Stolen By A Sinner: Chapter 23

Lara

My cheeks hurt from all the smiling. Glancing over at Alya Hanim’s knitting needles, I watch as she makes a couple of stitches before I try again.

Mine aren’t as neat as hers, but she told me to be patient. Practice makes perfect.

Selam,” Gabriel says hi as he walks into the sitting room. He presses a kiss to Alya Hanim’s temple, and it reminds me of when he did the same with me.

Instantly, my cheeks flush, and I quickly lower my eyes to the knitting needles in my hands.

Don’t beat so fast, little heart.

Feeling rattled by the unexpected affection I feel toward Gabriel, I tuck the wool and needles back into the basket and get up.

Before I can dart out of the sitting room, Gabriel says, “I need to speak with you, Lara.”

My feet come to a faltering stop, and just as I glance over my shoulder, he takes hold of my hand and pulls me out of the room.

Having his strong fingers wrapped around mine, attraction hits me hard. As my heart beats faster, I glance up at him.

He doesn’t look angry.

We keep walking until we leave the house via a side door, and only once we’re near the pool does he stop.

Turning toward me, his hand slowly releases mine as he asks, “What can you remember about your father?”

The question is so unexpected that I stare at him for a moment before shaking my head. “Nothing.”

“Didn’t your mother talk about him?”

I search my memory. “She said he died while she was pregnant with me.” I shrug, not able to remember much more. “My mom didn’t talk about him.”

“And your mother worked for Mazur since you were born?”

“Yes. If I remember correctly, she started working for him long before I came along. Ten years, I think?”

Gabriel’s eyes remain on me as he seems to think about something that’s bothering him. “How did Mazur treat your mother?”

Like last night, I’m bombarded with traumatic memories of my mother covering me with her body while Tymon kicked her.

I glance at the swimming pool, the water a refreshing shade of blue. “The same way he treated me.”

Gabriel’s eyes soften a little, then he asks, “He never showed her any favor?”

I shake my head. “He treated us all the same.”

But some he killed quicker than others.

My eyebrows draw together as I admit, “I always wondered why he never just killed me.”

Whenever he picked up the bullet with my name on, I thought he would finally carry out his threat.

Gabriel lifts a hand to my shoulder, the touch a comforting gesture. He tilts his head, his eyes softening more with compassion. “I need to figure out why Mazur wants you back. Is there anything you know that will help?”

“No.” The fear is instant and overwhelming, and I instinctively step closer to Gabriel.

Anxiety hits hard, and before I know what’s happening, my breaths are coming too fast, and sweat breaks out over my entire body.

Gabriel’s hands frame my face, and he steps into my personal space. Tilting his head, he keeps my eyes prisoner as he says, “Shh, you’re not going back. You’re staying right here. Breathe, Lara.” His thumbs caress my cheeks, and I feel his breaths on my face.

My heart is pounding wildly in my chest, the turbulent emotions of fear and panic creating an ache behind my ribs.

“Breathe,” Gabriel orders, and my lungs obey his command. A strangled sound escapes me, but I finally get some air in.

“You’ll never go back,” he assures me, the determined tone in his voice helping to set me at ease.

I nod to show I hear him and focus on bringing my breathing back to normal.

Once I’ve managed to calm down, Gabriel asks, “Better?”

I nod, becoming overly aware of his cool hands still framing my face.

Something weird crackles to life in the tiny space between us, and it’s so alarming that I take a step back.

Gabriel also pulls back, then he inhales deeply before shaking his head.

Every ounce of my being feels the urge to apologize for what just happened, but knowing Gabriel doesn’t like it, I bite my bottom lip to keep the words from escaping.

Shoving his hands in his pockets, his eyes narrow slightly as he stares at me. His voice is gentle as he asks, “Will you be able to handle more questions?”

Not wanting to disappoint him, I nod, even though I’m not sure what could be a trigger. I don’t get anxiety attacks often, but lately, they’ve been happening more and more. I don’t understand why, though. I’m finally safe and would think I’d stop having them.

Gabriel seems to hesitate, which is not something I’ve witnessed before. Usually, he asks whatever he wants.

“Did Mazur promise you to anyone?”

Huh?

I shake my head, not understanding the question.

Gabriel pulls a hand from his pocket and loosens the tie around his neck. I watch as he undoes the top button, and before he shoves the tie into his pocket, he mutters, “You have to be of some kind of value to Mazur.” His eyes lock with mine again. “Mazur never said you were to marry someone or…” A look of disgust tightens his features for a moment, “had you sexually please any of his clients?”

My eyebrows pull together, and when I realize what Gabriel’s asking, I start blinking, my face flaming up as if it’s on fire. “No.” I glance all over the garden, feeling stupidly self-conscious.

When Gabriel remains silent, I sneak a quick peek at him, only to find his eyes on me, surprise tightening his features as he realizes something. “You’re a virgin. Fuck, that could be it.”

I lower my gaze again, but then Gabriel asks, “Did Mazur deal in sex slavery?”

I quickly shake my head. “I don’t know what kind of business he did. Sometimes I saw drugs and weapons.”

“There were never girls coming and leaving the house?”

“None that I saw,” I answer truthfully.

With one hand still in his pocket, Gabriel lifts his other hand to his face, his thumb wiping over his bottom lip.

Again I blink as my heart skips a beat, and there’s a weird dipping sensation in my stomach.

His golden eyes drift slowly over me, then he murmurs, “You can go inside, Lara.”

Nodding, I walk away and slip back into the house via the side door.

I feel frustrated that I couldn’t be of more help, but Tymon had us all living in such fear that we never dared disobey him and kept our heads down.  

It was the only way to survive.

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