Updated: Jun 8, 2020
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Chapter 20: As if on cue, four other guards arrived to flank her and Alex, leading them out of the whitewashed room that reeked of sterilized death. Outside, the hallways were the same stark color, or lack thereof. The result was that it was detrimentally professional and entirely blinding.
Sabrina found it far too fitting.
They locked her in a white padded room she knew she could warrant without too much further provocation. Surprisingly, they shut Alex in with her, leading her to conclude that they either didn’t see her as much of a threat, considered Alex expendable, or were still using him as a spy.
Since she didn’t want to think of the last as being a real option, she chose to believe a choice D, which consisted of A and B put together. Her conclusion might not be right. But if it wasn’t, she didn’t want to know. She had enough to deal with as it was.
Sabrina turned in a slow circle to inspect her newest setting. The room wasn’t completely cushioned, since the fourth wall was comprised of a thick glass panel that opened up into the corridor. It therefore provided no privacy whatsoever.
That factor didn’t seem to bother Alex, at least not enough to hold back in doling out a good dose of PDA. He pulled her into a hug as soon as the sliding door had latched into place.
“Sabrina, I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry. I’m not even going to ask you to forgive me. This is horrible. It’s horrible and it’s all my fault and I know that. And I’m just so sorry.”
Even while she appreciated his arms around her, she was more than aware that the situation wasn’t the romantic reunion she’d daydreamed about so many times before. There were other factors to consider, which required keeping a clear head.
“Alex,” she began with as much maturity as she could muster, though she didn’t pull back from his embrace. “What exactly are you not asking me to forgive you for?”
“For everything.” He shrugged, the motion filled with stark misery, as was his expression, posture and aura.
“You’re going to have to give me more details than that,” she said slowly, taking a step back this time.
Emotionally, the action hurt like crazy. Physically, she felt cold all over from the loss of his body heat.
“You might want to sit down,” he advised, though it might have been more as a stalling tactic than anything else.
It was advice Sabrina took anyway, since she didn’t want to find out the hard way how padded the floor really was. Taking a deep breath, she leaned against the wall and wiggled into a position that didn’t put too much pressure on her still tender back. Her wings and arms were shaking, but her voice was almost steady when she spoke.
“Let’s hear it.”
Alex remained standing, pacing back and forth until Sabrina wished she could stop following him with her eyes. In that bland room, he was all too distracting. It was enough to give her a headache. As if she didn’t already have one.
“I don’t know where to start.”
“The beginning might be best.”
“Thanks.” The retort lacked any real passion. “Okay. The beginning then. Right.” He hesitated some more, pursing his lips and opening his mouth and setting his shoulders and sighing, then pursing his lips again. “Do you remember going out to dinner at that little Italian restaurant beside the mall?”
“You’re going to have to be more specific than that, Alex. We went there more than once.”
But the truth was that she knew exactly which time he meant. Because it had been the start of the end of their relationship. And it had been the day a group of men in black had entered the restaurant right behind them. That detail had long since slipped her mind, but she now recalled being disturbed by them for some reason she couldn’t identify. At the time, that was.
Now, a piece of the puzzle fell into place inside her head.
“It was when those four men walked in wearing suits, and they had sunglass that they never took off,” Alex inadvertently confirmed. “We made fun of them for it.”
“Yeah,” Sabrina admitted dully. “I remember.”
“When I went to the bathroom, one of them followed me. He told me a lot of weird things, including how you were a faerie.” Alex ran his fingers through his short hair and stopped pacing, though only for a breath or two. “He said you were a dangerous menace.”
Sabrina said nothing.
“I told him he needed to mind his own business, but he kept talking. Mentioned nine-eleven and the Iraq War and other crazy stuff about how faeries were responsible for all of this chaos and carnage.”
He stopped to look at her with a desperation to be understood. “Sabrina, he didn’t sound crazy. I mean, I didn’t really buy it at the time, but he had me take his card regardless, and he said if I cared about humankind at all, I’d check out the website listed there and give him a call.”
“Which it seems safe to assume you did,” Sabrina said. Her throat felt tight and tender.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t trust you,” he tried to explain.
“But you didn’t,” she interpreted. “You really thought I could be that evil.” She glanced around the room in a concerted effort not to look at him. “Clearly, I’m in possession of unlimited powers. I’m just biding my time before I shoot lightning bolts out of my eyes and kill you all.”
“Sabrina, that isn’t fair!” Alex protested, taking a few steps closer.
If he thought that directness and the accompanying wounded expression would sway her, he was dead wrong. Her sarcasm might or might not be justified, but it was helping her control her tear ducts nonetheless. Right then, bitterness was a less destructive emotion to her psyche than some of the other feelings clamoring for dominant attention.
“What would you have done in my situation?” He asked helplessly.
“I wouldn’t have believed in childish fairytales, that’s for sure,” she shot back. “I just might have thought to ask you about it instead of backing off and running away like a little coward!”
Alex stared at her for several long seconds before he began pacing again, making a point now not to look at her. She felt a little guilty as a result, but a large part of her was viciously happy. He’d made her feel miserable enough over the last several months. Payback was a concept he deserved to go a few rounds with.
“Well good for you,” he responded bitterly. “Maybe faeries have a much more highly evolved sense of trust than we mere humans. I checked out the website, okay? I couldn’t help but be curious. But that was all I was going to do. Just check the website. I swear.”
Sabrina was right back to saying nothing.
Alex went on. “It detailed human-faerie history, and it seemed well documented. I mean, this was a serious professional site with a government feel to it.”
He shook his head, looking very tired. “I wasn’t going to call even then, but a few days later, Mr. Seymour contacted me. He said they’d been tracking you for a while. A whole month before we started dating, actually. They apparently found your picture on some site.”
Sabrina closed her eyes. That’s what George had been talking about: her stint with internet dating before she met Alex, not after. It made more sense that way, while doing nothing to make her feel better. Neither did her ex, who was even then continuing.
“He said there were ways I could confirm his story. Crazy stuff about vitamins and Deanda. And they were all true in the end.”
Sabrina kept her mouth shut for the simple reason that she was afraid of how her churning thoughts would come out if she tried to voice them. She thought she might explode with a mix of righteous and extremely unrighteous anger if she said anything right then.
Alex may or may not have realized what a fine line he was walking. He paused and swallowed hard, then took two deep breaths before continuing. “It freaked me out. I’m sorry, but it did. And then they wanted me to work with them while still dating you. It was too much. I guess I just needed some time to think it all over.”
“And ‘some time’ turned into a couple of months?” Sabrina asked the question very quietly, her eyes hard, her jaw set.
“I’m here now, aren’t I?” He asked angrily.
“Because you feel guilty!” She shouted back. “Don’t think you can excuse being such a jerk that easily!”
“It isn’t my fault you’re a faerie!”
Sabrina stood up, crossing her arms over her chest just as much to keep from slapping him as for personal protection. Her wings quivered with unsuppressed rage while she regarded him. In that moment, she wanted to tear him apart for everything he had done to her and everything he was doing to her then by trying to excuse his miserable actions.
“You’re right, Alex,” she snapped with pure venom. “I asked God before I was born, ‘God, can I please be a freak of nature? Because life isn’t confusing enough as a regular person on this crazy planet.‘” Her voice rose on that last statement until it was a full-blown shout that actually hurt her already raspy throat.
“I’m sorry! Are you happy? I’m sorry! It was all my fault; I made a horrible mess out of this, and we both might die because of it.” His voice broke. “I’m sorry, Sabrina.”
Choking back tears herself, she shook her head to clear away the billion conflicting emotions coursing through her. She should be focused on survival, she knew, not exacting revenge on her one potential ally. Plus, Alex looked so miserable that she found herself relenting. A little.
“I’m not ready to say I forgive you.” She had to force even that out, but as soon as she had, she found herself flooded with weariness. “I really don’t know if that will happen anytime soon or if it’ll ever happen. But you can come sit with me if you’d like.”
Alex’s shoulders drooped in exhaustion and relief, quite possibly reading more into her acquiescence than she meant him to. When he arranged himself next to her, it was with a practically tangible hope, like he thought they could do anything together.
That’s how it used to be, she remembered. Her heart did a ridiculous flip-flop in response.
Sabrina closed her eyes and dropped her head into her hands. “So do you have any idea what they’re planning on doing to me?”
“I wish I did. They told me they thought there was a chance of saving you. They said you probably didn’t know what you were doing. And stupid me, I believed them.”
“Yeah.” She took a calming breath through her nose. “That was stupid.”
She looked up to stare directly at him, capturing his full attention for a tense moment until he turned away.
That victory felt hollow, and so Sabrina gave another inch. “But I guess it was something of a shock to hear that your girlfriend was a faerie. I know it was for me to find out I was one.”
“So you didn’t know?” Alex asked, bewildered. “For real? How could you not?”
She offered a small smile. “Nobody ever accused me of being the brightest crayon in the box.”
Alex’s gaze strayed from her face up past her head, his expression changing to something close to awe. Almost as if he didn’t have full control over his actions, he reached one hand up toward the space above her. But he stopped abruptly, like he had snapped out of the trance.
He looked at her for permission. “Is it okay?”
“To what?” She asked in complete confusion, curling her wingtips nervously.
The movement must have gotten the blood moving in her head, because it dawned on her what he meant. What the appropriate answer was though, she wasn’t really sure. She’d never had anyone instruct her in appropriate faerie etiquette, so she had no idea whether it would be slutty to let him. For that matter, maybe she was a slut already for touching someone else’s. Twice.
“Why?” Sabrina forced her voice to sound even. The question would at least bide her time.
“I’m sorry.” Alex let his hand drop. “It’s just that they’re so beautiful.”
“That doesn’t mean you can touch them,” she replied. At first it was just a comment, but since it sounded like the proper response, she added, “No touchie, okay?”
He looked supremely disappointed, causing her to wonder whether she was too. It might be interesting to have him run his fingers across them like he used to do along her upper arm.
The thought turned her on, which then immediately appalled her. It was so inappropriate on so many levels that she didn’t know where to start.
Yet she desperately needed a distraction right then, and she remembered how very diverting his lips on hers could be. Not to mention how she was pretty sure she was still in love with him even after everything.
“Anyway,” she changed the subject with no subtlety or finesse. “How can you even see my wings? Most humans aren’t supposed to.”
Alex grimaced. “Have you noticed the intense lighting here? It’s some technology they developed. The whole building is supposed to be equipped with it.”
Sabrina glanced up at the ceiling and then out into the corridor beyond the sliding glass panel, as if seeing the lights for the first time. It was the only reason why she noticed they had a guest on the other side of their cage.
She tensed right away.
Wearing a crisp, blue, button-down shirt and tan dress slacks, the visitor’s attire and features both screamed “Cambridge” as much as they did “English.” His nose had that small, barely discernable bump that people typically rested their glasses on, though he didn’t sport any spectacles. His ivory skin was accented with a faint flush of red around his cheekbones, and professional-length black hair topped his narrow but not unattractive face. Except for his alarmingly blue eyes, which emitted a sick sort of disappointment at being noticed, his entire demeanor projected good breeding.
He shook off his regret with unsettling ease and stepped up to the glass plate, four security guards all but materializing at his side. “Sabrina, so good to finally meet you in person.”
He sounded about as English as he looked.
Feeling very small and wary on display like that, she stood up. “Does the lowly little faerie get to know your name?”
“I like you already, my dear.” His expression twisted with something cruel and controlling; his mouth quirked up a fraction of an inch. “I believe we’re going to enjoy our time together.”
He nodded at the guards, who spread out behind him to form a human net across the width of the glass panel. The one furthest to the right took an extra step forward, reaching out to the wall beyond her vision. A few electronic beeps later, the door slid open.
Sabrina didn’t move, though Alex chose that moment to get to his feet. It was a nice gesture, a tiny part of her acknowledged. The rest of her was too busy focusing on survival to care. The present situation was anything but right for romantics anyway, twisted or any other kind.
“Let me introduce myself,” the Englishman said, smiling. Like a crocodile. He even took a step forward into the room and extended his hand. “I’m Dr. Stewart. It’s very nice to meet you.”
She didn’t reciprocate. “And?”
Rocking back onto his heels, Dr. Stewart flat-out beamed. “You’re extraordinarily cheeky. It’s delightful. Absolutely delightful. Now my only – no, I shouldn’t say ‘only’ – my most pressing question is this: Is it due to you being American or a faerie?”
Alex must have grown tired of the verbal baiting, because he interrupted. Though it was obvious he tried to sound confident, there was a distinct edge of panic in his voice when he asked, “What do you want?”
“No time for pleasantries?” The doctor asked with just the most sophisticated trace of annoyance. “Mr. Brower, I’m afraid to say your particular accent doesn’t charm over rude bluntness like our enchanting faerie here.”
“So sorry.” Alex didn’t sound it at all.
“Though I suppose you do have a point. To business then.” He turned back to Sabrina. “When I said we’re going to be spending time together, I wasn’t merely expressing a wish for your company. The HPAC wants me to keep tabs on your emotional and mental health during your stay here.”
“Thoughtful,” Sabrina interjected.
The corner of Dr. Stewart’s lips twitched upward, and he gestured out into the hall. “Quite. Well, shall we?”
“I’d rather not, if I have any choice in the matter.”
“I’m afraid you don’t.”
Alex stepped forward. “I’m coming with you.”
The other man shook his head. “While I’m a huge supporter of young love and tragic romances, I can’t have that. You have a different schedule.”
“What if I don’t care what you can and can’t have?” Admirably, his voice didn’t tremble. Only his hands did, curled up into fists at his side.
The doctor’s expression grew more cruel, and Sabrina decided it was high time to step in before Alex got himself killed. Whether he was acting out of rekindled love or all-consuming guilt, she didn’t know. But she didn’t want to have his pain or death on her conscience either way.
“Alex,” she said, turning her back on Stewart.
The skin on her neck prickled.
“I’ll be fine.” She hoped her even tone would persuade him, because she was sure the fear in her eyes wouldn’t. “We’ll talk later, okay? I promise.”
He didn’t say anything stupid and macho to her new shrink like “I swear if you hurt her.” It wasn’t really his style, she supposed. That was much more something Dallas would do. Instead, Alex leaned down to reach her lips with his own, his fingers interlocking with hers.
“I’m going to hold you to that.”
Sabrina nearly lost it. It took everything in her not to clutch at his hands. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak when she stepped back and turned away.
Dr. Stewart’s eyes on her were filled with too much enjoyment.
Keeping her chin straight, she told herself not to show any weakness. But considering everything she could be walking into, she couldn’t fight the urge to cast one last glance at Alex when the door shut between them. It was supposed to reassure her that he was still there; that he wasn’t going to leave all over again. That he was going to be okay and, somehow, she would be too.
That farce shattered when Dr. Stewart put a hand on her lower back to guide her forward. With an intense tremor of revulsion, she shied away.
He smirked but didn’t press the issue other than that, directing her from thereon in with words alone down the overwhelmingly white corridors. She’d just assumed he would lead, and the fact that he wasn’t freaked her out even more.
She knew why he was doing what he was doing. It was a pure power play, not to mention a cruel tease since all she saw ahead of her was open hallway. One giant temptation to make a run for it.
Considering how she was already certain he was a sadist of some kind, that giant temptation was one she almost gave in to more than once. The urge got stronger with every twist and turn they took.
When they did reach his room, Sabrina was almost glad of it, since it took that useless invitation away. It also gave her something other than deathly white to look at.
Inside the office, the walls were colored what should have been a soothing shade of light brown, like a coffee milkshake. The carpeting contrasted perfectly in a much darker and richer brown, a thick shag that looked soft to the touch. Then there was the furniture, which consisted of a tan chaise, a matching recliner, two oversized and fully upholstered chairs, and a high-backed, swivel desk chair that wouldn’t look out of place in a hotshot CEO’s office.
The desk it sat behind was perfectly polished, just like the bookshelves across the room, which seemed to hold a diverse smattering of genres. And the coffee table standing somewhat near the chaise was just as well-stocked, complete with five fashion magazines, a bunch of business journals and several much less professional selections.
“Isn’t it kind of tacky to have girly magazines in your office?” She commented, mainly since the room made her feel small and exposed.
“You’re not the only client I’ve counselled in here,” he responded with easy arrogance. “I’m willing to use whatever tools I can in order to get to the root of a patient’s problem.”
Something about both his statements made Sabrina shudder. She couldn’t identify why, but every last bit of what he’d said sounded evil.
“Besides.” He raised both eyebrows. “Isn’t it childish to pick on other people just because you feel insecure?”
She had no good response to that.
He gestured at the chaise. “Please, have a seat.”
“I’d rather sit in one of those.” She nodded at the chairs in front of the desk.
“And I’d prefer you sit where I tell you to sit.”
His voice inflections barely changed as he spoke, but his pleasant tone nonetheless served to accentuate the command. She figured she was on his turf now, so she should at least start out playing nice considering how she had no idea what he was after when it came down to it.
That alone was more than worrisome.
“You look nervous, Sabrina.”
She bit back the defensive sarcasm that jumped to mind. “Are you saying I don’t have reason to be?”
Dr. Stewart sat down in the tan recliner, gesturing once again for her to take the chaise. “I don’t want you to see this as an interrogation, my dear. I want you to think of it as a learning experience, or perhaps even as a challenge to change my mind.”
She took her own seat stiffly, her wings itching to take her anywhere else but that room. “Change your mind about what? Annihilating the faerie race?”
He smiled at her bluntness. “You’ll never know unless you try. Now please, make yourself comfortable.”
“Easier said than done,” she muttered.
Yet she leaned back against the headrest anyway like she knew he wanted her to. As if they were some stereotypical example of a caring psychologist and his damaged patient. Horribly self-conscious, Sabrina made sure to arrange herself in the absolute least provocative way possible.
“Why don’t you tell me exactly what you think I’m going to do to you that’s making you so tense.” It was a malicious question, and he knew it.
“Permission to speak freely?” She resorted to sarcasm again after all even if he did seem to appreciate such snippy responses a little too much.
“That’s a really stupid question.”
“Oh?” His cultivated accent made the single syllable that much more irritating.
Or maybe she was finding fault where there was none to distract herself from what was going on. Regardless, Sabrina found the psychological games disconcerting. She already knew it didn’t matter what she said. He wasn’t interested in her actual words, just reading into them to support his already formed conclusions.
“You’re the enemy,” she pointed out.
“Why? Because I’m human and you’re faerie?”
“No,” she clarified, determined not to be trapped so fast. “Because you’re HPAC and I’m a faerie, and your sole purpose in life is to destroy what I am. I wasn’t the one who started this whole thing.”
He reached one arm behind him to grab an electronic tablet off of his desk, which he unfolded and began languidly making notes on. “So you’re saying faeries haven’t wreaked havoc on the human race since their first days of existence?”
“You’re right,” she countered, complete with a sharp glare. “We’ve been very, very bad. We should model ourselves after humans, who haven’t been responsible for disgusting crimes in every single century on every single continent throughout recorded history.”
“You were college educated,” he observed.
“I was born,” she replied, her voice pure steel.
“You sound like you’re not too fond of humans.”
Sabrina clenched her fists at his overt manipulation. But without giving her a chance to reply, he changed the subject smoothly, like he hadn’t just heaped every faerie sin – real and imagined – on her shoulders.
“Where are your parents?” He crossed one leg above the other knee and leaned back, looking every inch the smug wretch that he was.
Sabrina stood up. “I’m ready to go back to my cell now.”
“That may be, but I’m not ready to let you leave.”
The statement made her lower lip tremble.
“Sit back down.” The pleasant voice was gone.
She sat with only a brief hesitation.
“Now answer the question.”
She did that too. Despite how she knew he knew the truth: that his evil organization was responsible for her orphaned status.
It wasn’t like she had any other choice in the matter. Dr. Stewart, she learned, was a downright master at letting her know who was in charge. And it definitely wasn’t her.
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