Read Innocence Online

Authors: Lee Savino

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense

Innocence

BOOK: Innocence
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Innocence

A Novel of Olympus

 

Cora rolled out of the car onto the wet pavement and, somehow managing to get her feet under her, ran. She moved shakily in borrowed high heels, smacking through puddles. Her speed was good, considering the state of her head. One minute she was being helped into the car, giggling at her clumsiness and the numb feeling of her skin.

Something about the night and the man’s cologne—rich and too strong—had made her head swirl away. Next her body slammed onto the car seat (she was disturbed by the way she fell as if she was made of lead) and the pain of the seatbelt buckle digging up into her back. Then a slight sound: the zip of a zipper.

She did know how she flung herself out of the car so quickly, or why her body felt slow, as if she was pushing through water. In reality she was moving as fast as she could, driven by the angry shouts and footsteps behind her. She was outrunning him though, dashing through the wet streets in a city she didn’t know. Glancing at signs and tearing air by gasps into her body, Cora let adrenaline carry her. It was raining, she could sense that much. The cold cleared her head.

“Cora!” came the rough call, from somewhere down the street. “Cora, you have to come back!” He was still following.

Why? Who was he?
She stood shivering, tucked in the shadows of a building. She waited, listening to his curses at the wet street.

“Cora,” he called again, and his voice was angry. Violent. He was getting closer.

It couldn’t have been alcohol—she hated the stuff. She had agreed to go to the bar for the dancing alone, ordering water when all her friends got drinks.

Yet, as the night and the dancing had gone on, things had gotten fuzzier and fuzzier. Until the guy with the dark hair, dancing a little too close, and then helping her out of the club when her friends were strangely gone. Until the hand pushing her down onto the back seat of a car she didn’t know. Until the streaking rain on her face, blinding her and waking her at the same time.

She paused on one of the street corners, gasping with fear and adrenaline, shaking wet hair from her face. She didn’t know which way to go; every way was a nightmare, more dark pavement and cold, wet night. The streetlights washing the sidewalk blurred.

“Cora!” The next call blasted from somewhere nearer. She shot from the shadows, flying across the street to a sloop of steps leading to a door below street level. Flinging herself down them, she tried frantically to open the door— hearing the guy behind her— and rushed in.

Her refuge was a bar or club of some sort, probably private, judging from the subdued lighting and mahogany wood that filled the place with shadows. Dimly she could make out an empty bar, and booths lit by small lamps. Trying to quiet her breathing, she slipped to the wall on her left, hugging the darkness. She passed a doorman’s stool and a coatroom, steeling herself for the appearance of a bouncer.

There seemed to be no one there, though. When she paused and listened very hard, all she heard was the pounding of her heart, and a few subdued voices in the back. The place was closed for the night, or very, very exclusive. If she moved quietly enough she might be able to find a back door, and leave unnoticed.

Her plan held for a few seconds, and then the door behind her burst open. She bit back a scream, cringing in the shadows and slipping away. The arrival of her pursuer caught more than her attention, though. From the far left came a shout. The bouncer.

He gave a challenge, coming to see what was going on. Cora didn’t wait to see what would happen. She blindly felt along the wall until she nearly fell into a corridor.

“Hey, man, you can’t come in here.” The bouncer had found her pursuer. Cora waited in the hall, listening.

“I was with my girl— I just need to see if she came in here…”

Scared as she was, something in Cora protested:
I’m not his girl; I’d never met him before tonight.
The bouncer was also arguing with him, telling him the place was private.

“If you remain here, Mr. Ubeli ain’t gonna be happy with you,” the man’s voice was unnaturally deep, and Cora imagined a huge man with a shaved head, a brute in a suit. “You need to leave.”

“No, I’m telling you, she ran this way…”

The seconds ticked by, and Cora realized that her pursuer wasn’t going to leave.

Then there were sounds of movement, a shout—“Hey, you can’t go in there!”

In fear Cora backed deeper into the hallway. Then she turned and grabbed the closest door knob she could find. It was locked. Frantic, she moved down to the next one. The voices were getting closer.

The door opened. Blindly, she rushed through and closed it, cutting off the shouts.

                     Inside were more subdued light and mahogany shades. Cora stood with her back to the door, and gasped as soon as her eyes adjusted to the light. In front of her, beyond an expanse of rich red carpet, was a desk. Behind the desk, was a man.

She froze. Her mind, which had been racing forward from the night’s first threat, now turned sluggishly to this new problem. Interrupting this man, with his imposing office in a very private club, would probably lead to trouble. Yet, she would rather face him than go back out there.

So she stood, barely daring to breathe, water dripping from her hem onto the beautiful rug. The man was working by desk light, in a room as covered in shadow as the club.

For a second Cora thought that he hadn’t seen her, absorbed as he was in the papers in front of him. Then, in a calm movement, he raised his head and looked at her.

Cora moved back against the door. Shadows rested on much of the man’s face, especially under his eyes. These he moved over her, taking in her too short dress, her garish heels, her wet hair. Her terror-filled eyes. Cora, heart racing painfully from running, stood frozen. No one said anything.

Slowly the man rose, a question forming on his lips. Cora also stepped forward, mind racing with possible explanations. But she met the man’s eyes, dark with grey circles under them, accented by the brooding light, and all her answers melted away.

Behind her, a knock sounded sharply against the door. Cora shot backwards, her arms wrapped around herself. Her face, pale with cold, was stained suddenly with a blush of fear.

“Mr. Ubeli?” someone called.

“Yes?” the man before Cora answered the caller without taking his eyes from her.

The door opened slightly, and Cora shrank back, but the speaker didn’t enter the room and she was completely hidden behind the door.

“We got a guy out here, says he’s lost some lamb he’s lookin’ out for. You hear?”

“I hear, Sharo,” said the man called Mr. Ubeli, “Get rid of him.”

Cora felt her whole body relax. Her breath escaped silently, even as Sharo said, “You got it, boss. Do you want me to dump him?”

“No, just turn him away. Smack him a bit if he means trouble.” Mr. Ubeli glanced down at his desk, shifting some papers as he called out orders. “Let me know when you’ve done the job.”

“Yeah, Mr. Ubeli. Will do.”

With a nod, Sharo was dismissed. The door closed, leaving Cora exposed again, alone with Mr. Ubeli. For a moment, the man studied his surprise guest with narrowed eyes.

“Was that guy giving you trouble?” he asked, moving out from behind his desk.

“Yes,” Cora whispered. “Thank you.” Hunching her shoulders, she shivered, and Mr. Ubeli came forward carefully, as if approaching a wild animal that might run.

She shrank away, but he walked past her, going to the coat rack beside the door and lifting a coat from it. Returning, he held it out, shaking the sleeve toward her arm.

For a second Cora didn’t move. She stared up at the man, into the deep, shadowed eyes. Then, turning, she put her arm through the sleeve, and let him help her into the coat. Once it was on, she realized it was a suit jacket, gray and too big for her, hanging slightly over her hands. Shaking now with relief more than fear or cold, she let the man guide her one of the chairs before the desk. She sank into it, hoping her wet body wouldn’t ruin the red leather, and blinked stupidly when the man handed her a shot glass full of some liquid.

“Drink it,” he said, and, for some reason, she did. Perhaps she was tired of the shocked rabbit fear her body had been reacting to, and she was ready to be told what to do. The liquid was cool and heavy and burned all the way down to her stomach, where it spread in a bloom of warmth. She felt her head clear even more.

“I’m in trouble,” she began, her voice somewhat stable. The man had moved behind the desk again. She was ready to say more when a knock sounded on the door. Her body shot up again, face white, eyes turned to her savior,
Please help me.

The man put out his hand in a gesture to steady her, while he called, “Yes?”

This time the door didn’t open. “Mr. Ubeli, we got him out.”

“Alright, Sharo. If he comes around again, make sure he knows he’s not wanted.”

“Yes, sir.”

It wasn’t until Sharo had been gone several minutes that Cora relaxed again. In the meantime, Mr. Ubeli had casually gone to his bar and poured himself a drink.

“He won’t be out there anymore,” he assured her. “Sharo will have taken care of him.”

“Yeah,” Cora breathed shakily. “Thank you.”

“No problem,” he said almost immediately, pouring some liquid into a glass. “I don’t like to see lost lambs get cooked. He do that?” A nod of the black head to her dress, where she saw the fabric was torn a little, probably from when she was thrown on the seat by too eager hands.

“Yeah,” Cora said again, gulping back a sob. She drew her arms around herself, gratefully for the extra skin of the suit jacket around her.

“Hey,” said Ubeli, coming to her and leaning back on his desk, looking down at her, “It’s going to be all right now. Dicks like that don’t last very long on these streets.”

Unsure what he meant, but softening to his tone, Cora swallowed her tears and gave a nod. The next question caught her off guard.

“You’re his girl?”

“No,” Cora said violently, shaking her head and shuddering, “No. I didn’t know him before tonight.”

“And wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for the clear stuff in your drink.”                    

“No,” Cora said again, confused, looking up into the dark eyes. “No, I didn’t drink any alcohol.”

“The clear stuff goes into water,” Mr Ubeli said, setting his own drink on the desk. “Did you drink any water?”

Cora nodded miserably, looking down. The weight of the night was starting to fall on her.

“Hey,” he said again, softly. “It’s not your fault. The way a dick behaves—” the man shook his head, holding her eyes as he said slowly, “It wasn’t your fault.”

Cora let herself look at her rescuer, taking in the planes of his face— grey with an old shave’s shadow, but framed with clean cut black hair. He was wearing a dress shirt and pants; she was probably wearing his suit jacket, she realized. His suit looked well made, if not tailored. Looking up at him, she realized he was studying her as she had been studying him.

“What’s your name, kid?” he asked.

“Cora,” she said uncertainly, not sure if she should tell him.

“Cora, my name is Marcus. Marcus Ubeli.”

“Nice to meet you,” she said, trying not to sound nervous. He looked at her a little longer, then gave a nod and left her side, moving to the door. She turned to watch, but he only opened the door, spoke to someone waiting outside, and shut it again.

“Yeah,” he said, “yeah. Have the car ready.” Looking back at her, he asked, “Do you have a ride home?”

She shook her head.

“How ‘bout I take you to a place to stay. Somewhere safe. Sleep a little, and then I’ll take you home?”

“Yes, I mean… I don’t know where I’m staying,” she said, twisting the fabric of the jacket between her hands. Marcus’s eyes flickered down, noticing this nervous gesture, and then back up to her face. Cora continued, “I mean, I was staying with friends. I’m new in the city; I don’t have a place to live.”

“Do these friends have a phone?”

“Yeah,” she shrugged. “But I don’t know the number.” She was reluctant to look up at him. “For a while I was with my aunt in the suburbs. I know where she lives … at least, I think I can find it. I don’t know, though. I’ve only been there in the daylight.”  

Through her speech Marcus’s face never altered. He waited until she was done, nodding slowly.

“Tell you what,” he said. “I’ll find you a hotel room tonight.” He waited to see if that was okay before continuing, “In the morning we’ll look up your aunt.”

Cora nodded, relieved. The plan was better than anything she could think up.

“Alright,” she agreed, and stood. Marcus moved to the door, opened it, and waited.

“After you,” he said in his smooth voice.

Cora moved back through the corridor she had come down only a half hour ago, pausing only to let Mr. Ubeli escort her through his club. A large man in a suit, Sharo, was at the door.

“Your car is ready, Mr. Ubeli.” He had the deep voice of the bouncer she had heard before, but he was younger, and more trim than the man she had imagined. His black head gleamed bald even in the dim light.

BOOK: Innocence
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