Home > Rebel (Dead Man's Ink #1)(7)

Rebel (Dead Man's Ink #1)(7)
Callie Hart

Raphael’s getting antsy in my peripheral vision—he clearly doesn’t like anyone else playing with a toy he considers his—but something primal within me is warning not to look away from Hector. He’s beautiful in an odd way.

And terrifying in every other.

Despite his consideration for my screaming wrists and his apparently sincere apology over my treatment, I haven’t forgotten what I heard back in that alleyway. This man is suspected of murder. The murder of a woman. And I am currently at his mercy.

“What’s your name, sweet girl?” he asks, smiling, head tipped to one side, as though I’m a delightful mystery he’s looking forward to unraveling.

I clench my jaw, torn for a moment. I shouldn’t tell him my name. I shouldn’t tell him who I am. I don’t know why, but I know it with a certainty that makes my heart race in my chest. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not say,” I inform him. Hector’s smile fades. A flicker of disappointment flashes across his face—I have been a bad girl. Hector’s focus flits to Raphael again, this time accompanied with a single arched eyebrow.

“Sophia Letitia Marne,” Raphael reels off. “Twenty-one years old. Student at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.”

I can’t avoid my reaction now; my head whips around so I can look Raphael full in the face. He’s lying to his boss. Sophia isn’t my name. I sure as hell don’t study at Cornish. I recognize the information, though. Raphael’s almost black eyes are glinting with a barely suppressed fury that confirms my suspicions: he hates having to answer to someone else. Hates it with a vengeance. Hector holds out a hand to Raphael; he seems to know what his employer is requesting from him. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out an intimately familiar object —my wallet.

He snaps the clasp open and fishes out a card, which he hands over to Hector. I’m hardly a party girl, but last year a group of my friends wanted to hit a club to see a DJ play, and I was the only one underage at the time. Luke, the boyfriend of one of the other girls, made up a fake driving license for me. I’d memorized the card’s details before going in, chanting my borrowed name and date of birth over and over again in case any of the doormen asked me, only to be let in without even having to produce the damn thing. I then proceeded to forget my fake persona altogether.

My real driving license is sitting on my bedside table at home, snapped in two. I broke it at least a month ago, and since I’m living on campus and don’t have a car at the moment, replacing it has been very low on my list of priorities. There are no credit cards in my wallet, either. Nothing else to give away my real identity. A cold sweat of relief breaks out across my face. Hector studies the license, studies me, studies the license again. He grunts, handing it back to Raphael.

“Well, Sophia,” he says, giving me a small smile. “It would appear you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of a situation. Are you content with Raphael as your new master?”

Am I content with Raphael as my…? I’m at a loss for words. I’m pretty sure I’m covered in my own blood from where I was hit over the head. I reek of vomit, and my wrists are banded with a deep purple ribbon of bruising. I hardly look like the sort of person who came willingly to their newfound servitude. My mouth opens, but I struggle to find the right response to the question.

“Let me put it this way,” Hector says. “Are you going to make trouble inside my home, Sophia? Because I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to trouble within in my home.”

I haven’t given much thought to the building Hector is standing in front of, but now I take a closer look at the place. The two-story Colonial, white weatherboard with green shutters, looks like something out of Little House On The Prairie. It’s quaint, with its wrap-around porch, swing bench, and multitude of potted flowers balancing on the windowsills. I’d expect this place to belong to some frail, little old Southern lady. I can picture her rocking slowly on the swing, drinking her endless glasses of sweet tea. There are no bars on the windows, and no security gates or armed guards. But…there is also nothing else out here. Not a single building for as far as the eye can see. Just desert. A burnt, alien landscape with no roadways, no stores, or any way of making contact with civilization.

“Well?” Hector asks.

“What if I say yes? What if I am going to make trouble?” I don’t really need to ask this question, though. I know all too well what he’s going to tell me before the words have a chance to leave his lips. Raphael snickers, a wickedly sharp, crackling laugh. Hector just shrugs his shoulders.

“One of the many bonuses of living out in the desert, so far from prying eyes, is that shallow graves are easy to come by, my dear. Should you wish to incite chaos here, to disrupt my peaceful life, you can bank on finding some permanent real estate of your own out here.”

Somehow, I’ve strangely been holding myself together since I was grabbed from the side of the street. I’ve cried, yes, but I haven’t completely lost it. Until now. My legs buckle out from underneath me, ditching me in a heap at Hector’s feet.

“I need to go home. I have to go back to Seattle. My family...my family will be worried about me. The police—”

My head is kicked to one side, pain slamming through my already delicate skull. I didn’t see the hit coming, but I can certainly feel the echo of it relaying around my body. I can’t breathe. I can’t see through the tears welling in my eyes.

“You’d be wise not to mention the police in my presence again, Sophia. They aren’t a group of people I like to discuss.” Hector sinks down into a crouch. He reaches into his pocket and then holds his hand out to me, offering me something inside—almonds. I was right about the smell. Candied almonds. “Why don’t we just say…no kind of law enforcement should be spoken of from this point forward? It will make a happier life for you, and a happier life for me. Don’t you agree?”

I nod, cautiously touching my hand my face, trying to cup the stinging sensation. To make it go away. Hector’s eyes narrow at me. “Why don’t you take an almond? They’re delicious. Don’t you find them delicious? And then Raphael will take you inside so you can speak to Ramona. If you’re polite to her, she may find you some fresh clothes.”

This man is insane.

Certifiably insane.

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