I don’t know.
Sitting up, I wipe the sweat off my forehead. I search the room, expecting to find one of them here, but it’s empty, the light from behind the curtains gone. A glance at the clock tells me it’s a little after eight at night. My stomach growls as if realizing just from the time it’s missed dinner. I am hungry. Famished.
When the events of the morning replay before my eyes, I push them aside and get up to go into the bathroom. I wash my face and brush my teeth. I study my hands, back and front. They look the same. Not like the hands of a killer. Of a woman who ended the life of a man. But what’s frightening isn’t that. It’s not what I did. It’s that I don’t feel anything. Not a single thing. What does that make me?
I comb through my hair while I study my reflection. There’s a bruise on my forehead along with the cuts that are healing. My body has cuts all over it, but the lingering pain is dull and doesn’t bother me.
What would have happened if Amadeo and Bastian hadn’t come in time? What would have become of me after those men finished with me? My mind wanders to Emma. Emma is relying on me. She needs me.
With thoughts of my little sister, I walk back into the bedroom and through it to the closet. From inside a shoebox, I get the dagger Amadeo had taken from me that I had taken back. I’d hidden it, not wanting them to find it on me, but if I’d had it when that man had delivered me down to the basement of horrors, maybe things would have gone differently. Maybe they wouldn’t have gotten as far as they did.
Standing naked in the closet, I fashion a strap out of a pair of stockings I destroy and tie the dagger to my thigh. No sheath. It’s not the smartest thing to do, but I won’t be without it again. And I won’t let them take it from me. It’s not against them that I will use it. Unless they force my hand.
I choose a simple black dress and pair it with high heels. Then I walk back into the bathroom and rummage through the drawers for my makeup bag. From inside it, I find my lipstick. I hate my signature red, yet it’s so much a part of me. It fits, I think, that particular shade. The color symbolizes blood and violence. I smear it thick across my lips. I don’t bother with anything else but leave the tube open on the counter, not even bothering to pick up the lid when it rolls into the sink. I make my way out into the hallway, half expecting a locked door or a guard but finding myself free.
Walking down the stairs, I’m very aware of the edge of the knife at my thigh. Lights are on in the living and dining rooms. The table is set for three, and I can smell food cooking in the kitchen. I’m about to go in there when the door opens and a woman in a uniform steps through carrying a bowl of salad. She’s clearly startled to find me standing there, and I wonder what I look like when it takes her a minute too long to take me in. I look down at the dress, which I think is casual. It’s a simple fitted T-shirt dress. But her expression is strange.
“Are Amadeo or Bastian here?” I ask.
“Yes, they’re in the study, Mrs. Caballero.”
Mrs. Caballero. I’ll have to get used to that.
“Thanks,” I say, and when she points the way, I head toward the study. I hear the rumble of their voices as I approach and don’t bother to knock before opening the door. The brothers turn when they see me. Amadeo leans against the wall by the window, and Bastian sits on one of the leather chairs. Eyebrows rise and they exchange a glance, and again I’m left wondering what’s wrong. I touch my hair, tamp it down. Is it that? Does it look strange? It frizzes and gets huge at a drop of moisture in the air.
“Dandelion,” Bastian says, standing. “Nice to see you up and about.”
I enter and close the door behind me. “When do we leave for New York?” The sooner we go, the sooner I’m back for Emma, and the sooner this is over. I want nothing more than to be free of all of this. To leave everything behind and go forward.
Forward to what?
My throat tightens, and it takes me a minute to collect myself. Amadeo is studying me. He’s the more serious of the two. “How do you feel?”
“Can you never ask me that again?” I see the tumbler of whiskey on the desk and pick it up, drinking it all down. I don’t actually like whiskey, but I need something tonight. I feel off. Strange.
“You should maybe eat something before you drink, Dandelion,” Amadeo says, taking the tumbler from me. My lipstick stains the crystal. He eyes me. “Makeup?”
I shrug a shoulder. “Just lipstick. I always wear it. It makes me feel like myself.”
“Does it?” he asks.
Bastian is on his feet now too, and I look between them, remembering the time in the library. My stomach flutters, and I feel my neck and face heat because I want it again. I want to feel them both. I need them both.
“When do we leave?” I ask again, looking slightly over Amadeo’s shoulder rather than at him.
“Tonight. Let’s go eat dinner.” He places a hand on my lower back to guide me out. Bastian follows. We go into the dining room, where Amadeo pulls out a chair, and I sit. They take the seats on either side of me, and the same woman from before comes to serve us.
Tonight’s meal is roasted chicken with potatoes, vegetables, and the salad I saw her carrying in. Once we have our dishes, Amadeo pours us each a glass of wine, and I don’t wait for them to get started. I pick up my knife and fork and eat, ravenous.
“How is Emma?” I ask as I chew.
“She’s fine. She ate dinner about an hour ago, and they’re going to make popcorn and watch a movie,” Bastian says.
“Good.” I shove a huge bite of chicken into my mouth. It’s so big that I have to swallow wine to get it down.
“Take it easy.” Amadeo lays his hand on mine, and I study his bruised knuckles. It’s the hand I’m holding my knife with. Does he know how easily I can stab his? Pin it to the table?
“Dandelion?” he asks. I shift my gaze up and look at him through my lashes. “Everything all right?”