This was a huge risk. I knew that. And it was unlike me to take such a risk—especially when it came to her. But I had no choice. Even though it felt like my heart was about to explode, my chest tight with worry just thinking about what could go wrong, I knew this was something we had to do.
I turned to face her. “You okay?”
She tugged at the ends of her dark hair hanging down her left shoulder, the blindfold still intact. “I trust you.”
Three words. Three goddamn words that had the power to disarm a mean motherfucker like me within a second.
I reached out, taking her hand in mine. Every trace of the girl we found in the back of a container—dirty, filthy, scared, starved—was busy disappearing. Her cheeks seemed fuller now, her hips curvier. Overall, Doe was just fucking beautiful.
“You look gorgeous.” It was the fucking truth.
She let go of her hair and placed her hand in her lap, clutching the blue fabric of her dress between her fingers. “Karina bought me a few more of these dresses. I told her it was your favorite.”
“You know,” I looked down at the soft material that fell just above her knees, “even though I really fucking love the fact that you’re wearing these dresses to please me,” my gaze swept up to her beautiful face, “I want you to get things that you like too.”
Her lips curved at the edges. “I like to please you, Antonio.”
There was no way I could stop my chest from swelling like a goddamn peacock. I fucking loved the fact that everything she did was all about pleasing me, but I knew the best thing for her was to start acknowledging the woman inside her. She had to figure out who she was without a master, without an owner…without a man. But until then, I would just soak it all up and revel in her undeniable urge to please me because deep down, I was still the selfish bastard I was the day I found her.
Gently, I placed my other palm on her cheek, guiding her to turn my way. “Are you ready for this?”
She nodded while biting her bottom lip. It was clear as fucking daylight that she was nervous. And why wouldn’t she be? She had been held prisoner for more than half her life. Of course something like this would make her nervous—especially while blindfolded.
I leaned over and pushed my lips against hers. I wanted to kiss the worry right out of her. I didn’t want her to feel nervous about anything. There was no way in hell I’d ever let anything happen to her, and I needed her to know that as a fucking fact. I kissed her, letting my feelings for her flow from my core, through my kiss and into her. My tongue swept through her mouth, tasting the peppermint and lingering sweetness of the strawberries she had for dessert. It was her favorite. Strawberries. Every day, I would get someone from our kitchen staff to go buy a fuck-load of fresh strawberries just for her. I even ordered them to prepare dishes and bake everything there was to make with strawberries…just for her. Everything I fucking did was for her.
With a soft moan and a reluctant retreat, I inched back, our lips no longer locked together. “I won’t let anything happen to you. You know that, right?”
She nodded, her tongue lapping up what was left of our kiss from her lips. “Like I said, I trust you.”
My heart wanted to fucking explode hearing her say that. It was still so surreal, knowing that a woman like her, someone that had been through what she had, trusted me with so much. Her body. Her mind. And hopefully…her heart. There was such a thin line that separated me from the men who had hurt her in the most unimaginable ways. The scars of her ruin were still painted across the skin of her back, over the soft skin of her hands. And her mutilated ear was one giant reminder of what she had been through. Yet here she was, telling me that she trusted me. It wasn’t something I deserved, her trust, but by God, I would do everything in my fucking power to never make her regret it.
I took her hand in mine. “Promise me that whatever happens tonight, you will remember that you trust me. Promise me.”
A smile with the power to tame any beast spread across her beautiful face. “I promise.”
My heart pounded. My spine was all fucking tingly. And needless to say, my cock was rock hard and ready to fill her tiny body. Yeah…like Lorik would say, pussy-whipped. I was totally, utterly, and completely pussy-whipped. An Italian mobster, and his beautiful, broken girl.
“Okay.” I smiled just as someone tapped on the driver side window. I didn’t flinch. I knew who it was.
As I rolled down the window, Lucio’s face came into view. “Cousin.”
He grinned. “Is everything in place?
“Yup. Just like we planned.”
“Did you scout the area?”
“Thrice. Is that a word?”
I shook my head. “Yes, dumbass. That’s a word.”
“Then why are you calling me a dumbass?”
“You’re a dumbass for not knowing it’s a fucking word.”
He tapped his hand on the roof of my car. “Ready when you are.”
I turned to face Doe. “Stay in the car until I open the door for you.”
“Okay.” Nervously, she fisted her hands together.
“Is there something wrong?”
“No, nothing’s wrong. I just thought…”
“What? You thought what?”
She sucked her bottom lip into her mouth. “I just didn’t think—”
“That I would let you go out into the world? You’re not a prisoner, Doe. This”—I gestured between us as if she could see me—“this thing between us is nothing like what you had with Vadik, or any of the other sick fucks that hurt you.” I took her chin between my fingers and pulled her face up toward mine. “Believe me, this isn’t easy for me. If I had my way, I’d have you locked in a padded room until I’ve managed to put a bullet in Vadik’s skull. But,” I gently pressed my lips against hers, “I know you need this more than I need you behind a locked door.”
I stared at her for a few seconds longer before she finally gave me a slight nod. My broken girl needed to fly; she just needed her wings. And tonight was the first step toward her getting those goddamn wings.
I got out, scanned the area to see if Lucio and his men were all in place, then rounded my Audi to open her door. She turned her face toward me, and even though I couldn’t see her eyes, I knew if I had to stare into her dark irises, I would see the fear and uncertainty she was feeling. It was always there, in her eyes, everything she felt.
“It’s okay,” I assured her then reached out to take her hand. “I won’t let you go.”
Her hand trembled in mine, and the uncertainty written on her face was heartbreaking to witness. I hated it. But it was time.
She straightened, and behind the blindfold, she was searching for me. The cool autumn breeze wafted through her dark hair, the chill in the air causing her to shudder. If I had my way, it would have been the perfect summer night, but the seasons were changing almost as fast as the man inside me. With every passing day, I could feel my heart, my soul, and everything in between evolving. I was turning into the man Doe needed me to be, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I placed my hand on her cheek. “I got you. I won’t ever let go.”
She leaned into my touch, closing her eyes. It was heartwarming to know that a woman who had been through what she had welcomed my touch.
I glanced over her shoulder, and Lucio gave me the all-clear with a single nod. Every security measure had been put in place in order for this to go down. There was a nervous tug inside my stomach just thinking about the risk we were taking, but it had to be done.
Gently, I folded my fingers between hers, holding her hand tight in mine. Looking down at her feet, I smiled. “Ready?”
She sucked in a breath and nodded.
“Walk with me.” She slowly put one foot in front of the other while I guided her. The way she clutched my hand told me how nervous she was. “Just a few more steps. We’re almost there.”
Her heart-shaped lips were slightly parted, and I could see she was trying her best to just breathe. Maybe the blindfold wasn’t necessary, but I wanted her to experience it before she saw it.
“Stop.” I tightened my hold on her hand.
She stilled and leaned her head to the side. “That sound.” She paused. Listening. “It sounds familiar, but I can’t…I can’t place it.”
I moved in behind her, placing my arms around her waist. “One more step,” I urged softly.
She was breathing rapidly, her body trembling against mine. And then she took that final step. Her bare foot touched the sand, and I heard her suck in a breath. “Oh, my God,” she whispered. “Is that…” Her toes moved, digging deeper. “Is that…”
I pulled the blindfold off. “Open your eyes, Doe.”
All it took was one second, one breath to turn this moment into a memory that would last forever.