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Stolen By A Sinner: Chapter 21


Throughout our conversation tonight, I’ve started feeling more at ease with Gabriel, but I’m struggling to bring my point across, and it frustrates me.

“You saved me,” I repeat, not knowing how else to explain to him what impact he’s had on my life.

“Did you hear what I just said?” He tilts his head. “I’m the one who shot you. I almost killed you.”

It still feels wrong arguing, but I can’t keep the words back. “Because you shot me and brought me here, my whole life changed.”

“Jesus, Lara.” He stares at me as if I’ve lost my mind. “Just how fucking bad was it living at Mazur’s that you see being shot and almost killed as a blessing?”

My eyes lower to where he’s still holding my hand. I can’t keep my voice from quivering as I admit, “You’re the first man to hold my hand.”

Instantly he pulls away, and I lift my eyes to meet his. “You’re the first man who hasn’t hurt me.” Every good emotion I’ve felt since coming here bursts like fireworks in my chest. “You saved me.”

Gabriel stares at me, and I watch as worry tightens his features. “When you say hurt, what does that entail?”

Traumatic flashes of beatings and whippings shudder through me.

Once I laid unconscious for a whole day after a beating. I couldn’t use my right arm for two weeks, and my eyes were swollen shut.

Another time some skin came off with the shredded blouse after Tymon gave me fifty lashes for being five minutes late with his tea because the bus ran late after school. I couldn’t sleep on my back for weeks and never returned to school.

I’m so lost in the hell I endured that I startle when Gabriel’s palm cups my jaw. “Talk to me, Lara.”

Not wanting to relive the hell I’ve been through, I shake my head and lie, “I guess I’m tired after all.”

He tilts his head, his gaze searching mine before saying, “Then I’ll let you rest.”

We stand up at the same time, and I’m instantly overly aware of how close we’re standing to each other. My head tilts back, and my stomach does the weird flip-flop when my eyes rest on his face.

“Maybe one day you’ll feel comfortable enough to tell me what happened?” he asks.

It’s on the tip of my tongue to apologize, but knowing he doesn’t like it when I do that, I just nod.

Gabriel brushes past me, then I turn to watch him leave my bedroom, silently wishing he had stayed and slept on the armchair again.

For a moment, I just stand between the table and the bed, not knowing how to process everything that happened tonight.

Then the importance hits like a ten-pound hammer, the air whooshing from my lungs. I wrap an arm around my waist as I slump down on the side of the bed in total shock.

Gabriel has accepted me. More so, he was friendly, understanding, and even supportive. He went out of his way to set me at ease.

Lifting a trembling hand to my mouth, I shut my eyes, tears rolling down my cheeks.

He was willing to give me my freedom. Even though I’d never leave because I won’t survive a day without his protection, just the thought that he was willing to give it to me means so much more than he’ll ever know.

Gabriel has shown me a man can be gentle.

In his house, I’ve learned strangers can become family and enemies can become saviors. I’ve learned what it’s like to be cared for, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to live without it again.

The more affection I’m given, the more my soul craves it.

I never have to leave, and he won’t kill me.

A peacefulness I haven’t experienced before washes over me. I quickly wipe the tears from my cheeks, and standing up, I walk to the door. A smile wavers around my mouth as I pull it open and step out into the hallway.

Even though it’s the middle of the night, I can’t wait for the morning to come. I’m too excited.

I walk down the hallway and knowing it’s allowed, I go to the kitchen. Just because I can.

I’m one of them now.

I take a seat at the table where Nisa and I have our meals and replay the conversation Gabriel and I had over and over in my head.

I’m no longer a prisoner but a part of the household.

The last of the tension leaves my body, and I almost laugh out loud. It’s hard to contain all the happiness I feel.

This is my home now.

I enjoy my newfound freedom until the sun starts to rise. Getting up, I stretch my body before switching on the stove and setting a teapot on it so the water can boil while I get ready for the day.

With a smile spread over my face, I quickly go back to my room and change into a pair of jeans and a yellow blouse. The color fits my happy mood.

 When I return to the kitchen, I start baking the recipes Nisa taught me so the pantry will be full. I ground pistachio nuts and place them between layers of phyllo pastry. While they’re in the oven, I try making some Turkish delights which Nisa likes to have with her tea sometimes.

I wonder what Gabriel and Alya Hanim like to eat? I need to ask Nisa so I can make sure there are treats for them as well.

Allah Allah, my heart,” Nisa suddenly exclaims, making me jump with fright. “What are you doing up so early?”

A smile splits over my face. “I’m baking.”

“I can see that.” She walks closer and opens the oven. I notice the baklava is almost ready. Nisa looks at me again. “Why are you baking? You should be in bed.”

I shake my head, my smile growing. “Gabriel said I can move around the house freely.” Without thinking, I grab hold of Nisa and hug her. “I’m no longer a prisoner. I’m free.”

She wraps her arms around me, then says, “You were never a prisoner, Lara. But I’m glad to hear you can move around freely. It’s long overdue.”

When we pull apart, she pours us some tea, then asks, “When did Gabriel Bey tell you this?”

“Last night. He said I don’t have to be afraid of him and even said I can go back to school.”

Nisa’s eyebrows lift high on her forehead. “What else did he say?”

I glance down at the gooey mess I’ve made, then scrunch my nose. “How do you make Turkish delight?”

“That can wait,” she scolds me. She takes hold of my arm and drags me to a chair. “Sit and tell me everything that happened last night.”

“Gabriel just told me I can relax and that there are no longer any restrictions.”

Nisa must not understand because she asks, “How did he say this? What were his facial expressions, his gestures.”

Confused, I shake my head. “They were normal?”

Allah Allah.” She glances up at the ceiling as if she’s saying a prayer. “Did he smile or frown?”

“Oh.” My lips instantly curve up. “He smiled a couple of times.” Then I think to add, “He was really friendly and patient. It was nice.”

Nisa slumps back in her chair, using a hand to fan her flushed face. “Getting information out of you is impossible,” she mutters. “And here I thought I’d get a juicy story before breakfast.” With a sigh, she stands up to look at the mess I’ve made, then she points at it. “This is not how you make Turkish delight.”

Getting up, I take the baklava from the oven and set it down on a cooling rack. “Will you teach me?”

“Not today.” She gestures at the mess again. “Clean this up so we can prepare breakfast.”

Getting to work, my heart feels lighter than ever. My laughter comes easier. Everything tastes better. The sun shines brighter.

I’m happy.


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