Welcome to The Book of Bones a (mostly) weekly adventure serial.
If you haven’t been reading along, start here with Chapter 1.
Mari strained against the bonds that held her wrists fast. The sharp edge of the plastic zip tie cut into her soft flesh. She grimaced and twisted, but only succeeded in wrenching her shoulder, sending a jolt of pain stabbing through her and eliciting a grunt. Her ankles, similarly trussed, scarcely budged as she struggled to free herself.
She blinked the sweat out of her eyes and cast a baleful glance at the air conditioning unit as it rumbled and clattered in futile resistance against the southern New Mexico heat.
“If you are going to kidnap me, you could at least put me up in a decent hotel,” she grumbled to the empty room.
Kidnapped. She chewed on the word, trying to make herself believe it. She’d been through a lot in her life, but being abducted was something that happened to people in bad Lifetime movies, or those close to Liam Neeson; not to her.
“I really need to improve my taste in guys.”
As if on cue, the doorknob rattled, and after a few failed attempts, the person on the other side managed to unlock it. Matthew stepped through the doorway, his face a cloud of fury at even this minor inconvenience. Mari would have laughed at him were the situation not so dire.
“You need to let me go,” she said for what must have been the thousandth time.
Matthew shook his head. Somehow the mute response was worse than a flat out refusal.
“You don’t even need me anymore,” she said. “You obviously know where you’re going.”
After he’d taken her from the hospital at the point of a gun concealed in his jacket, they had driven back to Quemaduira, Mari tied up in the backseat, sweating even more profusely than she did now. Matthew had gone into his father’s house, and returned a short while later grinning broadly. From there, they’d made the long drive down to Carlsbad Caverns, the jackass boasting all the while about how he had cleverly hacked his father’s computer and learned where Sheriff Jameson and his cronies were headed. Mari had summoned enough courage to point out that logging on to someone’s home computer and opening their email wasn’t exactly hacking. That had taken the wind out of Matthew’s sales, but only for a few minutes.
Summoned the courage. That was a laugh. Why did I let him take me so easily? There were people all around at the hospital. I should have argued with him or called for help. He wouldn’t have shot me.
She wasn’t certain that last bit was true, and that was what had compelled her to “come quietly”, as the saying went. Still, it grated at her. Why couldn’t she be brave? What inside of her was so broken that she allowed this pitiful excuse for a man to enter and reenter her life, and control her so completely?
She thought about Bones, the stranger who had seemingly set all of this in motion. She had liked him, and thought he might have liked her a little bit. That was a real man. He walked with a quiet confidence that said he had nothing to prove to anyone. He had none of Matthew’s bluster, no false bravado. He was perfectly comfortable in his own skin. And that was why Mari hadn’t given him a chance. She had never been comfortable in her own skin, and Bones scared her.
Matthew sat down on the bed next to her, the box springs squeaking under his weight. He reached out and put a tentative hand on her shoulder. She tried to twist away, sending another jolt of agony through her.
“You loved me once,” he said quietly.
She managed a mute reply of her own — a sour frown and a single shake of the head.
Matthew chuckled. “Yes you did. We both know it.” His hand left her shoulder and moved to the top of her head. “You will love me again.” He stroked her sodden hair. “I promise.”
“Just kill me,” she said. It was not bravery; merely words born of hopelessness, but she meant them.
Matthew’s hand froze. Slowly he closed his fingers into a fist, grabbing a handful of her hair in the process. He jerked her head around, forcing her to face him.
“I’m not going to kill you. At least not yet.” He paused to let that sink in. “Even if you never care for me again, you’re still of use to me.”
Mari’s confusion must have shown in her eyes because he answered her unspoken question.
“You’re a bargaining chip. That big Indian has a thing for you. If I have to, I’ll trade you for what I want.”
That big Indian has a thing for you. Mari hated the way her heart skipped a beat at those words. Here she was in the worst, most precarious position she’d ever been in in her life, and she was indulging a schoolgirl crush.
“So it’s true,” Matthew whispered. Damn. Maybe he really could read her like a book. Matthew stirred and cracked her knuckles Matthew stood and cracked his knuckles.
Mari thought he might hit her and was surprised to realize she didn’t care. She supposed she was past caring about anything where Matthew was concerned. As she expected, Matthew cocked his fist, but then he froze.
“You will love me.” He turned and walked out the door leaving Mari alone with her self-loathing.