The Auction Block (Agents of Interpol 1)

Page 59

I give her a weak smile."Thank you, but I'm no ma'am. I know this must be scary for you— "
"You know nothing," she hisses at me.
I steel my gaze on her. A little underneath her collarbone, I recognize the brand of the Taurus.
"I know more than you think."
Her eyes widen as I undo the buttons of my blouse with shaking hands. I let my shirt fall to the floor and several people behind me gasp. They've never seen my scars. Blake's eyes widen as he reaches up and grasps the back of his own neck, his chest still as if he's stopped breathing.
I pull over a stool and sit directly in front of Sorina, tilting my head back. Her eyes bulge as she takes in the brand under my collarbone. It matches hers.
"I was taken by the Taurus when I was eight," I say quietly, bringing my head back down to meet her eyes. Slowly, she reaches her hand out toward my brand mark. "Don't, Sorina. Please. I can't stand to be touched."
She drops her hand back to her leg.
"They flogged me," she whispers, her head sagging.
"Beaded or hooked?" The stares aimed at us pulse like a current on my back.
"Can I look?"
I stand and move around to the back of her. The gashes on her back are healing. Most of them are scabs with thick callous coverings. No wonder she screamed. Cotton against this feels like sandpaper. A few of the scabs peeled off, leaving tiny trails of blood running down her pale skin.
I pick up the towel and walk to the sink. Returning to Sorina, I take in the fact many of the other survivors have joined my team around the table. I lay the cold, wet rag over her back and she sighs loudly.
"Don't wipe their backs if they've been flogged. Beaded floggers cause terrible scabs. You'll pull them off wiping them with these. Use cold compresses and light pressured water to clean them," I say directly to the woman standing next to Blake.
Her mouth's hanging open. Pity and confusion linger in Blake's eyes. This is exactly why I hide my scars.
"Do you have scars like mine?" Sorina looks confused as I sit back in front of her.
"Yes," I whisper, hanging my head. I don't want to think about mine.
"Beaded or hooked?"
"Hooked." I swallow the lump in my throat.
Slowly, I turn so my back faces her. After a moment, the gentle touch of her fingers traces one of the scars on my shoulder. My body clams up and I start to shake. Her fingers moves to the next scar and my hands tighten on the sides of the stool. I hear a sob from my left, and I'm certain it's Sammi. My body jerks as the shaking increases.
"Please . . . . stop," I whisper, barely audible.
She complies. I stand, my body still racked with fear, spinning around to face her.
"How long has it been for you?" She hops down off the table to stand in front of me.
"Not long enough." I stare down into her eyes. "I'd tell you it gets better, but I'd be lying. It hasn't got any better for me. But everyone's different, Sorina."
She lunges toward me and wraps her arms around my midsection, squeezing me in a tight hug. I start to shake again, but slowly, place my arms around her shoulders. Tears spill from my eyes, and I plant an unsure kiss on her hair.
I uncoil her hands from around me, and step out of her embrace. I scoop my shirt off the floor and slip my arms back through. Her eyes never leave mine. She sits on the stool, and I kneel in front of her.
"Don't be like me. Don't let them win. If you let it consume you, you'll never be free. You still have time. Use whatever resources Blake Mason has here, and build a new life for yourself."
She nods as tears roll down her cheeks. My hand shakes terribly, but I reach up and run my fingertips down her face. Her eyes close at my touch, and I need to leave. I can't stay here any longer.