HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt
Tessa sat in a chair in front of the large windows of her hospital room.
It hurt to breath.
It hurt to be.
It hurt to live.
Pills. The only thing she looked forward to—getting pills. Three times a day. The double dose she’d receive before night. Numbness took over her senses, sleep engulfed her faster, pain free. Same ritual the next day. Nothing had changed since she first woke up two weeks ago. Her memory of the assault tormented her ravaged soul with the same persistence as the air that entered her lungs. Sometimes Daniel visited her while she slept. He’d hit her again and his laughter resonated in her ears long after she’d wake up.
She heard the door open and close.
“Honey, guess what? Octavia is here,” Chiara said, stopping next to Tessa’s chair.
Octavia drew closer, on her other side, squatted and took her hand, then bent to kiss her cheek.
Tessa turned her head and withdrew her hand as fast as she could. She averted her eyes. “Why? I told you I don’t want to see anyone, why did you bring her?”
“I, I thought you’d feel better if you have both of us here.” Chiara’s voice sounded choked up. “Like in the old times.”
“Why does everyone think they get to decide what I want? Every single day I ask to be left alone and every single day you’re back. Now you brought Octavia, too.” Tessa stood and slapped her thighs. Her hair spilled in disarray around her face, down her shoulders and back. A skimpy gown covered her bony body.
She knew her words hurt her sisters, but hoped they’d give up and leave her alone. Like she deserved to be—alone, where no one could hurt her, and she could hurt no one else.
She walked to the door, opened it and came face to face with Alessandro, who had his hand on the knob.
“And you? Why are you still here? Does anybody listen to what I want?” She hit him in the chest with her fists. The more she hit him, the angrier she felt. “Why, why, why?” she screamed at him.
Alessandro stood there and took her fury. He didn’t wince nor did he try to stop her. Instead, he scooped her up in his arms and walked back into the room. She went rigid in his arms, but she was too tired to fight him. He sat in a chair, holding her. She tried to push him away, but he didn’t ease his grip on her. He motioned Chiara to bring a blanket, took it and covered Tessa’s shivering body and held her until she stopped weeping.
He lifted her hair away from her face and played with it like he used to. He rested his cheek on top of her head, like he used to. He caressed her arm and intertwined his fingers with hers, like he used to.
Tessa sniffled and sighed. She gave in, relaxing in Alessandro’s arms and closed her eyes. She used to feel safe here, and love the tenderness of his embrace, drowning in his masculine scent. There was a time when his body was her shield. She didn’t have that anymore.
“I’m tired,” she said after a while.
Alessandro squeezed her one more time, then stood and set her on the bed. He tucked her in and kissed her forehead. “I’ll be here when you wake up,” he said and walked out.
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