.
“I love you, too, Athena Brady-almost-Mills, bravest woman I know.”
I closed my eyes, and I know he thought I didn’t notice he was reaching for his medical bag—but I did.
Exhaustion claimed me anyway.
When I woke, the bed was empty. I stretched and looked at the Fitbit on my wrist. It was ten AM, and I’d slept at least fourteen hours. It looked like my bandages had been changed, and a freshly squeezed glass of OJ was on my nightstand. Wow, I was a sound sleeper, and this was good service.
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