Authors: Susan A. Bliler
She attempted to grab the mirror, but her bandaged hands prevented her from being able to sufficiently grasp it. Draken gently shoved her hands down and held the mirror up to her face.
When she saw her appearance, she stopped fighting the tears that flooded her eyes. Her neck was covered in swirled looking marble scaring that inched up from under her chin and onto one cheek. A thin layer of some ointment covered her burns and where her face wasn’t burned or red it was either too pale or swollen. She turned her head away from the mirror in disgust and sunk back into the bed.
“Lucia…,” Draken began softly, but was cut off by Lucia’s scratchy whisper.
“I’d like to be alone.”
Draken stood for a moment looking down at her, her head still turned away from him. He began to argue, but was cut off a second time. “Lucia, I…”
“I truly am tired.”
He huffed once before returning the mirror to the bureau and quietly exiting the room.
Draken stood in the hall for long minutes after he left Lucia’s room. It had been difficult to watch her reaction to her scars. Oddly, he felt compelled to comfort her, which didn’t make sense. He hadn’t felt the need to take care of anyone since before his sister’s death.
He ground perfect teeth together and speared a strong hand into thick hair that was just as dark as his demeanor. The small creature on the other side of the door had his protective instincts surging to the forefront and he cringed at the realization. He didn’t know Lucia and he didn’t want to. What he wanted was to find out if she had played a role in the death of his sister.
She’s your enemy!
he scolded, hoping to fortify his resolve. It was difficult to do when he remembered her tears. How Warren could put such a lovely creature at risk baffled him.
The night of the wreck he’d come upon the crash and had nearly plowed over Lucia. The look of pure terror on her face impelled him into action. He’d been shocked at the time when Warren had continued the race, opting to ignore the fact that two of his own teammates were down. It didn’t shock him now. Warren had always put money above all else. Luckily for Lucia, Draken’s character didn’t afford him the luxury of such inconsideration. He’d given up the race to rescue Lucia and when she’d crumpled in his arms, he couldn’t help but wonder if his sister Arabella had suffered the same fate.
Unlike Lucia, no one had been there to rescue Arabella and that fact had spurred Draken to carry Lucia to his Nissan GTR. He’d raced from the track with Lucia unconscious in the seat next to him. He knew he should have taken her to the nearest hospital; instead, he called his family surgeon and had his staff prepare a room for her on his estate.
He knew now that the decision had been a mistake. Lucia was getting to him. She was soft, and small, and feminine, and all the things he didn’t want to notice in a woman who could have potentially played a role in the death of his sister.
With steely resolve, he stormed down the corridor and away from Lucia with a renewed determination to keep his distance.
I’ll get my answers by manipulating Warren. If the coward ever decides to come for what’s his!
Four weeks passed with Lucia remaining in the luxurious room on Draken’s estate. He hadn’t been back to see her since she’d asked him to leave and she hadn’t expected him to.
An elderly nurse informed Lucia that she and her supervisor, Dr. White, had been hired by Mr. Shatan to care for Lucia. While Dr. White visited infrequently, Nurse Hall was in with Lucia nearly all day, every day.
After helping Lucia bathe and dress, Nurse Hall bid Lucia farewell and took her leave for the evening. Two days prior, Dr. White had removed the bandages from Lucia’s hands, replacing them with flesh-colored gloves that would allow the skin to breathe and were much more functional.
Now as Lucia sat on the edge of her bed, she grew restless. She’d been on Draken’s estate for weeks and he hadn’t reappeared in that time. She questioned Dr. White and Nurse Hall as to her being there and as to Draken’s whereabouts, but neither had any answers. Looking down at her slippered feet, Lucia couldn’t help but wonder why Draken was allowing her to stay with him, and paying for her medical expenses. If he wanted something in return, he certainly wasn’t going to get it.
Sighing, Lucia kicked her good leg back and forth and wondered why Warren hadn’t been to see her. She’d been telling herself that he hadn’t come because she was on Draken’s estate and Warren would never willingly enter into enemy territory, or perhaps Draken refused to allow Warren access to the estate; nevertheless, she gained little comfort from either assumption.
She’d met Warren two years prior at her first illegal street race. She wasn’t a driver then, but merely attended out of curiosity and sheer fascination. After the race, Warren approached her. He said he was enchanted by her fascination with the sport and wanted her to experience the thrill for herself. She took out her entire savings and under Warren’s tutelage, purchased her own racecar, a BMW M5. He taught her to race and praised her skills on the track.
“Not bad for a newbie.” He’d told her.
Warren had several racers whom he mentored, all part of his Cutlass racing team. Many people assumed that Lucia and Warren were a couple because they’d spent so much time together. At first, she’d hoped there might be a spark but as time passed, she realized she wasn’t interested in Warren in that way. She came to think of him as a mentor, an older brother of sorts. With no family of her own, it was easy to fall in with Warren and his crew. She allowed people to make their own assumptions about the nature of her and Warren’s relationship.
Team Cutlass had spent the previous three years racing illegally for cash. Usually racing at night on darkened professional tracks, the team would typically cut in a grounds keeper to grant them access.
Over the expanse of their friendship, Lucia had come to realize that Warren was consumed by the race. He cared little for anything other than the thrill of the sport. He constantly sought to be on the track and often disregarded the consensus of his team when they felt it was too much. Nonetheless, she and the rest of Team Cutlass did as Warren demanded out of sheer respect for his having pulled them into his circle of excitement, family, and money.
Team Cutlass often went to drastic measures to ensure that a member of their team—usually Warren—won any race, but what happened on the track a mere four weeks ago was as cut-throat a race as Lucia had ever experienced. The team they were racing…Draken’s team, was known as the Furies, and had been just barely off the lead when the wreck had occurred.
It was well known on the racing circuit that Draken and Warren despised each other. No one knew when the bitter rivalry had begun or why, but all of Europe knew of the contentious relationship.
As was usual during the race, Team Cutlass began the race aggressively, ebbing out the competition and ending the first lap with Warren in the lead. Draken was in a close second with Lucia third, and two other members of Team Cutlass holding spots four and five followed by the remaining Furies. The race seemed straight forward, with Team Cutlass prepared at any moment to do their dirtiest to prevent any of The Furies from advancing, but something about the competition didn’t feel right to Lucia. Warren was agitated prior to the race, almost nervous which was highly unusual but the team just attributed it to the fact that they were racing the Furies and that Warren’s rivalry with Draken was the source of his unease.
The races typically went at least ten laps. Ten laps then whichever team finished with one of their cars in first place took the prize. Simple as that. The prize was money, and plenty of it.
Team Cutlass usually fared well in these races because a great deal of the teams they raced were rich kids looking for a thrill and had the money to waste but possessed no real experience. The Furies weren’t one of those teams. The Furies were known as the best team on the circuit. Their team was consistent, their leader was consistent, and their wins were consistent.
Lucia couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong that day, or why her own teammate had stopped so abruptly in front of her to cause the horrific accident that had very nearly claimed her life. More shocking than the wreck had been Warren’s apparent lack of concern where the welfare of his team was concerned. Sure, there had been accidents before, but never had one of his cars been engulfed in flames.
One of his cars?
Lucia scoffed. Deep down she knew she’d been more hurt because Warren had to have known she was involved in the accident. She thought of him like family and had always assumed he’d felt the same…until now.
Still perched on the edge of the bed with her feet dangling just above the floor, Lucia looked down at her gloved hands and let her gaze wander to her knees. The hot summer night did nothing to ease her restlessness, and four-week’s worth of confinement was threatening to drive her stir-crazy!
She gently pulled up the hem of her knee-length, white satin night gown, which Nurse Hall informed her had been purchased by Mr. Shatan to replace the hospital gown. Why he would purchase her such an intimate piece of apparel she wasn’t sure, and opted not to dwell on.
As the hem of her gown slipped up over her bandaged thigh, she wondered if tonight she’d finally be able to walk on her own. For the first two weeks, she’d only attempted to walk under guidance from Dr. White. She’d remembered Draken’s words well,
“There was severe damage to the muscle tissue, tendons, and nerves, but if you give it adequate time to heal, you should recover fully…aside from the scar.”
She hadn’t wanted to jeopardize her chance at a full recovery by prematurely attempting to walk, but after she’d successfully mastered the use of the crutches, followed by the walker, then the cane, she’d begun attempting to walk on her own after Nurse Hall left each night. She hadn’t been successful yet, but tonight as restless as she was she felt she might just be able to walk on her own and maybe even walk off the property and out of Draken’s beautiful prison for good.
The thought of Draken left her in a state of unease. She felt like a nuisance, a free loader. Clearly, he didn’t want her on his property, and she certainly didn’t want to be here, but there was little she could do to remedy the situation. The staff refused to allow her to leave and she didn’t have the means on her own. She’d scoured her room for a phone or laptop in hopes of somehow contacting Warren, but the closes she’d come to a means of communication was paper and pen. Still, too many unanswered questions swamped her regarding her stay at Draken’s home.
, she amended remembering how Nurse Hall had informed her of the name of the estate.
Why did Draken bring me here? Why didn’t he send me to the hospital or at least send me home? What does he hope to gain from this? What does he want?
All the unanswered questions only furthered her resolve. She glanced over at her cane that was propped against the bedside table and quickly grabbed it to help herself up. She’d use it to help her stand, and then see how far she could get without it.
On her feet, she reached back to drop the cane back against the bed. She stood for a moment, and then shifted a portion of her weight uneasily to her left leg. Her leg was still sore from the laceration, and even more sore from immobility, but it could hold some weight and that was good enough for her. Slowly, she limped toward a chair upon which Nurse Hall had laid the white silky robe that matched her nightgown. It took her an eternity to manage the several steps, but she had managed.
Smiling, she slid her slight frame into the robe. Ecstatic at the prospect of finally getting out of the lovely room that had been her home for the past four weeks, she hobbled to the door, rested her gloved hand on the door knob, and wondered whether she’d even be able to get it open. Luckily, the gloves weren’t as slippery as they appeared and she didn’t need to apply as much pressure as she’d thought to open the door.
She poked her head out and looked down the corridor. The lengthy darkened hall was empty save for a few tables adorned with vases of what appeared to be fresh-cut flowers. To her left were four doors scattered on either side of the hall and to the right was the same, followed by an expansive staircase. Lucia shuffled slowly down the hall with great effort. Walking on her own for the first time was much more difficult than she’d initially thought it would be.
When she finally made it to the top of the staircase, she looked down at an impossible feat of at least thirty widely placed steps. She knew there was zero chance of her making it down that many steps without assistance this soon in her recovery. She sighed heavily and used a gloved finger to swipe her long black locks away from her coffee colored eyes.
“Going somewhere?” The deep voice questioned directly behind her.
Startled, Lucia spun quickly but lost her balance. Her eyes widened as she realized she was about to tumble backward down the stairs. Strong hands shot out and jerked her to safety. Her heart was pounding as her face rested against Draken’s bare chest. He must have been stirred from his sleep, as he was clad in only a pair of hunter green sleeping trousers. His skin was invitingly warm against her cheek, and he smelled of fresh soap.
With her heart still racing from the near treacherous fall, Lucia pulled out of Draken’s embrace and frowned up at him from beneath impossibly long ebony lashes.
“You shouldn’t sneak up on people,” she admonished.
Draken’s smile revealed even white teeth as he chuckled, “I can sneak up on anyone I want. This
Lucia made to jerk her arms from his grasp, but he held firm. Desperately she offered, “I don’t know why you have me here, or what you’re expecting to gain from all of this, but I have nothing to offer. I thank you for your kindness, but I’m well enough now and you should send me home. I’d like to go home.”