His Solace Excerpt
“What’s your name?” I finally ask.
Pulling open the gate, I pause at the opening. I’ve never left the church grounds before. “Pace Cardarelli.” As I feel his hand on my back, shoving me through the entrance, I spot a cardinal on his chest, the only covering with color. Reaching up, I don’t think about what I’m doing as I trace the beautiful bird. Studious and strong just like him.
“Pace.” He stiffens when I say that, and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m touching him or said his name.
“Keep walking.” Our pace quickens, and as I glance behind us, I see Father Cassio and Albert on the sidewalk watching us. The priest is on his phone, and I get a knot in my stomach when I hear tires screeching as a vehicle comes racing down the road behind us. “On here.” Pace lifts me up, sitting me on the front of a motorbike facing him. Before I can ask what to do, he’s got my legs wrapped around his waist and my arms around his chest. “Don’t let go.”
My grip tightens as he starts the bike—the rumble of the engine loud in my ears—and speeds off before anyone can catch up to us. Closing my eyes as he weaves in and out of traffic, up and down streets at an alarming rate, my nails dig into the flesh of his muscled back and my thighs squeeze tighter on his hips.
When we finally come to a stop in a secluded area, my heart is beating out of my chest. Without a word, Pace lifts me with him as he gets off the death trap vehicle. He adjusts his hold so his hands are on my bare bottom, and my eyes pop open and my heart races for an entirely new reason. One I’m not sure I understand.
“What’s happening?” I ask as we enter a stairwell, and he takes the steps three at a time. “You’re very strong.” I don’t know why I say that; it just pops out.
“Cassio will be sending out a couple of purely diabolical guys to find us—though, they won’t—but before they even begin their hunt, I’ll be going back with my list of names and taking them all out.” The explanation is cold.
“You mean kill them?” He nods once. “Not Daia.” I lean back in his hold to look him in the eye. “She’s the only friend I’ve ever had.”
“She’s not on my list.”
“Or Maura. She’s misguided and afraid but not a terrible person.” Even though she got me in trouble aplenty.
“She’s on my list.”
“But she didn’t do anything,” I try to argue.
“She broke a child’s neck by shaking him because he wouldn’t stop crying. Shook several more children. They had to stop leaving them in her care.” I feel sick again.
“Oh.” Leaning my chin on his shoulder as we reach another floor and he opens the door, I realize we’re in a hotel. “How will you know it’s Daia? Anyone could say they’re her if you ask their names.”
“I have pictures of everyone on my list.” I feel him reach into his pocket for something, and the next thing I know, another door opens and shuts behind us. Entering the large room, which is twice the size of my sleeping quarters, he puts me down. “Don’t move.” Standing in the middle of the space, he leaves to another room as I hear church bells ring in the distance.
Turning, I stare out the wide window and see a cathedral church. The grandiose bell tower captures my attention as I watch the bell sway back and forth as it rings, signaling the noon hour. Closing my eyes, church bells are the only thing I’ve come to enjoy about the Lord’s house over the last several years.
“Arms up.” Pace’s voice startles me into complying, and soon, I feel the shirt he put on me earlier, lifted off my body. Completely naked, I have no idea what to do with myself. Nobody but Father Cassio and the sisters have seen me nude before. Picking me up by the hips, he places me on a bench seat, pushing my upper body to lay flat as I straddle it. “Relax,” he grits out, and I do as he says.
When I feel him sit behind me, his thick thighs cradling mine—he’s still got his pants on—I feel relieved. Until he pulls me closer to his body, my backside nestled against his groin. My eyes widen as I bite my lip to prevent myself from saying anything that will embarrass us both. Although, I get the feeling he wouldn’t embarrass easily.
I hear him unzip something before silence commences. Being at his mercy has my body shaking. I thought him my savior, my solace, but now I’m questioning why I trusted him so easily. The things he said, threatened with, should have had me running not begging him to take me away.
“Nice and easy now,” is the only warning I have before feeling a cool dab on my back then stinging pain. I arch away from the sensation as he places a hand on my lower back, where his fingers graze across the top of my buttocks. “The cuts aren’t deep, but they need to be cleaned. They should heal in time.” He’s so calm, it’s maddening, when I feel like a wreck.
“You have other scars,” he states. The fingers of his free hand trace across some of the more pronounced ones.
“It’s not the first time I’ve had a lashing.” I shudder as I think of the other times. Far too many over the course of my childhood.
He’s quiet, contemplative, as he gently tends to the cuts on my back. “There never should have been a first.” Glancing back at him, I’m struck at the way he watches me. His eyes are hooded, his bottom lip caught between his teeth, and the muscles in his chest ripple with each breath. He looks constrained. A tick in his jaw and the way his pulse pounds in his neck makes me nervous.
Riveted to the way he moves, my eyes close when I feel the fingers of both hands glide across my shoulders and down my arms. It feels like we’re in a trance. A bubble that only encapsulates the two of us.
Is this attraction? Lust?